Monday, December 31, 2012

Venezuelan Leadership Up for Grabs?


Venezuelan Leadership Up for Grabs?

by Stephen Lendman

New reports about Chavez's health raise concerns. He's struggling to recover from complicated cancer surgery. Previous articles explained. More on his current status below.

On October 7, Venezuelans overwhelmingly reelected him. They want no one else leading them. He transformed national politics responsibly. He established participatory democracy and social justice.

He significantly improved the lives of Venezuela's poor. Constitutional and statute law mandate vital social services. 

They include universal healthcare, education, subsidized food, housing assistance, land reform, job training, micro-credit, and more. He's a populist hero. He'll be hard to replace.

On December 16, his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 20 of 23 gubernatorial races. Bolivarianism is policy.

It's world's apart from America. It reflects participatory social democracy. Constitutional Preamble language explains.

Venezuela is "democratic, participatory and self-reliant, multiethnic and multicultural society in a just, federal and decentralized State that embodies the values of freedom, independence, peace, solidarity, the common good, the nation's territorial integrity, comity and the rule of law for this and future generations."

All Venezuelans are "guarantee(d) the right to life, work, learning, education, social justice and equality, without discrimination or subordination of any kind."

Constitutional law "promotes peaceful cooperation among nations and further strengthens Latin American integration in accordance with the principle of nonintervention and national self-determination of the people, the universal and indivisible guarantee of human rights, the democratization of imitational society, nuclear disarmament, ecological balance and environmental resources as the common and inalienable heritage of humanity."

America is world's apart. It's polar opposite. Permanent war is policy. Class war rages. Social decay deepens. Constitutional freedoms are disappearing. Police state laws compromise them irreparably.

Democracy never existed and doesn't now. Injustice is institutionalized. America's political process is flawed. It's lawless, corrupt and dysfunctional. 

Duopoly power runs things. Elections are more theater than real. Ordinary people are entirely shut out. They have no say whatever.

Chavez established change. Most Venezuelans won't tolerate returning to ugly past politics. Why should they? They're led by a man who cares. They’ve got Bolivarian social justice institutionalized.

Fall elections afforded opposition forces no chance. They're still shut out despite uncertainty about Chavez's health. It's a worrisome wildcard.

Chavez had four cancer surgeries in 18 months. Recovery from major surgery is daunting. Multiple ones create added complications. Venezuelans are justifiably concerned. 

It's unclear if Chavez is well enough to serve. His longterm health prognosis is uncertain. Medical experts disagree. No one knows for sure.

Venezuelan leadership will be for grabs if he's gone. Eventually he will be. Chavista angst reflects the possibility. They want him leading Venezuela as long as he's able. Transitioning to new leadership won't be easy.

On January 10, his new six-year term begins. His struggle to recover continues. He hopes he'll end up cancer free. 

His current condition shows he needs more recovery time. He'll unlikely return for inaugural swearing in. Expect postponement to follow.

Venezuelan constitutional law has wiggle room. Under Article 231:

"The candidate elected shall take office as President of the Republic on January 10 of the first year of his constitutional term, by taking an oath before the National Assembly." 

"If for any supervening reason, the person elected President of the Republic cannot be sworn in before the National Assembly, he shall take the oath of office before the Supreme Tribunal of Justice."

No date is specified. Dominant PSUV National Assembly members can extend Chavez's absence up to six months. Vice President Nicolas Maduro can replace him for 90 days. The NA can authorize an additional 90 days. 

Hopefully by then or sooner he'll be well enough to return and serve. If not, new elections will be held to replace him. Doing so perhaps changes little short-term.

Longer-term prospects present concerns. It's hard replacing a bigger-than-life figure. Venezuelans will cross that bridge eventually. Hopefully it's no time soon.

On December 30, the Havana Times headlined "Chavez Suffers Setback, Sends Greetings to Venezuelans from Cuba."

Vice President Maduro explained. He's visiting Chavez. He "decided to stay in Havana to accompany the commander and his family over the coming hours."

He said "a few minutes ago we were with President Chavez. He greeted us, and he himself talked about (post-operative) complications." They're not unusual.

"Thanks to his physical and spiritual strength, (he's) confronting this difficult situation."

Maduro expressed faith that his "immense will to live and the care of the best medical specialists will help (him) successfully fight this new battle."

He's optimistic that "the spiritual strength of the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, and the prayers that have been felt throughout the world for his recovery, will help our President to overcome the disease."

A senior government official said Caracas' Plaza Bolivar New Year's festivities were cancelled. Venezuelan Capital District head Jazueline Faria said:

"Everyone pray for (Chavez's) strength….to overcome this difficult moment."

Chavez's daughter Maria said "Thank you people of Venezuela. Thank you people of the world. You and your love have always been our greatest strength! God is with us! We love you!"

On December 30, Venezuela Analysis published a government communique on Chavez's health. It states in part:

"Through this message the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is fulfilling its responsibility to inform the Venezuelan public of President Chavez’s clinical progress following his surgical intervention, carried out in Havana, Cuba, on 11 December."

Post-operative complications arose. Internal bleeding and respiratory infection problems were corrected.

"Throughout yesterday we remained vigilant as to the progress of his condition and his response to treatment. We met several times with his medical team and his closest family members."

"A few minutes ago we were with President Chavez. We greeted each other and he himself made reference to these complications."

"Commander Chavez wanted us to transmit a special end of year greeting to Venezuelan families, who are gathered together over this period throughout the country." 

"In particular he wanted to send a warm embrace to the children of Venezuela, and remind them that they are always in his heart." 

"The embrace was extended to all of our people, so that they see in the year 2013 with love; a year which should bring the greatest of happiness to our homeland, as well as the definitive consolidation of our independence and national unity."

Three weeks after complicated surgery, "Chavez's state of health continues to be delicate. He has presented complications that are being attended to with treatment that is not without risk." 

"Thanks to his physical and spiritual strength, Commander Chavez is fighting this difficult situation."

"We trust that the global avalanche of love and solidarity expressed towards Commander Chavez, as well as his incredible strength and the care of the best medical specialists, will help our president to successfully fight this new battle."

"Long live Chávez!"

Note: New Year's day reports say Chavez is in stable condition. He spent Monday with his daughters. Venezuelans pray for his full recovery.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com 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.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/venezuelan-lea…p-up-for-grabs/ ‎

Beating Up on Iran and Syria


Beating Up on Iran and Syria

by Stephen Lendman

A new Press TV poll shows 72% of respondents believe ravaging Syria continues "to destroy the (regional) axis of anti-Israeli resistance…."

Only 8% said Washington, its allies, and Islamofacist fighters attacked Assad because he's undemocratic. Neither is America, Israel, key NATO partners, and rogue regional collaborators.

Press TV also reported that Iran's Deputy Armed Forces Chief of Staff, General Massoud Jazayeri, said Israel's threat to attack Iran is falsified hype. 

Israeli Air Force Commander Major General Amir Eshel accused Iran of arming Hamas. He threatened retaliation to strike at "the heart of Tehran." 

He, Netanyahu, and other hardliners reflect buster, not bite. Instead of cooling tensions, they heighten them. They'll do nothing without Washington's permission and active cooperation. Inflammatory rhetoric substitutes for intentions. 

Other Obama priorities take precedence. Ousting Assad comes first. Scrambling for Africa's resources is planned. Iran matters most of all. It can wait until other objectives are resolved.

Israel is "rotten on the inside," said Jazayeri. Hezbollah embarrassed the IDF in 2006. Pillar of Cloud fell short. "The Zionist regime is not capable of engaging in any serious war."

After 45 years of occupation, Palestinian resistance remains strong.

Tehran has more than enough military might to give Israel pause about attacking. It's population is large. It's territory is vast. Israel is tiny by comparison. It's vulnerable.

Israeli cities could be ravaged. Thousands of deaths and injuries would follow. Its nuclear sites could be destroyed. Contamination would be widespread.

Israeli military forces would suffer major losses. Its weakness would be revealed. It's hard imagining Israel wants its paper tiger vulnerability exposed. It prefers propaganda war instead.

Iran showcased its might. Velayat 91 naval drills remain ongoing. They're proceeding over vital oil and gas shipping routes. Gulf of Oman/Strait of Hormuz/Northern Indian Ocean exercises will continue early into the new year. Shore-based forces joined them.

Complex military tactics are being tested. Advanced weapons are used. Warships, hovercrafts, helicopters, ground-to-sea missiles, and submarines are involved.

Iran is showing Israel and America its ability to defend territorial waters, interests and resources. Tehran prioritizes peace. Exercises reflect self-defense. They're not aggressive.

Military officials said drills continue over a one million square km area. Iran's territorial and open waters are included.

Iranian special forces and other military units practice defense. Territorial waters, ports, and coastlines are prioritized. Cyberattack simulations are involved.

Rear Admiral Amir Rastegari said:

"During one of the practices of the second day of the drills, aggressive forces launched a cyber attack against the computer network of defensive forces in order to infiltrate the network and hack information or spread viruses."

Successful defensive measures blocked it. Iran's "cyber defense group" specializes in monitoring and protecting naval force computer systems.

It detects "cyber infiltration and immediately takes necessary measures to counter them." 

Iran's Passive Defense Organization held cyber maneuvers during last October's Passive Defense Week. It tested cyber infrastructure.

On December 31, AP/Reuters headlined "Iran test-fires upgraded missiles in naval drill near Strait of Hormuz," saying:

Air defense system Raad (Thunder) weapons were tested. It fires missiles with a 50 km range. They can hit targets at 22,000 meters. Torpedoes, underwater weapons, and surface-to-surface rockets were successfully fired.

Diving teams practiced attacks on enemy vessels. On Saturday, simulated cyber attacks, submarine, and mine-laying exercises took place. 

Defensive skills were honed. Iran intends to be ready in case Washington and Israel jointly attack. They'll get more than they bargain for if try.

Daily attacks target Syria. Assad's forces confront them aggressively. The army's General Command said they serve American and Israeli interests.

Regional fragmentation is planned. Both countries want unchallenged control. They want pro-Western puppet leadership replacing Assad. They're getting nowhere without full-scale intervention.

Brahami's peace plan is no more legitimate than Kofi Annan's. Both men are ideologically pro-Western. They're imperial tools. 

UN authorities and rogue Arab leaders spurn Syrian sovereignty. They frame foreign invaders as legitimate opposition forces. 

They're cutthroat killers. They ignore Western support. They call Washington-backed aggression civil war.

They urge dialogue but turn a blind eye to America prioritizing conflict. Resolution can't happen because Washington spurns it. 

Fighting may continue until Syria's entirely destroyed and Assad's ousted. Body counts don't matter. Civilians are targeted. Mass destruction is strategy. So is unconscionable human misery. No relief whatever is in sight.

On December 30, BBC and other media scoundrels circulated false reports. Spurious sources were cited. Syrian forces retook Homs district, they said.

BBC said they killed "more than 200 civilians. Residents of Deir Baalbeh were rounded up and forced into a petrochemical plant where they were summarily executed." Women and children were included, said reports.

Saying so was false. Spurious reports are commonplace. Assad is blamed for death squad crimes. The Syrian Free Press said army forces won the "Second Battle of Homs." Terrorized civilians were freed.

Media scoundrels falsified reports. BBC, Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya, and others headlined them. Independent sources disproved them. 

Islamofascist cutthroats were killed. Civilians weren't involved. Bodies of women and children weren't found.

On December 30, Mossad-connected DEBKAfile (DF) headlined "Failed Syria envoy Brahimi 's mission brings chemical war closer," saying:

Brahmi told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov there's "no possibility of persuading (Assad) to leave Syria." Trying shows one-sided pro-Western support. 

Syria's sovereign independence demands respect. International law prohibits interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. Brahimi's mission prioritizes it. Doing so spurns inviolable rule of law principles.

DF repeated Sunday's Big Lie. It called routed Islamofascist death squads civilian casualties. It falsified Scud missile attacks. It claimed Iranian officers are directing Fateh A-110 high-precision, short-range missile attacks.

Syria makes its own M600 version. "Both sides….appear to have resorted to….chemical warfare." Falsified reports claim Assad used "grenades containing a gas that paralyzes lungs and causes extreme infirmity, or even death."

Unnamed sources said perhaps "a concentrated irritant was used," not deadly chemicals. DF still says both sides appear preparing for chemical warfare. Syrian officials categorically deny intentions to use them.  

Russia helped secure them. Lavrov said Syria won't use them "under any circumstances." Press TV said foreign invaders used chemical weapons in Daraya near Damascus. 

Toxic yellow gas killed at least seven Syrian forces. They died within an hour of inhaling it. Insurgents also threatened to poison Syria's drinking water. They showed video footage of rabbits killed by inhaling poisonous gas.

DF stopped short of explaining. It claims "Israel cannot count on being exempt from a poison weapons attack." 

It could happen before January 22 elections. It could be a well-planned false flag attack. Israel and Washington specialize in launching them. 

Expect anything in 2013. War could preempt Russian/Syrian conflict resolution initiatives. Washington categorically spurns them.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com 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.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=27621&action=edit

The Gatekeepers: Exposing Israel's Dark Side


The Gatekeepers: Exposing Israel's Dark Side

by Stephen Lendman

Dror Moreh is one of Israel's leading cinematographers. Last October, his documentary featuring candid dialogues with former Shin Bet heads debuted in New York. 

In early 2013, other Western venues will show it. Over the weekend, it premiered at Tel Aviv's Cinematheque.

Segmented titles include Forget Morality, Collateral Damage, and One Man's Enemy is Another Man's Freedom Fighter.

Interviews with six former Shin Bet heads were shown. They attended the Israeli premier. Joseph Cedar's drama Footnote was included. More on film content below.

On December 18, Haaretz headlined "Israeli film makes critics' best of 2012 list, moves closer to Oscar." 

It's won other international awards. It stops well short of telling all. It's still must viewing. It reveals what Israeli supporters need to know. Palestinians, of course, can explain best.

New York Times and Los Angeles Times film critics call it one of the best 2012 documentaries. It made the Academy Awards' short list.

On November 25, New York Times film critic AO Scott headlined "Six Israeli Spymasters on a Shadowy Past and a Dark Future," saying:

They're retired. They reflected "about past triumphs and frustrations." Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillon, Ami Avalon, Avi Dichter, and Yuval Diskin were interviewed.

They approved the film. Their views reflected former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's warning that Israel faced national suicide if decades of occupation didn't end.

Extremist settlers reflect much about Israel's dark side. Messianic interlopers have no place in civil society. 

Perhaps fears of Israel's demise motivated them to speak. Doing so may help save the country, they likely feel. Gillon said "We are making the lives of millions miserable."

Outspoken Israeli intellectual Yeshayahu Leibowitz (1903 - 1994) warned that governing occupied "foreigners" would transform Israel into "a Shin Bet state."

Zionists can't admit that indigenous Palestinians lived in today's Israel for centuries. Calling them "foreigners" demeans their longstanding ties to land rightfully theirs.

Israel stole it. Who in a current or past position of power dares say so?

Shin Bet heads are assassins. The six men interviewed have decades of blood on their hands. Reflection perhaps seeks redemption. 

It's much too late to matter. Atonement isn't in Israel's vocabulary. It's hard imagining they're comments will influence current policy. It's worse now than ever.

Moreh's film is "amazing (and) upsetting," said Scott. It covers ground rarely seen on film or discussed publicly. It challenges "conventional wisdom on all sides of the conflict."

Candid interviews revealed "devastating assessments of the failings of successive (Israeli) governments."

Yaakov Peri ran Shin Bet from 1988 - 1994. He was there during the first Intifada and Oslo. "I think after retiring from this job you become a bit of a leftist," he said.

He and others interviewed aren't doves. While critical of occupation harshness, they're largely mindless about Palestinian suffering. Only Israel's future matters. It prompted them to speak out.

Avraham Shalom headed Shin Bet from 1981 - 1986. He resigned after being accused of ordering two Palestinian prisoners killed and orchestrating a subsequent cover-up.

On the one hand, he defended Shin Bet tactics. On the other, he called Israel's future "very dark." He lamented about occupation harshness. It's a legacy perhaps he'd like to forget.

He's not alone. Others interviewed expressed similar views.
Scott called them "rare, (and) welcome (with) almost unbearable clarity." He exaggerated to make a point.

Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan called Moreh's documentary "more than simply eye-opening." It's "potent enough to alter how you see the world," he said.

Perhaps a little, but not enough.

Moreh did what seemed impossible. He convinced six former spymasters to discuss what's kept secret. They ran Shin Bet from 1981 - 2011. They spoke publicly for the first time.

They revealed snippets of Israel's dark history. They stopped well short of telling all. What's most important was omitted. Why they said anything they'll have to explain. 

They "demonstrate(d) how soul-destroying it can be (to) mandate behavior that may seem amoral or even immoral."

They stopped well short of agonizing over what they did. Late in life conscience pangs ring hollow. Other priorities got them to say anything.

At the same time, they support Palestinian self-determination. They expressed disdain for Israeli opposition.

They said Palestinian resistance is justified. Israeli leaders don't address it. Confronting it violently reflects state terrorism. Israel should talk to Hamas.

Shalom shocked viewers. He called Israeli occupation no different from Nazi occupied Europe. If current Israeli, American, or other Western politicians suggested this, they'd be run out of town next election.

On December 30 Haaretz contributor Gideon Levy discussed the film. Shin Bet leaders do dirty work, he said. It affords them "an aura of prestige and esteem."

"Oh, how we applaud our spooks." Two former Shin Bet heads became cabinet ministers. Another was successful in business. Murder, Inc. rewards its bosses. Doves have no place in Israeli society.

"This jolting film is a must-see," said Levy. "A feeling of nausea and of deep disgust wells up at its end." Occupation truths are told. Some but way short of all. 

Responsible assassins explained. Mea culpas were omitted. They stopped well short of admitting responsibility for unspeakable crimes. 

They have lots more explaining to do. They admitted "being blinkered." They didn't examine the consequences of their actions.

Coming together on film "resembl(es) a mafia movie." They speak like dons. Each did it his own way. They fell far short of entirely frank.

They were "subcontractors" in Israel's "war on terror." They knew their job was lawless, immoral and inhumane. Shalom claimed "There is no morality." Might alone makes right.

When it's too late to matter, they spoke. They're hardly profiles in courage. Where were they when policies they mandated could have made a difference?

They prioritized assassinations, torture, and other forms of abuse. They helped institutionalize lawlessness. They made Israel a police state.

"Now they remember to say that the Palestinian problem cannot be solved with force." It's high time they stressed an Israeli problem.

"Rolling their eyes, they pass responsibility onto the political leadership." They were part of its disreputable past. They could have acted responsibly.

They could have refused to commit crimes. They could have supported right over wrong. They chose other priorities. Unspeakable cruelty reflects them. They'll carry them to their graves.

Palestinian rage followed "monstrous methods" they used. Then and now, they include beatings, torture, humiliation, other forms of abuse, and cold-blooded murder. 

They admit crimes this grave. They remain unaccountable. They fall well short of remorse. They expressed no regrets. Why should they? They're heroes. Israel "cheer(s) them on."

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com 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.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

Progressive Radio News Hour Guests for January 4, 5, and 6, 2012


The Progressive Radio News Hour Guests for January 4, 5, and 6 2012

Friday, January 4 at 10AM US Central Times: Mohammad Marandi

Marandi is an Associate Professor at the University of Tehran. He also chairs their North American studies department.

Discussion will focus on Iran, Syria and other Middle East issues.

Saturday, January 5 at noon US Central time: Mickey Huff

Mickey Huff is a California-based Professor of History at Diablo Valley College. He's Director of Project Censored (PC) and the Media Freedom Foundation.

Censored 2013 and other major world and national issues will be discussed.

Sunday, January 6, at noon US Central time: Peter Phillips

Phillips is a Sonoma State University Sociology Professor and former Director of Project Censored (PC). He's currently President of the Media Freedom Foundation (MFF).

It's an initiative for First Amendment freedoms and investigative research. It works closely with PC and other media related organizations.

Major world and national issues will be discussed.

Responsible Fiscal Cliff Resolution


Responsible Fiscal Cliff Resolution

by Stephen Lendman

Responsible governance isn't rocket science. Nor is effective economic policy. Fiscal cliff resolution is as simple as doing the right thing. Both parties spurn doing so.

December 31 is a nominal deadline. Effectively it's meaningless. New year legislation can be retroactive to January 1. Absent any, here's what's at stake.

Bush tax cuts revert automatically to Clinton-era levels. The current top 35% will rise to 39.6%. Average middle income families will pay an extra $2,200 annually. 

High income earners have clever lawyers and accountants able. They're able to minimize their burden. Ordinary people are hit hardest.

The payroll tax will rise from 4.2% to 6.2%. Doing so means a 50% tax increase for over 90% of Americans. 

Payroll taxes shouldn't have been cut in the first place. Better economic stimulus methods exist. Cuts drain Social Security Trust Fund reserves. Doing so irreparably hurts the ability to pay future benefits.

Congress planned it that way. Both parties want Social Security privatized. Doing so assures destroying it altogether. It also violates Franklin Roosevelt's pledge. He said:

"We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits." 

"With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program. Those taxes aren't a matter of economics. They're straight politics."

Both parties play hardball. Class war defines their agenda. America's social contract is on the chopping block for elimination. A decade from now it won't exist in its current form. In two decades or less it will disappear altogether.

Doing so means using America's resources for waging war on humanity, increasing corporate profitability, and benefitting super-rich elites already with too much. Vital popular needs will be sacrificed.

Nominally at midnight December 31, unemployment benefits for 2.1 million Americans expire. They represent those without jobs longterm. In 2013 Q I, another million Americans will lose their benefits. More will lose out throughout the year.

Budget sequestration kicks in. Initially, automatic $1.2 trillion in spending cuts are mandated. Nominally they're across the board. Obama, most Democrats, and Republicans agree. 

Defense spending will rise, not fall. America's war machine will be generously funded. War profiteers demand it. Bipartisan complicity won't disappoint. 

Social America will be hardest hit. It's longstanding policy. Over the next decade, agreement was reached on cutting about $4 trillion. Before it ends, expect much more.

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and public pensions are prime targets. Other vital social programs are included. Erosion and planned privatization assure eliminating them. 

So does eventually ending virtually all benefits disadvantaged households now get. Bedrock programs will be entirely destroyed. Doing so in their current form comes first. Eliminating them altogether follows.

The annual "doc fix" also expires. Medicare's growth formula ties physician compensation to economic performance. Healthcare providers get shortchanged. Doc fixes minimize damage. 

Unless renewed, physician compensation will drop 26.5%. Doing so assures more doctors dropping out of the program altogether. Many already did so.

The alternative minimum tax (AMT) expires. Annual congressional patches keep it in place. In 1969, it was introduced. 

Initially it was conceived as a system to assure high-income earners, corporations, trusts, and estates pay at least minimal taxes. Currently around 20% of households are affected. 

Thresholds aren't automatically adjusted for inflation. For years, Congress enacted one-year patches. At times, modest inflation relief was included. AMT kicks in if tentative minimum taxes exceed regular ones.

Tentative ones are AMT amounts times alternative minimum taxable income less the AMT foreign tax credit. Regular ones equal income tax obligations minus foreign and possessions tax credits. 

The AMT is a very complicated. It's a parallel tax system. Ordinary people need accountants to determine if it affects them. What began in 1969 is totally dysfunctional. Many middle income earners are hard hit. Nominally it wasn't supposed to be this way.

Patches rectify things annually. Failure to do so assures voter rage. It's been avoided so far. Given bipartisan agreement to destroy America's social contract, anything is possible ahead.

Social destructiveness is prioritized. Doing what's right is spurned. Imagine the difference effective policies would make. Key ones include:

Putting money power back in public hands where it belongs. The Constitution's Article I, Section 8 mandates it.

Public banking works. It's an idea whose time has come. Privatized money power is destructive. Regaining public control more than ever is needed. 

Colonial America prospered that way tax and inflation-free. It's the same wherever it's instituted. Imagine if Wall Street's controlled Federal Reserve was nationalized.

Its franchise would be abolished. Giant banks could be broken up. Too-big-to-fail ones could end. Insolvent ones would be shut down. Responsibly run public ones would replace them. 

Sustainable inflation-free prosperity could follow. Readily available credit makes it possible. All boats could be lifted equitably. It happened in America before and could again. Political will alone prevents it.

Imagine the difference under public banks. They're not beholden to Wall Street or shareholders. They don't have to earn profits. They don't pay huge salaries and bonuses. 

They're mandated only to serve communities, businesses of all sizes, farmers, and private individuals responsibly. They're very much up to the task. They succeed marvelously.

Federal, state and local debt could be substantially reduced or eliminated. So could personal and payroll taxes. America's manufacturing base could be rebuilt. 

Social programs could be funded inflation-free. Infrastructure rebuilding could be prioritized. It could be done on a scale never before imagined.

Environmental cleanup could happen. Alternative, sustainable, clean, safe, affordable energy sources could be developed.

Millions of good-paying jobs could be created. Employment would exist for everyone willing and able to work. People with money spend it. Doing so enhances economic growth.

Home ownership would be available to millions. Foreclosures would end. Mortgages would be sustainably cheap. Booms and busts would end. So would destructive currency devaluations and economic warfare.

Private pensions, savings and investments would be safe. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public pensions, and other vital benefits would be secure in perpetuity. So would sustainable prosperity. 

Fiscal cliff duplicitous hype wouldn't exist. Imagine this kind of nation. It's not pie-in-the-sky. Colonial America proved it works. So have other nations where it was tried. Why not again now. Political will alone prevents it. People power can change things. 

Reinstitute anti-trust laws with teeth. Prohibit monopoly and oligopoly power.

Revoke corporate personhood. Business giants are private tyrannies. Their rights are the same as people. Limited liability status eliminates most responsibilities. 

They're a universe unto themselves. They can reside in many places simultaneously. They can't be imprisoned for wrongdoing. They take full advantage. 

They're obligated only to shareholders. Their power has grown exponentially. They're out-of-control. They're rapacious predators. They make US policy. They write legislation Congress passes. Presidents dutifully enact it. It's high time that changed.

Dismantle destructive duopoly power. Replace it with multi-party direct democracy. Get money out of politics.

Break up big media. Make broadcasting a public utility. Airwaves belong to everyone. Business giants exploit it. Generous subsidies support them.

Prohibit corporate handouts, loopholes, and special benefits. Make corporations pay their fare share. Tax all profits equitably.

Mandate progressive taxation. Treat all forms of income equally.

Tax speculation. Impose a Tobin tax on large financial transactions.

Reinstitute Glass-Steagall. Decouple commercial from investment banks and insurers. Abolish the Commodity Futures Modernization Act. It legitimized swap agreements and other hybrid instruments.

It prevents regulatory oversight of derivatives and leveraging. It turned Wall Street crooks loose on unsuspecting investors. Fraud more than ever was institutionalized. It's Wall Street's business model.

Giant banks make money by stealing it. Crooked politicians permit it. Predatory rapaciousness is institutionalized. America's 1% profits at the expense of others. Depression conditions harm growing millions. Reckless policies make it possible.

Mandate level playing field fairness. End monied corruption. Hold corporate bosses accountable. End America's student loan racket. Reenergize organized labor. Let workers bargain collectively with management fairly.

Save public education. Institute it at the college and graduate school levels. Establish universal healthcare. Everyone in. No one left out.

End America's permanent war policy. Prioritize peace. Close all overseas bases. Cut defense spending sharply. Use America's resources for productive economic growth.

Imagine priorities this beneficial. Imagine a country fit to live in. Imagine widespread activism committed to achieve it. It won't happen any other way. It never has. It never will. 

Ordinary people are responsible for their own futures. They hold their fate in their own hands. It's their choice. Act responsibly or lose out entirely. America's on a fast track toward the worst of all possible worlds. 

Imagine mass activism unwilling to tolerate it. Beneficial social change could follow. Institutionalizing it could become policy. It that's not worth working for, what is?

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com 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.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/responsible-fiscal-cliff-resolution/

Rare Israeli Justice


Rare Israeli Justice

by Stephen Lendman

Instances indeed are rare. An important one deserves mention. In mid-July 2010, Knesset members stripped MK Hanin Zuabi of key parliamentary rights and privileges. 

They did so for participating in the May 2010 Freedom Flotilla. She joined others trying to bring vital humanitarian aid to Gaza. Lunatic fringe MK's targeted her. They oppose doing the right thing.  

Hardline MKs called her a traitor. She's repeatedly vilified and threatened. On December 18, Israel's Central Election Committee (CEC) disqualified her from seeking reelection.

Israeli Basic Law requires Supreme Court justices rule on whether political candidates may be disqualified. More below on their Zuabi decision. 

She's a Balad party member. They fraudulently claimed she violated Israeli Basic Law. It says anyone denying Israel's existence as a Jewish state can't serve in parliament. Nor can others favoring terrorism and armed struggle.

Zuabi serves honorably and legitimately. Charges against her are baseless. At issue is challenging her humanitarian priorities. Nineteen CEC members approved disqualification. Nine voted against. One abstained.

Disqualifying her is lawless. Israel's Supreme Court had final say. It overturned most previous attempts to disqualify candidates. More on how it ruled below.

Deputy speaker Danny Danon said if Zuabi stands for reelection, Knesset members will change Israeli law. He added that she belongs in prison, not parliament.

MK hardliner Michael BenAri said if justices didn't disqualify her she'd "throw a bomb in the Knesset." If they let her run, he'd "send them all to Gaza." They can serve "under (Hamas leader Ismail) Haniyah."

He added that "anyone who participated in the Mavi Marmara flotilla is a criminal. To our great regret, this is a court that legitimized (former Balad MK) Azmi Bishara.”

In March 2007, he left Israel. He did so because of unjust allegations against him. They were baseless. Charges and indictment never followed. 

He was targeted for being Muslim in Israel's Knesset. Racist discrimination is institutionalized. Zuabi was vilified before. She's threatened again now.

BenAri wants her imprisoned. He scuffled with her physically. He shames democratic governance. So do dozens of other likeminded MKs.

In late December, they reacted before the High Court's Sunday decision. Clashes erupted. They included verbal and physical confrontations.

They occurred after Israel's High Court heard a petition against prohibiting Zuabi from seeking reelection in January.

Over two dozen MK hardliners physically blocked her from leaving. They pushed and scuffled with her entourage. They yelled insults.

"You disgusting terrorist, go to Syria," they shouted. "We'll send you to Gaddafi." It was a thinly veiled threat to kill her. "Go to Gaza," they added.

Scuffling continued until Court guard personnel intervened. They protected Zuabi. She escorted her to safety.

On December 30, High Court justices ruled. Unanimously they overturned efforts to disqualify Zuabi. She's free to seek reelection.

Many Supreme Court decisions violate fundamental international rule of law principles. Sunday they ruled responsibly.

Likud MK Yariv Levine condemned them. "Unless Zuabi blows herself up in the Knesset, (they) won't understand that she has no place there," he said.

Other lunatic fringe MKs express similar views. They reflect deplorable Israeli governance. It's hardline, racist, anti-democratic, destructive, institutionalized, and embarrassing.

It mocks legitimacy. Dominant hardliners are rogue legislators. They represent despotism, not democracy. They hold supreme power. They'll likely keep it in January elections. Israelis aren't wise enough to replace them.

In response to Israel's CEC ruling, Zuabi said:

"The decision is a result of political vindictiveness and a pathetic attempt to harm the representative of the Arab public."

She's convinced that "the struggle for full equality is the only way to achieve democracy."

Israel's CEC "blatantly ignored the attorney general's unequivocal opinion that there is no legal basis for the disqualification." 

"It is now clear that the elections committee is a political body meant to harm the representatives of the Arab public, and has nothing to do with democracy." 

"Instead of holding a public debate, they wish to silence me, and with me a whole demographic. We will not cooperate with such silencing."

"Attempts to disqualify me are an attack on everybody who is against the occupation."

Balad party chairman Jamal Zahalka called CEC's decision "neither lawful nor democratic, but is part of the extreme right's election campaign."

It's a "harsh blow to the entire Arab public." They're 20% of Israel's population. They're denied equal rights. They're vilified for not being Jewish. They're considered a fifth column threat.

Anti-democratic CEC members want Arabs excluded from Knesset membership. They want Jewish exclusivity.

"We unequivocally support Zuabi and all her activities," Zahalka added. "We repeat and emphasize that if the High Court of Justice does not overturn this decision," Balad won't stand in January elections.

"Moreover, we call for revocation of the committee's authority to disqualify politicians, inasmuch as it has long since become an undemocratic political tool."

Ahead of the Supreme Court's ruling, Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein opposed petitioning against Zuabi's right to serve. 

He claimed "no sufficient, exceptional critical mass of evidence" to disqualify her candidacy. He stopped short of calling efforts to do so lawless and racist.

Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel General Director, Hassan Jabareen, represented Zuabi. He said prior High Court disqualification rejections "show (they're) meant to foster delegitimization of Arab elected officials."

He added that disqualifying her for "armed conflict" has no basis in fact. She acted legitimately and lawfully. No criminal charges followed her Mavi Marmara participation.

Likud/Yisrael Beiteinu coalition members expressed "upset over the High Court's decision." 

They said in light of how justices ruled, it's "clear that the existing law needs to change, and sharply declare that any expression of support for terror should be a disqualifier for running for election in the Israeli Knesset."

"Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu will immediately act during the next Knesset to fix the existing laws."

They have in mind fascist police state harshness. Much already exists. Anti-democratic measures pass easily. Doing so reveals growing despotism.

Hadash MK Dov Khenin said it's "troubling that the government condones harming democracy in order to gain a few more votes on the right."

In 2009, CEC hardliners voted to ban Balad and United Arab List-Ta'al. In 2003, they disqualified MKs Ahmed Tibi and Azmi Bishara.

In 2009, Avigdor Lieberman called Tibi "more dangerous to Israel than Hamas and Islamic Jihad." He and other Israeli hardliners called for stripping their citizenship and deporting them. 

At the time, 34 other Israeli Arabs were targeted. Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's killer, Yigal Amir, was exempted. Israeli extremists consider him heroic.

Over the past decade, Arab MKs were investigated. Some faced bogus incitement charges. At issue was participating in nonviolent protests. 

Knesset hardliners compared them to Nazi collaborators. They urged denying them all rights, stripping their citizenship, and banishing them. All Israeli Arabs face racist discrimination. 

Israel affords rights only to Jews. Increasingly, fewer numbers qualify. Israel replicates America. Wealth, power, privilege, and dominance alone matter. 

Lawless belligerence is prioritized. Democratic values are spurned. Both countries aren't fit to live in. Many fed up Jews leave. 

Most remaining are ideologically right of center. Growing numbers represent lunatic fringe extremism. Palestinians and Israeli Arabs have good reason to feel threatened. No one's sure from day to day what's next.

A Final Comment

On December 30, a Haaretz editorial headlined "The Zuabi test," saying:

Justices needed "only weigh and measure the volume of that 'critical mass,' but its ruling (also) determine(s) whether there exists in Israel a sufficient critical mass of democracy."

Fine/vague "line(s) between terror and expressing" opinions don't exist. Opposing occupation and "identif(ying) with the Palestinians" are legitimate views.

If Weinstein thought Zuabi violated Israeli law, he would have said so. His decision should have influenced CEC members.

They don't play by evidentiary rules. They call whatever they wish terrorism. At issue is "a political crusade against all the Arab political parties."

Democratic societies aren't "measured by the power of the majority or by its capitulation to political consensus."

Democracy's real test is allowing freely expressed views and actions. Disagreement with popular ones often matter most.

"A strong democracy isn't spooked by the voices and opinions of those who don't see the state and its policies as the pinnacle of creation."

Nations prioritizing "defensive democracy….stifle political opponents." Doing so "isn't worthy of being called democra(tic)."

On December 27, justices witnessed MK extremism firsthand. Verbal and physical threats exposed them. Some hardliners "would do away with the High Court of Justice altogether."

On Sunday, Israeli Supreme Court justices ruled responsibly. They unanimously supported doing the right thing. Too bad they don't always do so.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com 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.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/rare-israeli-justice/

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cliff Notes


Cliff Notes

by Stephen Lendman

Congressional/administration hype, theater, gamesmanship, brinksmanship, and duplicity define yearend fiscal cliff discussions.

Previous articles explained what's at stake. Years ago, Republicans and Democrats conspired to destroy America's social contract. 

Militarism, imperial dominance, tyranny, corporate/super-rich priorities, class war, and widening the unprecedented wealth disparity followed.

Economist Jack Rasmus calls fiscal cliff subterfuge "austerity American style."

Media scoundrels conceal what readers and viewers most need to know. Fiscal cliff hype shows what they're up against. Eleventh hour discussions continue. 

The New York Times headlined "Senate Leaders Set to Work on a Last-Minute Tax Agreement."

The Washington Post said "Agreement within reach on 'fiscal cliff' deal, officials say."

"Cliff Deal Hinges on Senators," headlined the Wall Street Journal. Senate leaders said they'd "launch a last-ditch weekend effort to avert the so-called fiscal cliff."

Unexplained is that none exists. Hype substitutes for reality. Budget and deficit problems are real. Effective fixes are spurned. Destructive ones are prioritized.

Progressive Radio News Hour regular Paul Craig Roberts told listeners that suspending Afghan military operations for three months would solve things for now. Ending hostilities entirely would do so longer term.

Prioritizing peace over war, using US resources responsibly, enacting sustainable economic growth legislation, re-industrializing America, and job creation would do so in perpetuity.

Obama and party bosses don't explain. Nor do media scoundrels. On December 26, a New York Times editorial headlined "Fiscal Endgame," saying:

House Republicans "rejected (Obama's) overly generous budget deal." They also "rejected their own leadership's proposal." 

No deal means ordinary Americans will be hit hardest, claims The Times. Omitted was explaining bipartisan agreement to destroy social America. Details alone remain to be resolved. 

Pre or post-yearend doesn't matter. Continuing resolutions extend many policies when agreements aren't reached. Before Congress adjourns, grand plan resolution won't happen.

Expect talks to end by kicking the can down the road. Temporary resolution will likely be reached. More time will be bought. Major issues will be delayed for 2013 Q I and later discussions.

Endgame intentions are clear. Crisis conditions fester. Ordinary Americans will suffer most. Both parties prioritize making them pay for dire conditions predatory bankers caused.

A December 27 Washington Post editorial headlined "Avoid the 'fiscal cliff,' " saying:

Democrats and Republicans remain "at loggerheads." America "faces a harmful and gratuitous economic shock that would be inflicted by its own leaders."

Both sides share blame. Before January 1, expect nothing more than stopgap legislation. Passage will avoid "disaster."

Obama and Congress have days left to agree. Failure would "abdicat(e) their responsibility to the nation."

WP, NYT, and other major media consumers have no idea what's going on. Scoundrel editors, commentators, and staff writers don't tell them.

Economist Michael Hudson discussed "America's Deceptive 2012 Fiscal Cliff." He published part one of a two-part article.

Victors and powerful interests write history, he said. 

"Holding the bottom 99% in debt, the top 1% are now in the process of subsidizing a deceptive economic theory to persuade voters to pursue policies that benefit the financial sector at the expense of labor, industry, and democratic government as we know it."

Powerful special interests blame unemployment and America's "loss of industrial competitiveness" on spending and deficit woes.

Junk economics turns truth on its head. Financial lobbyists claim "austerity can enable private sector debts to be paid."

In fact, "when banks load the economy down with debt," less remains for "domestic goods and services."

Bad policies produce bad results. Destructive ones "reduce private sector market demand." Doing so "shrink(s) markets and employment."

Distressed governments are told to sell valued land and natural resources. Buyers want fire sale prices. Bankers and other financial predators profit greatly.

Lucrative bank loan financing is created. Privileged 1% players profit. Indebtedness and mass privatizations benefit them. Ordinary people end up severely harmed.

Austerity advocates lie. Central banks only print new money to wage war, destroy property, and benefit financial interests, other corporate favorites, and super-rich elites.

Fundamental infrastructure and popular needs go begging. Effective policies are spurned.

"Governments need to provide the economy with money and credit to expand markets and employment. They do this by running budget deficits, and this can be done by creating their own money."

Bankers oppose what harms their interests. Washington is Wall Street occupied territory. What banking giants and other major financial companies want they get.

They "captured mainstream economics." They're "winning (their) war against the economy at large." They want ordinary people to think there's no alternative.

Political Washington and media scoundrels support them. Much better alternatives than force-fed austerity and debt peonage exist, says Hudson. Part two will explain more.

Late Friday afternoon, Obama expressed modest optimism. He met with congressional leaders. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said:

"We had a good meeting at the White House, and we are engaged in discussions…. in hopes that we can come forward (with a plan) as early as Sunday."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called discussions "constructive." He added that "whatever we come up with" won't be perfect.

Expect a December 31 Senate vote. Majority Democrats will pass what Obama endorses. House Republicans may or may not agree. Failure will let yearend tax breaks and unemployment benefits expire. Explaining it to constituents won't be easy.

Obama wants wealthy Americans "to pay a little more." Republicans object. Expect eventual compromise. 

Obama said what fiscal conservatives want to hear. He wants spending cut "in a responsible way." 

At issue is destroying America's social contract, enacting corporate tax cuts, largely protecting super-rich elite benefits, and generously funding the Pentagon's war machine. 

It's also about making ordinary households pay for militarism, permanent wars, and predatory capitalist waste, fraud, excess, and abuse. Making them bear the burden is official policy.

Both sides agree. Temporary or final resolution will harm millions least advantaged. Living standards will be hit hard. Expect House Republicans to come around in stages. 

On or around yearend, modest agreement will be reached. Enough to last weeks or through 2013 Q I. Investors and markets will be assuaged. Negotiations will continue. Before end of March, other issued will be resolved.

Later discussions will involve major tax code changes. Corporate tax cuts will be prioritized. Obama agreed earlier. Doing so bought business support. 

Republicans won't spurn major campaign donors. Compromise will benefit privileged Americans at the expense of all others. America's social contract is on the chopping block for elimination. Death by 1,000 cuts is planned. Responsible solutions are spurned.

Privatization will ruin Social Security, Medicare, and other government-run programs. Financial predators will strip mine them of worth.

Third-worldizing America is planned. Homeland repression will target nonbelievers. 

America never was the land of the free and home of the brave. It was never beautiful and isn't now. The worst is yet to come. Bipartisan complicity assures it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com 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.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/cliff-notes-2/