Please visit our sponsor!

Bookmark and Share
In This Edition

David Michael Green returns with, "A Better World's In Birth (Maybe)."

Uri Avnery considers, "With Friends Like These...."

Matt Taibbi sees, "A Sign Occupy Wall Street Is Having Political Impact."

Sam Harris remembers, "Hitch."

Jim Hightower feels, "The Coldest Cut Of All."

Helen Thomas wonders, "A Corzine Con?"

James Donahue explores, "BrainGate - Making Damaged Bodies Function."

David Sirota discovers, "Direct elections: A threat to America!"

David Swanson says to, "Set Your Doomsday Clock To 11:51."

Ann Wright oversees, "The Trial Of Bradley Manning."

Paul Krugman asks, "Will China Break?"

Phil Rockstroh is, "Recovering From Authoritarian Simpatico Syndrome (ASS)."

William Pfaff explains why, "History Tells Us Not To Dismiss A Democratic Challenge To Obama."

The National Institutes of Health director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols reports on a, "Iowa Challenge For Obama."

Joel S. Hirschhorn warns, "Don't Mute Newt."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Landover Baptist Church with their list of "Banned Christmas Toys 2011!" but first Uncle Ernie visits, "The Fruitcake Hole."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of David Fitzsimmons, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Edward Gorey, Micah Wright, Jonathan Ernst, Tab Toons, Mad Magazine, Henry Payne, No Sheeple Here.Blogspot.Com, Bradley Manning.Org, Cathy Cochrane, Sherry Snowden, Spencer Platt, Getty Images, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
The Dead Letter Office...
The Cartoon Corner...
To End On A Happy Note...
Have You Seen This...
Parting Shots...

Welcome one and all to "Uncle Ernie's Issues & Alibis."

Bookmark and Share
The Fruitcake Hole
By Ernest Stewart

"Reality is like a fruitcake; pretty enough to look at but with all sorts of nasty things lurking just beneath the surface."
~~~ A. Lee Martinez ~ Gil's All Fright Diner ~~~

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss
Won't Get Fooled Again ~~~ The Who

"For capturing and highlighting a global sense of restless promise, for upending governments and conventional wisdom, for combining the oldest of techniques with the newest of technologies to shine a light on human dignity and, finally, for steering the planet on a more democratic though sometimes more dangerous path for the 21st century, the Protester is Time's 2011 Person of the Year." ~~~ Rick Stengel ~ Time Magazine managing editor

"...Santa came up dressed in his red delivery suit with a very hung over Rumple Tweezer in tow and demanded to know what had happened? When he found out he shook his head and smiled to himself and wondered who he should choose now that Larry the Dwarf was out of the picture. Just then Rumple Tweezer whispered something in Santa's ear and that jolly old Elf laughed out loud and struck Rumple Tweezer on his shoulder knocking him to the ground. As Santa choked on laughter he merrily announced that Winky Tinky would take Larry's place!" ~~~ Winky Tinky's Christmas Adventure

Well, Happy Holidaze, America! How'd you like that gift the Con-gress gave us for Christmas? Thanks to our selected critters in Foggy Bottom, you and the family may soon find yourselves on an all-expenses-paid trip to camp for the summer, if you're lucky, or forever, if you not! Kind of like old Auntie Betty's homemade fruitcakes for a Christmas present; just the thing I need -- how nice! Of course, Aunt Betty's fruitcake never killed anyone; well, not too many, just the ones dumb enough to have a second slice! It was just Betty's way of thinning out the herd a bit -- with that 151 Rum!

You could always get rid of her fruitcakes, without stooping to eat them, just by triple-wrapping them in aluminum foil, like you would atomic waste, and placing them outside in the garbage can until pick up. A single fruitcake at the bottom of a garbage can would keep the raccoons away for a month if frozen, two months if not! Cartoonist Edward Gorey (see cartoon above) drew this picture of what people would do with fruitcake gifts in days of yore -- a fruitcake hole! A hole where folks would come from all over to dispose of their fruitcakes. You may notice at the top of the card that god is disposing of his fruitcake, too!

The National Defense Authorization Act single-handedly pretty much wipes out the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments, The Posse Comitatus Act and habeas corpus. I'm going to repeat that again, for those of you on drugs!


However, as bad as that is, the reality of it is far more frightening than merely this one bill. In fact, this horrible bill is just one drop in the bucket since we came into being the day after the 12-12-2000 coup d'etat went down. Since then, we've seen literally hundreds of other acts of treason and sedition committed, and they were just the ones done out in the open! Trouble is, there is no fruitcake hole for those many acts of treason and sedition or for the many fruitcake members of Con-gress for that matter, but don't you wish there was?

In Other News

Over here on the left, there's been a lot of speculation as of late of the meaning and effects of a Gingrich Presidency and how that might be a good thing! The theorem goes like this: Newt Gingrich is probably the worst-possible choice for the Oval Office in the history of Mankind. The man is pure evil -- criminal -- the one who started the open war between the parties, and is a legend in this own mind -- so who better to wipe away the stranglehold the banksters and big business have on us peons! A man so bad that surely even the Sheeple would tear their Matrix plugs off and rise up as one and overthrow the system and then replace it with one that works; and they all lived happily ever after, the end!

Don't get me wrong; there's nothing I'd like better than to see all this madness end, and in its place arise a Star Trek-like world with no wants or worries for all of Mankind. A place of peace, love, and goodwill to all! As John said, just "Imagine!" I've long been a believer that if Mankind stopped looking for some imaginary heaven above and just tried a little, he could have a real Heaven on Earth! Trouble is, for the last 8,000 years, we've been in a constant state of war with one another, regardless of any interventions of gods and goddesses, or even our better nature. We are the killer ape, and to live in peace, we'll have to overcome all these inbred tendencies of the last four million years!

As to the Newtster, in the long run, he hasn't a chance for the Rethuglican nomination, way too much baggage because to win, the RNC has to field a candidate that can appeal to fence-sitters, and Newt just ain't that guy. Newt is who the Obama Camp is praying for as he'll assure another 4 years of Barry, which is just like having Newt in office as far as our corpo-rat masters are concerned. For them it's a win-win situation, no matter which of these clowns ends up in the Oval Office. Ergo, it's a lose-lose situation for the rest of us!

Still, Newt could be our boy and sweep the elections next November, which suddenly makes that old Mayan prediction seem a lot more likely than we'd like to believe. It's now less than one year and counting; so chose wisely, America! It may be your last chance to vote your way out of this mess!

And Finally

In case you haven't heard, I just won Time Magazines "'Person' of the Year Award;" you may recall that I've won this before in 2006, 1969 and 1966! Before you start sending me your congratulations and patting me on the back, and saying "Speech, speech," I'm not at all sure that congrats are in order?

Consider, for example, the following group of men, all past winners of Time's Man of the Year, oops "Person" of the Year Award. Let me quote a wise man who didn't win Man of the Year, but knows these men, regardless; he said:

"You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy!"

I'm guessing he was talking about these past winners:

Adolph Hitler - Joseph Stalin - Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill - Nikita Khrushchev - Pope John XXIII - Lyndon B. Johnson - General William Childs Westmoreland - Richard M. Nixon - Henry Kissenger - Ayatollah Khomeini - Ronald Reagan - George H.W. Bush - George W. Bush - Rudolph Giuliani - Newt Gingrich - Pope John Paul George Ringo II - Bill Gates - Bono - Vladimir Putin - Barack H. Obama - Ben Bernanke and Mark Zuckerberg!

Quite a rouges' gallery, huh? So you can see that I'm not all that enthused about winning this year's award and being associated with that group of infamous men!

What's that, you say? It was for all the protesters, and not just for me, but for all of us. Phew, thanks for telling me that, what a relief! Then never mind!

Keepin' On

I'm betting that ya'll, no matter your faith, or lack thereof, have old family traditions for this time of the year. Traditions that you're happy to see passed on down the line, from generation to generation to generation. Traditions that this time of the year just wouldn't be the same without. Traditions that everyone from old granddad to the newest arrivals, eagerly look forward to every year. I know that my holidaze are certainly filled with them and I bet that your holidaze are, too!

I'd like to share one of mine with you and yours, and perhaps it will be a new family tradition that you can pass on down to the generations a-commin'?!

For well over a decade, it was a Christmas Eve tradition in my house to gather the family together, around the old computer, just before the little ones go to bed, and with them nestled in our laps, read aloud the wonderful Christmas adventures of Santa's littlest elf; Winky Tinky. Of course, today, unlike in the olden days of the late 1990s, with all the wi-fi you can watch and read from any of your 60 inch, LED/LCD, HD, 3D, TV screens, which gives everybody a better view of Winky as he saves Christmas for all the good little boys and girls all over the world in, "Winky Tinky's Christmas Adventure!" It's a very special Christmas love story, too, and will leave you with a happy sigh when it's over! Happy Holidaze, Ya'll, from your dear old Uncle Ernie!


04-13-1949 ~ 12-15-2011
Thanks for the thoughts brother!

05-15-1920 ~ 12-16-2011
Burn Baby Burn!

02-16-1942 ~ 12-17-2011
Burn Baby Burn!

10-05-1936 ~ 12-18-2011
Thanks for the plays, and the reforms!


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


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

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

A Better World's In Birth (Maybe)
By David Michael Green

If it feels to you a bit reminiscent of 1968 these days, that's because it is.

And that's a good thing.

It's starting to look like 2011 was the year of Basta!, when people finally woke up and found the voice with which to say Enough! To say that it comes in the nick of time is like saying that Rick Perry could afford to study a bit harder. In fact, this development is long overdue.

I don't see much evidence to suggest extensive linkage between the various national uprisings we're witnessing, or even much of a contagion effect - except perhaps in the Middle East - but nevertheless a host of countries have produced unprecedented popular dissent movements over the last year. In fairness, it's probably accurate to say that 2011 actually started in 2009 in Iran, but this year alone has seen major uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Greece, the UK, the US, and Israel, among others. Now, even Mother Russia has been added to the club, while China appears to continue along on something of a slow boil.

Such developments often come in generational waves. The events of 1989 might be an example, though they were more regional in nature, and were the product of a singular cause, the collapse of Soviet hegemony in its neighborhood. 1968 provides the better exemplar, when France and Mexico and the US and Czechoslovakia and other countries rather spontaneously and rather separately experienced highly significant near-revolutions. Though the direct relationship between these respective events was rather tenuous, they shared a common ethos of a young generation rejecting the inheritance they were being offered by an older one whose core value system - rooted in materialism, war, prejudice, hypocrisy and multifarious forms of planetary destruction - was, oddly enough, increasingly found wanting.

It strikes me that we're seeing some of the very same sort of behavior today. That's no surprise. Indeed, the only shocker to me is that the response has taken so long, and that it continues to be so tame. The foolishness of our day's ruling class day is epic in its proportions. As if that isn't bad enough, foolishness is actually a far too generous diagnosis. Like, say, a Newt Gingrich or a Barack Obama, these are not stupid people, and therefore the malady which besets us is far worse than some product of world class bumbling. More than anything, ours is time characterized by greed, on a scale which can only be compared to a Hitler or a Genghis Kahn, or other great historical predators. That may seem like a ridiculous stretch, but one look at the political mechanics behind our policy indifference (on a good day) to the threat of global warming alone produces an indictment few figures in history can match. Add in the wars based on lies, the absence or dismantling of social programs in order to feed the greed of untaxed billionaires, the mortgaging of our children's futures to pay for the same, and more, and you've got a pretty grim bar tab the oligarchy has run up there.

Lucky for these agents of destruction that heaven and hell is just a myth to feed the little people they exploit so adroitly. It sure would be funny to watch what would happen if one of them actually started believing in that crap and felt compelled to do some serious truth telling, a la Bullworth. Well, funny, that is, for about five minutes, until that individual inevitably came to experience a rather inexplicable but nevertheless quite sudden and quite enduring absence of consciousness. Must have been something he ate. The Lobster Cyanide, perhaps.

I'd feel a lot better (which is far from saying good) about what they're doing to the rest of us if I thought they were mere idiots. It's just unbearable to me to know that our demise is instead the product of a combined greed and cynicism that is all but unfathomable in its scale. These sociopathic Masters of the Universe have learned just how easy it is to animate and motivate the pathetic army of clones amongst the hoi polloi to do their bidding and hand over all manner of riches to a one-tenth of one-percent who have long ago exceeded even the capacity to spend the additional sums. What mutant DNA or childhood trauma causes a billionaire to rabidly pursue further billions at the cost of millions of people's basic livelihood and dignity? And what missing CPU chips make it so easy for those millions to exchange their modest perch in the middle class for a nice war or two against a brown-skinned dictator who only yesterday was on the CIA payroll, or the warm feelings that come from some tasty racist, sexist or homophobic discrimination closer to home? The mind fairly reels.

Ah, but here we are, nonetheless. It's quite amazing when you think about it. Just at the same moment when particle physicists are on the verge of unlocking the secrets of the Higgs Boson, you can still get tens of millions of slobbering American rednecks to dance in the streets over the prospects of murdering some poor mentally retarded SOB on death-row in Texas whose drunken lawyer slept through the trial, and whose appellate court 'justices' didn't see any harm in any of that. Did I mention that the individual in question was not part of the one percent?

At the same time, however, there is some good news, which is that such idiocy seems to fast be going the way of, say, the novelty of Paris Hilton. It's yesterday's titillation, today's embarrassment. Part of that, at the risk of being crass, is owing to pure generational replacement. Older people in America - as a generation, certainly not always as individuals - are simply more ignorant, malevolent and backward compared to their grandchildren, which would be more problematic than it is except for the fact that they are at least decent enough to be dying off.

Meanwhile, though, what makes 2011 2011 is the growing sense that waiting for Grandpa Bucephelus to do the right thing and help heal the planet a bit by departing from it is no longer enough. Young people are staring down the business end of both barrels of a wholly bleak future right now, and - go figure - they're not happy about it. And, no, thank you very much, Mr. Perry, Ms. Bachmann and friends, they're not very interested in trading their quality of life for a blivet full of prejudices, phony wars, or some laughably contrary but far less laughably pernicious shuckster's moral lessons derived from the tribal skirmishes among certain Jordan river valley nomads thousands of years ago.

Yeah, imagine that. You take a bunch of twenty year-olds, load them up with debt from all the misadventures and crimes that you (adding special circumstances to your original felony) refused to even pay for, show them a future of living at home with mom and dad while fighting amongst themselves for the honor of toiling away in an unpaid internship at some soul-numbing corporate palace of predation, and - surprise, surprise - they get a bit rowdy in response. Like I said, the only questions are why it's taken so long and why is the response so tame?

That latter question may grow moot over time, as it did, for example in Libya. Meanwhile, though, despite the seeming spontaneous and indigenous quality of each of these various national uprisings, it seems to me that they share three things in common.

First, the participants recognize an absence of real democracy in their governing structures. In some cases, such as Egypt's thirty year dictatorship complete with sham elections where HMFIC Mubarak would win over 90 percent of the vote, this is more obvious than in others. Like, say, for example, the American system, where sham elections instead consistently give more than 90 percent of the vote to the two wings of the same Corporate Party. Regardless of whether you have the choice between Tweedledee and Tweedledum, or are merely confined to voting for Tweedle D. Dumb alone, people everywhere seem to be recognizing that they in fact have no choice, and thus no democracy, at all. If Americans, for example, ever had a one-person-one-vote system, they sure don't anymore. Now it's strictly one-dollar-one-vote. Heads, corporate America gets subsidies, deregulation and externalized production costs; tails, you pay their taxes for them. Usually, though, it's heads and tails, at the same time.

Which brings us to the second characteristic that these cases have in common. It's not an accident that real democracy is off for an extended holiday in each of these countries. It must be, in order that the kleptocracies these nations have actually become can continue to function, largely unimpeded and uninterrupted. Turn your nose up in haughty disgust at Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe if you want (and you definitely should), but I've got some bad news for you. Bad Bob's ugly regime is only different in scale and overtness from those of Egypt, Russia or the United States. To choose what is merely the most prominent example, right now the United States spends more on its military than all the other countries of the world combined - that's nearly 200 nations, for those of you keeping score at home - and yet has no serious enemies anywhere on the horizon. Gee, I wonder why that is. Then there's the case of global warming, which appears to merely be the greatest threat to imperil the planet since the last massive meteor hit and wiped out most life on Earth. No biggie, though. I'm sure it's all just a massive coincidence that we're doing nothing about the collective future of ten billion people and the fact that filthy rich, well-connected fossil fuel peddling corporations would lose money if we did.

All of which leads to a third commonality in each of these cases, which is that of young people surveying the landscape of their future and being a whole lot less than excited about the wreckage they see already strewn thereupon. And what's not to like? Corporate loyalty to employees and lifetime tenure in good career jobs went out with the transistor radio. Public commitment to inexpensive quality education got real quaint real fast when investor bots like Mitt Romney figured out there was money to be made there. Thirty years of tax cuts for the wealthy have to be paid for, and those folks sure as hell not going to be doing it, leaving the tab to you and me instead. The one environment on the one planet we have has been knowingly pissed away by corporate Strangeloves who have absolutely set the all-time world record for sociopathy. But, hey, so what if it's hot and stormy outside? These kids will be hunkered down in their parents' basements for the rest of their lives, anyhow, at least when they're not serving up double mocha lattes.

I am amazed at how long people stood by and watched these conditions develop, especially outside of thuggish dictatorships like Russia or Egypt, where dissent came with real and permanent risks to one's health. Shame on Americans, in particular, for being so stupid and lazy as to buy into the transparent lies and distractions of the Age of Reagan, and sacrifice their futures and those of their children in exchange for the occasional infantile satiation of their worst tendencies toward violence and bigotry. Aren't you glad we got Noriega, now, Billy Bob?!?! Isn't that satisfying, even though you don't have a job or a house anymore? And thank god the queers can't get married, eh?! Building a wall to keep Mexicans out sure is satisfying, isn't it? Yeah. Too bad, though, that we had to trade away the middle class for those seedy little thrills, and drive the country so far into the ditch that we actually solved our illegal immigration problem. Mexicans have literally stopped coming to the US because they can get as much jobless poverty as they want just by staying home, without the nasty demonization crap from drunken gringos trying to paper over their insecurities.

A recent piece in the New York Times summarizes our condition well: "In a Bertelsmann Foundation study on social justice released this fall, the United States came in dead last among the rich countries, with only Greece, Chile, Mexico and Turkey faring worse. Whether in poverty prevention, child poverty, income inequality or health ratings, the United States ranked below countries like Spain and South Korea, not to mention Japan, Germany or France. ... No nation has ever lost an existing middle class, and the United States is not in danger of that yet. But the percentage of national income held by the top 1 percent of Americans went from about 10 percent in 1980 to 24 percent in 2007, and that is a worrisome signal."

But America's short-term future looks even more dismal than the present, if that is imaginable. The Republican presidential field this year could have stepped off the set of any B-rate Hollywood horror film. Or maybe "The Sting". True to form, a good half the candidates are straight-ahead shucksters, pure and simple, who have borrowed directly from the pioneering Sarah Palin's playbook. It turns out that you can make a boatload of money in Republican politics without actually having to do anything remotely onerous, like, say, knowing something about the issues (China has nukes?) or actually serving a full term in office. Two of these confidence men have actually been the GOP flavor of the month at some point this year (four, if you count Palin and Trump, who were so skilled at the game that they never even got in before getting out), and one of those two now looks like he's going to win the nomination.

Somebody (I wish it had been me) recently described Newt Gingrich as "a dumb person's idea of what a smart person sounds like," and boy is that ever the truth. He might also be understood as an amoral sociopath's idea of what a good person sounds like. You can get just about everything you need to know about Gingrich from this one exchange between him and Wife Number Two (of three, and counting) in an Esquire feature published last year:

"He asked her to just tolerate the affair, an offer she refused.

"He'd just returned from Erie, Pennsylvania, where he'd given a speech full of high sentiments about compassion and family values.

"The next night, they sat talking out on their back patio in Georgia. She said, 'How do you give that speech and do what you're doing?'

"'It doesn't matter what I do,' he answered. 'People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn't matter what I live.'"

It's worth noting, by the way, that Gingrich had asked his third wife to marry him before telling his second wife that he was having an affair and wanted a divorce, and that this repeated the pattern of how he left his first wife. But now he's Mr. Faithful, Mr. Pious and Mr. Moral, lecturing the rest of us on proper codes of ethical behavior. This from a guy who proposes scrapping child labor laws. This from a guy who would deny the Palestinian people even the essence of their identity in order to pander yet further to the Likud Lobby and its stranglehold over American politics. This from a guy who - as Barney Frank rightly notes - is more or less singlehandedly responsible for the poisoning of the well of American political discourse these last two decades. This from a guy who ditched his first wife on her hospital bed as she was recovering from cancer surgery, so that he could marry the woman with whom he had been having an affair.

What kills me is that tens of millions of Americans could want to put this obviously tortured soul in the White House, drooling, chanting and hollering in response every invocation of violence and hatred he casually tosses out like so many rhetorical hand grenades. But then this is the nature of our politics. There is this incredibly sick segment of the country - people who look to politics as a chance to vindicate their resentments, justify their hatreds and exonerate their stupidity - and the contest among the GOP candidates is to find the individual who can throw them the most red meat. If you've watched the crowd response at any of the debates these lot have been conducting the last few months, you know exactly what I'm talking about. But it's been there a good long while. Reagan got elected, in part, because he promised to kill more foreigners than Carter would. No joke. Lil' Bush 'won' his first term (as did Clinton, in part) pretty much on his record as a proud and overt serial murderer of Texas death-row inmates. Then, this dress-up-macho Vietnam coward 'won' his second term by out tough-guying a dude who actually did fight in a real war, or at least Bush did so in the minds of these very unwell Republican voters, whose capacity to grapple with the cognitive dissonance driven by avalanches of pesky factual data makes Lindsay Lohan look like a paragon of mental health by comparison.

So there is every chance that Brute Thing-Itch might be the next American president. I thought for sure it would be Tough Guy Rick Perry, instead, but GOP voters surprised me by demonstrating that they actually do have a stupidity threshold of some sorts. It's perfectly fine to tell them the most obscene lies (like where Palin says she reads "all" them journal thingies, or when Mutt emphatically changes his position on everything imaginable). You just can't reveal that you're as dumb as a Texas governor (even if you are one) on national TV by doing that deer in the headlights thing. If you're gonna list three things, well godammit, you need to come up with more than two. (Christ, Fool, just make them up if you need to! Like that would be so out of character for a GOP politician or voter.) Anyhow, call it tough love if you want, but Republican voters appear to have their standards, and Oh-Shit-I-Left-My-Brain-Back-At-The-Ranch-(Again) Perry doesn't seem to meet them. I guess when national politics is part of your personal mechanism for avoiding embarrassment, it's important that your candidate not play the drunken fool in front of millions...

Anyhow, it now looks like Fig Newton could well be standing on the inaugural platform in January of 2013, and I'm not even sure that's a bad thing in the short term or the long term. I'll be delighted to see Obama humiliated and destroyed, for one thing. My antipathy toward him (and Bill Clinton) in many ways surpasses that for the GOP line-up of thugs and bugs. All of the above have the same fundamental commitments to the same cadre of ruling plutocrats, but Obama and Clinton have also managed to destroy the New Deal Democratic Party and the reputation of progressivism in the bargain. And their deceits have been all the more treasonous because of the millions of progressives (including loads of young people, politically mobilized for the first and possibly last time in 2008) whose idealism, compassion and genuine love of country they've so callously trampled upon.

On the other hand, now that Obama is ramping up the Big Lie machine once again, many of those people will get just what they deserve. What was that line Bush mumbled about fooling me twice? I'm astonished to see progressives gearing up to be abused a second time by Obama - who is all of a sudden sounding like a progressive again - like they've walked right out of a Stockholm Syndrome field manual or something. Are we talking about the same guy here? The one who put the actual bandits who wrecked the economy in his cabinet? The one who has not prosecuted a single Wall Street bankster? The one who bailed those thieves out, but has done nothing remotely serious for the unemployed and homeowners? The one who pretends to fold in every negotiation with Republicans? The one whose staff regularly disses progressives?

That guy? Hey, liberal idiots. I have a question for you. Do you really think this bastard is going to become FDR in his second term? Do you really think he's going to seriously slash military funding in order to save Medicare? Do you really think he's going to rescind his deal with the insurance industry in order to provide genuine public health care access? Do you really think he's going to replace Timothy Geithner with Paul Krugman or Joseph Stiglitz? I mean, this is a guy so beholden to Wall Street that he pretended not to have the courage to nominate Elizabeth Warren to the new consumer affairs position she invented. Are you really going to be wooed by him again? If so, if you're so easily abused by your political class, you might as well line up to be Newt's fourth wife for all the street smarts you're displaying.

This country - and likely this global economy - are going to have to go through a shit storm over the next two or three years, and in many ways I'd much rather have some GOP jerk in the White House to make things worse and get the blame than another four years of Half-a-Bama, carrying water for Wall Street while dissipating the anger of stupid liberals who cannot recognize their own enemy just because he puts 'D' after his name, and especially if he does so while being black. We have to get to the point of utter rejection of kleptocratic politics in this country, and the way I see it, a second Obama term drowns that process in molasses, while the sure to be utterly egregious Gingrich could instead be the perfect lightening rod to fully energize the street. The guy is a disaster in every way imaginable, and is a plague I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy (that would probably be Gingrich, anyhow), but right now he might be just the chemotherapy needed for a very, very sick country.

Yes, we'll lose our hair and vomit continuously.

But perhaps we'll finally destroy the cancer of greed which has metastasized in the American body politic.
(c) 2011 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

"With Friends Like These..."
By Uri Avnery

MY GOD, what a bizarre lot these Republican aspirants for the US presidency are!

What a sorry bunch of ignoramuses and downright crazies. Or, at best, what a bunch of cheats and cynics! (With the possible exception of the good doctor Ron Paul).

Is this the best a great and proud nation can produce? How frightening the thought that one of them may actually become the most powerful person in the world, with a finger on the biggest nuclear button!

BUT LET'S concentrate on the present front-runner. (Republicans seem to change front-runners like a fastidious beau changes socks.)

It's Newt Gingrich. Remember him? The Speaker of the House who had an extra-marital affair with an intern while at the same time leading the campaign to impeach President Bill Clinton for having an affair with an intern.

But that's not the point. The point is that this intellectual giant - named after Isaac Newton, perhaps the greatest scientist ever - has discovered a great historical truth.

The original Newton discovered the Law of Gravity. Newton Leroy Gingrich has discovered something no less earth-shaking: there is an "invented" people around, referring to the Palestinians.

To which a humble Israeli like me might answer, in the best Hebrew slang: "Good morning, Eliyahu!" Thus we honor people who have made a great discovery which, unfortunately, has been discovered by others long before.

FROM ITS very beginning, the Zionist movement has denied the existence of the Palestinian people. It's an article of faith.

The reason is obvious: if there exists a Palestinian people, then the country the Zionists were about to take over was not empty. Zionism would entail an injustice of historic proportions. Being very idealistic persons, the original Zionists found a way out of this moral dilemma: they simply denied its existence. The winning slogan was "A land without a people for a people without a land."

So who were these curious human beings they met when they came to the country? Oh, ah, well, they were just people who happened to be there, but not "a" people. Passers-by, so to speak. Later, the story goes, after we had made the desert bloom and turned an arid and neglected land into a paradise, Arabs from all over the region flocked to the country, and now they have the temerity - indeed the chutzpah - to claim that they constitute a Palestinian nation!

For many years after the founding of the State of Israel, this was the official line. Golda Meir famously exclaimed: "There is no such thing as a Palestinian people!"

(To which I replied in the Knesset: "Mrs. Prime Minister, perhaps you are right. Perhaps there really is no Palestinian people. But if millions of people mistakenly believe that they are a people, and behave like a people, then they are a people.")

A huge propaganda machine - both in Israel and abroad - was employed to "prove" that there was no Palestinian people. A lady called Joan Peters wrote a book ("From Time Immemorial") proving that the riffraff calling themselves "Palestinians" had nothing to do with Palestine. They are nothing but interlopers and impostors. The book was immensely successful - until some experts took it apart and proved that the whole edifice of conclusive proofs was utter rubbish.

I myself have spent many hundreds of hours trying to convince Israeli and foreign audiences that there is a Palestinian people and that we have to make peace with them. Until one day the State of Israel recognized the PLO as the sole representative of the "Palestinian people", and the argument was laid to rest.

Until Newt came along and, like a later-day Jesus, raised it from the dead.

OBVIOUSLY, HE is much too busy to read books. True, he was once a teacher of history, but for many years now he has been very busy speakering the Congress, making a fortune as an "adviser" of big corporations and now trying to become president.

Otherwise, he would probably have come across a brilliant historical book by Benedict Anderson, "Imagined Communities", which asserts that all modern nations are invented.

Nationalism is a relatively recent historical phenomenon. When a community decides to become a nation, it has to reinvent itself. That means inventing a national past, reshuffling historical facts (and non-facts) in order to create a coherent picture of a nation existing since antiquity. Hermann the Cherusker, member of a Germanic tribe who betrayed his Roman employers, became a "national" hero. Religious refugees who landed in America and destroyed the native population became a "nation". Members of an ethnic-religious Diaspora formed themselves into a "Jewish nation". Many others did more or less the same.

Indeed, Newt would profit from reading a book by a Tel Aviv University professor, Shlomo Sand, a kosher Jew, whose Hebrew title speaks for itself: "When and How the Jewish People was Invented?"

Who are these Palestinians? About a hundred years ago, two young students in Istanbul, David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the future Prime Minister and President (respectively) of Israel, wrote a treatise about the Palestinians. The population of this country, they said, has never changed. Only small elites were sometimes deported. The towns and villages never moved, as their names prove. Canaanites became Israelites, then Jews and Samaritans, then Christian Byzantines. With the Arab conquest, they slowly adopted the religion of Islam and the Arabic Culture. These are today's Palestinians. I tend to agree with them.

PARROTING THE straight Zionist propaganda line - by now discarded by most Zionists - Gingrich argues that there can be no Palestinian people because there never was a Palestinian state. The people in this country were just "Arabs" under Ottoman rule.

So what? I used to hear from French colonial masters that there is no Algerian people, because there never was an Algerian state, there was never even a united country called Algeria. Any takers for this theory now?

The name "Palestine" was mentioned by a Greek historian some 2500 years ago. A "Duke of Palestine" is mentioned in the Talmud. When the Arabs conquered the country, they called it "Filastin, as they still do." The Arab national movement came into being all over the Arab world, including Palestine - at the same time as the Zionist movement - and strove for independence from the Ottoman Sultan.

For centuries, Palestine was considered a part of Greater Syria (the region known in Arabic as 'Sham'). There was no formal distinction between Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians and Jordanians. But when, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the European powers divided the Arab world between them, a state called Palestine became a fact under the British Mandate, and the Arab Palestinian people established themselves as a separate nation with a national flag of their own. Many peoples in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America did the same, even without asking Gingrich for confirmation.

It would certainly be ironic if the members of the "invented" Palestinian nation were expected to ask for recognition from the members of the "invented" Jewish/Israeli nation, at the demand of a member of the "invented" American nation, a person who, by the way, is of mixed German, English, Scottish and Irish stock.

Years ago, there was short-lived controversy about Palestinian textbooks. It was argued that they were anti-Semitic and incited to murder. That was laid to rest when it became clear that all Palestinian schoolbooks were cleared by the Israeli occupation authorities, and most were inherited from the previous Jordanian regime. But Gingrich does not shrink from resurrecting this corpse, too.

All Palestinians - men, women and children - are terrorists, he asserts, and Palestinian pupils learn at school how to kill us poor and helpless Israelis. Ah, what would we do without such stout defenders as Newt? What a pity that this week a photo of him, shaking the hand of Yasser Arafat, was published.

And please don't show him the textbooks used in some of our schools, especially the religious ones!

IS IT really a waste of time to write about such nonsense?

It may seem so, but one cannot ignore the fact that the dispenser of these inanities may be tomorrow's President of the United States of America. Given the economic situation, that is not as unlikely as it sounds.

As for now, Gingrich is doing immense damage to the national interests of the US. At this historic juncture, the masses at all the Tahrir Squares across the Arab world are wondering about America's attitude. Newt's answer contributes to a new and more profound anti-Americanism.

Alas, he is not the only extreme rightist seeking to embrace Israel. Israel has lately become the Mecca of all the world's racists. This week we were honored by the visit of the husband of Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front. A pilgrimage to the Jewish State is now a must for any aspiring fascist.

One of our ancient sages coined the phrase: >I>"Not for nothing does the starling go to the raven. It's because they are of the same kind."

Thanks. But sorry. They are not of my kind.

To quote another proverb: With friends like these, who needs enemies?
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Supporters from Occupy Wall Street participate in a protest before marching to Zuccotti Park.

A Sign Occupy Wall Street Is Having Political Impact
By Matt Taibbi

For those saying that Occupy Wall Street hasn't had a concrete effect, take a look at this. It's not much, but it's a little something. The leaders of the House Financial Services Committee announced yesterday that they will be holding hearings on the SEC's practice of concluding settlements with Wall Street defendants without forcing the accused to admit to wrongdoing.

This whole thing seems to be the creature of ranking Republican Spencer Bachus. From his site:

"The SEC's practice of using 'no-contest settlements' has raised concerns about accountability and transparency, and I'm pleased the Committee will examine these concerns in a bipartisan manner," said Chairman Bachus.

If they actually do something about this, then it'll be time to give them a pat on the back. But in the meantime, we can expect to see a lot of things like this in an election year marked by an absence of a real galvanizing message coming from either party. With OWS and populist anger generally filling that messaging void, there are going to be a lot of politicians who will look to capitalize by doing things like, for instance, beating up on the SEC in a few days of well-publicized but ineffectual hearings.

Spencer Bachus to positioning himself as a champion of Wall Steeet reform is, of course, hilarious. Not only was he one of the leaders of the opposition to even the very mild Dodd-Frank reform, he went out of his way to stall changes to the rules governing derivative trades that would have prevented abuses like JP Morgan Chase's rape of Jefferson County, Alabama. This was particularly egregious because Bachus, who was the House's third-biggest recipient of Wall Street money and a heavy beneficiary of donations from Chase, happened to be Jefferson County's congressman.

So this guy is no enemy of the banks. What yesterday's move does show, however, is that politicians are listening to the specific complaints of OWS. A year ago, we would never have even seen hearings like this coming from the likes of Bachus and Barney Frank, who also supported them move. But now, everybody is trying to find a way to ride the wave. It's too early to celebrate any of this, but it can't be a bad thing.
(c) 2011 Matt Taibbi

By Sam Harris

The moment it was announced that Christopher Hitchens was sick with cancer, eulogies began spilling into print and from the podium. No one wanted to deny the possibility that he would recover, of course, but neither could we let the admiration we felt for him go unexpressed. It is a cliche to say that he was one of a kind and none can fill his shoes-but Hitch was and none can. In his case not even the most effusive tributes ring hollow. There was simply no one like him.

One of the joys of living in a world filled with stupidity and hypocrisy was to see Hitch respond. That pleasure is now denied us. The problems that drew his attention remain-and so does the record of his brilliance, courage, erudition, and good humor in the face of outrage. But his absence will leave an enormous void in the years to come. Hitch lived an extraordinarily large life. (Read his memoir, Hitch-22, and marvel.) It was too short, to be sure-and one can only imagine what another two decades might have brought out of him-but Hitch produced more fine work, read more books, met more interesting people, and won more arguments than most of us could in several centuries.

I first met Hitch at a dinner at the end of April 2007, just before the release of his remarkable book god is not Great. After a long evening, my wife and I left him standing on the sidewalk in front of his hotel. His book tour was just beginning, and he was scheduled to debate on a panel the next morning. It was well after midnight, but it was evident from his demeanor that his clock had a few hours left to run. I had heard the stories about his ability to burn the candle at both ends, but staggering there alongside him in the glare of a street lamp, I made a mental note of what struck me as a fact of nature-tomorrow's panel would be a disaster.

I rolled out of bed the following morning, feeling quite wrecked, to see Hitch holding forth on C-SPAN's Book TV, dressed in the same suit he had been wearing the night before. Needless to say, he was effortlessly lucid and witty-and taking no prisoners. There should be a name for the peculiar cocktail of emotion I then enjoyed: one part astonishment, one part relief, two parts envy; stir. It would not be the last time I drank it in his honor.

Since that first dinner, I have felt immensely lucky to count Hitch as a friend and colleague-and very unlucky indeed not to have met him sooner. Before he became ill, I had expected to have many more years in which to take his company for granted. But our last meeting was in February of this year, in Los Angeles, where we shared the stage with two rabbis. His illness was grave enough at that point to make the subject of our debate-Is there an afterlife?-seem a touch morbid. It also made traveling difficult for him. I was amazed that he had made the trip at all.

The evening before the event, we met for dinner, and I was aware that it might be our last meal together. I was also startled to realize that it was our first meal alone. I remember thinking what a shame it was-for me-that our lives had not better coincided. I had much to learn from him.

I have been privileged to witness the gratitude that so many people feel for Hitch's life and work-for, wherever I speak, I meet his fans. On my last book tour, those who attended my lectures could not contain their delight at the mere mention of his name-and many of them came up to get their books signed primarily to request that I pass along their best wishes to him. It was wonderful to see how much Hitch was loved and admired-and to be able to share this with him before the end.

I will miss you, brother.
(c) 2011 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values. Follow Sam Harris on Twitter.

The Coldest Cut Of All

Scrooge was a nasty old miser, but even he came to see the soul-destroying evil of his ways and found redemption in the end. One wonders though - is there any hope for the Scrooges of Washington?

Congressional Republicans are protecting tax breaks for Wall Street billionaires and Big Oil, while demanding that programs to aid America's growing number of poor people either be slashed or eliminated. The Obama White House is fighting most of this nonsense, but it's trying to appease the GOP by offering to sacrifice programs that ordinary people really need. For example, LIHEAP.

Much of the country doesn't know what that is, but people who go through the long, bitterly cold winters in the Northeast know that LIHEAP literally is a lifeline for the thousands of poor families there. It's the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps the poor afford the steadily-rising price being charged for the heating oil that northeastern states rely on. Home heating oil in Maine is presently running $3.66 a gallon, up from $2.87 a year ago.

Yet, in a concession to the GOP, Obama has proposed whacking LIHEAP's funding so severely that average benefits this winter would fall from about $800 per home to just over $300. That's not just throwing a budget into the Republican shredder, it's throwing people into it! In Bangor, Maine, where the average January low is only seven degrees above zero, the slashed benefits will buy only about 100 gallons of fuel for the typical low-income home. It takes 850 gallons for those homes to stay heated through the winter season.

Rather than literally tossing the poor into the cold, how about cutting off all heat to the White House and Capitol? Let those Scrooges feel the sting of their budgetary miserliness.
(c) 2011 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Jon gives the corpo-rat salute!

A Corzine Con?
By Helen Thomas

Jon Corzine - the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, former governor of and U.S. senator from New Jersey - took over leadership of MF Global and highly leveraged the company to complete bankruptcy. So for him to tell the United States House Committee on Agriculture during three hours of grilling that he didn't know where the missing $1.2 billion in customer funds went seems ludicrous.

Is that the way big corporate executives do business? Would they ignore missing money that belonged to their customers and not ask questions?

Corzine admits he was stunned when he realized the loss.

"I simply don't know where the money is," Corzine told members of the House Agriculture Committee. He claimed to have learned of the shortfall of funds on Oct. 30.

Corzine kept his cool during the grilling, even when one senator said his mother told him "always do the right thing, even when nobody is looking."

Corzine looked the part of an affluent businessman, wearing a black suit and a silk tie. He had been subpoenaed, and passed on using those Fifth Amendment rights that would have gotten him off the hook when he testified.

It is hard to believe that Corzine helped author the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that regulated the actions of corporate boards, and yet his own legislation could not protect the thousands of investors who lost $1.2 billion due to his mismanagement.

Section 302 of the Act requires the CEO and the CFO of companies to approve quarterly financial reports. How can Corzine testify that he doesn't know where the money is? Did he review quarterly financial reports, or is he just lying? Shouldn't he know what is required of a CEO - after all, he not only was the CEO of Goldman Sachs, but he was a member of the Banking and Budget committees as a senator.

Enron filed for bankruptcy on Dec. 2, 2001. It was so shocking at the time that "America's Most Innovative Company" - according to Fortune magazine, under the watchful eye of Arthur Andersen, a premier accounting firm - could be so entangled in planned accounting fraud.

The collapse of Enron was the reason for the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and yet over the past decade it appears Enron was the first domino to fall. After the Enron scandal, accounting fraud not only continued, but got worse.

The derivatives market took off. With no regulation, we ended 2008 with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, Bank of America having to buy Merrill Lynch, the government paying $85 billion to bail AIG out of bankruptcy, and the purchase of Washington Mutual by J.P. Morgan Chase, in the biggest bank failure in history. So what exactly did we accomplish in terms of regulation?

Brooksley Born, during her tenure as chairperson of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, tried to warn us in 1999 of the dangers of the unregulated derivatives market, and the Greenspan, Rubin and Summers dream team ran her out of town.

We are currently experiencing one of the tightest credit crunches in history. No one has recovered from the crash of 2008, except those who caused the crash in the first place. Wall Street seems to have recovered - they at least have access to money that no one else seems to have.

When are we going to wake up and do something to prevent these Wall Street crooks from taking all of our money? I am tired of bailing unregulated bankers out of bankruptcy with hard-earned tax payer dollars.

As I watch Corzine testify, I can't help but wonder if Wall Street attracts gambling addicts. Corzine helped write the regulations and said all the right things publicly, and yet when he was in the driver's seat he drove off the cliff. It's as if he had no control - he couldn't help himself.

At the end of the day, Corzine should have known better, and we should know better. Obviously we need regulation to control the gambling addicts we have running Wall Street.
(c) 2011 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row At The White House: My Life and Times.

BrainGate - Making Damaged Bodies Function
By James Donahue

I was a fan of Mad Magazine probably from the first day it appeared in print. I may have owned a first edition copy at one time. One of those first issues contained a cartoon story of a futuristic world in which technology had become so advanced that humans were so dependent upon machines their muscles were atrophied. Everybody rode around in mechanized wheelchairs. Machines prepared their meals, fed them, maintained their homes and took care of their every need.

The machines that ran this world, at least in the comic story, were controlled by a master computer, or brain. In the story something went wrong with the computer, it stopped working, and the people suddenly found themselves trapped in bodies that no longer worked.

That was the Mad version of a future world as envisioned in the 1950s. Strangely, a reverse version of that very idea is being developed by a group of world-renowned experts in robotics and computers at such prestigious universities as Brown, Harvard, Emory, MIT, Columbia and the University of Utah. The joint project has been given the odd name BrainGate.

The idea is to develop computer technology that works with the human brain to make such devices as wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs and voice machines assist people with pronounced physical disabilities enjoy improved lives. Thus there may be hope for paraplegics, quadriplegics, the many military men and women returning home from the wars with missing arms and legs, people with spinal cord injuries and even stroke victims.

The researchers are so optimistic about the work they are doing they believe the BrainGate project has the potential to revolutionize the way our brains work.

The BrainGate project is described as a brain implant system developed by Cyberkinetics, a bio-tech company working with the Department of Neuroscience at Brown University. It involves implanting a computer chip in the brain that monitors brain activity and uses the information to issue computer commands that move mechanical devices.

It is a simple concept, but it has involved working with a complex part of the human body, the human brain. And this has taken years and years of research by a lot of very skilled people from all around the world.

The chip now being tried uses 96 hair-thin electrodes that sense the electro-magnetic signatures of neurons firing in targeted areas of the brain. For example, if the chip is inserted to control a robotic arm, it is placed in the part of the brain that controls arm movement.

Early experiments with the chip have involved placing chips in a man with a spinal cord injury and another suffering from advanced ALS. Pilot trials also were conducted on four patients suffering from tetaplegia, a reduced ability to use their arms and legs.

The results of the early trials have proven that the BrainGate chip may soon become a workable solution for hundreds of thousands of wheelchair-bound people.

It was reported that the trial involving the paraplegic was so successful, the patient was able to steer his wheelchair by blowing into a tube connected to his mouth. Also by using his thoughts to manipulate a computer cursor, the patient successfully opened and read e-mails, played video games, grasped objects with a robotic arm. He even operated light switches and television controls by mere thought.

As promising as the early trials sound, the researchers warn that they still have a lot of bugs to work out before BrainGate can be made available to the public. They say the technology cries for improved wireless transmissions. Also they have found that once the chip is implanted in the brain, the ability of the electrodes to communicate with brain signals deteriorates. They do not know why this happens. So the chip only works for a few months and then must be replaced. Leaving a permanent hole in the patient's head creates a high risk of infection.

Nevertheless, the researchers are determined to make the BrainGate project work. And there is one thing we all know about human ingenuity. In a strange sense, we are all gods when it comes down to creating things. No goal seems to be impossible if we set our minds to achieving it.

Other researchers are working on yet another device called Functional Electrical Stimulation. They are using small electrical pulses to stimulate muscles in paralyzed limbs to make them function again. The project is also designed to help paraplegics and patients suffering from muscular degeneration enjoy normal activities like grasping objects, standing and walking, and improving bladder and bowel functions.

If successful, the future may look much brighter for the handicapped. All we can hope for is that the mad scientists don't carry the project to the extremes depicted in the 1950s Mad Magazine cartoon.
(c) 2011 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Direct elections: A threat to America!
Why are Mitch McConnell and the rest of the GOP so terrified of a national popular vote?
By David Sirota

When the Senate minority leader of the United States calls something "a genuine threat to our country," everyone - regardless of party - should listen. Even in the post-9/11 era of overheated language and hyper-partisanship, that kind of declaration from such a powerful public official is not to be taken lightly.

So, what horrible menace to our way of life was Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talking about when he recently uttered those words? Communism? Al-Qaida? Hostile extraterrestrials?

None of the above. He was referring to democracy.

That sounds hard to believe, but it's absolutely true. In a speech last week to the Heritage Foundation, McConnell used that War on Terror-flavored jeremiad about an existential "threat" to describe a grass-roots effort aimed at electing presidents via a national popular vote.

Prompted by frustration with swing states' disproportionate power, the national popular vote idea is elegant in its simplicity. States commit their Electoral College votes to the national popular vote winner, regardless of the outcome of the presidential contest within their boundaries. The plan does not go into effect until a majority of Electoral College votes are signed on, but if and when that happens, America finally gets what should be a fundamental democratic guarantee: that our president is the candidate who received the majority of votes.

To most readers, that seems like a non-ideological no-brainer; it means every vote is equally important, regardless of geography. And why shouldn't it be that way? After all, there's no moral or substantive reason that a vote in liberal Denver should be more valued by a presidential election system than a vote in rural Idaho just because the Denver vote was cast in the swing state of Colorado. Similarly, there's no democratic justification for candidates reaching the Oval Office when they didn't win the most votes.

Yet, despite those nonpartisan truisms, McConnell billed the accelerating national popular vote campaign as a nefarious liberal plot. While such a paranoid theory sounds like a "Saturday Night Live" spoof of a Fox News diatribe, the Senate minority leader was dead serious, which made his statements all the more hilarious - but also painfully revealing. They highlight the fact that Republicans are now openly defining themselves as opponents of the most basic democratic ideals.

In the states, the onslaught against voting has been unself-consciously overt. As civil rights lawyer Judith Browne Dianis told CNN, "Through a spate of restrictive laws passed in Republican-led legislatures, a disproportionate number of African-Americans, Latinos, people with disabilities, the elderly and the young will find voting difficult and in many cases impossible." These statutes, she notes, "require a state photo ID to vote, limit early voting, place strict requirements on voter registration and deny voting rights to Americans with criminal records who have paid their debt to society."

Now, with 132 electoral votes signing on to the national popular vote compact, there's the real possibility of more democratic presidential elections. So the highest-ranking Republican in America is mobilizing the opposition.

Taken together, this coordinated war on democracy leads to a frightening question: Why is it being waged?

Republicans claim they are moved by (totally unproven) fears of rampant voter fraud, but their obvious motivation is authoritarian self-interest. With polls showing the party's policy goals wholly out of line with public attitudes, the GOP is trying to limit the public's democratic rights. In other words, Republicanism is at odds with public opinion. So, rather than bend to that opinion, Republicans are trying to disenfranchise it.

Such fanatical ends-justify-the-means-ism was once the exclusive hallmark of foreign banana republics. Should our own Banana Republicans succeed in their assault on democracy, that's exactly the kind of backward country America will become.
(c) 2011 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Set Your Doomsday Clock To 11:51
By David Swanson

The National Defense Authorization Act is not a leap from democracy to tyranny, but it is another major step on a steady and accelerating decade-long march toward a police state. The doomsday clock of our republic just got noticeably closer to midnight, and the fact that almost nobody knows it, simply moves that fatal minute-hand a bit further still.

I'm not referring to the "doomsday" predicted by Leon Panetta should military spending be scaled back to the obscenely inflated levels of 2007. I'm talking about the complete failure to keep the republic that Benjamin Franklin warned we might not. Practices that were avoided, outsourced, or kept secret when Bill Clinton was president were directly engaged in on such a scale under president George W. Bush that they became common knowledge. Under President Obama they are becoming formal law and acceptable policy.

Obama has claimed the power to imprison people without a trial since his earliest months in office. He spoke in front of the Constitution in the National Archives while gutting our founding document in 2009. So why not pick the 220th anniversary of the Bill of Rights to further codify its elimination? President Obama has claimed the power to torture "if needed," issued an executive order claiming the power of imprisonment without trial, exercised that power on a massive scale at Bagram, and claimed and exercised the power to assassinate U.S. citizens. Obama routinely kills people with unmanned drones.

As Obama's Justice Department has broken new ground in the construction of state secrecy and immunity, the Bush era advancers of imperial presidential power have gone on book tours bragging about their misdeeds. One can expect the next step to involve serious abuse of those who question and resist the current bipartisan trajectory.

So what does the latest bill do, other than dumping another $660 billion into wars and war preparation? Well, it says this:

"Nothing in this section is intended to limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force."

In other words, Congress is giving its stamp of approval to the unconstitutional outrages already claimed by the president. But then, why create a new law at all? Well, because some outrages are more equal than others, and Congress has chosen to specify some of those and in fact to expand some of them. For example:

"Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b) pending disposition under the law of war."

And this:

"The disposition of a person under the law of war as described in subsection (a) may include the following: (1) Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force."

Jon Stewart explained when those detained without trial under the law might be released: "So when the war on terror ends, and terror surrenders and is no longer available as a human emotion, you are free to go."

An exception for U.S. citizens was kept out of the bill at President Obama's request.

So why did Obama threaten to veto the bill initially and again after it passed the Senate? Well, one change made by the conference committee was this:

"The Secretary of Defense President may, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, waive the requirement of paragraph (1) if the Secretary President submits to Congress a certification in writing that such a waiver is in the national security interests of the United States."

The reference here is to military tribunals. The President - that is, the current one and future ones - need not hand someone over even to a military tribunal if . . . well, if he (or she) chooses not to.

President Obama wanted a bill that limited him in no way, and he is likely to issue a law-altering signing-statement that further removes any offensive limits on absolute tyrannical power. This type of signing statement is another example of something done secretly by Bush, exposed, turned into a temporary scandal, denounced by candidate Obama, then utilized by President Obama, formally established by executive order, and now more or less accepted by everyone as the norm.

That is what will happen with trial-free imprisonment and assassination as well. And the presidents who engage in these practices will be from both major political parties. So readers should weigh the acceptable crimes and abuses of the good tyrants on their team against the risk of presidents from the other team doing the same. Of course, this team loyalty is the main reason the streets of Washington are not filled with protesters. The corporate media believes that outrages agreed to by both parties are not news. Many Democrats believe any power a Democratic president wants he should have, even though all of his successors will have it too. And many Republicans back whatever comes out of a Republican House of Representatives.

A large majority of Republicans in the House voted to eviscerate our Bill of Rights, and the Democrats split 93 to 93. In the Senate both parties overwhelmingly voted "Aye."

If ever there was a time to build an independent, principled movement based in activism rather than elections and to put a few more minutes back on the doomsday clock, this is it. While Obama's decision not to veto this bill has discouraged many, at RootsAction we've continued demanding a veto because we think the Constitution should be upheld and improved, not dismantled. If signed into law, we will demand that this elimination of our rights be repealed by Congress or overturned in court, and we will use that campaign to educate the public about what just happened.
(c) 2011 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Trial Of Bradley Manning
Rule of Law or Rule of Intimidation, Retaliation & Retribution
By Ann Wright

Yesterday, December 16, 2011, 40 supporters of Bradley Manning saw him in person in the military courtroom at Fort Meade, Maryland and another 60 saw him on a video feed from the court, the first time Manning has been seen by the public in 19 months. Over 100 other supporters, including 50 from Occupy Wall Street who had bused down from New York City, were at the front gates of Fort Meade in solidarity with Manning.

Hundreds of supporters will gather today, Saturday, December 17, for a large rally and march.

For his first court appearance, Bradley was in what looked to be a new military uniform and typically military, he had a fresh haircut. He was not in shackles in the courtroom, but it appeared in a photo that he was shackled in the van that brought him to the court. Manning talked freely with his civilian defense counsel and his two military legal counsels.

He did not turn around and look at the people in the court, but as he was brought in and taken out during the various recesses of the court, he no doubt noticed supporters in Bradley Manning t-shirts.

Bradley Manning has been imprisoned for 19 months, since May, 2010, without a trial. Yesterday, December 16, 2011, an Article 32 hearing began at Fort Meade, Maryland, in which an investigating officer will determine whether there is sufficient evidence of the crimes with which the military has charged him for the case to be referred to a General court-martial.

In July, 2010, Manning was charged with transferring classified information onto his personal computer and communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source. 22 more crimes were charged in March 2011, including "aiding the enemy," a capital offense. Defense Department prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty. In April, 2011, Manning was found fit to face a court martial.

Defense Challenges Impartiality of Investigating Officer

On Friday, December 16, Manning's civilian lawyer, David Coombs challenged the impartiality of the investigating officer US Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel Paul Almanza, citing Almanza's civilian employment as a lawyer in the Department of Justice which has conducted investigations on Manning, Julian Assange, and Wikileaks. The defense team had requested that 38 witnesses be allowed to testify in the Article 32 hearing. Coombs also said that the decision of Almanza to allow only two defense witnesses other than the 10 the prosecution wanted demonstrated a bias by Almanza.

Coombs told Almanza, "That simple fact alone, without anything else, would cause a reasonable person to say, ‘I question your impartiality.'" Stating that his office of child exploitation in the Department of Justice had nothing to do with the Wikileaks investigation or with national security issues, Almanza denied Coombs' request for recusal.

Almanza told Coombs and Manning, "I do not believe a reasonable person, knowing all the circumstances, would be led to the conclusion that my impartiality would be reasonably questioned. I thus deny the defense request to recuse myself."

After that, Coombs filed a writ with the Army Court of Criminal Appeals to stay the proceedings until a decision can be made on whether Almanza should continue to preside. According to military law experts, the hearing can proceed while the appeals court makes its determination.

Manning under harsh imprisonment at Quantico reeked of intimidation and retaliation

The military's treatment of Manning has reeked of intimidation and retaliation.

Until citizen activist protests six months ago in March, 2011, brought sufficient attention to the harsh conditions of his pre-trial confinement, the US military was treating him as if he were beyond the scrutiny of the law - as if he were an "enemy combatant" in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib. Amnesty International and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture expressed great concern about the conditions under which Manning was being held - in a maximum-security, single-occupancy cell, placed on a prevention-of-injury order and allowed to wear only a suicide-proof smock at night.

Independent UN expert on torture calls for unrestricted access to Manning and other US detainees.

On July 12, 2011, Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, stated that it was "vital for him to have unmonitored access to Bradley Manning." Mendez said,

"I am assured by the US Government that Mr. Manning's prison regime and confinement is markedly better than it was when he was in Quantico, however, in addition to obtaining firsthand information on my own about his new conditions of confinement, I need to ascertain whether the conditions he was subjected to for several months in Quantico amounted to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. For that, it is imperative that I talk to Mr. Manning under conditions where I can be assured that he is being absolutely candid."

At the request of Mr. Mendez and after several meetings, the US Department of Defense said it would allow him to visit Mr. Manning, but warned that the conversation would be monitored.

Mendez said such a condition violated long-standing rules that the UN applies for prison visits and for interviews with inmates everywhere in the world. On humanitarian grounds and under protest, Mr. Mendez, through Mr. Manning's counsel, offered to visit him under these restrictive conditions, an offer Manning declined.

Mr. Mendez said, "The question of my unfettered access to a detainee goes beyond my request to meet with Mr. Manning -- it touches on whether I will be able to conduct private and unmonitored interviews with detainees if I were to conduct a country visit to the United States."

Additionally, Mr. Mendez has requested several times since his appointment in November, 2010, that the US Government allow him to visit the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. However, the US government has not responded to his requests.

Best Military Legal System in the World?

Despite the military's mantra of having the best military legal system in the world, the past treatment of Manning-keeping him in solitary confinement, forcing him to stand naked while in pre-trial confinement and the lack of compliance with the norms of the military legal system of a "speedy" trial have added to the low points of Abu Gharib and Guantanamo in the history of military "justice."

The federal courts have long established mechanism of dealing with classified information in national security cases.

The military's contention that it took 19 months to figure out how to try him while protecting classified materials reeks of intimidation, retribution and retaliation.
(c) 2011 Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army veteran who retired as a Colonel, and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003, in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001, she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of "Dissent: Voices Of Conscience." Her March 19, 2003, letter of resignation can be read here. She traveled to Gaza three times in 2009 after the Israeli attack on Gaza that killed 1,440, wounded 5,000 and left 50,000 homeless. She was an organizer of the Gaza Freedom March in December, 2009, that brought 1350 persons from 44 countries to Cairo, Egypt, and was one of the passengers on the Gaza flotilla.

Will China Break?
By Paul Krugman

Consider the following picture: Recent growth has relied on a huge construction boom fueled by surging real estate prices, and exhibiting all the classic signs of a bubble. There was rapid growth in credit - with much of that growth taking place not through traditional banking but rather through unregulated "shadow banking" neither subject to government supervision nor backed by government guarantees. Now the bubble is bursting - and there are real reasons to fear financial and economic crisis.

Am I describing Japan at the end of the 1980s? Or am I describing America in 2007? I could be. But right now I'm talking about China, which is emerging as another danger spot in a world economy that really, really doesn't need this right now.

I've been reluctant to weigh in on the Chinese situation, in part because it's so hard to know what's really happening. All economic statistics are best seen as a peculiarly boring form of science fiction, but China's numbers are more fictional than most. I'd turn to real China experts for guidance, but no two experts seem to be telling the same story.

Still, even the official data are troubling - and recent news is sufficiently dramatic to ring alarm bells.

The most striking thing about the Chinese economy over the past decade was the way household consumption, although rising, lagged behind overall growth. At this point consumer spending is only about 35 percent of G.D.P., about half the level in the United States.

So who's buying the goods and services China produces? Part of the answer is, well, we are: as the consumer share of the economy declined, China increasingly relied on trade surpluses to keep manufacturing afloat. But the bigger story from China's point of view is investment spending, which has soared to almost half of G.D.P.

The obvious question is, with consumer demand relatively weak, what motivated all that investment? And the answer, to an important extent, is that it depended on an ever-inflating real estate bubble. Real estate investment has roughly doubled as a share of G.D.P. since 2000, accounting directly for more than half of the overall rise in investment. And surely much of the rest of the increase was from firms expanding to sell to the burgeoning construction industry.

Do we actually know that real estate was a bubble? It exhibited all the signs: not just rising prices, but also the kind of speculative fever all too familiar from our own experiences just a few years back - think coastal Florida.

And there was another parallel with U.S. experience: as credit boomed, much of it came not from banks but from an unsupervised, unprotected shadow banking system. There were huge differences in detail: shadow banking American style tended to involve prestigious Wall Street firms and complex financial instruments, while the Chinese version tends to run through underground banks and even pawnshops. Yet the consequences were similar: in China as in America a few years ago, the financial system may be much more vulnerable than data on conventional banking reveal.

Now the bubble is visibly bursting. How much damage will it do to the Chinese economy - and the world?

Some commentators say not to worry, that China has strong, smart leaders who will do whatever is necessary to cope with a downturn. Implied though not often stated is the thought that China can do what it takes because it doesn't have to worry about democratic niceties.

To me, however, these sound like famous last words. After all, I remember very well getting similar assurances about Japan in the 1980s, where the brilliant bureaucrats at the Ministry of Finance supposedly had everything under control. And later, there were assurances that America would never, ever, repeat the mistakes that led to Japan's lost decade - when we are, in reality, doing even worse than Japan did.

For what it's worth, statements about economic policy from Chinese officials don't strike me as being especially clear-headed. In particular, the way China has been lashing out at foreigners - among other things, imposing a punitive tariff on imports of U.S.-made autos that will do nothing to help its economy but will help poison trade relations - does not sound like a mature government that knows what it's doing.

And anecdotal evidence suggests that while China's government may not be constrained by rule of law, it is constrained by pervasive corruption, which means that what actually happens at the local level may bear little resemblance to what is ordered in Beijing.

I hope that I'm being needlessly alarmist here. But it's impossible not to be worried: China's story just sounds too much like the crack-ups we've already seen elsewhere. And a world economy already suffering from the mess in Europe really, really doesn't need a new epicenter of crisis.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought! Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder! Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings! Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction! Be heroes in an army of construction!"
~~~ Helen Keller

Recovering From Authoritarian Simpatico Syndrome (ASS)
"Because the cops don't need you and man they expect the same"
By Phil Rockstroh

Witnessing the acts and utterances of Republican presidential candidates can be regarded as a helpful psychological exercise, a type of "exposure therapy" involving the development of methods used to bear the presence of unbearable people who insist on evincing the history of human ignorance, duplicity and insanity.

"I can't go on; I go on." ~~~ Samuel Beckett

All alive are tasked with the challenge of, not only proceeding through life despite these kinds of insults to common sense and common decency, but to make a stand, in one's own unique way, against prevailing forms of madness and oppression.

As a case in point, within the mainstream narratives of the corporate media and that of both major political parties, one bears constant witness to palaver involving the nebulous tyrannies of "big government"; although, incongruously, one scarcely receives from those sources focused complaints and critiques (much less probing investigative reports or congressional hearings) directed at the excesses of the national security/police state and Military/Big Media/Prison Industrial Complex. The "big government" narrative is a misdirection campaign--a smoke screen serving to obscure corporate/military dominance of political life and its effects on the social criteria of everyday life in the nation. Accordingly, government is only as big as the 1% who own and operate it will allow it to be.

Therefore, due to the fact that elitist interests all but control the U.S. political class, in order to change government policies, a radical rethinking and revamping of the economic order of the nation must occur. Although, at this late date in the life of empire, change will have to come from the streets, from uprisings--by occupations--by a restructuring of the entire system, from its cracked foundation, to rotting support beams, to corroding particle board, to lousy paint job.

Yet, this will be an organic process...unpredictable, fraught with peril, freighted with the expansiveness of the novel, tinged with apprehensions borne of grief. But upheaval is inevitable because the present system is deep into the process of entropic runaway. And because uncertainty will be our constant companion, one is advised to make it an ally.

The neoliberal capitalist order is on a path towards extinction. And it will, most likely, die ugly. But it has lived ugly as well. The system never worked as advertised...was more sales pitch than substance in its promise to increase innovation and deliver prosperity worldwide. Conversely, the set-up leveled enslavement to powerful interests by means of a 21st century version of company town despotism e.g., workhouses, sweat shops, unhealthy mining towns and industrial wastelands where the laboring classes are shackled by debt-slavery to company store-type coercion.

This global company town criteria has inflicted sub-living wages, no benefit, no future jobs, yet the corporate state's 24/7, commercial propaganda apparatus has the consumer multitudes of the U.S. convinced that they are "living the dream". As a result, great numbers still believe their oligarchic oppressors actually believe their own lies about freedom, liberty and equal opportunity for all.

That's right: Scheming princes simply love the peasants of their kingdom...They do, as long as those wretches continue to bow down in the presence of the powerful, do all they are commanded to do, and unthinkingly serve the interests of their vain, arrogant rulers. Absurdly, large numbers in the U.S. still claim the burdensome economic yoke they bear is a glittering accessory of freedom gifted to them by their privileged betters.

Often, one hears the assertion: Although the U.S. is an empire, it is, in fact, a benign sort of far as empires go.

To the contrary, the nation's post-Second World War, empire-building enterprise, as is the case throughout history with exercises in imperium, has leveled deathscapes abroad, corrupted the society's elite and delivered anomie and alienation to the general population. From the soulless, dehumanizing nothingscapes of the U.S. interstate highway system and its resultant suburban project, to the douchescapes of hyper-commercialized pop culture, empire's legacy is as pervasive as it is dismal.

And all delivered and maintained by trading in the bartered blood of the innocent abroad by mechanisms of imperial plunder while serving to create a gallery of heartless, authoritarian-minded, consumerism-addicted grotesques at home. One suspects this is the reason discussions involving the true nature of empire are not considered a subject fit for nice company.

Often, by attempting to adapt to the burdensome daily obligations and the spirit crushing, hierarchical structure of neoliberal capitalism, individuals will begin to internalize its pathologies. In the age of corporate state dominated media, to ensure the circular, self-reinforcing nature of the noxious narratives of empire remain in place, faux populist, conservative media talk show hosts, talking heads and rightist pundits--elitist bully boys and gals--i.e., the bigot whispers of the right--continually seed the dismal air with false narratives, contrived to misdirect anger and foment displaced resentments.

In turn, little bullies, out in the U.S. spleenland, rendered resentful and mean of spirit by the incessant humiliation leveled by a class-stratified, exploitive economic system take up these self-defeating talking points that serve the 1%. Accordingly, when, for example, participants in the OWS movement question the present social and economic structure, these downscale denizens of oligarchic rule personalize the critique; their identification with the system is so complete that they feel as though they have been attacked on a personal basis.

As a consequence, all too often, their defenses are raised and they return volleys of ad hominem attacks that serve to defend a status quo that demeans them. This psychological phenomenon could be termed Authoritarian Simpatico Syndrome (ASS)--a pathology suffered by personalities who have been traumatized by authority, but who endeavor to remedy the wounding and humiliation inflicted by a brutal, degrading order by identification with their oppressors.

To wit, the lack of outrage exhibited by the general public regarding the nations trudge toward a police/national security state. For example, the lack of deference displayed by city officials and local police forces regarding the First Amendment rights of OWS participants.

First off, lets clear the pepper spray-fogged air on the matter: The vast majority of rank and file police officers do not now and, most likely, never will view themselves as part of the 99%. Simply stated, police officers identify with their fellow cops. The vocation, by its institutionalized, militaristic, tribal nature, creates a wall of separation between its insider members and outsiders i.e., the civilian population at large.

It is an act of self-deception to insist that rank and file police officers, the so-called blue shirts, might even be tacit supporters of the 99% movement.

Good luck with that. But don't be surprised if your entreaties are answered in the form of concentrated mists of pepper spray. In fact, as of late, that is exactly the reply we have received from the police, many times over.

Most police officers do not much identify with civilians. They harbor fealty to their careers and are indoctrinated to evince unquestioning loyalty to the department. Or as Bob Dylan presents the case in verse:

"Because the cops don't need you and man they expect the same" ~~~ from Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
On a cultural basis, after years of hyper-authoritarian indoctrination by mass media sources and political influences, few, among the general public and in the political realm seem willing to demand openness and accountability from law enforcement organizations. All too often, police (and U.S. soldiers as well) are viewed by a large percent of the general public as selfless heroes, noble souls, protecting life and liberty. And no matter how much evidence accumulates to the contrary, this image holds.

How is it that so many can cling to the illusion that cops and soldiers--grownups, armed with deadly weaponry, and who have shown themselves willing to engage in acts of state sanctioned violence and oppression--are innocent victims of circumstance? Have we, in this nation, lost the concept of free will?

How did the perspective of a people become so upside down that heavily armed, body armor-enswathed men and women wearing uniforms of state power are viewed as blameless innocents while those they perpetrate brutality against are somehow regarded as the aggressors in the situation...deserving of the violence inflicted upon them?

Let's have a reckoning with reality regarding the nature of the forces coalescing against OWS and other global movements aligned against despotism: Authoritarian personality types detest the sight of freedom; its inherent uncertainties make them damn nervous. By reflex, they have a compulsion to lower a jackboot on its neck.

Or, in the words of one officer tasked with the duty of stifling the public's right to free assembly at a recent OWS protest staged at the Winter Garden atrium of Brookfield Properties, within the World Financial Center located in lower Manhattan, "Don't get in my face. I have a gun on me, okay? I don't want any people coming that close to me."

In acts of social and civic resistance, regardless of whether one evinces a Gandhi-like position of nonviolence or adopts a Malcolm X influenced stance of "by any means necessary", the enforcers of a corrupt authoritarian order regard any and all displays of dissent as an invitation to force dissenters face down on the pavement, zip-cuffed and bleeding, then be remanded into custody--or worse.

At this critical point, it is imperative we let die our illusions involving the present order. Yet we must do so without becoming so disillusioned that we lack the resolve to remake the world. Often, we cling to fictions involving the benign nature of power because the act spares us angst. To the contrary, we must bear witness to the collisions of our illusions and the realities of the day, because it is from the debris created by these collisions that the world will be built anew.
(c) 2011 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.


History Tells Us Not To Dismiss A Democratic Challenge To Obama
By William Pfaff

A week ago, in the Providence Journal newspaper (in Rhode Island), the publisher of Harper's Magazine, John R. MacArthur, wrote that President Barack Obama, through expedient political compromises, has lost the moral authority that an American president must command, and therefore has lost his right to a second presidential term. Mr. MacArthur quotes in support of his argument the veteran journalist Bill Moyers, who was a member of President Lyndon Johnson's staff from 1965 to 1967, and since has become a prominent commentator on public television and in liberal and Democratic Party circles.

American history is not beyond repeating itself. At the end of November 1967, Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, a respected political figure but lacking a national reputation, declared that, under the Lyndon Johnson administration, no end seemed in sight to the futile Vietnam War, and that he was going to challenge what was becoming a tragedy for Americans and for the people of Indochina. He declared his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination of 1968.

Almost exactly two months later, the Tet Offensive occurred in Vietnam, a series of attacks across the country on Americans and on the South Vietnamese government. It took nearly a month for American and South Vietnamese forces to retake the former imperial capital city of Hue, one of the cities overrun by the insurgent offensive. This delivered an enormous psychological and political blow to Americans at home and to U.S. forces in Vietnam, though the Vietnamese Communists suffered heavier casualties than the Americans. The response of Gen. William Westmoreland, U.S. commander in Vietnam, was to request more than 200,000 men in reinforcement. There already were a half million American troops in the country. Washington refused the request, and Westmoreland was replaced and kicked upstairs to a desk command in Washington.

Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy's successor, had already indicated that he would be a candidate to succeed himself. In the New Hampshire primary, Sen. McCarthy, until then taken by the press as a vanity candidate whose main supporters were students and impractical liberals, nearly defeated Johnson. As a result, on March 16, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy announced that he too would run for the presidency. On March 31, President Johnson, who had always hated the war, announced his own withdrawal.

For those who may not know what followed, in June the young Kennedy was assassinated. The Democratic Party convention, which followed amidst disorder and rioting, nominated Johnson's vice president, Hubert Humphrey, as the official party candidate. A much-liked but rather ineffectual former senator, Humphrey's misfortune was that he felt compelled to defend the war policies of Johnson and Kennedy. He was defeated in November 1968 by Republican Richard Nixon. Nixon lost the war during the next seven years, despite major bombing offensives against North Vietnam and Cambodia, and the invasion of Cambodia. Halfway into his second term, because of domestic scandals, he was forced to resign from office under threat of impeachment.

I retell this story in order to establish the importance of Sen. McCarthy's role. By refusing to stand aside from what he and many considered a doomed war, and the corruption of civil life and government that accompanied it, he set in motion the events that in the minds of many "saved" the United States.

John MacArthur's and Bill Moyers' call for the replacement of Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate next year is very likely to fail, and any Democratic replacement candidate is likely to lose the presidency. As a veteran Democratic Party activist recently commented, this is the sure way to elect "one of those idiots" running for the Republican nomination. Very likely he is right.

However, the two may have started something with interesting consequences. Nobody thought Sen. McCarthy's challenge was anything more than a futile gesture. Nobody foresaw the assassinations and military defeat to come, or the ruin of Richard Nixon. Nobody knows today what disasters may lie ahead in American-supervised Iraq, or in the dual war the Pentagon is waging in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The present foreign policy of the Obama government is fraught with risk.

As for the president himself, the objection to him is that his Democratic Party has become a representative of the same interests as the Republican Party. The nation cannot bear two parties representing plutocratic power.
© 2001 Visit William Pfaff's website for more on his latest book, "The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America's Foreign Policy."

The Dead Letter Office...

Francis gets campy for his boy friend

Heil Obama,

Dear Doktor Collins,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your funding the creation of a bird flu virus that can easily be transmitted from person to person allowing us to kill perhaps billions of the enemy, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Sciencetifical 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 12-31-2011. We salute you Herr Doktor Collins, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Iowa Challenge For Obama
Dem Caucus Votes for 'Uncommitted' Slate
By John Nichols

President Obama faces no serious challenge from an individual on the left in Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses.

But that does not mean that Obama will get all the votes cast by Democrats on January 3.

Peace and economic justice activists, some of them associated with a newly launched "Occupy Iowa Caucus" campaign, are arguing that caucus goers should reject the president and instead vote for "uncommitted" slates.

"Uncommitted" slates have won Iowa caucuses before. In 1972 and 1976, more Democratic caucus votes were cast for the "uncommitted" option than for any of the announced candidates. As recently as 1992, "uncommitted" beat Bill Clinton.

Now, a newly-developed "Occupy Iowa Caucus" initiative is urging voters to attend caucses and back "uncommitted" slates. For Republicans, that would mean rejecting the current crowd of GOP contenders and beginning a process that could lead to sending unaffiliated delegates to the party convention next summer. For Democrats, that would mean rejecting a compromise-prone president and backing a slate that is committed to pressing for more progressive policies than those adopted by Obama and his administration.

There's a lot of "Occupy" activism on the ground in Iowa, and not all of it is oriented toward organizing "uncommitted" slates. Some activists are urging voters to attend Republican caucuses and back Ron Paul, whose anti-war, pro-civil liberties position has appeal. Others are organizing a "People's Caucus" for December 27; the energetic Occupy Des Moines crew is behind this one, and they are dubbingtheir event the "Occupy Iowa Caucus." "People are tired of being ignored by the political establishment in both parties, tired of having the common good placed last when it comes to government's priorities," says Ed Fallon, a former state legislator and one of the organizers of the December 27 event. "Holding the Peoples Caucus before the January 3rd precinct caucuses tells America's corporate and political elite that we demand that our voices be heard, that the public interest must come first."

There's also a project to occupy Democratic and Republican campaigfn headquarters in Des Moines, in order to raise concerns of the 99 Percent.

With so much going on, it is easy to get confused. But that's the nature of Iowa as the caucus season enters its final stages.

Amidst the confusion, unexpected developments can and do take place.

And one of those developments could be the appearance at Democratic caucuses -- especially in liberal Iowa City -- of actvists who seek to send Obama a message by voting for the "uncommitted" slate.

A message to potential caucus goers that appears on the new "Occupy Iowa Caucus" website -- -- argues that voting "uncommitted" will send a powerful signal regarding the extent to which voters are discontented with politics as usual.

"Fellow 99 Percenters," the letter begins, before explaining that:

Every four years, both major parties begin their Presidential nominating season in Iowa. On the evening of January 3rd, Republicans will go to their local precinct locations to caucus. Democrats will also go to precinct locations to caucus that night. It is a chance for Iowans to have their voices heard on the Presidential candidates and to begin the process that will select delegates to both national party conventions.

Every Iowan who identifies with the 99 percent should caucus on the evening of January 3rd. But after years of foreclosure, bailouts, corruption, warfare, corporate welfare and the erosion of our freedoms we cannot support any of the Presidential candidates. We cannot consent to this broken system any longer. We will join with our neighbors and caucus for "uncommitted." Uncommitted means we support no candidates and sends a strong message to the leaders of both parties.

After caucusing for "uncommitted" we will select delegates to the county conventions that also reflect our uncommitted views. In turn, those county delegates will select uncommitted delegates to go to the District conventions and to both state Democratic and Republican conventions. At the state conventions, we will select uncommitted delegates to go to both national party conventions.

Find your caucus location, and on January 3rd caucus for "UNCOMMITTED"

President Obama's campaign has a significant presence on the ground in Iowa and Obama plans to "seal the deal" by talking with caucus goers on January 3, via live video.

But not all Democrats are enthusiastic.

Among the most active advocates for "uncommitted" voting at the Democratic caucuses are activists associated with the Iowa Health Care Not Warfare Caucus Campaign, which "encourages caucus attenders to support delegates at the Democratic caucus who are not yet committed to any presidential candidate, but who support (1) removing all troops from Afghanistan within President Obama's first year in office and (2) the enactment of national health insurance (medicare for all) during President Obama's second term."

The group recently sponsored a training for potential Democratic caucus goers in Iowa City.

"I hope people see the point to go uncommitted," declared Jeff Cox, a University of Iowa history professor and former Johnson County Democrats head. "It allows people to go to caucuses and take a stand for peace and hope that Obama pays some attention to it."

Even Democrats who back Obama have recognized the significance of the uncommitted movement.

John Deeth, a prominent blogger, attended the Iowa City training session to instruct Democrats on caucus procedures and practices. He says he is "for the president." But, Deeth explains, "I have some self interest. I want the Uncommitteds on board with Obama in November. But more than that, I want to be fair in January. These are the Democratic Party caucuses, not the Barack Obama caucuses."
(c) 2011 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

Don't Mute Newt
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

The trick to maintaining the US delusional democracy is feeding the illusion for citizens that voting and elections really matter. But when both major parties are owned by rich and corporate elites it matters less than most people think whether Republicans or Democrats win and control Congress or the White House. Their seeming differences are a clever distraction that keeps fooling and manipulating Americans. With the help of the mainstream media, making entertainment out of political races, Americans are deceived into thinking that elections deserve their respect and participation.

As power shifts periodically from one party to the other partner of the two-party plutocracy, the illusion of meaningful change sustains the corrupt, dysfunctional political and government system and the economy rewarding the top one percent. Winning politicians are adept at lying convincingly, especially about change and reforms and, like well advertised products, Americans consume the lies.

The perennial problem is that despite what so many Americans view as failed presidencies and, even more clearly, failed Congresses, no Second American Revolution is produced that would return the government to we the people. The biggest lie of all: Elections can fix the broken system.

The candidacy of Newt Gingrich presents a historic opportunity for a new, bigger form of failure that could clarify to most Americans just how broken the electoral system is. On the one hand, the widespread anti-Obama sentiment coupled with a crippled economy could be sufficient to elect any Republican opponent. On the other hand, despite a long list of Gingrich deficiencies proclaimed by many mute-Newt conservatives and Republicans, he just might grab the Republican nomination and beat Obama. Counter intuitively, President Gingrich could help revive American democracy. He is the failure we have been waiting for, just the right old, fat, loud mouth, hypocritical white guy.

He would be such an utter and complete disaster as President that, finally, a vast majority of Americans, especially those that still vote, would reach a heightened level of despair, anger and disgust that some form of rebellion akin to what created the nation in the first place could occur. Think of Gingrich as the Segway President: all hype and fakery with no possibility of success, being much, much worse that George W. Bush and Barrack Obama.

In other words, the US would finally reach a bottomed-out political state more analogous to the tyrannical regimes that have fallen to grassroots revolutions. The illusion of a functioning democracy would melt away and the nonsense of being the greatest democracy would become crystal clear. History suggests that things must get so bad and painful that no amount of rationalizations, propaganda, lies and distractions can keep sustaining a corrupt and delusional democracy.

In this nightmare-salvation scenario, here are possible concrete actions that would put the US on the path to revolutionary reforms: overwhelming public demands for reform constitutional amendments through the use of an Article V convention bypassing Congress, successful emergence of a competitive third party, massive voting out of incumbent Democrats and Republicans, a stronger Occupy movement leading a populist, nonpartisan rebellion aimed at overturning the status quo political and economic system.

Even if you cannot get yourself to vote for Gingrich you can still help by not voting for any of his Republican opponents in primaries and, later, not voting for Obama. Think of this behavior as courageous patriotic dissent. Desperate action for desperate times. Sure, you might worry about some awful consequences for the nation from a scary Gingrich presidency. Against this, however, how much more can the nation suffer from presidencies that serve rich and corporate interests rather than the 99 percent? With Gingrich we could get a populist backlash to drive rebellion and reform. Any system that produced a President Gingrich would clearly justify tearing it down.

The recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 50 percent of Americans polled would never vote for Gingrich, clearly a sign of how little trust and confidence he engenders. This sentiment must be overcome by seeing Gingrich as the devilish stimulus for national rebellion against the two-party oligarchy. Of note, 37 percent said they were certain to vote against Obama, and 34 percent said the two-party system is seriously broken, and the country needs a third party. But the current system has been rigged to make a third party presidential candidacy extremely difficult, though the Americans Elect effort may be significant in 2012.

Note that a President Romney would probably not help; he just does not have what it takes to talk and behave recklessly, stupidly and crazily enough to embarrass and chagrin most Americans at historic levels. Unlike the genuinely reptilian Gingrich, Romney is no more genuine than our current democracy, which would stay fake. Like Obama, Romney has far too much self-control to be bad enough to wake up Americans to our warped democracy. Replacing Obama with Romney would be like choosing white eggs instead of brown eggs; a difference without distinction.
(c) 2011 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.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ David Fitzsimmons ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Banned Christmas Toys 2011!

The Bible says, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light and light for darkness!" (Isaiah 5:20). Nothing could more accurately describe America's toymakers as they seek to harvest the souls of little children for their dark master, Satan every Christmas! The Devil cackles with delight as he carefully opens his toychest in gleeful mockery of Baby Jesus' Birthday! Read about what Lucifer is trying to peddle to your children and click on each link to purchase and burn every one of these vile Christmas toys!

BANNED: Fisher-Price Little People Noah's Ark

Leave it to Fisher-Price to screw up a Bible toy. This version of Noah's ark is not only missing two of Noah's sons but also suspiciously absent are over 30,000 species of paired animals and 25,000 species of known insects, some of which required their own temperature controlled habitats to survive the 40 day journey on Noah's Ark. Not to mention the missing tons of grain, leaves and food supply crates and storage compartments. Our experts contacted Fisher Price to confirm that these additional products are not available for purchase as single items or 'add ons' to make their Noah's Ark toy more Biblically accurate so it would appeal to Baptist parents.

BANNED: Dream Dazzlers Ooh La La Sassy Salon

As if there aren't enough homosexuals in the world already! Toys R' Us is now beckoning unsuspecting little boys, making them think they are going to play on a football team with a flashy name like, 'Dream Dazzlers.' Only now, masculine little boys with liberal mothers will find themselves turning into limp-wristed little pansies after they squat their hineys down in front of a Sassy Salon, and listen to their mothers whisper, 'Ooh La La' into their innocent ears! "This thing is a queer making machine!" Pastor Deacon Fred told a group of concerned Landover ladies earlier this week. "If it doesn't send you into a blood vessel popping, demon stomping rage, then you need to question whether or not you are even a Christian!" He said. "What you Godly women need to do is march right down to that Jewish toy store and demand that they pull this sissified piece of garbage off the shelf! You need hold that toy store owner accountable to Christ! Tell him to stop trying to turn your son into a homosexual!"

BANNED: My Keepon - Interactive Robot

Our primary concern with My Keepon is that it promotes and in fact, glorifies dancing. "To me, it looks like a piece of yellow poop struggling to get out of a Chinaman's tight little hiney," says Pastor Deacon Fred. "If that's what liberals call dancing, that makes it even worse! Every time the Bible mentions dancing it always leads to sin. To naysayers, I say, 'So what if King David danced before the Lord? He ended up committing adultery! The same thing will happen to your children when they grow up if they sit in front of this squirming little abomination for even a second!"

BANNED: Rory's Story Cubes

The little catchphrase on the side of the box says, 'Let your imagination roll wild!' What do you think the Lord would think if that slogan was written on the first page of the Holy Bible? He wouldn't like it, but Satan would - that's for sure. Lucifer's finger prints are all over Rory's Story Cubes. First of all, they are not even cubes. They are multiple sided dice. The same kind of dice used in another one of Satan's favorite games, Dungeons and Dragons! The second thing that made us catch wind of the Devil's scent is the fact that Rory's Story Cubes are designed to get one to use what non-Christians call, 'thought' or 'imagination.' These notions are defined as, 'the power to create in one's mind' and this power is given up willingly by True Christian™ when we accept Jesus Christ as our Personal Savior. Any attempt to get us to use this power, even by Rory's Story Cubes is an affront to the Living God and will most surely lead to backsliding - and in some rare cases, loss of eternal salvation.

BANNED: You & Me Interactive Triplet Dolls

It is unbelievable that Toys R Us still has these obscene dolls on their shelves. It is clear that someone who hates little children created these potty mouthed babies to corrupt America's youth. None of the dolls are black, so it is even more shocking that one says, "Okay, crazy bitch!" when you pull its string! It says a lot about what is happening to America since Barack Obama was put into power. These toys don't belong in any Christian home, or any conservative home for that matter! Anyone concerned about restoring America and bringing back good old fashioned family values should make it a priority to call Toys R Us and ask them to remove these products from their shelves before Jesus comes and does it forcibly.

BANNED: Kindle Fire

As True Christians we are suspect to anything with the word Fire in it. Amazon likes to use Luciferian terminology in describing their popular products. Much like Apple Inc mocks the story of Adam and Eve by implying it is 'okay' to take a bite out of the Apple because it gives you knowledge. However, knowledge is the very thing that God did not want Adam and Eve to have! And now we are all stuck with it, but we True Christians are able to avoid it through faith in Christ Jesus. The Amazon Kindle Fire implies openly that fire is knowledge and the product itself is used to kindle that knowledge. As True Christians we understand that Fire is from Hell (except when it is convenient to use it next to the words, Holy Ghost) and Lucifer 'kindles' that fire by stoking the brimstone that will burn the flesh off of sinners bodies after they are sodomized by demons in Hell for eternity. So with all of this in mind, when our Landover Baptist secular toy researchers opened up the free package from Amazon containing the Kindle Fire, their first impulse was to smash the blasphemous little novelty to pieces with a sledge hammer and pitch the remains into the furnace in the church basement. But since there were two Wiccans tied up to the furnace that day, they decided to just smash it up, put it into a bag tied to a cinder block and drop it to the bottom of Landover Lake.

A thorough search of each church member's home will be conducted after Christmas and if Baptist Police Officers find any of these items in your possession, your church membership will be revoked and your entire family will be asked to vacate your house within 7-days.
© 2011The Landover Baptist Church

The Gross National Debt

Iraq Deaths Estimator

The Animal Rescue Site

View my page on

Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 50 (c) 12/23/2011

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."