Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky remembers, "Presidential 'Peacemaking' In Latin America."

Uri Avnery reviews, "The Quiet American."

Victoria Stewart recalls, "The Way It Used To Be."

Scott Ritter visits, "Obama's Alternate Universe."

Jim Hightower sees us, "Flying Naked."

Michael D. Rectenwald says, "And Now A Word From The Netroots."

John Nichols warns, "The 2010 Political Timebomb Is Unemployment."

Paul Krugman is, "Learning From Europe."

Chris Floyd reports on, "Mondo Hondo: Obama Goes Traditional In Latin America."

Case Wagenvoord concludes we're, "Buying Ourselves To Death."

Mike Folkerth discovers, "Black and White or Color; It's The Same Picture."

Chris Hedges foresees, "Wall Street Will Be Back For More."

David Michael Green considers, "The Implosion Of The American Political Consciousness."

Roger Ailes wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald watches as, "Helen Thomas Deviates From The Terrorism Script."

Arun Gupta finds, "Hope Has Left the Building."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Landover Baptist Church's Brother Harry Hardwick preaches, "Alabama May Be the Champ, But Colt McCoy is God's Winner!" but first Uncle Ernie sez, You Can Lead A Politician To Water, But You Can't Make It Think!

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Mike Keefe, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Clay Bennett, Internet Weekly.Org, Harley Schwadron, M Live.Com, G.H. Photography.Org, Virgin Films 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."

You Can Lead A Politician To Water, But You Can't Make It Think!
By Ernest Stewart

"I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that's what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that's what I'd like to see." ~~~ Barrack Obama

"On the basis of available evidence, and these expert assessments of the evidence, the scientific criteria for an influenza pandemic have been met. I have therefore decided to raise the level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 5 to phase 6. The world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic." ~~~ Dr Margaret Chan ~ Director-General of the World Health Organization ~~~

I cut down trees. I skip and jump.
I like to press wild flowers.
I put on women's clothing
And hang around in bars.
The Lumberjack Song ~~~ Monty Python

It's just a matter of time now before the House caves into the pressure being exerted by Barry and the insurance goons and we have yet another boondoggle of massive proportions.

The American people have spoken quite clearly in what they want in an insurance bill, i.e., something along the lines of Medicare, a one payer system for all or at least a single payer option. They want to know why after all the taxes they pay when they have a job, why they don't get free health insurance like the rest of the 1st world countries do. Or if they can't have that, then they want no insurance bill at all! What they get are unnecessary wars that drain the treasury; they get to bail out the bankers and other corpo-rat goons with no strings attached. If those companies are too big to fail then they are too big to exist. Instead we get to watch them give bonuses by the tens of billions to same the criminals that brought this economy to its knees!

With the soon to come passage of the, "Health Insurance Company Protection Act of 2009," something being crafted at this moment in a series of back room deals behind very closed doors instead of in the open like Barry promised in the primaries, you will get another trillion dollar bill to pay. Just as he lied about open government, he also lied about endorsing a single payer option! This bill, with its mandates and taxes, puts a high tax on middleclass families rather than a fair tax on the ultra rich. Under Barry's bill the wealthy will have to pay some pocket change while middle class Americans will have to get a second mortgage to afford this turkey. All this so Barry can lie and say he passed this bill for us, not his corpo-rat pals, in his State of the Union address next month.

Barry doesn't give a rat's ass about health care or about your health, Mr. & Ms. America. What he cares about is looking good even if it's over the bodies of un-and under-insured Americans (see also our needless, useless wars!) so the insurance industry, bankers and such keep sending those shekels in to his war chest for 2012.

Trouble is he won't get any support or money from the labor unions or from any of the middle class who understand what's happening to them. His base of support has been cast into the wind to placate the corpo-rat goons who pull all of his strings. Meanwhile the House will no doubt sell us out just as the Senate already has.

So if history doesn't repeat itself then, why do I have the feeling that it's not 2010 but 1994 and we're about have another "Contract on America" put on us all?

In Other News

I was curious about what the death totals are for the world-ending pandemic of our CIA sponsored swine flu epidemic. For example, did billions die? Did they die in their millions? How many hundreds of thousands bit the big one over H1N1? Currently, according to the WHO, there are 13,663 confirmed deaths worldwide since the outbreak began in December of 2008 at an American owned pig farm in Mexico. This figure is a sum of confirmed deaths reported by national authorities and the WHO in 192 countries, 13,663, excuse me!

The WHO explain this by mumbling something about people not counting flu deaths because of other factors, but I find it just as likely that people who died from regular flu were counted among the swine flu deaths. In an average year somewhere between 33,000 and 35,000 people die in America from "regular" flu. That's each and every year and it's seldom that you hear anything mentioned, certainly not like the end of the world song and dance we've been getting from the WHO and our own CDC! I wonder why they went berserk about this flu and not the regular flu that kills almost three times as much in this country than died in the entire world from swine flu?

The last time we had a swine flu epidemic back 1976 more people died or had complications from the vaccine than died from the flu. Our last major "epidemic" where the sky was falling was the bird flu where about 100 people died, less than what die on our roads in a day. I wonder why? Well, actually, I don't! You may remember the words of "Deep Throat" who told Woodward and Bernstein to, "Follow the Money!" In fact, one should always remember those three words when living in a capitalist country like America because filthy lucre is behind everything most every time, ergo:

Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., LTD forecast sales of Tamiflu to reach $53 billion, up 531% because of the swine flu epidemic, due to government stockpiling in FY2009. The question I have for Dr. Chan who heads the World Health Organization is, "Margo how much did Chugai kick back to you and yours for the pandemic bullshit? I bet old Donald Von Rumsfeld is dancing for joy, don't you?

And Finally

One of the most bizarre things to come out of the Detroit "Underwear Bomber" scenario was former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani who offered to host George Stephanopoulos on last Friday's "Good Morning America" this statement:

"We had no domestic attacks under Bush - we've had one under Obama."

I'm going to repeat that again for those of you on drugs! Rudy said:

"We had no domestic attacks under Bush!"

Let's forget for a moment the "Shoe Bomber" Richard Colvin Reid and the CIA's letters full of "Anthrax Ripple" and several other attacks under Bush and concentrate on the biggest, deadliest attack on America since the War of 1812. You may recall the 911 attacks that the Bush Junta was warned about by at least 11 countries, which Dubya either chose to ignore or 911 was part of PNAC's plan to rule the world. Those were the same attacks Rudy used to justify remaining in office after his term ended. Only he could, he said, save us all from the CIA's black ops programs by dressing up in drag and scaring all those Muslims away! You would have thought he would remember 911 as every other word out of his mouth since then has been 911! It just might have worked too, as he scares the hell out of me whenever he "becomes" a "lady!"

Of course, old Quisling George didn't call Rudy on this howling error, thus giving a little insight into how the Mickey Mouse Corpo-rat News network, a.k.a. "ABC News" works. After a few thousand people wrote in and pointed out George's little faux pas he finally called it a mistake on his blog saying:

"All of you who have pointed out that I should have pressed him on that misstatement in the moment are right. My mistake, my responsibility," there by letting Disney off the hook.

You're really going to miss us when we're gone and you have to get "the news" from George, Rush, Glen, Billo and now Sarah, America!

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


07-17-1917 ~ 01-08-2010
You should have had an abortion!

12-18-1916 ~ 01-10-2010
Thanks for the Bachelors!

03-26-1950 ~ 01-13-2010
Thanks for the R&B!



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.

Presidential 'Peacemaking' In Latin America
By Noam Chomsky

Barack Obama, the fourth U.S. president to win the Nobel Peace Prize, joins the others in the long tradition of peacemaking so long as it serves U.S. interests.

All four presidents left their imprint on "our little region over here that has never bothered anybody," as U.S. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson characterized the hemisphere in 1945.

Given the Obama administration's stance toward the elections in Honduras in November, it may be worthwhile to examine the record.

Theodore Roosevelt

In his second term as president, Theodore Roosevelt said, "The expansion of the peoples of white, or European, blood during the past four centuries has been fraught with lasting benefit to most of the peoples already dwelling in the lands over which the expansion took place," despite what Africans, Native Americans, Filipinos and other beneficiaries might mistakenly believe.

It was therefore "inevitable and in the highest degree desirable for the good of humanity at large, that the American people should ultimately crowd out the Mexicans" by conquering half of Mexico and, "It was out of the question to expect (Texans) to submit to the mastery of the weaker race."

Using gunboat diplomacy to steal Panama from Colombia to build the canal was also a gift to humanity.

Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson is the most honored of the presidential laureates and arguably the worst for Latin America.

Wilson's invasion of Haiti in 1915 killed thousands, restored virtual slavery and left much of the country in ruins.

Demonstrating his love of democracy, Wilson ordered his Marines to disband the Haitian parliament at gunpoint for failing to pass "progressive" legislation that allowed U.S. corporations to buy up the country. The problem was remedied when Haitians adopted a U.S.-written constitution, under Marine guns. The achievement would be "beneficial to Haiti," the State Department assured its wards.

Wilson also invaded the Dominican Republic to ensure its welfare. Both countries were left under the rule of vicious national guards. Decades of torture, violence and misery there come down to us as a legacy of "Wilsonian idealism," a leading principle of U.S. foreign policy.

Jimmy Carter

For President Jimmy Carter, human rights were "the soul of our foreign policy."

Robert Pastor, Carter's national security advisor for Latin America, explained some important distinctions between rights and policy: Regretfully, the administration had to support Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza's regime, and when that proved impossible, to maintain the U.S.-trained National Guard even after it had been massacring the population "with a brutality a nation usually reserves for its enemy," killing some 40,000 people.

To Pastor, the reason is elementary: "The United States did not want to control Nicaragua or the other nations of the region, but it also did not want developments to get out of control. It wanted Nicaraguans to act independently, except when doing so would affect U.S. interests adversely."

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama separated the United States from almost all of Latin America and Europe by accepting the military coup that overthrew Honduran democracy last June.

The coup reflected a "yawning political and socioeconomic divide," The New York Times reported. For the "small upper class," Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was becoming a threat to what they call "democracy," namely, the rule of "the most powerful business and political forces in the country."

Zelaya was initiating such dangerous measures as a rise in the minimum wage in a country where 60 percent live in poverty. He had to go.

Virtually alone, the United States recognized the November elections (with Pepe Lobo the victor) held under military rule -- "a great celebration of democracy," according to Hugo Llorens, Obama's ambassador.

The endorsement also preserved the use of Honduras' Palmerola air base, increasingly valuable as the U. S. military is being driven out of most of Latin America.

After the elections, Lewis Anselem, Obama's representative to the Organization of American States, instructed the backward Latin Americans that they should recognize the military coup and join the United States "in the real world, not in the world of magical realism."

Obama broke ground in supporting the military coup. The U.S. government funds the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, which are supposed to promote democracy.

The IRI regularly supports military coups to overthrow elected governments, most recently in Venezuela in 2002 and Haiti in 2004.

But the NDI has held back. In Honduras, for the first time, Obama's NDI agreed to observe the elections under military rule, unlike the OAS and the United Nations, still wandering in the world of magical realism.

Given the close connections between the Pentagon and the Honduran military, and the enormous U.S. economic leverage in the country, it would have been a simple matter for Obama to join the Latin American/European effort to protect Honduran democracy.

But Obama preferred the traditional policy.

In his history of hemispheric relations, British scholar Gordon Connell-Smith writes, "While paying lip-service to the encouragement of representative democracy in Latin America, the United States has a strong interest in just the reverse," apart from "procedural democracy, especially the holding of elections, which only too often have proved farcical."

Functioning democracy may respond to popular concerns, while "the United States has been concerned with fostering the most favorable conditions for her private overseas investment."

It takes a large dose of what has sometimes been called "intentional ignorance" not to see the facts.

Such blindness must be guarded zealously if state violence is to proceed on course -- always for the good of humanity, as Obama reminded us again in his Nobel Prize address.
(c) 2009 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Hegemony or Survival Americas Quest for Global Dominance. His writings on linguistics and politics have just been collected in The Essential Noam Chomsky, edited by Anthony Arnove, from the New Press.

The Quiet American
By Uri Avnery

THE QUIET AMERICAN was the hero of Graham Greene's novel about the first Vietnam War, the one fought by the French.

He was a young and naive American, a professor's son, who had enjoyed a good education at Harvard, an idealist with all the best intentions. When he was sent to Vietnam, he wanted to help the natives to overcome the two evils as he saw them: French colonialism and Communism. Knowing absolutely nothing about the country in which he was acting, he caused a disaster. The book ends with a massacre, the outcome of his misguided efforts. He illustrated the old saying: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Since this book was written, 54 years have passed, but it seems that the Quiet American has not changed a bit. He is still an idealist (at least, in his own view of himself), still wants to bring redemption to foreign and far-away peoples about whom he knows nothing, still causes terrible disasters: in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now, it seems, in Yemen.

THE IRAQI example is the simplest one.

The American soldiers were sent there to overthrow the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein. There were, of course, also some less altruistic objectives, such as taking control of the Iraqi oil resources and stationing an American garrison in the heart of the Middle Eastern oil region. But for the American public, the adventure was presented as an idealistic enterprise to topple a bloody dictator, who was menacing the world with nuclear bombs.

That was six years ago, and the war is still going on. Barack Obama, who opposed the war right from the start, promised to lead the Americans out of there. In the meantime, in spite of all the talking, no end is in sight.

Why? Because the real decision-makers in Washington had no idea of the country which they wanted to liberate and help to live happily ever after.

Iraq was from the beginning an artificial state. The British masters glued together several Ottoman provinces to suit their own colonial interests. They crowned a Sunni Arab as king over the Kurds, who are not Arab, and the Shiites, who are not Sunni. Only a succession of dictators, each of them more brutal than his predecessor, prevented the state from falling apart.

The Washington planners were not interested in the history, demography or geography of the country which they entered with brutal force. The way it looked to them, it was quite simple: One had to topple the tyrant, establish democratic institutions on the American model, conduct free elections, and everything else would fall into place by itself.

Contrary to their expectations, they were not received with flowers. Neither did they discover Saddam's terrible atom bomb. Like the proverbial elephant in the porcelain shop, they shattered everything, destroyed the country and got bogged in a swamp.

After years of bloody military operations that led nowhere, they found a temporary remedy. To hell with idealism, to hell with the lofty aims, to hell with all military doctrines - they're now simply buying off the tribal chiefs, who constitute the reality of Iraq.

The Quiet American has no idea how to get out. He knows that if he does, the country may well disintegrate in mutual bloodletting.

TWO YEARS before entering the Iraqi swamp, the Americans invaded the Afghan quagmire.

Why? Because an organization called al-Qaeda ("the basis") had claimed responsibility for the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York. Al-Qaeda's chiefs were in Afghanistan, their training camps were there. To the Americans, everything was clear - there was no need for second thoughts (neither, for that matter, for first thoughts.)

If they had had any knowledge of the country they were about to invade, they might have, perhaps, hesitated. Afghanistan has always been a graveyard for invaders. Mighty empires had escaped from there with their tails between their legs. Unlike flat Iraq, Afghanistan is a country of mountains, a paradise for guerrillas. It is the home of several different peoples and uncounted tribes, each one fiercely jealous of its independence.

The Washington planners were not really interested. For them, it seems, all countries are the same, and so are all societies. In Afghanistan, too, American-style democracy must be established, free and fair elections must be held, and hoppla - everything else will sort itself out.

The elephant entered the shop without knocking and achieved a resounding victory. The Air Force pounded, the army conquered without problems, al-Qaeda disappeared like a ghost, the Taliban ("religious pupils") ran away. Women could again appear in the streets without covering their hair, girls could attend schools, the opium fields flourished again, and so did Washington's proteges in Kabul.

However - the war goes on, year after year, the number of American dead is rising inexorably. What for? Nobody knows. It seems as if the war has acquired a life of its own, without aim, without reason.

An American could well ask himself: What the hell are we doing there?

THE IMMEDIATE aim, the expulsion of al-Qaeda from Afghanistan, has ostensibly been achieved. Al-Qaeda is not there - if it ever really was there.

I wrote once that al-Qaeda is an America invention and that Osama Bin-Laden has been sent by Hollywood's Central Casting to play the role. He is simply too good to be true.

That was, of course, a bit of an exaggeration. But not altogether. The US is always in need of a world-wide enemy. In the past it was International Communism, whose agents were lurking behind every tree and under every floor tile. But, alas, the Soviet Union and its minions had collapsed, there was an urgent need for an enemy to fill the void. This was found in the shape of the world-wide jihad of al-Qaeda. The crushing of "World Terrorism" became the overriding American aim.

That aim is nonsense. Terrorism is nothing but an instrument of war. It is used by organizations that are vastly different from each other, which are fighting in vastly different countries for vastly different objectives. A war on "International Terror" is like a war on "International Artillery" or "International Navy".

A world-embracing movement led by Osama Bin-Laden just does not exist. Thanks to the Americans, al-Qaeda has become a prestige brand in the guerrilla market, much like McDonald's and Armani in the world of fast food and fashion. Every militant Islamist organization can appropriate the name for itself, even without a franchise from Bin-Laden.

American client regimes, who used to brand all their local enemies as "communist" in order to procure the help of their patrons, now brand them as "al-Qaeda terrorists".

Nobody knows where Bin-Laden is - if he is at all - and there is no proof of his being in Afghanistan. Some believe that he is in neighboring Pakistan. And even if he were hiding in Afghanistan - what justification is there for conducting a war and killing thousands of people in order to hunt down one person?

Some say: OK, so there is no Bin-Laden. But the Taliban have to be prevented from coming back.

Why, for god's sake? What business is it of the US who rules Afghanistan? One can loathe religious fanatics in general and the Taliban in particular - but is this a reason for an endless war?

If the Afghans themselves prefer the Taliban to the opium dealers who are in power in Kabul, it is their business. It seems that they do, judging by the fact that the Taliban are again in control of most of the country. That is no good reason for a Vietnam-style war.

But how do you get out? Obama does not know. During the election campaign he promised, with a candidate's foolhardiness, to enlarge the war there, as a compensation for leaving Iraq. Now he is stuck in both places - and in the near future, it seems, he will be stuck in a third war, too.

DURING THE last few days, the name of Yemen has been cropping up more and more often. Yemen - a second Afghanistan, a third Vietnam.

The elephant is raring to enter another shop. And this time, too, it doesn't care about the porcelain.

I know very little about Yemen, but enough to understand that only a madman would want to be sucked in there. It is another artificial state, composed of two different parts - the country of Sanaa in the North and the (former British) South. Most of the country is mountainous terrain, ruled by bellicose tribes guarding their independence. Like Afghanistan, it is an ideal region for guerrilla warfare. There, too, is an organization that has adopted the grandiose name of "Al-Qaeda of the Arab Peninsula" (after the Yemenite militants united with their Saudi brothers). But its chiefs are interested in world revolution much less than in the intrigues and battles of the tribes among themselves and against the "central" government, a reality with a history of thousands of years. Only a complete fool would lay his head on this bed.

The name Yemen means "country on the right". (If one looks towards Mecca from the West, Yemen is on the right side and Syria on the left.) The right side also connotes happiness, and the name of Yemen is connected to al-Yamana, an Arabic word for being happy. The Romans called it Arabia Felix ("Happy Arabia") because it was rich through trading in spices.

(By the way, Obama may be interested to hear that another leader of a superpower, Caesar Augustus, once tried to invade Yemen and was trounced.)

If the Quiet American, in his usual mixture of idealism and ignorance, decides to bring democracy and all the other goodies there, that will be the end of this happiness. The Americans will sink into another quagmire, tens of thousands of people will be killed, and it will all end in disaster.

IT MAY well be that the problem is rooted - inter alia - in the architecture of Washington DC.

This city is full of huge buildings populated with the ministries and other offices of the only superpower in the world. The people working there feel the tremendous might of their empire. They look upon the tribal chiefs of Afghanistan and Yemen as a rhinoceros looks down at the ants that rush around between its feet. The Rhino walks over them without noticing. But the ants survive.

Altogether, the Quiet American resembles Mephistopheles in Goethe's Faust, who defines himself as the force that "always wants the bad and always creates the good". Only the other way round.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Way It Used To Be
By Victoria Stewart

In Portugal one can come upon the unmarked remains of a centuries old fort during an afternoon hike. Children grow up in the shadow of ancient castle walls, generations removed from the serfs who once labored in those very same shadows. Roman ruins and sanctuaries for the Knights Templar dot the countryside and whipping posts still stand in town squares. The influence of the Moors, who began to invade the country in the 4th and 5th centuries and occupied much of the country in earnest from the early 700's through a goodly portion of the 12th century, is apparent in Portugal's architecture and traditional music. History is part of family and daily life.

I speak of Portugal because I lived there several years ago and found that the Portugal I experienced, at the time considered an "emerging nation" and as such, less homogenous than more advanced EU countries, was very much like the culture in which I grew up-family oriented, largely rural, fiercely independent, and astonishingly generous and kind. I was delighted to discover the isolated Southern Appalachian community I knew as a child did, in fact, have it's roots sunk deep into its European past. As I again and again came upon physical remnants of the hundreds and hundreds of years of Portuguese history, the constant, tangible reminders of war, occupation, poverty, beauty, endurance, and survival, I was struck by how common the absence of a personal past is in the US. And what that absence means in our collective understanding of who we are and the future we are creating.

It is of no little significance that our country was built through conquest and occupation by groups of religious fanatics, criminals, profiteers, and political outcasts although that truth is not what our schoolchildren are taught. And it is unsurprising that the genocide of the continent's indigenous peoples, the wealth amassed by respected, political families through importation of slaves and indentured servants, and the theft of millions of acres of land are omitted from the official telling of this country's founding. We are a warring nation of immigrants, most of whom were not here in those early days of colonization and revolution.

But our history is not so short that we should forget the way things were just a few generations ago. We don't have the walls of medieval castles to remind us of the days of lords and vassals but we do have descendents of serving girls, forced laborers, sharecroppers, suffragists, mill workers, and union organizers. We are not that far removed from the deplorable conditions of New England's factories and the slave quarters of the antebellum South. We are not too distant from company stores and child labor. And we are closer still to the days when dispossessed farmers and factory workers huddled in shanty towns and tents cities or wandered the roads, hungry and homeless while the masters of industry and finance took homes and fields, consolidating wealth and power. Our history is not written in pre-Christian paving stones and arched viaducts but ii is still in the foundations of our rotting factories and chemical-soaked farmlands. It is still held in the memories and blood our working class and immigrant ancestors. It is still available if we care to look.

And look we must.

We need to revisit the days when women and children toiled in locked factories and died in their fires. We need to remind ourselves of a legal system that held no protection for workers. We need to remember the decades when we had no labor unions, no restrictions on workplace abuses, and no controls on corporate holdings. We need to grasp the implications of the hereditary sovereignty of wealth and power. We must reclaim the peasant heritage our forebears bequeathed us, the hatred of shackles, the abhorrence of the lash, the rebellion against privilege and class. And then we must make sure our children and our grandchildren know that history, too.

The comfort and wealth so many Americans have taken for granted, home ownership, freedom to go to the polls, access to information, an abundance of food, education, cheap transportation, a modicum of health care, are slipping away. We are not just facing a reduction in consumerism but a comprehensive deterioration in basic quality-of-life services as well. We are moving inexorably closer to a future where common people have no legal power, few rights and fewer resources.

A few days ago the CEO of Ford Motor Company made the rounds of talk shows. I was struck by his physical appearance, the obvious genetic similarity between this man and the bankers and insurance executives, the other lords of our world. I was reminded of the old noble houses of Europe. I was reminded of their constant inbreeding and family alliances, created not to preserve bloodlines but to preserve wealth and power. The peasants and serfs in that world existed only to serve the desires of the titled. They were threatened by the sword, terrorized by the Church, and taught to accept their powerlessness.

These men who sit in the walled castles of America are no different from the long-ago monarchs of France and Russia, Spain and Portugal. They are no better than the blood drenched houses of Tudor and Windsor. They share the same sense of entitlement, the same disregard for those outside their class. And they share the fear which produced moated and walled castles. They fear us-the great unwashed, the rabble, the peasants, the other. They have not forgotten the lessons taught by those now derelict castle walls. They know we can tumble them down. We need to remember that, too.
(c) 2010 Victoria Stewart is the editor of Issues & Alibis magazine.

Obama's Alternate Universe
By Scott Ritter

As America enters the year 2010 and President Barack Obama his second year in office, the foreign policy landscape presented by American policymakers and media pundits appears to be dominated by two physical problems-Iraq and Afghanistan-which operate in an overarching metaphysical environment loosely defined as a "war on terror." The ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, entering their seventh and ninth years respectively, have consumed America's attention, treasure and blood without producing anything close to a tangible victory.

What exactly constitutes the "war on terror" has never been adequately defined and, as a result, the United States has been, and continues to be, militarily involved in other regions as well, including Somalia, Kenya, the Philippines and, increasingly, Yemen. The American people today are fatigued, and while their political leadership promises to lead the nation out of the long, dark tunnel of conflict, there continues to be no light emerging in the distance, only the ever-darkening shadows of wars without end or purpose.

While Obama has promised a draw-down of military forces in Iraq, the lack of stability in that nation since the removal of Saddam Hussein precludes any meaningful reduction of troops, and the ever-present potential of renewed civil and sectarian warfare means that whatever troop level is eventually settled upon will be deployed in Iraq for quiet some time. Moreover, the Iraq conflict, built as it was on an American policy that sought the alteration of the political character of the Middle East beyond simply removing an Iraqi dictator from power, has drawn the United States inexorably toward conflict with Iraq's larger neighbor to the east, Iran.

Over the past 20 years Iraq and Iran have been linked in American policy objectives in the Middle East, both in terms of dual containment and dual transformation. Regardless of what rhetoric the Obama administration chooses to hide behind, the underlying characteristic that continues to define America's Iran policy is regime change. It is not the policy that is subject to debate in Washington, D.C., but rather the means of implementing that policy. The ongoing tension over Iran's nuclear program is less derived from any real threat such a program poses (it is, in reality, one of the least significant issues facing the United States today in terms of national security concern), but rather the utility that such an artificial crisis serves in facilitating the larger objective: regime change.

Obama's Iran policy bears a marked similarity to the Iraq policies of the Clinton administration throughout the 1990s, with the specter of weapons of mass destruction used as a screen to hide the true goal. In both cases, the policies were constructed in a manner that gave the United States no viable solution short of open conflict. President Bill Clinton maneuvered around the issue of all-out war, settling for a decade-long "non-war" in the form of CIA covert operations and assassination attempts and enforcement of "no-fly zones," combined with selective aerial attacks, including the 72-hour "Operation Desert Fox" in December 1998.

President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq in March 2003 was the logical conclusion to an irrational policy begun by Clinton. The situation between the United States and Iran today is directly tied to the Iraq problem, and as such makes use of the same policy tool set that led to the invasion of Iraq.

The failed attempts by the United States to orchestrate a "soft" revolution in Iran, in the form of covert support to pro-Western reformists, have only strengthened the position of the extreme hard-liners the United States seeks to remove from power, in the same way that the continuation of economic sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s only strengthened the regime of Saddam Hussein.

When the Obama administration is finally confronted with the reality that there is no possibility for viable economic sanctions against Iran, and that the reform movement inside Iran will never be able to force a regime change in Tehran, war with Iran, however insane and unpalatable, becomes the only option. In the end, it is not the theocracy in Tehran, or an Iranian nuclear program, that will push America to war with Iran, but rather American policy itself, designed as it is not to solve any tangible problem emerging from Iran, but rather to mollify domestic political pressures at home.

The situation President Obama faces in today's post-Taliban Afghanistan is similar to the one he faces in Iraq: There is no good policy option for resolving a problem that is defined mostly by the need to manufacture a perception of "victory" for the American people. In Afghanistan, as was the case with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the United States removed a political entity from power and ended up creating a vacuum in the nation's social, political and economic reality that the American occupier has not been able to fill, no matter how much money has been spent and how many soldiers have been deployed. With the Taliban made politically unacceptable in Washington, D.C., the idea that the Taliban may in fact be politically viable inside Afghanistan will not register among those American officials tasked with bringing stability to that nation.

The war in Afghanistan is further complicated by the fact that, unlike Iraq, Afghanistan is inexorably linked to the nebulous concept of a "war of terror," and in particular the defining moment in this "war"-the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. American politicians, like those they represent, tend to operate in a conventional linear manner, seeking absolute cause-and-effect relationships from even the most complex of problems.

As such, when one declares a "war" to exist, there must be a physical manifestation of an enemy, as well as the psychological manifestation of victory. After the 9/11 attacks, the "enemy" took on the form of the Taliban in Afghanistan, in so far as they facilitated the operations of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida by providing sanctuary and logistical support, however indirect. That the Taliban had nothing whatsoever to do with the 9/11 attack never registered in the minds of those U.S. policymakers who morphed the Taliban and al-Qaida into a singular entity, thus dictating a singular solution. The United States will forever be chasing the ghosts of al-Qaida in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan, all the while fighting a Taliban enemy that becomes stronger every day the American occupiers operate inside their country among their people.

The "war on terror" has further complicated the Afghanistan situation by drawing in the complicating reality of Pakistan's Pashtun population and the centuries-old problem of Islamic fundamentalism, which has always existed in the rugged territory of Pakistan's hinterlands and northwest frontier. The situation unfolding between Afghanistan and Pakistan is far less influenced by the events of 9/11 than by the historical consequences of the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s and the U.S. covert efforts to oppose the Soviet action by supporting Islamic fundamentalist fighters operating out of Pakistan.

In the simplistic formulations emanating from Washington, Pakistan has become a new front in the "war of terror," and the conflict in Afghanistan has been inexorably linked to an internal Pakistani domestic condition that has existed for centuries. In short, the United States was drawn into Afghanistan through a lack of understanding of the true nature of the problem it faced in the aftermath of 9/11 and is being further drawn into Pakistan by a similar lack of comprehension of the problems in that nation. In both cases, the United States seeks solutions to problems that have been inaccurately defined, which means the solutions being sought solve nothing, and for the most part only further complicate the original problem.

The "war on terror" into which Obama seems to have thrust himself (the most recent manifestation being Yemen) remains the largest obstacle for any rational resolution of America's problems in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Simply put, so long as the United States seeks an enemy that does not exist, it will always be looking for an enemy in its stead. The "war on terror" has the United States combing the world in search of enemies, and because American policymakers are responsive not to the reality that exists in the world today, but rather the perceptions of an American people largely ignorant of the world in which they live, and paralyzed by the fear such ignorance generates, there will always be countries and causes America will anoint as foe.

The "war on terror" becomes a self-perpetuating problem for which there is no solution. Worse, it is a problem that ultimately will destroy America, not from any actions undertaken by whatever manifestation of "enemy" America conjures up, but rather from the actions undertaken by America itself.

The asymmetrical nature of the "war on terror" allows an individual, or group of individuals, using a thousand dollars worth of explosives and airline tickets to generate a response from America that costs billions of dollars and further erodes the very system of ideals and values that ostensibly define the United States, all the while doing nothing to resolve the original issue.

The most visible example of this disparity is the American response to the 9/11 attacks. At a cost of a few million dollars and 19 lives, al-Qaida compelled the United States to spend a trillion dollars, destroy America's reputation abroad and eviscerate the Constitution. In this manner, a case can be made that the greatest threat posed to the United States in the prosecution of the "war on terror" is the United States itself.

The solution to these problems rests not in defining new parameters for action, but rather in the definition of the basic problems faced. From an overarching perspective, the United States needs to realize that there is no "war on terror," and as such no "enemy" for us to close with and destroy. The human condition has always produced those who would seek to do harm to society. Norms and standards have been adopted, in almost universal fashion, that define how humans, organized into communities and nations, should interact in dealing with such deviations. This body of rules and regulations is collectively "the rule of law," the principle of which defines modern society.

Deviations from the "rule of law" are best dealt with in collective fashion by those who share not only common values but also a common interest in such a resolution. Giving a criminal element, whether in the form of al-Qaida or a drug lord, the status of community or nation by waging "war" against it represents a failure to define the problem properly, leading inevitably to solutions that solve nothing. The answer to 9/11 is not war, but rather the "rule of law." Until this underlying premise is recognized and adopted by U.S. policymakers, the psychosis of war will continue to corrupt American policy, and with it American society.

The inability or unwillingness of American policymakers to accurately define the problems confronting the United States in Iraq/Iran and Afghanistan/Pakistan prevents any meaningful solution to these issues.

The heart of the problems facing the United States in the Middle East lies not in actions taking place in Baghdad or Tehran but rather in Gaza and Tel Aviv. The continued refusal of the United States to address the issue of Palestine and the Palestinians in a manner that reflects the reality of the situation on the ground, rather than the situation that exists inside Washington, as manipulated and interpreted by Israeli interests, means that the tension and unrest this issue generates will never be resolved. The conflicts with Iraq and Iran are, in many ways, simply symptoms of a larger disease represented by the failure of the United States to formulate a sound and realistic policy regarding Palestine. So long as American politicians find themselves constrained by a pro-Israeli lobby that refuses to permit the inclusion of either the concept or reality of Palestine into the lexicon of American foreign policy considerations (beyond simplistic "dual-state" and other demeaning and dishonest formulations), then there can and will be no long-term solution to any other modern Middle Eastern problem. Solving the Palestine-Israel problem wouldn't by and of itself resolve all outstanding issues. But it would create the foundation of regional stability and rationality upon which all other solutions could be constructed.

In a similar fashion, the United States must stop factoring al-Qaida and a nebulous "war on terror" into the problem it faces in Afghanistan and Pakistan today. As is the case in the Middle East, the problems faced by America in Central Asia are manifested not so much by what is (improperly) acknowledged-i.e., al-Qaida, the Taliban and a "war on terror"-but rather by that which is not. As the instability of Afghanistan pushes the United States deeper and deeper into the quagmire of Pakistan, it becomes clearer by the day that the key to any future American exit from the region runs not through Kabul, but rather Islamabad. As such, the problem faced by the United States cannot be defined as it currently is, in terms of Swat, Waziristan, Baluchistan and other remote areas of Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, but rather a region which American politicians are loath to utter publicly: Kashmir.

The increasing radicalization of Pakistan is not derived from what has been transpiring in its Pashtun regions, or those of Afghanistan, but rather from the cancerous tumor that remains from the messy divorce of India and Pakistan in 1948. Kashmir is the source of Pakistani-Indian enmity, and is the primary reason that each of those two nations has developed a nuclear arsenal aimed at the other's heartland.

Kashmir serves as the principle motivating force for radical Islam in Pakistan today. Long before Pakistan facilitated American support for Afghan freedom fighters, it was providing training and support for Islamic fundamentalists who served the cause of a unified Kashmir under the flag of Pakistan.

Reducing the influence of radical Islam in Pakistan will never come as a result of any manifestation of American "Af-Pak" policy, but rather through American leadership in recognizing the reality of the unresolved Kashmir situation, and the necessity of resolving this problem in a manner that recognizes Pakistan's legitimate concerns. However, similar to what Israel does in handling the issue of Palestine, India has been able to leverage its economic and regional influence in a manner that prevents American policymakers from engaging on the issue of Kashmir. Without such an engagement there can never be a resolution of the problems faced by America in Pakistan today.

As America enters 2010, one does not require a crystal ball to forecast that issues pertaining to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the "war on terror" will dominate the headlines throughout the year. And here's one thing that is less clear but every bit as certain: So long as President Obama fails to recognize that there is no "war on terror" for America to fight, and that the problems in the Middle East and Central Asia cannot be resolved without recognizing the paramount roles of Palestine and Kashmir, respectively, then not only will there be no solution to America's problems but these problems will only get progressively worse, creating the conditions for the formulation of a series of new "solutions," none of which will address the problems they are designed to resolve.

Sadly, if this prediction comes true, 2010 will be a very bad year for the American people, and the world as a whole, simply because those who can make a difference are operating in an alternative policy universe governed by the self-serving interests of those who use politically induced fear as a mechanism of placating a public oblivious to the fact that they are sleepwalking ever closer to a demise of their own making. For this we have no one to blame but ourselves.
(c) 2010 Scott Ritter a former Marine Corps intelligence officer, was a chief inspector for the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq from 1991 until 1998. He is the author of several books; "Target Iran," with a new afterword by the author, was recently released in paperback by Nation Books.

Flying Naked

Attention people. I have discovered some stunning information involving our national security. I now know the ultimate goal of the horrific al Qaeda terrorist network. I deduced their evil intentions by tracking the pattern of attacks they've made in our country. Their diabolical goal is none other than this: To make Americans fly naked.

And these jihadist fiends are close to achieving it!

First, they stripped away our belts, jackets, and hats. Since the 9/11 crashbombing by al Qaeda killers, every American who goes through airport security must remove these garments. Next, after an al Qaeda-linked operative attempted to ignite a shoe bomb aboard a 2001 flight to Miami, they took our shoes from us. Even though the bomber's explosive shoe fizzled, everyone in our Land of the Free has had to bow to the gods of global terrorism by surrendering our shoes every time we enter the terminal to catch a flight.

And now, after an al Qaeda guy tried on Christmas Day to explode his underwear on a flight to Detroit, it seems that this extremist religious network will finally succeed in stripping us of our dignity, leaving every American flyer naked before the world.

Responding to the underwear bomber, our officials now want airport screeners to peek under the skivvies of every man, woman, and child in America who has a ticket to board an airplane. This will be a "virtual strip search," with screeners using super-x-ray scanners that can view you in the pink, right through your clothes.

This is ridiculous! Instead of exposing tens of millions of innocent Americans to an indignity that will do nothing to stop terrorists, how about our security officials doing a halfway competent job of tracking the handful of actual al Qaeda bombers and stopping them before they ever get a ticket?
(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.

And Now A Word From The Netroots
Will the Real Barack Obama Please... Sit Down?
By Michael D. Rectenwald

As the betrayals by President Barack Obama and the Democrats mount, the Obamapologetics grow more desperate and contradictory by the day. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Harold Meyerson pointed to the lack of "left pressure from below" to account for Obama's failure to push his supposedly "progressive reforms." As if a majority of tens of millions weren't enough, Obama still needs more "aid" from his constituency to find the courage to deliver his promised "change."

On MSNBC, Chris Matthews took the very opposite tack. Growing apparently more impatient by the day, he suggested that these very people from below- the net-root "troublemakers who love to sit in the back seat and complain," i.e., his departing viewers-are to blame for Obama's failures. These "back-seat bitchers," as he called them, which surely include millions that donated to Obama's fabulous campaign, have the temerity to oppose his current policies simply because he denounced them in campaign speeches. Matthews's outrage at these low-life scumbags was palpable. MSNBC is a network of Obamapologists no matter how he betrays his and their own words in every conceivable way and at every turn.

Some will argue that Matthews has his counterparts in Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann. Meyerson even called on them to lead the charge of the underground brigade. But they do for the Democrats in the media precisely what Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and John Conyers (D-MI) do for them in Congress-provide left cover and keep legions of troublemakers under the Democratic tent, no matter how angry and disaffected they become.

The Huffington Post's Richard (RJ) Eskow laments the Democrats' support of the nefarious "Cadillac Tax" on healthcare plans- "a policy," he writes, "that by 2016 will reduce coverage for one American in five with employer insurance... .[a] figure would rise sharply each year." But he chalks up this corporate giveaway (the tax will cause companies to generously reduce their workers' health benefits so that they won't have to pay taxes on them) to an "'aha' moment, a flash of insight"-rather than to the obvious explanation. To wit, the Democrats serve these very companies and not the workers who will lose by this legislation. As for the pharmaceuticals and the insurance industries, these will benefit from coercion-threats of fines and/or imprisonment that will force more money into corporate coffers.

The New York Times holds out hope for "regulatory reforms" of the banking industry to avoid another meltdown and subsequent spate of corporate bailouts. They lament the effectual resignation of Chris Dodd (D-CT), and ask the real Dodd "to please stand up" to support meaningful legislation before he leaves the Senate (probably to become a lobbyist for the banking industry). He could, you know, "try to make a difference." We know that the real Chris Dodd is standing up-and walking out the door. He is leaving just as the proof gels in the pudding; banking reforms were never going to happen in the first place and he knows it. He also knows that he won't help Obama deliver on any promises. He will now leave the Senate to increase the size of the void left by his compeers as they do absolutely nothing for the people and everything for their corporate masters. The chilly void, felt by the majority, will be filled by the Republicans, who will at least bring an ingenuous face to the corporate oligarchy's complete control of the political process.

While the liberal media and the "real Democrats," as Matthews calls his like, wait for Godot, we "back-seat bitchers" continue to dictate directions from the rear. But when no one is listening, it is very frustrating to be right.

But we will repeat it. Obama was brought in for one reason and one reason only - to put a better, even subaltern face on imperialism, martial adventurism, and the economic decline of the vast majority. He was brought in for his astounding rhetorical ability - to package war escalation and economic rollbacks and to sell them as peace and reforms. He was brought in so that the Republican boosters could call him a socialist and thereby provide right cover for his government as it handed over the federal treasury in bailouts and war bucks. Obama was brought in precisely because his rhetoric was so far at odds with reality that it would take a little over four years for the front-row Democratic boosters to see events as they happened, rather than as they were narrated by him and his media mouthpieces.

Instead of asking, as netplants are doing, for the real Democrats to stand up, we netroots ask them, especially their leader Barrack Obama, to please sit down. Please sit down and stop pretending to be our allies. Please sit down and stop misleading millions with phony rhetoric and lies. Please sit down so that the millions can be disabused of your illusions at last. Please stop flying your false flags of progress and reform. Please sit down so that we can begin in earnest the work of building a real party in opposition to you and the masters whom you serve so well.
(c) 2010 Michael Rectenwald PhD, is the founder of Citizens for Legitimate Government.

The 2010 Political Timebomb Is Unemployment
By John Nichols

American employers eliminated 4.2 million jobs in 2009 and sent unemployment soaring into double digits for the first time in more than a quarter century.

Since the fall of last year, the official jobless rate has been over ten percent, while the unofficial rate (taking in the severely underemployed and those who have given up looking) has been over 17 percent.

And, despite the ridiculous "green-shoots" speculation of the Obama administration and overblown "recovery" fantasies of the financial media that has blown every major economic story of recent years, the situation is getting worse.

Analysts had predicted that December layoffs would number around 8,000.

Instead, the figure was more than ten times higher: 85,000.

Unemployment held steady at 10 percent - not because the job market is stabilizing but because tens of thousands of Americans gave up looking for work and are no longer counted among the unemployed.

The sharp drop in the labor force is not merely an indicator of the real unemployment rate. It is a confirmation of the mounting hopelessness in vast stretches of the United States - particularly in California, southern New England and the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes States, where communities are being devastated by a federal auto-industry "bailout" that continues to encourage carmakers to shutter factories in U.S. cities and to relocate production to Mexico and China.

The new unemployment numbers are devastating, and they should send up red flares in Washington, a city where officials have so far has been absurdly neglectful of the most serious social, economic and political crisis facing the country.

The Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress are pouring a great deal of energy into trying to salvage something acceptable from the health-care reform debacle and, in the aftermath of the Christmas Day flight scare, they are increasingly focused on "war-on-terror" issues. (They may even be starting to recognize the extent to which the White House bungled things by spending a fall focused on Afghanistan when potential threats were elsewhere.)

There is no question that health-care policy and homeland security are serious matters.

But the most serious matter facing this White House and this Congress is mounting unemployment. As Senator Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who has been struggling to turn Washington's attention toward jobs issues for much of the past year said Friday: "Today's jobs report underscores the need for Congress and the Obama administration to make jobs an immediate priority. The report shows that employment continues to lag so swift action is needed."

The United States has entered a new election year. The 2010 cycle promises to be one of the most volatile political moments since the economically-driven realigning elections of 1958 (which confirmed long-term Democratic control of the Congress) and 1980 (which saw the Republicans reassert themselves under the leadership of Ronald Reagan).

As in those previous years, political leaders are worried about serious domestic- and foreign-policy concerns.

But the voters are worried about jobs and the economy.

President Obama and the Democrats in Congress face the prospect of serious setbacks in 2010 congressional and state races if they do not recognize that there is a disconnect between their focus and that of the American people who will decide the political direction of the country in November.

Unemployment is a devastating social reality for those experiencing it.

Unemployment is a frightening economic reality for those who still have jobs but who wonder whether their jobs are threatened - and who constrain their spending and lifestyle choices accordingly.

But unemployment is something else altogether for elected officials who occupy positions of power. It is the single greatest threat to their political survival.

Forget about the personalities, the Chris Dodds and the Byron Dorgans.

Forget about the supposed accomplishments or failures of the administration and its "party-of-no" critics. The only accomplishment that could -- or should -- matter is a serious reduction in unemployment: a reduction that will only be achieved with new investments in infrastructure, a ramping up of green jobs initiatives, the creation of smarter incentives for hiring and retaining workers, and the abandonment of free-trade policies that cut U.S. manufacturing employment by more than half over the past decade.

No issue, no concern, is more likely to shift the sentiments of the electorate than mounting joblessness and economic instability. And there is no rhetorical flourish, no diversionary tactic, sufficient to win forgiveness from unemployment remains in double digits come election day - let alone if it is still rising.

If the president or congressional allies think health care reforms that for the most part won't kick in for half a decade or mimicking George Bush's tough-on-terror blathering is going to make voters forget the fact that one in ten of them are jobless or that one in seven of them are in dire employment straits, then the Democrats are in for the rudest of all political awakenings.
(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.

Learning From Europe
By Paul Krugman

As health care reform nears the finish line, there is much wailing and rending of garments among conservatives. And I'm not just talking about the tea partiers. Even calmer conservatives have been issuing dire warnings that Obamacare will turn America into a European-style social democracy. And everyone knows that Europe has lost all its economic dynamism.

Strange to say, however, what everyone knows isn't true. Europe has its economic troubles; who doesn't? But the story you hear all the time - of a stagnant economy in which high taxes and generous social benefits have undermined incentives, stalling growth and innovation - bears little resemblance to the surprisingly positive facts. The real lesson from Europe is actually the opposite of what conservatives claim: Europe is an economic success, and that success shows that social democracy works.

Actually, Europe's economic success should be obvious even without statistics. For those Americans who have visited Paris: did it look poor and backward? What about Frankfurt or London? You should always bear in mind that when the question is which to believe - official economic statistics or your own lying eyes - the eyes have it.

In any case, the statistics confirm what the eyes see.

It's true that the U.S. economy has grown faster than that of Europe for the past generation. Since 1980 - when our politics took a sharp turn to the right, while Europe's didn't - America's real G.D.P. has grown, on average, 3 percent per year. Meanwhile, the E.U. 15 - the bloc of 15 countries that were members of the European Union before it was enlarged to include a number of former Communist nations - has grown only 2.2 percent a year. America rules!

Or maybe not. All this really says is that we've had faster population growth. Since 1980, per capita real G.D.P. - which is what matters for living standards - has risen at about the same rate in America and in the E.U. 15: 1.95 percent a year here; 1.83 percent there.

What about technology? In the late 1990s you could argue that the revolution in information technology was passing Europe by. But Europe has since caught up in many ways. Broadband, in particular, is just about as widespread in Europe as it is in the United States, and it's much faster and cheaper.

And what about jobs? Here America arguably does better: European unemployment rates are usually substantially higher than the rate here, and the employed fraction of the population lower. But if your vision is of millions of prime-working-age adults sitting idle, living on the dole, think again. In 2008, 80 percent of adults aged 25 to 54 in the E.U. 15 were employed (and 83 percent in France). That's about the same as in the United States. Europeans are less likely than we are to work when young or old, but is that entirely a bad thing?

And Europeans are quite productive, too: they work fewer hours, but output per hour in France and Germany is close to U.S. levels.

The point isn't that Europe is utopia. Like the United States, it's having trouble grappling with the current financial crisis. Like the United States, Europe's big nations face serious long-run fiscal issues - and like some individual U.S. states, some European countries are teetering on the edge of fiscal crisis. (Sacramento is now the Athens of America - in a bad way.) But taking the longer view, the European economy works; it grows; it's as dynamic, all in all, as our own.

So why do we get such a different picture from many pundits? Because according to the prevailing economic dogma in this country - and I'm talking here about many Democrats as well as essentially all Republicans - European-style social democracy should be an utter disaster. And people tend to see what they want to see.

After all, while reports of Europe's economic demise are greatly exaggerated, reports of its high taxes and generous benefits aren't. Taxes in major European nations range from 36 to 44 percent of G.D.P., compared with 28 in the United States. Universal health care is, well, universal. Social expenditure is vastly higher than it is here.

So if there were anything to the economic assumptions that dominate U.S. public discussion - above all, the belief that even modestly higher taxes on the rich and benefits for the less well off would drastically undermine incentives to work, invest and innovate - Europe would be the stagnant, decaying economy of legend. But it isn't.

Europe is often held up as a cautionary tale, a demonstration that if you try to make the economy less brutal, to take better care of your fellow citizens when they're down on their luck, you end up killing economic progress. But what European experience actually demonstrates is the opposite: social justice and progress can go hand in hand.
(c) 2010 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Mondo Hondo: Obama Goes Traditional In Latin America
By Chris Floyd

For almost 200 years, since the proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine, the United States has continually asserted - and often physically exerted - its self-awarded right of dominion over all the lands south of its border. Military "partnerships," exploitative sweetheart deals for U.S. corporate and financial elites, and general servility toward Washington's political and economic agenda have been the chief characteristics of this "special relationship."

Whenever these elements are to Washington's liking, the Latin American country in question is considered a "good neighbor" - however heinous it might be to its own people. But if any one of these elements is not pleasing in the eyes of the Beltway lords, then the offending nation becomes a pariah, a dangerous hotbed of radicalism, terrorism and that most dread condition of all: instability.

Two recent articles reaffirm the unfortunate vitality of this dreary truth.


First, Joseph Shansky brings us this report from Honduras, where the newly elected "legitimate" government of coupsters blessed by Barack Obama are honoring the ancient traditions of American-backed Latin American "democracy":

Now that the world heard from mainstream news outlets such as the New York Times of a "clean and fair" election [in Honduras] on Nov. 29 (orchestrated by the US-supported junta currently in power), the violence has increased even faster than feared.

The specific targets of these killings have been those perceived as the biggest threats to the coup establishment. The bravest, and thus the most vulnerable: Members of the Popular Resistance against the coup. Their friends and family. People who provide the Resistance with food and shelter. Teachers, students, and ordinary citizens who simply recognize the fallacy of an un-elected regime taking over their country. All associated with the Resistance have faced constant and growing repercussions for their courage in protesting the coup. With the international community given the green light by the US that democratic order has returned via elections, it's open season for violent forces in Honduras working to tear apart the political unity of the Resistance Front against the coup.

...On Sunday, Dec. 7, a group of six people were gunned down while walking down the street in the Villanueva neighborhood of Tegucigalpa. According to sources, a white van with no license plates stopped in front of the group. Four masked men jumped out of the van and forced the group to get on the ground, where they were shot. ... The Honduran independent newspaper El Libertador reports that the group members were all organizers against the coup. According to a resident in the area, "The boys had organized committees so that the neighbors could get involved in the Resistance Front."

This massacre was part of a string of Resistance-related murders during the past few weeks alone. On December 3, Walter Trochez, 25 a well-known activist in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community was snatched off the street and thrown into a van, again by four masked men, in downtown Tegucigalpa. In the report that he later filed to local and national authorities, Walter said he was interrogated for hours for information on Resistance members and activities, and was beaten in the face with a pistol for refusing to speak. He was told that he would be killed regardless, and he eventually escaped by throwing open the van door, falling into the street, and running away.

....On Dec. 13, one week later, Walter was shot in the chest by a drive-by gunman while walking home. He died at the hospital.

On Dec. 5, Santos Garcia Corrales, an active member of the National Resistance Front, was detained by security forces in New Colony Capital, south of Tegucigalpa. He was then tortured for information on a local merchant who was providing food and supplies to the Resistance. After reporting the incident to local authorities, Santos' body was found five days later on Dec 10, decapitated.

.... The latest victim, Carlos Turcios, was kidnapped outside his home in Choloma Cortes, at three in the afternoon of Wednesday Dec. 16. He was found dead the next day, with his hands and head cut off. Carlos had been vice-president of the Choloma chapter of the Resistance Front, a town located a few hours outside of the capital. Andres Pavon, president of CODEH (Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras), commented: "We believe this horrendous crime joins others where the bodies show signs of brutal torture...This aggression is directed to the construction of collective fear."

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate in the Oval Office has yet to issue his forthright condemnation of this "political cleansing" by his new clients in Tegucigalpa. The Surgeon General warns that it may be dangerous to hold one's breath until such a declaration is forthcoming.


Second, as William Blum notes, in the latest installment of his always informative and insightful "Anti-Empire Reports," it was ever thus:

Lincoln Gordon died a few weeks ago at the age of 96. He had graduated summa cum laude from Harvard at the age of 19, received a doctorate from Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, published his first book at 22, with dozens more to follow on government, economics, and foreign policy in Europe and Latin America. He joined the Harvard faculty at 23. Dr. Gordon was an executive on the War Production Board during World War II, a top administrator of Marshall Plan programs in postwar Europe, ambassador to Brazil, held other high positions at the State Department and the White House, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, economist at the Brookings Institution, president of Johns Hopkins University. President Lyndon B. Johnson praised Gordon's diplomatic service as "a rare combination of experience, idealism and practical judgment."

You get the picture? Boy wonder, intellectual shining light, distinguished leader of men, outstanding American patriot.

Abraham Lincoln Gordon was also Washington's on-site, and very active, director in Brazil of the military coup in 1964 which overthrew the moderately leftist government of Joao Goulart and condemned the people of Brazil to more than 20 years of an unspeakably brutal dictatorship. Human-rights campaigners have long maintained that Brazil's military regime originated the idea of the desaparecidos, "the disappeared", and exported torture methods across Latin America. In 2007, the Brazilian government published a 500-page book, "The Right to Memory and the Truth", which outlines the systematic torture, rape and disappearance of nearly 500 left-wing activists, and includes photos of corpses and torture victims ...

The coup ... was actually the beginning of a series of fascistic anti-communist coups that trapped the southern half of South America in a decades-long nightmare, culminating in "Operation Condor", in which the various dictatorships, aided by the CIA, cooperated in hunting down and killing leftists.

Gordon later testified at a congressional hearing and while denying completely any connection to the coup in Brazil he stated that the coup was "the single most decisive victory of freedom in the mid-twentieth century."

...So the next time you're faced with a boy wonder from Harvard, try to keep your adulation in check no matter what office the man attains, even - oh, just choosing a position at random - the presidency of the United States. Keep your eyes focused not on these "liberal" ... "best and brightest" who come and go, but on US foreign policy which remains the same decade after decade. There are dozens of Brazils and Lincoln Gordons in America's past. In its present. In its future. They're the diplomatic equivalent of the guys who ran Enron, AIG and Goldman Sachs.

Of course, not all of our foreign policy officials are like that. Some are worse.

And remember the words of convicted spy Alger Hiss: Prison was "a good corrective to three years at Harvard."

Yes, our great and good are rarely either - especially when there is sinister mischief to be made in the hemispheric backyard of the empire.
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

Buying Ourselves To Death
By Case Wagonvoord

"We no longer have movements; we have thousands of people each clamouring to have their own vision adopted. We might come to together for occasional rallies and marches, but as soon as we start discussing alternatives, solidarity is shattered by possessive individualism. Consumerism has changed all of us. Our challenge is to fight a system we have internalized." ~~~ George Monbiot

Monboit's observation explains a lot. In a society of possessive individualism, the only unifying force is greed, which explains why the Right has maintain its unity and force while the Left is in total disarray with any semblance of solidarity relegated to a footnote in a history book that is never opened. Consumerism has, indeed, "changed all of us." Yet, consumerism is a word that is bandied about without any sort of understanding of its sordid history.

There was a time when we were a frugal people. The ruling mantra of the day was, "Use it up; wear it out. Make do or do without." It was a frugality born of necessity. In the absence of an industrial plant, there wasn't much stuff to go around. If tools and utensils had to be hand crafted by the local blacksmith, people made them last. Clothing was a product of the spinning wheel and hand loom, so people patched rather than replace. (Is there anyone still living who could darn a sock?)

All of this changed towards the end of the nineteenth century as the country's industrial plant swung into gear. Now goods could be manufactured quickly and cheaply. But capitalism had a problem. It had to cure the public of its frugality. Thus, we saw the birth of the advertising and public relations industry, and the concurrent creation of wants in place of needs. People were encouraged to buy because they wanted, not because they needed.

Our industrialists and marketers made another discovery. Community and family put a damper on consumption. If I "want" a $300 shaving set, complete with a chrome-plated razor, brush and elegant stand to hold both, I am not going to tell my wife because her scornful anger would discourage me from purchasing it. But, if I say nothing, it's mine.

So it was that we saw the gradual erosion of the family as consumerism replaced community, a process that was speeded up with the introduction of television. Soon, this fragmentation will be carried to a new level as television programs are streamed over people's smart phones. Now, a family no longer has to gather around a single screen. Each can wander their empty house immersed in the tiny screens they can hold in one hand.

Consumerism built a head of steam during the twenties, only to make a crash landing when the Great Depression hit. Yet, that event was preparing the ground for the advent of consumerism's resurrection in the fifties and its transformation into the feral consumerism that has plunged us into our present economic meltdown.

Poverty is stressful. Never knowing if you'll have food on the table or a roof over your head is a strain. Worry is your constant companion, a worry goaded by anger and resentment.

With the advent of World War II and the full employment created by the war industries, people once again had money in their pockets and a terrible burden was lifted from their shoulders. People naturally began to assume that money brought happiness, when all it really brought was a release from the stress of poverty, which is not the same thing as happiness. From that assumption came the belief that the more money one had, the happier one would be.

It was this assumption that drove the fifties and sixties. At the end of World War II, America was in the catbird seat. We were the only country in the world whose industrial plant hadn't been blasted into oblivion. Coupled with that was a public whose savings had been gorged by wartime rationing and in whom memories of the poverty of the Great Depression were fresh.

It was in the sixties that the country started to realize that money doesn't buy happiness. This was a factor that played into the youth rebellion that sought an alternative to materialism and consumption. Ironically, their mantra of "Do your own thing" was a marketers dream. Consumerism was off to the races.

As our prosperity began to fade in the seventies, consumption became an emotional prop as people tried to conceal their slowly sinking standard of living by plunging into debt to buy the trappings of prosperity to fill the vacuum left by its absence. A series of asset bubbles coupled with low interest rates facilitated this plunge.

Now all we are left with is a hangover, one we suffer in isolation because there isn't a social movement in sight that we could join to seek redress for our grievances.

History is never stagnant. Out of the rubble of a dying system a new one emerges. This makes the unity of the Right frightening. We saw what happened as Germany plunged into the Great Depression. They turned to Hitler as their savior and the rest is history. Now, instead of Brownshirts, we have tea bags and Bibles.

The left is going to have to lose its ideological fragmentation if it wishes to be any sort of a counterforce to the Right. Right now it is too fragmented as individuals occupy their private ideological castles and refuse to leave them. You can neither organize nor fund-raise from a computer.

We will only cure this fragmentation if we are willing to leave our castles and engage in a political process that has been described as a process of compromise and conciliation between conflicting groups in a pluralistic society. And I'm not talking about compromise and conciliation with the Right; I'm talking about it within the left. Without it, we shall remain fragmented and impotent.
(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

Black and White or Color; It's The Same Picture
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning all of you stewards of common sense; it's time to get out there and attempt to keep the big ones from eating the little ones.

I have a couple of things that I want to throw out for discussion and one of them is war. We are at war you know? That thing going on over in Iraq and Afghanistan is not a peace keeping mission. The new war that our president wants to start in Yemen is also just that; a real war.

I'm not going to spend the day debating whether we should or shouldn't be over there, but I do want to raise a point that seems to have been missed; there are two sides in a war and both sides are hell bent on destroying the other. It's a shooting, bombing, killing war for gosh sakes, not a CNN movie production.

Yet, incredulously, the American people are absolutely shocked when the enemy tries to blow up one of our airplanes! Say what? We have blown up their whole damn countries. We've killed thousands upon thousands of soldiers and civilians who were hanging around in the right place at the wrong time. We have vowed to kill more thousands. And now we are flabbergasted that the enemy wants to retaliate? Are we truly that removed from reality?

One of my friends yesterday made the connection between the costs to train a shoe or underwear bomber as compared to what the U.S. spends to avert such attacks. Their side spends like $19.95 and we spend $19 BILLION on new security measures. Now I may be a little slow on math, but one side is gonna run out of money at some point. Guess who?

The newest security idea? Mind reading machines before you board the airplane. Think I'm kidding don't you?

If they read my mind about the time that some guy had me lined up against the wall spread eagle, hand searching my crotch...I'd get 20 years for my thoughts.

The college kids are hoping that it will become illegal to fly with your clothes on, but us older folks are past that point.

Moving on, yesterday Hotrod said, "...Which got me to thinking, what would this economy look like if it were not for unemployment insurance, heating assistance, food stamps, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, WIC, not to mention bailouts for every outsized lender or guarantor, 2/3 of the auto makers and lastly, make work government jobs?"

Hotrod went on to say that the scene may look a lot like the Great Depression but the pictures would be in color.

I agree completely. We have batted around the frightening subject of maximum viable employment over the past couple of days. I was joined in my opinion yesterday by a group of notable economists. That's scary because notable economists don't make those kinds of remarks unless they want to escape the title of "last liar." You will remember that Allen Greenspan became the "last liar," and explained it away by saying, "I just didn't see this coming." Apparently this new group of economists do see this thing coming.

Here's a question for you, what is the actual cause of depression conditions? Smart bunch, most of you said, "Extended and widespread unemployment." What has changed since the Great Depression to keep there from being a reoccurrence of those conditions?

A very, very, thin and precarious social safety net. Hotrod nailed it, "unemployment insurance, heating assistance, food stamps, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, WIC, not to mention bailouts for every out-sized lender or guarantor, 2/3 of the auto makers and lastly, make work government jobs."

In other words, we now have a massive welfare state that is predicated on the Federal Government's ability to borrow money with which to continually fund that condition.

How do we emerge from this welfare state? How do we exit depression like conditions? There are not multiple choice answers to those questions in a system that practices growth capitalism. There is only one answer; unprecedented growth in employment.

So here we are again; if in fact we have reached the point of maximum viable and sustainable employment, what does that leave us with? I'm thinkin' color pictures of a depression. What say you, pro or con?
(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...

"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing"
~~~ Albert Einstein

Wall Street Will Be Back For More
By Chris Hedges

Corporations, which control the levers of power in government and finance, promote and empower the psychologically maimed. Those who lack the capacity for empathy and who embrace the goals of the corporation-personal power and wealth-as the highest good succeed. Those who possess moral autonomy and individuality do not. And these corporate heads, isolated from the mass of Americans by insular corporate structures and vast personal fortunes, are no more attuned to the misery, rage and pain they cause than were the courtiers and perfumed fops who populated Versailles on the eve of the French Revolution. They play their games of high finance as if the rest of us do not exist. And it is a game that will kill us.

These companies exist in a pathological world where identity and personal worth are determined solely by the perverted code of the corporation. The corporation decides who has value and who does not, who advances and who is left behind. It rewards the most compliant, craven and manipulative, and discards the losers who can't play the game, those who do not accumulate wealth or status fast enough, or who fail to fully subsume their individuality into the corporate collective. It dominates the internal and external lives of its employees, leaving them without time for family or solitude-without time for self-reflection-and drives them into a state of perpetual nervous exhaustion. It breaks them down, especially in their early years in the firm, a period in which they are humiliated and pressured to work such long hours that many will sleep under their desks. This hazing process, one that is common at corporate newspapers where I worked, including The New York Times, eliminates from the system most of those with backbone, fortitude and dignity.

No one thinks in groups. And this is the point. The employees who advance are vacant and supine. They are skilled drones, often possessed of a peculiar kind of analytical intelligence and drive, but morally, emotionally and creatively crippled. Their intellect is narrow and inhibited. They rely on the corporation, as they once relied on their high-priced elite universities and their SAT scores, for validation. They demand that they not be treated as individuals but as members of the great collective of Goldman Sachs or AIG or Citibank. They talk together. They exchange information. They make deals. They compromise. They debate. But they do not think. They do not create. All capacity for intuition, for unstructured thought, for questions of meaning deemed impractical or frivolous by the firm, the qualities that always precede discovery and creation, are banished, as William H. Whyte observed in his book "The Organization Man." The iron goals of greater and greater profit, order and corporate conformity dominate their squalid belief systems. And by the time these corporate automatons are managing partners or government bureaucrats they cannot distinguish between right and wrong. They are deaf, dumb and blind to the common good.

These deeply stunted and maladjusted individuals, from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to Robert Rubin to Lawrence Summers to the heads of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America, hold the fate of the nation in their hands. They have access to trillions of taxpayer dollars and are looting the U.S. Treasury to sustain reckless speculation. The financial and corporate system alone validates them. It defines them. It must be served. This is why e-mails from the New York Fed to AIG, telling the bailed-out insurer not to make public the overpaying of Wall Street firms with taxpayer money, were sent when Geithner was in charge of the government agency. These criminals sold the public investments they knew to be trash. They used campaign contributions and lobbyists to turn elected officials into stooges and gut oversight and regulation. They took over retirement savings and pensions and wiped them out. And then they seized some $13 trillion in taxpayer money so they could lend it to us with interest. It is circular theft. This is why we will endure another catastrophic financial collapse. This is why firms like Goldman Sachs are more dangerous to the nation than al-Qaida.

"The psychology is about winning, and winning is marked by the level of compensation and bonuses and the power you have within the firm," Nomi Prins, the author of "It Takes a Pillage" and a former managing director at Goldman Sachs, told me by phone from California. "Every investment bank is like a mini-country. The political maneuvering and the differences between individuals who run certain areas and move up the ladder of the company are not necessarily decided by a vote. They move up depending on how close they are to the person [above them]. If that person moves up they move up with them. A certain set of loyalties get created. It is an intense competition all the time. You have trading and doing deals with clients, but the result is to push people up the ladder and to make money."

How you make money and how you climb the ladder of the corporate structure are irrelevant. Success becomes its own morality. Those who do well in this environment possess the traits often exhibited by psychopaths-superficial charm, grandiosity and self-importance, a need for constant stimulation, a penchant for lying, deception and manipulation, and the incapacity for remorse or guilt. They, like competitors on a reality television program, lie, cheat and betray to climb over those around them and advance. These demented individuals are admired and envied within the firm. They achieve heroic status. The lower-ranking employees are supposed to emulate them. And this makes Goldman Sachs and other speculative financial firms upscale lunatic asylums where the inmates wear Brooks Brothers suits and drink expensive chardonnay. Our problem is that the lunatics have been let out of the asylum. They have been empowered to cannibalize the government on behalf of the corporations that spawned them like mutant carp.

These corporations don't make anything. They don't produce anything. They gamble and bet and speculate. And when they lose vast sums they raid the U.S. Treasury so they can go back and do it again. Never mind that $50 trillion in global wealth was erased between September 2007 and March 2009, including $7 trillion in the U.S. stock market and $6 trillion in the housing market. Never mind that the total amount of retirement and household wealth trashed was $7.5 trillion or that we saw $2 trillion in 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts evaporate. Never mind the $1.9 trillion in traditional defined-benefit plans and the $2.6 trillion in nonpension assets that went up in smoke. Never mind the job losses, the foreclosures and the 35 percent jump in personal and small-business bankruptcies. There are bundles of new money, taken again from us, to make deals and hand out outrageous bonuses. And when these trillions run out they will come back for more until our currency becomes junk. Not that any of these people have thought this through. They are too busy focused on the pathetic, little monuments they are building to themselves and the intricacies of court intrigue.

"There are always internal conversations about taking credit for certain trades and deals," Prins said of her time at Goldman Sachs. "It is childish, except there is so much money at stake and so much power within the firm at stake. Power in the firm allows you to make money, but it also provides a certain status that everyone looks up to and covets. There can be a period of a month or two at the end of the year where closed-door conversations occur between managers and people who work for them about compensation. In these conversations they go something like: 'My group did that trade.' 'I did that trade.' 'No, that was my money.' 'No, that was my profit and loss.' 'That's my client.' 'I know the other group said that it was their client but actually I had the relationship first.' A lot of these petty conversations go back and forth. All of it to attain money and acquire power and influence within the firm."

Those who advance in these institutions master the art of looking like they are doing more than they are actually doing. It does not matter who does the most. It matters who can take credit for doing the most. And that often means poaching someone else's work. Friendship becomes a meaningless word. So does compassion. So does honesty. So does truth. By any standard comprehensible within the tradition of Western civilization these people are illiterate. They cannot recognize the vital relationship between power and morality. They have forgotten, or never knew, that moral traditions are the product of civilization. Existence, for them, boils down to one overriding imperative-me, me, me.

"The people who get the higher bonuses are not getting them because they are quietly doing whatever work they are supposed to do," said Prins, who also ran the international analytics group at Bear Stearns in London. "They are getting that money because they are constantly able to promote themselves."

"The environment is very insular," Prins said. "It is all about what is happening in the firm. Who said what. Who is doing what. What did they say about you. How does it affect you. How does it affect your group. How does it affect the people above you and below you. It destroys individuality. You learn there is a certain way you are supposed to act to be successful. If you are not doing that, if you are fighting too hard to do something you believe is right, but your managers don't want to do, you defer. Or you fight and it gets marked as a stripe against you. You don't discuss interests that are counter to the firm's interests or the firm's positions."

"You are not thinking whether it is ethical to dump a bunch of loans into the street or repackage them and re-rate them better," she said. "You are only thinking about getting the deal done. You don't think about how issuing certain securities or structuring certain deals will impact people [around you]."

"When you are living, competing and winning in an environment where it is all about the money and the power, it creates a dividing line between you and the rest of the world," Prins said. "You do not bother to look over the dividing line. Your world is on your side of it and the rest of the world is on their side of it. You are not looking at people being kicked out of their homes and being foreclosed. You do not see the crying, the anger and the children in the street because [those in government] decided to give money to bail out Wall Street firms as opposed to renegotiate mortgage principals so people can continue to live their lives. You can be callous about it because it does not impact you. It is not something you notice. You might read about it. But you don't feel it, watch it or go through it. You are detached."

Banks are continuing to have hemorrhaging in consumer portfolios including mortgage loans, auto loans, credit card loans and other loans. Bankruptcies are endemic. Toxic assets if properly assessed would mean that many of our largest banks are insolvent. But the profits from the trading revenues and bonuses have climbed back to near-record highs. The sick mentality of the game, the one that created the first worldwide meltdown, dominates the nervous systems of our elite the way cravings overtake heroin addicts. They can't think of anything else. They do not know how. No one goes to Wall Street to further the common good. People go to make money. And money, like power, is a potent narcotic.

"You don't think you are doing anything wrong," Prins said. "You are working. You are making money. You are trying to have your bosses like you and pay you. You run things by legal [the company's legal department]. You run things by compliance. You don't believe you are committing a crime. You are just doing what you are doing."

"We will have another crisis," she lamented. "I don't know when, but it is brewing. If you don't fundamentally change the foundation of the banking system you are piling on capital and time into something that is faulty. This does not result in decades of stability. They are banking on trading. Nothing has changed. The rest of the consumer economy is continuing to deteriorate. These losses go into banks. You gain on trading and lose on more solid practices. The foundation has not changed. The regulations are bullshit. The old assets are still crap. The new assets created off the old assets are still crap. The banks are still levering them and still doing the same practices they did before. We will have another liquidity crunch. Banks will again stop trusting their assets and each other. ... The buying of complex assets will stop, although this time more quickly. People will remember what happened before. You will have a repeat of credit constricting between financial institutions. It is already constricted on the consumer side. The banking system will use up this federal capital and then go back for more."
(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 Implosion Of The American Political Consciousness
By David Michael Green

If you're looking for a decent indicator of the political health of the nation, consider the following excerpt from a Christian Science Monitor article this week: "The decision by the White House Friday to not preempt the season premiere of the psychedelic crash-drama "Lost" for the State of the Union address reveals the surprising power of that much ridiculed stereotype: the American couch potato."

Well, at least no one can accuse us of not having our national priorities in order, eh?

Actually, that's only part of the story - and frankly the more benign part, to boot.

Presidents like to say, in their annual messages to Congress and the country, that "The state of the union is strong". Maybe Obama is bold enough to tell a whopper that big even in 2010. I guess when you've taken an entire country over the cliff lying about "hope" and "change", even a stinker that rude wouldn't be so egregious, relatively speaking.

In fact, the health of this country is tenuous, and that's on a real good day. All the obvious and tangible manifestations are there: massive unemployment, polarized wealth suitable for any banana republic, broken government and political system, environmental catastrophe and more. It's almost as if our goal is to commit national suicide in order to keep a whole next generation of Jared Diamonds employed or something.

These are huge problems, they are nigh on intractable, and they are destructive in the extreme. Indeed, so grim is our situation that the only real hope looking forward is for a resurgence of common sense and mutual sacrifice allowing for at least the possibility of finding the national will to address these crises.

But I'm afraid that's where things really start to get grim.

If you're under the age of forty, you might not realize that things weren't ever thus in American politics. The current ugly nature of our political discourse is perhaps simultaneously the greatest 'victory' and greatest tragedy of the regressive revolution in America these last thirty years. Not only has the state itself been captured for purposes of thorough looting by oligarchs, but the very political consciousness of the nation has been diluted and polluted - all while our faux patriotism is saluted - beyond recognition.

Government is bad. Government always screws up. Corporations are heroic. Greed is good. Conservatism is about protecting freedom. Personal sacrifice for national improvement is for fools. Personal destruction is an appropriate form of politics. Hypocrisy is even more acceptable. There is one set of rules for elites, another for the rest of us.

All these form the fabric of our national ethos today, woven deeply into our political consciousness.

Regressives understand in ways that progressives tend to be clueless about, the simple idea that, who narrates governs. The explanation for the right's visceral appreciation of this wisdom is likely rooted in the survival instinct at the core of the human creature's very DNA. When you're peddling an absolutely absurd and destructive pile of bullshit, even dressing it up in pretty pink ribbons isn't going to be enough. If you hope to have any prayer of making the sale, you gotta teach people from their earliest days that turds are really, really valuable. Get yours now!

This was one of Orwell's most powerful perceptions in 1984, a book loaded with crucial insights about society, politics, government and human nature. The state could expend endless resources battling for the supremacy of a certain type of politics. That's one option. Or, far more cleverly, it could just remove the possibility of imagining alternatives from the public's consciousness. Much easier. Much cheaper. This is why Orwell concentrated so much on language in his novel. He understood that action requires desire, desire requires imagination, and imagination requires language.

American politics and political culture have descended into a grim visage from what they once were, to something taking a form today of which Big Brother could be proud. It's quite true, of course, that there are always nasty actors out there, and that it has at times been worse than it is now. But what's discouraging about our moment is that it comes after, not before, those other times and the better ones that followed. Of course there will always be oscillations from better to worse. But one expects that both will represent improvements over the betters and worses of the past.

But we, in fact, are moving in the opposite direction. The level of vitriol in American politics grows uglier everyday, and the absence of rationality more astonishing. Back in the day, mainstream political actors weren't in the habit of calling the president a fascist, or accusing him of seeking to murder senior citizens. They weren't so unsophisticated as to call him a socialist at the same time they labeled him a fascist. They weren't so intoxicated with their own venom as to believe that a president who so obediently serves the interests of Wall Street - to a degree that might have horrified even Richard Nixon - is some sort of maniacal leftist radical, bent on killing capitalism in America.

Recent polls are showing that generic tea party candidates beat Republicans or Democrats amongst the electorate today. Part of what that makes that as surprising and significant as it is, is that no one really knows what the movement stands for, apart from some inchoate rage against incumbents, taxes and spending (but try to get them to specify what they'd cut, and you'll see how little content there actually is).

All of this represents the pinnacle (one hopes) of regressive efforts to realize Orwell's nightmare scenario. Americans feel rage - as they should - but they don't know what at, exactly, or why. And they certainly don't have the tools to envision better realities. What else could have happened after three decades of right-wing lies, intimidation and destruction? What else could be the product of presidents like Reagan and Bush, who so transparently served the interests of their class, but so effectively wrapped their predations in the maudlin cloth of the flag and the cranked up rhetoric of fear? What else could we expect from the vitriolic demonization of a so-called left so-called alternative like Clinton or Obama, whose politics are essentially the same as Reagan's or Bush's, sans the more nauseating genuflections toward values that, truth be told (and it must never be, of course), only apply to the stupid little people in practice?

The practice of our politics is so broken today, but what pains me worse is that we have gone a long ways toward no longer even possessing the capability of imagining better alternatives. Good Americans - of generous intentions, thoughtful analysis and progressive dispositions - are losing the capacity to imagine genuine alternatives to an American politics which offers the choice between right, far right and hysterical right, all of them differing only in the shading of the patina they spray over their common oligarchical core. No presidents could possibly better serve the interests of the plutocracy than Bill Clinton and Barack Obama (indeed, finding any sort of meaningful dividing line between the White House and Wall Street is an increasingly difficult task). And yet those on the right in America foam at the mouth in their rage at these communist infiltrators, while some progressives foolishly believe that Obama is trying his darndest to be a good lad, against a tough situation he's inherited.

This condition represents an utter failure of the imagination, and therefore the startling 'success' of the regressive framing effort. This limitation of what is conceivable and the concomitant diminishing of expectations is the greatest triumph of right-wing marketing, and it's Orwellian to its core. What makes it especially startling is that the alternatives in question are so commonsensical and so proximate in real life form, and yet even some progressives in America have been trained to lower their expectations enough to ignore the existence of these ideas and models. What could be more basic than removing gushing profits and massive bureaucratic waste from a country's healthcare system, especially one that is groaning so clangorously under the burdens of runaway costs? What could be easier to figure out than nationalized healthcare, when every other developed country in the world already does it? And yet such ideas were nowhere remotely near consideration throughout these long months of tortuous negotiations over 'reform' of what actually amounts to the care of corporate health in America. And yet even the most pathetic feints in the direction of real solutions - a public option or the extension of Medicare benefits - were immediately dispatched with, so that the profiteers' victory could be unequivocally complete.

Military spending is another excellent example. This country drops twice as much on 'defense' as what is spent by every other country in the world combined, and we do that despite having not a single state enemy (you know, the kind you could actually use such a military against) anywhere on the horizon. And we do that despite having a nuclear deterrent arsenal that means sure suicide for anyone stupid enough to invade America or even seriously provoke the country. But even if none of that were true, and even if we were spending just a little bit more than necessary for national defense, what might one logically expect of the character of political debate in a country that cannot afford to educate its students, cannot provide healthcare for its citizens, and cannot maintain its infrastructure? What about in a country that cannot do those things, and which also happens to be so deeply in the hole financially that the Treasury Department has been relocated to the floor of the Pacific Ocean? What would you expect to see in a country like that? Perhaps a wee discussion of spending those bucks a bit differently? Would that be so bizarre?

And yet, do we see such a conversation about reducing these obscene expenditures anywhere on the political landscape? Can anyone name a mainstream politician who advocates these views? Can anyone find a major political party saying we need to cut defense spending in half - so that we 'only' spend as much as all the other 195 countries of the world combined - and then use the proceeds to provide healthcare for all?

We could go on and one here. Where is the great movement for saving the planet from the destruction of global warming, even if it means foregoing that SUV? Where is that most commonsensical call to divorce special interests and their money from American politics? Where are remotely sensible policies on guns or drugs or crime? And so on, and so on. None of this is even close to happening, and it is regressivism's great triumph in removing from the realm of the politically imaginable even those things which are so transparently sensible, even those things which exist en masse in every other developed democracy in the world, even those that fairly scream out for adoption at home.

This failure of the imagination demonstrates better than anything else the full measure of our political impoverishment. What can you say to a country so far gone that it not only cannot swerve the car - even as head-on collision with a speeding freight train is only seconds away - but cannot even imagine swerving it?

"Good night and good luck" certainly comes to mind. But little else.

There are a few signs of hope, of course. Americans at least know enough to know that we're not doing well, which is more than you can say for the good folks of Oceania. We recognize that both major political parties are worthless, though I don't think we quite understand why. We were sensible enough to vote for what was advertised as 'change' in the last presidential election. But not sensible enough to demand that we actually got it after inauguration day.

And we're also not smart enough to understand why we're dissatisfied with what we've got. But then, how could we be if watching "the psychedelic crash-drama 'Lost'" on television is more important than the biggest single night of the year on the calendar of our national political discourse? And what an appropriate show to hold out for, eh? Could it get any better than "Lost"? I dunno. Is there a show out there called "Lost, Stupid and Too Lazy to Stop Getting Punked", perhaps?

Our problem isn't that the Obama administration is socialist, but rather that it is a captive of the worst elements of capitalism.

Our problem isn't that our politicians make awful decisions that have nothing to do with advancing our interests, but rather that we keep tolerating politicians who do that.

Our problem isn't that we chose the wrong ideological alternative, but rather that we have so little to choose from.

Indeed, our deepest problem is that we can't even imagine anymore that there could be real choice.

But, hey: Shhhhh!

You're not allowed to say that.
(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...

Heil Obama,

Dear Fox News Uberfuher Ailes,

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 with appointing Sarah Palin as a news talking head, 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 Ailes, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Helen Thomas Deviates From The Terrorism Script
By Glenn Greenwald

Following up on Thursday's post concerning our collective refusal to discuss how American actions and policies fuel Terrorism: at a White House press conference yesterday with Janet Napolitano and John Brennan, Helen Thomas shows -- yet again -- that she's one of the very few White House reporters willing to deviate from approved orthodoxy scripts. She asks the prohibited question about the motives of Terrorists, and keeps asking as she receives complete non-responses, until they all just decide to ignore her:

Brennan's answer -- they do this because they're Evil and murderous -- is on the same condescending cartoon level as the "They-Hate-us-For-Our-Freedom" tripe we endured for the last eight years. Apparently, if Brennan is to be believed, Islamic radicals, in their motive-free quest to slaughter, write down the names of all the countries in the world and put them in a hat and then stick their hand in and select the one they will attack, and the U.S. just keeps getting unlucky and having its name randomly chosen. Countries like China, Brazil, Japan, Chile, Greece, South Africa, France and a whole slew of others must have really good luck. That Al Qaeda is evil and murderous and perverts Islam is a judgment about what they do, not an answer as to what motivates them.

The evidence of what motivates Terrorism when directed at the U.S. is so overwhelming and undeniable that it takes an extreme propagandist to pretend it doesn't exist. What is Brennan so afraid of? It's true that religious fanaticism is a part of their collective motivation, but why can't he just say what's so obviously true: "they claim that the U.S. is interfering in, occupying and bringing violence to their part of the world, they cite things like civilian deaths and our support for Israel and Guantanamo and torture, and claim that their terrorism is in retaliation"? Indeed, Brennan's boss, the President, has often claimed that things like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib help Al Qaeda recruitment (and it seems clear it was part of Abdulmutallab's hatred for the U.S.), so clearly U.S. actions are part of the motivation. Yet Brennan is afraid to acknowledge that not just past actions, but current ones, fuel the desire to target the U.S. for attacks. Speaking of fear of acknowledging reality, note how Charles Krauthammer in yesterday's column -- when mocking Obama's (obviously correct) view that Guantanamo helps fuel Al Qaeda recruitment -- describes the first two grievances cited in Osama bin Laden's 1998 fatwa against the U.S. (troops in Saudi Arabia and death to extremely high numbers of Iraqi children through sanctions) while completely omitting the third (U.S. support for Israel).

As I said on Thursday, to acknowledge motive is not remotely to imply legitimacy or justification. In fact, the opposite is true: pretending motive doesn't exist legitimizes it more than acknowledging (and refuting) it would, since that fantasyland behavior creates the impression that one is afraid of its being aired and heard. That's certainly the impression that one gets watching John Brennan feed cartoon idiocy to the public in response to Helen Thomas' questions and then having everyone just move on when she tries to get an answer. It's just amazing, given how much endless chatter there is over Terrorism, how rare it is for this question to be raised.

UPDATE: As I did on Thursday, Juan Cole examines all of the evidence regarding what motivated Humam al-Balawi, the Jordanian physician who killed 7 CIA agents in Afghanistan last week, to convert from a CIA asset into an Al Qaeda suicide weapon, and he notes the "way al-Balawi's grievances tie together the Iraq War, the ongoing Gaza atrocity, and the Western military presence in the Pushtun regions." Cole notes that his suicide video specifically decreed the attack to be in retaliation for a U.S. airstrike that killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, and Cole explains why it's so vital to address these issues forthrightly:

Morally speaking, al-Qaeda is twisted and evil, and has committed mass murder. . . . But from a social science, explanatory point of view, what we have to remember is that there can be a handful of al-Balawis, or there can be thousands or hundreds of thousands. It depends on how many Abu Ghraibs, Fallujahs, Lebanons and Gazas the United States initiates or supports to the hilt. Unjust wars and occupations radicalize people. The American Right wing secretly knows this, but likes the vicious circle it produces. Wars make profits for the military-industrial complex, and the resulting terrorism terrifies the clueless US public and helps hawks win elections, allowing them to pursue further wars. And so it goes, until the Republic is bankrupted and in ruins and its unemployed have to live in tent cities.

At least theoretically, "The American Right wing" is not in charge of any parts of the government, so to the extent these policies continue, they're not a legitimate scapegoat. Whatever else is true, having discussions about how our policies motivate and fuel Terrorism is crucial to having any sort of minimally rational public debate about what we should be doing. But as long as the patronizing, propaganda cartoons that we heard from John Brennan prevail, it's simply impossible for any of these considerations to be examined. That, to me, seems to be the whole point of why those comic book narratives predominate and why the taboo persists: to preclude any awareness of the true costs of our actions and therefore to preclude any meaningful public questioning of them.
(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.

Hope Has Left the Building
By Arun Gupta

If one case encapsulates the disaster that is the Obama administration, it may be the dustup over the A.I.G. bonuses last March. Recall that extreme gambling by A.I.G. Financial Products nearly crashed the world in 2008, necessitating a taxpayer bailout of $182.3 billion (and counting). Following this, A.I.G., now 80 percent government owned, rained more than $400 million in bonuses on Financial Products employees for their performance in 2008. The Obama administration, which knew of the bonuses for months, played defense for A.I.G. by unspooling a bloated Larry Summers to argue, "The government cannot just abrogate contracts."

The problem was the feds had just demanded that auto workers abrogate their hard-won contracts before Detroit got a bailout. United Auto Workers leaders complied, sacrificing "job security provisions and financing for retiree health care," plus agreeing to cuts in base pay, overtime pay, break time, raises, skilled worker positions and chopping wages for many new hires in half to $14 an hour.

Far from failures or mistakes, these episodes illustrate how Team Obama, which surfed a tsunami of corporate money and savvy branding to victory, is doing exactly what it was elected to do: redistribute money upwards. It's hard to think of a decision by this White House that would have not elicited cackling glee from the Bush administration. The number of horrendous policies] enacted by the Obama administration in barely a year boggles the imagination. What follows is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few dozen of the worst.


Even Time magazine has concluded that "Obama's Latin American Policy Looks Like Bush's." While many hoped Obama would lift the 48-year-old embargo against Cuba, Obama loosened a few restrictions only for Cuban Americans. Last April, Obama declared the United States a "full partner" in Mexico's calamitous drug war. Months later, the White House slapped Bolivia with economic penalties, allegedly for not being an enthusiastic drug warrior, but more likely for pursuing an independent agenda. And there is the Honduran coup, which Obama endorsed by recognizing the rigged election in November. Most ominously, his administration inked a deal in October for seven military bases in Colombia, convenient for launching new wars against socialist governments in the region.


Before Van Jones was thrown under the bus, Obama promised to create five million green jobs in plug-in hybrids, weatherization, renewable energy, biofuels and clean coal. Biofuels and clean coal? Okay, maybe it's a good thing this promise was snuffed. But as Naomi Klein points out, between the stimulus, the auto bailout and the Wall Street rescue, Obama had the leverage and political capital to fund mass transit and a smart electrical grid, restructure government-owned automakers to focus on green technology and force bailed out banks to fund industrial restructuring and green infrastructure. Instead, we get a White House vegetable garden the size of a New York apartment.


While the original Troubled Assets Relief Program was "only" $700 billion, the program's watchdog estimates taxpayer money at risk is a phenomenal $23.7 trillion. The Obama administration has been more interested in defending obscene executive pay, blessing more of Wall Street's highrisk trading, stonewalling on how the TARP funds were used and abused, and resisting real regulation, rather than prosecuting Goldman Sachs and other banks that peddled risky mortgage- backed securities while secretly betting they would plummet in value - a textbook case of securities fraud. But what do you expect from a candidate who raked in the most dough from Wall Street, real estate, commercial banks and hedge funds?


In comparison to the bank bailout, relief for homeowners is limited to a miserly $75 billion under Obama's Making Home Affordable program. As of December, only 31,000 homeowners have received permanent mortgage modifications. The real winners are loan servicers. Of the top 25 participants, 21 were "heavily involved in the subprime lending industry." The parent companies of the lenders, which have vacuumed up more than $21 billion from the program, include Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup. Homeowners in the program who don't get permanent help are left with wrecked credit scores while they continue to pay for homes they can't afford, which may be lengthening the crisis. Meanwhile, the number of homeowners with mortgage debt greater than the value of their homes was 23 percent as of September and could peak at 48 percent in 2011. Even modest measures, such as allowing bankruptcy judges to lower mortgages, were abandoned by the Obama administration.


There is a method to Obama's madness. First, his economic philosophy is to subsidize private entities to provide public goods. Second, his main tactic is to appeal to bipartisanship. (Never mind that there was plenty of bipartisanship during the Bush era when Democrats surrendered to virtually every heinous decision.) In the case of healthcare, a much simpler and more effective single-payer system was rejected because Republican support was supposedly needed. The bipartisan tactic allowed the Obama administration to replace single payer with a fake public option that was then dropped. As for the healthcare bill, it will skim $500 billion from publicly funded Medicare and Medicaid and use it to subsidize individuals who will be forced to buy for-profit insurance or pay a fine. The bill does nothing to control costs, ensure quality coverage or prevent workers from losing job-related insurance. It allows for wildly different rates based on age and region, and will deliver millions of new "customers" to insurance and drug companies and for-profit hospitals.


While President-elect, Obama was largely silent about the Israeli slaughter of 1,400 civilians in Gaza. Three days after being inaugurated, Obama ordered Predator drone strikes inside Pakistan, expanding the illegal U.S. war. Over the last year, Obama has committed another 64,000 soldiers to Afghanistan, effectively launching a new year. There are still 115,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The use of private military contractors is surging, with 121,000 (and growing) in Afghanistan alone. Obama has continued to threaten Iran over its uranium-enrichment program. And many believe the White House is "initiating a low-level war in Yemen." Author and Ret. U.S. Army Col. Andrew Bacevich writes that Obama has effectively signed on to "perpetual war."


Despite reportedly pouring $450 million into Obama's campaign and providing thousands of volunteers, organized labor has been unable to advance its main cause: a bill called the Employee Free Choice Act that would make it easier for employees in a workplace to unionize. The Obama administration says it is committed to passing the bill, but it has not put any muscle behind it. That may be because wealthy Obama backers, including three Chicago billionaires who own hotels, vehemently oppose the bill.
(c) 2010 Arun Gupta is a founding editor of "The Indypendent." He writes about energy, the economy, the media, U.S. foreign policy, the politics of food and other subjects for The Indypendent, Z Magazine, Left Turn and Alternet. Gupta is a regular commentator on Democracy Now! and GritTV with Laura Flanders. He's writing a book on the decline of American Empire to be published by Haymarket Books. From 1989 to 1992 he was an international news editor at the Guardian Newsweekly.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Mike Keefe ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Last Train To Clarksville
By The Monkees

Take the last train to Clarksville,
And I'll meet you at the station.
You can be be there by four thirty,
'Cause I made your reservation.
Don't be slow, oh, no, no, no!
Oh, no, no, no!

'Cause I'm leavin' in the morning
And I must see you again
We'll have one more night together
'Til the morning brings my train.
And I must go, oh, no, no, no!
Oh, no, no, no!
And I don't know if I'm ever coming home.

Take the last train to Clarksville.
I'll be waiting at the station.
We'll have time for coffee flavored kisses
And a bit of conversation.
Oh... Oh, no, no, no!
Oh, no, no, no!

Take the last train to Clarksville,
Now I must hang up the phone.
I can't hear you in this noisy
Railroad station all alone.
I'm feelin' low. Oh, no, no, no!
Oh, no, no, no!
And I don't know if I'm ever coming home.

Take the last train to Clarksville,
Take the last train to Clarksville,
Take the last train to Clarksville,
Take the last train to Clarksville,
(c) 1966/2010 Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Alabama May Be the Champ, But Colt McCoy is God's Winner!
By Brother Harry Hardwick

Colt McCoy is Deep in Prayer to Jesus, who has a plan for him on the field today!God and I are disappointed with this year's college football results. We wanted Florida to win the SEC championship and Texas to win the national championship. Why? Because their top players flattered Jesus incessantly after all their teams' victories. You would expect the players of the University of Alabama, a state rife with devout fundamentalists, hooded or otherwise, to do the same, but nooooo. They gave the glory to their teammates and coaches. They failed to acknowledge the only entity who deserves credit for any of our achievements of any kind whatsoever in this mortal life - the Lord Jesus Christ.

As True Christians, we know we are wretched, evil, despicable, depraved, horrendous beings who deserve to be unceremoniously flung into the fiery bowels of hell every single day of every single year. Why? Just for being human, which automatically makes us imperfect and bad. In fact, because we're so disgusting, our only hope for heaven is to accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, to direct, govern, reign over and completely control every aspect of our otherwise worthless lives. God sent His only son to die an excruciating death on the cross for our sins. And had God, the Father, not engaged in this shocking act of filicide (which would be illegal if conducted in most countries today), we would all be destined to burn in the highest flames in excruciating agony for every second of every day for eternity, just for being human beings. (Now, those of you falling for the Satanic trap of thinking that we didn't ask to be born and shouldn't be punished for a condition we had no control over, are obviously not devout enough and are ordered to make an appointment with Mrs. Watkins immediately for private sessions with Pastor Deacon Fred for extensive, not to mention expensive, counseling.)

Colt McCoy, the UT quarterback (until his shoulder got tired after a couple minutes of national championship play) and Tim Tebow (the Florida quarterback who seemed to play better with every preceding game) both recognized they are utter trash, worthy of nothing whatsoever. Everything they have achieved has absolutely nothing to do with them or their wretchedness and everything to do with God's whimsical (and rather fickle) love of people, including football players (and, apparently, some more than others). They gave Jesus the glory for every victory their teams ever had. Of course, they never blamed Jesus for any of their teams' losses because they realized that everything good that happens to humans comes from the Lord, whereas everything bad that happens to us comes from us. We do nothing right (good acts are all the Lord's). But we do everything badly. So, the Lord had everything to do with this year's victories and nothing to do with last year's Texas Tech loss. As it turns out, the Lord is undefeated!

Now, don't you dare question this. It is one of those "you just have to accept it by faith" thingies that Pastor Deacon Fred and I frequently identify in our sermons. Plus, Colt had an explanation for last night's situation: his "shoulder injury" is part of God's plan (whether that plan is for him, the world, college football or just some chiropractor in the southwest side of Austin is unclear).

We all know the Lord doesn't root for one team over another (unless we're talking about Christians over Muslims). The Lord didn't favor UT or Florida over other teams (obviously). And Colt and Tim weren't thanking the Lord for ensuring victory. They were thanking the Lord for answering their prayers to help them play as well as they could. Of course, the teams on the other side undoubtedly had evangelical Christians praying for Jesus to help them play as well as they could. So, God-inspired victories must be for the teams that have the most Christians playing for them. College and professional agents alike would be wise to emphasize this feature, when their clients profess to be Christian.

Brother Harry Hardwick, Associate PastorIn any event, now that the season is over, I will strongly encourage Messrs. McCoy and Tebow to enter Mrs. Betty Bowers' "Baptists Are Saving Homosexuals" (BASH) Ministry for preventative treatment. Let's face it: as much as we love him, McCoy is not the bastion of masculinity. In fact, he looks like an alter boy ripe for the picking. His effeminate voice and "on the verge of tears" demeanor make him prime prey for pedophilic sodomites. (That is, assuming his nancy boy roommate, Jordan Shipley, hasn't already turned him to the dark side.) Tebow may be a lost cause. Frankly, he looks like a she-male, preparing to toss pink tulips onto the dance floor at Gainesville's lone drag club. He bawled so badly after losing to Alabama that his tears smeared the Bible citations etched into his eye paint. That's hardly giving the Lord His due. But hey, many of our most devout male followers have similar vulnerabilities. We persevered through the Promise Keepers crisis, and we can make it through this.

Let us pray that both boys continue blindly thanking the Lord, even after they enter the far more complex playmaking of the professional league. And let us pray that BASH can inject a strong dose of masculinity into their otherwise nellie lives. The docility that comes with being a Christian need not translate into being a damned homo.
(c) 2010 The Landover Baptist Church

The Gross National Debt

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 03 (c) 01/15/2010

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