Issues & Alibis
















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In This Edition

Cynthia McKinney says, "I Call It Murder."

Uri Avnery watches, "The Kangaroo."

Donna Smith joins us with, "If Terror Is The Measure, It's Healthcare War."

Greg Palast has become the, "Kvetcher In The Rye."

Jim Hightower explains, "Pricing 'Free Speech' Out Of Our Reach."

Randall Amster explores, "Haiti Untold: Nonviolence and Humanization at the Grassroots."

John Nichols is, "Calling Out "Not True" Alito."

Paul Krugman prefers, "Good And Boring."

Chris Floyd discovers, "Blood Is His Argument."

Case Wagenvoord studies, "The Wages Of Prosperity."

Mike Folkerth warns of, "Depleting Natural Resources; A One Way Dead End Street."

Chris Hedges concludes, "The Creed Of Objectivity Killed The News."

David Michael Green recalls, "An Ugly Week For The Human Race And Other Living Things."

Andre Bauer South Carolina Lt. Governor wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald finds, "Nostalgia For Bush/Cheney Radicalism."

Kate Sheppard looks into, "Negative Energy."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports Rush Limbaugh saying, "I Don't Even Want To Be Alive Anymore" but first Uncle Ernie has, "A Simple Health Care Solution."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Mike Luckovich, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Walt Kelly, Internet Weekly.Org, Mike Thompson, Moon Battery.Com, Lee Horsey, Symbolman, Signet Books, Scotia Bank.Com, Indi Bay.Org, David Shankbone, Grit TV, The London Daily News 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."










A Simple Health Care Solution
By Ernest Stewart


"But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know. Let me know. Let me know. I'm eager to see it." ~~~ President Barack Obama ~ State of the Union speech ~~~

"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed! You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that." ~~~ Andre Bauer South Carolina Lt. Governor

"We came here to help the children who had no one else, children that kind of were on the streets or in orphanages that were not in line really for other types of aide." ~~~ Laura Silsby

Of course, I didn't watch it. The older I get the less I can suffer a fool so, as usual, I went over to the White House internet site and read Barry's State of the Union address. I do this as I am no longer middle class and hence cannot afford to replace our TV set in case I go off and heave a brick through it's screen!

Barry, being Barry, talks a much better game than he plays. Trouble is, nobody is buying the bullshit anymore except for a few brain dead die-hards who still are hypnotized by his campaign rhetoric!

Of course, the far, far, far, far, far right never bought it to begin with even though if they weren't so incredibly dumb and racist, they'd realize that Barry was their man! He has, however, lost the support of the far, far, far, right, i.e., the Rethuglican centralists who supported him over the traitor old "Wet Start" McCain. He also lost the support of the far, far, rightist, a.k.a. middle-of-the-roaders and now he losing the support from the far right, i.e., the liberals. Barry lost what little support he had from the left when he failed to promote a single leftist to his cabinet and used mostly reruns from the Bush jr. and "Slick Willie" cabals.

The only thing that struck me as standing out in this latest song and dance was Barry pretending to care about America's people, especially those too poor, like yours truly, to get any health care. Well, that and there is only money for war. Barry went so far as to state if anyone had a better plan than his 2000 pages of sellout to the insurance goons to, "...let me know. Let me know. Let me know. I'm eager to see it." Oh, really? No kidding?

Well, get yourself a piece of paper and a pencil and write this down, Mr. President. I don't need 2000 pages. I won't write it in doublespeak and it won't force anyone to use the plan. There will be no fines or rip-offs if you choose not to go with it. Folks who would rather take their chances with their current insurance company and that company's real, not imagined, death panels, may certainly do so!

Ready Barry? Here it is in 10 words!

"Medicare for everyone who wants it at no extra cost!"

The rest of the first world has at least that and most have a whole lot more. Of course, they care about their citizens! We can use the same rules that are in place now, (except it would start when you are born instead of at age 65) which I'm sure would improve once a few hundred million Americans join up. No muss, no fuss! It would send the health care cost plummeting; it would take those 50 million Americans without health insurance and give them a chance at a healthy long life, which, again, would save billons a year. There are people, Barry, that are literally "dying for change" so how about some change? Sure we might have to end a war for a year to pay for healthcare for the next ten years but with folks being healthy enough to work the tax rolls would increase. Perhaps we could close say 500 (that's less than half) of our military bases overseas and bring the kids home. That in itself would pay for the program for 20 years and doing both would improve our standing in the world by leaps and bounds. If we kept at that we'd have plenty of money to repair our fast crumbling infrastructure, an infrastructure that without said repairs will bring us to our knees faster than even our enemies will!

So there it is, Barry. Either Medicare for all those who desire it or see if you can join the Bush/Clinton gravy train tour because you'll be a one termer faster than you can say George Herbert Walker Bush if you don't!

In Other News

Apparently Andre Bauer, South Carolina Lt. Governor (and this week's Vidkun Quisling Award winner), has ways of dealing with the poor. Let them starve to death. That was what Bauer suggested the other day in an interview. Unlike Jonathan Swift's satirical essay "A Modest Proposal" Bauer was serious. Swift suggests to relieve the population of having to care for, clothe, and feed the poor they should simply eat them:

"I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout."

Unlike Bauer, Swift was joking and pointing out what politicians like Bauer would do to the excess population if they only could. Something that Charles Dickens revisited 120 years later in "A Christmas Carol:"

"Are there no prisons?'

'Plenty of prisons,' said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

'And the Union workhouses.' demanded Scrooge. 'Are they still in operation?'

'Both very busy, sir.'

'Oh. I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,' said Scrooge. 'I'm very glad to hear it."

And now along comes Andre to prove that nothing has changed in almost 300 years. The elite make the poor and then condemn them for being what they were made. In most parts of the world Bauer, who wants to succeed Mark (the Whore) Sanford as governor, would have ended his political career with such a remark but that's hardly the case in South Carolina. From what I garnered living in Trinity, South Carolina last year, he will no doubt have picked up thousands of votes by uttering that trash as all the white folks down there knew he was talking about those "darkies" and they could not have agree more!

After hearing Robertson and Limbaugh and other rat-wing lunatics attack and blame the people down in Haiti for an earthquake, I sometimes think that the coming end to our empire doesn't seem like such a bad thing after all!

And Finally

Those happy-go-lucky knuckleheads from the American Taliban are at it again. Ten members of the New Life Children's Refuge, a Meridian, Idaho based cult, which is sponsored by the Central Valley Baptist Church and East Side Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, were held on kidnapping and child trafficking charges. They were charged with trying to smuggle 33 orphans out of Haiti and into the Dominican Republic. Trouble is (other than the kidnapping and child trafficking bits) at least half of the children were not orphans at all and have since been released back to their worried families.

This cult had plans for kidnapping another 67 children to be offered for sale at $10,000 a head to perspective adoptive parents and sweat shop owners all over the United States. Capitalism and the Church, perfect partners indeed!

Georg Willeit, who runs the SOS Children's Village outside of Port-au-Prince where the children were taken after their rescue said:

"As far as we know they would have been, I say it clearly, sold for $10,000 each. That's what one of the policemen told us. Every child was very desperate, hungry and thirsty. They all were in a bad condition."

The kids were told they we're going off to a summer camp to go swimming and play games and such. Much like Pinocchio was told he'd be going to "Pleasure Island!"

Of course, there is absolutely nothing new about this, either in Haiti or anywhere else in the world. It's only since the December 2004 tsunami struck and certain Christians swarmed in to help the victims that people began to take notice. The America Talibaners helped those people by kidnapping their kids and turning them into good little Christian robots for sale to good Christian homes until they got caught at it! Jan Egeland, the UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordination said at the time about cases of attempts to adopt or kidnap "tsunami Muslim orphans":

"There is a big and consistent rumor that children orphans are now systematically adopted, kidnapped taken away to be Christianized in the West. It is happening but they are isolated cases but we need to stop it immediately."

There is nothing new about kidnapping and enslaving children. You may recall the "Children's Crusade" of 1212 where children from all over Europe descended on Italy after being whipped into a frenzy by religious dogma to head off to the "Holy Lands" and convert the Muslims to Christianity. This was the beginning of the 5th "crusade," the brainchild of Pope (not so) Innocent III. Instead of heading off to the Holy Land they were rounded up and sold into slavery. Or like the old American practice of taking children from Indian tribes and sending them off to, "Indian School." And yet some folks think that history doesn't repeat itself.

Update: All ten cult members were charged with child kidnapping and criminal association on Thursday. Each kidnapping count carries a possible sentence of five to 15 years in prison. Each criminal association count has a potential sentence of three to nine years.

Oh And One More Thing

We'd like to thank Dr. Phil for his kind and timely donation. Dr. Phil has come through for the magazine time and time again and we really appreciate his kindness. If we had another 50 or 60 people out of the tens of thousands who stop by every week who were as generous as the good doctor we'd have slightly more than enough to run the magazine. So I wouldn't have to bug everyone by asking for donations every week!

Also I'd like to thank Michael D. for pointing out the fact that the links in the mailing list weren't working. After figuring out what the problem was, which I might add was staring me in the face for a month or so, I fixed it and now they're all working, my bad!

And lastly we finally had a poll where everyone agreed. Not a single solitary dissenter out of 1921 votes. That's the first time in 6 years that's happened! Visit the polling site, see the results and vote in this weeks poll.



*****


12-16-1982 ~ 02-01-2010
Thanks for the memories!



03-12-1923 ~ 02-02-2010
Burn baby Burn!


*****

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*****

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.














I Call It Murder
By Cynthia McKinney

They shot this Black man in his genitals and in his back. It sounds like a hate crime to me. How else could one describe it?

Well, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, it was self-defense. But how many times have we heard self-defense by cops used as a cop out?

Well, what about Amadou Diallo? Amadou Diallo was murdered on February 4, 1999 by New York Police Department (NYPD) cops who mistook a wallet for a gun. They claim that they thought he was going to shoot them and so they shot him in self-defense. One officer fell as if he had been shot. 41 bullets later, Amadou Diallo had been shot 19 times. Young Amadou was only 24 years old. He could survive the itinerant life of an African trading family, moving from Africa to Asia, but he couldn't survive the mean, racist streets of America. And the killer cops went free. Diallo's mother and step-father settled with the City of New York for $3 million in a lawsuit alleging wrongful death, racial profiling, and violation of Amadou's civil rights.

Kathryn Johnston was 92 years old when she was murdered by Atlanta Police Department (APD) officers who claim that they shot her in self-defense after narcotics officers broke into her home on November 21, 2006 using a "no-knock" warrant. Police forced their way into Johnston's home and claimed to have found a stash of marijuana there. The APD officers claimed that she had injured them with her rusty revolver. Sadly, it was all lies. Later, it was learned that the Atlanta Police officers were actually injured by friendly fire after discharging their firearms 39 times; that they planted marijuana in the Johnston basement; lied on the drug warrant authorizing the raid; invented an informant justifying the raid; and pressured an actual drug informant to lie for them. Atlanta's lying, killer cops did serve time--either for manslaughter, conspiracy to violate Johnston's civil rights resulting in death, or perjury. The three officers were also required to reimburse the Johnston estate the $8,000 cost of her burial.

In the wee hours of November 25, 2006, Sean Bell was murdered in a hail of 50 bullets fired by officers in the New York Police Department. Bell was celebrating his upcoming wedding and was leaving the club where he had just held his bachelor party. Police opened fire after they suspected the victim had a gun. Bell was struck 4 times in the neck and torso and died from his wounds. When no gun was to be found, they concocted a mystery witness who could possibly have had a gun. New York's killer cops were acquitted on all charges.

Although Diallo, Johnston, and Bell were Black, Blacks in the United States are not the only ones who can be victimized by murderous U.S. law enforcement. While on a visit to Cuba, I had the opportunity to meet and apologize to the widow of Filiberto Ojeda Rios, a leading Puerto Rican Independentista. Wanted by U.S. authorities for actions stemming from his belief that Puerto Rico was a U.S. colony that should be independent, Ojeda Rios was murdered on September 23, 2005, shot by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at his home. An FBI press release stated that Ojeda Rios opened fire on the FBI and that the FBI retaliated, but that claim was not substantiated by an Inspector General's report that noted that the FBI opened the attack on Ojeda Rios with a "flash bang" device. Ojeda Rios shot 10 times and the FBI fired one hundred times. Ojeda Rios was struck in the lung by a single sniper's bullet, fell to the floor, and bled to death over 12 to 15 hours with no medical help allowed to save his life.

The United States government wanted to investigate the Aryan Nations, a white supremacist organization in the United States, and solicited Randy Weaver to become an informant. He turned them down. After a series of incitements and retaliations, Federal agents trespassed on Ruby Ridge, Weaver's home in Idaho, incited a response from the Weavers, two of whom left the house to see what was happening, and by the end of the ordeal, Weaver had lost two family members--his wife, Vicky and his 14-year-old son, Sammy; his dog; while another family member, Kevin Harris, had been wounded. Randy Weaver was shot in the back. Justifying its attack on the Weavers, the U.S. government claimed that Weaver and Harris had fired at a government helicopter. At trial, the jury believed that Federal Agents shot and killed the Weaver dog, then shot and killed Sammy, prompting Harris to shoot and kill one of the agents. The government awarded Randy Weaver $100,000 and one million dollars for each of three children. Although Harris had killed a U.S. agent for which a jury had acquitted him of murder charges because he had fired only after having been fired upon, the federal government awarded him $380,000 in settlement.

Now, although examples are rife in the Black and Latino communities of ordinary citizens finding themselves at the wrong end of a police muzzle for minor or no infractions, it should be clear that as long as government officials are out of control, no one is safe. That's why we all should be outraged and public about excessive force no matter where it happens or who the victim might be.

That's why I support the young people who are still facing charges from the fallout from the Oscar Grant New Year's Day murder. Remove police violence and one would not even have an Oakland 100. And quite frankly, with Oakland under the leadership of my former colleague, Ron Dellums, I'm surprised that this issue had not been more forthrightly dealt with prior to Grant's murder.

This all brings me to the January 30 report on the murder by the FBI of a Detroit Black man who was also an Imam. The case seems to have all of the ingredients of the worst of the above cases: the use of informants, law enforcement claims of self-defense or firing in retaliation for being fired upon, and failure to call for medical assistance after a fatal shooting. The FBI also refuses to release what kind of weapon the Imam had. And more troubling is the autopsy that reportedly shows that Imam Abdullah was shot in the genitals--a vintage, racist attack on black men used by White men during the days of U.S. slavery and even after the U.S. Civil War; and in the back--I suppose that was self-defense, too. Imam Abdullah, with the help of an FBI informant, was led to a warehouse where he was shot by the FBI 21 times. At a press conference, FBI Special Agent Andrew Arena commented, "I take full responsibility for what occurred that day. And I have to be judged: I'll be judged by you. I'll be judged by the community. I'll be judged by my bosses in Washington D.C. as far as the Justice Dept., and quite frankly, God someday."

The sad fact of the matter is that too many killer cops are still walking around free. Sadly, many continue to serve as law enforcement officials, able to carry out their crimes against the community again and again. Yes, they all will face God's judgment when they die, but it would be nice to get some justice here on earth, too. The Obama Justice Department has the opportunity to exact justice on behalf of communities besieged by rogue, killer cops. The verdict is not looking good, unfortunately, on whether the Obama Justice Department will serve the American people much-needed, long-delayed justice or whether certain perpetrators and their law enforcement departments will be given yet another White House pass.

*****

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





The Kangaroo
By Uri Avnery

GEORGE MITCHELL looks like a kangaroo hopping around with an empty pouch.

He hops here and he hops there. Hops to Jerusalem and hops to Ramallah, Damascus, Beirut, Amman (but, God forbid, not to Gaza, because somebody may not like it). Hops, hops, but doesn't take anything out of his pouch, because the pouch is empty.

So why does he do it? After all, he could stay at home, raise roses or play with his grandchildren.

This compulsive traveling reveals a grain of chutzpah. If he has nothing to offer, why waste the time of politicians and media people? Why burn airplane fuel and damage the environment?

THE DECLARED aim of Mitchell is to "get the peace process going again". How? "Get the two sides to return to the negotiating table".

There is a na´ve American belief that all the problems of the world could be solved if only the parties would sit down at the table and talk. When reasonable people talk to each other, they will eventually arrive at a solution.

The trouble with this is that the people responsible for the fate of nations are not, in general, reasonable people. They are politicians with passions and prejudices and constituencies, who are driven by the mood of the masses. When one is dealing with a 130-year old conflict, the na´ve belief in the value of talk borders on folly.

Decades of experience indicate that negotiations are useless if one of the parties is not interested in an agreement. Worse: negotiations can actually cause damage when one of the parties uses them to waste time while creating a false impression of progress towards peace.

In our conflict, peace negotiations have become a substitute for peace, a means to obstruct peace. They are an instrument used by successive Israeli governments to gain time - time to enlarge the settlements and entrench the occupation.

(In an interview with Haaretz published yesterday, Ehud Barak accused the "left" in general, and Gush Shalom and Peace Now in particular, of not supporting Netanyahu's call for negotiations. He got close to accusing us of treason.)

Anyone who now proposes negotiations "without prior conditions" is collaborating with the Netanyahu-Barak-Lieberman government in a ploy to sabotage the chances of peace. Indeed, Mitchell has become - perhaps unwittingly - such a collaborator. When he exerts pressure on Mahmoud Abbas "to come back to the negotiating table", he is playing the game of Netanyahu, who presents himself as the great peace-lover. Abbas is being pictured as a man who has "climbed a high tree and doesn't know how to get down again". There is no occupation, no ongoing settlement activity, no Judaization of East Jerusalem. The only problem is to get a ladder. A ladder for Abbas!

All this for what? What is the kangaroo hopping for? It's all to help Obama, who is thirsting for a political achievement like a man in the desert thirsting for water. The start of negotiations, however meaningless, would be presented as a great diplomatic success.

THE OTHER day, Obama himself made a rare gesture: the President of the United States of America declared publicly that he had made a mistake and apologized for it. He admitted that he had not properly understood the difficulties involved in the restarting of the peace process.

Everybody praised the President. Such a courageous leader! Such nobility!

To which I would add: And such chutzpah!

Here comes the most powerful leader in the world and says: I was wrong. I did not understand. I have failed. For a whole year I have not achieved any progress at all towards a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Look how honest I am! Look how ready I am to admit mistakes!

That is chutzpah. That is chutzpah, because a whole year was lost due to this "mistake", a whole year in which 1.5 million human beings in Gaza, men, women and children, have been suffering utter destitution, many of them without sufficient food, many of them without shelter in the cold and in rain. A whole year in which more than a hundred Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem were demolished while new Jewish housing projects sprang up at a crazy pace. A whole year in which settlements in the West Bank were enlarged, apartheid roads were built and pogroms, under the "price tag" slogan, were carried out.

So, with all due respect, Mr. President, the word "mistake" hardly suffices.

The Bible says: "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy" (Proverbs 28:13). Obama covereth not his "mistake", and that is good. But it is the second half of the verse that counts: "confesseth and forsaketh". No mercy for one who "confesseth" but not "forsaketh". You have not hinted with a single word that you are about to forsake your old ways.

It is chutzpah for another reason, too: You say that you have failed because you did not properly appreciate the domestic problems of the two leaders, Netanyahu and Abbas. Netanyahu, you say, has an extreme right-wing coalition, and Abbas has Hamas.

Sorry, sorry, but what about your own "coalition", which does not allow you to move an inch in the right direction? What about the two houses of Congress, which are completely subservient to the pro-Israel lobbies, both the Jewish and the Christian-Evangelical? What about your fear of your extreme right, which is supporting our own extreme right? What about your inability - or unwillingness - to exercise your leadership, invest political capital in a confrontation with the lobbies and move forwards according to the real interests of the United States (and Israel) - as did President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his time, and even, for a short period, Secretary of State James Baker?

THE TERRIBLE blow dealt to Obama in the Massachusetts by-election has dumbfounded many people. It has changed the texture of American politics and is endangering the health system reforms, the jewel in the crown he has put on his head. It threatens to turn him into a lame duck that may not only lose the midterm elections this year, but even fail to be reelected less than three years from now.

Many ask: what happened to the shining candidate who enchanted the entire United States and mobilized millions of enthusiastic new voters? Where is the man with a vision who aroused the masses with the battle-cry "Yes, We Can"?

How did the inspiring campaigner turn into a so-so president, one who does not excite anyone? How did the candidate, who always hit exactly the right note, turn into a president who is unable to touch the hearts of the people? How did the candidate, who made all the right decisions, turn into a president who cannot make decisions? How did the anti-Bush turn into another-Bush?

It seems to me that the answers lie in one of the fundamental paradoxes of the democratic system. I have thought about this many a time while sitting through boring speeches in the Knesset.

A democratic leader who has a vision and wants to realize it has to pass two tests: to win an election and to govern a country. If he does not get elected, he will not have a chance to realize his dream. If he fails in governing, his election victory loses its meaning.

The trouble is that these two tasks are very different. Indeed, they tend to contradict each other, because they demand very different talents.

The candidate must make speeches, excite the imagination, make promises and convince the voters that he is capable of fulfilling them. These talents can indeed be of help to the ruler - but they do not suffice to enable him to rule. The ruler must make hard decisions, withstand extreme pressures, manage a huge apparatus with many contradictory components, convince the public of his country and the leaders of foreign countries. He cannot satisfy all sectors of the public and all the interest groups, the way he tried to do as a candidate.

The most inspiring candidates often turn out to be disastrous heads of government. They are swept into power by the enthusiasm they evoke in their voters, and then suddenly find out that their brilliant speeches have no impact any more - not on the members of their parliament, not on the public, not on foreign leaders. Their brightest talent has become useless.

I have the impression that Obama's numerous speeches are starting to tire people and are losing their appeal. When he turns his face from left to right and from right to left, from one teleprompter to the other, he starts to look like a mechanical doll. The millions viewing his speeches on TV see him turning to the left and turning to the right, but never really looking them in the eyes.

The candidate is an actor on stage playing the role of a leader. After the elections, when he actually becomes a leader, he can become helpless. The man who plays Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's play can be a great actor - but if he were Caesar in real life, he would not have a clue what to do. (When I put this to an actor, his retort was: "But Caesar himself would not be able to play Caesar on the stage!")

Barack Obama is no Caesar. Rather he is Hamlet, Prince of America. Enchanting, attractive, full of good intentions - but feeble and hesitant. To rule or not to rule, that is the question.

IT IS much too early to announce Obama's political death. Contrary to Mark Antony, who declares in the play "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him", I am not yet ready to bury the great hope raised by him.

A year has passed since he entered the White House. A year wasted to a large extent. Three more years are left until the next elections. True, in the first year, after such a dramatic victory, it would have been much easier for him to do things than in the following three years, but Obama can still recover, draw the necessary conclusions from the experience and manage a comeback.

One of the roads there leads through Jerusalem. Obama must keep his kangaroo tied up at home and take the initiative into his own hands. He must announce a clear peace program, the one about which there is now a world-wide consensus (Two states for two peoples, a Palestinian state in all the occupied territories with its capital in East Jerusalem and the dismantling of the settlements in Palestinian territory) and call upon the two sides to adopt it in theory and practice - perhaps by a referendum on both sides. When the time is ripe, he may come to Jerusalem and address the Israeli people from the Knesset rostrum with a clear and unequivocal message.

In short: exit Hamlet, enter Julius Caesar.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom






If Terror Is The Measure, It's Healthcare War
By Donna Smith

Since I was a little child huddled in the elementary school hallway for the bomb drills to the present day when I listen to the reasons my nation must spend more on foreign military actions, the means of securing public support for war in this nation seems to have centered on one word. Terror.

We used to be terrified that the Communists from the Soviet Union were coming with their bombs, so we built shelters and indoctrinated our kids to understand our Red fear. Bombs could be launched without warning or even immediate provocation, so making us all fearful wasn't too hard. Cold War terror lasted a good, long time and helped a lot of people get very rich. We entered many "conflicts" using the fear of a Communist spread. No Commie bomb ever fell, and many still argue that's because we built more bombs and were much more terrifying as we won that face off with all those evil folks across the globe.

In the past couple of decades we've talked a lot about terrorists. Terrorists sometimes have affiliations with individual countries or groups of countries, and sometimes terrorists act in cells and networks independent of such national affiliations. Terrorists also attack without warning and often without seeming to have provocation. Bombs go off in civilian areas; people die in countries around the world, and here in the United States at the hands of domestic and foreign terror groups. Building public support for a war on terror only requires occasional reinforcement of the random senselessness of terror attacks.

So what qualifies as terror to our media? Our government? Our own sensibilities? It must not be simply the randomness or lack of direct target justification that creates terror we must ever war against. For if that were the case, surely the terror felt by millions of us as we stand largely unprotected from physical and financial collapse at the hands of the healthcare system in the U.S. would qualify as a war we should fight with due diligence.

If death -- unexpected and untimely -- of our fellow Americans was the measure of terror we ought to fight boldly and directly, then the 45,000 dead Americans who simply lacked access to healthcare would surely warrant a bold and immediate response from our commander-in-chief and our Congress. Daily death toll in the United States from a lack of access to healthcare: 124. Hourly death toll: 5-6. Yet no terror alert is raised and no breaking news scrolls across the bottom of the television screen.

Are the deaths from healthcare terror any less terrifying? They are preventable, we're told. They are not predictable. Folks with private health insurance can be at as much risk as those without private health insurance. Old folks. Young people. Kids. Babies. We just don't line them up against the bomb shelter walls anymore, do we? No, we don't warn them of the impending doom; rather we lead them to believe they are safe in what some can access easily and then claim as the best healthcare in the world.

One might argue that if the death toll were made more public from the Healthcare Terror War in the United States, we might act with more urgency to remedy the killings and stop the random acts of violence among us. Just as we used to tick off the numbers of those killed in the Viet Nam "conflict," perhaps someone -- even one bold progressive or liberal website or think tank or political caucus -- should run a daily tab for us. Once in a while they might feature an in depth look at one or two of the lost to bring the point home that 124 Americans die every day simply because the Democrats and the Republicans won't fix the problem.

Flesh and blood. Our fellow citizens. 124 died today in a terror-filled war of healthcare want.

This healthcare war is stoppable. This healthcare war is winnable. It is not a matter of political will that stops us from fixing it. It is blatant greed and self-will run riot of those who have no fear of such terror in their own lives at the hands of the healthcare terrorists.

I am terrified. Patients are terrified. American patients and American families of patients are terrified. Going to the doctor for care is not a given when sick in this nation. Having a source of funding to pay for your care is closer to being a way to be less terrified but only randomly in many cases. Out of the blue an insurance company is allowed to deny payment for care and then providers deny access to care. Out of the blue an illness can strike, like a bomb in a duffle bag left next to you in the train station or a bomb strapped in an air traveler's underwear. Illness is like that. And our U.S. healthcare system compounds the terrorism by failing to protect us.

We might get care; we might not get care. We might get medicine; we might not. Yet we hear that the way some want to fix the mess is to hand over total control of the battle to the private insurance industry warlords who have so skillfully waged battle on so many innocents.

I went to a couple of wonderful political gatherings in New Jersey and Pennsylvania this past weekend. Many of those present are supporters of Medicare for all, single-payer healthcare reform for this nation. Many are also very active in the anti-war effort. Many of us are involved in a shared national campaign called "Healthcare Not Warfare," with the Progressive Democrats of America. Yet the elected officials who attended don't seem to yet internalize the struggle of the healthcare war in their districts or across the nation. They do not feel our pain, else they would act.

They are still waging a political battle while we are fighting for our lives.

We apparently have failed to make the case so far about how many decent people in this nation live scared every single day that the next symptom or the next family illness will not be cared for, that the next medication will not be paid for or affordable, that the next cancer or heart attack will kill a loved one who couldn't win a battle fought with an insurance company, that the next phone call will be a collection agency acting for a hospital or doctor's office threatening to attach our wages or sue us in court, that the next medical visit will be cancelled because a deductible was not met, that the next fever will go undiagnosed because there was no way to see a doctor, that the next injury will have to be suffered as there was not a way to pay for an X-ray or physical therapy, that the next increase in insurance premiums will be too much for our family or our employers will not want to keep employees who are sick or who have health needs.

The list of battlefronts is very long. The potential points of terror are very real. The randomness and senselessness every bit as troubling as the Communist threat of the Cold War or the fear of the next 9-11.

This is a war. It is terror. The death panels operate with abandon, and the suffering adds up. 45,000 Americans dead every year in a preventable attack waged from within their own communities, states and nation. 124 Americans dead every day.

This isn't about health insurance reform. This isn't about Republicans or Democrats with hurt political agendas. This isn't about filibusters or 60-vote majorities. This isn't about election-year statistics and polls or about candidates with pick-up trucks that have more than 200,000 miles on the odometer.

The healthcare war in this nation is about the 45,000 dead Americans who need not have died and it is about the American citizen every 12 seconds who declares bankruptcy due to medical crisis. The healthcare war is about the citizens who must hold accountable all of their elected officials who have failed to end our terror and this war. Let's at least be honest about the healthcare war dead numbers in comparison to those dying on foreign soil. Why would any of us allow our own lives and that of our children to be so expendable as to not demand an immediate withdrawal from this healthcare war and an extension of healthcare to all? What is it that we are waiting for?

Let's extend Medicare to all. It works. It ends the terror for millions and millions of people. Medicare isn't about being Republican or Democrat. Medicare for all equals an end to a war that has claimed so many good people and gentle souls.
(c) 2010 Donna Smith is a community organizer for National Nurses United (the new national arm of the California Nurses Association) and National Co-Chair for the Progressive Democrats of America Healthcare Not Warfare campaign.






Kvetcher In The Rye
By Greg Palast

In the sixth grade, the Boys' Vice-Principal threatened to suspend me from school unless I stopped carrying around A Catcher in the Rye I think because it had the word "fuck" in it. Since the Boys' Vice-Principal hadn't read the book - and I don't think he'd ever read any book - he couldn't tell me why.

But Mrs. Gordon was cool. She let me keep the book at my desk and read it at recess as long as I kept a brown wrapper over the cover.

I think J.D. Salinger would have liked Mrs. Gordon. She wanted to save me from the world's vice-principals, the guys who wanted to train you in obedience to idiots and introduce you the adult world of fear and punishment. Mrs. Gordon wanted to protect the need of a child to run free.

That's, of course, how the word fuck got into Salinger's book. For the 5% of you who haven't read it, the main character of the book, Holden Caulfield, tries to erase the f-word off the wall of a New York City school. He doesn't want little kids like his sister Phoebe to see it, that somehow it would trigger an irreversible loss of her childhood innocence:

I thought Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how they'd wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them-all cockeyed, naturally-what it meant, and how they'd all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days.

Which is where the title came from. Salinger's Caulfield, pushed to the edge of his own youth and directed to prepare himself for the job market, could see for himself only one career: as a catcher in the rye. He imagined a bunch of kids playing away happily in a rye field, but a field on a cliff's-edge. Every time a child, lost in their game, would drift toward the edge, Caulfield's job would be to catch them before they fell.

Any other job would just turn you into a "phony," that is, an adult. All adults were phonies, even the nice ones, who took jobs they hated, taught textbooks and catechisms they didn't believe and lived lives of self-inflicted disappointments, while pretending it was all OK. Then with phony grins, they'd demand that you join their painful parade of delusion and decay.

Nearly half a century after I covered up Salinger's book in a carefully folded brown wrapper, I thought I'd read it to my twins. They were now eleven, in the 6th grade.

But I couldn't. In his 1956 book, Salinger had railed against a post-war world of boys in school blazers trying to get to "first base" with their steady dates. America itself was an adolescent, and despite the police beatings of marchers in Alabama, despite the "drop, tuck and don't look at the flash!" drills we did weekly in Mrs. Gordon's class to prepare for the Russian nuclear attack, America was still weirdly, optimistically child-like.

We knew then that the world could only get better: we would go the moon and eventually, vacation there. JFK announced the Alliance for Progress and poverty would end in Appalachia; and Paul McCartney wanted to hold our hand. Every nasty meanie, like police in Selma, was met by a legion of victorious innocents led by Martin Luther King. So we all held hands in a circle while Pete Seeger strummed "We shall overcome." Everyone would get a scholarship; and we really, truly believed we would overcome.

Even the social critics - Allen Ginsberg, Lenny Bruce, Jack Kerouac - were just big, mischievous kids.

Yes, there were a bunch of old phonies like Joe McCarthy and the Boys' Vice-Principal, but their days were numbered.

Then we fell over the cliff.

A bullet through the skull replaced Kennedy with Nixon. We shall overcome was replaced with the vicious "Southern Strategy;" the Cold War exploded in hot jungles; then came the idiot wasteland of the regimes of Ford and Carter and Reagan and Clinton and Bushes, a degenerative march as the machine of America rusted and died.

And here we are today, begging for spare parts from China and my daughter glued to YouTube videos of Lady Ga-Ga's crotch, and my son slicing off a cop's head in Grand Theft Auto and a President, telegenic and painfully hollow, playing the lost and ineffectual shepherd over an electorate divided between the terrified and the greedy. In place of prophets, we are offered a caravan of kvetching clowns piling out of the Volkswagen on MSNBC.

There's no way to wipe the fuck off this smeared planet. I'm supposed to try. I'm an investigative reporter, meaning I have a professional commitment to the childish belief that if I shout loud enough, I can warn people away from the cliff's edge.

Well, it's better than a real job, but no less "phony," no less of a petty illusion.

I'm holding this book, the brown wrapper lost who the hell knows when, and I know it would just be laughable, inscrutably ancient to those wisened, worldly children of mine.

I've put it back on my shelf.

You stand on the cliff edge and there's no one left to catch.
(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.







Pricing 'Free Speech' Out Of Our Reach

Let us now praise the Supreme Five!

I refer to the five Supreme Court justices who looked all around our land to find the one issue of injustice that cried out most for their judicial compassion. And, lo, it was this: Corporations do not have enough power over our government.

Thus, the five ruled that not only can corporate executives dump millions of their own corrupting dollars into our elections, but, henceforth, the trillions of dollars held by the corporate entities themselves can also be poured into political campaigns. Every corporate power - from Wall Street to Wal-Mart - now has permission to open the spigots of their vast corporate treasuries and unleash unlimited sums of corporate money on our elections. It's their wildest wet dream come true.

Never mind that this is a black-robed coup against our democracy - the five usurpers assert that they've merely extended "free speech rights" to corporations. This is perverse in two ways. First, the judges have equated the freedom to spend money on elections with the freedom of speech - which means that those with the most money get the most speech. That's plutocracy, not democracy, and it enthrones corporations over The People.

Second, corporations cannot speak. They have no lips, tongues, breath, or brains. A corporation is nothing but a piece of paper, a legal construct created by the state. The actual people who give life to a corporation (such as shareholders, executives, workers, and retirees) already speak politically, voicing the many divergent viewpoints within these structures. The inanimate corporate entity itself is no more deserving of human rights than a trash can would be.

The free speech ruling of the Supreme Five is oxymoronic, for they have declared that speech is not free - it's very pricey indeed.
(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.







Haiti Untold: Nonviolence and Humanization at the Grassroots
By Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D.

A number of commentators have questioned the accepted logic that disasters bring out the worst in people, directly challenging the pervasive "looters run amok" imagery often perpetuated by the media and held out by lawmakers as a rationale for military occupation. Having done relief work following Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, I have found that people are more likely to work together - even if only out of necessity - when severe hardship strikes. In fact, it is precisely the isolation and individualism of ordinary daily life that tap into our worst instincts, while the removal of these impediments can actually liberate our better qualities.

As Dustin Howes recently observed, "the vast majority of people in Haiti responded to the earthquake with the apparently just as natural of an impulse to help one another." The New York Times has uncovered a widespread ethic of "communal rationing" in Haiti, in which "no matter what is found, or how hungry the forager, everything must be shared." As the article explains, many Haitians "are finding ways to share. In several neighborhoods of Carrefour, a poor area closer to the epicenter, small soup kitchens have sprung up with discounted meals, subsidized by Haitians with a little extra money.... [Three women there] started cooking for their neighbors the day after the earthquake. On many mornings, they serve 100 people before 10 a.m. Smiling and proud, the women said they did not have the luxury of waiting for aid groups to reach them in their hilly neighborhood."

This is the untold and largely unreported state of the crisis in Haiti. Amy Goodman filed a series of reports for Democracy Now! from places where relief had yet to be delivered. In Leogane, the epicenter of the quake where perhaps 90% of the city had been destroyed, Mayor Santos Alexis noted that aside from people occasionally taking food from destroyed stores, "there's no violence really in Leogane." Still, the mainstream relief agencies remain obsessed with security concerns, to the extent that they will drop small amounts of food from above rather than land and talk with the people on the ground. As Mayor Alexis lamented, the people "feel humiliated, because of the airplane flying and dropping some bread to them. They feel very embarrassed by that." Haitian expatriate blogger Wadner Pierre likewise reflects on these unfortunate realities, and how they stand in contrast to baseline Haitian values:

My beloved country is one where people know how to do 'konbit' (put their hands together) to help their brothers and sisters. But because so many of the organizations now involved in the relief effort do not know Haiti well and do not have Haitian employees who speak the local languages, the situation may worsen... Why are American relief organizations... humiliating people by dropping food and water to them by helicopters? Would they treat American citizens in this manner?

When we consider the practice of nonviolence, one of the foundational premises is humanization, of both self and other. In Haiti, the chasm between survivors and most of the aiders prevents the discovery of a mutual humanity from which empathy may spring, making truly "humanitarian" relief efforts problematic if not impossible. A key aspect of grassroots work in the region has been to reclaim this basic humanity, providing a voice to the Haitian people themselves so that we can see, across the chasms of distance and status, that they are people with the same complexities and desires as ourselves. (A 2008 grassroots video project called "Looking Through Their Eyes" effectively captures this sense of commonality.)

Sasha Kramer, co-founder of the nonprofit organization SOIL (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods), which collaborates with local communities on "empowerment" projects, has been living and working in Haiti since 2004 and reflected on the current situation in an interview with Goodman:

[W]hen the large aid groups circulate around Port-au-Prince, they're often in sealed vehicles with their windows up, and what this means is that they're not able to develop good relationships with community leaders. Often they don't speak Creole, as well, a lot of their international employees. So when a large disaster like this happens, and they need to be able to get into the neighborhoods to distribute the food, they are afraid to go in, because they don't have the connections they would need in order to keep them safe and distribute the food in an organized manner... So it's been this very self-perpetuating process, where, at this point, the Haitians on the ground who are ready to do something have no way to connect with the people down at the UN base who have all the materials to make a difference.

In an update on SOIL's blog, Kramer elaborated on this critical issue that directly impacts whether life-saving aid reaches the people who need it:

I have been amazed to visit friends working with large NGOs in Port au Prince only to learn that they are forced to operate under security restrictions that prevent any kind of real connections to Haitian communities... The creation of these security zones has been like the building of a wall, a wall reinforced by language barriers and fear rather than iron rods, a wall that, unlike many of the buildings in Port au Prince, did not crumble during the earthquake. Fear, much like violence, is self perpetuating. When aid workers enter communities radiating fear it is offensive, the perceived disinterest in communicating with the poor majority is offensive, driving through impoverished communities with windows rolled up and armed security guards is offensive and, ironically, all of these extra security measures actually increase the level of risk for aid workers...

This distancing effect prevents aid from reaching desperate people and sows the seeds of conflict in an already precarious situation. Against this, grassroots groups like SOIL have made long-term commitments to (and close personal connections with) the communities they seek to empower, developing "integrated approaches to the problems of poverty, poor public health, agricultural productivity, and environmental destruction," and "developing collaborative relationships between community organizations in Haiti and academics and activists internationally." (Their important work is depicted in a recent video report from New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof.)

The challenge of fostering nonviolence in a disaster zone can be met through basic approaches such as this that focus on collaboration and solidarity. "We should get to know the Haitian people and make a commitment to improving their lives in the long term," notes a recent blog focused on promoting "non-military ways of solving conflict." In this spirit, in 2006 a Campaign for the Reduction of Violence was launched in Haiti, working toward "the peaceful transformation of conflicts, in cooperation with five key sectors: young people, women, artists, media workers and teachers." This largely unnoticed spirit of nonviolence in Haiti, as Wadner Pierre wrote in November 2008, often emerges in time of crisis, and is intimately connected to the nonviolent struggles of people around the world:

[W]hen I think about these non-violent resistances - the Indian Resistance against Britain's rule in Indian, the Civil Rights Movement in the United States against segregation, the Chilean Resistance against the former dictator General Augusto Pinochet in Chile, the South-African Resistance against Apartheid, the Haitian resistance in the 1990s for the return of constitutional order in Haiti when former Haiti's first democratically elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was ousted in 1991, and the ongoing resistance in grassroots movement for Aristide's second return from his exile in South-Africa - I have no doubt that non-violence philosophy is the best way that smart and intelligent people should and must use to overcome suffering, and to defeat any violent and oppressive system... I wrote this article/analysis to pay homage to... my adoptive father, Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a follower of Dr. King, who committed his entire life in fighting for social justice and equality for all Haitians whoever they are and wherever they are.

If Haitians are to surmount this time of profound crisis and rebuild their society, these values of social justice and conflict transformation must be given space to reemerge. The untold stories of people practicing true humanitarianism in Haiti can serve to remind us that, even in a disaster zone, those in great need can offer hope and guidance in our shared struggle to create a peaceful world. As SOIL's Kramer concludes:

The most striking thing I have noticed while visiting the many camps throughout the city is the level of organization and ingenuity among the displaced communities. Community members stand ready to distribute food and water to their neighbors, they are prepared to provide first aid and assist with clean up efforts, all that they are lacking is the financial means to do so... Each day I am awed and humbled by the dedication and compassion of my colleagues, both Haitian and international and touched by the outpouring of love and support that we have received from around the world.

These lessons of nonviolent cooperation may well determine Haiti's future in the days ahead.
(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).




Tony (light-fingers) Scalia




Calling Out "Not True" Alito
By John Nichols

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee when he said he would not bring a political agenda to the high court, became the unexpected "star" of State of the Union night by playing the part of the sullen teenager.

When President Obama expressed the concern of tens of millions of Americans that the court's 5-4 ruling in the case of Citizens United v. FEC had freed corporations to dominate our elections with unlimited special-interest spending, Alito grimaced and grumbled to himself. Then he clearly mouthed the words "not true."

The conservative judicial activist, who has used his position on the high court to advance precisely the sort of agenda he promised to avoid, got caught out because the television cameras happened to focus on Alito at the moment when he was acting out.

Honest conservatives have defended Alito, as they did Congressman Joe Wilson, the South Carolina Republican who interrupted a presidential address last year with a shout of "you lie." Just as they prefer their congressmen noisy, they prefer their judges to be unabashed in their activism -- on the bench and in public settings.

Win-at-any-cost conservatives -- and the more delusional defenders of the notion that corporations are citizens -- have tried to suggest either that Alito didn't tip his hand as an activist or, even more comically, that he was right to object to the validity of Obama's statement about how the court's decision will warp our politics.

But what of sincerely concerned and engaged Americans, no matter their ideology or partisanship, who are serious about the courts, the law and democracy? How should they respond to Alito's activism?

It's important to challenge Alito on this because his behavior was not merely inappropriate. His comment was, like his testimony at his confirmation hearing in 2006, deliberately dishonest.

Senator Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who chairs the Constitution Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has often stirred resentment among Democrats and liberals by voting for and defending conservative jurists.

But Feingold offered no defense of Alito's State of the Union night hijinks.

Feingold, who has correctly described the decision of Alito and four other justices to strike down limits on corporate spending on elections "lawless" and "truly an outrageous act," criticized for failing to even attempt to maintain the facade of impartiality that has traditionally been expected of high court judges.

"That's not very judicial of him," Feingold said with regard to Alito's "not true" mumbling. "Apparently, he thinks he gets to make the law. He should maintain his judicial demeanor, and that was inappropriate."

But what of the argument that Alito was simply, if clumsily, correcting the record by challenging a "not true" remark on the president's part?

Rob Weissman, the able new president of Public Citizen, is calling "Not True" Alito out.

Here's Weissman's wise take on the incident and the lawless justice:

"Not true."

Justice Alito mouthed those words during the State of the Union speech when President Obama challenged a Supreme Court ruling that he believes will allow corporations "to spend without limit in our elections."

Alito has since declined to explain himself, so we don't know exactly what he was upset about. But last week's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is unambiguous. Wrong, but unambiguous...

Astoundingly, the court reversed a century of legal precedent and interpreted the First Amendment as giving corporations a right to spend as much money as they want supporting or opposing political candidates.

Alito's denial notwithstanding, the Supreme Court has set the stage for a corporate takeover of our democracy.

True.

The First Amendment guarantees fundamental speech rights of people. Real, live human beings. It was never intended to protect the speech rights of corporations.

That's why Public Citizen has launched an unprecedented grassroots campaign for a constitutional amendment to restore the longstanding commonsense interpretation of the First Amendment.

More than 25,000 Americans have already signed on to Public Citizen's campaign to overrule the court -- with a Constitutional amendment -- and defeat the corporate takeover of our democracy

To learn more about the campaign, and the what is true and not true about the court's decision, visit the Public Citizen website.
(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.






Good And Boring
By Paul Krugman

In times of crisis, good news is no news. Iceland's meltdown made headlines; the remarkable stability of Canada's banks, not so much.

Yet as the world's attention shifts from financial rescue to financial reform, the quiet success stories deserve at least as much attention as the spectacular failures. We need to learn from those countries that evidently did it right. And leading that list is our neighbor to the north. Right now, Canada is a very important role model.

Yes, I know, Canada is supposed to be dull. The New Republic famously pronounced "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative" (from a Times Op-Ed column in the '80s) the world's most boring headline. But I've always considered Canada fascinating, precisely because it's similar to the United States in many but not all ways. The point is that when Canadian and U.S. experience diverge, it's a very good bet that policy differences, rather than differences in culture or economic structure, are responsible for that divergence.

And anyway, when it comes to banking, boring is good.

First, some background. Over the past decade the United States and Canada faced the same global environment. Both were confronted with the same flood of cheap goods and cheap money from Asia. Economists in both countries cheerfully declared that the era of severe recessions was over.

But when things fell apart, the consequences were very different here and there. In the United States, mortgage defaults soared, some major financial institutions collapsed, and others survived only thanks to huge government bailouts. In Canada, none of that happened. What did the Canadians do differently?

It wasn't interest rate policy. Many commentators have blamed the Federal Reserve for the financial crisis, claiming that the Fed created a disastrous bubble by keeping interest rates too low for too long. But Canadian interest rates have tracked U.S. rates quite closely, so it seems that low rates aren't enough by themselves to produce a financial crisis.

Canada's experience also seems to refute the view, forcefully pushed by Paul Volcker, the formidable former Fed chairman, that the roots of our crisis lay in the scale and scope of our financial institutions - in the existence of banks that were "too big to fail." For in Canada essentially all the banks are too big to fail: just five banking groups dominate the financial scene.

On the other hand, Canada's experience does seem to support the views of people like Elizabeth Warren, the head of the Congressional panel overseeing the bank bailout, who place much of the blame for the crisis on failure to protect consumers from deceptive lending. Canada has an independent Financial Consumer Agency, and it has sharply restricted subprime-type lending.

Above all, Canada's experience seems to support those who say that the way to keep banking safe is to keep it boring - that is, to limit the extent to which banks can take on risk. The United States used to have a boring banking system, but Reagan-era deregulation made things dangerously interesting. Canada, by contrast, has maintained a happy tedium.

More specifically, Canada has been much stricter about limiting banks' leverage, the extent to which they can rely on borrowed funds. It has also limited the process of securitization, in which banks package and resell claims on their loans outstanding - a process that was supposed to help banks reduce their risk by spreading it, but has turned out in practice to be a way for banks to make ever-bigger wagers with other people's money.

There's no question that in recent years these restrictions meant fewer opportunities for bankers to come up with clever ideas than would have been available if Canada had emulated America's deregulatory zeal. But that, it turns out, was all to the good.

So what are the chances that the United States will learn from Canada's success?

Actually, the financial reform bill that the House of Representatives passed in December would significantly Canadianize the U.S. system. It would create an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency, it would establish limits on leverage, and it would limit securitization by requiring that lenders hold on to some of their loans.

But prospects for a comparable bill getting the 60 votes now needed to push anything through the Senate are doubtful. Republicans are clearly dead set against any significant financial reform - not a single Republican voted for the House bill - and some Democrats are ambivalent, too.

So there's a good chance that we'll do nothing, or nothing much, to prevent future banking crises. But it won't be because we don't know what to do: we've got a clear example of how to keep banking safe sitting right next door.
(c) 2010 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times







Blood Is His Argument
Tony Blair's Gentle Cuddling at Iraq "Inquiry"
By Chris Floyd

On Friday, Tony Blair appeared before the "Chilcot Inquiry," the panel of hoary, lugubrious Establishment worthies set up to "examine" -- with extreme circumspection, exquisite politeness, and all due reverence to authority -- the "origins" of Britain's involvement in the mass-murder spree known as the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The event could be summed up entirely in a single headline:

Tony Blair to a million dead Iraqis, and the grieving survivors of British soldiers: Fuck you.

Blair's appearance before the panel has occasioned some entirely misplaced and uninformed kudos from some in the American progressiverse, who laud the Brits for holding such a bold inquiry. "It's the kind of thing you would never see in the United States," they say, forgetting, if they ever knew, such minor matters as the Watergate hearings -- which actually had the power to send people to jail for lying, unlike the completely powerless Chilcot panel -- or the Watergate grand jury, which named a sitting president as an "unindicted co-conspirator" in a criminal case, or even the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton by the United States Senate, which I believe happened well within the adulthood of at least some of our leading progressives. In any case, there was never any chance that the well-wadded Chilcot worthies were going to lay a glove on former PM turned corporate shill and Catholic saint-in-waiting. Blair was never going to do anything but repeat the bluster -- and outright lies -- he has regurgitated ad infinitum about his blood-soaked adventure with George W. Bush -- and the Chilcotniks were never going to call him on his bullshit. [Blair's knowing and deliberate lies are thoroughly detailed here.]

And so it proved. Blair strutted in -- through a back entrance, to avoid protestors -- and did the expected regurgitation. The war was legal, the war was righteous, the war was legal, and it was the right thing to do. After all, he claimed over and over, Iraq was clearly "in breach of UN sanctions ordering him to destroy all his weapons of mass destruction." Yet, as one observer noted in the Guardian, none of the Chilcot worthies deigned to point out to Blair that Iraq could not possibly been in breach of UN orders to disarm -- because it had no weapons of mass destruction. It was already disarmed -- a fact which the US and UK had known since 1995, and which could have been reconfirmed by the UN inspection teams in 2003 ... if Bush and Blair had not invaded before the inspections were over.

But Blair's illogical connections were never challenged by the panel, nor did he explain why he and Bush invaded before the inspections were completed. Instead, he simply evoke 9/11 over and over and over again -- and then blamed "the external elements of Iran and al Qaeda" for anything that went wrong after the invasion. Apparently, there was not a single Iraqi opposed to the destruction of their country; it was just a bunch of "outside agitators" causing trouble.

Blair's absolute erasure of the Iraqi people in these passages is a perfect encapsulation of the whole mindset that drove the Anglo-American attack: the Iraqis are non-people, they are worthless chits in a geopolitical game, they are rags and automatons at the mercy of big-time players like the Western powers, Iran and al Qaeda.

Indeed, this was his main theme of the day: it was Iran's fault. In fact, Blair seemed to regard his appearance before Iraq War panel chiefly as an opportunity to foment war fever for a new "humanitarian intervention" against Iran. As Jonathan Freedland notes:

Blair pushed further, apparently touting a new war in the Persian Gulf, this time against Iraq's neighbor, Iran. All day Blair used his platform to bring up Iran, even when it was only tangentially related to the topic in hand. The arguments that applied in 2002 - about WMD falling into terrorist hands - applied in spades to Iran in 2010, he said.

Blair took "responsibility" for the war -- but it was a responsibility he gladly shouldered, one he was proud of. As for all the people who have died because of this criminal folly, Blair had nothing nothing to say. As Jonathan Freedland notes:

I thought Blair would have prepared a closing statement that would express, if not regret or apology, at least sorrow for the young British men and women in uniform who had lost their lives. There was, surely, a way for a communicator as gifted as Blair to do that without giving ground on the justness, as he still sees it, of the war. And yet, even when Sir John Chilcot asked him one last time if he had anything to add, Blair did not pay tribute to the dead - British or Iraqi. He simply said "no".

Just like the Hutton inquiry into the strange death of WMD whistleblower Daniel Kelly -- the results of which have recently been sealed up for the next 70 years in a "highly unusual move" by UK authorities -- the Chilcot panel was never going to bring any powerful miscreant to accountability. It was set up -- like the American 9/11 Commission -- to siphon off festering anger and suspicion with a show of official concern. By stirring up just enough murk to cover the small nuggets of truth that inevitably surface in such probes, the Chilcot inquiry, like Hutton, the 9/11 Commission, will be able to claim that while there may have been some regrettable "system" failures here and there on this and that, no actual powerful person should be held accountable for any inadvertent "mistakes" that were made.

And the scam is already working. One of the panel of Guardian commentators, writing alongside Freedland, the "moderate," Broder-like Martin Kettle, was already chewing up some conventional wisdom cud by the end of the day:

On the other side of the argument there were fewer interruptions than there might have been, fewer silly stunts, and actually fewer demonstrators than one might have expected. Though passions are still strong, it may be that a lot of the poison and pain is ebbing. In that sense, today was probably cathartic.

Yes, as good old Kevin Drum always used to say back in the old days, when splitting the difference between some atrocious Bush policy and the president's "far left" critics, "that sounds about right." That hits the comfortable middle spot: yes, it was all a bit unpleasant, but now the "pain is ebbing," and we can look forward to seeing fewer of those "silly stunts" that shrill extremists have used to draw attention to the mass murder of human beings in a war based on ostensible reasons which even the war's architects now happily admit were unfounded -- and, according to Blair, unimportant. So Saddam didn't have WMDs? So what? It was a good thing to kill all those people anyway.

Another of Kettle's fellow commentators has a different view, however, and we'll give the final word here to Seamus Milne:

The spectacle of official indulgence of a man many here and abroad regard as responsible for a devastating war crime has been sickening. John Chilcot said at one point that the lessons of occupation had been "expensive, but very necessary". Millions of Iraqis who have actually paid that price take a very different view.
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd







The Wages Of Prosperity
By Case Wagonvoord

Those who care wonder how the United States ended up as a militarized security state. Logic dictates that as soon as the Soviet Union fell, the rationale for our bloated defense establishment was no more and we should have seen a massive demobilization, especially in the wake of the Vietnam debacle. But instead, our military has spread like a cancerous growth across the face of the earth.

This growth has not caused much of a ripple because the Pentagon has, in effect, gone underground with its all-volunteer army and private contractors. Without mandatory military service funneling young men into the military, the military does not cause as much of a stir on Main Street as it once did, nor do unpopular and unnecessary wars generate the same level of passion and protest as Vietnam.

Many reasons have be put forth to explain this, and all of them contain an element of truth. However, there is one factor that has been overlooked.

A bloated military establishment is a product of prosperity. As long as I have a good paying job and the benefits I feel entitled to are not touched I will tolerate such an establishment, especially since our colonial wars carry all the impact of a video game.

But, what will happen with the money begins to dry up, when states face bankruptcy and services are cut?

What happens when jobs and homes are lost?

What happens when our military-industrial complex is finally recognized for what it is: an expensive bauble we can no longer afford?

What happens when the public finally realizes that the Pentagon is little more than the world's largest pork barrel?

Is it possible that the public will finally ask why in the hell we are spending $57,000 a minute on Afghanistan when schools are being shuttered and the ranks of the unemployed swell?

Of course, it's a sad commentary on our society that when the public finally turns against the military it will be for economic reasons. It never occurs to anyone that the bombing of women and children just to keep our military-industrial complex solvent is morally abhorrent.

But then, if you give a boy a toy he just has to play with it.
(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 Amazon.com.







Depleting Natural Resources; A One Way Dead End Street
By Mike Folkerth and Greg Chadwick

Finite, non-renewable, forever; these are absolutes; once non-renewable resources are gone, they are gone forever; absolutely. However, most Americans never consider that they are burning massive quantities of non-renewable resources every minute of every day.

This is a one-time endowment folks, all of the tickets are sold. These resources that make our lives possible took tens of millions of years to accumulate and we are consuming it in just over 200 years (the majority in just 60 years)! Yet we use non-renewables for everything, in spite of their finite nature. Ain't we something?

We "modern" humans are sometimes characterized as Petroleum Man. All that we have and all that we are is only possible because of fossil fuels. Our society will cease to exist without them, yet we take it for granted and will leave nothing behind. Well, nothing other than a resource depleted and polluted planet with mountains of garbage and debt. Quite a legacy we bequeath to our Grandchildren, huh?

Sitting in my office, here's what I see - oil! Much of what I see is made from petroleum distillates, and what isn't is only here because of cheap oil, coal and natural gas that is used to mine, manufacture and transport it.

The list is long; my laptop computers, the monitor, the mouse, mouse pad, telephones, tape player, blood pressure monitor, plant containers, the pills on my desk; yes, pharmaceuticals contain petrochemical feed stocks. That's not all! All of the cords, surge protectors, the paper shredder, printer case and components, the base and moving parts of the leather chair, my cheap flute and one piece of art that looks like wood, but like everything else, are actually made from petrochemicals.

There are even petrochemicals in the carpet and the padding and the picture frames. The laminates on my desk and file cabinets are made with petrochemicals. Never mind the amount of plastic and other petrochemical by- products in cars, garden hoses, household cleaners and detergents. I have missed as many items as I have listed, so follow this link to see what else is made with petrochemicals.

In addition, all of the energy used to manufacture and ship these items to our homes comes directly, or indirectly, from fossil fuels. Even nuclear plants are built and maintained with fossil fuels. Without fossil fuels, nuclear power plants, photovoltaic panels, windmills, electric and hybrid cars, you name it; none of this would be possible.

And yet, you can go to any coffee shop in America and listen to someone rear back and with their best impression of divine wisdom say, "Don't worry, they'll come up with a substitute for oil." To this, I ask them, "What's your idea?" The response to that question is deathly silence.

When fossil fuels become too expensive or population rises to the point that there is simply not enough to go around, we will slowly revert to a pre-industrial life style. At that point, we will have what little timber is left, hydro, geothermal, wind, solar power and our own labor and that of our animals. Unfortunately, all of this combined can't match the energy density, ease of use, portability and versatility of oil. Nothing is even close.

Oh sure, "They," could come up with a brand new form of energy that can be used in place of oil and save us all from our collective stupidity, but remember, the Department of Energy was formed to do just that in August of 1977! After 32 years of spending billions upon billions of tax dollars to find a solution; nada. In fact, our energy dependence has grown every year during that period.

If this all sounds insane, consider that our goal is to increase consumption of these non-renewable resources, each and every year. We have to ask ourselves, at what point does ignorance become stupidity?

We have another underlying problem of monumental proportion that is just now rearing its ugly head. American's built the largest and most complex infrastructure in the world using cheap fossil fuels and plentiful mined materials. That infrastructure is now aged and needs replaced, but there is a problem. Ya see, we didn't take into account that these fuels and materials were of the no-deposit, no-return, sort of goods.

The cost of gasoline in the west has risen from around 25 cents per gallon in 1971, to more than $3.00 today (nearly $4.00 at one point). That's 12 times more. So if a person were making $5.00 per hour in 1971 (about average) that same person would have to be making $60 per hour today or about $120,000 per year to remain even. Medium household income for 2009 (not yet officially available) is expected to drop below $50,000!

So to cut to the quick, we can no longer afford to maintain our infrastructure. The cost of fuel and materials has far outpaced wages. We could build it, but we can't replace it. This is called poor planning.

Add to this the very real fact that world demand will no longer allow our 4.8% of world population to utilize 25% of global fuel and 30% of world materials.

The combination of the above is why nearly every state, city, town, and county in the nation is putting infrastructure construction and repair on the back burner. Sure, they can conveniently blame it on recession, but that dog won't hunt.
(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...



"I was born a Heretic. I always distrust people who know so much about what God wants them to do to their fellows."
~~~ Susan B. Anthony








The Creed Of Objectivity Killed The News
By Chris Hedges

Reporters who witness the worst of human suffering and return to newsrooms angry see their compassion washed out or severely muted by the layers of editors who stand between the reporter and the reader. The creed of objectivity and balance, formulated at the beginning of the 19th century by newspaper owners to generate greater profits from advertisers, disarms and cripples the press.

And the creed of objectivity becomes a convenient and profitable vehicle to avoid confronting unpleasant truths or angering a power structure on which news organizations depend for access and profits. This creed transforms reporters into neutral observers or voyeurs. It banishes empathy, passion and a quest for justice. Reporters are permitted to watch but not to feel or to speak in their own voices. They function as "professionals" and see themselves as dispassionate and disinterested social scientists. This vaunted lack of bias, enforced by bloodless hierarchies of bureaucrats, is the disease of American journalism.

"The very notion that on any given story all you have to do is report what both sides say and you've done a fine job of objective journalism debilitates the press," the late columnist Molly Ivins once wrote. "There is no such thing as objectivity, and the truth, that slippery little bugger, has the oddest habit of being way to hell off on one side or the other: it seldom nestles neatly halfway between any two opposing points of view. The smug complacency of much of the press-I have heard many an editor say, 'Well, we're being attacked by both sides so we must be right'-stems from the curious notion that if you get a quote from both sides, preferably in an official position, you've done the job. In the first place, most stories aren't two-sided, they're 17-sided at least. In the second place, it's of no help to either the readers or the truth to quote one side saying, 'Cat,' and the other side saying 'Dog,' while the truth is there's an elephant crashing around out there in the bushes."

Ivins went on to write that "the press's most serious failures are not its sins of commission, but its sins of omission-the stories we miss, the stories we don't see, the stories that don't hold press conferences, the stories that don't come from 'reliable sources.'"

This abject moral failing has left the growing numbers of Americans shunted aside by our corporate state without a voice. It has also, with the rise of a ruthless American oligarchy, left the traditional press on the wrong side of our growing class divide. The elitism, distrust and lack of credibility of the press-and here I speak of the dwindling institutions that attempt to report news-come directly from this steady and willful disintegration of the media's moral core.

This moral void has been effectively exploited by the 24-hour cable news shows and trash talk radio programs. The failure of the fact-based press to express empathy or outrage for our growing underclass has permitted the disastrous rise of "faith-based" reporting. The bloodless and soulless journalism of the traditional media has bolstered the popularity of partisan outlets that present a view of the world that often has no relation to the real, but responds very effectively to the emotional needs of viewers. Fox News is, in some sense, no more objective than The New York Times, but there is one crucial and vital difference. Fox News and most of the other cable outlets do not feel constrained by verifiable facts. Within the traditional news establishment, facts may have been self-selected or skillfully stage-managed by public relations specialists, but what was not verifiable was not publishable.

The cable news channels have cleverly seized on the creed of objectivity and redefined it in populist terms. They attack news based on verifiable fact for its liberal bias, for, in essence, failing to be objective, and promise a return to "genuine" objectivity. Fox's Bill O'Reilly argues, "If Fox News is a conservative channel-and I'm going to use the word 'if'-so what? ... You've got 50 other media that are blatantly left. Now, I don't think Fox is a conservative channel. I think it's a traditional channel. There's a difference. We are willing to hear points of view that you'll never hear on ABC, CBS or NBC."

O'Reilly is not wrong in suggesting that the objectivity of the traditional media has an inherent political bias. But it is a bias that caters to the power elite and it is a bias that is confined by fact. The traditional quest for "objectivity" is, as James Carey wrote, also based on an ethnocentric conceit: "It pretended to discover Universal Truth, to proclaim Universal Laws, and to describe a Universal Man. Upon inspection it appeared, however, that its Universal Man resembled a type found around Cambridge, Massachusetts, or Cambridge, England; its Universal Laws resembled those felt to be useful by Congress and Parliament; and its Universal Truth bore English and American accents."

Objectivity creates the formula of quoting Establishment specialists or experts within the narrow confines of the power elite who debate policy nuance like medieval theologians. As long as one viewpoint is balanced by another, usually no more than what Sigmund Freud would term "the narcissism of minor difference," the job of a reporter is deemed complete. But this is more often a way to obscure rather than expose truth.

Reporting, while it is presented to the public as neutral, objective and unbiased, is always highly interpretive. It is defined by rigid stylistic parameters. I have written, like most other reporters, hundreds of news stories. Reporters begin with a collection of facts, statements, positions and anecdotes and then select those that create the "balance" permitted by the formula of daily journalism. The closer reporters get to official sources, for example those covering Wall Street, Congress, the White House or the State Department, the more constraints they endure. When reporting depends heavily on access it becomes very difficult to challenge those who grant or deny that access. This craven desire for access has turned huge sections of the Washington press, along with most business reporters, into courtiers. The need to be included in press briefings and background interviews with government or business officials, as well as the desire for leaks and early access to official documents, obliterates journalistic autonomy.

"Record the fury of a Palestinian whose land has been taken from him by Israeli settlers-but always refer to Israel's 'security needs' and its 'war on terror,' " Robert Fisk writes. "If Americans are accused of 'torture', call it 'abuse'. If Israel assassinates a Palestinian, call it a 'targeted killing'. If Armenians lament their Holocaust of 1,500,000 souls in 1915, remind readers that Turkey denies this all too real and fully documented genocide. If Iraq has become a hell on earth for its people, recall how awful Saddam was. If a dictator is on our side, call him a 'strongman'. If he's our enemy, call him a tyrant, or part of the 'axis of evil'. And above all else, use the word 'terrorist.' Terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. Seven days a week."

"Ask 'how' and 'who'-but not 'why'," Fisk adds. "Source everything to officials: 'American officials', 'intelligence officials', 'official sources', anonymous policemen or army officers. And if these institutions charged with our protection abuse their power, then remind readers and listeners and viewers of the dangerous age in which we now live, the age of terror-which means that we must live in the Age of the Warrior, someone whose business and profession and vocation and mere existence is to destroy our enemies."

"In the classic example, a refugee from Nazi Germany who appears on television saying monstrous things are happening in his homeland must be followed by a Nazi spokesman saying Adolf Hitler is the greatest boon to humanity since pasteurized milk," the former New York Times columnist Russell Baker wrote. "Real objectivity would require not only hard work by news people to determine which report was accurate, but also a willingness to put up with the abuse certain to follow publication of an objectively formed judgment. To escape the hard work or the abuse, if one man says Hitler is an ogre, we instantly give you another to say Hitler is a prince. A man says the rockets won't work? We give you another who says they will. The public may not learn much about these fairly sensitive matters, but neither does it get another excuse to denounce the media for unfairness and lack of objectivity. In brief, society is teeming with people who become furious if told what the score is."

Journalists, because of their training and distaste for shattering their own exalted notion of themselves, lack the inclination and vocabulary to discuss ethics. They will, when pressed, mumble something about telling the truth and serving the public. They prefer not to face the fact that my truth is not your truth. News is a signal, a "blip," an alarm that something is happening beyond our small circle of existence, as Walter Lippmann noted in his book "Public Opinion." Journalism does not point us toward truth since, as Lippmann understood, there is always a vast divide between truth and news. Ethical questions open journalism to the nebulous world of interpretation and philosophy, and for this reason journalists flee from ethical inquiry like a herd of frightened sheep.

Journalists, while they like to promote the image of themselves as fierce individualists, are in the end another species of corporate employees. They claim as their clients an amorphous public. They seek their moral justification in the service of this nameless, faceless mass and speak little about the vast influence of the power elite to shape and determine reporting. Does a public even exist in a society as fragmented and divided as ours? Or is the public, as Walter Lippmann wrote, now so deeply uninformed and divorced from the inner workings of power and diplomacy as to make it a clean slate on which our armies of skilled propagandists can, often through the press, leave a message?

The symbiotic relationship between the press and the power elite worked for nearly a century. It worked as long as our power elite, no matter how ruthless or insensitive, was competent. But once our power elite became incompetent and morally bankrupt, the press, along with the power elite, lost its final vestige of credibility. The press became, as seen in the Iraq war and the aftermath of the financial upheavals, a class of courtiers. The press, which has always written and spoken from presuppositions and principles that reflect the elite consensus, now peddles a consensus that is flagrantly artificial. Our elite oversaw the dismantling of the country's manufacturing base and the betrayal of the working class with the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the press dutifully trumpeted this as a form of growth. Our elite deregulated the banking industry, leading to nationwide bank collapses, and the press extolled the value of the free market. Our elite corrupted the levers of power to advance the interests of corporations and the press naively conflated freedom with the free market. This reporting may have been "objective" and "impartial" but it defied common sense. The harsh reality of shuttered former steel-producing towns and growing human misery should have, in the hands of any good cop reporter, exposed the fantasies. But the press long ago stopped thinking and lost nearly all its moral autonomy.

Real reporting, grounded in a commitment to justice and empathy, could have informed and empowered the public as we underwent a corporate coup d'etat in slow motion. It could have stimulated a radical debate about structures, laws, privilege, power and justice. But the traditional press, by clinging to an outdated etiquette designed to serve corrupt power structures, lost its social function. Corporations, which once made many of these news outlets very rich, have turned to more effective forms of advertising. Profits have plummeted. And yet these press courtiers, lost in the fantasy of their own righteousness and moral probity, cling to the hollow morality of "objectivity" with comic ferocity.

The world will not be a better place when these fact-based news organizations die. We will be propelled into a culture where facts and opinions will be interchangeable, where lies will become true, and where fantasy will be peddled as news. I will lament the loss of traditional news. It will unmoor us from reality. The tragedy is that the moral void of the news business contributed as much to its own annihilation as the protofascists who feed on its carcass.
(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."







An Ugly Week For The Human Race And Other Living Things
By David Michael Green

You could almost feel bad for Barack Nothingburger, having to deliver the exquisitely badly timed State of the Union address to the world this week. He, his signature legislative initiative, and his presidency itself were already toast, but he still had to walk in the room and pretend otherwise.

There could hardly have been a worse week for it. The days preceding his speech just brought one disaster after another for the president.

But, since he has decided to be part of the problem, while masquerading as its solution, who cares? As long as he continues to adhere to that position, I'd just as soon see his presidency wrecked and his name humiliated anyhow. Considering that treason is a capital offense, I'd say the guy is getting off easy anyhow.

However - and this may be a news flash for the White House - there is a whole other world out there. And for we ordinary folk, all 6.8 billion of us, it was also an especially bad week.

That may sound like another example of Obama-style mega-narcissism, to believe that America's problems are also the world's, but the truth is they are. We're still the big ol' superpower on the block, and we're still perfectly capable, thank you very much, of lashing out in rage toward others when we feel insecure. I'd refer any disbelievers of that notion to about a million Iraqis who could vouch for its veracity. Except for one small problem. They're dead now. So just take my word for it.

The Week From Hell started out with the heretofore unimaginable notion that Massachusetts could elect a Republican to the Senate. That he could be taking Ted Kennedy's seat. And that he could be the final blow putting so-called health care reform in America - Kennedy's long-sought legislative passion - out of its misery.

Don't get me wrong. I laughed out loud at the stupidity of Democrats thinking they could continue to win elections by being Democrats. In a way, it's a damned healthy sign that an angry and frightened public is growing increasingly intolerant of bullshit from its political class nowadays. "Aren't you the same guys who promised us big old change last year? Yeah, well guess what, now it's this year, and you haven't delivered jack. So bye." That's actually precisely the way it should be, and among the political parties in America, the Democrats would be my close second favorite choice for getting their heads handed to them on a platter by an angry public no longer willing to settle for taxpayer-funded solutions for corporations and cheap rhetoric for the rest of us. These punks had it coming and the only silver-lining to the disaster they've brought down on all of us is seeing them become its latest victims.

Don't get me wrong about healthcare, either. Everything about that legislation was wrong, and I'm delighted to see it die. It was poorly handled in every imaginable way, by what is without doubt the most inept president at least since Herbert Hoover, and by a Congress full of whores, thieves and congenital liars, and I'm happy that the whole thing exploded in their faces. Damn shame, of course, about all those millions of Americans without adequate health care. But since any assistance this bill might have provided them was going to be scant and inadvertent, anyhow, I refuse to feel bad about its demise.

Democrats know exactly what they need to do if they want to fix healthcare in America. And they also know that even if they can't get the legislation through the Senate, now that they've blown their super-majority, they could at least destroy any member of Congress who would vote against such simple reforms that minimally regulate the worst practices of the insurance industry (since we can assume that Democrats could never pull the trigger for single payer). But they also know that they ARE those members of Congress who would be destroyed. When it comes to the essential question of who they work for, they're really no different than the Grand Old Pigs.

But Scott Brown's election was a really bad thing for America and the world, at least in the short term, because when you have a two party system and the Democrats are in power, that means a vote to throw the bums out can only go in one place. The story of American politics over the next five years has already been written. In desperation for solutions, and having already forgotten how much they hated the Bush nightmare, voters will soon be handing the keys to American government back to the Republican Party, which will then promptly fail, even more egregiously than the Democrats, to provide solutions. Neither further tax cuts for the wealthy, nor the slashing of social programs, nor gay-bashing, nor some jive war in some banana republic will cure what ails Americans, and it may no longer even successfully distract them for more than a few minutes.

That's where things will get very interesting. Unfortunately, that may be 'interesting' in the unhappy sense of the ancient Chinese curse. Ask yourself this question: If a rageful and desperate America were to make a sharp ideological turn one way or the other in order to seek solutions to its maladies, which way would it go? To the left, as it did in the 1930s? Or to the right, as certain other countries you may have heard of did during the same decade? I'd say it's actually an open question, primarily because socialist-hating Americans love their socialist government programs like Medicare and Social Security, and they might even want a lot more of those as the free market system championed by the right assists them in continuing to shed their jobs, houses, security and dignity. Still, if I had to bet, I'd say the other scenario is the more likely.

And that scenario became all the more likely because of the second development of the prior week, the ghastly decision by the Supreme Court to open the floodgates for wholesale corporate purchases of the US and state and local governments. I've seen a lot of ugliness in American politics over the course of my lifetime, ranging from Vietnam to Watergate to Iraq and the current Great Recession, but few items can match the decision by the right-wing majority of the Court in Citizens United for its sheer destructive power.

Before turning to the substance of the ruling, it's important to note how we got it at all. Or, more precisely, how we didn't get it. None of the litigants in the case were actually arguing these questions or demanding this remedy. This was, instead, the purest case of 'legislating from the bench' in perhaps all of American history. The extreme right, which now owns the Supreme Court as well as the rest of American government, simply told the parties in the case that the Court was hijacking the issue and turning it into something the majority wanted to address. The lawyers were instructed to prepare new briefs, in short order, on new issues that the right-wing RATS (Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia, plus Kennedy) wanted to rule on. And then they did just that. They just went ahead and wrote a new law, like any parliament or Congress would, using this hapless case as a vehicle for what they intended to do along. This, mind you, comes from the same folks who always rail against judicial activism, who rant about respecting precedent, who supposedly hate legislating from the bench, and who have told us that judges should simply 'call balls and strikes'. Except, of course, when their particular ideology happens to have a majority on the Court, that is.

But, of course, who could blame them for making this decision, even if their methods possessed all the veracity of, say, WMD as a casus belli for invading Iraq, or all the procedural and substantive integrity of Bush V. Gore, brought to you by more or less entirely the same crew who did Citizens United? I mean, after all, can anyone deny that corporations are lacking a policy-making voice in America today? Does anyone not think they are subjected to a gross institutional bias which prevents them from being heard? Does anyone not agree that they are human beings, just like you and me, and should be treated as exactly such by the law? What could be more commonsensical?

Indeed, the only thing more egregious than this decision is the way it was made, and the only thing more egregious than that is the degree of blatant hypocrisy it reveals amongst those who made it.

But that's not exactly news. What is now new is that more or less all obstacles to complete corporate control of the country have been loosed. It has now become almost impossible to argue anymore that ours is anything but a sham democracy, with sham democratic rituals meant - along with WWE wrestling matches and state-run lotteries - to distract us from the real story. And that story is the use of the American polity for no other purpose than the redistribution of wealth from the bottom and the middle to the top.

For thirty years now, the folks Teddy Roosevelt once identified as "the malefactors of great wealth" have been busy destroying the Grand Compact that once governed American labor relations and society, formerly stipulating that the upper class and middle class and even the working class would all do pretty well, comparatively speaking. But that was not enough for the greedy rich. So they hired political hacks like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, and they rewrote the terms of the deal. Whether it's tax policy or trade relations or labor organizing and negotiating rules or government benefits, the new new deal is the same across the board. Way more for the rich, way less for the rest of us.

Of course, people notice. So the first line of defense was to dumb them down enough such that they would at least be slow to notice, and so that they could be sold bogus solutions. Those policies and that rhetoric have been the second line of defense. "It's the fags and the towelheads and the nigrahs and the feminazis and the wetbacks and the gubmint who've made you miserable", said every regressive from here to the horizon, for decades now. It worked pretty well up until 2006 and 2008, when the folks saying it were in charge and yet still weren't delivering prosperity, and when the schadenfreude of someone else being kicked in the teeth no longer delivered sufficient comfort to placate the ripped-off masses.

Now comes the third line of defense, when all avenues of democratic change and redress are being closed off. Congress and the White House - both nominally controlled by the party of the people - are no less the tools of the plutocracy than when the GOP was sitting in those seats. Now the Supreme Court has likewise been captured, and we should anticipate many more of the kind of rulings we've been seeing, underwriting big state and big corporate power at every turn. Poor Justice John Paul Stevens. What a beautiful anachronism he has become, a vestige of a more humane and more innocent time, back when Democrats were still Democrats, and Republicans still approximated human beings. Now, with the floodgates open, and with more and more judicial positions at the state level being drowned in electoral campaign money, all the doors are being closed, just as planned.

I don't know what form the fourth line of defense will take, but I'm pretty sure it will involve blood. The events in Iran lately or China's Tiananmen Square are probably instructive in this regard.

The third item of note in this Week From Hell was the closing of Air America. I'm pretty close to the last person in the world who will miss this attempt at a progressive answer to the wall of horror over there on radio right. The programming of Air America, with a couple of notable exceptions, was dismal beyond belief, ping-ponging between screeching shriekery and apolitical inanity, and rarely resting for even a moment in-between on anything articulate or informative or thoughtful. You know, if I wanted embarrassing political commentary on my radio, I already had Limbaugh and Hannity and Savage and all those other drooling thugs with ganglion cysts where their brains were supposed to be to choose from.

Still, the idea that it's so hard to inject thoughtful discourse into the national dialogue in any moderately broad-based medium is really depressing, even if in this case it might have been more to do with spectacularly bad management than it was because of spectacularly dumb Americans.

We are in a really bad place now, and it feels as though all the avenues offering even a glimmering of hope and redemption are closing down simultaneously. Progressive commentary is being silenced in the supposed marketplace of ideas, while vitriol-spewing hard-right thugs proliferate like so many Spanish Fly-addled bunny rabbits. Meanwhile, trillions of dollars worth of corporate influence have now been unleashed to further overwhelm the already daunting odds of fair competition in electoral contests, and to fully secure the purchasing of favorable policy for special interests. And this was done by a radical one-vote majority of the Supreme Court, who took it upon themselves to go out and change a hundred years worth of Congressional legislation as well as recent precedents of the very same Court. Just calling balls and strikes? No. More like just balls. These guys went out an bought land, built a stadium, wrote the rules and invented an entirely new game.

Then, of course, there's the so-called progressive party, now in charge. You know, the one that's supposed to provide an alternative, in a democratic system, to the party of death, destruction and deceit. Yeah, that one. Except it turns out that the Democrats are no alternative at all. At least when it comes to policy. If, on the other hand, you like your politicians to be embarrassingly weak, inept and ineffectual, then the latter-day Three Stooges - Barack, Harry and Nancy - offer a refreshing break from the linebacker eyes and the freight train punch of the GOP killers.

But, of course, you always wind-up back there anyhow. What the last thirty years make increasingly clear is that the Democrats have simply become a sort of halfway holiday from the worst excesses of the GOP, a kind of spring break from the serious business of wrecking a superpower. When things get really obnoxious under Republican rule, the Dems come in to provide the requisite comedic interlude for a few years. When the economy is good, they may even be invited to actually stay a bit longer, as Bill Clinton was - provided, of course, that he didn't actually mess with anything that mattered. When money is tight, however, comatose ineptitude as a governing philosophy doesn't play so well, and the duration of the Democratic intermission gets short.

Such is the meaning of another of the dismal events of the past week, the president's State of Potemkin speech. What a piece of crap that was. What an abysmal laundry list of platitudes that will be not be remotely remembered by anybody in ten years or even ten days. This White House seems to have now gone full-on Bill Clinton, trotting out silly quarter-measure policy initiatives that even they don't believe in, begging the rabid right to punk them yet again and again, and studiously avoiding any action or rhetoric that would threaten even half a percent of the take collected every day by the predatory governing interest structure for whom America is not a country so much as a handy aggregation and collection apparatus.

Among other indicators, Obama's fleeting and half-hearted pep talk on health care - merely the signature issue of his administration, mind you, and the item that consumed almost all the country's political oxygen over the last year - made clear that he has now decided to walk away from the issue, though the awkwardly-timed SOTU address made it necessary for him to pretend that he's not. (Remember, just a week or two ago, when they were trying to schedule the address to triumphantly follow his signing of the bill? My, how things have changed, and my, how fast it's all gone down the toilet.) In this respect he's gone Clinton as well. Make an awful attempt at health care reform, write really bad legislation, handle the strategy and politics of it stupidly, wreck yourself and your party in the process, then just walk away and leave the dying corpse there, squirming in the dirt.

Does this turn to Clintonism mean Barack is going to start screwing White House interns, too? Perhaps, because his fiscal politics are Clinton-like, as well. Trying to placate the insatiable right, he leaves untouched a growing military budget that so dwarfs those of the entire rest of the planet combined as to inescapably render America the international sociopath among nations, while practically echoing Clinton's "the era of big government is over" swill with his spending freeze on domestic programs. Hey man, they're only poor people, aren't they? It's only the environment, isn't it? It's just education, right? Who cares? Meanwhile, predictably, the right begins to boo and hiss literally right as the words pass across the president's lips. This is classic Obama: breathtakingly tepid nothingburger supposed solutions to serious political problems that piss off the left because they want him to be going the other way, piss off the middle because they want something that works, and piss off the right because not even troglodytes like John McCain are mentally ill enough to satisfy them anymore.

The sad - and what I think will eventually prove quite ugly - truth is that this administration is simply not up to the requirements of the times. Part of this country's mythology about itself - and not a terribly inaccurate view, in some ways, either - is that each generation of Americans rises to meet the call of history, the challenges of their respective moments. But for a very long time now, this generation has not, and Barack Obama is just the latest in a sorry string of losers who have sought to deceive, distract or simply coast on inertia, while the long-term prospects for the country crumble under our feet.

Obama's peculiar sin is that he - unlike Reagan or Clinton or the pathetic Bush family goobers - is stuck presiding over the national decline at the moment it has slipped into fourth gear, and at a time after which all those other clowns have more or less exhausted the suite of remotely plausible diversionary tactics.

But those difficult circumstances could also have been his opportunity instead. Like the Washingtons, Lincolns, and Roosevelts of the past, he could have risen to the occasion of what history demands here and now. Instead, his is a cowardly presidency, afraid to offend even criminals, stuck in the middle of the road like a deer in the headlights of the eighteen-wheelers barreling down on him, and stupidly believing that if he merely doesn't move at least he will survive his own inaction, whatever happens to the rest of the country. Obama is purely the wrong actor for his time. At a moment when Americans want action, he continues to avoid acting, thinking he is saving himself, even as all the indicators - from tea parties to losing elections in three states he won a year ago to plummeting job approval ratings - scream out for him to do otherwise.

Right before the Massachusetts contest, Barack sent an email urging me to help out the hapless Coakley campaign. He said, "David, If you were fired up in the last election, I need you more fired up in this election". And then he went up there and did a rally for his candidate, telling people that "Bankers don't need another vote in the United States Senate. They've got plenty." And then his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told us that a key theme of 2010 will be asking voters "whether the people they have in Washington are on the side of protecting the big banks, whether they're on the side of protecting the big oil companies, whether they're on the side of protecting insurance companies or whether they're on the people's side."

Well, Barack, if you're reading this, let me first thank you for your note. How kind of you to write. And, yes, as a matter of fact, I was a bit fired up for the last election. But, no, I wouldn't dream of being fired up for you or your party again this year, and perhaps not ever again any year, as a matter of fact. And you're a big reason for that, my friend. You see - how shall I put this? - bankers don't need another vote in the White House. They've got plenty. And since you've decided to ask folks in 2010 which side the people they have in Washington are on, my answer is that they are overwhelmingly on the side of protecting the big banks, on the side of protecting the big oil companies, and on the side of protecting insurance companies.

Oh, and perhaps you haven't noticed, but you and your party won the last two elections. The 'people we have in Washington' right now are not they, but rather you.

And you're wrecking the country and the world.

And so it was, this Week From Hell, in which the avenues of national redemption closed more completely and more emphatically. There will be no genuine party of the people on our ballots, there to choose in elections. There will be no alternative voice of sanity in the media flinging even toy arrows at the impenetrable wall of national psychosis. There will be no change you can believe in from a president who seems content to be just a slogan in a suit. There will be only more of the same, until the next election, when it will get worse, and then the one after that when it gets worse still. All of which may be but a mere warm-up act for the real fireworks.

Such was the Week From Hell, indeed, except for one final blow.

Howard Zinn left us, shutting down yet another of the few remaining voices of sanity in this deeply unhealthy society. Judging by these events preceding his death, it's not unreasonable to guess why he went when he did.

You can die from a broken heart, can't you?
(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, www.regressiveantidote.net.





The Dead Letter Office...





Heil Obama,

Dear Vizegouverneur Bauer,

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 say the dumbest things taking the spotlight off Barry's inability to govern, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class with Golden Oak Leaves 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 Bauer, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama





Nostalgia For Bush/Cheney Radicalism
The Reagan administration's policy - treat Terrorists as criminals - is now deemed fringe Leftist
By Glenn Greenwald

As has been voluminously documented here, one of the most notable aspects of the first year of the Obama presidency has been how many previously controversial Bush/Cheney policies in the terrorism and civil liberties realms have been embraced. Even Obama's most loyal defenders often acknowledge that, as Micheal Tomasky recently put it, "the civil liberties area has been [Obama's] worst. This is the one area in which the president's actions don't remotely match the candidate's promises." From indefinite detention and renditions to denial of habeas rights, from military commissions and secrecy obsessions to state secrets abuses, many of the defining Bush/Cheney policies continue unabated under its successor administration.

Despite all that, there is substantial political pressure from all directions for Obama to reverse the very few decisions where he actually deviated from Bush/Cheney radicalism in these areas. In the wake of extreme political pressure, mostly from Democrats, the White House just forced Eric Holder to retreat on his decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City, and numerous Democrats now appear prepared to join with the GOP to cut-off funding for civilian trials altogether, forcing the administration to try all Terrorists in military commissions or just hold them indefinitely. The administration has created a warped multi-tiered justice system where only a select few even get civilian trials -- those whom they know in advance they can convict -- yet there are growing signs that the President will abandon even that symbolic, piecemeal nod to due process.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post is publishing demands from former Bush CIA and NSA Chief Michael Hayden -- who presided over the blatantly criminal warrantless eavesdropping program -- that Obama must even more closely model his Terrorism policies on Bush's, as though the architects of Bush's illegal policies are our Guiding Lights when deciding what to do now. Even Obama's own top intelligence official criticized the Justice Department's decision to treat Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as what he is -- a criminal -- and accord him normal due process. And an internal Justice Department investigation which -- under Bush -- had concluded that John Yoo and Jay Bybee committed ethical violations in their authoring of the "torture memos" and should be investigated by their state bars has now, under Obama, reportedly been changed -- whitewashed -- to conclude that they acted appropriately (even if their written opinions exhibited "poor judgment").

In sum, there is clearly a bipartisan and institutional craving for a revival (more accurately: ongoing preservation) of the core premise of Bush/Cheney radicalism: that because we're "at war" with Terrorists, our standard precepts of justice and due process do not apply and, indeed, must be violated. To relieve ourselves of guilt and of the bad lingering taste left from having such discredited and unpopular leadership for eight years, we collectively pretended for a little while to regret the excesses of the Bush/Cheney approach to such matters. But it's now crystal clear that the country, especially its ruling elite, is either too petrified of Terrorism and/or too enamored of the powers which that fear enables to accept any real changes from the policies that were supposedly such a profound violation "of our values." One can only marvel at the consensus outrage generated by the mere notion that we charge people with crimes and give them trials if we want to lock them in a cage for life. Indeed, what was once the most basic and defining American principle -- the State must charge someone with a crime and give them a fair trial in order to imprison them -- has been magically transformed into Leftist extremism.

To see how radical our establishment consensus in this area has become, just consider two facts. First, look at the Terrorism policies of what had previously been the most right-wing administration in America's history: the Reagan administration. In this post yesterday, Larry Johnson does quite a good job of documenting how Terrorism by Islamic radicals had been a greater problem in the 1980s than it is now. There was the 1983 bombing of our Marine barracks in Lebanon, a 1982 and 1984 bombing of Jewish sites in Argentina, numerous plane hijackings, the blowing up of a Pan Am jet, the Achille Lauro seizure, and what the State Department called "a host of spectacular, publicity-grabbing events that ultimately ended in coldblooded murder" (many masterminded by Abu Nidal).

Despite that, read the official policy of the Reagan Administration when it came to treating Terrorists, as articulated by the top Reagan State Department official in charge of Terrorism policies, L. Paul Bremer, in a speech he entitled "Counter-Terrorism: Strategies and Tactics:"

Another important measure we have developed in our overall strategy is applying the rule of law to terrorists. Terrorists are criminals. They commit criminal actions like murder, kidnapping, and arson, and countries have laws to punish criminals. So a major element of our strategy has been to delegitimize terrorists, to get society to see them for what they are -- criminals -- and to use democracy's most potent tool, the rule of law against them.

It was also Ronald Reagan who signed the Convention Against Torture in 1988 -- after many years of countless, horrific Terrorist attacks -- which not only declared that there are "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever" justifying torture, but also required all signatory countries to "ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law" and -- and Reagan put it -- "either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution." And, of course, even George W. Bush -- at the height of 9/11-induced Terrorism hysteria -- charged attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid with actual crimes and processed him through our civilian courts.

How much clearer evidence can there be of how warped and extremist we've become on these matters? The express policies of the right-wing Ronald Reagan -- "applying the rule of law to terrorists"; delegitimizing Terrorists by treating them as "criminals"; and compelling the criminal prosecution of those who authorize torture -- are now considered on the Leftist fringe. Merely advocating what Reagan explicitly adopted as his policy -- "to use democracy's most potent tool, the rule of law against" Terrorists -- is now the exclusive province of civil liberties extremists. In those rare cases when Obama does what Reagan's policy demanded in all instances and what even Bush did at times -- namely, trials and due process for accused Terrorists -- he is attacked as being "Soft on Terror" by Democrats and Republicans alike. And the mere notion that we should prosecute torturers (as Reagan bound the U.S. to do) -- or even hold them accountable in ways short of criminal proceedings -- is now the hallmark of a Far Leftist Purist. That's how far we've fallen, how extremist our political consensus has become.

Second, consider the company we keep, specifically where our mentality falls on the spectrum that defines the rest of the world. Countries which have been victimized by horrific terrorist attacks over the last several years -- Britain, Spain, India, Indonesia -- have tried and convicted the perpetrators as criminals in their civilian court system, right in their normal courthouses, in the heart of the cities that were the target of the attacks. These countries -- which aren't protected by oceans and (in the case of India and Indonesia) aren't bordered by friendly countries -- didn't invent special military commissions to abridge due process or simply imprison the accused without a trial. They didn't pour water down their throats, freeze them, disorient them with sleep deprivation, or hang them naked from the ceiling. Instead, they followed the Reagan administration's policy for dealing with Terrorists -- "use democracy's most potent tool, the rule of law against them" -- despite the fact that they had suffered deadly attacks.

By contrast, look at what Libya is doing. The U.S. has, for decades, harshly criticized Libya as one of the most tyrannical and uncivilized regimes on the planet. In 2008, the State Department not only amazingly condemned that country for "torture" (which included such U.S.-embraced methods as "depriving detainees of sleep, food, and water; hanging by the wrists; suspending from a pole inserted between the knees and elbows . . . . threatening with dog attacks"), but also for indefinitely detaining people without trials ("The law stipulates that detainees can be held for investigation after being arrested up to eight days. In practice security services can hold detainees indefinitely. Although the law requires that detainees be informed of the charges against them, it was not enforced in practice. The law states that in order to renew a detention order detainees must be brought before a judicial authority at regular intervals of 30 days, but in practice security services detained persons for indefinite periods without a court order").

Consistent with those abuses, Libya just announced its new policy for how it will treat accused Al Qaeda Terrorists -- a policy that should sound quite familiar to all Americans:

Libya will hold up to 300 al Qaeda members in jail indefinitely after they have completed their prison terms to stop them staging fresh attacks, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said on Thursday.

"These people are heretics. They are followers of (Osama) Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri. They killed a number of civilians and police," Gaddafi told a gathering of his top legislative body, referring to al Qaeda's two global commanders.

"It is a necessity to keep them in prison. They are very dangerous as they are ready to resume killing people in our streets here or travel to Algeria or Egypt or elsewhere to stage attacks," he said in remarks broadcast on state television and monitored in Rabat.

At least Libya seems to be indefinitely imprisoning those who were at one time convicted; the U.S., by contrast, is doing so with regard to detainees who have never been charged, let alone convicted, of anything. Saudi Arabia has a similar policy of simply imprisoning people in the name of Terrorism without trials or due process.

So that's where the American consensus now lies. The practices used by Britain, Spain, India and Indonesia (and the Reagan administration) of treating Terrorists as criminals and convicting them in normal courts -- with due process -- is too fringe Leftist for the United States, which has spent decades sermonizing to the rest of the world about the need for due process and the evils of arbitrary detention. Instead, our political and media establishment demands that we replicate the policies of Libya and Saudi Arabia: simply hold accused Terrorists without trials or, at most, invent special due-process-abridging military tribunals to ensure they are convicted.

George Bush and Dick Cheney ended up as two of the most despised political leaders of the last century, so our establishment had to pretend that they, too, found their policies to be distasteful and extreme. But that was clearly a pretense. In those very rare instances where Obama and his Attorney General try to deviate, they're accused (including by leading members of their own party) of accommodating "the Far Left" and being "Soft on Terror." The undeniable truth is that our establishment craves Bush/Cheney policies because it is as radical as they are. That one is automatically accused of being too Leftist merely by literally reciting Reagan administration policy on Terrorists (in words if not deeds) -- and that one can be "centrist" only by standing with the due-process-denying practices of Libya and Saudi Arabia -- reflects just how far the American spectrum has regressed.
(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.







Negative Energy
A key bloc of Democrats has a climate Plan B: Ditch cap and trade for an energy bill filled with industry giveaways.
By Kate Sheppard

With the Senate cap-and-trade bill on ice for the foreseeable future, a key bloc of Democrats is agitating for a Climate Plan B: an existing energy policy bill they say would put the US on the path to a clean energy future. Make that a road to nowhere. The bill in question lacks any kind of cap on carbon, and contains so many concessions to the oil, coal, gas, and nuclear industries that one environmental group has dubbed it a "flashback to Bush energy policy."

For months, a gaggle of centrist Democrats has tried to convince the party's leaders that they should abandon their push for a cap-and-trade scheme and instead settle for passing the energy measure that was approved by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last June. When Republican Scott Brown seized Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat in an upset victory, these Plan B proponents saw their chance. Since then, they've been vigorously arguing that capping carbon is a huge political risk that Democrats can't afford to take in an election year. "They're using uncertainty over the Obama agenda as a whole to reinvigorate their push," said Joe Mendelson, director of global warming policy at the National Wildlife Federation.

The Plan B crowd includes Democratic senators Jim Webb, Mary Landrieu, Evan Bayh, Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad, Byron Dorgan, Mark Pryor, and Blanche Lincoln. It could also potentially pick up the Republicans who voted the energy measure out of committee: senators Lisa Murkowski, Sam Brownback, Bob Corker, and Jeff Sessions.

Talk of a climate about-face intensified as news outlets reported last week that senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman-who are working to assemble a cross-party coalition to support climate legislation in the Senate-are planning to scrap a cap on carbon altogether. Graham, who was already on the record condemning the House and Senate cap-and-trade bills, declared in an interview with the New York Times that "some massive cap-and-trade system that regulates carbon in a fashion that drives up energy costs is dead. Realistically, the cap-and-trade bills in the House and the Senate are going nowhere," he added.

Abandoning the effort to put a cap on the emissions that are warming the planet could deal a death blow to the chances for an international climate treaty. Right now, other big emitters-China in particular-want to ensure the US makes meaningful cuts before showing their cards. When the Obama administration formally signed on to the Copenhagen accord last week, it pledged to reduce emissions "in the range of" 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020-but only if such a reduction is first passed into law by Congress.

That's not the only problem. Even though supporters of the energy bill like Byron Dorgan tout the proposal as a way to "move us in the direction of a lower-carbon future," the legislation was not written with the aim of lowering pollution. In fact, the bill's numerous concessions to big energy interests could actually lead to more, not less, emissions.

If signed into law, the measure would lift a ban on drilling for oil in the eastern Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida-allowing oil extraction just 45 miles offshore.

Daniel Lashof, director of the climate center at the Natural Resources Defense Council, also argues that the bill's measures to expand federal authority over the placement of power lines could increase emissions. More electricity infrastructure without a cap on carbon would make it easier to bring new coal plants online and increase output at existing facilities, said Lashof.

And the handful of provisions in the bill that supposedly provide incentives for clean energy turn out to be pretty anemic. The proposal includes a new renewable electricity standard that requires utilities to produce 15 percent of power from renewable sources by 2021. But solar and wind advocates say that standard is actually less ambitious than the path that the industry is already on.

The bill would also establish something called a Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA), which supporters claim will direct much-needed loans to the renewable energy sector. However, the bill's fine print ensures that the lion's share of the money will likely go not to start-up wind farms or solar panel factories, but to the nuclear industry. As Mother Jones has reported, the bill would empower the Department of Energy to hand out an unlimited number of loan guarantees to underwrite the construction of new nuclear plants without congressional review. This amounts to a massive giveaway to the nuclear industry, as construction costs have spiraled so dramatically over the past decade that the private sector now refuses to finance new plants. With the Congressional Budget Office warning that the chance of default on these loans is at least 50 percent, the energy bill could leave the taxpayer on the hook for billions.

Supporters of the energy measure have argued that passing this bill alone is more politically feasible than getting cap and trade through the Senate. But although a bipartisan group of senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the measure, its prospects look very different in the wider Senate. Right now, cap and trade is drawing heavy fire from senators from states whose economies depend on forms of energy that would be penalized by a carbon cap. But if Democrats opted to advance a bill with no cap, that measure would then be attacked by the most dedicated supporters of a comprehensive climate solution. Already, 17 senators have written to Obama urging him to keep the focus on a comprehensive bill. Even Lindsey Graham, who has blasted the existing cap-and-trade bills, says the energy-only option is "not strong enough." "I'm not going to ask the environmental community to accept a compromise that doesn't in a serious way deal with our carbon pollution problems," he said last week. "You'll get some votes for a comprehensive package that you wouldn't get for stand-alone proposals."

So what now? With a bloc of Democrats almost entirely written off, it seems Graham, Kerry, and Lieberman are left figuring out just how much oil, gas, nuclear, and coal are needed to sweeten the deal for Republicans. Graham remains confident that they can figure out the right mix. "If we can make the energy piece attractive enough for Republicans, there's going to be more than a handful that would agree to emissions controls," he said. The Obama administration seems to have adopted the same strategy: In the energy portion of his State of the Union address, Obama spoke only of initiatives to encourage nuclear, oil, gas, and "clean" coal-and barely mentioned renewable energy.

Kerry was adamant last week that despite the media reports, he, Graham, and Lieberman aren't abandoning the effort to cap on carbon emissions. But he admitted that they were open to other possibilities beyond the cap-and-trade scheme Democrats have been sweating over for the past year. "We're not stuck on one idea. We're looking for a way to come at this that gets the job done, but the job remains the same: addressing the real urgency of climate change," he said. "There are any number of ways of skinning this cat."
(c) 2010 Kate Sheppard covers energy and environmental politics in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. For more of her stories, click here. She Tweets here.



The Cartoon Corner...

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










To End On A Happy Note...



The Torture Never Stops
By Frank Zappa and the Mothers

Flies all green and buzzin',
in this dungeon of despair.
Prisoners grumble and piss their clothes,
and scratch their matted hair.
A tiny light, from a window hole,
a hundred yards away,
is all they ever gets to know
about the regular light in the day.

And it stinks so bad, the stones been chokin',
and weepin' greenish drops.
In the room where the giant fire puffer works,
and the torture never stops.

The torture never stops.

Slime and rot, rats and snot,
and vomit on the floor.
Fifty yoogly soldiers, man,
holdin' spears by the iron door.
Knives and spikes, and guns and the likes
of every tool of pain.
And a sinister midget, with a bucket and a mop,
where the blood goes down the drain.

And it stinks so bad, the stones been chokin',
and weepin' greenish drops.
In the room where the giant fire puffer works,
and the torture never stops.

The torture never stops.
The torture.. the torture..
The torture never stops.

Flies all green and buzzin',
in this dungeon of despair.
An evil prince eats a steaming pig,
in a chamber right near there.

He eats the snouts and the trotters first.
The loins and the groins is soon dispersed.
His carvin' style is well rehearsed.
He stands and shouts:

All men be cursed!
All men be cursed!
All men be cursed!
All men be cursed!

And disagree?
Well, no one durst.

He's the best, of course, of all the worst.
Some wrong been done, he done it first.

And it stinks so bad, his bones been chokin',
and weepin' greenish drops.
In the night of the iron sausage,
where the torture never stops.

The torture never stops.
The torture.. the torture..
The torture never stops.

Flies all green and buzzin',
in this dungeon of despair.
Who are all those people,
that he's locked away down there?
Are they crazy?
Are they sainted?
Are they zeroes,
someone painted?

And it's never been explained,
since it first it was created.
But a dungeon, like a sin,
requires not but lockin' in,
of everything that's ever been.
Look at her.
Look at him.

That's what's the deal we're dealin' in.
That's what's the deal we're dealin' in.
That's what's the deal we're dealin' in.
That's what's the deal we're dealin' in
(c) 1974/2010 Frank Zappa/Captain Beefheart



Have You Seen This...




Parting Shots...





I Don't Even Want To Be Alive Anymore
By Rush Limbaugh

I know there are a lot of people out there who are upset about some of the things I've been saying on my radio program lately. My comments about the situation in Haiti have hurt and angered many Americans who genuinely care about the plight of the Haitian people, and that hurt and anger will likely never go away. Many of you are probably wondering, "What would compel a human being to say things like that?" Well, here's your answer: I am a very bad person. And, to tell you the truth, I don't really want to be alive anymore.

Try to look at it from my point of view. I have no reason to live. In my 59 years, I've made millions of dollars, built a veritable media empire, and accomplished virtually everything that a man of my limited imagination and worldview could possibly accomplish. And yet, at this point, in no way could you refer to what I'm doing as "living," exactly. I just sort of exist. I derive no real pleasure from life. Oh, sure, I talk a big game about what a golf nut I am and how much I enjoy the taste of a fine cigar, but it's all horseshit. Complete and utter horseshit.

I don't enjoy that stuff. I don't enjoy anything. I don't even want to be here. The sadness and regret I feel every waking hour of my life is absolutely unbearable. I am a miserable pig and I do not want to exist.

The irony is that, even if I did die, the hell I would surely be sent to could not possibly be any worse than the bottomless pool of excrement I already paddle around in like some demented, shit-covered walrus. In fact, every time I hear my voice coming through the headphones I nearly gag, and I think, "What the fuck am I doing?" Why would I say that Michael J. Fox is faking his Parkinson's symptoms? Why would I find it funny to play a song called "Barack the Magic Negro"? Why would I tell people not to give aid to Haiti?

What the fuck is wrong with me?

I live in constant terror and that terror informs my every word, thought, and action.

See, the thing is, I honestly cannot control the bilious hatred and filth that oozes out of my mouth. I want to-believe me, I want to-but I can't. And every time I speak, a tiny voice inside my head is screaming, "Stop talking, you stupid, insensitive prick. JUST STOP FUCKING TALKING. All you do is spread hate and fear, and the world would be a better place without you, you worthless, amoral, cocksucking fuckface."

What I should really do is just commit suicide. I have this little Sunday ritual I started around the time I publicly compared the torture at Abu Ghraib to a fraternity prank, where I climb into my Jacuzzi and put a gun in my mouth. But I can never work up the guts to pull the trigger. A few times I came close to overdosing on prescription pain pills, but my goddamn doctors were always there to save me. If I had any sense, I would just hole myself up in a Red Roof Inn with a case of Jack Daniel's and slowly drink myself into the gaping maw of death itself.

But what can I say? I guess I'm just too much of a fat fucking pussy to follow through.

You know what? I wish someone would just kill me. I'm serious. Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking: "Oh my God, how can you say such a thing? You can't print that in a newspaper!" But see, I don't care anymore. I've cried my tears. I've battled my demons, and I've lost. It's over. It's all over. The only thing left for me to do now is just go away. Have I even once contributed a single ounce of good to humanity? Put me out of my misery. I wouldn't make a fuss. I wouldn't even humiliate myself by saying goodbye. For the first time in my odious, pitiful life, I'd accept my fate with quiet dignity.

Then I wouldn't have to live with my wretched, wretched self. Oh, the release.

I've imagined my death a thousand times over, and it's always the same. In my mind's eye, a serene setting comes into view. I see a funeral procession driving down some small-town Main Street in Nowheresville, U.S.A. On one side of the street, a collection of sycophants and morons are paying their respects in subliterate, sanctimonious tones. Meanwhile, on the other side of the street, I can just make out the faint image of a young boy, his brow furrowed in confusion, clutching the hand of his father. "Who is that man, Daddy?" he asks as the hearse containing my bloated, lifeless body rolls by. "Who is that person they speak of?" The father will then lower his head and say, "There, my son, go the remains of Rush Hudson Limbaugh, the most abominable lump of festering dog shit in the history of American broadcasting. May the likes of him never again soil or tarnish the greatness of our fair country."

Please forgive me, everyone. I am so sorry.
(c) 2010 The Onion




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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 06 (c) 02/05/2010


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