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In This Edition

Robert Kuttner exposes, "The Deficit Hawks' Attack On Our Entitlements."

Uri Avnery considers, "The Great Gamble."

Victoria Stewart returns with, "Shameless."

Jim Hightower covers, "CEOs And Their Inflated Sense Of Self-Worth."

Chris Hedges with, "A Choice Between Peace And Peril."

Captain Eric H. May introduces, "Thought Control -- Radical Press vs. B'nai B'rith."

Paul Krugman wonders, "Who'll Stop The Pain?"

Chris Floyd gives, "Updates: Child Sacrifice and Gitmo Torture, Progressive Style."

Greg Palast says, "Damn That Lincoln."

Mike Folkerth exclaims, "Me And Obama; One Of Us Is Dead Wrong!"

Amy Goodman finds, "Toxins 'R' Us."

Barbara Peterson explores, "NAIS, Monsanto, And The Genetic Altering And Patenting Of Animal Breeds."

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald previews, "Fox News "War Games" The Coming Civil War."

Marie Cocco concludes that, "'Entitlements' Take A Bum Rap."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz says, "Madoff Blames Ponzi Scheme On Youth, Immaturity" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Inquisition!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Dana Summers with additional cartoons, photos and videos from The Heretik, Kirk Anderson, John Deering, Pat Bagley, Mike Konopaki, Warner Brothers, Richard Phillips, Corbis, Issues & Alibis.Org and Pink & Blue Films.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Inquisition!
By Ernest Stewart

The Inquisition what a show
The Inquisition here we go
We know you're wishin' that we'd go away.
But the Inquisition's here and it's here to stay!
The Inquisition Song ~~~ Mel Brooks

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." ~~~ Albert Einstein

"Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors." ~~~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy

They knew from day one that he was innocent but that didn't stop them from kidnapping and torturing him. In fact, they were still torturing him right up until the time they let him go. Weeks after Obama was sworn in and had promised to end torture, they kept at it, torturing Binyam Mohamed.

Binyam, whose crime turned out to be that he once read a satirical article on how to create an atomic bomb by swinging uranium around and around in a bucket, was first tortured by the Pakistanis after a British security agent from MI5 interviewed Binyam. Binyam, who had recently converted to Islam, left London in 2002 to get away from bad influences and had gone to Pakistan to see what life was like in an Islamic country. He soon found out! After the Pakistanis' tortured him for spell he was victim of a special rendition for torture in Morocco, then he was sent to the "Happy Camp" at the Bagram US Air Force base in Afghanistan to be tortured some more before ending up in Gitmo where he was tortured until his release this week.

Unlike America, Britain still obeys a few laws and treaties and that very well may spell the end of the Labor government that has been in power for the last ten years. In addition, two senior British judges, have reopened a case investigating whether 42 secret U.S. intelligence documents shared with Britain should be made public. These 42 "secrets," document various kidnappings, renditions and other violations of international laws by Tony (the poodle) Blair and the Bush and Obama governments.

Of course, Binyam's, story is typical. For example, of all the thousands of poor souls that have gone to Gitmo, (not to mention the hundreds of other black sites that we maintain by ourselves or with other terrorist governments) 98% were released but only after many years of confinement and torture. Meanwhile Obama is hemming and hawing about closing Gitmo and sending his flunky, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, down to Gitmo. Holder said in a statement, with words to the wise in England:

"The friendship and assistance of the international community is vitally important as we work to close Guantanamo, and we greatly appreciate the efforts of the British government to work with us on the transfer of Binyam Mohammed."

Meanwhile the infamous Abu Ghraib prison has reopened with a new name "Baghdad Central Prison" and a new coat of paint to cover the bloodstains. You may recall that we were going to close Saddam's house of torture down six years ago but we had so much fun there that it's still in operation today! I wonder if, and when, Gitmo will close? Even if it is shut down, it's just one of many "Happy Camps"(tm) that we operate at home and abroad. The only difference is that it was the most infamous camp. The other secret ones, which are just as bad or worse, will remain open for business!

In Other News

I didn't bother watching the "Changeling" on TV Tuesday night as we're down to one old TV set and I really can't afford another one so rather than risk throwing a brick through the screen, I left the room. I did, however, go to the "White House.Org" and read the speech.

In the speech Barry said:

"So I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions. I promise you - I get it."

Apparently, he doesn't or he wouldn't make such a stupid statement. As good old Dr. Einstein has said the definition of Insanity is, "...doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Barry seems to have this down pat. For not only is he going to throw somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 of a trillion of your tax dollars at the banks, again, but he is also revving up our un-winnable war in Afghanistan and starting a new war in Pakistan while leaving enough troops in Iraq to keep the Iraqis enslaved and Iran surrounded for the soon-to-come Israeli inspired war. Of Afghanistan and Pakistan he said, "With our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat Al Qaida and combat extremism, because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens halfway around the world. We will not allow it."

The Rethuglicans, of late, have been running one of their little scams about Barry's stimulus package. Stating that if you spent a million dollars a day since Jesus was born, (which couldn't be all that much as he's barely 40 or did they mean some mythological character of 2000 years ago and not the guy down the block?) you wouldn't spend near as much as we're spending on the stimulus package! Perhaps. But you'd need to quadruple that amount to find the cost of the war in Iraq which they started and which has cost well over three trillion dollars so far!

If he truly wanted to balance the budget, the first thing he'd do is bring all the troops home. Every one from a thousand bases around the world. Think of the savings. We wouldn't be in a recession heading into a depression; he actually could balance the budget and create a surplus. Unfortunately, Barry has long since sold his soul and our treasury to Wall Street, the bankers and the military-industrial complex. He plans to throw hundreds of billions of dollars at the banks, which will just hasten our decline, and trillions more for needless, immoral, imperial wars of conquest which will no doubt lead to WWIII. Ya'll recall what old Albert said about WWIII? Herr Einstein said, "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Roll that around in your mind for a moment!

Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told the Senate Banking Committee the other day that, "there is a reasonable prospect that the current recession will end in 2009." What Ben failed to mention was that, at this rate, the recession will turn into a full blown 1930's style depression by 2010! So while we're quoting Albert let me end with this final thought of his, "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

And Finally

We'd like to welcome a couple of new authors to the magazine:

Barbara H. Peterson is into self-sufficiency out on her ranch in Oregon and has the Surviving The Middle Class Crash site. Barbara joins us with another nightmare brought to us by those evil swine, the Monsanto corpo-rats.

In addition, we'd like to welcome another new friend. From Canada, Arthur Topham who joins us via the Captain May piece. Authur runs The Radical Press ezine and lives out in British Columbia. Arthur has run afoul of the infamous Sec. 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act for daring to speak the truth about Israel, a seriously punishable crime in Canada where telling the truth about something isn't a defense to prosecution, much like the draconian laws in England.

Welcome to Issues & Alibis, Ya'll!


We'd like to thank "Paul from Chicago" for his generous donation! However we are still way behind on paying our bills.

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.

We aren't asking for much-not thousands of dollars a month, not tens of thousands a year. What we need is simply enough money to cover expenses for the magazine. A few thousand dollars a year. A few hundred dollars a month. We cannot continue to go into debt to publish Issues and Alibis but at the same time we cannot, in good conscience, go quietly about our daily lives, remaining silent in face of the injustices perpetrated by our leaders and our government. So we need your help. We need your spare change. A dollar, five dollars, whatever you can contribute. Every penny makes a difference.

Ernest & Victoria Stewart


03-07-1989 ~ 02-20-2009
R.I.P. Socks!

01-26-1918 ~ 02-25-2009
To your scattered body go!

07-20-1943 ~ 02-26-2009
R.I.P. Miss Brahms


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: 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.


We get by with a little help from our friends!
So please help us if you can...?


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."

The Deficit Hawks' Attack On Our Entitlements
By Robert Kuttner

With the enactment of a large economic stimulus package, fiscal conservatives are using the temporary deficit increase to attack a perennial target - Social Security and Medicare. The private-equity investor Peter G. Peterson, who launched a billion-dollar foundation last year to warn that America faces $56.4 trillion in "unfunded liabilities," is a case in point. Supposedly, these costs will depress economic growth and crowd out other needed outlays, such as investments in the young. The remedy: big cuts in programs for the elderly.

The Peterson Foundation is joined by leading "blue dog" (anti-deficit) Democrats such as House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt of South Carolina and his counterpart in the Senate, Kent Conrad of North Dakota. The deficit hawks are promoting a "grand bargain" in which a bipartisan commission enacts spending caps on social insurance as the offset for current deficits.

President Obama's economic advisers devised today's White House fiscal responsibility summit to signal that the president takes the deficit seriously and to lay the groundwork for such a bipartisan deal. Originally, Peterson was slated to be a featured speaker.

But Capitol Hill sources say that Democratic congressional leaders were skeptical of the strategy. The summit has been reduced to a lower-profile, half-day event; Peterson will attend but no longer has top billing, and Obama reportedly is lukewarm about the idea of a commission.

Obama should indeed be wary of such a plan, and official briefings on his first budget suggest that he will drastically reduce the deficit by 2013, but without going after social insurance.

What's wrong with the story of entitlements wrecking the economy? Plenty.

For starters, the $56 trillion "unfunded liability" figure relies on creative accounting. Only about $6.36 trillion is the actual public debt, according to the U.S. Treasury. Most of the number Peterson cites is a combination of the 75-year worst-case projections for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

These three programs face very different challenges and remedies. Social Security's accounts are actually near long-term balance. The Congressional Budget Office puts the 75-year shortfall at only about one-third of 1 percent of projected gross domestic product.

Social Security is financed by taxes on wages - and since the mid-1970s, wage growth has stagnated. If median wages rose with productivity growth, as they did during the first three decades after World War II, Social Security would enjoy a big surplus. Even without a raise for working America, Social Security needs only minor adjustments.

Medicare really does face big deficits. But that's because Medicare is part of a hugely inefficient, fragmented health insurance system. It makes no sense to "reform" Medicare in isolation.

If we just cap Medicare, needy seniors would get bare-bones care while more affluent people could supplement their insurance out of pocket. The decent cure for Medicare's cost inflation lies in comprehensive universal health insurance so that the entire system is more efficient and less prone to inflation. You don't hear many budget hawks supporting that brand of reform.

The deficit hawks' story also contends that we are sacrificing our children's future by too much (deficit) spending on the elderly. In fact, today's young adults are already falling out of the middle class because of the high costs of the investments we don't adequately finance socially - child care, college tuition and health insurance. But fiscal conservatives seldom call for increased investment in the young. Today's young, of course, will be tomorrow's retirees, and they will need social insurance, too.

The overall bottom line? The economy we bequeath to our children has everything to do with getting growth back on track and almost nothing to do with imagined future deficits.

History provides a parallel. At the end of World War II, the public debt was about 120 percent of GDP - about three times today's ratio. Yet the heavily indebted wartime economy stimulated a quarter-century postwar boom - because all that debt went to recapitalize American industry, advance science and technology, retrain our unemployed and put them to work.

We need to increase public spending and debt now to restore economic growth and then gradually reduce the debt ratio once recovery comes. Social Security has little to do with this challenge. Nor does Medicare, if we reform our overall health system.

Since the early 1980s, Peter G. Peterson has been warning that future entitlement deficits would crash the economy. Yet when the crash came, the cause was not deficits but wild speculation on Wall Street.

Now, with 401(k) plans swooning and health benefits being cut, Social Security and Medicare are the two bedrock programs that keep tens of millions of elderly Americans from destitution. Why perversely cut these programs to pay for the sins of Wall Street? The attack on social insurance is really an ideological assault, dressed up as fiscal high-mindedness.
(c) 2009 Robert Kuttner, co-editor of the American Prospect and a senior fellow at the New York public policy group Demos, is most recently the author of "Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency."

The Great Gamble
By Uri Avnery

"IACTA ALEA EST" - the die is cast - said Julius Caesar and crossed the River Rubicon on his way to conquer Rome. That was the end of Roman democracy.

We don't have a Julius Caesar. But we do have an Avigdor Liberman. When he announced his support the other day for the setting up of a government headed by Binyamin Netanyahu, that was the crossing of his Rubicon.

I hope that this is not the beginning of the end of Israeli democracy.

UNTIL THE last moment, Liberman held the Israeli public in suspense. Will he join Netanyahu? Will he join Tzipi Livni?

Those who participated in the guessing game were divided in their view of Liberman.

Some of them said: Liberman is indeed what he pretends to be: an extreme nationalist racist. His aim is really to turn Israel into a Jewish state cleansed of Arabs - Araberrein, in German. He has only contempt for democracy, both in the country and in his own party, which consists of yesmen and yeswomen devoid of any identity of their own. Like similar parties in the past, it is based on a cult of (his) personality, the worship of brute force, contempt for democracy and disdain for the judicial system. In other countries this is called fascism.

Others say: that is all a faŃade. Liberman is no Israeli Fuehrer, because he is nothing but a cheat and a cynic. The police investigations against him and his business dealings with Palestinians show him to be a corrupt opportunist. He is also a friend of Tzipi. He cultivates a fascist image in order to pave his way to power. He will sell all his slogans for a piece of government.

The first Liberman would support the setting up of an extreme Right government by Netanyahu. The second Liberman could support a Livni government. For a whole week he juggled the balls. Now he has decided: he is indeed an extreme nationalist racist. As the Americans say: if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck.

For appearances' sake he told the President that his proposal to entrust Netanyahu with the setting up of a government applies only to a broad-based coalition encompassing Likud, Kadima and his own party. But that is just a gimmick: probably such a government will not come into being, and the next government will be a coalition of Likud, Liberman, the disciples of Meir Kahane and the religious parties.

SOME ON the Left say: Excellent. The voters will get exactly what they deserve. At long last, there will be an exclusively rightist government.

One of the proponents of this attitude is Gideon Levy, a consistent advocate of peace, democracy and civil equality.

He and those who think like him say: Israel simply has to pass through this phase before it can recover. The Right must get unlimited power to realize its program, without the pretext of being hindered by leftist or centrist members of the coalition. Let them try, in full view of the world, to pursue a policy of war, the overthrow of Hamas in Gaza, the avoidance of any peace negotiations, unfettered settlement, spitting in the face of world public opinion and collision with the United States.

In this view, such a government cannot last for long. The new American administration of Barack Obama will not allow it. The world will boycott it. American Jewry will be shocked. And if Netanyahu strays - even slightly - from the Right and narrow path, his government will fall apart. The Kahanists, up to then his full partners, will divorce him on the spot. After all, the last Netanyahu government was overthrown ten years ago by the extreme right after he sat down with Yasser Arafat and signed an agreement that gave (pro forma) a part of Hebron to the Palestinian Authority.

After the fall of the government, according to this prognosis, the public will understand that there is no rightist option, that the slogans of the Right are nothing but nonsense. Only thus will they arrive at the conclusion that there is no alternative to the path of peace. The voters will elect a government that will end the occupation, clear the way for a free Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem and withdraw to the Green Line borders (with slight, mutually acceptable, adjustments).

For the public to accept this, a shock is needed. The fall of the deep-Right government can supply such a shock. According to a saying attributed (mistakenly, it appears) to Lenin: The worse, the better. Or, put in another way: it must become much worse before it can get any better.

THIS IS a seductive theory. But it is also very frightening.

How can we be sure that the Obama administration will indeed put irresistible pressure on Netanyahu? That is possible. Let's hope that it happens. But it is not certain at all.

Obama has not yet passed a real test on any issue. It is already clear that there is a marked difference between what he promised in the election campaign and what he is doing in practice. In several matters he is continuing the policies of George Bush with slight alterations. That was, of course, to be expected. But Obama has not yet shown how he would act under real pressure. When Netanyahu mobilizes the full might of the pro-Israel lobby, will Obama surrender, like all preceding presidents?

And world public opinion - how united will it be? How much pressure can it exert? When Netanyahu declares that all criticism of his government is "anti-Semitic" and that every boycott call is an echo of the Nazi slogan "Kauft nicht bei Juden" ("Don't buy from Jews") - how many of the critics will stand up to the pressure? How much courage will Merkel, Sarkozy, Berlusconi et al be able to muster? And on the other side: will a world-wide boycott not intensify the paranoia in Israel and push all the Israeli public into the arms of the extreme Right, under the time-worn slogan "All the World is against us?"

IN THE best of circumstances, if all the pressures materialize and have a maximum impact - how long will it take? What disasters can such a government bring about before the pressure starts to take effect? How many human beings will be killed and injured in attacks and acts of revenge by both sides? Such a government would be dominated by the settlers. How many new settlements will spring up? How many existing settlements will be extended at a hectic pace? And in the meantime, won't the settlers intensify their harassment of the Palestinian population with the aim of bringing about ethnic cleansing?

The components of the Rightist coalition have already declared that they do not agree to a cease-fire in Gaza because it would consolidate the rule of Hamas there. They seek to renew the Gaza War under an even more brutal leadership, to re-conquer the Strip and to return the settlers there.

Netanyahu's talk about an "economic peace" is complete nonsense, because no economy can develop under an occupation regime and hundreds of roadblocks. Any peace process - real or virtual - will grind to a halt. The result: the Palestinian authority will collapse. Out of desperation, the West Bank population will turn further towards Hamas, or the Fatah movement will become Hamas 2.

Inside Israel, the government will have to confront the deepening depression and perhaps cause economic chaos. All the sections of the government are united in their hatred of the Supreme Court, and the crazy manipulations of Justice Minister Daniel Friedman will give way to even crazier ones. Under the catchy slogan of "regime change," targeted assaults against the democratic system will take place.

All these things are possible. One or two years of a Bibi-Liberman-Kahane government can cause irreparable damage to Israel's standing in the world, Israeli-American relations, the judicial system, Israeli democracy, national morale and national sanity.

THE POSITIVE side of this situation is that the Knesset will once again include a large opposition. Perhaps even an effective opposition.

Kadima came into being as a government party. It will not be easy for it to adapt to the role of opposition. That will require an emotional and intellectual transformation. For ten years I myself conducted an uncompromising oppositional struggle in the Knesset, and I know how difficult it is. But if Kadima manages to undergo such a transformation successfully - which is very doubtful - it may become an effective opposition. The necessity to present a clear alternative to the rightist government may lead it to discover unsuspected strengths within itself. Tzipi Livni's games with the Palestinians may turn into a serious program for a Two-State solution, a program that will be strengthened and deepened by the daily parliamentary struggle vis-ż-vis a government with an opposite program.

Labor, too, will have to undergo a profound transformation. Ehud Barak is certainly not the person to wage an oppositional fight - especially as he will not be the "head of the opposition," a title officially conferred by law on the leader of the largest opposition faction. He will be second fiddle even in opposition. Labor will have to compete, and perhaps-perhaps this will lead to its recovery. The Bible tells us of the miracle of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37).

That is true even more for Meretz. It will have to compete with both Kadima and Labor to justify its place in the struggle for peace and social recovery.

A real optimist can even hope for the narrowing of the gap between the "Jewish Left" and the "Arab parties," which the Left has until now boycotted and left out of all coalition calculations. The common struggle and the joint votes in the Knesset may bring about a positive development there too.

And beyond the parliamentary arena, the government of the extreme Right may change the atmosphere in the country and stimulate many well-intentioned people to leave the security of their ivory towers and start a process of intellectual rejuvenation in the circles from which a new, open and different Left must spring.

ALL THESE are theoretical possibilities. What will happen in reality? What will be the consequences of a "pure" rightist regime, if Tzipi Livni maintains her determination not to join a Netanyahu government? Will Israel set off down a suicidal road from which there is no return, or will this be a passing phase before the wake-up call?

It is a great gamble, and like every gamble, it arouses both fear and hope.
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Ty'Sheoma Bethea

By Victoria Stewart

In 1967, Houghton Mifflin published Jonathan Kozol's book, Death at an Early Age. Winner of the National Book Award, Kozol's work exposed the appalling conditions and human devastation he encountered while working as a substitute teacher in Boston's "ghetto" schools. It was 1977 when I first read this book. It was so powerful that I immediately read his 1975 book, The Night is Dark and I Am Far From Home, which examines the goals and purpose of America's schools. Together these books not only changed the way I view education but also shaped the way I live my life. I always have these two books on my bookshelf and over the years, I have passed many copies on to friends, educators and new parents. Brilliant, horrifying and inspiring, Kozol's work is as relevant today as it was 40 years ago.

Witness Ty'Sheoma Bethea.

The institutional bigotry and purposeful indoctrination Kozol chronicled is once again exposed, this time by a young girl from Dillon, South Carolina. The criminal neglect of schools in South Carolina's "corridor of shame" might attract nationwide attention now and I have no doubt these schools are among some of the worst in the country. I am equally sure, however, that the attitudes behind these tragic schools permeate America's education system. In fact, racism and its up and coming brother, classism, are alive, well and thriving in America. And no group is more victimized by these galloping horsemen than our children.

Crumbling school buildings and unsafe conditions are the final and most visible sign of the rot that lives at the core of our educational system. Parents and educators who pay attention, who actually understand children, learning and the necessity for a population capable of thought and analysis know that we have abandoned the precepts and philosophies that invite and encourage mental acuity and critical thinking for a system designed to limit brain function and prevent innovative, creative or rational thought. We have allowed a system that teaches our children not to think, not to question and not to explore, to thrive and grow.

It is not enough that we overhaul ancient buildings and provide high tech classrooms. We must also look at what our schools are doing to our children. And when I say "we," I don't mean some amorphous "national" group. I mean "we." You and me.

Every day we are told how powerless we are. The language used to describe our world, its problems and our futures is the language of passivity and inactivity. It is language designed to preserve the status quo and prevent substantive change and social justice. In a country as large as the United States, it is difficult to see how one person or a group of people can affect change. And in perilous economic times, it is dangerous to agitate for change even on a local level.

Then along comes a child whose school system is so poor she can't even be indoctrinated properly. Along comes a student from a state so shamelessly mired in racism and its up-and-coming brother, classism, that it doesn't even bother anymore to make sure it is beating down the rabble. (Hey, I live in SC. I know what I'm talking about.) Along comes a girl who actually has the courage and the innocence to believe what her leaders tell her. She can have hope. She can make a difference. She can create change. Along comes Ty'Sheoma Bethea and I find myself dusting off the Kozol books and remembering the lessons of organized resistance.

As remnants of America's middle class indulge in another episode of white flight, running for the hills and countryside to become self-sufficient and save themselves, the rest of us, those who have neither the wealth nor the power to create 21st century fiefdoms, must turn to writers and thinkers like Kozol to find a blueprint for change and survival. It is in reclaiming the responsibility of caring for our children that we will find our voice. And it is children like Ty'Sheoma Bethea who will inspire us.
(c) 2008 Victoria Stewart is the editor of Issues & Alibis magazine.

CEOs And Their Inflated Sense Of Self-Worth

There is much gnashing of teeth among top bankers on Wall Street, because Washington is imposing a $500,000 salary cap on executives whose banks are drawing bailout money from us taxpayers.

All together now, let's say: awwwww, poor babies.

The bankers and their apologists have spent the past decade or so carefully constructing the myth that their jobs at the pinnacle of high finance require such expertise (bordering on genius), that they merit more pay than anyone else in our entire society. So, they wail, putting a cap on pay will only drive away the best talent on the street.

A couple of points. First, the "best and brightest" they're talking about would be the very same geniuses who caused their financial institutions to lose billions of dollars in the past few months, crashing our economy. Second, to where, exactly, would these golden ones flee? All of the giant banks are in the ditch, essentially owned and propped up by taxpayers.

What these overpaid suits still don't get is that there's no longer a hot market for their services. In fact, the multimillion-dollar paychecks they've been used to pocketing were always artificially inflated. The dirty little secret of bigtime executive compensation is that it's not set by a free market, but by a closed club of - guess who? - corporate executives.

The pretension has been that corporate boards decide CEO pay levels. But board members are essentially chosen by the CEOs themselves. They are mostly other CEOs who have a self-interest in keeping the entire club's compensation levels rising. As John Kenneth Gabraith once put it: "The salary of the chief executive of a large corporation is not a market award for achievement. It is frequently in the nature of a warm personal gesture by the individual to himself."
(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.

A Choice Between Peace And Peril
By Chris Hedges

Bibi Netanyahu's assumption of power in Israel sets the stage for a huge campaign by the Israeli government, and its well-oiled lobby groups in Washington, to push us into a war with Iran.

Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program, according to U.S. and European intelligence agencies. But reality rarely impedes on politics. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, along with Netanyahu, all talk as if Iran is on the brink of dropping the big one on the Jewish state.

Netanyahu on Friday named Iran as Israel's main threat after he was called to form a new government following the Feb. 20 elections.

"Iran is seeking to obtain a nuclear weapon and constitutes the gravest threat to our existence since the war of independence," Netanyahu said at a ceremony at President Shimon Peres' official residence. "The terrorist forces of Iran threaten us from the north," the presumptive prime minister said in reference to Lebanon and Syria, where Israel says Tehran supplies arms to Hezbollah and Hamas. "For decades, Israel has not faced such formidable challenges."

Netanyahu, whose arrogance is as outsized as his bellicosity, knows that for all his threats and chest thumping Israel is incapable of attacking Iranian targets alone. Israel cannot fly its attack aircraft over Iraqi air space into Iran without U.S. permission, something George W. Bush refused to grant, fearing massive retaliatory strikes by Iran on American bases in Iraq. Israel's air force is not big enough to neutralize the multiple targets, from radar stations to missile batteries to Revolutionary Guard units to bunkers housing Iran's Soviet- and Chinese-made fighter jets and bombers, and also hit suspected nuclear targets. The only route to a war with Tehran for the Israeli military is through Washington. Netanyahu's resolve to strike Iran means that we will soon hear a lot about the danger posed by Iran-full-page ads in American newspapers from Israel lobby groups have appeared in the past few days. Allowing this rhetoric to cloud reality, as we did during the buildup to the war with Iraq, would shut down the best chance for stability in the Middle East-a negotiated settlement with Iran. This may not finally stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, but a stable relationship with Iran would do more to protect Israel and our interests in the Middle East than massive airstrikes and a war that would bleed into Iraq and Lebanon and see Iranian missiles launched against Israeli cities.

"If you go into a problem with a mistaken assumption you come out with a bad policy," said Sam Gardner, a retired colonel of the U.S. Air Force who has taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, Air War College and Naval War College, and who opposes the Israeli campaign to strike Iran.

Iran's nuclear program is currently monitored by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran had amassed about 2,227 pounds of low-enriched, or reactor-grade, nuclear fuel by late January, according to the latest updates from the arms control watchdog for the United Nations. To produce the 55 pounds of highly enriched, or weapons-grade, uranium needed for an atomic warhead, Iran would need 2,205 to 3,748 pounds of low-enriched uranium. It apparently has this amount-which is why Netanyahu refers to Iran as "an existential threat" to the Israeli state. But Iran has made no move to enrich the uranium and until it does cannot be accused of having a nuclear weapons program. Iran also does not have enough high-speed centrifuges at its facility in Natanz to further refine the uranium, according to the United Nations.

Iran has turned to its old nemesis Russia for assistance as Israel has become more strident. The work on the Bushehr nuclear reactor will soon be assisted by 3,000 Russian technicians. And Russia has promised to sell the S-300 missile to Iran to boost that nation's air defense systems. The Russian Federation Security Council and the State Council's new national security strategy statement says that the primary focus of the struggle over the next decade will be on hydrocarbons. The Middle East and Central Asia are mentioned specifically. In these areas, according to the document, the struggle could develop into a military confrontation. And, while the document does not mention the United States, there is no other rival military force in the region that can match the Russian machine. The more we push Iran the more Iran flees into the arms of the Russians and the closer we come to a new Cold War struggle for control of diminishing natural resources. Iranian officials have barred inspections of facilities producing centrifuge parts, a move which worries arms control specialists. Iran may be planning to build an undeclared centrifuge facility separate from Natanz. Iran has also barred inspectors from its heavy-water reactor near Arak, an action that has concerned inspectors who hope to examine the site for possible telltale "clandestine" features that could be used in a weapons program. These signs would indicate that Iran could begin a nuclear weapons program. But as of now there is no such program. We should stop speaking as if one exists.

The destruction of Iraq as a unified state has left Iran the power broker in the Middle East. This was the result of our handiwork and the misguided militarism of Israeli politicians such as Netanyahu. Iran, like it or not, holds the power to decide the outcome of several conflicts that are vital to American security. It has enormous influence with Hamas and Hezbollah and can accelerate or diminish the conflict between Israel and these groups. It and the U.S. are now the major outside forces in Iraq. The Shiite-led Baghdad government consults closely with Iran and for this reason has told the Iranian resistance group the MEK that it has 60 days to leave Iraqi territory and may see its leaders arrested and tried for war crimes. Once American forces leave Iraq it is Iran, more than any other nation, that will determine the future of any Iraqi government. And, finally, Iran has for centuries been embroiled in the affairs of Afghanistan. It alone has the influence to stabilize the conflict, one that increasingly threatens to spill over into Pakistan. Afghan politicians have sharply criticized the Iranian government for deporting more than 30,000 Afghans who had fled to Iran since October. Many, unable to find work or return to their villages, have signed up to fight for the Taliban, according to U.S. intelligence reports.

Iran has endured our covert support for armed militant groups from the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO) to the Free Life Party of Kurdistan to the repugnant Jundullah, also known as the Army of God, a Sunni fundamentalist group that operates with U.S. support out of Pakistan. Jundullah has carried out a series of bombings and ambushes inside Iran. The militant group has a habit of beheading Iranians it captures, including a recent group of 16 Iranian police officials, and filming and distributing the executions. Iran has coped with nearly three decades of sanctions imposed by Washington. The U.S. support for the militant groups and the sanctions, meant to help change the regime in Tehran, have failed.

There is a lot riding on whom President Obama names as his special envoy to Iran. If, as expected, it is Dennis Ross, a former official of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, we will be in deep trouble. Ross, who is expected to be placed in charge of the Iranian portfolio this week, is a vocal supporter of Israel's call for increased pressure on Iran. He is distrusted, even despised, in the Muslim world and especially in Tehran. With good reason, he is not viewed as an impartial broker.

Ross has called for more draconian sanctions against Iran, something Russia or the five companies that provide Iran's refined petroleum products are not likely to support. (The companies include the Swiss firm Vitol, the French giant Total and the Indian firm Reliance.) Ross backs the covert support for proxy groups and, I would assume, the alleged clandestine campaign by Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad, to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists. Mossad is rumored to be behind the death of Ardeshire Hassanpour, a top nuclear scientist at Iran's Isfahan uranium plant, who died in mysterious circumstances from reported "gas poisoning" in 2007, according to the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. "Other recent deaths of important figures in the procurement and enrichment process in Iran and Europe have been the result of Israeli 'hits,' intended to deprive Tehran of key technical skills at the head of the program, according to the analysts," the paper reported.

It remains unmentioned that Israel, which refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty-signed by Iran-is in possession of 200 to 300 nuclear warheads, perhaps the single most important factor in the Middle East nuclear arms race.

"For the US to shape a peaceful relationship with Iran will be difficult under any circumstances," Stephen Kinzer, author of "All the Shah's Men," wrote recently. "If the American negotiating team is led by Ross or another conventional thinker tied to dogmas of the past, it will be impossible."

Obama has an opportunity to radically alter the course we have charted in the Middle East. The key will be his administration's relationship with Iran. If he gives in to the Israel lobby, if he empowers Ross, if he defines Iran as the enemy before he begins to attempt a negotiated peace, he could ignite a fuse that will see our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan evolve into a regional conflagration. This may be the most important decision of his presidency. Let's pray he does not blow it.
(c) 2009 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.

Arthur Topham

Thought Control -- Radical Press vs. B'nai B'rith
By Captain Eric H. May & Arthur Topham

Mr. Arthur Topham, Canadian publisher of Radical Press, now has top-notch legal counsel in his court struggle against Canada's B'nai B'rith. His press release yesterday is sure to be of interest for the many netizens who are concerned about government imposing thought crime laws on its way to imposing thought control:






QUESNEL, B.C. - Arthur Topham, Publisher and Editor of, says he received an email from the Victoria, B.C. Law Office of Douglas Christie on Friday, February 20th, 2009 confirming Mr. Christie's interest in the current Canadian Human Rights Tribunal hearing process involving the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada v. Topham and his website (Complaint No.: 20071016).

In an email letter to Registry Officer Nancy LaFontant and Tribunal member Karen Jensen of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in Ottawa, Ontario Mr. Christie stated:

"I am general counsel of the Canadian Free Speech League, and as such I am interested in the case of Arthur Topham. I would like the opportunity to intervene on behalf of the free speech issues raised in this case. We were allowed intervention status in the case of Marc Lemire, and it is our desire to assist in the maintenance of a constitutional challenge to the enabling legislation, as well as to participate in the fact-finding that would be the foundation of such an assessment."

Topham's case first came to light back in November of 2007 when Harry Abrams, B.C. representative for the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada and his co-complainant the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) alleging that he, Topham, Owner, Publisher and Editor of was promoting "hatred toward Jews and citizens of Israel" because of articles on his website critical of both political Zionism and the actions of the foreign Jewish state of Israel.

Topham, who has publishing both a hard copy newspaper, The Radical (now defunct) and an online new site since 1998, said that after receiving the complaint back in November of 2007 he filed a hard-hitting, detailed, and thoroughly documented 13-page Response which he sent to CHRC "hate-team" investigator Sandy Kozak on January 3, 2008.

On September 5, 2008 Topham received the Investigation Report from Ms. Natalie Dagenais, Director, Investigations Division. He was given until September 17, 2008 to comment on the Report. See.

On November 21, 2008 Topham received confirmation from the CHRC that the complaint would be moved to the Tribunal stage with the possibility of a hearing.

On January 14, 2009 Topham received an email from the CHR Tribunal requesting confirmation of whether or not he wanted to enter into a mediation process with the complainants. Topham declined to participate giving the Tribunal his reasons in a letter dated January 28, 2009. See. With the Tribunal hearing now underway Topham said he was deeply honored to receive word that Mr. Christie had taken an interest in the case and was planning to intervene as General Counsel of the Canadian Free Speech League, a society that defends freedom of expression in Canada.

"No one accused of 'hate speech' could ask for or expect a better man of principle to stand by him than Doug Christie," Topham said. "Mr. Christie has a well-deserved reputation world-wide as Canada's most prolific defender of free speech, having appeared in the Supreme Court of Canada in that capacity more than any other counsel. Mr. Christie has been defense counsel for James Keegstra, Ernst Zundel, Malcolm Ross, John Ross Taylor, Tony McAleer, Imre Finta and in his most recent case that of First Nations leader David Ahenakew. And so it would be an understatement to say that I was both surprised and deeply grateful for the fact that Mr. Christie would take an interest in my case."

As Doug Christie states on his website he has "challenged the powers of big government, the income tax department, big banking institutions, 'human rights' commissions, social service bureaucracies, and other forces seeking at times to unjustifiably curtail the liberty of individuals."

"Who could ask for a finer ally than that in my struggle with the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada and the censors within the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal," Topham said.

"The root cause of all the legal problems facing writers, bloggers and publishers in Canada is the infamous Sec. 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act. It's the most specious piece of Orwellian legislation ever to have (dis)graced the law books of Canadian jurisprudence; one which prohibits truth and intent from entering into a person's defense when such a complaint has been filed against them" Topham added, "and that is why I intend to also file a constitutional challenge to this undemocratic and draconian section of the CHR Act."

CONTACT: Arthur Topham
Email ~~~ Website.
(c) 2009 Captain Eric H. May is a graduate of the Houston Honors College, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, and is currently the political-military special correspondent for the Lone Star Iconoclast, archived at

Who'll Stop The Pain?
By Paul Krugman

Earlier this week, the Federal Reserve released the minutes of the most recent meeting of its open market committee - the group that sets interest rates. Most press reports focused either on the Fed's downgrade of the near-term outlook or on its adoption of a long-run 2 percent inflation target.

But my eye was caught by the following chilling passage (yes, things are so bad that the summarized musings of central bankers can keep you up at night): "All participants anticipated that unemployment would remain substantially above its longer-run sustainable rate at the end of 2011, even absent further economic shocks; a few indicated that more than five to six years would be needed for the economy to converge to a longer-run path characterized by sustainable rates of output growth and unemployment and by an appropriate rate of inflation."

So people at the Fed are troubled by the same question I've been obsessing on lately: What's supposed to end this slump? No doubt this, too, shall pass - but how, and when?

To appreciate the problem, you need to know that this isn't your father's recession. It's your grandfather's, or maybe even (as I'll explain) your great-great-grandfather's.

Your father's recession was something like the severe downturn of 1981-1982. That recession was, in effect, a deliberate creation of the Federal Reserve, which raised interest rates to as much as 17 percent in an effort to control runaway inflation. Once the Fed decided that we had suffered enough, it relented, and the economy quickly bounced back.

Your grandfather's recession, on the other hand, was something like the Great Depression, which happened in spite of the Fed's efforts, not because of them. When a stock market bubble and a credit boom collapsed, bringing down much of the banking system with them, the Fed tried to revive the economy with low interest rates - but even rates barely above zero weren't low enough to end a prolonged era of high unemployment.

Now we're in the midst of a crisis that bears an eerie, troubling resemblance to the onset of the Depression; interest rates are already near zero, and still the economy plunges. How and when will it all end?

To be sure, the Obama administration is taking action to help the economy, but it's trying to mitigate the slump, not end it. The stimulus bill, on the administration's own estimates, will limit the rise in unemployment but fall far short of restoring full employment. The housing plan announced this week looks good in the sense that it will help many homeowners, but it won't spur a new housing boom.

What, then, will actually end the slump?

Well, the Great Depression did eventually come to an end, but that was thanks to an enormous war, something we'd rather not emulate. The slump that followed Japan's "bubble economy" also eventually ended, but only after a lost decade. And when Japan finally did start to experience some solid growth, it was thanks to an export boom, which was in turn made possible by vigorous growth in the rest of the world - not an experience anyone can repeat when the whole world is in a slump.

So will our slump go on forever? No. In fact, the seeds of eventual recovery are already being planted.

Consider housing starts, which have fallen to their lowest level in 50 years. That's bad news for the near term. It means that spending on construction will fall even more. But it also means that the supply of houses is lagging behind population growth, which will eventually prompt a housing revival.

Or consider the plunge in auto sales. Again, that's bad news for the near term. But at current sales rates, as the finance blog Calculated Risk points out, it would take about 27 years to replace the existing stock of vehicles. Most cars will be junked long before that, either because they've worn out or because they've become obsolete, so we're building up a pent-up demand for cars.

The same story can be told for durable goods and assets throughout the economy: given time, the current slump will end itself, the way slumps did in the 19th century. As I said, this may be your great-great-grandfather's recession. But recovery may be a long time coming.

The closest 19th-century parallel I can find to the current slump is the recession that followed the Panic of 1873. That recession did eventually end without any government intervention, but it lasted more than five years, and another prolonged recession followed just three years later.

You can see, then, why some Fed officials are so pessimistic.

Let's be clear: the Obama administration's policy initiatives will help in this difficult period - especially if the administration bites the bullet and takes over weak banks. But still I wonder: Who'll stop the pain?
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Updates: Child Sacrifice and Gitmo Torture, Progressive Style
By Chris Floyd


We reported here last week about another in the barrage of stories detailing civilian deaths at the hands of American-led forces in the "good war" in Afghanistan, now being escalated by Barack Obama. (And not only in Afghanistan; Obama is also rapidly expanding American attacks inside Pakistan to include forces there with little or no involvement with the war in Afghanistan -- along with the usual blood-fruit harvest of civilians, of course.)

In last week's post, we took note of Washington's claim that U.S. missiles had killed "15 militants" in a raid that Afghan officials said actually killed 13 civilians, including six women and two children. Today, the New York Times reports that Pentagon has now admitted that they did indeed kill 13 civilians in the raid, and only 3 militants -- precisely as the Afghan authorities had claimed.

Not that this will give our cool, adorable, Buddha-like president a moment's pause, but the incident and its reportage gives us yet another timely reminder that the claims by Afghan authorities about civilian casualties are almost always highly accurate, while the first instinct of the Pentagon is to lie, deceive and spin -- with the sure knowledge that its initial claims will always be greeted as authoritative by the Homeland press, while the inevitable climbdowns and qualifications that come later will pass largely unnoticed.

Also, it should be stressed that the reports of civilian deaths at Western hands in Afghanistan that do make it into the mainstream press are almost always based on investigations by Afghan authorities -- that is to say, by officials who are part of the American-backed Afghan government. There is is a great myth among many backers of the "good war" in Afghanistan that accounts of horrendous "collateral damage" caused by American bombs, missiles, ground raids and covert operations are simply propaganda spooned out to the "liberal media" by the Taliban. This is itself another self-serving lie of the American war machine and its many sycophants.


Earlier this month, we reported on the case of Binyam Mohamed, the UK resident who had been sent through the thorn-studded guts of almost the entire American gulag, including a spell of "special rendition" torture in Morocco and America's own notorious "Dark Prison" in Afghanistan, before finally being deposited in the U.S. concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In the end, all of the charges against Mohamed -- whose only "crime," it seems, was once reading a satirical article on how to create an atomic bomb by swinging uranium in a bucket -- were dropped, and he is now on his way back to the UK. (Where he still faces the threat of extradition back to the dictatorship of Ethiopia, the US Terror War proxy from which he originally fled to escape persecution.)

As we noted in our earlier report, both the US and UK governments -- including the Obama Administration -- have gone to extraordinarly lengths to quash court cases seeking to reveal the extent of the tortures that these bastions of Western civilization inflicted on Mohamed. And today, the Observer reveals that Mohamed continued to be abused in Guantanamo Bay even after the progressive paragon Barack Obama took office:

Binyam Mohamed will return to Britain suffering from a huge range of injuries after being beaten by US guards right up to the point of his departure from Guant∑namo Bay, according to the first detailed accounts of his treatment inside the camp...

Mohamed was found to be suffering from bruising, organ damage, stomach complaints, malnutrition, sores to feet and hands, severe damage to ligaments as well as profound emotional and psychological problems which have been exacerbated by the refusal of Guant∑namo's guards to give him counselling.

Mohamed's British lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, said his client had been beaten "dozens" of times inside the notorious US camp in Cuba with the most recent abuse occurring during recent weeks. He said: "He has a list of physical ailments that cover two sheets of A4 paper. What Binyam has been through should have been left behind in the middle ages."

Lieutenant colonel Yvonne Bradley, Mohamed's US military attorney, added: "He has been severely beaten. Sometimes I don't like to think about it because my country is behind all this."

...Claims that Mohamed was beaten during the period after President Obama announced Guant∑namo's closure in January risk harming diplomatic relations between the administration and the British government. Prime minister Gordon Brown is believed to have raised Mohamed's case with the US president during their first talk following Obama's inauguration two months ago.

Stafford Smith, the director of legal charity Reprieve, said yesterday that Mohamed had been routinely beaten by Guant∑namo's notorious emergency reaction force, a six-strong team of guards in riot gear who have been the subject of previous abuse allegations. The alleged beatings were routinely administered against Mohamed "for no reason" and some were "recent" according to Stafford Smith.

As several other writers have noted, the reports of Mohamed's continued abuse in Gitmo coincide with the Obama Administration's release of a report by the Pentagon, in which the Pentagon investigated itself for its handling of captives in Guantanamo Bay and found that itself was operating the concentration camp in complete compliance with the Geneva Conventions. (In other news, Kim Jong-Il has just completed a long contemplation of himself in the mirror and concluded that he is "a real sweetheart.")

So there's no need to worry if Obama takes his sweet time in closing down Gitmo and doing something or other with the captives there. Just like the Bushists and their cheerleaders like Rush Limbaugh said all along, those lucky duckies in the cages down there are living the life of Riley. And hey, if they complain too much, we can always ship them back to the "Dark Prison" and other detention centers in Afghanistan -- where, as the New York Times reports, the Obama Administration now claims that no American captive has any right of habeas corpus whatsoever. They cannot legally challenge their detention -- even if they were rounded up by mistake, or sold to the Americans by bounty hunters or personal enemies or local druglords. They have no rights, and they can damn well rot until the Unitary Executive decides what to do with them.

Hope and change, my friends! Feel the burn! You gotta love it!
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

Damn That Lincoln
Abe's to blame for Jindal
By Greg Palast

Damn that Abe Lincoln. When Louisiana and Mississippi seceded from the Union, a sensible president would have sent them a box of chocolates with a note, "Goodbye and good riddance."

Tonight, following Barack Obama's budget presentation to Congress, effectively the president's first State of the Union Address, the Republicans have chosen to give their party's response, the governor of the state that wanted to leave the Union, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal.

Jindal's going to tell us that Barack Obama is a terrible President because Obama wants to require states like Louisiana to extend unemployment insurance to - get this - the unemployed! (Technically, the federal government would pay 100% of the cost of reforming Louisiana's and Mississippi's Scrooge-sized benefit requirements.)

Jindal, and some other Republican governors, notably Haley Barbour of Mississippi, are actually turning down millions in federal funds for their own state's unemployed out of fear that, four years from now, they may have to maintain full unemployment insurance like the rest of America.

Barbour's excuse, parroted by Jindal, is that the Obama payments to the unemployed of their states would mean, when the economy returns to expansion, that their state would have to increase unemployment insurance taxes and payments to the US average, scaring away new employers. "I mean, we want more jobs," says Barbour. Um, this is the Governor of MISSISSIPPI talking. Exactly what new "jobs" is he talking about? Is Microsoft is based in Gulfport? Is Genentech opening its new headquarters in Bogalusa?

As an economist, I can tell you that the only industry Mississippi leads in is deep-fried chicken-dog manufacturing. I will admit that Louisiana and Mississippi can boast of growing employment at several casinos and cathouses spilling across what the locals charmingly call the "Coon-ass Riviera." Jindal's Louisiana is, after all, the state that solved its unemployment problem by sending its unemployed to Texas in FEMA trailers.

And it's true that Jindal's and Barbour's states do lead the nation in a few indicators. Like poverty: Mississippi has America's highest poverty rate. Louisiana is third worst in America.

And how about their commitment to education? Louisiana ranks 5th and Mississippi 2nd worth in school kids' math scores. As Randy Newman notes about the gulf states' education policies, "good ol' boys... from LSU, went in dumb, come out dumb, too."

Jindal himself is a product of a more advanced culture: His parents are Democrats. The Jindals are Hindus who come from the Punjab in India, a state known for its welfare safety net. Jindal, turning away from the successful example of his parents' politics and culture, has gone native, becoming a born-again Christian Republican who doesn't accept Darwinian evolution nor Keynesian economics. (I hear he may complete his redneck makeover next week by marrying his cousin at a tractor pull.)

For over a century, Louisiana and Mississippi have been trying to attract employers by changing their economy from one based on involuntary servitude to one based on voluntary servitude, selling their citizens to the lowest bidder. The results are blindingly visible: Mississippi and Louisiana, under the Barbour/Jindal Republican regime, maintain the lowest per-capita incomes in the nation (50th and 46th respectively). Mississippi and Louisiana infant mortality rates (1st and 3rd in deaths in the USA) would shame Costa Rica.

Years back, when I worked as an economic consultant to New Orleans, the Louisiana State Legislature was about to require that schools teach evolution as merely a theory equal to the Bible's literal creation myth. When asked if this would harm big employers' views of the state, I said, "Not at all: most national employers think of Louisiana as a state filled with Bible-thumping, dumb-bell rednecks. You won't have to worry about changing that impression."

OK, it's easy to make jokes about America's own Third World states. And before I get a zillion complaints, I'll be the first one to note that Louisiana has birthed the extraordinary, including the greatest of America's investigative journalists, the late Ron Ridenhour, jazz, Chris Ruth's Steakhouse and gris-gris. And it was Louisiana that long ago led the nation in social reform, whose governor, in 1932, led the national fight to create a program now known as "unemployment insurance." Really.

Nevertheless, Jindal's rejection of funds for his state's own unemployed simply follows a history of local Republican plantation-mentality cruelty. After Hurricane Katrina, I met a young man, Stephen Smith, who was stranded with a family on Highway 10 for four days while George Bush photo-strafed him from overhead. An elderly man with Stephen died of dehydration after giving his grandchildren his last bottle of water. (See Stephen on Big Easy to Big Empty, click here.)

I investigated the drowning of New Orleans and the "let'm drown" rescue plans of the Bush Administration. What I found was sickening, heartless and Republican. Marie Antoinette at least offered cake.

Now, once again, the Republican party, by making Jindal the party's official spokesman, is adopting the Barbour-ous refusal to reach out a saving hand to Americans drowning in this economy.

So, let me make a suggestion for Governors Jindal and Barbour. If you cannot join America in accepting our President's call to arms against disaster, if you reject our President's State of the Union - then leave the Union.

As the prescient Phil Ochs sang,

And here's to the government of Mississippi
In the swamp of their bureaucracy they're always bogging down...
...And the speeches of the governor are the ravings of a clown
Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

(c) 2009 Greg Palast is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow for Investigative Reporting at the Nation Institute, New York. Read the rest of this story by picking up his New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse Join Palast's Network on MySpace, on FaceBook or on YouTube.

Me And Obama; One Of Us Is Dead Wrong!
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning to the working people of the planet, your King of Simple News is on the air.

I'm wrapping up my little road trip today and as always, I saw many items of concern along with other signs of hope. Getting out and talking with people from different regions of our country and many vacationing Canadians gave me deeper perspective for looking into the future.

The news channels continue to debate the subject of the President's bailout. Will it all work? If not, what parts will work? How will it help you? The short answers are, no, none, and forget it.

Until such time that we deal with the cause of the illness, we will find no cure. Left alone, the economy would heal itself. The important jobs and necessary jobs would continue and the make believe jobs would not. The obvious quandary is that over the years we have created millions upon millions of the make-believe jobs.

The number one job in the U.S. from a sheer numbers standpoint is that of a retail sales clerk. The second most popular is a cashier. This is not surprising for a country that depends on power shopping with credit cards as our main economic basis.

Shopping is currently, shall we say, having some issues. As we watch the inability to use a home as an ever increasing collateral source, collide with the hierarchy of actual needs, it becomes evident that our little game of borrow and spend is over. And so is the sales clerk and cashier jobs.

Retail and office space is now standing vacant and as I reported months ago, the fall of commercial real estate will be the next major shoe to fall.

Can we avoid this unfortunate end to power shopping as a basis for our ongoing economy? No, it was never sustainable. Retail power shopping was merely supported by a mirror image of borrowing.

We are now seeing entire commercial/retail sectors go dark. Along with the demise of the commercial sectors will go the millions of temporary jobs that were created to support this phantom economy.

The ripple effect of a failing retail sector will have far greater consequences than is being reported. The manufacturers, suppliers, landlords, tax base, transports, and communities at large will suffer mightily from the collapse of the frivolous retail trade that existed purely on the basis of ever increasing debt.

Government however doesn't see it that way at all. They believe that since the public can no longer borrow money due to being totally tapped out, it is government's obligation to borrow money from foreign governments and pass it out for pet projects that will further indebt the already broke public.

Mr. Obama tells us five times per day that he inherited this excessive deficit. In other works, "It ain't my fault." He talks about the deficit as if it were a very bad thing. His solution to getting us out of a very bad thing is to run an even greater deficit, but it ain't his fault.

So how is more debt going to get us out of the mess that we are in? Growth, growth, growth, growth, growth and more growth upon which to collect taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, and more taxes.

So what if the growth doesn't materialize? Let's reduce this thing to Mikeronomics for a moment. What if you bought a home with no money down on an adjustable rate mortgage and was counting on your wages going up at a greater rate than the mortgage payment and your wages didn't go up? What if your wages not only didn't increase, but in fact decreased?

In the new MicrObama Admistration, you could have your home loan reduced in both principal and interest to fit your wages. But what if you lived in the real world where the exact sciences of math and physics dictated the outcome, rather than social sciences?

In this make believe real world of reality that I talk about, the U.S. has run deficits for as long as any of us can remember. In the very best economic years in the U.S., we haven't been able to pay our bills, so we put the difference on the kids account because they don't get to vote. We promise that growth will be so massive that it will eventually make up the difference in the necessary tax collection.

What would happen in this fictional real world of mine if the U.S. economy reached zenith and could no longer grow? What if we spent Trillions of borrowed dollars, put on a really big party, and no one showed up except for the free lunch? Then what?

As you know, I predicted many months ago that the U.S. has in fact reached economic zenith. Any future growth of GDP, when adjusted for increased debt, inflation, and per-capita share, will result in an actual decrease.

If I am correct, where will the money come from to support our growing cost of government? Where will the ever increasing population find work? Where will the funding sources for Medicare, Social Security, pensions, and general welfare be derived? These are only a few of the problems that would occur nearly immediately if growth were to stop.

But wait, growth did stop, we are officially in recession and all of these terrible things are already rushing toward us.

Don't worry though; President Obama doesn't believe a word that I say.
(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...

"They're worse than useless. These are terrorists. These are domestic terrorists. They want the country to fail, for God's sake. They want exactly what anyone who attacked this country on September 11, 2001 wanted. The real internal terrorists are the Republicans, I mean, isn't that clear? Rush Limbaugh is a bigger threat to this country than Osama bin Laden. He's a bigger threat than anybody that the CIA can invent. He's a bigger threat than any terrorist that ever leveled its sights against the United States, Limbaugh is, so why isn't he arrested and sentenced for treason?"
~~~ Mike Malloy

Toxins 'R' Us
By Amy Goodman

Is your lipstick laden with lead? Is your baby's bottle toxic? The American Chemistry Council assures us that "we make the products that help keep you safe and healthy." But U.S. consumers are actually exposed to a vast array of harmful chemicals and additives embedded in toys, cosmetics, plastic water bottles and countless other products. U.S. chemical and manufacturing industries have fought regulation, while Europe moves ahead with strict prohibitions against the most harmful toxins. The European Union says regulation is good for business, inspiring consumer confidence and saving money over the long term.

Most people would be surprised to learn that the cosmetics industry in the United States is largely unregulated. Investigative journalist Mark Schapiro is the author of "Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power." In the absence of oversight, researchers and journalists like Schapiro and grass-roots organizations have stepped into the breach.

Schapiro told me, "Whether it is your nail polish, eye shadow, shampoo, essentially personal-care products [are] not regulated by the [Food and Drug Administration]. ... Numerous times in the Senate, over the last 50 years, there have been efforts to expand the purview of the FDA, and it's been repeatedly beaten back by the cosmetics industry." Details on the toxins are hard to come by. Schapiro continued, "The reason I even know what kind of material is in cosmetics is not because the FDA has told us; it's actually because the European Union has taken the action to remove that stuff, and they have a list."

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics lists numerous toxins that appear regularly in cosmetics and personal-care products, among them lead and phthalates. Phthalates are linked to birth defects, including disruption of genital development in boys, decreased sperm counts and infertility. Lead appears in lipstick and hundreds of other products. The CSC reports that "lead ... is a proven neurotoxin-linked to learning, language and behavioral problems ... miscarriage, reduced fertility in both men and women, hormonal changes, menstrual irregularities and delays in puberty onset in girls." This is the stuff women and girls are putting on their lips all day, licking it off and reapplying.

The European Union, with 27 member nations representing almost half a billion people, is asserting itself on issues of toxins, using serious economic muscle. Stavros Dimas, European Union commissioner for environment, explained the long-term benefits of regulation: "The medical expenses for chemical-related diseases will be less. Medicines will not be needed. We will not lose working hours, and productivity will be better. So the overall benefits will by far outweigh costs to the industry."

Interestingly, because European countries pay a far larger share of their citizens' health-care costs than does the U.S., they want to keep costs down and they expect to save upward of $50 billion in coming decades, says Schapiro, as a result of the improved health and environmental conditions brought about by stricter chemical regulations.

In the wake of the 2007 China toy recall in the U.S. (because of lead found in the toys), Congress passed, and President George W. Bush signed, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. A key provision, mandating a ban of phthalate- and lead-containing products intended for children 12 years of age and younger, went into effect Feb. 10. If you bought a plastic toy before that date, beware: After the law passed last summer, some stores stuffed their shelves with tainted toys and sold them at fire-sale prices to unload their inventory.

Safe alternatives for toys, cosmetics, shampoos and other products are becoming increasingly available as demand for organic products grows. The difference between market forces limiting toxins and a law doing it, Schapiro says, is "if you have a law, it makes it far more equitable, because everybody gets the same protections, whether you have the resources or the knowledge to pursue the alternatives."

That is where the EU comes in, with its expansive and world-leading regulatory system in place (called "REACH," for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and restriction of CHemical substances). Schapiro notes, "The European-led revolution in chemical regulation requires that thousands of chemicals finally be assessed for their potentially toxic effects on human beings and signals the end of American industry's ability to withhold critical data from the public."

Tough regulations on toxins are not only essential to saving lives; they also make good business sense. The U.S. now has an opportunity to catch up to our European partners-and make changes that are more than just cosmetic.
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.

NAIS, Monsanto, And The Genetic Altering And Patenting Of Animal Breeds
By Barbara Peterson

First the Svalgaard Seedbank, then the Nordic Gene Bank for Farm Animals. The Nordic region seems to be a popular place for storing natural seeds and untainted animal genetic resources. The reasons for the Svalgaard Seedbank are clear enough. When the world is overcome by GM technology, and we the little people are forced to eat whatever genetic trait and/or trigger mechanism Monsanto et al have implanted in our Cheerios, the world's ruling elite will need a clean seed bank for their own food. Now we are seeing the beginnings of the same type of manipulation with our meat.

There are major changes influencing the animal production sector: 'livestock revolution' seen as increased global consumption of animal products, intensive and industrialized production systems, major environmental impacts, global warming, increased risks for pandemic diseases (even zoonoses), international trade of high-output breeds, narrow selection goals and loss of variation in breeding programmes, niche production with local breeds and growing interest in patenting. (NordGen Farm Animals, 2009) Note the last phrase: "growing interest in patenting." Ah, yes. Isn't that interesting.

In February 2005, Monsanto published multiple patent applications at the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. These proposed patents encompass nearly the entire lifespan of a pig destined for slaughter, from conception to selection. (Natural News, 2005)

When you patent something, you have control over it. Just ask the grain and veggie farmers who are being put out of business by Monsanto thugs if patenting our food supply is a good idea.Monsanto contaminates the fields, trespasses onto the land taking samples and if they find any GMO plants growing there (or say they have), they then sue, saying they own the crop. It's a way to make money since farmers can't fight back in court and they settle because they have no choice. (SMCC, 2009)

Now the Federal government wants to inflict NAIS on us in an attempt to force people who own any type of ranch or farm animal to allow tracking of their animals from birth to death, with stiff penalties imposed for not filling out the appropriate paperwork when your chicken crosses the road.

Now add it up. First Monsanto gets the okay by the Feds to inflict on the public, without their knowledge or consent, patented GMO seed technology. Our grocery shelves are loaded with genetically modified frankenfood, Monsanto is bankrupting farmers, and normal seeds are being put out of reach. Now Monsanto and company are attempting the same thing with our livestock. If NAIS goes through, our groceries will be filled with genetically modified meat, and of course, like the GMO grains and veggies, will require no labeling. The only ones who will be raising livestock are the big corporations, and any little guy who gets in their way will be effectively squashed by NAIS if his chicken happens to cross the road.
(c) 2009 Barbara H. Peterson is retired from the California Department of Corrections, where she worked as a Correctional Officer at Folsom Prison. She was one of the first females to work at the facility in this classification.

After retirement, she went to college online to obtain a Bachelor's degree in Business, and graduated with honors. The most valuable thing she received from her time with UOP was a realization that her life's passion is writing. Now her business degree sits in her desk drawer, and she counts herself in the category of Writer/Activist.

Barbara lives on a small ranch in Oregon with her husband, where they raise geese, chickens, Navajo Churro sheep, Oggie Dog, a variety of cats, and an opinionated Macaw named Rita. She believes that self-sufficiency and localization of food sources is necessary to survive the coming depression. To this end, she hopes that sharing information with others of like mind will lead to a brighter future where people reach out to each other and form small communities in which food is grown locally, and trade is established between neighbors.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Deputyfuhrer Blair,

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 constant attempt to scare and prepare Congress for martial law and the round-up of any and all protestors, 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 Blair, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Fox News "War Games" The Coming Civil War
With Obama in office for four weeks, Fox convenes military and intelligence officials to analyze -- and call for -- violent upheaval against the tyrannical federal government.
By Glenn Greenwald

Bill Clinton's election in 1992 gave rise to the American "militia movement": hordes of overwhelmingly white, middle-aged men from suburban and rural areas who convinced themselves they were defending the American way of life from the "liberals" and "leftists" running the country by dressing up in military costumes on weekends, wobbling around together with guns, and play-acting the role of patriot-warriors. Those theater groups -- the cultural precursor to George Bush's prancing 2003 performance dressed in a fighter pilot outfit on Mission Accomplished Day -- spawned the decade of the so-called "Angry White Male," the movement behind the 1994 takeover of the U.S. Congress by Newt Gingrich and his band of federal-government-cursing, play-acting-tough-guy, pseudo-revolutionaries.

What was most remarkable about this allegedly "anti-government" movement was that -- with some isolated and principled exceptions -- it completely vanished upon the election of Republican George Bush, and it stayed invisible even as Bush presided over the most extreme and invasive expansion of federal government power in memory. Even as Bush seized and used all of the powers which that movement claimed in the 1990s to find so tyrannical and unconstitutional -- limitless, unchecked surveillance activities, detention powers with no oversight, expanding federal police powers, secret prison camps, even massively exploding and debt-financed domestic spending -- they meekly submitted to all of it, even enthusiastically cheered it all on.

They're the same people who embraced and justified full-scale, impenetrable federal government secrecy and comprehensive domestic spying databases conducted in the dark and against the law when perpetrated by a Republican President -- but have spent the last week flamboyantly pretending to be scandalized and outraged by the snooping which Bill Moyers did 45 years ago (literally) as part of a Democratic administration. They're the people who relentlessly opposed and impugned Clinton's military deployments and then turned around and insisted that only those who are anti-American would question or oppose Bush's decision to start wars.

They're the same people who believed that Bill Clinton's use of the FISA court to obtain warrants to eavesdrop on Americans was a grave threat to liberty, but believed that George Bush's warrantless eavesdropping on Americans in violation of the law was a profound defense of freedom. In sum, they dressed up in warrior clothing to fight against Bill Clinton's supposed tyranny, and then underwent a major costume change on January 20, 2001, thereafter dressing up in cheerleader costumes to glorify George Bush's far more extreme acquisitions of federal power.

In doing so, they revealed themselves as motivated by no ideological principles or political values of any kind. It was a purely tribalistic movement motivated by fear of losing its cultural and demographic supremacy. In that sense -- the only sense that mattered -- George Bush was one of them, even though, with his actions, he did everything they long claimed to fear and despise. Nonetheless, his mere occupancy of the White House was sufficient to pacify them and convert them almost overnight from limited-government militants into foot soldiers supporting the endless expansion of federal government power.

But now, only four weeks into the presidency of Barack Obama, they are back -- angrier and more chest-beating than ever. Actually, the mere threat of an Obama presidency was enough to revitalize them from their eight-year slumber, awaken them from their camouflaged, well-armed suburban caves. The disturbingly ugly atmosphere that marked virtually every Sarah Palin rally had its roots in this cultural resentment, which is why her fear-mongering cultural warnings about his exotic, threatening otherness -- he's a Muslim-loving, Terrorist-embracing, Rev.-Wright-following Marxist: who is the real Barack Obama? -- resonated so stingingly with the rabid lynch mobs that cheered her on.

With Obama now actually in the Oval Office -- and a financial crisis in full force that is generating the exact type of widespread, intense anxiety that typically inflames these cultural resentments -- their mask is dropping, has dropped, and they've suddenly re-discovered their righteous "principles." The week-long CNBC Revolt of the Traders led by McCain voter Rick Santelli and the fledgling little Tea Party movement promoted by the Michelle Malkins of the world are obvious outgrowths of this 1990s mentality, now fortified by the most powerful fuel: deep economic fear. But as feisty and fire-breathing as those outbursts are, nothing can match -- for pure, illustrative derangement -- the discussion below from Glenn Beck's new Fox show this week, in which he and an array of ex-military and CIA guests ponder (and plot and plan) "war games" for the coming Civil War against Obama-led tyranny. It really has to be seen to be believed.

Before presenting that to you, a few caveats are in order: There is nothing inherently wrong or illegitimate with citizens expressing extreme anger towards the Government and the ruling political class. There isn't even anything wrong or illegitimate with citizens organizing themselves into a movement that -- whether by design or effect -- is threatening to entrenched elites. If anything, we've had too little of that. In fact, it's only a complete lack of fear of a meek, passive and impotent citizenry on the part of political and financial rulers -- a certainty that there will be no consequences no matter what they do -- that could have given rise to the endless corruption, deceit, lawbreaking, destruction, and outright thievery of the last eight years. A political and financial elite that perceives itself as invulnerable from threat or consequence will inevitably vest itself with more power and more riches. That's what we've had and, largely, still have.

But this Rush-Limbaugh/Fox-News/nationalistic movement isn't driven by anything noble or principled or even really anything political. If it were, they would have been extra angry and threatening and rebellious during the Bush years instead of complicit and meek and supportive to the point of cult-like adoration. Instead, they're just basically Republican dead-enders (at least what remains of the regional/extremist GOP), grounded in tribal allegiances that are fueled by their cultural, ethnic and religious identities and by perceived threats to past prerogatives -- now spiced with legitimate economic anxiety and an African-American President who, they were continuously warned for the last two years, is a Marxist, Terrorist-sympathizing black nationalist radical who wants to re-distribute their hard-earned money to welfare queens and illegal immigrants (and is now doing exactly that).

That's the context for this Glenn Beck "War Games" show on Fox News this week -- one promoted, with some mild and obligatory caveats, by Michelle Malkin's Hot Air. In the segment below, he convened a panel that includes former CIA officer Michael Scheuer and Ret. U.S. Army Sgt. Major Tim Strong. They discuss a coming "civil war" led by American "Bubba" militias -- Beck says he "believes we're on this road" -- and they contemplate whether the U.S. military would follow the President's orders to subdue civil unrest or would instead join with "the people" in defense of their Constitutional rights against the Government (they agree that the U.S. military would be with "the people"):

They don't seem very interested in bipartisanship and in transcending ideological divisions.

Immediately prior to that segment, Fox viewers were warned (as usual) that the unruly, uncivilized, violent Muslims are coming, and only Benjamin Netanyahu will be able to subdue them with a massive attack:

In one sense, all of this drooling rage is nothing more than the familiar face of extreme right-wing paranoia, as Richard Hofstadter famously described 45 years ago:

The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms-he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point. Like religious millenialists he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date fort the apocalypse. ("Time is running out," said Welch in 1951. "Evidence is piling up on many sides and from many sources that October 1952 is the fatal month when Stalin will attack.")

But it's now inflamed by declining imperial power, genuine economic crises, an exotic Other occupying the White House, and potent technology harnessed by right-wing corporations such as Fox News to broadcast and disseminate it widely and continuously. At the very least, it's worth taking note of. And I wonder what would happen if MSNBC broadcast a similar discussion of leftists plotting and planning the imminent, violent Socialist Revolution against the U.S. Government.
(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.

'Entitlements' Take A Bum Rap
By Marie Cocco

Now that so many of us have been whipsawed financially, it is time to wipe the term entitlement reform out of the political dictionary.

The phrase is a monument to the dark art of disinformation. Its premise is that federal "entitlements"-that is, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid-are bankrupting the country and weighting down generations of younger Americans with the extraordinary burden of caring for their aging parents and grandparents.

People bought the propaganda-at least until an irresponsible consumer credit binge, rapacious banks and rampant speculation began bankrupting the country and weighting down generations of Americans, young and old. Now we have to deconstruct decades of this disinformation about the "entitlement crisis" before policymakers can confront whatever crisis really is at hand.

First, Social Security isn't part of it, and never has been. Medicare and Medicaid are costly and burdensome not because they are "entitlements" but because they are part of the foundering American health insurance system-a system that is costly and burdensome.

President Obama knows this. Yet he continues to lend too much of his credibility to the conventional thinking, shaped by decades of conservative rhetoric and backed by far too many Democrats, that somehow the "entitlement" crisis has to be confronted-and now. Notably, many of the people who are perennially warning of this crisis are the very sages who said it could be solved by creating private savings accounts to replace much of the guaranteed monthly benefit that Social Security provides. Just think how well that would have worked out.

Why should we believe this crowd now?

You would think that with 401(k) balances shrinking, housing markets collapsing and the broader economy crumbling, Obama would have more pressing worries than concerns about fixing a program that has worked well for more than seven decades. Yet in the run-up to Monday's "fiscal responsibility" summit, the president unwisely conveyed the sentiment that Social Security must be fixed-and soon. He invited to the meeting some of the soothsayers whose dogma on Social Security has been proved wrong again and again.

At least we now know that with 130 participants, this "summit" is unlikely to produce concrete results. And that's good.

"Social Security is the most fiscally responsible part of the entire federal budget," says Nancy Altman, who was a top aide to Alan Greenspan when the 1983 commission headed by Greenspan really did have to avert an imminent crisis. "Social Security is in surplus for the next two decades."

And beyond that, the system can pay full benefits through 2041, according to the Social Security trustees-or 2049, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Rather than feed the myth that Social Security is part of an entitlement "crisis," Obama should seize this moment to debunk it. To do so he must rhetorically divorce Social Security from Medicare and Medicaid.

Even though costs are growing swiftly, this doesn't represent a crisis in Medicare or even the state-based Medicaid system for the poor. It's a crisis in health care.

Independent studies have repeatedly shown that Medicare is as efficient-in many ways, more so-than the private insurance industry. The Kaiser Family Foundation, an independent health research organization, says that between 1970 and 2005, the growth in annual Medicare spending per beneficiary has been about a percentage point less than the growth in spending by private health insurers. This is so even though Medicare's elderly patients are far more likely to be sick and need care than the younger population served by private insurers.

So the real problem in Medicare's financing can't accurately be described as one of "runaway" entitlement spending. It's yet another case of political rhetoric running away from the facts.

The president says he wants to address long-term budget problems that were neglected-indeed, worsened-by his predecessor. There's nothing wrong with that. But first the public has to understand what the problems really are. At the moment, it doesn't. That's partly because the current dire economic circumstances are likely to require years of deficit spending just to keep the downturn from worsening. But it's also because we've been bombarded with false claims and over-the-top warnings about Social Security and Medicare that often have come from those who are ideologically opposed to these programs anyway.

When it comes to entitlements, the last thing we need is an "entitlement commission." What we really need is a truth commission._
(c) 2009 Marie Cocco

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Dana Summers ~~~

W The Movie Trailer

To End On A Happy Note...

The Rogue
By Doug Payne

Did you consider the pain
waiting for us at the border?
Did you proudly sign your name
authorising the order.

Did your follow through go smoothly
and the tee shot straight up the fairway?
Did you contemplate the cruelty
in the bunkers and sand far away?

With all your heart and soul
you sing to the Star Spangled Banner
and the little things you control
for a CNN camera.

A rogue tee shot strikes the first lady
For an hour the free world must stall
as an Afghani looks for her baby
for a lifetime where rogue missiles fall.

But you're standing in all the right pictures.
Your spin doctors control the light.
With occasional quotes from the scriptures,
you help us continue the fight.

Do you feel that you're walking with Jesus?
Is he guiding you straight down the fairway?
But what will he think when he sees us?
What will he say judgment day?
What will he think when he sees us?
What will he say judgment day?
(c) 2007/2009 Doug Payne

Have You Seen This...


Parting Shots...

Madoff Blames Ponzi Scheme On Youth, Immaturity
Was Only in His Sixties, Financier Explains
By Andy Borowitz

Disgraced financier Bernie Madoff offered a partial mea culpa for his massive Ponzi scheme today, telling reporters that he blamed his "youth and immaturity" for his poor judgment in the matter.

"You have to understand, when this scheme really got out of hand I was only a lad in my sixties," Mr. Madoff said.

Reflecting on his role in the fraud, which wound up bilking $50 billion from unwitting investors, Mr. Madoff said, "I think I felt under pressure to become the biggest scumbag of all time."

But Mr. Madoff pleaded for understanding, explaining, "You do all kinds of crazy things when you're at an impressionable age like 60 or 61."

In the interest of "giving something back," Mr. Madoff said he hoped to make a tour of investment houses and warn brokers in their forties and fifties against starting Ponzi schemes of their own: "I want to get to them while they're still kids."

In other business news, GM and Chrysler revealed their rescue plans, which call for the two auto giants to stop making cars and become banks instead.

After reviewing the size of the bailouts that the government has offered to the nation's banks, GM chairman Rick Wagoner said, "Only a total loser would keep making cars."

The CEOs of GM and Chrysler said that in their first official act as banks they would award themselves $10 million bonuses and fly to the Cayman Islands.

Elsewhere, keeping a 200-lb chimp as a pet and giving it drugs could lead to regrettable consequences, according to a report in the latest issue of Duh magazine.
(c) 2009 Andy Borowitz

The Gross National Debt

Zeitgeist The Movie...

Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 9 (c) 02/27/2009

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