Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Greg Palast takes us to, "The Right Testicle of Hell."

Uri Avnery tells the one about, "'Kill Another Turk...'."

William Astore joins us with, "A Very American Coup."

Cynthia McKinney finds, "An Unwelcome Katrina Redux."

Jim Hightower is, "Giving Proper Thanks To Wall Street."

Charlie Reese points out our true enemies, "545 People."

John Nichols follows as, "William Jennings Obama Seeks To Save Massachusetts Seat."

Paul Krugman explains, "What Didn't Happen."

Chris Floyd says to, "Help Haiti."

Case Wagenvoord explores, "The Serenity Of Modern Warfare."

Mike Folkerth takes us to, "A Parallel World."

Chris Hedges remembers Martin and Malcolm in, "Turning King's Dream Into A Nightmare."

David Michael Green examines, "Sarah And The Spiraling Sewer Of Regressive Deceit."

Pat Robertson wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald considers, "Krugman, Gruber And Non-Disclosure Issues."

Tom Engelhardt uncovers, "Fear As A Money Machine."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports "Pat Robertson 'A Public Relations Nightmare,' Says God" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Heck Of A Job Brownie, Part Duex."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Steve Kelly, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Dees Illustration.Com, Randy Bish, R.J. Matson, Daryl Cagle, Saul Loeb, Google Maps, U.S. Air Force, Seven Arts Productions, The Daily Show 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."

Heck Of A Job, Brownie Part Duex
By Ernest Stewart

"I know a lot of people want to send blankets or water. Just send your cash. One of the things that president [Clinton] and I will do is see your money is spent wisely." ~~~ George W. Bush ~ on Haiti relief

"Heck of a job, Scott Brownie!" ~~~ Uncle Ernie

"There is a clock at the University of Chicago called the Doomsday Clock whose time perpetually lingers just shy of midnight. On this clock, midnight metaphorically represents full nuclear war bringing an end to all civilization, and the clock is meant as a gauge to constantly indicate humankind's proximity to this horrific event." ~~~ Alan Bellows

Is it just me or is Obama insane? I ask you, would a sane person appoint George W. Bush to co-head a disaster relief program after Katrina? Would a sane person appoint a man who is universally hated for his war crimes and crimes against humanity, a man who should be sitting in a jail cell awaiting execution, as a relief ambassador? The mind boggles! Yes, we'll send in that cash to you and Bill. NOT!

Of course, as this manmade disaster unfolded, the cockroaches and creatures of the night came out from under their rocks to strut and flap their mandibles! Tush Limbaugh opened up his cake hole and out oozed this slime:

"The Haiti earthquake was made to order for Obama. Obama will use Haiti to boost credibility with the light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country."

Tush hates Barry's guts when a saner man would be embracing Barry as a fellow traveler but Tush is a racist and can't help himself from attacking Barry even on things they agree on!

Then another one of America's national embarrassments spoke up:

"They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it's a deal." ~~~ Pat Robertson

The truth is, Pat, that the Haitians are the way they are because of their former slave masters, the French, who only stopped torturing them in 1947, a mere 122 years after they were thrown out of Haiti. But before withdrawing in 1825, France had demanded reparations of 150 million francs - about $21 billion in today's money-for the loss of its economic and human property. Of course, this was totally illegal, immoral and a war crime unto itself but Europe and America let them get away with it as they were making way too much money on human degradation to protest. Then in 1915, "Woody" Wilson sent in the Marines to steal what little was left in Haiti and invited many corpo-rats in to split the booty. Although the Marines moved out 22 years later, they have been back many times since to teach those rebels a lesson or two! And we've been there to put the likes of Papa Doc and Baby Doc upon the throne, criminals who then siphoned off most all of the aid money coming in from around the world and slaughtered any protestors who didn't like being an American slave. Hence, there was no money for anything, including earthquake-proof or hurricane-proof buildings. That, not some mythical bullshit, is the reason Haiti is the way it is, Pat.

I think Sam Kinison pretty much says it all about Pat:

"Pat Robertson said, 'The Lord Told Me To Run For President.' Well, yeah I bet he did! The Lord must want you to look like a complete ass in the political arena."

The same could be said about Pat in the religious arena, too, a complete ass!

Meanwhile, Robert Gates and Obama are hemming and hawing and stalling in order to be sure that Blackwater and the Marines arrive first while tens of thousands die. This is so Blackwater might have time to get up to some mischief staging scenes and murdering opponents of the government (which include almost all the Haitians who hate our appointed dictator) which we'll use as a reason to stay and to threaten all of the Caribbean. While Haiti needed water, food and shelter the rest of the world sent aid, some within hours. Instead, we sent them an occupation army and soldiers of fortune. I think that last sentence pretty much says it all about our government and it's place in the world, don't you?

In Other News

Whew, that was a close one! We're still not out of the woods yet but I think there will be no choice but to let health care or the "Health Insurance Company Protection Act of 2009" die an ignoble death!

You know the number is on the wall when liberal Massachusetts elects a fascist centerfold to a Senate seat that went to the left for over half a century. I'm sure it wasn't an easy decision to put on the Jack Boots and goose step off behind some rat-wing yahoo, especially after seeing what happens after 8 years of them being in power. I wonder if a women candidate who posed nude for Playboy would have been allowed to run? That noise in the background, Massachusetts, is Ted Kennedy spinning in his grave! Of course, Obama didn't help any by being just another fascist soldier and trying to ram down our throats corpo-rat policy disguised as a health care bill instead of bringing real change, ergo we end up electing a schmuck with a truck!

Of course, the White House says nothing's changed and they're going ahead with the Senate bill come hell or high water but the rank and file Demonrats see the light and are beginning to jump ship. It could be, as I suggested in part one of this rant, that Barry is insane. Sure, the insurance industry has put a few billions in bribes into congressional pockets and, as old Will Rogers once said, "We have the best Congress money can buy." However, in this case, I think self preservation may kick in with the mid terms coming up in November. As surely as deep blue Massachusetts going red, it may be time to rethink ones positions!

If this turkey finally fails all I can say is, "Heck of a job, Scott Brownie!"

And Finally

In case you missed it the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, or BAS, announced they've moved the clock hand back one minute, from 5 minutes 'til oblivion until 6 minutes 'til oblivion, Huzzah! Here's their announcement:

"BAS announced the Clock change at a news conference today in New York City broadcast live at for viewing around the globe. The new BAS Web platform allows people in all nations to monitor and get involved in efforts to move the Doomsday Clock farther away from midnight.

In a statement supporting the decision to move the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock, the BAS Board said: "It is 6 minutes to midnight. We are poised to bend the arc of history toward a world free of nuclear weapons. For the first time since atomic bombs were dropped in 1945, leaders of nuclear weapons states are cooperating to vastly reduce their arsenals and secure all nuclear bomb-making material. And for the first time ever, industrialized and developing countries alike are pledging to limit climate-changing gas emissions that could render our planet nearly uninhabitable. These unprecedented steps are signs of a growing political will to tackle the two gravest threats to civilization--the terror of nuclear weapons and runaway climate change."

Created in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Doomsday Clock has been adjusted only 18 times prior to today, most recently in January 2007 and February 2002 after the events of 9/11. By moving the hand of the Clock away from midnight--the figurative end of civilization--the BAS Board of Directors is drawing attention to encouraging signs of progress. At the same time, the small increment of the change reflects both the threats that remain around the globe and the danger that governments may fail to deliver on pledged actions on reducing nuclear weapons and mitigating climate change."

That certainly is a step in the right direction and I welcome their findings! Still, I'd pay attention to that last sentence if I were you, I know that I have!

A full replay of the news event is available on the Web at

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


02-21-1938 ~ 01-14-2010
See you later, alligator!

06-16-1937 ~ 01-17-2010
Thanks for the read!

09-17-1932 ~ 01-18-2010
Thanks for the read!


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.

The Right Testicle of Hell
History of a Haitian Holocaust
Blackwater before drinking water
By Greg Palast

1. Bless the President for having rescue teams in the air almost immediately. That was President Olafur Grimsson of Iceland. On Wednesday, the AP reported that the President of the United States promised, "The initial contingent of 2,000 Marines could be deployed to the quake-ravaged country within the next few days." "In a few days," Mr. Obama?

2. There's no such thing as a 'natural' disaster. 200,000 Haitians have been slaughtered by slum housing and IMF "austerity" plans.

3. A friend of mine called. Do I know a journalist who could get medicine to her father? And she added, trying to hold her voice together, "My sister, she's under the rubble. Is anyone going who can help, anyone?" Should I tell her, "Obama will have Marines there in 'a few days'"?

4. China deployed rescuers with sniffer dogs within 48 hours. China, Mr. President. China: 8,000 miles distant. Miami: 700 miles close. US bases in Puerto Rico: right there.

5. Obama's Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, "I don't know how this government could have responded faster or more comprehensively than it has." We know Gates doesn't know.

6. From my own work in the field, I know that FEMA has access to ready-to-go potable water, generators, mobile medical equipment and more for hurricane relief on the Gulf Coast. It's all still there. Army Lt. Gen. Russel HonorČ, who served as the task force commander for emergency response after Hurricane Katrina, told the Christian Science Monitor, "I thought we had learned that from Katrina, take food and water and start evacuating people." Maybe we learned but, apparently, Gates and the Defense Department missed school that day.

7. Send in the Marines. That's America's response. That's what we're good at. The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson finally showed up after three days. With what? It was dramatically deployed - without any emergency relief supplies. It has sidewinder missiles and 19 helicopters.

8. But don't worry, the International Search and Rescue Team, fully equipped and self-sufficient for up to seven days in the field, deployed immediately with ten metric tons of tools and equipment, three tons of water, tents, advanced communication equipment and water purifying capability. They're from Iceland.

9. Gates wouldn't send in food and water because, he said, there was no "structure ... to provide security." For Gates, appointed by Bush and allowed to hang around by Obama, it's security first. That was his lesson from Hurricane Katrina. Blackwater before drinking water.

10. Previous US presidents have acted far more swiftly in getting troops on the ground on that island. Haiti is the right half of the island of Hispaniola. It's treated like the right testicle of Hell. The Dominican Republic the left. In 1965, when Dominicans demanded the return of Juan Bosch, their elected President, deposed by a junta, Lyndon Johnson reacted to this crisis rapidly, landing 45,000 US Marines on the beaches to prevent the return of the elected president.

11. How did Haiti end up so economically weakened, with infrastructure, from hospitals to water systems, busted or non-existent - there are two fire stations in the entire nation - and infrastructure so frail that the nation was simply waiting for "nature" to finish it off?

Don't blame Mother Nature for all this death and destruction. That dishonor goes to Papa Doc and Baby Doc, the Duvalier dictatorship, which looted the nation for 28 years. Papa and his Baby put an estimated 80% of world aid into their own pockets - with the complicity of the US government happy to have the Duvaliers and their voodoo militia, Tonton Macoutes, as allies in the Cold War. (The war was easily won: the Duvaliers' death squads murdered as many as 60,000 opponents of the regime.)

12. What Papa and Baby didn't run off with, the IMF finished off through its "austerity" plans. An austerity plan is a form of voodoo orchestrated by economists zomby-fied by an irrational belief that cutting government services will somehow help a nation prosper.

13. In 1991, five years after the murderous Baby fled, Haitians elected a priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who resisted the IMF's austerity diktats. Within months, the military, to the applause of Papa George HW Bush, deposed him. History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. The farce was George W. Bush. In 2004, after the priest Aristide was re-elected President, he was kidnapped and removed again, to the applause of Baby Bush.

14. Haiti was once a wealthy nation, the wealthiest in the hemisphere, worth more, wrote Voltaire in the 18th century, than that rocky, cold colony known as New England. Haiti's wealth was in black gold: slaves. But then the slaves rebelled - and have been paying for it ever since.

From 1825 to 1947, France forced Haiti to pay an annual fee to reimburse the profits lost by French slaveholders caused by their slaves' successful uprising. Rather than enslave individual Haitians, France thought it more efficient to simply enslave the entire nation.

15. Secretary Gates tells us, "There are just some certain facts of life that affect how quickly you can do some of these things." The Navy's hospital boat will be there in, oh, a week or so. Heckuva job, Brownie!

16. Note just received from my friend. Her sister was found, dead; and her other sister had to bury her. Her father needs his anti-seizure medicines. That's a fact of life too, Mr. President.


Through our journalism network, we are trying to get my friend's medicines to her father. If any reader does have someone getting into or near Port-au-Prince, please contact immediately.

Urgently recommended reading - The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, the history of the successful slave uprising in Hispaniola by the brilliant CLR James.
(c) 2010 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." His investigations for BBC TV and Democracy Now! can be seen by subscribing to Palast's reports at.

'Kill Another Turk...'
By Uri Avnery

I TRIED to resist the temptation to tell the same classical Jewish joke a second time, but circumstances delivered a plausible excuse.

Almost every Jew knows the sentence "Kill a Turk and rest." The whole story goes like this:

In Czarist Russia, a Jewish boy is called up for the war against the Turks. His tearful mother takes leave of him at the railway station and implores him: "Don't overexert yourself! Kill a Turk and rest. Kill another Turk and rest again..."

But mother!" the boy interrupts her. "What if the Turk kills me?"

"Kills you?!" the mother exclaims in sheer disbelief, "But why? What have you done to him?"

Jewish jokes reflect Jewish reality. So this joke became true this week.

UNFORTUNATELY THE joke is on us. It happened like this:

Turkish television aired a rather primitive series, in which Mossad operatives kidnap Turkish children and hide them in the Israeli embassy. Valiant Turkish agents free the children and kill the evil ambassador.

One can ignore such an obnoxious story altogether or protest mildly. But our illustrious Foreign Minister thought that this was the right occasion to demonstrate to all and sundry that we are no longer abject ghetto Jews who take everything lying down, but proud, upright Jews of a new breed.

So the Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, summoned the Turkish ambassador to the Foreign Office in Jerusalem for a carefully staged exhibition of national pride.

When the ambassador arrived, he was surprised to see the place crawling with TV crews and journalists. He was left waiting for a considerable time and then shown into a room where three solemn officials, including Ayalon, were perched on high chairs. He was seated on a low sofa without arms, and had no choice but sit in a reclining position.

Not satisfied with this, Ayalon expressly requested the media people (in Hebrew) to pay attention to the difference in height between the chairs and the sofa, to the absence of the Turkish flag on the table, as well as to the fact that the Israelis did not smile and did not shake hands.

Perhaps Ayalon drew his inspiration from a memorable scene in Charlie Chaplin's movie The Great Dictator, in which Hitler and Mussolini sit on barber's chairs, each of them jacking his chair up so as to tower above the other, until both chairs topple over.

Ayalon then delivered (again in Hebrew) a sharp rebuke - all Israeli media used this word rather than the diplomatic term "protest".

Well satisfied with his work, Ayalon saw to it that it got maximum exposure in the media, especially on television.

The Turkish reaction was, of course, violent. Turks are more sensitive about their national dignity then most (witness their reactions to allegations about the Armenian massacre almost a hundred years ago), so they were foreseeably upset.

Ayalon got, of course, the unreserved backing of his minister, mentor and party boss, Avigdor Lieberman, who was full of praise.

A few weeks before, Lieberman had assembled all the Israeli ambassadors from around the world, some 150 of them, for a pep talk. He rebuked them for not properly defending the honor of Israel and announced a radical new policy: from now on, the main duty of an Israeli ambassador is to stand up for the dignity of his country, attack anyone who criticizes Israel and leave no insult unanswered, be it big or small. This should take precedence over all other diplomatic duties.

No one in the audience, which was mainly composed of long-standing career diplomats, dared to get up and point out that there may be more important Israeli interests, such as good relations with foreign governments, military and intelligence ties and economic matters. Except for one ambassador - who smiled and was soundly rebuked - nobody demurred.

In less that a year in office, Lieberman has already broken a lot of diplomatic china. He has insulted several friendly governments. In one noteworthy case, he publicly rebuked the Norwegians for celebrating the anniversary of their national writer, Knut Hamsun, who had sympathized with the Nazis. In another case, he attacked the Swedish government for not protesting publicly against an article by a minor scribbler in a Swedish newspaper, in which he made the ridiculous accusation that Israeli soldiers kill Palestinians in order to sell their organs for transplants. Lieberman's exaggerated reaction turned this into world news.

His tendency to insult foreign governments - a rather original trait for a foreign minister - may have been exacerbated by the refusal of many of his foreign colleagues to meet with him, considering him a racist or an outright fascist - as, indeed, do most Israelis.

When Netanyahu set up his government and appointed Lieberman as his foreign minister, the news was at first met with incredulity. A more absurd appointment could hardly be imagined. But Netanyahu needed him, and could offer him neither the Treasury, which he wanted to lead himself by proxy, nor the defense ministry, which is the private domain of Ehud Barak. The foreign ministry, which few people in Israel take seriously, was the only viable alternative.

Therefore, Netanyahu could not criticize these two Neanderthals, Lieberman and Ayalon, and their antics. But Barak was hopping mad.

As it so happens, Barak is due to visit Turkey tomorrow. The relations between the Israeli and the Turkish defense establishments are as close as can be. Not only is there a certain ideological affinity between the two army commands - both consider themselves as the guardians of national values and look down with contempt on the politicians - but the generals of the two countries are real buddies. Also, the Israeli defense industry depends very much on Turkish orders, about a billion dollars annually.

Lately, some dispute has arisen about drones supplied by Israel, and relations have deteriorated. Barak's visit is therefore considered very important. Some Israeli commentators believe that the whole Ayalon affair was a not so subtle ploy by Lieberman to sabotage his cabinet rival.

Be that as is may, the whole Israeli establishment realized that Ayalon's stupid charade has done great damage. He was obliged to retract, and did so in a graceless, half-hearted manner, without first finding out whether this would satisfy the Turks. It did not - and the Turks, becoming more and more furious, demanded a clear and abject apology. This demand was presented as an ultimatum - until midnight on Wednesday, or else. Else meant the recall of the ambassador and the downgrading of relations.

Netanyahu caved in. Ayalon apologized again, this time unequivocally, and the Turks graciously accepted. Barak will be going to Turkey.

Behind this childish episode lurks the more serious problem of Turkish-Israeli relations.

The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reminded Israel this week that Turkey has always welcomed Jews. He was alluding to an historic chapter that is never quite acknowledged here: When Catholic Spain expelled hundreds of thousands of Jews in 1492 (some speak of as many as 800,000), the vast majority of them settled in the Ottoman Empire, from Marrakesh to Sarajevo. While Jews in Christian Europe were tortured by the Spanish inquisition and suffered untold persecutions, expulsions and pogroms, culminating in the Holocaust, they flourished for centuries under the benevolent rule of the Muslim Ottomans.

These historic memories were, alas, erased during the short period of Zionist relations with the Turkish administration in Palestine in the early 20th century. Every Israeli child learns about the lovely Sarah Aharonson, a member of a pro-British spy ring in World War I, who committed suicide after being tortured by the Terrible Turks.

Cordial relations were resumed only when masses of Israeli tourists started to arrive at Turkish resorts and were surprised by the warmth of their reception. The tourists love it.

SO WHAT is happening now? Turks, like all Muslims, were upset by last year's Gaza War and the horrifying pictures they saw on TV. Erdogan, echoing these sentiments as a good politician would, attacked the Israeli policy on several occasions, cancelled joint army maneuvers and once left a public debate with President Shimon Peres in a huff.

After being shown the cold shoulder by the European Union, Turkey has turned towards its Arab neighbors and Iran, seeking to act as a mediator between East and West. It also began to mediate between Israel and Syria, until it realized that the Israeli government had no desire at all to make peace, which would compel it to dismantle settlements and return territory.

The relationship between Turkey and Israel will probably return to normal, if not to its former degree of warmth. Turkey needs the help of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington. (Ayalon himself has in the past been sent there to help repel efforts to recognize the Armenian genocide). Israel needs Turkey as an ally and arms buyer.

So what about the joke? Well, it serves as a reminder that provoking the Turks is not necessarily a good idea.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

A Very American Coup
Coming Soon to a Hometown Near You
By William Astore

The wars in distant lands were always going to come home, but not this way.

It's September 2016, year 15 of America's "Long War" against terror. As weary troops return to the homeland, a bitter reality assails them: despite their sacrifices, America is losing.

Iraq is increasingly hostile to remaining occupation forces. Afghanistan is a riddle that remains unsolved: its army and police forces are untrustworthy, its government corrupt, and its tribal leaders unsympathetic to the vagaries of U.S. intervention. Since the Obama surge of 2010, a trillion more dollars have been devoted to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and other countries in the vast shatter zone that is central Asia, without measurable returns; nothing, that is, except the prolongation of America's Great Recession, now entering its tenth year without a sustained recovery in sight.

Disillusioned veterans are unable to find decent jobs in a crumbling economy. Scarred by the physical and psychological violence of war, fed up with the happy talk of duplicitous politicians who only speak of shared sacrifices, they begin to organize. Their motto: take America back.

Meanwhile, a lame duck presidency, choking on foreign policy failures, finds itself attacked even for its putative successes. Health-care reform is now seen to have combined the inefficiency and inconsistency of government with the naked greed and exploitative talents of corporations. Medical rationing is a fact of life confronting anyone on the high side of 50. Presidential rhetoric that offered hope and change has lost all resonance. Mainstream media outlets are discredited and disintegrating, resulting in new levels of information anarchy.

Protest, whether electronic or in the streets, has become more common -- and the protestors in those streets increasingly carry guns, though as yet armed violence is minimal. A panicked administration responds with overlapping executive orders and legislation that is widely perceived as an attack on basic freedoms.

Tapping the frustration of protesters -- including a renascent and mainstreamed "tea bag" movement -- the former captains and sergeants, the ex-CIA operatives and out-of-work private mercenaries of the War on Terror take action. Conflict and confrontation they seek; laws and orders they increasingly ignore. As riot police are deployed in the streets, they face a grim choice: where to point their guns? Not at veterans, they decide, not at America's erstwhile heroes.

A dwindling middle-class, still waving the flag and determined to keep its sliver-sized portion of the American dream, throws its support to the agitators. Wages shrinking, savings exhausted, bills rising, the sober middle can no longer hold. It vents its fear and rage by calling for a decisive leader and the overthrow of a can't-do Congress.

Savvy members of traditional Washington elites are only too happy to oblige. They too crave order and can-do decisiveness -- on their terms. Where better to find that than in the ranks of America's most respected institution: the military?

A retired senior officer who led America's heroes in central Asia is anointed. His creed: end public disorder, fight the War on Terror to a victorious finish, put America back on top. The United States, he says, is the land of winners, and winners accept no substitute for victory. Nominated on September 11, 2016, Patriot Day, he marches to an overwhelming victory that November, embraced in the streets by an American version of the post-World War I German Freikorps and the police who refuse to suppress them. A concerned minority is left to wonder (and tremble) at the de facto military coup that occurred so quickly, and yet so silently, in their midst.

It Can Happen Here, Unless We Act

Yes, it can happen here. In some ways, it's already happening. But the key question is: at this late date, how can it be stopped? Here are some vectors for a change in course, and in mindset as well, if we are to avoid our own stealth coup:

1. Somehow, we need to begin to reverse the ongoing militarization of this country, especially our ever-rising "defense" budgets. The most recent of these, we've just learned, is a staggering $708 billion for fiscal year 2011 -- and that doesn't even include the $33 billion President Obama has requested for his latest surge in Afghanistan. We also need to get rid of the idea that anyone who suggests even minor cuts in defense spending is either hopelessly naÔve or a terrorist sympathizer. It's time as well to call a halt to the privatization of military activity and so halt the rise of security contractors like Xe (formerly Blackwater), thereby weakening the corporate profit motive that supports and underpins the American version of perpetual war. It's time to begin feeling chastened, not proud, that we're by far the number one country in the world in arms manufacturing and the global arms trade.

2. Let's downsize our global mission rather than endlessly expanding our military footprint. It's time to have a military capable of defending this country, not fighting endless wars in distant lands while garrisoning the globe.

3. Let's stop paying attention to major TV and cable networks that rely on retired senior military officers, most of whom have ties both to the Pentagon and military contractors, for "unbiased" commentary on our wars. If we insist on fighting our perpetual "frontier" wars, let's start insisting as well that they be covered in all their bitter reality: the death, the mayhem, the waste, the prisons, and the torture. Why is our war coverage invariably sanitized to "PG" or even "G," when we can go to the movies anytime and see "R" rated, pornographically violent films? And by the way, it's time to be more critical of the government's and the media's use of language and propaganda. Mindlessly parroting the Patriot Act doesn't make you patriotic.

4. It's time to elect a president who doesn't surround himself with senior "civilian" advisors and ambassadors who are actually retired military generals and admirals, one who won't accept a Nobel Peace Prize by defending war in theory and escalating it in practice.

5. Let's toughen up. Let's stop deferring to authority figures who promise to "protect" us while abridging our rights. Let's stop bowing down before men and women in uniform, before they start thinking that it's their right to be worshipped and act accordingly.

6. Let's act now to relieve the sort of desperation bred by joblessness and hopelessness that could lead many -- notably male workers suffering from the "He-Cession" -- to see a militarized solution in "the homeland" as a credible last resort. It's the economy, stupid, but with Main Street's health, not Wall Street's, in our focus.

7. Let's take Sarah Palin and her followers seriously. They're tapping into anger that's real and spreading. Don't let them become the voices of the angry working (and increasingly unemployed) classes.

8. Recognize that we face real enemies in our world, the most powerful of which aren't in distant Afghanistan or Yemen but here at home. The essence of our struggle to sustain our faltering democracy should not be against "terrorists," with their shoe and crotch bombs, but against various powerful, perfectly legal groups here whose interests lie in a Pentagon that only grows ever stronger.

9. Stop thinking the U.S. is uniquely privileged. Don't take it on faith that God is on our side. Forget about God blessing America. If you believe in God, get out there and start trying to earn His blessing through deeds.

10. And, most important of all, remember that fear is the mind-killer that makes militarism possible. Ramping up "terror" is an amazingly effective way of shredding our Constitution. Putting our "safety" above all else is asking for trouble. The only way we'll be completely safe from the big bad terrorists, after all, is when we're all living in a maximum security state. Think of walking down the street while always being subject to a "full-body scan."

That's my top 10 things we need to do. It's a daunting list and I'm sure you have a few ideas of your own. But have faith. Ultimately, it all boils down to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's words to a nation suffering through the Great Depression: the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. These words came to mind recently as I read the following missive from a friend and World War II veteran who's seen tough times:

"It's very hard for me to accept how soft the American people have become. In 1941, with the western world under assault by powerful and deadly forces, and a large armada of ships and planes attacking us directly, I never heard a word of fear as we faced three powerful nations as enemies. Sixteen million of us went into the military with the very real possibility of death and I never once heard of fear, except from those exposed to danger. Now, our people let [their leaders] terrify them into accepting the destruction of our economy, our image in the world, and our democracy... All this over a small group of religious fanatics [mostly] from Saudi Arabia whom we kowtow to so we can drive 8-cylinder SUV's. Pathetic!

"How many times have I stood in 'security lines' at airports and when I complained of the indignity of taking off shoes and not having water and the manhandling of passengers, have well educated people smugly said to me, 'Well, they're just keeping us safe.' I look at the airport bullshit as a training ground to turn Americans into docile sheep in a totalitarian state."

A public conditioned to act like sheep, to "support our troops" no matter what, to cower before the idea of terrorism, is a public ready to be herded. A military that's being used to fight unwinnable wars is a military prone to return home disaffected and with scores to settle.

Angry and desperate veterans and mercenaries already conditioned to violence, merging with "tea baggers" and other alienated groups, could one day form our own Freikorps units, rioting for violent solutions to national decline. Recall that the Nazi movement ultimately succeeded in the early 1930s because so many middle-class Germans were scared as they saw their wealth, standard of living, and status all threatened by the Great Depression.

If our Great Recession continues, if decent jobs remain scarce, if the mainstream media continue to foster fear and hatred, if returning troops are disaffected and their leaders blame politicians for "not being tough enough," if one or two more terrorist attacks succeed on U.S. soil, wouldn't this country be well primed for a coup by any other name?

Don't expect a "Seven Days in May" scenario. No American Caesar will return to Washington with his legions to decapitate governmental authority. Why not? Because he won't have to.

As long as we continue to live in perpetual fear in an increasingly militarized state, we establish the preconditions under which Americans will be nailed to, and crucified on, a cross of iron.
(c) 2010 William Astore teaches History at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. A retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), he has also taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School. He is the co-author of Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism.

An Unwelcome Katrina Redux
By Cynthia McKinney

President Obama's response to the tragedy in Haiti has been robust in military deployment and puny in what the Haitians need most: food; first responders and their specialized equipment; doctors and medical facilities and equipment; and engineers, heavy equipment, and heavy movers. Sadly, President Obama is dispatching Presidents Bush and Clinton, and thousands of Marines and U.S. soldiers. By contrast, Cuba has over 400 doctors on the ground and is sending in more; Cubans, Argentinians, Icelanders, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, and many others are already on the ground working--saving lives and treating the injured. Senegal has offered land to Haitians willing to relocate to Africa.

The United States, on the day after the tragedy struck, confirmed that an entire Marine Expeditionary Force was being considered "to help restore order," when the "disorder" had been caused by an earthquake striking Haiti; not since 1751, 1770, 1842, 1860, and 1887 had Haiti experienced an earthquake. But, I remember the bogus reports of chaos and violence the led to the deployment of military assets, including Blackwater, in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. One Katrina survivor noted that the people needed food and shelter and the U.S. government sent men with guns. Much to my disquiet, it seems, here we go again. From the very beginning, U.S. assistance to Haiti has looked to me more like an invasion than a humanitarian relief operation.

On Day Two of the tragedy, a C-130 plane with a military assessment team landed in Haiti, with the rest of the team expected to land soon thereafter. The stated purpose of this team was to determine what military resources were needed.

An Air Force special operations team was also expected to land to provide air traffic control. Now, the reports are that the U.S. is not allowing assistance in, shades of Hurricane Katrina, all over again.

On President Obama's orders military aircraft "flew over the island, mapping the destruction." So, the first U.S. contribution to the humanitarian relief needed in Haiti were reconnaissance drones whose staffing are more accustomed to looking for hidden weapon sites and surface-to-air missile batteries than wrecked infrastructure. The scope of the U.S. response soon became clear: aircraft carrer, Marine transport ship, four C-140 airlifts, and evacuations to Guantanamo. By the end of Day Two, according to the Washington Post report, the United States had evacuated to Guantanamo Bay about eight [8] severely injured patients, in addition to U.S. Embassy staffers, who had been "designated as priorities by the U.S. Ambassador and his staff."

On Day Three we learned that other U.S. ships, including destroyers, were moving toward Haiti. Interestingly, the Washington Post reported that the standing task force that coordinates the U.S. response to mass migration events from Cuba or Haiti was monitoring events, but had not yet ramped up its operations. That tidbit was interesting in and of itself, that those two countries are attended to by a standing task force, but the treatment of their nationals is vastly different, with Cubans being awarded immediate acceptance from the U.S. government, and by contrast, internment for Haitian nationals.

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral James Watson IV reassured Americans, "Our focus right now is to prevent that, and we are going to work with the Defense Department, the State Department, FEMA and all the agencies of the federal government to minimize the risk of Haitians who want to flee their country," Watson said. "We want to provide them those releif supplies so they can live in Haiti."

By the end of Day Four, the U.S. reportedly had evacuated over 800 U.S. nationals.

For those of us who have been following events in Haiti before the tragic earthquake, it is worth noting that several items have caused deep concern:

1. the continued exile of Haiti's democratically-elected and well-loved, yet twice-removed former priest, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide;

2. the unexplained continued occupation of the country by United Nations troops who have killed innocent Haitians and are hardly there for "security" (I've personally seen them on the roads that only lead to Haiti's sparsely-populated areas teeming with beautiful beaches);

3. U.S. construction of its fifth-largest embassy in the world in Port-au-Prince, Haiti;

4. mining and port licenses and contracts, including the privatization of Haiti's deep water ports, because certain off-shore oil and transshipment arrangements would not be possible inside the U.S. for environmental and other considerations; and

5. Extensive foreign NGO presence in Haiti that could be rendered unnecessary if, instead, appropriate U.S. and other government policy allowed the Haitian people some modicum of political and economic self-determination.

Therefore, we note here the writings of Ms. Marguerite Laurent, whom I met in her capacity as attorney for ousted President of Haiti Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Ms. Laurent reminds us of Haiti's offshore oil and other mineral riches and recent revivial of an old idea to use Haiti and an oil refinery to be built there as a transshipment terminal for U.S. supertankers. Ms. Laurent, also known as Ezili Danto of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (HLLN), writes:

"There is evidence that the United States found oil in Haiti decades ago and due to the geopolitical circumstances and big business interests of that era made the decision to keep Haitian oil in reserve for when Middle Eastern oil had dried up. This is detailed by Dr. Georges Michel in an article dated March 27, 2004 outlining the history of oil explorations and oil reserves in Haiti and in the research of Dr. Ginette and Daniel Mathurin.

"There is also good evidence that these very same big US oil companies and their inter-related monopolies of engineering and defense contractors made plans, decades ago, to use Haiti's deep water ports either for oil refineries or to develop oil tank farm sites or depots where crude oil could be stored and later transferred to small tankers to serve U.S. and Caribbean ports. This is detailed in a paper about the Dunn Plantation at Fort Liberte in Haiti.

"Ezili's HLLN underlines these two papers on Haiti's oil resources and the works of Dr. Ginette and Daniel Mathurin in order to provide a view one will not find in the mainstream media nor anywhere else as to the economic and strategic reasons the US has constructed its fifth largest embassy in the world - fifth only besides the US embassy in China, Iraq, Iran and Germany - in tiny Haiti, post the 2004 Haiti Bush regime change."

Unfortunately, before the tragedy struck, and despite pleading to the Administration by Haiti activists inside the United States, President Obama failed to stop the deportation of Haitians inside the United States and failed to grant TPS, temporary protected status, to Haitians inside the U.S. in peril of being deported due to visa expirations. That was corrected on Day Three of Haiti's earthquake tragedy with the January 15, 2010 announcement that Haiti would join Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, El Salvador, and Sudan as a country granted TPS by the Secretary of Homeland Security.

President Obama's appointment of President Bush to the Haiti relief effort is a swift left jab to the face, in my opinion. After President Bush's performance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the fact that still today, Hurricane Katrina survivors who want to return still have not been provided a way back home, the appointment might augur well for fundraising activities, but I doubt that it bodes well for the Haitian people. Afterall, the coup against and the kidnapping of President Aristide occurred under the watch of a Bush Presidency.

Finally, those with an appreciation of French literature know that among France's most beloved authors are Alexandre Dumas, son of a Haitian slave, and Victor Hugo who wrote: "Haiti est une lumiere." [Haiti is a light.] Indeed, Haiti for millions is a light: light into the methodology and evil of slavery; light into a successful slave rebellion, light into nationhood and notions of liberty, the rights of man, and of human dignity. Haiti is a light. And an example that makes the enemies of black liberation tremble. It is precisely because of Haiti's light into the evil genius of some individuals who wield power over others and man's ability, through unity and purpose, to overcome that evil, that some segments of the world have been at war with Haiti ever since 1804, the year of Haiti's creation as a Republic.

I'm not surprised at "Reverend" Pat Robertson's racist vitriol. Robertson's comments mirror, exactly, statements made by Napoleon's Cabinet when the Haitians defeated them. But in 2010, Robertson's statements reveal much more: Haitians are not the only ones who know their importance to the struggle against hatred, imperialism, and European domination.

This pesky, persistent, stubbornly non-Western, proudly African people of this piece of land that we call Haiti know their history and they know that they militarily defeated the ruling world empire of the day, Napoleon's France, and the global elite at that time who supported him. They know that they defeated the armies of England and Spain.

Haitians know that they used their status as a free state to help liberate Latin Americans from Spain, by funding and fighting alongside Simon Bolivar; their example inspired their still-enslaved African brothers and sisters on the American mainland; and before Haitians were even free, they fought against the British inside the U.S. during its war of independence and won a decisive battle in Savannah, Georgia, where I have visited the statue commemorating that victory.

Haitians know that France imposed reparations on them for being free, and Haiti paid them in full, but that President Aristide called for France to give that money back ($21 billion in 2003 dollars).

Haitians know that their "brother," then-Secretary of State Colin Powell lied to the world upon the kidnapping and second ouster of their President. (Sadly, it wouldn't be the last time that Secretary of State Colin Powell would lie to the world.) Haitians know, all-too-well, that high-ranking blacks in the United States are capable of helping them and of betraying them.

Haitians know, too, that the United States has installed its political proxies and even its own soldiers onto Haitian soil when the U.S. felt it was necessary. All in an effort to control the indomitable Haitian spirit that directs much-needed light to the rest of the oppressed world.

While the tears of the people of Haiti swell in my own eyes, and I remember their tremendous capacity for love, my broken heart and wet eyes don't dampen my ability to understand the grave danger that now faces my friends in Haiti.

I shudder to think that the "rollback" policies believed in by some foreign policy advisors to President Obama could use a prolonged U.S. military presence in Haiti as a springboard for rollback of areas in Latin America that have liberated themselves from U.S. neo-colonial domination. I would hate to think that this would even be attempted under the Presidency of Barack Obama. All of us must have our eyes wide open on Haiti and other parts of the world now dripping in blood as a result of the relentless onward march of the U.S. military machine.

So, on this remembrance of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I note that it was the U.S. government's own illegal Operation Lantern Spike that snuffed out the promise and light of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Every plane of humanitarian assistance that is turned away by the U.S. military (so far from CARICOM, the Caribbean Community, MČdecins Sans Frontieres, Brazil, France, Italy, and even the U.S. Red Cross)--as was done in the wake of Hurricane Katrina--and the expected arrival on this very day of up to 10,000 U.S. troops, are lasting reminders of the existential threat that now looms over the valiant, proud people and the Republic of Haiti.


Silence is the deadliest weapon of mass destruction.
(c) 2010 Cynthia McKinney is a former U.S. Congresswoman, Green Party presidential candidate, and an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice. The first African-American woman to represent the state of Georgia, McKinney served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1993-2003, and from 2005-2007.

Giving Proper Thanks To Wall Street

No doubt you'll want to join me in sending a heartfelt "thank you" to Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, John Mack, and Brian Moynihan.

They are, respectively, the chief banking whizzes at Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America - the four biggest Wall Street firms whose get-rich-quick recklessness brought our financial system to its knees and wrecked our economy. During the last year and a half, these four collected nearly half-a-trillion of our tax dollars to bail out their sinking institutions.

Despite this public generosity to save them, these too-big-to-fail giants still are not meeting their obligations to us. Instead of making loans that America's cash-starved businesses must have so they can start generating jobs again, the Wall Streeters have gone right back to the same sort of high-risk investment gimmicks that caused our country's economic mess. They've also used our money to take over some smaller banks in order to make themselves even bigger. And - of course! - they've returned to the charming practice of lining their own executive pockets with multimillion-dollar bonuses.

Meanwhile, we taxpayers are still owed about $120 billion that we doled out to save the financial system - money that should now be going to other budget needs. To get it back, the White House has proposed a new Wall Street tax on the 50 largest banks - most of which are now raking in huge profits from speculative investment schemes that bankers developed by using dirt cheap federal funds.

Yes, a proper way to thank Blankfein, Dimon, Mack, Moynihan, and others for the way they're treating us is with this tax. But it will be paid by the banks, not by the bankers who did the actual damage. So, let's also show a little personal gratitude to the greedheaded bank barons by assessing a windfall tax on the absurd bonuses they plan to pay themselves.
(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.

545 People
By Charlie Reese

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

Have you ever wondered, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes? WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The president does.

You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

You and I don't write the tax code. Congress does.

You and I don't set fiscal policy. Congress does.

You and I don't control monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president, and nine Supreme Court justices equate to 545 human beings out of the 300 million who are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central bank.

I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason:

They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's responsibility to determine how he/she votes.

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party. What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits. The president can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it.

The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes. Who is the speaker of the House? Nancy Pelosi. She is the leader of the majority party. She and fellow House members, not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted -- by present facts -- of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can't think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red.

If the Army and Marines are in IRAQ, it's because they want them in IRAQ.

If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it's because they want it that way.

There are no insoluble government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like "the economy," "inflation," or "politics" that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible.

They, and they alone, have the power.

They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses, provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees.

We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!
(c) 2010 Charlie Reese is a former columnist for the Orlando Sentinel Newspaper.

William Jennings Obama Seeks To Save Massachusetts Seat
By John Nichols

A suddenly populist Barack Obama tore into the Republicans for siding with banks rather than consumers and taxpayers Sunday in Boston, hoping that his fiery rhetoric would revive the candidacy of embattled Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley.

Coakley, who is in a tight race to fill the seat of the late Ted Kennedy, was not supposed to be in trouble in Tuesday's special election. But late polls suggests that Republican Scott Brown had moved even or perhaps ahead among likely voters in the usually blue state of Massachusetts.

Brown is in the running for two reasons: Coakley has run an exceptionally cautious campaign while the Republicans have succeeded in stirring anger over a health-care reform plan that seems to promise more in the way of bureaucracy and cost than real reform.

Of course, Brown is no reformer.

The former male model who now dresses in work-shirt drag and drives a pick-up truck is merely a savvy practitioner of the "party of no" strategy that Republicans have adopted going into a 2010 election cycle when they hope to reposition their party as an alternative for Americans who are frustrated by economic uncertainty and a sense that Washington is more interested in helping Wall Street than Main Street.

So Obama came to Massachusetts to stand squarely in the middle of Main Street.

Noting the fact that Brown has said he would oppose new taxes on big banks -- many of which are recording high profits and paying record bonuses -- Obama ripped into the Republican.

"We asked Martha's opponent, what's he going to do, and he decided to park his truck on Wall Street," Obama told 1,500 cheering Coakley backers. "Let me be clear: Bankers don't need another vote in the United States Senate. They've got plenty."

The president is hoping that populism will turn the tide for Coakley and save the 60th seat in the Senate for Democrats.

If it does, the turn of the Democrats toward the politics of William Jennings Bryan probably will deserve a good deal of the credit.

Let's just hope they remember that it was rabble-rousing, not caution and compromise, they did the job.

If Coakley loses, it will be because she and the Democrats were too slow to focus on the economy and jobs -- and a populist promise to put Americans back to work before putting speculators and CEOs back in the high life.
(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.

What Didn't Happen
By Paul Krugman

Lately many people have been second-guessing the Obama administration's political strategy. The conventional wisdom seems to be that President Obama tried to do too much - in particular, that he should have put health care on one side and focused on the economy.

I disagree. The Obama administration's troubles are the result not of excessive ambition, but of policy and political misjudgments. The stimulus was too small; policy toward the banks wasn't tough enough; and Mr. Obama didn't do what Ronald Reagan, who also faced a poor economy early in his administration, did - namely, shelter himself from criticism with a narrative that placed the blame on previous administrations.

About the stimulus: it has surely helped. Without it, unemployment would be much higher than it is. But the administration's program clearly wasn't big enough to produce job gains in 2009.

Why was the stimulus underpowered? A number of economists (myself included) called for a stimulus substantially bigger than the one the administration ended up proposing. According to The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, however, in December 2008 Mr. Obama's top economic and political advisers concluded that a bigger stimulus was neither economically necessary nor politically feasible.

Their political judgment may or may not have been correct; their economic judgment obviously wasn't. Whatever led to this misjudgment, however, it wasn't failure to focus on the issue: in late 2008 and early 2009 the Obama team was focused on little else. The administration wasn't distracted; it was just wrong.

The same can be said about policy toward the banks. Some economists defend the administration's decision not to take a harder line on banks, arguing that the banks are earning their way back to financial health. But the light-touch approach to the financial industry further entrenched the power of the very institutions that caused the crisis, even as it failed to revive lending: bailed-out banks have been reducing, not increasing, their loan balances. And it has had disastrous political consequences: the administration has placed itself on the wrong side of popular rage over bailouts and bonuses.

Finally, about that narrative: It's instructive to compare Mr. Obama's rhetorical stance on the economy with that of Ronald Reagan. It's often forgotten now, but unemployment actually soared after Reagan's 1981 tax cut. Reagan, however, had a ready answer for critics: everything going wrong was the result of the failed policies of the past. In effect, Reagan spent his first few years in office continuing to run against Jimmy Carter.

Mr. Obama could have done the same - with, I'd argue, considerably more justice. He could have pointed out, repeatedly, that the continuing troubles of America's economy are the result of a financial crisis that developed under the Bush administration, and was at least in part the result of the Bush administration's refusal to regulate the banks.

But he didn't. Maybe he still dreams of bridging the partisan divide; maybe he fears the ire of pundits who consider blaming your predecessor for current problems uncouth - if you're a Democrat. (It's O.K. if you're a Republican.) Whatever the reason, Mr. Obama has allowed the public to forget, with remarkable speed, that the economy's troubles didn't start on his watch.

So where do complaints of an excessively broad agenda fit into all this? Could the administration have made a midcourse correction on economic policy if it hadn't been fighting battles on health care? Probably not. One key argument of those pushing for a bigger stimulus plan was that there would be no second chance: if unemployment remained high, they warned, people would conclude that stimulus doesn't work rather than that we needed a bigger dose. And so it has proved.

It's important to remember, also, how important health care reform is to the Democratic base. Some activists have been left disillusioned by the compromises made to get legislation through the Senate - but they would have been even more disillusioned if Democrats had simply punted on the issue.

And politics should be about more than winning elections. Even if health care reform loses Democrats' votes (which is questionable), it's the right thing to do.

So what comes next?

At this point Mr. Obama probably can't do much about job creation. He can, however, push hard on financial reform, and seek to put himself back on the right side of public anger by portraying Republicans as the enemies of reform - which they are.

And meanwhile, Democrats have to do whatever it takes to enact a health care bill. Passing such a bill won't be their political salvation - but not passing a bill would surely be their political doom.
(c) 2010 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Help Haiti
The Unforgiven Country Cries Out
By Chris Floyd

Via Mark Crispin Miller, the Center for Constitutional Rights points to some venues for getting help to the people of Haiti: Partners in Health and the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. You can find several more in this listing from the New York Times.


The relentlessly maintained, deliberately inflicted political and economic ruin of Haiti has a direct bearing on the amount of death and devastation that the country is suffering today after the earthquake. It will also greatly cripple any recovery from this natural disaster. As detailed below, Washington's rapacious economic policies have destroyed all attempts to build a sustainable economy in Haiti, driving people off the land and from small communities into packed, dangerous, unhealthy shantytowns, to try to eke out a meager existence in the sweatshops owned by Western elites and their local cronies. All attempts at changing a manifestly unjust society have been ruthlessly suppressed by the direct or collateral hand of Western elites.

The result? Millions of people -- weakened by hunger, deprivation, malnutrition, disease -- living jammed together in precarious, substandard housing. A lack of the physical, financial and civic infrastructure needed to support a decent life in ordinary times -- and to provide proper assistance, and a strong framework for rebuilding, when disaster strikes. Even a far lesser earthquake than the one that struck this week would have caused an unconscionable amount of unnecessary suffering in a nation that has been as ruthlessly and deliberately throttled as Haiti.

With Hurricane Katrina, we saw how callously and unjustly America's elites reacted to the destruction of one of their own cities. Politically connected Mississippi millionaires got prompt and copious assistance -- while many New Orleans natives are still refugees, scattered across the country years after the flood. And this in a nation in which the infrastructures -- though rapidly rotting from the corruption of greed and militarism -- are still strong. What hope then for Haiti?

Yes, there will now be a great outpouring of immediate aid, as there always is after any spectacular disaster. And of course, this is laudable, and I encourage anyone who can to contribute what they can to these efforts. But unless there is a sea-change in American policy, unless there finally comes an end to the curse that has been laid on Haiti -- not by God, or by the Devil, but by the hard hearts of elites following blindly in the cruel traditions of their predecessors -- then this flurry of caring and attention will soon give way again, as it has always done, to callous disregard, brutal repression and inhumane exploitation.

The tale of these cruel traditions -- and the "continuity" with them that Obama has already displayed -- does not augur well for such a change. But as that wise man, Edsel Floyd, always says, we live in hope and die in despair. And such a hope for Haiti is worth holding onto, and working toward.

At the same time, hope must not be blind; you have to acknowledge the grim realities in order to know just what you're up against. So let's take a long, hard look.


Scant hours after the earthquake hit, televangelist Pat Robertson was on the air, declaiming to his millions of viewers that the reason Haiti was stricken by this disaster -- and has been suffering grievously for 200 years -- is because the Haitians "swore a pact with the devil" in order to win their freedom from their French colonial overlords the early 1800s.

And while such vomitious expulsions are to be expected from this well-wadded, politically-wired, virulently extremist mullah (once aptly described in these pages as a "dictator-coddler, blood diamond merchant, Jew-hater and milkshake shiller") this time there is a very tiny grain of truth to be found in the splattered mass of Robertson's upchucking. The Haitians have indeed been cursed for 200 years, and the curse does indeed go back to their liberation. But pace Robertson, the source of this curse is not metaphysical. As I noted in a piece written in 2004:

Exactly two hundred years ago, Haitian slaves overthrew their French masters -- the first successful national slave revolt in history. What Spartacus dreamed of doing, the Haitian slaves actually accomplished. It was a tremendous achievement -- and the white West has never forgiven them for it.

In order to win international recognition for their new country, Haiti was forced to pay "reparations" to the slaveowners -- a crushing burden of debt they were still paying off at the end of the 19th century. The United States, which refused to recognize the country for more than 60 years, invaded Haiti in 1915, primarily to open it up to "foreign ownership of local concerns." After 19 years of occupation, the Americans backed a series of bloodthirsty dictatorships to protect these "foreign owners." And still it goes on.

Indeed it does. The 2004 piece detailed Washington's latest long, bipartisan squeeze play on Haiti, which culminated in a coup engineered by the Bush Administration -- the second time in which a U.S. president named George Bush had ousted the democratically-elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from office. It is tale worth telling again:

Although the [2004] Haiti coup was widely portrayed as an irresistible upsurge of popular discontent, it was of course the result of years of hard work by Bush's dedicated corrupters of democracy, as William Bowles of Information Clearinghouse reports. Bushist bagmen funded the political opposition to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, smuggled guns to exiled Haitian warlords, and carried out a relentless strangulation of the county, cutting off long-promised financial and structural aid to one of the poorest nations on earth until food prices were soaring, unemployment spiked to 70 percent, and the broken-backed government lost control of society to armed gangs of criminals, fanatics and the merely desperate. Meanwhile, Haiti was forced to pay $2 million a month on debts run up by the murderous (U.S.-backed) dictatorships that had ruled the island since the American military occupation of 1915-1934. ...

The ostensible reason for Bush's deadly squeeze play was Haiti's disputed elections in 2000. That vote, only the nation's third free election in 200 years, was indeed marred by reports of irregularities -- although these were not nearly as egregious as the well-documented hijinks which saw a certain runner-up candidate appointed to the White House that same year. There was no question that Aristide and his party received an overwhelming majority of legitimate votes; however, out of the 7,500 offices up for grabs, election observers did find that seven senate results seemed of dodgy provenance.

So what happened? The seven disputed senators resigned. New elections for the seats were called, but the opposition - two elitist factions financed by Washington's favorite engines of subversion, the Orwellian-monikered "National Endowment for Democracy" and "International Republican Institute" -- refused to take part. The government broke down because the legislature couldn't convene. When Bush came in, he tightened the screws of the international blockade of the island, insisting that $500 million in desperately needed aid could not be released unless the opposition participated in new elections - while he was simultaneously paying the opposition not to participate.

The ultimate aim of this brutal pretzel logic was to grind Haiti's destitute people further into the ground and destroy Aristide's ability to govern. His real crime, of course, was not the Florida-style election follies or the reported "tyranny." ... No, Aristide did something far worse than stuffing ballots or killing people -- he tried to raise the minimum wage, to the princely sum of two dollars a day. This move outraged the American corporations -- and their local lackeys -- who have for generations used Haiti as a pool of dirt-cheap labor and sky-high profits. It was the last straw for the elitist factions, one of which is actually led by an American citizen and former Reagan-Bush appointee, manufacturing tycoon Andy Apaid.

Apaid was the point man for the rapacious Reagan-Bush "market reform" drive in Haiti. Of course, "reform," in the degraded jargon of the privateers, means exposing even the very means of survival and sustenance to the ravages of powerful corporate interests. For example, the Reagan-Bush plan forced Haiti to lift import tariffs on rice, which had long been a locally-grown staple. Then they flooded Haiti with heavily subsidized American rice, destroying the local market and throwing thousands of self-sufficient farmers out of work. With a now-captive market, the American companies jacked up their prices, spreading ruin and hunger throughout Haitian society. The jobless farmers provided new fodder for the factories of Apaid and his cronies. Reagan and Bush chipped in by abolishing taxes for American corporations who set up Haitian sweatshops. The result was a precipitous drop in wages - and life expectancy. Aristide's first election in 1990 threatened these cozy arrangements, so he was duly ejected by a military coup, with Bush I's not-so-tacit connivance.

But as we said, the latest round of punishment for Haiti was a thoroughly bipartisan affair:

Bill Clinton restored Aristide to office in 1994 - but only after forcing him to agree to, yes, "market reforms." In fact, it was Clinton, the privateers' pal, who instigated the post-election aid embargo that Bush II used to such devastating effect. Aristide's chief failing as a leader was his attempt to live up to this bipartisan blackmail. As in every other nation that's come under the IMF whip, Haiti's already-fragile economy collapsed. Bush family retainers like Apaid then shoved the country into total chaos, making it easy prey for the warlords whom Bush operatives - many of them old Iran-Contra hands - supplied with arms through the Dominican Republic, the Boston Globe reports. ...

When Aristide agreed to a deal, brokered by his fellow leaders in the Caribbean, that would have effectively ceded power to the Bush-funded opposition but at least preserved the lineaments of Haitian democracy - Apaid and the boys turned down the offer, with the blessing of their paymasters in Washington, who suddenly claimed they had no influence over their recalcitrant hired hands.

... Instead, Aristide was told by armed American gunmen that if he didn't resign, he would be left to die at the hands of the rebels. Then he was bundled onto a waiting plane and dumped in the middle of Africa. Within hours, the Bush-backed terrorists were marching openly through Port-au-Prince, executing Aristide's supporters.

Guess they won't be asking for two dollars a day now, eh? Mission accomplished!


Of course, all of that happened in the bad old days, before Barack Obama ushered us into a new, "post-racial" era. Surely this man of vision and compassion, himself a scion of Africa, would at last put an end to Haiti's punishment for rising up against its white masters.

But it was not to be. As noted here last year, in "Cry, the Unforgiven Country":

Obama and his "superstar" secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, are loudly championing the latest egregious, brutal farce that Washington and the West have foisted upon the uppity natives of Haiti.

Senatorial elections held this month by the government imposed on Haiti after the U.S.-backed coup of 2004 ... produced a turnout of less than 10 percent of eligible voters: a result that mocks any notion of a popular, legitimate democracy. But this is not because the Haitians are so lazy and disinterested that they couldn't be bothered to vote. Nor that they are so satisfied with the benevolent, paternal care of their American-appointed masters that they saw no need to let silly electoral contests trouble their bucolic life.

No, the 90 percent refusal rate was in fact a massive protest action, driven chiefly by the fact that the American-backed government would not allow the most popular party -- the party of the government ousted by the 2004 coup -- to run a slate of candidates in the election. By clerkly hook and bureaucratic crook, Haiti's election overseers banned the Fanmi Lavalas slate back in February. At that moment, the April elections became a dead letter, a meaningless farce -- yet another cruel joke played on the people of Haiti.

How did the enlightened progressives of the new American administration respond? John Caruso reports:

CLINTON: The U.S. removed a military dictatorship in 1995, clearing the way for democracy. And after several years of political disputes, common in any country making a transition, Haiti began to see progress. And the national and presidential elections in 2006 really moved Haiti's democracy forward. What the president and the prime minister are seeking is to maintain a strong commitment to democratic governance which will take another step forward with elections for the senate on Sunday.

To translate from the vulgar Clintonian dialect: 1) "political disputes" refers to the overwhelmingly popular presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, which was "disputed" (and continually undermined) by the U.S. and its fifth column in Haiti; 2) Haiti "began to see progress" thanks to the U.S.-backed coup of Aristide in 2004; and 3) the 2006 elections that "really moved Haiti's democracy forward" excluded both Aristide and FL's preferred candidate in his stead (Father Gerard Jean-Juste, thrown in prison on invented charges by the U.S.-backed government in order to prevent him from running), resulting in the ascension of Rene Preval-who understands clearly who's the boss, and therefore merits a pat on the head from Clinton.

Which brings us to today's senatorial elections, in which the U.S./Haitian "strong commitment to democratic governance...will take another step forward" via the calculated suppression of the majority party's ability to run a slate of candidates...

So the centuries-long U.S. project of democracy prevention in Haiti is still going swimmingly. And anyone who feared that our first black president might be less sympathetic to the need to smash the democratic aspirations of the first free black nation in the hemisphere can rest assured: Obama will never let race - or anything else - stop him from doing the empire's dirty work.

It is certain such dirty work will soon be afoot once more -- and we must fight it, call attention to it, and not let Haiti disappear in the imperial shadow yet again. But at this moment, the most pressing concern is the human suffering in Haiti. So again, do look into the relief efforts noted above, or any others you might prefer.

UPDATE: John Caruso has more background on one of the relief agencies recommended above, plus more historical context for Haiti's suffering, including this devastating piece by Noam Chomsky.
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

The Serenity Of Modern Warfare
By Case Wagonvoord

The successful execution of America's Eternal War of the Empty Policy does not require toughness or resolve. All that is needed is for those in charge to achieve a sublime state of moral nihilism that transcends the division between good and evil.

In this elevated state of moral nihilism, consequences no longer exist. The dead are not dead; the maimed are not maimed. It is an ethical void scrubbed clean of the gore that is war's traditional aftermath. In this netherworld dead children, who really aren't dead, continue to play in the streets under the loving gazes of their mothers, whose limbs haven't been blown off. Dead fathers returned from their destroyed factories and the family sits down to its evening meal even though its home has been reduced to rubble. Life goes on, no matter how brutal the bombing.

Slaughter is sanitized. A clean-cut young man sits at his laptop somewhere in Nevada and with his mouse directs the course of an unmanned drone until a collection of hovels is in his sights. He clicks the mouse and in a flash, the hovels are no more. He closes his laptop, goes home to his family and gets a good night's sleep. He's put in a good day, and as he sleeps he is blissfully unaware of the death and destruction he has wrought.

Moral nihilism works best in value-free individuals. This emptiness is achieved when the ties that bind an individual to family and community are severed. Into the void that remains pour the facile symbols of the state, symbols that are effective because they have been stripped of their original meaning until they are empty shells that resonate with meaning in individuals who are also empty shells. The best example of this is the flag lapel pin. This once proud symbol of freedom and democracy now signifies the moral void that has made us a hegemonic wonder to behold.

To reach its peak efficiency, moral nihilism requires an environment in which nobody is in charge. Instead of a single evil mastermind, there is a collective mass consensus that is more reminiscent of a pool of toxic sludge than a grand conspiracy. Its driving force is a blind momentum that drifts along more from habit than resolve. Any attempt to think outside the box is thwarted because the box is constantly growing and expanding so the mind is never able to step outside of its confines.

Language, stripped of passion, is the medium of this moral nihilism. The language of the nihilist doesn't sing, it drones. Here is an example of its poetry:

A cluster bomb delivery will be examined to determine the optimum configuration of bomblets from a maximum probability of destroying the target.

The power of this passage rests in the absence of a child attracted to an unexploded bomblet. Nowhere is there a photograph of the child after the bomblet has exploded. The prose sits in a state of pure innocence, which reduces war to little more than a pushing and shoving match.

But, do not think for a minute that our moral nihilists are totally lacking in compassion. Leo Tolstoy had them in mind when he wrote:

I sit on a man's back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means except by getting off his back. Of course, if the man throws me off his back, I have no choice but to kill him so the contagion of his freedom doesn't spread to other carriers.

A savage brutality once drove war. Now it is driven by the serene barbarity of the civilized.
(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

A Parallel World
By Mike Folkerth

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

In the Folkerth living room, we have a framed cross-stitched adage that reads, "Happiness is a place between too little and too much." We have another hand painted snippet that reads, "If you're lucky enough to live in the mountains, you're lucky enough."

My wife Cathy and I try and live by those comforting sayings. We attempt to have "enough," and enjoy our mountain home and the immediate recreation that nature provides us for free. Doing so allows us to have enough!

How much is enough? For some folks, there is no such thing. College administrators are among those who believe that they are special cases for the "more," category. While average American families scrimp and save to send their kids to college, college administrators have averaged raises in the 10% per year range. Want to know how to create a non-profit such as a college? It's easy, pay outlandish salaries to the administrators.

On Wall-Street, as America suffers through the worst recession in 80 years, the fat cats just keep getting fatter as they pass out $Billions in bonuses, while the public suffers job losses, home losses, retirement losses...

We often hear that Congress votes themselves raises while denying increases in Social Security. Both statements are patently untrue. They don't vote on Social Security raises. Social Security is either up or down depending on an inflation or deflation index. They also don't vote themselves raises; for twenty years it has been automatic.

"Established in 1989 by the Ethics Reform Act, members of Congress receive an automatic cost-of-living increase each year. For 2009, Congress received a raise of 2.8 percent, or $4,700. This would elevate the base pay for Members to $174,000."

Our president in the mean time is chastising the banks for passing out billions of dollars in bonuses. Mr. Obama suggests that a tax be put on the banks in order that the public can get the money back that he loaned to the banks during a time of crises. I'm sure that the banks will pay that tax and not raise fees and rates on that same public; which would of course be paramount to double jeopardy.

What our president is doing is called "indirect taxation." He promised not to raise taxes on those making less than $250K per year. And he won't, he will let the banks do it and take his money from taxing the banks.

The states are screaming bloody murder over the increases that will be passed on to each of them (except Nebraska) as a result of Obamacare. Once again, this is a cost that will be passed on to the public as the states are required to produce a balanced budget. So our states will tax us, rather than Obama.

The public, including those who make less than $250K, will be forced to purchase health care insurance from a for-profit fat-cat insurance company. Once more, this is government mandated indirect taxation that will carve down the price tag of Medicare by shifting the cost.

The Anazasi Indians (The Ancient Ones) believed that a parallel world existed; one that could be entered through mystic openings or "portholes in time."

In America, that parallel world can be entered by being elected to Congress. It can also be entered through heredity, having an elevated position in the categories of banking, education, Wall Street, government, and Big Business. This is the world of TOO MUCH. It is obtained by creating a larger contingency of TOO LITTLE.

As those elitist's at the top continue to blatantly party-on while the average American is fighting for their collective lives, it will be apparent to the dimmest among us that the Anazasi's were correct; there is a parallel world.
(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...

"When the people fear the government you have tyranny...when the government fears the people you have liberty."
~~~ Thomas Jefferson

Turning King's Dream Into A Nightmare
By Chris Hedges

Martin Luther King Day has become a yearly ritual to turn a black radical into a red-white-and-blue icon. It has become a day to celebrate ourselves for "overcoming" racism and "fulfilling" King's dream. It is a day filled with old sound bites about little black children and little white children that, given the state of America, would enrage King. Most of our great social reformers, once they are dead, are kidnapped by the power elite and turned into harmless props of American glory. King, after all, was not only a socialist but fiercely opposed to American militarism and acutely aware, especially at the end of his life, that racial justice without economic justice was a farce.

"King's words have been appropriated by the people who rejected him in the 1960s," said Professor James Cone, who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in New York and who wrote the book Martin & Malcolm & America. "So by making his birthday a national holiday everybody claims him, even though they opposed him while he was alive. They have frozen King in 1963 with his 'I Have a Dream' speech. That is the one that can best be manipulated and misinterpreted. King also said, shortly after the Selma march and the riots in Watts, 'they have turned my dream into a nightmare.'"

"Mainstream culture appeals to King's accent on love, as if it can be separated from justice," Cone said. "For King, justice defines love. It can't be separated. They are intricately locked together. This is why he talked about agape and not some sentimental love. For King, love was militant. He saw direct action and civil disobedience in the face of injustice as a political expression of love because it was healing the society. It exposed its wounds and its hurt. This accent on justice for the poor is what mainstream society wants to separate from King's understanding of love. But for King, justice and love belong together."

Malcolm X, whose refusal to appeal to the white ruling class makes it impossible to turn him into an establishment icon, converged with King in the last months of his life. But it would be wrong to look at this convergence as a domestication of Malcolm X. Malcolm influenced King as deeply as King influenced Malcolm. These men each grasped at the end of their lives that the face of racism comes in many forms and that the issue was not simply sitting at a lunch counter with whites - blacks in the north could in theory do this - but being able to afford the lunch. King and Malcolm were deeply informed by their faith. They adhered to a belief system, one Christian and the other Muslim, which demanded strict moral imperatives and justice. And because neither man sold out or compromised with the power elite, they were killed. Should King and Malcolm have lived they would have become pariahs.

King, when he began his calls for integration, argued that hard work and perseverance could make the American dream available for rich and poor, white and black. King grew up in the black middle class, was well educated and culturally refined. He admitted that until his early twenties life had been wrapped up for him like "a Christmas present." He naively thought that integration was the answer. He trusted, ultimately, in the white power structure to recognize the need for justice for all of its citizens. He shared, as most in his college-educated black class did, the same value system and preoccupation with success of the whites with whom he sought to integrate.

But this was not Malcolm's America. Malcolm grew up in urban poverty, dropped out of school in eighth grade, was shuttled between foster homes, abused, hustled on city streets and ended up in prison. There was no evidence in his hard life of a political order that acknowledged his humanity or dignity. The white people he knew did not exhibit a conscience or compassion. And in the ghetto, where survival was a daily battle, non-violence was not a credible option.

"No, I'm not an American," Malcolm said. "I'm one of 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the ...victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy. So, I'm not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver - no, not I! I'm speaking as a victim of this American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don't see any American dream; I see an American nightmare!"

King, especially after he confronted the insidious racism in Chicago, came to appreciate Malcolm's insights. He soon began telling Christians that "any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that cripple them, is a spiritually moribund religion in need of new blood."

"King began to see that Malcolm was right in what he was saying about white people," Cone told me. "Malcolm saw that white people did not have a conscience that could be appealed to bring justice for African-Americans. King realized that near the end of his life. He began to call most whites 'unconscious racists.'"

The crude racist rhetoric of the past is now considered impolite. We pretend there is equality and equal opportunity while ignoring the institutional and economic racism that infects our inner cities and fills our prisons, where a staggering one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34 are incarcerated. There are more African American men behind bars than in college. "The cell block has replaced the auction block," the poet Yusef Komunyakaa writes. The fact that prison and urban ghettos are populated primarily with people of color is not an accident. It is a calculated decision by those who wield economic and political control. For the bottom third of African-Americans, many of whom live in these segregated enclaves of misery and deprivation, little has changed over the past few decades; indeed, life has often gotten worse. In the last months of his life, King began to appropriate Malcolm's language, reminding listeners that the ghetto was a "system of internal colonialism." "The purpose of the slum," King said in a speech at the Chicago Freedom Festival, "is to confine those who have no power and perpetuate their powerlessness. ... The slum is little more than a domestic colony which leaves its inhabitants dominated politically, exploited economically, segregated and humiliated at every turn." The chief problem is economic, King concluded, and the solution is to restructure the whole society. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were, as King and Malcolm knew, meaningless slogans if there was no possibility of a decent education, a safe neighborhood, a job or a living wage. King and Malcolm were also acutely aware that the permanent war economy was directly linked to the perpetuation of racism and poverty at home and often abroad.

In a speech titled "Beyond Vietnam" he gave at Riverside Church a year before his assassination, King called America the "greatest purveyor of violence in the world today," a quote that won't make it into many Martin Luther King Day celebrations. King's strident denunciation of the Vietnam War and economic injustice at the end of his life saw many white liberals, members of his own staff, as well as allies within the political power structure, turn against him. King and Malcolm, in the final days of their lives, were lonely men.

"There are many ways in which Malcolm's message is more relevant today," said Cone, who also wrote A Black Theology of Liberation. "King's message is almost entirely dependent on white people responding to his appeals for nonviolence, love and integration. He depends on a positive response. Malcolm spoke to black people empowering themselves. He said to black people, 'You may not be responsible for getting yourself into the situation you are in, but if want to get out you will have to get yourself out. The people who put you in there are not going to get you out.' King was appealing to whites to help get black people out. But King gradually began to realize that African-Americans could not depend on whites as much as he had thought."

"King did not speak to black self-hate and Malcolm did," Cone said. "King was a political revolutionary. He transformed the social and political life of America. You would not have Barack Obama today if it had not been for King. Malcolm was a cultural revolutionary. He did not change the social or political structures, but he changed how black people thought about themselves. He transformed black thinking. He made blacks love themselves at a time when they hated themselves. The movement from being Negro and colored to being black, that's Malcolm. Black studies in the universities and black caucuses, that's Malcolm. King never would have done black studies. He taught a course at Morehouse on social and political philosophers and did not include a black person. He didn't have W. E. B. Du Bois or Frederick Douglass. None of them. He had all the white figures like Plato and Aristotle. Malcolm helped black people to love themselves."

King and Malcolm would have excoriated a nation that spends $3 trillion dollars waging imperial wars in the Middle East and trillions more to fill the accounts of Wall Street banks while abandoning its poor. They would have denounced the liberals who mouth platitudes about justice for the poor while supporting a party that slavishly serves the interests of the moneyed elite. These American prophets spoke on behalf of people who had nothing left with which to compromise. And for this reason they did not compromise.

"You can't drive a knife into a man's back nine inches, pull it out six inches, and call it progress," Malcolm said.

"I've decided what I'm going to do," King preached at one of his last sermons at Ebenezer Baptist Church. "I ain't going to kill nobody in Mississippi ... [and] in Vietnam. I ain't going to study war no more. And you know what? I don't care who doesn't like what I say about it. I don't care who criticizes me in an editorial. I don't care what white person or Negro criticizes me. I'm going to stick with the best. On some positions, cowardice asks the question, 'is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'is it popular?' But conscience asks the question, 'is it right?' And there comes a time when a true follower of Jesus Christ must take a stand that's neither safe nor politic nor popular but he must take that stand because it is right. Every now and then we sing about it, 'if you are right, God will fight your battle.' I'm going to stick by the best during these evil times."
(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."

Sarah And The Spiraling Sewer Of Regressive Deceit
By David Michael Green

I hope you're sitting down for this one. It's now been revealed that Sarah Palin is absolutely clueless about both international and domestic politics. Shocking, eh?

You remember Sarah, don't you? She's the one regressives gleefully championed just a year ago as the greatest thing since sliced bread, the person most qualified to be Vice President of the United States, just a step away from the presidency.

Turns out no one in America knew better how utterly bogus that claim was than the people who were making it. The latest revelations on this subject come from Steve Schmidt, the McCain-Palin campaign manager, and the guy who originally championed Palin for the VP nod after the ultra-right told McCain he couldn't have his buddy Joe Lieberman on the ticket after all.

Here's what Schmidt is now saying about Palin as she was being prepped for her debate appearance: "She knew nothing." A bit different from what we were hearing from him during the campaign, isn't it?

And when Schmidt says 'nothing', he means NOTHING. She didn't know about World War I. She didn't know about that obscure event, World War II. She didn't know about the Fed. She couldn't tell you the difference between North and South Korea. She kept insisting that Saddam Hussein did 9/11. Her son in the military was about to be shipped off to Iraq, and she couldn't say who he'd be fighting there. She was so well acquainted with American politics that during rehearsals she kept referring to her debate opponent, a longtime prominent fixture in Washington, as a certain "Senator O'Biden", hence the real reason for the "Can I call you Joe?" ploy at the beginning of the debate.

Funny thing is, it was easy then to see what a complete and utter lie Palin was, from top to bottom. Easy, that is, if one was willing. But you took a lot of crap for stating the obvious. Emperors don't really like it so much when you point out that they're naked. But anyone who saw the Katie Couric interview, for example, could see how completely two-dimensional and absolutely false was the notion that this person was remotely ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency of the United States, especially when the heart in question belonged to an old man with some serious medical history.

How does this happen? How does a presidential bid based on a lie that is simultaneously so manifest and so magnificent in scale nevertheless manage to generate 59,934,814 votes amongst the supposedly sentient occupants of the richest and most powerful country of the world, here in the twenty-first century, no less?

It's quite astonishing, really. But there's a simple answer. The lie of Palin's competence could only be sustained (and only for some people) by piling it on top of a whole litany of other lies.

Welcome to the spiraling sewer of regressive deceit.

The most proximate lie to the one asserting that Palin was ready to be president was the one in which the McCain team assured us they knew what they were talking about. In fact, they had almost no idea who Palin was. Indeed, they were the first among us to learn what a disaster she really was. But only after they'd already picked her.

They didn't know that previously because - Lie Number Three - they hadn't vetted her anywhere near properly. As the new book "Game Change", by well-regarded mainstream journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann reveals, the campaign came up with her at the last moment, didn't interview her husband or her allies or enemies in Alaska before choosing her, and didn't even send someone up there to investigate her background before the selection. In short, they didn't do any real due diligence in the five whole days they devoted to the project.

Lie Number Four revolved around what happened to anyone who had the temerity to question whether Palin was anything remotely like what she was being presented to the American people as. Palin was a complete unknown to almost all of the country, and it was absolutely natural and proper that, at a very minimum, basic introductory questions should be asked of her. But that, of course, could rapidly turn problematic, as it did. I had the gut sense at the time that they had gamed this out in advance, figuring out how to turn this massive liability into an advantage. In any case, they immediately flipped the logic on its head, so that anyone who asked the most innocuous question of or about Palin became some sort of misogynist, anti-Alaskan, mom-hater, thus turning the whole affair into a story about the people legitimately checking out Palin, rather about than the candidate herself, and thus also scaring off a lot of the mainstream lackey wimps who call themselves journalists.

Couric's simple question about what journals Palin read was the classic example. Not only was it a common sort of query that candidates get asked all the time, but it was especially appropriate for anyone (like all of America, for example) who wanted to know what made this person who was completely new to them tick. As Schmidt himself now admits, it was in no way any sort of 'gotcha' question, as she and her camp and her supporters angrily screamed at the time. Quite the opposite. She was asked some simple questions in order to get a sense of who this new face to most voters might be. But she was quickly revealed to be an idiot. Therefore the big lie had to be trotted out to change the story. Poor Sarah. Poor chief executive of one of America's fifty states. Poor ferocious hockey mom. Poor potential president who might one day have to take on Vladimir Putin or Hu Jintao or al Qaeda. Poor abused Sarah. Monsters like Katie Couric were brutalizing her by asking her outrageous questions, such as, "What do you read?"

Which brings us to Lie Number Five, that of regressive competence. Right-wingers love to tell us how pragmatically competent they are. Governor Palin mocked Barack Obama for being a mere 'community organizer'. No doubt she preferred MBA president George W. Bush as a better model. You know, the guy who took more vacations than any other president in history. The guy whose administration did wrong everything imaginable that an administration could do wrong, all within eight years time. Lie Number Five is that these regressives are tough, pragmatic, business-hardened, smart, efficient managers who know how to get the heckuva-job-Brownie done. If the job were telling lies, I'd have to agree. Otherwise, the truth is it turns out that they're disastrously incompetent.

Lie Number Six is that McCain was 'out of the loop' in the vetting process (as if that would exonerate him, anyhow). Matt Lauer pressed McCain on this question the other day, and the senator trotted out every ploy in the Politician's Master Manual for Epic Evasion, trying to avoid exposure of his crime. Here's how Politico reports that little tÍte-ý-tÍte:

"Pressed by host Matt Lauer how the GOP presidential nominee wouldn't know about the vetting of his own running mate, McCain said: 'I wouldn't know what the sources are or care.' Instead of addressing the charges in the book, the senator repeatedly said he was 'proud' of Palin and his campaign - the same refrain he's kept up since he lost the election as Republicans and even some top members of his own campaign team have criticized the polarizing former governor. But Lauer didn't drop the issue and, in continuing to ask McCain about Palin, drew a flash of the senator's famous temper. 'I just spent my time, Matt, over where three Americans were just killed in Afghanistan,' McCain said. 'OK?' he asked the morning show host. When Lauer tried to continue, McCain interrupted. 'I am not going to spend time looking back at over what happened over a year ago when we've got two wars to fight, 10 percent unemployment in my state and things to do,' he said. 'I'm sorry, you'll have to get others to comment.'

Why is McCain so testy about this? Why will he not comment on something he obviously knows about intimately? Why is he hiding behind three dead GIs to avoid the question? Why does he bully his interviewer? Why does the man who based his whole political life on his distant past refuse to talk about events from little more than a year ago?

The answer, of course, is Lie Number Seven, and it's a whopper. McCain won't talk because to do so would be for him to reveal that he committed an act of treason (and I choose my terms carefully here) in choosing Palin. The truth is, McCain willingly and knowingly endangered the country, purely for his own personal benefit. This man - who never let up in reminding us all of the vital importance of national security issues - put someone on his ticket who was so obscenely incompetent to run the country that she couldn't even pass a sixth grade history class, and he did it for one reason only: because he wanted the personal glory of being president, and he thought she could draw votes. If selling out your country for personal gain doesn't define treason, then I don't know what does. You don't get more obvious examples than this.

Ah, but it gets so much deeper as we descend through the regressive spiral of lies. Because what McCain did in this case is what regressives do all the time. Any honest assessment of contemporary American politics would immediately reveal that more or less everything the Republican Party (and now most of the Democrats as well) does today is treason of this sort. Lie Number Eight is that they actually care about security. Or freedom. Or religion. Or guns. Or who you get to sleep with or marry. The truth is that these are almost entirely diversionary ploys to make sure that you don't notice their real purpose, which is to abet the oligarchy in looting every dollar possible from America and Americans.

And these diversionary tactics of the regressive elite work so well because of Lie Number Nine regarding those they readily manipulate. All the nice folks on the right will claim that their shock troops are rationally deciding what's best for America in determining their allegiances and their votes, just like the Founders intended. But this is nonsense. Sarah Palin has shown herself to be a boob of first proportions, an even bigger one than George W. Bush. In both cases, however, their supporters love them even more for it. These politicians play perfectly to the insecurities of right-wing voters, who respond intensely to the emotional content of their rhetoric. This is the politics of resentment, and political figures who are (or can appear to be) exceptionally ordinary are only more revered, not less, for the big finger they supposedly send to so-called liberal elites.

All of which continues to explain one of the biggest lies of our time, the notion that regressives/Republicans are serious about national security, while progressives/Democrats are not. Leave aside that WWI, WWII, the Korean War, The Vietnam War and the Cold War were all originally launched by Democratic presidents. Leave aside the fact the Barack Obama - supposedly the great wimpy apologist for America abroad - is massively increasing the American military presence in Afghanistan. And leave aside the crucial fact that belligerence does not necessarily equate to security - in fact, it often produces quite the opposite effect. Even putting all of that to the side, the notion that someone whose mind is a complete blank slate on history and foreign policy - to the extent that she didn't even know who her own son would be fighting in Iraq - would be the right person to put in the White House is part of an enormous deceit that has been propagated for decades now. The latest regressive trope that there was never a terrorist attack on George W. Bush's watch - recently articulated by Dana Perino, Mary Matalin and Rudy Giuliani - is only the most recent and most astonishing part of this long-term big lie, Number Ten on the Hit Parade. The right will keep us safe. Except all the times it doesn't.

We could go on and on here. Palin said god wanted her to run for the vice-presidency, for example, just like Bush claimed that Ol' Big Beard told him to invade Iraq. My own conversations with Monsieur Yahweh are - how should I put this? - somewhat less frequent than are those of folks amongst the regressive ranks. But next time we chat, I'm definitely gonna ask him why he wrecks his own reputation by publicly backing such serious losers. After all, if Palin is right, her claim is that god wanted her to run for the vice-presidency ... and then lose. Well, at least Bush's Iraq adventure did less damage to the Big Guy's street cred, right? Oh, never mind.

The thing is, with the right, it's all lies, as deep as you go. It has to be, because, standing alone, each of these individual claims are nutty to the point of embarrassment. LOL!

Sustain them with a whole litany of supporting lies, however, and they become merely absurd.

Bolster them with all manner of deceit, and they're reduced to being only dangerous.

So what if a President Palin wouldn't know the difference between North and South Korea? She'd be surrounded by a bunch of really good advisors who'd make sure she dropped the nukular bomb on the right Korea, wouldn't she?

Uh, well... Remember the last time we heard that one?

Hint: The advisors were named Cheney, Rumsfeld and Powell.
(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...

Pat shows who his true master is

Heil Obama,

Dear GottFuhrer Robertson,

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 calling the Haitians Satan worshippers thus giving us the right to invade and set them right as we did in the middle east, 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 1st 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 Robertson, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Krugman, Gruber And Non-Disclosure Issues
By Glenn Greenwald

In the midst of my lengthy discussion yesterday of Cass Sunstein's proposal to "cognitively infiltrate extremist groups" by employing covert agents and secretly paying so-called "independent" analysts to tout the government line, I noted the recent controversy surrounding MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber. Specifically, Gruber was receiving large, undisclosed payments from the Obama administration at exactly the time when the Obama White House (and Gruber himself) were holding him out as an "objective" expert endorsing various parts of the President's health care plan. Consistent with Sunstein's view that certain actions may be wrong when done by Bad People but acceptable when done by those who are "well intentioned" and trying to "improve social welfare," I noted that many Democrats who strenuously objected to non-disclosure scandals during the Bush years have been minimizing the conduct at issue in the Gruber matter, and cited Paul Krugman as an example. Krugman responded last night on his blog, and I want to discuss a few of the points he makes because I think they have significance beyond the Gruber issue.

Krugman accuses me and others of "claiming that there's a huge scandal" here and of conducting a "crusade against Gruber," but I did no such thing. "Huge scandal" is just a rhetorical straw man to rail against. I didn't even mention the Gruber matter until yesterday, and did so only because of its obvious relationship to the Sunstein scheme I was discussing. Ironically, the only reason the Gruber matter has received as much attention as it has is because Gruber's defenders began aggressively attacking the people who uncovered, documented and objected to the undisclosed payments, as Krugman did when he equated the sober and cautious Marcy Wheeler with "the right-wingers with their endless supply of fake scandals." People can characterize the magnitude of the failings here however they want ("huge" or otherwise), but the indisputable fact is that Gruber was running around publicly and favorably commenting on the President's health care plan -- while the White House and its allies were centrally relying on him and characterizing him as an "objective" analyst -- at exactly the same time that the administration, unbeknownst to virtually everyone, was paying Gruber many hundreds of thousands of dollars. The DNC alone sent out 71 emails touting Gruber's analysis without even once mentioning the payments. Those are just facts.

Nobody suggests that there's anything wrong with hiring Gruber to perform modeling analyses and paying him to do so. That's all perfectly appropriate; I'm all in favor of the Government's retaining genuine experts (as Gruber is) for analysis. Nor has anyone claimed that Gruber changed his views because of these payments. The issue is the non-disclosure, and -- most serious of all -- the misleading attempts by the White House and others to depict him as being "objective" and independent rather than disclosing that he was being paid a significant amount of money by the very party whose interests his advocacy was advancing (which happens to be one of the misleading schemes Sunstein explicitly advocated in his 2008 paper). An email Krugman printed yesterday from Gruber said that, as part of his contract, he worked "mostly" with the Senate Finance Committee, yet when John Kerry -- a member of that Committee -- went to the floor of the Senate to defend that health care bill on December 18, he relied on Gruber's arguments to do so. Listen to how he tried to depict Gruber as some sort of independent analyst:

Don't listen to me on the transformational changes. Listen to a fellow by the name of Jon Gruber, who is a very respected and renowned economist from MIT, and here is what he writes . . . .

Anyone listening to this would have had no idea that Gruber wasn't just some independent authority, but was actively working with both the administration and Kerry's Committee in exchange for large payments. Not disclosing that -- and instead affirmatively selling Gruber as some kind of detached, objective expert ("hey, don't listen to me; listen to that independent expert over there") -- is just wrong. As Sunstein himself argued, people who are truly "independent" have more credibility in the eyes of many than those who are on the government payroll. For that reason, to depict someone who is actually in the latter category as being in the former is simply deceitful. How could anyone possibly defend that?

Indeed, from what I can tell, few people other than Krugman are trying to defend it. Krugman's own newspaper, which had published an Op-Ed by Gruber about health care, issued a fairly harsh "correction" once these payments were uncovered, in which they said: "Had editors been aware of Professor Gruber's government ties, the Op-Ed page would have insisted on disclosure or not published his article." They appended a similar note to Gruber's Op-Ed indicating that "Professor Gruber signed a contract that obligated him to tell editors of such a relationship," yet failed to do so. The Atlantic's Ron Brownstein, a fervent defender of the President's health care plan and someone who relied heavily on Gruber, wrote:

With disclosure, I don't think I would have completely put him outside the pale of people to talk to -- he's really about as sharp as they come on this stuff and I still believe that readers would (and did) benefit from his perspective. But I am confident that knowing about his relationship would have led me to emphasize other analysts to a greater extent, and again, to definitely disclose the connection any time I did quote him.

That's the only issue here: for many people, there's a big difference between hearing from a truly independent authority about Obama's plan and hearing from someone being paid many hundreds of thousands of dollars by the administration. Not disclosing that arrangement, and worse, affirmatively describing him as "objective," is just misleading -- not because Gruber changed his views, but because honest debate requires disclosure where a commentator is being paid by a party whose interests his advocacy advances. Even Krugman, in his two separate defenses of his fellow academic, has acknowledged that "he should have taken more pains to reveal that role" and "more disclosure would have been a good idea." Once that's conceded, how can anyone possibly attack Marcy Wheeler for having helped bring to light those undisclosed payments?

* * * * *

Krugman objects most vehemently to my comparison of Gruber to Armstrong Williams, arguing that Williams (unlike Gruber) was explicitly paid to advocate an opinion -- a distinction I expressly noted and, in response to commenters here, addressed almost immediately in an update. Contrary to Krugman's suggestion, Williams' contract did not require him to express any particular view about No Child Left Behind, but rather, only to offer commentary on the policy. Williams presumably could have offered whatever opinions he wanted on that law consistent with his contract. Obviously, the fact that Williams was being paid $220,000 by the administration provided a strong incentive for him to provide favorable commentary, which is the whole point: that's why such relationships must be disclosed and why concealing them is misleading. Krugman adds:

[W]hat Gruber has had to say about health reform in the current debate is entirely consistent with his previous academic work. There's not a hint that he has changed views, or altered his model, to accommodate the Obama administration.

I explicitly acknowledged that to be the case. But that's always the defense offered in non-disclosure scandals, and it's usually true. Nobody claimed that Armstrong Williams -- a loyal, right-wing, doctrinaire Bush follower -- supported Bush's policies only because he was paid to do so; indeed, Williams' defense was that he had a long record of passionate advocacy for those education policies long before he was paid.

Nobody claimed that Maggie Gallagher, a long-time social conservative, only supported Bush's "pro-marriage" policies because she had a $20,000 contract to do so; the issue was non-disclosure. Nobody claimed that Peter Galbraith -- whose undisclosed conflicts were recently the subject of a major front-page story in The New York Times -- advocated anything different about the Kurds because of his undisclosed oil contracts. Indeed, Galbraith's advocacy was completely consistent with his long-time belief in Kurdish independence; again, the scandal was that he failed to disclose the relationship while publicly advocating these policies. Keith Olbermann recently took Richard Wolffe off the air when Wolffe's undisclosed conflicts were brought to light -- again, not because of any evidence that Wolffe had offered opinions he didn't believe on behalf of his clients, but because the undisclosed relationships provided an incentive for him to do so and thus called his independence into question.

Perhaps a better comparison than Williams is the military analyst scandal uncovered by David Barstow. Unlike Gruber, the retired Generals in question weren't paid anything by the Bush administration. The problem was that (like Gruber) the Generals were being held out as "independent analysts" even though they had a relationship with the Pentagon (secret briefings and messaging meetings) which called into question that independence; the scandal was about the non-disclosure of that relationship and the misleading nature of calling them "independent." Or consider Bartsow's exposČ of Barry McCaffrey, who was on television commenting on Pentagon policies at exactly the time -- unbeknownst to the viewing audience -- he sat on multiple Boards of companies that did business with the Pentagon. Unlike Gruber, McCaffrey wasn't being paid directly by the Government. The issue is that he had business relationships that incentivized him to offer pro-Government views, and those relationships -- which could jeopardize his objectivity -- were undisclosed. Isn't that the same thing as with Gruber?

There, too, nobody suggested that the retired Generals, including McCaffrey, ever uttered a word they did not believe. Indeed, the Generals' self-defense was precisely that they believed everything they said and did not alter a word of it. If the fact that Gruber did not change his views as a result of his contract means his non-disclosure is "no big deal" (as Krugman calls it), why isn't that true for Williams, Gallagher, Galbraith, Wolffe, and the retired Generals, none of whom was accused of changing their views either? One can argue that the Bush-era scandals had a larger or more damaging impact -- I'd certainly agree with that -- but the common strain is clear: it's the false depiction of commentators as "objective" and independent, achieved only by concealing relationships which call that independence into question.

* * * * *

The most important issue raised by Krugman is in this paragraph of his:

And here's the thing: by claiming that there's a huge scandal when nothing worse happened than insufficient care about disclosure, Greenwald and the people at FDL are actually reducing our ability to call foul on real corruption. After all, if everything is a scandal, nothing is a scandal. One of these days, perhaps soon, we'll have a genuinely corrupt administration again -- but when whistleblowers try to call attention to the misdeeds, you can be sure that there will be claims that "even liberals said that Obama did things just as bad or worse." The crusade against Gruber is getting really destructive.

For me, this is the nub of the matter. I couldn't disagree more with Krugman's claim here, as he has it exactly backwards. What will make it impossible to effectively call out wrongdoing by future corrupt administrations (by which Krugman seems to mean: Republican administrations) is the willingness of some people to tolerate and defend corruption when done by "their side." The next time we have what Krugman calls a "genuinely corruption administration" which, say, secretly pays people they're holding out as "independent" experts, the administration's defenders will say: "how can you possibly object to our doing this when Obama did it, and not only did you fail to object then, but you defended it?"

Minimizing or excusing unethical behavior when done by Your Side is exactly what normalizes the behavior, and turns ethical failures into nothing more than a partisan tool cynically used by each side, which in turn trivializes these issues. If the Bush administration had repeatedly relied on a Professor or other expert to publicly support their positions in a highly contentious policy debate and continuously held him out as "objective" -- only for it to be revealed that the administration was paying that person many hundreds of thousands of dollars in undisclosed payments -- would Paul Krugman and others really be claiming that it was all "no big deal"? That's hard to envision.

Non-disclosure issues are, in my view, so important precisely because Washington is rife with these sorts of overlapping, hidden relationships. All kinds of people holding themselves out as independent commentators are, in fact, being secretly paid or otherwise rewarded by those whose interests they're serving. Many times -- as is the case with Gruber -- there is nothing wrong with the relationship itself. It's the total lack of transparency that becomes misleading.

Just think about what the Republicans did for virtually the entire Bush administration. They refused ever to criticize anyone on their own side for ethical or even legal transgressions. They believed that even when the evidence of wrongdoing was overwhelming, the fact that the people involved were on the Good Side -- or were striving for good outcomes -- meant that it was "no big deal." They not only refused to police their own side, but vehemently attacked anyone on their side who tried to hold Republicans to some standards. And the outcome of all that was clear and predictable: the party became a cesspool of ethics-free, anything-goes sleaze and corruption. That's the inevitable result of an "it's-okay-when-we-do-it" mindset. The fact that the Obama administration isn't in the same league as the prior one in terms of corruption (they're plainly not), or that the Gruber matter isn't a "huge scandal" (it isn't), is irrelevant. If it's wrong, it's wrong, and in terms of exposing and condemning it, that should be the end of the consideration.

UPDATE: Along with people like Brad DeLong and Krugman himself, Yves Smith is one of the economics experts whose analysis I trust most on those issues. Today, at her Naked Capitalism blog, Smith notes this exchange with Krugman and observes:

I was completely gobsmacked by Krugman's evident lack of a moral compass (this is "ends justify the means" in fancy dress), and was glad to see Greenwald do the heavy lifting of taking his argument apart.

I tried very hard to avoid speculating on Krugman's motives in defending Gruber -- I have a lot of respect for Krugman's conduct as a commentator and analyst over the last decade -- but an "ends justify the means" mentality does seem to pervade his arguments in this particular case.

Meanwhile, in The New York Times this morning, that paper's Public Editor, Clark Hoyt, condemns the Gruber non-disclosures: "[Gruber] did not tell Op-Ed editors, nor was the contract mentioned on at least 12 other occasions when he was quoted in The Times after he was consulting for the administration." Hoyt analyzes this case in the course of discussing what he calls "five embarrassing editors' notes in the last two months -- two of them last week -- each of them saying readers should have been informed of the undisclosed interest." Hoyt ties together the five cases -- including Michael Chertoff's failure to disclose his financial stake in companies selling body scanning technology at the same time he was advocating for them; the Galbraith non-disclosures discussed above; and Gruber -- and notes that they all share the common element of having run afoul of the principle that "readers are entitled to disclosure so they can decide if there is a conflict that would affect the credibility of the information."
(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.

Fear As A Money Machine
By Tom Engelhardt

A country programmatically gripped by fear -- yes, that's us for more than eight years now. Fear of terrorism to be exact, even as truly terrible things happened in this land and elsewhere, from hurricane Katrina in 2005 to last week's devastating Haitian earthquake, which should have put our fears into perspective. But no such luck.

Since 9/11, the thought of "terrorism" has seized the U.S. by the throat. People who are terrified of flying for fear of a terrorist attack are perfectly willing to drive a car to the nearest mall without a passing worry, even though traffic fatalities indicate that this is a relatively dangerous act. There were a staggering 34,000 fatal crashes in the U.S. in 2008, 12.25 fatalities for every 100,000 Americans, and carmakers are now intent on featuring ever more immersive Internet-linked "infotainment systems" on dashboards. These are sure to up the distraction level and lead to more deaths on the highway, and yet the country is barely focused on this fact. And mind you, despite all the attention, not one American died in a terrorist attack on an airplane last year. In fact, Nate Silver of the website recently crunched a few numbers and came up with the following:

"the odds of being on [a] given [airplane] departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade."

But keep in mind that fear, wherever directed, is a remarkably profitable emotion to exploit. Just think of those controversial full-body-scan machines now being installed in airports at a cost of up to $170,000 each. One promoter of them is former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff, "who now heads the Chertoff Group, which represents one of the leading manufacturers of whole-body-imaging machines, Rapiscan Systems." He's part of a growing "full-body-scanner lobby" of ex-Washington politicos just made for our moment.

Every jolt of terror, in other words, is a jolt of profit for some company or set of companies. After a while, those jolts of fear become repetitive adrenaline rushes for a whole set of interests which, in the American system, soon hire lobbyists, corner senators and congressional representatives, retain law and publicity firms, and live well as long as people remain terrified.

If these last years tell us anything, it's that money follows fear. By 2006, for instance, the Department of Homeland Security, that second Defense Department, a huge, unwieldy bureaucracy created from the terror of terror, already had a mini-homeland-security-industrial complex growing up around it; and that, in turn, was part of a global security business aimed at "thwarting terrorists" then worth an estimated $59 billion. (If we had news media worth their salt and DHS was a real beat, we would undoubtedly have more recent, far more striking figures for this.)

At the comical (but also profitable) end of this spectrum of fear were all those places like Old MacDonald's Petting Zoo, the Amish Country Popcorn factory, and the Mule Day Parade that were put into the DHS's National Asset Database as "potential terror targets," opening up the possibility that they might receive DHS money to protect them. "The database," reported the New York Times, "is used by the Homeland Security Department to help divvy up the hundreds of millions of dollars in antiterrorism grants each year." Consider just the Weeki Wachee mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs in Hernando, Florida. In 2005, the St. Petersburg Times reported that the Weeki Wachee staff was "teaming up with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office to 'harden the target'" -- as they attempted to access DHS anti-terrorism funds "allocated to the Tampa Bay region." ("'I can't imagine (Osama) bin Laden trying to blow up the mermaids,' [marketing and promotion manager John] Athanason said. 'But with terrorists, who knows what they're thinking. I don't want to think like a terrorist, but what if the terrorists try to poison the water at Weeki Wachee Springs?'")

All of this might be dismissed as a joke, if American life weren't filled with phantasmagoric terrors that are also money machines. Everywhere that fear rules, people exploit it, making money off it; and it's in the nature of the beast for them to want the gift-that-never-stops-giving to go on forever.
(c) 2010 Tom Engelhardt

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Steve Kelly ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Dani California

By The Red Hot Chili Peppers

Gettin' born in the state of Mississippi
Poppa was a copper and her momma was a hippie
In Alabama she was swinging hammer
Price you gotta pay when you break the panorama
She never knew that there was anything more than poor
What in the world does your company take me for?

Black bandana, sweet Louisiana
Robbin' on a bank in the state of Indiana
She's a runner, rebel and a stunner
On her merry way saying baby what you gonna
Lookin' down the barrel of a hot metal .45
Just another way to survive

California rest in peace
Simultaneous release
California show your teeth
She's my priestess, I'm your priest
Yeah, yeah

She's a lover, baby and a fighter
Should've seen her coming when it got a little brighter
With a name like Dani California
Day was gonna come when I was gonna mourn ya
A little loaded she was stealing another breath
I love my baby to death

California rest in peace
Simultaneous release
California show your teeth
She's my priestess, I'm your priest
Yeah, yeah

Who knew the other side of you?
Who knew what others died to prove?
Too true to say goodbye to you
Too true, too sad sad sad

Push the fader, gifted animator
One for the now and eleven for the later
Never made it up to Minnesota
North Dakota man was a gunnin' for the quota
Down in the badlands she was saving the best for last
It only hurts when I laugh
Gone too fast

California rest in peace
Simultaneous release
California show your teeth
She's my priestess, I'm your priest
Yeah, yeah

California rest in peace
Simultaneous release
California show your teeth
She's my priestess, I'm your priest
Yeah, yeah
(c) 2006/2010 The Red Hot Chili Peppers

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Parting Shots...

Pat Robertson 'A Public Relations Nightmare,' Says God
Almighty Holds Rare Press Conference
By Andy Borowitz

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) - In the wake of his comments about the earthquake in Haiti, televangelist Pat Robertson has become a "public relations nightmare" and a "gynormous embarrassment to me, personally," God said today.

In a rare press conference at the Grand Hyatt in New York City, the usually reclusive Almighty said that He was taking the unusual step of airing His feelings in public because "enough is enough."

"I pray that his TV show would just go away, but of course, when you're me there's no one to pray to," God said, to the laughter of the packed room of reporters.

While God held out no hope that Rev. Robertson's "700 Club" would be cancelled any time soon, He did say, somewhat ruefully, "If Pat Robertson were on NBC he'd be replaced by Jay Leno by now."

Update: Pat Robertson: Haiti?! I Thought They Said "Hades"
Televangelist Explains Misunderstanding

VIRGINIA BEACH (The Borowitz Report) - Just hours after saying that God was punishing Haiti for making a "pact with the Devil," televangelist Pat Robertson retracted the statement, telling TV viewers, "Haiti? I thought they said `Hades.'"

Rev. Robertson said that he had heard the report of the earthquake on the radio and had misinterpreted its location: "For the life of me, I thought God was punishing Hades, which does in fact have a pact with the Devil."

Apologizing for his "goof," the televangelist told his TV audience, "Golly - people must've thought I was being an insensitive asshole."
(c) 2010 Andy Borowitz

The Gross National Debt

Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 04 (c) 01/22/2010

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