Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Frank Rich examines, "The Axis Of The Obsessed And Deranged."

Uri Avnery tells a little, "White Lie."

Paul Craig Roberts explores, "The Road To Armageddon."

Cynthia McKinney is, "Live In Barcelona With The Russell Tribunal On Palestine."

Jim Hightower looks at, "Toyota's Friends."

Jessica Arons reviews, "The World According To Stupak."

Greg Palast reports, "Liberian Leader Urges MPs To Back Action Against Vulture Funds."

Paul Krugman plays the, "Financial Reform Endgame."

Chris Floyd reveals, "Chilly Scenes Of Winter."

Case Wagenvoord goes, "In Praise Of Rahm Emanuel."

Mike Folkerth wonders, "Who Could Have Possibly Known?"

Chris Hedges says, "Ralph Nader Was Right About Barack Obama."

David Michael Green sings, "Bipartisan Is Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Win."

Senator Jim Bunning wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Joe Conason demands that we, "Shut Down Jim Bunning's 'Charitable' Fraud."

Mary Pitt returns with a great idea, "TP The Republicans."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Landover Baptist Church tells, "The Terrifying Truth About Saint Patrick!" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "The Nation That Tortures Together..."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Rick McKee, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea, Derf City, Daryl Cagle, Nate Beeler, Patriot Says, The BBC, AP, United Artists, the Herziliya Conference and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

The Nation That Tortures Together..."
Debauchers together
By Ernest Stewart

"I mean, we've had all these awful pictures from the prison in Iraq and these sort of memos floating around about justifying torture, all this kind of stuff. And it makes you want to take a shower, you know?" ~~~ Ron Reagan

"Eventually this [declining fertility rates] will happen among the Palestinians too. But it will happen faster if the west stops pro-natal subsidies for Palestinians with refugee status. Those subsidies are one reason why Gaza's population grew between 1997-2007 by an astonishing 40%. Israel's present sanctions on Gaza have a political aim...but they also break Gaza's runaway population growth and there is some evidence that they have." ~~~ Martin Kramer

"The American people want to know if it's still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their future. They are waiting for us to act. They are waiting for us to lead. And as long as I hold this office, I intend to provide that leadership. I don't know how this plays politically, but I know it's right. And so I ask Congress to finish its work, and I look forward to signing this reform into law." ~~~ President Barack Obama

Our use of official torture was given a boost the other day when the Demoncrats who control Con-gress backpedaled under pressure from Rethuglican whining. The Rethuglicans didn't like a provision that would have given our torturers up to fifteen years for each and every act of torture they committed and five years per act to every doctor who okayed the torture. So we don't torture, huh? As Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), the top Rethuglican on the intelligence committee, put it,

Annual intelligence bill should be about protecting and defending our nation, not targeting those we ask to do 'that deed' and giving greater protections to terrorists.

That's right, no matter what Barry says:

When London was being bombed to smithereens, (the British) had 200 or so detainees and Churchill said, 'we don't torture'. The reason was that Churchill understood; you start taking shortcuts and, over time, that corrodes what's best in people. It corrodes the best of the country.

We torture. Even though we know from experience that torture doesn't work, we torture. As any torturer down in Gitmo will testify, even after torturing men and children for years, 98% of them were released as it turned out that they really were the shop keepers, teachers and children they claimed to be. Funny thing now is that the politicians are amazed that some of them have joined in the fight against us. I wonder why, don't you? Like Iraqis who used to like us before we murdered over one million of them and sent another four million running for their lives, now they hate us. Most politicians say they hate us for our freedoms instead of our actions! Is there anybody really that stupid?

As any intelligence agent from WWII will tell you, the best way to find out the truth is to treat the prisoner with respect and courtesy. We treated the captured Germans that way, as one soldier to the other, and they told us everything they knew. They told us quickly, accurately and to the point.

Of course, we've always tortured, even before this country was a nation. All the "witches" at the Salem Witchcraft Trials were tortured into confessions, well with one exception. Giles Corey refused to enter a plea to being a witch and was crushed to death under heavy stones in an attempt to force him to confess. Officially sanctioned American torture from 1692! Most of the founding fathers were torturers as most of them were slave owners. Old Thomas Jefferson, the genius who wrote the Declaration of Independence, was a rapist and slaveholder, as was the richest man in America at the time, George Washington. Not only was Washington a slave owner, but as president he practiced official genocide against the Indians in Kentucky and Tennessee. In fact, all the presidents through McKinley practiced genocide on the Indians! Don't hear much about that, do you?

The difference is that since the Civil War, torture was never official policy until our West Taxus Prairie Monkey came along and made it so. And, as you have no doubt seen, Obama has adopted torture and defended it as his own no matter what lip service he pays to the opposite! You may recall that waterboarding is an old American tradition as the cover of the Life Magazine from May 22, 1902 testifies, of course in those days if you were caught doing it you got a stiff jail sentence not a pat on the back and a raise in salary!

So this week's bill puts the House and Senate behind official state torture, too. We'll soon get to see the effects of our torture when they try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who was waterboarded 183 times before he told them what they wanted to hear. What you have to ask yourself, America, is how many times will they waterboard you before you tell them what they want to hear? You do recall that we do torture and murder our own citizens without trial, don't you? Ask Director of National Intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, how this works!

In Other News

Martin Kramer is the Harvard "fellow" who is in a battle of one upsmanship with fellow Zionazi, Israeli fifth columnist, traitor, and Harvard prof Alan Dershowitz, to see who can bring the greatest amount of shame on Harvard and America. These two would-be genocidal maniacs are going to have to get off the rhetoric and put fascist theories into practice if they want to be remembered with some of the truly sick Muthers who have called Harvard home.

For example, neither can hold a candle to mass murders the likes of George W. Bush, Barrak Obama, Theodore J. Kaczynski, Amy Bishop, Henry Kissinger and Cotton Mather. Cotton, whose book; "Memorable Providences Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions," was used by the prosecution at the Salem Witch Trials. Cotton also wrote the "Magnalia Christi Americana," which gave the green light to stealing all the Indian lands in America and who was, like his father Increase Mather, a president of Harvard!

Or the people who have destroyed our economy such as Jeffrey K. Skilling, former CEO of Enron and Eugene N. Plotkin, a former Goldman Sachs employee indicted for insider trading. Let's not forget Ben Bernanke and Paul Volcker, both of whom helped create through the Fed our current financial tragedy to begin with!

We should also remember members of the judiciary who are Harvard grads. Anthony (fat Tony) Kennedy, John (the enforcer) Roberts, William (the fixer) Rehnquist, Antonin (light-fingers) Scalia and Con-gress person Katherine (Hot Lips) Harris who helped the Supremes commit sedition by putting Bush into office in their 12-12-200 judicial coup d'etat!

Nor should we forget those mainstream media types who made our current situation possible with their constant barrages of lies and bullshit, i.e., Nicholas D. Kristof, William Kristol, Bill O'Reilly and Lou Dobbs. They're all Harvard grads as well.

So if Martin, who has hit upon the final solution to the Palestinian question, wants to be remembered, he must see that his idea of starving the babies in occupied Palestine to death gets started. Martin thinks in order to protect Israel from retribution for their Holocaust of Palestinians he'll just stop Palestinian's births today. That's right boys and girls; Martin would have us and everybody else cease all food aid but especially aid for pregnant women. He wants to do this so that Palestinian babies all die which I guess means his solution for the starving adult Palestinians would be one that Jonathan Swift joked about, i.e., eating their babies to survive. Whether or not Martin grows a pair or not, he is certainly upholding old Harvard traditions of mass murder and economic destruction as anyone can plainly see! Don't be surprised if Harvard makes Martin a Prof and gives him tenure!

And Finally

Well it's official. Barry's getting ready to sell us down the river once again. Not only will we be forced to buy insurance under penalty of, who knows, death?, but he's adding even more Rethuglican ideas into the already stinking pot. Yes, he'll be paying for part of this by stealing from the retired poor (so look out granny) and, much like the bank bailout, this "Health Insurance Company Protection Act of 2010" will cost trillions with little help for the ones that actually need it. Of course, the insurance goons will be swimming in dough which is what this is all about!

Fortunately for about 30 million uninsured, this won't apply to them. I'm guessing that it's the really poor folks who won't be forced to take their food money and send it in to some corpo-rat goon. Sure we've heard some Mumbo Jumbo about tax credits for the poor, but in case you haven't noticed, there are about 70 million people, including children, suffering from lack of work and tax credits won't do a thing for them, will it? You've got to have an income before an income tax credit will help and, of course, the poor don't make enough to be taxed so the tax credit won't help them either!

I watched the video and should have taken notes as when I came back to do so it was gone nor had the speech been put up at the White House, just a few sound bites which, of course, were totally useless. For example, Barry said something to the effect of, if Health Care were easy they would have done it years ago. Of course, that is an out-and-out lie. Health Care for all is easy, so easy that every other industrial nation on the planet has health care for all. After his State of the Union speech where he said about any new ideas for health care, "...let me know. Let me know. Let me know. I'm eager to see it." So I wrote and told him what it was, like he didn't already know, but since he's been bought and paid for by his corpo-rat masters there was never any real consideration of it. Although, I might add, that he was all for it when he was running for office but since he was elected, it's not an option. Imagine that!

It's simple really, as I've pointed out so many times before. If you have insurance and are happy with your death panels and all, your preconditions etc., then, by all means, continue to buy it. If not, you can get Medicare for free (you are paying taxes for it already) with a few improvements to the existing Medicare. Simple huh? Everybody is insured. What keeps this from happening is the insurance companies which would soon be out of business, except of course, for Life Insurance, Car Insurance, House Insurance, Boat Insurance, Bike Insurance, Flood Insurance, etc., etc., etc. But the insurance goons' puppets in the Rethuglican and Demoncratic parties will have none of that because the one thing that they know how to do is take a bribe!

Of course, we could get real lucky and it won't pass? Yeah, when was the last time we were real lucky?

Oh And One More Thing

It's that time of year once again when those income tax checks come a rollin' in. If you're getting one, please think of us because we always think of you! We desperately need your help to keep publishing. Please send us what you can and not only will we be extremely grateful but we'll see that it goes to good use in the struggle to reclaim our Republic! Please, do whatever you can. We need your help.


04-09-1919 ~ 02-26-2010
Thanks for the visions!


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


So how do you like Bush Lite so far?
And more importantly, what are you planning on doing about it?

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2010 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 9 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine.

The Axis Of The Obsessed And Deranged
By Frank Rich

No one knows what history will make of the present - least of all journalists, who can at best write history's sloppy first draft. But if I were to place an incautious bet on which political event will prove the most significant of February 2010, I wouldn't choose the kabuki health care summit that generated all the ink and 24/7 cable chatter in Washington. I'd put my money instead on the murder-suicide of Andrew Joseph Stack III, the tax protester who flew a plane into an office building housing Internal Revenue Service employees in Austin, Tex., on Feb. 18. It was a flare with the dark afterlife of an omen.

What made that kamikaze mission eventful was less the deranged act itself than the curious reaction of politicians on the right who gave it a pass - or, worse, flirted with condoning it. Stack was a lone madman, and it would be both glib and inaccurate to call him a card-carrying Tea Partier or a "Tea Party terrorist." But he did leave behind a manifesto whose frothing anti-government, anti-tax rage overlaps with some of those marching under the Tea Party banner. That rant inspired like-minded Americans to create instant Facebook shrines to his martyrdom. Soon enough, some cowed politicians, including the newly minted Tea Party hero Scott Brown, were publicly empathizing with Stack's credo - rather than risk crossing the most unforgiving brigade in their base.

Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, even rationalized Stack's crime. "It's sad the incident in Texas happened," he said, "but by the same token, it's an agency that is unnecessary. And when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the I.R.S., it's going to be a happy day for America." No one in King's caucus condemned these remarks. Then again, what King euphemized as "the incident" took out just 1 of the 200 workers in the Austin building: Vernon Hunter, a 68-year-old Vietnam veteran nearing his I.R.S. retirement. Had Stack the devastating weaponry and timing to match the death toll of 168 inflicted by Timothy McVeigh on a federal building in Oklahoma in 1995, maybe a few of the congressman's peers would have cried foul.

It is not glib or inaccurate to invoke Oklahoma City in this context, because the acrid stench of 1995 is back in the air. Two days before Stack's suicide mission, The Times published David Barstow's chilling, months-long investigation of the Tea Party movement. Anyone who was cognizant during the McVeigh firestorm would recognize the old warning signs re-emerging from the mists of history. The Patriot movement. "The New World Order," with its shadowy conspiracies hatched by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. Sandpoint, Idaho. White supremacists. Militias.

Barstow confirmed what the Southern Poverty Law Center had found in its report last year: the unhinged and sometimes armed anti-government right that was thought to have vaporized after its Oklahoma apotheosis is making a comeback. And now it is finding common cause with some elements of the diverse, far-flung and still inchoate Tea Party movement. All it takes is a few self-styled "patriots" to sow havoc.

Equally significant is Barstow's finding that most Tea Party groups have no affiliation with the G.O.P. despite the party's ham-handed efforts to co-opt them. The more we learn about the Tea Partiers, the more we can see why. They loathe John McCain and the free-spending, TARP-tainted presidency of George W. Bush. They really do hate all of Washington, and if they hate Obama more than the Republican establishment, it's only by a hair or two. (Were Obama not earning extra demerits in some circles for his race, it might be a dead heat.) The Tea Partiers want to eliminate most government agencies, starting with the Fed and the I.R.S., and end spending on entitlement programs. They are not to be confused with the Party of No holding forth in Washington - a party that, after all, is now positioning itself as a defender of Medicare spending. What we are talking about here is the Party of No Government at All.

The distinction between the Tea Party movement and the official G.O.P. is real, and we ignore it at our peril. While Washington is fixated on the natterings of Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Michael Steele and the presumed 2012 Republican presidential front-runner, Mitt Romney, these and the other leaders of the Party of No are anathema or irrelevant to most Tea Partiers. Indeed, McConnell, Romney and company may prove largely irrelevant to the overall political dynamic taking hold in America right now. The old G.O.P. guard has no discernible national constituency beyond the scattered, often impotent remnants of aging country club Republicanism. The passion on the right has migrated almost entirely to the Tea Party's counterconservatism.

The leaders embraced by the new grass roots right are a different slate entirely: Glenn Beck, Ron Paul and Sarah Palin. Simple math dictates that none of this trio can be elected president. As George F. Will recently pointed out, Palin will not even be the G.O.P. nominee "unless the party wants to lose at least 44 states" (as it did in Barry Goldwater's 1964 Waterloo). But these leaders do have a consistent ideology, and that ideology plays to the lock-and-load nutcases out there, not just to the peaceable (if riled up) populist conservatives also attracted to Tea Partyism. This ideology is far more troubling than the boilerplate corporate conservatism and knee-jerk obstructionism of the anti-Obama G.O.P. Congressional minority.

In the days after Stack's Austin attack, the gradually coalescing Tea Party dogma had its Washington coming out party at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), across town from Capitol Hill. The most rapturously received speaker was Beck, who likened the G.O.P. to an alcoholic in need of a 12-step program to recover from its "progressive-lite" collusion with federal government. Beck vilified an unnamed Republican whose favorite president was the progressive Theodore Roosevelt - that would be McCain - and ominously labeled progressivism a cancer that "must be cut out of the system."

A co-sponsor of CPAC was the John Birch Society, another far-right organization that has re-emerged after years of hibernation. Its views, which William F. Buckley Jr. decried in the 1960s as an "idiotic" and "irrational" threat to true conservatism, remain unchanged. At the conference's conclusion, a presidential straw poll was won by Congressman Paul, ending a three-year Romney winning streak. No less an establishment conservative observer than the Wall Street Journal editorialist Dorothy Rabinowitz describes Paul's followers as "conspiracy theorists, anti-government zealots, 9/11 truthers, and assorted other cadres of the obsessed and deranged."

William Kristol dismissed the straw poll results as the youthful folly of Paul's jejune college fans. William Bennett gingerly pooh-poohed Beck's anti-G.O.P. diatribe. But in truth, most of the CPAC speakers, including presidential aspirants, were so eager to ingratiate themselves with this claque that they endorsed the Beck-Paul vision rather than, say, defend Bush, McCain or the party's Congressional leadership. (It surely didn't help Romney's straw poll showing that he was the rare Bush defender.) And so - just one day after Stack crashed his plane into the Austin I.R.S. office - the heretofore milquetoast Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty, told the audience to emulate Tiger Woods's wife and "take a 9-iron and smash the window out of big government in this country."

Such violent imagery and invective, once largely confined to blogs and talk radio, is now spreading among Republicans in public office or aspiring to it. Last year Michele Bachmann, the redoubtable Tea Party hero and Minnesota congresswoman, set the pace by announcing that she wanted "people in Minnesota armed and dangerous" to oppose Obama administration climate change initiatives. In Texas, the Tea Party favorite for governor, Debra Medina, is positioning herself to the right of the incumbent, Rick Perry - no mean feat given that Perry has suggested that Texas could secede from the union. A state sovereignty zealot, Medina reminded those at a rally that "the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots."

In the heyday of 1960s left-wing radicalism, no liberal Democratic politicians in Washington could be found endorsing groups preaching violent revolution. The right has a different history. In the months before McVeigh's mass murder, Helen Chenoweth and Steve Stockman, then representing Idaho and Texas in Congress, publicly empathized with the conspiracy theories of the far right that fueled his anti-government obsessions.

In his Times article on the Tea Party right, Barstow profiled Pam Stout, a once apolitical Idaho retiree who cast her lot with a Tea Party group allied with Beck's 9/12 Project, the Birch Society and the Oath Keepers, a rising militia group of veterans and former law enforcement officers who champion disregarding laws they oppose. She frets that "another civil war" may be in the offing. "I don't see us being the ones to start it," she told Barstow,

"but I would give up my life for my country."

Whether consciously or coincidentally, Stout was echoing Palin's memorable final declaration during her appearance at the National Tea Party Convention earlier this month: "I will live, I will die for the people of America, whatever I can do to help." It's enough to make you wonder who is palling around with terrorists now.
(c) 2010 Frank Rich ~~~ New York Times

White Lie
By Uri Avnery

THIS COMING Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Israel will consider an application by a group of Israeli citizens to compel the Interior Ministry to register them as belonging to the "Israeli nation."

Odd? Indeed.

The Israeli Interior Ministry recognizes 126 nations, but not the Israeli nation. An Israeli citizen can be registered as belonging to the Assyrian, the Tatar or the Circassian nation. But the Israeli nation? Sorry, no such thing.

According to the official doctrine, the State of Israel cannot recognize an "Israeli" nation because it is the state of the "Jewish" nation. In other words, it belongs to the Jews of Brooklyn, Budapest and Buenos Aires, even though these consider themselves as belonging to the American, Hungarian or Argentine nations.

Messy? Indeed.

THIS MESS started 113 years ago, when the Viennese Journalist Theodor Herzl wrote his book "The State of the Jews". (That's the true translation. The generally used name "The Jewish State" is false and means something else.) For this purpose he had to perform an acrobatic exercise. One can say that he used a white lie.

Modern Zionism was born as a direct response to modern anti-Semitism. Not by accident, the term "Zionismus" came into being some 20 years after the term "Antisemitismus" was invented in Germany. They are twins.

In Europe and the Americas another modern term was flourishing: Nationalism. Peoples which had been living together for centuries under dynasties of Emperors and Kings wanted to belong to nation-states of their own. In Argentina, the USA, France and other countries, "national" revolutions took place. The idea infected almost all peoples, big, small and tiny, from Peru to Lithuania, from Colombia to Serbia. They felt a need to belong to the place and the people where they lived and died.

All these national movements were necessarily anti-Semitic, some more, some less, because the very existence of the Jewish Diaspora ran counter to their basic perceptions. A Diaspora without a homeland, dispersed over dozens of countries, could not be reconciled with the idea of a homeland-rooted nation seeking uniformity.

Herzl understood that the new reality was inherently dangerous for the Jews. In the beginning he cherished the idea of complete assimilation: all the Jews would be baptized and disappear in the new nations. As a professional writer for the theater, he even devised the scenario: all Viennese Jews would march together to St. Stephen's cathedral and be baptized en masse.

When he realized that this scenario was a bit far-fetched, Herzl passed from the idea of individual assimilation to what may be called collective assimilation: if there is no place for the Jews in the new nations, then they should define themselves as a nation like all the others, rooted in a homeland of their own and living in a state of their own. This idea was called Zionism.

BUT THERE was a problem: a Jewish nation did not exist. The Jews were not a nation but a religious-ethnic community.

A nation exists on one level of human society, a religious-ethnic community on another. A "nation" is an entity living together in one country with a common political will. A "community" is a religious entity based on a common faith, which can live in different countries. A German, for example, can be Catholic or Protestant; a Catholic can be German or French.

These two types of entity have two different means of survival, much as different species in nature. When a lion is in danger, it fights, it attacks. For that purpose, nature has equipped it with teeth and claws. When a gazelle is in danger, it runs. Nature has given it quick legs. Every method is good, if it is effective. (If it were not effective, the species would not have survived to this day.)

When a nation is in danger, it stands and fights. When a religious community is in danger, it moves elsewhere. The Jews, more than any others, have perfected the art of escape. Even after the horrors of the Holocaust, the Jewish Diaspora has survived and now, two generations later, it is again flourishing.

IN ORDER to invent a Jewish nation, Herzl had to ignore this difference. He pretended that the Jewish ethnic-religious community was also a Jewish nation. In other words: contrary to all other peoples, the Jews were both a nation and a religious community; as far as Jews were concerned, the two were the same. The nation was a religion, the religion was a nation.

This was the "white lie". There was no other way: without it, Zionism could not have come into being. The new movement took the Star of David from the synagogue, the candlestick from the Temple, the blue-and-white flag from the prayer shawl. The holy land became a homeland. Zionism filled the religious symbols with secular, national content.

The first to detect the falsification were the Orthodox Rabbis. Almost all of them damned Herzl and his Zionism in no uncertain terms. The most extreme was the Rabbi of Lubavitch, who accused Herzl of destroying Judaism. The Jews, he wrote, are united by their adherence to God's commandments. Doctor Herzl wants to supplant this God-given bond with secular nationalism.

When Herzl originated the Zionist idea, he did not intend to found the "State of the Jews" in Palestine, but in Argentina. Even when writing his book, he devoted to the country only a few lines, under the headline "Palestine or Argentina?" However, the movement he created compelled him to divert his endeavors to the Land of Israel, and so the state came into being here.

When the State of Israel was founded and the Zionist dream realized, there was no further need for the "white lie". After the building was finished, the scaffolding should have been removed. A real Israeli nation had come into being, there was no further need for an imaginary one.

THESE DAYS Israel's largest newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, is running a TV ad showing selected past issues. The day the State of Israel was founded, the giant headline announced: "Hebrew State!"

"Hebrew", not "Jewish". And not by accident: at that time, the term "Jewish state" sounded decidedly strange. In the preceding years, people in this country had got used to making a clear distinction between "Jewish" and "Hebrew", between matters that belonged to the Diaspora and those belonging to this country: Jewish Diaspora, Jewish language (Yiddish), Jewish Stetl, Jewish religion, Jewish tradition - but Hebrew language, Hebrew agriculture, Hebrew industries, Hebrew underground organizations, Hebrew policemen.

If so, why do the words "Jewish state" appear in our Declaration of Independence? There was a simple reason for that: the UN had adopted a resolution to partition the country between an "Arab state" and a "Jewish state". That was the legal basis of the new state. The declaration, which was drafted in haste, said therefore that we were establishing "the Jewish state (according to the UN resolution), namely the State of Israel".

The building was finished, but the scaffolding was not taken down. On the contrary: it became the most important part of the building and dominates its facade.

LIKE MOST of us at the time, David Ben-Gurion believed that Zionism had supplanted religion and that religion had become redundant. He was quite sure that it would shrivel and disappear by itself in the new secular state. He decided that we could afford to dispense with the military service of Yeshiva bochers (Talmud school students), believing that their number would dwindle from a few hundred to almost none. The same thought caused him to allow religious schools to continue in existence. Like Herzl, who promised to "keep our Rabbis in the synagogues and our army officers in the barracks", Ben-Gurion was certain that the state would be entirely secular.

When Herzl wrote of the "state of the Jews" he did not dream that the Jewish Diaspora would continue to exist. In his view, only the citizens of the new state would henceforth be called "Jews", all other Jews in the world would assimilate in their various nations and disappear from view.

BUT THE "white lie" of Herzl had results he did not dream of, as did the compromises of Ben-Gurion. Religion did not wither away in Israel, but on the contrary: it is gaining control of the state. The government of Israel does not speak of the nation-state of the Israelis who live here, but of the "nation-state of the Jews" - a state that belongs to the Jews all over the world, most of whom belong to other nations.

The religious schools are eating up the general education system and are going to overpower it, if we don't become aware of the danger and assert our Israeli essence. Voting rights are about to be accorded to Israelis residing abroad, and this is a step towards giving the vote to all Jews around the world. And, most important: the ugly weeds growing in the national-religious field - the fanatical settlers - are pushing the state in a direction that may lead to its destruction.

TO SAFEGUARD the future of Israel one has to start by removing the scaffolding from the building. In other words: burying the "white lie" of religion-equals-nation. The Israeli nation has to be recognized as the basis of the state.

If this principle is accepted, what will the future shape of Israel - within the Green Line - be like?

There are two possible models, and many variations between them.

Model A: the multi-national one. Almost all the citizens of Israel belong to one of two nations: the majority belongs to the Hebrew nation and a minority to the Palestinian-Arab nation. Each nation will enjoy autonomy in certain areas, such as culture, education and religion. Autonomy will not be territorial, but cultural (as Vladimie Ze'ev Jabotinsky proposed a hundred years ago for Czarist Russia). All will be united by Israeli citizenship and loyalty to the state. The inbuilt discrimination of the Arab minority will become a thing of the past, as well as the "demographic demon".

Model B: the American one. The American nation is composed of all US citizens, and all US citizens constitute the American nation. An immigrant from Jamaica who acquires US citizenship automatically becomes a member of the American nation, an heir to George Washington and Abe Lincoln. All learn at school the same core program and the same history.

Which of the two models is preferable? In my view, Model B is much better. But it would depend on a dialogue between the Hebrew majority and the Arab minority. In the end, the Arab citizens will have to decide whether they prefer the status of equal partners in a general Israeli nation, or the status of a recognized, autonomous national minority in a state that acknowledges and cherishes their separate culture, side by side with the culture of the majority.

In four days, the Supreme Court will decide whether it is prepared to take the first step in this historic march.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Road To Armageddon
The Insane Drive for American Hegemony Threatens Life on Earth
By Paul Craig Roberts

The Washington Times is a newspaper that looks with favor upon the Bush/Cheney/Obama/neocon wars of aggression in the Middle East and favors making terrorists pay for 9/11. Therefore, I was surprised to learn on February 24 that the most popular story on the paper's website for the past three days was the "Inside the Beltway" report, "Explosive News," about the 31 press conferences in cities in the US and abroad on February 19 held by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, an organization of professionals which now has 1,000 members.

I was even more surprised that the news report treated the press conference seriously.

How did three World Trade Center skyscrapers suddenly disintegrate into fine dust? How did massive steel beams in three skyscrapers suddenly fail as a result of short-lived, isolated, and low temperature fires? "A thousand architects and engineers want to know, and are calling on Congress to order a new investigation into the destruction of the Twin Towers and Building 7," reports the Washington Times.

The paper reports that the architects and engineers have concluded that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology provided "insufficient, contradictory and fraudulent accounts of the circumstances of the towers' destruction" and are "calling for a grand jury investigation of NIST officials."

The newspaper reports that Richard Gage, the spokesperson for the architects and engineers said: "Government officials will be notified that 'Misprision of Treason,' U.S. Code 18 (Sec. 2382) is a serious federal offense, which requires those with evidence of treason to act. The implications are enormous and may have profound impact on the forthcoming Khalid Sheik Mohammed trial."

There is now an organization, Firefighters for 9/11 Truth. At the main press conference in San Francisco, Eric Lawyer,the head of that organization, announced the firefighters' support for the architects and engineers' demands. He reported that no forensic investigation was made of the fires that are alleged to have destroyed the three buildings and that this failure constitutes a crime.

Mandated procedures were not followed, and instead of being preserved and investigated, the crime scene was destroyed. He also reported that there are more than one hundred first responders who heard and experienced explosions and that there is radio, audio and video evidence of explosions.

Also at the press conference, physicist Steven Jones presented the evidence of nano-thermite in the residue of the WTC buildings found by an international panel of scientists led by University of Copenhagen nano-chemist Professor Niels Harrit. Nano-thermite is a high-tech explosive/pyrotechnic capable of instantly melting steel girders.

Before we yell "conspiracy theory," we should be aware that the architects, engineers, firefighters, and scientists offer no theory. They provide evidence that challenges the official theory. This evidence is not going to go away.

If expressing doubts or reservations about the official story in the 9/11 Commission Report makes a person a conspiracy theory kook, then we have to include both co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission and the Commission's legal counsel, all of whom have written books in which they clearly state that they were lied to by government officials when they conducted their investigation, or, rather, when they presided over the investigation conducted by executive director Philip Zelikow, a member of President George W. Bush's transition team and Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and a co-author of Bush Secretary of State Condi "Mushroom Cloud" Rice.

There will always be Americans who will believe whatever the government tells them no matter how many times they know the government has lied to them. Despite expensive wars that threaten Social Security and Medicare, wars based on non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, non-existent Saddam Hussein connections to al Qaida, non-existent Afghan participation in the 9/11 attacks, and the non-existent Iranian nukes that are being hyped as the reason for the next American war of aggression in the Middle East, more than half of the U.S. population still believes the fantastic story that the government has told them about 9/11, a Muslim conspiracy that outwitted the entire Western world.

Moreover, it doesn't matter to these Americans how often the government changes its story. For example, Americans first heard of Osama bin Laden because the Bush regime pinned the 9/11 attacks on him. Over the years video after video was served up to the gullible American public of bin Laden's pronouncements. Experts dismissed the videos as fakes, but Americans remained their gullible selves. Then suddenly last year a new 9/11 "mastermind" emerged to take bin Laden's place, the captive Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the detainee waterboarded 183 times until he confessed to mastermining the 9/11 attack.

In the Middle Ages confessions extracted by torture constituted evidence, but self-incrimination has been a no-no in the U.S. legal system since our founding. But with the Bush regime and the Republican federal judges, whom we were assured would defend the U.S. Constitution, the self-incrimination of Sheik Mohammed stands today as the only evidence the U.S. government has that Muslim terrorists pulled off 9/11.

If a person considers the feats attributed to Khalid Sheik Mohammed, they are simply unbelievable. Sheik Mohammed is a more brilliant, capable superhero than V in the fantasy movie, "V for Vendetta." Sheik Mohammed outwitted all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies along with those of all U.S. allies or puppets, including Israel's Mossad. No intelligence service on earth or all of them combined was a match for Sheik Mohammed.

Sheik Mohammed outwitted the U.S. National Security Council, Dick Cheney, the Pentagon, the State Department, NORAD, the U.S. Air Force, and Air Traffic Control.

He caused Airport Security to fail four times in one morning. He caused the state-of-the-art air defenses of the Pentagon to fail, allowing a hijacked airliner, which was off course all morning while the U.S. Air Force, for the first time in history, was unable to get aloft intercepter aircraft, to crash into the Pentagon.

Sheik Mohammed was able to perform these feats with unqualified pilots.

Sheik Mohammed, even as a waterboarded detainee, has managed to prevent the FBI from releasing the many confiscated videos that would show, according to the official story, the hijacked airliner hitting the Penagon.

How naive do you have to be to believe that any human, or for that matter Hollywood fantasy character, is this powerful and capable?

If Sheik Mohammed has these superhuman capabilities, how did the incompetent Americans catch him? This guy is a patsy tortured into confession in order to keep the American naifs believing the government's conspiracy theory.

What is going on here is that the U.S. government has to bring the 9/11 mystery to an end. The government must put on trial and convict a culprit so that it can close the case before it explodes. Anyone waterboarded 183 times would confess to anything.

The U.S. government has responded to the evidence being arrayed against its outlandish 9/11 conspiracy theory by redefining the war on terror from external to internal enemies. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on February 21 that American extremists are now as big a concern as international terrorists. Extremists, of course, are people who get in the way of the government's agenda, such as the 1,000 Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. The group used to be 100, now it is 1,000. What if it becomes 10,000?

Cass Sunstein, an Obama regime official, has a solution for the 9/11 skeptics: Infiltrate them and provoke them into statements and actions that can be used to discredit or to arrest them. But get rid of them at all cost.

Why employ such extreme measures against alleged kooks if they only provide entertainment and laughs? Is the government worried that they are on to something?

Instead, why doesn't the U.S. government simply confront the evidence that is presented and answer it?

If the architects, engineers, firefighters, and scientists are merely kooks, it would be a simple matter to acknowledge their evidence and refute it. Why is it necessary to infiltrate them with police agents and to set them up?

Many Americans would reply that "their" government would never even dream of killing Americans by hijacking airliners and destroying buildings in order to advance a government agenda. But on February 3, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair told the House Intelligence Committee that the U.S. government can assassinate its own citizens when they are overseas. No arrest, trial, or conviction of a capital crime is necessary. Just straight out murder.

Obviously, if the U.S. government can murder its citizens abroad it can murder them at home, and has done so. For example, 100 Branch Davidians were murdered in Waco, Texas, by the Clinton administration for no legitimate reason. The government just decided to use its power knowing that it could get away with it, which it did.

Americans who think "their" government is some kind of morally pure operation would do well to familiarize themselves with Operation Northwoods. Operation Northwoods was a plot drawn up by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff for the CIA to commit acts of terrorism in American cities and fabricate evidence blaming Castro so that the U.S. could gain domestic and international support for regime change in Cuba. The secret plan was nixed by President John F. Kennedy and was declassified by the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board. It is available online in the National Security Archive. There are numerous online accounts available, including Wikipedia. James Bamford's book, Body of Secrets, also summarizes the plot:

"Operation Northwoods, which had the written approval of the Chairman [Gen. Lemnitzer] and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war."

Prior to 9/11 the American neoconservatives were explicit that the wars of aggression that they intended to launch in the Middle East required "a new Pearl Harbor."

For their own good and that of the wider world, Americans need to pay attention to the growing body of experts who are telling them that the government's account of 9/11 fails their investigation. 9/11 launched the neoconservative plan for U.S. world hegemony. As I write the U.S. government is purchasing the agreement of foreign governments that border Russia to accept U.S. missile interceptor bases. The U.S. intends to ring Russia with U.S. missile bases from Poland through central Europe and Kosovo to Georgia, Azerbaijan and central Asia. [see ] U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke declared on February 20 that al Qaida is moving into former central Asian constituent parts of the Soviet Union, such as Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan. Holbrooke is soliciting U.S. bases in these former Soviet republics under the guise of the ever-expanding "war on terror."

The U.S. has already encircled Iran with military bases. The U.S. government intends to neutralize China by seizing control over the Middle East and cutting China off from oil.

This plan assumes that Russia and China, nuclear armed states, will be intimidated by U.S. anti-missile defenses and acquiesce to U.S. hegemony and that China will lack oil for its industries and military.

The U.S. government is delusional. Russian military and political leaders have responded to the obvious threat by declaring NATO a direct threat to the security of Russia and by announcing a change in Russian war doctrine to the pre-emptive launch of nuclear weapons. The Chinese are too confident to be bullied by a washed up American "superpower."

The morons in Washington are pushing the envelop of nuclear war. The insane drive for American hegemony threatens life on earth. The American people, by accepting the lies and deceptions of "their" government, are facilitating this outcome.
(c) 2010 Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and is coauthor of "The Tyranny of Good Intentions," co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law, was published by Random House.

Live In Barcelona With The Russell Tribunal On Palestine
By Cynthia McKinney

I have been kicked in the shins because I failed to announce in advance my February 25 speech to Olympia's Evergreen State College, the alma mater of Rachel Corrie. The students and community were engaging and we stayed for hours discussing pressing matters of peace and justice. The event was sponsored by the Black Student Union and the Middle East Solidarity Project and I thank them for giving me the opportunity to learn about what peace activists are doing in that part of our country to resist war.

In accordance with the continuing need to press for justice and peace, I have agreed to serve as a juror for the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, an effort organized with the support of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Ltd. In this first sitting, we will explore the role and complicity of the European Union in crimes against Palestine. This multi-year, multi-national undertaking will also sit in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and the United States. The Russell Tribunal on Palestine in Barcelona will take place March 1, 2, 3. For more information, please click here and for livestreaming, please click here. (The Tribunal starts at 10:00 am Barcelona time, which is 4:00 am eastern time.) I also hope to have it livestreaming on our dignity sites if Don can get it up and running in time!!! If not, we'll post it, but it'll just be live for you!

After Barcelona, I will spend the evening of March 4th in Brussels with the Congolese at a forum on the continued trials of the people of Congo who have had ineffective leadership foisted upon them by the United States and others, and insult added to injury with the continued occupation of their country by Rwanda's U.S.-supported Paul Kagame and his agents. Of course, this isn't that Africans just love killing Africans, as some would proselytize, including Margaret Thatcher's jailed, gun-running son. At the root of the violence is the fact that non-Africans want Africans' resources, and they don't want to pay for them. Coltan is just one of many prizes to be had from Congo. And, as Tupac wrote, "Give 'em guns, step back, watch 'em kill each other."

Last year, we were successful in getting genocide indictments issued in Spanish court against Kagame's military henchmen operating in Congo. The lawyer who successfully pleaded that case, along with the U.S. journalist who worked that case and testified for me in Congress on the matter, and the African journalist who was taken to court by Kagame (and Kagame lost) because he told the truth that Kagame was responsible for the murder of two democratically-elected African Presidents and that Kagame's singular act of terrorism sparked what has become known as the "Rwandan Genocide," have all had their names appear on a list issued in the last two days that is supposed to be a hit-list emanating from the lower depths of Rwanda's leadership. Any such list coming from this source is particularly troubling--even if it turns out to be just a rumor--because we know that Kagame had a hitlist of Rwandan government leaders who had to be killed in his U.S.-backed coup against Rwanda's elected leadership. The people were, indeed, killed and no one has been held responsible for their murders. It is only because of the dedicated work of the lawyer who sued Kagame's Rwandan military officers and a Spanish judge's sense of justice and independence can we find Lady Justice peeking through an opening ripped in Injustice's shroud.

In Paris, on March 6th, I will participate in an Afro-Arab Conference that will conclude with a concert by Parisian Hip Hopper, Joe Dalton.

On March 8th in London, Dr. Nafeez Ahmed and I appear with the 9/11 and the 7/7 Tube Truth communities for an event at the Commons. And, according to eye witnesses, no, the British government didn't tell the truth, either, about their Tube Terror tragedy.

I'll be sure to send updates and details as I move through this program.

Please share these events with your overseas friends and encourage them to come and share and learn with us. In Olympia, despite the fact that I didn't send a notice out on this list, we had people who traveled long distances, even from Oregon, to participate in what turned out to be a lovely evening with the students. I'm sure these Europe events will be equally rewarding for those who participate.

UPDATE: First Session of the Russell Tribunal
March 2, 2010
Barcelona, Spain

The jurors of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine are now meeting in the basement of a hotel in Barcelona to fashion the report of our First Session which will be delivered at a press conference tomorrow. This has been an incredible global exercise that shows what outraged people can do in the face of insults to human dignity that occur too often with impunity in this world of ours. I don't know how the Organizing Committee chose its jurors, but they have brought together a Nobel Peace laureate from Ireland, a barrister from London, a former Member of Cabinet from Mali, a former Minister from South Africa, an actor from Spain, a member of the original Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Vietnam, and me. Despite the fact that the deliberations today and yesterday focused on the role of the European Union in aiding and abetting these insults in the name of the people of Europe, I can tell you that all eyes are on us--what will the American people do? And I am the only juror from the U.S.A. The Organizing Committee is already looking forward to its Second Session, expected to be held in London.

Incredibly, information is surfacing that some of the Dubai assassins used credit cards issued in the U.S., entered the U.S. after the hit, and might still be in the U.S. How many insults to human dignity must the American people absorb? I am convinced that there is no depth too low for the honor of some to sink as long as impunity exists for the high crimes and misdemeanors being committed at the highest levels of so-called democratic governments. This will continue until we do as Mario Savio admonished and put our entire bodies against the gears and the levers and the wheels of the machine and say to the owners that if they don't stop it, we the people will stop it. And when we say it, we have to mean it. And I know that there are many of you on this list who say it and mean it. Thank you for that. And it is clear, also, that our ranks are growing daily. Imagine what can happen if we harness this for the good of our country, for the good of our planet, for the good of humankind. I still believe this is possible. Now is not the time for us to give up or lose our hope. Let's talk about next steps.

My next stop is Brussels and after that, Paris. I will send my detailed Europe program in my next message for those of you who are or who have friends in Europe and who might want to attend, or at a minimum--want to know about--the events.

On another note, my mailbox has exploded with the Chris Hedges piece. He has certainly created a lot of excitement by obliterating the whiteout. The truth-tellers among us just love seeing a spade called a spade, acknowledgment that there really is an elephant in the room, and that the emperor is walking among us naked!!! Chris has done that wonderfully.

Editors Note: See Chris' article below!


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

Toyota's Friends

Poor Toyota. Because of an explosion of deadly safety glitches in its cars, the Japanese auto giant is getting pounded by the media, scorched by public opinion, sued by customers, investigated by numerous regulators, and grilled by congressional committees.

Right about now, the beleaguered, multi-billion dollar corporation is probably wishing it had some friends in high places. But, wait - it does! In fact, Toyota has many well-placed friends in Washington.

Start with lobbyists. Over the years, Toyota has steadily built up a stout lobbying force in our Capitol City, far surpassing the presence of other foreign automakers. Last year, it had 31 of these influence peddlers on its payroll, including eight former congressional and agency staffers.

Also, former officials and engineers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have switched hats and are now in the employ of Toyota. Yes, NHTSA is the outfit that was supposed to be regulating the car maker to protect the driving public from exactly the kind of safety defects that have led to hundreds of Toyota crashes and the recall of some eight million cars.

Then there are various lawmakers who have substantial financial connections to the manufacturer, including two House members who are on the committees presently probing Toyota. California Democrat Jane Harman holds Toyota stock worth up to $315,000. Across the aisle, California Republican Darrell Issa got rich making auto alarms that his company sold to - guess who? - Toyota, as well as other car makers.

This is Jim Hightower saying... Toyota can't expect to get a free pass because it has these friends in high places, but it's now enjoyed years of kid-glove regulatory treatment, and its lobbyists are already pushing for the gentlest of punishments for this reckless corporate scoundrel.
(c) 2010 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

The World According To Stupak
By Jessica Arons

President Obama's healthcare proposal adopts language on abortion from the Senate health reform bill that requires insurers to segregate public and private premiums and use only private money to pay for abortion services. But Representative Bart Stupak will have none of it, claiming that the legislation still allows public funding of the abortion. In fact, the legislation very clearly prohibits direct government funding of abortion. But Stupak also objects to "indirect" funding, refusing to vote for a reform bill unless it prohibits taxpayer money from "subsidizing" health plans that cover abortion care.

The amendment Stupak sponsored, which is currently part of the House bill, does bar so-called indirect funding. It forbids insurers from selling plans that include abortion coverage to any people who receive help from the government in paying their premiums--a restriction that would apply to approximately 85 percent of customers in the new health insurance exchange and thus virtually eliminate abortion coverage from the exchange.

An analysis of Stupak's opposition to indirect funding, however, reveals implications that go well beyond the fight over abortion.

Money in Stupak's world is "fungible," or interchangeable, meaning whatever money the government gives you frees up private money for you to use on something else. So every dollar the government pays toward your health insurance premium allows you and the insurer to spend private funds in that plan that you might not otherwise have had on abortion. To Stupak, that subsidization is the equivalent of a direct payment.

But by that token, every government benefit a woman receives, whether monetary or in-kind, whether for healthcare or for something else, could be seen as subsidizing an abortion if she has one.

If everyone thought like Bart Stupak, a woman seeking an abortion:

(1) would not be able to take a public bus or commuter train to an abortion clinic, even if she paid her own fare;

(2) would not be able to drive on public roads to a clinic, even if she drove her own car and paid for her own gas;

(3) would not be able to walk on public sidewalks to the clinic, even though she paid property taxes;

(4) would not be able to put her child in childcare while she was at the clinic if she received a tax credit that offset the cost of childcare;

(5) would not be able to take medicine at the clinic that was researched or developed by the government, even if she paid for the medicine herself.

Would anyone argue that the government is "subsidizing abortion" by building roads and sidewalks, offering public transportation, developing medicine and providing childcare? Similarly, making healthcare premiums more affordable, even for plans that include abortion coverage, would not mean that the government would be paying for abortion.

Our society recognizes the distinction between direct and indirect funding all the time. Indeed, if we did not, our government probably could not function. Religious organizations receive tax money to provide direct social services but are strictly prohibited from using that money for sectarian purposes. Nonprofit organizations obtain government grants that can be used for charitable activities but not for electioneering. And we already have a precedent with respect to abortion: family planning clinics get public funding to provide contraception that cannot be spent on abortion. No reasonable person sees this funding as subsidizing activities that have been deemed ineligible for government spending or views the accounting practices used to segregate funds as illegitimate or inadequate.

No transaction in our modern society is completely free of government involvement. The food we eat costs less because of farm subsidies. Students attend private universities with the help of Pell Grants and Stafford loans. Our churches and temples can afford to operate in part because they are tax-exempt. And employers who offer health insurance do so because of tax incentives. Stupak's reasoning, taken to its logical extreme, would mean that virtually every activity in which we engage is government funded, regardless of whether it is condoned or condemned.

Either there is no such thing as indirect funding or everything receives indirect funding, but there is no in between. Either the government pays for abortion or it does not. Stupak, who until recently lived in the "C Street House"--a townhouse owned by a religiously affiliated organization that receives a tax exemption--cannot accept indirect subsidies in one area but reject them in others.

For these reasons, segregation requirements alone should have been sufficient for those who object to taxpayer-funded abortion. But Senator Ben Nelson also managed to wrangle a last-minute deal that goes even further, making customers write two checks each month--one for the abortion coverage and one for everything else--even though both checks would come from private, not public, sources.

Last week the White House chose to go with the Senate solution, in part because Democrats must now use the reconciliation process to pass comprehensive healthcare reform. Because this process can address only items that affect the budget and the abortion provisions do not change government spending levels, they probably can no longer be modified. Therefore, the White House may have had no option but to endorse the Senate's version.

Moreover, prochoice legislators and advocates refuse to accept the Stupak Amendment and have vowed to block it at every turn. And though they also oppose Nelson's language because it imposes unprecedented restrictions on private abortion coverage, they recognize that it is the lesser of two evils. Meanwhile, Stupak claims that he too has enough votes to stop health reform in its tracks.

But Stupak's line of thinking goes way too far. He and the House members who voted for his amendment ought to accept the Senate language that already prohibits government money from being spent on abortion, put the issue to rest and take this historic opportunity to extend health coverage to millions of Americans.
(c) 2010 Jessica Arons is the Director of the Women's Health & Rights Program at the Center for American Progress.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Liberian Leader Urges MPs To Back Action Against Vulture Funds
An investigation for BBC's Newsnight has uncovered allegations that speculators subverted the international debt relief process.
By Greg Palast and Heather Stewart

The president of Liberia, is urging MPs to back a bill banning vulture funds from using British courts to prey on poor countries when it comes to a vote on Friday. Liberia lost a $20m (£13m) case in London last year against two so-called vultures. Such funds buy up the loans of poor governments, wait for them to win from the international community, and then use courts to pursue the countries for assets.

Sirleaf said: "We've been waiting for a parliament or an assembly to take this kind of hard decision. I hope the US Congress and maybe some others in Europe will pick up this gauntlet and will follow the example of Britain."

An investigation for BBC's Newsnight, to be broadcast tonight, has uncovered allegations that speculators subverted the international debt relief process for Liberia, in an attempt to gain more money from its government and international donors than 97% of its other creditors accepted.

Liberia received debt relief worth $4bn from the international community in 2007 under the heavily indebted poor countries initiative, including $2bn from private-sector bondholders. Insiders to negotiations allege that two US financiers, Eric Hermann and Michael Straus, allowed other creditors to accept a low payout from Liberia, then quietly transferred their holdings to two other firms, which then sued in Britain for the debt in full.

BBC cameraman Rick Rowley in Liberia,
reporting with Greg Palast from the village of Demeh, Liberia.

One of Liberia's biggest creditors, Hans Humes, owner of New York's Greylock Capital, criticised the behaviour of speculators in the negotiations over the country's debts. "[They were] just sitting there and saying: 'OK, we're the last guys and we're going to hold up any process by which the country can grow unless somebody takes care of us.' It's extortion," he said.

Two others who were involved in the negotiations confirmed that Humes's criticisms must refer to Hermann and Straus.

The private member's bill, which will receive its second reading on Friday, would prevent vultures from pursuing any of the 40 countries that have qualified as heavily indebted poor countries. Sponsored by Labour MP Andrew Gwynne, it would prevent assets being seized, even in cases that have already been brought - so campaigners say it should help Liberia.

When a Newsnight crew went to Hermann's New York office to question the financier, the company's nameplate had been unbolted from the wall, the suite number removed and the firm's staff locked inside the office. A security guard said he had been ordered to look out for the BBC crew and keep it out of the building.

In 1998, a US judge found lawyer Straus guilty of "champerty" - buying poor nations' debts just for the purpose of suing them. An appeals court later reversed the finding.

In February 2002, Straus and Hermann sued Liberia for $18m for debts they had obtained for a fraction of that sum. They filed the suit in the US, the week Liberia's capital was under siege from rebels, without electricity, water or a functioning government. Straus and Hermann won a judgment for the $18m by default.
(c) 2010 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." His investigations for BBC TV and Democracy Now! can be seen by subscribing to Palast's reports at.

Financial Reform Endgame
By Paul Krugman

So here's the situation. We've been through the second-worst financial crisis in the history of the world, and we've barely begun to recover: 29 million Americans either can't find jobs or can't find full-time work. Yet all momentum for serious banking reform has been lost. The question now seems to be whether we'll get a watered-down bill or no bill at all. And I hate to say this, but the second option is starting to look preferable.

The problem, not too surprisingly, lies in the Senate, and mainly, though not entirely, with Republicans. The House has already passed a fairly strong reform bill, more or less along the lines proposed by the Obama administration, and the Senate could probably do the same if it operated on the principle of majority rule. But it doesn't - and when you combine near-universal Republican opposition to serious reform with the wavering of some Democrats, prospects look bleak.

How did we get to this point? And should reform advocates accept the compromises that might yet produce some kind of bill?

Many opponents of the House version of banking reform present their position as one of principle. House Republicans, offering their alternative proposal, claimed that they would end banking excesses by introducing "market discipline" - basically, by promising not to rescue banks in the future.

But that's a fantasy. For one thing, governments always, when push comes to shove, end up rescuing key financial institutions in a crisis. And more broadly, relying on the magic of the market to keep banks safe has always been a path to disaster. Even Adam Smith knew that: he may have been the father of free-market economics, but he argued that bank regulation was as necessary as fire codes on urban buildings, and called for a ban on high-risk, high-interest lending, the 18th-century version of subprime. And the lesson has been confirmed again and again, from the Panic of 1873 to Iceland today.

I suspect that even Republicans, in their hearts, understand the need for real reform. But their strategy of opposing anything the Obama administration proposes, coupled with the lure of financial-industry dollars - back in December top Republican leaders huddled with bank lobbyists to coordinate their campaigns against reform - has trumped all other considerations.

That said, some Republicans might, just possibly, be persuaded to sign on to a much-weakened version of reform - in particular, one that eliminates a key plank of the Obama administration's proposals, the creation of a strong, independent agency protecting consumers. Should Democrats accept such a watered-down reform?

I say no.

There are times when even a highly imperfect reform is much better than nothing; this is very much the case for health care. But financial reform is different. An imperfect health care bill can be revised in the light of experience, and if Democrats pass the current plan there will be steady pressure to make it better. A weak financial reform, by contrast, wouldn't be tested until the next big crisis. All it would do is create a false sense of security and a fig leaf for politicians opposed to any serious action - then fail in the clinch.

Better, then, to take a stand, and put the enemies of reform on the spot. And by all means let's highlight the dispute over a proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

There's no question that consumers need much better protection. The late Edward Gramlich - a Federal Reserve official who tried in vain to get Alan Greenspan to act against predatory lending - summarized the case perfectly back in 2007: "Why are the most risky loan products sold to the least sophisticated borrowers? The question answers itself - the least sophisticated borrowers are probably duped into taking these products."

Is it important that this protection be provided by an independent agency? It must be, or lobbyists wouldn't be campaigning so hard to prevent that agency's creation.

And it's not hard to see why. Some have argued that the job of protecting consumers can and should be done either by the Fed or - as in one compromise that at this point seems unlikely - by a unit within the Treasury Department. But remember, not that long ago Mr. Greenspan was Fed chairman and John Snow was Treasury secretary. Case closed. The only way consumers will be protected under future antiregulation administrations - and believe me, given the power of the financial lobby, there will be such administrations - is if there's an agency whose whole reason for being is to police bank abuses.

In summary, then, it's time to draw a line in the sand. No reform, coupled with a campaign to name and shame the people responsible, is better than a cosmetic reform that just covers up failure to act.
(c) 2010 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Chilly Scenes Of Winter
A Brief Imperial Tour d'Horizon
By Chris Floyd

1. Occupational Hazards

As'ad AbuKhalil's headline on his brief post says it all: "Tragic accidents happen - every single day." He is referring to the latest killing of civilians by American occupation troops - not in Afghanistan this time, but in the now-forgotten war in Iraq, where death, corruption, repression and blowback are still raging.

2. Tony Blair: Liar, No. 876

It turns out that Tony Blair was told years before the Iraq invasion - in fact, even before the 9/11 attacks "that changed the world" and "made everything different" - that invading Iraq would be illegal (i.e., a Nuremberg-level war crime), as well as costly, destablizing and ineffective. This is revealed in documents from 2000 which the Independent has obtained, even though the "blue-ribbon" Chilcot Inquiry has refused to release it. What's more, the documents give the lie to Blair's recent testimony to the panel, and his claims elsewhere, that he had never discussed using troops to remove Saddam Hussein until after 9/11. Tony Blair, a liar? Imagine that!

3. All the Warmongering That's Fit to Print

Peter Casey at does a remarkable thing: he actually reads the recent IAEA report, and finds that the New York Times deliberately distorted, even falsified the report's findings, in order to demonize Iran and mendaciously inflame fears of mad mullahs dropping nukes on America's holy heartland, and its plucky little outpost over in Israel. The NYT, plumping for imperial war? Imagine that!

4. Suburban Warfare

The Los Angeles Times brings us yet another story about America's brave, brave long-distance warriors: the Homeric heroes who sit in front of computer screens 10,000 miles away from battle, push buttons to kill people with robot-fired weapons, then go home to cozy suburban homes. Naturally, the story focuses on the great stress suffered by these bold 'soldiers,' as they go from shredding the viscera of some ragged Afghan walking around in his native land to pitching a ball with Junior in the backyard. In 10 years time, or less, most of our imperial slaughter will be carried out this way: no muss, no fuss, no risk, no mess - except for those piles of viscera on the other end.

5. Package Deal

Chris Hedges reminds us of why we should boycott FedEx, and how the unchallenged ascendancy of corporate power is, literally, crippling and killing working folk.

6. The Bitter End

Juan Cole brings word of a learned Theban at Harvard who has come up with a novel solution for the Middle East crisis: stop feeding the Palestinians, so they will quit breeding. Harvard Fellow Martin Kramer goes on to laud Israel's strangulation of Gaza for helping "break Gaza's runaway population growth." It is of course superfluous in us to point out that the deliberate decimation of a people by starvation and neglect is not unknown in recent history, and was in fact the first fatal step toward a somewhat more - how to put it? - final solution to a religio-ethnic conflict. The ironies here, as in so many policies of the plucky little outpost, are the bitterest imaginable.
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

In Praise Of Rahm Emanuel
By Case Wagonvoord

It's no surprise that The Washington Post thinks Rahm Emanuel is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Here is a paper so fixated on access that it would praise Jack the Ripper for his feminism if it gained it greater access.

In a fluff piece by Dana Milbank we are told that Emanuel is a realist who mission is to bring the "cult of Obama" down to earth and to introduce them to the realities of Beltway politics, which is to do little other than an occasional exercise in meaningless window dressing. The problem is that the Beltway is a closed system with its own warped view of reality driven by an amorality that cares only about the checks its corporate handlers write.

This is why Emanuel was bitterly opposed to closing the Guantanamo Bay prison because "it wasn't politically feasible." He also opposed including a public option in the healthcare reform bill because it was "a needless distraction."

But then, it seems every president needs a handler who acts as ballast to keep the status quo on an even keel. Cheney was Bush's handler, Emanuel is Obama's. And Milbank argues that Obama isn't in trouble because of Emanuel; he's in trouble because he ignored Emanuel's advice.

One of the most hysterically funny statements in the Milbank article tells us that, "Emanuel, schooled by Bill Clinton, knew what the true believers [members of the cult of Obama] didn't: that bite size proposals add up to big things."

Such as?

Let's get real! Bite size proposals add up to diddly-squat! One of Congress's favorite scams when it passes a watered-down bill is to promise the public that "We'll revisit the legislation later," which it never does. So, if Emanuel had had his way, Congress would have passed a bland healthcare reform bill that did little other than increase coverage for children, and that would have been it.

Now some might argue that Emanuel's approach was necessary given the lunacy that permeates the Beltway, and, all things being equal, that might make sense. But things aren't equal. The country is in deep shit. We've got a crumbling economy, our states are in financial distress and we're up to our necks in two-plus wars that are bankrupting us. Public money is bailing out the financial retards that tanked the economy and all our leaders can talk about is a "jobless recovery," surely one of the foulest oxymorons ever uttered by a public official.

This is not a time for "small bites." Rather it's the time to tear a big chunk out of the corporate ass.

Good lord, if Emanuel had been FDR's chief of staff, there never would have been a New Deal. That could be why conservatives love him so; he is keeping the ship of state on an even keel while it is sinking.
(c) 2010 Case Wagenvoord. Some years ago, Case Wagenvoord turned off the tube and picked up a book. He's been trouble ever since. His articles have been posted at The Smirking Chimp, Countercurrents and Issues & Alibis. When he's not writing or brooding, he is carving hardwood bowls that have been displayed in galleries and shows across the country. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two cats. His book, Open Letters to George W. Bush is available at

Who Could Have Possibly Known?
By Mike Folkerth

The industrial nations that practice debt capitalism have many factions at play that are grossly incompatible.

If a man and wife find themselves totally incompatible, they seek out a divorce and go their merry ways. Well...maybe not merry, but they do go away. Not so with our most cherished customs of debt capitalism; they are apparently joined at the hip until death do us part.

To all but the dimmest in our society, it would be obvious that advancing technology and creating ever greater per-capita production would result in a shrinking workforce. Therefore, if balance were to be maintained between people numbers and job numbers, the people would need to shrink.

World leadership has answered the call to solve the employment problem by increasing the number of people who are seeking employment. Through mass immigration and by encouraging unchecked birth rates, our leadership is busy attempting to douse out the fire with gasoline. I suppose that if you are in the market of solving problems, then creating problems to solve is just good business.

Who would have ever thought that the combination of greater production, fewer real jobs, and an increasing population would result in an unemployment problem? Some things are just unknowable for those who happen to be brain dead.

Ever greater production and a growing human population also require continual increases of finite physical inputs such as fuel(s), water, and minerals of every nature. This has created yet another complex dilemma that we could not have expected our leadership to have planned for.

After all, it's nearly impossible to calculate that when anything is finite in nature, that using that finite substance in massive quantities would result in running out. Who could know this stuff?

Oh sure, Thomas Malthus knew about it in 1798 when he wrote the first of his six additions of "Principles of Population." But let's be real about this; that only allowed 212 years for our leaders to prepare. This type of information takes time to absorb.

And then, there was the famed American Geophysicist, M. King Hubbert, who began to write about technological unemployment in 1935! Hubbert later wrote, "Work is becoming increasingly unimportant. It is conceivable that the future work week might be on the order of 10 hours. Indeed, because production will have to be limited by increasingly limited mineral resources; that might be inevitable."

Dr. Hubbert went on to say, "Most employment now is merely pushing paper around. The actual work needed to keep a stable society running is a very small fraction of available manpower."

But what did bozos like Malthus and Hubbert know in comparison to our modern politicians and big business leaders? Certainly they didn't know what Albert Einstein understood when he stated, "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity and I'm not sure about the former."

Delusional people such as Malthus and Hubbert actually thought that they could present the hard facts, and in doing so, change the course of human stupidity.

In conclusion, what we are facing is often termed "unsympathetic reality." That unsympathetic reality is that such men as Thomas Malthus and M. King Hubbert were utterly correct when they stated that exponential growth on a finite planet is physically impossible.

Our monetary system, legal system, political system, and health care system, are all run for the sole purpose of extracting maximum profits from their underling subjects who are cleverly referred to as citizens rather than their actual position of peasants or marks.

Our system of no-holds-barred, interest bearing, debt based, required growth capitalism, is burning the final stages of its flickering candle. But who could have known? I'm thinkin' a smart 3rd grader.
(c) 2010 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"Never underestimate the power of very stupid people in large groups."
~~~ John Kenneth Galbraith ~~~

Ralph Nader Was Right About Barack Obama
By Chris Hedges

We owe Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney an apology. They were right about Barack Obama. They were right about the corporate state. They had the courage of their convictions and they stood fast despite wholesale defections and ridicule by liberals and progressives.

Obama lies as cravenly, if not as crudely, as George W. Bush. He promised us that the transfer of $12.8 trillion in taxpayer money to Wall Street would open up credit and lending to the average consumer. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), however, admitted last week that banks have reduced lending at the sharpest pace since 1942. As a senator, Obama promised he would filibuster amendments to the FISA Reform Act that retroactively made legal the wiretapping and monitoring of millions of American citizens without warrant; instead he supported passage of the loathsome legislation. He told us he would withdraw American troops from Iraq, close the detention facility at Guantánamo, end torture, restore civil liberties such as habeas corpus and create new jobs. None of this has happened.

He is shoving a health care bill down our throats that would give hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to the private health insurance industry in the form of subsidies, and force millions of uninsured Americans to buy insurers' defective products. These policies would come with ever-rising co-pays, deductibles and premiums and see most of the seriously ill left bankrupt and unable to afford medical care. Obama did nothing to halt the collapse of the Copenhagen climate conference, after promising meaningful environmental reform, and has left us at the mercy of corporations such as ExxonMobil. He empowers Israel's brutal apartheid state. He has expanded the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where hundreds of civilians, including entire families, have been slaughtered by sophisticated weapons systems such as the Hellfire missile, which sucks the air out of victims' lungs. And he is delivering war and death to Yemen, Somalia and perhaps Iran.

The illegal wars and occupations, the largest transference of wealth upward in American history and the egregious assault on civil liberties, all begun under George W. Bush, raise only a flicker of tepid protest from liberals when propagated by the Democrats. Liberals, unlike the right wing, are emotionally disabled. They appear not to feel. The tea party protesters, the myopic supporters of Sarah Palin, the veterans signing up for Oath Keepers and the myriad of armed patriot groups have swept into their ranks legions of disenfranchised workers, angry libertarians, John Birchers and many who, until now, were never politically active. They articulate a legitimate rage. Yet liberals continue to speak in the bloodless language of issues and policies, and leave emotion and anger to the protofascists. Take a look at the 3,000-word suicide note left by Joe Stack, who flew his Piper Cherokee last month into an IRS office in Austin, Texas, murdering an IRS worker and injuring dozens. He was not alone in his rage.

"Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it's time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours?" Stack wrote. "Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country's leaders don't see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political 'representatives' (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the 'terrible health care problem'. It's clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don't get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in."

The timidity of the left exposes its cowardice, lack of a moral compass and mounting political impotence. The left stands for nothing. The damage Obama and the Democrats have done is immense. But the damage liberals do the longer they beg Obama and the Democrats for a few scraps is worse. It is time to walk out on the Democrats. It is time to back alternative third-party candidates and grass-roots movements, no matter how marginal such support may be. If we do not take a stand soon we must prepare for the rise of a frightening protofascist movement, one that is already gaining huge ground among the permanently unemployed, a frightened middle class and frustrated low-wage workers. We are, even more than Glenn Beck or tea party protesters, responsible for the gusts fanning the flames of right-wing revolt because we have failed to articulate a credible alternative.

A shift to the Green Party, McKinney and Nader, along with genuine grass-roots movements, will not be a quick fix. It will require years in the wilderness. We will again be told by the Democrats that the least-worse candidate they select for office is better than the Republican troll trotted out as an alternative. We will be bombarded with slick commercials about hope and change and spoken to in a cloying feel-your-pain language. We will be made afraid. But if we again acquiesce we will be reduced to sad and pathetic footnotes in our accelerating transformation from a democracy to a totalitarian corporate state. Isolation and ridicule-ask Nader or McKinney-is the cost of defying power, speaking truth and building movements. Anger at injustice, as Martin Luther King wrote, is the political expression of love. And it is vital that this anger become our own. We have historical precedents to fall back upon.

"Here in the United States, at the beginning of the twentieth century, before there was a Soviet Union to spoil it, you see, socialism had a good name," the late historian and activist Howard Zinn said in a lecture a year ago at Binghamton University. "Millions of people in the United States read socialist newspapers. They elected socialist members of Congress and socialist members of state legislatures. You know, there were like fourteen socialist chapters in Oklahoma. Really. I mean, you know, socialism-who stood for socialism? Eugene Debs, Helen Keller, Emma Goldman, Clarence Darrow, Jack London, Upton Sinclair. Yeah, socialism had a good name. It needs to be restored."

Social change does not come through voting. It is delivered through activism, organizing and mobilization that empower groups to confront the hegemony of the corporate state and the power elite. The longer socialism is identified with the corporatist policies of the Democratic Party, the longer we allow the right wing to tag Obama as a socialist, the more absurd and ineffectual we become. The right-wing mantra of "Obama the socialist," repeated a few days ago to a room full of Georgia Republicans, by Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. speaker of the House, is discrediting socialism itself. Gingrich, who looks set to run for president, called Obama the "most radical president" the country had seen in decades. "By any standard of government control of the economy, he is a socialist," Gingrich said. If only the critique was true.

The hypocrisy and ineptitude of the Democrats become, in the eyes of the wider public, the hypocrisy and ineptitude of the liberal class. We can continue to tie our own hands and bind our own feet or we can break free, endure the inevitable opprobrium, and fight back. This means refusing to support the Democrats. It means undertaking the laborious work of building a viable socialist movement. It is the only alternative left to save our embattled open society. We can begin by sending a message to the Green Party, McKinney and Nader. Let them know they are no longer alone.
(c) 2010 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

Bipartisan Is Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Win
By David Michael Green

Wouldn't it be great if American government could finally operate in a more bipartisan fashion?

No, as a matter of fact, it wouldn't.

Bipartisanship is all the rage now, for three reasons, each of which is as abysmal as it is absurd.

The first is that the Republicans, having given the country a wee taste of their politics these last years and decades, were shown to the exit door by the American electorate in two election cycles in a row. Now, completely bereft of power except by means of every reprehensible delaying and blocking tactic imaginable, the Great Obstructionist Party is whining at every opportunity about the need for bipartisanship. But this is an almost entirely foreign concept for them, since, when they had control of the government, they simply rammed their agenda down the throats of everyone on the horizon, including historic allies of the United States, and even - as with Bush's prescription drug bill - members of their own party in Congress. If they were running over the French and Germans and even Congressional Republicans, needless to say they didn't hesitate to make frequent road-kill of Democrats, without so much as a fleeting glance in their rearview mirrors.

Thus, all the newfangled talk about bipartisanship is simply another in a series of ploys which seek to cripple the Democrats from doing what one would normally expect a party to do once it had won control of the government. Namely, govern.

But, of course, the Democrats seem nearly as adamant as Republicans about making sure that nothing happens in Washington, which is the second reason you hear all this crap about bipartisanship, especially from President Teddy Bear and his White House. Part of that is quite personal, I suspect. If you look at Obama's psychological makeup, it seems pretty evident to me that he has some sort of deep-seated need to be the conciliator in the room. But part of it is also programmatically convenient. Neither Obama nor the supposed flaming Bolsheviks in Congress are remotely serious about pushing a progressive agenda. The attempt at bipartisanship allows them to avoid doing so, and to then turn to their base with the absurd argument that, "Sorry, but gosh, our hands were tied". As if owning the presidency and three-fifths of both houses of Congress wasn't enough to do the job. As if George W. Bush didn't get nearly everything he wanted from Congress, without any of the advantages Obama has.

The third reason you hear a lot about bipartisanship is because the public is dumb enough to embrace it. And, this is really dumb, if you think about it. Why should anyone care about whether or not a legislative proposal has the support of both parties? Do we care whether it comes gift-wrapped with a bow? Do we care whether the pope is also on board? Do we care whether it is similar to what they do in Botswana? No, we do not. And we should not. The only thing that really matters about any given piece of legislation is whether or not it is good policy. Apart from my own representatives, who will soon be asking me for my vote to help them keep their jobs, I couldn't care less how the bill was adopted or rejected. As a citizen, I don't have any interest whatsoever whether it was done by this coalition or that one, by a strict party-line vote or a chaotic aisle-crossing mash-up, by unanimity or by the barest of threads. None of that will affect my life. What is really important is simple: The bill either becomes law or it doesn't, and it's either good for the country or it isn't.

What makes this clamoring for bipartisanship especially inane is that it is a part of a constellation of vague public preferences that not only make no sense, but are often mutually exclusive of one another. Americans want their government to go to work for them! Yes, except when they want their government to stay out of their lives and do nothing! Americans want change! Except when they want bipartisanship that guarantees no change! Americans want their government to do less! Except when they are complaining about all the terrible gridlock in Washington! The short version of the story is that the people of this country don't exactly know what they want, except that, as good Americans, they of course want everything. Which, unfortunately, includes bipartisanship.

But there is zero inherent value to bipartisanship and potentially a lot to be lost, as is the case under present circumstances. It only takes a little imagination to see this (and not really even that, given the nature of today's certifiably insane GOP). If the American Nazi Party was the second party in the system, would it be better for a centrist first party to be bipartisan? Would the legislation produced be healthier for the country that way? Maybe we could get some cozy compromise that only resulted in half a genocide, eh? Maybe we would only try to take over the northern hemisphere, instead of the whole planet. Wouldn't those be grand and lovely bipartisan compromises?

Of course, the Republicans aren't Nazis. Though there are certain days where you do kinda wonder. Meanwhile, though, for that matter the Democrats aren't really Democrats either. At least, that is, they are not a party that either Lyndon Johnson or Franklin Roosevelt would anymore recognize. But the principle is the same. What is to be gained by Democrats - pretending for the moment that Democrats actually had some legislation to offer that would benefit the country in any meaningful way - what is to be gained by Democrats from seeking bipartisanship?

The question is a valid one, even if we set aside the most obvious of political facts about contemporary American politics, which is that the Republican Party of No hasn't the slightest interest in cooperating with the Democrats in any fashion whatever. Indeed, it is not a stretch or a joke to say that Republicans would not cooperate with Democrats even if the Democrats took up the Republican agenda wholesale. As Obama himself pointed out in one of his more lucid moments, seven Republicans recently voted against a bill that they had previously cosponsored themselves, merely because the Democratic president endorsed the idea. (Maybe Obama's new strategy should be to come out in favor of Republicans winning the next election. Then GOP candidates would have to choose between renouncing their own victory, on the one hand, or siding with the hated president, on the other. Heck, by the look of Obama's first year, maybe that actually has been his strategy!)

Obama is now making some noises about ditching the whole Quest for the Bipartisan Holy Grail, but then Obama is real good at making noises, but real lousy at actually doing things. What I've never quite understood is why he continues on his political suicide mission. The whole premise of representative government is based on harnessing the ego and pretensions of the men who would be king and channeling that self-interest into the public interest by allowing voters to decide how congruent it is with their own aspirations and preferences. It assumes that people who want to be president or senator actually want to be president or senator, and that they will therefore do what the voters want them to do.

Of course, we live in an era when the real constituents of government officials are the ones who deliver the modern equivalent of paper sacks full of cash. And, to a certain extent, 'twas ever thus. But despite the overwhelming power of special interests, that model really only flies during 'normal times', and these are not normal times. The public's anger and exasperation grows in direct proportion to the proliferation of the economic and other national crises, and inversely against the mounting failures of their so-called representatives to actually legislate, let alone represent. I expect that 2010 and 2012 will mark the third and fourth iterations in a row of election cycles profoundly marked by an anti-incumbent tsunami, and that there likely will be others after that, especially after Republicans seize power and proceed to utterly fail in effective problem-solving. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, for example, is now just about to join a whole bunch of other Democrats in getting served up his pink slip. Of course, Ol' Harry will, er, land on his feet, so to speak, with a fat multi-million dollar lobbyist gig or six. Still, this turn of events is clearly not his first choice, and it's gotta sting a bit. So will Nancy Pelosi's demotion to minority leader in the House. So will Barack Obama's one-term failed presidency.

And so should they. What did the Dead sing? "If you plant ice, you're gonna harvest wind"? Bipartisanship, for its own sake, is very a cold gale indeed. In our particular moment, it actually means doing absolutely nothing. And doing nothing today means continuing to serve the interests of the plutocracy, even while economic, fiscal, environmental, foreign policy and other conditions are collectively stomping on the accelerator of the public's hearse as it careers pell-mell down the Highway to Hell. Bitchen idea that bipartisan inertia in the face of crisis, eh? Let's have more of that.

It would be one thing if today's Republican Party was populated by actual human beings. Or if, on the other hand, Obama was just playing them for suckers, letting them establish themselves as the Party of No at a time when the public desperately wants Yes, and then letting them hoist themselves far higher up on their own petard than he could have done without their help. But neither of those appear to be the case. The Eisenhower Republican is no longer any more viable than is Cro Magnon Man or floppy disks. That leaves the Mitch McConnells of this world to take their place, and the only thing more despicable than a Mitch McConnell is the asshole who would seek to do deals with a Mitch McConnell - especially when he doesn't have to - leaving the rest of us stuck with the consequences. And as for the notion of Obama the strategic genius, playing chess while the rest of us are playing checkers, I just have to laugh that some die-hard Democrats are still clinging to that last-ditch Hail Mary pass. The only thing Barack the rag doll has to show for one year in office is plummeting poll ratings and a signature health care bill that was so badly managed that it will actually cost him votes if it passes, which still seems unlikely anyhow. I'd say Obama is playing tiddlywinks while the rest of us are playing checkers. Or maybe he's just playing with himself. We know that the last DINO in the White House did just that, literally and figuratively.

But the fallacy of the bipartisan god runs even deeper. One could make a pretty good argument that bipartisanship is not to be desired under most any normal circumstances. The reason for this has to do with another of the pillars of democratic theory, this one being the idea of responsible government. In a real democracy, people are supposed to have a real choice. That means political parties with distinguishably different programs (else why have more than one party, anyhow?). And that means that one of them governs (is responsible) at any given time, and the other stands in opposition, offering an alternative vision. At the end of the day, the people get to decide how they like the way things are going, and then vote accordingly. If it's good, you keep the bums you have. If it ain't, you hire new bums.

Bipartisanship fundamentally undermines this core concept of the practice of democracy. If everybody's on the same page, there is no alternative vision or choice, and therefore no democracy. So, even in the best of times, I see little virtue in this concept. And these are certainly not the best of times. I don't care in the slightest if everybody gets along in Washington. Indeed, I don't want them to, ideologically speaking. I want real parties with real agendas that are really different from each other. And I want to be able to select from among them as real possible choices to govern the country.

The mantra of bipartisanship in America today is just a way for everyone involved to avoid actually changing anything. For Republicans it is a way to prevent the president and the majority in Congress from enacting an agenda. For the Democrats it's a way to avoid actually having an agenda. And for the rocket scientists in the public who clamor for more bipartisanship, it's a way to avoid thinking.

The great irony is that we actually have far more bipartisanship today than people realize. Absolutely nothing of consequence is coming out of Washington these days, even though this is a moment of great need for national action.

Thus, both parties are working diligently, and together in a bipartisan fashion, at not working at all.

So now that we have enjoyed the full beauty and benefits of bipartisanship, can we finally move on?

Can we actually get something of consequence done?
(c) 2010 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Senator Bunning

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer Bunning,

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, Ralph Nader, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Fredo Bush, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Sonia (get whitey) Sotomayor.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, your demand to end unemployment payments so that we have more money for wars against humanity, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican 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 03-15-2010. We salute you Herr Bunning, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Shut Down Jim Bunning's "Charitable" Fraud
Filibustering against extended jobless benefits, Bunning cites the deficit. So he should close his tax-exempt scam
By Joe Conason

Until today, it hardly seemed possible that Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., could be more widely despised than he was, but he has succeeded in diminishing his already low stature. Loutish, eccentric and mean, he says that his filibuster against extended unemployment insurance benefits is spurred by his concern over the federal deficit. The jobless and their children may depend on that assistance for rent and food, but Bunning insists that the Obama adminisration use stimulus funding to pay for unemployment extensions. He doesn't give a damn that on Sunday benefits will run out for hundreds of thousands of struggling families.

While even Bunning's fellow Republicans dislike him intensely, none of them cares enough about the unemployed to tell him to sit down and shut up. That has been left to the Democrats, who should make Bunning the poster boy of the right-wing filibuster - a symbol of obstructed democracy and discarded humanity.

Here's a suggestion for anyone who runs into the former baseball pitcher on the Senate floor. Tell him that if he is truly worried about the deficit, he should stop using the Jim Bunning Foundation to shelter the money he makes from baseball memorabilia.

Ever since he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Bunning has operated this phony "charitable" operation as a front for his business selling autographed balls. As this outfit's sole employee, working one hour a week, he has paid himself hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past 10 years - considerably more than the amount donated to any actual charity.

Indeed, the only charities to which the foundation gives any significant sums are Catholic churches attended by Bunning and his family (so he gets other people to make his religious donations as well). Perhaps those churches ought to reconsider accepting his generosity in light of his nasty conduct toward the unemployed, whose plight is a matter of grave concern to the Catholic hierarchy.

Clearly Bunning is a man of low character, even for someone who belongs to what Twain described as "our only distinctly native American criminal class." Not only does he exploit a charitable foundation to avoid taxes and ethics rules while greasing his own palm; he actually put a Washington lobbyist on the foundation board - and then arranged budget earmarks for clients of that same lobbyist, who oversees his self-dealing scam. Someone ought to file an ethics complaint against this dreadful, dishonest man.
(c) 2010 Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer and Salon. You may reach Joe via email at: Joe Conason

TP The Republicans
By Mary Pitt

"I've got yer clean sheet of paper right here!" This is the message that should be sent to the Senate Republicans by everyone who wants and needs the passage of the Health Reform measure which the House and Senate have proposed and it's a message that we can afford. We get appeals daily for contributions of money on behalf of one political agenda or another and we do not respond because we have no money to send. This is a simple request and one that is well within our means. It would cost only a US postage stamp.

With or without a letter of explanation, the point would be made that the donation is exactly what they asked for in their "summit" with representatives of the two parties. Further, it is highly appropriate for their stated purpose. Their suggestions for health care "reform" consist of only two measures:

Tort Reform: This is merely another Republican pay-off to the insurance companies and perpetrators of malpractice. It would limit the amount that a private citizen who is injured in any way by the inappropriate or mis-applied treatment by hospitals and physicians. Those who go in for a hangnail and find themselves with an amputated leg, or worse, the wrong leg amputated will be told that they need to "shut up and live with it!" Families of patients who are mistakenly given the wrong medication that leads to their death will receive no or less compensation for their loss. These are problems that have always been left up to the Courts but Republicans believe the Courts have been unduly generous. If you don't agree with them, hie yourself into the bathroom and mail them a piece of toilet paper on which to write it.

Allowing the purchase of insurance "across state lines": This would strip the states of their power to regulate the insurance companies that sell insurance within the state. Currently, most insurance companies have their home offices in states that re very lenient in their control, a condition that was created in order for the companies to base their headquarters there. Other states have an official, usually and Insurance Commissioner with the authority to investigate the policies and records of performance of the applying company. In many cases, their standards for acceptance are so high that few companies deign to sell to their citizens. The results are that those companies may create policies that do not provide the coverage that they represent in their advertising and, thus, forego applying to that state to sell their coverage. If you do not agree that canceling this local protection, get that piece of "Plain Paper" in an envelope and mail it to your Republican Senator or one in a neighboring State!

This would be a way that those of us who need insurance but can't afford it or those who have been denied coverage because of "pre-existing conditions" or discontinued while ill because your care cost too much can make Congress abundantly aware of our desires. While we can't afford to show up at demonstrations at The Capitol or even a Tea Party on a Court House lawn, most of us can afford one small sheet off the roll to make our wishes known. If it doesn't work, at least we can feel appreciated for our efforts to "cut government spending".
(c) 2010 Mary Pitt is eighty years old and has spent a half century working with handicapped and deprived people and advocating on their behalf while caring for her own working-class family. She spends her "Sunset Years" in writing and struggling with The System. Huzzahs and whiney complaints may be sent to

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Rick McKee ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Silas Stingy
By The Who

Once upon a time there lived an old miser man
By the name of Silas Stingy
He carried all his money in a little black box
Which was heavy as a rock
With a big padlock
All the little kids would shout
When Silas was about

Money, money, money bags
Money, money, money bags
There goes mingy Stingy
There goes mingy Stingy
Money, money, money bags
Money, money, money bags
There goes mingy Stingy
There goes mingy Stingy

Silas didn't eat, which was just as well
He would starve himself for a penny
He wore old clothes and he never washed
'Cause soap cost a lot
And the dirt kept him hot
All the little kids would shout
When Silas was about

Money, money, money bags
Money, money, money bags
There goes mingy Stingy
There goes mingy Stingy
Money, money, money bags
Money, money, money bags
There goes mingy Stingy
There goes mingy Stingy

In the back of his head
Was a voice that said
"Someone will steal it all"
He'll be lying in the gutter with an empty box
The thieves will be having a ball

Money, money, money bags
Money, money, money bags
There goes mingy Stingy
There goes mingy Stingy
Money, money, money bags
Money, money, money bags
There goes mingy Stingy
There goes mingy Stingy

He bought a safe to put the box in
And a house to put the safe in
And a watchdog on a chain to make quite sure
And his face was very funny
When he counted up his money
And he realized he had a penny more!

Money, money, money bags
Money, money, money bags
There goes mingy Stingy
There goes mingy Stingy
Money, money, money bags
Money, money, money bags
There goes mingy Stingy
There goes mingy Stingy
(c) 1967/2010 John Entwistle/The Who

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

The Terrifying Truth About Saint Patrick!

A Shocking Children's Sermon Teaches Kids a Valuable and Unforgettable Lesson about the Demonic Nature of Hell Bound Catholics

Freehold Iowa - During the Landover Baptist Children's Sermon last Sunday morning, terrified toddlers were treated to a surprise visit from Saint Patrick himself. According to Pastor Deacon Fred, "Our little pre-K sissies cried like a pack of mincing pansies - just like they did last week when we showed them The Passion of the Christ." The lights in the church were dimmed and a ferociously bright green spotlight scanned over the crowd of unsuspecting youngsters huddled together in front of the congregation. The men's choir began to hum in a steady drone, like Catholic monks stirring a cauldron of boiling saint relics as the children moved closer together, casting pleading glances at teachers who used medium-voltage stun guns to herd the timid tots onto the sculptured shag carpet steps leading up to the church's 18-karat rose gold altar and tidal baptism pool.

After the startling splat of an adult horse being dropped from the rafters onto the marble stage, an ominous voice bellowed at the children, many of whom were warily picking pieces of equine innards from their blood spattered clothing and hair. "I AM SAINT PATRICK!" yelled the heavily amplified voice of Pastor Deacon Fred as he sprang out of the darkness and into the spotlight. "AND I EAT LITTLE CHILDREN!" Pastor's Saint Patrick costume was so effective that every little child screamed at the top of their lungs. Most felt the telltale jolt of a stun gun, reminding them that they had visibly soiled the pants of their Sunday-school uniforms.

As the stage filled with darting coils of snakes, Pastor lunged toward the terrified children and grabbed 4-year-old, Codie Johnson by the left foot. He bent down so little Codie was dangling between an angry rattlesnake and over Pastor's sharp yellow teeth. "My Catholic priests are hungry!" said Pastor. "But you look so tasty, I think I'll just bite off your tallywhacker myself and spit the rest of you out into Father O'Malley's bed!" Pastor let out a blood-curdling cackle and little Codie wet his pants and passed out. He carefully tossed Codie aside, kicking away the snake just seconds before it lunged for Codie's tender neck and making sure Codie's little head didn't hit the marble floor (two deacons were on hand to collect the child and bring him to the church infirmary).

"NOW! Who's NEXT!?" Pastor yelled through a spray of green spittle He lunged frantically toward the children. "I drove the snakes out of filthy, rotten Ireland - and I'll drive you out of your crazy little minds! BWAA-hahahahah!" he exclaimed as he waved his green hands in the air. The children, clinging to each other, let out deafening wails of terror. Most of them were so petrified that their limbs were frozen and they couldn't move.

"I work for the Catholic Church!" yelled Pastor. "And we have a shortage on little children right now..." Mrs. Ida Mae Denkins who was seated in the left second pew stood up and shouted, "Take my little Suzie to the priests, Saint Patrick! She's been watching the Cartoon Network without permission! She's seen Sponge Bob's penis! She's been a bad girl! A wicked, sinful servant of the satyr Satan!" Suzie Denkins screamed, "NO MAMA! NO! I'll never watch secular cartoons again!" Pastor Deacon Fred eyed little Suzie. "You'd make a nice tender sweet little morsel for one of my demon-red-skirt-wearing bishops!" he screamed. "They'd love to find out what's going on underneath that little poodle-skirt you little whore!" Suzie lost consciousness and several Deacons were on hand to smack her across the head and bring her limp, sinful carcass to the church infirmary.

"I'm going to let you sissy little scardy cats off easy this time!" said Pastor. "I want you worthless little pansies to run off to your Sunday School classes RIGHT NOW! Your teachers there will learn you more about me and my Cathylick Church in Rome. But don't forget March 17th! Lock your doors and hide under your covers! For on that day, my drunken Catholic servants diddle their unholy areas and pray to ME! And I come forth to steal beautiful little Caucasian Baptist children like YOU! And deliver you into the red velvet bedrooms of my servants, the priests!"

After all of the children who fled were recovered, the lights were turned back on and Pastor removed his Saint Patrick mask. The congregation of parents, who had quietly watched from the tin-level tither mezzanine balcony, applauded and then rose to give him a standing ovation. "Hopefully that will stick with them for the rest of their lives," Pastor told churchgoers. "You have to get them on the straight and narrow when they are young, A-men? I thought the Mel Gibson blood fest would have toughened them up, but apparently we have a bunch of twinkle-toes fairies that need the fear of Jesus put in them."

Sunday school classes that morning were an extension of Pastor's children's sermon. Youngsters were treated to a Power Point presentation developed by Jack T. Chick, called, "Why Catholics are NOT Christians."
(c) 2010 The Landover Baptist Church

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 10 (c) 03/05/2010

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