Saturday, April 30, 2011

Renouncing Empire
by Michael S. Rozeff

The peoples of the world once looked up to America and Americans. They held them in high respect and esteem. They respected their ideals. They respected their know-how and products.

Now, by its foreign policies of empire and their domestic counterparts, the U.S. government is destroying the dignity of America and Americans. Our morality is falling along with our productivity. Today, there is less and less of which Americans can be proud and there is more and more of which to be ashamed.

America can go in one of two ways. It can continue on the path of empire, in which case it continues downhill and impedes the world’s progress; or it can renounce empire, in which case it restores the dignity of Americans and imparts new opportunities to the peoples of the world.

America can lead the world down, in which case it becomes a backwater; or it can lead the world up, in which case Americans establish a moral center for freedom that radiates light to the world and opens up new paths for freedom everywhere.

To move America and the world into a more hopeful future in both word and deed, American leadership should make a 180 degree turn. It should renounce empire.

The only major politician who is leading America in this direction is Congressman Ron Paul. His is a lonely but courageous voice in Washington. The commendable directions he is proposing add up to renouncing empire.

What does renouncing empire involve? In his speeches, Congressman Paul has mentioned many of the specific steps as he condemns the American empire. The reader may search for Ron Paul + American empire to find a good many of his thoughts on this subject.

What do Americans generally believe concerning their empire? What changes in beliefs does the renunciation of empire entail?

Like all social structures, the American empire makes heavy use of falsity, lies, illusions, deceptions, and myths that come to be taken as truths by those who are immersed in a structure. There is no social structure, be it family, society, state, business, association, church or religious establishment, that does not hide truths about itself and whose members do not act according to various falsehoods that pass for truths. The state and empire are not exceptions.

In order to pursue the new direction of renouncing empire, Americans are going to have to face up to their false beliefs concerning the empire. They then have to adopt new beliefs. Hopefully, these will contain a greater measure of truth.

Perhaps about half of Americans do not believe that they have an empire. A very small voluntary poll of 37 people finds opinion almost evenly split. Another small poll finds about half the respondents saying that the U.S. is not really an empire or they do not know. A Fox News poll finds 68 percent approval for an American empire. These polls may have serious biases.

It is safe to say that Americans tend to support America’s foreign involvements, for these have grown over the years and people keep electing candidates who fund the empire. Americans tend to believe that these involvements are for the good, especially when they are first begun. For example, in October of 2001, 90 percent of Americans approved of the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan. By September of 2009, this had fallen to 47 percent approval of the war, 42 percent disapproval, and 11 percent not knowing. At the outset of the Iraq War in 2003, 74 percent of Americans viewed it as the right decision. By 2006-2007, something like 50-60 percent of Americans thought that the war was a mistake and that the situation in Iraq was not worth a war.

There is a good chance that Americans do not fully appreciate either the extent of empire or its costs, especially the long-term aggregate costs, simply because these are not routinely reported.

Whatever the extent of American support for empire is, these supportive beliefs have to change if empire is to be renounced in the hearts and minds of Americans in any kind of permanent fashion. Americans have to understand that they have an empire and that its effects are a net negative for them and for the rest of the world’s peoples.

Americans attribute each of our numerous foreign involvements to specific causes and aims, like securing oil, securing America’s borders, protecting Israel, anti-terrorism, saving Europe from the Kaiser, spreading democracy, spreading freedom, humanitarianism, anti-Communism, creating stability, national security, and so on. The government provides these rationales, the press parrots them, and people believe them. These particularistic explanations are like finding different excuses every time one’s alcoholic uncle gets drunk. If the government makes a case for some sort of war, Americans tend to approve it in large numbers, at least at the outset.

Americans need to understand that only a broader underlying factor can explain America’s foreign policy history over the last 100-150 years. That factor or policy is empire. The U.S. is running an empire. American leaders have again and again made this perfectly clear. They have said in honeyed words that they wanted American domination, but they have avoided using that term much less referring to their worldwide construction as an empire. American involvements are always couched in terms of doing good deeds, like bringing peace to the world. In the Fox News Poll, "68% of Americans said they support the establishment of an American empire, ‘if it brings peace to the world.’"

Americans believe that all these specific causes are in the service of achieving good, or that they are undertaken with good intentions. This unthinking belief leads Americans astray in several fundamental respects of which most Americans are unaware.

In the first place, Americans are unconcerned with the violent methods that are being used to achieve these supposed ends. These are rarely questioned or even mentioned. In the Fox News poll, 58% favored cuts in domestic spending "in order to support military occupations around the world." Americans avoid thinking about the evils employed and produced in the pursuit of what they think are good ends. They do not seem to realize that in this world the over-zealous pursuit of supposedly good or moral ends, especially when it becomes a very strong and broad pursuit that aims at coercively eliminating evils, itself is evil and creates evils. Besides, the supposedly good ends are usually not all that good anyway. The Crusades are an example. One historian specialist on this era writes that "High ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed...the Holy War was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God."

It is often said that America cannot alleviate or eliminate all the evils in the world, or, more narrowly, cannot deal with all the foreign political evils of which we become aware. This is surely true. This is not simply a matter of a lack of will power, a lack of efficient governmental execution, and a lack of resources. If we had those, we still could not eliminate all the evils. The reason is that we, as a state and society, or as a collective, are not committed to peaceful means. We are committed to using money, manipulation, subterfuge, threats, pressures, coercions, covert CIA operations, and far more violent means and methods than those. We do not act collectively like loving exponents of Jesus Christ any more than most of us act that way individually. Our crusades are no better than those 700-1,000 years ago.

The means that we use in our empire are evil in themselves. Using evil means, we encourage and reward evil motives among us. Using evil means to accomplish what we think are good ends invariably gives rise to more evils in many forms when we practice the evil methods.

Stopping terrorists looks like a good end. Stopping every terrorist anywhere on earth looks even better. Nevertheless, this pursuit, even if it were done with the best of intentions, produces numerous evils. The evidence of this result is plain in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is plain within America where the abridgment of freedoms is ongoing. It is plain in the use of torture, kidnappings, and indefinite imprisonment of persons without any kind of judicial proceedings. It is plain in an FBI that continually seduces persons into "terrorist" conspiracies.

The war on drugs has produced the same kind of situation. In pursuit of what seems to be a good thing to many people, we have filled the prisons with an enormous number of people. We have created stronger and stronger gangs who batten on the illegality of drugs. We have created police corruption.

The lesson is that we cannot use the collective force of the state to organize our society into a massive pursuit of any supposed good without producing evils. To drive this point home, consider a domestic case. Suppose we attempted to rid our country of all crimes of any sort. This too would produce many evils. We’d be under constant observation. We’d be spied on. We’d lose privacy. We’d face indoctrination and control by those who are anxious to stop crime before it takes root in our minds. We’d be under the thumb of police. We’d be seeing police and monitoring devices everywhere we looked. Our movements and activities would be constantly tracked. Life would become intolerable under such conditions. Freedom of thought, speech, and activity would become risky activities.

The law would become an institution of oppression. The police would have to enforce laws. New laws create new crimes. In our society where laws can be passed to regulate almost any behavior, the attempt to enforce laws and wipe out crime becomes totalitarian oppression. Laws and their ironclad enforcement using our typical methods of punishment do not make for justice, and more so when the laws are bad laws. Indeed they undermine justice because justice requires attention to the details of every individual case and it requires methods other than enforcing arbitrary laws and then locking people up who disobey them.

Here too, in this hypothetical case which is actually becoming less and less hypothetical in modern America, we’d find that, in not acting like loving exponents of Jesus and in propounding Pharisaism, we are creating evils in a misguided attempt to wipe out crime.

Thus, after recognizing that we have an empire, we have to acknowledge that we are not acting in a Christ-like fashion, no matter how good we think our ends are. We have to understand that the more intensely and systematically that we attempt to achieve some supposedly good end by using force, and this is what the state at best hopes to accomplish through its collective might, the more evilly we are ourselves behaving and the more evils we are causing.

That’s the best case. That’s the case in which our aims are good ones. But in reality this is not what is happening. For, in the second place, empire, rather than being an honorable and pure pursuit of good ends via the state, arises from all sorts of questionable motives of the people and interest groups that promote empire. Although our leaders constantly disclaim any ambitions related to empire and the educational establishment propagates this myth, it is simply another one of the falsities upon which the social structure is built.

The American empire is not a purely humanitarian endeavor. It advances the interests of specific persons and groups. Americans are only dimly aware of the special interest groups, such as the armaments companies, that lie behind the empire. They are only dimly aware of the Halliburtons and Bechtels that profit from war. They are only dimly aware of the panoply of institutions, such as central banking, that support the empire. They are only dimly aware of the foreign policy establishment and its intellectual offshoots that basically own and run foreign policy and the empire. The size and strength of the military are, in their minds, causes for celebration and pride. The absence of a military draft and the suppression of battlefield information by the press support a careless attitude toward the military and its overseas engagements.

The awareness of the empire’s feet of clay is changing. The reality of many strange foreign entanglements is helping to change this perception. The huge national debt and the huge government deficits are helping to make people uneasy and question the unimaginably expensive military adventures of the empire. Numerous exposures of corruption and specific crimes and misdemeanors of government figures help.

But Americans tend to forget too or never learn the lessons they should have learned. The society and state constantly press forward with their myths and this too counteracts what people might otherwise realize are the truths of empire.

Vietnam is a distant memory, if that. It is well to recollect the Vietnam War and its aftermath in order to understand the futility of the empire’s wars and the potential for peace that opens up when America withdraws from such fields of combat and acts peacefully. The last American soldier was killed in Vietnam on April 29, 1975. The total number of American military deaths due to hostilities in that war was 47, 413. The total costs of the Vietnam War run far in excess of that.

But within 15-20 years of the war’s conclusion, America and Vietnam were conducting friendly business and trade relations. On July 28, 2000, this communist nation opened a stock market in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).

In sum, if Americans want to regain their dignity and radiate the beams of liberty once again, they have to start thinking in several new directions. They have to realize that the pursuit of good by evil means creates more evil. They have to realize that they cannot eliminate all the world's evils and shouldn’t attempt to do so by force or force-related means. They have to realize that their motives have not been pure, but mixed in with interests pursuing gains for themselves, no matter what the consequences for others. Falsity has to be bared.

To shift away from empire, Americans have to disavow it. They have to go directly against the powerful interest groups that favor it. If they really want to end the empire, they can find the ways to do it. They can stop electing pro-war and pro-military politicians. They can end the central bank. They can end the income tax. They can dismantle the worldwide American structure.

Renouncing empire means articulating a new global foreign policy. Americans can go back to the historic American policy of neutrality to all nations and non-intervention.

The existing policies of empire wouldn’t be with us if the promoters of empire had not made them sound good, even if they are dreadfully bad. The neoconservatives promoted and still are promoting benevolent hegemony. This includes the idea that America is exceptionally good and so are Americans, so that if we have to break a few heads (that is, kill and maim people) while spreading our goodness to the benighted of this world, we are justified in doing so. An omelet, we are told, cannot be made without breaking eggs.

Given the most threadbare of justifications or even none at all except a suspicion that some country somewhere might do something bad or harbor some terrorists or people with terrorist ambitions, the benevolent hegemony idea is that the U.S. has a right or even duty to be the world’s benevolent policeman and jump in with military forces and methods. We can see what this has brought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Earlier in American history, this policy or something like it brought Americans into World War I, which was supposed to be the war that ended all wars. World War I had catastrophic consequences, including setting the stage for World War II. Similarly, the war on terror, advertised as a hundred years war, is one of these goals of empire in which the single-minded, never-ending, and all-encompassing pursuit of something that sounds good actually has already created far more evils than it has eliminated.

American empire involves tripwire alliances like NATO that involve collective security. This is a recipe for becoming involved in the politics of others. If they get into a war, it means that Americans also usually get into it. Renouncing empire means that Americans have to stop the policy of collective security.

It has been a policy of the U.S. to protect Americans wherever they may travel in the world or locate businesses. This policy involves all Americans in protecting the interests of some Americans. Taxes are forced from taxpayers that then go to subsidizing the protection of those of us who happen to go overseas or locate businesses overseas. Instead of this policy of subsidizing private interests, businesses that incur overseas risks in their pursuit of gains should internalize the costs of protection themselves. Their customers should pay for it, not taxpayers at large. If this is the case, we can expect a more efficient market for insurance and protection to evolve than using political means that drag in whole countries against one another due to the actions of a few.

Renouncing empire is going to cause howls of protest from the beneficiaries and supporters of empire. The least little bit of instability in some foreign land will provide ammunition for the proponents of empire to declare that America cannot abandon its supposedly constructive peacekeeping role in the world. This is one reason why renouncing empire has to have broad and deep public support and understanding as the right thing to do.

The U.S. government has generally to withdraw its military forces, pare them back, end its covert CIA operations, and end its use of economic and financial aids and pressures upon governments. This will be a tacit acknowledgment of our limitations, but it will also be both prudent and moral.

Withdrawals will be derided as defeats, as hasty, as ill-advised, and as cowardly. We will be told that we are turning back the clock. We will be told that we are appeasers. We will be told that we are isolationist. We will be told that we are shirking our responsibilities. Renunciation of empire is going to provoke a full scale war of words.

In order for renunciation to succeed, Americans will have to understand that the costs of empire far outweigh its benefits. They will have to understand that it is renunciation or America’s continued deterioration. The end of empire is not by any means going to solve the problems of many lands. Some of them will worsen. The old temptations to ship arms, send advisors, choose up sides, send in aid, foment revolutions, impose sanctions, and send in the military will all beckon. It will be difficult to remain neutral and wait for others to resolve their difficulties on their own without American interference. Renunciation of empire means breaking such entrenched habits and ending the institutions that support them.

The overblown war on terror must be officially ended. It has replaced anti-communism as a rationale for the geopolitical aims of U.S. policies. It is a cover story for American engagements worldwide on a long-term basis. There can be no renunciation of empire without also ending the war on terror.

There are going to be withdrawal symptoms. There will be problems of credibility. At first, others will not believe that a major power will permanently reverse its course. However, the British Empire did it. The Russian Empire did it. Whatever steps America takes have to be preceded by a shocking change in policy that announces the new directions, acknowledges the faults of the previous course, announces that world history is changing, explains why it has to change, and makes some dramatic steps that prove to the world that the U.S. means what it says. Americans must be warned that the immediate results are going to be changes in a number of nations and political instability in some. The dismantlement of the empire then has to start proceeding rather quickly. The momentum cannot be lost.

Renouncing empire means also that the domestic defense (war) budget has to be cut. Imagine the howls of pain from countless Congressmen about military cutbacks in their districts. There is no choice. Such cutbacks should be accompanied by permanent tax cuts. This raises the credibility of the shift with the American people and it improves the incentives for Americans to get back to work producing high-quality goods that the world values, not an expensive military establishment that wastes America’s capital.

The particulars of retrenching the empire require a degree of sophisticated consideration because the U.S. government has involved us in a worldwide web of entanglements and commitments. These commitments are going to be broken. There are going to be foreign governments that are going to fall. Some wars may break out. Some conflicts will heighten. Powers will rise and fall.

In laying out some of what renouncing empire means, it looks like a tall order. It isn’t. Renunciation is feasible and possible. The prime example is Great Britain in the 1960s and following years when it ended its empire. In its own way, somewhat the same sort of thing happened to the Soviet Union when its empire ended, although more quickly and in less of a planned or controlled fashion. In both cases, various limitations had made it impossible to sustain the empire. Political figures began to make the transition away from empire. The end result was a shrunken degree of dominance over various lands that became more independent.

The same thing is happening to America. Its limitations in the maintenance of its empire are becoming more and more evident. The costs of empire are rising and visible without accompanying benefits. So too will the American empire come to a close.

The political path that will occur as America retrenches is anything but clear. My main apprehension is that the supporters of empire will continue to use the powers of government to raise the degree of its totalitarian rule domestically – all, of course, in the name of good. This is the most worrisome trend of the past decade, made concrete in the Department of Homeland Security. The integration of military methods into police forces combined with national organization of these forces is an extremely troubling development. These forces have technological and weapons advantages over the broad public. The public has to bring these forces under control or else the empire’s supporters will use them to cow the public into submission. If these forces gain the upper hand, this country will witness an exodus of people and capital.

In addition, rather than making a rational transition away from empire, the latest administration has expanded government even more. It has not made serious efforts to renounce the empire or take significant steps in that direction. If public attitudes do not rapidly shift and raise the standing of a Ron Paul or of others who stand for his recommended policies, then we can expect higher inflation and continued economic difficulties simply because the costs of empire are a heavy tax on American productivity.

Even if the military is cut back, we face another problem. America has a domestic empire in which the federal government is running impossibly expensive domestic welfare programs while heavily regulating the economy. This cannot go on either. This empire will also fall. This administration and the preceding one have made this problem worse by increasing the welfare state.

These problems are surfacing in an inflationary economy that is stagnant, in which standards of living decline.

The only way out of this trap is to renounce the foreign empire and renounce the domestic empire.

Renunciation can occur at the national level from the top down with a bottom up impact from the voting public, or it can occur from the bottom up away from Washington in localities, states, and throughout the justice system. National renunciation is not the only course. The other ways have great merit. Americans themselves can devise ways to nullify what their federal government is doing, at the state level, for example. Americans can create their own monies and their own decentralized parallel economies. Americans can use jury nullification. Americans can devise religious-based communities that obtain exemptions. Americans can gain control over police oversight boards and halt the militarization of police. Americans on their own can find ways to make themselves independent of the domestic and foreign empires.

The Corruption Of Law Leads To Tyranny

Trends Journal
By Paul Craig Roberts

SPaul note: This tyranny is not limited to Islam. We the People are suffering from the same. Though somewhat sedate and disguised as National Security for now, it will most assuredly grow with time to quash our remaining freedoms. I believe we all must remember the words of President Abraham Lincoln;
"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
On with the article...

Remember when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told the world that Guantanamo Prison held "the most dangerous, best-trained, vicious killers on the face of the earth" and gave assurances that nevertheless "we're treating these people as if the Geneva Convention applied?" The files on each prisoner, leaked by a US government whistleblower to Wikileaks and now available to the world, prove beyond all doubt that Rumsfeld was lying as was President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney when they repeated the lies.

The successor Obama administration in Washington, after the release of 607 of the "most dangerous men on earth" for lack of any evidence that represented any kind of danger at all, many after being tortured and abused, now claims that the remaining 172 are too dangerous to release, despite the lack of any evidence that would allow the government to try them.

Since the US government admits it was wrong in 78 percent of the cases, how do we know that the government is right about the remaining 22 percent?

Astonishingly, the government is afraid to attempt to try more than 40 of the remaining prisoners even in its special kangaroo courts -- Military Tribunals -- set up specially for the purpose of trying people with secret, non-declared evidence. That leaves 132 to be held in prison for their lifetimes without any evidence ever being presented against them -- not even show trial "evidence." Even Joseph Stalin's victims got a show trial.

The Guantanamo prisoners were a collection of the most unlikely "dangerous people in the world." How dangerous is an 89-year old villager suffering from senile dementia or a 14-year old boy who had been kidnapped?

Many prisoners were not even suspected of being al Qaeda, Taliban, or anything other than a possible source of information. One British citizen was held for years simply because he had been captured and imprisoned by the Taliban, and the Americans thought he could tell them about Taliban interrogation techniques. A cameraman for the Arab News Service, Al Jazeera, was held in order to question him about the news service, which is based in Qatar, an American puppet state. Most of the prisoners were simply people kidnapped by warlords and sold to the gullible Americans for the bounty that the US paid for "terrorists."

Obviously, President Bush's assurance (September 6, 2006) that "we have in place a rigorous process to ensure those held at Guantanamo Bay belong at Guantanamo" was just another lie.

It turns out that the only evidence that the Americans had of "dangerous men" were the inventions conjured up by men under torture or by men producing "evidence" against others in exchange for their own release. Having violated all known laws in order to hold the prisoners, the US government was desperate to produce evidence that the prisoners were dangerous men.

Yemeni prisoner, Yasim Basardah, invented information against 135 of the Guantanamo prisoners. Abu Zubaydah, described by the Americans as the third-ranking leader of al Qaeda, turned out to be a lowly car-pool driver, but nevertheless produced "evidence" against 100 other prisoners after being water-boarded 83 times. Even the prison camp commander realized that the "evidence" was bogus.

The sordid truth of Guantanamo is that the US government needed examples to justify the massive "terrorist threat" that it declared with alert set on orange, one step below red, as a permanent fixture of American life. Like Stalin, earlier, who needed examples of "enemies of the people," the US government conducted "street sweeps," which was the way the Soviet secret police produced "enemies of the people." The Soviet police would just go out in the streets and arrest everyone there. The Americans took people out of Taliban prisons, university libraries, and paid bounties for kidnapped victims. These people became "the most dangerous men on earth."

The lawlessness and brutality associated with Guantanamo were pointless. The US government destroyed the reputation of the United States and the rule of law for nothing. It is a terrible experience to have years of one's life stolen and to be tortured into false confession, but the price that Americans will pay will be much higher.

The Obama regime has endorsed the Bush regime's violation of the US Constitution. It has made indefinite detention in concentration camps an enduring American institution. Habeas corpus, due process, and the right to an attorney are now dead-letter legal rights for anyone accused with or without evidence of being a "suspect."

The rule of law has been murdered. The routine abuse of citizens by unaccountable powers -- such as air travelers forced by the Transportation Safety Administration to submit to radioactive scans or endure intrusive gropes -- is seeping into all aspects of American life. The latest manifestation is the practice of state police downloading all information from motorists' cell phones when they are stopped for traffic violations.

A government based on fear of terrorism, whose executive claims power not limited by the Constitution or Congress for the duration of an open-ended "war on terror," will create a state of tyranny.

Only a highly aroused people who refuse to submit can escape the coming tyranny.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Big Oil's $38 billion defense

CNN Money

The six biggest publicly traded oil companies reported a total of more than $38 billion in first-quarter profits.

The first three months of the year were good to the oil industry -- although American drivers and their elected leaders are not offering congratulations.

This week, the world's six largest publicly traded oil companies reported a combined $38.1 billion in first-quarter profits. Of the so-called supermajors, only BP (BP)'s earnings declined from the year before.

The windfall stems from a surge in the price of oil, which jumped 16% in the first quarter, rising firmly above $100 a barrel in March.

But the spike in oil prices has been a blow to consumers, with gas prices rising near record highs across America.

As a result, the oil industry has come under fire from lawmakers in Washington for reaping billions in profits while U.S. drivers get squeezed.

Now, Big Oil is fighting back.

Shortly after posting first-quarter earnings of nearly $11 billion Thursday, Exxon Mobil (XOM, Fortune 500) issued a defensive statement arguing that it's not to blame for $4 gas. The company put part of the blame for soaring oil and gas prices on the U.S. government.

"For every gallon of gasoline and other products we refined and sold in the United States, we earned about 7 cents," said a statement from Exxon vice president Ken Cohen. "Compare that to the 40 to 60 cents per cents per gallon that went to the government (state and federal) in gasoline taxes."

The industry's top lobbyist also went on the offensive, saying the earnings that these companies reported this week reflect a strong economy and are a boon for investors, including many pension funds.

"The U.S. oil and natural gas industry's strong earnings signal growing strength in our economy," said Jack Gerard, chief executive of the American Petroleum Institute. He said Americans "should be proud" of an industry that supports millions of jobs and provides income for retirees who have shares of profitable oil companies in their retirement accounts.

The industry comments came after President Obama renewed his call for Congress to end tax breaks for the industry that he says are worth $4 billion. "As we work together to reduce our deficits, we simply can't afford these wasteful subsidies," the president wrote Tuesday in a letter to congressional leaders.

Drill baby drill won't lower gas prices
The oil industry and many of its supporters in Congress have long argued that the tax breaks encourage domestic oil production and provide jobs for millions of Americans. Republicans, in particular, have resisted efforts to eliminate these tax breaks, something many Democrats have been trying to do since at least 2008.

Exxon's Ken Cohen said in his statement that the debate has been clouded by "misinformation," and that the push to eliminate subsidies is a really an attempt to raise taxes on the industry by taking away "long-standing deductions" that companies in other industries still enjoy.

The simple truth is that these are legitimate tax provisions to keep U.S. industry internationally competitive -- to keep jobs from being exported to other countries," he said.

But critics say the subsidies are unwarranted given the fiscal challenges the nation is currently facing and the amount of money oil companies are making.

"There is no reason American taxpayers should subsidize Big Oil's profits," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in a statement.

Pelosi called on Speaker of the House John Boehner, who suggested earlier this week that he might would be willing to consider ending some of the tax breaks, "to make good on that statement and schedule a vote next week on ending taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil."

The Obama administration also recently established a task force within the Justice Department to investigate speculation in the oil and gas markets.

Oil price spike: Speculators aren't to blame
Cohen said the creation of a task force is "now a time-honored tradition when prices increase," adding that some politicians are trying to "demonize" the oil industry.

He said oil prices, which have surged 20% this year, are being driven higher by forces outside the industry's control. In particular, he pointed to strong global demand for energy, political instability in the Middle East and the weak U.S. dollar.

In an effort to put Exxon's earnings "into context for U.S. motorists," Cohen stressed that most of the company's profit in the quarter came from its overseas operations.

Exxon's refining business, which converts crude oil into gasoline, contributed only 6% of the company's profits, according to Cohen. He said that's because Exxon buys more oil than it produces in the United States, so it must make up the difference by purchasing oil at current market prices, which are averaging about $110 a barrel.

That "context" may be cold comfort for American drivers, who are now paying an average of $3.90 a gallon for gas.

Among the other major publicly traded oil companies, BP (BP) said it earned $7.1 billion in the quarter, down from $6.1 billion a year ago. Chevron (CVX, Fortune 500) earned $6.2 billion; Shell (RDSA) took in $6.9 billion and Total (TOT) had a $4.2 billion profit. ConocoPhilips (COP, Fortune 500), the smallest of the Big Oil family, earned $3 billion.

The recent rise in oil and gas prices put a damper on U.S. economic growth in the first quarter.

The government said Thursday that U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity, slowed to 1.8% from 3.1% in the fourth quarter of last year.

The decline was due largely to a pullback in consumer spending, as gas prices take a bigger bite out of household budgets, and higher prices of oil imports.

SPaul note: Big oil is essentially holding America hostage until Congress agrees to tax cuts and subsidies. They have cut production and raised prices to that effect. Only when Washington concedes,will they bring down the prices and produce more gasoline. They have us over the proverbial and literal barrel.

The Tea Party and Christian Right's Sneaky Anti-Abortion Crusade

The new anti-abortion movement is a continuation of the old religious war against a woman's right to choose and for sexual freedom, but with some important new twists.
CounterPunch / By David Rosen

Spaul note: Don't say you weren't warned...The key part of this article written in 2010, is how many States tried to pass anti-abortion laws but the in place, Democrat Governors vetoed the measures. Now that so many Republicans have control of these States, Laws to control the right of a woman to decide for herself in these matters are being passed.

So many citizens tell me how their vote does not count...The 2010 midterm elections say differently. Hiding behind the sad excuse for not participating in our Democratic process of, "my vote doesn't count", is only leading this nation into the fascist grasp of the Christian Right.

The U.S. is facing resurgence in the war against a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Congress contained the Bush administration’s more virulent anti-abortion efforts, especially after the 2006 election. Since Obama’s election and the Democrats' takeover of Congress, abortion has been a hostage to political horse-trading as evident in the Stupak compromise restricting abortion from insurance coverage that finally got the health reform legislation passed.

Unfortunately, as national media attention has moved on to other matters, the battle over abortion and other culture-war issues has shifted from the Congress to state legislatures. Across the country, especially in what are known as red states, the Christian right has moved stealthily, yet aggressively, to further tighten restrictions on “legal” abortions. These efforts have been remarkably successful, likely foreshadowing a major campaign against Roe at both the federal and state levels following a likely strong showing by right-wing Republicans in the 2010 Congressional elections.

This new anti-abortion movement is a continuation of the old religious war against a woman’s right to choose and for sexual freedom, but with some important new twists. The domestic and foreign policy crises Obama inherited from the Bush administration, combined with Obama’s own compromises, have provided a great cover for a refocused anti-abortion movement. The just-say-no Republican party, together with the inflammatory Tea Party movement, has refocused the mainstream media away from abortion and other cultural issues to “big” government, the national debt and immigration.

The anti-abortion warriors have used this cover to wage campaigns requiring women considering abortion to undergo an ultrasound of the fetus; banning abortion coverage in the state employees’ health plan; and restricting public funding of abortion under the new health-insurance exchanges. In addition, they are employing provocative public media campaigns like the billboards in Georgia targeting African Americans (i.e., black babies as an “endangered species”) and slick posters on the New York City subways (i.e., “abortion changes you”) to push a more sophisticated anti-abortion message.

Today’s anti-abortion warriors, like other disaffected right-wingers, are finding renewed fervor under the banner of the Tea Party movement. The Tea Party folks rally behind the anti-big-government banner and often insist on avoiding culture-war issues. Yet, with a few exceptions, the Tea Party movement continues the fervent campaign to overturn Roe and end legal abortions.

Today’s new anti-abortion movement draws upon the evangelical right’s longstanding efforts to impose its moral values on all Americans. The most successful of these efforts was the temperance movement, which after nearly three centuries of effort finally succeeded with the passage of the 18th Amendment imposing Prohibition during the 1920s. This effort turned out to be one of the greatest social, political and moral failings in American history.

* * *

According to the Guttmacher Institute an estimated 370 bills regulating abortion were introduced in state legislatures in 2010, compared with about 350 in each of the previous five years. This is up from an estimated 250 bills introduced during the early 1990s. At least 24 bills have passed so far this year and the final total may top the 34 laws passed in 2005.

A snapshot of some of these state legislative efforts reveals the tenor of the new anti-abortion war.

• Arizona – former governor Janet Napolitano, now secretary of Homeland Security, originally vetoed abortion restrictions; however, the current governor, Jan Brewer, approved laws restricting abortion coverage under the new health insurance exchanges, state employee insurance and Medicaid as well as tightening medical reporting requirements for those performing abortions. Brewer also recently signed the nation’s most punitive anti-immigration laws.

• Florida -- the state legislature passed a law requiring most women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound and listen to a doctor describe the fetus; Governor Charlie Crist vetoed the bill. Crist, currently running for Senate seat as an independent, recent bolted from the Republicans under challenge from Tea Party conservatives.

• Iowa – legislation has been introduced to prohibit women in rural areas for using Internet video conferencing (i.e., telemedicine) with their doctors for consultation over taking Mifepristone (formerly RU-486 or the day-after abortion pill), thus requiring them to travel sometimes great distances for appointments.

• Kansas -- Gov. Mark Parkinson vetoed a bill that would have redefined fetal viability, blocking efforts to restrict later-term abortions; the legislation failed to overturn the veto.

• Kentucky – the state Senate passed a bill that would require a woman seeking an abortion to receive counseling in person at least 24 hours prior to the procedure and requiring her to make two trips to the clinic; the legislation also passed a bill require the woman to undergo an ultrasound procedure.

• Louisiana – legislation was passed barring private insurers from covering "elective" abortions, including women who are victims of rape or incest. The only exception is to save the life of the pregnant woman. It also passed a bill that would limit abortion coverage through the health insurance exchanges.

• Maryland -- the legislature passed a measure that barred public funding of abortion unless the pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, the woman’s life is at risk, the fetus is affected by a serious abnormality, or the woman’s physical or mental health is at grave risk.

• Mississippi – the governor signed a bill barring insurance companies from covering abortion under the new exchanges.

• Missouri – the legislature passed a law requiring an abortion provider to inform a woman having an abortion after 21 weeks of pregnancy of the purported ability of the fetus to feel pain and to offer her the option of obtaining anesthesia for the fetus.

• Nebraska – the legislature introduced a law banning all abortions after 20 weeks based on the claim that a fetus can feel pain at that point; the law challenges Roe as to the point of a fetus’ viability.

• Oklahoma – the state legislature passed a series of onerous anti-abortion laws, including a law requiring a woman seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound of the fetus at least one hour before the procedure and, adding insult to injury, requiring the woman to view the image and provide a detailed description of the fetus (including body parts) to secure the procedure; a law prohibiting parents from suing doctors for not revealing fetal abnormalities during pregnancy; a law requiring doctors who perform abortions to answer 38 questions about each procedure, including the woman’s reasons for ending her pregnancy. The conservative legislation overrode Gov. Brad Henry's veto.

• South Carolina – the state Senate passed a bill requiring a woman seeking an abortion to undergo two ultrasound procedures, thus extending the waiting period to at least 48 hours.

• Tennessee -- passed a law banning coverage of abortion in insurance exchanges and another law requiring clinics to post signs stating it is illegal to coerce a woman to have an abortion.

• Utah -- after a headline-grabbing story about a pregnant 17-year-old girl hiring a man for $150 to beat her in an effort to induce a miscarriage, the state legislation passed a law that would charge such women with homicide. The legislation recently withdrew the bill but sponsors hope to reintroduce it with a narrower focus.

• Virginia -- the state’s budget restricted Medicaid funding for abortion to cases of rape, incest or life endangerment.


The Tea Party movement draws together an incoherent mélange of right-wing enthusiasts ranging from libertarians and free-marketeers to those opposed to Obama-care and social security, federal tax policies and the 14th Amendment, the UN and restrictions of gun ownership and still others disgruntled by an ever-growing list of social ills.

At its core, the Tea Party expresses an incoherent rage by white, middle-aged and “middle-class” Americans against a nation and a world that is in crisis and has, they believe, let them down. While bellowing loudly against alleged big government, the ballooning national debt and immigration of undocumented workers, it offers little coherent analysis or programmatic solutions to address these ills. The Tea Party right reiterates longstanding conservative efforts to conceal class divisions, restrict social equality and promote racial differences.

The Tea Party movement hides many sins, foremost being the traditional anti-abortion crusade. Tea Party spokespeople have consciously avoided linking their movement to anti-abortion. This is a strategic decision to downplay divisive culture-war issues and to curry favor with the more orthodox libertarians who defend a nebulous notion of personal liberty. Nevertheless, as evident in its recent Nashville convention, the event began with a customary pledge to the American flag followed by a religious invocation with those in attendance holding hands in common worship of Jesus. At this event, like many other local Tea Party gatherings, anti-abortion crusaders were well in attendance, their most passionate belief, the abolition of abortion (along with sex education and contraceptives), one of the movement’s core values.

The Tea Party movement draws upon a current of popular unrest and political initiative that has long marked the nation’s character. While it claims the Boston Tea Party as inspiration, two early popular movements provide better historical references.

The first is Shays’ Rebellion. In 1787, Massachusetts Revolutionary War veterans found themselves losing their farms due to failure to pay debts and taxes incurred while fighting for their new nation. The uprising was finally crushed, thus establishing the tyrannical power of the centralized nation state. On Shays’ uprising, Thomas Jefferson famously noted, “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

The second inspiration is the Great Revival, a powerful evangelical movement that arose during the early 19th century and overwhelmed the nation’s rural heartland. This Second Great Awakening (the first took place in the 1740s) spawned new religious denominations, but also the modern temperance movement, the abolitionism culminating in the Civil War and the demand for women’s suffrage that led to the passage of the 19th Amendment.

These early movements represent tendencies that have elements of what today would be considered the “right” (or regressive) or the “left” (progressive) of the modern political spectrum; the split divides those preserving the economic and social status quo from those seeking to transform it into a more egalitarian political order. In the half-century following the Great Revival, America became increasingly polarized between Southern planters committed to slavery and a northern industrial capitalism pushing accumulation through wage labor.

In distinction from the labor and civil rights movements, the Tea Party movement is rooted in the right-wing tendency of popular rebellion. It shares much with know-nothing proponents of the 1840s and 1850s and, following the Civil War, the Klan, nativists, eugenicists, free marketers and self-serving politicians hungry for votes. However, most illuminating is the Tea Party’s similarity to the temperance movement.

* * *

America’s temperance movement was launched in 1657 when the General Court of Massachusetts prohibited the sale of alcohol “whether known by the name of rumme, strong waters, wine, brandy, etc.” In the decades following the Civil War, groups like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Anti-Saloon League and corporatist progressives fought to impose moral order on all Americans, especially ethnic working-class and women, through adherence to tough abstinence regulations. They succeeded with the adoption of the 18th Amendment in 1920.

Following the Great War, the U.S. was a nation confronting enormous domestic and geopolitical change. Vast shifts in population, in territorial distribution, in manufacturing, in capitalist finance, in technological infrastructure, in consumer culture were remaking the nation. Like today, the fear engendered by the enormous scale and scope of change led to the scapegoating of immigrants by a vindictive, nativist right wing.

While Hispanics are the target of today’s rage, in the good old days of the ‘20s it was the Germans, Italians, Irish, Eastern Europeans and Chinese (and let's not forget African Americans) who bore the brunt of nativist rage. Like today, Protestant fundamentalists railed against religious threats, then Catholics and Jews, and today Muslims. Not unlike today’s Tea Party adherents, Christian Prohibitionists found kindred spirit with nativists, Klansmen, eugenicists, free marketeers and self-serving politicians hungry for votes.

Also like today’s Tea Party efforts to overturn the 14th Amendment (i.e., citizenship), after the adoption of the 18th Amendment, Prohibitionists introduced more then 40 bills in Congress between 1921 and 1928 to subvert Article 1, Section 2, of the Constitution (i.e., apportionment based on the census). Like Tea Party advocates, the Drys were a shrinking, throwback movement seeking to hold onto power through fearless determination and outright illegality. So out of whack was Congressional apportionment that in 1929 a Detroit district represented nearly 1.3 million people while one in Missouri had only 180,000 residents.

Three-quarters of a century later, the battle for equality continues. Once again the nation is facing a crisis, one with both domestic and geopolitical dimensions. It is a crisis that challenges the lives of all Americans, particularly the aging, white middle class. The right today, a weird amalgam of Tea Party activists, Christian anti-abortionists, corporate profiteers, financial schemers, media barons and blowhard pundits, has seized upon middle-class fears to propel a militant campaign for not only political power, but also for social control and moral dominance.

The anti-abortion sentiment is the unstated glue that holds the Tea Party movement together. It is, like temperance, the moral value that unites a fractious mass movement. While Tea Party affiliates adhere to a host of very specific political issues, anti-abortion is posited as a moral concern, above special-interest politics. For anti-abortion advocates, belief in God, a white Christian deity, in fact, requires one to oppose a woman’s right to an abortion. The fate of the unborn fetus, like that of the untaken drink, anchors moral rectitude.

Temperance advocates aligned a host of corollary social issues within their moral campaign to anchor a movement: Social drunkenness, loss of family income, domestic and public violence, interracial mingling and degenerate sexual practices. Similarly, the anti-abortion movement aligns with campaigns to limit teen sex education, contraceptive products and procedures, obscene or pornographic media and female fashion. Nevertheless, the Tea Party movement shares a singular legislative goal: to overturn Roe v. Wade and prohibit all abortions. Stated or unstated, the war against abortion will be the defining issue in the 2010 midterm elections.

SPaul Note: Don't say you weren't warned...Keep sitting at home if you want this country to continue to degrade. You can bet your ass that the Tea Party and the Christian Right sheeple will be at the polls ready to take your rights from you.

No. 4 in the AR Fascism Tracker:

Rampant Sexism
The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

Anti-Abortion Bills Surging Through Capitol Hill—and States, Too

by Miriam Zoila Pérez

PLANNED PARENTHOOD HIT IN ACORN-STYLE “STING”It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the House GOP leadership has come out strong with an anti-abortion agenda only weeks into the 112th Congress. A November meeting foreshadowed the fate of reproductive rights under the House’s new leadership: Randall Terry, an anti-abortion extremist whose work incites violence and has been called “domestic terrorism,” met with soon-to-be Speaker John Boehner’s chief of staff. In the anti-abortion world, it doesn’t get more extreme than Randall Terry.

What’s striking, and drawing less attention, is that the invigorated attack on women’s health on Capitol Hill is just the beginning. The November elections also swept in a wave of anti-choice state governments, where the fight against reproductive rights has become increasingly defined by race baiting meant to divide the pro-choice community.

The national GOP leadership made its reproductive rights agenda crystal clear in the “Pledge to America” unveiled on Sept. 23, just weeks before the midterm election. The new GOP-controlled House may not be living up to the Pledge’s promise to cut the deficit by $100 billion, but when it comes to abortion the Republican caucus is honoring its word. From the Pledge:

Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to using tax dollars to pay for abortion, and the executive order issued by President Obama in conjunction with congressional passage of the health care law is inadequate to ensure taxpayer funds are not used in this manner…. We will establish a government-wide prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion and subsidies for insurance coverage that includes abortion. This prohibition would go further and enact into law what is known as the Hyde Amendment as well as ban other instances of federal subsidies for abortion services. We will also enact into law conscience protections for health care providers, including doctors, nurses, and hospitals.

HR3, the symbolically important third bill introduced in this session, focuses on fulfilling these promises. Named the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” it is expected to come up for a vote in the House soon, and pro-choice senators are already concerned it could be brought to the floor in the upper chamber as well.

One might assume from the title of the bill that there currently is taxpayer funding for abortion. In reality, this funding is almost non-existent, and has been for 35 years. In 1976, former Sen. Henry Hyde introduced the Hyde Amendment, which effectively stopped the flow of federal money toward abortion. This was the first big legislative response to the Roe v. Wade decision that had legalized abortion just three years earlier. In the 30-plus years since the amendment passed, it has been further strengthened.

Hyde made his own intentions clear as he campaigned for his amendment. He stated: “I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the HEW Medicaid bill.” Today, HR3 has similar motives.

Realizing Hyde’s Dream
As law currently stands, under the Hyde Amendment, women receiving health care through federal programs (like Medicaid, Medicare, Indian Health Services and the military) cannot get coverage for abortion procedures. In this way, the Hyde Amendment has always targeted low-income women’s ability to access abortion via the cost of the procedure—it can cost anywhere from $300 to $3,000. As a consequence, it has also targeted largely women of color. HR3 is an attempt to make these limitations permanent—and expand them to women with private health insurance.

The bill takes a radical interpretation of “federal funding” and expands it to include changes to our tax law. For example, under this bill, if a small business or individual purchased health insurance and the plan included coverage for abortion (regardless if it was utilized) they would not be allowed to deduct the cost of that plan. Currently 86 percent of private insurance plans cover abortion. These changes could have a sweeping effect on that breadth of coverage, working toward Hyde’s mission of preventing anyone from having an abortion.

As is to be expected, HR3 has stirred up significant response from the reproductive rights community. It has also received more attention than usual from the media, thanks to feminist activism against a provision in the bill that some say could have altered the definition of rape. The current funding ban includes three exceptions—or, three cases in which women should be able to receive coverage for their abortions: rape, incest and life endangerment. HR3 made one change to this language, employing the phrase “forcible rape.” This created an outcry about the bill’s attempt to redefine rape, including a #dearjohn twitter campaign spearheaded by feminist blogger Sady Doyle. Sponsors have since agreed to remove the word “forcible” from the bill.

But the fact remains that this legislation is just the beginning of a broader agenda of limiting women’s access to abortion by limiting their ability to pay for it. In reality, very few women are able to get federal funding through the three exceptions currently allowed by the Hyde Amendment. Data on Medicaid-funded abortions is difficult to come by, but we do know that in 2001 only 56 women received federal Medicaid reimbursement for their procedures based on all three exceptions. Even when you include state Medicaid reimbursements, the total number comes to only 81. In 2006, 20 states didn’t fund any abortions at all under these exceptions, according to Ibis Reproductive Health.

So while the outcry about HR3 has focused on the rape-exception language, the real question here is: Why should the circumstances of a woman’s abortion determine her access to it? When you peel back the layers of the new House GOP agenda, it’s clear that the point is to block any access at all.

In fact, while HR3 has been getting most of the media attention, it’s not the only anti-choice bill being considered right now in the House. HR358, the “Protect Life Act,” focuses on restricting access to abortion coverage in the health care reform law passed last year, in addition to beefing up refusal clauses for providers. The most heinous piece of the legislation would seem to allow providers to refuse to do procedures even in emergency situations in which the woman’s life is at risk.

Could such extreme anti-abortion legislation actually get signed into law? It doesn’t seem likely, and these moves are probably just far-right fundraising attempts and efforts to rally the base. But much like the House’s planned hearings on rewriting the birthright citizenship clause and interrogating Muslim Americans about terrorism, that doesn’t mean progressives can afford to ignore them.

The Democrats’ control of the Senate and White House means that many of these bills will go the way of health care repeal—dissolved into the congressional procedural death trap that is bipartisanship. But pieces of these bills can easily get incorporated in other legislation, and they set the terms for the broader policy debate on reproductive rights. Indeed, the amount of support behind HR3 is striking. The bill has over 170 cosponsors, including nine Democrats.

Race and Abortion in the States
Moreover, this is likely only the beginning for the GOP anti-choice agenda. The real battle is happening at the state level. Anti-choice attacks have increased dramatically since President Obama was elected. The Guttmacher Institute reports that in 2010 alone 39 new laws restricting abortion were passed. We can expect this activity to increase dramatically this year as the midterm election brought the number of states with entirely anti-choice governments to 15.

We’re going to see restrictions from every possible angle, including the so-called “race and sex selection” bills. This month, Arizona became the most recent state to introduce this type of legislation, which would require women to sign an affidavit saying that they are not terminating their pregnancy due to the race or sex of the fetus. A similar bill was defeated in Georgia last session, never making it out of a House committee.

These race and sex selection bills are part of a growing meme in the anti-choice movement—targeting abortion as so-called “black genocide,” along with drawing comparisons between abortion and slavery. These messages are not new but they are gaining prominence. There has been a recent media push, including billboards with the message, “Black Children are an Endangered Species” and ads on Black Entertainment Television.

These efforts are clearly an attempt to divide the pro-choice community along race lines in order to further chip away at access to abortion as a whole. When placed alongside ideologies that support restricting social services and assistance to low-income families and families of color, these tactics are revealed for what they are—race baiting and divisiveness rather than a real concern for the lives of black folks.

All of these attacks are united under the banner of trying to eliminate access to abortion entirely. Ohio is planning to introduce legislation this week that would prohibit abortion anytime after the provider can detect a heartbeat—radically reducing the time period available for the procedure. Texas wants to force women to have ultrasounds before the procedure and listen to the heartbeat. These attacks are only going to escalate, putting the pro-choice community on the defensive.

The question remains: Why is this issue, of all the pressing issues of our current moment, dominating the GOP’s agenda nationwide? Jessica Arons of the Center for American Progress has one theory: “Because they have no ideas of substance. They don’t know how to fix the economy, so instead they are trying to create distractions with this political theatre around abortion.”

Miriam Zoila Pérez is an editor at Feministing and the founder of Radical Doula, a blog that lives at the intersection of birth activism and social justice.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Inside the GOP's Fact-Free Nation

From Nixon's plumbers to James O'Keefe's video smears: How political lying became normal.
By Rick Perlstein

IT TAKES TWO THINGS to make a political lie work: a powerful person or institution willing to utter it, and another set of powerful institutions to amplify it. The former has always been with us: Kings, corporate executives, politicians, and ideologues from both sides of the aisle have been entirely willing to bend the truth when they felt it necessary or convenient. So why does it seem as if we're living in a time of overwhelmingly brazen deception? What's changed?

Today's marquee fibs almost always evolve the same way: A tree falls in the forest—say, the claim that Saddam Hussein has "weapons of mass destruction," or that Barack Obama has an infernal scheme to parade our nation's senior citizens before death panels. But then a network of media enablers helps it to make a sound—until enough people believe the untruth to make the lie an operative part of our political discourse.

For the past 15 years, I've spent much of my time deeply researching three historic periods—the birth of the modern conservative movement around the Barry Goldwater campaign, the Nixon era, and the Reagan years—that together have shaped the modern political lie. Here's how we got to where we are.

Just Making Stuff Up
WHEN AN EXPLOSION sunk the USS Maine off the coast of Havana on February 15, 1898, the New York Journal claimed two days later, "Maine Destroyed By Spanish: This Proved Absolutely By Discovery of the Torpedo Hole." There was no torpedo hole. The Journal had already claimed that a Spanish armored cruiser, "capable, naval men say, of demolishing the great part of New York in less than two hours," was on its way. "WAR! SURE!" a banner headline announced.

The instigator was a politically ambitious publisher, William Randolph Hearst. Kicked out of Harvard for partying, and eager to make a name for himself outside the shadow of his mining-magnate father, he made his way to New York, where he led the way in a sensationalist new style of newspaper publication—"yellow journalism." In a fearsome rivalry with Joseph Pulitzer, he chose as his vehicle the sort of manly imperialism to which the Washington elites of the day were certainly sympathetic—although far too cautiously for Hearst's taste. "You furnish the pictures," he supposedly telegraphed a reporter, "and I'll furnish the war." The tail wagged the dog. At a time when the only way to communicate rapidly across long distances was via telegraph, it proved easy to make up physical facts.
"You furnish the pictures," Hearst supposedly telegraphed a reporter, "and I'll furnish the war.
More than six decades later, that still seemed to be the case. "Some of our boys are floating around in the water," Lyndon Johnson told congressmen to goad them into passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorizing war in 1964, after a supposed attack on an American PT boat. "Hell, those dumb stupid sailors were just shooting at flying fish," LBJ observed later, after the deed was done. That resolution inaugurated a decade of official American military activities in Southeast Asia (unofficially, we had been carrying out secret acts of war for years). A full-scale air war began the following February, after the enemy shelled the barracks of 23,000 American "advisers" in a South Vietnamese town called Pleiku. But that was just a pretext. "Pleikus are like streetcars," LBJ's national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, said—if you miss one, you can always just hop on another. The bombing targets had been in the can for months, even as LBJ was telling voters on the campaign trail, "We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves."

It would have been possible all along for some intrepid soul to drop the dime on the whole thing. There were many who knew or suspected the truth, but with a villain as universally feared as communism was during the Cold War years, denying the facts felt like the only patriotic thing to do.

Then everything changed.

The '70s- Question Authority
WALTER CRONKITE traveled to Saigon after the Tet Offensive in 1968, saw things with his own eyes, and told the truth: The Vietnam War was stuck in a disastrous stalemate, no matter what the government said. That was a watershed. By 1969, none other than former Marine Commandant David M. Shoup endorsed a book on the war called Truth Is the First Casualty. In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, the Department of Defense study that plainly revealed that just about everything Americans had been told about Southeast Asia was flat-out untrue. When the Nixon administration ordered the newspapers not to publish the Papers, Supreme Court Justice Hugo* Black thundered back that "for the first time in the 182 years since the founding of the Republic, the federal courts are asked to hold that the First Amendment does not mean what it says." The searing melodrama of the Watergate investigation exposed new Nixon lies every day.

America, it seemed, had had enough. In the mid-'70s, the investigating committees of Sen. Frank Church and Rep. Otis Pike revealed to a riveted public that the CIA had secretly assassinated foreign leaders and the FBI had spied on citizens. Ralph Nader became a celebrity by exposing corporate lies. The mood of the Cold War had been steeped in American exceptionalism: The things America did were noble because they were done by America. Now, it appeared that America just might be susceptible to the same cruel compromises and corruptions as every other empire the world has known. Truth-telling became patriotic—and the more highly placed the liar, the more heroic the whistleblower.
The investigative reporter became a sexy new kind of hero—a shaggy-haired loner, too inquisitive for his own good.
The investigative reporter became a sexy new kind of hero—a shaggy-haired loner, too inquisitive for his own good, played by Warren Beatty and Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. Jimmy Carter, the peanut farmer from Plains, swooped in from nowhere to take the White House on the strength of the modest slogan "I'll never lie to you." And during his presidency, one of the grand, founding lies of western civilization itself—that there need be no limits to humans' domination of the Earth—was questioned as never before.

The truth hurt, but the incredible thing was that the citizenry seemed willing to bear the pain. All sorts of American institutions—Congress, municipal governments, even the intelligence community (the daring honesty of CIA Director William Colby about past agency sins was what helped fuel the Church and Pike investigations)—launched searching reconstructions of their normal ways of doing business. Alongside all the disco, the kidnapped heiresses, and the macramé, another keynote of 1970s culture was something quite more mature: a willingness to acknowledge that America might no longer be invincible, and that any realistic assessment of how we could prosper and thrive in the future had to reckon with that hard-won lesson.

Then along came Reagan.

The '80s
Don't Worry, Be Happy
IN RESEARCHING this period, I've been surprised to discover the extent to which Ronald Reagan explicitly built his appeal around the notion that it was time to stop challenging the powerful. A new sort of lie took over: that the villains were not those deceiving the nation, but those exposing the deceit—those, as Reagan put it in his 1980 acceptance speech, who "say that the United States has had its day in the sun, that our nation has passed its zenith." They were just so, so negative. According to the argument Reagan consistently made, Watergate revealed nothing essential about American politicians and institutions—the conspirators "were not criminals at heart." In 1975, upon the humiliating fall of Saigon, he paraphrased Pope Pius XII to make the point that Vietnam had in fact been a noble cause: "America has a genius for great and unselfish deeds. Into the hands of America, God has placed the destiny of an afflicted mankind."

The Gipper's inauguration ushered in the "Don't Worry, Be Happy" era of political lying. But it took a deeper trend to accelerate the cultural shift away from truth-telling-as-patriotism to a full-scale epistemological implosion.

Reagan rode into office accompanied by a generation of conservative professional janissaries convinced they were defending civilization against the forces of barbarism. And like many revolutionaries, they possessed an instrumental relationship to the truth: Lies could be necessary and proper, so long as they served the right side of history.
"We ought to see clearly that the end does justify the means," wrote evangelist C. Peter Wagner in 1981. "If the method I am using accomplishes the goal I am aiming at, it is for that reason a good method."
This virulent strain of political utilitarianism was already well apparent by the time the Plumbers were breaking into the Democratic National Committee: "Although I was aware they were illegal," White House staffer Jeb Stuart Magruder told the Watergate investigating committee, "we had become somewhat inured to using some activities that would help us in accomplishing what we thought was a legitimate cause."

Even conservatives who were not allied with the White House had learned to think like Watergate conspirators. To them, the takeaway from the scandal was that Nixon had been willing to bend the rules for the cause. The New Right pioneer M. Stanton Evans once told me, "I didn't like Nixon until Watergate."

Though many in the New Right proclaimed their contempt for Richard Nixon, a number of its key operatives and spokesmen in fact came directly from the Watergate milieu. Two minor Watergate figures, bagman Kenneth Rietz (who ran Fred Thompson's 2008 presidential campaign) and saboteur Roger Stone (last seen promoting a gubernatorial bid by the woman who claimed to have been Eliot Spitzer's madam) were rehabilitated into politics through staff positions in Ronald Reagan's 1976 presidential campaign. G. Gordon Liddy became a right-wing radio superstar.

"We ought to see clearly that the end does justify the means," wrote evangelist C. Peter Wagner in 1981. "If the method I am using accomplishes the goal I am aiming at, it is for that reason a good method." Jerry Falwell once said his goal was to destroy the public schools. In 1998, confronted with the quote, he denied making it by claiming he'd had nothing to do with the book in which it appeared. The author of the book was Jerry Falwell.

Direct-mail guru Richard Viguerie made a fortune bombarding grassroots activists with letters shrieking things like "Babies are being harvested and sold on the black market by Planned Parenthood." As Richard Nixon told his chief of staff on Easter Sunday, 1973, "Remember, you're doing the right thing. That's what I used to think when I killed some innocent children in Hanoi."

False Equivalencies
CONSERVATIVES hardly have a monopoly on dissembling, of course—consider "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." Progressives' response has always been that right-wing mendacity—cover-ups of constitutional violations like Iran-Contra; institutionalized truth-corroding tactics like when the Republican National Committee circulates fliers claiming that Democrats seek to outlaw the Bible—is more systematic. But the deeper problem is a fundamental redefinition of the morality involved: Rather than being celebrated, calling out a lie is now classified as "uncivil." How did that happen?

Back in the days when network news was the only game in town, grave-faced, gravelly voiced commentators like David Brinkley and Eric Sevareid—and on extraordinary occasions anchors like Walter Cronkite—told people what to think about the passing events of the day. Much of the time, these privileged men unquestioningly passed on the government's distortions. At their best, however, they used their moral authority to call out lies with a kind of Old Testament authority—think Cronkite reporting from Saigon. It drove Johnson out of office, and it drove the right berserk.

On November 3, 1969, Richard Nixon gave a speech claiming he had a plan to wind down the war. The commentators went on the air immediately afterward and told the truth as they saw it: that he had said nothing new. Ten days later, the White House announced that Vice President Spiro Agnew was about to give a speech that it expected all three networks to cover—live.

..The speech was an excoriation of those very networks and their Stern White Men—"this little group of men who not only enjoy a right of instant rebuttal to every presidential address, but more importantly, wield a free hand in selecting, presenting, and interpreting the great issues of our nation.... The American people would rightly not tolerate this kind of concentration of power in government. Is it not fair and relevant to question its concentration in the hands of a tiny and closed fraternity of privileged men, elected by no one, and enjoying a monopoly sanctioned and licensed by government?" Those in the habit of exposing the sins of the powerful were no longer independent arbiters—they were liberals. Such was the bias, Agnew argued, of "commentators and producers [who] live and work in the geographical and intellectual confines of Washington, DC, or New York City," who "bask in their own provincialism, their own parochialism."
Foreshadowing Reagan's framing of truth-telling as elitist meddling, Agnew singled out for opprobrium the kind of reporting that "made 'hunger' and 'black lung' disease national issues overnight."
Foreshadowing Reagan's framing of reform-minded truth-telling as a brand of elitist meddling, Agnew singled out for opprobrium the kind of reporting that "made 'hunger' and 'black lung' disease national issues overnight" (quotation marks his). TV reporting from Vietnam had done "what no other medium could have done in terms of dramatizing the horrors of war"—and that, too, was evidence of liberal bias.

Agnew's remarks reinforced a mood that had been building since at least the 1968 Democratic National Convention, when many viewers complained about the media images of police beating protesters. By the 1980s the trend was fully apparent: News became fluffier, hosts became airier—less assured of their own moral authority. (Around this same time, TV news lost its exceptional status within the networks—once accepted as a "loss leader" intended to burnish their prestige, it was increasingly subject to bottom-line pressures.)

There evolved a new media definition of civility that privileged "balance" over truth-telling—even when one side was lying. It's a real and profound change—one stunningly obvious when you review a 1973 PBS news panel hosted by Bill Moyers and featuring National Review editor George Will, both excoriating the administration's "Watergate morality." Such a panel today on, say, global warming would not be complete without a complement of conservatives, one of them probably George Will, lambasting the "liberal" contention that scientific facts are facts—and anyone daring to call them out for lying would be instantly censured. It's happened to me more than once—on public radio, no less.

In the same vein, when the Obama administration accused Fox News of not being a legitimate news source, the DC journalism elite rushed to admonish the White House. Granted, they were partly defending Major Garrett, the network's since-departed White House correspondent and a solid journalist—but in the process, few acknowledged that under Roger Ailes, another Nixon veteran, management has enforced an ideological line top to bottom.

The protective bubble of the "civility" mandate also seems to extend to the propagandists whose absurdly doctored stories and videos continue to fool the mainstream media. From blogger Pamela Geller, originator of the "Ground Zero mosque" falsehood, to Andrew Breitbart's video attack on Shirley Sherrod—who lost her job after her anti-discrimination speech was deceptively edited to make her sound like a racist—to James O'Keefe's fraudulent sting against National Public Radio, right-wing ideologues "lie without consequence," as a desperate Vincent Foster put it in his suicide note nearly two decades ago. But they only succeed because they are amplified by "balanced" outlets that frame each smear as just another he-said-she-said "controversy."

And here, in the end, is the difference between the untruths told by William Randolph Hearst and Lyndon Baines Johnson, and the ones inundating us now: Today, it's not just the most powerful men who can lie and get away with it. It's just about anyone—a congressional back-bencher, an ideology-driven hack, a guy with a video camera—who can inject deception into the news cycle and the political discourse on a grand scale.

Sure, there will always be liars in positions of influence—that's stipulated, as the lawyers say. And the media, God knows, have never been ideal watchdogs—the battleships that crossed the seas to avenge the sinking of the Maine attest to that. What's new is the way the liars and their enablers now work hand in glove. That I call a mendocracy, and it is the regime that governs us now.


The Ongoing Crusade to Silence We the People

S. Paul note: As part of the Right wing agenda of forcing their corporatist regime down the throats of We the People, they are working toward retarding our voting ability with I.D. restrictions and staging rehearsed "Town Hall meetings" where citizens are not allowed to speak their minds. Our voices are being silenced and our Liberty restricted with these actions of repression by the Right, their Tea Party soldiers and yes, even the Left in Washington, across this Nation. It would seem that the "representatives" behind this action only want their voices heard and couldn't be bothered with the People's.

The following articles and videos are only some examples of this Oppressive Agenda.

Nicole Sandler Arrested For Asking Questions At Town Hall Meeting
EZcool...In your face with the truth

Who would have thought attend­ing an event as Amer­i­can as apple pie, could wind up get­ting you thrown in the slammer!

Nicole San­dler, a for­mer Air Amer­ica radio host and a reg­u­lar fill in for pro­gres­sive radio host Randi Rhodes, seems to have made that mis­take. She went to her congressman’s town hall ear­lier in the week and did what most would expect at town hall meet­ing– she asked ques­tions. Appar­ently her con­gress­man, Repub­li­can Allen West was not in the mood to be both­ered by his con­stituents and their silly ques­tions. He was there to lec­ture and to let them know what was on his mind, not to respond to their nonsense!

So San­dler was arrested, and as she puts it, “… spent last night in jail and, thanks to the sick­en­ingly awful peo­ple at the Broward County Jail was sub­jected to three hours in soli­tary con­fine­ment in a 7×10 room, and then maced.”

Amer­i­cans going to town hall meet­ings to inter­act with their rep­re­sen­ta­tive? Oh no, not here! That’s just not how it might go down in this, the land of the free!

Ray McGovern, former C.I.A. analyst, assaulted during a Hillary Clinton press conference

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a major address calling for internet freedom around the world. As Clinton condemned the Egyptian and Iranian governments for arresting and beating protesters, former U.S. Army and CIA officer Ray McGovern was violently ejected from the audience and arrested after he stood up and turned his back in a silent protest of America’s foreign policy.

Rand Paul Supporter Steps on Woman's Head

According to the Associated Press, the man who stepped on the woman's head is Tim Profitt, a volunteer for Paul's campaign who has now apologized for his actions. Profitt suggested the camera angle made the incident look worse than it was and criticized police for not stepping in.

The woman, Lauren Valle, is affiliated with the liberal group As the Louisville Courier Journal reports, she said later she was trying to give Paul a satiric award from "RepubliCorp," which was meant to sarcastically thank Paul for merging political speech and the interests of big business. She was trying to get her picture taken with him while presenting the award.

As you can see in the video, Valle had her blond wig pulled off and was wrestled to the ground, apparently by a support of Paul. As she lies on the ground, Profitt, who is holding a Paul sign, steps on Valle's head and shoulders. As this happens, a third man can be heard saying, "no, no, no, no - come on."

Valle, who reported the incident to the police, appeared to be OK afterward, though she said she was left with "a bit of a headache." She said she "just wanted to get out here with a sign, but I got my head stepped on."

In a statement, Paul said, "Violence of any kind has no place in our civil discourse and we urge supporters on all sides to be civil to one another as tensions rise heading toward this very important election. We are relieved to hear that the woman in question was not injured."

According to the AP, Paul's campaign has removed Profitt as Bourbon County campaign coordinator and banned him from campaign events.

MoveOn said in a statement that "We're appalled at the violent incident that occurred at the Kentucky Senate debate last night." The group called for "those responsible" to "be brought to justice quickly" and expressed concern there have not yet been arrests.

"Numerous news reports clearly show that the young woman--a MoveOn supporter--was assaulted and pushed to the ground by Rand Paul supporters, where one man held her down while another stomped on her head," the group said. "This kind of violence has no place in American society, much less at a peaceful political rally."

Miller security guards handcuff editor
PUBLIC EVENT: Incident took place after town hall meeting at middle school.
Anchorage Daily News

The editor of the Alaska Dispatch website was arrested by U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller's private security guards Sunday as the editor attempted to interview Miller at the end of a public event in an Anchorage school.

Tony Hopfinger was handcuffed by the guards and detained in a hallway at Central Middle School until Anchorage police came and told the guards to release Hopfinger.

Hopfinger has not been charged but the owner of the Drop Zone, the private security firm that's been providing Miller's security, accused Hopfinger of trespassing at the public event, a town hall sponsored by the Miller campaign. The owner, William Fulton, also said Hopfinger assaulted a man by shoving him.

Anchorage Police who responded to the call said they would leave it to the District Attorney's office to decide whether to prosecute. They spent more than an hour taking statements, then left.

Hopfinger, who was holding a small video camera, said he was attempting to draw out a statement from Miller on why he was disciplined by the Fairbanks North Star Borough when Miller worked there as a part-time attorney. After Miller walked away, Hopfinger said, he was surrounded by Miller supporters and security guards and felt threatened, so he pushed one of them away.

Fulton said the man shoved by Hopfinger was not hurt.

Hopfinger said that after he shoved the man away, the guards grabbed him, cuffed his hands behind his back with steel handcuffs and sat him in a chair in the school hallway, Hopfinger said.

One of the guards grabbed Hopfinger's video camera. Later, Hopfinger said that when he got the camera back, the segment covering the span of the arrest was missing. An Anchorage police officer offered to take the camera into custody and have it examined in the crime lab to investigate whether evidence had been destroyed, but Hopfinger declined. He said he needed the camera and the remaining video for his work.

The guard who grabbed the camera said Hopfinger had dropped it in the scuffle and denied erasing anything. The guard wouldn't give his name.

While Hopfinger was still in handcuffs, the guards attempted to prevent other reporters from talking to him and threatened them too with arrest for trespass. A Daily News reporter interviewed Hopfinger anyway. No other reporters were arrested, though a few shoving matches and chest bumps ensued as the guards attempted to cordon off Hopfinger and block photographs and videos from being taken of the bizarre school scene.

The Miller campaign released a written one-paragraph statement from Fuller, then followed with a statement titled, "Liberal Blogger 'Loses It' at Town Hall Meeting." In that statement, Miller accused Hopfinger of assaulting someone and of taking advantage of the meeting to "create a publicity stunt."

He said his personal security detail had to take action to detain "the irrational blogger."

Miller campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto declined to comment or to make Miller, himself a witness, available for news interviews.

Read the rest at Anchorage Daily News

UF student Tasered at Kerry forum
The Independent Florida Alligator
KIM WILMATH, Alligator Writer

A UF student was shot with a Taser gun, arrested and charged with a felony Monday because police said he started a riot during Sen. John Kerry's on-campus speech.

Andrew Meyer, a telecommunication senior and former Alligator columnist, was charged with a third-degree felony for resisting arrest with violence, according to a University Police Department report.

A third-degree felony could mean up to five years in prison and a fine of up to ,5,000, according to a UF Web site.

Meyer attempted to ask Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, about his involvement in Skull and Bones, a secret society at Yale University, at the end of the speech's question-and-answer session.

But when his microphone was cut off, Meyer began to scream in protest. Members of Accent, Student Government's speakers bureau, cut off the microphone because Meyer used profanity, said Steven Blank, Accent chairman. Accent sponsored the forum, which was held at the University Auditorium.

Several officers attempted to remove Meyer from the microphone when he began "acting in a violent manner" and "pushing the officers," according to the report.

Police said Meyer was told to comply with the officers, but he continued to resist.

"Don't Tase me, bro!" Meyer screamed as officers attempted to drag him outside the University Auditorium. "I didn't do anything."

Steve Orlando, UF's spokesman, said police then shot Meyer with a Taser gun.

Meyer was booked into the Alachua County Jail just after 2 p.m., where he remained until at least 9 p.m. Monday, according to jail records. He could not be reached for comment.

Matthew Howland, a UF history senior who also attended the speech and videotaped the incident on his cell phone, said police held the Taser gun on Meyer for about seven seconds.

Howland said he thought Meyer was behaving inappropriately, but the officers' actions left most of the audience members stunned.

"How can you say a student created a riot when it was clearly the officers who elevated the situation to a level it did not need to go?" Howland said.

He said Meyer's frantic reaction seemed understandable. "How are you supposed to react if you have six officers hopping on you and yelling at you?" he asked.

"I don't want to say it was police brutality because that term should be saved for more obvious events, but it was damn close," he added.

Jeff Holcomb, UPD spokesman, could not be reached for comment.

While Meyer wrestled with officers at the back of the auditorium, Howland said Kerry remained on stage, trying to keep the rest of the crowd calm and answering more questions.

A spokesman for Kerry would not comment.

Asia Johnson, a UF advertising senior who was also at the speech, said Kerry was trying to answer Meyer's question as police started grabbing him.

Johnson said as police pinned Meyer to the ground, she heard him yell, "Just get off of me and I'll walk out of here."

She created a Facebook group later that day about the incident called "John Kerry conference at UF! A fiasco!!! Needs to be known!" and outlined her account of the event.

"If the police are considered to be the 'good' side of this world, I did not see that today," Johnson wrote. "Today I saw fear, confusion and ignorance."

Johnson said she planned to write a letter to UPD administrators, urging them to reprimand the officers at the speech and issue a formal apology to Meyer.

Johnson struggled to catch her breath during a telephone interview that night, explaining that she was still shaken up about the incident.

"His cries of help were absolutely horrifying," she said. "It's going to stick with me for a long time. It's going to stick with him even longer."

A group of UF students will stage a march today from noon to 1 p.m. on the Plaza of the Americas, said Tina Steiger, an international relations junior who helped organize the march.

Steiger said students would demand that UPD drop all charges against Meyer, immediately suspend the officers involved in his arrest and remove all Taser guns from campus.

The occurence list goes on and on... The right wing media outlets label these citizens as obstructionists or describe the incidents as sabotage. One site described the public statements and concerns of Nicole Sandler as "Another fat, hairy, loud libbie women arrested at a townhall meeting." This is America? I can understand politicians being money minded enough to purposely deceive us but when citizens actually believe these people are telling the truth and they start to believe that a fellow citizen speaking their minds at a public forum is disruptive or unAmerican, I have to take a pause to consider the hypnosis factor. Wake up People, this is not going to go away. We MUST speak our minds and if it means getting arrested then I for one, will gladly put my hands behind my back.