Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Patrick Cockburn says, "Threats To Yemen Prove America Hasn't Learned The Lesson Of History."

Uri Avnery explains, "The Iron Wall."

Amy Goodman is, "Sick With Terror."

Robert Scheer wonders why, "McCain Gets It, Obama Doesn't."

Jim Hightower remembers, "The Poisonous Cloud Of Corporate Immorality."

Eric Margolis concludes, "U.S. Kicks Hornet's Nest In Yemen."

John Nichols discovers, "Dem Leaders Scheme To Scrap Health-Reform Conference Committee."

Paul Krugman has, "That 1937 Feeling."

Chris Floyd investigates, "Blowback On the Border."

Case Wagenvoord finds, "We Fight; China Prospers."

Mike Folkerth questions a, "Happy New Year? Well..."

Chris Hedges shows us, "The Pictures Of War You Aren't Supposed To See."

David Michael Green considers, "The Perils Of Passivity."

Newt Gingrich wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald studies, "The Degrading Effects Of Terrorism Fears."

Sam Harris debates Karen Armstrong, "The God Fraud."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Blues Musician To U.N.: 'Yemen Done Me Wrong'" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "...And The Clock Was Striking 13."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jerry Holbert, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Abell Smith, The Heretik, Bill Day, Pundit Kitchen.Com, R.J. Matson, Cameron Cardow, The Independent, International Pub.Com, L.A. Cicero, US Navy, US Department of Commerce, AP and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
The Dead Letter Office...
The Cartoon Corner...
To End On A Happy Note...
Have You Seen This...
Parting Shots...

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

...And The Clock Was Striking 13
By Ernest Stewart

"Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest." ~~~ Denis Diderot

"Twas the nightmare before Christmas, and all though the House,
Not a creature was peaceful, not even a louse.
The stockings all hung by the chimney with care,
With hopes that some lobbyists soon would be there!"
~~~ With apologies to Tim Burton and Clement Moore ~~~

"If man were meant to fly he would have been born with wings! It is impossible for men in the future to fly like birds. Flying is reserved for the angels. Do not mention that again lest you be guilty of blasphemy."
~~~ Bishop Milton Wright ~ Father of Orville and Wilbur Wright ~~~

Yogi and I are having a deja vu all over again. Seems like we've been here and done this before, huh, America? Last time it was the CIA agent Osama. Now it's some patsy who will serve as an excuse to invade another nation on Israel's hit list.

You had to know it was coming; yet another false flag attack. Consider that we were warned a year ago by the British about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Consider also that he had no passport, was allowed onto the flight by a "well dressed man," and was on the terror watch list and then taken off. Curiouser and Curiouser! He was reported to Homeland Security by his father. I guess Janet Napolitano would have taken it seriously if only his mother had called? He had only a carry on bag, no luggage, which in itself should have sent off alarms. Did I mention that he was being video taped the whole time but still was able to board planes not once but twice? How many red flags is that?

Umar said he was part of a drill and wasn't trying to take down the plane. Yep, a patsy alright.

Ergo, you have to ask the question, just like in 911, who benefits from this? Why the usual suspects do, that's who! We're told that Al Qaeda benefits by doing this? And for once I agree with Fox Spews! But what really is Al Qaeda? It is, as it's always been, a CIA black ops project controlled and financed by Langley. So who benefits, the Zionazis in occupied Palestine benefit; the American and European military/industrial complex benefits, just like they did from 911.

Israel's favorite fifth columnist Old "Tailgunner Joe" Lie-berman recently said on Fox Spews, "Iraq was yesterday's war, Afghanistan is today's war. If we don't act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow's war." You may recall Lie-berman was hot to trot to attack Iraq immediately after 911 like the good little Zionazi puppet that he is!

The corpo-rat goons get to make trillions more, which will be laid at our door for payment and we, as a nation, get to invade and take over another Arabian state and kill some more brown skinned people. Not to mention having the largest oil supply in the world totally surrounded by our panzers, just like that huge supply in Iran is already. Kewl huh?

The beat goes on and nothing changes. History keeps repeating itself and the American Sheeple believe and do whatever they are told to do. The same puppet masters pull the same set of strings attached to the same offices, just some different puppets in them.

What's the cost of this to be? So far we've spent several trillion dollars directly and have killed over a million innocent people. We've displaced 5 million more innocents who had to leave their homes behind and run for their lives! We've killed well over 75,000 of our children, not the 4,000 that they claim.

As we reported back in July of 2003, the only American war dead counted are the ones who die in country. If they're still breathing with the help of a machine when the plane takes off for Germany, they're not counted as war dead when they die a few seconds, hours, days, or months later. The 75,000 number isn't up to date but comes from 2007! 60,000 died in Vietnam with more kids committing suicide afterwards than died in combat, and another 500,000 were wounded either physical or mentally or both. We face a higher toll this time around! The troops who don't blow their brains out or kill their families outright may end up doing both inadverently because of those nuclear tipped shells we've been firing all over three or four countries. Those shells will not only kill the soldiers exposed to them but their wives and children and friends after they come home! Oh, and did I mention the birth defects? Depleted uranium, the gift that keeps on giving!

Bush called it a war without end and Obama's adopted and expanded Bush's game plan whether by his own design or by that of his masters. The end result will certainly be the same. Unless we put a stop to war, war will put a stop to us! What's it going to be, America?

In Other News

Have you bought your tube of lube yet? Or, mayhaps, a bottle of love oil? I wonder if purchases of KY Jelly and Astroglide have gone completely off the charts? Now might be a good time to put some money in those companies! What with the House returning January 12th and the Senate on the 19th, in a few more weeks your going to be made to bend over and take one up where the sun don't shine Mr. & Ms. America! In flagrant violation of the US Constitution the folks down in Foggy Bottom with the passage of the "Health Insurance Company Protection Act of 2009," are going to force you to buy something at ten times it's worth under penalty of law

Well, not everybody. Some 20 million will not make the cut but 30 million more will have to purchase the insurance or be fined and penalized by our good friends down at the IRS!

Older Americans can expect up to a 300% rise in the cost of insurance and that's a perfectly legal charge under this sellout. With billions taken out of Medicare and Medicaid, seniors and the poor will have to do without their meds. It's learn to like eating horse and eggs or goodbye, Grandma!

You can forget about the House's bill, that somewhat gentler machine gun hand. In order to get this turkey through the Senate and signed by Barry, the House has to adopt the Senate's version of this act of treason. Have no doubt that they'll sell us out in a heartbeat. Their puppet masters declare there will be no government option, no equitable care, and that the cost of insurance will rise for everybody. Many companies will drop employee coverage and your cost will then double or triple.

Of course, they promise they'll go back someday and change all the bad bits. Someday. You know, just like they said they'd do when they passed that prescription drug bill a few years ago. Oh that's right, they never did that, huh? Just like they were going to overturn all those bills that destroyed the Constitution and Bill of Rights under Bush, all those illegal presidential orders. Oops, I forgot, they didn't do that either, did they? In fact they've been fighting tooth and nail to preserve those various acts of treason! So just bend over and drop your pants, America, and "feel dem changes a'comin'"!

And Finally

I've given up on flying. Unless there is a huge check awaiting my arrival, you won't see me on a commercial airliner. There was a time when I loved to fly, got on a plane every chance I had but that was a long time ago. The last time I flew was way back in '96 when we flew down to Clearwater for things coated with Jamaica Jerk sauce and some fast times! Even then it was starting to look like I was flying Lufthansa in 1938!

Since then it has gotten to the point when Americans and folks the world over act like trained monkeys instead of human beings. There's that no fly list, which is full of people who have done nothing, while crazies that we've been warned about can get right on. You may recall eleven different countries warned us about 911 well in advance. As PNAC said, they needed another Pearl Harbor, i.e., another false flag attack. Sure the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor but we knew about it for at least 6 or 7 months and let it happen. In fact, we went out of our way to see it was a partial success.

That time three different groups of innocent, patriotic American men women and CHILDREN lost everything and were put into Happy Camps for the duration. Some German/American families didn't get out until 1948! This time it's not the Japanese but the Muslims who will pay but, like the Americans in WWII, we'll lose quite a bit too.

Today to board a plane you have to show up three hours early. If you're late you don't fly. You maybe stripped search and have complete strangers rape you looking for what, a good time? Or you maybe felt up, aka patted down, required to take your shoes off, have your personal property taken away without compensation, or walk before a radiation screen and have some more strangers look at your naked body with a form of X-Rays, which as far as you know maybe killing you. Your children will be seen naked, too. Isn't that child porn? Isn't it?

If you get through all that and still want to fly and see Auntie Grizelda, you'll sit around for a couple hours being watched like a hawk by big brother even when you use the restrooms! Then it's off to be stuffed inside a plane like sardines in a can, and treated like cattle by surly waitresses who have the power to have you arrested on a whim by some goons from Homeland Security. Got to pee during the last hour of the flight? Go right ahead, in your pants, because the toilets are off-limits. Then arrive and go through security again and wait to find out that your luggage is now somewhere over the Alps. All that if your lucky! If your not so lucky you could spend the next day or so sitting on the runway with no food, full toilets and screaming kids! Oh, and did I mention for the cost of your ticket you could have bought your own plane when I was a lad! Whatever happened to those friendly skies? If you think it's bad now, just you wait till they get all the new hassles installed and up and running. Who knows, maybe a new Naked Air, where everyone on the plane is naked with nothing to hide! Should keep the Muslims off the plane, huh?

No, thank you. I'll drive and if the trip is a couple hundred miles I'll be there before your plane takes off, at half the cost, with no hassles, no imperial entanglements and with kickass jams on the box. There will be no babies crying and nobody peeing on themselves in the seat next to me!

Oh And One More Thing

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. We don't want Issues and Alibis join that list.

Everyone seems to be on the "Give $5.00" bandwagon. We know $5.00 can be a lot. So we're asking for pennies, a dollar, coupons, stamps. We're trying to hang on and we know you are, too. Whatever you can spare will be greatly appreciated by us. Every penny makes a difference.

Ernest & Victoria Stewart


10-26-1928 ~ 01-03-2010
Thanks for the thoughts!

04-10-1924 ~ 01-05-2010
Thanks for the abstractions!


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: All five "W" trailers are available along with the trailer from our first movie "Jesus and her Gospel of Yes" at the Pink & Blue Films site on YouTube.


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


So how do you like Bush Lite so far?
And more importantly, what are you planning on doing about it?

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2010 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 9 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."

Threats To Yemen Prove America Hasn't Learned The Lesson Of History
Extraordinarily, the US is making exactly the same mistake as in Iraq and Afghanistan
By Patrick Cockburn

We are the sparks of hell

He who defies us will be burned

This is the tribal chant of the powerful Awaleq tribe of Yemen, in which they bid defiance to the world. Its angry tone conveys the flavour of Yemeni life and it should give pause to those in the US who blithely suggest greater American involvement in Yemen in the wake of the attempt to destroy a US plane by a Nigerian student who says he received training there.

Yemen has always been a dangerous place. Wonderfully beautiful, the mountainous north of the country is guerrilla paradise. The Yemenis are exceptionally hospitable, though this has its limits. For instance, the Kazam tribe east of Aden are generous to passing strangers, but deem the laws of hospitality to lapse when the stranger leaves their tribal territory, at which time he becomes "a good back to shoot at".

The Awaleq and Kazam tribes are not exotic survivals on the margins of Yemeni society but are both politically important and influential. The strength of the central government in the capital, Sanaa, is limited and it generally avoids direct confrontations with tribal confederations, tribes, clans and powerful families. Almost everybody has a gun, usually at least an AK-47 assault rifle, but tribesmen often own heavier armament.

I have always loved the country. It is physically very beautiful with cut stone villages perched on mountain tops on the sides of which are cut hundreds of terraces, making the country look like an exaggerated Tuscan landscape. Yemenis are intelligent, humorous, sociable and democratic, infinitely preferable as company to the arrogant and ignorant playboys of the Arab oil states in the rest of the Arabian Peninsula.

It is very much a country of direct action. Once when I was there a Chinese engineer was kidnapped as he drove along the main road linking Sanaa to Aden. The motives of the kidnappers were peculiar. It turned out they came from a bee-keeping tribe (Yemen is famous for its honey) whose bees live in hives inside hollow logs placed on metal stilts to protect them from ants. The police had raided the tribe's village and had damaged hives for which the owners were demanding compensation. The government had been slow in paying up so the tribesmen had decided to draw attention to their grievance by kidnapping the next foreigner on the main road and this turned out to be the Chinese engineer.

Yemen is a mosaic of conflicting authorities, though this authority may be confined to a few villages. Larger communities include the Shia around Sanaa in the north of the country near Saada, with whom the government has been fighting a fierce little civil war. The unification of North and South Yemen in 1990 has never wholly gelled and the government is wary of southern secessionism. Its ability to buy off its opponents is also under threat as oil revenues fall, with the few oilfields beginning to run dry.

It is in this fascinating but dangerous land that President Barack Obama is planning to increase US political and military involvement. Joint operations will be carried out by the US and Yemeni military. There will be American drone attacks on hamlets where al-Qa'ida supposedly has its bases.

There is ominous use by American politicians and commentators of the phrase "failed state" in relation to Yemen, as if this some how legitimised foreign intervention. It is extraordinary that the US political elite has never taken on board that its greatest defeats have been in just such "failed states"', not least Lebanon in 1982, when 240 US Marines were blown up; Somalia in the early 1990s when the body of a US helicopter pilot was dragged through the streets; Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein; and Afghanistan after the supposed fall of the Taliban.

Yemen has all the explosive ingredients of Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. But the arch-hawk Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, was happily confirming this week that the Green Berets and the US Special Forces are already there. He cited with approval an American official in Sanaa as telling him that, "Iraq was yesterday's war. Afghanistan is today's war. If you don't act pre-emptively Yemen will be tomorrow's war." In practice pre-emptive strikes are likely to bring a US military entanglement in Yemen even closer.

The US will get entangled because the Yemeni government will want to manipulate US action in its own interests and to preserve its wilting authority. It has long been trying to portray the Shia rebels in north Yemen as Iranian cats-paws in order to secure American and Saudi support. Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) probably only has a few hundred activists in Yemen, but the government of long time Yemeni President Ali Abdulah Salih will portray his diverse opponents as somehow linked to al-Qa'ida.

In Yemen the US will be intervening on one side in a country which is always in danger of sliding into a civil war. This has happened before. In Iraq the US was the supporter of the Shia Arabs and Kurds against the Sunni Arabs. In Afghanistan it is the ally of the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazara against the Pashtun community. Whatever the intentions of Washington, its participation in these civil conflicts destabilises the country because one side becomes labelled as the quisling supporter of a foreign invader. Communal and nationalist antipathies combine to create a lethal blend.

Despite sectarian, ethnic and tribal loyalties in the countries where the US has intervened in the Middle East, they usually have a strong sense of national identity. Yemenis are highly conscious of their own nationality and their identity as Arabs. One of the reasons the country is so miserably poor, with almost half its 22 million people trying to live on $2 a day, is that in 1990 Yemen refused to join the war against Iraq and Saudi Arabia consequently expelled 850,000 Yemeni workers.

It is extraordinary to see the US begin to make the same mistakes in Yemen as it previously made in Afghanistan and Iraq. What it is doing is much to al-Qa'ida's advantage. The real strength of al-Qa'ida is not that it can "train" a fanatical Nigerian student to sew explosives into his underpants, but that it can provoke an exaggerated US response to every botched attack. Al-Qa'ida leaders openly admitted at the time of 9/11 that the aim of such operations is to provoke the US into direct military intervention in Muslim countries.

In Yemen the US is walking into the al-Qa'ida trap. Once there it will face the same dilemma it faces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It became impossible to exit these conflicts because the loss of face would be too great. Just as Washington saved banks and insurance giants from bankruptcy in 2008 because they were "too big to fail," so these wars become too important to lose because to do so would damage the US claim to be the sole superpower.

In Iraq the US is getting out more easily than seemed likely at one stage because Washington has persuaded Americans that they won a non-existent success. The ultimate US exit from Afghanistan may eventually be along very similar lines. But the danger of claiming spurious victories is that such distortions of history make it impossible for the US to learn from past mistakes and instead it repeats them by fresh interventions in countries like Yemen.
(c) 2009 Patrick Cockburn is the Middle East correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, he was awarded the 2005 Martha Gellhorn prize for war reporting. His book on his years covering the war in Iraq, The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq (Verso) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for best non-fiction book of 2006. His new book 'Muqtada! Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia revival and the struggle for Iraq' is published by Scribner.

The Iron Wall
By Uri Avnery

SOMETHING ODD, almost bizarre, is going on in Egypt these days.

About 1400 activists from all over the world gathered there on their way to the Gaza Strip. On the anniversary of the "Cast Lead" War, they intended to participate in a non-violent demonstration against the ongoing blockade, which makes the life of 1.5 million inhabitants of the Strip intolerable.

At the same time, protest demonstrations were to take place in many countries. In Tel-Aviv, too, a big protest was planned. The "monitoring committee" of the Arab citizens of Israel was to organize an event on the Gaza border.

When the international activists arrived in Egypt, a surprise awaited them. The Egyptian government forbade their trip to Gaza. Their buses were held up at the outskirts of Cairo and turned back. Individual protesters who succeeded in reaching the Sinai in regular buses were taken off them. The Egyptian security forces conducted a regular hunt for the activists.

The angry activists besieged their embassies in Cairo. On the street in front of the French embassy, a tent camp sprang up which was soon surrounded by the Egyptian police. American protesters gathered in front of their embassy and demanded to see the ambassador. Several protesters who are over 70 years old started a hunger strike. Everywhere, the protesters were held up by Egyptian elite units in full riot gear, while red water cannon trucks were lurking in the background. Protesters who tried to assemble in Cairo's central Tahrir (liberation) Square were mishandled.

In the end, after a meeting with the wife of the president, a typical Egyptian solution was found: one hundred activists were allowed to reach Gaza. The rest remained in Cairo, bewildered and frustrated.

WHILE THE demonstrators were cooling their heels in the Egyptian capital and trying to find ways to vent their anger, Binyamin Netanyahu was received in the president's palace in the heart of the city. His hosts went to great lengths to laud and celebrate his contribution to peace, especially the 'freeze" of settlement activity in the West Bank, a phony gesture that does not include East Jerusalem.

Hosni Mubarak and Netanyahu have met in the past - but not in Cairo. The Egyptian president always insisted that the meetings take place in Sharm-al-Sheikh, as far from the Egyptian population centers as possible. The invitation to Cairo was, therefore, a significant token of increasingly close relations.

As a special gift for Netanyahu, Mubarak agreed to allow hundreds of Israelis to come to Egypt and pray at the grave of Rabbi Yaakov Abu-Hatzeira, who died and was buried in the Egyptian town of Damanhur 130 years ago, on his way from Morocco to the Holy Land.

There is something symbolic about this: the blocking of the pro-Palestinian protesters on their way to Gaza at the same time as the invitation of Israelis to Damanhur.

ONE MAY well wonder about the Egyptian participation in the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The blockade started long before the Gaza War and has turned the Strip into what has been described as "the biggest prison on earth". The blockade applies to everything except essential medicines and the most basic foodstuffs. US senator John Kerry, former candidate for the presidency, was shocked to hear that the blockade included pasta - the Israeli army in its wisdom has designated noodles as a luxury. The blockade is all-embracing - from building materials to school children's copy books. Except for the most extreme humanitarian cases, nobody can pass from the Gaza Strip to Israel or the West Bank, nor the other way round.

But Israel controls only three sides of the Strip. The Northern and Eastern borders are blocked by the Israeli army, the Western border by the Israeli navy. The fourth border, the Southern one, is controlled by Egypt. Therefore, the entire blockade would be ineffective without Egyptian participation.

Ostensibly, this does not make sense. Egypt considers itself as the leader of the Arab world. It is the most populous Arab country, situated at the center of the Arab world. Fifty years ago the president of Egypt, Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, was the idol of all the Arabs, especially of the Palestinians. How can Egypt collaborate with the "Zionist enemy", as Egyptians called Israel then, in bringing 1.5 million brother Arabs to their knees?

Until recently, the Egyptian government had been sticking to a solution that exemplifies the 6000-year old Egyptian political acumen. It participated in the blockade but closed its eyes to the hundreds of tunnels dug under the Egyptian-Gaza border, through which the daily supplies for the population were flowing (for exorbitant prices, and with high profits for Egyptian merchants), together with the stream of arms. People also passed through them - from Hamas activists to brides.

This is about to change. Egypt has started building an iron wall - literally - along the full length of the Gaza border, consisting of steel pillars thrust deep into the ground, in order to block all tunnels. That will finally choke the inhabitants.

When the most extreme Zionist, Vladimir Ze'ev Jabotinsky, wrote 80 years ago about erecting an "Iron Wall" against the Palestinians, he did not dream of Arabs doing just that.

WHY DO they do it?

There are several explanations. Cynics point out that the Egyptian government receives a huge American subsidy every year - almost two billion dollars - by courtesy of Israel. It started as a reward for the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. The pro-Israel lobby in the US Congress can stop it any time.

Others believe that Mubarak is afraid of Hamas. The organization started out as the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, still the main opposition to his autocratic regime. The Cairo-Riyadh-Amman-Ramallah axis is poised against the Damascus-Gaza axis that is allied with the Tehran-Hizbullah axis. Many people believe that Mahmoud Abbas is interested in the tightening of the Gaza blockade in order to hurt Hamas.

Mubarak is angry with Hamas, which refuses to dance to his tune. Like his predecessors, he demands that the Palestinians obey his orders. President Abd-al-Nasser was angry with the PLO (an organization created by him to ensure Egyptian control of the Palestinians, but which escaped him when Yasser Arafat took over). President Anwar Sadat was angry with the PLO for rejecting the Camp David agreement, which promised Palestinians only "autonomy". How dare the Palestinians, a small, oppressed people, refuse the "advice" of Big Brother?

All these explanations make sense, yet the Egyptian government's attitude is still astonishing. The Egyptian blockade of Gaza destroys the lives of 1.5 million human beings, men and women, old people and children, most of who are not Hamas activists. It is done publicly, before the eyes of hundreds of millions of Arabs, a billion and a quarter Muslims. In Egypt itself, too, millions of people are ashamed of the participation of their country in the starving of fellow Arabs.

It is a very dangerous policy. Why does Mubarak follow it?

THE REAL answer is, probably, that he has no choice.

Egypt is a very proud country. Anyone who has been in Egypt knows that even the poorest Egyptian is full of national pride and is easily insulted when his national dignity is hurt. That was shown again a few weeks ago, when Egypt lost a soccer match with Algeria and behaved as if it has lost a war.

"Consider that from the summit of these Pyramids, forty centuries look down upon you," Napoleon told his soldiers on the eve of the battle for Cairo. Every Egyptian feels that 6000 - some say 8000 - years of history look upon him all the time.

This profound feeling clashes with reality at a time when Egypt's situation is getting more and more miserable. Saudi Arabia has more influence, tiny Dubai has become an international financial center, Iran is becoming a far more important regional power. Contrary to Iran, where the Ayatollahs have called upon families to limit themselves to two children, the Egyptian birthrate is devouring everything, condemning the country to permanent poverty.

In the past, Egypt succeeded in balancing its internal weaknesses with external successes. The whole world considered Egypt as the leader of the Arab world, and treated it accordingly. No more.

Egypt is in a bad situation. Therefore, Mubarak has no choice but to follow the dictates of the US - which are, in fact, Israeli dictates. That is the real explanation for his participation in the blockade.

WHEN I spoke today at the demonstration in Tel-Aviv, after we had marched through the streets to protest against the blockade, I refrained from mentioning the Egyptian part in it.

I confess that I liked the people I met during my visits to Egypt very much. The "man in the street" is very welcoming. In their behavior towards each other there is an air of tranquility, an absence of aggression, a particular Egyptian sense of humor. Even the poorest keep their dignity in crowded and often miserable conditions. I have not heard them grumble. In all the thousands of years of their history, Egyptians have risen in revolt no more than three or four times.

This legendary patience has its negative side, too. When people are resigned to their lot, this may prevent economic, social and political progress.

It seems that the Egyptian people are ready to accept everything. From the Pharaohs of old right down to the present Pharaoh, their rulers have faced little opposition. But a day may come when national pride will overcome even this patience.

As an Israeli, I protest against the Israeli blockade. If I were an Egyptian, I would protest against the Egyptian blockade. As a citizen of this planet, I protest against both.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Sick With Terror
By Amy Goodman

The media have been swamped with reports about the attempt to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day. When Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, now dubbed the "underwear bomber," failed in his alleged attack, close to 300 people were spared what would have been, most likely, a horrible, violent end. Since that airborne incident, the debates about terrorism and how best to protect the American people have been reignited.

Meanwhile, a killer that has stalked the U.S. public, claiming, by recent estimates, 45,000 lives annually-one dead American about every 10 minutes-goes unchecked. That's 3,750 people dead-more than the 9/11 attacks-every month who could be saved with the stroke of a pen.

This killer is the lack of adequate health care in the United States. Researchers from Harvard Medical School found in late 2009 that 45,000 people die unnecessarily every year due to lack of health insurance. Researchers also uncovered another stunning fact: In 2008, four times as many U.S. Army veterans died because they lacked health insurance than the total number of U.S. soldiers who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the same period. That's right: 2,266 veterans under the age of 65 died because they were uninsured.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama was fiery when he made his public statement after meeting with his national security team about the airline breach: In seeking to thwart plans to kill Americans "we face a challenge of the utmost urgency," he said. He talked about reviewing systemic failures and declared we must "save innocent lives, not just most of the time, but all of the time."

This is all very admirable. Imagine if this same urgency was applied to a broken system that causes 45,000 unnecessary deaths per year. Since stimulus funds will now be directed to supply more scanning equipment at airports, what about spending money to ensure mammograms and prostate exams at community health centers?

And then there's the investigation of who is responsible for the attempted Christmas Day attack and getting "actionable intelligence" from the alleged bomber to prevent future attacks. All good.

We actually have "actionable intelligence" on why people die due to lack of health care, and how insurance companies actively deny people coverage to increase their profits, but what has been done about it?

The day before the underwear bomb incident, Christmas Eve, the U.S. Senate passed The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by a vote of 60 to 39. Obama described the bill as "the most important piece of social legislation since the Social Security Act passed in the 1930s." Yet in order to get to that magic number of 60 Senate votes, the already weak Senate bill had to be brought to its knees by the likes of Sen. Joe Lieberman, from the health insurance state of Connecticut, and conservative Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska. The Senate and House versions of health insurance reform now have to be reconciled in conference committee.

The conference committee process is one that is little understood in the U.S. In it major changes to legislation are often imposed, with little or no notice. That's why C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb sent a letter to congressional leaders Dec. 30 requesting access to televise the process. He wrote, "[W]e respectfully request that you allow the public full access, through television, to legislation that will affect the lives of every single American." Rather than simply grant access, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asserted that "there has never been a more open process."

Yet Pelosi and the Democrats are now saying that the bills won't even go through a formal conference committee, but rather through informal, closed-door sessions with key committee chairs. While this would circumvent Republican opportunities to filibuster, it would also grant a very few individuals enormous power to cut deals in much the same way that Sens. Nelson and Lieberman did. Since the health insurance, medical equipment and pharmaceutical industries spent close to $1.4 million per day to influence the health care debate, we have to ask: Who will have access to those few legislators behind those closed doors?

Wendell Potter, the former CIGNA insurance spokesperson turned whistle-blower, says he knows "where the bodies are buried." Let's be consistent. If we care about saving American lives, let's take action now.
(c) 2010 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback.

McCain Gets It, Obama Doesn't
By Robert Scheer

Maybe I got it wrong. During the presidential campaign I wrote columns blasting Sen. John McCain for siding with the big bankers on deregulation, citing his choosing ex-Sen. Phil Gramm, currently a vice chairman of the Swiss-owned banking giant UBS, as his presidential campaign chair. Barack Obama, on the other hand, repeatedly blasted Gramm and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which the Texas Republican had pushed through Congress, with President Bill Clinton's support-legislation that repealed the Glass-Steagall Act and radically deregulated the financial industry.

But now the roles are reversed, and it is McCain who, along with Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has sponsored a bill to repeal Gramm's legislation, while Obama seeks to preserve it.

The Gramm legislation, which permitted the merger of investment and commercial banks into too-big-to-fail corporations (including Citigroup and AIG, two financial giants that had to be bailed out by taxpayers), was thought by Obama the candidate to be a key cause of the meltdown. But as president he reappointed the Clinton-era officials who had sided with Gramm in ending sensible banking regulations that had protected the public for 70 years and made the U.S. banking system the envy of the world.

Rather than restore Glass-Steagall, the Obama-backed banking regulation bill passed last month by the Democratic majority in the House went along with the desire of Wall Street lobbyists to prevent the breakup of the big conglomerates and to block control of their massive trading in the derivatives that proved to be so toxic.

The result, with some deceptive reformist window dressing, is a pro-Wall Street business-as-usual cop-out, and the Senate version is likely to be more of the same. Fortunately, there is a better way, and thanks to the McCain-Cantwell bill and a companion one authored by Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., in the House, there is still a chance at serious financial regulation through the restoration of the key provisions of Glass-Steagall.

How odd that it now remains for McCain to stand up to the oversize banks.

"... I want to ensure that we never stick the American taxpayer with another $700 billion-or even larger-tab to bail out the financial industry," McCain proclaimed in introducing his legislation. "... This country would be better served if we limit the activities of these financial institutions."

But just the opposite happened under the great bailout. The big investment houses of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were allowed to suddenly attain the status of commercial banks in order to qualify for federal bailouts, and the once staid commercial Bank of America was encouraged by the Fed to buy out the investment house Merrill Lynch. As a result, banking has never before been concentrated in so few hands. As Rep. Hinchey put it:

"Today, just four huge financial institutions hold half the mortgages in America, issue nearly two-thirds of credit cards, and control about 40 percent of all bank deposits in the U.S. In addition, the face value of over-the-counter derivatives at commercial banks has grown to $290 trillion, 95 percent of which are held at just five financial institutions. We cannot allow the security of the American economy to rest in the hands of so few institutions."

Those derivatives, that hodgepodge collection of securitized debt-including mortgages of most American homes-are at the heart of the problem, and they are not regulated in any significant way by the legislation supported by the administration. It's no wonder, since Lawrence Summers, the president's top economic adviser, was not only a key proponent of reversing Glass-Steagall in the Clinton White House but also supported the Financial Services Modernization Act, passed a year later, that summarily exempted those suspect derivatives from any regulation.

Although Obama has blasted "fat cat bankers on Wall Street," it is time for those who elected him to ask for more than rhetoric. And to ask that of the Democratic leaders of the House, who refused to allow a vote on Hinchey's amendment to include the restoration of Glass-Steagall in their so-called Wall Street Reform Act. Introducing it as a separate bill, Hinchey stated:

"The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act was done to help large banks become enormous and to line the pockets of banking executives with more money than most Americans could ever dream of earning in their lifetime. ... This bill would help right the ship and return our country to the days when banks either participated in commercial lending activities or investment activities, but not both."

There is much logic in preventing commercial banks, which carry the hard-earned savings of depositors and a federal guarantee of their worth, from engaging in the high-roller risk-taking of investment banks.

If McCain now gets it, why doesn't Obama?
(c) 2010 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

The Poisonous Cloud Of Corporate Immorality

Last December marked the 25th anniversary of a mass horror perpetrated by one of America's richest and most powerful corporations - a horror that keeps growing.

During the night of December 3, 1984, Union Carbide's pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, leaked a 40-ton cloud of poison over the city. Nearly 4,000 of Bhopal's men, women, and children died before daybreak, gasping for breath. Half a million more were enveloped in the corporation's poison and horribly sickened, with many still suffering from severely damaged eyes and lungs. Another 15,000 have died since that night from the aftereffects of what Bhopalis now refer to simply as "the gas."

One who breaths freely, however, is Warren Anderson, Union Carbide's CEO at the time. As recently reported by journalist Suketu Mehta, Anderson lives in luxurious retirement in the Hamptons. Neither he nor the corporation ever admitted any guilt, and the families of the people whom they killed received only an average of $2,200 in a rushed-up settlement. Union Carbide subsequently closed the factory, sold its Indian subsidiary, and left the country - without even cleaning up the deadly toxic waste it left behind in the factory.

In 2001, Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide, gaining all of its assets, but rejecting any of its liabilities. The $2,200 death payments, explained a Dow spokesman, were "plenty good for an Indian."

Such cold arrogance stands as a lasting global monument to corporate immorality. As Mehta reports, "What's missing in the whole sad story is any sense of a human connection between the faceless people who run the corporation and the victims." Even after 25 years of the ongoing horror, Bhopal's survivors still have not received the basic human courtesy of an apology for the gross wrong done to them.

And corporate executives wonder why they are so despised.
(c) 2010 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.

U.S. Kicks Hornet's Nest In Yemen
Failed attack on Detroit-bound plane was retaliation for American military ops in the Arabian country, sources say
By Eric Margolis

Welcome to the Afghanistan of Arabia.

Yemen, the likely source of the failed Christmas Day airliner bombing at Detroit, has just rudely intruded into the west's awareness. Sources there claim the attack by a young Nigerian was retaliation for extensive covert U.S. military operations in Yemen.

I first explored Yemen in the mid-1970s. This magical land of fierce tribesmen was just then creeping into the 11th century. At the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula, mountainous, verdant Yemen was the Biblical land of the Queen of Sheba and originator of perfume.

Sana'a, the walled capitol, was straight out of Arabian Nights. At dusk, a ram's horn would sound and its gates would close for the night. Beyond lay warlike tribesmen who would slit your throat for a watch.

Almost every man wore a curved tribal dagger in his belt and went heavily armed.

There were no hotels, so I slept in the dining room of one of the palaces of the former ruler, Ahmed the Devil, who enjoyed nailing annoying people to his palace gate. Old Ahmed spent the rest of his time smoking hashish and cavorting with his well-stocked harem.

In 1990, the former British colony of Aden joined North Yemen. A military dictator, Ali Saleh, has held power since 1978. Saleh's U.S.-backed regime is accused of extensive human rights violations and deep corruption.

The 23 million people of the two Yemen's have feuded for decades. Yemen also battled with neighbour Oman, a virtual colony of MI6, British intelligence.

In a wonderful colonial punch-up, Britain's fabled SAS commandos in pink-painted jeeps (they blended perfectly with sand) battled Yemeni-backed nationalists known as the "Red Wolves of Radfan."

I naturally fell in love with Yemen, despite getting caught in tribal gunfights in the north, being nearly kidnapped and falling dreadfully ill.

At 4 p.m., every Yemeni would go off duty, sit in groups and chew the mild narcotic shrub qat for two hours while getting silly and swapping tall tales and jokes. Qat, Yemen's primary crop, curbs the appetite, so most lucky Yemenis are skinny.

I saw tall, majestic Yemeni Jews proudly striding down the street dressed in flowing robes and turbans and sporting daggers, long beards and large silver stars of David around their necks -- a vision straight from the Old Testament.

Today, turbulent Yemen has become a haven for anti-American militants. Osama bin Laden's father came from Yemen. The destroyer USS Cole was bombed in Aden harbor in 2000.

The most prominent militant group is al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a fusion of local Yemeni and Saudi jihadists dedicated to replacing the Saudi monarchy and Yemeni military regime with an Islamic government.

AQAP numbers around 100 men. It is not an organic part of Osama bin Laden's group but a like-minded local revolutionary group.

Dirt poor Yemen has three civil wars going on and bitter fighting between Sunni and various Shia sects. Yemen's warlike tribes hate any outside authority, starting with their own government.

Recently, the Saudis, backed by U.S. air power, CIA and special forces, intervened against Shia Houthi tribesmen along Yemen's undemarcated northern desert border.

Just before the Detroit air incident, U.S. warplanes killed 50-100 Yemeni tribesmen fighting the American-backed regime. U.S. special forces, warplanes and killer drones have been active since 2001, assassinating Yemeni militants and anti-government tribal leaders. It was only a matter of time before Yemeni jihadists struck back at the U.S.

Even Washington now admits that Yemen is the new hotbed of anti-western jihadist activity. Meanwhile, U.S. and NATO forces are supposedly in Afghanistan to fight al-Qaida -- which long ago decamped to Pakistan and Yemen.

The U.S. is being drawn into turbulent Yemen just as it is also expanding military operations across the Red Sea in Somalia and southern Kenya.

Britain, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are also getting involved in Yemen.

Another hornet's nest kicked. Expect more nasty stings.
(c) 2010 Eric Margolis is a columnist for The Toronto Sun. A veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East, Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain's Sky News TV as "the man who got it right" in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is "American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World."

Dem Leaders Scheme To Scrap Health-Reform Conference Committee
By John Nichols

Progressive activists have put a good deal of energy into preparing for an anticipated House-Senate conference committee, in which the distinct health-care reform bills enacted by the two chambers would be reconciled. The theory has been that, in the conference process, it might be possible to strengthen the especially weak language and policies of the Senate bill.

But what if there is no conference committee? What if key players in the House and Senate come up with a scheme that would allow them to "work things out" among themselves without having to empower a conference committee? What if they simply scrap the freewheeling and potentially difficult to control negotiation over the character and content of the final bill?

Then pressure from progressives could be without consequence, as all authority would rest with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and a few of their closest compatriots. And the insurance industry and other lobbying interests that offer congressional Democrats the prospect of substantial 2010 election funding would only have to deal with House and Senate leaders who are already thinking -- make that, already worrying -- about the fall and who have set themselves up as conduits for campaign cash.

Could such a scenario play out? Absolutely.

Indeed, every indication suggests that congressional Democratic leaders are preparing either to go with a so-called "ping-pong" approach that would have the House simply take up the Senate bill -- or, more likely, to a strategy that would have differences between the two bills sorted out at the leadership level and agree to a set of changes that would be "packaged into a single amendment to the bill."

This is being pitched by some Democratic insiders -- and their allies in the punditocracy -- as a tactic that would exclude Republicans from the process. And there might be some appeal to getting the "party of no" out of the way. But a scheme that excludes right-wingers who are opposed to any change is also likely to exclude progressives who want real change.

Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, who has argued for using the conference process to strengthen the weak Senate measure - by restoring a government-run public option as an alternative to profiteering by private insurers, among other initiatives - expressed frustration with the latest development in the reform fight.

"I am disappointed that there will be no formal conference process by which various constituencies can impact the discussion," said Grijalva. "I have not been approached about my concerns with the Senate bill, and I will be raising those at the Democratic Caucus meeting on Thursday. I and other progressives saw a conference as a means to improve the bill and have a real debate, and now with this behind-the-scenes approach, we're concerned even more."

Grijalva concern about the closing down of the process is appropriate.

Who says?

Harry Reid.

In 2006, when Republicans controlled both chambers of the Congress, they employed a "manager's amendment" scheme that, in the words of The Hill newspaper sought to "go around the formal conference committee and instead use closed-door negotiations to work out the differences between the House and Senate legislation."

Reid objected, declaring that: "Sometimes Democrats complain and sometimes Republicans complain -- whoever is in the minority here. Well, we didn't get enough consultation; you cut us out of the process. But at least you had a group of Democrats and Republicans in the process. Here, you have one person making a decision as to what is going to be in the managers' amendment."

Reid was right then.

He's wrong now.
(c) 2010 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

That 1937 Feeling
By Paul Krugman

Here's what's coming in economic news: The next employment report could show the economy adding jobs for the first time in two years. The next G.D.P. report is likely to show solid growth in late 2009. There will be lots of bullish commentary - and the calls we're already hearing for an end to stimulus, for reversing the steps the government and the Federal Reserve took to prop up the economy, will grow even louder.

But if those calls are heeded, we'll be repeating the great mistake of 1937, when the Fed and the Roosevelt administration decided that the Great Depression was over, that it was time for the economy to throw away its crutches. Spending was cut back, monetary policy was tightened - and the economy promptly plunged back into the depths.

This shouldn't be happening. Both Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, and Christina Romer, who heads President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, are scholars of the Great Depression. Ms. Romer has warned explicitly against re-enacting the events of 1937. But those who remember the past sometimes repeat it anyway.

As you read the economic news, it will be important to remember, first of all, that blips - occasional good numbers, signifying nothing - are common even when the economy is, in fact, mired in a prolonged slump. In early 2002, for example, initial reports showed the economy growing at a 5.8 percent annual rate. But the unemployment rate kept rising for another year.

And in early 1996 preliminary reports showed the Japanese economy growing at an annual rate of more than 12 percent, leading to triumphant proclamations that "the economy has finally entered a phase of self-propelled recovery." In fact, Japan was only halfway through its lost decade.

Such blips are often, in part, statistical illusions. But even more important, they're usually caused by an "inventory bounce." When the economy slumps, companies typically find themselves with large stocks of unsold goods. To work off their excess inventories, they slash production; once the excess has been disposed of, they raise production again, which shows up as a burst of growth in G.D.P. Unfortunately, growth caused by an inventory bounce is a one-shot affair unless underlying sources of demand, such as consumer spending and long-term investment, pick up.

Which brings us to the still grim fundamentals of the economic situation.

During the good years of the last decade, such as they were, growth was driven by a housing boom and a consumer spending surge. Neither is coming back. There can't be a new housing boom while the nation is still strewn with vacant houses and apartments left behind by the previous boom, and consumers - who are $11 trillion poorer than they were before the housing bust - are in no position to return to the buy-now-save-never habits of yore.

What's left? A boom in business investment would be really helpful right now. But it's hard to see where such a boom would come from: industry is awash in excess capacity, and commercial rents are plunging in the face of a huge oversupply of office space.

Can exports come to the rescue? For a while, a falling U.S. trade deficit helped cushion the economic slump. But the deficit is widening again, in part because China and other surplus countries are refusing to let their currencies adjust.

So the odds are that any good economic news you hear in the near future will be a blip, not an indication that we're on our way to sustained recovery. But will policy makers misinterpret the news and repeat the mistakes of 1937? Actually, they already are.

The Obama fiscal stimulus plan is expected to have its peak effect on G.D.P. and jobs around the middle of this year, then start fading out. That's far too early: why withdraw support in the face of continuing mass unemployment? Congress should have enacted a second round of stimulus months ago, when it became clear that the slump was going to be deeper and longer than originally expected. But nothing was done - and the illusory good numbers we're about to see will probably head off any further possibility of action.

Meanwhile, all the talk at the Fed is about the need for an "exit strategy" from its efforts to support the economy. One of those efforts, purchases of long-term U.S. government debt, has already come to an end. It's widely expected that another, purchases of mortgage-backed securities, will end in a few months. This amounts to a monetary tightening, even if the Fed doesn't raise interest rates directly - and there's a lot of pressure on Mr. Bernanke to do that too.

Will the Fed realize, before it's too late, that the job of fighting the slump isn't finished? Will Congress do the same? If they don't, 2010 will be a year that began in false economic hope and ended in grief.
(c) 2010 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Blowback On the Border
The Purpose of the Terror War System
By Chris Floyd

Let me say -- or rather, reiterate -- up front that it is my personal view that the form of vigorous activism known as non-violence is the only way, or the best way, that we can hope to even begin to address the inherent and intractable conflicts of human existence in a genuinely effective profound, sustainable and humane manner. That is the ideal I strive toward.

Of course, I also recognize that being what I am -- a white man of Christian heritage living safely and comfortably under the penumbra of empire -- it is easy for me to espouse this ideal. No drone fired in the distant black sky is going to kill my children tonight as they sleep warmly in their beds. No raiding party of assassins is going to tear down the door of my parents' house tonight and shoot them at the dinner table. No one with a grudge against me -- or simply in need of quick cash -- is going to sell me into the captivity of a worldwide gulag. I'm not going to be caught in the crossfire of marauding mercenaries on my way to work. I'm not going to wake tomorrow in a refugee camp, my home and livelihood abandoned in the wake of a ravaging "counterterrorism" operation. No foreign soldier is going to shoot me, or abuse me, or humiliate me, or simply refuse to let me pass down the street of my own city. I'm not going to be stopped, "profiled," or regarded with suspicion or hatred simply because of my skin color or the cultural or religious etymology of my name.

If I lived under the bootheel of such forces, I don't how I would react, how firmly I could hold to my ideal. I don't know if I would have the strength of mind and will, or the fortitude and wisdom it would take to resist our primal pull to violence -- especially if I grew up in a culture that exalted certain forms of violence as cardinal virtues. (Of course, as an American, I did grow up in such a culture -- and so has almost every other human being in history. To take the non-violent way is to appear -- and yes, often feel -- unnatural, deracinated, alien.)

Nonetheless, despite all these caveats and complexities, the ideal abides. I decry, denounce and mourn for the use of violence. Each act of violence -- however understandable it might be in context -- is a vast, ruinous defeat for our common humanity.

And of course many acts of violence are not "understandable" in any context, save that of our bestial desire to dominate others in one form or another. Here the defeat is even greater, its reverberations deeper, wider, longer-lasting: a degradation and degeneration that further brutalizes both the dispenser and victim of violence -- especially the former, and especially when the dispensing culture comes to countenance an ever-widening array of violent acts as worthy, necessary, laudable, even honorable.

Each such act perpetuates the cycle of violence, the horrific dynamic of blowback: a self-perpetuating feedback loop that uses itself to engender more violence, in new and expanding forms. We are living today in the midst of a particularly virulent form of this dynamic, the so-called "War on Terror," which I think has been designed -- more or less deliberately so, although the obscene ignorance and arrogance of the powerful have also played their fateful part in unwittingly exacerbating these evils -- to rage on without chronological end, without geographical, limits, and without any moral, social, legal or financial restraints. In his book X Films (reviewed here), Alex Cox uses an apt term borrowed from systems analysis -- POSIWID: The Purpose of a System is What It Does.

The Terror War is not an event, or a campaign, or even a crusade; it is a system. Its purpose is not to eliminate "terrorism" (however this infinitely elastic term is defined) but to perpetuate itself, to do what it does: make war. This system can be immensely rewarding, in many different ways, for those who operate or assist it, whether in government, media, academia, or business. This too is a self-sustaining dynamic, a feedback loop that gives money, power and attention to those who serve the system; this elevated position then allows them to accrue even more money, power and attention, until in the end -- as we can plainly see today -- any alternative voices and viewpoints are relegated to the margins. They are "unserious." They are unimportant. They are not allowed to penetrate or alter the operations of the system.

These reflections were prompted by last week's attack on the CIA base near Khost, Afghanistan, and by the reaction to the attack among the operators and servants of the Terror War system. As the world knows, seven CIA officers were killed by a suicide bomber. (Two of the dead were actually Blackwater mercenaries, but as CNN solemnly informs us, the Agency considers such hired guns to be part of the family.) The officers were at a "forward operating base" near the Pakistan border. From this redoubt, they plotted and directed attacks by drone missiles and, if they were similar to other CIA teams, which seems likely, also helped run assassination squads, with bombs and ground raids launched against villages, private homes and other locations which allegedly contain alleged terrorists, both in Afghanistan, which American forces are now openly occupying, and in Pakistan, a sovereign, allied country where American military and security forces are carrying out a more and more open "secret war."

The officers were killed when a suicide bomber -- apparently a 'native' whom the CIA was grooming as a potential agent -- walked into a gym and set off his hidden belt of explosives. Again, as noted above, I decry all deaths by violence, although I direct most of my attention to the violent deaths caused by the gargantuanly disproportionate infliction of state terrorism that characterizes our age, as opposed to the piecemeal pinpricks of small bands of extremists and isolated individuals -- incidents which themselves often betray strong indications of the fomenting or facilitating hand of various operators in the Terror War system.

So it gave me no pleasure to note the grim truth that was confirmed, yet again, by the attack at Khost: Those who live by dirty war, die by dirty war. The CIA-mercenary squad at the base was a key part of what the New York Times rightly describes as the CIA's evolution into a "paramilitary organization." Like all terrorists, they operate outside the law, claiming moral superiority as their justification. And for this particular band, what they have dealt out to others -- sudden death in a surprise attack with no possibility of defense -- they have now been dealt in turn.

Of course, the NYT seems to find no moral problem with the United States of America operating "paramilitary" squads of spies and mercenaries carrying out "extrajudicial assassinations" -- or "murders," as they once would have been called -- in foreign lands occupied by American military forces slaughtering civilians on a regular basis. (We noted one such slaughter in Afghanistan last week; now yet another one is being reported.) The story which carried this description is concerned largely with describing the struggle of these noble bands as they struggle manfully on distant borders to keep us safe.

In this, the tone of the story strongly echoes the genuinely sick-making words of Barack Obama after the incident. From CNN:

"These brave Americans were part of a long line of patriots who have made great sacrifices for their fellow citizens, and for our way of life," U.S. President Barack Obama said in a written statement Thursday.

"The United States would not be able to maintain the freedom and security that we cherish without decades of service from the dedicated men and women of the CIA."

The CIA's decades-long record of sickening crime, outright atrocity, constitutional subversion, bungling, near-unbelievable incompetence, and unrelenting exacerbation of hatred for and violence toward the United States is indisputable. (For just one egregious example, see "The Secret Sharers.") Few government organizations in world history have been so inimical to the national interests of the state they purport to serve. It was with very good reason that John F. Kennedy -- to whom Obama's sycophants often liken their hero -- once declared his intention to "splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds." (Nor can it be entirely coincidental that Kennedy was later murdered in a case that had innumerable ties to the security apparat.)

There is nothing further from the truth -- nothing further from the established historical record -- than Obama's statement that the CIA has been absolutely indispensable in "maintaining the freedom and security" of the United States. On the contrary; the historical record clearly shows that the activities of the CIA have, time and again, reduced both the freedom and security of the people of the United States. Yet here we have Obama, once again, groveling to this renegade, retrograde, criminal organization -- much as he did early on in his presidency, when he cravenly guaranteed the Agency's thuggish torturers that they need never fear prosecution from his administration for the KGB-like, Stasi-like, Gestapo-like atrocities they had inflicted on their victims.

Instead of shattering the CIA, or even curtailing it, the NYT story confirms, yet again, that Obama is accelerating the militarization of the agency, and giving it broad new scope to deceive and murder. What's more, as we noted here a few days ago, Obama's handpicked "special envoy" for the "Af-Pak front," Richard Holbrooke, admitted, in a little-noticed story last month, that the United States is carrying out covert operations in "every country in the world." And all of this is accepted without debate, without demur, as a just, honorable and natural state of affairs.

And while Obama is praising the murderers, torturers and incompetents of the CIA, the Agency itself is plotting its revenge for the blowback against its own dirty war, as CNN reports, with an obvious frisson of titillation at the tough talk:

"This attack will be avenged through successful, aggressive counterterrorism operations," [an anonymous] intelligence official vowed. "There are some very bad people who eventually are going to have a very bad day," the official promised Friday. And so, as I wrote the day after 9/11 (and quoted again recently, in this piece about Obama's surging Terror War): "Blood will have blood; that's certain. But blood will not end it. For murder is fertile: it breeds more death, like a spider laden with a thousand eggs. And who now can break this cycle, which has been going on for generations?"

The cycle will go on -- because that is what is wanted. The purpose of the system is what it does.
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

We Fight; China Prospers
By Case Wagonvoord

Finally we know the real reason we're in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our military's mission is to prepare the way for China's commercial interests. First, China and Russia squeezed us out of the oil concessions in southern Iraq. Now the Wednesday edition of The New York Times tells us that China has won the rights to mine one of the world's richest copper deposits near the village of Aynak in Afghanistan. (The current price of copper is $6,600 a ton.)

The article points out that, "The world's superpower is focused on security. It's fastest rising competitor concentrates on commerce."

Of course, the Chinese have one advantage we don't-they aren't saddled with a voracious corporate-military parasite that needs a steady diet of wars and threats to survive. We destroy; China builds. Our military drags us into bankruptcy; China prospers.

As one Afghani put it, "The Chinese are much wiser. When [they] went to talk to the local people they wore civilian clothing, and they were friendly. The Americans-not as good. When they come there, they have their uniforms, their rifles and such, and they are not as friendly."

The article notes that the Chinese "flush with money and in control of both the government and major industries, meld strategy, business and statecraft into a seamless whole."

The copper contract China has inked with Afghanistan underscores the difference between their approach and ours.

* They will build a 400-megawatt generating plant to power both the mine and Kabul. We bomb wedding parties.

* They will dig a new coal mine, with Afghani workers, to power the generating plant. We kill women and children.

* They will build a smelter to refine the copper. We torture.

* They will build a railroad to carry ore to the smelter and refined copper back to china. We support a corrupt regime.

* They will build schools, roads and mosques. We have reduced their country to rubble.

The article goes on to point out that, "[T]he conclusion is inescapable: American troops have helped make Afghanistan safe for Chinese investment.

China is proving that the pen is mightier than the sword, especially if the pen is used to ink contracts.
(c) 2010 Case Wagenvoord. Some years ago, Case Wagenvoord turned off the tube and picked up a book. He's been trouble ever since. His articles have been posted at The Smirking Chimp, Countercurrents and Issues & Alibis. When he's not writing or brooding, he is carving hardwood bowls that have been displayed in galleries and shows across the country. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two cats. His book, Open Letters to George W. Bush is available at

Happy New Year? Well...
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning all of you bright minds out there in Reality Land; your King of Simple News is on the air.

I'm easily entertained and some would say in a strange twisted way. Watching the ongoing grand parade of those promising unprecedented growth as our salvation is somehow amusing to me. You know how when you see someone about to do something really stupid, rather than stop them, you quickly say to anyone around you, "Hey, quick, come over here and watch this."

I feel somewhat the same about the fictitious New Year's promise. It's as if something miraculously changed at midnight. Everyone I meet says, "Happy New Year, it's bound to be a better year." I'm afraid to ask why.

We hold on to strange beliefs in our quest to keep from getting even a glimpse of reality. Perhaps as kids we were taught that looking squarely at reality would have the same effect as staring at the Medusa.

When I was a kid, I was told that looking at dirty pictures would make you go blind. Even then, I would close one eye and risk the other.

Speaking of reality, Thomas Malthus warned us in 1798 that human population would grow beyond the ability of the earth to support us. His critics were charter members of the "Hear no truth, See no truth, Speak no truth, club," and pointed out that since Malthus was not correct by 1799, that his theories were all wet. Wrong.

One of my early quests was combating the false statement that "growth must pay its way." I know that everyone of you has heard that statement, but it's false as George Washington's wooden teeth.

In a system that is underpinned by the mathematically impossible economic platform of "Growth Capitalism," then obviously, growth is the only thing that does pay its way. But try and tell that to the planners and the good citizens who are already residing in the growth affected area.

What they are actually saying by insisting that "growth must pay its way," is that the folks that are already here aren't going to pay one red cent to improve the streets or sewers or the schools or the police department or fire department, so long as they can lay that cost off on the new comers, who are heavily outnumbered. The majority may necessarily rule; but the majority are not necessarily right or just!

The existing politicians have a double good reason to lay the costs of growth off on the new comers. As individuals, they too can avoid paying for the cost of growth and they want to be reelected by the voters who are wholly supportive of passing the entire cost of growth to the Growees. (I made that last word up).

The belief that "growth must pay its way," is solidly upheld by everyone who already resides in the community right up to the point that growth stops. Suddenly, the real estate people, the planning department, the entire construction industry, the tax collectors, the city, county, state and federal workers, the grocery store, the lumber yard and about everyone else except for the welfare department notes that business is...well...not all that brisk. Okay, non-existent.

Meetings are held at every level right up to the President of the United States to determine what the heck went wrong. Now at this point, you may suspect that one of the brighter bulbs would say, "Maybe we were wrong, maybe we shouldn't have imposed all of those costs on the new comers? Perhaps we should have all shouldered some of the cost of keeping our unemployment down below 25%?" It is from this mentality that the phrase, "It doesn't do any good to close the barn door after the horses have escaped," was patterned after.

If the former scenario is what you thought may happen in a severe down turn, then you would be correct. The question now becomes, "What do we need to do get those former nasty undesirable Growees to start moving back into our community? Maybe we could wave all fees and taxes and even pay companies to relocate? Perhaps we could start a nuclear waste depository in the park?" This approach is often referred to as "governance by crisis."

In all reality (close one eye now) growth capitalism (note that I did not say Capitalism, I said Growth Capitalism) is mathematically fatally flawed and could never have worked long term. Ya see, we live on a finite planet. That dang Tom Malthus was right! Well heck Leon, what are we gonna do now?

As far as I can tell, 2010 is looking a whole lot like 2009. The single thing that could change that dismal outlook would be to risk both eyes at the same time and stare stark reality right in the face. We must fully embrace the very real fact that borrowing against our children's futures is not the answer. 2010 won't be a better year unless we change our could it be? Specific actions, produce specific results.

As individuals, we have far more choices in the United States than do most people in the free world. Exercise those choices. If you live in a small town; get involved in your local politics. Changing to a more sustainable format is possible for smaller communities. If you don't live in a small town, move to one and get involved. Attempting to influence large populations that are governed by the wealthy elite is futile.

In the mean time, live simple, live free, and live well. And yes, you can create your own Happy New Year and that's exactly what we are going to do together.
(c) 2010 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...

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."
~~~ Desmond Tutu ~~~

An Iraqi woman takes her dead son into her arms. The six-year-old
was killed on the way home from enrolling for his first year of school.

The Pictures Of War You Aren't Supposed To See
By Chris Hedges

War is brutal and impersonal. It mocks the fantasy of individual heroism and the absurdity of utopian goals like democracy. In an instant, industrial warfare can kill dozens, even hundreds of people, who never see their attackers. The power of these industrial weapons is indiscriminate and staggering. They can take down apartment blocks in seconds, burying and crushing everyone inside. They can demolish villages and send tanks, planes and ships up in fiery blasts. The wounds, for those who survive, result in terrible burns, blindness, amputation and lifelong pain and trauma. No one returns the same from such warfare. And once these weapons are employed all talk of human rights is a farce.

In Peter van Agtmael's "2nd Tour Hope I don't Die" and Lori Grinker's "Afterwar: Veterans From a World in Conflict," two haunting books of war photographs, we see pictures of war which are almost always hidden from public view. These pictures are shadows, for only those who go to and suffer from war can fully confront the visceral horror of it, but they are at least an attempt to unmask war's savagery.

"Over ninety percent of this soldier's body was burned when a roadside bomb hit his vehicle, igniting the fuel tank and burning two other soldiers to death," reads the caption in Agtmael's book next to a photograph of the bloodied body of a soldier in an operating room. "His camouflage uniform dangled over the bed, ripped open by the medics who had treated him on the helicopter. Clumps of his skin had peeled away, and what was left of it was translucent. He was in and out of consciousness, his eyes stabbing open for a few seconds. As he was lifted from the stretcher to the ER bed, he screamed 'Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,' then 'Put me to sleep, please put me to sleep.' There was another photographer in the ER, and he leaned his camera over the heads of the medical staff to get an overhead shot. The soldier yelled, 'Get that fucking camera out of my face.' Those were his last words. I visited his grave one winter afternoon six months later," Agtmael writes, "and the scene of his death is never far from my thoughts."

"There were three of us inside, and the jeep caught fire," Israeli soldier Yossi Arditi, quoted in Grinker's book, says of the moment when a Molotov cocktail exploded in his vehicle. "The fuel tank was full and it was about to explode, my skin was hanging from my arms and face-but I didn't lose my head. I knew nobody could get inside to help me, that my only way out was through the fire to the doors. I wanted to take my gun, but I couldn't touch it because my hands were burning." [To see long excerpts from "Afterwar" and to read an introduction written by Chris Hedges, click here.]

Arditi spent six months in the hospital. He had surgery every two or three months, about 20 operations, over the next three years.

"People who see me, see what war really does," he says.

Filmic and most photographic images of war are shorn of the heart-pounding fear, awful stench, deafening noise and exhaustion of the battlefield. Such images turn confusion and chaos, the chief element of combat, into an artful war narrative. They turn war into porn. Soldiers and Marines, especially those who have never seen war, buy cases of beer and watch movies like "Platoon," movies meant to denounce war, and as they do so revel in the despicable power of the weapons shown. The reality of violence is different. Everything formed by violence is senseless and useless. It exists without a future. It leaves behind nothing but death, grief and destruction.

Chronicles of war, such as these two books, that eschew images and scenes of combat begin to capture war's reality. War's effects are what the state and the press, the handmaiden of the war makers, work hard to keep hidden. If we really saw war, what war does to young minds and bodies, it would be harder to embrace the myth of war. If we had to stand over the mangled corpses of the eight schoolchildren killed in Afghanistan a week ago and listen to the wails of their parents we would not be able to repeat cliches about liberating the women of Afghanistan or bringing freedom to the Afghan people. This is why war is carefully sanitized. This is why we are given war's perverse and dark thrill but are spared from seeing war's consequences. The mythic visions of war keep it heroic and entertaining. And the press is as guilty as Hollywood. During the start of the Iraq war, television reports gave us the visceral thrill of force and hid from us the effects of bullets, tank rounds, iron fragmentation bombs and artillery rounds. We tasted a bit of war's exhilaration, but were protected from seeing what war actually does.

The wounded, the crippled and the dead are, in this great charade, swiftly carted off stage. They are war's refuse. We do not see them. We do not hear them. They are doomed, like wandering spirits, to float around the edges of our consciousness, ignored, even reviled. The message they tell is too painful for us to hear. We prefer to celebrate ourselves and our nation by imbibing the myth of glory, honor, patriotism and heroism, words that in combat become empty and meaningless. And those whom fate has decreed must face war's effects often turn and flee.

Saul Alfaro, who lost his legs in the war in El Salvador, speaks in Grinker's book about the first and final visit from his girlfriend as he lay in an army hospital bed.

"She had been my girlfriend in the military and we had planned to be married," he says. "But when she saw me in the hospital-I don't know exactly what happened, but later they told me when she saw me she began to cry. Afterwards, she ran away and never came back."

The public manifestations of gratitude are reserved for veterans who dutifully read from the script handed to them by the state. The veterans trotted out for viewing are those who are compliant and palatable, those we can stand to look at without horror, those who are willing to go along with the lie that war is about patriotism and is the highest good. "Thank you for your service," we are supposed to say. They are used to perpetuate the myth. We are used to honor it.

Gary Zuspann, who lives in a special enclosed environment in his parent's home in Waco, Texas, suffering from Gulf War syndrome, speaks in Grinker's book of feeling like "a prisoner of war" even after the war had ended.

"Basically they put me on the curb and said, okay, fend for yourself," he says in the book. "I was living in a fantasy world where I thought our government cared about us and they take care of their own. I believed it was in my contract, that if you're maimed or wounded during your service in war, you should be taken care of. Now I'm angry."

I went back to Sarajevo after covering the 1990s war for The New York Times and found hundreds of cripples trapped in rooms in apartment blocks with no elevators and no wheelchairs. Most were young men, many without limbs, being cared for by their elderly parents, the glorious war heroes left to rot.

Despair and suicide grip survivors. More Vietnam veterans committed suicide after the war than were killed during it. The inhuman qualities drilled into soldiers and Marines in wartime defeat them in peacetime. This is what Homer taught us in "The Iliad," the great book on war, and "The Odyssey," the great book on the long journey to recovery by professional killers. Many never readjust. They cannot connect again with wives, children, parents or friends, retreating into personal hells of self-destructive anguish and rage.

"They program you to have no emotion-like if somebody sitting next to you gets killed you just have to carry on doing your job and shut up," Steve Annabell, a British veteran of the Falklands War, says to Grinker. "When you leave the service, when you come back from a situation like that, there's no button they can press to switch your emotions back on. So you walk around like a zombie. They don't deprogram you. If you become a problem they just sweep you under the carpet."

"To get you to join up they do all these advertisements-they show people skiing down mountains and doing great things-but they don't show you getting shot at and people with their legs blown off or burning to death," he says. "They don't show you what really happens. It's just bullshit. And they never prepare you for it. They can give you all the training in the world, but it's never the same as the real thing."

Those with whom veterans have most in common when the war is over are often those they fought.

"Nobody comes back from war the same," says Horacio Javier Benitez, who fought the British in the Falklands and is quoted in Grinker's book. "The person, Horacio, who was sent to war, doesn't exist anymore. It's hard to be enthusiastic about normal life; too much seems inconsequential. You contend with craziness and depression."

"Many who served in the Malvinas," he says, using the Argentine name of the islands, "committed suicide, many of my friends."

"I miss my family," reads a wall graffito captured in one of Agtmael's photographs. "Please God forgive the lives I took and let my family be happy if I don't go home again."

Next to the plea someone had drawn an arrow toward the words and written in thick, black marker "Fag!!!"

Look beyond the nationalist cant used to justify war. Look beyond the seduction of the weapons and the pornography of violence. Look beyond Barack Obama's ridiculous rhetoric about finishing the job or fighting terror. Focus on the evil of war. War begins by calling for the annihilation of the others but ends ultimately in self-annihilation. It corrupts souls and mutilates bodies. It destroys homes and villages and murders children on their way to school. It grinds into the dirt all that is tender and beautiful and sacred. It empowers human deformities-warlords, Shiite death squads, Sunni insurgents, the Taliban, al-Qaida and our own killers-who can speak only in the despicable language of force. War is a scourge. It is a plague. It is industrial murder. And before you support war, especially the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, look into the hollow eyes of the men, women and children who know it.
(c) 2010 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. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

The Perils Of Passivity
By David Michael Green

I have to laugh - in-between the tears, of course - when I listen to regressives speak of the likes of Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in terms of Stalinesque autocrats or thuggish mafia bosses.

I'm pretty sure that the elites who propagate this nonsense through mouthpieces such as Limbaugh or Beck know just how absurd and contradictory to pesky reality those assertions are. But the regressive hoi polloi - as idiotic and ill-informed a bunch of bots as you'll find anywhere this side of the Borg - well, they eat this stuff up whole hog.

It's really astonishing, because I can hardly think of three wimpier or more politically anemic drenched noodles than these Democratic buffoons, along with the rest of their pathetic pity party. And also because America actually has had some pretty tough progressives in its history. Harry Truman would eat Harry Reid for breakfast, and still be hungry again before lunch. Lyndon Johnson could teach Barack Obama a few (thousand) things about how to move a legislative agenda through a balky Congress, and it wouldn't involve getting his ass kicked by Joe Lieberman, I can tell you that. Franklin Roosevelt would surely be able to school Nancy Pelosi on the finer points of national leadership.

Democrats have been playing the weakness game for nearly a half-century now, ever since Johnson was driven from office in 1968. That has meant very bad things for the country, which has now been all but completely captured by economic oligarchs, via their wholly-owned human levers in both parties.

What is more remarkable is what it has meant for the Democratic Party, which seems incapable of being assertive even when it comes to preserving its own interests. And what it has meant for the Democrats is more or less that they lose elections, except when the default governing party of the GOP screws up so badly that the public has no other choice than to go with the feeble ones for a while. Republicans then get a few years to rehabilitate themselves, during which time they incessantly shred the Dems from the sidelines, and then the cycle begins anew.

This is precisely where we are now. It absolutely defies the imagination that the Republican Party hasn't been sentenced to death by hanging, drawing and quartering after the crimes of the last decade. But no, remarkably, they are in the midst of an amazing revitalization now, courtesy of their aggressive deceits and the utter capitulation of the party nominally in charge.

There are three things that Democrats absolutely don't understand about the notion of assertive leadership. First, if you don't do it, you won't achieve anything. The American political system, as created by the Founders, is designed to produce utter stasis, the only exception being, well, exceptional moments. Second, no one will follow you, if you don't lead. Leadership is crucial to substantive achievements, but it also has its own intrinsic rewards. People want to be led, and they want to believe in their leaders. Indeed, they will follow strong leaders, like Ronald Reagan for example, even when they disagree with their politics. On the other hand, if you project fecklessness, they will tend to despise you, sometimes even though they like your ideas.

Finally, if Democrats don't lead, the aggressive ogres in the opposition who care not the least about the corrosive effects of deceit and destruction on the institutions of democracy will go ahead and define you to the country, and not in a pretty way either. Sound familiar?

This came clear once again this week, as the demons of the regressive right came out trumpeting the most scurrilous of lies and the most inflammatory of rhetoric during a national security threat. Yet again. On a plane headed to Detroit we had another ignorant and insecure kid, indoctrinated with a toxic brew of bad religion and even worse politics (no, no - I don't mean a Palin supporter), trying to blow up an airliner in the name of some jive deity or another.

Undoubtedly the Obama administration could have handled the national hand-holding circus that follows such events a lot better than they did. He waited too long to say something, and when he did, it took his usual passionless form that could put the audience to sleep at a Rage Against The Machine concert. (Doesn't this guy ever get pissed off at anything? He makes Mike Dukakis look like a meth-crazed pro wrestler by comparison.) Then there was the minor matter of Janet Napolitano, reminding everyone how, ahem, well the system actually had worked in preventing a terrorist attack. Apparently, unbeknownst to all of us, the government had secretly hired the Dutch passenger a couple seats over who leapt onto Umar Abdulmutallab to put out the flames. Wow! Those TSA spooks are everywhere! But all of this administration verbiage is after the fact, and doesn't change a thing about what happened. It's the theater of reassurance. It's not like Obama would have been saving lives by speaking on the day of the incident, rather than waiting two days longer.

So what happened next? What else would happen in an American political system populated by vicious Republicans and pathetic Democrats? The GOP thugs came out swinging, attacking the Obama administration for being weak on national security. It reminds me precisely of what Bush did. No, I mean what his father did. No, I mean what Reagan did. No, it's what Nixon did. No wait, wasn't this McCarthy's stock trick? Get it? This is not exactly cutting edge, newfangled politics in America, though you'd never know it watching Democrats deal with this stuff.

Anyhow, right like clockwork, out trotted Dick "Dick" Cheney to rally around the American president at the moment that the country was under attack. Well, not quite. Even though I've been assured by the former Vice President's office that he really is a patriot. You know, even though he "had better things to do" than go fight in Nam and all. Sorry. I must have inadvertently slipped into a parallel universe there, where retired vice presidents maintain their dignity. Back in our galaxy, however, this is what the man actually had to say:

"As I've watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won't be at war. We are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren't, it makes us less safe. Why doesn't he want to admit we're at war? It doesn't fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn't fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency - social transformation - the restructuring of American society."

Nor was he alone. Back on the Cheney Gang, other Republicans and the scary lot in the punditocracy who hold their coats voiced similar indignation. And more. Congressman Pete Hoekstra seemed to think that the very best expression his patriotism could to take would be in the form of a fundraising letter built around the terrorist attack. Can you say 'noble'? Nah, me neither. But I've heard of the concept.

The lunatic right in America (and let's face it, nowadays what other kind is there?) has been absolutely champing at the bit for a good national security crisis with which to hammer this president as weak on defense, resorting once again to the seemingly inexhaustible campaign theme for them all down the ages. That's why they leapt on this incident - which of course is not minor, but neither is it anything like Pearl Harbor or 9/11. And that's why Cheney's been singing this song for this whole last year. He knew something would happen, and he was laying the groundwork.

But there are just a few things they left out, no doubt absolutely unintentionally:

* They forgot to tell you that while it took Obama an inexcusable three days to make a statement on this event (as if that would change anything, anyhow), it took Cheney's marionette nearly a full week to say anything about the shoe bomber case, an incident almost identical to this one, except worse because it came just a few months after 9/11. Bush was on vacation (what else is new?), and didn't even make a statement about Richard Reid - he just mentioned him offhandedly in a press availability that he did six days after the attack.

* Cheney lambasted Obama for treating the latest incident as a legal matter. What he didn't mention is that the Bush people did exactly the same thing with Reid, and then bragged about the conviction they got in the courts.

* Cheney lied (yeah, really!) both outrageously and ridiculously when he said that Obama is trying to pretend the country is not at war. Obama has been saying that the country is at war since at least when he was a state senator. He said it throughout last year as president - beginning with his inaugural address: "Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred" - and he said it throughout the year prior as a candidate. He typically doesn't use the 'war on terror' construction when he talks about it, but presumably that's because he realizes it's an idiotic phrase.

* Somehow, as well, the folks who want you to believe that Obama is afraid to really fight a war also want you not to notice that he just announced his second major escalation of the - what would you call it? - the thingy in Afghanistan that involves lots of soldiers and weapons and blood and people dying. This little bit of attempted legerdemain is not exactly shocking anymore, is it? The day that cognitive dissonance goes out of fashion is the day there are no more conservatives.

* Another thing Cheney probably doesn't want you to know is that some of the folks who probably plotted the attack in Yemen were actually released from Guantánamo by ... oops, the Bush administration. Yeah, Bushco sent some of them to Saudi Arabia to participate in an "art therapy rehabilitation program". You think I'm making that up, don't you?

* I'm also pretty sure that Cheney won't be mentioning who set up the anti-terrorist national security system that failed so miserably to put the pieces together on Abdulmutallab last week. Remind me again, which administration was in office for most of the last decade? Which one reshuffled the bureaucratic architecture to make the system work properly after the 9/11 debacle?

* Of course, perhaps that wasn't the problem. Maybe the thing was that the system works fine, as long as someone is in charge. There actually is a nominee to lead TSA who has been readily approved by two Senate committees, but has had his nomination process stopped dead by that radical left-wing friend of Muslim terrorists, Jim DeMint, of South Carolina. Funny, you don't hear a lot about that from Cheney and his clones. So why is this critical nomination being held up? DeMint is waiting for a promise that TSA workers won't be allowed to unionize. And, really, that makes sense, if you think about it. Gotta keep our priorities straight, folks! Can't have the worker bees earning a respectable wage now, can we?

* The last thing that probably isn't going to get a lot of mention is the fact that the worst foreign terrorist attack in history was sustained on the watch of - wait for it now - a certain team known as the Bush-Cheney administration. Not only that, but in fact the only such attack of major proportions was during their presidency. And not only that, but there is a huge raft of evidence - including the testimony of their own top terrorism and intelligence people - that they didn't give a crap about it while the warning bells were ringing at 120 decibels.

Whew. Can I stop now?

The point of all this is that the radical right's arguments about national security this week are entirely absurd, and that's on a good day. Most of the rest of the time they are completely contradictory and utterly hypocritical.

But this kind of thing goes on all the time. Obama is labeled a big spender for trying to use Keynesian tactics to rescue the economy from the disaster bequeathed us by a regressive goon who doubled the size of the national debt in just eight years. Democrats are called socialists for adding 35 million instant coerced customers to private insurance rolls, rather than creating a public healthcare plan, like just about every other developed country in the world. Obama is supposedly weak on national defense, according to the folks who ran two wars against third world countries right out of the tenth century, and succeeded in getting nowhere almost a decade later, while the US military is spent and the national treasury depleted.

It's unreal. But worst of all, this stuff actually gets traction. Loads of it. Tens of millions of Americans swallow it whole, and many more are added to the ranks every day.

These are the wages of wimpiness. These are the perils of passivity.

This should never have happened, and a year ago it would have seemed almost inconceivable to anyone (except those actually familiar with the Democratic Party of the last generation or two). Even so, it is absolutely astonishing that these punks don't realize the imperative of throwing punches, of naming enemies, of framing a narrative. All the more so because this is not a case of politics for politics' sake. I couldn't care less about the Democratic Party, other than wishing that most of them rot in Hell. However, they are the 'opposition' to the full-on nightmare scenario, and we're semi-stuck with them as the would-be voice of sanity.

My god, though, if you can't trash George W. Bush after this last decade, if you can't demonize Wall Street bankers who learned greed by stealing marbles from other kids in kindergarten, if you can't remind voters of what cowards Cheney and the chickenhawk chorus actually are - when the hell can you do it?

Democrats are inept, the public knows it, and that will be a major part of their undoing in the next two election cycles.

But the other part of what will get them is that they'll absolutely let anyone say anything about them, and just take it.

Just in case the Dems are wondering if they're in trouble or not, there's an old political adage that says, "Your know you're toast when your party gives a nice benefit to seniors but you let the other side define that as murderous government death panels".

Well, okay. It's not an old adage. In fact, it's not an adage at all.

But at this rate, it will be soon.
(c) 2010 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Newt and his new girl friend do the town!

Heil Obama,

Dear frühere Unterfuhrer Gingrich,

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, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Fredo Bush, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Sonia (get whitey) Sotomayor.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, your personal and savage attacks on Herr Obama making Barry look like your enemy instead of a good friend, thus confusing the Sheeple, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican 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 diamond clusters presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 03-15-2010. We salute you Herr Gingrich, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Degrading Effects Of Terrorism Fears
By Glenn Greenwald

I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but David Brooks actually had an excellent column in yesterday's New York Times that makes several insightful and important points. Brooks documents how "childish, contemptuous and hysterical" the national reaction has been to this latest terrorist episode, egged on -- as usual -- by the always-hysterical American media. The citizenry has been trained to expect that our Powerful Daddies and Mommies in government will -- in that most cringe-inducing, child-like formulation -- Keep Us Safe. Whenever the Government fails to do so, the reaction -- just as we saw this week -- is an ugly combination of petulant, adolescent rage and increasingly unhinged cries that More Be Done to ensure that nothing bad in the world ever happens. Demands that genuinely inept government officials be held accountable are necessary and wise, but demands that political leaders ensure that we can live in womb-like Absolute Safety are delusional and destructive. Yet this is what the citizenry screams out every time something threatening happens: please, take more of our privacy away; monitor more of our communications; ban more of us from flying; engage in rituals to create the illusion of Strength; imprison more people without charges; take more and more control and power so you can Keep Us Safe.

This is what inevitably happens to a citizenry that is fed a steady diet of fear and terror for years. It regresses into pure childhood. The 5-year-old laying awake in bed, frightened by monsters in the closet, who then crawls into his parents' bed to feel Protected and Safe, is the same as a citizenry planted in front of the television, petrified by endless imagery of scary Muslim monsters, who then collectively crawl to Government and demand that they take more power and control in order to keep them Protected and Safe. A citizenry drowning in fear and fixated on Safety to the exclusion of other competing values can only be degraded and depraved. John Adams, in his 1776 Thoughts on Government, put it this way:

Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.

As Adams noted, political leaders possess an inherent interest in maximizing fear levels, as that is what maximizes their power. For a variety of reasons, nobody aids this process more than our establishment media, motivated by their own interests in ratcheting up fear and Terrorism melodrama as high as possible. The result is a citizenry far more terrorized by our own institutions than foreign Terrorists could ever dream of achieving on their own. For that reason, a risk that is completely dwarfed by numerous others -- the risk of death from Islamic Terrorism -- dominates our discourse, paralyzes us with fear, leads us to destroy our economic security and eradicate countless lives in more and more foreign wars, and causes us to beg and plead and demand that our political leaders invade more of our privacy, seize more of our freedom, and radically alter the system of government we were supposed to have. The one thing we don't do is ask whether we ourselves are doing anything to fuel this problem and whether we should stop doing it. As Adams said: fear "renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable."

What makes all of this most ironic is that the American Founding was predicated on exactly the opposite mindset. The Constitution is grounded in the premise that there are other values and priorities more important than mere Safety. Even though they knew that doing so would help murderers and other dangerous and vile criminals evade capture, the Framers banned the Government from searching homes without probable cause, prohibited compelled self-incrimination, double jeopardy and convictions based on hearsay, and outlawed cruel and unusual punishment. That's because certain values -- privacy, due process, limiting the potential for abuse of government power -- were more important than mere survival and safety. A central calculation of the Constitution was that we insist upon privacy, liberty and restraints on government power even when doing so means we live with less safety and a heightened risk of danger and death. And, of course, the Revolutionary War against the then-greatest empire on earth was waged by people who risked their lives and their fortunes in pursuit of liberty, precisely because there are other values that outweigh mere survival and safety.

These are the calculations that are now virtually impossible to find in our political discourse. It is fear, and only fear, that predominates. No other competing values are recognized. We have Chris Matthews running around shrieking that he's scared of kung-fu-wielding Terrorists. Michael Chertoff is demanding that we stop listening to "privacy ideologues" -- i.e., that there should be no limits on Government's power to invade and monitor and scrutinize. Republican leaders have spent the decade preaching that only Government-provided Safety, not the Constitution, matters. All in response to this week's single failed terrorist attack, there are -- as always -- hysterical calls that we start more wars, initiate racial profiling, imprison innocent people indefinitely, and torture even more indiscriminately. These are the by-products of the weakness and panic and paralyzing fear that Americans have been fed in the name of Terrorism, continuously for a full decade now.

Ever since I began writing in late 2005 about this fear-addicted dynamic, the point on which Brooks focused yesterday is the one I've thought most important. What matters most about this blinding fear of Terrorism is not the specific policies that are implemented as a result. Policies can always be changed. What matters most is the radical transformation of the national character of the United States. Reducing the citizenry to a frightened puddle of passivity, hysteria and a child-like expectation of Absolute Safety is irrevocable and far more consequential than any specific new laws. Fear is always the enabling force of authoritarianism: the desire to vest unlimited power in political authority in exchange for promises of protection. This is what I wrote about that back in early 2006 in How Would a Patriot Act?:

The president's embrace of radical theories of presidential power threatens to change the system of government we have. But worse still, his administration's relentless, never-ending attempts to keep the nation in a state of fear can also change the kind of nation we are.

This isn't exactly new: many of America's most serious historical transgressions -- the internment of Japanese-Americans, McCarthyite witch hunts, World War I censorship laws, the Alien and Sedition Act -- have been the result of fear-driven, over-reaction to extrenal threats, not under-reaction. Fear is a degrading toxin, and there's no doubt that it has been the primary fuel over the last decade. As the events of the last week demonstrate, it continues to spread rapidly, and it produces exactly the kind of citizenry about which John Adams long ago warned.

UPDATE: Talking to one's friends and co-workers is not a reliable way of gauging public opinion on an issue. Those who want to claim that the media's hysteria over this incident is not matched by the general public's are going to have to explain this:

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of U.S. voters say waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques should be used to gain information from the terrorist who attempted to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day. . . . Seventy-one percent (71%) of all voters think the attempt by the Nigerian Muslim to blow up the airliner as it landed in Detroit should be investigated by military authorities as a terrorist act. Only 22% say it should be handled by civilian authorities as a criminal act, as is currently the case.

Does that sound like a calm and sober citizenry?
(c) 2010 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.

The God Fraud
By Sam Harris

In her article ("Think Again: God," November 2009), Karen Armstrong discovers that Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and I have mistaken "fundamentalism" for the totality of religion. (Sorry about that.) But do Richard and Christopher really hold religion responsible for "all human cruelty"? That is a surprise. I hadn't realized that they were idiots.

In any case, I am hopeful that Armstrong's winsome depiction of Islam will shame and enlighten them, as it has me. They will discover that Hassan al-Banna and Tariq Ramadan are paragons of meliorism and wisdom, while we are ignorant bigots who know nothing of theology (of course), politics (Christopher, are you listening?), human nature (what's to know?), or the proper limits of science (um ... narrower?).

I can't quite remember how we got it into our heads that jihad was linked to violence. (Might it have had something to do with the actual history and teachings of Islam?) And how could we have been so foolish as to connect the apparently inexhaustible supply of martyrs in the Muslim world to the Islamic doctrine of martyrdom? In my own defense, let me say that I do get spooked whenever Western Muslims advocate the murder of apostates (as 36 percent of Muslim young adults do in Britain). But I now know that these freedom-loving people just "want to see God reflected more clearly in public life."

I will call my friend Ayaan Hirsi Ali at once and encourage her to come out of hiding: Come on out, dear. Karen says the coast is clear. As it turns out, those people who have been calling for your murder don't understand Islam any better than we do.

Armstrong assures us that because religion has existed for millennia, it is here to stay. Of course, the same could be said about a preoccupation with witchcraft, which has also been a cultural universal. The belief in the curative powers of human flesh is still widespread in Africa, as it used to be in the West. It is said that "mummy paint" (a salve made from ground mummy parts) was applied to Lincoln's wounds as he lay dying.

This is now good for a laugh. But in Kenya elderly men and women are still burned alive for casting malicious spells. In Angola, unlucky boys and girls have been blinded, injected with battery acid, and killed outright in an effort to purge them of demons. In Tanzania, there is a growing criminal trade in the body parts of albino human beings -- as it is widely believed that their flesh has magical properties.

I hope that Armstrong will soon apply her capacious understanding of human nature to these phenomena. Then we will learn that though witchcraft has occasionally been entangled with political injustice, an "inadequate understanding" of demonology and sympathetic magic was really to blame.

People will torture their children with battery acid from time to time anyway -- and who among us hasn't wanted to kill and eat an albino? I sincerely hope that my "new atheist" colleagues are not so naive as to imagine that actual belief in magic might be the issue here. After all, it would be absurd to criticize witchcraft as unscientific, as this would ignore the primordial division between mythos and logos. Let me see if I have this straight: Belief in demons, the evil eye, and the medicinal value of a cannibal feast are perversions of the real witchcraft - -which is drenched with meaning, intrinsically wholesome, integral to our humanity, and here to stay. Do I have that right?

Sam Harris

Karen Armstrong replies:

It is clear that we need a debate about the role of religion in public life and the relationship between science and religion. I just wish this debate could be conducted in a more Socratic manner. Socrates, founder of the Western rationalist tradition, always insisted that any dialogue must be conducted with gentleness and courtesy, and without malice. In our highly polarized world, we really do not need yet another deliberately contentious and divisive discourse.

When I was a student, I was taught to listen to all sides of a question, examine the evidence impartially, and be prepared to change my mind. For many years, I wanted nothing to do with religion and would have agreed wholeheartedly with Sam Harris; my early writing definitely tended to the Dawkinsesque. But my study of the history of world religion during the past 20 years has compelled me to alter my views.

Religious traditions are highly complex and multifarious. Like art, religion is difficult to do well and is often done badly; like sex, it is often tragically abused. I hold no brief for witchcraft or the superstitious trading of body parts. Like many religious people, I do not believe in demons. I abhor violence of any kind, be it verbal or physical, religious or secular.

I have written at length about the desecration of religion in the crusades, inquisitions, and persecutions that have scarred human history. I have also pointed out that, driven by political humiliation and alienation, far too many Muslims have in recent years distorted the traditional Islamic view of jihad, which originally referred to the "effort" required to implement the will of God in a violent world.

But these abuses do not constitute the whole story. Religion is also about the quest for transcendence, the discipline of compassion, and the endless search for meaning; it was not designed to provide us with the same kind of explanations as science, but to help us to live creatively, serenely, and kindly with the suffering that is an inescapable part of the human condition. As such, it continues to appeal to millions of human beings across the globe. To identify religion with its worst manifestations, claim that they represent the whole, and then demolish the straw dog thus set up does not seem a rational or useful way of conducting this important debate.

Historically, this kind of attack only serves to make religious fundamentalists more extreme. Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens have flung down the gauntlet in their spirited -- some would say intemperate -- manifestos against religion. They cannot be surprised if people challenge their critique in the way that I attempted in my article.

In the past, theologians such as Rudolf Bultmann, Karl Rahner, and Paul Tillich enjoyed fruitful conversations with atheists and found their theology enriched by the encounters. We desperately need such interchange today. A truly Socratic dialogue with atheists could help to counter many of the abuses of faith that Harris so rightly deplores.
(c) 2010 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Jerry Holbert ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime
By Bing Crosby

They used to tell me I was building a dream, and so I followed the mob,
When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear, I was always there right on the job.
They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead,
Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run,
Made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it's done.
Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once I built a tower, up to the sun,
Brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it's done.
Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al;
It was Al all the time.
Why don't you remember, I'm your pal?
Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al;
It was Al all the time.
Say, don't you remember, I'm your pal?
Buddy, can you spare a dime?
(c) 1931/2009 Yip Harburg/Jay Gorney

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

According to Delta bluesman Willie "Skipbone" Johnson, the nation of Yemen
"done treat me so unkind." Yemen prime minister Faraj Said bin Ghanem denies the charges.

Blues Musician To U.N.: 'Yemen Done Me Wrong'

UNITED NATIONS-Legendary Delta bluesman Willie "Skipbone" Johnson is calling for U.N. sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation of Yemen following what he described as "a low-down dirty deed" against him.

According to Delta bluesman Willie "Skipbone" Johnson, the nation of Yemen "done treat me so unkind." Yemen prime minister Faraj Said bin Ghanem denies the charges.

Among the alleged actions Johnson is protesting are Yemen's alleged tearing out and stomping of Johnson's heart; disappearing when Johnson most needed the Arab republic; and making Johnson feel like a worn-out old dog-actions which, according to the U.N.'s Charter Of Fundamental Human Rights, "just ain't right."

Said Johnson: "Prime Minister Faraj Said bin Ghanem gonna be the death of me."

This represents an unfortunate breakdown in once-positive relations between the predominantly Muslim nation and the 74-year-old master of the slide guitar. As recently as last year, Yemen's Council of Ministers rocked and rolled the musician in so vigorous a manner as to make a landlord forget about the rent.

"This is a devastating blow to Mr. Johnson," said Harvard University political-science professor Eldred Hyde. "For a man who has been beaten up and down until his mama don't recognize him no more and cheated out of his only pair of shoes, a diplomatic crisis with a longtime ally like Yemen may be an irreparable setback."

Noted Hyde: "If it weren't for bad luck, it appears Mr. Johnson would not have any luck at all."

The composer of such blues classics as "Dead Cow Blues" and "Butter My Bread," Johnson maintains that he gave Yemen all he had, only to be forsaken, much like a worn-out suit. He also said that there is another country whose name Yemen cries out at night.

"Yemen done recently form a trade pact with the United Arab Emirates," Johnson said, "and I been laid low ever since."

Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh has expressed a willingness to restore diplomatic relations with the Clarksdale, MS-born blues legend and vehemently denied that his nation has been seen with the U.A.E., that oil-rich country down Oman way.

Saleh added that it is, in fact, Johnson who is sneaking around, implying that Johnson's mojo was recently worked by Qatar.

"When Qatar shakes its thing, Johnson is unable to keep his stuff still," Saleh said. "May Allah have mercy on his two-timin' soul."

Johnson denied any involvement with Qatar and rejected Saleh's offer for negotiations, saying that he is "too busy wishin' I was anyone but me."

If Johnson's U.N. demands are met, Yemen will be hit with severe international economic sanctions. In addition, none of Yemen's 14 million citizens would be welcome in Johnson's house no more.

"I been cryin' ever since the day I met that devil-hearted country," Johnson said. "I ain't goin' down that Middle Eastern nation's road no more."
(c) 2010 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 02 (c) 01/08/2010

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