Monday, August 30, 2010

Bill Van Auken: Glenn Beck In Washington: Preaching The Gospel Of Mammon And Militarism

Glenn Beck In Washington: Preaching The Gospel Of Mammon And Militarism
By Bill Van Auken article link article link
30 August, 2010 | WSWS | CounterCurrents

The Washington rally organized by right-wing Fox News TV personality Glenn Beck on Saturday offered a twisted mix of religion, potted history and the glorification of the military under the banner of “restoring honor” to the USA.

Crowd estimates for the rally varied wildly. Beck and his supporters claimed over half a million. Most media outlets put the figure at “tens of thousands” or approximately 100,000. CBS News provided a more precise figure, relying on a company that performed analysis of aerial photographs to produce a figure of 87,000.

Whatever the real number, this amorphous event received immense promotion and coverage, not only by Beck’s own employer, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, but by every section of the media. This treatment stood in stark contrast to the media’s virtual blackout of far larger demonstrations held in recent years against the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Beck, who has described himself as a “rodeo clown” and entertainer, while using his television and radio programs to promote right-wing conspiracy theories, reinvented himself for Saturday’s appearance at the Lincoln Memorial. He came before the crowd as the nation’s preacher-in-chief, promoting a gospel of Mammon, Americanism and militarism that reflects the very direct interests of the powerful financial figures who have turned the former drug addict into a multi-millionaire.

The word “Obama” did not cross Beck’s lips. Instead, he advanced the themes of “Faith, Hope and Charity.”

Perhaps the most outrageous pretense of the event was that it somehow had “reclaimed the civil rights movement,” by presenting the idiotic and reactionary rant of Beck on the same site and 47 years to the day that Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech. [video link]

Beck and his fellow right-winger, former Alaska governor and Republican candidate for vice president in 2008, Sarah Palin, repeatedly invoked King’s legacy, while giant jumbotrons carried King’s image and snippets of the words he spoke in August 1963.

In the months leading up the event, Beck used his radio and television broadcasts to suggest that the American right was somehow the legitimate heir of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, insinuating that it had arisen to counter similar adversities and oppression. One might suspect from such cynical rhetoric that supporters of the “Tea Party” and Beck’s viewers were being lynched, beaten, jailed and assassinated in various parts of the country.

The association of King with a rally glorifying militarism was perhaps the greatest obscenity. “What is it that America still believes in?” Beck asked in his opening remarks. “Our military.”

A year before his assassination, King denounced the Vietnam war, accusing Washington, in terms that are fully applicable to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, of fighting “on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.”

While Beck hailed King and the civil rights movement Saturday as “people of faith” who merely believed that “everybody deserves a shot,” earlier this year he used one of his broadcasts to denounce King as a “radical socialist” and question why a national holiday had been proclaimed in his honor.

The day after the rally, Beck dismissed the demands raised at the 1963 march on Washington for jobs and decent housing as “racial politics” and said that the civil rights movement’s economic agenda was “a part of it that I don't agree with.”

In crafting his speech, Beck and his handlers appeared to be guided by the famous axiom of P.T. Barnum that “nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” It was a rambling invocation of God and country that included a full-length recitation of the Gettysburg Address, selective quotations from the Declaration of Independence, the invocation of every hackneyed cliché of Americana and liberal doses of both the New and Old Testaments.

Palin had even less to say, presenting herself as the mother of a “combat vet” and leading the crowd in the chant of “USA, USA, USA.”

While right-wing populist movements in America have a long history of wrapping themselves in the flag and the bible, they have also tended to advance definite economic and social policies that at least invoked the interests of the common man. Those influenced by the Christian revivalism of the 1870s and 1880s railed against monopolies and Mammon. Father Charles Coughlin in the 1930s denounced capitalism and mixed a poisonous brew of anti-Semitism with calls for inflationary monetary policies, a guaranteed annual wage and limited nationalizations.

The fascist huckster Gerald L. K. Smith would have no doubt appreciated Beck’s performance. “Religion and patriotism, keep going on that,” he confided in the 1930s. “It’s the only way you can get them really ‘het up.’” But he put forward demands that included limits on the income of the rich and universal old-age pensions.

In his speech Saturday, Beck offered precisely nothing in terms of proposals. His most concrete advice was to tell people they should pray on their knees and leave their doors open so that their children can see them doing so.

When he first announced his planned Washington rally, Beck had promised he would use it to present “The Plan,” which he promised would provide “specific policies, principles and, most importantly, action steps” to found “a new national movement to restore our great country.”

During his speech Saturday, he attributed his decision to do no such thing to what he described as a conversation he had had with God. One could be forgiven for believing that rather than the divine word of God, Beck was responding to instructions from his more temporal lords: Murdoch, the right-wing Scaife family foundation and the other billionaires and corporate entities that bankroll FreedomWorks and the so-called Tea Party movement that played the principal role in organizing the rally.

Instead of policies, principles and action steps, Beck offered reactionary bromides, telling the crowd, “The poorest among us are still some of the richest in the world… and yet we don’t recognize it.”

“We all must realize how nice we have it here, in spite of our problems,” added Beck, who resides in a $4.5 million dollar mansion in New Canaan, Connecticut. He counseled the crowd that “charity begins at home first.”

With 26 million American workers on the unemployment lines or unable to find a full-time job, millions more having lost their homes, and working people faced with relentless wage-cutting while Wall Street reels in record profits, such complacent clap trap will find no support from the vast majority of the population. If Beck were to advance an explicit political program based on the interests and aims of the financial aristocracy for whom he speaks, the hostility and opposition would be overwhelming.

Behind Beck’s fuzzy rhetoric about individualism and patriotism there does lie a program which these wealthy, right-wing layers support. It includes the systematic dismantling of all forms of social spending that constitute a drain on profit, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It envisions the reduction of wages in the US to a level that would be competitive with those in China. And it seeks the even greater strengthening of the police-military powers of the government to suppress all opposition from the working class at home and to escalate militarist interventions abroad.

Beck and his backers wisely chose to keep this “plan” under wraps. They recognize that the self-described clown is hardly the man, and the amorphous and politically confused layers attracted to the Tea Party are not the movement to implement such a fascistic program.

They lack a mass base for such politics in the US today. The real danger arises from the political subordination of the working class to the Democratic Party and the ruling elite that it serves. Those so-called liberals and “lefts” who promote illusions in Obama bear responsibility for this subordination, which impedes the emergence of a genuine alternative to the policies pursued by both big business parties and allows demagogues on the right to exploit the crisis for their own purposes.

The author also recommends:

[10 June 2010]

[4 November 2006]

World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) home page
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Topic: Glenn Beck
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Neo-Supremacy Chic: Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin’s Tea-Scalding of MLK
by Pierre Tristam article link article link
August 29, 2010 | FlaglerLive | CommonDreams
FlaglerLive home page
CommonDreams home page

Billionaire Who Denies Connection to Tea Parties Bankrolls Tea-Partying Glenn Beck Fans
David Koch, billionaire backer of the Tea Party movement, says he's never been to a Tea Party event. So, what do you call the conference full of Tea Partiers he just convened?
By Adele M. Stan article link
August 29, 2010 | AlterNet

Glenn Beck's Messiah Complex
Rupert Murdoch's community organizer says that God speaks through him. Does Beck think he's the Second Coming? (His followers just may think so.)
By Adele M. Stan article link
August 28, 2010 | AlterNet

Billionaire Funder and Fox News Collude in Glenn Beck’s Affront to Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” Speech
by Adele Stan article link
August 20, 2010 | AlterNet

The Sick Farce of Glenn Beck’s ‘Restoring Honor’ Rally
Glenn Beck Has a Long History of Racial Mockery on the Radio -- His Civil Rights Talk Is Pure Fraud
Despite his lame efforts to try to capitalize on the MLK legacy at an upcoming DC rally, Glenn Beck cannot hide his deep-seated racism.
By Alexander Zaitchik article link article link
August 24, 2010 | SPLC | AlterNet
SPLC HateWatch web page
AlterNet homepage

At Lincoln Memorial, a Call for Religious Rebirth
August 29, 2010 | NYT | ICH
The New York Times home page
Information Clearing House home page

Glenn Beck: Televangelist
By Stephanie Mencimer article link
Aug. 28, 2010 | Mother Jones
Mother Jones home page

Recognizing Glenn Beck's Religion
By Anthony Wade article link
August 29, 2010 | OpEdNews

Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor Rally: "He's Alive!"
By Kevin Gosztola article link
August 30, 2010 | OpEdNews
OpEdNews home page


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Richard Rubenstein: 5 Ways We Should Radically Reconsider War

5 Ways We Should Radically Reconsider War
By Richard Rubenstein article link
August 27, 2010 | AlterNet | Bloomsbury Press

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Richard Rubenstein's new book, Reasons To Kill: Why Americans Choose War, with the permission of Bloomsbury Press. The book will be available September 2010.

#1 Refuse to Accept the Normality of War

At the end of the nineteenth century, when the United States first became a global power, the arguments for occupying other nations or bringing them under our control featured assertions of moral and racial superiority -- an American version of Kipling’s “white man’s burden.” Later, most justifications for war were based on the need to defend cherished democratic values and institutions against Evil Enemies bent on world conquest. But America’s emergence as the world’s sole superpower has produced an additional rationale for intervention: our alleged right and duty to save a world of failed and failing states from political chaos and terrorism. As one conservative spokesman put it, “Like it or not, we are the sheriff of the world.”

Embraced by many liberals and centrists as well, this “law and order” rationale aims to legitimize the continuous military intervention represented by the War on Terrorism. Accepting it reduces publicity about specific conflicts, accustoms people to tolerate undeclared wars, and redefines “normal” military activity. At the same time, however, the expansion of what Dexter Filkins calls the “forever war” to new theaters generates objections both practical and moral, driving a majority of Americans to demand the early withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and to oppose new military adventures of this sort in places like Yemen and Somalia.

In all this, one senses a growing understanding that the costs of empire far outweigh the benefits. To position the United States as a global sheriff or superhero actually incites further violence rather than deterring it. The technologically advanced superpower has all the weapons one can dream of, but its rebellious subjects even the score by combining fanatical determination with the ability to use simple weapons against overly complex systems. One might call this the imperial superpower’s “Kryptonite problem.” To overcome it requires taking off the hero’s costume and asking two Clark Kent-like questions:

· What about conflict resolution? Those who resort to violence generally do so because of unsolved problems and unfulfilled human needs, not just out of sheer fanaticism, malice, or power-lust. By giving up the struggle to maintain our superpower status -- an addiction all the more powerful for being largely unconscious -- we free ourselves to assist people to identify their problems and work them out in their own way.

· What about international or regional law enforcement? If conflict resolution doesn’t work, what the world requires is a legitimate source of coercion -- a lawful authority people can accept regardless of their socioeconomic status, political views, religion, or culture. This means new institutions, especially on the regional level, that can be designed and brought into existence relatively quickly, if only we permit people to organize and act free of our control.

# 2 Think Calmly And Strategically About Self-Defense

Almost a decade after the 9/11 attacks, American thinking on self-defense remains fixated on that great trauma. The consciousness that we were subjected to a totally unexpected, bloody assault, and that members of the same organization that attacked us are still at large, has given us the same mindset that afflicts people who have been in a disastrous and unexpected auto accident. For a while, at least, the driver that ran that stop sign and broadsided us becomes the “typical driver,” and ALL other drivers become sources of fear and loathing.

To us, the terrorists of al-Qaeda are still the “typical driver.” We tend to attribute their desire to harm the United States and its people to all other insurgent groups, even though, of all the groups on the State Department’s terrorist list, only a few have ever attacked Americans. Even where terrorists or insurgents do not attack our forces but only their own governments or members of rival groups, we say that “we” are under attack.

This confusion not only costs American lives and money but also operates as a self-fulfilling prophecy. For if we meddle in conflicts that have little to do with self-defense but much to do with exerting U.S. power abroad, groups that formerly had no interest in attacking us (like Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines or al-Shabaab in Somalia) suddenly find us in their crosshairs.

Each time that self-defense is proposed as a justification for war, there are four questions that need to be asked and answered fairly. Who and what, exactly, are we defending? Who and what, exactly, are we defending against? Is the chosen method of self-defense rational, in the sense that it works to make us safer? How long will it take -- and how much will it cost -- to produce that result?

These questions must be asked even when, as in the case of al-Qaeda and its allies, the answers seem obvious. Repeatedly, one hears U.S. government officials say, “We are at war. Terrorists are trying to kill us. We need to kill them first, not talk to them.” Common sense, right? No, not really. In violent conflicts, the enemy is always trying to kill you. Even under these conditions, there are times when warring parties decide to try to settle their conflict peacefully, either through negotiation (that is, bargaining) or conflict resolution (discovering and eliminating the conflict’s systemic causes). Many people believe that it is impossible to talk rationally or strategically with fanatics who believe that their violence fulfills the will of God. But there is a growing literature on the topic of dealing with terrorists, including those fighting under a religious banner, that suggests conditions under which talking may make very good sense.

My own view is that the United States ought not “negotiate” -- that is, bargain -- with al-Qaeda. We ought to engage in extensive conflict resolution processes with leading figures in the Islamic world, including militant Islamists, and invite al-Qaeda sympathizers to participate if they wish to do so. Thinking clearly about self-defense means discovering the best methods to provide Americans with long-term security. And long-term security depends on valued relationships, not weapons of war. The United States does not have to disarm to begin to resolve conflicts like this one, but if it does not begin to resolve them, all the weapons in the world will not provide the safety we seek.

#3 Ask hard questions about evil enemies and moral crusades

There is evil in the world, no doubt. But when officials ask us to kill other people and risk our own lives to combat some great evil, they often diabolize the adversary, and we begin to imagine the enemy leader or even a whole people as transcendentally Evil -- malicious, treacherous, power-mad, and cruel. Like the fallen angel, Lucifer, whom we picture as both super-human and super-bad, the Evil Enemy combines inhumanity with power: a frightening specter designed to rouse us to feats of heroic violence. Enemy images often represent a “shadow double” of ourselves -- a projection on some alien screen of characteristics we dislike and want to be rid of. Getting rid of these unworthy or shameful traits makes us feel purer and better -- the very opposite of the violent, fanatical, self-interested, and power-hungry Other. And so we feel equipped to engage in moral crusades, knowing that we will be able to act as altruists, not hedonists, liberators, not oppressors.

Because the Evil Enemy image is such strong medicine, hard questions ought to be asked as soon as it reappears. For example:

How is the word “evil” being used? Does it mean that the leader or group is diabolical in the sense of wanting to destroy everything good and decent? Does it refer to unusual ruthlessness or cruelty? To a desire to dominate a nation, a region, or the world? Or does it mainly indicate strong hostility towards the United States? (Defining evil does not mean giving up the right to use the word.)

Are there reasons other than evil character for this person or group to think and act this way? Can reasons be discovered in their own backgrounds or experiences? What about reasons rooted in the current situation, or in the behavior of other people, including Americans? (Discovering reasons will not excuse their actions.)

What are the possible responses to such a leader or group -- and which responses make most sense? Should we avoid talking with alleged enemies out of fear that negotiations or conflict resolution processes will compromise us and embolden them? Should we fight them -- and, if so, how can we assess the likely results of violent conflict? Is there some trusted third party who could help us resolve these issues? (Assessing alternative responses does not constitute inaction.)

#4. Analyze patriotic appeals. Resist campaigns of national purification.

Patriotism is not necessarily the last refuge of scoundrels, as Dr. Johnson quipped, but it is the ultimate argument for dubious wars. In its most primitive form, the catechism goes like this: Q: Do you love your country? A: Yes. Q: Are you willing to fight for it (or to send your family and friends to fight for it)? A: Yes.

We Americans are conditioned to slip quickly from the first Q and A to the second. The unspoken connective is: If you love your country, you will fight for it. But that is exactly the connection that needs to be proved in particular cases rather than asserted in general. Loving one’s country does not mean following its leaders’ orders no matter what they are. It certainly does not imply killing foreigners or putting American lives at risk on their command. To make that leap requires a different sort of catechism that ought to be administered to anyone advocating war.

Q: What do you mean by “love of country”?

This is a multiple choice question. The answers might include: (a) affection for certain people and places; (b) admiration for certain political, economic, and moral principles; (c) attachment to certain traditions and cultural products; and (d) participation in certain forms of communal life. Some people may consider this list incomplete, on the ground that love of country involves something more general and absolute, like a sense of being part of an ineffable whole: “the mystical body of the Nation.” But loving one’s country does not mean admiring all of its people, places, principles, cultural products, or forms of communal life. In fact, the more one loves certain aspects of America, the more one detests others.

Q: Why, in this particular case, does loving the country require fighting for it?:

The justification for war must show a connection between some specific aspect of the nation and a credible threat to it. We should not commit mass violence in support of theories that do not clearly identify the “America” in danger and show how it is being threatened. The justification must also show that force is the only way or best way to remove the threat, and that peaceful methods of resolving the conflict have been seriously attempted and will not work.

Meeting these requirements is difficult, but not impossible when a war is actually justified. In any case, war advocates should bear a heavy burden of proof. Unlike most other political questions, questions of war or peace operate on the plane of absolutes. In a democracy, we can fix most of our mistakes by throwing the rascals out or changing policies, but we cannot resuscitate the war dead or cure those permanently maimed in body or in spirit. Therefore, we are not only entitled but also required to ask whether the sacrifices demanded by war advocates are absolutely necessary in pursuit of our security and integrity. If a positive answer is not clear and convincing -- as loud and clear as God’s voice was to Abraham, when he lifted his knife over his son, Isaac -- we should not shed blood, either ours or anyone else’s.

#5 Demand that war advocates disclose their interests.

We Americans are fairly hard-headed people, ordinarily. If someone asks us to donate money to help the poor people of a far off land, or even to support our local police force or fire fighters, we want to know how much of the donation actually goes to the advertised cause, and how much ends up in other people’s pockets. But if we are asked to give our sons and daughters or our sweethearts to fight on foreign soil, patriotic sentiment or some other inhibitor often stops us from asking similarly blunt questions. Who stands to gain from the war? How many military careers, civilian jobs, executive salaries, and stockholder dividends hang in the balance as we decide whether or not to fight?

There is another reason why many people may be reluctant to ask these questions. According to many experts, we have been practicing “military Keynesianism” for some time, using enormous military expenditures to supply needed economic demand to a system plagued by congenital overproduction. Can Americans stop fighting wars (and stop supplying the rest of the world with weapons) without jeopardizing their jobs and the health of their communities? We urgently need to confront this issue openly, since it is putting us in an impossible moral position. Shall we sacrifice people’s lives and health in wars of dubious value in order to keep the economy afloat? Surely, there are ways of reorganizing the economic system that would eliminate this dilemma, even if the current “masters of the universe” do not want to think about them.

The war system’s main response to these varied concerns has been breathtakingly simple: minimize American casualties. Official thinking appears to be that if the number of American battle deaths and serious injuries can be greatly lowered, the public will find much less cause to complain about endless war making. Two responses to this are worth keeping in mind:

First, U.S. military experience since the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91 shows a significant decrease in American battlefield deaths, but horrifying increases in injuries generated by asymmetric warfare against groups wielding low-tech weapons, such as improvised explosive devices. Our VA hospitals are jammed with soldiers suffering the effects of severe head injuries, amputations, and post-traumatic stress -- and the suicide rate has shot through the roof.

Second, even if the number of US casualties could be lowered to zero, that would not secure our consent to the slaughter of foreigners in unjust wars. Those who believe that we would easily sacrifice other people’s lives in exchange for a guarantee of our own armed forces’ safety do not have a very high opinion of our moral character and beliefs. The idea that American lives are inherently more valuable than those of other people is not patriotism but a particularly vicious form of idolatry.

The current war system, with its pattern of continuous interventions in an ever-expanding zone of conflict, seems consciously or unconsciously designed to wean us from the habit of demanding justifications for specific wars. It is an act of faith, perhaps, to assert that Americans will remain unwilling to fight, except in a cause they are convinced is morally justified. Nevertheless, I will keep that faith, and invite you, dear reader, to keep it as well.

Richard Rubenstein is a Professor of Conflict Resolution and Public Affairs at George Mason University.

© 2010 Bloomsbury Press All rights reserved.

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Kill Them
by Linh Dinh article link
August 28, 2010 | CommonDreams
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Nine Years Later, Afghanistan Looks Much the Same: A Mess
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Benjamin Woods: "Where Do We Go From Here?"

"Where Do We Go From Here?" or Reclaiming Martin Luther King Jr.
By Benjamin Woods article link article link
August 26, 2010 | FreetheLand | OpEdNews

“Tell the children the truth, yeah, the truth tell them about Martin Luther King, tell them the truth.”
-If I Were President Wyclef Jean

This Saturday August 28, 2010 is the 47th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. At this demonstration, Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) gave his most well-known and, at the same time, misunderstood speech. However, over the past few decades a controversy has erupted over the true legacy of MLK. The proto-fascist far right wing represented by Glenn Beck and the Tea party movement is sponsoring a march that, allegedly, supports the ideals of MLK. Similarly, the National Action Network and Al Sharpton are sponsoring a march to “Reclaim the Dream.” The truth is, neither one of these groups represent MLK. This weekend, as we are inundated with white corporate media propaganda, it is important to recall the final years of Dr. King’s life and legacy.

Following the passage of civil rights legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, MLK began to focus more on issues of economic justice. The economic problems that existed in the urban north were not the same as the segregated south. King began to question the very economic system itself stating “that something is wrong…with capitalism…there must be better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move towards a Democratic Socialism.”

His move towards socialism was also influenced by events in the so called Third World. King joined the Anti-War movement and took a stance against the War in Vietnam. In 1967, at Riverside Baptist Church in New York in a speech titled “A Time to Break the Silence” he called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world” because of the destruction caused by napalm and other mass killing devices used by “his own government.” And finally, influenced by the anti-colonial movements occurring in Africa and Asia he started to refer to the slums and ghettos of America as a “a system of internal colonialism.”

As writers such as Frantz Fanon have shown, colonialism is not just economic but cultural and psychological as well. Centuries of oppression in the form of enslavement and segregation have had devastating effects upon the self-image and consciousness of African people. He noted that the assertiveness and confrontational style of the Civil Rights Movement helped to develop self-respect among Africans in the south.

Moreover, as Black Power advocates such as Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party gained ascendancy, he rejected complete assimilation into American society and strove for community empowerment. King stated “we must use every constructive means to amass economic and political power. This is the kind of legitimate power we need. We must work to build racial pride and refute the notion that [B]lack is evil and ugly.”

After the civil right victories and his move to advance community empowerment, Dr. King prophetically warned of the rise of the right-wing in the United States. He stated “the line of progress is never straight. For a period a movement may follow a straight line and then it encounters obstacles and the path bends….we are encountering such a period today. The inevitable counterrevolution that succeeds every period of progress is taking place.” In 1968 Republican Richard “tricky dick” Nixon won the Presidency and by 1980 the counterrevolution was complete with the election of Ronal Reagan.

These two elected officials would usher in a period of fiscal conservatism, state repression, color blindness, and personal responsibility. Unlike some of today’s negro leaders, King didn’t describe our problems as laziness, poor morals, or lack of personal responsibility but as a result systemic forces. He stated “true compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring” and “the roots of [economic injustice] are in the system rather than in the faulty operations of men.”

At the end of his life Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. argued for a “radical restructuring of society” and “a revolution of values.” Before his assassination, he was in the process of building a multi-racial Poor People’s campaign for economic and racial justice. Any march that claims to follow in his tradition should continue where he left off. His political and economic program included: a guaranteed annual income, free housing, free education, free healthcare, and an end to all wars of foreign aggression. He believed this could be achieved by a massive civil disobedience campaign in major urban centers that causes the political and economic life of this country to come to a halt until issues affecting the poor are completely eliminated. Unfortunately, neither of these marches represents the real MLK, therefore, it is on those who believe in his vision today to build a real social movement for a revolutionary transformation of human society.

Forgotten MLK Quotes

“We must rapidly shift from a ‘thing’-oriented society to a ‘person’-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

“Although genuinely popular [Negro] leaders are now emerging, most are selected by white leadership, elevated to position, supplied with resources and inevitably subjected to white control.”

“I contend that the debate over the question of self-defense was unnecessary since few people suggested that Negroes should not defend themselves as individuals when attacked. The question was not whether one should use his gun in his home was attacked, but whether it was tactically wise to use gun while participating in an organized demonstration.”

Cone, James. (1992). Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare. New York: New York, Orbis Books.

"Martin Luther King Jr. and the Third World." The Journal of American History. Vol. 74, No. 2 (Sep., 1987), pp. 455-467.

Dyson, Michael. (2000). I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King Jr. New York: New York, Free Press.

Washington, James (ed). (1986). A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King Jr. New York: New York, Harper One.

Benjamin Woods: The purpose of this blog is to provide a political and cultural analysis of historical and contemperary events as they relate to people of African descent. In addition, I hope to submit proposals for strategy and tactics which will advance the African Freedom Movement thereby, contributing to the liberation of all humanity. The author utilizes a Revolutionary Black Nationalist, Pan-Africanist, and socialist perspective. This blog is a "maroon space" designed to encourage independent thinking and discussion free from corporate control. I am originally from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Currently, I am a Phd student in the Political Science department at Howard University and a member of student and community organizations.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Stephen Lendman: America Facing Depression And Bankruptcy

America Facing Depression And Bankruptcy
By Stephen Lendman article link
27 August, 2010 | CounterCurrents

Long-time economic, political and market analyst Bob Chapman publishes the International Forecaster, offering incisive analysis absent through mainstream sources, especially important now given America's deepening economic crisis getting harder to conceal as evidence mounts.

His August 25 issue says the following:

"Twenty countries (including America) are headed into bankruptcy and more will follow. That brings up the subject of state debt in the US. America has been in an inflationary depression for 18 months. States have been cutting back for two years," but still face huge budget gaps required to be closed....2011 will be a terrible year (with) 80% of states expect(ing) deficits of more than $200 billion. 2012 looks even worse." Most worrisome, "there is no recovery and there never has been....the US economy and financial system is comatose." The worst is yet to come and will hit hard on arrival.

On August 24, economist David Rosenberg said, "Now (I'll) tell you why this is a depression, and not just some garden-variety recession," what he's been repeating for months unlike few others, corporate analysts claiming the fall 2007 downturn "ended sometime last year." Not so, it's deepened, growing evidence providing more clarity.

Offering a historical perspective, Rosenberg said the Great Depression wasn't marked by declining GDP each quarter. The 1929 - 33 recession lasted four years, followed by recovery and another "deep downturn" in 1937 - 38.

During the first one, "there were no fewer than six - six! - quarterly bounces in GDP data," averaging 8% at an annual rate, accompanied by sharp market increases, then declines confirming false positives. So "guess what? We may be reliving history (now). If you're keeping score, we have recorded four quarterly advances in real GDP," averaging only 3%. The late 1930s reversal showed "how fragile the post-bubble recovery really was," a faux one again repeated in a weaker economy now than then, one headed for serious trouble ahead, harming millions more Americans as a result.

The Fed cut interest rates to near zero with no effect, at best buying time, resolving nothing. "Then the Fed tripled the size of its balance sheet - again with little sustained impetus to a broken financial system."

Weeks back, then confirmed with new data, Rosenberg stressed weakness, numerous indicators turning down, including production, retail sales, consumer confidence, and housing, a bellwether industry impacting the entire economy. New reports show it's collapsing, some readings to record lows, others disturbingly weak throughout the country.

July existing home sales dropped 25.5%, the largest monthly decline since records began in 1968, bringing annualized sales back to 1995 levels, and signaling worse trouble ahead. Other housing data confirm the malaise, including new home sales, housing starts and permits.

As worrisome were increasing layoffs and first-time unemployment claims hitting 500,000, flashing red for trouble nearly three years after the initial downturn, combined with a near-22% unemployment rate, not the bogus 9.5% headline number, the 1980 calculation reengineered to conceal weakness like all other fake economic data, putting lipstick on an economy, increasingly looking and smelling more like a pig, a sick one.

According to Rosenberg, "You know you are in a depression when:

-- "Congress (extends) jobless benefits seven times (in the past two years) when almost half (of those) unemployed have been looking for at least a half year;"

-- the adult male unemployment rate (25 - 54 years) "hit a post-WW II (high and still tops) the 1982 peak," the worst then since the Great Depression;

-- "youth unemployment is stuck near 25%," and for inner-city black youths it's 80% or higher; "these developments will have profound long-term consequences - social, economic and political;"

-- the depression's fiscal costs keep mounting, the federal deficit soaring with no end to it in sight;

-- for over a year into a supposed recovery, the Fed still contemplates new ways to stimulate growth, its tool, of course, printing money (funny money, or as one analyst calls it, "toilet paper") and quantitative easing, compounding the deficit, or the equivalent of throwing fuel on a fire instead of monetary and fiscal sanity plus sound economy policies to extinguish it;

-- after two years of record trillion dollar plus deficits to kick-start the economy, interest rates are shockingly low, flashing weakness, not strength; to wit, on August 24, the 5-year note was 1.36%, 7-year at $1.95%, 10-year at 2.50%, and 30 year at 3.57%; as well as 30-year fixed mortgage rates at record lows below 4.5% (4.42% on August 24), despite "no fewer than eight (government) programs to put a floor under the housing market;" we're in big trouble "when (Washington) can expend so many resources (on) one sector" in vain;

-- the FDIC keeps shuttering more banks; again, the carnage keeps spreading, yet most economists cling tenaciously an economic recovery theme, at most hit by a soft patch; Rosenberg's response - "Some recovery (when) the private credit market is basically defunct....what replaced it was rampant government intervention (buying time) by trying to (put) a floor under the economy;" once it stops, and it will, they'll be no hiding the dire truth, and no end of pain for growing millions.

The Worst Is Yet to Come

Financial expert and investor safety advocate Martin Weiss began warning about a major economic decline long before it began and keeps at it, citing evidence most analysts downplay or ignore, including:

-- America's worst ever housing depression showing no signs of abating; since January 2006, housing starts alone have plunged from 2.3 million annually to a recent 477,000 low that may not yet reflect a bottom because demand is so weak for this bellwether industry;

-- record long-term unemployment, its worst since first officially tabulated over 60 years ago; and

-- "the most chronic credit squeeze ever recorded....suffer(ing) its deepest plunge since WW II."

As a result, he sees deepening economic trouble ahead, no matter what steps the administration, Congress or the Fed undertake. He expects little more stimulus, just another futile central bank attempt to print money (lots of it) to buy time. "These paper dollars will not create real prosperity," just an illusory, "temporary, false prosperity," but none at all for most people, hung out to dry on their own.

He also expects a sovereign debt crisis to hammer Europe and the US, saying America's plight exceeds the dire situation of PIIGS countries (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain), citing the Bank of International Settlements (the central bank of central bankers) saying US debt will hit 400% of GDP, more than triple Greece's burden at 129% that plunged the country into (undeclared) bankruptcy. Indeed the worst for America is yet to come.

America Is Already Bankrupt

Boston University Economics Professor Laurence Kotlikoff explains it in his August 10 article, titled "US Is Bankrupt and We Don't Even Know It," saying:

"Let's get real. The US is bankrupt. Neither spending more nor taxing less will help the country pay its bills." What's needed, he says, is reengineering the economy by "radically simplify(ing) its tax, healthcare, retirement and financial systems...." Revitalization depends on it with unfunded liabilities topping $110 trillion and growing. Even the IMF is worried, saying "closing (America's) fiscal gap requires a permanent annual fiscal adjustment equal to about 14 percent of US GDP," meaning, of course, from working households, not corporate interests or national security, the most glaring areas needing reform.

The fiscal gap represents "the difference between projected spending (including debt service) and projected revenue in all future years. (It's) the government's credit-card bill and each year's 14 percent GDP is the interest on that bill."

When it's not paid, it increases the balance owed. And each trillion the Fed prints bailing out bankers compounds it. Make them pay, not the public they robbed, starting with shutting them down, breaking them up, seizing their assets, and nationalizing them for the collective good.

Kotlikoff is scary saying "Uncle Sam's Ponzi scheme will stop, (perhaps) in a very nasty manner," citing three possibilities:

(1) massive benefit cuts on retirees;

(2) huge tax increases hitting working Americans hardest, and/or

(3) printing vast amounts of money ad infinitum until debt overload crashes the economy eventually.

Calling America "Worse than Greece," he believes "Most likely we will see a combination of all three responses with dramatic increases in poverty, tax(es), interest rates and consumer prices," the path we're on heading us for the worst of all possible worlds.

Based on the latest Congressional Budget Office (CBO) data, he calculates a $202 trillion fiscal gap - "more than 15 times the official debt" because Congress "label(s) most of its liabilities 'unofficial' to keep them off the books, (out of sight) and far in the future" to concern other officials, not them. Labeling, of course, isn't fixing. It's just concealing unpleasant realities, letting others, not them, face the music in out years.

Current federal revenue totals $14.9% of GDP, the IMF saying that closing it requires "an immediate and permanent doubling of our personal-income, corporate and federal taxes as well as the payroll levy set down in the Federal Insurance Contribution Act."

Such policy would produce a 5% surplus this year, the IMF prescribing ad infinitum fiscal austerity, saying delay will make it tougher ahead. "Is the IMF bonkers?" Not at all, just preferential, wanting workers, not special interests hit hardest, the way it's raped and mauled economies for years, serving capital, not people, now aiming at America, the biggest plum of all ripe for plucking with millions of vulnerable households, easy pickings for the powerful, harming, not relieving their needs by:

-- cutting wages and benefits;

-- destroying, not creating jobs; privatizing everything for private gain; and

-- turning America into Guatemala, a corporatist's dream.

Indeed let's get real. Bad policy begets bad results, and bad solutions makes it worse. For sure, America is "broke and can no longer afford no-pain, all-gain 'solutions.' "

It needs responsible ones, too many to list, but here's a few:

-- end imperial wars and a bloated defense budget;

-- reinvent government to make it responsive to public needs and democratic values;

-- make offenders pay most, starting with Wall Street, defense contractors, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Agribusiness, and other corporate predators profiting at public expense for decades;

-- make now the time for payback, assuring their victims fair and equitable reimbursements;

-- reinvigorate industrial America;

-- end Wall Street's financial chokehold;

-- return money creation power to Congress as the Constitution mandates;

-- encourage publicly-owned state banks like North Dakota's, making it prosperous when most states are debt-strapped and faltering;

-- create full-time, good-paying jobs with benefits; don't destroy them;

-- bring back those offshored;

-- protect homeowners from foreclosure;

-- re-institute progressive taxes, including a Tobin tax (perhaps 1%) on all speculative financial transactions, a millionaire's/Wall Street bank levy generating a huge windfall, enough to smack if not close the budget gap, making those most able pay; for example, the Bank for International Settlements estimated annual 2008 global over-the-counter derivatives trading at $743 trillion; a 1% tax would yield $7.43 trillion, and if taxes curbed speculation, the take would still be enormous;

-- dismantle corporate predators;

-- think small and local, not big and global;

-- reinstitute financial, environmental, and other consumer-friendly regulations;

-- get money out of politics;

-- end the two-party monopoly;

-- institutionalize a free, open, fair media and Internet;

-- assure equitable social benefits for all, including universal, single-payer health care, government-supported public and higher education, and more; and

-- reinvigorate an eroding democracy before it's too late to matter.

Responsible policies, all of the above and more, will reinvigorate America. The unsustainable fiscal crisis is reason enough to do it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Giordano Bruno: Relax America, The Global Elites Love You...

Relax America, The Global Elites Love You...
by Giordano Bruno article link article link
08/25/2010 | Neithercorp Press | Silver Bear Cafe

In the grand scheme of history, in the great wash of the collective American cosmos, in the midst of the day to day howls and earth rattles of towering financial and political giants, many of us tend to see ourselves as "the little people". We consider ourselves inconsequential in the wake of epic events that appear to rise and fall like irregular tides and determined by some frenetic force of chance; a great cultural roulette wheel. In fact, we are often encouraged to emulate this belief. Better to roll with the river of difficult times than to fight against the current in a fruitless attempt at changing its direction. Better to let more important and more powerful men blaze the trails that we will later follow, right...?

Human beings have a strange attachment to the concept of the "decision makers vs. the decision followers", even in the U.S. The Declaration of Independence was meant to herald the birth of a society which dissolved the separation between the rulers and those who are ruled. Our country was built upon the premise that every citizen has a right to participate in the making of his own providence, to play a part in the decisions that directly or indirectly affect his future. Of course, those were the days when average Americans saw themselves as giants, as innovators of history, not as little people.

Today, in the face of globalization, some American's see the evolution of a rulership class as natural and even necessary.

One of the most overwhelming aspects of the so called globalization (corporatization) of Western civilization has been the incredible amounts of lost time. We are thrust into a 70% service based economy in which the average person feels little to no pride in their work and absolutely no fulfillment. That same person then goes home at the end of the day to his digital cable T.V., which immerses him in visions of a happy-go-lucky planet, a fantasy realm that promises better days ahead but bears no resemblance to the world outside his living room. Like 'Alice in Wonderland', he finds himself surrounded by confusion, hypocrisy, and misdirection. A land of madmen and clowns. All the "professionals" he is told to trust make claims that seem outrageously incongruent with reality. Nothing is what it appears to be, and so, he stops questioning the illusion and pretends that the abracadabra of our elitist run America doesn't bother him. He stops caring, and so, his time on this Earth loses its value.

For the past several decades, those of us who have been aware of the smoke and mirrors and refuse to ignore their effects have paid a dear price; the anguish of witnessing the deconstruction of our nation, as well as the infantization of our friends and family.

When I was very young, I had certain assumptions about the path to adulthood. I believed that it was a transition that came as naturally to every person as walking or talking. Surely, I thought, there simply came a time when a man crossed a biological threshold that made him more responsible, more principled, more intuitive, more courageous, more compassionate, more wise. Now that I am much older, I find to my disappointment that wisdom does not necessarily come with age. Some people choose to remain children forever.

In a society driven by a fabricated sense of affluence, Americans have lost the memory of what it was like to deliberately build their futures. The concept of debt creation, mass credit movements, free money bonanzas, facilitated by the policies of the private Federal Reserve, made overgrown babies out of us all. We came to demand a pre-constructed future, one in which we were entitled to whatever we wanted NOW, not later. We never earned the engineered prosperity we have enjoyed since the baby-boom of the 1950's, and so we never learned to appreciate what true prosperity actually was; that it requires effort, and sometimes sacrifice. We merely expected that this was the way things were supposed to be, and that they would never change...

Infantized people are driven by a desperate search for ways to offload the responsibilities they inherit when they are forced to set off on their own lives. The idea of 'struggle' is abhorrent to them. As a result, they gravitate towards environments in which centralized authorities offer them the chance to simplify their existence in an ultimate sense. Essentially, like the children that they are, they look for a government which is willing to assume the role of 'parent' or legal guardian. They believe that out there, somewhere, a government system exists that is capable of cradling them in a blanket of pure safety and contentment from birth until death; a mother government. They believe in a ruling class that loves them unconditionally. They must! Why else would they blindly leave their fates in the hands of global bankers who now run both major parties of our political dynamic, dominate the ebb and flow of our economy, and write domestic policy? Why else would they ignore the signs of crisis that are ripping through the veil all around them? They must trust the Elites complicitly.

Many of us, when we were children, could not wait to take charge of our own lives without the constant prying eyes and prattling of our elders. Sometimes we forget that being a child can be carefree, but it also means doing what you are told. So, what price will the perpetual children of our society have to pay to be included in the feudal nanny state lifestyle of what globalist bankers and aristocrats commonly call the "New World Order"?

Austerity In A Nanny State?

EU member countries such as Greece are facing this awkward juxtaposition of economic elements today, and as elitists push for progressively bigger government in the U.S., we will be confronted with the same conundrum here. Austerity is basically the dissolution of national entitlement programs (welfare, social security, etc.) in an attempt to bridge gaps in budget shortfalls during financial crises and keep the government running. However, when that same government is attempting to administrate and micro-manage every detail of the lives of its citizens, Austerity and fiscal responsibility are not ideal. The fiat, as it were, must freely flow without question.

So, how will they solve this conflict? By continuing entitlement programs that keep the public hooked on government handouts, but diminishing the value of those handouts across the board. This is much like asking for a free lunch and being given a half-chewed sandwich. That is to say, welfare stipends will continue but become so small as to do more harm than good. The point of this is to acclimate the masses towards the idea of living on almost nothing while at the same time thanking the government for the opportunity to do so. One could just as easily live on almost nothing WITHOUT government handouts and table scraps with strings attached, but infantized Americans, desperate for a "loving" authority figure to lead the way, are unlikely to awaken to this fact.

Trading Privacy For The Illusion Of Safety

No government will ever be able to offer a guarantee of safety to its people. The more power officials are given to clamp down on citizens in the name of the "greater good", the more liable those officials are to abuse that power and become a danger to the public themselves. Some might call this a paradox, but its not. Often, governments driven by elitist influences create fear in the citizenry so that they might exploit it. It is far preferable to fool an individual into asking you to take over his life, than it is to attempt to do so through brute force.

Infantized Americans always make the same statement when privacy rights are diminished; "If you have nothing to hide, then why does it matter if the government knows everything about you?" Firstly, because we get nothing out of the trade. Americans will not be safer under global centralization. Bigger governments do not prevent crime, they only mop up the aftermath and chase off curious onlookers. The only person that can be expected to provide for your personal safety is YOU. This is the reality that pro-nanny state people do not want to hear. They are frightened to death at the prospect that only they can ensure their own future. Most children are horrified at the idea of fending for themselves.

Secondly, no government has ever or will ever be honorable and forthright enough to assume the position of universal adjudicator. In America, you are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but in a world of constant surveillance, the government assumes that everyone is guilty unless proven otherwise. Surveillance creates a social atmosphere in which we must demonstrate our innocence everyday of our lives to some faceless official in a small room monitoring our every email, our every phone call, our every action. In short, whether or not I have "something to hide" is not for a bloated bureaucracy to decide. They will never be trustworthy enough to take on the task anyway. Instead, I think our country would be far safer if those cameras were turned the other way, into the White House, Congressman's homes, etc. Any full grown adult who is cowardly enough to demand that other people constantly keep watch over him to ensure he never has to protect himself deserves the fate he is dealt when his watchers take advantage of him.

Health And Government Indifference

Ask any veterans you know how they feel about going to their government run VA hospital. The vast majority of them will shudder at the thought. Why? Because governments and elitists traditionally do not care about the well being of the citizenry, they only care about maintaining their positions of influence. They are sociopathic, and sociopaths tend not to make great doctors. Sure, corporate health care has many problems, but can a corporate hospital label you mentally unstable and take away your Second Amendment rights? How often do corporate hospitals "accidentally" infect thousands of patients with HIV, hepatitis, or cancer? How many purposely reuse unsanitary equipment or IV bags? How many corporate hospitals then physically threaten reporters trying to get information on such activities? All of this and more is commonplace in government run VA facilities. And, if this is how our government treats Veterans who served with distinction, how do you think they will treat the rest of us?

Wealth "Harmonization"

We all hated the rich kid in high school whose daddy bought him every ridiculously extravagant item imaginable. Some of us later grew up and realized that substantial wealth is pretty irrelevant compared to substantial personal character. Others of us didn't grow up, and continued to hold a grudge.

The opportunity to become successful or wealthy is not the problem with America. The problem is those men who abuse wealth as a way to create an unequal playing field in which they never have to fairly compete with anyone else. America is not being destroyed by capitalist competitiveness. It is being destroyed by a complete lack of competitiveness! Wealth harmonization is yet another method by which this top1% of the world's richest elites rig the game in their favor while fooling us into believing the system is more balanced.

Infantized Americans seem to think that asset redistribution is some magic math-blasting poverty buster. In fact, as efforts in the EU have revealed, harmonization does make everyone (except the top 1%) equal; it makes everyone equally poor. Rich countries degrade and lose the capacity to nurture productive and thriving societies while poor countries are lifted up just enough to appear more profitable but still stand on the edge of dire straights. The middle class slowly disappears, replaced by an enormous destitute population looking across an endless wage gap at the ultra rich, who only seem to benefit further from the so called "harmony".

Unaccountable Leadership

How often do children get a chance to "vote out" a parent that has abused their authority or committed great trespasses? Never. If infantized Americans are so keen on establishing a parent/child relationship with their government, the same rules will apply.

These men and women love to parrot the argument that "in our democratic society, the people ARE the government, and we can make any changes we want if something goes awry..." Strangely though, they never seem to acknowledge that our government's fundamental policy flaws never seem to change regardless of which party is in office. Infantized Americans like to focus on the opposing rhetoric of the two parties, but never their actions. If they did, they might finally understand that the Republicans and the Democrats at the highest levels have the exact same philosophies and goals, and therefore, the people have no real choice, and thus, we are NOT the government.

In the political tar pit we wallow in today, we do still at least have the ability through state and local governments to assert our sovereignty against federal imposition, but this is changing quickly. In a global union, a world order centered on the eradication of sovereignty and the deconstruction of the Constitution, this ability will be rendered useless.

It is odd to me that infantized Americans cling to the false perception that our federal government is democratic while at the same time supporting increasingly unconstitutional and undemocratic centralization of authority. It is as if they want to defer their responsibilities as citizens and be ruled, while still having the option of believing they are free to choose. This has perhaps been the goal all along; a perfect tyranny in which the total feudalized control of economy and culture is applauded by the dim witted masses yearning for complete autonomy from their own fear of self-determination while being convinced that they are still participating in the decision making process. Throw in some mandatory psychotropic medications and presto! You have a brave new world...

I've never quite understood our country's social addiction to naïve youth. Its one thing to maintain a sense of awe and wonder with life, to always be willing to learn and grow beyond what we are, but there is a big difference between being "child-like, and "childish". Surrendering the great gift of destiny, individuality, the inherent and inborn freedom to find one's own path, just to prolong the cavalier and comparatively boring sheltered existence of our tender years, seems rather insane to me. At bottom, infantized Americans are looking for only one freedom; freedom from the demands of life. The Global Elites are able to function in the significant capacity they do because they cater to this insanity. But is anyone really crazy enough to believe that the global elites do this because they care about us? Is it the love of a parental figure in the air that comforts the men-children of the world? Or, is it the long hollow death of conscience and concern that has placed them in a hypnotic baby stupor?

You can contact Giordano Bruno at:
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Doug Kreeger: At War On Our Own Soil

At War On Our Own Soil - How Do We Fight Against the Right Wing?
By Doug Kreeger article link
August 26, 2010 | AlterNet

Day after day, we are battling the forces of evil on American soil as they attempt to regain political power at all costs. The truth is damned as they wage an all-out attack, using their "war on error." The weak mainstream press is no match for the narrative created by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and Wall Street Journal, the GOP and the Tea Party. Often, they aid and abet the enemy by reporting their untruths in a misguided attempt to show “fairness."

Mainstream media are mistaken when they believe their job as journalists is to feature both sides of a story, because more often than not, one side is totally fabricated. It's destructive for journalists to promulgate spin. The rules of engagement no longer apply, leaving us to try and fight falsehoods after many people have already cemented their first impressions, thanks to the controlled and insidious right-wing propaganda machine.

Many of us may understand what is going on, but it seems that far more do not and are thus influenced by the lies and falsehoods that spew forth from conservative outlets. They appeal to people's most deep-seated fears, and give them comfort by showing that others actually agree with them.

Every election cycle, using Rovian politics, the right-wing creates issues causing millions of people to wrongly believe that conservatives champion their causes. In fact, the country's economic collapse is not the result of too much government, as they would like us to believe; it happened because there are still not enough of the right government controls. The idea of the common good has been redefined in such a way as to keep people voting against their own self-interests, by conservatives who promote the faulty thinking that the billions of dollars deferred by anti-tax movements, starting with Howard Jarvis’ Prop 13 in 1978, was a good thing.

It's totally understandable why we are so enraged by this opposition. We generally get our views from some deep-seated attitudes we grew up with, whether they are liberal or progressive. Some of us even grew up as “Rockefeller Republicans.” Each day, we also find comfort in reading pieces in the New York Times that reinforce our views, and we may check out the Nation or watch Rachel Maddow or the "Daily Show." We put ourselves in this silo and miss the enormity of what we are battling in the hearts and minds of millions of our neighbors. We get angrier and angrier each day and find our values being subverted without fail. When we wake up the day after Election Day, we will once again find ourselves as part of the quiet majority with no power and no mechanism to control the slide into the abyss of conservatism that plagues this nation.

The late Senator Patrick Daniel Moynihan declared long ago that while we are all entitled to our opinion, we are not entitled to our own facts. Certain information is factual and needs to be differentiated from the fiction of right-wing propaganda. We used to require broadcasters to mark the distinction between editorials and news. Now, news is merely a fabrication of events that either creates a tidal wave to promote a false sense of the common good, or reports enough information to support a group of advertisers that are keeping them in business. Broadcasters are always looking over their shoulders, and are anticipating their next steps based on polls and the fear of retribution.

So here I sit in the comfort of my home, reassured in the knowledge that many people share my concerns about what is happening in this country and the world. Yet to assuage the anger, we turn to our pundits for reinforcement and try to avoid the stress by busying ourselves with our lives.

The challenge today is to share our anger and anxiety in the most vocal and productive ways. We cannot just blunt our pain and retreat to the comfort of our shared believers. It's time to revolt and make sure we take action in the most productive and urgent ways. Like many, I am not sure what we need to do to turn this around. Yet, I can begin with questions. We need to set a clear agenda of action among common believers. We have to accept that we may not agree on everything, but at the very least, we need to understand what would happen if we let these forces of evil take further control of our lives. As we retreat to our bunkers, let us ask questions that will lead us to success in this new American war.

1. Spending. If all the projects that were deferred over the years because of the anti-tax movement had been made, what would have been built that is now costing us billions in 2010 dollars either just to maintain, or replace? (Think of the crumbling roads and bridges around us.) What is the cost to future generations for putting off today’s needed investments?

2. Education. For those who convinced taxpayers that to fix schools all we needed to do was rein in the unions and stop school spending, explain to me why we have crumbling buildings in the poorest districts and young people who are still not being given a fair chance with early education and reasonable class sizes? While we’re at it, how come we live in a nation where a good education is determined by the wealth of one’s neighbors?

3. War. It still sucks up so much of our tax dollars, everything else becomes discretionary. Why do we continue to spend a disportionate share of our tax dollars on defense?

4. Jobs. We need to really come to grips with what type of jobs are going to be left in this country, as our grandchildren enter the workforce. As China declares it will spend billions on green technology, we’re still pumping gas in big family cars and trucks because we didn’t believe in the early ‘70s that our dependency on fossil fuels made our economy vulnerable. Look at the advances the Chinese will make in the technology we failed to advance through a strong public policy commitment. Capitalism is great, but state-controlled initiatives can often win out in the 21st century.

5. Healthcare. Just ask someone who is uninsured and uses the emergency room for a primary care physician. If we made incremental steps with the recent health care reform, we need to work hard to make what is good better and remove the bad parts that may make it fail in the long run. I’m no expert on this, but when politicians slice and dice good intentions, we tend to lose in this world of partisan and destructive politics.

6. National Debt. Let’s accept that we need to spend our way out of this abyss, yet find ways to promote those sectors that in the long-term will create innovation and jobs, thus tax revenue to work our way down as we did in the '90s.

7. Government. Make sure we create a campaign finance system that differentiates between those who need the services only government can provide and corporations that use the government to increase their bottom line without regard to the public health and welfare.

8. Media. How can we improve the dissemination of facts and points of view that lead to an understanding of the real challenges we face? Help us understand the facts behind these crucial questions that cannot be ignored and stop reporting distortions as if they are real.

We are at a pivotal juncture in our nation’s history. Our value system is being challenged by forces willing to take away our basic freedoms in the guise of protecting us from evil. Religious freedom is being hijacked, by those who have determined that only they hold the superior moral high ground. We are a nation divided by greed and self-interest, without regard to our shared history, or a shared future. We now live in a country that fails to protect those most in need over those most willing to take.

Douglas Kreeger is the former CEO of Air America Radio and the chairman of AlterNet's parent organization, the Independent Media Institute.

© 2010 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

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Chalmers Johnson: 10 Needed Steps

The failure to begin to deal with our bloated military establishment will condemn the U.S. to devastating consequences.

10 Needed Steps for Obama to Start Dismantling America's Gigantic, Destructive Military Empire
By Chalmers Johnson article link
August 25, 2010 | AlterNet | Metropolitan Books

The following is an excerpt from Chalmers Johnson's new book, Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope (Metropolitan Books, 2010).

However ambitious President Barack Obama's domestic plans, one unacknowledged issue has the potential to destroy any reform efforts he might launch. Think of it as the 800-pound gorilla in the American living room: our longstanding reliance on imperialism and militarism in our relations with other countries and the vast, potentially ruinous global empire of bases that goes with it. The failure to begin to deal with our bloated military establishment and the profligate use of it in missions for which it is hopelessly inappropriate will, sooner rather than later, condemn the United States to a devastating trio of consequences: imperial overstretch, perpetual war, and insolvency, leading to a likely collapse similar to that of the former Soviet Union.

According to the 2008 official Pentagon inventory of our military bases around the world, our empire consists of 865 facilities in more than 40 countries and overseas U.S. territories. We deploy over 190,000 troops in 46 countries and territories. In just one such country, Japan, at the end of March 2008, we still had 99,295 people connected to U.S. military forces living and working there -- 49,364 members of our armed services, 45,753 dependent family members, and 4,178 civilian employees. Some 13,975 of these were crowded into the small island of Okinawa, the largest concentration of foreign troops anywhere in Japan.

These massive concentrations of American military power outside the United States are not needed for our defense. They are, if anything, a prime contributor to our numerous conflicts with other countries. They are also unimaginably expensive. According to Anita Dancs, an analyst for the website Foreign Policy in Focus, the United States spends approximately $250 billion each year maintaining its global military presence. The sole purpose of this is to give us hegemony -- that is, control or dominance -- over as many nations on the planet as possible.

We are like the British at the end of World War II: desperately trying to shore up an empire that we never needed and can no longer afford, using methods that often resemble those of failed empires of the past -- including the Axis powers of World War II and the former Soviet Union. There is an important lesson for us in the British decision, starting in 1945, to liquidate their empire relatively voluntarily, rather than being forced to do so by defeat in war, as were Japan and Germany, or by debilitating colonial conflicts, as were the French and Dutch. We should follow the British example. (Alas, they are currently backsliding and following our example by assisting us in the war in Afghanistan.)

Here are three basic reasons why we must liquidate our empire or else watch it liquidate us.

1. We Can No Longer Afford Our Postwar Expansionism

Shortly after his election as president, Barack Obama, in a speech announcing several members of his new cabinet, stated as fact that "[w]e have to maintain the strongest military on the planet." A few weeks later, on March 12, 2009, in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington DC, the president again insisted, "Now make no mistake, this nation will maintain our military dominance. We will have the strongest armed forces in the history of the world." And in a commencement address to the cadets of the U.S. Naval Academy on May 22nd, Obama stressed that "[w]e will maintain America's military dominance and keep you the finest fighting force the world has ever seen."

What he failed to note is that the United States no longer has the capability to remain a global hegemon, and to pretend otherwise is to invite disaster.

According to a growing consensus of economists and political scientists around the world, it is impossible for the United States to continue in that role while emerging into full view as a crippled economic power. No such configuration has ever persisted in the history of imperialism. The University of Chicago's Robert Pape, author of the important study Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (Random House, 2005), typically writes:

"America is in unprecedented decline. The self-inflicted wounds of the Iraq war, growing government debt, increasingly negative current-account balances and other internal economic weaknesses have cost the United States real power in today's world of rapidly spreading knowledge and technology. If present trends continue, we will look back on the Bush years as the death knell of American hegemony."

There is something absurd, even Kafkaesque, about our military empire. Jay Barr, a bankruptcy attorney, makes this point using an insightful analogy:

"Whether liquidating or reorganizing, a debtor who desires bankruptcy protection must provide a list of expenses, which, if considered reasonable, are offset against income to show that only limited funds are available to repay the bankrupted creditors. Now imagine a person filing for bankruptcy claiming that he could not repay his debts because he had the astronomical expense of maintaining at least 737 facilities overseas that provide exactly zero return on the significant investment required to sustain them… He could not qualify for liquidation without turning over many of his assets for the benefit of creditors, including the valuable foreign real estate on which he placed his bases."

In other words, the United States is not seriously contemplating its own bankruptcy. It is instead ignoring the meaning of its precipitate economic decline and flirting with insolvency.

Nick Turse, author of The Complex: How the Military Invades our Everyday Lives (Metropolitan Books, 2008), calculates that we could clear $2.6 billion if we would sell our base assets at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and earn another $2.2 billion if we did the same with Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. These are only two of our over 800 overblown military enclaves.

Our unwillingness to retrench, no less liquidate, represents a striking historical failure of the imagination. In his first official visit to China since becoming Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner assured an audience of students at Beijing University, "Chinese assets [invested in the United States] are very safe." According to press reports, the students responded with loud laughter. Well they might.

In May 2009, the Office of Management and Budget predicted that in 2010 the United States will be burdened with a budget deficit of at least $1.75 trillion. This includes neither a projected $640 billion budget for the Pentagon, nor the costs of waging two remarkably expensive wars. The sum is so immense that it will take several generations for American citizens to repay the costs of George W. Bush's imperial adventures -- if they ever can or will. It represents about 13% of our current gross domestic product (that is, the value of everything we produce). It is worth noting that the target demanded of European nations wanting to join the Euro Zone is a deficit no greater than 3% of GDP.

Thus far, President Obama has announced measly cuts of only $8.8 billion in wasteful and worthless weapons spending, including his cancellation of the F-22 fighter aircraft. The actual Pentagon budget for next year will, in fact, be larger, not smaller, than the bloated final budget of the Bush era. Far bolder cuts in our military expenditures will obviously be required in the very near future if we intend to maintain any semblance of fiscal integrity.

2. We Are Going to Lose the War in Afghanistan and It Will Help Bankrupt Us

One of our major strategic blunders in Afghanistan was not to have recognized that both Great Britain and the Soviet Union attempted to pacify Afghanistan using the same military methods as ours and failed disastrously. We seem to have learned nothing from Afghanistan's modern history -- to the extent that we even know what it is. Between 1849 and 1947, Britain sent almost annual expeditions against the Pashtun tribes and sub-tribes living in what was then called the North-West Frontier Territories -- the area along either side of the artificial border between Afghanistan and Pakistan called the Durand Line. This frontier was created in 1893 by Britain's foreign secretary for India, Sir Mortimer Durand.

Neither Britain nor Pakistan has ever managed to establish effective control over the area. As the eminent historian Louis Dupree put it in his book Afghanistan (Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 425): "Pashtun tribes, almost genetically expert at guerrilla warfare after resisting centuries of all comers and fighting among themselves when no comers were available, plagued attempts to extend the Pax Britannica into their mountain homeland." An estimated 41 million Pashtuns live in an undemarcated area along the Durand Line and profess no loyalties to the central governments of either Pakistan or Afghanistan.

The region known today as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan is administered directly by Islamabad, which -- just as British imperial officials did -- has divided the territory into seven agencies, each with its own "political agent" who wields much the same powers as his colonial-era predecessor. Then as now, the part of FATA known as Waziristan and the home of Pashtun tribesmen offered the fiercest resistance.

According to Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, experienced Afghan hands and coauthors of Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story (City Lights, 2009, p. 317):

"If Washington's bureaucrats don't remember the history of the region, the Afghans do. The British used air power to bomb these same Pashtun villages after World War I and were condemned for it. When the Soviets used MiGs and the dreaded Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships to do it during the 1980s, they were called criminals. For America to use its overwhelming firepower in the same reckless and indiscriminate manner defies the world's sense of justice and morality while turning the Afghan people and the Islamic world even further against the United States."

In 1932, in a series of Guernica-like atrocities, the British used poison gas in Waziristan. The disarmament convention of the same year sought a ban against the aerial bombardment of civilians, but Lloyd George, who had been British prime minister during World War I, gloated: "We insisted on reserving the right to bomb niggers" (Fitzgerald and Gould, p. 65). His view prevailed.

The U.S. continues to act similarly, but with the new excuse that our killing of noncombatants is a result of "collateral damage," or human error. Using pilotless drones guided with only minimal accuracy from computers at military bases in the Arizona and Nevada deserts among other places, we have killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unarmed bystanders in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Pakistani and Afghan governments have repeatedly warned that we are alienating precisely the people we claim to be saving for democracy.

When in May 2009, General Stanley McChrystal was appointed as the commander in Afghanistan, he ordered new limits on air attacks, including those carried out by the CIA, except when needed to protect allied troops. Unfortunately, as if to illustrate the incompetence of our chain of command, only two days after this order, on June 23, 2009, the United States carried out a drone attack against a funeral procession that killed at least 80 people, the single deadliest U.S. attack on Pakistani soil so far. There was virtually no reporting of these developments by the mainstream American press or on the network television news. (At the time, the media were almost totally preoccupied by the sexual adventures of the governor of South Carolina and the death of pop star Michael Jackson.)

Our military operations in both Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been plagued by inadequate and inaccurate intelligence about both countries, ideological preconceptions about which parties we should support and which ones we should oppose, and myopic understandings of what we could possibly hope to achieve. Fitzgerald and Gould, for example, charge that, contrary to our own intelligence service's focus on Afghanistan, "Pakistan has always been the problem." They add:

"Pakistan's army and its Inter-Services Intelligence branch... from 1973 on, has played the key role in funding and directing first the mujahideen [anti-Soviet fighters during the 1980s]… and then the Taliban. It is Pakistan's army that controls its nuclear weapons, constrains the development of democratic institutions, trains Taliban fighters in suicide attacks and orders them to fight American and NATO soldiers protecting the Afghan government." (p. 322-324)

The Pakistani army and its intelligence arm are staffed, in part, by devout Muslims who fostered the Taliban in Afghanistan to meet the needs of their own agenda, though not necessarily to advance an Islamic jihad. Their purposes have always included: keeping Afghanistan free of Russian or Indian influence, providing a training and recruiting ground for mujahideen guerrillas to be used in places like Kashmir (fought over by both Pakistan and India), containing Islamic radicalism in Afghanistan (and so keeping it out of Pakistan), and extorting huge amounts of money from Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf emirates, and the United States to pay and train "freedom fighters" throughout the Islamic world. Pakistan's consistent policy has been to support the clandestine policies of the Inter-Services Intelligence and thwart the influence of its major enemy and competitor, India.

Colonel Douglas MacGregor, U.S. Army (retired), an adviser to the Center for Defense Information in Washington, summarizes our hopeless project in South Asia this way: "Nothing we do will compel 125 million Muslims in Pakistan to make common cause with a United States in league with the two states that are unambiguously anti-Muslim: Israel and India."

Obama's mid-2009 "surge" of troops into southern Afghanistan and particularly into Helmand Province, a Taliban stronghold, is fast becoming darkly reminiscent of General William Westmoreland's continuous requests in Vietnam for more troops and his promises that if we would ratchet up the violence just a little more and tolerate a few more casualties, we would certainly break the will of the Vietnamese insurgents. This was a total misreading of the nature of the conflict in Vietnam, just as it is in Afghanistan today.

Twenty years after the forces of the Red Army withdrew from Afghanistan in disgrace, the last Russian general to command them, Gen. Boris Gromov, issued his own prediction: Disaster, he insisted, will come to the thousands of new forces Obama is sending there, just as it did to the Soviet Union's, which lost some 15,000 soldiers in its own Afghan war. We should recognize that we are wasting time, lives, and resources in an area where we have never understood the political dynamics and continue to make the wrong choices.

3. We Need to End the Secret Shame of Our Empire of Bases

In March, New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert noted, "Rape and other forms of sexual assault against women is the great shame of the U.S. armed forces, and there is no evidence that this ghastly problem, kept out of sight as much as possible, is diminishing." He continued:

"New data released by the Pentagon showed an almost 9 percent increase in the number of sexual assaults -- 2,923 -- and a 25 percent increase in such assaults reported by women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan [over the past year]. Try to imagine how bizarre it is that women in American uniforms who are enduring all the stresses related to serving in a combat zone have to also worry about defending themselves against rapists wearing the same uniform and lining up in formation right beside them."

The problem is exacerbated by having our troops garrisoned in overseas bases located cheek-by-jowl next to civilian populations and often preying on them like foreign conquerors. For example, sexual violence against women and girls by American GIs has been out of control in Okinawa, Japan's poorest prefecture, ever since it was permanently occupied by our soldiers, Marines, and airmen some 64 years ago.

That island was the scene of the largest anti-American demonstrations since the end of World War II after the 1995 kidnapping, rape, and attempted murder of a 12-year-old schoolgirl by two Marines and a sailor. The problem of rape has been ubiquitous around all of our bases on every continent and has probably contributed as much to our being loathed abroad as the policies of the Bush administration or our economic exploitation of poverty-stricken countries whose raw materials we covet.

The military itself has done next to nothing to protect its own female soldiers or to defend the rights of innocent bystanders forced to live next to our often racially biased and predatory troops. "The military's record of prosecuting rapists is not just lousy, it's atrocious," writes Herbert. In territories occupied by American military forces, the high command and the State Department make strenuous efforts to enact so-called "Status of Forces Agreements" (SOFAs) that will prevent host governments from gaining jurisdiction over our troops who commit crimes overseas. The SOFAs also make it easier for our military to spirit culprits out of a country before they can be apprehended by local authorities.

This issue was well illustrated by the case of an Australian teacher, a long-time resident of Japan, who in April 2002 was raped by a sailor from the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, then based at the big naval base at Yokosuka. She identified her assailant and reported him to both Japanese and U.S. authorities. Instead of his being arrested and effectively prosecuted, the victim herself was harassed and humiliated by the local Japanese police. Meanwhile, the U.S. discharged the suspect from the Navy but allowed him to escape Japanese law by returning him to the U.S., where he lives today.

In the course of trying to obtain justice, the Australian teacher discovered that almost fifty years earlier, in October 1953, the Japanese and American governments signed a secret "understanding" as part of their SOFA in which Japan agreed to waive its jurisdiction if the crime was not of "national importance to Japan." The U.S. argued strenuously for this codicil because it feared that otherwise it would face the likelihood of some 350 servicemen per year being sent to Japanese jails for sex crimes.

Since that time the U.S. has negotiated similar wording in SOFAs with Canada, Ireland, Italy, and Denmark. According to the Handbook of the Law of Visiting Forces (2001), the Japanese practice has become the norm for SOFAs throughout the world, with predictable results. In Japan, of 3,184 U.S. military personnel who committed crimes between 2001 and 2008, 83% were not prosecuted. In Iraq, we have just signed a SOFA that bears a strong resemblance to the first postwar one we had with Japan: namely, military personnel and military contractors accused of off-duty crimes will remain in U.S. custody while Iraqis investigate. This is, of course, a perfect opportunity to spirit the culprits out of the country before they can be charged.

Within the military itself, the journalist Dahr Jamail, author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007), speaks of the "culture of unpunished sexual assaults" and the "shockingly low numbers of courts martial" for rapes and other forms of sexual attacks. Helen Benedict, author of The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq (Beacon Press, 2009), quotes this figure in a 2009 Pentagon report on military sexual assaults: 90% of the rapes in the military are never reported at all and, when they are, the consequences for the perpetrator are negligible.

It is fair to say that the U.S. military has created a worldwide sexual playground for its personnel and protected them to a large extent from the consequences of their behavior. As a result a group of female veterans in 2006 created the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN). Its agenda is to spread the word that "no woman should join the military."

I believe a better solution would be to radically reduce the size of our standing army, and bring the troops home from countries where they do not understand their environments and have been taught to think of the inhabitants as inferior to themselves.

10 Steps Toward Liquidating the Empire

Dismantling the American empire would, of course, involve many steps. Here are ten key places to begin:

1. We need to put a halt to the serious environmental damage done by our bases planet-wide. We also need to stop writing SOFAs that exempt us from any responsibility for cleaning up after ourselves.

2. Liquidating the empire will end the burden of carrying our empire of bases and so of the "opportunity costs" that go with them -- the things we might otherwise do with our talents and resources but can't or won't.

3. As we already know (but often forget), imperialism breeds the use of torture. In the 1960s and 1970s we helped overthrow the elected governments in Brazil and Chile and underwrote regimes of torture that prefigured our own treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. (See, for instance, A.J. Langguth, Hidden Terrors [Pantheon, 1979], on how the U.S. spread torture methods to Brazil and Uruguay.) Dismantling the empire would potentially mean a real end to the modern American record of using torture abroad.

4. We need to cut the ever-lengthening train of camp followers, dependents, civilian employees of the Department of Defense, and hucksters -- along with their expensive medical facilities, housing requirements, swimming pools, clubs, golf courses, and so forth -- that follow our military enclaves around the world.

5. We need to discredit the myth promoted by the military-industrial complex that our military establishment is valuable to us in terms of jobs, scientific research, and defense. These alleged advantages have long been discredited by serious economic research. Ending empire would make this happen.

6. As a self-respecting democratic nation, we need to stop being the world's largest exporter of arms and munitions and quit educating Third World militaries in the techniques of torture, military coups, and service as proxies for our imperialism. A prime candidate for immediate closure is the so-called School of the Americas, the U.S. Army's infamous military academy at Fort Benning, Georgia, for Latin American military officers. (See Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire [Metropolitan Books, 2004], pp. 136-40.)

7. Given the growing constraints on the federal budget, we should abolish the Reserve Officers' Training Corps and other long-standing programs that promote militarism in our schools.

8. We need to restore discipline and accountability in our armed forces by radically scaling back our reliance on civilian contractors, private military companies, and agents working for the military outside the chain of command and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (See Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater:The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army [Nation Books, 2007]). Ending empire would make this possible.

9. We need to reduce, not increase, the size of our standing army and deal much more effectively with the wounds our soldiers receive and combat stress they undergo.

10. To repeat the main message of this essay, we must give up our inappropriate reliance on military force as the chief means of attempting to achieve foreign policy objectives.

Unfortunately, few empires of the past voluntarily gave up their dominions in order to remain independent, self-governing polities. The two most important recent examples are the British and Soviet empires. If we do not learn from their examples, our decline and fall is foreordained.

Excerpted from DISMANTLING THE EMPIRE: AMERICA’S LAST BEST HOPE, published this month by Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Copyright (c) 2010 by Chalmers Johnson. All rights reserved.

Chalmers Johnson is the author of Blowback (2000), The Sorrows of Empire (2004), and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006), among other works. His newest book, Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope (Metropolitan Books), has just been published. To listen to Timothy MacBain's latest TomCast audio interview in which Johnson discusses America's empire of bases and his new book, click here or, to download it to your iPod, here.

© 2010 Metropolitan Books All rights reserved.

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