Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Cynthia McKinney hears, "They're White Just Like Us..."

Uri Avnery considers, "A Matter Of Timing."

David Sirota tells the Senate to, "Go Back To The Drawing Board."

Mike Davis covers the, "Labor War in the Mojave."

Jim Hightower concludes, "Congress Flubs The Job On Jobs Bill."

Ray McGovern protests, "Yoo Besmirches Legacy Of Jefferson."

James Donahue says, "Kennedy A Better Choice For $50 Bill."

Paul Krugman is, "Taking On China."

Chris Floyd studies, "Cud And Complicity."

Belacqua Jones goes, "Tripping With Dickens."

Mike Folkerth exclaims, "Congress Set To Repeal The Law Of Supply And Demand!"

Chris Hedges chronicles, "Israel Crackdown Puts Liberal Jews On The Spot."

David Michael Green explains, "The Complete Idiot's Guide To Governing."

Ohio Con-gressman Dennis Kucinich wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Joe Conason finds, "Renewed Massa Probe Cannot Vindicate Boehner."

Mary Pitt examines, "The Real American Emergency."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "GQ Recalls New Issue After Rielle Hunter Photo Spread Causes Nausea" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Oy Vey!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jeff Parker, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea, Mr. Fish, Kirk Anderson, Chan Lowe, Lalo Alcaraz, Tom Toles, United Artists, William Warren, Steve Greenberg, Ryan Couch, Borowitz Report, ABC News, A.P. 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."

Oy Vey!
By Ernest Stewart

"It's hard to see how spending a weekend condemning Israel for a zoning decision in its capital city amounts to a positive step towards peace. This administration is attacking a staunch ally and friend when it should be focusing on the threat posed by Iran's nuclear problem." ~~~ Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.

"From a canonical point of view, the bishop or religious superior is neither morally nor legally responsible for a criminal act committed by one of his clerics." ~~~ THE REV. GIANFRANCO GHIRLANDA, dean of the canon law faculty at Gregorian University in Rome, as quoted by the NY Times, May 18, 2002.

"Dennis Kucinich signed a pledge to vote against any bill that does not have a public option. Online supporters donated over $17,000 to him over the past two days as a direct response to his reiteration of that promise this week. It would be deceitful of him to keep that money now, as well as the $8,000 raised after he signed that pledge in July." ~~~ Jane Hamsher

Oh, those pesky, Goyim-cattle types. How dare they go so far as to meekly criticize god's chosen people? You know very well that might makes right! God did, after all, set Israel to rule over all us inferior types, especially those dirty Semitic Palestinians who stole Israel from the Jews by living there for thousands of years.

No sooner had the vice president wiped the spittle off his face that the Knesset had gobbed there than those certain creatures crawled out from under their rocks to rant for their masters. You know, the usual suspects! Those fifth columnist traitors who are proud to be attached to Tel Aviv's puppet strings. Of course, I'm talking about McCain, Lie-berman, Brownback and the rest of the AIPAC-owned political scum! Literally hundreds of Senators and Congressmen owned by Tel Aviv!

Old "Wet Start" was the first to open his pie hole:

"It might be well if our friends in the administration and other places in the United States could start refocusing our efforts on the peace process. Now we've had our spat. We've had our family fight, and it's time for us now to stop and get our eye back on the goal, which is the commencement of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks."

Now that's some funny sh*t as the stealing of more of East Jerusalem by the Zionazis is hardly going to make the Palestinians want to make peace with these monsters. Nor is closing one of the holiest sites in Islam is going to further the peace process either. Funny how Johnny managed to overlook these insults in the first place, isn't it? Instead of putting America first and demanding an apology, Johnny shows where his true allegiance lies and it's not with the USA!

Next up was Connecticut's shame the traitor "Tail-gunner Joe' who promptly said:

"Let's cut the family fighting, the family feud. It's unnecessary; it's destructive of our shared national interest. It's time to lower voices, to get over the family feud between the U.S. and Israel. It just doesn't serve anybody's interests but our enemies."

Well Joe, thanks for giving it away, eh? Just a little Freudian slip, huh? Our true enemies are the Palestinians. Those poor retched, starving, victims of mass murder we've turned our backs on for 62 years, all the while pretending it was their fault and that the Zionazi thieves were not the murdering monsters that they are. Yes, you can see by these examples just how bad we want an equitable peace.

Then there came Kansas' mistake spider er, Sinator Sam Brownback who chimed in to remind Obama about his next step to WWIII. Yes, let's keep our eye on the prize. The nuclear war that all of this is leading up to!

Just to show that all the crazies aren't in the Rethuglican party and crowd out the voices of reason in the Demoncratic party as well, one can always rely upon Israeli stooge and American traitor, Nevada Con-gresswoman Shelley Berkley, who accused administration officials of using "overwrought rhetoric" in suggesting that the east Jerusalem housing announcement threatened U.S./Israeli ties:

"The administration's strong implication that the enduring alliance between the U.S. and Israel has been weakened, and that America's ability to broker talks between Israel and Palestinian authorities has been undermined, is an irresponsible overreaction."

These enemies of the people and many more stand between peace and WWIII and will continue to do so even after the ICBMs begin to fly. They're at the Zionazis beck and call and, like the faithful lapdogs that they are, attack anything that stands between their masters and world domination! You, America, could do something about this but you won't. You won't even lift a finger to bring these traitors to trial or even bother to vote them out of office. You're too busy, too scared to rock the boat, too cowardly not to be their slaves! Keep giving them your children to die in their place in the war that never ends, the war that they started. Besides, we've always been at war with Eurasia, right?

In Other News

Well, there is some happy news this week! It seems that the Panzer Pope Joey Ratz maybe on the way out as it was revealed that thanks to Joey, hundreds, maybe thousands, of children in Germany and all over Europe were allowed to be molested by Catholic priests.

His former archdiocese disclosed that while Joey was archbishop, suspected pedophile priests were transferred to jobs where they later abused children. As Harry Truman said, "The Buck Stops Here!" We'll see if the buck stops in the Vatican, too?

The pontiff is also under increasing fire for a 2001 Vatican document he penned instructing Bishops to keep molestation cases secret and those priests in the church.

These facts have led to many questions about what the pontiff knew about the scope of abuse in his native Germany, when he knew it, and what he did about it during his tenure in Munich and his quarter-century term at the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formally the "Congregation of the Holy Office of the Inquisition." You know, the folks that brought us "burn the witch!"

Oh, and one other interesting thing is that his big brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger has become part of the scandal as the head of the Regensburger Domspatzen boy's choir. Georgie has already admitted that he slapped pupils as punishment but says he was unaware of allegations of sexual abuse at the German Regensburger Domspatzen boy's choir, which he took over in 1964. As former members of the choir come forward with their nightmare tales of abuse during his tenure this may become too big to cover up in Europe. Unlike it was in this country where thousands of pedophile priests were moved from parish to parish to give them access to new children and the victims paid off to keep them quiet. Also unlike in this country, Europe takes a very dim view of molesting children by men wearing dresses! Except, of course, in Ireland where there's an old tradition of nuns molesting little girls!

So the former youth-for-Hitler Werewolf der Panzer Pope Joey Ratz has been covering up for perverts. Why am I not surprised?

And Finally

Guess who finally came out of the closet and showed his true self? In case you haven't heard, Dennis Kucinich has jumped on the bandwagon in support of Barry's sellout of America to the insurance goons, and in doing so, won himself the Vidkun Quisling Award for this week. You may also recall that Dennis signed a pledge not to vote for any plan without a single payer option and accepted over $17,000 dollars to do so just this week alone. Needless to say I wrote Dennis a letter...


I see that you've joined the dark side and will sell us out to the insurance goons with the, "Health Insurance Company Protection Act of 2010." Thanks for finally coming out of the closet and showing us your puppet strings. As a supporter who has gone way out of his way to help you since your days of being mayor of "the mistake on the lake," to say I'm saddened and shocked by your sell out is a vast understatement. But I'm not really surprised as you are a politician and as we all know politics comes from the Latin "Poli" meaning many and from the English "Tics" meaning blood sucking creatures, Poli-Tics.

Still, you had me fooled, so shame on you but I won't get fooled again and neither will my many readers! So now people who are too poor to buy their worthless, jacked up insurance will also be criminals and get fined on top of the rip off, too. And we'll all have YOU to thank for this. How many millions will go hungry to pay for worthless insurance? I'm guessing Obama paid you the traditional 30 pieces of silver for your sell out? How do those puppet strings feel Dennis? Just no more pretending that you're one of us, okay?

Funny thing, I tried calling your Washington office and your two Ohio offices but the phones weren't working. Funny thing that, eh? You can turn your phones off, but you can't hide from the people or the truth! Thanks for selling us out Dennis. We won't ever forget!

Sincerely yours,
Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis magazine
PS. You've won this weeks Vidkun Quisling Award, which is our weekly award for the biggest traitor in America!

This was just one of many letters I sent out. I'll be sure and share with you any replies I get back!

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.


01-24-1910 ~ 03-09-2010
Thanks for caring!

03-18-1926 ~ 03-14-2010
Oveur and Out!

03-16-1933 ~ 03-16-2010
Thanks for those dinners, night after night!


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.

They're White Just Like Us. . .
By Cynthia McKinney

"They're white just like us and the people they're killing . . . are Arabs."

This bit of erudition came, with a shrug of the shoulders, at the end of the first session of the newly-formed Russell Tribunal on Palestine. It was not a part of the official record because it was stated in the anteroom, just off the auditorium of the elegantly-appointed Barcelona Lawyers Building where the Tribunal was held. The person making this comment was not an official expert witness--but he was a European who understood the mindset that made Europeans complicit, not only in Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people, but also in Israel's impunity.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine is organized by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and has local organizing committees in each of the places where sessions will be held: Europe, United Kingdom, South Africa, and the United States. The Tribunal will next venture into London, then to South Africa to ponder the peculiar institution of Israeli apartheid. And finally to the U.S. where the mother of all complicity resides.

The Tribunal stresses its independence from the influence of special interests and each Local Organizing Committee conducts fundraising activities to make each Session a success. Barcelona can be chalked up as a success that serves the Tribunal organizers well for the upcoming London Session. More information on the Barcelona proceedings can be found here.

The original Bertrand Russell Tribunal was seated in the mid-1960s and considered the case against the U.S. war against Vietnam. Its second seating was to deliberate on human rights abuses in Latin America. Consideration of the situation of the people of Palestine commands its third seating.

The organizers of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine scoured the globe to find people of conscience to serve as jurors who are noted for acting on their convictions. The jurors include a woman who served with Bertrand Russell on the original Tribunal and another woman whose work eventually was recognized with a Nobel Peace Prize. The Tribunal's mandate is to inform and urge action by a larger community of conscience and its urgency is the understanding that the Tribunal must act in the face of inaction by national and international authorities.

In addition, the "Brussells" Tribunal on Iraq (operating from Brussels, Belgium at) is the brainchild of Russell Tribunal veteran Francois Houtart. The Brussells Tribunal was conducted in 2004 and found the United States guilty of committing an act of aggression against Iraq.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine, Barcelona Session, convened for three days, considered the evidence presented to it, and delivered its decision in response to a series of questions that could be summed up as:

"Is the E.U. complicit in Israel's crimes against Palestinians, and if so, in what way? What is the E.U.'s legal responsibility to itself and to international law?"

During the proceedings, I did pose the "Why?" question several times. However, the unofficial respondent answered the question in a way that even I was totally unprepared for: from his gut.

"They're white just like us and the people they're killing . . . are Arabs."

This comment haunted me for the remainder of my European tour. And, it seemed that I could never escape it. In Brussels and then again in Paris; in London, I was consistently reminded of the color line and that I was traveling in places not usually broken by it: economic and political status in these places is as defined by skin color as it is in the United States, the Presidency of Barack Obama notwithstanding.

Combine my European experience with the fact of the illegal pillage of Africa by way of stoked "civil wars" and fake "rebel groups" created for the purpose of facilitating non-African Africa pillage--done since the first Berlin Conference that organized the so-called "Scramble for Africa" at the dawn of the 20th Century. Juxtapose that to the opening of the 19th Century where Africans in Haiti defeated Napoleon Bonaparte's Army. Not only was Africa robbed of its strongest human resources for centuries during slavery, it continues to be robbed of its human and natural resources even now. Africans' patrimony is being transferred, on the cheap, to Europe, the United States, and Israel.

Anyone who doubts these facts should consider the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), now suffering six million dead just since the Rwandan/Ugandan invasion in August of 1998 facilitated by the United States. The tragedy is told in the first United Nations Report on the pillage of DRC, written by Madame Ba-N-Dow, whose life was threatened by those named in the report, causing her to have to go into hiding because she told the truth. Additionally, numerous books and articles on the subject have been written by Camerounian-Parisian Charles Onana of Editions Duboiris, for those who read French, and by Wayne Madsen and Keith Harmon Snow, for those who don't.

As I looked into the faces of Europe's most recent immigrant Africans and Asians, the immigrant wars being fought today inside Europe, Israel, and the United States crystallized in the most dismal of contexts. With each glance into every face, I strained to make eye-to-eye contact to see beyond the face of the individual in order to understand the totality of the life I was encountering. Sadly, the realities all seemed the same: certain Europeans (including certain Americans and Israelis) had arrogated to themselves the right to go into any land, vilify the indigenous, denigrate their culture and dignity, steal the resources, overturn the local economy, destroy the local polities, and ignore the human rights of self-determination and resistance to occupation, and then dare the "others" to emigrate. For context today: Think the Muslim World in Africa and Asia. Think Latin America. Think Gaza.

Everywhere around Europe, as is also the case in Israel and the United States, immigration is an issue. It seems that Europeans--who have a quality of life that includes, among other things, mass transit and continental rapid rail that works, subsidized education, subsidized healthcare, and secure work and pensions--have reached their "immigrant tolerance level:" that is, more "others" are not welcome. And, as in the United States, the role of the special interest media cannot be discounted in the popularization of hate. This is especially sad when one realizes that the Europe of today exists as it does largely because of its past policies and current bondage with the United States that politically and economically wreck the countries of the "others."

For example, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Israel are all diamond trading capitals of the world, yet none of them is a major miner of diamonds. The diamonds mainly come from Africa, and the consequent diamond empire that links all of these capitals was built on slavery and theft. (Please see the film "Diamond Empire" by investigative journalist Janine Roberts, banned in the United States because of its inconvenient, name-naming content.)

Now, take a look at these diamond-producing capitals of Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, and black South Africa--even post-apartheid--and one quickly grasps the level of theft and criminality that continues still today. Please think about this the next time you are tempted to buy a beautiful sparkling diamond in your local mall jewelry store.

And, for those who have never left America's shores, one need only look inside the United States at the genocide of America's indigenous people and the continued pillage of their land to understand how today's life of largess was made possible by years of mistreatment, lawlessness, and genocide committed generations ago.

In 1948, the cycle began again when Zionists eager to wield state power were placed in control of Palestine by Europeans, Britons, and Americans and created the State of Israel on the land where Palestinians lived.

I inquired of one Israeli testifying at the Tribunal what did Operation Cast Lead tell us about the nature of Zionism. And it was through this line of questioning that I again heard something that I have heard all over the world, but never in the media: "I am an anti-Zionist Jew."

In the United States, Zionists at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) purport to speak for all Jews and they would have non-Jews believe that criticism of them or of Israel is criticism of all Jews. For many that I encounter in the world whose only previous information came from the media, their most startling discovery is that this is a lie. And I have heard some of the most impassioned critiques of Israel's policies toward Palestinians from anti-Zionist Jews. I intend to write more on this later.

Yesterday, it was announced in the English news that blacks and Asians are stopped by the police alarmingly more than whites. The study that published these findings also suggested that if such disparities are allowed to persist, then the communities of color so targeted could become increasingly disenchanted and volatile. London, Paris, and Oakland, California have all burned in recent memory as a result of persistent disparities and loss of hope for change. If unchecked now in communities of color, repression of all will surely be next.

Given my experiences and reflections during this European tour that included the Russell Tribunal; a standing-room-only meeting of Congolese who came from all over Europe to Brussels; a standing-room-only crowd of young people in "the hood" of a Paris suburb attending an event organized by rapper Joe Dalton; and several events in London that included a standing-room-only 9/11 Truth - 7/7 Tube Truth event, I find the observation of the Russell Tribunal attendee both poignant and relevant: It is still possible for people battered by propaganda and lies, covert and false flag operations, and the meanest of media blackouts to see and hear those of us who dissent and act on conscience. Our message is being received. A growing global critical mass see the humanity that binds us together despite the lies and the screens of religion, race, ethnicity, language, gender, and sexual orientation--skillfully used in the past to divide us.

The real message from my Russell Tribunal respondent is clear: Resistance to lies, injustice, war, and indignity is necessary and more people seeing that, join with us in our principled struggle.

For more information on the Barcelona proceedings, please see: Press TV.

And The Real news network.


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.

A Matter Of Timing
By Uri Avnery

SOME WEEKS the news is dominated by a single word. This week's word was "timing".

It's all a matter of timing. The Government of Israel has insulted the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, one of the greatest "friends" of Israel (meaning: somebody totally subservient to AIPAC) and spat in the face of President Barack Obama. So what? It's all a matter of timing.

If the government had announced the building of 1600 new housing units in East Jerusalem a day earlier, it would have been OK. If it had announced it three days later, it would have been wonderful. But doing it exactly when Joe Biden was about to have dinner with Bibi and Sarah'le - that was really bad timing.

The matter itself is not important. Another thousand housing units in East Jerusalem, or 10 thousand, or 100 thousand - what different does it make? The only thing that matters is the timing.

As the Frenchman said: It's worse than criminal, it's stupid.

THE WORD "stupid" also figured prominently this week, second only to "timing".

Stupidity is an accepted phenomenon in politics. I would almost say: to succeed in politics, one needs a measure of stupidity. Voters don't like politicians who are too intelligent. They make them feel inferior. A foolish politician, on the other hand, appears to be "one of the folks".

History is full of acts of folly by politicians. Many books have been written about this. To my mind, the epitome of foolishness was achieved by the events that led to World War I, with its millions of victims, which broke out because of the accumulated stupidity of (in ascending order) Austrian, Russian, German, French and British politicians.

But even stupidity in politics has its limits. I have pondered this question for decades, and who knows, one day, when I grow up, I might write a doctoral thesis about it.

My thesis goes like this: In politics (as in other fields) foolish things happen regularly. But some of them are stopped in time, before they can lead to disaster, while others are not. It this accidental, or is there a rule?

My answer is: there certainly is a rule. It works like this: when somebody sets in motion an act of folly that runs counter to the spirit of the regime, it is stopped in its tracks. While it moves from one bureaucrat to another, somebody starts to wonder. Just a moment, this cannot be right! It is referred to higher authority, and soon enough somebody decides that it is a mistake.

On the other hand, when the act of folly is in line with the spirit of the regime, there are no brakes. When it moves from one bureaucrat to the next, it looks quite natural to both. No red light. No alarm bell. And so the folly rolls on to the bitter end.

I remember how this rule came to my mind the first time. In 1965, Habib Bourguiba, the president of Tunisia, took a bold step: he made a speech in the biggest refugee camp in Jericho, then under Jordanian rule, and called upon the Arabs to recognize Israel. This caused a huge scandal all over the Arab world.

Some time later, the correspondent of an Israeli paper reported that in a press conference at the UN headquarters, Bourguiba had called for the destruction of Israel. This sounded strange to me. I made inquiries, checked the protocol and found out that the opposite was true: the reporter had mistakenly turned a no into a yes.

How did this happen? If the journalist had erred in the opposite direction and reported, for example, that Gamal Abd-el-Nasser had called for the acceptance of Israel into the Arab League, the news would have been stopped at once. Every red light would have lit up. Someone would have called out: Hey, something strange here! Check again! But in the Bourguiba case nobody noticed the mistake, for what is more natural than an Arab leader calling for the destruction of Israel? No verification needed.

That's what happened this week in Jerusalem. Every government official knows that the nationalist Prime Minister is pushing for the Judaization of East Jerusalem, that the extreme nationalist Minister of the Interior is even more eager, and that the super-nationalist Mayor of Jerusalem practically salivates when he imagines a Jewish quarter on the Temple Mount. So why should a bureaucrat postpone the confirmation of a new Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem? Just because of the visit of some American windbag?

Therefore, the timing is not important. It's the matter itself that's important.

DURING HIS last days in office, President Bill Clinton published a peace plan, in which he tried to make up for eight years of failure in this region and kowtowing to successive Israeli governments. The plan was comparatively reasonable, but included a ticking bomb.

About East Jerusalem, Clinton proposed that what is Jewish should be joined to the State of Israel and what is Arab should be joined to the state of Palestine. He assumed (rightly, I believe) that Yasser Arafat was ready for such a compromise, which would have joined some new Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem to Israel. But Clinton was not wise enough to foresee the consequences of his proposal.

In practice, it was an open invitation to the Israeli government to speed up the establishment of new settlements in East Jerusalem, expecting them to become part of Israel. And indeed, since then successive Israeli governments have invested all available resources in this endeavor. Since money has no smell, every Jewish casino-owner in America and every Jewish brothel-keeper in Europe was invited to join the effort. The Biblical injunction - "Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the Lord thy God, for any vow; for even both these are abomination unto the Lord thy God" (Deuteronomy 23:18) - was suspended for this holy cause.

Now the pace is speeded up even more. Because there is no more effective means of obstructing peace than building new settlements in East Jerusalem.

THAT IS clear to anyone who has dealings with this region. No peace without an independent Palestinian state, no Palestinian state without East Jerusalem. About this there is total unanimity among all Palestinians, from Fatah to Hamas, and between all Arabs, from Morocco to Iraq, and between all Muslims, from Nigeria to Iran.

There will be no peace without the Palestinian flag waving above the Haram al-Sharif, the holy shrines of Islam which we call the Temple Mount. That is an iron-clad rule. Arabs can compromise about the refugee problem, painful as it may be, and about the borders, also with much pain, and about security matters. But they cannot compromise about East Jerusalem becoming the capital of Palestine. All national and religious passions converge here.

Anyone who wants to wreck any chance for peace - it is here that he has to act. The settlers and their supporters, who know that any peace agreement would include the elimination of (at least) most settlements, have planned in the past (and probably are planning now) to blow up the mosques on the Temple Mount, hoping that this would cause a worldwide conflagration which would reduce to ashes the chances of peace once and for all. Less extreme people dream about the creeping ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem by administrative chicanery, demolition of houses, denying means of livelihood and just making life in general miserable for Arabs. Moderate rightists just want to cover every empty square inch in East Jerusalem with Jewish neighborhoods. The aim is always the same.

THIS REALITY is, of course, well known to Obama and his advisors. In the beginning they believed, in their innocence, that they could sweet talk Netanyahu and Co. into stopping the building activity to facilitate the start of negotiations for the two-state solution. Very soon they learned that this was impossible without exerting massive pressure - and they were not prepared to do that.

After putting up a short and pitiful struggle, Obama gave in. He agreed to the deception of a "settlement freeze" in the West Bank. Now building is going on there with great enthusiasm, and the settlers are satisfied. They have completely stopped their demonstrations.

In Jerusalem there was not even a farcical attempt - Netanyahu just told Obama that he would go on building there ("as in Tel Aviv"), and Obama bowed his head. When Israeli officials announced a grandiose plan for building in "Ramat Shlomo" this week, they did not violate any undertaking. Only the matter of "timing" remained.

FOR JOE BIDEN, it was a matter of honor. For Mahmoud Abbas, it is a matter of survival.

Under intense pressure from the Americans and their agents, the rulers of the Arab countries, Abbas was obliged to agree to negotiations with the Netanyahu government - though only "proximity talks", a euphemism for "distance talks".

Clearly, nothing will come out of these talks except more humiliation for the Palestinians. Quite simply: anyone building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is announcing in advance that there is no chance for an agreement. After all, no sane Israeli would invest billions in a territory he intends to turn over to the Palestinian state. A person who is eating a pizza is not negotiating about it in good faith.

Even at this late stage, Abbas and his people still hope that something good will come out of all this: the US will acknowledge that they are right and exert, at long last, real pressure on Israel to implement the two-state solution.

But Biden and Obama did not give much cause for hope. They wiped the spit off their faces and smiled politely.

As the saying goes: when you spit in the face of a weakling, he pretends that it is raining. Does this apply to the president of the most powerful country in the world?
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Go Back To The Drawing Board
Without a public option, Senate bill is a sop to the insurance industry
By David Sirota

The Senate health care bill betrays the promise of fundamental "change" Democrats made during the 2008 election. It cloaks a handout to the health industry in the veneer of "reform."

Though it includes some positive subsidies and regulatory tweaks, the bill creates few mechanisms to halt premium increases, bust insurance monopolies and end price discrimination - and it includes no public insurance option.

Worst of all, it doesn't actually extend "new coverage" to 30 million more Americans. Through the "individual mandate," it simply makes people criminals if they don't buy expensive insurance from the private corporations that helped create the health care crisis in the first place.

President Obama says this legislation "stand(s) up to the special interests" - but after spending millions of dollars on campaign contributions and lobbying, the special interests clearly disagree. When the Senate bill was unveiled, health stocks skyrocketed. Meanwhile, an insurance insider told reporters, "We win."

For these reasons, the Senate must vote "no" and start over.

Notice the loudest argument against that move is procedural, not substantive. While Senate Democrats acknowledge the bill's shortcomings, they nonetheless echo Princess Leia's melodramatic plea in Star Wars, insisting their bill is our "only hope." This, from lawmakers who didn't even allow floor votes on a stronger bill.

The "only hope" rationale, of course, is an artificially manufactured assumption, not some Law of Nature. It's the same assumption that justified unregulated bank bailouts and hasty war resolutions - and it is a canard because it comes from the very politicians controlling the legislative schedule. Indeed, there's no concrete reason Democrats cannot take a month to rewrite this bill.

Some counter that quick passage is necessary to immediately help the uninsured. But since many of this legislation's minimal benefits don't begin until 2014, there's no obvious rush.

Others cite the aftermath of 1994's health care defeat as proof Congress will drop the issue if this bill dies. Unlike the past, though, Democrats are publicly staking their entire name on passing a bill. As Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., recounted, the White House says "everything can be compromised except our ultimate goal of getting something done."

To date, such desperation has compromised away nearly every genuine reform that might have been in this legislation. But if the Senate now musters a "no" vote, that same desperation means Democrats will almost certainly go back to the drawing board. And when they do, public outrage at the current bill's corruption will compel them to fulfill, rather than ignore, their original promise of "change we can believe in."
(c) 2010 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at

Kern County sheriff's deputies enforcing the lockout against
ILWU mineworkers in Boron, California, January 31

Labor War in the Mojave
By Mike Davis

The biggest hole in California, with the exception of the current state budget, is Rio Tinto's huge open-pit mine at the town of Boron, near Edwards Air Force Base, eighty miles northeast of Los Angeles.

Seen from Google Earth, it is easy to imagine that the 700-foot-deep crater was blasted out of the Mojave Desert by an errant asteroid or comet. From the vantage point of Highway 58, however, the landscape is enigmatic: a mile-long rampart of ochre earth and gray mudstone, terminating at what looks like a giant chemical refinery.

At night, when a driver's mind is most prone to legends of the desert, the complex's intense illumination is startling, even slightly extraterrestrial, like the sinister off-world mining colony in Aliens.

Terri Judd's labor owns part of this eerie landscape--or rather its void. She's a third-generation borax miner, as deeply rooted in the high desert as one of the native Joshua trees. Every working morning for the past thirteen years, she has bundled her long red hair under a hard hat, climbed up the ladder of a giant Le Tourneau wheel loader and turned on its 1,600-horsepower Detroit Diesel engine. Her air-conditioned cab perches almost treetop height above custom-made, twelve-foot-high tires that cost $30,000 each. She operates this leviathan with delicate manipulations of two joysticks, more high-skill video game than Mad Max.

In a regular twelve-and-a-half-hour shift, she ceaselessly repeats the same mechanical calisthenic: lowering her twenty-foot-wide bucket, deftly scooping up twenty-five to thirty tons of borax ore, then delivering the load to one of the mine's plants to be made into boric acid or granulated for eventual use in dozens of industrial applications, from fiberglass surfboards to HD display screens.

Each year 1 million tons of borax products are fed into hopper cars (800 of which are permanently assigned to the mine) and hauled to the LA harbor for shipment to China and other industrializing countries hungry for the caustic residue of the Mojave's ancient lakes. The Boron pit, which replaced an underground mine, produces almost half the world's supply of refined borates.

Strip-mining the Mojave may not be everyone's cup of tea, but Terri--a combat veteran of Operation Desert Storm and a single mom--flat-out loves her job. "What can I say? We get to play with the big toys. I guess I was always a tomboy. I preferred Tonkas to Barbies, socket wrenches to dollhouses."

But she doesn't play alone: Big Brother is looking over her shoulder, evaluating her performance. "In effect, the boss rides with me. The GPS in my loader can be monitored not only from the plant but from Rio Tinto's US headquarters in Denver, or, for that matter, from the global head office in London."

Peeping Toms, however, don't normally perturb Terri. "There are no slackers in the pit. Our productivity is sky-high because borax mining is our family history." Indeed, a Boron workforce shrunk to less than 40 percent of its 1980 size produces record outputs despite a rapidly aging plant; an ornery, dipping ore body; and an increasingly remote and hostile management.


Terri acknowledges that her devotion to the mine has been an act of unrequited love. In last year's contract negotiations, Rio Tinto (the British-Australian multinational acquired its Boron facility, U.S. Borax, in 1968 and renamed it Rio Tinto Borax) stunned members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, ILWU, Local 30 (Boron), by demanding abolition of the contractually enshrined seniority system and the surrender of any worker voice in the labor process.

According to Dean Gehring, the latest in a succession of recent mine managers, international competition compels a drastic switch to "high-performance teams that have the flexibility to do many different jobs, and we need to reward and promote our top performers. The old contract doesn't allow us to do that."

The company wants a contract that would allow it to capriciously promote or demote; to outsource union jobs; to convert full-time to part-time positions with little or no benefits; to reorganize shift schedules without warning; to eliminate existing work rules; to cut holidays, sick leave and pension payments; to impose involuntary overtime; and to heavily penalize the union if workers file grievances against the company with the National Labor Relations Board.

Rio Tinto, in essence, claims the right to rule by divine whim, to blatantly discriminate against and even fire employees for felonies like "failing to have or maintain satisfactory inter-personal relationships with Company personnel, client personnel, contractor, and visitors."

"The company's proposal," union negotiators emphasize, "would destroy our union, lower our living standards, and give Borax total control over our jobs." On January 30, Local 30 members unanimously rejected the concessions demanded by Rio Tinto.

The company deadline expired the next morning, when Terri Judd set off for work as usual with her lunchbox and thermos. At the locked front gate she and other day-shift workers encountered a phalanx of nervous Kern County sheriff's deputies in full riot gear. Inside the plant, an elite "strike security team" hired by Rio Tinto had taken control of operations.

Delaware-based J.R. Gettier & Associates brags that it is the Home Depot of unionbusting, a one-stop source for security planners, armed guards, legal experts, industrial spies and, most important, highly skilled replacement workers. It even has staff who can operate Terri's giant loader.

The Gettier mercenaries wore sneers and dark glasses as they pushed their convoy past a crowd of angry Local 30 members. "Being locked out," says Terri, "is different from going on strike. Initially there's disbelief that the company is actually serious about booting you out the door. Hey, my granddad worked in this mine. But then you see that caravan of scabs coming to take your jobs, and the betrayal cuts like a knife in your heart."


Once upon a time, there were several thousand mining communities in North America; perhaps fewer than a hundred still exist. Boron (unincorporated, population 2,000) is one of the survivors--and all the more anomalous since it is not in the red desert of Wyoming or the hills of West Virginia but in the outer orbit of Los Angeles sprawl. In the boom days of the 1930s it was a textbook company town, where employees of what was then called Pacific Borax--many of them, like Terri Judd's grandfather, Dust Bowl Oklahomans--lived in company houses and used company scrip to shop at the company store.

Unionization (originally by an old AFL affiliate called the Borax Workers Union) ended the feudal era, but the one-employer character of the town remained intact until a bitter, often violent 132-day strike in 1974 forced blacklisted miners to seek new jobs. Some found work at a nearby rocket-test range, while others learned to polish mirrors at an Israeli-built solar power station or applied for guard jobs at the federal prison up the road.

But economic diversity remains limited, and fully one-quarter of Boron's households still punched a Rio Tinto time clock this past New Year's. There are probably an equal number of mine retirees and former employees, so virtually everyone in town has some intimate link to the mine and its turbulent history.

During the 1974 conflict Boron polarized into majority pro-union and minority pro-company factions. There was a famous riot at the front gate in the first hours of the conflict, followed by the dynamiting of several foremen's homes, the blowing up of the mine's power line, episodic exchanges of gunfire, an exodus of managerial employees and de facto martial law during the nearly yearlong occupation of the community by Kern County sheriffs.

The current lockout, in contrast, rallies a far more inclusive local patriotism. Along Twenty Mule Team Road, Support Borax Miners placards festoon the windows of homes and pickups. Skateboarders and grandmothers wear black Union Tough T-shirts. Sympathy with the ILWU is not a condition for loathing Rio Tinto's hireling army of scabs and guards.


Day twelve. The lockout is beginning to feel like a reverse siege. It is the town, not the mine, that is under growing pressure. At the Local 30 hall, the "gate watch" crew reports that the sheriff's deputies have become quite relaxed, even friendly, probably because they're engaged in their own contract battle with county supervisors. But the replacements have become more brazen, at one point deliberately bumping into a union member with their van.

One of the organizers gravely notes the incident on his legal pad, then returns to the kitchen, where he huddles with his cellphone. He's calling the Local roster to remind members about next week's big solidarity march. Boron workers are awaiting the arrival of ILWU members from up and down the West Coast, as well as a contingent of mining and dock union-leaders from around the world.

Across the hall, meanwhile, Terri is arguing with another loader operator, Kevin Martz, over which of them performs the most herculean labor in the pit.

Quantitatively, there should be no contest: Kevin operates a P&H 4100 "ultra class" shovel with a 115-ton payload capacity, one of the biggest machines in the mining world. In a few workdays he could probably dig the Panama Canal by himself. But Terri believes that quality is more important. "Come on, Kevin, you only shovel dirt; I dig ore. I'm high value."

Kevin pretends a smirk, then chuckles. He explains that a mining shift, like an army platoon in combat, relies upon constant ribbing to sustain camaraderie. "Our work depends upon friendship, not competition. In an environment of dangerous machines and high explosives, we have to watch each other's backs."

Neither he nor Terri discerns any rational logic in Rio Tinto's zeal to atomize the traditional work community and promote a dog-eat-dog struggle for bonuses.

"Some genius in Denver or London," Terri says, "believes that you can improve output by adopting the law of the jungle. But without a fair system to determine promotion and pay, teamwork will be undermined and morale will collapse. The mine will become less productive and more dangerous."

Conversation moves to the impact of the lockout on the town's economy. Terri is a major mover-shaker in the Veterans of Foreign Wars, while Kevin is a scout leader and active member of his Latter-day Saints ward.

"Normally the VFW is packed to the rafters on Friday nights for karaoke," Terri explains, "but last Friday there were just three families. Business at Domingo's [a Mexican restaurant made famous by its popularity among Space Shuttle crews from nearby Edwards] is way down, and the town dentist could close because everyone has lost their family dental benefits."

Kevin adds that many Local 30 families, especially those who recently bought homes in now-sunk boom-burbs like Victorville and Palmdale, forty or so miles from Boron, face imminent disaster. "Their mortgages are already below periscope depth, so the lockout is just the final shove out the front door. They'll lose their homes."

Kevin believes that fundamental values are under threat. Like many working-class Mormons--the most misunderstood social group in the American West--he's a good trade unionist but no liberal. Not inaccurately, he sees Local 30 making a conservative last stand on behalf of the decent jobs that allow frugal families to prosper in stable, human-scale communities like Boron.

"My wife's a schoolteacher at Edwards Air Force Base, we've no debts other than our mortgage, our kids flourish in local schools, we love the desert--yet if Rio Tinto continues to play this hand, we'll eventually be forced to leave, perhaps to Wyoming."

Terri, the quintessential Boronite, confesses that she also has been wondering whether pits in Nevada or Wyoming are looking for experienced loader operators. She's optimistic about the union but knows that Rio Tinto wields power almost beyond ordinary people's reckoning. "Will we be a ghost town next year? That's the real issue."


"Where the hell is Bougainville?" someone asks Dave Dorton.

"An island near New Guinea," he replies.

The Local 30 gate-watchers are gathered under a sun canopy, drinking black coffee and talking about the skeletons in the company's closet. Dave, a dashing character who looks like he just jumped off a Viking longship, is "silo chief" at the plant and one of Local 30's many old-school bikers. He says that the lockout has incited new rank-and-file interest in Rio Tinto's notorious history. "It's like waking up and discovering that you're married to a serial murderer."

Last summer the US district court in Los Angeles upheld the standing of Bougainville residents--represented by Steve Berman, the superstar class-action litigator--to sue Rio Tinto in an American court for "crimes against humanity, war crimes, and racial discrimination." Like the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce in Dickens's Bleak House, the suit is moving glacially through the courts against terrific opposition from the corporation and may take years to reach a judgment, but the charges are horrifying.

In the late 1960s Rio Tinto, supported by Australia (and after 1975 by the independent government of Papua New Guinea--PNG), began expropriating land in the fertile center of the northernmost Solomon Island of Bougainville to mine one of the world's richest copper deposits. Millions of tons of pit tailings poisoned ecosystems and devastated local agriculture, and by 1989 the relentless repression of nonviolent protest ignited a full-scale revolutionary uprising. The company appealed to its business partner, the neocolonial Papuan government.

In Bougainville, according to its former commander, General Singirok, "the PNG Defence Force was Rio Tinto's personal security force and was ordered take action by any means necessary." The lawsuit provides stunning evidence of company/government atrocities in a conflict that led to the death of almost 10 percent of the island's population. (During the Spanish Civil War, Rio Tinto applauded Gen. Francisco Franco for executing the radical miners who had occupied its namesake Spanish property.)

Bougainville is only one item in a long resume of devastation. The Norwegian government pension fund, the world's second-largest, recently divested $870 million in Rio Tinto stock to protest its "unethical" partnership with Freeport McMoRan in the infamous Grasberg mine in Indonesian-occupied Irian Jaya (western New Guinea). Grasberg is an environmental disaster almost beyond imagination, and as in Bougainville, tribal resistance has been met with assassinations and massacres by the Indonesian Army.

If Rio Tinto's operations in the southwest Pacific recall King Leopold's Congo, its industrial relations, from southern Africa to Labrador and Utah, are a state-of-the-art experiment in worker intimidation.

In southern Africa, miners' unions have long questioned whether Rio Tinto, long rumored to have supplied uranium to Pretoria's clandestine atomic weapons program in the 1970s, has ever really broken with apartheid in its treatment of black workers. In February there was a worker uprising at its huge Rossing uranium pit in Namibia over management's unilateral raising of performance quotas and its refusal to address worker grievances. (Interestingly, the government of Iran is Rio Tinto's junior partner, with 15 percent of shares, at Rossing.)

In Australia, where the company exploits some of the world's most important iron, coal and uranium reserves, it has uprooted traditional unions, cut real wages and (as it is now trying to do in Boron) replaced collective bargaining with variable individual contracts.

Aussie miners and train drivers, however, have fought back with wildcat strikes and new organizing campaigns. Their defiance has led the company to an extraordinary solution: a fully automated "mine of the future" that won't require unruly miners or railroad workers. A working prototype is being developed in the remote Pilbara iron range: eleven mines with robotized drilling, automated haul trucks and, soon, driverless ore trains, all controlled from an operations center in Perth, 800 miles away.

Industry analysts debate whether this automated mining revolution will be feasible outside the largest, near-surface iron and coal deposits, so Local 30 probably doesn't need to worry about any imminent augmentation of scabs with robots. But they're urgently trying to decipher the complex and ruthless game that Rio Tinto and other mining superpowers are playing on a world stage.


The industrial revolution in Asia is bringing to a climax the struggle for ownership of the earth's strategic metals and minerals that began in the late nineteenth century. For instance, a single merger, between Rio Tinto and the even larger BHP Billiton, would create the world's third-largest corporation (after ExxonMobil and GE), with unprecedented power to set prices for exports of iron, aluminum, copper and titanium.

To put it another way, such a mega-merger could exact enormous rents from the future industrial growth of China and the rest of Asia--something that Beijing, at least, has no intention of allowing to happen (iron ore is China's second most costly import, after oil).

What Forbes called "the Battle for Rio Tinto" began two years ago, at the end of the 2000s mining boom, when cash-flush BHP attempted a hostile takeover that was countered by multibillion-dollar blocking offers of new investment from the government-controlled Aluminum Corporation of China.

But as resource prices slumped after the Wall Street crash, Rio Tinto share values were immediately pulled under by the weight of the $38 billion debt the company had incurred to buy Alcan (before BHP did) in 2007. BHP, faced with Rio Tinto's inability to sell its Alcan debt as bonds, as well as the subsequent downgrading of its credit, temporarily called off the attack, while the still ardent Chinese were rudely rebuffed by Rio Tinto's rebellious shareholders, supported by xenophobic Australian politicians.

Rio Tinto managed to survive the first year of recession by cutting thousands of jobs and selling off $10 billion of nonessential assets while retrenching in its core mission of exploiting "large, low-cost ore bodies." Mine managers in its minerals division, which includes borates, were told that future investment in their operations would only reward dramatic cost-cutting and higher earnings, not status quo profits. Labor, it seems, is an especially "compressible" cost.

In the specific case of Boron, the financing of a project called "the Modified Direct Dissolving of Kernite," advertised as the key to the mine's long-term profitability, was made conditional upon achieving "flexibility and accountability in our work practices"--that is to say, scrapping the old collective bargaining agreement with Local 30.

In negotiations, Rio Tinto took the intransigent stand that the crisis in world mining had made such union contracts obsolete. Yet since last fall, Rio Tinto and other ore giants have surfed spectacular recoveries on the wave of China's renewed growth, with iron prices expected to rise by as much as 50 percent this year.

Cash flow from other mineral products, including borates, and surges in mine share prices have been bolstered by a huge influx of investment from pension funds and other institutional investors--probably a speculative bubble in the making.

Then, in a staggering move, Rio Tinto betrayed its Chinese suitors and eloped with BHP. Their love child is a joint-production venture--in essence, a partial merger--that consolidates their huge iron ore operations in Australia, giving them unprecedented price-setting power over the world's most important metal.

Indeed, both Tom Albanese, Rio Tinto's CEO, and Marius Kloppers, his counterpart at BHP, recently warned major customers that annual price benchmarks will become a thing of the past, as the mining combination adjusts pricing to the volatile spot market. China, in particular, could see its steel and manufacturing costs rise by billions.

Beijing's immediate, furious response was to arrest Rio Tinto's top four executives in Shanghai for "espionage" (the charges were later reduced to bribery). Chinese officials talk darkly about the Rio Tinto/BHP "monopoly," although undoubtedly they would prefer to own part of it rather than actually dismantle it.


The future of a small town in the Mojave is thus entangled in geoeconomic competitions far larger and more important than the borate market itself. So what chance do 560 miners and their families have in a fight with Godzilla?

The record of the past twenty years is not encouraging. With some heroic exceptions--the 1989-90 Pittston coal strike in Virginia, the 1990s Frontier Casinos strike in Las Vegas and a few others--international unions have seldom been willing to support a local fight to the last bullet or bitter dime.

But ILWU has a unique street credibility. The pit bull of CIO-generation unions, it bit into the heels of the West Coast stevedoring industry in 1934 and never let go. Industrial unions are supposed to be dying, but the ILWU, despite its modest size, punches hard enough to keep the powerful Pacific Maritime Association sulking in its corner, while ensuring that the docks remain safe and well paid.

As the only union that survived McCarthyism with its left-wing leadership (under Harry Bridges) intact, the ILWU is also legendary for putting muscle behind the slogan of "working-class solidarity." Since the 1960s it has conducted scores of job actions and walkouts in support of striking Australian dockers, California farmworkers and South African freedom fighters. Indeed, in May 2008 the union shut down the West Coast for a day to protest the war in Iraq.

In anticipation of the Boron lockout, ILWU had persuaded members of an international coalition of mining and maritime unions--many of whom have done battle with Rio Tinto--to hold their periodic conference in the nearby desert city of Palmdale. On February 16 the delegates, along with rank and file from other ILWU locals, arrive in Boron for a march to the mine followed by a big Local 30 barbecue.

The overture to the protest is the earthshaking full-throttle roar of shovelhead and twin-cam Harley-Davidson engines. The stevedore-bikers of Local 13 (LA Harbor) emerge out of the desert haze like Marlon Brando's leather-clad horde in The Wild One (or, better, the Comanches in Blood Meridian).

Someone, awe-struck, whispers, "Glad these guys are on our side." Later I count twenty-six Harley black beauties corralled in a reverential semicircle on the street side of the union hall. (The unfortunate owners of rice-burners and pasta rockets have had to remove their imported Japanese and Italian bikes to a discreet distance.)

Carloads of out-of-town ILWU members arrive, then two buses carrying dozens of US and foreign labor leaders. The crowd applauds, people shake hands, someone turns up the volume on "Born in the USA" and the marchers begin to assemble, about 600-strong, behind a banner that spans the entire width of the road: An Injury to One Is an Injury to All.

It's an easy one-mile walk in pleasant weather to the front gate. Local 30 brings a dozen American and Marine Corps flags to the front, and begins to chant, "We Wanna Work, We Wanna Work." The sheriffs are relaxed, but the Gettier security guards up the road nervously shift their feet. As usual, their faces are inscrutable behind dark glasses, but you can almost smell their guilty sweat.


Imagine a picnic jointly organized by the IWW, the American Legion and the Hells Angels. One of the first speakers is Oupa Komane from the South African miners' union. He has a magnificent voice: "Comrades, I bring you revolutionary greetings from the miners of South Africa!" I look around to see how the "comrades" waving American flags react. Komane gets warm applause.

A battle-hardened copper miner from Utah (where Rio Tinto owns the great Kennecott pit at Bingham Canyon) says, "I can't tell you what I think of this company--not in front of women and children." An Australian warns, "They will kill your town. That's what they did to us." A Canadian talks about more dead mill towns in Quebec, while a New Zealander tells a story about Rio Tinto's sinister role in defeating climate-change legislation in his country.

The fiery head of the Turkish borate workers, whose state-owned industry (Eti Mine Works) was founded by Ataturk, father of the Turkish Republic, brings greetings from the Borons of Anatolia: Kirka, Emet, Kestelek and Bandirma. He scoffs at Rio Tinto's claim that his miners' lower hourly wages (almost $10 in a cheap country, versus an average of $26 in Boron) necessitates the trashing of union rights in California.

Finally, Ken Riley, president of the largely black International Longshoremen's Association Local 1422 in Charleston, South Carolina, and a leader of one of the most courageous fights in modern US labor history [see JoAnn Wypijewski, "Audacity on Trial," August 6/13, 2001], summarizes the case for optimism: "You pick on the ILWU, you pick on the world. When our own international deserted us, they were there. Now we're here."

Later, I take Ken aside and confess my doubts. He shakes his head. "I understand what you're saying, but you're wrong," he says. "This isn't political theater. The first month of a struggle is decisive, and the ILWU is doing a terrific job marketing Boron's importance to the rest of the labor movement. Internationally, our unions understand that we have to organize the logistics chain, from producers to transport to distributor to retailer. This is a new model of power for the labor movement, like industrial unionism in the 1930s, but adapted to the reality of globalization."

"But Boron?" I ask.

"Hey, something new is being born here. It has to be."

Toni McCormick, a pretty, jovial woman in her late 20s, gives me a ride back to my car. The wife of a Local 30 member, she coaches the cheer squad at Boron High. "I'm fourth generation," she tells me. "My great-grandfather's house is still standing, made out of old dynamite boxes held together with chicken wire. Our football team plays in a high desert league with other mining and military towns. Sometimes they have to tackle each other in the dirt because grass won't grow in a saline lake bed."

"Can anything grow in a dry lake?" I wonder.

"Sure," Toni smiles. "Miners can."
(c) 2010 Mike Davis is the author of In Praise of Barbarians: Essays against Empire (Haymarket Books, 2008) and Buda's Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb (Verso, 2007). He is currently working on a book about cities, poverty, and global change.

Congress Flubs The Job On Jobs Bill

Great news, Americans - our economy lost only 36,000 jobs in February!

Well, yes, that's still a loss, but economists, politicians, and other peers of the establishment are cheering the news that our monthly job decline is now smaller than it was a year ago. Hallelujah, they shout, claiming that the job market might finally be bottoming out.

Before you rush to buy a celebratory bottle of champagne, though, you might want to reflect on a sobering reality: Even if the job market has hit bottom, it's likely to say there for a long, long time.

This is because the Powers That Be have sunk America's workforce into a very deep hole. How deep? Since Wall Street crashed our economy, leading to the Great Recession that began in December 2007, 8.4 million American jobs have disappeared. Also, the workforce has increased by 2.7 million new job seekers in that period. This leaves us in a hole that is 11.1 million jobs deep - so far.

To get our economy out of this hole, and to absorb the millions of new people who'll be coming into the workforce, we must not merely stop losing jobs, but must create 400,000 new positions a month for the next three years.

Where's the plan to get us anyhere near that urgent need? Corporations continue to fire and move offshore, with no plans to increase jobs. Also, Wall Street adamantly refuses to invest in job-creating enterprises, despite being handed a multitrillion-dollar taxpayer bailout.

And Washington? Our priority, declared one house member, is "jobs, jobs, jobs," and Congress has indeed passed a bill to spur job growth. How many jobs can America expect from it? Get ready to be astounded: 250,000.

What a pathetic job performance on meeting America's job crisis! To kick Congress' butt and demand a real jobs bill, contact:
(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.

Yoo Besmirches Legacy Of Jefferson
By Ray McGovern

Initially I was shocked at the thought of the University of Virginia welcoming former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo to the "Academical Village" founded by Thomas Jefferson.

There was something very wrong about that picture. Was it not Mr. Jefferson who condemned tyrannical acts-including ones that fell far short of waterboarding-in the Declaration of Independence?

But I have come around to the view that Yoo's visit on Friday could present a rich teaching moment for those of us Virginians who believe passionately in the highest ideals that Mr. Jefferson articulated so eloquently.

Yoo's visit presents a unique opportunity for my own children - four of them UVA alumni - to convey the essence of The University to those of our eight grandchildren who already aspire to study there.

A teaching moment like this does require us to look through the eyes and the spectacles of Mr. Jefferson and our country's other gutsy Founders who pledged to each other "our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor" to rid tyranny from America's shores. We tend to forget that the outcome of that brazen battle for liberty was far from assured when that vow was attached as the closing line of the Declaration of Independence in July 1776.

To King George III, the words and deeds of the Founders spelled treason, and it was altogether predictable that he would order his formidable army to pursue and hang those upstart insurgents if his troops could get hold of them.

I will admit that I still get goose bumps reflecting on their commitment, their courage, and the responsibility we share as their successors.

After eight long years of war, the insurgents led by George Washington finally defeated the army of the English king and secured independence for the 13 colonies. Then, other Virginians, together with statesmen from sister colonies, succeeded in replacing one man's dictates with a Constitution that divided power among three co-equal branches of government and made the rule of law supreme.

That is the historical background against which, 225 years later, John Yoo and other government lawyers of easy conscience decided they would "opinion away" the checks and balances etched into the Constitution by the blood of early patriots.

Virginia Roots

We Virginians take understandable pride in Mr. Jefferson and the university in Charlottesville that he considered his signal achievement. Equally deserving of praise, though, are two other Virginia patriots hailing from nearer to where I live - George Mason of Fairfax and Patrick Henry of Hanover County.

"Of the first order of greatness," that's the way Mr. Jefferson described George Mason. And small wonder. For it is largely thanks to him that all - including Yoo, you, and me - enjoy a constitutional right to "freedom of speech."

Together with fellow Virginian James Madison, Mason had drafted the Constitution, which defined the relationships between the three branches of government. But Mason then shocked Madison and shattered their friendship, when Mason announced in 1787 that he would not support ratification as the document stood.

Mason, one of the most self-effacing persons ever to serve the American people, put his reasoning succinctly: "There is no Declaration of Rights."

That being the case, it was not an option to give up. Together with Patrick Henry, Mason launched a relentless political campaign and in 1791 won approval of a Bill of Rights - the first ten amendments to the Constitution - which immediately became a model for other countries concerned with protecting individual freedoms.

Hence, John Yoo's First Amendment right to speak and be heard is beyond dispute. At the same time, I believe we would betray the Founders, were we to leave him unchallenged by glossing over his gymnastic twisting of logic and law - not only in places like Iraq and Guantanamo, but closer to home, as well.

Sadly, the guarantees embodied in five of those first ten amendments - and in the Constitution itself - have been eroded by dubious theories promoted by Yoo, like his concept of an all-powerful "unitary executive" who can do whatever he wants to anyone unlucky enough to be judged an "enemy" by the leader during "wartime," even an open-ended, ill-defined conflict like the "war on terror."

Not even the Great Writ of habeas corpus escaped Yoo's sophistry - the fundamental right, wrested from King John of England in 1215, to seek judicial relief from unlawful detention. Even King George III was constrained by habeas corpus, and Madison and Mason were careful to include that basic guarantee in the Constitution itself (Article One, Section 9).

But Yoo and some fellow lawyers saw the ancient legal right as impinging on President George W. Bush's unlimited powers.

All Powerful

After the 9/11 attacks, Yoo propounded theories that elevated Bush beyond the bounds of federal or international law. As Yoo has acknowledged, his opinions could allow the President to crush a child's testicles to get his father to talk, or to willfully annihilate a village of civilians.

"Sure," Yoo responded when a Justice Department investigator posed the latter hypothetical.

Many are aware of John Yoo's role in serving up legal "justification" for "enhanced interrogation techniques," including the near-drowning of waterboarding. But fewer know that the Convening Authority for the Military Commissions at Guantanamo, military judge Susan Crawford, has said that those techniques meet the "legal definition of torture."

Fewer still seem aware of Yoo's role in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, when he focused on how to avoid the constitutional requirement for a declaration of war by Congress and advocated views totally at variance with those he had expressed while working as a Congressional staffer just a few years before.

Under Yoo's theories, "wartime president" Bush could do whatever he wanted, even if that meant ignoring Congress, the United Nations Charter, and the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal. Bush simply could brush aside prohibitions against aggressive war as he did by invading Iraq.

At Nuremberg, chief U.S. prosecutor, Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, called a war of aggression "not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

Nuremberg prosecutors also didn't let off Nazi lawyers who gave Adolf Hitler "legal advice" on how he could violate international law. The Nazi lawyers, too, were prosecuted at Nuremberg, and many served long prison sentences.

And Justice Jackson could not have been more explicit in insisting that the Nuremberg standard must apply equally to all.

War crimes, he said, are "crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us."

Justifying Torture

Torture, then, can be regarded as a derivative crime-part of the "accumulated evil" springing from the "supreme international crime" of a war of aggression. It is not necessary here to describe Yoo's attempts to "justify" torture, since that role is detailed in the 289-page report of the Justice Department's own Office of Professional Responsibility.

Suffice it to say that OPR concluded, among other things, that:

"Yoo's legal analyses justified acts of outright torture." (p. 252)

"He therefore committed intentional professional misconduct." (p. 254)

The OPR report and other official documents are replete with descriptions of the despicable torture techniques themselves, for those with the stomach to read them. Sadly, they show how far we have come since Patrick Henry asserted that "the rack and the screw" should be left behind in the Old World.

These days, as bald eagles ride the March winds north along the Potomac from Mason Neck, they carry a ghost's lament. Someone is turning over in his grave downstream at Gunston Hall in Fairfax County. It is George Mason who is mourning, like Rachel of old, who would not be consoled.

I imagine that Mason's moaning will become even more pronounced as Friday draws near - not only because of Yoo's visit to Charlottesville, but also because Friday marks the seventh anniversary of the unprovoked invasion of Iraq.

It was the bizarre opinions of Yoo and his colleagues that subverted the intent of Madison, Mason, and other Founders who took great pains to give the power to declare war to the Congress - not to the President - in the Constitution.

Beyond even the great principles of the American Republic, however, there is the question of personal decency that applies to Yoo and his visit to the University of Virginia. Erstwhile UVA Writer-in-Residence, William Faulkner, summed this up nicely, saying:

"Some things you must always be unable to bear. Some things you must never stop refusing to bear. Injustice and outrage and dishonor and shame. No matter how young you are or how old you have got. Not for kudos and not for cash, your picture in the paper nor money in the bank, neither. Just refuse to bear them."

That is why I shall join others taking part in Friday's rally starting at 2:00 p.m. from "The Corner" of The Grounds at UVA, before Mr. Yoo speaks in Minor Hall at 3:30.

I view it as a mark of respect for Mr. Jefferson, who I feel certain would want present-day Virginians to bear witness in defense of the blessings of liberty that he and his contemporaries worked so hard to secure for ourselves and our posterity.
(c) 2010 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years -- from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one-on-one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Kennedy A Better Choice For $50 Bill
By James Donahue

Congressman Patrick McHenry recently introduced a bill to replace the image of President Ulysses S. Grant with the face of the late President Ronald Reagan on the $50 bill. This is the second time in recent years that a Republican legislator has proposed giving Reagan this honor.

We are glad to report that the proposal does not appear to be getting support in the Democrat controlled House and will probably die a quiet death.

While Mr. Reagan was a popular president in his day, we suggest that it is too early to declare him a "great" president and worthy of this kind of veneration. When you look back in history, Grant probably did not deserve it either.

We suggest that if we are ever going to remove the whisker-faced old general with that of a proven great American leader, a better choice for the accolade would be the late President John F. Kennedy.

Like Abraham Lincoln, Mr. Kennedy brought us through one of the more trying moments in American history. This was the Cuban missile crisis which brought us within a hair's breath of a nuclear war with the old Soviet Union. Had it not been for Kennedy's skills in international and military diplomacy, we might not have escaped it.

Also like Lincoln, Kennedy was a martyred president, shot in his third year in office. Like Lincoln, Kennedy worked to grant equality to black Americans, promoting the civil rights legislation that eventually became law during the presidency of Kennedy's successor, Lyndon Johnson.

The dark blotches in Kennedy's term were his decisions to carry on with two military issues launched under the Eisenhower Administration. Kennedy's failed Bay-of-Pigs invasion of Cuba was a CIA plot to stage an overthrow of Fidel Castro. Like President Barack Obama's decision to continue a Bush launched war in Afghanistan, Kennedy erroneously continued a limited engagement in Vietnam, supporting the South Vietnamese in their struggle against the Communist Viet Cong. Like Obama, Kennedy allegedly had plans to reduce the level of the U.S. engagement in Vietnam and start bringing troops home. He did not live to accomplish this. Johnson escalated the war instead.

Mr. Kennedy created the Peace Corps and launched America's space program, setting a goal for man to reach the moon.

Kennedy successfully pushed for and got a limited treaty between the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom to stop above ground testing of atomic bombs. It was the first of several nuclear treaties with the Soviet Union to follow.

The nation's economy was in a slump when Eisenhower left office. Kennedy's loosened monetary policy designed to keep interest rates down worked. The economy turned around and prospered during his administration.

In contrast, Reagan's sweeping supply-side economic policies, known as "Reaganomics," reduced business regulation, cut taxes and spurred economic growth. But his policies, continued under the two Republican Bush Administrations, and the Democratic Clinton Administration, are now blamed for the extreme economic crisis the nation now struggles to repair.

While Reagan, a former Hollywood actor, was remembered as a fine orator whose foreign policies helped bring an end to the Cold War, there was a scandal linked to his administration as well. His second term was marred by the Iran-Contra scandal involving a secret sale of arms to Iran to secure the release of hostages and finance the Nicaraguan contras.

Grant, whose mug has appeared on $50 paper bills since 1914, was considered a brilliant general who led the Union Army to victory during the American Civil War. He also led reconstruction of the southern states by signing and enforcing civil rights laws after he was elected president.

But Grant's administration also was caught up in economic turmoil and scandal. When the banks were hit by the Panic of 1873, Grant appointed corrupt and incompetent men to high political offices and failed to hold them accountable. He consequently went down in history as one of the nation's worst presidents.

It may have been Grant's association with Lincoln and his success in leading the northern states to victory during the Civil War that encouraged the U.S. Treasury to put his face on $50 Federal Reserve Note in 1914. Before that, the note featured the face of William H. Seward, the Secretary of State during the Lincoln Administration. There have been other faces on the $50 bill over the years. Seward held the honor from 1881 until 1914. Before that it was Silas Wright, a former New York Congressman. The honor also was held by Edward Everett, a former Secretary of State; Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Henry Clay, who also served as Secretary of State.
(c) 2010 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, several magazine articles, and he has two other books in production. He currently produces an estimated five articles weekly for this web site.

Taking On China
By Paul Krugman

Tensions are rising over Chinese economic policy, and rightly so: China's policy of keeping its currency, the renminbi, undervalued has become a significant drag on global economic recovery. Something must be done.

To give you a sense of the problem: Widespread complaints that China was manipulating its currency - selling renminbi and buying foreign currencies, so as to keep the renminbi weak and China's exports artificially competitive - began around 2003. At that point China was adding about $10 billion a month to its reserves, and in 2003 it ran an overall surplus on its current account - a broad measure of the trade balance - of $46 billion.

Today, China is adding more than $30 billion a month to its $2.4 trillion hoard of reserves. The International Monetary Fund expects China to have a 2010 current surplus of more than $450 billion - 10 times the 2003 figure. This is the most distortionary exchange rate policy any major nation has ever followed.

And it's a policy that seriously damages the rest of the world. Most of the world's large economies are stuck in a liquidity trap - deeply depressed, but unable to generate a recovery by cutting interest rates because the relevant rates are already near zero. China, by engineering an unwarranted trade surplus, is in effect imposing an anti-stimulus on these economies, which they can't offset.

So how should we respond? First of all, the U.S. Treasury Department must stop fudging and obfuscating.

Twice a year, by law, Treasury must issue a report identifying nations that "manipulate the rate of exchange between their currency and the United States dollar for purposes of preventing effective balance of payments adjustments or gaining unfair competitive advantage in international trade." The law's intent is clear: the report should be a factual determination, not a policy statement. In practice, however, Treasury has been both unwilling to take action on the renminbi and unwilling to do what the law requires, namely explain to Congress why it isn't taking action. Instead, it has spent the past six or seven years pretending not to see the obvious.

Will the next report, due April 15, continue this tradition? Stay tuned.

If Treasury does find Chinese currency manipulation, then what? Here, we have to get past a common misunderstanding: the view that the Chinese have us over a barrel, because we don't dare provoke China into dumping its dollar assets.

What you have to ask is, What would happen if China tried to sell a large share of its U.S. assets? Would interest rates soar? Short-term U.S. interest rates wouldn't change: they're being kept near zero by the Fed, which won't raise rates until the unemployment rate comes down. Long-term rates might rise slightly, but they're mainly determined by market expectations of future short-term rates. Also, the Fed could offset any interest-rate impact of a Chinese pullback by expanding its own purchases of long-term bonds.

It's true that if China dumped its U.S. assets the value of the dollar would fall against other major currencies, such as the euro. But that would be a good thing for the United States, since it would make our goods more competitive and reduce our trade deficit. On the other hand, it would be a bad thing for China, which would suffer large losses on its dollar holdings. In short, right now America has China over a barrel, not the other way around.

So we have no reason to fear China. But what should we do?

Some still argue that we must reason gently with China, not confront it. But we've been reasoning with China for years, as its surplus ballooned, and gotten nowhere: on Sunday Wen Jiabao, the Chinese prime minister, declared - absurdly - that his nation's currency is not undervalued. (The Peterson Institute for International Economics estimates that the renminbi is undervalued by between 20 and 40 percent.) And Mr. Wen accused other nations of doing what China actually does, seeking to weaken their currencies "just for the purposes of increasing their own exports."

But if sweet reason won't work, what's the alternative? In 1971 the United States dealt with a similar but much less severe problem of foreign undervaluation by imposing a temporary 10 percent surcharge on imports, which was removed a few months later after Germany, Japan and other nations raised the dollar value of their currencies. At this point, it's hard to see China changing its policies unless faced with the threat of similar action - except that this time the surcharge would have to be much larger, say 25 percent.

I don't propose this turn to policy hardball lightly. But Chinese currency policy is adding materially to the world's economic problems at a time when those problems are already very severe. It's time to take a stand.
(c) 2010 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Rethuglican 5th columnist Markos Moulitsas Zúñiga

Cud And Complicity
Burying the Alternatives to Empire's Dominion
By Chris Floyd

Rep. Dennis Kucinich's proposal to withdraw from Afghanistan was debated, heatedly, for hours in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. After the debate, dozens of Representatives cast their vote to end the war immediately. This was an unprecedented event in the history of the conflict, now in its ninth year.

Think about that for a moment: an unprecedented event, on the floor of the House, going on for hours, involving a question of supreme national importance. Regardless of one's position on the issue, is this not the very definition of "news"? But on Thursday morning, you could search high and low on the front pages (print and web) of both the New York Times and the Washington Post -- our national arbiters of serious newsworthiness -- yet find no mention whatsoever of this event. This, even though the web fronts -- unlike the paper versions -- contain headlines for dozens of stories, including sections devoted entirely to Washington politics.

You would have had to know about the debate already -- or else trawl diligently through piles of pixels or print -- to reach the small stories that our papers of record deigned to release on the subject. No ordinary newspaper reader -- someone who has a more than passing interest in current events but also has a life to live -- would even know that such a debate took place, much less learn anything about the powerful arguments against the war delivered on the floor of the national legislature. That is to say, it is entirely possible that a reasonably informed and engaged citizen of the Republic would not even be aware that dozens of elected officials at the highest level of government voiced their support for the most radical position on the war: immediate withdrawal.

But such is the way of our imperial system. Our ruling class does not want the citizenry to know there are any alternatives to the grand bipartisan consensus on the true aims of government: servicing the needs of Militarism and Money. And so what cannot be ignored entirely is buried "certain fathoms in the earth ... deeper than did ever plummet sound."

And as we noted yesterday, our rulers are greatly assisted in these efforts by "savvy" progressives who constantly belittle anyone who actually challenges this stifling and disastrous status quo. Anything that goes beyond a bit of mild tinkering and "tweaking" at the margins of the system is rejected by our savvy progs as "unrealistic." The modern "progressive" ethos seems to boil down to this: You must take whatever little thrice-chewed tidbit of cud the elite is willing to dribble out onto your plate -- and be happy about it. That clump of green viscous slime known as the health care reform bill? Why, that's a "great progressive victory!" Didn't you know?

The sad, degraded, destructive state of the "left" in modern America is clearly shown by this vignette from Seth Ackerman, writing of how a previous generation confronted health care reform:

The last big, ambitious measure [in social legislation], Medicare, was a government-run single payer program that displaced or preempted private health insurance coverage for about one in ten Americans. That's why the AMA, Ronald Reagan, and the nascent conservative movement spared no effort to decry it as socialism.

Yet none of that prevented Medicare from passing in 1965 with 13 out of 32 Senate Republicans voting in favor. Nor did it stop the bill from winning the support of half the senators from the Deep South (5 out of 10, or 7 out of 14, depending on whether you count Texas and Florida). And what about the Mark Pryors, Blanche Lincolns, Ben Nelsons, Mary Landrieus of the world? In 2009, we were told they fought the Senate bill's mildly progressive elements because they represented states that are "obviously" too conservative to support even such tepid liberalism. But in 1965, three of the six senators from Arkansas, Louisiana, and Nebraska voted for or pledged support for single-payer Medicare, a.k.a socialism.

Today? Dennis Kucinich opposes the corporate-coddling health care boondoggle pushed by the White House -- and he is called an accomplice in mass death by progressive paladin Markos Moulitsas. Kos even levelled the most dread epithet in the entire progressive canon at Kucinich's opposition: "It's definitely a very Ralph Nader-esque approach .. a very unrealistic and self-defeating approach."

So this is where we've come to. Ralph Nader, who has spent decades fighting corporate power, often successfully (which is more than Kos can say), is now a figure of scorn and derision -- his very name a perjorative term -- among our leading "progressives."

And why? Because Nader dared to offer an alternative to the bipartisan consensus of Militarism and Money in the 2000 election. And this, according to the unrealistic and self-defeating mythology of serious progressives, is what threw the Florida vote -- and thus the election -- to George W. Bush. This fairy tale persists despite the fact that the recounts carried out by the media consortium after the election clearly showed that Al Gore received more votes than Bush in Florida, regardless of Nader's total. It was Al Gore and his fellow establishment Democrats who "threw" the election to George W. Bush by refusing to challenge the result in Congress, by refusing to confront the transparent fraud and corruption at the very heart of the political process, and to use the tools provided them by the Constitution to uphold the will of the electorate.

What they did uphold with their timidity, however, was the true governing system of the country: not the Constitution but the empire of military domination and unrestrained money power. And this system is precisely what the timidity of our progressive paladins is upholding today. Or as that evil old devil Ralph Nader put it just last week:

The twin swelling heads of Empire and Oligarchy are driving our country into an ever-deepening corporate state, wholly incompatible with democracy and the rule of law.

Oh come on, Ralph! Democracy and the rule of law? Don't be so unserious! Don't be so unrealistic! Don't you like the taste of cud? Here, try a little spoonful, just a taste ... You'll soon get used to it -- just like the rest of us.
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

Tripping With Dickens
By Belacqua Jones

I love reading Dickens when I'm stoned. His twisted plotting and syntax dances in mad harmony with the convoluted spasms of my brain on its winnowing journey through the cosmos. I lose myself in each of his tightly wrought characters and hold prolonged conversations with them over multiple tankards of stout in Victorian pubs. (Scrooge was so misunderstood! His values were the values that made Great Britain a capitalist powerhouse. It wasn't the ghosts that transformed him; he'd simply OD'd on laudanum to cure his Christmas Eve cold. He later regretted his excesses of generosity.)

But, I digress.

Do you know why modern literature is so sterile? It is the lack of hardship. Prosperity is downright boring; too much of it leads to a paralyzing self-absorption that lacks the cloying sentimentality that is the warp and weft of great literature. When was the last time a Dickens appeared on the literary scene?

And let's be honest; suffering cloys. Who has not been moved to tears by the long, drawn-out, interminable death of Jo the street-crossing sweeper in Dickens's Bleak House, that unlettered, unwashed, unfed waif who knew "nothink?" Comforted by the noble surgeon, Alan Woodcourt who could do nothing for the kid except walk him through the Lord's Prayer, Jo's voice grows weaker and weaker as he repeats each line of the prayer until he finally gasps out, "Hallowed be thy..." and croaks. He was but one of the ragged and hungry waifs that peppered so much of Victorian literature.

My God! If the poor prosper, whom shall we pity? What is there to write about if you have a nation that is fed and clothed? Authors are reduced to writing about anxiety, unhappy relationships, and life's nihilistic boredom. And life is boring if you don't have to grub for food and shelter.

Thank God our oligarchs are changing that. They are marching us back to that golden age of filthy slums, unchecked crime, homeless children and twelve-year-old whores, back to that time when the civilized cruelty of Social Darwinism reigned supreme.

Soon, our authors will pen saccharine tomes of struggle widows and hungry children, their pale, drawn faces pressed against the windows of the privileged, a tear running down their besmirched cheeks as they watch the gaiety and wealth that will be forever beyond their reach.

There is no sentimentality without suffering. And our leaders are supplying ample suffering for which the authors, literary agents and publishing houses of America thank them. They and they alone, are bringing great literature back to the Euromerican world.
(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 He sometimes writes under his nom de plume Belacqua Jones, this is one of those times!

Congress Set To Repeal The Law Of Supply And Demand!
By Mike Folkerth

From our Cedaredge, Colorado newsroom (often called my home office), standby for another nasty dose of reality; your King of Simple News is on the air.

I have several pesky little issues running around inside my mind this morning, not the least of which is real estate. We heard over and over that until such time as housing recovered; that America couldn't recover. People such as Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan told us exactly that.

Ben and Alan also told us that we weren't going to have a recession if that helps to measure the level of confidence that you may want to place on their collective wisdom.

Most business and financial jargon is so convoluted and overly complicated that after listening to a long winded speech by a short sighted "expert orator," we are more confused than before being subjected to the torturous spiel. But then, that's why I perfected Mikeronomics.

Housing works like this. People without houses want one, after say, two hours in a tent. The folks who build homes are more than willing to build as many new homes as the public desires...for a price. The rubber just met the road.

In order to buy a home, the conventional approach for those whose name does not end in Bush, Rockefeller, Trump, Clinton, Buffet, or Gates, includes the unfortunate state of steady employment.

During lengthy periods that arrive from time to time due to the culmination of long term government planning (recessions and depressions), viable employment is harder to find than an Amish electrician.

Therefore, home sales drop like the stock in Bear Stearns. As employment continues to react to the former planning of government, those folks that were previously employed in home building and industry are sidelined. They are told to wait patiently for the storied service and information economy to arrive by way of the cosmos on the fourth millennium which is due to pull in on January 1, 3001.

In the mean time, millions of Americans have found themselves a little short and can't hold out until 3001. They are now unable to pay their mortgages, and rather than move back to the tent, they instead take up refuge with mom and dad. This is called family bonding...or maybe not.

The displaced workers and the workers that never had work to be displaced from are finding that listing their occupation on a mortgage application as "watching TV," fails to gain the banks confidence and they hurry back home to catch Judge Judy.

The housing supply at this point is subjected to the horrors of stark reality that arrives via the totally unfair Law of Supply and Demand. Congress has promised to repeal both the Law of Supply and Demand and the Second Law of Thermodynamics right after free healthcare passes.

However, while Congress works to repeal pesky Natural Laws, those of us who live in the real world are saddled with to a large and growing inventory of vacant homes and a shrinking employment and wage base. Combined, these totally unfair facts shockingly create an economic phenomenon that is difficult for the average Senator to envision from the window seat of a private jet; home sales are in the toilet, with the hand of economics 101 on the flush lever.

A congressional panel is studying this unforeseen and unfortunate event as we speak and will emerge from the study with the statement of; "Who could have known?" I'm thinkin' the natives in New Guinea were well apprised of the situation two or three years ago.

The public is now demanding that, "Government do something!" What the public fails to understand is that we are suffering from what government already did. And now we want them to do more?

Housing will eventually seek an inventory level that can be supported by viable long term employment, while being priced at the medium wage that viable long term employment can maintain. (This last round of foreclosures has impressively demonstrated that a person can't pay out more than they earn). Who knew?

In other words, it takes a viable long term job to support a 30 year home loan and the cost of that home is directly related to the net income of the buyer. Surprise, surprise, we break through new barriers of understanding every day.

My opinion is that home values have not hit bottom and that a new normal will be established at a much lower average cost than those of our past heyday.

If you are saying, "Hey, wait a minute Mike, these homes can't be built at cheaper prices," then you are absolutely correct. Massive permanent losses will be realized in the existing inventory of McMansions due to a lack of employment and diminished future affordability levels of the general populous.

Well, that is, we will sustain permanent losses until such time that Congress can repeal the laws that govern the exact sciences of math and physics.
(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...

"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons."

~~~ Feodor Dostoevski ~~~

Israelis soldiers take cover by
Gaza ghetto wall while targeting kindergarteners.

Israel Crackdown Puts Liberal Jews On The Spot
By Chris Hedges

The Israeli government, its brutal war crimes in Gaza exposed in detail in the U.N. report by Justice Richard Goldstone, has implemented a series of draconian measures to silence and discredit dissidents, leading intellectuals and human rights organizations inside and outside Israel that are accused-often falsely-of assisting Goldstone's U.N. investigators. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu is attempting to shut down Israel's premier human rights organizations, including B'Tselem, the New Israel Fund (NIF) and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. It is busy expelling or excluding peace activists and foreign nationals from the Palestinian territories. The campaign, if left unchecked, will be as catastrophic for Palestinians as it will be for Israel.

The Goldstone report, which is over 500 pages, investigated Israel's 22-day air and ground assault on Gaza that took place from Dec. 27, 2008, to Jan. 18, 2009. The United Nations and the European Parliament have endorsed the report. The report found that Israel used disproportionate military force against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip while failing to take adequate precautions to protect the civilian population against the military assault. The Israeli attack killed 1,434 people, including 960 civilians, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. More than 6,000 homes were destroyed or damaged, leaving behind some $3 billion in destruction in one of the poorest areas on Earth. No Israelis were killed by Hamas rockets fired into Israel during the assault. The report did not limit itself to the 22-day attack; rather, it went on to indict the occupation itself. It examines the beginning of the occupation and condemns Israel for the border closures, the blockade and for the wall or security barrier in the West Bank. It has two references to the right of return, investigates Israeli torture and criticizes the willful destruction of the Palestinian economy.

"The impact of the Goldstone report is tremendous," the Middle East scholar Norman Finkelstein said when I reached him in New York. "It marks and catalyzes the breakup of the Diaspora Jewish support for Israel because Goldstone is the classical Diaspora Jew. He is a lawyer and upholder of human rights and a liberal. He has distinguished himself in the field of law and he is also a lover of Zion. He calls himself a Zionist. His mother was an activist in the Zionist movement. His daughter did aliyah. He sits on the board of governors of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has an honorary degree from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has said over and over again that he is a Zionist. He believes Jews have a right to a state in Palestine. His is a mostly emblematic profile of the classically liberal Jew."

"Liberal has a distinct connotation," Finkelstein went on. "It means to believe in the rule of law. It means to believe in international institutions. It means to believe in human rights. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are liberal organizations. What the Goldstone phenomenon registers and catalyzes is the fact that it is impossible to reconcile liberal convictions with Israel's conduct; too much is now known about the history of the conflict and the human rights record and the so-called peace process. It is impossible to be both liberal and defend Israeli policy. That was the conflict that confronted Goldstone. I very much doubt he wanted to condemn Israel."

"Israeli liberalism always had a function in Israeli society," said Finkelstein, whose new book, "This Time We Went Too Far," examines the Israeli attack a year ago on Gaza. "When I talk about liberals I mean people like A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman and Amos Oz. Their function was to issue these anguished criticisms of Israel which not only extenuated Israeli crimes but exalted Israeli crimes. 'Isn't it beautiful, the Israeli soul, how it is anguished over what it has done.' It is the classic case of having your cake and eating it. Not only were any crimes being committed extenuated, but they were beautiful. And now something strange happened. Along comes a Jewish liberal and he says, 'Spare me your tears. I am only interested in the law.'"

"Goldstone did not perform the role of the Jewish liberal," Finkelstein said, "which is to be anguished, but no consequences. And all of a sudden Israeli liberal Jews are discovering, hey, there are consequences for committing war crimes. You don't just get to walk into the sunset and look beautiful. They can't believe it. They are genuinely shocked. 'Aren't our tears consequences enough?' Aren't our long eyes and broken hearts consequences enough?' 'No," he said, 'you have to go to the criminal court.'"

The campaign against Israeli dissidents has taken the form of venomous denunciations of activists and jurists, including Justice Goldstone. It includes a bill before the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, which will make it possible to imprison the leaders of Israeli human rights groups if they fail to comply with crippling new registration conditions. Human rights activists from outside Israel who work in the Palestinian territories are being rounded up and deported. The government is refusing to issue work visas to employees of 150 NGOs operating in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including Oxfam, Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). The new tourist visas effectively bar these employees from Palestinian territory under Israeli occupation. Professor Naomi Chazan, the Israeli head of the NIF, which has donors in the United States, is being publicly vilified by ultranationalist groups such as Im Tirzu. Foreign donors to the NIF, as well as other human rights groups, are being pressured by Israeli officials to halt contributions. Billboards have sprouted up around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with a grotesque caricature of Chazan, who has been branded by groups such as Im Tirzu as an agent for Hamas and Iran, with a horn growing from her forehead. "Naomi-Goldstone-Chazan" the caption on the billboard reads. Im Tirzu, the front organization behind many of the attacks, includes among its financial backers the John Hagee Ministries and the New York Central Fund, which also support extremist settler organizations.

The purge is under way because of the belief within the Netanyahu government that these groups and activists provided evidence of Israeli war crimes in Gaza to Justice Goldstone. Israel has no intention of lifting the blockade on Gaza, halting settlement expansion, including the 1,600 new homes to be built in East Jerusalem, or reversing its division of the West Bank into impoverished ghettos of Palestinians. The growing brutality and violence of the occupation, no longer easy to deny or hide, coupled with Israel's growing status as an international pariah, have unleashed a crackdown against all those within the Jewish state who are blamed for the bad publicity. Yuli Edelstein, the Diaspora affairs minister, summed up the witch hunt when he announced that the Cabinet had been "concerned for a time with a number of groups under the guise of NGOs that are funded by foreign agents."

The Knesset bill, if passed, will force human rights groups to register as political bodies and turn over identification numbers and addresses of all members to the government. These groups will lose their tax-exempt status. Most governmental organizations, such as the European Union, which is a large donor to Israeli human rights organizations, cannot legally pay taxes to another government, and the new law will effectively end European Union and other outside funding. The groups will be mandated to provide the government with the records of all foreign donations and account for how these donations were spent. Any public statement, event or speech, even if it lasts half a minute, by these groups must include a declaration that they are being supported and funded by a foreign power. Those who fail to follow these guidelines, including local volunteers, can face a year in jail.

"This is the first time the human rights dimension of the Israel Palestine conflict has moved center stage," Finkelstein said. "It has temporarily displaced the fatuous peace process. It is the first time that human rights reports have counted. There are literally, because I have read them, tens if not hundreds of thousands of pages of accumulation of human rights reports condemning Israel going back roughly to the first intifada to the present. The human rights organizations since the 1990s have been quite sharp in their criticism of Israel human rights policy, but nobody ever reads the reports. They are never reported on, with maybe a couple of exceptions, in the mainstream media. The Goldstone report was the first time the findings of these human rights organizations moved center stage. People stopped talking about the peace process and started talking about Israel's human rights record."

There is a growing disenchantment among Israelis with the endless occupation of Gaza and the West Bank as well as endemic government corruption. Maj. Gen. Avi Zamir, the head of the Israeli military's Personnel Directorate, admitted recently to UPI that increasing numbers of Israelis are refusing to serve in the occupied territories. "Taking into consideration Israeli Arab youth, we're facing a situation in which 70 percent of youths will not enlist in the military," the general told the news agency. The discontent, along with the international condemnation, is inhibiting Israel's ability to muster international support for further attacks.

"Israel attacked Gaza to restore what it called its deterrence capacity, its ability to terrorize the Arab world into submission," Finkelstein said. "But it actually diminished its deterrence capacity because it can't attack. If they were to attack now, anywhere, all hell would break loose and they wouldn't get sympathy."

The numbers of so-called refuseniks are proliferating with groups such as the Courage to Refuse, Shministim and New Profile supporting those who will not serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. It is not that many Israelis lack a conscience, it is not that many cannot delineate right from wrong; it is that the Netanyahu government is determined to see that these courageous voices within Israel will be silenced along with those of the Palestinians.
(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."

The Complete Idiot's Guide To Governing
By David Michael Green

It would be a gigantic mistake to believe that Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid or anyone else of prominence in today's Democratic Party actually gives a damn about the fate of the American people.

But it's not such a stretch to imagine that they might care about their own political careers. I think the Founders of the American republic had this in mind when they wrote their blueprint for representative government, in which a politician's fate would be tied to their popularity with voters.

Of course, it doesn't entirely work that way so much anymore because of the influence of big-monied players, but if it did we'd still be left with another big problem: These idiots don't even know how to save their own skins by governing well. Few things have amazed me more over the last year than how incompetent President Obama has been, given the exemplary skills of Candidate Obama, who ran a near-perfect, textbook campaign.

So, Barack Baby, I know you couldn't care less about the American public, but just in case you might still care about your own legacy and perhaps even winning a second term, might I be of some assistance?

Here, for your reading pleasure and educational benefit is The Complete Idiot's Guide To Governing (and you are a complete idiot when it comes to governing). I've laid it all out for you. You don't even have to take notes.


Is the American health care system a problem for this country, especially in the long term? You betcha. But most people are not very focused on health care right now. They are, on the other hand, really, really focused and fearful about their jobs. Such economic insecurity is not just "this year's issue", like say the war was in 2006. This is existential. People are staring out over the edge of a cliff and down into their own personal abyss. You cannot address ANY other issue under circumstances like that. Even in normal times, people "vote their pocketbook", let alone during the Great Recession. Nobody gets out of a Poli Sci 101 class without learning that simple fact. So how did the president of the United States get all the way to the White House without doing so? Barack Obama has spent virtually all of his political capital, and that of his comrades in Congress too, on an issue way down in priority for most Americans right now, while almost entirely ignoring the single thing they are obsessed about. This would be like, say, invading Iraq in response to an attack launched at you from Afghanistan. I wonder how that would work out for a president?


If you're trying to do something as president - and especially if you're trying to do something big - you have to be bold and you have to sell it bold. There needs to be a big problem to be solved. You need to be offering a big solution to the problem. Your position has to be the only morally defensible one. It doesn't hurt if you can identify some sort of enemy, too. You have to get people excited, motivated, passionate and afraid to not get on board with your solution. That will not happen if you offer them half-measures backed by a wimpy lack of conviction. Imagine if Roosevelt had gone to Congress on December 8th, 1941 and said, "Golly, those darn Japanese can be mean sometimes! I urge your support for sending them a telegram strongly protesting their attack on Pearl Harbor." Would that have motivated a nation to the sacrifices necessary to win World War II? Would that have mobilized America? What if LBJ had said that institutionalized racism is unfortunate, and what we must do about it is make discrimination illegal. On Tuesday afternoons and all day Sunday, that is. Would that have given him the wind necessary to fill his legislative sails and better the country in ways that few presidents have ever matched? Call me crazy, but I'm guessing not.


Legislating properly involves attention to detail, and I certainly don't subscribe to the latest regressive appeal to the stupidity of their tea party mobs that slams Obama's health care bill for being 2000 pages long. Just because people who get their politics from Limbaugh and Beck need stuff dumbed down in order to assuage their own wholesale inadequacies, I sure don't want my government governing on that principle. That said, sometimes complexity in legislation means that one is tying oneself in knots, trying to avoid the simple and obvious solution to a problem. And it is always the case, even when bills must legitimately include boatloads of detail, that they should nevertheless be rooted in simple, easily-extractable, foundational first principles, and that these should form the narrative core of how the legislation is marketed to the public. At the end of the day, if you can get across to people that your bill will accomplish one, two or three really important, basic and necessary objectives, they won't care how many pages it runs. If you can't do that, on the other hand, they also won't care how many pages it runs. They're not going to support your crummy law, regardless.


One of the things that astonishes me about the Obama team is how little they understand the modern presidency. It seems so clear what you need to do, because we've seen it done so many times, and we've seen it not done. FDR, LBJ, Reagan and Lil' Bush all more or less got what they wanted as president because they understood these simple principles, while Clinton and Carter and Poppy Bush and Ford were Potemkin presidents because they didn't. One of the key aspects of the formula is using the president's most important single power, the bully pulpit. This means that you have to talk about your bill incessantly. You have to talk about it with great gravitas. You have to persuade. You have to go over the heads of Congress, to the people, and get them to lean all over Congress like your cousin Eddy with the big coke habit who is constantly hitting you up for money. You have to put the fear in the bellies of members about what it will cost them to be on the wrong side of public opinion. You have to be incessant. The model is not only crystal clear, but entirely proximate in time. Think of the obsessive full-court-press campaign that the Bush administration ran to sell the Iraq war just back in 2002 and 2003. Big speeches. Loads of public appearances. Top administration officials on every broadcast, every day. Relentless beating of the same drum. No distractions with other issues. Message coordination with sympathetic pundits, public intellectuals and activists from outside the administration. Total media domination. Strident, urgent exhortations. Intimidation and delegitimation of anyone who dared oppose the policy. And so on. Ironically, Obama has never come close to mounting a public campaign for solutions that people actually desire that would equal one-tenth of the intensity that Bush brought to the party when he took policies the public didn't want and jammed them down their throats until they begged for more.


Some of my favorite photos from recent history are of LBJ applying "The Johnson Treatment" to members of Congress and others who needed a bit of course correction. This hulking president would get right up in their faces, towering over them, and causing political figures normally otherwise possessed of quite healthy egos to arch themselves over backwards in obeisance, and presumably also to minimize the amount of LBJ's spittle that ended up on their foreheads. The guy knew how to intimidate you. He knew how to stroke you. He knew how to threaten you. He knew what you cared about. He knew your pressure points. He knew how to appeal to your sense of history. He knew how to take advantage of your pettiness. He knew how to twist your arm. And, if you were dumb enough to make it necessary for him to do so, he knew how to rip it right out of its socket. Mostly, he just knew how to pocket your vote. And so that's what he did. Over and over again. Barack Obama, on the other hand, is the polar opposite of LBJ. He is not only being dictated to by Congress, rather than the other way around, but he actually set it up that way. He's getting the LBJ treatment from punks on Capitol Hill, rather than giving to them. He has stood for nothing in his negotiations on major bills, and that is precisely what he has in his pocket so far as he slinks back home, beat and bruised, wobbling down Pennsylvania Avenue. You wanna win? You gotta discipline your own troops first.


Right now, regressives are taking the most outrageous pot-shots at Barack Obama, Democrats in Congress, and all of their legislative initiatives. And why shouldn't they? No one ever calls them on it. No one ever makes them pay for it. No one ever fires back. No one ever ridicules them when they say ridiculous things. No one ever shames them. No one ever puts them on the wrong side of history. This is a real bad governing posture, made all the worse because of who we're dealing with here. Regressives tend to have the worst instincts imaginable, just on their own. They're the most frightened people in the world, and they're therefore capable of anything, including lies, smears, dirty tricks, cheap attacks, personal destruction and ruining the country they claim incessantly to be so patriotic toward. They look at thugs like Limbaugh or Rove as role models, rather than as the escaped felons that they actually are. They are more than a problem, just left to their own devices. You cannot add to the problem by incentivizing their criminal behavior. Anybody who wants to govern effectively needs to make opponents pay for their opposition. Obama and the Democrats in Congress, on the other hand, have made opposition to them pay off for their opponents. A year ago, the Great-big Old Pigs party was so smashed to bits from its own insane politics, it looked like the thing could seriously be toast. Now, they are right back in contention, and poised for smashing victories in the next two election cycles. All because they called Democrats socialists, fascists and granny-killers, and no one ever made them eat their scorched earth destructive lies.


If you're pushing some big legislative package, you might as well act like you're betting the farm, 'cause you are. Look at the Democrats today. They've hardly made the slightest case for the urgency of their stimulus or bail-out or health care legislation. They've hardly telegraphed to anyone that these are all-in questions, for which they're willing to risk a lot, and punish a lot. And yet they are, in fact, high-stakes gambles, regardless of how Democrats treat them, because their opponents have made them that. The Dumb Dems have therefore managed to realize the worst of all worlds. Whether they like it or not, they live or die on the hill of these bills. But mostly die. Their legislative agenda has been so badly botched that it is hard to say now which will cause them more damage with voters, passing a health care bill or failing to. The worst possible approach here is to take half-measures and let your opponents turn them into full ones. It's lose-lose scenario, well fit for chumps like those in today's Democratic Party. Instead, someone who really understands how all this works would've raised the stakes, right from the get-go.

And that's it, folks. That's how you govern in Washington. That's how you win.

On the other hand, if being a crash-test dummy is more to your liking, there's a formula for that too. What you do is pick the wrong issue, take some mealy-mouthed embarrassingly nothingburger position on it, make your pitch incredibly complex so the public neither understands it nor can rally behind any core moral principles, fail to use the bully pulpit to sell it, don't lean on your own party to fall into line, don't make it expensive for your opponents to trash you and your bill, and let them define the stakes.

Maybe you've seen that approach before, eh? Like every morning of this last year, when you open your newspaper, perhaps?

All evidence suggests that Barack Obama is a pretty smart guy. And, unless he's some sort of alien pod-growth creature, he's lived through the same epoch of American history I have.

You just wouldn't know it, though, watching him in action.

He's an awfully nice guy. He seems like a good father. Maybe he's even a swell dancer, too. I dunno.

He just doesn't know squat about how to govern.
(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...

Judas Kucinich coming out
of the closet in happier days

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Kucinich,

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 joining the dark side to sell out America to the Insurance Lords, 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 "Demoncratic Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds; oh and 30 pieces of silver, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 04-15-2010. We salute you Herr Kucinich, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Renewed Massa Probe Cannot Vindicate Boehner
GOP leader John Boehner hopes to embarrass Nancy Pelosi with the Massa scandal -- but his revenge may prove bitter
By Joe Conason

Now that Eric Massa has outlived his very brief moment as a star on right-wing media, the deranged ex-congressman is again merely a foil for attacks on the Democrats. Yesterday, the House passed a resolution directing the busy, busy ethics committee to investigate the handling of the Massa matter by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and their staff members.

Instigated by Minority Leader John Boehner, the renewed probe is meant to restore, in his words, the "broken bonds of trust" between Congress and the American people. So far, of course, there is no evidence that anyone in the congressional leadership violated that trust regarding Massa's misconduct. But the ethics committee will have ample opportunity to uncover and examine any such evidence between now and the deadline for its report on June 30.

In the meantime, Boehner's indignant-sounding resolution provides a reason to recall his own behavior during the Mark Foley scandal. On the day that Foley resigned in September 2006 after media exposure of his suggestive communications with House pages, Pelosi - then the Minority Leader - brought a resolution to the floor demanding that the ethics committee begin an immediate investigation, with a preliminary report due 10 days later. Her resolution directed the committee to find out "when the Republican leadership was notified [of Foley's misconduct with a former House page] and what corrective action was taken."

But Boehner, then the Majority Leader, blocked that resolution, and the House referred the matter instead to the ethics committee, which met in October to decide what to do. The committee - then overseen by the Republican leadership's pliant handpicked chairman Doc Hastings - did not complete its report until early December (after the blowout midterm election that returned the Democrats to the majority).

Yet that report, titled Investigation of Allegations Related to Improper Conduct Involving Members and Current or Former House Pages, contains harsh criticism of Boehner. Much investigative work was required to sort out the contradictory accounts that Boehner and then-Speaker Dennis Hastert, among others, had offered concerning what they knew about Foley's suggestive messages to the pages, when they knew it, and what they did. The short version, stripped of self-serving memory malfunctions, is that they knew for many months and did nothing.

The main findings regarding Boehner can be found on page 85:

The Investigative Subcommittee finds that the weight of the evidence supports the conclusion that Speaker Hastert was told, at least in passing, about the [Foley] emails by Majority Leader Boehner and Rep. [Tom] Reynolds in the spring of 2006 ... Like too many others, neither the Majority Leader nor Rep. Reynolds showed any curiosity regarding why a young former page would have been made uncomfortable by emails from Rep. Foley. Neither the Majority Leader nor Rep. Reynolds asked the Speaker to take any action in response to the information each provided to him, and there is no evidence that the Speaker took any action.
Although the report did not recommend any action against Hastert, Boehner or Reynolds, its executive summary arraigned them all for an awful dereliction of duty:

The failure to exhaust all reasonable efforts to call attention to potential misconduct involving a Member and House page is not merely the exercise of poor judgment; it is a present danger to House pages and to the integrity of the institution of the House.

On page 68, the report also contains a little-noticed account of a questionable meeting of several members of the Republican leadership in Boehner's office only hours after Foley resigned - and after the House had directed the ethics committee to investigate. (Among those present was Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., now the minority whip.)

Sometime before midnight, a meeting was held in Majority Leader Boehner's office to talk about the [Foley] matter ... Since the meeting was convened after the referral [to the ethics committee], some participants questioned whether it was appropriate to conduct the meeting. Rep. Reynolds chose not to attend the meeting on the advice of his counsel, Randy Evans, after suspecting that Rep. [Rodney] Alexander and others who had prior knowledge of the Foley matter might be in attendance. Rep. Reynolds testified: 'I'm not inclined to go in and collaborate or memorialize anything that would deal with this based on the fact that, previous to this, we had voted to send it to the Ethics Committee ... Not being a lawyer, there are not many things I know about the legal side of this, but I do know that discussion of recollecting anything is not preferred."

The meeting proceeded anyway in order to facilitate media spin by the leadership, with Boehner assuring everyone that there was no desire to influence anyone's recollections.

Boehner's urge to investigate Pelosi and Hoyer is understandable, even if it represents nothing more than partisan pettiness and revenge. To avoid disappointment, however, he should realize that the standard set by him and his Republican colleagues in the Foley affair will not be difficult to surpass.
(c) 2010 Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer and Salon. You may reach Joe via email at: Joe Conason

The Real American Emergency
By Mary Pitt

While our president is involved in dealing with the many emergencies in which our nation is now foundering, he fails to see the most urgent one.

The dead numbered 137,000 per year through the years of 2000 to 2006, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science and, as the depression continues to worsen, the numbers will climb even higher on an annual basis. The problem? Simply a lack of health insurance and the inability to obtain the needed care on an individual basis!

Granted, these people are the working poor and, thus, are "The Others." We all know who "The Others" are. They are the people who are not in "our neighborhood", the unseen people who keep our streets, our clothing, and our children clean, who cook and serve our food, who do the myriad of tasks that we are too busy to do or too comfortable to do for ourselves. They people our back rooms, out of sight, except on the streets where we hardly notice their presence.

They are not the elderly because the elderly have, at least, Medicare with which to maintain their simple lives. The people who are dying for want of care are not the young, healthy people but those who continue to work hard, working through the pains of incipient illnesses such as diabetes and cancer because they have neither the time nor the money to seek medical care.

Suggesting that they should carry private-pay insurance is futile because they simply do not have the funds to pay up to $15,000 per year that would be necessary for a family policy and the idea of fining them for not doing so would also result in further health problems with their undernourished and, possibly, homeless children. We proclaim our care for children by passing the S-CHIP legislation which will allow them medical care but their empty bellies receive nothing but good wishes if their parents work too hard and earn too little to provide them an adequate diet. The dental and eye care provided for them are rudimentary and all medical appointments of any kind necessitate a cash co-payment.

Even before the onset of the "recession", bankruptcies due to medical expenses were a ballooning problem not necessarily caused by the lack of insurance but by the deductibles and co-payments that those policies require. An elderly person in the United States must live on about $1200 per month, less the deductions for premiums for Medicare Parts B and D, which combined total well over $100 per month. From the remaining $1,000 dollars or so, these people are required to pay an additional deductible for their medications, for each doctor's appointment, and for necessary hospitalizations.

In addition, they face the feared "donut hole" which causes them to end each year with the problem of whether to buy the medication upon which their very lives depend or to pay for their rent, utilities, and food. At this level of Social Security, there are few states, which allow them assistance from Medicaid.

Every elderly person lives with the fear that they will have a "dizzy spell" or a minor fall, which will prompt some kind-hearted person to transport them to an emergency room where a caring physician may decide to keep them overnight for "observation". Upon release from the hospital the next day, they know they will be burdened with a bill, which they must pay, in excess of $2,000 after Medicare. (This would be another two months' Social Security allowance that must be taken from their necessary expenses.) Hard as they may try and regardless of their own desire to avoid it, bankruptcy and total devastation looms as an inevitability.

There are those who are obsessed with the possibility that single-payer medical insurance will cause an increase in taxes. However, if they were to add to their annual tax bill the amounts that they now pay for insurance premiums on a private basis, they would realize that the question should be given further consideration. The government already pays 60% of the health care bills in this country while there are many with no coverage at all. If the amounts that are paid to private insurance plans were added to this amount, there would be little or no tax increase to provide complete coverage to all the rest. In addition, the employers who have been paying for medical insurance might be amenable to increasing wages and improving the amounts in the paychecks.

Rather than the "competition" which has been touted as a way to cut the cost of medical insurance, the companies are in constant negotiations as first one company and then another embarks on a plan of conquest. They buy up or take over smaller companies. It would not be much of an exaggeration to compare the insurance situation with that of the nation's major banks, and for the same reason. The point of the endeavor is to create a monopoly wherein one or two major corporations control health care and can name their own price.

However, a single-payer plan could roll together the amounts presently spent in Federally-funded health care along with the subsidies reserved for those providing Medicare Part D, the amount paid for private insurance premiums, and 30% charged out by those companies for administrative salaries, advertising, and profits, there would be a net increase in available funds of some 350 billion dollars per year to apply toward services for the uninsured. Any actual increases in taxation beyond rolling in the money now spent on insurance premiums would not be a great burden but would literally save the lives of many Americans and create the healthy citizenry that will be required in the rebuilding of our nation. As regular examinations, preventive care, and early diagnoses are available, the cost would go down over the years, relieving the taxpayers of much of their burden.

If the President would verify these facts through the Washington number-crunchers and convince the Democrats in Congress, the answer would truly be a "no-brainer". The question would arise as to the effect on the economy of the loss to the insurance companies. Then, as now, they could contract with the government to administer this Federal program in order to mitigate their losses. However, keeping the current system to protect the private insurance industry can only duplicate the results of the "too big to fail" bank bailouts. If they have become so greedy that they must continue to fatten their pockets with the life-blood of the people of America, perhaps their "failure" would benefit the future of America.

Much has been said and written about "the polls" which show a loss of support for the "health reform" effort in Congress. This is far from that which the people envisioned when they turned out in record numbers to assure the election of Barack Obama. It was begun timidly and fought blindly by the opposition who were not yet recovered from their Rovian trance of "every man for himself". They recite by rote the right to "own your own insurance policy" when, in fact, they know that they are only renting them for so long as they pay the ever-increasing premiums and don't have a serious illness.

We can only urge President Obama to "get real" and prepare to proclaim this National Emergency and to exercise his executive powers much as President Bush did to deal with the National Emergency in his time. This crisis is every bit as serious as that faced by the nation in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. It must be treated as seriously before many more people die as the result of it.
(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
~~~ Jeff Parker ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Persecution Smith
By Bob Seger and The Last Heard

He rises every morning but he don't look at the sun.
He reaches in the corner where he keeps his loaded gun.
Then he checks the firing action, as he straps it to his chest.
Plans an ambush for the mailman, even though it's all in jest.

He's here he's there he's everywhere.
He's found uptown and underground.
Unlike "My Friend Flicka you know he's not a myth.
He's persecution, persecution, Persecution Smith!

He's found at every protest march you'll see him looking on.
He'd soon join in to help but he thinks it's all in fun.
Cause he isn't colorblind not to mention no one's fool.
He knows how things should be but he ain't out to change no rules.

His eyes can't see like you and me.
His voice can't speak but only shriek.
His brain is like jelly, his muscles they are stiff.
He's persecution, persecution, Persecution Smith!

You can't walk down the street no more without him walking by.
You can't go to sleep at night without hearing him cry.
You can't read a newspaper without reading about him.
You can't escape him in the crowd for he will be among them.

He's here, he's there, he's everywhere.
He's found uptown and underground.
In Watts, California you know who he was with.
With persecution, persecution, Persecution Smith!

When you're finished with your ideals,
And you're finished with your dreams.
When you're finished your crusading and no longer hear the screams.
When you're finished trying to picture a world with people free.
When you're finished looking up and the down is all you see.

Then make your goal the first foxhole!
And hide your head beneath your bed.
Cause you won't be alone my friend
You know who you'll be with?
With persecution, persecution, Persecution Smith!
(c) 1967/2010/ Bob Seger

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

GQ Recalls New Issue After Rielle Hunter Photo Spread Causes Nausea
Emergency Rooms Overflowing
By Andy Borowitz

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) - In a move that many in the magazine world called unprecedented, GQ today recalled the entire print run of its new issue after a photo spread featuring John Edwards mistress Rielle Hunter was found to cause nausea and in some cases projectile vomiting.

"We at GQ want our readers to know that we are doing everything in our power to avert a public health catastrophe," said magazine spokesperson Carol Foyler. "And if that means tracking down every last copy of those Rielle Hunter pictures and destroying them, that's what we're going to do."

As emergency rooms across the country overflowed with people who had unwittingly opened the latest GQ and seen the Hunter photos, fresh concerns were raised over the existence of a John Edwards-Rielle Hunter sex tape.

Rand Deckle, press spokesman for the National Institutes of Health, issued this statement on the matter: "Given the health crisis that the Rielle Hunter photos have created, it is imperative that every copy of that sex tape be secured and buried in the center of the Earth."

Elsewhere, former Rep. Eric Massa today said he was unworried about a possible ethics investigation, telling reporters, "I welcome a probe, because it always feels good in the end."
(c) 2010 Andy Borowitz

The Gross National Debt

Iraq Deaths Estimator

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 12 (c) 03/19/2010

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