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In This Edition

Ann Wright returns from Teheran with, "Iranians Ponder Their Future With An Obama Administration."

Uri Avnery celebrates his, "85th Birthday."

Victoria Stewart is, "Just A Little Pissed Off."

Jim Hightower finds, "Airlines Outsourcing Our Safety And Jobs."

Robert Fisk reports, "Leaders Lie, Civilians Die, And Lessons Of History Are Ignored."

Al Gore asks, "Can We Save The Planet And Rescue The Economy At The Same Time?"

Chris Hedges explains, "Why I Am A Socialist."

Chris Floyd explores, "Shock, Awe and Lies."

Mike Adams wonders, "Vitamin B1 Reverses Kidney Damage In Diabetics, So Why Won't Doctors Recommend It?"

Mike Folkerth exclaims the government is, "Betting The Farm; Your Farm!"

Mark Morford takes, "The Last Road Trip."

Cynthia McKinney recalls, "December 30, 2008: Oh What a Day!"

Chip Saltsman wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald says, "David Gregory Shows Why He's The Perfect Replacement For Tim Russert."

Jason Miller interviews Micheal Parenti in, "Class Is A Dirty Word."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' Andy Borowitz returns with, "Bin Laden Latest Madoff Casualty" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "And The Band Played On."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Rob Rogers with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea, The Heretik, Jez, Mike Adams, Blood For Oil.Org, The Angry Arab, CBC, Times Online, Issues & Alibis.Org and Pink & Blue Films.

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Welcome one and all to "Uncle Ernie's Issues & Alibis."

And The Band Played On
By Ernest Stewart

Evolution, revolution, gun control, sound of soul.
Shooting rockets to the moon, kids growing up too soon.
Politicians say more taxes will solve everything.
And the band played on.
Ball Of Confusion ~~~ The Temptations

"Obama is saying so long to the old guard of the religious right, and Warren's selection is a nod toward the future." ~~~ Randall Balmer

Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
~~~ 18 U.S.C. 1385. ~ Use of Army and Air Force as posse Comitatus ~~~

Apparently the Zionazis who control Palestine and all three branches of US political life, i.e., the House, the Senate and the Fuhrer Bunker, found there were still a few un-murdered children who had yet to starve to death or die from lack of medicine and so decided to finish them off by bombing everything in sight in the ghetto of Gaza.

This war crime and mass murder was, of course, blamed on the victims. How dare they not die and give up this little strip of bloody sand to the Israeli co-prosperity sphere like good little slaves? How dare they fight back against their 60 year-long genocide with bottle rockets and such?

Of course, everyone outside of Washington and Tel Aviv are beating their chests and calling for both sides to stand down but, as we all know, talk is cheap and no one will do a thing. Egypt, of course, is busy keeping their border closed from Gaza and even though a few managed to break out of the trap, Cairo is doing their Jewish masters' biding like the good little death camp guards that they are. The UN is totally worthless. You may recall that it was the UN that created Israel with genocide in the first place! They won't lift a finger to stop it, not a finger!

Bush and Obama's spin masters are backing these war crimes and crimes against humanity to the hilt like the good little 5th columnist traitors that they are. Like Bush yelling 911 every time he got caught committing a crime, Tel Aviv is mumbling about their holocaust, wa wa wa. Of course, I, too, as a lad, bought the bullshit that Hitler killed the Jews because he thought they were inferior. I've since come to the conclusion that Hitler killed the Jews because he knew they were competition! We, of course, got into the war because Hitler wanted to rule the world, which is our job!

The Zionazis are just doing what we taught them to do; destroy the natives and steal everything not nailed down. Perhaps they'll let a few score Palestinians remain alive to someday build casinos? Meanwhile your tax dollars continue to flow to monsters killing innocents and covering your hands in the blood of the children. Try as you might, America, it won't wash off!

In Other News

The centralist drone has now reached ear-splitting decibels. The Obama apologists are out in force from each new pick for his cabinet to his inaugural ceremonial disaster. My current favorite is that it was a small mistake picking Rick Warren, just an oversight because of his busy days. But, of course, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Warren was chosen to send a message, just as Donnie (pray the gay away) McClurkin was during the run up to the election. Obama is playing the bigotry card to his base. Black Protestants are more closely aligned with white evangelicals on gay marriage and same sex civil unions than any other social issue. Barry's made gays the new niggers, just the latest victims of the age old American tradition that has made Catholics, Jews, Blacks, Italians, Irish, Chinese and Indians the low man on the totem pole from time to time! And who to choose to get that message across but Warren who campaigned long and hard for Prop 8!

Barry was going to reach out and make everyone inclusive but his choices are far from inclusive. He's been reaching out to everyone except the left. Funny thing that, eh? Not really, as Barry isn't even a liberal but just played one on TV during the election. For example, name one leftist that he's reached out to? Name one! He could have made Al Gore head of the EPA, Nobel prize winning Al Gore, but instead chooses a right of center EPA director from New Jersey. Lisa P. Jackson is a woman with little experience as an EPA director. I wonder how that bodes for the environment?

He could have nominated Paul Krugman as Treasury Secretary, a left of center economist, also a Nobel Prize winner, but instead we get another bailout banker from the right, Timothy Geithner, who is somewhat responsible for our current financial mess. The list goes on and on.

The upshot is that Obama's apologists certainly have their work cut out for them. I'd clear my calendar, if I were they as the next four years are going to be very busy indeed. Meanwhile, as Obama genuflects to his Zionazi masters, the people's candidate, Cynthia McKinney, is off to Gaza, at great risk to life and limb, to help the Palestinians in their time of need.

UPDATE: An Israeli navy ship rammed the supply ship Dignity that Cindy was on trying to bring medical supplies to Gaza. The ship was forced to make for the Lebanese port of Tyre before it sank. McKinney was slated to travel by car to Beirut where she was expected to conducted media interviews and meet with Lebanese government officials, said Paul Larudee, a co-founder of the California-based Free Gaza group. The Dignity is undergoing repairs in Tyre.

And Finally

You may remember a few weeks ago in issue 404 when I reported on the illegal actions of the Marine Corps Air and Ground Combat Center Provost Marshal and California Highway Patrol, Morongo office which were running police check lanes together out on highway 62? Now are you hip to a U.S. Army War College report that warns an economic crisis in the United States could lead to massive civil unrest and the need to call on the military to restore order. And I bet you thought those new Happy Camps were for the Mexicans, huh?

Retired Army Lt. Col. Nathan Freir wrote the report "Known Unknowns: Unconventional Strategic Shocks in Defense Strategy Development," which the Army think tank in Carlisle, Pa., recently released.

Colonel Nate says, "Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities ... to defend basic domestic order and human security, in case of unforeseen economic collapse, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters," among other possible crises.

The report also suggests the new (Barack Obama) administration could face a "strategic shock" within the first eight months in office. Does that sound off any alarm bells in your noggin?

You may recall that earlier this year I reported that, Pentagon officials said as many as 20,000 soldiers under the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) will be trained within the next three years to work with civilian law enforcement in homeland security. You may also recall that all of this is treason as it is in direct violation of Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which, no thanks to Smirky, is still a federal law!

If troops are needed, then state governors have the ability to call up National Guard units to assist in an emergency.

As Charles Boehmer, political science professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, said about this plan, "The military was not called out during the Great Depression, and I don't think our economic problems are as bad as they were then."


We don't sell our readers new cars, fancy homes or designer clothes. We don't advocate consumerism nor do we offer facile solutions to serious problems. We do, however, bring together every week writers and activists who are not afraid to speak the truth about our country and our world. The articles we print are not for the faint of heart.

As access to accurate information becomes more difficult and free speech and the exchange of ideas becomes more restricted and controlled, small publications and alternative presses disappear. Issues and Alibis may soon join that list.

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Ernest & Victoria Stewart


02-19-1921 ~ 12-25-2008
R.I.P. Sweetie

07-01-1939 ~ 12-27-2008
Tell Duane I said Hi!


The "W" theatre trailers are up along with the new movie poster and screen shots from the film. They are all available at the all-new "W" movie site: Both trailers are on site and may be downloaded; the new trailer can be seen with Flash on site. You can download in either PC or Mac formats. I'm in the new trailer as myself but don't blink or you'll miss me! The trailers are also available on YouTube along with a short scene from the film.


We get by with a little help from our friends!
So please help us if you can...?


So how do you like the 2nd coup d'etat so far?
And more importantly, what are you planning on doing about it?

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2009 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 7 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. In his spare time he is an actor, writer and an associate producer for the new motion picture "W The Movie."

Iranians Ponder Their Future With An Obama Administration
By Ann Wright

Traveling to Iran as a Citizen Diplomat for Peace

Just a month ago, while Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and US President George Bush met for the last time as heads of state in late November 2008 in Washington and continued their relentless bellicose rhetoric toward Iran, I and three activists from the United States were in Iran as citizen diplomats talking with Iranians on their views of a new American presidential administration and their hopes for their country.

We went to Iran with no illusions. We knew well the history of United States involvement in Iran. We knew of Iranian support for organizations U.S. administrations have labeled as "terrorist" groups. And we were very familiar with international concerns about Iran's nuclear enrichment program and human rights record.

We wanted to talk with members of the Iranian government as well as with ordinary Iranians. We ended up meeting with officials in the Iranian president's office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with two women members of the Iranian Parliament (Majles). We also spoke with businesspersons, members of nongovernmental organizations, writers, filmmakers and university students and faculty.

Writing about the concerns of the Iranians we met leaves one open to comments of being one-sided, not speaking with enough Iranians to provide the "real" voices and of picking and choosing voices to record. I acknowledge the possible criticism in advance, but believe our discussions are worthy of presentation to those who have not been so fortunate to have traveled to Iran to see and hear for themselves. So here goes.

Iranians Want Peace, Not War

Codepink Women for Peace co-founders Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin, Fellowship of Reconciliation Iran program director Laila Zand and I were reminded in virtually every conversation that Iranians want peace with the United States, not war. Not one person in Iran told us that first, she believed her country would begin a war with the United States or any other country, to include Israel, and second, that if the United States initiated military actions against Iran, that those actions would resolve problems in Iran or with the United States.

They reminded us that, unlike the United States, which has invaded and occupied Iran's neighbors Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has not attacked any country in the last 200 years. They reminded us that Iran was the victim of an eight-year war in the 1980's when Iraq invaded Iran and the United States and European countries provided Iraq with military equipment, intelligence and chemical weapons that were used at least 50 times against Iranian civilians and military forces. We learned that during the eight-year war the Revolution's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini had mandated that it would be against Islamic precepts to bomb Iraqi cities or use chemical or unconventional weapons on Iraq - and Iranian military forces complied - even though the Iraqi military bombed Iranian cities, including Tehran, and used chemical weapons on Iranians.

Most Iranians Have Issues With Their Government, as Most Americans Have Issues With Theirs

Iran is a county with a population of about 70 million (two and one-half times as many people as Iraq) and a geographic area about the size of Alaska (four times as large as Iraq). Tehran, the Iranian capital, has 7.5 million people in the urban area and 15 million in surrounding areas. It is a modern city, with a beautiful subway and cosmopolitan shops, as well as a huge traditional bazaar and an incredible number of cars, trucks and motorcycles. Tehran and Iran have recovered from the Iraq war that ended 20 years ago and are holding up remarkably well to US and international sanctions.

Most Iranians with whom we talked openly said they have issues with many aspects of their government. Many said the Iranian people share a common dislike with Americans - dislike of their government - noting that President Bush's and the US Congress's approval ratings with the American people are extremely low, as is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's ratings, particularly in urban areas. But, they strongly said they do not want outside interference in the internal political events of their country and definitely do not want a political system and government installed by invasion and occupation. Their democracy, even with its flaws, is better than a US-enforced democracy, they said.

America's best policy would be to treat Iran with respect and not with threats of military action. Any attempt to overthrow the Iranian government would be met with stiff opposition, even from those who don't like the government, they repeated. "Regime change" will come in due time and in an Iranian manner.

US Interference in Iran's Internal Affairs

Several reminded us that in January 1981, the United States signed the Algiers Accord, in which the US agreed "not to intervene directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran's internal affairs." The Algiers Accord was the agreement signed by the United States and Iran to end the 444-day US Embassy hostage crisis.

However, this Accord has been violated numerous times by the United States. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh wrote that, in late 2007, President Bush requested and received from Democratic Congressional leadership $400 million reprogrammed from previous authorizations to fund a presidential finding that substantially increased covert activities designed to destabilize Iran's religious leadership. These covert actions involved support for the Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. Hersh also revealed that United States Special Operations Forces had been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with presidential authorization, since 2007, including seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of "high-value targets" who could be captured or killed. Hersh said operations by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) were significantly expanded in 2007 by this authorization.

Iran's Nuclear Program

Iran has had a nuclear program for almost 50 years, having purchased a research reactor from the United States in 1959 during the Shah's reign. The Iranian government states that its nuclear energy program will allow increased electricity generation to reduce consumption of gas and oil to allow export of more of its fossil fuels. The US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) made public December 3, 2007, concluded with "high confidence" that the military-run Iranian nuclear weapons program had been shut down in 2003, but that Iran's enrichment program could still provide enough enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon by the middle of the next decade, a time frame unchanged from previous estimates.

Virtually everyone with whom we spoke said they believe that their country has a right to have a nuclear enrichment program and to produce nuclear energy. Many questioned why Iran would ever need a nuclear weapons program, unless as leverage against the United States' 30-year antagonism toward their country. They reminded us that Iran is a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (unlike nuclear states Israel, India and Pakistan, which refused to join the NPT and developed nuclear weapons purposefully outside the treaty.) Additionally, they insist that Iran is in compliance with the IAEA standards, according to the November 2008 IAEA report, despite interpretations of the report by the United States and Israel.

Some reminded us that on August 9, 2005, at the IAEA meeting in Vienna, 60 years after the US atomic bombing of Japan, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei announced that he had issued a fatwa, or religious mandate, forbidding the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons. Importantly, the Supreme Leader controls the Iranian military and the nuclear program of Iran, not the President of the country, Mr. Ahmadinejad.

Iran, Israel and the United States

Iran, Israel and United States have had a disturbing, but fascinating, history over the past 30 years. Iran's current relationship with Israel and Western countries seems to be defined by President Ahmadinejad's October 2005 statement - widely reported, but tragically and dangerously mistranslated and misinterpreted - that "Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth." According to highly respected Middle Eastern scholar Juan Coles, Ahmadinejad was "not making a threat, but was quoting a saying of Ayatollah Khomeini that urged pro-Palestinian activists in Iran not give up hope - that the occupation of Jerusalem was no more a continued inevitability than had been the hegemony of the Shah's government." Whatever this quotation from a decades-old speech of Khomeini may have meant, Ahmadinejad did not say that "Israel must be wiped off the map" with the implication that phrase has of Nazi-style extermination of a people.

But the history of Iranian-Israeli relationships is more than just Ahmadinejad's misinterpreted statement. Israel, like the United States, had a long history of selling arms to the Shah, which Iran's revolutionary government was willing to exploit secretly, despite its public animosity toward the state of Israel. In the early years (1980-82) of the Iranian Revolution and during the war with Iraq, Ayatollah Khomeini's government sold oil to Israel in exchange for weapons and spare parts. Even during the American hostage crisis (1979-1981) in which 52 US diplomats were held for 444 days, Israel made weapons deals with Iran. Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State Alexander Haig gave permission to Israel to sell US-made military spare parts for fighter planes to Iran in early 1981.

In another remarkable relationship known as the Iran-Contra affair, funds from Israel's sale to Iran of US weapons in 1985-1986 were used by U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, National Security Adviser Adm. John Poindexter, National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane (President Reagan's first National Security Adviser) and National Security Council staffer US Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North to fund the Contras' war against the revolutionary government in Nicaragua. This was in violation of a Congressional ban on funding the Contras and took place during the Iraq-Iran war when the US was also providing military equipment including chemical weapons to Iraq, Iran's opponent in the war. Iranians remember that those convicted for their actions, including Weinberger, Poindexter, McFarlane and North, were pardoned by President George H.W. Bush, who was vice president during the period of criminal actions conducted by government officials during the illegal Contra affair.

Iranian Support for Hamas and Hezbollah

When asked about one of the most contentious points in US-Israeli-Iranian relationships - the Iranian government's support for Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon - Iranians pointed out that the US has consistently and heavily funded Israel during its 62-year existence (US provides about $4 billion per year to the Israeli government and the Israeli Defense Forces.) Many Iranians suggested that Palestinians who have lived in refugee camps during those 62 years must be provided assistance. Hezbollah began in 1982 as a small militia fighting against the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and is now not only a military group but a political organization that won seats in the Lebanese government, has a radio and satellite television station and provides social development and humanitarian assistance for much of southern Lebanon. Iranians strongly felt that Hamas, the elected (and they emphasize elected) government of Gaza, needs financial support, particularly now in current extraordinary humanitarian crisis due to the lengthy Israeli blockade of foods and services into Gaza.


On the question of Iraq, many Iranians who lived in the border regions with Iraq during the eight-year war said they personally knew the agony of deaths, injuries, destruction and other costs of war and do not wish that on their former enemies. They talked of the irony of the political outcome of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, in which many Shi'a Iraqis, who lived in exile in Iran during Saddam's regime and have long-standing ties to the Iranian government, are now in leadership positions in the new US-backed Iraqi government.


Other Iranians reminded us of Iran's help to the US in 2001 and 2002 in the early days of the US military action in Afghanistan. When we asked about recent United States intelligence analysis that indicated Iranian support for the Taliban, we were met with laughs. The Taliban are of the Sunni branch of Islam, while Iranians are of the Shi'a branch. They reminded us that in 1998 the Taliban murdered 11 Iranian diplomats and one Iranian newsperson at the Iranian consulate in Afghan northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, an incident which Iranians have not forgotten. The Iranians consider the Taliban their adversaries and feel that a Taliban government in Afghanistan would make the region more unstable. Sanctions Are Drying Up Lines of Credit for Businesses We found that Iranians are proud of their creativity to outwit the 29 years of various sanctions the US has placed on their country. They say the US has only isolated itself commercially by its sanctions, as Iran trades with many other nations. Europeans, Chinese, Russians and Indians have had flourishing businesses with Iran. However, the recent international sanctions clampdown on lines of credit for Iranian banks has had a rippling effect into the business community, where money for loans to Iranian businesses for purchase of materials is drying up. Oil dollars that paid for an incredible amount of imports are drying up with the downturn in oil prices, and the government is beginning to reevaluate the large subsidizes given to the population for food, gasoline and services.

We spoke with four businesswomen (an architect, a chemist, a business consultant and an agricultural professional) who said each of their businesses had been affected negatively with the shrinking of money available for purchase of materials from outside the country and for continuation of current levels of operation or expansion of their business.

One of the most incredible stories we heard about the effect of the sanctions was on the alternative energy sector. Since there is so much rhetoric in the US about the dangers of the Iranian nuclear program, we decided to see if there were alternative energy companies in the country. On the aircraft flying into Iran, we met a European businessman who said he would put us in touch with the director of a wind energy company. He introduced us by telephone to the director of Saba Niroo, an Iranian company that makes wind turbines and is the largest . We met with the director and staff at the modern state-of-the-art factory in south Tehran. Saba Niroo has installed some of the 143 wind turbines planned for the wind farm in Manjil, Guillan Province and the 43 wind turbines planned for the Binalood wind farm in Khorasan Razavi Province. They have installed four wind turbines in the Pushkin Pass wind farm in Armenia.

However, the director told us that because of US sanctions pressure, Vestas, a Danish wind energy company with whom the Iranian company has had a contractual relationship has now refused to honor its 15-year contract to furnish critical parts for the wind turbines.

As a result, Saba Niroo has 50 huge 70-foot-long wind blades and corresponding chassis and installation towers lying useless in its warehouse and warehouse yard. Saba Niroo may go bankrupt in six months if it is unable to complete and sell the wind turbines - all because of US sanctions and pressure.

As a part of citizen diplomacy, we decided to defy sanctions and show our support of alternative energy programs, by purchasing shares in Saba Niroo. We have also decided to purchase shares in the Danish company Vestas, which has a big US headquarters in Portland, Oregon. As shareholders, we could put shareholder pressure on Vestas to honor its contract with the Iranian company.

Join the campaign "Winds for Change" to support for alternative energy and for sanctions breaking and purchase shares with us.

Human Rights in Iran

On the question of human rights in Iran, executions, political prisoners and rights of gays and lesbians, many Iranians strongly want changes in their government's policies. In response to a question on September, 24, 2007, from an audience at Columbia University in New York, President Ahmadinejad drew widespread criticism when his answer was translated as "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals in our country, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who told you that we have it." In October 2007, one of Ahmadinejad's media advisers said that the President had meant that "compared to American society, we don't have many homosexuals - in Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country."

Homosexual acts are punishable by law: sodomy (defined as "sexual intercourse" with a male) is punishable by execution and punishment for "lesbian acts" is 100 lashes.

However, conviction takes the testimony of four witnesses and if the accused recants before witnesses testify, the accused will not be punished. The discussion of human rights of youth and gay youth combined in the much-publicized 2005 execution by hanging of two young men in Iran. Some say they were executed because they were solely because they were gay and others say the two young men - minors - were convicted and hanged because they criminally sexually assaulted another youth.

Interestingly, sex change is legal in Iran and there are more sex change operations in Iran than any other country except Thailand. The Iranian government provides grants up to $4,500 for the operation and further funding for hormone therapy on the theory that persons wanting a sex change have a "treatable disorder."

Iranians want change to come from within their society, not imposed by another government, especially one, as we were reminded, that has its own human rights issues, including incarceration of the highest percentage of its citizenry of any country in the world, high rates of execution (Texas in particular), state-sponsored kidnapping from other countries (known in the Bush administration as extraordinary rendition), imprisonment without due process, extrajudicial courts and a military and an intelligence agency that are notorious for torture.

Women's Issues

When thinking of women in Iran, many in the West immediately respond with comments about the clothing women must wear. Few realize that 70 percent of all university students are women, 30 percent of doctors in Iran are women, 80 percent of women are literate (88 percent of men can read), women receive 90 days of maternity leave at two-thirds pay and right to return to their jobs, and the number of children per woman has declined from seven in 1979 to 1.7 now. Abortions are illegal in Iran, but it's the only country I know of where couples must take a class on modern contraception before being issued a marriage license. It has the only state-supported condom factory in the Middle East, and it produces 45 million condoms a year in 30 different colors, shapes and flavors.

In one of the most successful instances of women's grassroots organizational pressure on the government, in September 2008, over 100 advocates for women's rights successfully lobbied against proposed changes to marriage laws which were detrimental to women and forced the Iranian Parliament to drop the regressive amendments.

Clothing Restrictions

Yes, there are mandatory clothing rules for women, including wearing a scarf and clothing that covers the arms to the wrists and legs to the ankles, and they are cited by Western women as a form of human rights concern. In fact, as our aircraft arrived at the Tehran International Airport terminal, the aircraft crew announced "By the law of the country of Iran, women cannot leave the aircraft without a scarf on their heads - and there will be an Iranian official outside the aircraft to return women who are not properly covered." While some Iranian women say wearing the scarf is burdensome, others are comfortable with the dress code. In any case, clothing restrictions are not the main focus of women's rights advocates. Rights to custody of children and property after divorce, right to education and health care are more important than mandatory wearing of a scarf.

In the Month Since Our Visit

Sparks Fly Over Iranian President's BBC Christmas message - "Jesus Christ Would Stand Up to Bullying, Ill-Tempered and Expansionist Powers"

In what they surely knew would be a very controversial request, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) asked Iranian President Ahmadinejad to deliver the BBC channel 4's traditional "alternative Christmas message" to the Queen's Christmas address.

The head of BBC News and Current Affairs said the decision to ask President Ahmadinejad was because " As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad's views are enormously influential. As we approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view. Channel 4's role is to allow viewers to hear directly from people of world importance with sufficient context to enable them to make up their own minds." It turned out that Ahmadinejad's short, 36-second message in Farsi with English subtitles broadcast on Christmas Day 2008, probably resonated with much of the world, but predictably provoked a British government hornet's nest with his comment that if Jesus Christ lived today he would stand up against bullying powers. "If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly he would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers." Ahmadinejad, a devout Muslim, criticized the "indifference of some governments and powers" towards the teachings of the "divine prophets, including Jesus Christ" and said that "the general will of nations" was for a return to "human values." He declared, "The crises in society, the family, morality, politics, security and the economy ... have come about because the prophets have been forgotten, the Almighty has been forgotten and some leaders are estranged from God."

Ahmadinejad's remarks received very little media coverage in the United States, minuscule when compared to the news story of the month - President Bush's encounter with the Iraqi shoe thrower. However, a spokeswoman for the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in predicting anticipated Bush administration displeasure, said: "President Ahmadinejad has during his time in office made a series of appalling anti-Semitic statements. The British media are rightly free to make their own editorial choices, but this invitation will cause offense and bemusement not just at home but amongst friendly countries abroad."

Labor Member of Parliament (MP) Louise Ellman, chairwoman of the Labor Jewish Movement, said: "I condemn Channel 4's decision to give an unchallenged platform to a dangerous fanatic who denies the Holocaust, while preparing for another, and claims homosexuality does not exist while his regime hangs gay young men from cranes in the street." Conservative MP Mark Pritchard, a member of the Commons all-party media group, said: "Channel 4 has given a platform to a man who wants to annihilate Israel and continues to persecute Christians at Christmas time."

Media Relations Not a Strong Suit of the Iranian Government

It's almost as if Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who is up for re-election in summer 2009, has hired lame ducks US Vice President Dick Cheney and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert as his foreign policy, national security and media consultants. How else could the Iranian government have come up with so many incidents in the past weeks that give ammunition to those in the United States and Israel who do not want dialogue with Iran on nuclear and regional security issues, who want human rights issues to publicize and who wish ill to the Iranian government and people?

For example, on December 22, 2008, the Iranian government closed down two human-rights organizations headed by 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi. The government accused the organization of carrying out illegal activities, such as publishing statements, writing letters to international organizations and holding news conferences. The Center for Participation in Clearing Mine Areas helps victims of landmines in Iran and Defenders of Human Rights Center reports human rights violations in Iran, defends political prisoners and supports families of those prisoners. Ebadi was also taken into police custody briefly following the raids.

The first week in December 2008, in a campaign against Western cultural influence in Iran, Qaemshahr city police arrested 49 people during a crackdown on "satanic" fashions and unsuitable clothing and closed five barbershops for "promoting Western hairstyles."

And now, there is the predictable increased international criticism about the Russian government providing the Iranian government with S-300s, anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems, triggered by the Bush administration's decision to put a "missile shield" in Poland and the Czech Republic. On December 23, 2008, United Press International reported that the Russian government had begun delivery to the Iranian government of some of its most modern anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems, the S-300s. These missile systems can shoot down ballistic missiles and aircraft at low and high altitudes as far away as 100 miles. Iran conducted well-publicized air force and ballistic missile defense exercises in September 2008.

The Bush administration's ballistic poke in the eye of Russia and Iran by the deployment of ballistic missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic "to protect against attacks from rogue states" is perceived by many Iranians as a strategy to ensure that tensions in the region continue to escalate. The United States is planning to deploy 10 Ground-based Mid-course Interceptors in Poland and batteries of shorter-range Patriot PAC-3 anti-ballistic missiles to protect the Interceptors.

Iranians Not Optimistic About Future Relations with the United States Under an Obama Administration

Despite President-elect Barack Obama's comments during the presidential campaign that he would have dialogue with the Iranian government without preconditions, many Iranians with whom we spoke are not optimistic that there will be meaningful change in US policy during an Obama administration. Citing appointments of former Israeli Defense Force member and US Congressman Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff; Hillary Clinton, who during the summer campaign said she would "obliterate" Iran if Iran used nuclear weapons against Israel (a statement that Iranians find incomprehensible since it is Israel that has nuclear weapons, not Iran, and Israel continues to threaten Iran), and Dennis Ross, the Middle East negotiator during the Clinton and Bush administrations, Iranians said they hoped the AIPAC lobby in the United States had not already determined Obama's agenda toward Iran.

Iranians Want Peace

To emphasize again, the overwhelming comment from Iranians during our visit was that they want peace with the United States. They hope that the new president of the United States will talk with their government to resolve issues, instead of resorting to the threat, much less the use, of military action.

Our Future With Iran - a Hope for Diplomacy, Not Military Action

As we have seen from the American invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the use of our military to resolve security issues kills and injures innocent civilians, destroys cities and villages, creates more people who dislike/hate our country and who may be willing to use violence against us, and jeopardizes, not enhances, the security of the United States.

As a retired US Army colonel and a former US diplomat, I hope that the Obama administration will throw away the old template of 30 years of crisis, threats of military action, vindictiveness and retaliation and look to diplomacy to develop a peaceful future with Iran!
(c) 2008 Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army veteran who retired as a Colonel, and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003, in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001, she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of "Dissent: Voices Of Conscience."

85th Birthday
By Uri Avnery

"Gush Shalom" has acceded to my wish to mark my 85th birthday not with a public celebration, as on my 80th, but with a brain-storming session devoted to the main issues concerning Israel.

The event took place on the morning of Sunday 12-21-08 in Tel-Aviv's prestigious Cinematheque hall, under the headline "Until [White] Smoke Comes Out - Views and Confrontations." It consisted of two debates: "Two States for Two Peoples - Realistic or Impossible?" and "The Media: Do They Serve Political Power and Money or the Public?"

In the first confrontation, moderated by former Haaretz editor David Landau, Israela Oron (of the Geneva Initiative) and Gilad Sher (former advisor of Ehud Barak and senior Israeli representative at the 2000 Camp David conference) argued that the Two-State solution is viable, while the historian Meron Benvenisti argued that it is impossible, and Dr. Menachem Klein (Bar-Ilan University) took an intermediate position.

In the second confrontation, senior journalists Ron Ben-Yishai (who appears in the memorable film "Waltz with Bashir") and Rina Matzliach argued that the Israeli media are free, while Prof. Yaron Ezrachi and senior journalist Ofer Shelach argued that they are shackled.

At the close of the event, I was given the floor. This is what I said:

A Congress of Peace Seekers


I have to admit that I am moved. Throughout my long life I have not been pampered with expressions of affection. I am much more used to manifestations of hate. Therefore, please excuse me if I am a bit embarrassed.

PEOPLE ASK ME: How does it feel to be 85?

Well, it is strange. After all, only yesterday I was 42, the youngest member of the Knesset. I don't feel any older or wiser than I did then.

85 is (in the old Hebrew way of numbering by letters) PH. PH can mean "poh", here - and yes, I am here and fully intend to remain here for a while to come - first, because I enjoy it, and second, because I still have some things to finish.

PH can also mean peh, mouth - the mouth that enables me to voice my thoughts. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the thoughts that are occupying my mind today.

What is special about 85-year-olds in Israel? First of all, we are the generation that founded the state. As such - I feel - we bear an additional responsibility for what is happening here. If our state is not what we imagined it should be - it's our duty to act to change it.

AND HERE we face a strange paradox. We are partners in a historic success. And we are partners in a dismal failure.

Perhaps only members of my generation can fully grasp the extend of our success in the transformation of the national consciousness.

Many people ask me: where do I draw my optimism from when the situation becomes very bad, when good people are seized by depression and despair? At such moments I remind myself - and remind the people who listen to me - where we started from. I bring this up again and again for those who did not live through it, and those who have forgotten:

On the morrow of that war, the '48 war, when some of us said that there exists a Palestinian people and that we must make peace with them, we were a tiny handful here and in the whole world. We were laughed at. There are no Palestinians, we were told. "There is no such thing as a Palestinian people!" Golda Meir was still asserting much later.

Is there anyone today who denies the existence of the Palestinian people?

We argued that in order to achieve peace, a Palestinian state must come into being. They laughed at us. What? Why? There is Jordan. There is Egypt. There are 22 Arab states. That's enough!

Today it is a world-wide consensus - two states for two peoples.

We said that we must talk with the enemy, and the enemy was then the PLO. Four cabinet ministers demanded that I should be put on trial for high treason when I met with Yasser Arafat in Beirut during the siege. All four of them later met with Arafat, and the State of Israel signed official treaties with the PLO.

True, the treaties were not implemented and did not lead to peace. But the mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO, between Israel and the Palestinian people, became a fact. That was a revolution, and it cannot be reversed.

Today we are saying: we must talk with Hamas. Hamas is an integral part of the Palestinian reality. And this idea, too, is gaining ground.

What an uproar we caused when we said that Jerusalem must become the capital of the two states! Today almost everybody knows that this must happen, that it will happen.

I have devoted 60 years of my life to this struggle, and it is still in full swing. But we have defeated the idea of a Greater Israel and put forward the alternative of the two states, which has carried conviction in Israel and throughout the world. So much so, that even those in the successive Israeli governments who strongly oppose the idea are now compelled to pretend to support it in order to attract votes.

Think about this when you feel despair. Look at the whole picture, not only at the nearest small part of it.

BUT AS BIG as our victory is our defeat.

It is enough to look at these coming elections: the three big parties talk almost the same language, and not one of them puts forward a plan for peace.

There are small parties which say good and honest things, but at this juncture we simply need more than that. What is lacking is a major political force that is ready to come to power in order to make peace.

It is quite clear that the results of this coming election will be bad - and the only question is whether they will be just bad, or very bad, or even worse.

Why is this happening? There are many reasons, many pretexts. We criticize - and rightly so - many things, the media, the education system, all our successive governments, the President of the United States, all the world.

But I miss one criticism - the criticism of ourselves.

My father used to tell me: if the situation is bad, the first thing to do is to ask yourself if you are alright. So I am asking: Am I alright? Are we alright?

Yes, we have voiced the right ideas. Our ideas have won. But what have we done to realize these ideas in practice, on the political battlefield?

Politics is a matter of power. What have we done to create a progressive political force in Israel? How did it happen that the Left, the camp of peace and progress, has almost been eradicated from the political map? Why don't we have political power, why don't we have, for example, even one newspaper, radio or TV station? How did the Israeli Left lose, in the last generation, all its levers of power?

We in the peace camp include many wonderful men and women, who confront the army every week in the fight against the Wall, who monitor the checkpoints, who refuse to serve in the occupation army, who fight against the occupation in dozens of ways. Many of us, of all ages, take part in these actions.

But while we stand and protest, the settlers rush ahead. Another goat and another dunam (1000 square meters), another hill and another outpost. Sometimes I, too, have the feeling that the dogs bark and the caravan moves on - and I am not content with being the dog. We chase the mosquitoes, but the swamp that produces the mosquitoes gets bigger and bigger.

The swamp is political. Only a political force can drain it. In other words: only a force that can confront the ruling powers, influence the decisions of the government and the Knesset.

That is a historic failure, and we bear the responsibility for it.

IF I may be permitted to voice a birthday wish: the day after the elections I would like us to start thinking about the next elections.

We have to think anew. From the ground up. Examine everything we have done up to now and find out where we went wrong.

Why did we not succeed in convincing enough of the young, of the Oriental Jewish community, of the immigrants from Russia, of the Arab community in Israel, of the moderate religious sector - that there is somebody to talk with, that it is possible to bring about change, that indeed - we can! Why did we not succeed in touching the heart of the young generation that is disgusted by politics - by the politics they know?

What is needed is something completely new, a new act of creation. I would say: we must prepare the ground for an Israeli Obama.

Obama means: to kindle hope where there was no hope before. To demand a change from the foundations up and believe that it is possible to bring about this change. To ignite the enthusiasm of masses of young people for a message that stirs the heart, a message of ending the occupation, of social justice, of caring for the planet. The longing for a different system - secular, just, decent, seeking peace.

The new message must address the mind and the heart, speak to the emotions and not only to the intellect. It must arouse again the idealism that is hiding in many a heart and dare not show its face.

The great obstacle to such an explosion is despair. It is so much easier to despair. So much more comfortable. It doesn't demand anything. It is easier to say that everything is lost. That they have stolen our state. But pessimism, as is well known, does not give birth to anything, it just leads to internal or external emigration.

I refuse to be pessimistic. In my 85 years I have seen too many unexpected, surprising, amazing, things - both good and bad - for me not to believe in the unexpected. Obama was unexpected, and here it happened before our very eyes. The fall of the Berlin wall was unexpected, and nobody could even have imagined it a moment before it happened. Even the victory of the Greens in the recent municipal election in Tel-Aviv was like that.

I WANT to propose the start of a new endeavor a day after the elections. I would like the best of the intellectuals and the peace activists, the social activists and the fighters for the environment to gather and start thinking together, in order to bring about the Israeli miracle.

Perhaps there should be a grand congress of those who want change, a Sanhedrin of peace and human rights activists, a kind of alternative Knesset.

From the heights of my 85 years I want to call all those to whom our future here is close to the heart, Jews and Arabs, and especially the young, to mobilize for a joint effort to prepare the ground for the big change, for the Other Israel, for a state where it will be fun to live, an Israel we can be proud of.

This is not a game that can be played between existing organizations, but a completely new political creation, that will speak a new language, that will bring a new message.

I believe that this will happen, if not tomorrow then the day after. I wish for myself, and for all of you present in this hall, that we shall see it with our own eyes, that we shall be partners, that we shall be able to say: we have succeeded, we are entrusting the state to good hands.

AND NOW I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you, my friends, who have come to mark my birthday with me by exchanging views and debating the issues that are so important to all of us.

Heartfelt thanks to the moderators and the speakers, who have bared the issues for us, to the organizers of this beautiful event, to the members of Gush Shalom who made it possible. Thanks to all of you, who have come from near and afar, and thanks for the good wishes you have showered on me.

I couldn't imagine a more enjoyable and exciting birthday. Thank you.
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Just A Little Pissed Off
By Victoria Stewart

Most of the world suffered throughout George Bush's rampaging presidency. Some suffered more than others but only the most powerful were spared completely. And I, like many people, tempered my protests with a goodly ration of self-interest. For people who understood that the Supreme Court of the United States executed a coup d'etat in December of 2000, self-interest meant taking extra care; it meant paying close attention to survival.

Between 2001 and the end of 2003, I negotiated the sidelines of America's financial networks, marveling at the lack of oversight and accountability. It was much easier to access large amounts of credit in 2003 than it was in 1998. Money was cheap and easy. How else did we get all those credit cards? We didn't hear a lot of complaints about Bush's policies then.

In early 2004, I began an intense initiation in the methodology of the "welfare" system, paying particular attention to the Medicaid program. The ineptitude exhibited by the design and implementation of these systems is staggering but for the people who rely upon their services, they are irreplaceable. (It is worthy of note that the food stamp program is governed by unrealistic and punitive guidelines and provides insufficient funds for adequate nutrition while the Medicaid program approves exorbitantly priced medical procedures and medications, the monies from which go to the pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and a host of shadow benefactors.) Over the next three years, I witnessed on a daily basis how the threat of the loss of health care, disability and food stamps-which would mean death for many people-prevented protest. Starvation, homelessness and painful deaths are powerful deterrents to protest.

The experiences of those six years gave me a new understanding of mass seduction, profiteering, manipulation and poverty. I saw the brutality used to convince the helpless that they cause their own suffering. I learned first hand how the greed that produced the easy money exacerbated the suffering of the poor and contributed to the expansion of the corporate terrorist state. I wondered at cold and hostile indifference of our religious and political leaders and wept at the breathtaking compassion and generosity of individuals.

But I didn't spend those six years back in the system learning to sit quietly by when some two-bit religious hustler and a disingenuous political machine corrupt the hopes and the ideals of people crying out for justice.

In the early days of the Bush takeover, only a few voices were raised in opposition. It took several years of Bush policies and the tenacious and consistent resistance of those early protestors to generate organized movement. And organizations like, drew large numbers of members and donors as they diluted the original focus of the protest. It naturally follows that as more people became involved, the opposition policies would become more mainstream.

I understand that.

But I also understand that the many, many people I know who voted for Barack Obama wanted to see substantial change. Sincere, good-hearted, thoughtful, caring people really wanted a different kind of government and who could be farther from the sitting president than a biracial man raised by a single, white mother and his grandparents? Besides, no matter what, he wouldn't be George Bush. At worst, he was the lesser of two evils. And these times were too important, too essential to the survival of freedom, to justice, equality and a sustainable planet to throw one's vote away on an alternative candidate. People believed he was the best choice.

I understand all that, too.

What I don't understood is how anyone who believes in freedom, justice, equality and repairing the viability of the planet can continue to make excuses for Barack Obama's cabinet picks, staffing decisions, economic alliances and inaugural anointings. In the two months since his election, Obama has demonstrated conclusively that he is not about change. And maybe a majority of his supporters were willing to let the war drag on, collude with Israel in the genocide in Palestine, further marginalize the poor and minimize the importance of a realistic environmental policy in order to reap a few financial rewards from his "aggressive" economic policies. Certainly they were willing to take a "wait and see" attitude.

The wait is over.

When Barack Obama extended the hand of glory to Rick Warren, he dispelled any doubts about his character, the nature of his administration and the values he holds politically important. Jeremiah Wright was expendable. Rick Warren, with his "mega-church," is not.

A lot of people are trying to rationalize, justify or ignore what it means for Rick Warren to be delivering a prayer at Barack Obama's inauguration but this one act is so symbolic, so revelatory that we cannot be silent.

Rick Warren is anathema to everything I believe to be worthwhile. Here's why.

In an interview on and widely available on youtube, Rick Warren stated that he believed same-sex marriage was the same as marriage based in pedophilia, incest and polygamy. He wants to adhere to a "five thousand year old tradition of marriage." Five thousand years is a very, very long time ago. It was the beginning of the Bronze Age-you know, the age that came just after the Neolithic--and not an especially good time to be gay or female or poor or powerless. I, for one, do not want my rights as a woman judged by 5,000 year old tribal doctrine. Check out the lot of women in the Old Testament.

His view of "marriage" is one that conveys legal property rights to an elite and at the same time grants a spiritual superiority based on a legislated closer proximity to the superior being. He supports marriages of profit and privilege. (Or, and this may be more likely, he has no idea what constituted marriage five thousand years ago but knows that date is representative in certain religious circles.) His heavy-handed attempt to use marriage as a vehicle to identify the LGBT community as promiscuous child abusers cannot be ignored. It should, in fact, disqualify him from any government sanctioned public appearance.

Rick Warren wants to have sex, he says, with every beautiful woman he meets. He then goes on-and he has made these arguments in multiple interviews-to explain that it is moral superiority which prevents him from availing himself of said activity. Homosexuals, he continues, were they possessed of the same moral character, would be similarly restrained.

How these statements, which are wrong on so many levels, have gone unchallenged in the mainstream media is one of the most frightening aspects of the climate fostered by the Obama administration. Almost as frightening as what Warren's inaugural invocation means.

My father was a pedophile. I was the victim of incest. And I can say with authority that no one who has any concept of the effects of sexual abuse on children and possesses a conscience could make the comparisons Rick Warren made. Incest and pedophilia are about destruction, domination and control. The damage is incalculable. There is something particularly distasteful about a "man of God" trampling human rights and trivializing child abuse.

And it is wrong, simply wrong, for a president of the United States to grant authority and prestige to such a man. It is obscenely wrong for a president who ran on a platform of social and political change, who capitalized on voters' commitment to justice and equality and who translated his racial heritage into the appearance of tolerance to ask someone like Rick Warren to pray at his inauguration.

Much has been made of the "left's" opposition to Warren and criticism of Obama. Obama "has" to do this, has to be inclusive, has to build a "coalition," has to recognize the "power" of the religious right and fundamentalists.

Lies. Lies and damned lies.

Anyone who criticizes or questions Obama's choices and actions is identified as "leftist" now. "Real" Democrats, real Americans, real Christians, the real middle class (and therefore the potential recipients of federal aid) support everything Obama has done and it is only those fringe malcontents who want everything their way who are complaining. In truth, the people raising objections, voicing concern and crying "foul" to Obama's fast forming policies are the canaries in the mineshaft. Obama is jettisoning the least essential excess baggage before he is sworn in and it isn't just his LGBT supporters who are being tossed overboard. The efforts to discredit any person or group who take exception to actions and decisions of the Obama presidency presage oppression as dangerous, if not more so, than that of the Bush years.

Rick Warren's knighthood is not an act of inclusion but rather one of extreme exclusivity. His brand of religion is representative of a narrow, fundamentalist sect which crosses denominations and theological views to acquire power and control through fear and the promise of salvation. His "Christian" beliefs have little to do with love and much to do with hate. Despite evidence to the contrary, he has proclaimed himself a morally and spiritually superior being and through that superiority he is able to allow lesser mortals to exist in his sphere. I bet, if Obama was forced to include one of those lesser mortals in his inauguration ceremonies, Warren would be willing to pray with and for that person. Warren knows Obama has bowed to the power he wields, the power of bigotry, hate and exclusion, because he didn't have to clamor to be invited to the table.

Why Obama would feel he has to build a coalition with the likes of Rick Warren and his followers is worth consideration. Evangelical Christianity does not represent the majority of Christians and, while pragmatists knew Obama would include religious leaders in his ceremonial ascension, granting pride of place to a vocal homophobe was a shock. Add to that Warren's objectification of women and callous indifference to the victimization of children, and the willingness of President-elect Obama to align himself with this man becomes even more outrageous. One must ask whom, exactly, Obama is placating.

Rick Warren represents the forces of sanctified bigotry, hatred, oppression, damnation and extremism. His star appearance at Barack Obama's inauguration legitimizes homophobia, misogyny and intolerance. Combined with the entrenched corporate interests Obama's cabinet represents, this does not augur well for America.

And so, because I have lived through some fairly horrific events, because I have direct experience with the institutions Americans are expecting to help them through these troubled times, because I know what it is to be responsible for someone who is powerless, dying and poor and because I understand that a freer, better world will only come from speaking truth to power, I accuse Barack Obama of calculated mendacity, ruthless manipulation and cowardice. I accuse Barack Obama of pandering to the worst elements of American society to consolidate his position with the same powers that brought George W. Bush to the White House.

Today, it is LGBT community and the left who are tossed aside--testament to our place in Obama's hierarchy. As increased demands upon our country's social welfare programs, spawned by rising unemployment and loss of workplace-sponsored health care, and the need for more government supplementation for corporations and resource wars, stretch federal finances, others will find themselves adrift in treacherous waters.

We, those of us cast off by the Obama-lot and cursed by the state religion led by Rick Warren, must make sure that our voices speak for the ones who will come after us-the teachers, the farmers, the women, children and men who still cling to the slogans that promised to save them. We must make sure that we are the voices of liberation, inclusion and hope.

And we must call Barack Obama out for his hypocrisy and betrayal!
(c) 2009 Victoria Stewart is the editor of Issues & Alibis magazine.

Airlines Outsourcing Our Safety And Jobs

Airlines have been cutting everything from pillows to staff - but what about cutting corners on the structural safety of their planes?

Well, fasten you seatbelts. Beneath the radar of the flying public, airlines execs have engaged in a widespread and worrisome cost-cutting move: outsourcing maintenance of their planes to low-wage countries. Some airlines send landing gears, engines, and other parts out-of-country for repair, while others send entire planes. This sets off safety alarms for us passengers. Not that other countries don't have competent workers, but - get this - the airlines increasingly are using "noncertificated" maintenance shops around the world. Maybe such places are A-1 repair sites, but we don't know, because our industry-cozy FAA has not even inspected and certified them.

Bad enough that our government is letting such a basic safety function slip away, but maintenance is also a key industry for middle-class jobs. As a Machinist Union leader points out, "This is a technological base, an important industry base, for our country, and we're just giving it up." We know that CEOs are dramatically raising ticket prices, but they're then quietly using our consumer dollars to undermine America's middle-class future, sending our skilled jobs, technology, and maybe our safety to such eager countries as Mexico.

We can't blame Mexicans for that, because their officials are simply on the ball, trying to lift the economic fortunes of their people. Mexico's government, for example, will soon break ground for the National Aerospace University, which will train a sophisticated workforce for building and maintaining aircraft.

Where are our leaders? Why aren't they doing that? Why aren't our corporate and governmental officials investing in the American people, rather than aggressively downsizing America's future?
(c) 2009 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Leaders Lie, Civilians Die, And Lessons Of History Are Ignored
By Robert Fisk

We've got so used to the carnage of the Middle East that we don't care any more - providing we don't offend the Israelis. It's not clear how many of the Gaza dead are civilians, but the response of the Bush administration, not to mention the pusillanimous reaction of Gordon Brown, reaffirm for Arabs what they have known for decades: however they struggle against their antagonists, the West will take Israel's side. As usual, the bloodbath was the fault of the Arabs - who, as we all know, only understand force.

Ever since 1948, we've been hearing this balderdash from the Israelis - just as Arab nationalists and then Arab Islamists have been peddling their own lies: that the Zionist "death wagon" will be overthrown, that all Jerusalem will be "liberated." And always Mr Bush Snr or Mr Clinton or Mr Bush Jnr or Mr Blair or Mr Brown have called upon both sides to exercise "restraint" - as if the Palestinians and the Israelis both have F-18s and Merkava tanks and field artillery. Hamas's home-made rockets have killed just 20 Israelis in eight years, but a day-long blitz by Israeli aircraft that kills almost 300 Palestinians is just par for the course.

The blood-splattering has its own routine. Yes, Hamas provoked Israel's anger, just as Israel provoked Hamas's anger, which was provoked by Israel, which was provoked by Hamas, which ... See what I mean? Hamas fires rockets at Israel, Israel bombs Hamas, Hamas fires more rockets and Israel bombs again and ... Got it? And we demand security for Israel - rightly - but overlook this massive and utterly disproportionate slaughter by Israel. It was Madeleine Albright who once said that Israel was "under siege" - as if Palestinian tanks were in the streets of Tel Aviv.

By last night, the exchange rate stood at 296 Palestinians dead for one dead Israeli. Back in 2006, it was 10 Lebanese dead for one Israeli dead. This weekend was the most inflationary exchange rate in a single day since - the 1973 Middle East War? The 1967 Six Day War? The 1956 Suez War? The 1948 Independence/Nakba War? It's obscene, a gruesome game - which Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defence Minister, unconsciously admitted when he spoke this weekend to Fox TV. "Our intention is to totally change the rules of the game," Barak said.

Exactly. Only the "rules" of the game don't change. This is a further slippage on the Arab-Israeli exchanges, a percentage slide more awesome than Wall Street's crashing shares, though of not much interest in the US which - let us remember - made the F-18s and the Hellfire missiles which the Bush administration pleads with Israel to use sparingly.

Quite a lot of the dead this weekend appear to have been Hamas members, but what is it supposed to solve? Is Hamas going to say: "Wow, this blitz is awesome - we'd better recognise the state of Israel, fall in line with the Palestinian Authority, lay down our weapons and pray we are taken prisoner and locked up indefinitely and support a new American 'peace process' in the Middle East!" Is that what the Israelis and the Americans and Gordon Brown think Hamas is going to do?

Yes, let's remember Hamas's cynicism, the cynicism of all armed Islamist groups. Their need for Muslim martyrs is as crucial to them as Israel's need to create them. The lesson Israel thinks it is teaching - come to heel or we will crush you - is not the lesson Hamas is learning. Hamas needs violence to emphasise the oppression of the Palestinians - and relies on Israel to provide it. A few rockets into Israel and Israel obliges.

Not a whimper from Tony Blair, the peace envoy to the Middle East who's never been to Gaza in his current incarnation. Not a bloody word.

We hear the usual Israeli line. General Yaakov Amidror, the former head of the Israeli army's "research and assessment division" announced that "no country in the world would allow its citizens to be made the target of rocket attacks without taking vigorous steps to defend them." Quite so. But when the IRA were firing mortars over the border into Northern Ireland, when their guerrillas were crossing from the Republic to attack police stations and Protestants, did Britain unleash the RAF on the Irish Republic? Did the RAF bomb churches and tankers and police stations and zap 300 civilians to teach the Irish a lesson? No, it did not. Because the world would have seen it as criminal behaviour. We didn't want to lower ourselves to the IRA's level.

Yes, Israel deserves security. But these bloodbaths will not bring it. Not since 1948 have air raids protected Israel. Israel has bombed Lebanon thousands of times since 1975 and not one has eliminated "terrorism." So what was the reaction last night? The Israelis threaten ground attacks. Hamas waits for another battle. Our Western politicians crouch in their funk holes. And somewhere to the east - in a cave? a basement? on a mountainside? - a well-known man in a turban smiles.
(c) 2009 Robert Fisk --- The Independent

Can We Save The Planet And Rescue The Economy At The Same Time?
By Al Gore

THERE ARE times in the history of our nation when our very way of life depends upon dispelling illusions and awakening to the challenge of a present danger. In such moments, we are called upon to move quickly and boldly to shake off complacency, throw aside old habits, and rise, clear-eyed and alert, to the necessity of big changes. Those who, for whatever reason, refuse to do their part must either be persuaded to join the effort or asked to step aside. This is such a moment. The survival of the United States as we know it is at risk. And even more-if more should be required-the future of human civilization is at stake.

Our economy is in terrible shape and getting worse. Gasoline prices have been increasing. Jobs are being outsourced. Home mortgages are in trouble. Banks, automobile companies, and other institutions we depend upon are under growing pressure. The war in Iraq continues, and now the war in Afghanistan appears to be getting worse.

Meanwhile, the climate crisis is growing more dire-much faster than predicted. Scientists with access to data from Navy submarines traversing beneath the north polar ice cap have warned that there is now a good chance that within five years it will completely disappear during the summer months. And by the way, our weather sure is getting strange, isn't it?

Yet when we look at these seemingly intractable challenges, we can see the common thread running through them. Our dangerous overreliance on carbon-based fuels is at the core of all of these challenges-the economic, environmental, and national security crises. We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that's got to change.

If we grab hold of that common thread and pull it hard, all of these complex problems will begin to unravel and we will find that we're holding the answer to all of them right in our hands. The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels.

Scientists have confirmed that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world's energy needs for a full year. Enough wind power blows through the Midwest corridor every day to meet 100 percent of US electricity demand. Geothermal energy is capable of providing enormous supplies of electricity.

But to make this exciting potential a reality, we need a new start. That's why I'm proposing a strategic initiative designed to regain control of our own destiny. It's not the only thing we need to do. But it's the linchpin of a new strategy to repower America. I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years. This goal represents a challenge to all Americans, in every walk of life: political leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and every citizen.

A few years ago, it would not have been possible to issue such a challenge. But the sharp cost reductions beginning to take place in solar, wind, and geothermal power-coupled with the recent dramatic price increases for oil and coal-have radically changed the economics of energy.

Of course there are those who will tell us this can't be done. Some are the defenders of the status quo, those with a vested interest in perpetuating the current system, no matter how high a price the rest of us will have to pay. But even those who reap the profits of the carbon age have to recognize the inevitability of its demise. As one OPEC oil minister observed, the Stone Age didn't end because of a shortage of stones.

We should speed up this transition by insisting that the price of carbon-based energy include the costs of the environmental damage it causes. I have long supported a sharp reduction in payroll taxes with the difference made up in CO2 taxes. We should tax what we burn, not what we earn. This is the single most important policy change we can make.

America's transition to renewable energy sources must also include adequate provisions to assist those Americans who would unfairly face hardship. We should guarantee good jobs in the fresh air and sunshine for any coal miner displaced by impacts on the coal industry.

To those who argue that we do not yet have the technology to accomplish these results: I ask them to come with me to meet the entrepreneurs who will drive this revolution. To those who say the costs are still too high: I ask them to remember that when demand for oil and coal increases, the price goes up. When demand for solar cells increases, the price often comes down. To those who say the challenge is not politically viable: I suggest they go before the American people and try to defend the status quo. Then bear witness to the people's appetite for change.

A political promise to do something decades from now is universally ignored because everyone knows it is meaningless. But 10 years is about the time that we as a nation can hold a steady aim and hit our target. When President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely in 10 years, many people doubted we could accomplish that goal. Eight years and two months later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon.

That was 39 years ago, and since then, many Americans have begun to wonder whether we've lost our appetite for bold policy solutions. Folks who claim to know how our system works these days have told us we might as well forget about our political system doing anything bold, especially if it is contrary to the wishes of special interests.

I've got to admit, that seems to be the way things have been going. But I've begun to hear different voices in this country from people who are tired of baby steps and special interest politics. So I ask you to join with me to call on every candidate, at every level, to accept this challenge-for America to be running on 100 percent zero-carbon electricity in 10 years. This is a generational moment. We need to act now.
(c) 2008 Al Gore

Why I Am A Socialist
By Chris Hedges

The corporate forces that are looting the Treasury and have plunged us into a depression will not be contained by the two main political parties. The Democratic and Republican parties have become little more than squalid clubs of privilege and wealth, whores to money and corporate interests, hostage to a massive arms industry, and so adept at deception and self-delusion they no longer know truth from lies. We will find our way out of this mess by embracing an uncompromising democratic socialism-one that will insist on massive government relief and work programs, the nationalization of electricity and gas companies, a universal, not-for-profit government health care program, the outlawing of hedge funds, a radical reduction of our bloated military budget and an end to imperial wars-or we will continue to be fleeced and impoverished by our bankrupt elite and shackled and chained by our surveillance state.

The free market and globalization, promised as the route to worldwide prosperity, have been exposed as a con game. But this does not mean our corporate masters will disappear. Totalitarianism, as George Orwell pointed out, is not so much an age of faith as an age of schizophrenia. "A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial," Orwell wrote, "that is when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud." Force and fraud are all they have left. They will use both.

There is a political shift in Europe toward an open confrontation with the corporate state. Germany has seen a surge of support for Die Linke (The Left), a political grouping formed 18 months ago. It is co-led by the veteran socialist "Red" Oskar Lafontaine, who has built his career on attacking big business. Two-thirds of Germans in public opinion polls say they agree with all or some of Die Linke's platform. The Socialist Party of the Netherlands is on the verge of overtaking the Labor Party as the main opposition party on the left. Greece, beset with street protests and violence by disaffected youths, has seen the rapid rise of the Coalition of the Radical Left. In Spain and Norway socialists are in power. Resurgence is not universal, especially in France and Britain, but the shifts toward socialism are significant.

Corporations have intruded into every facet of life. We eat corporate food. We buy corporate clothes. We drive corporate cars. We buy our vehicular fuel and our heating oil from corporations. We borrow from corporate banks. We invest our retirement savings with corporations. We are entertained, informed and branded by corporations. We work for corporations. The creation of a mercenary army, the privatization of public utilities and our disgusting for-profit health care system are all legacies of the corporate state. These corporations have no loyalty to America or the American worker. They are not tied to nation states. They are vampires.

"By now the [commercial] revolution has deprived the mass of consumers of any independent access to the staples of life: clothing, shelter, food, even water," Wendell Berry wrote in "The Unsettling of America." "Air remains the only necessity that the average user can still get for himself, and the revolution had imposed a heavy tax on that by way of pollution. Commercial conquest is far more thorough and final than military defeat."

The corporation is designed to make money without regard to human life, the social good or impact on the environment. Corporate laws impose a legal duty on corporate executives to make as much money as possible for shareholders, although many have moved on to fleece shareholders as well. In the 2003 documentary film "The Corporation" the management guru Peter Drucker says: "If you find an executive who wants to take on social responsibilities, fire him. Fast."

A corporation that attempts to engage in social responsibility, that tries to pay workers a decent wage with benefits, that invests its profits to protect the environment and limit pollution, that gives consumers fair deals, can be sued by shareholders. Robert Monks, the investment manager, says in the film: "The corporation is an externalizing machine, in the same way that a shark is a killing machine. There isn't any question of malevolence or of will. The enterprise has within it, and the shark has within it, those characteristics that enable it to do that for which it was designed." Ray Anderson, the CEO of Interface Corp., the world's largest commercial carpet manufacturer, calls the corporation a "present day instrument of destruction" because of its compulsion to "externalize any cost that an unwary or uncaring public will allow it to externalize."

"The notion that we can take and take and take and take, waste and waste, without consequences, is driving the biosphere to destruction," Anderson says.

In short, the film, based on Joel Bakan's book "The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power," asserts that the corporation exhibits many of the traits found in people clinically defined as psychopaths.

Psychologist Dr. Robert Hare lists in the film psychopathic traits and ties them to the behavior of corporations:

callous unconcern for the feelings for others;
incapacity to maintain enduring relationships;
reckless disregard for the safety of others;
deceitfulness: repeated lying and conning others for profit;
incapacity to experience guilt;
failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior.

And yet, under the American legal system, corporations have the same legal rights as individuals. They give hundreds of millions of dollars to political candidates, fund the army of some 35,000 lobbyists in Washington and thousands more in state capitals to write corporate-friendly legislation, drain taxpayer funds and abolish government oversight. They saturate the airwaves, the Internet, newsprint and magazines with advertisements promoting their brands as the friendly face of the corporation. They have high-priced legal teams, millions of employees, skilled public relations firms and thousands of elected officials to ward off public intrusions into their affairs or halt messy lawsuits. They hold a near monopoly on all electronic and printed sources of information. A few media giants-AOL-Time Warner, General Electric, Viacom, Disney and Rupert Murdoch's NewsGroup-control nearly everything we read, see and hear.

"Private capital tends to become concentrated in [a] few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of the smaller ones," Albert Einstein wrote in 1949 in the Monthly Review in explaining why he was a socialist. "The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights."

Labor and left-wing activists, especially university students and well-heeled liberals, have failed to unite. This division, which is often based on social rather than economic differences, has long stymied concerted action against ruling elites. It has fractured the American left and rendered it impotent.

"Large sections of the middle class are being gradually proletarianized; but the important point is that they do not, at any rate not in the first generation, adopt a proletarian outlook," Orwell wrote in 1937 during the last economic depression. "Here I am, for instance, with a bourgeois upbringing and a working-class income. Which class do I belong to? Economically I belong to the working class, but it is almost impossible for me to think of myself as anything but a member of the bourgeoisie. And supposing I had to take sides, whom should I side with, the upper class which is trying to squeeze me out of existence, or the working class whose manners are not my manners? It is probable that I, personally, in any important issue, would side with the working class. But what about the tens or hundreds of thousands of others who are in approximately the same position? And what about that far larger class, running into millions this time-the office-workers and black-coated employees of all kinds-whose traditions are less definite middle class but who would certainly not thank you if you called them proletarians? All of these people have the same interests and the same enemies as the working class. All are being robbed and bullied by the same system. Yet how many of them realize it? When the pinch came nearly all of them would side with their oppressors and against those who ought to be their allies. It is quite easy to imagine a working class crushed down to the worst depths of poverty and still remaining bitterly anti-working-class in sentiment; this being, of course, a ready-made Fascist party."

Coalitions of environmental, anti-nuclear, anti-capitalist, sustainable-agriculture and anti-globalization forces have coalesced in Europe to form and support socialist parties. This has yet to happen in the United States. The left never rallied in significant numbers behind Cynthia McKinney or Ralph Nader. In picking the lesser of two evils, it threw its lot in with a Democratic Party that backs our imperial wars, empowers the national security state and does the bidding of corporations.

If Barack Obama does not end the flagrant theft of taxpayer funds by corporate slugs and the disgraceful abandonment of our working class, especially as foreclosures and unemployment mount, many in the country will turn in desperation to the far right embodied by groups such as Christian radicals. The failure by the left to offer a democratic socialist alternative will mean there will be, in the eyes of many embittered and struggling working- and middle-class Americans, no alternative but a perverted Christian fascism. The inability to articulate a viable socialism has been our gravest mistake. It will ensure, if this does not soon change, a ruthless totalitarian capitalism.
(c) 2009 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.

Shock, Awe and Lies
The Truth Behind the Israeli Attack on Gaza
By Chris Floyd

Here is a simple, stone cold fact. You cannot read or hear the truth about what is happening in Gaza from any corporate media in the United States. The only thing you will find there are regurgitations of Israeli spin, which are themselves only regurgitations of the kind of spin that American militarists have put on their own depredations -- for centuries now. Up and down the American media and political establishments, you will find nothing but bleatings about Israel being "forced" to launch its vicious blunderbuss attacks against heavily populated Gaza because of the "recent spate of Hamas bombings" since the end of a six-month ceasefire.

This is of course a damnable and deliberate lie. Papers in Israel -- in Israel, but not the United States -- are reporting the truth: the murderous assault on Gaza was planned not only before the six-month ceasefire ended -- it was planned before the cease-fire even took effect. Indeed, the cease-fire was part of the military plan to decimate the civilian areas of Gaza; it was a hoax, a scam, a deliberate feint to buy time for military preparations -- precisely the same strategy followed by the Bush Regime (and its bipartisan Establishment supporters) in "going to the UN" to seek a "peaceful solution" to the "Iraqi crisis" -- when the invasion was already in the works.

Haaretz reports on the Israel's deceit in the latest outrage, in the aptly titled piece, "Disinformation, secrecy and lies: How the Gaza offensive came about":

Long-term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and the misleading of the public - all these stood behind the Israel Defense Forces "Cast Lead" operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, which began Saturday morning. he disinformation effort, according to defense officials, took Hamas by surprise and served to significantly increase the number of its casualties in the strike.

Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. According to the sources, Barak maintained that although the lull would allow Hamas to prepare for a showdown with Israel, the Israeli army needed time to prepare, as well..

The story also notes that the recent racheting of tension was sparked, deliberately, by a heavy-handed Israeli incursion into Gaza:

The plan of action that was implemented in Operation Cast Lead remained only a blueprint until a month ago, when tensions soared after the IDF carried out an incursion into Gaza during the ceasefire to take out a tunnel which the army said was intended to facilitate an attack by Palestinian militants on IDF troops....

While Barak was working out the final details with the officers responsible for the operation, Livni went to Cairo to inform Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, that Israel had decided to strike at Hamas. In parallel, Israel continued to send out disinformation in announcing it would open the crossings to the Gaza Strip and that Olmert would decide whether to launch the strike following three more deliberations on Sunday - one day after the actual order to launch the operation was issued.

"Hamas evacuated all its headquarter personnel after the cabinet meeting on Wednesday," one defense official said, "but the organization sent its people back in when they heard that everything was put on hold until Sunday."

Not only did this deception lead Hamas to send its officials back to work -- it also meant that there was no general warning to the masses of civilians packed like sardines into Gaza's hellish confines. It meant that civilian casualties would be maximized -- especially when the initial assault was launched in the middle of the day, with thousands of schoolchildren out at their lesson.

As Glenn Greenwald notes, Israel's massive bombing of civilian areas -- even if couched in terms of "retaliation" for scattershot strikes on Israeli territory by a political faction -- constitutes "a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions." Greenwald also adroitly turns Barack Obama's campaign kowtowing to Israeli militarism on its head:

[Obama on the campaign trail]: "The first job of any nation state is to protect its citizens. And so I can assure you that if -- I don't even care if I was a politician -- if somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."

Can't the exact same mentality be deployed to justify everything Hamas has done and is doing, to wit: "if a foreign power were brutally occupying my country for four decades -- or blockading my country and denying my children medical needs and nutrition and the ability even to exit -- I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Palestinians to do the same thing"? But the last thing that our political class ever extends is reciprocal, two-sided analysis to this dispute.

What is the ultimate context of this carnage? The fact that the Arab inhabitants of Palestine had their land taken away from them by force -- not in some ancient, historic era, but within the lifetime of many thousands of Palestinians still living. I hold no brief for Hamas; like the Angry Arab, whose coverage of the conflict has been relentless and penetrating, I don't care for any party based on religious extremism. But as Greenwald notes, every action taken by Hamas and other Palestinian resistance groups could be characterized as "retaliation" for the theft of their land, not to mention the war crime of collective punishment and genocidal blockades visited upon the Occupied Territories for years.

But there is not a single peep of this perspective from America's ruling class and its media courtiers. Of course, it is a bit much to expect a nation which itself was built on land theft, repression and slaughter to see anything wrong or "disproportionate" in Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. What else are you supposed to do when those dang heathen savages come around with their war parties and tomahawks, trying to get back the land that God Almighty has granted to good white folk?

Meanwhile, here's what Israel's "Manifest Destiny" looks like on the ground in Gaza. From the Maan News Agency (via the Angry Arab, as was the photo above):

Death shrouds the hallways of Gaza City's Ash-Shifa medical compound Saturday, its smell creeping in from all corners. mutated bodies are strewn throughout hallways because morgues in the city can no longer accommodate the dead. In one corner a man stands with his seven year old son in a cardboard box because the hospital ran out of sheets to cover the dead with. This is how he will carry him home and bury him. Another man stands dazed, in shock after watching his son Mohammed killed during his graduation ceremony at the de facto police headquarters. The father of one of Mohammed's classmates stood next to his son as he was decapitated. The man is still screaming.

In the packed hospital waiting room a mother sits silently staring into the distance; her son was pronounced dead shortly after she brought him in... Forty-year-old mother Nawal Al-Lad'a did not find the bodies of her two sons in the medical compound, so she left to look amid the rubble.

Husam Farajallah, a university student, was at the hospital collecting the body of his relative. He called what happened in Gaza a "black day" in the lives of all Palestinians, and wondered how the world could watch and do nothing.

Medics in Gaza confirmed that the majority of those killed in the day's attacks were civilians, including men, women and children. Most were cut to pieces, making the job of doctors and medics difficult, and the task of giving bodies back to families painful and gruesome. The medics working in the field continue to dig up bodies from the densely populated urban areas of Gaza City.

The scenes remind many Palestinians of the images that came out of the Sabra and Shatila massacres from Beirut in 1982, when thousands of Palestinians were killed by the Lebanese Phalangist militia.

As the death toll climbs and no word on a halt to the attacks has come from Israel, Gazans fear for their lives and loved ones.
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

Vitamin B1 Reverses Kidney Damage In Diabetics, So Why Won't Doctors Recommend It?
By Mike Adams

(NaturalNews) New research shows that the low-cost vitamin Thiamine (vitamin B1) reverses kidney damage in diabetics, restoring the ability of the kidneys to function without allowing proteins to spill over into the urine.

The finding proves that a very low-cost treatment is highly effective and could serve as a low-cost nutritional therapy for diabetics, ultimately saving tens of millions of dollars a year in medical treatment costs in the U.S. alone.

The research was conducted at Warwick University in the UK. Predictably, the UK version of the American Diabetes Association (called "Diabetes UK") took the new evidence as an opportunity to tell people to avoid nutritional therapies. As reported by the BBC, Dr. Iain Frame said, "We would like to stress that it's still too early to come to any firm conclusions about the role of vitamin B1 and we would not advise that people look to vitamin supplements to reduce their risk of kidney complications at this stage."

In other words, it's the same advice diabetics get in the United States: Don't you dare use vitamins to enhance and protect your health... use pharmaceuticals instead!

More than three-fourths of the populations in both the U.S. and U.K. are deficient in thiamine. The deficiency can be easily corrected with nutritional supplementation.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, does not believe there is any vitamin or nutrient in the known universe that prevents or treats any disease or health condition. This is actually the official position of the FDA, and thus anyone selling vitamin B1 who also claims the vitamin could reverse diabetic kidney damage would be violating FDA regulations and subjected to arrest at gunpoint. Any doctor recommending vitamin B1 for the same purpose could be stripped of his license to practice medicine.

Why orthodox medicine opposes nutrition

The entire orthodox medical system in both the U.S. and U.K. is dead set against the use of vitamins to prevent or treat any disease. Rather than embracing vitamins that could greatly ease human suffering and save billions of dollars in health care costs, the corrupt medical authorities of both nations conspire to discredit vitamins and limit patients to the use of highly-profitable, yet dangerously toxic drugs.

And each time new research surfaces, showing the remarkable health benefits of a vitamin, these same medical authorities immediately denounce those vitamins, insisting that "more research is needed."

That's code for "we'll never advocate it." Whether we're talking about vitamin D (which prevents cancer), vitamin E (which prevents heart disease) or any of the B vitamins, conventional medicine remains unconditionally opposed to any patient using vitamins for any purpose whatsoever.

This isn't based on evidence, and it isn't about science; it's about politics and profits. Vitamins are discredited precisely because they threaten the profits of Big Pharma and strip power from doctors by allowing patients to prevent and treat their own health conditions are home (for pennies on the dollar).

Most conventional medical practitioners literally believe that vitamins are nutritionally worthless in the human body, but that people suffer from "pharmaceutical deficiencies" that can only be corrected through the lifetime use of prescription drugs (statin drugs, for example).
(c) 2009 Mike Adams is the editor of Natural News

Betting The Farm; Your Farm!
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning Middle America, your King of Simple News is on the air.

The flurry of activity here at the Folkerth house has subsided as five grandkids and four adults departed last evening and left Cathy and I to resume our normal routine.

Observations that I make during this time of year are much different than for most; this is due to most people being semi-normal.

I observed that the vast majority of the Christmas gifts made someone in China very happy. I also observed that Americans continue to lose their jobs due this transferred Chinese happiness. The latest jobs report indicate that the continual flood of "pink slips" is far greater than anticipated.

In 1994, I was writing a column that I aptly titled "Horse Sense." NAFTA was passed that year and one short year later; the U.S. joined the World Trade Organization. I made the statement in my column that I would stand on the courthouse steps, give them two hours to draw a crowd, and eat a fifty pound crow if NAFTA proved to be beneficial to the American Middle Class.

As you can guess, crow has not been on my bill-of-fare thus far. I have continued to argue against those who fallaciously point out the benefits of free trade with poverty stricken nations. I devoted a lot of ink in my book to countering the idea of unrestricted free trade.

Allowing direct free trade with nations who pay their workers 50 cents per hour in an attempt to level the economic playing field is pure lunacy.

We could do the same with football by having our local high school team challenge the Denver Broncos in an attempt to bring about "fair play," in team sports. Sure the Bronco's would cripple our kids, but then, the Chinese are crippling our very way of life and we don't seem to have a problem with that. Wal-Mart, in fact, is finding the arrangement quite beneficial.

Trade, to be beneficial, must work both ways. We must trade in balance, but then that's a problem isn't it? At the time that I wrote my book, a Detroit Union autoworker was making more than 40 times more per "loaded hour" than a Mexican autoworker. The Mexican auto worker is producing cars with American names like Dodge, Ford, and Chevy. How do you make that work?

How do you sell the Mexican autoworker a brand new U.S. made auto to balance trade? Finance it for 30 years?

Products made in the U.S. are expensive due to our elevated living standard and the skyrocketing cost of our government. The Mexican's don't have a space program.

When little Janie is asked by her teacher, "If one country pays their workers 50 cents per hour and another country pays their workers 50 dollars per hour for doing the same job, which country can produce products cheaper?"

Little Janie answers, "I have no idea, I hate math. Would like to see my new Chinese video game and cell phone that I got for Christmas?"

Throwing trillions of un-backed dollars at solving what is described as a "credit crisis" by the criminals in our government and their protege's on Wall Street; simply won't work. What we have instead is a borrowing crisis. Attempting to entice people to borrow more money in order to to get us out of a problem that was caused from borrowing more pure madness.

So here comes my same old saw. "It is impossible to grow ourselves out of this mess this time around."

Put more accurately; our government is attempting (by forcing trillions of borrowed dollars into the system) to spur unending economic growth to such a level as to not only return us to the quasi "normal" state of past glory days, but also to a such unprecedented heights as to repay the borrowed money by virtue of elevated tax collection!

In other words, our elected officials and those who control our elected officials, are not only promising the impossibility of exponential growth; they have bet the farm (your farm) on future hyper-growth of the U.S. economy.

There is no other plausible mathematical answer for their current actions.
(c) 2009 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"When you're taking flak, you must be over the target."
~~~ Jim Robinson

The Last Road Trip
Freakishly cheap gas? Nation broke? Just hit the road
By Mark Morford

Something is deeply wrong. Something is bizarre and upside-down and perverse and it's not just fish pedicures or Rod Blagojevich's hair or the fact that people still care in the slightest about the sad and toothless chyme that is Britney Spears' White Trash Lite(tm) career.

It's gas. The price of oil. Or I should say, the stunning, creepy, impossibly low price of Satan's lubricant, Bush's blood, our own personal Jesus. Have you noticed? How could you not?

It's one of the more disturbing indicators in recent memory, easily the most ironically depressing sign of doom and downturn you get to see every single day as you careen around the city streets and look at the signs and blink a few times and go, wait wait wait, what year is it again? Are you kidding me? A buck seventy five? For premium? WTF?

It is the frightening rule du jour: the cheaper gas gets right now, the more completely screwed you know we are. At the same time, a cheap tank of gas is one of the few strokes of fiscal relief we have right now, a tiny reprieve from the brutal economic turmoil. What a thing.

But on the whole, it is not good news. Normally, the price of a barrel of crude drops a couple hundred percent in less than a year and we'd be out celebrating, joyous in the knowledge that ExxonMobileShellScrewYou must've just shoved an enormous drill bit the size of Sarah Palin's vacuity deep into Russia or Venezuela or a precious Alaskan wildlife preserve and come up with enough pure, sweet crude to last us until you're very, very dead and your grandkids are using the burned-out hull of your Chevy Tahoe XLT as a bomb shelter against the global warming food riots.

Not this time, baby. No one, not even the most right-wing, SUV-loving Peak Oil denier, is claiming the crash in oil prices is actually a righteous and positive sign overall, despite how some economists say it's the one thing that's kept us from complete fiscal Armageddon, at least for now.

This is what it really means: massive production slowdown, worldwide. It means: Auto industry collapse. It means: demand is so freakishly low that even coddled Saudi sheiks are parking their chrome Mercedes McLaren SLRs at the guest mansion and driving the lowly Cayenne Turbo to their gilded office towers made of diamonds and virgins and cheap immigrant labor. See? Bleak all around.

But like any bizarre, inverse hunk of temporary reality that shouldn't really exist right now, if you close your eyes just right and spin yourself around and pretend the world is made of honeysuckle and pie and dreamy roadside cafes, you can make yourself see the tiny, tasty upside. Shall we?

You have but to ask yourself: What can I do in the midst of one of the most savage economic recessions since the Depression, when Americans can't afford a good latte anymore and retail's in a tailspin and no one's buying anything over ten bucks?

Is the answer not obvious? Did you not read the headline to this column?

That's right: Road trip. A big one. Cross-country, all over the map (maybe wait until Spring for the northern regions), see the sights, burn off any number of tanks of cheap petrol for the last time ever and get the Saturn/Chevy/Chrysler serviced one more time before all dealerships close and your creaky American car is suddenly worth less than a used skateboard. Doesn't it sound about right?

Really, the signs all seem to be aligned. Gas back to pennies per gallon for perhaps the last time in your lifetime, trips abroad still impossibly expensive, America on the verge of her next big leap forward, roads less congested (due to everyone being laid off), lots of free parking at the roughly 10,000 strip mall Targets and Wal-Marts and that still plague the land like a big-box cancer, a thousand small businesses scattered across a hundred small towns that could sure as hell use your patronage. What's not to like?

Imagine the sights: All those bizarre new ghost towns, huge, tract-home megadevelopments with no one around to mow the perfect 13-foot squares of sod; tumbleweeds rolling like lost macho dreams across all those shuttered Hummer dealerships; bigwig bankers out in the street, begging for alms, $4,000 Armani suit in tatters. Or at least, a bit smudged. Honey, get the camera.

Plus, you can wave a final farewell to George Bush's America, the sour megachurches and the gun shops and the liquor barns (usually all in the same mini mall), the giant industrial feedlots and the creationist museums and the prisons overflowing with white collar criminals and hey! Isn't that Scooter Libby, hitchhiking down the highway toward Sodom? Can we take a quick detour up to the Minneapolis airport so I can take one last snapshot of Sen. Larry Craig's favorite "I am not gay" totally gay restroom before it vanishes from the tourist map forevermore? Cool.

More seriously: A shift is nigh. It feels like it just might be the end of that classic, nostalgic America of yore, the last gasp of that sweet, impossible snapshot you might have of the classic road trip, all charming roadside attractions and funky cafes and strange, tiny towns dotting the byways like weird hallucinations. Plus, filling the tank for 25 bucks? That's just ridiculous.

After all, America is changing, and not a moment too soon. Our once noble but greedy land of cheap gas and giant cars and hot concrete ribbons stretching to the horizon is finally be shifting to something slightly more... I'm not quite sure what. Responsible? Mindful? Shrewd? Less oily? We can only hope.

What we know for sure: Principal Obama is about to step in and take away much of our unchecked gluttony, the belt tightening will go all the way to the spine, cheap, plentiful oil is going the way of the rain forest, giant, lumbering cars are more irresponsible than letting your kids watch Fox News and even Wall Street kingpins are being slapped down a few dozen rungs on the ladder of respect and admiration. End of an era? Sort of. More like: End of an identity.

Does it not seems like the road is beckoning, one last time? Hell, right now a good road trip is cheaper than a plane ticket. You need no new clothes. You need no real agenda. Stock up the cooler with a giant bag of trail mix and a case of cheap Sauvignon Blanc from Trader Joe's, map out a loose route on the iPhone, fill your tank, take aim, see the nation one more time before the economy recovers and gas leaps back up to eight bucks a gallon and we all come to our senses and start driving Smart cars to the corner market to pick up our monthly allotment of basic decency and newfound global perspective. Fun!
(c) 2008 Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SF Gate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle. To get on the e-mail list for this column, please click here and remove one article of clothing!

December 30, 2008: Oh What a Day!
By Cynthia McKinney

I'm so glad that my father told me to buy a special notebook and to write everything down because that's exactly what I did.

When we left from Cyprus, one reporter asked me "are you afraid?" And I had to respond that Malcolm X wasn't afraid; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn't afraid. But little did I know that just a few hours later, I would be recollecting my life and mentally preparing myself for death.

When we left Cyprus, the Mediterranean was beautiful. I remember the time when it might have been beautiful to look at, but it was also filthy. The Europeans have taken great strides to clean it up and yesterday, it was beautiful. And the way the sunlight hit the sea, I remember thinking to myself that's why they call it azure. It was the most beautiful blue.

But sometimes it was rough, and we got behind on our schedule. We stayed on course, however, despite the roughness of the water and due to our exquisite captain.

There were no other ships or boats around us and night descended upon us all rather quickly. It was the darkest black and suddenly, out of nowhere, came searchlights disturbing our peace. The searchlights stayed with us for about half an hour or so. We knew they were Israeli ships. Who else would they be?

They were fast, and they would come close and then drop back. And then, they'd come close again. And then, all of a sudden there was complete blackness once again and all seemed right. The cat and mouse game went on for at least one half hour. What were they doing? And why?

Calm again. Black sky, black sea. Peace. And then, at that very moment, when all seemed right, out of nowhere we were rammed and rammed again and rammed again the last one throwing me off the couch, sending all our food up in the air; and all the plastic bags and tubs--evidence of sea sicknesses among the crew and passengers--flew all over the cabin and all over us. We'd been rammed by the Israelis. How did we know? Because they called us on the phone afterwards to tell us that we were engaging in subversive, terroristic activity. And if that if we didn't turn around right then and return to Larnaca, Cyprus, we would be fired upon. We quickly grabbed our lifevests and put them on. Then the captain announced that the boat was taking on water. We might have to evacuate. One of my mates told me to prepare to die. And I reflected that I have lived a good and full life. I have tasted freedom and know what it is. I was right with myself and my decision to join the Free Gaza movement.

I remembered my father's parting words, "You all will be sitting ducks." Just like the U.S.S. Liberty. We were engaged in peaceful activity, a harmless pleasure boat, carrying a load of hospital supplies for the people of Gaza, who, too are sitting ducks, currently being bombarded in aerial assault by the Israeli military.

It's been a long day for us. The captain was outstanding. Throughout it all, he remained stoic and calm, effective in every way. I didn't know how to put my life jacket on. One of the passengers kindly assisted me. Another of the passengers pointed out that the Israeli motors for those huge, fast boats was U.S. made--a gift to them from the U.S. And now they were using those motors to damage a pleasure boat outfitted with three tons of hospital supplies, one pediatrician, and two surgeons.

I have called for President-elect Obama to say something. The Palestinian people in the Gaza strip are seeing the worst violence in 60 years, it is being reported. To date, President-elect Obama has remained silent. The Israelis are using weapons supplied to them by the U.S. government. Strict enforcement of U.S. law would require the cessation of all weapons transfers to Israel. Adherence to international law would require the same. As we are about to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, let us remember that he said:

1. The United States is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, and
2. Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent about things that matter.

I implore the President-elect to not send Congress a budget that contains more weapons for Israel. We have so much more to offer. And I implore the Congress to vote "no" on any budget and appropriation bills that provide more weapons transfers, period.

Israel is able to carry out these intense military maneuvers because taxpayers in the U.S. give their hard-earned money to our Representatives in Congress and our Congress chooses to spend that money in this way. Let's stop it and stop it now. There's been too much blood shed. And while we still walk among the living, let us not remain silent about the things that matter.

We really can promote peace and have it if we demand it of our leaders.
(c) 2008 Cynthia McKinney

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Bush,

Dear Herr Saltsman,

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, Ralph Nader, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Anthony (Fat Tony) Kennedy.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, your support of our two coup d'etats, your brilliant parody song "Barack The Magic Negro" which has lifted Republican spirits from South Carolina to Arizona, Iraq and these many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross, first class, with ruby clusters presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Bush at a gala celebration at "der Wolf's Lair," formally "Rancho de Bimbo," on 01-17-2009. We salute you Herr Saltsman, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Cheney

Heil Bush

David Gregory Shows Why He's The Perfect Replacement For Tim Russert
By Glenn Greenwald

Several months before he was named as moderator of Meet the Press, David Gregory went on MSNBC to categorically reject Scott McClellan's accusations that the American media failed to scrutinize the Bush administration's pre-war claims. Gregory vigorously praised the job which he and his "journalistic" colleagues did in the run-up to the Iraq War -- the period which Salon's Gary Kamiya called "one of the greatest collapses in the history of the American media." Proclaimed Gregory, with a straight face: "Questions were asked. I think we pushed. I think we prodded. I think we challenged the President. Not only those of us in the White House Press Corps did that, but others in the media landscape did that." Most revealingly of all, Gregory said:

I think there are a lot of critics who think that . . . . if we did not stand up and say this is bogus, and you're a liar, and why are you doing this, that we didn't do our job. I respectfully disagree. It's not our role.

Indeed. Perish the thought that a reporter should point out when government officials are making "bogus" claims and are lying a country into a war. That is "not their role," says the New Tim Russert (and, unsurprisingly, the Old Tim Russert wholeheartedly agreed). I don't know whether Gregory's public advocacy for a meek and polite press corps that would never be so rude as to point out when government leaders are lying is what sealed the deal for his new promotion to Meet the Press -- a show which centrally depends on having powerful politicians know that they can come on and, as Dick Cheney's top communications aide put it, "control the message." But I'm quite sure that it didn't hurt.

To see what Cheney aide Cathie Martin meant when she explained that Cheney knew he could go on Meet the Press and "control the message" -- and to see in action David Gregory's model of sycophantic, unchallenging "journalism" -- one could do no better than to examine Gregory's embarrassingly deferential "interview" yesterday with Israel's Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni. It's a perfect template for how our American press corps (with some rare exceptions) functions.

Whatever one's views are on Israel's attack on Gaza -- pro, con or otherwise -- there's no denying that it's an extremely controversial matter -- at least it is in the world that exists outside of mainstream American political discourse. Even within Israel, there are scathing criticisms of what the Israeli Government is doing -- on both strategic and moral grounds. Yet none of those objections made their way into David Gregory's interview of Livni. He didn't present her with a single argument against the Israeli attack. He didn't challenge a single word she uttered. He was even more sycophantic with her than the average American journalist is with the average American political leader.

Here, in unedited and verbatim form, are all of the "questions" asked by Gregory of a top political official of a country that just launched a brutal and highly controversial military assault -- one which, given the integral U.S. support for Israel, will have a profound effect on American interests:

How long will the offensive last?

A lot of people are watching what's playing out, this air assault, and wondering why now?

What is Israel's goal right now? Is it to re-establish the cease-fire, or is it to invade Gaza and remove Hamas from power?

Foreign Minister, aren't you making the case for pushing Hamas from power? The cease-fire, according to Israel, simply hasn't worked. It hasn't stopped the bombing of Sderot and Israel in the southern areas. So only the replacement of Hamas by Fatah, by more moderate leaders, appears to be the only answer.

Is it acceptable to Israel for Hamas to remain in power in Gaza?

I know you were in Egypt this past week, you met with Hosni Mubarak. What did you hear in the course of those meetings--the foreign minister of Egypt has criticized Hamas--and what is your message to the Arab world this morning?

The Bush administration has been supportive of the campaign so far in Gaza but has warned Israel about avoiding civilian causalities. What kinds of consultations have you had with Secretary of State Rice?

But if the goal is to change realities on the ground, to change the behavior of Hamas, how much international condemnation is Israel prepared to accept and at what level of civilian casualties?

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, thank you very much for your time.

Actually, the only time Gregory challenged her at all was, in essence, to demand that Israel take even more aggressive action than they're talking already. He was essentially pushing her into invading Gaza and deposing its democratically elected government ("Aren't you making the case for pushing Hamas from power? . . . . only the replacement of Hamas by Fatah, by more moderate leaders, appears to be the only answer "). It was almost as though his goal were to make Israel appear excessively restrained and pacifistic.

That behavior is quite redolent of the way in which Gregory "challenged" George Bush before the Iraq War. As Oliver Willis pointed out after Gregory proudly heralded the "tough questions" the media asked of Bush in the run-up to the war, here was the initial and follow-up questions Gregory asked of Bush at the March 6, 2003 Press Conference -- a highly scripted and deferential affair that was held less than two weeks before the U.S. attacked Iraq:

Q Mr. President, good evening. If you order war, can any military operation be considered a success if the United States does not capture Saddam Hussein, as you once said, dead or alive?

Q Sir, I'm sorry, is success contingent upon capturing or killing Saddam Hussein, in your mind?

In other words: are you going to get or kill Saddam? Don't you have to? Those are the tough questions which Gregory posed to Bush at his Press Conference immediately before the American attack on Iraq. As pitiful as those "questions" were, they actually look adversarial compared to the reverent, P.R.-hack-like chat which Gregory yesterday hosted with Livni.

There are good reasons why the media's reverent 2003 treatment of Bush matches its 2008 deference to Israeli claims. In 2003, claims about Iraq from the Bush administration -- just like claims from Israel now -- were not aggressively challenged or disputed in good company; their pronouncements were mandated orthodoxy, pieties of the highest order. And the one thing our media stars are good at doing -- what, above all else, they're programmed to do -- is to amplify and pay homage to prevailing establishment pieties. To do otherwise, as Gregory revealingly explained, "is not their role."

UPDATE: Do you think would have done this?

On a mostly unrelated note, this sort of emotionally manipulative nonsequitur from George Mason University Law Professor (and Israel obsessive) David Bernstein -- "Boy, am I already getting tired of hearing [complaints about Israel's 'disproportionate' response] . . . Hell, I'll personally pay for Glenn Greewald's Sderot vacation" -- is the kind of irrational swill that typifies discussions of Israel. That "argument" is the same as saying to someone who objects to Hamas' suicide bombs or rockets: "I'll personally pay for your Ramallah or Gaza City vacation, so you can see what it's like to live imprisoned by walls, under a 40-year foreign occupation, with blockades that cause your children's growth to stunt and to be denied basic nutritional and medical needs."

The fact that the people of Location X are suffering doesn't mean that anything and everything their government directs to the general vicinity of those inflicting the suffering is justified. Haven't we learned that lesson over the last eight years? Conversely, to object to the actions taken by a government (e.g.: torture, warrantless eavesdropping, attack on Iraq) is not to deny the legitimacy of the original grievance in response to which those measures are ostensibly undertaken (e.g.: the 9/11 attacks). Isn't that basic by now? Those who haven't learned that lesson have no basis ever for objecting to war criminality, or excessive or reckless military actions, or any other means employed by those with legitimate grievances.

UPDATE II: Many of our nation's most grizzled super-tough-guy cheerleader/warriors -- the ones who insatiably crave those sensations of vicarious power from play-acting the role of warriors from a nice, safe distance -- are responding to my post of yesterday by beating their chests, swaggering around, and citing General Sherman to explain (in their best John Wayne voices) that War is Hell. All good warriors (like them) know that anything and everything done to those who "start a war" is justified.

Of course, if you ask Hamas why they blow themselves up in pizza parlors and shoot rockets at homes in Southern Israel as a response to the 40-year Israeli occupation and recent blockade, they'll tell you the same thing. If you ask Hezbollah why they kidnap Israeli soldiers and lob rockets into Israel in response to Israeli incursions into Lebanon, they'll make the same claim. If you ask Al Qaeda why they fly civilian-filled airplanes into civilian-filled buildings in response to American hegemony (and endless military actions) in their region of the world, they'll explain that jihad is hell and anything done to advance it is justified. You'll hear the same thing if you ask Russians why they destroyed Chechnyan residential blocks, or if you ask Serbian leaders about their genocide, or if you inquire with Rwandan tribal leaders about the brutality of their attacks, or if you ask virtually any other war criminal why they had to resort to such extremes.

In comments, sysprog points out that Professor Bernstein is either ignorant of or "pretending not to know the difference between jus ad bellum (justifiable war) and jus in bello (just action in war)." That distinction, at least since Nuremberg, has ostensibly been central to Western justice. But just like Hamas and Al Qaeda, many blindly loyal cheerleaders for any American and/or Israeli war -- as the last eight years conclusively demonstrated -- simply don't believe in it. It's clarifying of them to say so this explicitly.
(c) 2009 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy", examines the Bush legacy.

Class Is A Dirty Word
By Jason Miller

"Class is a dirty word in that it gets close to the truth about who governs and for whose benefit." ~~~ Michael Parenti

In the land of those who think they're free and the home of savage capitalism, class is indeed a dirty word. Remember, we're a nation of Joe the Plumbers. If we just work hard enough and fend off those socialist vampires who want to suck us dry by redistributing our hard-earned wealth, we can all be financial successes. And if you're a faux-progressive presidential candidate-like Obama, you're doomed to political perdition unless you sign a blood oath disavowing your ties to socialism.

Yet there are a few political analysts and academics who dare to blaspheme against capitalism, which is the "God" this benighted land truly worships-despite the disgustingly hypocritical veneer of faux Christianity. Remember that Michael Parenti has one of the filthiest mouths you'll ever hear. He dares to repeatedly spew profane diatribes against capitalism, the sacrosanct basis for our precious American Way of Life. Parenti has the chutzpah to derisively attack our system, which we all know is the best that's ever been (or will be), by asserting that there are divisions amongst US Americans based on socioeconomic standing. And worst of all? He uses the "C" word! Somebody needs to give his mouth a good cleansing with a bar of Dial!

Parenti recently answered a few questions Jason Miller threw his way. Let's see how much further he traveled on the road to perdition.....

Jason Miller: You're one of the best kept secrets of the "American Left" (ridiculously marginalized and small in number as we are). Why is it that despite your brilliant critiques, particularly of bourgeois revisionist history, you remain relatively obscure even amongst the more radical segment of the US population?

Michael Parenti: It's really not all that bad. People do describe me as "widely acclaimed" and "internationally known" etc. and I do reach varied audiences in North America and abroad with my writings, lectures, and interviews. But it is true that there are sectarian or small minded elements on the left- including some very prominent figures-who are quiet practitioners of McCarthyism in that they exclude or try to isolate anyone who (a) places a strong emphasis on the realities of class power (b) occasionally uses a Marxist analysis or (c) finds some things of value in existing socialist societies that are worthy of being preserved, such as human services, guaranteed right to a job, free education, free medical care, affordable housing for all, etc. These societies, now mostly defunct, have been deemed by most of the left as worthy of nothing but a constant unremitting denunciation.

JM: Do you think the bourgeoisie has begun demonizing environmentalists and animal rights advocates because they perceive us to be a legitimate threat to the system, is the Green Scare simply another aspect of the divide and conquer tactic, do animal and Earth exploiters wield that much power within the system, is it a combination of these, or something more?

MP: The purveyors of free-market global capitalism believe that they have a right to plunder the remaining natural resources of this planet as they choose. Anyone who challenges their agenda is to be subjected to whatever misrepresentation and calumny that serves the free market corporate agenda.

JM: How has the capitalist class in the US been so successful at convincing the masses that we live in a "classless society" and etching a cultural standard in granite that it is taboo to discuss class issues?

MP: Through control of the universe of discourse, including the media, the professions, the universities, the publishing industry, many of the churches, the consumer society, the job market, and even the very socialization of our children and the prefiguring of our own perceptions, the ruling interests are able to exercise a prevailing ideological control that excludes any reasoned critique of the dominant paradigm. Class is a dirty word in that it gets close to the truth about who governs and for whose benefit.

JM: What are your thoughts on Obama and what change we may see under his presidency?

MP: I greeted Obama's electoral victory with very little enthusiasm but much relief that the lying slime- bag right-wing John McCain was defeated. I think Obama will be another Bill Clinton, perhaps not as bad. Some people see his accession to the White House as a great historic victory for African Americans and for democracy. But I am not all that impressed. When the victory is extended into social democratic policies that have a salutary effect on millions of struggling impoverished African-Americans and other working poor, then I'll start dancing in the streets.

JM: Prior to Obama's election, a number of radical thinkers posited that the US was in a pre-revolutionary stage. What impact do you think the Obama administration will have on the potential of consciousness, anger, and social unrest reaching critical mass amongst the working class in the US in the near future? Or better yet, are you even optimistic that the American people will catch fire and revolt against our wretchedly rapacious and imperialistic system?

MP: I do not think we are entering a pre-revolutionary stage. However political struggle can be a surprising phenomenon emerging with great democratic force and sudden movement in the most unexpected ways. We are approaching an economic crisis of momentous scope. The radical reactions may not be all that progressive and rational. The unfortunate thing about corporate capitalism is that it is often advantaged by the very wretched conditions it itself creates. I am hoping that the social groups that have been activated by Obama's campaign will not go to sleep and will not let up the pressure for progressive change.

JM: What do you say to critics who assert that socialism is a utopian dream in the abstract and a nightmare in reality?

MP: Your question is a paraphrase of the one I posed in my book, Democracy for the Few. "Is socialism not just a dream in theory and a nightmare in practice?" In response I pointed out that the features which make life livable in capitalist society are mostly socialistic in practice, including human services, infrastructure development, environmental protections, and even many technological advances that are funded or even created by government sources.

JM: With Castro hanging in there and now Chavez, Morales, Correa, and Ortega in place, to what extent do you think socialism will continue to expand and flourish in Latin America?

MP: It is not likely that the reforms in Latin America will really lead to socialism but at least to some gains for the most desperately oppressed.

JM: Some argue that there is a "third way" that represents a better alternative to capitalism than socialism. Your thoughts?

MP: Maybe they are referring to the social democracy that is found in some Western European countries that provide decent human services and better regulation of corporate doings. But even these social democracies are under attack and face rollback Look at what has happened to Britain.

Michael Parenti is an internationally known award-winning author and lecturer. He is one of the nation's leading progressive political analysts. His highly informative and entertaining books and talks have reached a wide range of audiences in North America and abroad. For more on Michael, visit his website.
(c) 2009 Jason Miller is a recovering US American middle class suburbanite who strives to remain intellectually free. His essays have been widely published, he is an associate editor for Cyrano's Journal Online, and publishes Thomas Paine's Corner within Cyrano's, a blog director for The Transformative Studies Institute and associate editor for the Journal for Critical Animal Studies. He welcomes your constructive correspondence.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Rob Rogers ~~~

2009 Greeting card to George W. Bush (& Oliver Stone) from THE Alternative "W the Movie"

To End On A Happy Note...

WW III Revised
By Ellsworth

So you wanna have a war?
Well alright then, lets
Only this time we'll do it different
We'll use your kids
And you can be the proud one
When they fight the good fight
Lay down their bodies
Defending my way of life

This time it's my crusade
Collateral damage,
This time you pay
War, war, war, war, war
There's money to be made
Money to be made.......

Now you'll go down in history
Statues in the park
And we'll sing of your bravery
On our troubadour guitars
That we'll be passing 'round at the party
With the doobie do
Our lifestyle safe and sound
And it will all be thanks to you

This time it's my crusade
Collateral damage,
It's about time you paid
War, war, war, war
There's money to be made
Money to be made.......

Yes my friends and I will thank you
For your sacrafice
How good you're gonna feel
To be the one who pays the price
When it's all over
And you got what you asked for
Was it worth the price you paid this time for
My little war?

This time it's my crusade
Collateral damage,
It's about time you paid
War, war, war, war, war
There's money to be made
Money to be made.......
(c) 2006/2009 by George Ellsworth Tocci

Have You Seen This...

The O'Liely Factor Episode 1

Parting Shots...

Bin Laden Latest Madoff Casualty
Rips Bernie in New Video
By Andy Borowitz

The alleged Ponzi scheme of New York investment manager Bernie Madoff has claimed yet another victim, as al-Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden today revealed that he lost over $1 billion in the fraud.

While the roster of Madoff victims have included many prominent names from the world of entertainment and the media, such as Steven Spielberg and Mortimer Zuckerman, Mr. bin Laden is believed to be the first acknowledged casualty from the world of terror.

Mr. bin Laden made the rueful announcement in the form of a video, broadcast on the Arabic-language al-Jazeera network and around the world.

Speaking from what appears to be a cave, he said that he had invested with Mr. Madoff because the investment wiz had promised an annual return of ten percent, adding, "Now I don't know who to trust."

The al-Qaeda leader remained vague about how he had first made contact with Mr. Madoff, saying only that they had a mutual friend at a Palm Beach country club.

He added that the losses due to the Madoff fraud would have an immediate impact on al-Qaeda's financial health, forcing the terror network to shutter several regional offices and to cut back on the production values of Mr. bin Laden's videos.

While some expressed shock that a terrorist like Mr. bin Laden could become ensnared in a financial fraud like Mr. Madoff's, "It's not surprising at all," said North Korean president Kim Jong-Il.

"I'm offered shady investment schemes every day of the week," said Mr. Kim from his office in Pyongyang. "This is why I keep all my money in Treasuries."
(c) 2008 Andy Borowitz

The Gross National Debt

Zeitgeist The Movie...

Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 1 (c) 01/02/2009

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