Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

John Dean explains, "A Supreme Victory For Special Interests."

Uri Avnery discovers a monster, "The Liebarak."

Robert Bowman is all about, "Restoring Free Speech."

Greg Palast warns of, "Manchurian Candidates."

Jim Hightower covers, "The Supreme Coup."

Randall Amster joins us with, "Invasion Of The Body Scanners."

John Nichols concludes, "Unions Can't Compete With Corporate Campaign Cash."

Paul Krugman faces, "The Bernanke Conundrum."

Chris Floyd wonders if you can, "See Rome."

Case Wagenvoord repeats, "Lessons Never Learned."

Mike Folkerth explores, "'Bad Ben' Bernanke; A Reinvented Dime Novelist."

Chris Hedges finds, "Democracy In America Is A Useful Fiction."

David Michael Green with an absolute must read, "Hey, Conan Obama."

Robert Gates wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald considers, "The Sanctity Of Military Spending."

Mike Wrathell reports from the 'Detroit Auto Show', "Green Vehicles & China's Automobile Market."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst discovers, "The Two Handed Wedgie" but first Uncle Ernie chants, "Number Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine...."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jeff Koterba, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea.Com, Bart, Keith Tucker, Jeff Danziger, Steve Greenberg, Motivated Photos.Com, V For Vendetta, Tex Pete,, Jim Morin, BYD Motors, A.P., Blue Wire.Com, Business Week.Com 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."

Number Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine...
By Ernest Stewart

How Time Flies ~ David Ossman

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." ~~~ James Madison

"Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it." ~~~ Vincent van Gogh

Your Issues & Alibis staff

It's that time of the year again! We're celebrating our ninth anniversary, although I'm not sure celebrating is the right word.

It all started when the Extreme Court issued its treasonous, seditious ruling in Bush v. Gore. Florida, it seemed, couldn't be allowed to count its votes without the Crime Family Bush losing the election. The Supreme Court (stacked with Bush and Reagan appointees), therefore, put Bush in office and Al Gore and America lost. This so outraged the patriot in me that I dropped what I was doing and began preparations for this magazine.

So on February 1st, 2001, twelve days after our beloved West Taxes Prairie monkey stole the White House, Issues & Alibis magazine was born! I was 52 years old then. "Just a kid with a crazy dream," a dream of restoring our Republic. Silly me!

In the years that followed we sought out and published the very best in progressive thinking. We brought together in one place the very best writers and cartoonists from around the world so that the American public and readers from all over the world could find out the truth and make up their own mind about the great issues of the day. We, in fact, became one of the few examples of the "Liberal Press' that Billo, Tush, Glenn, Sarah and rest keep going on and on about. I wear that badge with honor as I do the one I got from being on Nixon's enemies list as a lad at school.

Nine years and tens of millions of hits later, we're struggling to keep publishing for the lack of a few thousand dollars a year. Talk about your bang for the buck! Wikipedia, that storage house for half-truths and bullshit, just easily raised 7 1/2 million dollars which just blows my mind. I'm sure they got it, as do all of the flourishing rat-wing "news" outlets, from the deep pockets of our corpo-rat masters. Yet leftist publications are dropping like flies. I know there are many wealthy leftists but their money doesn't seem to filter down to the folks who are fighting in the trenches the way rat-wing money goes to the propagation of corpo-rat lies.

When I started the magazine it was to get the truth out regardless of one's ability to pay and I covered all costs. About four years ago I went broke doing that and had to beg money to keep on keeping on. Until the depression hit we were covering costs but just barely. Since then we've had to take out loans we can't afford to keep the truth going out. If funding doesn't come in, and come in soon, we'll be like the rest of the progressive sites that went broke. If you can help, please do so. If you don't there will not be a 10th anniversary edition and the fascists will have won one more victory over the people.

In Other News

Well, they've gone and done it this time. Not since their 12-12-2000 acts of treason and sedition has the extreme court committed such a crime and a crime that is far worse than just letting Dubya have the presidency for eight years at that. In the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission the "Gang of Five" ruled that since corpo-rat-ions are people too they have the same rights to elect candidates of their choice as we do. In fact, more rights apparently! You'll recall that thanks to Supreme Court reporter, J.C. Bancroft Davis, the above mentioned scalawags were made persons instead of things. This happened when he wrote the following back in 1886 as part of the head note for the case of "Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad:"

"The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does."

Because of this bullshit, corporations enjoyed the same rights under the Fourteenth Amendment as did natural persons. However, this issue is absent from the court's opinion itself. Uh huh... I'm going to repeat that again for those of you on drugs.

Some fascist court clerk made the corporations persons under the law, not the judges but a clerk issued his own ruling!

Then along comes John (the enforcer), Sammy (the coat-hanger) (Fat) Tony, Tony (light-fingers) and Clarence (the clown) and they say that Corpo-rats may now spend as much as they'd like to throw an election. Not only our corpo-rats but ones in China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia can now join Israel in bidding for our elected officials! For corpo-rat persons the sky's the limit; people persons are still limited to $2,400. Seem fair, huh?

But wait, I hear you cry, what about our betters, those many billionaires? Are they to be treated like regular folk? Well, not if the "Gang of Five" has their way. Just such a case sits on their docket, so stay tuned, America.

Lastly, there is one bright light in all of this madness. Florida Congressman Alan Grayson has been one the most forceful voices in responding to this crisis as he has in many other crises. Alan has introduced a number of bills, as part of a "Save Our Democracy" initiative, to stop some of the worst disasters raised by the Supreme Court's sellout. Perhaps you might like to urge your Congress-person to back Alan's bills to the hilt? Here they are:

1. The Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act (H.R. 4431): Implements a 500% excise tax on corporate contributions to political committees, and on corporate expenditures on political advocacy campaigns.

2. The Public Company Responsibility Act (H.R. 4435): Prevents companies making political contributions and expenditures from trading their stock on national exchanges.

3. The End Political Kickbacks Act (H.R. 4434): Prevents for-profit corporations that receive government money from making political contributions, and limits the amount that employees of those companies can contribute.

4. The Corporate Propaganda Sunshine Act (H.R. 4432): Requires publicly traded companies to disclose in SEC filings money used for the purpose of influencing public opinion, rather than for promoting their products and services.

5. The Ending Corporate Collusion Act (H.R. 4433): Applies antitrust law to industry PACs.

6. The End the Hijacking of Shareholder Funds Act (H.R. 4487): This bill requires the approval of a majority of a public company's shareholders for any expenditure by that company to influence public opinion on matters not related to the company's products or services.

Is anyone up for a Grayson/Franken ticket in 2012?

And Finally

Every once in a blue moon the goddess Erato is amused and smiles down upon me. I find it far easier to write a 400 page novel than to write 24 lines of poetry. The following poem took three years to write at two stanzas a year. It will go onto my poetry site Poems From Erato's Dairy. To paraphrase Frank Zappa I have but one question for ya'll: "Do you love it? Do you hate it? Here it is the way I made it, WOW!"

The Drums Of War

The drums of war ring loud tonight
The traitor's words ring hollow.
To steal some oil they'll go and fight
But I will never follow.

The golden land of yesterday
Is gone forever more.
And from the ashes sad to say
Arises the Phoenix of war.

A lie is told, the truth is spun
One thousand die a day.
Till every loving mother's son
Is fighting in the fray.

The years pass by without a change
Except the deadly score.
And still they try to rearrange
To kill a million more.

What goes around, will come around
Someday upon our shore.
Prometheus will come, unbound
To even up the score.

Empires rise, empires fall
And ours will do the same.
It's not how high you build the wall
But how you play the game!
(c) 2010 Ernest Stewart

Oh, and before I forget, we'd like to welcome Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D. to our little band of "Merry Pranksters." We welcome your wit and wisdom, Randall, and the key to the honor bar is under the mat!


01-2-1929 ~ 01-22-2010
Thanks for the memories!

05-18-1928 ~ 01-24-2010
Thanks for the memories!

11-13-1941 ~ 01-25-2010
Burn, baby, Burn!

05-28-1933 ~ 01-27-2010
See you at the seance!

08-24-1922 ~ 01-27-2010
Going to miss you, Bro!

01-01-1919 ~ 01-27-2010
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.

A Supreme Victory For Special Interests
By John Dean

The conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court has given a monumental victory to special interests-i.e., the big money corporations, the folks who already dominate Washington politics-with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy (who wrote the court's opinion), have gone out of their way to further obliterate serious efforts to reform out-of-control campaign spending-spending that conspicuously distorts democracy in favor of those who can buy political influence. This ruling is of the same judical activism ilk that produced Bush v. Gore, not to mention the ensuing eight years of a disastrous Bush/Cheney presidency from which the nation has yet to recover. Understandably, President Obama is flummoxed.

This decision is long, at 183 pages. It includes a powerful dissent by the four centrist justices (there are no liberals on this court). And the ruling is chock full of nuanced information that spells out what Congress can and cannot do to reform our dysfunctional and money-hungry election system. This is not a ruling that lends itself to instant analysis. Those who follow this subject far closer than I do will be figuring it out for days, if not months. However, I would recommend the following sites for a quick take on the ruling: Slate (good overview), SCOTUSBLOG (which has followed the case closely), and, in particular, The Brennan Center (which filed an amicus brief in the case and will be leading the way in sorting out the full meaning). To understand what the court majority did, scroll down to about Page 88 of your .pdf reader and read the dissent written by Justice John Paul Stevens, and joined by Justices Ruth Ginsburg, Steven Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. It is an eye-opener.

Aside from the fact that the majority ruling reeks of conservative politics, what I find most striking about conservative judicial activism typified by this ruling is the fact that the justices involved are totally out of touch with reality. None of the men involved in this historic decision have been elected to anything, ever. They have no idea how difficult it is for elected officials to deal in the contemporary money-flooded milieu of Washington. The work experience of those who have further opened the floodgates for money in politics is restricted to the executive branch, high-priced law firms, or the chambers of the lower federal appellate courts. Not since the late Justice Hugo Black, a former U.S. senator who retired in 1971, has the court had a member of Congress on its bench, someone who can explain the real world to the other justices. These conservative justices live in a bubble, and they have little true understanding of what they have done, other than, of course, to know that they have taken care of conservatives, the so-called Citizens United who filed this lawsuit. (Yes, David N. Bossie, the president of Citizens United, is the same fellow who worked overtime to impeach President Bill Clinton.)

After I fully digest this decision and speak with friends in Washington who have long been concerned that the Bush/Cheney legacy that now controls the high court might do as they have in fact done, I will share further thoughts about the damage this ruling will bring, and what can and will be done. For this ruling has the potential of being even more pernicious than Bush v. Gore, since it reaches not merely the presidency but every elective office in the United States. Conservatives may not know how to govern when they are in power, but they sure know how to make certain that centrists, progressives and liberals are not given a sustained opportunity to work their will.
(c) 2010 John Dean served as Richard M. Nixon's White House lawyer for 1,000 days and is the author of several books, including "Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush" and "Conservatives Without Conscience."

The Liebarak
By Uri Avnery

THE BUSINESS is registered in the name of Binyamin Netanyahu. But the reality is different.

Netanyahu has never been more than a slick patent medicine salesman. That is a type that appears frequently in American Westerns and sells an elixir that is good for everything: against the flu and against tuberculosis, against heart attacks and against lunacy. The main weapon of the vendor is his tongue: his stream of words builds castles in the air, blows up glistening bubbles and silences all doubt.

Since the election almost a year ago, his biggest (literally) achievement has been the setting up of a cabinet: 30 ministers and a bunch of deputies, most of them without any perceptible duties, some of them in charge of ministries for which they are the most unsuited of all possible candidates. From then on his main occupation has been the one in which he is most adept: political survival.

In this governmental zoo, the one really important creature is the Liebarak - a two-headed monster that terrifies all the other animals. This animal is 50% Lieberman, 50% Barak, 0% human.

WHEN LIEBERMAN first appeared on the stage, many looked on him with disdain. Such a person, they decided, has no chance in Israeli politics.

For ten years, he has been under investigation by the police on suspicion of corruption, receiving money from mysterious foreign sources and more.

Moreover, in the eyes of many Israelis, he is the most un-Israeli figure imaginable. They have tagged him permanently as a "new immigrant", even though he has been here for over 30 years. They consider his outward appearance, body language and dialect as blatantly "un-Israeli", belonging to someone who is "not one of us". How can Israelis vote for such a person?

Lieberman is a settler based in Nokdim, a settlement near Bethlehem, and the settlers are not popular in Israel. He is openly racist, a hater of Arabs who despises peace, a man whose declared aim is to rid Israel of the Arabs. True, there is in Israel (as in any country) a lot of silent racism, partly unconscious, but this racism is denied. Israelis - it was believed - will not vote for an outright racist.

The last elections put an end to this belief. Lieberman's party won 15 Knesset seats, two more than Barak's party, and became the third biggest Knesset faction. Not a few "real" Israeli youngsters, Sabras through and through, voted for him. They saw him as a good address for their protest vote.

The establishment was not too upset. OK, so there was a protest vote. In every Israeli election campaign there appears an election list from nowhere that wilts the next day, like the gourd of the prophet Jonah. Where are they all now?

But Lieberman is not General Yigael Yadin, who created the Dash party, or Tommy Lapid, the leader of Shinui. He is a man of brutal power, lacking any scruples, a man ready to appeal - as Joseph Goebbels put it - to the most primitive instincts of the masses.

We may yet see in Israel a coalition of all the malcontents and the angry, as the Bible says about David when he fled from King Saul: "And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves around him, and he became a captain over them." (1 Samuel 22:2). Lieberman's home turf is the community of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who have not been absorbed into Israeli society and who live in a spiritual and social ghetto. They may be joined by other sectors: the settlers, the Oriental Jews who feel that the Likud betrayed them, young people who see him as a man who expresses openly what they believe in secret: that the Arabs should be expelled from the state, and from the entire country.

Lieberman's un-Israeli appearance may yet turn out to be an advantage for him. A person who is so un-Israeli may become the ideal leader of a camp united by its hatred of the "elites", the Supreme Court, the police, the media and the other pillars of Israeli democracy.

The police investigations, too, may elevate him in the eyes of this public. They believe that he is being persecuted by the hypocritical elites. The dark cloud of suspicion did not deter Netanyahu from giving him control of both the Ministry of Police and the Ministry of Justice, the two ministries charged with upholding the rule of law, which are now under the direction of his lackeys.

This danger should not be underrated. Other historical leaders of his ilk were at first considered clowns and ridiculed, before they came to power and wrought havoc.

BUT THE second head of the Liebarak is more dangerous than the first. The danger of Lieberman lies in the future. The danger of Ehud Barak is immediate and real.

This week, Barak did something that should turn on a another red light. On the demand of Lieberman, Barak accorded the Settlers' college in Ariel the status of a university.

Unlike the "foreign" Lieberman, Barak comes from the epicenter of old-time Israel. He grew up in a kibbutz, was a commander in the elite "General Staff commando" and speaks perfect Hebrew with the right intonation. As a former Chief of Staff and a present Minister of Defense, he represents the might of the most formidable sector in Israel: the army.

Lieberman has not yet succeeded in hurting the chances of peace, except by talking. Barak has acted. I once called him a "peace criminal", in contradistinction to a "war criminal" - though nowadays many would accord him this distinction, too.

The fatal blow dealt by Barak to the chances of peace came after the 2000 Camp David conference. To recount briefly: when he was elected in 1999 with a landslide majority, on the wave of enthusiasm of the peace camp and with the help of clear peace slogans ("Education instead of Settlements!"), he induced Presidents Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat to meet him at a summit conference. In a typical mixture of arrogance and ignorance, he believed that if he offered the Palestinians the chance to found a Palestinian state, they would give up all their other claims. His offers were indeed more far-reaching than those of his predecessors, but still far from the minimum acceptable to Palestinians. The conference failed.

Coming home from Camp David, he did not make the usual announcement ("Much progress has been achieved and negotiations will continue..."), nor an unusual one ("Sorry, I was wrong, I had no idea!") Rather, he coined a mantra that has since become the center of the national consensus: "I have turned every stone on the way to peace / I have offered the Palestinians everything they could ask for / They have rejected everything / We Have No Partner For Peace."

This declaration by the leader of the Labor Party, who often calls himself "the head of the peace camp", dealt a mortal blow to the Israeli peace forces, who had hoped so much from him. The vast majority of the Israelis believe now with all their heart that "we have no partner for peace". Thereby he opened the way for the ascent to power of Ariel Sharon and Binyamin Netanyahu.

Throughout his time in office, Barak established and enlarged settlements. On his orders, the Commanding Officer of Central Command issued a permit for a radio station of the settlers (which has lately started to broadcast, after a long delaying fight by Gush Shalom against it.) In this respect, too, he has trumped Lieberman. His decision about the Ariel university fits into this pattern.

"WAIT A MINUTE!" a sensible person may ask. "What has this to do with Barak? He is the Minister of Defense, isn't he, and not the Minister of Education!"

Ariel is occupied territory. In the occupied territories, the army is the sovereign power. Barak is in charge of the army. The directive to upgrade the Ariel College was given by Barak to the commanding officer. As Yossi Sarid, a former Minister of Education, pointed out, the "Ariel University Center" is the only civil university in the democratic world set up by the army.

An Israeli academic institution has to go a long way before being accorded university status by the competent authorities. There are many colleges in Israel, far more outstanding than the Ariel College, which aspire to this status. In the occupied territories, a general's approval is enough.

This fact throws light on the unprecedented Israeli invention: the Eternal Occupation.

An occupation regime is by its nature a temporary situation. It comes into being when one side in a war conquers territory of the other side. The occupying power is supposed to rule it, under detailed international laws, until the end of the war, when a peace agreement must decide the future of the territory.

A war may last some years, at most, and therefore the occupation is a temporary matter. Successive Israeli governments have turned it into a permanent situation.

Why? At the outset of the occupation, the then Minister of Defense, Moshe Dayan, discovered that the occupation is really an ideal situation. It gives the occupier absolute power without any obligation to accord the inhabitants any citizenship rights whatsoever. If Israel were to annex the territories, it would have to decide what to do with the population. That would create an embarrassing situation. The inhabitants of East Jerusalem, which was formally annexed to Israel in 1967, did not receive citizenship, but only the status of "residents". Successive Israeli governments have been afraid that the world would not accept a "democratic" state in which a third of the population have no rights.

A status of occupation solves all these problems. The inhabitants of the occupied territories have, de facto, no rights whatsoever - neither national, nor civil, nor human. The Israel government builds settlements wherever it sees fit, also contrary to international law, and now it is setting up a university, too.

(Lately an original proposal was put forward by Sari Nusseibeh, the president of the Palestinian al-Quds University in annexed East Jerusalem: the Palestinians should demand that Israel annex all the occupied territories, without demanding citizenship. Nusseibeh hopes, so it seems, that in the long run Israel would not be able to withstand international pressure and would be compelled to accord them citizenship, and then the Palestinians would already be the majority in the state and able to do what they want. I appreciate Nusseibeh very, very highly, but feel the gamble would be too risky.)

THE SPANISH government has already declared a boycott of the Ariel college and cancelled its participation in an international architectural competition run by Spain.

I hope that more governments and academic institutions will follow this example and declare a boycott on this "university".

True, the Liebarak couldn't care less. This two-headed monster is indifferent to boycotts. But an academic institution cannot be indifferent to a boycott by its peers around the world. And if the Israeli academic community does not rise up against this prostitution of its ideals by the setting up of a university of the settlers under military auspices - it is inviting a boycott on all Israeli universities.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Restoring Free Speech
By Dr Robert M Bowman, Lt Col, USAF, ret

The American people are more than angry, they are "P.O.d" and rightly so. How many times must our wishes be ignored and our clear needs be unmet before we say "Enough is enough!"

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the American people wanted an end to the Vietnam War, and yet it dragged on for years after our government KNEW we had no chance of winning. According to Robert McNamara, both he and Lyndon Johnson knew that as early as 1965!

In 1981 and 1982, 80% of Americans wanted a nuclear freeze, yet we never got one. In the late 1980s, the overwhelming majority wanted an end to nuclear testing (after all, Gorbachev had unilaterally ended testing by the USSR). Yet testing continued year after year. A clear majority wanted an end to the Contra war against Nicaragua, to no avail. Even after Congress passed the Boland amendment, cutting off funds for the conflict, Ollie North and company ran drugs and sold arms to Iran in order to continue their illegal war. In 1993 (and again in 2009), most Americans favored a Single-Payer National Health Program. Fat chance getting that past the insurance companies! In 2004 and 2006 and 2008, the people overwhelmingly voted for an end to the corporate wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan. But too many are getting filthy rich off them. We wanted relief for homeowners facing foreclosure. Sorry, the trillions go to the banks, insurance companies, and investment firms that caused the problem.

Yes, "Enough is enough!" But to whom do we say it? The best Congress money can buy? And how can we scream it loud enough to be heard over the din of lobbyist money and the constant drone of corporate "issue ads"?? We need a populist government that serves the needs of the people, not the greeds of the corporations. There is euphoria as we elect Barack Obama who promises us Real Change. But what do we get? Chump change! And just as our frustration is at the breaking point, we do the only thing we can think of to get their attention - we elect a (gulp!) conservative Republican to the Senate ... in Massachusetts, no less! (Well, he sounded like a populist independent.)

Then the very next day, the Supreme Court drowns out the last tiny echo of our free speech by handing the ruling corporations a megaphone of infinite power. You think rock bands make noise? Just wait until the multinational corporations crank up their amplifiers in the next election cycle!

For years, legislators with a populist bent have been trying to perfect campaign finance reform, one of the key steps in separating big money from political power. Just over a decade ago, Granny D (Doris Haddock) walked across the country at the age of 90 for campaign finance reform. I will never forget her stirring address to the 1999 Reform Party National Convention (where I was drafted to run for President). She said "Corporations are not 'persons', and money is not 'speech'." Her point was that corporations have no Constitutional First Amendment right to spend as much money as they want buying up politicians and influencing elections. On January 21, 2010 the Supreme Court decided against Granny D and struck down key sections of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform law, opening the floodgates for big money to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens and perpetuate corporate control of our government.

For ten years, I have proposed a Constitutional Amendment restoring the intent of the Founding Fathers. It says "Corporations and other fictitious entities are not 'persons' under this Constitution, and shall have none of the rights and privileges thereof." We the People were guaranteed Free Speech. Don't let corporate money drown us out!
(c) 2010 Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Lt. Col., USAF, ret.; National Commander, The Patriots

Manchurian Candidates
Supreme Court allows China and others unlimited spending in US elections
By Greg Palast

In today's Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Court ruled that corporations should be treated the same as "natural persons", i.e. humans. Well, in that case, expect the Supreme Court to next rule that Wal-Mart can run for President.

The ruling, which junks federal laws that now bar corporations from stuffing campaign coffers, will not, as progressives fear, cause an avalanche of corporate cash into politics. Sadly, that's already happened: we have been snowed under by tens of millions of dollars given through corporate PACs and "bundling" of individual contributions from corporate pay-rollers.

The Court's decision is far, far more dangerous to U.S. democracy. Think: Manchurian candidates.

I'm losing sleep over the millions - or billions - of dollars that could flood into our elections from ARAMCO, the Saudi Oil corporation's U.S. unit; or from the maker of "New Order" fashions, the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Or from Bin Laden Construction corporation. Or Bin Laden Destruction Corporation.

Right now, corporations can give loads of loot through PACs. While this money stinks (Barack Obama took none of it), anyone can go through a PAC's federal disclosure filing and see the name of every individual who put money into it. And every contributor must be a citizen of the USA.

But under today's Supreme Court ruling that corporations can support candidates without limit, there is nothing that stops, say, a Delaware-incorporated handmaiden of the Burmese junta from picking a Congressman or two with a cache of loot masked by a corporate alias.

Candidate Barack Obama was one sharp speaker, but he would not have been heard, and certainly would not have won, without the astonishing outpouring of donations from two million Americans. It was an unprecedented uprising-by-PayPal, overwhelming the old fat-cat sources of funding.

Well, kiss that small-donor revolution goodbye. Under the Court's new rules, progressive list serves won't stand a chance against the resources of new "citizens" such as CNOOC, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation. Maybe UBS (United Bank of Switzerland), which faces U.S. criminal prosecution and a billion-dollar fine for fraud, might be tempted to invest in a few Senate seats. As would XYZ Corporation, whose owners remain hidden by "street names."

George Bush's former Solicitor General Ted Olson argued the case to the court on behalf of Citizens United, a corporate front that funded an attack on Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primary. Olson's wife died on September 11, 2001 on the hijacked airliner that hit the Pentagon. Maybe it was a bit crude of me, but I contacted Olson's office to ask how much "Al Qaeda, Inc." should be allowed to donate to support the election of his local congressman.

Olson has not responded.

The danger of foreign loot loading into U.S. campaigns, not much noted in the media chat about the Citizens case, was the first concern raised by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who asked about opening the door to "mega-corporations" owned by foreign governments. Olson offered Ginsburg a fudge, that Congress might be able to prohibit foreign corporations from making donations, though Olson made clear he thought any such restriction a bad idea.

Tara Malloy, attorney with the Campaign Legal Center of Washington D.C. says corporations will now have more rights than people. Only United States citizens may donate or influence campaigns, but a foreign government can, veiled behind a corporate treasury, dump money into ballot battles.

Malloy also noted that under the law today, human-people, as opposed to corporate-people, may only give $2,300 to a presidential campaign. But hedge fund billionaires, for example, who typically operate through dozens of corporate vessels, may now give unlimited sums through each of these "unnatural" creatures.

And once the Taliban incorporates in Delaware, they could ante up for the best democracy money can buy.

In July, the Chinese government, in preparation for President Obama's visit, held diplomatic discussions in which they skirted issues of human rights and Tibet. Notably, the Chinese, who hold a $2 trillion mortgage on our Treasury, raised concerns about the cost of Obama's health care reform bill. Would our nervous Chinese landlords have an interest in buying the White House for an opponent of government spending such as Gov. Palin? Ya betcha!

The potential for foreign infiltration of what remains of our democracy is an adjunct of the fact that the source and control money from corporate treasuries (unlike registered PACs), is necessarily hidden. Who the heck are the real stockholders? Or as Butch asked Sundance, "Who are these guys?" We'll never know.

Hidden money funding, whether foreign or domestic, is the new venom that the Court has injected into the system by its expansive decision in Citizens United.

We've been there. The 1994 election brought Newt Gingrich to power in a GOP takeover of the Congress funded by a very strange source.

Congressional investigators found that in crucial swing races, Democrats had fallen victim to a flood of last-minute attack ads funded by a group called, "Coalition for Our Children's Future." The $25 million that paid for those ads came, not from concerned parents, but from a corporation called "Triad Inc."

Evidence suggests Triad Inc. was the front for the ultra-right-wing billionaire Koch Brothers and their private petroleum company, Koch Industries. Had the corporate connection been proven, the Kochs and their corporation could have faced indictment under federal election law. As of today, such money-poisoned politicking has become legit.

So it's not just un-Americans we need to fear but the Polluter-Americans, Pharma-mericans, Bank-Americans and Hedge-Americans that could manipulate campaigns while hidden behind corporate veils. And if so, our future elections, while nominally a contest between Republicans and Democrats, may in fact come down to a three-way battle between China, Saudi Arabia and Goldman Sachs.
(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.

The Supreme Coup

Remember their names: Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas.

From within the dark isolation of the Supreme Court, these five men have pulled off a black-robed coup against the American people's democratic authority. In an unprecedented perversion of judicial power, the Alito-Kennedy-Roberts-Scalia-Thomas cabal has decreed that corporations have a free-speech "right" to dip into their corporate coffers and spend unlimited sums of money to elect or defeat candidates of their choosing.

Corporate interests already had too much money power over our political system. Using their PACs, executive bundling, 527s, front groups, and other financing gimmicks, their chosen candidates have long had a big advantage over lesser-funded aspirants. No other group in America comes anywhere near the spending clout that this relatively small clutch of wealthy special interests wields over our elections and government. So it's ludicrous for anyone - much less Supreme Court judges - to argue that the corporate voice is a victim of political "censorship," the word chosen by Justice Kennedy to rationalize his vote for corporate plutocracy.

Nonetheless, on their own whim, the five Supremes have now made corporations supreme in our "Land of the Free," abruptly and autocratically reversing nearly 250 years of broad public agreement that corporate interests must be subjugated to the people's interest. This is not merely judicial activism, it is judicial radicalism.

In the early years of our democratic republic, Thomas Jefferson warned about the dangerous rise of corporate power, declaring that Americans must "crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations." Today I'm sure that founding patriots like Jefferson are not simply spinning in their graves at the Supreme Court's surrender to this aristocracy - they're trying to claw their way out of their graves to throttle all five of the traitors.
(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.

Invasion Of The Body Scanners
By Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D.

The concept of "stimulus" may soon take on new connotations in the days ahead. The federal government is poised to emplace full-body scanners at airports across the nation, capable of peering under a person's garments. As noted by a former Cabinet member, this new technology "will give us the ability to see what someone has concealed underneath their clothing." The prurient implications of this startling revelation are obvious, and one can only marvel at the full cultural import of widely available "x-ray vision" technology being deployed. Indeed, for those who remember the old X-ray Specs advertised on the back of comic books to see through women's clothes, it is apparently a longstanding boyhood fantasy now set to become national policy. This is essentially a form of high-tech voyeurism masking as security, and it portends more such incursions into liberty and privacy. How did it come to this, and so suddenly at that?

Contracting for Success

At the outset, someone is profiting from these scanners. In recent years, the company Rapiscan (a wholly-owned subsidiary of OSI Systems, Inc., which focuses on "healthcare, security, and defense") has made quite a name for itself. In January 2007, an article documenting its rising profile noted that "Rapiscan's presence on Capitol Hill pays off," with the company having opened a new Washington office and hiring a number of outside lobbyists. As this piece details:

"The results have been apparent. Last year the company did $17 million to $20 million in contracts. Over the past six months, the company has had $40 million in sales to the US government, compared with $8 million in 2004. 'We plan to dramatically expand in the next few years well above the multimillion-dollar [mark],' says Peter Kant, vice president of government affairs for Rapiscan.... Rapiscan also decided last year to join the political money game in a more coordinated effort, by creating a political action committee. Kant says he expects the PAC to raise $50,000 to $75,000 a year and donate equally to both parties. Previously, about 60 percent of the political donations from the firm's executives went to Republicans.... How Rapiscan and other homeland-security companies will fare in the new political climate is still unclear. Lawmakers are expected to increase oversight and investigation of homeland-security issues such as government contracts."

Rapiscan is a global security company that has systems being utilized, according to its web site, "at airports, government and corporate buildings, correctional and prison facilities, postal facilities, military zones, sea ports and border crossings." Their products are deployed in locations including Pakistan (where mobile units are used in combat zones) and airports around the world. As reported on CNN, Rapiscan received $25.4 million from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) by way of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (i.e., the Stimulus Bill), to produce 150 new full-body scanners to be used at airports across the United States. Peter Kant, a vice president at Rapiscan, said that the government has given the TSA the green light to spend up to $173 million on new scanners, which could lead to the emplacement of hundreds of such devices in the near future. Interestingly, the $25.4 million tendered to Rapiscan for the first 150 scanners was formally awarded in September 2009, well ahead of the Christmas Day bombing attempt that has set off the recent flurry of scanner demands. According to, Rapiscan also received $2.9 million in stimulus monies in May 2009. The total number of jobs created by these millions in stimulus funds is estimated at 40.

In addition to the stimulus money recently administered, the US Army just announced an award of a no-bid contract to Rapiscan for 12 scanners to be used at military bases in Iraq and Kuwait. Previously, in December 2009, Rapiscan received a $5 million contract from NATO to provide screening devices for use in Afghanistan, as noted by "The award by NATO is the latest in a number of recent awards to Rapiscan Systems for integrated security systems that combine cargo, vehicle and personnel screening. Within the past twelve months, Rapiscan has also received contracts from the US government, UK Customs, the European Union and multiple customers in Asia and the Middle East." This is, in short, a company with strong and steadily increasing ties to the US military and the international defense industry.

Conflicts and Shortcomings

Following the Christmas Day incident, a particularly vocal proponent of full-body scanners has been former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who, as reported by the Washington Post, has given "dozens of media interviews touting the need for the federal government to buy more full-body scanners for airports." As it turns out, Chertoff has a direct stake in the issue:

"What he has made little mention of is that the Chertoff Group, his security consulting agency, includes a client [Rapiscan] that manufactures the machines. The relationship drew attention after Chertoff disclosed it on a CNN program.... Chertoff's advocacy for the technology dates back to his time in the Bush administration. In 2005, Homeland Security ordered the government's first batch of the scanners - five from California-based Rapiscan Systems."

This new paradigm of high-tech security by way of scanning devices has become lucrative in recent years, and promises to become even more so in the near future. However, as Mother Jones Senior Washington correspondent James Ridgeway noted in his blog Unsilent Generation, "the TSA has a dismal record of enriching private corporations with failed technologies, and there are signs that the latest miracle device may just bring more of the same." Citing an article from the Washington Examiner that details some of the major players in what is being called the "full-body scanner lobby," and that warns of the dangers of a rising "Homeland Security-industrial complex," Ridgeway observes that the new technologies are hardly foolproof:

"Known by their critics as 'digital strip search' machines, the devices use one of two technologies ... to see through clothing, producing ghostly images of naked passengers. Yet critics say that these, too, are highly fallible, and are incapable of revealing explosives hidden in body cavities - an age-old method for smuggling contraband. If that's the case, a terrorist could hide the entire bomb works within his or her body, and breeze through the virtual strip search undetected. Yesterday, the London Independent reported on 'authoritative claims that officials at the [UK] Department for Transport and the Home Office have already tested the scanners and were not persuaded that they would work comprehensively against terrorist threats to aviation.' A British defense research firm reportedly found the machines unreliable in detecting 'low-density' materials like plastics, chemicals, and liquids - precisely what the underwear bomber had stuffed in his briefs."

Still, despite these noted limitations, cheerleaders such as Chertoff continue to unabashedly assert that incidents of the sort that occurred on Christmas Day - which has fanned the flames of public fear and ushered in calls for the widespread use of full-body scans - could have been averted, thus providing "a very vivid lesson in the value of that machinery." Even more disconcerting is the statement of Rapiscan Vice President Peter Kant, who told CNN that this technology could be effective in detecting explosives such as those that were allegedly hidden in the underwear of the Christmas Day bomber. "If Rapiscan's scanners had been in place, according to Kant, the incident could have been averted. 'We do believe, from what we know from published reports, that we would have detected it,' he said." Considering that we are poised to fundamentally alter the balance of privacy in America (yet again) based on the fear-inducing qualities of the recent botched bombing attempt, it would seem that something more than a "belief" based merely on "published reports" is warranted under the circumstances.

Is the Technology Safe?

Beyond the lack of guaranteed functionality, a number of additional critiques have appeared questioning the untested nature of these technologies and whether they are in fact safe for widespread use. As an article from NaturalNews observed:

"In researching the biological effects of the millimeter wave scanners used for whole body imaging at airports, NaturalNews has learned that the energy emitted by the machines may damage human DNA . Millimeter wave machines represent one of two primary technologies currently being used for the 'digital strip searches' being conducted at airports around the world. 'The Transportation Security Administration utilizes two technologies to capture naked images of air travelers - backscatter x-ray technology and millimeter wave technology,' reports the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a non-profit currently suing the US government to stop these electronic strip searches. In order to generate the nude image of the human body, these machines emit terahertz photons - high-frequency energy 'particles' that can pass through clothing and body tissue. The manufacturers of such machines claim they are perfectly safe and present no health risks, but a study conducted by Boian S. Alexandrov (and colleagues) at the Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico showed that these terahertz waves could 'unzip double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the double strand that could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication.'"

The Los Alamos study, which can be found in an online physics journal and is further analyzed in MIT's Technology Review (TR), opens the door for more in-depth investigations of this technology that is about to become pervasive, since, as TR noted, "a new generation of cameras are set to appear that not only record terahertz waves but also bombard us with them. And if our exposure is set to increase, the question that urgently needs answering is what level of terahertz exposure is safe." And yet, as NaturalNews indicated, "no such long-term safety testing has ever been conducted by a third party. There have been no clinical trials indicating that multiple exposures to such terahertz waves, accumulated over a long period of time, are safe for humans." Given what we already know about the effects of radiation, as well as the initial report from Los Alamos, this would seem at a minimum to be a circumstance requiring greater study before mass deployment. It is more likely, however, that these untested devices will be in place long before adequate testing is done, suggesting that any such safety analysis will simply be undertaken as the devices are being used on human subjects at airports across the US and around the world.

Private Matters

And then there are the obvious matters of privacy and dignity. One need not be a constitutional scholar or privacy-rights advocate to appreciate the implications of conducting such invasive de facto "strip searches" on a widespread scale. While there may be humor to be found in this situation - my contribution is "Bon Voyeur and Have a Nice Strip" - the import of intruding on personal privacy and conducting warrantless full-body searches is potentially staggering. Moreover, the capacity of modern technology to record and/or disseminate such images serves to further complicate the use and ethicality of body scanners, as noted in a recent CNN report:

"A privacy group says the Transportation Security Administration is misleading the public with claims that full-body scanners at airports cannot store or send their graphic images. The TSA specified in 2008 documents that the machines must have image storage and sending abilities, the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) said. In the documents, obtained by the privacy group and provided to CNN, the TSA specifies that the body scanners it purchases must have the ability to store and send images when in 'test mode.' That requirement leaves open the possibility [that] the machines - which can see beneath people's clothing - can be abused by TSA insiders and hacked by outsiders, said EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg.... The written requirements also appear to contradict numerous assurances the TSA has given the public about the machines' privacy protections."

As a subsequent report in The Raw Story indicated, the TSA's assertions of privacy protection are unpersuasive and potentially misleading:

"On its website, the TSA explains that 'this state-of-the-art technology cannot store, print, transmit or save the image. In fact, all machines are delivered to airports with these functions disabled.' The last part of the quote here is key - the machines will be delivered with those functions disabled, not without those functions at all. The TSA 's procurement guidelines (PDF) for the body scanners state that the machines will have two modes, a 'test mode' and a 'screening mode.' The machines will not be able to store and transmit images when in 'screening mode,' but will be able to do so in 'test mode.' 'When not being used for normal screening operations, the capability to capture images of non-passengers for training and evaluation purposes is needed,' the TSA document states. It was not immediately clear from those documents how easy it is to switch a machine from 'screening mode' to 'test mode,' or who would have the authority or ability to do so."

The New York Times further noted that "others say that the technology is no security panacea, and that its use should be carefully controlled because of the risks to privacy, including the potential for its ghostly naked images to show up on the Internet." Indeed, as Baltimore Sun columnist Susan Reimer intoned: "They say these full-body screening images - in which I am pretty sure we are naked - are immediately erased, but I don't believe them for a minute. Either somebody is keeping them on the hard drive to protect himself in case some terrorist gets by on his watch, or some enterprising guy is going to be selling Britney Spears' body scan to TMZ for a hundred thousand bucks. I mean this is America, land of the irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit." Absent clear and enforceable limitations, it seems likely that such scenarios will ensue.

Due to these privacy concerns, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced an amendment blocking the use of full-body scanners as the main way of screening passengers who don't fit risk profiles, and, furthermore, creating penalties for government employees who copy or share body-scan images. The House of Representatives passed the amendment in June 2009, but the Senate has yet to take it up. Still, despite the myriad concerns and unresolved issues of safety and privacy, recent events have fueled the drive by the TSA to emplace this technology. As the Wall Street Journal concluded, "political pressure on the agency since the alleged failed plot is likely to push officials to move fast." Disturbingly, and perhaps due to the effectiveness of media saturation and the impetus of fear, recent polling suggested that Americans support the new technologies:

"Almost three quarters of the American public are in favor of full body x-ray scanners at airports, according to the findings of a new CBS News poll conducted in the wake of the failed Christmas Day bombing attempt on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. Of those questioned, 74 percent said airports should use the controversial machines because they provide a detailed check for hidden weapons and explosives and reduce the need for physical searches. Just 20 percent said the machines should not be used because they see through a passenger's clothing and thus constitute an invasion of privacy."

Despite being known as a fairly Puritanical people in many respects - at least in terms of what constitutes "public decency" and the like - it seems that Americans perhaps are more permissive in their sense of decorum than we have been led to believe. Is it still voyeurism when the subject willingly desires to be watched? Must security and privacy exist in tension, or can they be fruitfully reconciled? Is constant surveillance becoming the baseline of our lives, and if so, who is watching the watchers? With the proliferation of public cameras, digital recorders, webcams, cellphone cameras and, now, terahertz scanners, we will be confronted with the implications of these technologies for the foreseeable future. The fact that our collective fears seem to be the leading edge of the debate doesn't bode particularly well for reasoned decision-making and the eventual utilization of new technologies for emancipation rather than subjugation.

And in the End...

The matter of full-body scanners presents a critical cultural referendum on basic questions of freedom and autonomy. The circumstances under which the issue is being presented - a climate of fear instilled by a well-hyped reminder of the shared trauma of 9/11 - make it almost impossible to have confidence in a sound and sober resolution. Moreover, the primary players behind the use of these technologies are imbricated within the workings of a growing military-industrial complex that continues to pervade more aspects of our lives. This watershed moment in the public dialogue about security and privacy is framed by an increasing militarization of everyday life in America, as indicated by a recollection of the loci in which companies like Rapiscan operate - namely, "at airports, government and corporate buildings, correctional and prison facilities, postal facilities, military zones, sea ports and border crossings." This list could easily expand to include schools, hospitals, malls, arenas, banks, stores, and more. Now is the moment to rein it in while we still have a window of self-determination in which to do so.
(c) 2010 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Unions Can't Compete With Corporate Campaign Cash
By John Nichols

Some union leaders think that the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Citizens United v. FEC -- which essentially takes the limits off campaign spending -- will give them the same flexibility and freedom to influence the process as it does corporations.

These are the same union leaders who imagined that electing Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress would lead to the rapid enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act and meaningful labor-law reform.

The AFL-CIO actually filed a brief in the Citizens United case that urged removal of reasonable restraints on campaign spending.

Indeed, an attorney who prepared the amicus brief for the AFL-CIO recently participated in a conference call talking up the merits of the corporate position, along with representatives of the conservative Heritage Foundation and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.

What are the leaders of the labor federation thinking?

They imagine that, with spending limits removed, organized labor will be able to buy enough television time to reward their political friends and punish their political enemies.

It's a sweet fantasy. But the reality is that corporations will be buying so much more television time when it matters -- in the run-up to key elections -- that the voices of working Americans will drowned out with the same regularity that they are on Capitol Hill -- where, it should be noted, overwhelming Democratic majorities have yet to deliver on even the most basic demands of the labor movement.

To think otherwise is to neglect the reality that one corporation -- Goldman Sachs -- spends more annually to pay just its top employees than the combined assets of all the nation's major unions.

University of Wisconsin communications professor Lew Friedland points out that the nation's four largest banks would have to allocate a mere one-tenth of one percent of their assets -- $6 billion -- to counter a campaign in which the whole of the U.S. labor movement spent all of its assets.

The bottom line is that a union leader who supports the Citizens United ruling is like a steer who talks up a steak restaurant because they're both in the same business.

Organized labor ought to be siding clearly and unequivocally with the forces of democracy in the struggle to establish a political process in which all voices can be heard, and in which elections are about ideas and issues rather than fund raising and attacks ads.

A few unions "get it."

The California Nurses Association and National Nurses United, the nation's largest nurses union, have accurately identified the Citizens United decision as a "disastrous ruling for American workers and American democracy."

"The healthcare debate of the last year has provided a sobering reminder of the already pervasive influence of giant pharmaceutical and insurance corporations. The last thing our democracy and political system needs is ever more spending and political sway by the wealthiest interests in this country," says Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, the 150,000-member labor organization.

The notion that the Citizens United ruling might somehow make it easier for organized labor to influence the political process is "ludicrous," says DeMoro.

"Equating what unions and working people could spend on campaigns would be like comparing a toy boat to an aircraft carrier," she explains. "Corporate influence peddling in politics already distorts and prevents our democracy and political system (from functioning)."

"Opening the floodgates to unlimited spending is a dangerous prescription for candidates who will be even more beholden to the biggest corporate spenders," argues DeMoro. "The likely result would be more dominance of healthcare policy by insurance and drug giants and less public oversight of our air, water, food, and workplaces that is needed to protect consumers and workers."

That is the message that all of organized labor should be delivering.
(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.

The Bernanke Conundrum
By Paul Krugman

A Republican won in Massachusetts - and suddenly it's not clear whether the Senate will confirm Ben Bernanke for a second term as Federal Reserve chairman. That's not as strange as it sounds: Washington has suddenly noticed public rage over economic policies that bailed out big banks but failed to create jobs. And Mr. Bernanke has become a symbol of those policies.

Where do I stand? I deeply admire Mr. Bernanke, both as an economist and for his response to the financial crisis. (Full disclosure: before going to the Fed he headed Princeton's economics department, and hired me for my current position there.) Yet his critics have a strong case. In the end, I favor his reappointment, but only because rejecting him could make the Fed's policies worse, not better.

How did we get to the point where that's the most I can say?

Mr. Bernanke is a superb research economist. And from the spring of 2008 to the spring of 2009 his academic expertise and his policy role meshed perfectly, as he used aggressive, unorthodox tactics to head off a second Great Depression.

Unfortunately, that's not the whole story. Before the crisis struck, Mr. Bernanke was very much a conventional, mainstream Fed official, sharing fully in the institution's complacency. Worse, after the acute phase of the crisis ended he slipped right back into that mainstream. Once again, the Fed is dangerously complacent - and once again, Mr. Bernanke seems to share that complacency.

Consider two issues: financial reform and unemployment.

Back in July, Mr. Bernanke spoke out against a key reform proposal: the creation of a new consumer financial protection agency. He urged Congress to maintain the current situation, in which protection of consumers from unfair financial practices is the Fed's responsibility.

But here's the thing: During the run-up to the crisis, as financial abuses proliferated, the Fed did nothing. In particular, it ignored warnings about subprime lending. So it was striking that in his testimony Mr. Bernanke didn't acknowledge that failure, didn't explain why it happened, and gave no reason to believe that the Fed would behave differently in the future. His message boiled down to "We know what we're doing - trust us."

As I said, the Fed has returned to a dangerous complacency.

And then there's unemployment. The economy may not have collapsed, but it's in terrible shape, with job-seekers outnumbering job openings six to one. Nor does Mr. Bernanke expect any quick improvement: last month, while predicting that unemployment will fall, he conceded that the rate of decline will be "slower than we would like." So what does he propose doing to create jobs?

Nothing. Mr. Bernanke has offered no hint that he feels the need to adopt policies that might bring unemployment down faster. Instead, he has responded to suggestions for further Fed action with boilerplate about "the anchoring of inflation expectations." It's harsh but true to say that he's acting as if it's Mission Accomplished now that the big banks have been rescued.

What happened here? My sense is that Mr. Bernanke, like so many people who work closely with the financial sector, has ended up seeing the world through bankers' eyes. The same can be said about Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary, and Larry Summers, the Obama administration's top economist. But they're not up before the Senate, while Mr. Bernanke is.

Given that, why not reject Mr. Bernanke? There are other people with the intellectual heft and policy savvy to take on his role: among the possible choices would be my Princeton colleague Alan Blinder, a former Fed vice chairman, and Janet Yellen, the president of the San Francisco Fed.

But - and here comes my defense of a Bernanke reappointment - any good alternative for the position would face a bruising fight in the Senate. And choosing a bad alternative would have truly dire consequences for the economy.

Furthermore, policy decisions at the Fed are made by committee vote. And while Mr. Bernanke seems insufficiently concerned about unemployment and too concerned about inflation, many of his colleagues are worse. Replacing him with someone less established, with less ability to sway the internal discussion, could end up strengthening the hands of the inflation hawks and doing even more damage to job creation.

That's not a ringing endorsement, but it's the best I can do.

If Mr. Bernanke is reappointed, he and his colleagues need to realize that what they consider a policy success is actually a policy failure. We have avoided a second Great Depression, but we are facing mass unemployment - unemployment that will blight the lives of millions of Americans - for years to come. And it's the Fed's responsibility to do all it can to end that blight.
(c) 2010 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

See Rome
Innocents Die as Imperial Pot Boils

By Chris Floyd

Barack Obama has come out swinging following his party's rout in Massachusetts, vowing to "fight Wall Street" with a "populist" proposal whose main thrust seems to be the reinstatement of some of the common-sense regulations imposed almost 80 years ago to separate banks and investment firms. (I say "seems to be," because one can only guess what, if anything, Obama really intends to do about the matter. For despite the usual elevated rhetoric, he is, as usual, "leaving crucial details to be hashed out by Congress," as the NY Times reports. And we know how populist those paladins can be when they get down to hashing out crucial details.)

Of course, those old regulations were repealed by the bipartisan free-market extremists of the Clinton Era -- many of whom are now once more in charge of national economic policy, such as Obama's main economic adviser, Larry Summers. And the fact that Obama is just now vaguely proposing such a move, a year after taking office -- and after engineering the transfer to trillions of dollars in cash, credit guarantees, bailouts and other forms of baksheesh to Wall Street -- cannot but evoke three little words that nonetheless speak volumes: horse, barn, door.

And even in the highly hypothetical likelihood that Obama was actually serious about "reining in the banks" -- that is, serious enough to actually have his staff draw up the crucial details themselves before handing the "fight" over to the banks' own bagmen in Congress -- it would be a moot point anyway, given the Supreme Court's promulgation of its Corporate Enabling Act this week. Although their ruling to remove the few existing -- and pathetic -- restraints on Big Money's domination of the electoral process is indeed bad news, one must also admire the Court's frankness in allowing this domination to step forth and stand out boldly, nakedly, no longer having to hide itself in dirty dodges and furtive tricks. (For more on the ramifications of the ruling, see this piece from Christopher Ketcham at Counterpunch.)

But even as the highways and byways and blogways of the Potomac power grid are all engrossed in the usual partisan navel-gazing, the hard, dirty work of empire goes on.* This week there was yet another killing of civilians in Afghanistan by the ever-surging NATO-led forces, including two boys, aged 11 and 15. As Reuters reports:

Over 100 people took to the streets of a small bazaar in Qarabagh district in Ghazni province, southwest of Kabul, to demonstrate, locals told Reuters by telephone.

Villagers who brought the bodies of four people to the hospital in the provincial capital of Ghazni city said three of the victims belonged to one family. Two were boys 11 and 15, villagers said.

Naturally, the American-led occupation forces said that no civilians were killed in what they called a raid "designed to capture a 'high-level Taliban commander known to direct attacks'. Unfortunately for the spinmeisters, an actual journalist, Nir Rosen, has been on the case. He provided this report to Professor As'ad AbuKhalil:

Nir Rosen sent me this from Kabul (I cite with his permission): "I met today with the parliament member from qara bagh district. He's not anti-occupation and even wants more operations but he confirmed that all the dead were innocent and were not fighters and two were quite young".

"All the dead were innocent." And two of them were children.

This is the reality when we should keep in mind as we wade through the endlessly chewed cud of petty partisan in-fighting among the court factions of our militarist empire. Every day, every night, someone's blood is being offered up on the imperial altars. That's what empire is. That's what empire does.


See Rome

While you were dreaming
While you wrapped your mind in silks
Bronze Steel Stone
Did their work

While you breathed the fumes
Of the oracle's fissure
Deranged the senses
Settled in soft beds

Sent agents into the streets
Hard men pinched men
Bronze Steel Stone

To eliminate execute
Discredit and destroy
See Rome

While you stood in the forum
Declaimed high words
Filled temples with fragrant smoke
Scrawled millions of learned disquisitions

Rome marched
Somewhere, in your name
Fired the village
In your name
Put steel to the belly

While you were wrapped in silks
While you grubbed
While you drank degraded waters
Drank dark, brilliant wine
While you sang, while you dreamed

Rome was
Rome hammered the real

Your silks
Your songs
Are dreams

See Rome
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

Lessons Never Learned
By Case Wagonvoord

Generals and politicians are notoriously slow in the head when it comes to adapting military tactics to a changing world. And when they do try to adjust, the result is usually disastrous.

Traditional European tactics evolved from the Roman practice of finding an open field with nary a tree for cover , amassing two large bodies of soldiers standing fact to face and marching them towards each other Or, if they were really dumb, they'd march them towards the other's fortifications

This was all fine and dandy in the age of the sword, spear or musket. However, the Civil War changed all that. It was the world's first industrial war in which victory was not decided by tactics, courage, valor, glory or es spirit de corp. Victory was determined by who had the biggest industrial plant. An army doesn't win anymore; it simply out produces the enemy.

And what both sides in the Civil War discovered was that it was downright deadly to move masses of men across an open field in the face of modern weaponry. (Gen. George Pickett learned that painful lesson at the Battle of Gettysburg.)

So, one would think that military leaders across the world would look at the carnage the Civil War produced and rewrite their manuals.

Didn't happen.

World War I broke out and the fools tried using the same tactics of moving masses of men across open fields. The result was even more disastrous. It wasn't until World War II that the generals finally caught on, even though a variation of this archaic tactic continued in the form of assorted amphibious landings. A stretch of water offers even less cover than an open field.

It's a hard and fast rule of military tactics that one never gives up a tactic simply because it doesn't work. In the face of failure, the response is more of the same.

The atomic bomb pretty much put an end to the age of industrial warfare. There's not much sense if fighting an industrial style war if you are going to annihilate civilization. But, that didn't stop leaders from churning out tons of military hardware designed for a form of warfare that had outlived its usefulness. The result was failure in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fast forward to our Eternal War of the Empty policy in which the United States finds itself mired in two wars of aggression, a new record for America. If Vietnam should have taught our leaders one lesson, it's that you can't wage an industrial war against an insurgency. For one thing, most insurgents are bright enough to pass on amassing large bodies of men on an open field in order to march them towards the enemy. Nor does bombing the shit out of them work, as we painfully discovered in Viet Nam. Advanced technology isn't much of an advantage in such a war.

This is a lesson we're learning big time in Afghanistan. Nick Turse and Tom Engelhardt point out that, counting both active duty and reserve forces, the United States enjoys a 1,286:1 ratio over al Qaeda. However, this doesn't stop our leaders from repeating over and over that al Qaeda represents a threat to the homeland and to the stability of Afghanistan and the Middle East.

This ignores the hard truth that al Qaeda doesn't really exist. If two pissed-off Muslims sit down at a table and try to dream up ways of zapping the invading American forces, they are, ipso facto, an al Qaeda cell. As Turse and Engelhardt point out:

The Pentagon with its giant bureaucracy and its miles of offices and corridors, is the headquarters of the U.S. war effort, but there is no central al-Qaeda headquarters, not in Afghanistan or Pakistan-not anywhere. There is probably no longer an "al-Qaeda central." Osama bin Laden has vanished or, for all we know, may be dead. Think of it, at best, as an open-source organization that is remarkably capable of replicating by a process of self-franchising.

Of course, this assumes that the reason we're fighting our wars of aggression is to defeat al Qaeda. Not so. al Qaeda is simply a marketing tool to justify the continued existence of America's number uno White Elephant, the Pentagon. Where once we branded nationalistic guerilla movements "communist," we now call them "terrorists" or, even better, al Qaeda in (fill in the blank).

Of course, the reverse is true-al Qaeda needs the United States military to justify what remains of its existence.

I don't subscribe to conspiracy theories, but I have to wonder... Look at how botched recent attempts to blow up airplanes have been. You had Richard Reid with his shoe bomb, the plot to blow up an airplane with a bottle of shampoo and, finally, the exploding underwear. In all three cases, scientist agreed that there was no way in hell the devices could have brought down an airplane.

Some call it stupidity, even though history has taught us that it's not wise to think of your enemy as stupid. Could it be, instead, an example of tactical brilliance?

I'm sure al Qaeda, or any terrorists with a single cell of grey matter, realizes that to actually bring down an airplane would bring a firestorm of death and destruction down on their homes. One the other hand, al Qaeda wants to keep America's knickers in a knot so we will continue to ramp up our military presence in the Middle East, thus making it easier to recruit more insurgents.

What better way is there to accomplish this than with botched up bombing attempts. The suicide bombers are thrilled with the idea because it means they avoid a premature death. Our leaders get to spaz out every time an attempt fails and we ramp up our military efforts up another notch. For both al Qaeda and the Pentagon it's a win-win strategy.

Meanwhile, we are treated to the paradox that with every drone and bomb we explode the Taliban increases their control of the Afghan countryside. But hey! Industrial warfare worked in the past so there is no reason it won't work in the future.

That's what the military calls learning from experience.
(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

'Bad Ben' Bernanke; A Reinvented Dime Novelist
By Mike Folkerth

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

Ben Shalom Bernanke (I didn't make up that middle name) is being falsely credited for putting out a fire that he started. Of course, I don't believe for a second that the fire is out, it's smoldering with intense heat under our economy and will at some point flame up and burn us down. I'm talking about debt and monetary inflation of course.

Ben Bernanke is an academic, of that there is no doubt. Born in 1953, he was a smart kid and graduated as his class valedictorian. He went on to attend Harvard and then MIT for his post graduate work, where in 1979, he obtained a Ph.D. in economics. Bernanke then became a college professor and eventually a tenured professor at Princeton. Bernanke resigned his position at Princeton in July of 2005 and was appointed the Federal Reserve Chairmanship in 2006.

You will note that Mr. Bernanke never left school during his entire lifetime, until accepting the Fed job. Mr. Bernanke then has total accumulated practical experience of zero-minus outside the hallowed halls of our most prestigious universities and quasi government institutions. Lacking any practical experience, then Mr. Bernanke can be considered a theoretical sort of man.

I want to remind everyone that, "In theory, practice and theory are the same. In practice, they are not.

Within a speech given in 2002, Ben Bernanke mentioned that the government in a fiat money system owns the physical means of creating money. Control of the means of production for money implies that the government can always avoid deflation by simply issuing more money. He said "The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at no cost."

In a foot note of that same speech, Bernanke stated, "...people know that inflation erodes the real value of the government's debt and, therefore, that it is in the interest of the government to create some inflation."

Note that Mr. Bernanke speaks as if government and the people are separate interests; such a cavalier and divisive attitude is what happened to our former Democratic Republic.

Ben Bernanke also claims to be a leading expert on the causes of the Great Depression, yet Mr. Bernanke was born seven years after the depression ended.

If you wanted to know what actually happened at the famous shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, would you rather hear it from a dime novelist or Wyatt Earp?

Leonard Ayres was the Wyatt Earp of the Depression Era; he was there and was a live witness to the entire proceedings. At the behest of Congress and while in the midst of that famous Depression, Mr. Ayres wrote, "The Chief Cause of this and Other Depressions."

Here is a reminder of what Mr. Ayres tried to tell us in 1934. That is, he tried to tell those who wished to forgo another Great Depression, which apparently did not include our Federal Government.

"Operating in a stable and predictable environment is the key to our economic woes." Mr. Ayres so well stated, "That kind of fundamental stability is the product of the drab and un-dramatic exercise of national integrity and self-restraint." In other words, we have already failed the first principal.

Following are the points that Mr. Ayers suggests would keep our economy on an even keel. He begins, "It involves persistent adherence to at least seven national policies."

1. Peace, and the enduring prospect of peace. (So much for that one).

2. A sound money in which both our citizens and those of other countries have full confidence. (He's gotta be kidding).

3. Balanced national budgets. (SAY WHAT! How else would we have a false economy)?

4. A sound banking system, independent of political influence. (Right).

5. The limitation of bank credit to loans fully justified by the demonstrated earning power of the assets on which the loans are based. (Where is this man's head, what's next, down payments)?

6. The restriction of speculation financed by credit. (Is he crazy? We live on speculation).

7. Such negative regulation of business operations as experience may have proved necessary to prevent abuses, dishonest competition, and exploitation, but with a minimum of positive regulation designed to control wage and price competition, or to favor special group interest. (I bet he was talking about Wall Street, the banks, and the auto industry).

As a nation, we have grossly violated all seven principles that were laid out by Mr. Ayres.

Instead, we have followed the monetary path of the likes of Ben Bernanke, who is the darling of Wall Street and Big Business. Mr. Bernanke is the equivalent of a dime novelist that makes up his own rules and his own version of history to justify the ill conceived requirements for continuing the impossibility of exponential growth.

Like his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke will at some point slough off his eventual catastrophic failure by saying, "I just didn't see it coming."
(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...

"Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day. But a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers (administrations), too plainly proves a deliberate systematic plan of reducing us to slavery."
~~~ President Thomas Jefferson

Democracy In America Is A Useful Fiction
By Chris Hedges

Corporate forces, long before the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, carried out a coup d'état in slow motion. The coup is over. We lost. The ruling is one more judicial effort to streamline mechanisms for corporate control. It exposes the myth of a functioning democracy and the triumph of corporate power. But it does not significantly alter the political landscape. The corporate state is firmly cemented in place.

The fiction of democracy remains useful, not only for corporations, but for our bankrupt liberal class. If the fiction is seriously challenged, liberals will be forced to consider actual resistance, which will be neither pleasant nor easy. As long as a democratic facade exists, liberals can engage in an empty moral posturing that requires little sacrifice or commitment. They can be the self-appointed scolds of the Democratic Party, acting as if they are part of the debate and feel vindicated by their cries of protest.

Much of the outrage expressed about the court's ruling is the outrage of those who prefer this choreographed charade. As long as the charade is played, they do not have to consider how to combat what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls our system of "inverted totalitarianism."

Inverted totalitarianism represents "the political coming of age of corporate power and the political demobilization of the citizenry," Wolin writes in "Democracy Incorporated." Inverted totalitarianism differs from classical forms of totalitarianism, which revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader, and finds its expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. The corporate forces behind inverted totalitarianism do not, as classical totalitarian movements do, boast of replacing decaying structures with a new, revolutionary structure. They purport to honor electoral politics, freedom and the Constitution. But they so corrupt and manipulate the levers of power as to make democracy impossible.

Inverted totalitarianism is not conceptualized as an ideology or objectified in public policy. It is furthered by "power-holders and citizens who often seem unaware of the deeper consequences of their actions or inactions," Wolin writes. But it is as dangerous as classical forms of totalitarianism. In a system of inverted totalitarianism, as this court ruling illustrates, it is not necessary to rewrite the Constitution, as fascist and communist regimes do. It is enough to exploit legitimate power by means of judicial and legislative interpretation. This exploitation ensures that huge corporate campaign contributions are protected speech under the First Amendment. It ensures that heavily financed and organized lobbying by large corporations is interpreted as an application of the people's right to petition the government. The court again ratified the concept that corporations are persons, except in those cases where the "persons" agree to a "settlement." Those within corporations who commit crimes can avoid going to prison by paying large sums of money to the government while, according to this twisted judicial reasoning, not "admitting any wrongdoing." There is a word for this. It is called corruption.

Corporations have 35,000 lobbyists in Washington and thousands more in state capitals that dole out corporate money to shape and write legislation. They use their political action committees to solicit employees and shareholders for donations to fund pliable candidates. The financial sector, for example, spent more than $5 billion on political campaigns, influence peddling and lobbying during the past decade, which resulted in sweeping deregulation, the gouging of consumers, our global financial meltdown and the subsequent looting of the U.S. Treasury. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent $26 million last year and drug companies such as Pfizer, Amgen and Eli Lilly kicked in tens of millions more to buy off the two parties. These corporations have made sure our so-called health reform bill will force us to buy their predatory and defective products. The oil and gas industry, the coal industry, defense contractors and telecommunications companies have thwarted the drive for sustainable energy and orchestrated the steady erosion of civil liberties. Politicians do corporate bidding and stage hollow acts of political theater to keep the fiction of the democratic state alive.

There is no national institution left that can accurately be described as democratic. Citizens, rather than participate in power, are allowed to have virtual opinions to preordained questions, a kind of participatory fascism as meaningless as voting on "American Idol." Mass emotions are directed toward the raging culture wars. This allows us to take emotional stands on issues that are inconsequential to the power elite.

Our transformation into an empire, as happened in ancient Athens and Rome, has seen the tyranny we practice abroad become the tyranny we practice at home. We, like all empires, have been eviscerated by our own expansionism. We utilize weapons of horrific destructive power, subsidize their development with billions in taxpayer dollars, and are the world's largest arms dealer. And the Constitution, as Wolin notes, is "conscripted to serve as power's apprentice rather than its conscience."

"Inverted totalitarianism reverses things," Wolin writes. "It is politics all of the time but a politics largely untempered by the political. Party squabbles are occasionally on public display, and there is a frantic and continuous politics among factions of the party, interest groups, competing corporate powers, and rival media concerns. And there is, of course, the culminating moment of national elections when the attention of the nation is required to make a choice of personalities rather than a choice between alternatives. What is absent is the political, the commitment to finding where the common good lies amidst the welter of well-financed, highly organized, single-minded interests rabidly seeking governmental favors and overwhelming the practices of representative government and public administration by a sea of cash."

Hollywood, the news industry and television, all corporate controlled, have become instruments of inverted totalitarianism. They censor or ridicule those who critique or challenge corporate structures and assumptions. They saturate the airwaves with manufactured controversy, whether it is Tiger Woods or the dispute between Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien. They manipulate images to make us confuse how we are made to feel with knowledge, which is how Barack Obama became president. And the draconian internal control employed by the Department of Homeland Security, the military and the police over any form of popular dissent, coupled with the corporate media's censorship, does for inverted totalitarianism what thugs and bonfires of books do in classical totalitarian regimes.

"It seems a replay of historical experience that the bias displayed by today's media should be aimed consistently at the shredded remains of liberalism," Wolin writes. "Recall that an element common to most 20th century totalitarianism, whether Fascist or Stalinist, was hostility towards the left. In the United States, the left is assumed to consist solely of liberals, occasionally of 'the left wing of the Democratic Party,' never of democrats."

Liberals, socialists, trade unionists, independent journalists and intellectuals, many of whom were once important voices in our society, have been silenced or targeted for elimination within corporate-controlled academia, the media and government. Wolin, who taught at Berkeley and later at Princeton, is arguably the country's foremost political philosopher. And yet his book was virtually ignored. This is also why Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich and Cynthia McKinney, along with intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, are not given a part in our national discourse.

The uniformity of opinion is reinforced by the skillfully orchestrated mass emotions of nationalism and patriotism, which paints all dissidents as "soft" or "unpatriotic." The "patriotic" citizen, plagued by fear of job losses and possible terrorist attacks, unfailingly supports widespread surveillance and the militarized state. This means no questioning of the $1 trillion in defense-related spending. It means that the military and intelligence agencies are held above government, as if somehow they are not part of government. The most powerful instruments of state power and control are effectively removed from public discussion. We, as imperial citizens, are taught to be contemptuous of government bureaucracy, yet we stand like sheep before Homeland Security agents in airports and are mute when Congress permits our private correspondence and conversations to be monitored and archived. We endure more state control than at any time in American history.

The civic, patriotic and political language we use to describe ourselves remains unchanged. We pay fealty to the same national symbols and iconography. We find our collective identity in the same national myths. We continue to deify the Founding Fathers. But the America we celebrate is an illusion. It does not exist. Our government and judiciary have no real sovereignty. Our press provides diversion, not information. Our organs of security and power keep us as domesticated and as fearful as most Iraqis. Capitalism, as Karl Marx understood, when it emasculates government, becomes a revolutionary force. And this revolutionary force, best described as inverted totalitarianism, is plunging us into a state of neo-feudalism, perpetual war and severe repression. The Supreme Court decision is part of our transformation by the corporate state from citizens to prisoners.
(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."

Hey, Conan Obama
How about now? Can you hear us now?
By David Michael Green

There's only one political party in the entire world that is so inept, cowardly and bungling that it could manage to simultaneously lick the boots of Wall Street bankers and then get blamed by the voters for being flaming revolutionary socialists.

It's the same party that has allowed the opposition to go on a thirty year scorched earth campaign, stealing everything in sight from middle and working class voters, and yet successfully claim to be protecting 'real Americans' from out-of-touch elites.

It's the same party that could run a decorated combat hero against a war evader in 1972, only to be successfully labeled as national security wimps.

Just to be sure, it then did the exact same thing again in 2004.

It's the same party that stood by silently while two presidential elections in a row were stolen away from them.

How 'bout dem Dems, eh?

One year ago today, there was real question as to what could possibly be the future of the Republican Party in America. That's changed a bit now.

And, speaking of 'change', the one kind that Barack Obama did actually deliver this year was not that which most voters had in mind after listening to him use the word incessantly, all throughout 2008. Obama and his colleagues have now managed to bring the future of the Democratic Party into question, just a year after it won two smashing victories in a row.

Personally, I'm not real bothered by that. Today's Democrats are, almost without exception, embarrassing hacks who deserved to get stomped a long time ago.

What really upsets me, however, is what these fools have allowed to be done to the name of progressivism, and to the country.

Barack Obama has now, in just a year's time, become the single most inept president perhaps in all of American history, and certainly in my lifetime. Never has so much political advantage been pissed away so rapidly, and what's more in the context of so much national urgency and crisis. It's astonishing, really, to contemplate how much has been lost in a single year.

It was hilarious, of course, when Michelle Bachmann invoked the Charge of the Light Brigade at a rally against "Obama's" (has he ever really owned it?) health care "initiative" (isn't that too strong a word to use?), quite oblivious to the fact that the actual historical event was one of history's greatest debacles. Obama, on the other hand, seems to be actually reliving the famous cock-up in the flesh. Except, of course, that he doesn't really "charge" at anything. He just talks about things, thinks about things a real long time, defers to others on things, and waits around for things to maybe happen.

This week, though, something actually did happen. Alas, not precisely what the president had in mind, however.

But the election in Massachusetts was only slightly less inevitable than the sun rising in the east each morning. It was the product of an amazing collection of abysmal choices and practices over the last year that has produced a meltdown of equally amazing proportions for this president and his party. It is fitting that it comes on the anniversary of the president's inauguration, a moment filled with so much hope for so many just a year ago.

What has Obama - this Conan O'Brien of presidents - done wrong in order to produce this devastating outcome? The short answer is: Just about everything imaginable.

More specifically:

* He does not lead. Americans, especially in times of crisis, want their daddy-president to pick a point on the horizon and lead them to it. Often - especially in the short term - they don't even care that much which point it is. They will happily follow a president whose policies they oppose if he will but lead.

* And if he will demonstrate some conviction. I have never seen a president so utterly lacking in passion. This man literally doesn't even seem to care about himself, let alone this or that policy issue. He doesn't seem to have any strong opinions on anything, a sure prescription for presidential failure.

* He has therefore let Congress 'lead' on nearly every issue, another surefire mistake. Instead of demanding that they pass real stimulus legislation - which would have really stimulated the economy, big-time, and right now - he let those dickheads on the Hill just load up a big pork party blivet of a bill with all the pet projects they could find, designed purely to benefit their personal standing with the voters at home, rather than to actually produce jobs for Americans. And on health care, his signature issue, he did the same thing. "You guys write it, and I'll sign the check." Could there possibly be a greater prescription for failure than allowing a bunch of the most venal people on the planet to cobble together a 2,000 page monstrosity that entirely serves their interests and those of the people whose campaign bribes put them in office?

* Well, yes, now that you mention it. If you really want to bring your government crashing to the ground, why not spend endless months negotiating with vicious thugs, who will never vote for your legislation anyhow, because they are so entirely devoted to your destruction that they're willing to call you a granny murderer? What a great and winning strategy!

* Another possible strategic move even stupider than deferring to Congress to write major legislation is to cozy up with the least popular people on the planet - including, in fact, the real-life granny killers. Got an economy that is so raw it's leaving thousands in literal peril of losing their lives? Why not draft some legislation to bail-out the people who created that mess and guarantee that they retain their multimillion dollar bonuses?!?! You know, the same folks who are always talking about how great capitalism is and how important it is to take risks! The same ones who are always telling us how awful the government is - the same government that saved them from extinction. Those folks. That's right, bail out with outrageous bonuses the very people who need it least and who caused billions of people around the planet to suffer, while leaving everyone else to fend for themselves! That'll raise your presidential job approval ratings every time! And while you're at it, bring in the much beloved health insurance and pharmaceutical corporate lobbyists, and negotiate a deal with them to craft your high profile health care legislation! What voter can't get behind that?

* Another brilliant presidential tactic is to be such a Mr. Happy Nice Face that you acknowledge no enemies for the country, or even yourself. Not the health care corporate vampires who suck the blood out of Americans from San Diego to Bangor, providing absolutely no value-added health service whatsoever, while denying treatment to deathly ill human beings at every opportunity, all to rake in billions more in profits. Not the reckless pirates on Wall Street who bet all our money on insane gambles that wrecked the global economy, took government bail-out money to survive, and yet are still drowning in bonuses as rewards. Not the Republican Party who spent three decades downsizing the middle class, plunging the country into wars based on lies, deregulating every protection in sight, fattening up corporate cronies, wrecking the environment, trashing the Constitution and polarizing the country politically. And not even a catastrophic climate disaster speeding toward the planet with relentless determination. No! We must all be happy and talk nice! No bad guys. Not even the bad guys can be bad guys.

* While you're at it, if you're trying to run the most failed presidency ever, a really good idea is to campaign in the grandest terms possible, and then deliver squat. You know, talk about bending the arc of history. Invoke Martin Luther King's dream and his struggles and even those of the slaves. Ring the big bells of generational calling. Remind voters every thirty seconds that the country badly needs "Change!". Then get elected and turn around and continue the policies of your hated predecessor in every meaningful policy area. Only with less conviction. People will love that.

* A related brilliant move is to mobilize a giant army of passionate volunteers dedicated to putting you in the White House, and then do nothing with them once you get there, other than taking them completely for granted and never calling upon them to do anything in support of your agenda. Be sure to deflate their enthusiasm in every way possible.

* Even more importantly, if you're trying to run your presidency into the ground you'll definitely want to avoid mobilizing the general public behind your agenda. To make sure that you don't repeat the great legislative victories of FDR or LBJ or (unfortunately) Reagan or (really unfortunately) Little Bush, never use their method of appealing directly to the people. Never express your legislative program as a moral imperative, a great calling to the nation. Never attempt to rally the public behind your cause. Never express any urgency. And never call upon them to demand that Congress pass your bills. Then, you can rest assured they won't!

* And let's take it up a whole 'nuther level, while we're on the subject. A successful president is one who articulates a strong and compelling narrative for the nation. So, in your quest to avoid rising even to mediocrity, be sure to leave a great big gaping canyon where that whole narrative thing is supposed to go. No New Deal, no Great Society, no New Frontier or War on Terror for you. Nope! Just a thousand little projects with little non-solutions to big problems. Hey, why not inject yourself into Cambridge, Massachusetts community police politics while you're at it! Or the New York State Democratic Party gubernatorial primary! Or you could deliberate for weeks about which breed of dog to get for your kids! That's a great use of the president's political capital!

* As long as you're walking away from the grand narrative, why not let the opposition define you as well? Let them say anything imaginable about you, and never respond. You're a socialist! No, you're a fascist! No, you're both! At the same time, no less! You're a granny killer! You're not really even an American! You're taking over the US for the Muslims! You're a massive taxer and spender! You're running around the world, apologizing for America everywhere you go! No worries. Just remember the golden rule, and your presidency is sure to sink: Never engage, never respond, never preempt, never attack, never fight back.

* In general, you'll also want to take the most important power the president has - the bully pulpit - and totally piss it away. Appear everywhere at once, all the time, saying lots of nice words, about a thousand different issues. But never with passion, never with compelling simplicity, never with repetition, and never with urgency. Pretty soon you'll turn being everywhere into being nowhere. Everyone one will tune out your ubiquitous self. Give up the high moral ground which is the most important asset of the office you hold, and you'll make sure that no one ever listens to you anymore. You will persuade the public of nothing. Except that you are irrelevant.

* But you can do better still. Help your enemies, so that they can crush you more effectively! Start by not even realizing they are your enemies. Then, treat them with greater respect than your friends, even though they've run the country over a cliff. Defer to them at every opportunity. Consult with them even as they insult you to your face. Allow them to run Congress, even though they have small minorities in both houses. Never force them to vote against simple, popular legislation. Never call their bluffs. Never associate them with the destruction they've caused. Never label them the treasonous hypocritical liars that they are. Help them to resuscitate the comatose near-corpse of their political party, just before it's about to die, so it can rise up and savage you.

* Another great trick for crashing a presidency is to pick all the wrong priorities to 'fight' for. Imagine, for example, if FDR had substituted for his 'Day of Infamy' speech right after Pearl Harbor a ringing call for an American revolution in cobbler technology! Yes, that's right, in response to the devastating surprise attack by the armed forces of the Empire of Japan, what if the president urgently called upon us all to start making really amazing shoes?! Before it's too late, and we all get blisters on our feet! Similarly, Mr. Obama, your spending the last year on (jive) health care and jetting around the world dipping your toes into foreign policy problems while Americans are losing their jobs and their houses is a fine way to kill your presidency. Guaranteed to work every time.

* And, finally, perhaps the most important thing one can do - and the thing that helps explain many of the other items above - is to adopt really, really pathetic policies. If you're doing a stimulus bill, for example, make sure that it's too little money, not targeted at real stimulative levers in the economy, costs a lot, doesn't kick in for a year or two, gives away about a third of the money to ineffective pet projects for Republican while none of them vote for it anyhow, and leaves the unemployment rate stuck at a miserable ten percent. Or, if you're doing a bail-out of the banks for the purpose of producing the liquidity essential to restarting the economy, let them take bonuses as big as they want, and don't actually require that they loan out to anyone the money you've given them. Or, how about spending nearly all your political capital on 'health care' legislation, which is really an insurance company boondoggle bill instead? That's really what the people want, eh? No wonder Obama's not out there writing the narrative, fighting the good fight or crushing his enemies. Even he can't get excited about his own priorities, so extraordinarily abysmal are they.

All of this represents the best prescription I can imagine for wrecking a presidency, and Obama has followed it with exacting precision. Indeed, doing so would appear to be his only real passion. It's almost as if he were a Republican sleeper politician in some party politics version of the Manchurian Candidate, planted to arise on cue and destroy the Democratic Party from within.

And thus - while anything's possible, of course - I am hard pressed to see how the Obama administration is anything but finished. Consider his options from here.

He could turn to the right, like Clinton did in 1994. But the first problem is that he's already there. If you look carefully at his policies, he is basically running George Bush's third term. Regressives (conveniently) forget that. They call him weak on national security, even while he dramatically escalates the war in Afghanistan, hardly draws down in Iraq, breaks his own promise to close Gitmo, and smashes through the $700 billion mark in military spending for the first time, not even counting Afghanistan's costs. They ignore his Bush-cloned policies on state secrets, renditions, executive power and other civil liberties issues. They forget that Bush's health care bill was far more socialistic and far more fiscally irresponsible than Obama's, and that his bail-outs and stimulus actions were almost identical. So, in short, for Obama to turn to starboard at this point would literally require him to outflank the GOP to its right. Moreover, the Limbaughs and Becks and Palins would still excoriate him, no matter what. Worse still, such policies would only make the lives of ordinary Americans a lot worse, just as they have been doing for thirty years now. So what could be gained by a turn to the right?

Second, he could go small-bore, as Clinton also did in the 1990s. But, of course, these aren't the 1990s. FDR didn't win four terms during a Great Depression and a world war by focusing on school uniforms and V-chips. This is not the 1930s or 1940s, but it's close. People are hurting, frightened and angry. Obama is suffering badly already because he is not addressing their very tangible concerns. More of the same policy-wise will produce more of the same politically. Going this route, he'd be lucky if the public was kind enough to let him finish his single term as a James Buchanan wannabe, then go home.

The obvious solution, of course, would be a sharp turn to the left. Go where the real solutions are. Fight the good fight. Call liars 'liars' and thieves 'thieves'. Do the people's business. Become their advocate against the monsters bleeding them dry. Create jobs. Build infrastructure. Do real national health care. End the wars. Dramatically slash military spending. Produce actual educational reform. Launch a massive green energy/jobs program. Get serious about global warming. Kick ass on campaign finance reform. Fight for gay rights. Restore the New Deal era regulatory framework and expand it. Restore a fair taxation structure. Rewrite trade agreements that undermine American jobs. Rebuild unions. Fill the spate of vacancies in the federal judiciary, and load those seats up with progressives. Rally the public to demand that Congress act on your agenda. Humiliate the regressives in and out of the GOP for their abysmal sell-out policies.

All of this could be done, and most of it would be very popular, especially if it was backed by an aggressive and righteously angry Oval Office advocate for the people who knew how to use the bully pulpit to shape the narrative, to market ideas, and to mobilize public support.

But I doubt Obama has anything like the constitution for that sort of presidency. I think his personal disposition is so strongly controlling of his politics that he would rather preside as a three year lame-duck over a failed one-term presidency, than actually throw an elbow or two and make anyone uncomfortable. Think how unpleasant it would be.

Moreover, by blundering during the only chance he'll ever have at introducing his presidency, he's now created an additional set of problems for himself which may well be insurmountable, even if he were to now try to live up to his campaign billing. He needs Democratic votes in Congress to do much of anything, but they're all focused on the looming tsunami of next November. The very same people who might have swallowed hard and reluctantly followed the lead of inspirational new president Obama one year ago, today will join everyone else in the world and spit in the eye of useless, feeble, washed-up Barack. He's got zero leverage over his own party in Congress now. As for the public, it's gonna be pretty hard to now market himself as the great enemy of the people's enemies, when he's just finished a year of making secret sweetheart deals that benefit Wall Street bankers, health insurance pirates, and pharmaceutical predators, all while leaving his own base and the public he's supposed to be serving out in the rain. Politicians can reinvent themselves, but you need time and there are certain limits of plausibility that cannot be ignored, any more than you can ignore the laws of physics.

Of course, I don't give a shit about Barack Obama anymore, other than my desire that really ugly things happen to him as payment in kind for the grandest act of betrayal we've seen since Benedict Arnold did his thing. But what about the country?

Not so good there, either, I'm afraid. What happens when you have two parties to choose from, and one of them wrecks the country with dramatically evil policies so radical even backward America hates them, but then you turn to the other party, which spends an entire year on the campaign trail promising change, only to turn out nearly identical to the first lot when in government? What do you do?

One option is to find another party. To some extent that is happening, but absolutely not where it should be. The tea partyers are the 'alternative' vision for salvation in today's America. (Very) unfortunately, they are not alternative in any sense, have almost no coherent vision whatsoever, and - as the possible third right-wing party for voters to choose from, out of three, obviously offer zero salvation whatsoever. All the tea party lunatics seem to know is that they don't like taxes and they don't like federal spending. But they can't even tell you what they'd cut if they actually controlled the government. My guess is that it would be nothing, just like the Republicans before them, or else they'd slash entitlement spending, which would surely make them one of the flashiest flashes ever to get royally panned by the public.

The other option, which the voters are now exercising, is to continue a process begun in 2006 of voting for the party which is not the party in power. Today, that means Republicans, as witnessed in Virginia, New Jersey and now Massachusetts. The absurdity of this, of course, is that it was these exact same people who created this astonishingly thorough mess we find ourselves in. What is Mitch McConnell or John Boehner or Sarah Palin going to do for Americans who don't have jobs? Cut taxes they no longer pay (and thus also further increase the national debt, by the way)? What will they do for those same folks who've lost their health insurance? Kill Democratic plans, even when they're nothing but corporate giveaways anyhow?

Americans will simply be more sick, more broke and more unemployed two, four or six years from now than they are at this moment, if they put the Republicans back in control of the government.

Of course, there's one other possibility, which is that this time the Cheney Party goes balls-to-the-wall, bringing down on our heads a full-on fascist dictatorship, serving corporate interests in total, and likely launching a couple of good wars abroad to complement the complete repression of dissent and freedom of expression at home.

Ridiculous? I try pretty hard every day - and it takes some work - to keep my most apocalyptic totalitarian nightmares for this country in check. But think about this chronological sequence for a second: The Democrats get killed in November for doing nothing while the public suffers. But they are still seen as the party in power in 2012, so they get killed even worse, with Obama sent packing and Palin or her equivalent moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But the new radical GOP regime's policies are even more detrimental to voters than Bush's or Obama's. Maybe the public is distracted for a year or two by some bullshit foreign policy 'crisis' or another, but pretty soon they're getting real restless. After about six years now of suffering badly, they're getting real surly, and 'anti-incumbent' doesn't begin to describe the mood of the country. Now they really want some serious change.

Of course, anything can happen - but which part of that sequence seems improbable? And if the answer is none, then the salient question becomes: What does the regime do at that point, faced with an angry mob? What are the Dick Cheneys and Sarah Palins of this world committed to? What are they capable of when pressed?

I don't think those questions really require a response. I think we all know pretty well the answers.

This is the country that Obama - the great Hope guy - is bequeathing us.

Dante said "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality".

Better stock up on the mist sprayers, Barack.
(c) 2010 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Deputy Fuhrer Gates,

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 ability to make excuses for sending in desperately needed supplies to Haiti giving Black Water time to stage a couple of incidents as an excuse to keep the Marines there indefinitely, 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 "Pentagoon 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 Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds 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 Gates, Sieg Heil!
PS. Please don't start a military coup d'etat!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Sanctity Of Military Spending
By Glenn Greenwald

Administration officials announced last night that the President, in tomorrow's State of the Union address, will propose a multi-year freeze on certain domestic discretionary spending programs. This is an "initiative intended to signal his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit," officials told The New York Times.

But the freeze is more notable for what it excludes than what it includes. For now, it does not include the largest domestic spending programs: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. And all "security-related programs" are also exempted from the freeze, which means it does not apply to military spending, the intelligence budget, the Surveillance State, or foreign military aid. As always, the notion of decreasing the deficit and national debt through reductions in military spending is one of the most absolute Washington taboos. What possible rationale is there for that?

The facts about America's bloated, excessive, always-increasing military spending are now well-known. The U.S. spends almost as much on military spending as the entire rest of the world combined, and spends roughly six times more than the second-largest spender, China. Even as the U.S. sunk under increasingly crippling levels of debt over the last decade, defense spending rose steadily, sometimes precipitously. That explosion occurred even as overall military spending in the rest of the world decreased, thus expanding the already-vast gap between our expenditures and the world's. As one "defense" spending watchdog group put it: "The US military budget was almost 29 times as large as the combined spending of the six 'rogue' states (Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) who spent $14.65 billion." To get a sense for how thoroughly military spending dominates our national budget, consider this chart showing where Americans' tax revenue goes:

Since much of that overall spending is mandatory, military spending -- all of which is discretionary -- accounts for over 50% of discretionary government spending. Yet it's absolutely forbidden to even contemplate reducing it as a means of reducing our debt or deficit. To the contrary, Obama ran on a platform of increasing military spending, and that is one of the few pledges he is faithfully and enthusiastically filling (while violating his pledge not to use deceitful budgetary tricks to fund our wars):

President Barack Obama will ask Congress for an additional $33 billion to fight unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on top of a record $708 billion for the Defense Department next year, The Associated Press has learned.

In sum, as we cite our debtor status to freeze funding for things such as "air traffic control, farm subsidies, education, nutrition and national parks" -- all programs included in Obama's spending freeze -- our military and other "security-related" spending habits become more bloated every year, completely shielded from any constraints or reality. This, despite the fact that it is virtually impossible for the U.S. to make meaningful progress in debt reduction without serious reductions in our military programs.

Public opinion is not a legitimate excuse for this utterly irrational conduct, as large percentages of Americans are receptive to reducing -- or at least freezing -- defense spending. A June, 2009 Pew Research poll asked Americans what they would do about defense spending, and 55% said they would either decrease it (18%) or keep it the same (37%); only 40% wanted it to increase. Even more notably, a 2007 Gallup poll found that "the public's view that the federal government is spending too much on the military has increased substantially this year, to its highest level in more than 15 years." In that poll, 58% of Democrats and 47% of Independents said that military spending "is too high" -- and the percentages who believe that increased steadily over the last decade for every group.

The clear fact is that, no matter how severe are our budgetary constraints, military spending and all so-called "security-related programs" are off-limits for any freezes, let alone decreases. Moreover, the modest spending freeze to be announced by Obama tomorrow is just the start; the Washington consensus has solidified and is clearly gearing up for major cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, with the dirty work to be done by an independent "deficit commission." It's time for "everyone" to sacrifice and suffer some more -- as long as "everyone" excludes our vast military industry, the permanent power factions inside the Pentagon and intelligence community, our Surveillance and National Security State, and the imperial policies of perpetual war which feed them while further draining the lifeblood out of the country.

UPDATE: I just saw this scary headline on MSNBC, became very frightened, and have changed my mind, as I now realize we need to massively increase our military spending to Stay Safe!!!

The Washington Post is hyping the same report. Apparently, it's breaking news -- meriting screaming red-alert headlines -- that Al Qaeda would like to ("aims to") acquire WMDs and use them against the U.S. But we should all try to remain a little calm, at least. I'm sure if we just buy some more fighter jets, create some better underground bombs, invade a few more Muslim countries, keep more Muslims imprisoned forever with no charges, give the Pentagon, the CIA and their private contractors a lot more unaccounted-for cash and stay out of their way, expand our domestic spying networks even further through private sector telecom contracts, pour tens of billions of dollars more into the coffers of our Middle East client states, and kill a few more civilians with drones, this problem will be handled. It's just a matter of making sure we bulk up our military budget -- and Look Forward, not Backward to what was done in the past -- and we'll be able to Stay Safe from this Terrorist-WMD menace.

As for the deficit, no need to worry about that. We can just freeze programs for national parks and cut Social Security and Medicare.
(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.

Green Vehicles & China's Automobile Market
By Mike Wrathell

This article first appeared in America Jr.

What would happen if Detroit sold over a million cars and trucks a month? Ah, this is not Fantasyland, so don't bother putting on your 3-D glasses.

I am talking about China. In 2009, 13.7 million new cars and trucks were sold there. Ten million were sold here, many of them not American or made in America by Toyota, Honda, and other foreign companies, like Mitsubishi, who bombed shut the entrance to a gold mine in the waning days of WW2, dooming hundreds of American, British, and Australian POWs to hide evidence of their violation of the Geneva Convention.

China was on our side in WW2, and they still are. If they weren't, they would demand all the money they loaned us back and we'd be cooking Rover for dinner.

In 2020, there will be 300 million cars and trucks in China. Our current population is estimated at 307 million in the USA.

There are a lot of car companies in China, but the three biggest ones are Chery, SAIC, and BYD Auto. Warren Buffett bought into BYD and their stock went up like Balloon Boy. He also owns Geico. Well, his company Berkshire Hathaway does. They also own some of Wal-Mart, which, as you know, seems to sell only stuff made in China.

But, speaking of BYD, short for "Build Your Dreams," they plan to launch their pure electric car, the e6, later this year right here in the USA. It seats 5 and goes 300 kilometers on a single charge. It takes ten minutes for a half charge, and an hour for a full charge.

BYD is a global battery-making leader. It is the # 2 cellphone battery maker in the world. They are based in Shenzhen, just north of Hong Kong, in a small village turned into a city of over 8 million in the blink of an eye. Another million will be added before you can say "Dalai Lama."

BYD also makes an electric bus called the e-bus. It's motor is in the wheels. Move over VW. Welcome to "Chinese engineering!"

Paul Lin, Global Marketing Manager of BYD Auto, addressed the Media and a slew of automotive industry folks at China Business Update and China Automotive Review's third annual half-day seminar at the Detroit Auto Show, fashionably dubbed the North American International Auto Show, for fear of scaring the bejesus out of people who only hear about the murders, carjackings and gangs roaming wild in the streets of Motown. Whatever gave them that idea? They must watch the news or something....


Mr. Lin seemed very thoughtful and conscientious and is part of probably the greatest and greenest auto company in the world, striving hard to bring electric vehicles to the global marketplace. "We need pure electric vehicles as part of a systematic solution.....we have to do that," he cautioned, noting the environmental impact of the combustible engine.

BYD even has portable charging stations that can be airlifted by helicopter into areas affected by earthquakes. How cool is that? I asked him if he could send one on a ship through the Panama Canal to Haiti, but his English not so good.

A nationwide network of battery-charging stations is necessary in both China and America for pure electric cars to be a viable alternative to fossil fuel-burning engines. BYD is on that big time and with Warren Buffett on board, stockholders are confident that it will happen this year.

Wayne Xing, the Editor/Publisher of CBU/CAR, in response to me asking if the e6 and Chevrolet Volt would be able to charge at each others' charging stations said that when Presidents Obama and Hu met in Beijing in 2009, the two leaders discussed standardization. I sure hope so, especially early on in the history of electric cars when I suspect finding a charging station with an open space for your car will be at a premium.

The cost of making a car in China goes down every year. China has got it going on. The demand for cars is so high in China that it takes 3 to 4 months to get your car after you order it. Because Chinese cars are selling like hot cakes domestically, many Chinese automakers are not motivated to try their hand at the export business, despite encouragement from the Chinese government. Plus, they know America is a land of lawyers, lawsuits, and lemon laws.

However, BYD is ready to buck the trend and take the plunge into the American melting pot. SAIC has teamed up with GM to make cars in India as GM-SAIC Motor India. Geely is expected to finalize its acquisition of Volvo from Ford this year. Beijing Automotive, a state-run automaker, bought a big chunk of Saab, a Swedish auto company. And Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company Ltd. is wrapping up its purchase of Hummer from GM. Seems like everyone wants a Hummer, if they just weren't so hard to park.

Studies have shown that 10% of the American public would consider buying an electric car. 34% would willingly help pay for local charging stations. With a range far exceeding most people's usual daily mileage, electric cars last big problem is how quiet they are, but engineers are working on ways to create artificial noise to alert pedestrians and silly squirrels. Maybe if drivers used their horns more than they text that would help, too, huh? And slow down when you see animals by the road, please!

VW is the largest foreign automaker in China. GM, Ford, and Chrysler are all there, too. Foreign luxury cars do quite well in China as the middle class expands. Like Australia, the global economic crisis did not hit China as hard as it hit here and in Europe. Canada got hit pretty hard, too.

Some say China is due for a "correction" as some people there have been overstating the numbers. We shall have to wait and see. Surely, some Chinese automakers like Brilliance have faltered. They lost a lot of key players to rival companies since the 2009 NAIAS.

Dr. Cai Haimian, President of Henglong Steering USA and Director of China Automotive Systems, a Chinese company specializing in power steering systems, said it best, "You can't think about five years from now, if you don't survive today." China is a survivor, though. They have been around a lot longer than America, and we could learn a thing or two from them. Have we ever fought off the Mongols?

If Chinese automakers continue to partner with America and Americans like Warren Buffett, there are bright days ahead for both of us. Like the Yin and Yang, if the East and West can work together harmoniously on business, cultural, economic, environmental, human rights, religious, and security issues, hopefully we can overlook our political and philosophical differences and live in peace and prosperity, while kicking jihadist butt, of course!
(c) 2010 Mike Wrathell is an artist, attorney, actor and a reporter for Issues & Alibis Magazine. Contact Mike.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Jeff Koterba ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

By Bob Dylan

Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night
Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall.
She sees the bartender in a pool of blood,
Cries out, "My God, they killed them all!"
Here comes the story of the Hurricane,
The man the authorities came to blame
For somethin' that he never done.
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world.

Three bodies lyin' there does Patty see
And another man named Bello, movin' around mysteriously.
"I didn't do it," he says, and he throws up his hands
"I was only robbin' the register, I hope you understand.
I saw them leavin'," he says, and he stops
"One of us had better call up the cops."
And so Patty calls the cops
And they arrive on the scene with their red lights flashin'
In the hot New Jersey night.

Meanwhile, far away in another part of town
Rubin Carter and a couple of friends are drivin' around.
Number one contender for the middleweight crown
Had no idea what kinda shit was about to go down
When a cop pulled him over to the side of the road
Just like the time before and the time before that.
In Paterson that's just the way things go.
If you're black you might as well not show up on the street
'Less you wanna draw the heat.

Alfred Bello had a partner and he had a rap for the cops.
Him and Arthur Dexter Bradley were just out prowlin' around
He said, "I saw two men runnin' out, they looked like middleweights
They jumped into a white car with out-of-state plates."
And Miss Patty Valentine just nodded her head.
Cop said, "Wait a minute, boys, this one's not dead"
So they took him to the infirmary
And though this man could hardly see
They told him that he could identify the guilty men.

Four in the mornin' and they haul Rubin in,
Take him to the hospital and they bring him upstairs.
The wounded man looks up through his one dyin' eye
Says, "Wha'd you bring him in here for? He ain't the guy!"
Yes, here's the story of the Hurricane,
The man the authorities came to blame
For somethin' that he never done.
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world.

Four months later, the ghettos are in flame,
Rubin's in South America, fightin' for his name
While Arthur Dexter Bradley's still in the robbery game
And the cops are puttin' the screws to him, lookin' for somebody to blame.
"Remember that murder that happened in a bar?"
"Remember you said you saw the getaway car?"
"You think you'd like to play ball with the law?"
"Think it might-a been that fighter that you saw runnin' that night?"
"Don't forget that you are white."

Arthur Dexter Bradley said, "I'm really not sure."
Cops said, "A poor boy like you could use a break
We got you for the motel job and we're talkin' to your friend Bello
Now you don't wanta have to go back to jail, be a nice fellow.
You'll be doin' society a favor.
That sonofabitch is brave and gettin' braver.
We want to put his ass in stir
We want to pin this triple murder on him
He ain't no Gentleman Jim."

Rubin could take a man out with just one punch
But he never did like to talk about it all that much.
It's my work, he'd say, and I do it for pay
And when it's over I'd just as soon go on my way
Up to some paradise
Where the trout streams flow and the air is nice
And ride a horse along a trail.
But then they took him to the jailhouse
Where they try to turn a man into a mouse.

All of Rubin's cards were marked in advance
The trial was a pig-circus, he never had a chance.
The judge made Rubin's witnesses drunkards from the slums
To the white folks who watched he was a revolutionary bum
And to the black folks he was just a crazy nigger.
No one doubted that he pulled the trigger.
And though they could not produce the gun,
The D.A. said he was the one who did the deed
And the all-white jury agreed.

Rubin Carter was falsely tried.
The crime was murder "one," guess who testified?
Bello and Bradley and they both baldly lied
And the newspapers, they all went along for the ride.
How can the life of such a man
Be in the palm of some fool's hand?
To see him obviously framed
Couldn't help but make me feel ashamed
to live in a land
Where justice is a game.

Now all the criminals in their coats and their ties
Are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise
While Rubin sits like Buddha in a ten-foot cell
An innocent man in a living hell.
That's the story of the Hurricane,
But it won't be over till they clear his name
And give him back the time he's done.
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world.
(c) 1975/2010 Bob Dylan ~ Jacques Levy

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

The Two Handed Wedgie
By Will Durst

Just when you think we got enough to worry about, along comes a big old raging controversy over airports utilizing full body scanning machines that can see through fliers' clothing all the way down to our naughty bits. Let me tell you where I stand on this brouhaha: I don't care. Haha. In the whole modesty versus safety argument, you can count on me to crawl behind the Kevlar couch with the Safety First crowd every time!

All because of the underpants bomber. Yes, the underpants bomber. And no, it's not funny, but then again, yes, it is. Here's my theory, if the bad guys are willing to shove bombs up their butts, you know what, we're not going to win that war. Who can afford to pay the necessary costs to hire people to check for this? "More anal probes please." Because when we do come up with a defense for explosive suppositories, the terrorists will just develop some sort of kim chee, 1000 year old egg, garlic- onion paste resulting in murderous bad breath.

Another point as dependable as Tofu Corn Dogs at a Berkeley street fair, is these attacks always produce a surfeit of feigned media outrage leading to an equally transparent government overreaction. Pilots now have the option of restricting passengers from using rest rooms for the first and last hours of the flight. Battling terrorism with toity deprivation. And you thought those middle coach seats were grotey before. Captains have also been instructed not to point out landmarks along the way. And no peeking out the windows either. That would be cheating. Destination announcements- a thing of the past. From now on, guess where you're going.

Even though the fruit of the loom bomb didn't go off, conservatives are still screaming it's all Obama's fault. And one thing that hasn't changed with administrations is the Executive propensity for deflecting responsibility. Must be on page one of the White House primer they hand out with the keys to the front door. Raising an interesting question; do you get actual keys to the White House? And if so, did Obama go down to Ace Hardware to have spares made, or did he make the kids do it?

The official excuse reeked of recycling. "The information was there but nobody connected the dots." Connected the dots? This guy paid $3000 for his ticket with cash, didn't have a passport, flew sans checked baggage after the British tried to warn us and his own dad dropped a dime on him at the Nigerian embassy. Those aren't dots. Those are day- glo beach balls the size of weather balloons filled with concrete.

Not to mention Mister Abdulmutallab was flying from Amsterdam to Detroit. C'mon, people, think about it, who voluntarily leaves Amsterdam to go to Detroit? In the dead of winter? Without a frequent flyer number? Everybody on that flight should have been suspicious and subjected to a body cavity search with a defective chain mail glove. Boarding and deplaning.

But like our lame response to the shoe bomber (putting smiles on the face of sock manufacturers everywhere,) it's only a matter of time before the TSA refocuses on the new most dangerous airborne menace known to man: poo- poo undies. Going to be tough training 45,000 screeners in the speedy implementation of the dreaded two- handed wedgie. Aah, the TSA: you got to love them. Fighting today's security threats with yesterday's technology, tomorrow.
(c) 2010 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based political comic, who writes sometimes; this being a first-rate example.

The Gross National Debt

Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 05 (c) 01/29/2010

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