Free - Beyond Collapse

Friday, November 26, 2010

Economic Collapse & Security: I Am Your Worst Nightmare

By Jeff T.

I am the leader of a band of 8-to-12 looters. I have some basic military training. We move from place to place like locusts devouring everything in our path. My group is armed with light weapons and can develop and follow simple plans of attack. We take what we want by force of arms. We prefer none of our victims survive because that could cause problems for us in the future. It has been six months since the grid went down. You and the other five members of your party have settled into what may be a long grinding existence. The every day tasks of growing and gathering have now become routine. The news from the outside is extremely limited but you don’t really miss it much. Life is simple but physically demanding.

Although things may seem stable you will need to keep your team focused and alert. This is your first and most important layer of defense. You should hold an immediate reaction drill once per week. Keep things simple. Practice a specific response to such threats as injury, fire, attack and evacuation. Despite the challenges you must maintain contact with those around you such as neighbors for vital clues that trouble is brewing. Regular monitoring the radio will be critical in providing an early warning of trouble. You may be able to safely interview refugees with risking your party. Keep in mind the information you get from them may not always be reliable.

While you have been farming I have been learning the best tactics to employ to seize your property and your goods. I have been refining them since we hit the road right after the lights went out. I have conducted eight “hits” so far and have been successful seven times. Here are some of my “lessons learned”.

Intelligence gathering and target selection is critical to my success. Targets include those who have large quantities of fuel, food and other valuable supplies. My posse is constantly questioning anyone and everyone we contact searching for this our next victim. Anyone who has ever had knowledge, even second hand, of your preparations is someone of interest to me. I may approach them directly or indirectly. If anyone knows something I will find out about it. Who seems well-fed? Who still has transportation? Who has lights? Who was prepared? Where are they exactly? Somebody talks, either in person or on the radio. They always do.

We search for victims night and day. During the day we are listening for the sounds of machinery, cars, tractors, gunfire or generators. Day or night without a lot of wind those sounds can carry for miles. At night I look for any sort of light. Even a small flash indicates somebody with electricity and that means a rich target. I always have somebody listing to the scanner for any news, leads or insecure chatter. Operational Security (OPSEC) is an important concept for your entire group to understand and maintain. If somebody outside your circle doesn’t have a real need to know about your plans, preparations or procedures then they shouldn’t know period. Develop a cover story and live it like was a bulletproof vest. It is no less important to your protection and survival. During an event you need to blend in with the surrounding environment. Carefully observe noise (such as generators and other engines) and light discipline especially at night. If you need to test fire weapons do it in one sequence to avoid a prolonged noise signature.

Once I find and target you reconnaissance of your retreat is my next step. Only a fool would try to rush in and try to overwhelm a group of “survivalists”. We had a bad experience with that during our second hit. Now we spend at least a day or two trying to size up a large opportunity and the best way to take it down. I will observe retreat activity from a nearby-concealed position. I will get an idea of your numbers, weapons, routines and so much more by careful surreptitious observation. If your group seems alert, I will try and trigger a false alarm with a dog or child to watch your reaction to a threat. That helps me know how you respond, where you are strong and how to attack. I may also obtain a topographical map of the area to identify likely avenues of approach and potential escapes routes you will try to use. I may coerce your neighbors into uncovering a weak spot or access point or other important intelligence. I also have a Bearcat handheld scanner. I will be listening for any insecure chatter from your radios.

Regular patrols at irregular intervals focused on likely observation points and avenues of approach could keep me at bay. You could put down sand or other soft soil in key choke points as a way of “recording” if anyone has recently traveled through the land. Dogs, with their advanced sense of hearing and smell are able to detect and alert you to intruders well in advance of any human. Motion sensing infrared video cameras as a part of a security plan could play a part in your layered defense as long as you have power. A 24 hour manned observation point equipped with high quality optical tools is a must. It should be fortified and if possible concealed. It should have a weapon capable of reaching to the edges of your vision. Seismic intrusion devices, night vision and thermal imaging are phenomenal force multiplying tools. They can give you critical intelligence and warning. You should use them if you have them. Understand they are not fool proof and I can often neutralize them if I know you have them.

These tools and techniques provide you reaction time. Time to plan your response and time to execute that plan. Recognize that a “defender” is always at a disadvantage. By definition a defender will be reacting to my attack. Modern warfare has emphasized the ability of the attacker to operate faster than opponents can react. This can be explained by the OODA loop. Below are the four steps of the classic OODA loop. These are the steps a defender goes through when under attack.

1. Observing or noticing the attack.

2. Orient to the direction, method and type of attack.

3. Deciding what the appropriate response will be.

4. Acting on that decision.

As an attacker I will try and operate at a pace faster than you as a defender can adjust to. I will change my direction, pace, timing and method to force you to continue to process through the OODA loop. This creates confusion and wastes your precious reaction time. As a defender you will need to disrupt or reset your attackers timing with a counter-attack. When you are successful you become the attacker. Your defensive plans should utilize and exploit this concept. Here are a few scenarios:

1. Snipe & Siege

I will begin the attack when I can engage at least half of your party’s military age personnel in one coordinated effort. I will infiltrate my team into concealed positions around your retreat within 50 to 75 yards. I will target any identified leadership with the first volley. Two thirds of my people will be engaging personnel. The other group will target communications antennas, surveillance cameras and any visible lighting assets. I want your group unable to see, communicate or call for help. The members of my band will each fire two magazines in the initial exchange. Two thirds of my group will change to new concealed positions and wait. One third will fall back into an ambush of the most likely avenue of escape. We will stay concealed and wait until you come out to attend to your wounded and dead. We repeat the attack as necessary until any resistance is crushed.

Ensure you adjust the landscape around your retreat so that I don’t have anyplace offering cover or concealment within 100 yards of your residence. You can create decorative masonry walls that can be used to offer cover for personnel close to your residence. Fighting positions can be built now and used as raised planting beds and then excavated for use in the future. These can be extended or reinforced after any significant event. These structures or other measures such as trenching must be sited carefully to avoid allowing them to be used effectively by an attacker if they are overrun.

2. Trojan Horse

For one hit we used an old truck. We forced a refugee to drive it to the retreat gate. We concealed half our group inside the truck. The truck was hardened on the inside with some sandbags around the edges. The other half of our group formed an ambush concealed inside the tree line along the driveway. We killed the driver to make it look good and had one person run away. Those preppers almost waited us out. After nearly three hours they all walked slowly down the driveway. They were bunched up in a group intent on checking out the truck and driver. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

They could have worked together as group to sweep the area 360 degrees around the truck and they would have surely found us. A dog would have also alerted the residents to our presence. They could have taken measures to eliminate the vegetation offering us concealment on the road near the gate. They could have used CS gas or something similar to “deny” any suspicious areas. Lastly they could have done a “reconnaissance by fire”. Shooting into likely hiding spots, including the truck, trying to evoke a response. They should have established an over watch position with the majority of their group. This over watch group would have provided visual security and an immediate response if there were an attack. They were not expecting any additional threats. They didn’t consider that there might be additional danger lurking nearby aside from the truck and they died.

3. Kidnap & Surrender

A few weeks ago we surprised and captured a couple of women out tending a garden. It was totally by chance. We were traveling through a very rural area on our way to another town when somebody heard a tractor backfire. We immediately stopped and I sent a small team to recon the noise. They bumped into a small party tending a field at the edge of their retreat. They seized two women and immediately dragged them back to our vehicles. We began negotiations by sending a finger from each one back to the retreat under a white flag. The rest was easy.

This didn’t need to happen. Better noise discipline would have kept us from discovering their retreat. Some simple boundary fencing or tangle foot could have delayed us. The women should have been armed and aware of such a threat. If they has established an over watch for the garden they could have engaged us before we took our hostages or at least alerted the others that there was a problem. They also could have had a quick reaction Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)developed prior to this incident. That Quick Reaction (QR) force could have followed the kidnappers back to our vehicles and set up an ambush of their own. Rural retreat security is a full time job. If you snooze you may lose everything.

4. Fire and Maneuver

I don’t like this option but sometimes the prize is just too tempting. We typically infiltrate quietly at night to prearranged start points. We begin our attack just before dawn when your senses are dulled by a long night watch or from sleep. Based on our reconnaissance we divided your retreat into positions or zones that need specific attention. We prepare for battle by using an air rifle to target any lights or cameras. Our first priority is to engage any site and destroy or degrade them as much as possible. I split my forces into two supporting groups. One group keeps the target position under constant fire. The other group also fires and maneuvers, closing on the target and destroying it with gunfire or improvised weapons. Many times these positions only have one occupant and the task is relatively easy. Often these positions are easy to spot and are too far from each other to provide any effective mutual support. We will work from one position to the next. In the darkness and confusion most of the defenders are disoriented and ineffective. They fall like dominos. We have also used motorcycles to negotiate obstacles and speed through cuts in the perimeter fence. Then throw Molotov Cocktails into any defensive position as they roar past. If you fall back into your residence we will set up a siege. If we can maneuver close enough, perhaps by using a distraction, we will pump concentrated insecticide into your building or we may introduce liquid Propane gas from a portable tank into the house and ignite it with tracer fire.

If there was enough warning time from your OP you could execute a pre-planned response. Your planned response should be simple, easy to understand and execute. Half your group occupies your fighting positions, two to a position. The rest of your party establishes an over watch and concentrate its fire at the enemies trying to fix your positions. If you had more than enough prepared positions the enemy might not know where to attack. It would also provide more flexibility in your defense based on the direction of attack. I would use Night Vision if available or illumination from flares or lights as a last resort. Rats hate light.

Usually people keep main access points blocked from high-speed approach. Likely avenues of approach should also be blocked or choked and kept under observation. Remember though what keeps me out keeps you in. Typically the common techniques of parking vehicles in roadways will only delay my approach not stop it altogether. An ordinary 12-gauge shotgun, shooting slugs, can stop most types of non-military vehicles at close range.

Don’t forget the threat of fire or other non-traditional weapons in your defensive plans.

You could create the illusion of a “dead end” for your main access road by positioning a burned out trailer home or a couple of burned out cars at the false “end” of the road. Concealing the fact that the road actually continues to your residence.

Lastly, develop a plan to evacuate and evade capture. When faced with a significantly superior force it may be the only viable option. This should include simple, reliable communications or signals such as three blasts on a dog whistle. Your fighting positions and barriers need to be constructed to allow coordinated withdrawal in an emergency. You should establish a rally point and time limit to assemble. I believe this should be a priority in your practice drills. During a real emergency you may be able to rally, rearm and plan your own version of the “snipe and siege” to retake your retreat.

Key messages:

Your rural retreat defense can be visualized as a set of concentric rings:

  • Location – Location – Location: High and remote are best
  • OPSEC – Think of it as a form of armor or shield: Practice it and protect it.
  • Observation Post / Listening Post: Your first best chance to counter attack
  • Gates / Fences / other barriers: May slow me down. Might keep you in.
  • Fighting positions: Must provide mutual support and allow for evacuation.
  • Residence: Last line. Don’t become trapped
  • People, Planning and Practice


  • An aggressive and unexpected counter strike can win the battle.
  • Stay alert for multiple threats or diversionary tactics.
  • Criminals excel at feigning weakness to lower your guard.
Don’t underestimate me.

My reason for posting this is obvious but should be a reminder survival is always best done as a community. During difficult times there are always things to be done and no one can do everything and still sleep. Everyone can bring something that aids the group. Just a little friendly reminder. - NewAmericaNow
Originally Posted

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A World Currency, The Federal Reserve, Oompa Loompas and Jesus

By NewAmericaNow

Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank, today says we need to move to a global currency. What a surprise.
Historically speaking, since the day of Jesus, control of the money supply has been a tool to control the masses.

Jesus began his 3 1/2 year ministry in Jerusalem by violently driving the corrupt moneychangers from the Temple. He also ended His ministry by attacking the same thieves. It was the only time that Jesus used force during his earthly life.

The word "moneychanger" means money-banker or money-broker. They would make large profits at the expense of the pilgrims. Every Israelite, rich or poor, who had reached the age of twenty was obligated to pay a half shekel as an offering to Jehovah into the sacred treasury. This tribute was in every case to be paid in the exact Hebrew half shekel. At Passover everyone in the world who was an adult male and wished to worship at the Temple would bring his "offering" or purchase a sacrificial animal at the Temple. Since there was no acceptance of foreign money with any foreign image the money changers would sell "Temple coinage" at a very high rate of exchange and assess a fixed charge for their services.

The judges, who sat to inspect the offerings that were brought by the pilgrims, were quick to detect any blemish in them. This was expensive for the wealthy pilgrims, not to say how ruinous this was for the poor who could only offer their turtle-doves and pigeons. There was no defense for them or court of appeal, seeing that the priestly authorities took a large percentage on every transaction.

And so we have it today that the Moneychangers called the Federal Reserve have taken control of our money. They have very slyly destroyed this country's ability to export it's goods and thus provide for itself through the manipulation of legislation and agreements to increase so called free-trade. The second part of the plan was to withdraw the amount of money or liquidity available thus creating a depression.

Speaking of the Federal reserve-"From now on, depressions will be scientifically created." -- Congressman Charles A. Lindbergh Sr. , 1913

The last nail in the coffin comes by bleeding America of it's remaining wealth through, Corporate and banking Bailouts, unemployment, asset devaluation and the mechanism of Inflation/Deflation magic.

"We have, in this country, one of the most corrupt institutions the world has ever known. I refer to the Federal Reserve Board. This evil institution has impoverished the people of the United States and has practically bankrupted our government. It has done this through the corrupt practices of the moneyed vultures who control it." -- Congressman Louis T. McFadden in 1932 (Rep. Pa)

In the cult classic "Willie Wonka and the Chocholate factory", the oompa loompa were brought to the chocolate factory as servants because freedom had become too dangerous in Loompaland. We are now entering the United States of Oompa-Lumpa land.

A place were freedom to live on your own on the dangerous cold wet streets and to fill a stomach with empty hunger is traded for the imprisonment and comfort of a warm cell and a place to eat from behind the bars of accepted servitude. The push for One World Currecy has arrived and soon to follow predictably by a One World Governing body.

One problem, It's Unconstitutional which means it's against the law. Our founding father's being men of great foresight, deemed it so.

Only our Congress has the right to make money and control it's value. No man made law or agreement or treaty is greater than Our Constitution and Bill of rights and while we may make changes to it over time we may not violate it.

"Every Congressman, every Senator knows precisely what causes inflation...but can't, [won't] support the drastic reforms to stop it [repeal of the Federal Reserve Act] because it could cost him his job." -- Robert A. Heinlein, Expanded Universe

"It is well that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning." -- Henry Ford

What happens to a government that does not adhere to the laws of the land and acts against the interest of those who it claims to represent? It loses it's authority and consent of those it governs. Do not allow these crooks to pull the wool over your eyes. All this has been done to lead us to this very moment in time.

America needs to dismantle the Federal Reserve building and lock up all it's leaders for Treason and send predator drones to the World Bank and IMF buildings!!!

The Federal Reserve, IMF, and World Bank are the financial Terrorists of our world.

Do you hear that, US Military Forces and Law enforcement? They, are who you should be at war with in the war on terror. I will support a US military/Federal and State Law Enforcement move to imprison politicians who violate the law of the land.

These people can most curtainly be arrested under today's laws but instead Law Enforcement spend their time arresting people who want to eat Raw unproccessed foods or those who try to oppose the many Wars we have no business being involved in.

I call on the US Military Commanders (Generals, Colonels, Majors, etc) and Federal and State Law Enforcement Agents, Police and Sheriff Depts and of course Judges, who took an oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign or domestic to stand up and keep your promise to the American people, or are you just puppets and only follow illegal orders or will you be part of the solution? Do not let those who fought and died for Freedom in America to have given their lives in vain.

The drumbeat of War approaches, Can you hear them? Are you ready?? Will your children some day ask what you did to try and keep them free people? Or will you just shrug your shoulders and claim you didn't see it coming, just followed orders or didn't know what to do because your ass was to busy watching dancing with the stars or monday night football? America is a pathetic shell of it's former self who's legs have grown atrophic from the lack of standing up for anything significant in a long time. Which side will you be on? The banks and corporations or the American people and Jesus?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Final Countdown

It is strangely calm, considering that the Great Doomsday machine is about to spurt out its message to the world in less than 94 minutes.

QE2, it’s called, but I think I will go with Mr. Becks name and just call it the “Weimar moment”. Why do I say this? And why isn’t it fringe to discuss collapse-style inflation anymore? Because if it pans out as planned, the Federal Reserve will monetize the entire US budget deficit the coming year. That comes on top of a previous sweet trillion thats lying around at the US commercial banks, called excess reserves. This is the final shoe to drop. Do this, and you get rampant inflation AS WELL AS collapsing banks and governments. Maybe those men in black suits already visited the Chairman, no?

Yet it is remarkable that probably 99.9% of the population in any country do not know what is going on. Since 1971, the destruction of civilization has gone into overdrive. Since then, we haven’t had any money. We’ve had paper. And while it may seem like it was solved in the early 80′s by Paul Volcker, it wasn’t. He stopped inflation – yes. But Greenspan quickly restarted it, and what is worse – the US government and governments worldwide realized how much they could borrow when inflation was subdued. After that, they realized that if they faked consumer price inflation (CPI) statistics, they could both have the cake and eat it. We have now reached peak debt+taxation in the Western world. What remains? Cutbacks, depression and misery. We have borrowed 20 years of future wealth and spent it. It’s payback time.

Our political system does not allow for payback, though. Instead, enter collapse. Enter wealth-destruction. At the height of Weimar hyperinflation, despite zeroes constantly being added to the currency, the entire money-supply was worth only a seventh of what it was before it started, when measured in gold. If you think about this, you realize what it means, in terms of collapsing savings rates, collapsing capital formation, and collapsing society. Welcome to the second age of moral collapse. Welcome, after 80 years since last time, to the Weimar Cabaret. Possible exits include war, civil unrest, famine, infrastructure collapse, crime explosions, and all the other things no one teaches you could ever occur in the Panglossian western world. Batten the hatches, and we’ll see you again in a generation or so.

Game over?


By Danny Schechter

The Election is over. The Dems were thumped. They lost the House, even if they still have the Senate by a hair. Barney Frank will be back but not Alan Grayson or Russ Feingold. WSWS offered the key reason: "intractable and deepening economic crisis and the evident inability of the Obama administration to develop any policies to overcome it."
Is that crisis likely to go away after an emboldened army of the righteous (and well-financed claque of self-styled "economically responsible" free market boosters) won more nominal power?

Will the deficits disappear?

Will the government shrink to what to what was in the era of the "founders?"

Will the economy breathe a sign of relief and bounce back?

Unlikely on all counts!

What that means is that the dire problems we face will likely get worse, as the Republicans try to stop any and all government intervention, focused as they are, for political purposes and ideological convictions, on being deficit busters.

Moralizing has been their trademark as economist Paul Krugman pointed out in the New York Times:

"How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that

has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills?" That's the question CNBC's Rick Santelli famously asked in 2009, in a rant widely credited with giving birth to the Tea Party movement.

It's a sentiment that resonates not just in America but also in much of the world. The tone differs from place to place - listening to a German official denounce deficits, my wife whispered, "We'll all be handed whips as we leave, so we can flagellate ourselves." But the message is the same: debt is evil, debtors must pay for their sins, and from now on we all must live within our means.

And that kind of moralizing is the reason we're mired in a seemingly endless slump."

Here are the key issues we will still be facing-and many may still be in denial about.

l. There has been no real recovery. Unemployment is up and so are foreclosures. The mortgage mess is only getting worse, and the relationship between these two issues has been confirmed by a new report by the International Monetary Fund.

If there is no progress on foreclosures, there will be no progress on jobs.

AP explains, "A growth rate of 5 percent or higher is needed to put a major dent in the nation's 9.6 percent unemployment rate." They cite reasons why that's unlikely well into next year and maybe beyond.

The Economic Policy Institute reports: "Never since World War Two has it taken so long to recover to pre-recession levels of GDP," said Economist Josh Bivens. Although the pace of growth in the third quarter marks a modest increase from the 1.5% annualized rate of growth in the second quarter, it is a sharp deceleration from the 3.7% annualized growth rate show in the first quarter."

2. Millions of Americans are facing the end of all benefits. What will they do then?

Some will turn to despair and slide into poverty, others, perhaps to crime.

And many more to more radicalized politics on the left and right. Mao's axiom that revolutions are not tea parties may be relevant, even prophetic in this context of continuing economic decline.

3. While some banks and individual banksters, thanks to the bailouts, have done well, hundreds of banks are facing insolvency. The Credit Writedowns site reports: "The U.S. Banking Crisis Has a Long Way to Go."

The "Calculated Risk website maintains an unofficial problem bank list compiled from publicly available records. The list has now reached 894. The FDIC has an official list of troubled banks and the number of troubled banks was last released August 31 when the total was 829. The FDIC does not make the names of troubled banks on their list public." The Guardian has even published a map of failing American banks.

3. The Federal Reserve Bank is moving slowly and sluggishly. Fed Head Ben Bernanke, a Republican reportedly wants more stimulus money pumped into the economy but has been too frightened to antagonize members of his own party. Many economic wise men fear his plan will fail.

Notes Dean Baker: "A Washington Post article discussing the risks associated with another round of quantitative easing raised the possibility that the Fed could lose its credibility if the program does not lead to the intended growth. It implies that the loss of credibility would be a major harm.

It is worth noting that the whole economic collapse came about because of the Fed's failure to notice and/or do anything about an $8 trillion housing bubble. Given this enormous failure, it is not clear how much credibility it currently enjoys among people who follow the economy."

4. The gap between the very rich and what was once the middle class continues to grow, according to Holly Sklar who explains, "Before Wall Street drove our economy off a cliff, bullish Citigroup strategists dubbed the United States a "plutonomy." They said, "There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the 'non-rich,' the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie."

Jacob Hacker of Yale and Paul Pierson of the University of California, Berkeley argue that "over the last generation, more and more of the rewards of growth have gone to the rich and superrich. The rest of America, from the poor through the upper middle class, has fallen further and further behind."

The number of Americans making $50 million or more has increased five

fold. Other issues:

5. Are the markets being manipulated by the Fed or the US Government's Plunge Protection Team? Many insiders think so.

6. Can we avoid more currency wars and a trade war with China? International financial regulations are as mired in politics as domestic ones.

7. Will there be any prosecution of Wall Street criminals? That seems more unlikely given how much they gave to Republican campaigns.

8. Are these problems a result of a lack of sanity or a consequence of the power of special interests? Who is to blame?

To Jon Stewart, the left is equally to blame as the right, "Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one's humanity but their own?" he asked during his recent "Rally For Sanity" putting left and right in the same boat and pissing off activists in the process.

"We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is-on the brink of catastrophe-torn by polarizing hate, and how it's a shame that we can't work together to get things done. But the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don't is here [in Washington] or on cable TV."

Commented writer Chris Hedges: "The rally delivered a political message devoid of reality or content. The corruption of electoral politics by corporate funds and lobbyists, the naive belief that we can somehow vote ourselves back to democracy, was ignored for emotional catharsis. The right hates. The liberals laugh. And the country is taken hostage."

So, as the votes are counted, as the Right cheers and liberals nurse their tears, we are all, in blue states and red states, still stuck with profound economic challenges that are deeper than most of us know. They are structural and systemic problems, and not merely a function of partisan political differences.

The Republicans have no economic plan to change this, and have insured that the Democrats can't really implement what plans, inadequate as they are, to stem the tide.

The blame game has been notched up with no end in sight.

It's a stalemate, mate.

No wonder comedians get more attention and respect than politicians.

As the political temperature rises, the economy continues to fall. If and when it does, it could go quickly especially if the expected deflation hits.

Explains Canada's Nicole Fosse, "... deflation is a swing of poverty feedback, it can take awhile to build up. If you try to explain to people what's coming, because it doesn't happen instantly, they tend to go back to sleep. The thing they need to understand, however, is that when it does hit a tipping point, a kind of critical mass, then it can unfold exceptionally quickly. Then it's very much like having the rug pulled out from under your feet."


Original Article

The Fuzzy Logic Of Useful Idiots

By Giordano Bruno

It hurts to be wrong. Not just emotionally, but physically, especially when it’s public, like swimming headfirst into a school of very ill-tempered jellyfish…..or maybe piranha. The horror of it is almost cinematic. The more artificially pumped your ego, or the more brainwashed with academic pretension, the more terrifying that moment of realization is, that moment when all your assumptions are dashed aside like a three-year-old’s alphabet blocks. To a certain point, it is understandable why so many people live in such violent denial, however, this does not detract from the perils of that denial…

Americans are masters of avoiding responsibility for bad assumptions. I have seen middle-aged women cry, actual tears, because they have been proven incorrect on something as simple as the price of dishwashing detergent at the grocery store. I have seen full-grown men throw wild-eyed tantrums and even threaten people with death because they couldn’t handle being wrong about the correct score of a football game. I once saw a man froth at the mouth and shout vicious obscenities for 20 minutes straight because he refused to believe there where more than three ‘Jaws’ movies (I wish ‘Jaws: The Revenge’ didn’t exist either, but I’m not going to have a spasm over it). I have seen little old ladies physically attack people because they were embarrassed to be wrong, not realizing that their response was far more humiliating and self deprecating than just being “mistaken”. I have, indeed, seen the glory of overgrown babies in action.

America is not the only culture prone to this, Americans just happen to be the worst losers. We lash out when we are wrong, while most Europeans tend to intellectualize ideas that challenge their false perceptions, as if they are “above” even considering them. They are masters of rationalizing the facts away, while we are masters of brutalizing those people who are messengers of the facts.

Some of these unfortunate members of our society are merely lemmings; sheep following each other mindlessly without questioning the purpose or the destination. They are spectators in world events, and nothing more. While others are far more dangerous because they take an active role in the shaping of events, not knowing that their idiocy is contributing to the suppression of the truth and even the downfall of our nation. They help elitists to dismantle dissent and in the process damage their own future. It sounds insane, and in a way, they ARE psychologically ill, but in a manner that has been deemed tolerable (or even practical) by society. We call these people “Useful Idiots”.

How does one know when he has encountered such a person? How does he cope? Let’s examine some of the telltale signs of the useful idiot…

Just Smart Enough To Be Stupid…

Learning is a full time job, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, until the very moment your ticker tocks and you find yourself sporting a cloud and a harp. Some people, though, seem to think that retirement on learning starts at around age twenty. Useful idiots are commonly men and women who are intelligent enough to retain information but not driven enough to research its validity, or to follow a thought through to its logical conclusion. They very often work in professional fields such as law, business, medicine, politics, engineering, media, entertainment, etc. (though there are many others in these fields who are not caught up in their own delusional worlds). These are people in a position to influence others just by the virtue of their work, regardless of how clueless they actually are.

Lacking knowledge is not such a terrible crime as long as you are willing to admit that you do. There is always someone out there who is going to know more than you about some things, if not many things. That’s life. Useful idiots, on the other hand, are rarely willing to admit that they are lacking in any department. They usually have just enough knowledge to make themselves “convincing” to those who don’t recognize them for what they are. In this way they are a sort of mini-Chernobyl, waiting to spew radioactive waste (disinformation) at any given moment, mutating public opinion.

Their ability to think is limited to memorization. The problem with this way of viewing the world is that it excludes critical thought, intuition, empathy, and wisdom. It traps us in a box composed of all the things we have been TAUGHT, but keeps us from the things we could discover on our own. Useful idiots are walking talking toasters; all they take is bread, and all they make is toast (and the occasional pop tart). Frankly, I’m bored with toast.

One need only take into account the vast number of so called financial analysts in the mainstream media who denied there was any threat of economic collapse back in 2006/2007. How many of them stopped to consider the consequences of ignoring the facts because of their egomania and inability to think beyond their conditioning? How many lives and nest-eggs have been destroyed, or are waiting to be destroyed, because of them? How many of these useful idiots ever apologized for their blundering? I can’t think of any…

Reacting To The Truth, Instead Of Absorbing It…

Useful idiots talk, they don’t listen. They ask lots of questions, but never wait to hear your answers. For them, questions are not a search for information, but rather a method of antagonism. It is a way to keep everyone else on guard while making themselves feel superior. In this game, the useful idiot never has to expose his ignorance because he never has to enter into a meaningful dialogue with anyone who has an opposing view. All he has to do is attack, attack, attack.

I have seen all kinds of reactionary tactics from useful idiots, but I find that the most common one for the American brand is the application of overt bravado. They turn everything into a joke whether it is funny or not. Laughing at that which we don’t understand sometimes makes things less frightening, but it also makes us more passive. Dedicated clowns, for all their theatrics and daring, are generally impotent historical figures. How many clowns or comedians have ever really dared to break the establishment mold and aim a magnifying glass at the true absurdity of our system or our culture? How many have inspired legitimate and original thought? I can think of only a handful, and almost all of them remained tied back by the entertainment industry for their beliefs.

The clowns that are the most “successful” are those that follow the establishment guidelines and play on them as if they might dare break the barrier of lies, but they never do. In Medieval times, even the most blood thirsty king would allow the court jester to make jokes at his expense. Why? Because the jester was an inconsequential figure, a powerless and non-threatening being. A jester can verbally thrash a tyrant, but nothing ever really changes, because deep down, though they make us laugh, nobody really cares what clowns have to say. Now imagine a whole subsection of our country emulating this dynamic. Imagine all these people deluding themselves into thinking that being a slave isn’t all that bad, as long as you’re the funny slave.

When confronted with a truth that threatens their established world view, useful idiots will do anything to distract or derail the exchange. Making bad jokes, resorting to childish ridicule, ignoring cold hard logic, making threats, denying you are qualified to present the facts, even though the facts speak for themselves no matter who is relaying them, etc. Rarely will they confront the truth you present on its own terms. Instead, they will try to make YOU the issue of discussion, and not your information.

Skewed World View…

Is it really that hard to double check a piece of data to confirm whether or not it is true? Apparently, it must be, because so many Americans have decided to believe whatever they are told without a second thought as long as the guy telling them is in a suit or a white lab coat. If a guy in a lab coat told you that cyanide makes you more desirable to the opposite sex, would you slam down a glass before hitting the singles bar, or would you verify the info and actually research the damned subject before hand?

You might say “well cyanide is poison, everybody knows that!” Yes, people know that because they research it. But how many other poisons do Americans ingest daily because some official gave the thumbs up? Mercury (thimerosal), aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, fluoride, rBGH, Bisphenol-A, and numerous others. One stop at the computer would produce thousands of pages of research which shows the volatile nature of these chemicals and the consequences of exposure. Why do we contaminate our guts with this garbage on pure faith? Welcome to the realm of the useful idiot…

The useful idiot is not just the guy chugging down GMO milk filled with udder puss, anyone can do that and not be useful. No, the useful idiot is the FDA official or the corporately paid scientist who SELLS us on the purity of the milk. He’s the local dentist who laughs at you when you question the safety of all that fluoride accumulation in your bloodstream. She’s the nurse who threatens to call CPS because you don’t want your newborn baby injected with half a dozen mercury laced vaccines two months after they exit the womb. The useful idiot is the guy who received his standardized academic neuron rinse but never learned that the first rule of academia used to be ‘question everything’.

World view is really a battle between inherent conscience, common sense, and the conditioning of our era. Even a single root misconception, like the belief in the legitimacy of the false left/right political paradigm, could easily skew the whole of a person’s vision to a sea of truths. The useful idiot is not only conditioned himself, but he also becomes an agent of that conditioning in others. When confronted with a truth outside of his established world view, he almost short circuits. He has lived most of his life with the ideas and propaganda of others slogging around in his skull. To be faced with the possibility that all of that time, energy, and devotion, was worthless, is almost too much to bear.

Making A Difference, One Lost Freedom At A Time…

Sometimes the best qualities of good people are ironically the worst qualities in the useful idiot. Useful idiots love to participate…in anything…as long as it’s sanctioned by a recognizable organization. Bless their hearts, they just want to get out there and make a difference! Go team!

This is a serious issue with those on both sides of our fake political spectrum, left and right. How many people clamored to be a neo-con after 9/11, only to find that in their quest for public safety, they wrongly supported the weakening of Constitutional freedoms, the destabilization of our economy, not to mention the invasion of Iraq, a country that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 (even if you believe the official story) or any other terrorist attack in this country? How many liberals ran screaming like schoolgirls at a Justin Bieber concert towards the global warming and carbon tax scam, only to find out that the climate labs responsible for all the research they had been eating up without question was actually using contrived and in some cases completely fabricated data? I won’t even get into the Obama-fever thing, mainly because my stomach isn’t strong enough at the moment.

The problem with useful idiots is that they want to participate TOO much. So much that they’ll jump on any bandwagon that is well funded and flamboyant enough to peak their interest. They are joiners with highly superficial standards, like brownshirts, or lice. This is where they do their worst damage…

Participation, for the useful idiot, is not about making a difference; it is about feeling like they are making a difference. In some cases, it’s about “hope”, but not real or effective action. In other cases, it’s about vengeance and malice, but not justice or integrity. In either scenario, the key missing factor is the truth, which is neglected or traded for a quick boost in self esteem. This makes the useful idiot the prime target of elitist disinformation. Nearly all criminal actions by governments receive their primary support from this portion of the citizenry exactly because they are so ridiculously eager. They are the zombie ditch diggers of the globalist infrastructure, chopping away at our liberties in search of brains.

Confronting The Useful Idiot…

Why bother trying to communicate with these dimwits at all? Are they not the very definition of a lost cause? Perhaps. I can say with a certain authority, though, that some of them can be introduced to awareness, especially since I used to be one of them…

I was the Democrat putting up Kerry stickers and handing out buttons back in 2004. I was the guy who shut down any conservative viewpoint no matter how accurate or valid because Bush was the devil incarnate (and also because I was uninformed enough to believe that neo-cons were actually conservative). I was the guy at those protest rallies where no one including myself really understood the topics we were speaking out on. I knew corporations were the enemy, but I didn’t understand why. I knew the wars were dishonest, but I thought they were all about oil. I knew the economy was in trouble, but I barely knew what the Federal Reserve was, let alone fractional reserve banking or fiat currency. It took many years to fully remove my head from my ass, but I did. I see no reason why others could not do the same, given the right prompting.

The useful idiot has to be faced with queries he can’t weasel out of or deflect. That means continually asking him questions and demanding he support his responses with concrete proof. He has to be shown beyond a doubt that at least one of his precious ideals is unfounded and unsupported by the facts. Just one. After that, he can no longer assume that any of his other views are rock solid either. He will be forced to finally check his sources, which usually leads to a terrifying epiphany; he knows nothing! It’s like falling down a bottomless South American sinkhole with nothing to grab onto. I know, because I felt it once.

Eventually, he accepts the loss of his old identity, the foolish man that was so confident and certain, and moves on towards a frightening world where he must teach himself, instead of waiting around for others to teach him. The empowerment and the awe of this process is nearly indescribable, it has to be experienced to be understood. It’s like being able to see and to speak clearly for the first time. You never knew what you were missing because you had nothing to compare it to; only that unsettling knot at the pit of your stomach, telling you that something was very wrong. Now, to go back would be unthinkable, even hellish.

Nobody sees themselves as a useful idiot serving the interests of tyrants in the oppression of their fellow man. But, the fact remains that many Americans are in just such a position. You can hate them, you can even wish them ill, but don’t give up on them all. Contesting ignorance is not just the civic duty of the informed, it is also an act of compassion towards those who are not.

Original Article

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day 2010-Get out and Vote

Get Adobe Flash player

Get Adobe Flash player

For all day, up to the minute coverage, Listen to NewAmericaNow and The other Watchmen Hosts on the Radio Network


Do not leave your future in the hands of 21%


The Economy

Jobless Americans topped 15 million this year, according to the Labor Department. About 9 million others work part-time because their hours have been cut or they can't find full-time work. Many of these so-called underemployed workers will be casting ballots November 2.

Americans point to the troubled economy as their most important issue this year when deciding how to vote for Congress, according to a nationwide CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll. With 42 percent, the economy by far topped other key issues such as health care (with 17 percent), the deficit (13 percent) and education (9 percent.)

Washington first attacked the crisis in fall 2008, after a banking and real estate mess rocked Wall Street and sent housing values plummeting. Then unemployment numbers began soaring.

Wall Street financial firms were in such danger that the Democratic-controlled Congress and the Bush administration approved $700 billion to buy troubled mortgages and other assets to keep them afloat. Supporters said the businesses were "too big to fail": that if the companies were to fail, it would have a devastating effect across the economy.

In December, President Bush approved the use of the same fund for loans that would save U.S. automakers General Motors and Chrysler, which were drowning in debt. GOP lawmakers failed to persuade Bush instead to allow the automakers to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Voter anger

Many voters became angry later, when some of the bailed-out firms continued to hold events at pricey resorts or to use fancy corporate jets to ferry their executives, even to a congressional hearing on the bailout.

Later, Chrysler said it would not be repaying its $7.2 billion government loan because it was filing for bankruptcy. General Motors repaid its $4.7 billion U.S. loan by April 2010.

Poll: Angry voters may erupt in November

Issues discussed included ways to prevent companies from growing "too big to fail" -- and hammering out a process to shore up collapsing Wall Street banks.

In 2009, with a new administration in the White House, one of the first actions Congress took as unemployment increased was to pass a $787 billion economic stimulus bill with virtually zero GOP support. Republicans balked at the bill's price tag, saying it was full of unnecessary spending.

Track spending from the stimulus bill

More than a year later, the Obama administration said the bill has funded about 3 million jobs, while GOP opponents pointed to the nation's still-rising unemployment rate.

Tea Party names 'crowning moment' of irresponsibility

The rise of the Tea Party movement was partially fueled by anger over the stimulus bill, said Phillip Dennis, founder of the Dallas, Texas, group. The bill was "the crowning moment of decades of irresponsible government fiscal behavior," Dennis said.

Some Americans credited the bill with allowing them to have jobs. Others plainly labeled the legislation as "stupid." Some experts hailed it as a "last chance" for America's cities.

Democrat Rep. David Obey, widely regarded as the author of the stimulus bill and the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has chosen to retire in November. He probably would have faced a tough race against a GOP challenger in his Wisconsin home district.

Mounting costs from the bailout bills, the stimulus legislation and the $940 billion health care reform law have prompted voter concern about ballooning budget deficits.

House GOP leader: Let the deficit debate begin

The deficit is the amount of money the government spends over the amount of income it receives. In 2009, the deficit was about nine times the size of those of 2002 and 2007, when Republicans controlled the White House and at least one chamber of Congress, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

This year, the Obama administration is forecasting that the deficit will hit $1.56 trillion.

Obama lists seven ways to cut the deficit

A higher deficit costs Washington more money because it has to take out more loans to pay for the shortfalls. Paying interest on those loans will mean less available money to pay for goods, services and entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

A higher deficit also might increase the overall demand for loans because the government is borrowing a lot more of the total loan money that's available. This could make it harder for everybody else to get loans. Under certain conditions, this may result in higher loan interest rates.

Government Spending

In the wake of Congress' $787 billion economic stimulus bill and $700 billion TARP bailout legislation, fiscal conservatives are ringing alarm bells over how much Washington is spending beyond incoming revenue.

The federal budget deficit is expected to reach $1.56 trillion this fiscal year, up from a record $1.41 trillion in fiscal 2009, according to the Treasury Department.

To put it in perspective, the 2009 deficit is about nine times bigger than each of the 2002 and 2007 deficits, when Republicans controlled the White House and at least one chamber of Congress, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

But it's not the numbers that drive the debate over this issue. It's voter anger.

As reflected by the rise of the Tea Party movement, the emotional response to the ballooning deficit has been remarkable. It's been showing itself at the ballot boxes.

After Tea Partiers targeted three-term GOP Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah partly because he supported the 2008 TARP financial bailout, Republican delegates rejected Bennett at the state party convention in May. "The vote for the bailout was, in our opinion, pretty fiscally irresponsible," said Utah Tea Party activist David Kirkham.

In Kentucky, coming off a stunning primary victory against the GOP establishment, Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul said his party must change and react to the voters' mood.

"We need to be fiscally conservative," said Paul, who enjoyed support from national Tea Party leaders. "You know, when we were in charge, we doubled the deficit, but now that the Democrats are in charge, they're tripling the deficit. So they're not doing any better than we were, but when we were in charge we didn't do a very good job either."

Every dollar Uncle Sam spends that it doesn't have in the bank, it has to borrow. When the federal government has to borrow so much money, economists say it can lead to higher consumer interest rates for loans and perhaps rising prices for consumer goods and services. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said continued high deficits might threaten the nation's economic recovery.

For a few weeks earlier this year it seemed like two emotional political issues were butting heads on the Senate floor: the deficit versus unemployment benefits.

Another Kentucky Republican, Sen. Jim Bunning, whose seat Paul is running for, used his key Senate vote to single-handedly block extended unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousands of jobless Americans.

Bunning said he didn't want to vote for the $10 billion bill unless Congress would figure out a way to pay for it. It was several days before Bunning agreed to end his filibuster.

To deficit hawks Bunning was a hero, but his actions were harshly criticized by many jobless Americans.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, hasn't been shy about aiming criticism at Bunning.

"Where was my friend from Kentucky when we had two wars that were unpaid for during the Bush administration?" Reid asked. Reid also mentioned the Bush administration tax cuts, which Democrats say are unpaid for.

"We don't need lectures here on debt" from the GOP, Reid said. "There are poor people all over America who are desperate today."

Health Care

Sure, Democrats in Congress passed a sweeping health care reform bill, and President Obama signed it into law, but that by no means ends the issue for Election Day 2010.

Quite the opposite. With zero support for the $940 billion measure from both House and Senate Republicans, GOP leaders wasted no time using the health care law as an issue to hammer Democrats leading up to November 2.

Grass-roots Tea Party activists seized on the massive 2,700-page bill as a prime example of excessive government spending.

Republicans repeatedly warned that the plan will lead to a government takeover of America's private employer-based health care system. They also argued that it will lead to higher premiums and taxes while imposing harsh Medicare cuts and doing little to control spiraling medical costs.

Supporters countered that most consumers favor health care reform and that something must be done to protect an estimated 87 million uninsured Americans.

January's surprise Senate victory in Massachusetts by Tea Party-backed Republican Scott Brown struck a near-death blow to the bill. Brown's election ended Democrats' Senate supermajority, forcing supporters of the measure to craft unusual parliamentary strategy to win passage -- first in the House and then in the Senate.

After the measure became law and a "fixes" bill was passed along with it, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, vowed to "repeal and replace" the law if his party takes control of the House and Senate on Election Day.

Minutes after Obama signed the bill, attorneys general representing 13 states filed suit in a federal court in Pensacola, Florida. The complaint called the legislation an "unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of the states" and asked a judge to block its enforcement.

States behind the suit were Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington. Virginia filed a similar suit separately.

McConnell's House counterpart, Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, argued that Democratic leaders had betrayed the trust of the public by pushing ahead with a bill that lacks broad public support.

But a March CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll taken shortly after the bill became law suggested that support was evenly divided. When asked whether Congress should repeal it and replace it with new proposals, 47 percent of respondents said yes, and 50 percent said no.

Phased in over 10 years, the law requires most Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine. Larger employers will be required to provide coverage or risk financial penalties.

Total individual out-of-pocket expenses will be capped, and insurers will be barred from denying coverage based on gender or pre-existing conditions. An estimated 32 million additional Americans will be covered as a result of the new law.

Several issues rose and fell to divide Congress during the grueling eight-month fight to hammer out the legislation, including whether to include a government-run public health insurance option. Another fight across the aisle concerned "budget reconciliation," a parliamentary procedure that would have allowed a vote in the Senate and circumvented a GOP filibuster.

At the 11th hour, the abortion issue nearly derailed the bill. Anti-abortion Democrats said the legislation would allow federal funding for abortions beyond the current limits of cases of rape or incest, or if the woman's life is in danger.

Obama promised to sign an executive order ensuring that existing limits on the federal funding of abortion remain in place, and the Democrats switched their votes to "yes" on the bill.

Democrats fought accusations that they weren't including the GOP in their creation of the bill. Obama said he would consider several Republican ideas. But McConnell said the ideas Obama considered were little more than a few items "inadequately addressed."

McConnell called for Congress to re-start deliberations from scratch. "If the majority manages to jam this [bill] through ... it will be the issue in every single race in America this fall," he promised.

Illegal Immigration

Immigration reform returned to the U.S. political arena in 2010, three years after it was knocked down by a much-debated Senate vote. The issue drew national outrage and support after Arizona enacted a state law that allows police to ask for proof of legal U.S. residency.

The law initially allowed police to ask anyone for proof of legal U.S. residency, based solely on a police officer's suspicion that the person might be in the country illegally. Arizona lawmakers soon amended the law so that officers could check a person's status only if the person had been stopped or arrested for another reason.

Critics say the law will lead to racial profiling, while supporters say it involves no racial profiling and is needed to crack down on increasing crime involving illegal immigrants.

Some Hispanic Americans support law

Arizona's Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, who's locked in a competitive re-election campaign, signed the bill into law and revived an intense national debate on what to do about illegal Mexican immigrants and undocumented workers in the United States.

The law has become an issue in a competitive primary race for U.S. Senate as Republican Sen. John McCain fights to continue representing Arizona on Capitol Hill.

McCain co-sponsored the 2007 Senate immigration reform bill, which called for tightening border security and creating a path to citizenship for some of the nation's 12 million illegal immigrants. But faced with a tough challenge by former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, McCain has reversed his position on offering citizenship to illegal immigrants.

The 2007 bill failed partly because many conservatives rallied against it, saying it offered "amnesty" to illegal immigrants. Observers have called the nation's failure to address immigration reform a travesty.

In July, President Obama pushed Congress to pass immigration reform legislation before the end of the year.

The president has described as "promising" an immigration reform plan outlined by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina.

In a statement, the lawmakers said their plan includes "biometric Social Security cards to ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs; fulfilling and strengthening our commitments on border security and interior enforcement; creating a process for admitting temporary workers; and implementing a tough but fair path to legalization" for illegal immigrants in the United States.

Reaction to the Arizona law prompted Obama to enter the fray, calling on Congress to begin work on a new immigration reform bill. The president, who called the law misguided, has also ordered 1,200 U.S. troops to deploy along the Mexican border.

The National Guard forces will help with drug enforcement and intelligence efforts until Customs and Border Protection can recruit and train additional officers and agents to serve on the border, an administration official said. McCain said the number fell short and called for 3,000 troops.

Reflecting their outrage about Arizona's new law, nearly 30 organizations have agreed to join an economic boycott of the state's $18.6 billion travel industry, including the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, People for the American Way, the Japanese American Citizens League and the Service Employees International Union.

Lawmakers from four other states have contacted the Immigration Reform Law Institute asking for help to draft language for bills like the Arizona bill. The group has declined to identify which states. The speaker of the Rhode Island House has said an Arizona copycat bill sponsored by a Democratic lawmaker will not be considered this session.

Elsewhere, prominent Senate and gubernatorial candidates who've weighed in on the Arizona law include Florida GOP Senate candidate Marco Rubio, who supports the measure, and California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, who said she supports Arizona's "need to protect their citizens."

Rubio has been accused of flip-flopping on his stance over the Arizona law.

Meg Whitman, a California GOP candidate for governor, has come out against the law, as has Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry.


U.S. education issues in 2010 boil down to two questions: how to fund cash-strapped state universities and how to fix so-called high school "drop-out factories."

Tuition at state-funded colleges and universities has skyrocketed as recession-starved states ask students to bear more of the cost of their education.

In one of the harshest examples, funding for the California State University system was reduced by nearly $1 billion for the academic years between 2008 and 2010.

Schools have responded by increasing fees, canceling classes, cutting student support programs and furloughing professors. California fees have increased 182 percent since 2002. Class waiting lists in the state have doubled or tripled.

In March, anger and dissatisfaction led to call for a nationwide "Day of Action" to defend education. Students, professors and others held protests in 33 states including California, Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida, Virginia and New York.

States are expected to wrestle with difficult budget decisions well into the future.

During Barack Obama's State of the Union address in February, the president promised to "provide the support necessary for all young Americans to complete college."

He set a new national goal for the United States to "once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world," by 2020.

At the pre-university level, the Obama White House has begun working with Congress to change the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind Act, which has been accused of being under-funded and inflexible. It set up a regimen of state reading and math tests for students in third through eighth grades, intended to identify failing schools.

These early years of schooling have long-term consequences. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a Senate education committee earlier this year that 27 percent of American high schoolers drop out and that 40 percent of the country's "young people" earn a two- or four-year college degree.

"If we're serious about preparing our nation's young people to compete in a global economy, we must, we must do better than this," Duncan told committee members.

How should we fix broken schools?

Duncan wants to shift the focus of No Child Left Behind from singling out underperforming schools -- including what he often calls "dropout factories" -- to fostering a "race to the top" to reward successful reforms.

The proposed revisions promise that low-performing schools that fail to improve will be asked to show "dramatic change," but states and school districts will be held accountable for those shortcomings as well.

The revisions support the expansion of public charter schools and calls for giving states and school districts additional flexibility in how they spend federal dollars "as long as they are continuing to focus on what matters most -- improving outcomes for students."

Educator reveals the key to parental involvement

The top Republican on the House education and labor committee, Rep. John Klein, R-Minnesota, expressed concern that tools to help students at struggling schools, such as tutoring, would move from required to optional.

Generally, the House GOP policy on federal education regulation calls on local educators and states to set "academic standards, testing systems, and curriculum ... without coercion from the federal government." Klein expressed concern for "increased intrusion into our schools" by some of the proposed changes to No Child Left Behind.

The Obama administration's $50 billion proposed education budget adds $3 billion in funding to help schools meet these revised goals, with the possibility of an additional $1 billion if the overhaul plan passes Congress.

Duncan has led the administration's stimulus bill-funded "Race to the Top" program, which rewards states for aggressively reforming their education systems. Its total fund of $4.35 billion is to be awarded in two phases to an undetermined number of states. In March, Duncan announced that Delaware will receive $100 million under the program and Tennessee will receive $500 million.

Texas textbooks

Texas became the focal point of an education debate this year when the State Board of Education approved controversial changes to social studies curricula introduced by its conservative members.

Months of ideological debate over the guidelines drew scrutiny since conservative members of the board introduced the changes in 2009 in what they considered an effort to bring "balance" to the curriculum.

Among the approved amendments, according to the Texas Education Agency: discussions of the "solvency of long-term entitlements, such as Social Security and Medicare;" and an examination of why "the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America and guaranteed its free exercise by saying that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and compare and contrast this to the phrase 'separation of church and state.' "

What is taught in Texas often is taught in other states because publishers typically tailor textbooks for Texas, one of the largest buyers of textbooks in the country.

However, digital publishing has diminished the state's influence on textbooks nationally and curriculum is always going to be decided at the local level, Education Secretary Duncan said.


The worst oil spill in U.S. history has heated up the debate about how to feed the nation with cleaner, safer energy.

The argument over whether to "drill baby drill" -- the 2008 GOP campaign mantra -- returned in April after a deadly oil rig blast spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The disaster threatened jobs in the nation's seafood and tourism industries and hundreds of miles of sensitive wetlands, marshes and wildlife.

The spill came as President Obama was backing expanded offshore oil drilling and as Congress considered wide-ranging energy legislation aimed at cutting pollution and U.S. dependency on foreign oil.

Before BP's Gulf oil disaster, Obama's late March proposal called for opening swaths of U.S. coastal waters in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural gas drilling. After the spill, Obama said offshore drilling is key to "our energy future," but it can move forward only with assurances that the Gulf disaster won't be repeated. The president halted drilling permits for new wells and ordered inspections of all deepwater operations.

Former GOP vice presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin -- who in 2008 called on the U.S. to "drill baby drill" in the protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- tweeted that Obama should offset his drilling moratorium by "correspondingly" allowing "more onshore drilling, including ANWR reserves. Domestic oil's still required in US industry."

Senate Democrats gave up on their goal of passing a slimmed-down energy bill before August recess.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blamed unified Republican opposition to the proposal.

"It's a sad day when you can't find a handful of Republicans to support a bill that would create 70,000 clean-energy jobs, hold BP accountable, and look at a future as it relates to what BP did."

Republicans pointed at Reid.

"Sen. Reid is predictably blaming Republicans for standing in the way of a bill that he threw together in secret and without input from almost any other member of the Senate," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the top Republican on the energy committee. "Process alone guaranteed its failure, although substance would have as well had Sen. Reid actually brought his bill up for debate or a vote."

The Democratic bill had been stripped of its most controversial components such as limits on carbon emissions.

The remaining legislation would have eliminated a $75-million cap on economic damages that offshore oil drillers would be responsible for. It would have reformed federal government oversight of offshore drilling. It encouraged the use of natural gas engines in commercial trucks; and it promoted high efficiency appliances in homes.

Republicans planned to offer an alternative bill that included lifting the Obama administration's blanket moratorium on deepwater drilling, setting up a bipartisan commission with subpoena power to investigate the Gulf oil disaster and propose reforms, and allowing for revenue sharing for states that permit offshore drilling.

An energy bill passed last year by the House of Representatives included a controversial cap-and-trade system. The system would set a price for greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, and polluters would obtain and trade credits for emissions over a set threshold.

Republicans and oil and coal producers oppose such a plan. Supporters say it's the best way to begin reducing U.S. dependence on fossil fuels.

Would a nuclear power comeback be a good thing?

Obama has been a key figure in energy talks among lawmakers.

In late June, he met with a bipartisan group of senators at the White House to discuss passing an energy and climate change bill this year.

The president had expressed hope that something could be done.

"There was agreement on the sense of urgency required to move forward with legislation, and the president is confident that we will be able to get something done this year," the White House said in a statement.

Obama told senators that he believed the best way to make a transition to a clean-energy economy is with a bill that "makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America's businesses by putting a price on pollution," the statement said.


Like shifting weight on a seesaw, the Pentagon moved the lion's share of U.S. war troops in Iraq to Afghanistan in 2010, to reflect the nation's changing war strategy. Just months after Obama promised to reduce U.S. forces in Iraq, he faced a much-debated decision last year on whether to increase troops in Afghanistan.

Supporters of the buildup said the strategy would bring a swifter end to the war, by allowing the United States to more quickly hand over security responsibility to Afghan forces. Opponents complained that the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai was corrupt and had proven to be an unreliable partner.

The nine-year U.S.-led war against the Taliban and al Qaeda has claimed the lives of more than 1,070 American troops in both hostile and non-hostile deaths. Following the fiery Capitol Hill debate, Obama ordered an additional 30,000 forces to deploy to Afghanistan.

Leadership of the Afghan war became a political bombshell in June, when Rolling Stone reported that the war's U.S. commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, had made politically explosive remarks about key administration officials. Among the reported comments, McChrystal and his staff imagined ways of dismissing Vice President Joe Biden.

Obama said McChrystal's conduct "does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general" and undermined both civilian authority and trust.

Obama accepted McChrystal's resignation and asked Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, to take over McChrystal's role.

Under Obama's plan for the Afghanistan war, the United States will begin reducing troops in Afghanistan beginning in July 2011.

In July, top House Democrats struggled to maintain support among more liberal lawmakers to pay for the Afghan war. Although the House gave final approval for almost $33 billion to fund U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, 102 Democrats joined 12 Republicans in voting against it.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wisconsin, retiring chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and a reluctant supporter of Obama's Afghan buildup in 2009, said he opposed the emergency funding bill because of questions over the prospects for U.S. success in Afghanistan.

"The Afghan government has not demonstrated the focused determination, reliability and judgment necessary to bring this effort to a rational and successful conclusion," said Obey.

The federal government has "appropriated over $1 trillion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to date, more than $700 billion to Iraq and $300 billion for Afghanistan," Obey noted.

"To those who say we must pay it because we're going after al Qaeda, I would note that Afghanistan is where al Qaeda used to be," he said. "Today, there are fewer than 100 al Qaeda in Afghanistan, which was publicly confirmed last month by CIA chief (Leon) Panetta. Al Qaeda has relocated to other countries and regions."

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, called the Afghanistan war policy "deeply flawed."

"Occupying Afghanistan in support of a corrupt and incompetent government will continue to claim the lives of our soldiers," McGovern said. "It will continue to bankrupt us, and it will not enhance our national security. ... It is a mistake to give this administration yet another blank check for this war."

The House also voted against a non-binding resolution that called for the withdrawal of all U.S. military personnel from Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan. Currently, the United States has more than 200 armed service members in Pakistan.

Fueling liberal discontent with the war effort was the release by the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks of roughly 76,000 U.S. military and diplomatic reports about Afghanistan filed from 2004 to January 2010.

McGovern is one of a bipartisan trio of lawmakers who has called on the commander in chief to announce an exact timetable for complete withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"United States military strategy in Afghanistan is not in our best national security interest and makes us dependent upon an unreliable partner in the Afghan government," said a letter to Obama signed by McGovern, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin and Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina.

Some political analysts wonder if Obama's war strategy might diminish voter turnout by anti-war liberals -- and help Republicans on Election Day.

"I think the Democratic base -- the danger is it becomes a no-show in 2010," Rep. Tom Andrews, an anti-war activist and Maine Democrat, told CNN.

Washington has pressed Karzai to clean up alleged corruption in the government. Karzai's re-election victory was tainted by accusations of voter fraud. During his inauguration speech, Karzai promised to do more to fight corruption.

He has said that by the end of 2010, Afghan forces will be able to take over some security responsibilities from international troops. Karzai has said he would like the Afghan government to have full responsibility for security by 2014.

Iraq: U.S. combat role ending but issues remain

In Iraq, where U.S. troops have been deployed for seven years, Obama has pledged that U.S. forces will be pared down to between 35,000 and 50,000 troops by August 31, two months before U.S. voters head to the polls.

War casualties have plummeted.

In the past four years, attacks on coalition forces in Iraq have dwindled to about 100 per week from nearly 2,000 per week in 2006, according to the Brookings Institute, a Washington think-tank. Brookings' Iraq index estimates that there were 34,500 Iraqi civilian casualties in 2006. In 2009, 2,800 Iraqi civilians died violently.

Obama has promised to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. Until then, the U.S. will "retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions: Training, equipping and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq."

After that, as Obama said when he announced the drawdown, Iraq's future is its own responsibility and the end of the war will "enable a new era of American leadership and engagement in the Middle East."

But many U.S. veterans of the war will bear the wounds of their service for years to come. Doctors are diagnosing hundreds of thousands of cases of post-traumatic stress disorder among returning war vets. Some soldiers report difficulty getting treatment.

For that, Obama has pledged to invest in new ways of identifying and treating combat injuries including PTSD and traumatic brain injury -- now known as the "signature" wounds of the war.

Several 2010 House and Senate candidates served in the Iraq war and are including Iraq or veteran-related issues as part of their agenda.

The government is reporting higher rates of homeless women veterans -- many of whom have children in their care. Congress is considering several bills aimed at helping veterans with housing and child care issues.

The reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq is also prompting questions about the Pentagon bidding process for private military support contracts.

Bipartisan heads of the Senate Homeland Security committee complained in May about what appeared to be decreased competition for a $568 million contract for support work in Iraq that was awarded to KBR, which had held the previous contract for services.

The contract work, for everything from cleaning laundry to preparing food and providing fuel for troops and contractors in Iraq, covers the period between September 1, 2010 and December 31, 2011.


While lawmakers debated how the Obama administration should prosecute accused terrorists, a pair of failed terrorist plots in the United States fueled political fires on the issue.

The U.S. case against accused September 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed highlighted the nation's deep political divide over whether terrorist suspects should be tried by military tribunals or in civilian courts under constitutional law.

Critics, including former members of the Bush administration and other Republicans, argue that civil liberties under the Constitution should not be part of terrorist prosecutions and that al Qaeda terrorists should be treated as war criminals.

But Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder has said each case should be treated individually.

Critics slammed the White House anti-terrorism policy.

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts, turned the issue into a much-repeated quote after his stunning Tea Party-fueled victory in the largely Democratic state.

"I believe that our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation. They do not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime," Brown said during his victory speech in January. "In dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them."

Location debated

Another part of the terrorism argument involves where such suspects should be tried. The Obama administration's attempt in 2009 to try Mohammed in New York brought pushback from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other local leaders worried about the massive security and logistics involved.

Officials announced in December that they were preparing an Illinois prison to house fewer than 100 prisoners who would be transferred from the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Meanwhile, Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Virginia, sponsored legislation in Congress aimed at blocking federal civilian trials in the September 11 case.

But the administration may reverse U.S. policy on the issue, as White House attorneys consider their next move.

A failed December 25 plot to bomb a U.S. airliner from the Netherlands as it approached Detroit, Michigan, was followed five months later by another botched terrorist plot, this one to set off a car bomb in an SUV parked in New York's Times Square.

Charges filed against Faisal Shahzad, 30, paint him as a would-be terrorist who sought explosives training in Pakistan's volatile Waziristan region, where government forces have been working to root out Taliban militants.

Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan who was living in Connecticut, was arrested at New York's John F. Kennedy airport after boarding a flight for Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Inside the Nissan Pathfinder, authorities found gasoline, propane tanks, fireworks and non-explosive fertilizer. Investigators also found a set of keys, one of which opened Shahzad's Connecticut home. Shahzad has pleaded guilty.

Although authorities arrested suspects in both cases, that didn't totally deflect criticism away from the Obama administration's national security infrastructure.

Obama's top intelligence official, Dennis Blair, resigned in May. Two days earlier, the Senate Intelligence Committee had released a report that sharply criticized the National Counterterrorism Center, overseen by Blair's office, for failing to properly coordinate intelligence activities to detect the alleged attempted Christmas Day airline bombing in advance.

The report said the center was "not organized adequately to fulfill its missions."

In addition, the report said, other problems allowed Nigerian suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, 23, to board a flight bound for Detroit. AbdulMutallab, who was issued a U.S. visa in 2008, is accused of carrying an explosive device that failed to detonate and instead set his clothes on fire.

He has pleaded not guilty.

A federal security bulletin obtained by CNN said AbdulMutallab claimed that the device "was acquired in Yemen, along with instructions as to when it should be used."

AbdulMutallab's father, a retired Nigerian bank executive, notified the U.S. Embassy weeks before the incident, saying he feared that his son went to Yemen to participate in "some kind of jihad," according to a senior U.S. administration official.

In May's Senate Intelligence Committee report, 14 "points of failure" were identified in the incident. Most of them had been raised previously by intelligence officials, including the failure of the State Department to revoke the suspect's U.S. visa, a breakdown in disseminating all information to key agencies and the failure to conduct necessary searches for information.

Blair responded to the report by noting changes made after the Christmas incident, including creation of a National Counterterrorism Center analytical unit dedicated to following up on terrorist threat information.

However, Blair's statement noted that "institutional and technological barriers remain that prevent seamless sharing of information."

Homegrown radicals

In May, the Obama administration released its first National Security Strategy, a 52-page outline of the president's strategic approach and priorities, as required by Congress every four years.

This year's document combined homeland security and national security for the first time, focusing not only on threats internationally but on the threat of homegrown radicals inspired and recruited by al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda, said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, is less capable of using safe havens for training abroad and is now "trying to inspire Americans to carry out attacks on the U.S."

Federal, state and local governments will use intelligence, expanded community engagement and development programs to help local communities address the radicalization of Americans before they join al Qaeda, Rhodes said.