Larry Flynt

Posts Tagged ‘Obama’


Monday, April 25th, 2011

Interview by Mark Johnson
for HUSTLER Magazine – June 2011

Investigative journalist and political commentator Webster Griffin Tarpley is used to controversy. Going wherever his research leads him, he has questioned the events of 9/11, challenged the mythologies of Barack Obama and tackled the massive bank fraud at the heart of the economic meltdown. A graduate of Princeton University and a former Fulbright Scholar, Tarpley gained wide notoriety when he went after Bush the First in George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography. More exposés followed, including 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA and Obama: The Postmodern Coup—Making of a Manchurian Candidate.

Surviving the CataclysmTarpley’s latest book, Surviving the Cataclysm: Your Guide Through the Greatest Financial Crisis in Human History, lays out the real causes of our new economic depression and calls for a truly American solution.

HUSTLER: Is there any hope for Obama?

WEBSTER TARPLEY: Obama has been a catastrophic President. First of all, he’s a warmonger. Under Obama we’ve had more combat troops in the field than we ever had under [George W.] Bush. That means Iraq and Afghanistan, now a third war in Pakistan and a possible fourth war with Iran.

Contrary to popular belief, Obama is also a union buster. What he did to the United Auto Workers as part of the Detroit automobile bailout was to loot its union finances and send the money to Wall Street. The UAW was forced to swallow cuts in wages and benefits that degrade its members to the level of nonunion workers. The union also agreed to hand over healthcare assets to the hedge fund hyenas that now own huge stakes of our automakers. Obama’s car czar, Steve Rattner, notes in his new book that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s motto during the negotiations was “Fuck the UAW.” Obama is now using charter schools, merit pay and denial of tenure to bust the teachers’ unions.

My biggest critique of Obama is that he’s a Wall Street puppet. Look at the gaggle he has around him: Tim Geithner and Larry Summers [who recently resigned ] are disciples of Bob Rubin of Goldman Sachs and Citibank. Obama is a representative of the interests of the large Wall Street banks.We hear that he’s a socialist. That’s absolutely absurd. He serves the banks. My criticism of Obama comes from his left. Look at Obama compared to the positive tradition of the Democratic Party. Franklin D. Roosevelt created Social Security, an absolutely successful program. What’s Obama’s relation to that? He wants to destroy it, privatize it. The goal of his Bowles-Simpson Commission is to carry out a wrecking job on Social Security.

The crowning achievement of Lyndon B. Johnson’s career was Medicare. Obama has gutted it with $500 billion in cuts as part of his healthcare bill, which will lead to further rationing of care.

The difference between Obama and Bush is that Bush was an open, brutal reactionary and warmonger, but Obama does it all by deception, by duplicity. That’s why people have difficulty understanding the way he operates.

If the Democrats do not produce a challenger to Obama in the [2012] primaries, the Democratic Party is going to be clinically defunct.


What happened to our economy?

We have a world economic depression, similar to the 1930s but worse. It’s not a normal business-cycle event, not simply a boom and bust. It’s a disintegration of the U.S. and British banking systems and of the dollarbased system that the world has lived under since the 1940s.

Right-wingers like to say the depression was caused by poor people who took out subprime mortgages, and when they defaulted, that brought down the entire Anglo-American banking system. That’s just a fantastic story. Rather, what happened was a panic in the world derivatives market.

Derivatives such as collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps and structured investment vehicles are very complex things, hard for the average person to understand. It’s something like this: If we have the horse Seabiscuit running in the ninth race at Belmont Park one afternoon under the old system, whoever bets on Seabiscuit can either win or lose their money. Those losses are relatively limited.

Now imagine there’s a horse called Subprime running, and Wall Street decides they’re going to bet a quadrillion in derivatives on Subprime in the ninth. Notice, they don’t buy the horse. They don’t even go to the track; they do it through a floating bookie operation. If Subprime loses, that’s going to bring down the New York banking system. You wouldn’t blame poor Subprime; you would say it was criminal for these lunatics to put all those resources on such a shaky vehicle.

Derivatives were illegal in the United States from 1936 until 1982 under the New Deal Commodity Exchange Act. Then there was a process of legalizing them in which Ronald Reagan, Phil Gramm, Alan Greenspan and others were involved. Because of this, by 2007 we had a worldwide bubble of about $1.5 quadrillion in toxic derivatives, compared to a world gross domestic product of about 65 trillion. That is a black hole of bankruptcy and economic destruction. There’s not enough money in the world to bail that out.


Are we in a new Great Depression?

This is a world economic depression. It’s useful to go back and look at 1929 and the years after that. The Great Depression started with the stock panic in October 1929, but that was just the beginning. The second wave was a banking crisis in Europe in 1931.

Compare that to the timeframe from 2008 to 2010, and you see that we’re going through something similar. In 2008 we had a banking panic in New York that destroyed the entire U.S. banking system, which was then put on life support through the bailout. In 2010 we had a European banking crisis.

Countries are now on the verge of a new currency war, trying to drive down the price of their currencies. That is also what happened in 1931. The idea is, if you can reduce the value of your currency, your existing debts are less of a burden, and you can export easier. It doesn’t work though because it spreads the depression to the entire world. The question debated now is: Will we have a deflationary crash, like the U.S. in 1932, when commodity and real estate prices plummeted, or will we have a hyperinflationary takeoff? I think we’re likely to have the worst of both: a hyperinflationary depression, meaning a collapse in the dollar’s purchasing power combined with a collapse in overall economic activity—an extreme form of the stagflation we saw in the 1970s. That would mean all kinds of businesses closing, unemployment at 35% and prices going wild. It would happen worldwide; that brings social chaos. If you look at the 1930s, you see the succession: depression, dictatorship, world war. We’re still in the depression phase.


Your opponents would say the free market will fix the crisis.

The notion of a free market is one of the most fantastic fabrications in modern political life. We have never had a free market. Indeed, the whole United States was built on the negation of that. The government acts to promote, foster and facilitate economic development, carried out largely through privately owned companies.

The market never delivered the basic prerequisites of modern life in terms of decent standards of living and decent working conditions. That took mass struggle. You would not have an eight-hour day and a 40-hour week if you waited for somebody to grant that to you. There are reactionaries today who think that child labor laws and the minimum wage are unconstitutional. These people are working for reactionary, superrich interests. The responsibility for our current depression goes to the [free-market theories of] the Chicago School of Milton Friedman and ultimately to the Austrian School of Friedrich August von Hayek and Ludwig von Mises—economic charlatans. Henry Clay, the 19th-century congressman, senator and secretary of state who was praised by Lincoln and JFK, coined the term the “American System” in 1824. He pushed for a protective tariff, a national bank and internal infrastructural improvements. That’s the kind of alternative we need today.

We’re told we have to dump the New Deal and take up the poisonous foreign doctrine of the free market, which is not successful anywhere. The American System is the real basis of life in the United States.

How do you get out of the depression once you’re in it?

The first thing is take steps to stop speculation. Go back to what we had successfully from 1936 to 1982, which is a ban on certain kinds of derivatives. The collateralized debt obligation is in many ways the most destructive; that is what brought down Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch. That should be outlawed.

The other one that should be banned is the credit default swap, which is a bet on whether or not somebody else is going to go bankrupt. That should be illegal for two reasons: At face value it’s gambling, so it should be illegal under the gambling laws. And if you claim that it’s insurance, anybody issuing a credit default swap who is not an insurance company should be shut down because they’re issuing them without registering as an insurance company and without the capital requirements. Derivatives haven’t been outlawed because Obama’s Wall Street cronies, along with the procorporate Congress, will block anything the banks don’t want.

…continue reading in HUSTLER Magazine – June 2011.


Saturday, April 16th, 2011

“It is well enough 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

Report by Tyler Downey

Financial catastrophe. Double-digit unemployment. Home foreclosures. An everwidening gulf between the extremely rich and the rest of us. Control of government and media in the hands of a select group of elites. Wall Street destroying the middle class. Are these the harsh realities that face Americans today? Absolutely. But they’ve always been offshoots of crony capitalism, which has a long history of wreaking havoc on this country. Whether it was the railroad bubble of 1893, the rampant financial malfeasance of the Roaring Twenties that led to the Great Depression, the dot-com crash of the late 1990s or the current real estate-driven mess we find ourselves in now, Wall Street speculation and corruption have been at the heart of America’s economic crises.

It takes an extremely courageous and patriotic leader to stand up to the Wall Street banking cartels. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was such a man. When he was elected President in 1932, America was beset by the worst financial crisis it had ever known. Despite assurances from the bankers that the Federal Reserve System (formed in 1913) would forever prevent the panics and economic upheaval that had previously struck the country, the Great Depression of the 1930s nearly wiped out the American middle class.

Seeing the damage inflicted by an outof- control Wall Street, FDR took drastic steps to curb the bankers’ influence. “We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering,” he declared during a campaign speech at New York City’s Madison Square Garden in 1936. “They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me— and I welcome their hatred.”

The robber barons certainly didn’t want Roosevelt, a Democrat, reelected. Once FDR took office in 1933, chief counsel Ferdinand Pecora—a former New York City prosecutor—was given the green light to rev up the Senate Banking Committee’s investigation into the practices that had triggered the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Pecora ultimately concluded: “Had there been full disclosure of what was being done in furtherance of these schemes, they could not long have survived the fierce light of publicity and criticism. Legal chicanery and pitch darkness were the banker’s stoutest allies.”

Pecora uncovered stock offerings at discounted prices to politicians, the selling of bad loans to unsuspecting investors and the fact that J.P. Morgan Jr. and his partners had paid no income taxes in 1931 and 1932. The president of Citigroup was forced to resign. As Ron Chernow explained in a 2009 New York Times article, it was Pecora’s inquiry that paved the way for the legislation that followed.

Franklin D. Roosevelt first ordered the Treasury Department to close all banks that had been reckless with people’s money. There would be no bailout for them. He then signed into law the Banking Act of 1933, better known as the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated investment and commercial banking. No longer could banks speculate with money that customers had deposited into their private accounts.

FDR also pushed legislation making it much harder for banks to repossess family homes and farms. He instituted the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which safeguarded depositors’ accounts and thus restored public confidence in the nation’s banks. FDR introduced regulation into nearly every sector of the economy— energy, labor, trade—to ensure that the middle class was protected from the predations of crony capitalism.

In his 1944 State of the Union address, Roosevelt even proposed an Economic Bill of Rights. “To assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness,” it basically stipulated that no citizen should be denied employment (with a living wage), “a decent home,” “adequate medical care,” “a good education” and social security. It also called for an end to monopolies and cartels. Unfortunately, FDR died before this great goal could be realized, but his bold actions led to an unprecedented 50 years of prosperity for the American middle class.

Of course, Wall Street would fight back. appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united Abetted by massive campaign donations, media consolidation and good old-fashioned corruption, the robber barons have waged a 75-year war on the policies of FDR.

The tide turned in Wall Street’s favor with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. It was his administration that first allowed financiers to write laws that their servants on Capitol Hill enacted. How did the politicians become captives of the ruling class? Since 1990 the financial sector has spent over $2.5 billion on campaign donations alone, not including the astronomical amount spent on lobbying.

This is far and away the most money donated by a single industry—and it’s going to Republicans and Democrats! That’s why it’s impossible to differentiate between Ronald Reagan’s “deregulation” policies and those of Democrat Bill Clinton. Both Presidents were bought and paid for by Wall Street bankers. According to bestselling author Charles Geisst, the culmination of this silent war against the legacy of FDR was the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999. Thanks to Clinton, the robber barons came back in full force, and it took less than ten years to see the result of those efforts.

The Federal Reserve’s record-low interest rates had spawned a colossal real estate bubble. Freed from the regulations of FDR, Wall Street investment firms issued riskier and riskier loans. By 2008 the corrupt system became untenable. Ordinary Americans lost $17 trillion in retirement savings, announced Treasury Department chief economist Alan Krueger. When it all came crashing down, the bankers threatened to destroy the entire financial system if they didn’t get paid off.

Democrat Barack Obama was elected with a mandate to again make government work for the people, not Wall Street. However, his campaign received nearly $40 million in contributions from Wall Street entities. It appears that despite his promises and speeches, Obama is just another politician bought and paid for by the financial industry.

Even after securing his party’s Presidential candidacy in 2008, Obama supported President George W. Bush’s decision to hand over $700 billion of American taxpayer money—with no claw-backs, no oversight and no controls—to bail out Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, AIG and other firms. The recipients then spent about $114 million of our tax money in campaign donations in 2008 alone. They also planned to dole out roughly $14 billion in bonuses to executives.

…. Continues in HUSTLER Magazine – May 2011


Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

The people who supported you in 2008 wanted someone who would fight for them. They wanted real healthcare reform, real banking reform, an end to the expensive wars we’re waging and the restoration of our civil liberties. On issue after issue you’ve caved. Renewing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy is the final straw. This was a fight you could have won without suffering any collateral damage—and you didn’t even throw a punch.

I was delighted when you were elected. Now, like many other Americans, all I see is an ineffectual wimp. If you want a second term in office, you must win back the respect of the American people. From my vantage point it’s hard to see how you can do that.
Larry Flynt


Monday, September 20th, 2010


by Robert Scheer
for HUSTLER Magazine – July 2010

As you read these words in the future, some weeks after they were written, you may be hearing on your nightly news cast about a new law the President has just signed that promises to fundamentally reform the way banks operate and are regulated in order to protect individual consumers as well as the national and global economies. But it won’t change anything important. The banks will still have a license to steal.

That’s because, some two years after the free-falling investment house Bear Stearns tore a black hole in the thin-skinned super bubble pumped up by Wall Street speculators, Washington, D.C., has been completely unable to establish any authority over the banking industry it bailed out.

Trillions of taxpayer dollars were put at risk to buy the toxic assets that the banks bought and marketed with such abandon. The federal bailout saved most of the big banks from bankruptcy, they used the money to buy the assets of those that did fail, and at the end of the day the financial industry was more concentrated in a few hands than ever. By allowing it to get even bigger, we are being set up for the next crisis.

Not that politicians haven’t flapped their gums plenty, when convenient, about helping to protect Main Street from Wall Street predators. Even our normally reserved President has allowed himself to indulge a few hearty denunciations of “fat cats” now and again. Republicans meanwhile have opposed any effort to rein in Wall Street. The Democrats have not done much better.

That’s because the banking lobby owns both political parties—particularly now, after the Supreme Court committed the supreme absurdity of ruling that the big corporations are just like any ordinary citizen and that to control their buying of politicians would interfere with their free speech rights. Who are we kidding when it comes to the pretense of living in a democracy when even the puny limits on campaign financing have been eliminated, and more than ever it is money that talks?

When it comes to doing the bidding of Wall Street, it doesn’t matter much whether the Republicans or Democrats are in charge. After the banking meltdown there was no difference in the policy pursued by Barack Obama over that of George W. Bush. Both had nothing else to offer except throwing money at Wall Street while ignoring the pain of ordinary folks who were losing their jobs and homes. Both political parties kept the bailout gravy train rolling for Goldman Sachs, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and all the other good ol’ boy banks, while handing the keys to economic policy to the same array of slicksters that created this mess.

Whenever Obama started to get the least bit tough with the financial hustlers that got us into all of this, the big boys on Wall Street let the kids in Washington know who was boss. After Obama dared voice a desire for some return for ordinary taxpayers who footed the bailout bill, several of his Wall Street backers promptly—and publicly—shifted some political donations from Democrats to Republicans.

“Buyer’s remorse,” joked Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, apparently glad to sell his party to any bidder shifting its enthusiasm from the President they thought they had bought. For example, as the New York Times put it, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon “is a friend of President Obama’s from Chicago, a frequent White House guest and a big Democratic donor.” But even he was complaining to Obama about the President’s loose talk of reinstalling some post-Depression regulations stripped out of the law books during the Bush I and Clinton administrations. As if to punctuate the point, the Times said Dimon’s traditionally Democratic Party-leaning megabank was shifting its electoral cash sluices toward the GOP.

Joining Dimon in pressuring the President was Robert Wolf, chief of the U.S. division of the Swiss-owned bank UBS. Wolf, who plays golf and watches fireworks with the President, was appointed by Obama to the Presidential Economic Recovery Advisory Board, headed by former Fed chief Paul Volcker. Wolf was upset when Obama recently endorsed Volcker’s proposal for restoring the spirit of the Glass-Steagall Act by separating investment from commercial banking, as it was for six decades of financial stability before the big money people decided that stuff was old hat and for sissies.

Dimon and Wolf were just being cautious; they can’t be too worried. After all, take the mask off the Obama candidacy and there was always a deeply disturbing reality that his massive Internet-driven grassroots contributor base concealed: Obama was the first major party Presidential candidate since Richard Nixon to base his campaign fundraising exclusively on private rather than public funds.

The appearance of all those coins flowing in from the common folk denied the harsh reality that Obama’s campaign contributions established him as the darling of Wall Street financiers every bit as much as George W.Bush. Pity that We the People, that majority of Americans forced to pay dearly for Wall Street’s scamming, never got the populist in the White House we thought we had elected.

Before serving 30 years as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, Robert Scheer spent the late 1960s as Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts magazine. Now editor of, Scheer has written such hard-hitting books as The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America and his latest, The Great American Stick-Up: Greedy Bankers and the Politicians Who Love Them.

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Friday, September 17th, 2010


by Nat Hentoff
for HUSTLER Magazine – July 2010

When barely known Republican Scott Brown took the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, it was front-page news that shook the White House. The Democrats had lost their 60-vote hammer to stop Republican filibusters. Also, the new senator had the “common man “aura, campaigning across Massachusetts in his pickup truck. And Brown won a strong majority of the state’s large bloc of independent voters.

But how independent of the Bush-Cheney legacy—now vigorously continued by Obama—of bypassing the Constitution is this guy? Right after Brown’s victory I discovered that he supports water boarding. This form of torture—making an interrogated prisoner believe he is about to be drowned—is illegal under the U.S. War Crimes Act of 1996, the Torture Act of 2000and the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which the U.S. signed and ratified.

In his acceptance speech, moreover, Senator Brown showed multidimensional ignorance by proclaiming that our Constitution does “not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime.” But the Supreme Court’s 2008 Boumedienev. Bush decision granted Guantanamo prisoners the right, under our Constitution, to file habeas corpus petitions to make the government justify their imprisonment. And then the shining new senator also harrumphed that “in dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them—not lawyers to defend them.”

But how do we know, under our rule of law, that individuals taken into custody are actually terrorists until there are lawyers to represent them? And where did Senator Brown get the notion that our tax dollars are going to such defenders of accused terrorists as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights and various lawyers in Washington firms who volunteer to represent them?

Also, Brown is emphatically against “giving new rights to terrorists.” Again, shouldn’t we first find out if they are terrorists, and which “new rights” does he have in his cluttered mind?

So far the media has been Scott Brown’s cheerleader. However, I have a grave question that I hope the elite Washington press corps asks the gladiator senator: Does he believe that a President of the United States has the legal authority to order, without going to any judge, the targeted assassination of an American citizen considered to be involved with al-Qaeda or other direct terrorist threats to our country?

On February 3, 2010, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair declared that President Barack Obama does have the authority to assassinate such Americans. Admiral Blair was reacting to a January 27, 2010, front-page Washington Post report by Pulitzer Prize-winner Dana Priest that in Yemen, in a hunt for terrorists, forces involved in joint operations with Yemeni troops conducted targeted assassinations—approved by President Obama—that have killed six top leaders of al-Qaeda affiliates among scores of other people, including civilians.

Priest added significantly that these operations include “a short list of U.S. citizens specifically targeted for killing or capture by the JSOC[the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command—Army Rangers, Delta Forces, Green Berets, et al.].”

Yemen isn’t the only country where Presidentially authorized hit lists are being implemented. The CIA’s pilotless Predator drones, guided thousands of miles away by agents at CIA headquarters in Virginia, are being deployed elsewhere. As William Fisher reported in “The Obama Administration is ramping up its use of drone unmanned aircraft to execute targeted killings in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and perhaps other locations—and in the process, killing [innocent] civilians along with insurgents.”

These assassinations are being conducted in our name as Americans. Accordingly, in a Freedom of Information Act request to the President, the ACLU wants to know, as do I, the geographical scope of these deadly missions, the civilian casualty toll and how many fatalities in Afghanistan were al-Qaeda or Taliban. Also, of course, on what legal basis are these assassinations being conducted?

As for any Americans on any of these hit lists, former Constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald, a dauntless exposer of Bush-Cheney and Obama lawlessness, has emphasized that without any judicial approval or specific oversight by Congress, these executions are “basically giving the President the power to impose death sentences on his own citizens without any charges or trial.”

And what about the innocent civilians killed as “collateral” damage” during these assassinations? Said Philip Alston, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions: “We need the United States to be more upfront and say, ‘Okay, we’re willing to discuss some aspects of this program.’ Otherwise you have the really problematic bottom line that the CIA is running a program that is killing significant numbers of people, and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international laws.”

I haven’t heard or seen any deeply troubled member of Congress seconding that urgent request to the President. I have also heard nothing about these extrajudicial assassinations from Senator Scott Brown. Now that the news is out, where are the demands from protesters, however small in number, in our streets?

As Obama continues to increase drone annihilations, there will be even more successful recruiting by our terrorist enemies than happened after the release of photos depicting what U.S. troops were doing to Abu Ghraib prisoners.

Is this America?

Nat Hentoff is a historian of the Constitution, a jazz critic and a columnist for the Village Voice and Free Inquiry. His incisive books include The First Freedom: The Tumultuous History of Free Speech in America ; Living the Bill of Rights; and the forthcoming Is This America?
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Thursday, August 26th, 2010


by Robert Scheer
for HUSTLER Magazine – June 2010

So the Democrats lost their much-vaunted“filibuster-proof” majority in the Senate?Well, they’re probably relieved: ScottBrown’s arrival gives them another excuse notto deliver on campaign promises that upsettheir financiers from Wall Street and theFortune 500.

Seriously, the Democrats are not so muchinept or unorganized—as the frequent accusationsfrom frustrated supporters would haveit—as they are simply locked in an impossiblecontradiction: The companies that fund theirpricey TV-ad-driven political campaigns have acompletely different agenda than the actualAmericans who vote for them.

Case in point: The healthcare reform debaclethis past fall highlighted that, when it comesto any progressive legislation that would favorAmericans over corporations, the Democratsare simply unable and unwilling to deliver. Theyfear the bite of Big Business more than thebark of the vox populi. Forget filibusters; this isabout who is paying whom in a form of legitimizedbribery.

Of course, the voters get their punches in.Witness the recent creaming of the President inMassachusetts, where dispirited liberalsallowed Republican Brown to clock the Demswith a stiff right, and the tea bagger triumphantlyentered the Senate. Yet even thoughObama’s opportunistic search for win-win solutionsto our healthcare concerns and our largereconomic problems is leading to a lose-loseoutcome for the President and the country, he isonly digging himself deeper into the “triangulation”hole that Bill Clinton so doggedly pursued.

The two issues that mattered in 2010’s specialelections thus far were the latest “joblessrecovery” and Obama’s plea to save healthcarereform, even though the latter didn’t includeanything really meaningful, such as a publicoption or a major expansion of Medicare.

It is significant that it was the voters ofMassachusetts who have now derailed the Democrats’efforts to revamp the country’s healthcaresystem, for these voters know the subjectwell. The federal proposal is based on theirown state’s model requiring people to obtainhealth insurance without the state doing anythingto effectively control costs through an alternativeto the private insurance corporations.

Lacking a public option, the cost of healthcarein Massachusetts, already the highest inthe nation at the time of the plan’s implementation,has spiraled upward. Services have beencurtailed, and many, particularly younger people,feel they are being forced to sacrifice to payfor a system that doesn’t work.

That the Democrats now blame Massachusettsvoters for spoiling their lock on Congress—even though they hadn’t been able todo much with it—is thus ironic. They sold outthe voters to the healthcare profiteers, whichmakes our healthcare three times as expensiveas any other country with a developed economy.

Too strong a statement? Consider: Last yeara New York Times/CBS poll found 72% ofAmericans “supported a government-administeredinsurance plan—something like Medicarefor those under 65—that would competefor customers with private insurers.” Yet theparty that supposedly speaks for the “little guy”couldn’t even pass such a plan despite wieldingmajorities larger than the Republicans held foreight years of Bush misrule. Hell, even half ofthose identified as Republican said they wouldback such a public plan, as would three out offour independents!

This is similar to how, despite a massiveoutcry, the Democrats have stalled on deliveringany meaningful financial reform more thana year since the megabanks’ gambling drove usinto a severe recession. One out of six Americansis now unemployed or underemployed, yetthe President is only now calling for Congressionalaction to pump up the job market, as henoted in his 2010 State of the Union Address.

Unfortunately, in this speech, Obama alsodoubled down on his pandering, this time to illinformed“deficit hawks” by proposing a federalspending freeze. Never mind that such afreeze would exempt the national security budgets,which have by far the most fat to trim andsuck up the majority of our tax revenue. Thereal problem with this cynical move is that it isterrible economic policy at a time when somany Americans are hurting.

In fact, the President should be pushing inthe opposite direction: a second major stimuluspackage. The first one helped, especially bypreventing a total meltdown for the middleclass, but as economics brainiacs like PaulKrugman and Robert Reich noted at the time, itwas not large enough.

“The best and fastest way for government toprime the [economy’s] pump is to help statesand locales, which are now doing the opposite,”wrote former Labor Secretary Reich afterObama’s disappointing State of the UnionAddress. “They’re laying off teachers, policeofficers, social workers, healthcare workers andmany more who provide vital public services.”

Funny thing, though: Obama is not thatbeholden to all those middle-class workers andthe small-shop owners they support, despitethe storyline that places them at the heart of themodern Democratic Party. He faces biggerbosses on Wall Street and K Street, and untiltheir stranglehold on D.C. is weakened, it ishard to see when the Democrats can functionas a true party of “hope” and “change.”

Before serving 30 years as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, Robert Scheer spent the late 1960s as Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts magazine. Now editor of, Scheer has written such hard-hitting books as The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America and his latest, The Great American Stick-Up: Greedy Bankers and the Politicians Who Love Them.


Before serving 30 years as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, Robert Scheer spent the late 1960s as Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts magazine. Now editor of, Scheer has written such hard-hitting books as The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America and his latest, The Great American Stick-Up: Greedy Bankers and the Politicians Who Love Them.

HUSTLER Magazine - JUNE 2010

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Thursday, August 12th, 2010


by Robert Scheer
for HUSTLER Magazines – May 2010

What’s up with Barack Obama? I thought this guy had some tough, everyday smarts and, having witnessed life a bit on the mean streets of Chicago, would stand up to the Wall Street big shots who’ve made life so miserable for the little people back in the blue collar communities he once tried to organize. Instead, he got bamboozled by the banking bandits big time and may have fatally sunk his own legacy in the process.

Sure, the President inherited the banking mess rather than helping to create it. That distinction goes to his Republican predecessor George the Second, who fiddled while the financial markets burned. And while the fires raged through the mortgage market, destroying the savings of 15 million families whose homes were suddenly “under water” and in danger of foreclosure, it was Bush who decided to save the bankers and not those they had swindled.

Yet it was Obama who decided to blindly follow Bush’s example and turned to the Democrat toadies of Wall Street who had cooperated in that scam to be his point men on the economy.

One was Timothy Geithner, who was picked by Obama to replace Henry Paulson as Treasury secretary in the obvious but erroneous belief that more of the same— mindlessly throwing money at Wall Street—was the way to go.

Indeed, Geithner was, from jump street, even more enthusiastic than his Republican predecessor in doing just that: In June 2008, while president of the New York Federal Reserve branch, he shocked even Paulson and other GOP bankers in a crisis meeting by proposing they ask “Congress to give the President broad power to guarantee all the debt in the banking system,” according to two participants cited by a New York Times report. Incurring what could be many trillions of dollars in bad debt was too rich for even that crowd. Later, though, in the White House, Geithner was able to maneuver Obama aggressively down that road. The fantasy was that if the banks, who had sunk themselves with high-risk behavior, were made more liquid with government welfare, they, in turn, would bail out beleaguered homeowners.

Of course they did nothing of the sort, as the 15 million families whose homes are under water—real value now falling below the mortgage value—and subject to foreclosure could tell you.

The smoking gun here, the incident that tells you all you need to know about what went wrong with the Geithner plan to help homeowners by bribing the banks, was reported by Joe Nocera in the New York Times back on October 25, 2008, a few weeks before Obama’s victory. An intrepid reporter covering Wall Street, Nocera managed to get in on a conference call of heavyweights at JPMorgan Chase, a bank that was given $25 billion by Bush that it apparently didn’t even need.

“Twenty-five billion dollars is obviously going to help the folks who are struggling more than Chase,” one of the top bankers on the call said, according to the Times, gloating over the fact that his bank was not in as much trouble as some of the others. But JPMorgan Chase was going to take the money and run—not in the direction of helping families stay in their homes but in locking up profits in other distressed banking properties. “What we do think it will help us do is perhaps be a little more active on the acquisition side or opportunistic side for some banks who are still struggling,” the aforementioned banker added.

That strategy, the same as the one employed by Goldman Sachs and the others who got more money from the Feds than they needed, paid off super-big. By the end of Obama’s first year in office the banks reported an all-time record of $145 billion in payouts to their top executives. JPMorgan Chase garnered $11.7 billion but didn’t put it into lowering the terms for distressed homeowners.

As the guy on the call had correctly predicted in what was supposed to be a secret conference call 14 months earlier, “We would think that loan volume will continue to go down as we continue to tighten credit.”

The dismal results of the misplaced trust the United States put in these banks have been reflected in Obama’s falling poll numbers as homeowners, the unemployed and stressed small businesses feel the pain of that tight credit market. Folks have turned against the President who had promised so earnestly to represent the little guy but who sold out so totally to Wall Street.

Before serving 30 years as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, Robert Scheer spent the late 1960s as Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts magazine. Now editor of, Scheer has written such hard-hitting books as The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America and his latest, The Great American Stick-Up: Greedy Bankers and the Politicians Who Love Them.


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Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

from HUSTLER Magazine – May 2010

Over the past year it has become more than apparent that our government is being held hostage by a small group of incredibly powerful people: Wall Street, multinational corporations and the military-industrial complex. How else can you explain President Obama’s complete betrayal of his campaign pledges? He’s sold out real healthcare reform, escalated America’s wars, maintained Bush-era surveillance and torture—and that’s just for starters.

Obama has discovered that there are two realities—running for President and being President—and that they are not always compatible. If Obama wants to win a second term, he must stand up to the bankers, CEOs and generals.


Friday, April 23rd, 2010


by Robert Scheer

You don’t have to salute every time Ron Paul raises the libertarian flag, and personally I don’t like leaving education, health and Social Security to the tender mercies of the inevitably rapacious capitalist markets. But the Republican congressman from Texas is on target with his bill demanding a full public audit of the Federal Reserve, the government monster that has a power over the economy that many dictators would envy and operates under a cloak of secrecy that even the CIA rarely attains.

It was the Federal Reserve, under the leadership of the once exuberantly honored but now disgraced Alan Greenspan, that got us into this banking mess. The Fed looked the other way while the finaglers of Wall Street packaged and sold those mysterious Collateralized Debt Obligations and Credit Default Swaps that brought the economy to near death when they exploded with a destructive force and then were covered by trillions of taxpayer dollars.

The Federal Reserve—more than any other institution, public or private— deserves blame for shoving the world economy into the huge financial hole it now inhabits. The Fed, most definitely including the New York Federal Reserve Bank—headed for the five years prior to the Wall Street meltdown by Timothy Geithner until Obama named him Treasury secretary—miserably failed in its regulatory obligations while the bankers looted the banks. But where the libertarians and Ron Paul are wrong is to resist any meaningful regulation, and where Obama is equally wrong is his belief that we can get it from the Fed.

Despite Obama’s sorry record of enabling Wall Street greed, choosing Geithner to run the Treasury Department may be his biggest mistake. And it is not only Geithner but also every other major appointment of those who formulate economic policy—notably deferring to the Fed—that demonstrates the President’s fawning response to the financial hustlers.

Take key White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers, who during his tenure as Clinton’s Treasury secretary pushed through the deregulation of mortgages and other derivatives that made the housing collapse inevitable. After the collapse it was the Federal Reserve that orchestrated a bailout package under George W. Bush and continued under Obama to save—indeed reward— the “too big to fail bankers” whose destructive greed the Fed had promoted.

Paul is right with his legislation, which as of this writing had the support of hundreds of lawmakers but had already been gutted by Democrats on the key House Banking Committee in response to signals from the White House. Not only was the administration opposed to transparency for the Federal Reserve to check its unbridled power, but Obama also compounded the error by advocating an even larger role for the Fed in new legislation designed ostensibly to prevent another banking meltdown.

When Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, proposed to take major banking oversight power away from the Fed and put it in the hands of a new agency to regulate all federally chartered financial institutions, the Obama Administration treated it as a dangerously subversive proposal. In the words of White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, it would cause financial industry “nervousness.”

Isn’t that what we ordinary folk want? Shouldn’t the banking bandits with their proven record of chicanery be made just the least bit nervous when they cook up their next series of scams? Not so, in the view of Neal Wolin, Obama’s choice as deputy Treasury secretary. Despite massive evidence to the contrary,Wolin insisted that the Federal Reserve “is the agency best equipped for the task of supervising the largest, most complex firms.”

Consider the source: Wolin, as the Treasury’s top lawyer during the Clinton years, drafted the language of the infamous Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which allowed the merger of investment and commercial banks with insurance companies to create the toolarge- to-fail monstrosities like Citigroup, with which the taxpayers are now saddled.

Between his government stints under Clinton and now Obama, Wolin benefited from those breakthrough mergers. He served as general counsel at The Hartford insurance company, which—thanks to the deregulatory legislation Wolin had helped draft—was allowed to buy up troubled banks and qualify for federal TARP funds.

Even the conservative Washington Times voiced skepticism in an editorial on Wolin: “Revolving doors between industry and the administration and fat-cat political contributors getting bailed out at taxpayer expense sound like business as usual. This certainly isn’t change we can believe in.” Painful as it is to admit, the Right got that right.


Before serving 30 years as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, Robert Scheer spent the late 1960s as Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts magazine. Now editor of, Scheer has written such hard-hitting books as The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America and his latest, The Great American Stick-Up: Greedy Bankers and the Politicians Who Love Them.

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Thursday, April 22nd, 2010


by Nat Hentoff
From HUSTLER MAGAZINE – February 2010

One of President Obama’s first executive orders closed the CIA’s secret prisons (“black sites”). But we still have no confirmed reports of deaths that took place there during interrogations—and where “missing” prisoners are. Their families would like to know.

Another move by Obama to show his desire to “reform” past Bush-Cheney violations of the U.S. Torture Law, the Geneva Conventions and the International Covenant Against Torture was his appointment of a multi-agency High Value Interrogation Unit within the FBI (marginalizing CIA interrogators). This team must adhere to the Army Field Manual’s interrogation standards, which purportedly outlaw physical force.

What about Low Value suspects? What standards for them?

However, as George Hunsinger of Princeton Theological Seminary and founder of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture reminded the President, even the Army Field Manual “allows for certain abusive techniques that are tantamount to torture—sleep deprivation, partial sensory deprivations, stress positions” that sometimes can be used in combination to ensure the cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment that can qualify as war crimes.

What most startled me in this humane President’s new directions is the continuation of “renditions,” the abduction of terrorism suspects anywhere who are then sent to other countries to be interrogated. In the Bush Administration, to be thus rendered outside our laws was to be tortured, as hundreds most cruelly were.

While planning his candidacy for the Presidency to bring us “Change We Can Believe In!” then-Senator Obama wrote in the Summer 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs : “To build a better free world, we must first behave in ways that reflect the decency and aspirations of the American people. This means ending the practices of shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries [and] of detaining thousands without charge or trial.” Whatever happened to that Obama?

But to be skeptically fair, Obama claims that his renditions of kidnapped suspects will only be to nations that pledge these suspects will not be tortured. In August 2009, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly announced that the Obama Administration would “establish a kind of monitoring mechanism that allows us to make sure…the prisoners…are not being abused. The details of this will have to be worked out.”

Maybe, the State Department flack added, officials from the American consulate or a private contractor will do the monitoring. (Some of the private contractors on assignment in Iraq and Afghanistan have become notorious for their own skills at cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of suspects.)

However, this pledge of “assurances” that our shackled, rendered prisoners will be treated in accordance with American values was intoned, ritualistically, for years by President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other caring officials of the Defense and Justice departments.

These raw official lies have been vividly skewered in the 2004 report by the CIA’s former Inspector General, John Helgerson; Dana Priest of the Washington Post and scores more U.S. and foreign reporters; Jane Mayer of The New Yorker ; and starkly documented books.

Aziz Huq, a lawyer who has represented terrorist detainees and currently is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago, told the naked truth to the Washington Times (August 26, 2009): “These assurances, as a matter of law and fact, are worth slightly less than the paper they are written on.”

In this country the first news break of the actual treatment inflicted on rendered terrorism suspects was a front-page exposé by Dana Priest and Barton Gellman in the December 26, 2002, Washington Post. As I quoted from their report in my 2004 book, The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance (Seven Stories Press): “The alleged terrorists [at the U.S. detention facility in Bagram, Afghanistan] are commonly blindfolded and thrown into walls, bound in painful positions…after they have often been softened up by MPs and U.S. Army Special Forces troops who beat them up and confine them in the tiny rooms…. Medication to alleviate pain is withheld.”

And dig this! In 2002, just as will happen during the Obama renditions, Priest and Gellman quoted an American official with knowledge of these exported CIA-style “enhanced interrogations”: “If we’re not there in the room,” said the informed official, “who is to say [what happened there]?”

But what if an Obama monitor actually got into a prison we rented overseas and asked a suspect if he had been tortured? One of Bush’s rendered prisoners, Maher Arar— whose case became known around the world—said that when he was finally released, he was too scared to tell the monitor, who would soon be gone.

And, in view of his far-from-transparent Presidency so far, do you believe that Barack Obama will even once seriously check to find out if a suspect he has rendered was tortured? And think about this: Why does the President continue to send suspects to be interrogated in other countries? For what other purpose than to have alleged information extracted by any means necessary. The Dick Cheney legacy continues.


Nat Hentoff is a historian of the Constitution, a jazz critic and a columnist for the Village Voice and Free Inquiry. His incisive books include The First Freedom: The Tumultuous History of Free Speech in America ; Living the Bill of Rights ; and the forthcoming Is This America?

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