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In This Edition

Howard Zinn on, "Obama's Historic Victory."

Uri Avnery smells, "Dirty Socks."

Amy Goodman explains, "Obama's Afghan Trap."

Jim Hightower with a contest, "What's The Word For Wall Street Greed?"

Ted Rall says, "It Couldn't Happen Here."

Robert Scheer reports, "No Tough Love For Wall Street."

Paul Krugman sees the economy, "On The Edge."

Chris Floyd considers, "Tribal Authorities."

Lori Bongiorno with, "Five Recycling Mysteries Solved!"

Mike Folkerth exclaims, "Leadership? You Gotta Be Kidding!"

Robert Fisk finds, "Iran: A Nation Still Haunted By Its Bloody Past."

Eileen Prendiville chants, "We Are The Union."

Leon Panetta wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald follows, "The 180-degree Reversal Of Obama's State Secrets Position."

Mary Pitt tells, "The Truth About Your Income Tax."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst returns with, "The School For Scandal. Version 2.1" but first Uncle Ernie warns of, "Afghanistan: Destroyer Of Empires."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Wayne Stayskal with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Rex Babin, Jim Day, R.J. Matson, The Heretik, Eug╦ne Delacroix, Ted Rall, Issues & Alibis.Org and Pink & Blue Films.

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

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









Afghanistan: Destroyer Of Empires
By Ernest Stewart

"I am involved in the land of a 'Leonine' (lion-like) and brave people, where every Foot of the ground is like a wall of steel, confronting my soldiers. You have brought only one son into the world, but everyone in this land can be called an Alexander." ~~~ Alexander the Great, regarding Afghanistan, in a letter to his mother.

"We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don't. There is no middle ground." ~~~ Leon Panetta ~ 2008

A contract ain't a contract anymore.
They been and throwed the concept out the door.
You can write it down and sign it,
But the way that Ford defines it.
A contract ain't a contract anymore.
A Contract Ain't A Contract Anymore ~~~ Robert D. Stubbs

The candidate for "Change" is continuing same ole, same ole, as it turns out. In fact, not content with the thousands of innocents' deaths in Afghanistan and a teetering economy, Barry has decided to "surge" ahead in Afghanistan. Apparently there are still a few mud huts standing and we certainly can't allow that!

With an economy all but destroyed by Bush's illegal, immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the banking collapse and NAFTA sending all our good paying jobs overseas, why would Barry want to ramp up the Afghanistan incursion and double our involvement there by cooling down the war in Iraq and sending those troops not home, but back to Tora Bora which, by-the-way, translates to the "Black Cellar." With the exception of "Alexander the Great," who had the brains to stay away from that and other mountainous areas and still spent three years on the plains before cutting his losses and moving off to India, every invading army since lost their troops and treasuries trying to conquer Afghanistan. The British, for example, tried it three times. The first time they lost an army of 18,000. Only one Englishman, a doctor, escaped to India while the rest of the army lay dead. As Rudyard Kipling said in his poem, "The Young British Soldier,"

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.


I guess Barry never read any Kipling? It was the third British war with Afghanistan that finally destroyed the Empire so that by the time WWII rolled around a few years later, there was little left to fight the Germans with. The empire would have ended there and then but the U.S. entered the war and saved England from speaking German. So, when WWII ended, so did the British Empire!

Ask the USSR how their empire fared after ten years in Afghanistan. Oh, oops my bad, you can't ask the USSR as it no longer exists because of it adventures in Afghanistan. What does exist is Russia, which wants to "help" us out by giving our supplies access routes and thereby assure that we, too, will end up the way they did. Helping us to lose our troops and treasury there and it won't take very long before the American Empire is gone too!

The only thing to ever "conquer" Afghanistan was religion. First Zorastism, then Buddhism and finally Islam. Maybe Barry could convince the Afghans to join his cult of personality, Obamaism?

In Other News

Obama's DOJ seems to be no different than Bush's as was proved in court the other day with their "State Secrets" play, something that candidate Obama swore to "change" when he took power. He's since decided he will keep those acts of treason by Bush on the books so it's no surprise that his choice for CIA director, Leon Panetta, will continue the secret kidnappings, renditions, murder and torture of the Bush Junta as well.

Of course, Leon lied about renditions to start with but when further questioned on the subject decided he'd keep those war crimes intact in the CIA's little bag of dirty tricks, too.

I'm sorry but could someone remind me exactly what is the difference between Barry and W? I'll be damned if I can figure out any substantial change. Of course, I never really expected anything more than a little window dressing. A "kinder, gentler machine gun hand!" Still, it is rather amusing to see people who know better try to defend one policy outrage after another.

Panetta, who has exactly zero experience as a spook, must be qualified as he had plenty of experience as a lackey in Slick Willie's Junta. Leon first told the Senate Intelligence Committee that President Barack Obama forbids what Panetta called "that kind of extraordinary rendition -- when we send someone for the purpose of torture or actions by another country that violate our human values." When word came down that it would soon be obvious that Barry actually embraced rendition and torture as the DOJ proved the other day, Leon, without missing a beat, changed his position 180 degrees. Surprise, surprise, surprise! Not!

Leon went on to assert that he wouldn't be bringing any charges of torture or murder against CIA spooks, "Those individuals ought not to be prosecuted or investigated if they acted pursuant to the law as presented by the attorney general." Ergo if some fascist politician tells you it's okay to torture and murder, it's okay. I seem to remember that we hung and shot a lot of Germans and Japanese who, in similar circumstances, were "Only Following Ze Orders!" I also recall the American judges at Nuremberg going on and on about how that defense, wasn't a defense at all, don't you? Methinks Mr. Panetta is what Tweety Bird called a hypo-twit!

And Finally

I see where corpo-rat America has finally triumphed over American labor with the coming destruction of labor unions. With the bailout money paid, a paltry $14 billion, they've bought the destruction of the United Auto Workers. With the combined help of the Bush Junta, every Rethuglican and most Demoncrat politicians, our beloved Fuhrer (now I know what he meant by change) and the UAW leadership thus begin the end of the middle class.

Now whether you loved or hated the middle class, be advised that it was the only thing standing between the Kings and the serfs. Now you'll either be a King or a peon and which do you think you'll be, America? Oh, and let me remind you that there will be very few open slots for Kings!

Unlike the Bankers and their trillion dollar bailout, a good percentage of which they spent on themselves with no personal scarifies, the auto bailout comes with a huge scarifies to all hourly employees. Basically, a 2/3 cut in pay making wages just above the minimum wage and loss of most health insurance and other benefits as well. All this personal destruction comes even though the cost of labor is about 5% of the cost of the car or truck. Didn't hear anything about this from your union leadership, I'm not surprised!

Of course, you don't have to take the pay cuts. You can retire at Chrysler with less than one year's salary, $50,000 and a coupon for $25,000 off the price of a car or $75,000 if you give up all insurance benefits for you and your family. At General Motors, you'll receive substantially less. The UAW assures Barry and the new "Auto Czar" that they'll give Ford Motor Company the same packages. In addition, did I mention most all retirees would loose all their benefits, too! Are we having fun yet? How do you like dem changes? I didn't think you would.

Of course, you don't have to take the buyout; you can stay on and then get laid off and lose the $100 grand or so and get only unemployment. All the current lay off conditions will no longer be there, you'll not get paid for not working and all new hires will make about $10 an hour without any benefits. Oh and did I mention that strikes won't be allowed? They have "vays" of making you cooperate!

Now, now, now, let's have no talk of bloody revolutions or you'll soon find yourself and your family in one of those new Happy Camps(tm) (And you though that they were for the Mexicans?) where you can get a job manufacturing whatever Big Brother wants for $0 dollars a hour and all the sawdust bread you can eat. Just one suggestion, America, when you get to the "Happy Camp(tm)" stay out of the line for the showers!

*****

We don't sell our readers new cars, fancy homes or designer clothes. We don't advocate consumerism nor do we offer facile solutions to serious problems. We do, however, bring together every week writers and activists who are not afraid to speak the truth about our country and our world. The articles we print are not for the faint of heart.

As access to accurate information becomes more difficult and free speech and the exchange of ideas becomes more restricted and controlled, small publications and alternative presses disappear. Issues and Alibis may soon join that list.

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Ernest & Victoria Stewart



*****


09-30-1940 ~ 01-31-2009
Thanks for the chapter in my book!



10-01-1921 ~ 02-06-2009
Dead Like Me!



08-18-1939 ~ 02-07-2009
R.I.P. Sweetie


*****

The "W" theatre trailers are up along with the new movie poster and screen shots from the film. They are all available at the all-new "W" movie site: http://wthemovie.com. Both trailers are on site and may be downloaded; the new trailer can be seen with Flash on site. You can download in either PC or Mac formats. I'm in the new trailer as myself but don't blink or you'll miss me! The trailers are also available on YouTube along with a short scene from the film.

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So how do you like the 2nd coup d'etat so far?
And more importantly, what are you planning on doing about it?

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2009 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 8 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. In his spare time he is an actor, writer and an associate producer for the new motion picture "W The Movie."













Obama's Historic Victory
By Howard Zinn

Written for l'Humanit╚ in France

Those of us on the Left who have criticized Obama, as I have, for his failure to take bold positions on the war and on the economy, must join the exultation of those Americans, black and white, who shouted and wept Tuesday night as they were informed that Barack Obama had won the presidential election. It is truly a historic moment, that a black man will lead our country. The enthusiasm of the young, black and white, the hopes of their elders, cannot simply be ignored.

There was a similar moment a century and a half ago, in the year 1860, when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Lincoln had been criticized harshly by the abolitionists, the anti-slavery movement, for his failure to take a clear, bold stand against slavery, for acting as a shrewd politician rather than a moral force. But when he was elected, the abolitionist leader Wendell Phillips, who had been an angry critic of Lincoln's cautiousness, recognized the possibility in his election.

Phillips wrote that for the first time in the nation's history "the slave has chosen a President of the United States." Lincoln, he said, was not an abolitionist, but he in some way "consents to represent an antislavery position." Like a pawn on the chessboard, Lincoln had the potential, if the American people acted vigorously, to be moved across the board, converted into a queen, and, as Phillips said, "sweep the board."

Obama, like Lincoln, tends to look first at his political fortunes instead of making his decisions on moral grounds. But, as the first African American in the White House, elected by an enthusiastic citizenry which expects a decisive move towards peace and social justice, he presents a possibility for important change.

Obama becomes president in a situation which cries out for such change. The nation has been engaged in two futile and immoral wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the American people have turned decisively against those wars. The economy is shaken by tremendous blows, and is in danger of collapsing, as families lose their homes and working people, including those in the middle class, lose their jobs, So the population is ready for change, indeed, desperate for change, and "change" was the word most used by Obama in his campaign.

What kind of change is needed? First, to announce the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and to renounce the Bush doctrine of preventive war as well as the Carter doctrine of military action to control Mideast oil. He needs to radically change the direction of U.S. foreign policy, declare that the U.S. is a peace loving country which will not intervene militarily in other parts of the world, and start dismantling the military bases we have in over a hundred countries. Also he must begin meeting with Medvedev, the Russian leader, to reach agreement on the dismantling of the nuclear arsenals, in keeping with the Nuclear Anti-Proliferation Treaty.

This turn-around from militarism will free hundreds of billions of dollars. A tax program which will sharply increase taxes on the richest 1% of the nation, and will tax their wealth as well as their income, will yield more hundreds of billions of dollars.

With all that saved money, the government will be able to give free health care to everyone, put millions of people to work (which the so-called free market has not been able to do). In short, emulate the New Deal program, in which millions were given jobs by the government.

This is just an outline of a program which could transform the United States and make it a good neighbor to the world.
(c) 2009 Howard Zinn is the author of, "A People's History of the United States," "Voices of a People's History" (with Anthony Arnove), and "A Power Governments Cannot Suppress." His newest book is A People's History of American Empire, the story of America in the world, told in comics form, with Mike Konopacki and Paul Buhle in the American Empire Project book series. An animated video adapted from this essay with visuals from the comic book and voiceover by Viggo Mortensen, as well as a section of the book on Zinn's early life, can be viewed by clicking here.





Dirty Socks
By Uri Av\nery

"I have some good news and some bad news," the sergeant in the joke tells his men. "The good news is that you are going to change your dirty socks. The bad news is that you are going to exchange them among yourselves."

I am not the only person who is reminded of this old British army joke by the current elections.

We are faced by a sorry lot of politicians, some of them documented failures and some completely free of any past achievements. There is no meaningful discussion between them about the issues. Not one of the main contenders offers real solutions to our basic problems. The differences between them are invisible without a magnifying glass.

The instinctive reaction: "To hell with the lot of them. Let's not vote at all!"

But that is childish. We cannot afford not to vote, or to vote out of spite or as a protest. Even if the differences are tiny - they may turn out to be important.

Therefore, let's hold our nose and vote. If necessary, let's take some medicine against nausea. If all of them are bad, let's look for the lesser evil.

FOR ME, the greatest evil is Binyamin ("Bibi") Netanyahu.

If he gets one vote more than his rivals, the President will entrust him with the task of setting up the next government. Netanyahu has already committed himself to inviting Avigdor Liberman, the pupil of the fascist Meir Kahane, as his first partner, as well as Shas, which has now become an extreme right-wing party. Perhaps he will also take in the "National Union," which is even more extreme, and the remnants of the National Religious party, together with the Orthodox.

If this is to be the core of the next coalition, we shall have an extreme nationalist-racist government, a government that will reject outright any possibility of ending the occupation, setting up a Palestinian state and evacuating the settlements.

After that, Netanyahu could invite Kadima and Labor, but that would not matter anymore. Since he will be able to set up a government without them, he will get them for next to nothing. In such a government, their only function will be to serve as fig leaves, camouflage for the Americans.

One must also remember who would come with Netanyahu: types like Limor Livnat, Benny Begin and Bogie Yaalon.

Some people have brought up a Machiavellian idea: let the Likud come to power. That way, the entire world will see the true face of Israel and boycott it. The government will fall, and we can start all over again.

Sorry, that is too risky a bet for me. I am not ready to gamble with the future of Israel. To use an old catch-phrase: I don't have another country.

Some try to cheer us up with another thought: Netanyahu is a weak person. If the Americans exert pressure on him, he will give in. In the end he will do whatever Obama tells him to do.

I am not so sure. I am not ready to bet on that either. His partners will not let him submit. For me, the first decision is: No Netanyahu.

TZIPI LIVNI has one enormous advantage: she is not Bibi.

It may seem that this is also her only advantage.

At this moment, she is the only person who could - perhaps, perhaps - block the road to a coalition headed by the Likud. For many, that is reason enough to vote for her.

Is there any other reason? Hard to see one. She could have risen above the murky waters and presented a clear and focused message: peace with the Palestinian people and the Arab world. That would have separated her from Netanyahu and also from Ehud Barak and given her the status of a statesperson. It would have turned the elections into a referendum on war and peace.

She has missed this opportunity. Like all the other candidates, she is afraid of the word "peace." Her advisors have probably warned her that the shares of peace in the stock exchange of public opinion are way down.

If she were a real leader, if peace had been burning in her bones (as we say in Hebrew), she would have ignored the advice and stood up as a woman of principle.

Instead, she is trying to be more macho than all the machos, "The Only Man In The Government." She cries to high heaven against any dialogue with Hamas. She objects to a mutually agreed cease-fire. She tries to compete with Netanyahu and Liberman with unbridled nationalist messages.

That is bad. That is also stupid. Someone who is looking for a he-he-man will not vote for a woman. Someone who is longing for a brutal warlord will not vote for a female civilian who, in the words of Barak, "has never held a rifle in her hands."

It was a test of leadership. And Tzipi flunked it.

True, here and there she has voiced some vague ideas about "two nation-states," but in all her years in office she has not taken the smallest real step in this direction.

Therefore, there is no reason to vote for her, except one: if she gets one vote more than Netanyahu, the President will call on her to try to set up a government. Such a government will surely include Netanyahu, and probably Liberman too. Yet it will be different from a government headed by Netanyahu. Under heavy American pressure, it might even move towards peace.

I CANNOT vote for Ehud Barak. Even if my head wanted to, my hand would not obey.

The inhuman Gaza War was a reflection of Barak's own inhuman character. He waged the war as a part of his election campaign. When the anti-war demonstrators marched through the streets of Tel-Aviv and shouted: "Don't buy votes / with the blood of babies" they were not so far off the mark.

Like Netanyahu, Barak is a documented failure. I was among the masses who celebrated his triumph in Rabin Square in 1999 when he was elected Prime Minister, and, hardly a year later, I sighed with relief when his government collapsed. In his short term of office he convened the Camp David conference and sabotaged it, spread the poisonous and mendacious mantra "We have no partner for peace," provoked the second intifada and destroyed the peace camp from within.

Contrary to Livni, Barak does not even pretend to have a perspective of peace. He sees before him an endless landscape of mountain chains of war, mountain after mountain, stretching well beyond the horizon.

Unlike the Kadima and Likud lists, the Labor election list does include some good people. But these will have no influence at all on things to come. Effectively, it's a one-man list, and that one man is deeply flawed.

FOR A MOMENT it seemed that Meretz was going to transform itself into something bigger. They included in their list some attractive new people. Men of letters recommended them warmly.

And then something happened to them, the same thing that happened to them the last time. A war broke out, and Meretz supported it enthusiastically. Their three literary musketeers - Amos Oz, A. B. Yehoshua and David Grossman - went out of their way to call for the war and laud it, each one in his turn. Exactly as they had done in Lebanon War II.

True, after some days the three - together with Meretz and Peace Now - called for the end of the attack. That call was not accompanied by an apology for the preceding one. This showed a lot of Chutzpa. After helping in breaking the dam, they thought that they could stop the flow with their fingers. But after they had legitimized the war of atrocities, no one listened to them anymore. Every woman and child who was killed in that war, up to the very last day, should weigh on their conscience.

Of course, some will say: you don't vote to punish and take revenge. In spite of the crime, one has to vote for Meretz because among the "Zionist" parties they are the lesser evil. They speak about peace and social justice, and some of their representatives, like Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Sarid, did a good job in the Rabin government. Meretz also did some good parliamentary work for the right causes.

QUITE ANOTHER problem is posed by the three so-called "Arab" parties, one of which is the communist Hadash, which has a small Jewish component. The Hadash program is closer to the consistent peace camp than any other. Some would say: That's close enough. I vote according to my beliefs, and not tactical considerations. Hadash should also be credited for advancing some positive causes in the Knesset.

The problem of the "Arab" lists is that they have not succeeded in playing a meaningful role in the political arena, which has remained an exclusive fiefdom of the "Zionist" parties ("Zionist" in this context means "non Arab"). In order to break into the Jewish street, Hadash could have put at the head of its list, or at least in the No. 2 slot, Dov Khenin, who has risen to stardom in the recent Tel-Aviv municipal elections. By not doing so, they have lost at least some of the votes that could have strayed from Meretz and Labor.

The impact of the "Arab" parties on Israeli policy is next to nil. It is limited to one point in time: on the day after the elections, the question will arise whether all the center/left parties together, from Kadima leftwards, can muster enough votes to block a right-wing government. In this context, and only there, the "Arab" parties do play a role.

THERE REMAINS the Liberman phenomenon.

Liberman has created a party that is simply and thoroughly racist. Its election campaign is centered on the demand to annul the Israeli citizenship of "non-loyal" people. Meaning: the Arabs, who constitute 20% of Israel's citizens.

In every other country, Liberman's program would be called fascist, without quotation marks. Nowhere in the Western world is there a large party that would dare to advance such a demand. The neo-fascists in Switzerland and Holland want to expel foreigners, not to annul the citizenship of the native-born.

The core of the party is made up of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, many of whom have brought from their homeland an utter contempt for democracy, a desire for a strong leader (a Stalin or a Putin), a racist attitude towards brown-skinned citizens and a taste for brutal, Chechnya-style wars. They have now been joined by young, native-born Israelis, who have been radicalized by the recent war.

When Joerg Haider was taken into the Austrian cabinet, Israel recalled its ambassador from Vienna in protest. But compared to Liberman, Haider was a raving liberal, and so is Jean-Marie le Pen. Now Netanyahu has announced that Liberman will be "an important minister" in his government, Livni has hinted that he will be in her government, too, and Barak has not excluded that possibility.

The optimistic version says that Liberman will prove to be a passing curiosity. Every Israeli election campaign has featured a trend-party that reflects a passing mood, achieves a resounding success and then disappears. In 1977 it was the Dash party, which rode the horse of "changing the system>" It won 12.5% of the vote, broke apart and disappeared before the next elections. Later it was the Tzomet party of Rafael Eitan, on the horse of uncorrupted purity. Another was the Shinui (Change) party, which rode the horse of anti-religious hatred and disappeared without leaving a trace. In the last elections it was the pensioners' list, with tens of thousands of youngsters voting for it as a prank. In the current elections, Liberman's party has caught the trend, riding on the primitive emotions of the masses which broke free in the Gaza War.

There is also a pessimistic version: Fascism has become a serious player in the Israeli public domain. The three main parties have now legitimized it. This phenomenon must be stopped before it is too late.

SO, HOW shall I vote this coming Tuesday?

I intend to draw up a list that will start from the worst down to the least evil. The last one on the list gets my vote.
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom






Obama's Afghan Trap
By Amy Goodman

President Barack Obama on Tuesday night held his first prime-time news conference. When questioned on Afghanistan, he replied, "This is going to be a big challenge." He also was asked whether he would change the Pentagon policy banning the filming and photographing of the flag-draped coffins of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he was reviewing it. The journalist who asked the question pointed out that it was Joe Biden several years ago who accused the Bush administration of suppressing the images to avoid public furor over the deaths of U.S. service members. Now Vice President Joe Biden predicts that a surge in U.S. troops in Afghanistan will mean more U.S. casualties: "I hate to say it, but yes, I think there will be. There will be an uptick."

Meanwhile, the Associated Press recently cited a classified report drafted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommending a shift in strategy from democracy-building in Afghanistan to attacking alleged Taliban and al-Qaida strongholds along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

And the campaign has clearly begun. Days after his inauguration, Obama's first (known) military actions were two missile strikes inside Pakistan's frontier province, reportedly killing 22 people, including women and children.

Cherif Bassiouni has spent years going back and forth to Afghanistan. He is a professor of law at DePaul University and the former United Nations human rights investigator in Afghanistan. In 2005, he was forced out of the United Nations under pressure from the Bush administration, days after he released a report accusing the U.S. military and private contractors of committing human rights abuses. I asked Bassiouni about Obama's approach to Afghanistan. He told me: "There is no military solution in Afghanistan. There is an economic-development solution, but I don't see that coming. ... Right now, the population has nothing to gain by supporting the U.S. and NATO. It has everything to gain by being supportive of the Taliban."

Bassiouni's scathing 2005 U.N. report accused the U.S. military and private military contractors of "forced entry into homes, arrest and detention of nationals and foreigners without legal authority or judicial review, sometimes for extended periods of time, forced nudity, hooding and sensory deprivation, sleep and food deprivation, forced squatting and standing for long periods of time in stress positions, sexual abuse, beatings, torture, and use of force resulting in death."

I also put the question of the military surge to former President Jimmy Carter. He responded: "I would disagree with Obama as far as a surge that would lead to a more intense bombing of Afghan villages and centers and a heavy dependence on military. I would like to see us reach out more, to be accommodating, and negotiate with all of the factions in Afghanistan."

Carter should know. He helped create what his national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, called "the Afghan trap," set for the Soviets. This was done by supporting Islamic mujahedeen in the late 1970s against the Soviets in Afghanistan, thereby creating what evolved into the Taliban. Brzezinski told the French newspaper Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998: "What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?" More than 14,000 Soviet troops were killed, and the Afghan toll exceeded 1 million. Osama bin Laden got his start with the help of the CIA-funded Afghan operation.

Bassiouni suggests that a military solution is doomed to failure, noting that the Taliban "realized they could not defeat the American forces, so they went underground. They put their Kalashnikovs under the mattresses, and they waited. A year ago, they resurfaced again. They can do the same thing. They can go back in the mountains, push the Kalashnikovs under the mattress, wait out five years. They have been doing that since the 1800s with any foreign and every foreign invader."

As Carter told me, "To offer a hand of friendship or accommodation, not only to the warlords but even to those radicals in the Taliban who are willing to negotiate, would be the best approach, than to rely exclusively on major military force."

Have we learned nothing from Iraq? "When it comes to the war in Iraq, the time for promises and assurances, for waiting and patience is over. Too many lives have been lost and too many billions have been spent for us to trust the president on another tried-and-failed policy." That was Sen. Barack Obama in January 2007. With his Joint Chiefs now apparently gunning for more fighting and less talk in Afghanistan, Obama needs to be reminded of his own words.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
2009 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 700 stations in North America. She has been awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the "Alternative Nobel Prize" from the Swedish Parliament.







What's The Word For Wall Street Greed?

America's titans of finance have caused the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, and what is their reaction? Party time!

"Break out the champagne/ We're feeling no pain/ Let the bonuses rain/ It's all to our gain!"

Obtuse? Self-indulgent? Narcissistic? What's with these people? Let's review just three examples of their insanity:

While Merrill Lynch was collapsing last year, requiring a $25 billion salvage job from us taxpayers, its CEO was merrily redecorating his office, picking out such necessities as $28,000 worth of curtains, a $35,000 antique commode, and a $1,400 waste basket. Then he magnanimously doled out $4 billion in executive bonuses.

Citigroup, which lost $28 billion in the past 15 months, has now been given a $345 billion bailout from Washington and is presently holding a fire sale of its corporate parts in a desperate effort to survive. But this didn't stop top executives from trying to buy a new, $50-million, Dassault Falcon corporate jet for themselves. Nevermind that the bank already had five executive jets.

Despite losing billions of dollars last year, then going hat in hand to the government for multibillion-dollar bailouts, Wall Street investment bankers paid themselves $18 billion in bonuses at the end of the year. In a poll of these bankers, 46 percent felt they deserved bigger bonuses.

We have to have some new words. "Greed" doesn't say it. "Outrageous" falls way short. "Shameful" has no effect on bankers. Help me out here: How shall we describe their abominable sense of self-entitlement? Channel your furry into creativity, and send me your ideas for new words that nail these bankers. Top three winners get an autographed copy of my book, Thieves In High Places. Send us your suggestions!
(c) 2009 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.







It Couldn't Happen Here
Could It?
By Ted Rall

PARIS--Most Americans don't care what happens in France. But the oldest country in "Old Europe" remains the Western world's intellectual capital and one of its primary originators of political trends. (Google "May+1968+Sorbonne.")

The French are reacting to a situation almost identical to ours--economic collapse, government impotence, corporate corruption--by turning hard left. National strikes and massive demonstrations are occurring every few weeks. How far left? This far: the late president Fran┴ois Mitterand's Socialist Party, the rough equivalent of America's Greens, is considered too conservative to solve the economic crisis.

A new poll by the Parisian daily Lib╚ration finds 53 percent of French voters (68 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds) favoring "radical social change." Fifty-seven percent want France to insulate itself from the global economic system. Does this mean revolution? It's certainly possible. Or maybe counter-revolution: Jean-Marie Le Pen's nativist (some would say neofascist) National Front is also picking up points.

One thing is certain: French politics are even more volatile than the financial markets these days. In yet another indication of How Far Left?, the Communist-aligned CGT labor union is on the defensive for not being militant enough. "We're not going to put out the blazing fires [of the economic crisis]," the CGT's secretary general said, trying to seize the initiative by calling for another strike on February 18th. "We're going to fan them."

Two new entities, a Left Party (PG) umbrella organization trying to unify opposition to the conservative government of President Nicolas Sarkozy (who'd be to the left of Obama in the U.S.) and the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), have seized the popular imagination. The NPA claims to have registered more than 9000 "militants" willing to use violent force to overthrow the government if given the word.

"Only combat pays," read a banner at the NPA's first convention.

Communism is dead, most pundits--the mainstream, stupid ones anyway--have been telling us since the USSR shut down in 1991. As it turns out, the libertarians were wrong. Half-right, anyway: Human nature may be inherently individualistic, as free market capitalists claim, but it's also inherently social. When economies boom, most people are sufficiently satisfied to leave well enough alone. Who cares if my boss gets paid 100 times more than I do? I'm doing OK. As resources become scarce, however, we huddle together for protection. The sight of a small rich elite hoarding all the goodies violates our primal sense of fairness.

"In Soviet times," a man in present-day Tajikistan told me, "we lived worse than we do today. But we were all the same. Now we live a bit better, but we have to watch rich assholes pass us in their Benzes." Which would he choose? No hesitation: "Soviet times."

In America, a French clich╚ goes, people are afraid of the government. In France, the government is afraid of the people. With good reason, too: the French have overthrown their governments dozens of times since the Revolution of 1789. The French are hard wired with class consciousness. Strikes, demonstrations and general hell-raising are festive occasions. Only when things spin totally out of control--as when Muslim youths rioted in the suburbs of Paris and other cities--are conservatives like Sarkozy able to make headway.

Riots over police brutality by disenfranchised minorities make the French nervous. But contempt for American-style "harsh capitalism," where citizens pay $800 a month for healthcare and write nary a letter to their local newspaper to complain, is 100 percent mainstream. The French don't think they should have to suffer just because some greedy bankers went on a looting spree.

Even Sarkozy is getting the message. "We don't want a European May '68 in the middle of Christmas," he warned his ministers in December. He shelved proposals to loosen regulation of business. Arnaud Lagard╦re, CEO of the Lagard╦re Group, told the financial daily Les Echos: "We're seeing, in renewed form, the most debatable aspects of Anglo-Saxon capitalism called into question."

The French and Americans face similar problems. But their temperamental differences lead them to different conclusions. An average working-class Frenchman possesses a deeper understanding of economics, politics, history and economics than most college professors in the U.S. Go to a bar or caf╚, and sports will be on the television--but not on people's lips. They're talking politics and how to force their leaders to protect their quality of life.

Americans, on the other hand, don't expect direct help from their government. They're giving Barack Obama time to see whether his economic recovery program will work. It won't, of course; economists say so. But indolent hopefulness is less work than chucking Molotov cocktails.

Back in France, the NPA sets off rhetorical bombs Americans wouldn't dream of. "We're not a boutique party out to get votes, or an institutional mainstream party, but a party of militants," says the NPA's leader to the Le Monde newspaper. "We're real leftists, not official leftists." The NPA is currently negotiating a temporary alliance of convenience with the Communists.

A communist revolution in western Europe would be greeted by curiosity and derision in the U.S. state-controlled media. But if such a social upheaval were to protect French living standards from a global Depression spinning out of control, it might also prove inspiring to increasingly desperate Americans.
(c) 2009 Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?" an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.)







No Tough Love For Wall Street
By Robert Scheer

What an insipid anticlimax! Rising to "a challenge more complex than our financial system has ever faced," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner promised on Tuesday to give trillions more to the very folks who profited from that malignant complexity. For all the brave talk about transparency and accountability in the banking bailout, he gave the swindlers who got us into this mess yet another blank check to buy up the "toxic assets" they gleefully created.

According to the Congressional Oversight Panel created by Congress to monitor the bailout, the Bush Treasury Department overpaid by $78 billion of our money in the first 10 purchases of those assets. Yet Geithner tells us "Congress acted quickly and courageously" in throwing that money at Wall Street without requiring any accountability. At the same time, there is still no commitment to directly help what Geithner admits are the millions of homeowners already foreclosed out of their homes, with millions more to come. The leaks from Treasury promise that $50 billion will eventually be allocated directly to helping homeowners, which is a day late and a dollar short in chump change compared to the trillion dollars that Geithner on Tuesday committed to the purchase of more bad bank debt.

The Geithner speech betrayed the buildup to it offered by President Obama in his press conference the day before. I was such a sucker I found myself cheering at almost every line, agreeing that Republicans acted with total irresponsibility in opposing Obama's plan to stimulate an economy that was wrecked on their watch. But then came the hangover reality of Geithner's talk. Instead of the promised transparency we were treated to yet another "trust Big Brother" hustle.

How wonderful that Geithner, who as head of the New York Federal Reserve was in on the first wasted $350 billion, now promises a brand new Web site to help us taxpayers follow the action. It means nothing, given that he specifically ruled out any of the serious means of holding Wall Street accountable.

The New York Times got it right: "... the plan largely repeats the Bush administration's approach of deferring to many of the same companies and executives who had peddled risky loans and investments at the heart of the crisis. ..." Geithner and White House economic czar Lawrence Summers won out over David Axelrod and other Obama advisers more loyal to the wishes of grass-roots voters; "... as intended by Mr. Geithner, the plan stops short of intruding too significantly into bankers' affairs even as they come onto the public dole."

The word dole is usually applied heartlessly to welfare mothers sustained in their dire poverty by meager government handouts, not to the top bankers now ripping off the taxpayers. But as opposed to welfare mothers, who must survive stringent monitoring, the bankers will be largely self-monitoring. No wonder that welfare rolls, because of onerous eligibility rules, are not rising commensurate to the degree of misery out there. There is no such tough love for bankers.

Much has been made of the proposed $500,000 pay cap that applies only to the most senior executives, who, rest assured, have already salted away massive fortunes made while hustling unsuspecting consumers with teaser loans. But there is nothing from Geithner about replacing those top executives, who presided over the disintegration of financial institutions that the taxpayers must now salvage. Nor is there any "moral hazard" pain planned for the shareholders in those Ponzi-scheme companies of the sort reserved for ordinary folks losing their homes.

Believe it or not, I fully expected this morning to write a cheerleading column hailing Geithner's reversal of course. Surely the man who as head of the New York Fed sat idly by while the Wall Street giants he was supposed to be monitoring imploded would have learned the error of his ways. Otherwise why would Obama have appointed him?

I don't have the answer. The Obama of Monday's press conference, a president in the tradition of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, seemingly deeply feeling the average person's pain as he movingly speaks of the laid-off workers of Elkhart, Ind., was absent from the next day's speech by his treasury secretary.

If like me you still get those chatty e-mails from the Obama campaign, it is time to remind them that we voted for the caring community organizer from the streets of Chicago and not some hack carrying water for the predators of Wall Street.
(c) 2009 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.







On The Edge
By Paul Krugman

A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to economic recovery. Over the last two weeks, what should have been a deadly serious debate about how to save an economy in desperate straits turned, instead, into hackneyed political theater, with Republicans spouting all the old clich╚s about wasteful government spending and the wonders of tax cuts.

It's as if the dismal economic failure of the last eight years never happened - yet Democrats have, incredibly, been on the defensive. Even if a major stimulus bill does pass the Senate, there's a real risk that important parts of the original plan, especially aid to state and local governments, will have been emasculated.

Somehow, Washington has lost any sense of what's at stake - of the reality that we may well be falling into an economic abyss, and that if we do, it will be very hard to get out again.

It's hard to exaggerate how much economic trouble we're in. The crisis began with housing, but the implosion of the Bush-era housing bubble has set economic dominoes falling not just in the United States, but around the world.

Consumers, their wealth decimated and their optimism shattered by collapsing home prices and a sliding stock market, have cut back their spending and sharply increased their saving - a good thing in the long run, but a huge blow to the economy right now. Developers of commercial real estate, watching rents fall and financing costs soar, are slashing their investment plans. Businesses are canceling plans to expand capacity, since they aren't selling enough to use the capacity they have. And exports, which were one of the U.S. economy's few areas of strength over the past couple of years, are now plunging as the financial crisis hits our trading partners.

Meanwhile, our main line of defense against recessions - the Federal Reserve's usual ability to support the economy by cutting interest rates - has already been overrun. The Fed has cut the rates it controls basically to zero, yet the economy is still in free fall.

It's no wonder, then, that most economic forecasts warn that in the absence of government action we're headed for a deep, prolonged slump. Some private analysts predict double-digit unemployment. The Congressional Budget Office is slightly more sanguine, but its director, nonetheless, recently warned that "absent a change in fiscal policy ... the shortfall in the nation's output relative to potential levels will be the largest - in duration and depth - since the Depression of the 1930s."

Worst of all is the possibility that the economy will, as it did in the '30s, end up stuck in a prolonged deflationary trap.

We're already closer to outright deflation than at any point since the Great Depression. In particular, the private sector is experiencing widespread wage cuts for the first time since the 1930s, and there will be much more of that if the economy continues to weaken.

As the great American economist Irving Fisher pointed out almost 80 years ago, deflation, once started, tends to feed on itself. As dollar incomes fall in the face of a depressed economy, the burden of debt becomes harder to bear, while the expectation of further price declines discourages investment spending. These effects of deflation depress the economy further, which leads to more deflation, and so on.

And deflationary traps can go on for a long time. Japan experienced a "lost decade" of deflation and stagnation in the 1990s - and the only thing that let Japan escape from its trap was a global boom that boosted the nation's exports. Who will rescue America from a similar trap now that the whole world is slumping at the same time?

Would the Obama economic plan, if enacted, ensure that America won't have its own lost decade? Not necessarily: a number of economists, myself included, think the plan falls short and should be substantially bigger. But the Obama plan would certainly improve our odds. And that's why the efforts of Republicans to make the plan smaller and less effective - to turn it into little more than another round of Bush-style tax cuts - are so destructive.

So what should Mr. Obama do? Count me among those who think that the president made a big mistake in his initial approach, that his attempts to transcend partisanship ended up empowering politicians who take their marching orders from Rush Limbaugh. What matters now, however, is what he does next.

It's time for Mr. Obama to go on the offensive. Above all, he must not shy away from pointing out that those who stand in the way of his plan, in the name of a discredited economic philosophy, are putting the nation's future at risk. The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe, and much of the Republican Party is trying to push it over that edge.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times







Tribal Authorities
Handing It Off to the Leader
By Chris Floyd

Arthur Silber has just posted another installment of his important series on "Tribalism." In these vital essays, Silber is examining some of the underlying causes - and most dangerous expressions - of the unthinking, reflexive and delusional loyalties that bind us in fearful obedience to the groupthink of the various tribes with which we identify ourselves: national, religious, ideological, political, ethnic, sexual, social and so on. The essays draw on detailed examples to illuminate general principles - principles which are themselves nuanced, dynamic and observational, not dogmatic. They will richly repay a full reading. By fortuitous coincidence, the Guardian today provides us with a striking example of political tribalism in action: an article by writer Anna Shapiro, in which the literal abandonment of the mind and will to the guidance of the Leader (in this case, Barack Obama) is openly celebrated. This is accompanied by a deep personal and emotional identification with the Leader, and a compulsive rejection of any and all criticism of his noble deeds; such negativity is derided as "manufactured controversy" engineered by the "jackal-like" media.

Apparently, no right-thinking person (or right-feeling person, we should probably say) could possibly be troubled by, say, Obama's retention of the leadership of Bush's malevolent war machine; nor should any good person question the Leader's "investigation into official standards regarding methods of interrogation." We should eschew all "trumped-up criticism," and put everything in Obama's hands, because he's "much smarter" than we are. The column is, as they say, a real piece of work. Here are a few excerpts:

"What a relief," said my friend Mark after the election of Barack Obama in November - but not for the reason you'd think, exactly. "Finally, I can stop arguing in my head with all these conservatives, trying to sway faith with reason, you know?" ... Mark says he's now been able to stop because, "Obama's much smarter than I am. I've handed it off to him. Besides, we won."

...Little did I know in November, though, that, as of January 20, I'd be waking in the middle of the night worrying about how the man we'd voted for would manage - worrying how he'd even sleep. Even as I marveled at how many great things he managed to set in motion within the first 24 hours - 24 hours! - I flinched at the sight of headlines making innuendoes about his connection to Blagojevich; complaining of former Clinton or Bush pols in his administration; questioning the investigation into official standards regarding methods of interrogation even as Obama scheduled the closing of GuantĚnamo and the immediate end of torturing; criticizing the stimulus package as too broad or too limited; complaining that healthcare for another 8 million children was far too little; and hey, where was that puppy he promised?

...But I identify with Obama's need to heal rifts, and so it tears me apart: all this tearing apart. Hasn't he got enough troubles? Must he part the Red Sea?

But it's more personal, and at least as preoccupying as my friend Mark's former arguments. I wake up at 4am and wonder if Obama is awake at 4 am. I wonder how he decides what to do first and what to do second and what to do third. I wonder when he gets to read, and if there will be time for anything besides policy papers. I want to take care of him. And I realize that started as far back as the first time I saw him on a platform in front of a crowd of people.

...So I'll continue to wake up worrying about President Obama, and having arguments with headlines, in my own way trying to shield the forces of truth from trumped-up criticism and phony balance.

The "forces of truth" are with one's tribe, and its designated leader, you see. Everyone outside that magic circle is outside the truth itself, is cast into outer darkness. Go read Silber for much more on the ramifications of this pernicious -- and universal -- dynamic.
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd







Five Recycling Mysteries Solved!
By Lori Bongiorno

Wondering what to do with your stash of old batteries or the cans of unneeded paint taking up space in your garage? You know you shouldn't throw them out, but it really is time to get rid of them.

Resist the temptation to toss them in the trash anyway. The reason: They (and everything on the list below) contain toxic chemicals capable of contaminating the environment if not disposed of properly.

Unlike items that are picked up at the curb, you'll have to make a special effort to unload these ones responsibly. But, with a little advance planning and some good info, you'll see that it's really quite simple to dispose of these seemingly mysterious items. Here's how:

Batteries. Recycling rechargeable batteries is fairly easy. Home Depot, Staples, Radio Shack, Best Buy, and other retailers take them back free of charge. There are fewer options for single-use batteries, but look for bins at your local Whole Foods Market, Ikea, or library. Otherwise, your best bet is the local household hazardous waste drop-off site. Where is it and what are your closest drop-off options? Search here for answers.

CFLs. These energy-efficient bulbs are becoming easier to get rid of. Just drop old bulbs off at any Home Depot or Ikea for free recycling. Or ask about CFL recycling at your local Ace Hardware or home improvement store. You can search for other nearby solutions.

Electronics. Every retailer that takes back rechargeable batteries also accepts mobile phones, as do most wireless providers. For computers, cameras, televisions, and others it's worthwhile do a little homework because some stores charge fees depending on item and brand. Check out Best Buy, Staples, and Office Depot to see what's the best fit. Some places, like Radio Shack, have trade-in programs where you can receive store credit for your old gadgets.

Motor Oil. In case you need some motivation, consider this factoid from Earth911: Every gallon of used motor oil that's improperly disposed of can contaminate one million gallons of drinking water. Bring it to Wal-Mart, Autozone, Jiffy Lube, or search online for more convenient choices.

Paint. It's among the harder items in this group to dispose of, but it's worth it and totally doable. If the paint is still in good shape, consider donating it. As of now, there aren't any retailers that accept used paint so you'll need to make a special trip. Search Earth911 for a comprehensive list of options.
(c) 2009 Lori Bongiorno is an environmental journalist and author of the recently published GREEN, GREENER, GREENEST: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-Smart Choices a Part of Your Life. Lori was on staff at Business Week Magazine for six years before becoming a freelance writer.







Leadership? You Gotta Be Kidding!
By Mike Folkerth

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

I knew a man a few years ago that had become a very successful businessman and did in fact live the high life that is possible with what appeared to be never ending wealth.

The family trips to Hawaii, the cruises, the big parties that he sponsored where everything was on the house, the cars, the huge new home; he had it all.

I won't go into the grueling details of his downfall, but fall he did. Once his empire began to crumble, there was just no putting Humpty together again. His kingdom fell under the gavel of the bankruptcy appointed auctioneer.

Everything including the new home was lost and the embarrassment of falling from economic grace seemed as if it would crush him and his family.

I spoke with this man about a year after the last of his bankruptcy proceedings were compete and I was not surprised at the content of our discussion.

He told me that after the initial shock, he now realized that he was happier than he had been with the money and the stress of both making and keeping that money. His life was much simpler now and he had time to enjoy the life that he had once known; but had jettisoned years earlier in favor of the illusion of happiness derived from monetary wealth.

The above is a true story and not at all uncommon. I believe that we are bombarded with the constant teaching and incessant advertising that projects wealth as the highest state of happiness; that we simply don't question the illogic of such a condition.

Just as we believe the fable that growth is good; we accept without question that wealth equals happiness. There are no poor people committing suicide due to stock market losses.

As I take a new look at the little towns of Western Colorado, an old riddle comes to mind. "Do you know what is worse than Wal-Mart coming to town? Wal-Mart coming to the next town."

In my book, I chronicled the damage that Wal-Mart has done to the fiber of our American culture. They have crushed small business and made ghost towns of Main Street. They have forced wages down and put thousands of American manufacturers out of business.

I also wrote that in the end, even though Wal-Mart had been extremely instrumental in bringing down America, they would emerge as the cheapest place to shop and survive while our iconic Main Street fell.

It was reported yesterday that while nearly every iconic retailer in the U.S. is down, Wal-Mart numbers were up.

So why did I make such a point of Wal-Mart's future success? Wal-Mart is a sterling example of the frailty of the human condition. Wal-Mart has aided and abetted the Chinese in their successful invasion of America without firing a single shot and yet, the American people shop at Wal-Mart!

Our government had a partnership with Wal-Mart and others. The signing of NAFTA and the WTO allowed the wholesale destruction of Middle America. There was never another possible outcome.

Yet unbelievably, the masses will look to the very same government that destroyed them for help and leadership.
(c) 2009 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...



"A quick word to anyone who wants to bring change and hope to a deeply divided America: Pay your f*cking taxes. Tom Daschle failed to pay $128,000 in taxes. That's not $128,000 for a car and driver. That's $128,000 in taxes on maybe 400,000 dollars. If you're paying $300,000 to $400,000 for a driver, you're driving too much. 'That's how much money it would be for Miss Daisy if her driver was actually Morgan Freeman. So Tom Daschle, pay your taxes. And stop having Alfred bring you to work in the Batmobile. It's too much money."
~~~ Jon Stewart









Iran: A Nation Still Haunted By Its Bloody Past
11 February 1979: Ayatollah Khomeini ushered in a regime that was at once brutal and naive, provocative and dangerous
By Robert Fisk

All revolutions, I suppose, have a symbol. In Chekhov's Cherry Orchard, it's the sound of a distant chain snapping, like that of a bucket in a mineshaft. In France, it was the sans culottes. Maybe in Iran, it was the discovery an American colleague of mine made when he ventured up to the Iranian-Soviet border.

He found one of America's old listening posts still operating, with tired Iranian revolutionaries still staring listlessly at the glowing screens, tracking aircraft deep inside Soviet airspace. Why were they still manning these US bases, he asked? The problem was simple: the Iranians didn't know how to turn them off.

For me, revolutions have to have trains - Strelnikov's great steam loco in Dr Zhivago comes to mind - and Iran's huge post-revolutionary trains, 20 or 30 carriages long, windows smashed, smothered in tulip-draped posters of martyrs, would pull out of Tehran, taking me on massive journeys across the country. We drew into Qom station to find a crowd on their way to a revolutionary court, where a young officer in the Shah's army was fighting for his life, accused of killing anti-Shah demonstrators. I still remember his name - Rustomi - and his brother, in tears, pleading with me to intervene. What could I do? The crowd bayed at him, the same mob, I suppose, that would have mocked the aristocrats in Paris as they faced the guillotine.

There was not much mercy in the Iranian revolution: all the courts did was sentence men to death. But then there hadn't been much mercy before the revolution, when the Shah's imperial guard, the Javidan, or "immortals," slaughtered the crowds. I remember another court, in Tehran, where a man shouted at a torturer from the notorious Savak security service: "You killed my daughter. She was burned all over her flesh until she was paralysed. She was roasted." And the torturer looked back at the bereaved man and said quietly: "Your daughter hanged herself after seven months in custody."

The killers even had a few secrets for us - their close and friendly relationship, for example, with British agents and their Savak counterparts. Not unlike, I suspect, our relationship with Pakistan's state torturers (or, I suppose, with America's torturers). It was easy to hear evil. In fact, there was even a face-mask that you could buy for a few riyals, a grotesque version of the Shah's face with horns sticking out of it. The moment I put it on, a whole crowd of Iranians started shrieking at me. So I took it off.

It's easy to forget that the longest-running show in town was not the trials and their brutal aftermath - the condemned men would appear on front pages next day in their final moments - but the takeover of the US embassy by the "Students Following the Line of the Imam." It destroyed Jimmy Carter, all 444 days of it, and it is remarkable, looking back now, to see that Carter, the wise old peacemaker of the Middle East today, simply did not comprehend what had happened in Iran. How on earth did he allow the Shah into America, the catalyst for the embassy sacking? It was Henry Kissinger, of course, always the ╚minence grise.

The "students" spent years pasting together shredded US diplomatic traffic, incriminating past and present Iranian officials with their CIA contacts. Led by a woman, other teams worked like carpet-weavers, sewing back to life the whole rotten, corrupted empire of the King of Kings. I padded round his libraries; leather-bound volumes of Voltaire, Verlaine, Flaubert, Plutarch, Goebbels, Shakespeare, Charles de Gaulle, Churchill and Coleridge. Abba Eban's My People was dedicated by the author to "His Imperial Majesty, the Shah of Shahs."

Grandiosity became him. He staged a pitiful rodeo down in Persepolis to honour his forebears - the Pahlavi dynasty was actually introduced as a British colonial project - to which the great and the good and Princess Anne came along. I even found the Shah's bath, with its gold-plated taps, which outraged the millions of poor in a nation that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini himself had described as a "slum."

And yes, of course, it was that other man we stared at, the one in the black robes whom I once, piggy-backing a US network interview, sat before. When he spoke, the Ayatollah would stare at a small emanation of light on the floor, as if it represented something holy. No Robespierre he, no Trotsky. This was a serious matter, the first Islamic revolution of our time, in which the leader proclaimed himself supreme leader and arbiter of all the revolution's cares. While he would remain the same, the revolution he created went on to become a strange creature, at once brutal and naive, provocative and dangerous. When obligingly invaded by our good friend Saddam Hussein, it sent its young men to their deaths in their tens of thousands.

A crimson tide overflowed the fountain at the great cemetery of Behesht Zahra - close to where the great man himself now lies - and we would later watch corpses coming back by the hundred. I think the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq was final proof of the revolution. Iran did not, as the US hoped, fall to pieces, but it entered a kind of stasis, a sort of childishness from which it never awoke. The French word infantilism may be closest. It was government for and by the dead. Iran had become a necrocracy.

There were many who saw what was happening. Ayatollah Taleghani, for instance, was highly critical of Khomeini's auto-theocracy, arguing that even socialists had suffered martyrs in the revolution, that they, too, should be embraced by the revolution's children. But it was not to be. When Mohammad Khatami, a genuinely good and civil man, tried to change the legacy of the now-dead Khomeini, he was defeated because he would not let his supporters die in the streets of Tehran. And so this week, it is his successor, the childish President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with his love for all things nuclear - or maybe not all, we shall see - who represents this great nation, a boy clutching power rather than a titan, prattling on at Holocaust "conferences" and making small talk with children.

The real test for Iran, of course, is how it casts itself adrift from this ghostly regime. It's not that the priests are fools - that was a mistake Carter made - but that running a modern, powerful nation takes more than a degree in Islamic jurisprudence. Foreign affairs is where the Iranian revolution has always failed. It has consistently underestimated - or overestimated - its enemies, although fortune has smiled on her. The Iranian mullahs hated both the "Black Taliban" and the wicked Saddam, and the Americans came along and destroyed both these enemies.

So did the revolution win? Up to a point. It might well have failed in the early days when Khomeini's courts feared a counter-coup, which was the reason for all the firing squads. They had not forgotten how the CIA and MI6 destroyed Mohammed Mossadeq's democratically elected government in a coup in 1953. Operation Ajax, the Americans called it (the British chose the more prosaic Operation Boot), and I met the Brit who staged it. Christopher Montague Woodhouse was a gentle Greek scholar, and a ruthless guerrilla fighter under German occupation in Greece. More than 40 years later he recalled for me his own feelings of guilt. "I've sometimes been told that I was responsible for opening the doors to the Ayatollah - for Khomeini and the others," he said. "But it's quite remarkable that a quarter of a century elapsed between Operation Boot and the fall of the Shah. In the end, it was Khomeini who came out on top - but not until years later. I suppose that some better use could have been made of the time that elapsed."

What happened next: After the flight of the Shah

After months of violent protests, the Shah fled Tehran on 16 January 1979. He ended up in the US where he received treatment for lymphatic cancer, from which he died in 1980. His arrival in the US led to more than 50 Americans being taken hostage in the Tehran embassy. A bungled attempt by the US military to rescue them was one reason President Jimmy Carter served only one term in office.

He has since rebuilt his reputation as an international peace mediator.

Abolhassan Bani-Sadr became Iran's first elected president in 1979, but failed to maintain his authority against Ayatollah Khomeini. After 17 months he was impeached and fled to France where he still lives.
(c) 2009 Robert Fisk --- The Independent







We Are The Union
By Eileen Prendiville - USA

On January 27, the Service Employees International (SEIU), headed by Andy Stern, put its United Healthcare Workers-West local (UHW) into trusteeship. This means that the local's assets are seized, its constitution and bylaws are suspended, its elected officers are removed, and Stern-appointed 'trustees' replace the local's elected leadership.

The hostile takeover followed UHWs refusal to comply with SEIU's order to split the 150,000-member local in two. UHW refused on the basis that its members had a right to vote on the matter.

Over the past few years, SEIU and the UHW have locked horns over healthcare reform, internal union democracy, how to organize non-union workers and the consolidation of smaller locals into mega-locals.

Sal Roselli, head of UHW, has been a vocal critic of Stern's top-down, anti-democratic leadership style, while Stern has accused UHW of being in collusion with the California Nurses Association (CNA), one of SEIU's most vocal critics.

While the SEIU leadership preaches unity with UHW, it is trying to divide and conquer CNA.

The same day UHW was placed under trusteeship, nurses represented by CNA were contacted by SEIU staff using a front group - RNs for Change. It seems that SEIU is trying to undermine upcoming CNA elections for Board of Directors and delegates to our fall convention.

CNA has long been at odds with Andy Stern and his appointees over his leadership style and his cozy relationship with management. His willingness to cut deals with employers to secure contracts has hurt health workers and patients.

In California, SEIU backed legislation that would bar the union from reporting healthcare code violations in nursing homes and make it more difficult for patients to sue nursing homes for abuse and neglect. In other states, SEIU joined the hospital industry to lobby against laws mandating minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios.

New Union - New Hope? Refusing to roll over and die, UHW has formed a breakaway union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) and plans to disaffiliate from SEIU - a long and difficult process.

At the hospital where I work, contracts for UHW members as well as CNA nurses are currently open for renegotiation.

As the newly-formed NUHW begins organizing, SEIU staff sent in by Andy Stern, are already meeting with employers. They will likely push for quick contract settlements, but UHW members, at least at my facility, are organized and informed and will likely vote to decertify SEIU. However, with the current economic uncertainty the average worker may be unwilling to strike. _

Reactions to the split inside SEIU are mixed. Some see only the destruction of unions and the glee of employers who will move to take full advantage of the situation. At one hospital a negotiator from management said, "Why would we negotiate with you [UHW] when we could negotiate with Andy Stern?" There is also the fear that a weakened labor movement will undermine passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Others are more hopeful. It is inspiring to see thousands of rank-and-file workers fighting to defend their union. Chanting "WE are the union! The mighty, mighty union!" they remind us that the power of unions lies in the collective strength of the workers. This message is sorely needed by a labor movement reeling from years of defeat.

Their Fight is Our Fight - Support NUHW!

SEIU is spending millions of dollars on its campaign to squelch the new union. Because UHW's assets were seized, NUHW staff are working long hours without pay or benefits. They urgently need our financial support.

Please donate online or mail your check to:

The Fund For Union Democracy
465 California Street, Ste. 1600
San Francisco, California 94104
(c) 2009 Eileen Prendiville works as an RN and is on the CNA bargaining team at an acute care hospital in San Francisco.





The Dead Letter Office...



Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Panetta,

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, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Clarence (slappy) Thomas.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, your continuation of Bush's torture and rendering programs and your refusal to uphold the Constitution by allowing tortures and murders to go free because they were following some politician's orders, Iraq and these many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Demoncratic Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross, first class, with diamond clusters presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 05-23-2009. We salute you Herr Panetta, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama





The 180-degree Reversal Of Obama's State Secrets Position
By Glenn Greenwald

From the Obama/Biden campaign website, mybarackobama.com, here was what the Obama campaign was saying -- back then -- about the State Secrets privilege:

Apparently, the operative word in that highlighted paragraph -- unbeknownst to most people at the time -- was "the Bush administration," since the Obama administration is now doing exactly that which, during the campaign, it defined as "The Problem," the only difference being that it is now Obama, and not Bush, doing it. For journalists who haven't bothered to learn the first thing about this issue even as they hold themselves out as experts on it, and for Obama followers eager to find an excuse to justify what was done, a brief review of the State Secrets privilege controversy is in order.

Nobody -- not the ACLU or anyone else -- argues that the State Secrets privilege is inherently invalid. Nobody contests that there is such a thing as a legitimate state secret. Nobody believes that Obama should declassify every last secret and never classify anything else ever again. Nor does anyone even assert that this particular lawsuit clearly involves no specific documents or portions of documents that might be legitimately subject to the privilege. Those are all transparent, moronic strawmen advanced by people who have no idea what they're talking about.

What was abusive and dangerous about the Bush administration's version of the States Secret privilege -- just as the Obama/Biden campaign pointed out -- was that it was used not (as originally intended) to argue that specific pieces of evidence or documents were secret and therefore shouldn't be allowed in a court case, but instead, to compel dismissal of entire lawsuits in advance based on the claim that any judicial adjudication of even the most illegal secret government programs would harm national security. That is the theory that caused the bulk of the controversy when used by the Bush DOJ -- because it shields entire government programs from any judicial scrutiny -- and it is that exact version of the privilege that the Obama DOJ yesterday expressly advocated (and, by implication, sought to preserve for all Presidents, including Obama).

Go read any critic of Bush's use of the State Secrets privilege and those are the objections you will find. Kevin Drum last night explained it quite clearly:

By itself, this [the quantitative increase in the post-9/11 use of the privilege] is bad enough. But it's not the worst part of the Bush administration's use of the privilege.

Before 2001, the state secrets privilege was mostly used to object to specific pieces of evidence being introduced in court, something that nearly everyone agrees is at least occasionally necessary. But the Bush administration changed all that. In their typical expansive way, they decided to apply the privilege not just to individual pieces of evidence, but to get entire cases thrown out of court. What's more, they did this not merely when a state secret was incidental to some unrelated complaint, but when the government itself was the target of the suit.

Now Barack Obama is president, and unfortunately he's decided to continue the Bush administration's expansive reading of the privilege.

To underscore just what a complete reversal the Obama DOJ's conduct is, consider what Seante Democrats were saying for the last several years. In early 2008, Sens. Kennedy and Leahy, along with Sen. Arlen Specter, sponsored the State Secrets Protection Act. It had numerous co-sponsors, including Joe Biden. In April, 2008, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill, with all Committee Democrats voting for it, along with Specter. The scheme restrictions imposed on the privilege by that bill was the consensus view of the pre-2009 Democratic Party.

The primary purpose of that bill is to bar the precise use of the State Secrets privilege which the Obama DOJ yesterday defended: namely, as a tool to force courts to dismiss entire lawsuits from the start without any proceedings being held, rather than as a focused instrument for protecting specific pieces of classified information from disclosure.

That bill explicitly provides that "the state secrets privilege shall not constitute grounds for dismissal of a case or claim" (Sec. 4053(b)). Instead, the President could only "invoke the state secrets privilege as a ground for withholding information or evidence in discovery or for preventing the introduction of evidence at trial" (Sec. 4054(a)), and must submit each allegedly privileged piece of evidence to the court for the court to determine whether each item is legitimately subject to the privilege (Sec. 4054(d-e). Where the court rules that a specific piece of evidence is privileged, it must attempt to find an evidentiary substitute (e.g., a summary of the evidence, a partially redacted copy, compelled admissions by the Government of certain allegations), and then -- only after all the evidence is gathered in discovery -- can the court dismiss the lawsuit only if it finds, in essence, that the plaintiffs cannot prove their case without reliance on the specific privileged information (Sec. 4055).

That has been the argument of Democrats for quite some time -- as well as civil libertarians such as Russ Feingold and the ACLU, both of whom endorsed that bill: that what was abusive and dangerous about Bush's use of the State Secrets privilege was the preemptive, generalized use of this privilege to force dismissal of entire lawsuits in advance, even where the supposed secret to be concealed was the allegedly criminal activity itself. And that is exactly the usage that the Obama administration is now defending.

It doesn't take much time or energy to understand why that instrument is so pernicious. It enables a Government to break the law -- repeatedly and deliberately -- and then block courts from subjecting its behavior to any judicial accountability, and prevent the public from learning about the lawbreaking, by claiming that its conduct generally is too secret to allow any judicial review. Put another way, it places Presidents and their aides beyond and above the rule of law, since it empowers them to break the law and then prevent their victims -- or anyone else -- from holding them accountable in a court of law. As Russ Feingold put it:

When the executive branch invokes the state secrets privilege to shut down lawsuits, hides its programs behind secret OLC opinions, over-classifies information to avoid public disclosure, and interprets the Freedom of Information Act as an information withholding statute, it shuts down all of the means to detect and respond to its abuses of the rule of law - whether those abuses involve torture, domestic spying, or the firing of U.S. Attorneys for partisan gain.

In defending the Obama administration's position (without beginning to understand it), The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder revealingly wrote -- on behalf of civil libertarians who he fantasizes have anointed him their spokesman:

It wouldn't be wise for a new administration to come in, take over a case from a prosecutor, and completely change a legal strategy in mid-course without a more thorough review of the national security implications. And, of course, the invocation itself isn't necessarily an issue; civil libertarians and others who voted for Obama did so with the belief that his judgment and his attorney general would be better stewards of that privilege than President Bush and his attorney generals (and vice president.)

We don't actually have a system of government (or at least we're not supposed to) where we rely on the magnanimity and inherent Goodness of specific leaders to exercise secret powers wisely. That, by definition, is how grateful subjects of benevolent tyrants think ("this power was bad in Bush's hands because he's bad, but it's OK in Obama's hands because he is good and kind"). Countries that are nations of laws rather than of men don't rely on blind faith in the good character of leaders to prevent abuse. They rely on what we call "law" and "accountability" and "checks and balances" to provide those safeguards -- exactly the type that Democrats, when it came to the States Secret privilege, long insisted upon before January 20, 2009.

Democrats have large majorities in both houses of Congress; they ought to use it to legislatively bar the power that the Obama DOJ is now attempting to vest in the new President by enacting the legislation they spent all of last year insisting they favored. Now that the Obama DOJ is seeking to acquire that power for its new President, the need for that law is more acute than ever.

UPDATE: Writing at FDL in September, 2008, Obama's new OLC official, Assistant Attorney General Marty Lederman, criticized the exact State Secrets privilege theory embraced yesterday by the Obama DOJ:

The next Administration should review the grounds and procedures for invoking the state secrets privilege. In recent years, the Executive Branch has increasingly used this privilege as a categorical bar to litigation and as a shield to avoid scrutiny of legally questionable executive programs, such as the Terrorist Surveillance Program.[26] The next President should commit to invoking this privilege only where national security interests (rather than the interest in avoiding embarrassment or judicial scrutiny) truly require it.

On his own blog in October, 2007, Lederman advocated -- as an antidote to the injustices of telecom immunity -- Congressional legislation designed to bar the use of the State Secrets privilege as a means for preventing judicial scrutiny of the NSA eavesdropping program, arguing that Congress "should also insist on a statutory amendment limiting the scope of any 'state secrets' privilege to allow courts to adjudicate the legality of the NSA program without publicly revealing technological capabilities that must remain public." Virtually all critics of Bush's executive power abuses would be vehemently opposed -- and, in the past, have been -- to the theories advanced yesterday by the Obama DOJ.
(c) 2009 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy", examines the Bush legacy.








The Truth About Your Income Tax
By Mary Pitt

As the spouse of a working man, often in remote areas and long before you would find an H&R Block firm within easy driving distance, the job of filing the annual income tax forms fell to me. As the rules changed, it was necessary to study the instructions every year to remain current and legal. While that may seem difficult to many, a bit of initial concentration should get one through it. I did it with a bit less than a high school diploma at that time.

As the result of this responsibility, I became aware of the evolution over the years and can see the pattern of the changes that occurred with the many "reforms" instituted during the Republican administrations. It has always been an article of faith within the party that taxes were a nuisance that should be visited only on the private wage earners and every effort at "reform" will demonstrate their efforts to shift the burdens to the working class. This was accomplished on the pretext of "simplifying" the reporting forms. In fact, it is now so "simplified" that you do not even know how much your tax really is or the means by which it has been increased.

While I make no claim to be any kind of an expert and am speaking only from personal experience, I will attempt to delineate some of these changes that have been made in order to deprive the working class of exemptions and deductions and how their loss impose the greater tax burden upon them while lessening that borne by businesses and the wealthy.

Exemptions:

In 1949, when I was first assigned this task, a family was allowed a personal exemption of $600 per year for the support of each child. Compare that figure with the allowance this year and then compare that figure to the deflated dollar and it will be obvious that this deduction has been radically cut.

Taxes to Other Entities:

Until recent times, the amount of income taxes paid to the State in which you lived was an allowable deduction as was the sales and local tax, based upon a chart, which was tied to your total earnings. You were allowed to deduct state gasoline taxes based upon the mileage readings of your automobiles. This alone, is a large factor in any family budget.

Interest payments:

Another large tax deduction that has been lost to the interest of "reform" is the one that allowed people to deduct payments for interest paid. This included interest on your home, your car, credit cards, and store charges for major purchases such as furniture. You could either include statements from your creditors or use the chart on the sliding scale. This deduction, except in special circumstances, is now denied to the working class while businesses are still allowed to deduct it as a "cost of doing business."

Medical Expenses:

All medical expenses, including prescription medications and medical insurance premiums were allowed in excess of 3% of gross income. You could also deduct any medical equipment, appliances and supplies that were prescribed by a physician and any payments for disability received from privately- or employer-paid insurance were exempt from taxation. If your medical insurance was paid entirely by your employer, no accounting at all was necessary.

I am sure that there are many other exemptions and deductions that may have existed that have quietly disappeared over the years but they do not come to mind at this time, (or perhaps I never had occasion to use them), but these alone would account for a major part of the expenditures of the average family and greatly their restoration would reduce the tax liabilities of the working class.

Where did these privileges of the working class go and why? It's simple. In effect, these "reforms," instituted on the pretext of making the tax report more simple, effectively increased the amounts of taxable income and thereby increased to taxes on the average wage earner while preserving the privilege of the ruling class. Even the deductions from our paychecks for Social Security reflect our second-class status. While most of us pay the same percentage of our entire income for this purpose, those who are paid amounts beyond our wildest dreams are allowed to stop contributing. This "cap" is possibly the only tax computation that is adjusted for inflation and that only after near-destruction of the system.

Do not listen to those calamity-criers who are bellowing for a "fair tax" which will further shift the "burden" from the backs of the wealthy, or even to those who tout a "value-added tax" which will radically increase the price of everything that we buy. They tell us, "This would be so easy that you won't even realize that you are being taxed," but what they mean is that THEY won't realize it because THEY will not be paying their fair share! This is their Valhalla and what they have worked toward for all these years, the total exemption of their own class from the burden of paying for our government, their privileges, and any wars into which they wish to send our children.

We have recently accomplished the task of returning to the people the privilege of running our own democracy as The Founders intended but we must not relax. We must hold that responsibility in our calloused fists and wield it wisely. We must get on the backs of our representatives and insist that they keep our welfare and our will constantly in mind if they want to keep their jobs. Any resistance must be met by a wall of voices, using the words of our new President, "WE WON!"
(c) 2009 Mary Pitt is a very "with-it" old lady who aspires to bring a bit of truth, justice, and common sense to a nation that has lost touch with its humanity in the search for societal "perfection." Huzzahs and whiney complaints may be sent to mpitt@cox.net



The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Wayne Stayskal ~~~







W the Movie Official Trailer





To End On A Happy Note...



Tell Me Why
By John Perry

We lived a nightmare and
The world was on our side
You launched a false war
Serving only to divide

Tell me why

You say we're winning
When you know it can't be done
You're spinning straight faced
To mothers giving you their sons

Tell me why

You got the talking heads to do your shilling
You lied us into shock and awe and killing
Don't give a damn 'bout all the blood you're spilling

Tell me why
Tell me why

Another photo op
Using our troops to sell your scam
Crafting talking points
To cover for the fact you have no plan

Tell me why

Millions running
Seeking refuge far from home
Freedom shattered
Sudden widows all alone

Tell me why

You got the talking heads to do your shilling
You lied us into shock and awe and killing
Don't give a damn 'bout all the blood you're spilling

Tell me why
Tell me why

Small town America
Comes a knock upon the door
From the next room
Dad sees mama cryin' on the floor
He doesn't need to ask
He knows his only boy is gone
Hey mister white house man
Here's another white cross for your lawn

Tell me why
Tell me why
Tell me why
Why do you lie
Tell me why
(c) 2007/2009 John Perry



Have You Seen This...



The Lesser of Three Evils


Parting Shots...




The School For Scandal. Version 2.1
By Will Durst

A politician making lemonade after being pelted by a bushel of media chucked lemons is as familiar as red yarn on the handle of a black bag on the luggage carousel at O'Hare. But few alive have seen the likes of Rod Blagojevich. Not content to stir up a nice cold pitcher or erect a simple stand, the former Illinois Governor is challenging Minute Maid's supremacy in the field of citrus concentrate. Refusing to exit the stage quietly after removed from office, he instead has gone on the offensive. Some might argue the 52 year- old Democrat has given a whole new meaning to the word "offensive."

His fruity crusade began after being impeached by the Illinois Assembly on a vote of 114- 1, leaving many to wonder: who the hell was the 1? His barber? No. Turns out it was his sister- in- law. After all, she's got years of cranberries and stuffing to share with the guy. Then, in spite of delivering an impassioned yet loopy closing argument, the State Senate voted 59- 0 to convict and booted Blago right off his gubernatorial perch into the long snaking lines of the newly unemployed.

Because of his inspirational theatrics, every former playbook for arrogant politicians accused of scandal and disgrace has to be thrown out the window. So, if you ever find yourself caught dead to rights, here's a revised list of the top 10 actions to take. The classics still apply. None of the following will work without being applied over a base of: deny, deny, deny. Remember this is about survival. Follow Master Blagojevich's lead. Chances are he will make more from his book deal than he ever hoped to extort from his constituent victims.

10. Hold a press conference to read a poem. Stay away from the arty crowd like Verlaine, Rimbaud or Sylvia Plath. Pick a heterosexual who didn't commit suicide. Someone classy, like Kipling.

9. Remember who is the victim here. You are. Claim a vast left or right wing conspiracy. The more fantastic the presumed motivation, the better, such as: they had to get rid of you in order to raise taxes. Or they kicked you out because you knew too much.

8. Two words: The View.

7. During all media appearances, carry a Bible. If no one's going to buy that, try Winston Churchill. A book by him. Not desiccated pieces of his mummified corpse.

6. Witch Hunt. Keep repeating the phrase: Witch Hunt. Which hunt? This hunt? That's right. Witch Hunt. Occasionally throw in an "unconstitutional" as well, just to break it up.

5. Compare the effect on your family to a national disaster. Pearl Harbor. RFK's assassination. The day CBS canceled "Dallas."

4. Keep telling the press that you CAN'T WAIT to tell your side of the story. Then never ever ever get tricked into telling your side of the story.

3. Can never go wrong blaming lawyers. Fire one of your defense attorneys. "Though convinced of my innocence, he was terrified to offend the powers that be."

2. Lump yourself in with other oppressed leaders like Ghandi. Nelson Mandela. Martin Luther King. Joseph Stalin. Hah. Last one was a test.

1. Finally, the number one reason you can't quit is you don't want to send the wrong message to your children. "This is not about me. This is about standing up for the kids. And the elderly."
(c) 2009 Will Durst, is is a political comic who occasionally writes a little. This is one of those times.



Email:issues@issuesandalibis.org



The Gross National Debt





Zeitgeist The Movie...









Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 7 (c) 02/13/2009


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