Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Naomi Klein gets smeared by Israel in, "Protecting Israel's Lawlessness With Spying And Smear Campaign."

Uri Avnery considers Obama's, "The Doomsday Weapon."

David Sirota wonders, "What's The Matter With Democrats?"

Chris Cooper returns with, "Everybody Knows The Deal Is Rotten."

Jim Hightower says, "Justice Roberts Is A Wuss."

Randall Amster finds, "Health Reform Passes, But I Still Don't Feel So Good."

James Donahue asks, "Is Christianity A Dying Religion?"

Bob Herbert documents, "An Absence Of Class."

Chris Floyd with an absolute must read, "Night Riders."

Belacqua Jones does the, "Dance Macabre."

Mike Folkerth studies, "A BS In Order Picking?"

Chris Hedges announces, "The Health Care Hindenburg Has Landed."

David Michael Green is, "Stumbling About In The Graveyard Of Empires."

Florida Con-gressman Alan (Benedict) Grayson wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Sheila Samples wants them to, "Keep The Change...."

Mary Pitt witnesses, "A Gathering Of Vultures."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst observes, "Kooky Kabuki Terrain" but first Uncle Ernie observes the "American Sellout."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Henry Payne, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, One Citizen, Beethoven Queen, Betty Bowers, Destonio, Peter Paul Rubens, Mr. Fish, Vet 44, Mariopiperni.Com, Warner Brothers, AP 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."

American Sellout
How Fredo Kucinich, Benedict Grayson and Judas Franken sold us down the river
By Ernest Stewart

"The bill represents a giveaway to the insurance industry, $70 billion a year, no guarantees for any controls over premiums, forcing people to buy private insurance with five consecutive years of double-digit premium increases".
~~~ Dennis (Fredo) Kucinich on Countdown days before he flip-flopped ~~~

"I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that's what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that's what I'd like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House." ~~~ Barack Obama

"He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future." ~~~ George Orwell

Happy daze are here again, huh? We all get ObamaCare. Yippee! Before you uncork that case of Dommie P or Bollinger's and start dancing naked in the streets, you better realize what just happened. I don't want to be a buzz kill but we just got screwed and, like most of the screwing we got from Clinton and Bush, it was done right before our eyes, America! Obama is the same as the last two bosses. In fact, the last time we had a president who wasn't owned and operated by the corpo-rations was when JFK was in office and you know what they did to him.

I'm glad this awful bill was passed as it certainly drove the fascists out of their closets and into the spotlight. Folks who pretended to be part of us have been shown for the fascist pigs they are. Kucinich, Grayson and Franken all sold us out without batting an eyelash. Oh, they spoke beautiful words; they were all against it. Fredo said:

"I'm ready to listen to the White House, if the White House is ready to listen to the concerns about putting a public option in this bill. I mean, they can do that. You know, they're still cutting last-minute deals. Put the public option back in. Make it a robust public option. Give the people a chance to really negotiate rates with the insurance companies ... from the standpoint of having a public option. But don't just tell the people that you're going to call this health care reform, when you're giving insurance companies an even more powerful monopoly status in our economy."

Having said that and after pledging to vote no to any bill without a public option, Fredo had no problem breaking his oath and voting for this disaster, as did Judas and Benedict. Some have asked why I attack them, give them names? Well, Issues & Alibis readers voted to hang the name Fredo on Kucinich. Franken being Jewish, what better name than Judas and Grayson, being a hero who, like Arnold, sold out his country when the going got rough should wear the name Benedict! Why do I make a big deal out of the Demoncrats and not the Rethuglicans. Well, you expect it from the Rethuglicans but the Demoncrats like to pretend that they're on our side! Wolves in sheeps' clothing!

Of course, the Republicans were against it but not for the right reasons. They have, no doubt, been dancing in the aisles. It was a bill that both parties' puppet masters wanted. In boardrooms across the country caviar is being spread on crackers by the pound and whole cases of Dommie P have been guzzled! Why, I here you cry? Simple really, here are a few reasons to consider about ObamaCare.

The final bill is pretty much what AHIP, which stands for America's Health Insurance Plans and is the insurance company trade association, wanted! In fact, the original Senate Finance Committee bill was authored by a former Wellpoint VP, Sinator Max Baucus. Imagine that! Health insurance stock is up about 30% and climbing. I wonder why, don't you? I didn't think so! Just watch it climb after this turkey is signed!

This isn't universal health care. Some 30 million won't be covered (the government claims there are 47.7 million without insurance but the real numbers are 59.8 million) and as time goes by and people lose their insurance, that number will grow and grow!

This is going to cost the average person or family a lot of extra money. As it kicks in it will cost about $8,000 per single person or $20,000 per family with absolutely no caps! I'm going to repeat that again for those of you on drugs!

Sure they have to insure you regardless of prior illness but they can
certainly sock it to you for as much as they like.

Not to mention that if you've been dropped because of preexisting illness and are in a high-risk category the odds are you still won't be able to get insurance. As it stands now, less than 1% will get it and the current funding will run out in 2011 or 2012.

Haven't been insured lately? Well you're going into a special pool where you'll pay triple the average rates! Oh, and for you old folks who aren't quite 65 yet, even with company insurance you'll be paying a whole lot more than you are today.

Got premium insurance from work? You be taxed at 40% of the cost in a few years time.

Are you hip to the excise tax? The "excise tax" will encourage employers to reduce the scope of health care benefits without passing those savings along to you. You'll pay to get those benefits back out of your own pocket.

This bill doesn't bring down costs as most cost cutting measures aren't in the bill. There is no public option which would have saved more than $100 billion. Nor is there any mention of "drug re-importation" which would have saved another $20 billion. No Medicare drug price negotiations which would have saved at least $300 billion in ten years time. No Medicare buy in, billions more not saved. A hundred billion here and a hundred billion there and pretty soon...!

Of course, with this bill you'll be forced to buy something, which I'm quite sure in unconstitutional, and you'll be fined if you don't.

All those underpaid WalMart employees with no insurance will be subsidized by you picking up the tab for them. Of course, not only Walmart employees but also millions more will need your tax dollars!

And that internal appeals process? You make your appeal to the insurance company. Good luck with that. And the external appeal is for the individual states to enforce and with all of the states running huge deficits, you know that's not going to happen. Oh, and did I mention there are no federal watchdogs or appeals?

Most of this bill doesn't even start until 2014 so you're on your own until then. If you're an adult with cancer, I hope you can hold out until then!

This bill will not prevent bankruptcies; in fact, most of the people (75%) with medical bankruptcies already had insurance. Nor does this bill help with out-of-pocket expenses until you've paid about $12,000 per person!

Trouble is, this is just the tip of the iceberg and as life is short, I'll stop here but life is sure to be shorter still with this bill in place.

As I've said before, they didn't need to write 2000 pages for a bill to give everyone healthcare, which this bill doesn't do for tens of millions of Americans! Here's my health care proposal in two sentences not 2000 pages!

"Medicare for all American citizens from birth until death who want it. With no donut hole for drugs and no other out of pocket expenses other than payroll Medicare tax deductions!"

Simple huh? Now which plan would you choose?

In Other News

One of the biggest lies currently in favor from the former Demoncratic left is that someday soon we get to have the public option many swore we'd get in the beginning but couldn't get in the "Health Insurance Company Protection Act of 2010." And they all voted to sell us out to their Insurance, Hospital and Big Pharma puppet masters. Yep, any day now they'll pass what they couldn't pass before, huh?

There is no chance of that ever happening. Barry sold us out last July and from at least that point forward there was never a snowball's chance in Hell that there would be anything but the current nightmare!

You may recall that on his MSNBC show on Monday, Ed Shultz, in an interview with New York Times Washington reporter David Kirkpatrick confirmed the existence of the no public option deal. Shultz quoted Chip Kahn, chief lobbyist for the for-profit hospital industry, who said that the White House would honor the no public option deal, to which Kirkpatrick responded:

"That's a lobbyist for the hospital industry and he's talking about the hospital industry's specific deal with the White House and the Senate Finance Committee and, yeah, I think the hospital industry's got a deal here. There really were only two deals, meaning quid pro quo handshake deals on both sides, one with the hospitals and the other with the drug industry. And I think what you're interested in is that in the background of these deals was the presumption, shared on behalf of the lobbyists on the one side and the White House on the other, that the public option was not going to be in the final product."

Kirkpatrick also acknowledged that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina had confirmed the existence of the deal last July. You may recall that Messina, the deputy White House Chief of Staff, told the hospital lobbyists, according to White House officials and lobbyists briefed on the call, that the White House was standing behind the deal, capping the industry's costs at a maximum of $155 billion over 10 years in exchange for its political support.

You would think that this is big news but you would be wrong! All the time President Obama was saying that he thought a public option was a good idea and encouraging supporters to believe his healthcare plan would include one, he had already cut a deal with the for-profit hospital lobbyists, agreeing that there would be no public option in the final bill. Do you still have Hope for a Change, America? So when pretend liberals like Con-gressman Alan (Benedict) Grayson say:

"My new bill will provide real competition to the private health insurance companies. Those companies make money by denying people the care they need. My Medicare You Can Buy Into Act will go even further toward saving money and saving lives."

Don't you believe it. You have been sold down the river and there will be no last minute reprieves. The Insurance, Hospital and Pharmacy Lords own you and will soon demand their due!

And Finally

I see that the fascists down in Texas are rewriting history and, since the fascists run the state school board and because Texas buys more books than any other state, which makes no sense as there are bigger states until you consider their penchant for burning books down in Wacko, er Waco, soon this new history will be coming to schoolbooks near you!

And because American publisher are a bunch of fascists, too, and don't want to print two sets of books, one for Texas and one for everybody else in the world, the rest of the states will soon be teaching this new history and social studies!

Don McElroy, who leads the board's powerful seven-member fascist bloc, explained that the measure is a way of "adding balance" in the classroom, since "academia is skewed too far to the left." The five liberals members, i.e., the board's critics, have labeled this move an attempt by "political 'extremists' to promote their ideology."

Here are some of the revised histories that the Texas Board has endorsed. This is just the tip of the iceberg:

1. A greater emphasis on "the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s." This means not only increased favorable mentions of Phyllis Schlafly, the founder of the antifeminist Eagle Forum, but also more discussion of the Moral Majority, the Heritage Foundation, the National Rifle Association and Newt Gingrich's Contract On America.

2. A reduced scope for Latino history and culture. A proposal to expand such material in recognition of Texas' rapidly growing Hispanic population was defeated in last week's meetings-provoking one board member, Mary Helen Berlanga, to storm out in protest. "They can just pretend this is a white America and Hispanics don't exist," she said of her conservative colleagues on the board. "They are rewriting history, not only of Texas but of the United States and the world."

3. Changes in specific terminology. Terms that the board's conservative majority felt were ideologically loaded are being retired. Hence, "imperialism" as a characterization of America's modern rise to world power is giving way to "expansionism," and "capitalism" is being dropped in economic material, in favor of the more positive expression "free market." (The new recommendations stress the need for favorable depictions of America's economic superiority across the board.)

4. A more positive portrayal of Cold War anticommunism. Disgraced anticommunist crusader Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin senator censured by the Senate for his aggressive targeting of individual citizens and their civil liberties on the basis of their purported ties to the Communist Party, comes in for partial rehabilitation. The board recommends that textbooks refer to documents published since McCarthy's death and the fall of the Soviet bloc that appear to show expansive Soviet designs to undermine the U.S. government.

5. Language that qualifies the legacy of 1960s liberalism. Great Society programs such as Title IX-which provides for equal gender access to educational resources-and affirmative action, intended to remedy historic workplace discrimination against African-Americans, are said to have created adverse "unintended consequences" in the curriculum's preferred language.

6. Thomas Jefferson no longer included among writers influencing the nation's intellectual origins. Jefferson, a Deist who helped pioneer the legal theory of the separation of church and state, is not a model founder in the board's judgment. Among the intellectual forerunners to be highlighted in Jefferson's place: medieval Catholic philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas, Puritan theologian John Calvin and conservative British law scholar William Blackstone. Heavy emphasis is also to be placed on the founding fathers having been guided by strict Christian beliefs, although most of the founding fathers were Atheists or Deists.

7. Excision of recent third-party presidential candidates Ralph Nader (from the left) and Ross Perot (from the centrist Reform Party). Meanwhile, the recommendations include an entry listing Confederate General Stonewall Jackson as a role model for effective leadership, and a statement from Confederate President Jefferson Davis accompanying a speech by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.

8. A recommendation to include country and western music among the nation's important cultural movements. The popular black genre of hip-hop is being dropped from the same list.

So that's the brave new world that Texas will force us to adopt. I have an idea, why don't we give Texas back to Mexico? Sure it will piss the Mexicans off, but so what? Think about it!

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.


08-16-1924 ~ 03-18-2010
Thanks for my first record!

08-17-1911 ~ 03-19-2010
Happy Landings!

01-31-1920 ~ 03-20-2010
Thanks for going green!

03-03-1948 ~ 03-23-2010
Thanks for dem Blues!

08-16-1930 ~ 03-24-2010
Thanks for the memories!


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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.

Protecting Israel's Lawlessness With Spying And Smear Campaign
By Naomi Klein

A while ago, the Reut Institute, arguably Israel's most influential think tank, published a very controversial report about "hubs of delegitimization." It attempted to equate tactics of non-violent resistance-like the growing movement to use Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) to force Israel to comply with international law-with a military campaign to destroy the state of Israel.

Most worrying, the report explicitly urged Israeli intelligence agencies like Mossad to take unspecified action against peace activists using entirely legal methods:

"Neither changing policy nor improving public relations will suffice...Faced with a potentially existential threat, Israel must treat it as such by focusing its intelligence agencies on this challenge; allocating appropriate resources; developing new knowledge; designing a strategy, executing it." The think tank also called on the Israeli government to "sabotage network catalysts" - defined as key players in the "delegitimization network."

The Reut report identified several cities with active Palestinian solidarity communities as "hubs" in this supposed network, one hub being my own city of Toronto. Another is the Bay Area, home of the indispensible and courageous Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). Cecilie Surasky, JVP deputy director, has an overview of the Reut controversy with lots of links. In it, Surasky succinctly undercuts the entire premise of the attack: "What groups like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) seek to delegitimize is the occupation and massive inequality and human rights violations committed against Palestinians, not Israel itself."

Recently, I've gotten a taste of Reut-style "sabotage" myself. Last month, Eran Shayshon, a senior analyst at Reut, was invited on CBC radio to explain why he singled out Toronto in the report. Shayshon proceeded to equate the non-violent human rights movement with Hamas and Hezbollah and made several false and damaging claims about me, including the claim that I oppose Israel's right to exist and oppose a two-state solution. There is no basis for this, as JVP called out in its response, "Reut Institute Report Lies About Naomi Klein." You can listen to the inflammatory CBC audio interview here.

What follows is going to seem like a lot of detail and he-said-she-said. But keep in mind that Reut has openly called for covert tactics to be deployed against groups and individuals using legal, non-violent methods to advocate for justice. The goal, according to the Jerusalem Post, is to "establish a 'price tag' for attacking Israel and punish boycotters." In other words, they are trying to shame people into silence, which is why each one of their lies needs to be countered.

So here goes the he-said-she-said, starting with my brief response to, one of my favourite websites, which has been closely covering the controversy:

What Shayshon says about me is a flat out lie. I have made a personal choice not to advocate any particular political outcome in Israel-Palestine. He can search all my writing and public statements, he won't find anything. What I do advocate, and what the BDS campaign advocates, is for Israel to abide by all applicable international laws. Any political outcome - whether one state, two state or more - must abide by these universal non-discriminatory principles. Though I do have personal preferences, I have no secret agenda and would support any outcome that conformed to these principles.

Shayshon's other big lie is his claim that I oppose "Israel's right to exist"; indeed that I "have stated it out[right]." Once again, I challenge him to find one single example in anything I have said or written that would in any way support this claim. He won't find it. This lie could just be slander, an attempt to inflict more "shame" on BDS advocates, as the leaked internal document explained to all of us recently. But I suspect that if challenged, Shayshon would simply claim that to support BDS is to oppose Israel's existence, a claim I have heard before. This is interesting. Since the unequivocal goal of BDS is to force Israel to abide by international law, what Shayshon seems to be saying by implication is that Israel cannot exist within the confines of international law. I would never make such an argument but it does explain the recent aggressive "lawfare" campaign taking aim at the very existence of these laws.

One last point: if supporting boycotts against a place means supporting its annihilation (the claim being made here and elsewhere), what precisely are we to make of the Gaza siege, infinitely more brutal than anything BDS advocates? Does that mean Israel is denying the right of Gaza to exist?

Shayshon and his team appeared to spend the night Googling for dirt to confirm their claims-and came up empty handed. This is the response Shayshon posted on the Reut site and sent to (my response follows).

Several weeks ago I was interviewed on the CBC's morning radio show about the danger of the trend to delegitimize Israel. In this context I was asked to refer to Toronto, in which we at the Reut Institute believe there is turbulent anti-Israel activity that stretches far beyond legitimate criticism of Israeli policy. Among a few other things, I mentioned the Canadian author and political activist Naomi Klein as one of the few significant individuals that reside in Toronto and promote Israel's delegitimization.

Klein published her response in this blog. She argued that what I said about her was "a flat out lie"; that she has "made a personal choice not to advocate any particular political outcome in Israel-Palestine"; and that "(Shayshon) can search all my writing and public statements, he won't find anything." Klein claims to advocate the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaign "for Israel to abide by all applicable international laws." Any political outcome according to Klein, "whether one state, two state or more - must abide by these universal non-discriminatory principles." Klein continues that though she does "have personal preferences," she has "no secret agenda and would support any outcome that conformed to these principles." Klein also denies she opposes "Israel's right to exist" and challenges me "to find one single example in anything I have said or written that would in any way support this claim."

I believe that, in many cases, criticism of Israeli policy from a human rights perspective does not amount to fundamental delegitimization. Criticism of Israeli policy is legitimate, even when it is harsh or unfair, such as in failing to acknowledge Israeli concerns. However, I believe that such criticism crosses the line into delegitimization - as does Naomi Klein - when it falls into one or more of the following categories:

-Challenges the Two-State Solution/ Promotes the One-State Solution - In a transcript of a lecture she delivered in Ramallah Klein comments that: "We need to move the bar. We need to put really radical positions out there. How about a one state solution? How about a no state solution?" In another article for the University of Toronto campus newspaper, Klein further argues that "I wish to be saved from Israel.... Some time ago I might have said that I am a Zionist against what Zionism has become in Israel. But for now, I am a Jew against Israel."

These very clear statements by Klein reflect her rejection of a political solution that maintains a separate State of Israel, and her abdication of the Zionist principle promoting the Jewish people's right for self determination.

-Promotes Double Standard/ Singles Israel Out - Klein argues in a few sources that Israel should be singled out for punishment not because it is the only state which deserves it, but because it is the only state where such punishment would "actually work" (see her op-ed in the Guardian and an article by David Hirsh).

-Demonizes Israel - Klein frequently presents Israel as being systematically, purposefully, and extensively cruel and inhumane, thus implicitly denying the moral legitimacy of its existence. Examples include association with apartheid and accusations of blatant acts of evil. I found the following description of the Israeli society extraordinarily amusing: "By far the most disturbing development in Israeli men's misogyny towards Israeli women is something known to Israeli women as "Holocaust pornography" where images of emaciated women near ovens, shower heads, cattle cars, and the like are used to sell clothing and other products."

-Suggests that Israel was Born in Sin / Opens the '1948 Files' - Klein frequently describes Israel as a colonial country born in sin, stating in one source that Israel "can only properly be understood in the context of the history of colonialism." The obligation to dismantle such as a state naturally derives from this logic.

So while Klein may have never publicly rejected Israel's right to exist, by undermining the paradigm of the Two-State Solution, singling Israel out, constantly demonizing Israel, and opening the '1948 files,' Klein leaves very little doubt regarding her true motives. As I said in the CBC interview, I believe it is more than a "fair accusation."

However, what really worries me is that Klein probably genuinely believes that her actions promote human rights, justice, peace, and international law. Challenging the Two State-Solution is a recipe for chaos and bloodshed. The idea of precipitating Israel's capitulation via the apartheid South Africa model is simplistic, superficial, totally unfounded, and likely to cause more human misery.

We should not be misled by Klein's words. It is those in our camp, in both Israel and Palestine, that promote the principle of 'two states for two people,' that advances justice, that encourages national as well as civil and human rights, and that carry the potential to eventually reach a true and stable peace that is in accordance with international law - currently manifested in existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians and UN resolutions. It is us, and not those who demonize one side and promote unrealistic solutions.

And finally, here is my detailed rebuttal, originally posted on Mondoweiss.

Is that really the best an entire think tank can come up with to support the claim that I am out to destroy Israel and should be stripped of my free speech rights?

First, I have to say that I find it hilarious that in points one and three, Eran Shayshon resorts to quoting an article I wrote for my student newspaper when I was 19. I'm almost 40 so it's oddly flattering. As I said the last time this article was dug up, I don't respond to this kind of slime: "The article in question was written when I was in first year university. I look forward to the follow up expose revealing that, in that very same year, I wrote college essays about books I had not actually read."

As for the quote from my Ramallah speech, I did not advocate for a particular political solution but for a wide spectrum of debate on the subject. Here's the quote in context:

"I don't really think that Obama is FDR, but I can tell you this: he needs us to make him do it. He needs that mass movement, that global mass movement, putting pressure on him because boy is he getting pressure from the other side. And when he takes this tiny little tentative stand - 'no more [Israeli] settlements [in the Occupied Palestinian Territories]' - suddenly this is a crazy progressive position. How about no settlements? We need to move the bar. We need to put really radical positions out there. How about a one state solution? How about a no state solution? Let's get out there and make a lot of noise and build a mass movement for peace and justice in a way that is totally unapologetic, that doesn't cater to the racists. That doesn't apologize for itself. That knows that it is within the greatest traditions of anti-racism whether they are in South Africa in the liberation struggle, or whether they are in the Jewish community."

I fully stand behind the statement; it's why I like this website so much.

Shayshon claims that I have written that Israel should face BDS tactics "not because it is the only state which deserves it, but because it is the only state where such punishment would 'actually work.'" For this, he points to an op-ed I wrote in the Guardian. Please do follow the link. You'll see that the article didn't say that Israel is the only country that should face these tactics, it said this: "Boycott is not a dogma; it is a tactic. The reason the strategy should be tried is practical: in a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work."

Plenty of countries fit this description, and I have supported boycotts in other national contexts when they have been called for and when they had a chance at being effective, starting with the South African anti-Apartheid campaign in the eighties.

Shayshon has clearly been poring through my public statements but he appears to have missed this interview I gave to Democracy Now! in the midst of the Toronto International Film Festival uproar. It directly addresses the "double standards" accusation:

"To just give you one example, imagine that this year the Toronto International Film Festival had decided to have a cinematic spotlight, a cinematic homage, as Ha'aretz described this program, on the city of Colombo, with the full blessing of the Sri Lankan government, overwhelmingly Sinhalese-dominated, not a single Tamil director, just as there's not a single Palestinian director in this spotlight. Now, Toronto has a huge population-a huge Tamil population, very active. They would have been protesting outside, because it would have been perceived as a sort of a whitewash in a year that the Sri Lankan government rightly stands accused of war crimes.

"For some reason, Israel is supposed to be the exception, and we are accused of singling out Israel. But, in fact, what we're doing-and when you look at the people who have signed our letter, like Howard Zinn, Harry Belafonte, Eve Ensler, these are people who have devoted their lives to applying human rights standards across the board. They're not singling out Israel. What they're saying is, we insist on applying the same standards that we apply to every other country to Israel, as well. And just as we wouldn't celebrate another country that stands accused of war crimes, we don't believe it's apolitical to celebrate Israel."

Shayshon may also be aware (who knows) that I am currently supporting a campaign using BDS-style tactics against my own country, Canada, because it has flagrantly violated its Kyoto Protocol commitments, increasing emissions by 35 per cent. You can view a recent clip from a speech in which I compare Israel and Canada here.

The rest of his points are even thinner. To support the slanderous claim that "Klein frequently presents Israel as being systematically, purposefully, and extensively cruel and inhumane" not to mention "evil," all he's got is that first-year university op-ed. And to support the claim that "Klein frequently describes Israel as a colonial country born in sin" all he's got is a bland quote from me saying that Israel "can only properly be understood in the context of the history of colonialism." Yet he concludes from this that: "The obligation to dismantle such as a state naturally derives from this logic." This is crazy talk. I can (and do) say the same things about my own country, about the U.S., about Australia.... The purpose is not to call for the dismantling of those settler states but rather to recognize historical truths and to argue for justice and reparations for indigenous people in all those lands.

By the way, if comparing Israel to earlier settler states is to call for its dismantlement, someone needs to quickly tell Israel's Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. Here's what he said to the New York Times back in September:

"States are often created with great upheaval and pain, and Israel is no exception. The great excitement and challenge of living in Israel is that it is a work in progress. It's like living in this country in 1776."

As an aside, I found it harrowing to see Shayshon overtly make the claim that to "open the 48 files" is to deny Israel's right to exist. He is literally saying that the enemy is history, study it at your peril. I hope others will address in greater depth the profound danger of this war waged on collective memory.

As for me, nothing Shayshon managed to dig up in any way supports his claim that I stand for a "rejection of a political solution that maintains a separate State of Israel" or an "abdication of the Zionist principle promoting the Jewish people's right for self determination."

In truth it is my belief in self-determination - for Palestinians and Israelis - that underlies my decision not to advocate for a specific political outcome (though I do have preferences, as we all do) but rather for principles of anti-racism and adherence to international law.

I look forward to the results of further frantic Googling.

Let's hope this ends it, but I somehow doubt it.
(c) 2010 Naomi Klein is the author of, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism."

The Doomsday Weapon
By Uri Avnery

IT IS already a commonplace to say that people who don't learn from history are condemned to repeat their mistakes.

Some 1942 years ago, the Jews in the province called Palestine launched a revolt against the Roman Empire. In retrospect, this looks like an act of madness. Palestine was a small and insignificant part of the world-wide empire which had just won a crushing victory against the rival power - the Parthian Empire (Persia) - and put down a major rebellion in Britain. What chances could the Jewish revolt have?

God knows what was going on in the mind of the "Zealots". They eliminated the moderate leaders, who warned against provoking the empire, and gained sway over the Jewish population of the country. They relied on God. Perhaps they also relied on the Jews in Rome and believed that their influence over the Senate would restrain the Emperor, Nero. Perhaps they had heard that Nero was weak and about to fall.

We know how it ended: after three years, the rebels were crushed, Jerusalem fell and the temple was burned down. The last of the Zealots committed suicide in Masada.

The Zionists did indeed try to learn from history. They acted in a rational way, did not provoke the great powers, endeavored in every situation to attain what was possible. They accepted compromises, and every compromise served them as a basis for the next surge forward. They cleverly utilized the radical stance of their adversaries and gained the sympathy of the whole world.

But since the beginning of the occupation, their mind has become clouded. The cult of Masada has become dominant. Divine promises once again start to play a role in public discourse. Large parts of the public are following the new zealots.

The next phase is also repeating itself: the leaders of Israel are starting a rebellion against the new Rome.

WHAT BEGAN as an insult to the Vice President of the United States is developing into something far bigger. The mouse has given birth to an elephant.

Lately, the ultra-right government in Jerusalem has started to treat President Barack Obama with thinly veiled contempt. The fears that arose in Jerusalem at the beginning of his term have dissipated. Obama looks to them like a paper black panther. He gave up his demand for a real settlement freeze. Every time he was spat on, he remarked that it was raining.

Yet now, ostensibly quite suddenly, the measure is full. Obama, his Vice President and his senior assistants condemn the Netanyahu government with growing severity. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has submitted an ultimatum: Netanyahu must stop all settlement activity, East Jerusalem included; he must agree to negotiate about all core problems of the conflict, including East Jerusalem, and more.

The surprise was complete. Obama, it seems, has crossed the Rubicon, much as the Egyptian army had crossed the Suez Canal in 1973. Netanyahu gave the order to mobilize all the reserves in America and to move forward all the diplomatic tanks. All Jewish organizations in the US were commanded to join the campaign. AIPAC blew the shofar and ordered its soldiers, the Senators and Congressmen, to storm the White House.

It seems that the decisive battle has been joined. The Israeli leaders were certain that Obama would be defeated.

And then an unusual noise was heard: the sound of the doomsday weapon.

THE MAN who decided to activate it was a foe of a new kind.

David Petraeus is the most popular officer of the United States army. The four-star general, son of a Dutch sea captain who went to America when his country was overrun by the Nazis, stood out from early childhood. In West Point he was a "distinguished cadet", in Army Command and General Staff College he was No. 1. As a combat commander, he reaped plaudits. He wrote his doctoral thesis (on the lessons of Vietnam) at Princeton and served as an assistant professor for international relations in the US Military Academy.

He made his mark in Iraq, when he commanded the forces in Mosul, the most problematical city in the country. He concluded that in order to vanquish the enemies of the US he must win over the hearts of the civilian population, acquire local allies and spend more money than ammunition. The locals called him King David. His success was considered so outstanding that his methods were adopted as the official doctrine of the American army.

His star rose rapidly. He was appointed commander of the coalition forces in Iraq and soon became the chief of the Central Command of the US army, which covers the whole Middle East , except Israel and Palestine (which "belong" to the American command in Europe).

When such a person raises his voice, the American people listen. As a respected military thinker, he has no rivals.

THIS WEEK, Petraeus conveyed an unequivocal message: after reviewing the problems in his AOR (Area Of Responsibility) - which includes, among others, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Yemen - he turned to what he called the "root causes of instability" in the region. The list was topped by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In his report to the Armed Services Committee he stated:

"The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR...The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas."

Not content with that, Petraeus sent his officers to present his conclusions to the Joint Chiefs of Staff,

In other words: Israeli-Palestinian peace is not a private matter between the two parties, but a supreme national interest of the USA. That means that the US must give up its one-sided support for the Israeli government and impose the two-state solution.

The argument as such is not new. Several experts have said more or less the same in the past. (Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, I wrote in a similar vein and prophesied that the US would change its policy. It did not happen then.) But now this is being stated in an official document written by the responsible American commander.

The Netanyahu government immediately went into damage-limitation mode. Its spokespersons declared that Petraeus represents a narrow military approach, that he doesn't understand political matters, that his reasoning is faulty. But it is not this that made people in Jerusalem break out into cold sweat.

AS IS well known, the pro-Israel lobby dominates the American political system without limits - almost. Every American politician and senior official is mortally afraid of it. The slightest deviation from the strict AIPAC line is tantamount to political suicide.

But in the armor of this political Goliath there is a chink. Like Achilles' heel, the immense might of the pro-Israel lobby has a vulnerable point that, when touched, can neutralize its power.

It was illustrated by the Jonathan Pollard affair. This American-Jewish employee of a sensitive intelligence agency spied for Israel. Israelis consider him a national hero, a Jew who did his duty to his people. But for the US intelligence community, he is a traitor who endangered the lives of many American agents. Not satisfied with a routine penalty, it induced the court to impose a life sentence. Since then, all American presidents have refused the requests of successive Israeli governments to commute the sentence. No president dared to confront his intelligence chiefs in this matter.

But the most significant side of this affair is reminiscent of the famous words of Sherlock Holmes about the dogs that did not bark. AIPAC did not bark. The entire American Jewish community fell silent. Almost nobody raised their voice for poor Pollard.

Why? Because most American Jews are ready to do anything - just anything - for the government of Israel. With one exception: they will not do anything that appears to hurt the security of the United States. When the flag of security is hoisted, the Jews, like all Americans, snap to attention and salute. The Damocles sword of suspicion of disloyalty hangs above their heads. For them, this is the ultimate nightmare: to be accused of putting the security of Israel ahead of the security of the US. Therefore it is important for them to repeat endlessly the mantra that the interests of Israel and the US are identical.

And now comes the most important general of the US Army and says that this is not so. The policy of the present Israeli government is endangering the lives of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

FOR NOW, this is being said only as a side remark, in a military document that has not been widely aired. But the sword has been drawn from its scabbard - and American Jews have started to tremble at the distant rumble of an approaching earthquake.

This week, Netanyahu's brother-in-law has used our own doomsday weapon. He declared that Obama is an "anti-Semite". The official newspaper of the Shas party has asserted that Obama is really a Muslim. They represent the radical right and its allies, who argue in speech and in writing that "Hussein" Obama is a Jew-hating black who must be beaten in the coming congressional elections and in the next presidential ones.

(Yet an important poll in Israel published yesterday shows that the Israeli public is far from convinced by these insinuations: the vast majority believes that Obama's treatment of Israel is fair. Indeed, Obama got higher marks than Netanyahu.)

If Obama decides to fight back and activate his doomsday weapon - the accusation that Israel puts the lives of American servicemen at risk - this would have catastrophic consequences for Israel.

For the time being, this is only a shot across the bow - a warning shot fired by a warship in order to induce another vessel to follow its instructions. The warning is clear. Even if the present crisis is somehow damped down, it will inevitably flare up again and again as long as the present coalition in Israel stays in power.

When the movie "Hurt Locker" won its awards, the entire American public was united in its concern about the lives of its soldiers in the Middle East. If this public becomes convinced that Israel is sticking a knife in their back, it will be a disaster for Netanyahu. And not just for him.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

What's The Matter With Democrats?
By David Sirota

Ever since Thomas Frank published his book "What's the Matter with Kansas?" Democrats have sought a political strategy to match the GOP's. The health care bill proves they've found one.

Whereas Frank highlighted Republicans' sleight-of-hand success portraying millionaire tax cuts as gifts to the working class, Democrats are now preposterously selling giveaways to insurance and pharmaceutical executives as a middle-class agenda. Same formula, same fat cat beneficiaries, same bleating sheeple herded to the slaughterhouse. The only difference is the Rube Goldberg contraption that Democrats are using to tend the flock.

First, their leaders campaign on pledges to create a government insurer (a "public option") that will compete with private health corporations. Once elected, though, Democrats propose simply subsidizing those corporations, which are (not coincidentally) filling Democratic coffers. Justifying the reversal, Democrats claim the subsidies will at least help some citizens try to afford the private insurance they'll be forced to buy - all while insisting Congress suddenly lacks the votes for a public option.

Despite lawmakers' refusal to hold votes verifying that assertion, liberal groups obediently follow orders to back the bill, their obsequious leaders fearing scorn from Democratic insiders and moneymen. Specifically, MoveOn, unions and "progressive" non-profits threaten retribution against lawmakers who consider voting against the bill because it doesn't include a public option. The threats fly even though these congresspeople would be respecting their previous public-option ultimatums - ultimatums originally supported by many of the same groups now demanding retreat.

Soon it's on to false choices. Democrats tell their base that any bill is better than no bill, even one making things worse, and that if this particular legislation doesn't pass, Republicans will win the upcoming election - as if signing a blank check to insurance and drug companies couldn't seal that fate. They tell everyone else that "realistically" this is the "last chance" for reform, expecting We the Sheeple to forget that those spewing the do-or-die warnings control the legislative calendar and could immediately try again.

Predictably, the fear-mongering prompts left-leaning Establishment pundits to bless the bill, giving Democratic activists concise-yet-mindless conversation-enders for why everyone should shut up and fall in line ("Krugman supports it!"). Such bumper-sticker mottos are then demagogued by Democratic media bobbleheads and their sycophants, who dishonestly imply that the bill's progressive opponents 1) secretly aim to aid the far right and/or 2) actually hope more Americans die for lack of health care. In the process, the legislation's sellouts are lambasted as the exclusive fault of Republicans, not Democrats and their congressional majorities.

Earth sufficiently scorched, President Obama then barnstorms the country, calling the bill a victory for "ordinary working folks" over the same corporations he is privately promising to enrich. The insurance industry, of course, airs token ads to buttress Obama's "victory" charade - at the same time its lobbyists are, according to Politico, celebrating with chants of "we win!"

By design, pro-public-option outfits like Firedoglake and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee end up depicted as voices of the minority, even as they champion an initiative that polls show the majority of voters support. Meanwhile, telling questions hang: If this represents victory over special interests, why is Politico reporting that "drug industry lobbyists have huddled with Democratic staffers" to help pass the bill? How is the legislation a first step to reform, as proponents argue, if it financially and politically strengthens insurance and drug companies opposing true change? And what prevents those companies from continuing to increase prices?

These queries go unaddressed - and often unasked. Why? Because their answers threaten to expose the robbery in progress, circumvent the "What's the Matter with Kansas?" contemplation and raise the most uncomfortable question of all:

What's the matter with Democrats?
(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

Everybody Knows The Deal Is Rotten
By Christopher Cooper

I don't want to do this. I shouldn't have to do this. But the burden is well-settled upon me; the letters and telephone calls and E-mail messages from the several hundred mostly strangers who have given numerous of my previous essays their praise and who have told me that I must continue to write when I am as troubled as I now find myself-these persons deserve what small insight or comfort or advice I can generate for them. Would that I could summon for them, for us all, some reason to hope.

Yes, it will be just that sort of essay. But it will be uncharacteristically brief. I am now, Wednesday evening, debilitated from the third long day of my annual tour with the Alna, Maine roadside brush clearing crew.

We are seven. Michael Trask, forty in a month, I have known since he was five. He is our road commissioner and son of our late road commissioner, Austin Trask. David Seigars, selectman coming upon the end of the first year of a two-year term at town meeting Saturday, is also a volunteer fireman; he takes orders from Road Commissioner Trask and Fire Chief Trask, a situation many men could not endure. Jon Bardo, owner-operator of the cleanest, best-maintained excavator in Lincoln County, takes considerable load off the animal element through his skillful application of hydraulic amplification.

Of Herman Lovejoy, old, lame, knees shot to hell, but the first on the job, the most capable, the least ill-tempered, the most generous, I cannot allow myself the space here now to tell you how much he means to us all or how vital his involvement in our community is to its continued health and progress.

We employ two young men from Wiscasset, Nick and T.J., brothers. They are very interested in the varieties of sexual conjunction and will express themselves thereupon at length. Herman is trying to get them to focus more closely on the difference between the tension and compression sides of a log. They are our cutters, a job I once held, but my back now hurts too much while lurching through puckerbrush with a ten-pound saw to be productive. So I drag brush and trees and feed the chipper, a fourteen-inch Morbark that will grind a hardwood tree effortlessly if loudly.

Our lovely, if sometimes sarcastic, town clerk, Amy Warner, whom I have been educating most recently concerning the music of John Eddie and Tom Russell and Tom Lehrer, delivered us a coffee cake she baked just this morning.

Why do I tell you this? Why might you care? Because I really am too tired, too lame, too broken to give over an hour or more of this evening to writing this sad, disgusted little essay, and you need to understand that I have been up to a fine, productive thing these early spring days, in the company of men who know what they were hired to do, understand what they must do, whether it hurts or doesn't, and feel that there is honor and dignity in rough, heavy, dirty, crude, unlovely work if a goodness comes of it.

There will be a payday, of course. I expect to receive about two dollars an hour less for this week than I would at my customary work. Bardo could likely make more rebuilding engines. Lovejoy is retired! We will get our money, but you could probably shave even a couple dollars more and we'd still be in the ditches, among the stumps, listening to the chain saws' whining and the big chipper grinding. We are, in our way, voting, as surely as we'll vote Saturday afternoon (I'll be moderating and expect I'll clear nearly another hundred dollars for that public expression of my parliamentary ignorance.) Each of us has joined this happy company to let in some light on our back roads, to open the ditches, to further the common welfare. It's no use lobbying us to vary our approach or turn one way or another. We receive no contributions from the Morbark company and there will be no good job waiting for us with a paving firm, chainsaw manufacturer or consortium of back and knee doctors. We are citizens of Alna. We serve when we are asked.

So I heard on the radio as I drove home that one Congressman had decided to vote Yes on the great gift to the health insurance industry that the Democratic party leadership and president assure us is the very best we can hope for as an alternative to our current system. Dennis Kucinich has climbed aboard this loathsome bill after plainly declaring he would not vote for any bill that did not contain a "public option", such an option being, of course, a very weak alternative to the national health care (generally known as "single-payer") candidate Obama said repeatedly he favored, but President Obama discovered upon taking the oath of office was no longer "feasible."

Well, another Congressman folds. So what? Obama leaned on him, he was reminded that Democrats have to stick together, and another Democrat did indeed find his vote failing to support his own statements, his own beliefs, his own certain knowledge that he was not doing the right thing as he understood it. So I took some ibuprofen and I read all of the statement of Mr. Kucinich. We are very clear, he and I both: this announcement is a clear reversal of his explicit promise to vote against this bill. Congressman Kucinich is no Karl Rove. He is no liar, no Dick Cheney, no Rush Limbaugh. He is not despicable. He is an immensely more principled human being than Nancy Pelosi or tired old sad sack Harry Reid.

But there it is, clear and precise. "[I said] that I would not support the bill unless it had a strong public option and unless it protected the right of people to pursue single payer at a state level."

And: "I still have doubts about the bill. I do not think it is a first step toward anything I have supported in the past." Then: "I have decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation."

OK, look. I'm not looking to beat up poor Dennis Kucinich. I think it almost unutterably sad that perhaps the most principled man in Congress, in what I'm guessing must be a stomach-churning admission of his own helplessness, understanding the futility of playing ball with the team he can't get up the nerve or the disgust to quit, on a field laid out to the specifications of the corrupt owners of the other team, under rules designed to preclude the possibility of a fair, clean game, still, finally, gives up and goes along. But he so clearly knows it is the wrong thing to do.

I struggle, even after several close readings, to find the reason for this disturbing reversal. The bill does not contain the essential elements he articulated as necessary for him to support it. He and I and many of you know that if this is passed and people are forced to buy the inadequate, overpriced products of a blatantly corrupt industry that has over the years bought and paid for both political parties and quite clearly the current occupant of the White House, insurance premiums will continue to escalate, access to care will not materially improve, millions will remain without decent care, costs will not be controlled, and unnecessary, ineffective (but lucrative) procedures not be curtailed. Insurance company profits will rise. But the continuing excess profits and poor care and wastefulness will now be ascribed by every right-wing radio talk show host and ignoramus-at-large to "Obamacare."

Dennis Kucinich is right-this is "not the first step toward anything" except more of the screwing we're getting now. It will only serve to convince even more people that government has no place in health care. We will not "fix it later." The push is on to "pass a bill", to "get something done." So this piece of shit is what we're going to get, Dennis, and now you're going to vote for it. Not that I was ever a follower of the dream, but for the millions who were, and who voted their hearts and consciences just a year and a third ago, I wonder if the squeaky little voice of beauty-queen ex-governor former-veep- candidate Palin doesn't haunt your reveries: "How's that hopey-changey thing workin' out fer ya?"

Here's all I could find in Why I'm Voting 'Yes' by Congressman Kucinich. See what you make of it.

"This fear has so infected our politics, our economics and our international relations that as a nation we are losing sight of the expanded vision, the electrifying potential we caught a glimpse of with the election of Barack Obama. The transformational potential of his presidency, and of ourselves, can still be courageously summoned in ways that will reconnect America to our hopes for expanded opportunities for jobs, housing, education, peace, and yes, health care."

It looks to me as though the one man a great many truly desperate liberal Americans thought could be counted on to take a principled stand without worry about the political consequences to himself or to the miserable party he'd signed up with has sold us all out so he can Support the President. It's that expanded vision, electrifying potential and transformational potential that have ended our useless wars, stopped blowing up civilians, prosecuted our domestic war criminals, restored the rule of law, closed Guantanamo, ended rendition, brought transparency to Washington and entertained the insurance executives at the White House while barring the door to nurses and single-payer proponents that Congressman Kucinich finds more important and necessary and convincing than just doing the right thing.

So suppose the road crew was four Democrats and three Republicans and Chief Trask and I were both Democrats (never again for me and I think never for him). Suppose further that he didn't want to antagonize the Republican members or the resident of Bailey Road who had given him two hundred thousand dollars for last year's re-election campaign. Then imagine that he took me to a strip joint in Portland and bought me all the gin I could hold without puking and paid two very cute young Asian hostesses and one older but very bosomy blond American to treat me to several most excellent lap dances. After such a splendid evening, on the way home, he might ask me very earnestly to vote with him in caucus the next morning to leave all the scrub willows, leaning, heart-rotted poplars, layered alders, multi-trunked red maples, cabbage-headed pines and plow-broken hawthorns for a half-mile stretch of Bailey Road.

Would I agree? Maybe. I'd be pretty drunk after all. But the next morning, at twenty-six degrees, shivering under my three shirts and ludicrous lime-green safety vest, I couldn't do it. Lovejoy would think very much less of me. And he'd be very much right.

It is not the job of Dennis Kucinich to prop up this disappointing president or the rotten, useless Democratic party. It is not the job of any Congressman to pass a bill just to pass something--I think it's Larry The Cable Guy who just needs to "Git 'er done." A Congressman should vote for good bills and reject ones drafted by the guys who caused the problem.

It is not the job of progressive voters to support lame candidates who lie to them and use them because "the other party is worse." It is not the job of the American public to "make a space for the president", to support "incremental improvements" in our wretched situation or to "force the president" to use his alleged giant brain and forceful oratory in pursuit of real and useful and meaningful governance by sending him letters or contributions or by "supporting him" just because he's not George Bush or John McCain.

This country is falling apart. People are dying. Despair is settled upon the land. These clowns are frigging around for no purpose better than the enrichment of Wall Street bankers and Connecticut insurance tycoons. There has been no change. There is no hope.

OK, so it isn't short. I tried. Good night. Good luck. Go to work and do your job honestly and well. Just don't expect anybody much more elevated than your first selectman to do so. I do devoutly wish it were otherwise.
(c) 2010 Chris Cooper works hard and gets by. But he does not have health insurance. He cannot afford it. Therefore he does not often seek doctoring. Mandating his purchase of the deficient, dishonest products of the industry will not induce him to do so; it will likely just further piss him off and cause him to generate more unwholesome, unhelpful essays such as this. Persons wishing to contact him for whatever reason (no insurance agents, please) may write to Before he leaves this author wishes to tell you that he is one resident of the state of Maine who is not impressed with the work of Senator Olympia Snowe, political bed-partner of Senator Max Baucus. Just so you know.

Justice Roberts Is A Wuss

Little Johnnie Roberts is PO'd, and he's now stamping his tiny feet in a Constitutional tantrum.

Roberts, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, has his judicial knickers in a knot because he recently felt the hot wind of democracy sweep over him, causing him and his corporatist cousins on the court to sweat under their black cloaks. At issue was Roberts' January act of raw judicial arrogance, in which he and his cabal of four other Supreme extremists decreed that the infinite money of corporations must be allowed to trump the voice of the people and rule American politics.

This five-man assault on our nation's historic democratic process provoked a response from the President of the United States. In his State of the Union speech, Barack Obama rightly charged that they had "opened the floodgates for [corporations] to spend without limits in our elections," thus drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans.

This rebuke from an elected official practically caused the sensitive mugger of our democratic rights to fall faint. "The process is broken down," whined Roberts (the very guy who had just broken America's democratic process). Moaning that it was a lack of "decorum" for a president to chastise the judicial branch of government, even though that branch had usurped the powers of the two elected branches, Roberts sighed that the president's expression of democratic outrage toward the imperious court was "very troubling." Indeed, the chief supremist wanly suggested that he and other justices might boycott the president's future national addresses: "I'm not sure why we're there," he sniffed - apparently assuming that we would all feel his pain.

Well, gosh, Johnnie, I have no sympathy for you. You're there because it's the one time when all three branches of the people's government come together in person and in public - and face the music for the black-robed coup you pulled on us. Is that too much to ask?
(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.

Health Reform Passes, But I Still Don't Feel So Good
By Randall Amster

Hurray! I mean, Boo! Or is it, What? Perhaps we should just go with Whatever. No matter how you slice it, something has happened that is either historically fabulous, monumentally stupid, perplexingly intricate, or ordinarily mundane. I suspect, in the end, it will wind up being all of this and more. Welcome to the brave new world of health insurance reform, with a little something for everyone and a lot for some.

Don't get me wrong: health care is a really good thing, something that should be a universal human right and never treated like a for-profit commodity. The only options approaching this horizon were long ago deemed "fringe" in the popular debate, leaving progressives to huddle around a lukewarm "public option" that never had a prayer of making the final cut when it came time to pass the bill. Staunch legislative holdouts miraculously caved at the last minute to support a problematic law, and the only folks representing the "no" side of the argument in the end were the regressive wingnuts rattling congressional cages with thinly-veiled homophobia and racially-tinged expletives. You know things are bad when that cadre even starts to make a little bit of sense on the issues -- although of course, their alternative health plan probably includes requirements that people first show their birth certificates and pass an English test before being handed a set of bootstraps and a grade school anatomy book that omits any images of private parts and excludes anti-American doctors like Seuss, Zhivago, Ruth, and Spock.

The best part of the new bill is where we all get to buy health insurance from Monopolies Unlimited, and if we can't afford it there will be subsidies given to us that we can then give right to the same insurance companies who have of course served our interests so well up to this point. If we don't purchase this coverage, then the IRS can levy fines on us, which in many cases will be cheaper than the required tithe; this will leave some folks in the awkward position of having to pay to remain uninsured, which would be ironic if it wasn't so excruciatingly real. However, even those who do pay for coverage -- top dollar, too, since viable price controls are a non-sequitur by now -- will be receiving only insurance and not necessarily actual care, since many steps on the ladder to treatment must be traversed in between insurance provision and medical fruition. The apex of the perverse options will be embodied by those who refuse to pay the insurance companies for an inherently defective product and also refuse to pay the fine for their transgression, leading to a class of people perhaps to be deemed the "Uninsurables" who will be made to wear the letter "U" on their chests and will be legally prohibited from ever getting sick.

But wait! This new bill is only a first step in the direction of better and more universal health care, say the apologists. It's the best we could get in this political climate, and represents the sort of compromise that marks both maturity and good sense. It emboldens the Democrats to be more progressive, and provides our fledgling young President with a much-needed momentum boost. It will save money, cover millions more people, rein in some of the worst insurance practices, and bring America into closer alignment with the rest of the nations of the civilized world. To oppose this bill at this critical time would indicate that one is either hopelessly partisan (Republicans), plain old wacko (Teabaggers), naively socialistic (Single Payer), deeply unrealistic (Public Option), or electorally useless (The Actual Left). At the end of the day, we have to get on board with this, since it's the only game in town, right?

Hmm, I almost even convinced myself for a minute there (not really). Here's another rendering of the game. Corporate lobbyists opposed the bill until they got the one they wanted, and indeed this one looks a lot like their model version proposed in 2008. Huge sums of money flowed to key congresspersons to purchase/influence their votes, and even the few still on the board who seem at times to display integrity reversed course and gave this one a thumbs up. The political landscape is now dominated by one party with no ideas except regressive anti-intellectualism, and another with no spine that is pretty well bought out by Corporate Persons who vote (and vote and vote) with their unlimited dollars. As for we the people, our triumph is that we now get to have more of us relegated to universal serfdom and also must (or else) pay fealty and tribute to the neo-Robber Barons who have generously expanded the realm of insurance coverage in a selfless act of noblesse oblige. The politics of "least worst" once again prevails, and our health is now totally owned by the company store. And as a final insult, people you like and admire are cheerleading for this, and to do otherwise renders one anathema (which is not covered under most policies, of course).

Suddenly, amidst the celebratory gaveling and laudatory reveling, despite the incessant and pervasive chatter about health this and health that, and notwithstanding the wire-services version of the good news about expanded coverage -- suddenly, I'm not feeling all that well. Watching my country continue down a path of feudalism posing as democracy, where our choices are constrained by the machinations of the far right and the center-right, has left me with a damaged heart and an open wound. While my personal disillusionment is no doubt preexisting, its exacerbation is ongoing and I'm beginning to wonder if there's any hope for a cure at this point. Indeed, I had tried to ignore this condition in the misguided belief that it would magically go away, but it only seemed to get worse in the process. Now I fear it's become chronic.

But hey, we finally got health care, and hope is restored! Yes, this should effectively balance out perpetual wars, environmental toxification, Big Brother, Bigger Bailouts, mainstream media, rampant recession, and climate change. Whew! It felt good to list all that out. Maybe I won't be needing that required checkup from my cold-handed health insurance provider after all.
(c) 2010 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Is Christianity A Dying Religion?
By James Donahue

The gross misdeeds by numerous characters supposedly representing the Christian church has given that belief system a black eye in world opinion. The Christians are fighting back with a tenacity that has not been seen since the days of the Salem witch trials. And the incredulous behavior of many of their best known spokespersons has cast yet another dark stain over that religious faith.

When does anyone remember a Pope coming under as fierce an assault as Pope Benedict XVI because of a newly revealed case of child sex abuse in his former German Diocese? It appears that as the former archbishop of the Munich and Freising diocese, Joseph Ratzinger, may have covered-up a pedophilia scandal among the German clergy. Even the pope's brother, Georg Ratzinger, may have been involved in this mess. To make things worse, even new reports of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Ireland and other parts of Europe are making the news.

Indeed, Catholic priests everywhere have been embroiled in allegations of pedophilia for years. And all of this has been eroding the influence the church, the Pope and his army of robed archbishops, bishops and priests have had on followers everywhere. That the men and women who go into the catholic ministry as priests and nuns are sworn to a life of celibacy and denial is, in itself, an unnatural act that lacks scriptural support.

The fact that American troops are conducting unnecessary wars against Moslem fighters in Iraq in the Bush-generated "War against Terrorism," and the way we have used killed and maimed innocent civilians in our bombing attacks is despicable. It gives the appearance of a continuation of that old war between Christians and Moslems that began with the Crusades. The Iraq war was unprovoked and the Afghanistan conflict, which began as a fight to hit back at Al-Qaeda radicals that staged the 9-11 assault on the United States, has evolved into a war against the local Taliban guerillas.

In the United States, the battle over Health Care took an unexpected wrong turn into hard-line Christian generated belief systems that threatened to wreck any chance of getting a desperately needed reform bill approved and operating.

The issue of abortion was stirred up by Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak, who claimed to have a coalition of Democratic legislators standing with him to force an amendment that would prohibit all insurance payments for abortions. If the Stupak amendment had been allowed to stand, it would have succeeded in striking down the Supreme Court's controversial 1973 decision that legalized abortions. The Stupak Amendment was designed to deny abortions for all but the wealthy that could pay for the procedure out of their own pockets.

This is a hot-button issue that has been splitting fundamental Christian believers, who perceive the destruction of a fetus in early term stages, as murder, and women's rights advocates who argue that the fetus does not become a person until the third trimester of a pregnancy. The amendment would prohibit women from aborting physically malformed fetuses, or children born to victims of rape or incest.

Stupak's leadership in the anti-abortion fight has drawn yet more attention to the infamous C-Street House in Washington D.C. That building has been discovered to be a headquarters for a fundamental Christian block of ultra-right-wing conservative Senators and Congressmen who have been operating secretly in Washington for some time. Stupak lived at C-Street but recently moved out because of the publicity.

Other occupants of C-Street have included Senator John Ensign, and former Congressmen Mark Sanford and Chip Pickering, all of whom were exposed for carrying on extramarital affairs. The publicity that put the building in the limelight also exposed the fact that the place is registered as a church even though it serves as a rooming house for Christian legislators. A group of ministers have asked the IRS to investigate the C-Street registration which gives the owners of the building tax-free status.

Stories like these, and the movement among ultra conservatives under the Bush Administration which was packed with declared Bible-thumping power figures who openly committed crimes of unprecedented levels. Their assaults were not only leveled against the Constitution and the American people, but involved the ravaging of government coffers and the mass murder of innocent people of Iraq and Afghanistan. What went on in those years in the name of God turned a lot of people against the church.

Among the more outspoken critics has been popular comedian Bill Maher who stabs as the ridiculous stories promoted by the Christian faith during his Real Time cable television shows. Maher also tears into religious belief systems as the narrator in the Larry Charles documentary Religulous.

In other recent news events, a far-right faction of the Texas State Board of Education voted to alter high school textbooks so that they promote conservative Christian ideals and even liberal racial and political concepts in the books, thus setting the stage for a brainwashing of millions of children for the next decade. If allowed to stand the new round of textbooks would force teachers to promote a Judeo-Christian influence of the nation's founding fathers, describe the U.S. government as a republic instead of the democracy that it has become, and twist the historical record with more half-truths than already exist.

The Texas board's decision could have a nation-wide impact on students because most school textbooks are currently published in Texas. A final decision is expected in May. But that may not be the end of it. Court battles over the Texas decision are expected and they could rage on for years. A lot of young Americans are no longer influenced by the ultra conservative Christian dogma and are not going to be happy about having this kind of propaganda pounded into the heads of their children.

Finally, there is a growing battle over printing the words "In God We Trust" on our nation's money, and the insertion of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. While federal courts have waivered over such wordage, suggesting that the phrases invoke patriotism rather than religious faith, atheists are not taking this lightly. They have been fighting the "under God" insertion in the pledge ever since Congress voted to add those two words in 1954.

The atheists appear to be outnumbered in this fight, however. While there is a distinct decline in Christian believers, per-capita, most Americans when polled say they believe in God or a Creator. Thus they have little quarrel in saying they can trust in this supreme power, whatever people choose to call it.
(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, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

An Absence Of Class
By Bob Herbert

Some of the images from the run-up to Sunday's landmark health care vote in the House of Representatives should be seared into the nation's consciousness. We are so far, in so many ways, from being a class act.

A group of lowlifes at a Tea Party rally in Columbus, Ohio, last week taunted and humiliated a man who was sitting on the ground with a sign that said he had Parkinson's disease. The disgusting behavior was captured on a widely circulated videotape. One of the Tea Party protesters leaned over the man and sneered: "If you're looking for a handout, you're in the wrong end of town."

Another threw money at the man, first one bill and then another, and said contemptuously, "I'll pay for this guy. Here you go. Start a pot."

In Washington on Saturday, opponents of the health care legislation spit on a black congressman and shouted racial slurs at two others, including John Lewis, one of the great heroes of the civil rights movement. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, was taunted because he is gay.

At some point, we have to decide as a country that we just can't have this: We can't allow ourselves to remain silent as foaming-at-the-mouth protesters scream the vilest of epithets at members of Congress - epithets that The Times will not allow me to repeat here.

It is 2010, which means it is way past time for decent Americans to rise up against this kind of garbage, to fight it aggressively wherever it appears. And it is time for every American of good will to hold the Republican Party accountable for its role in tolerating, shielding and encouraging foul, mean-spirited and bigoted behavior in its ranks and among its strongest supporters.

For decades the G.O.P. has been the party of fear, ignorance and divisiveness. All you have to do is look around to see what it has done to the country. The greatest economic inequality since the Gilded Age was followed by a near-total collapse of the overall economy. As a country, we have a monumental mess on our hands and still the Republicans have nothing to offer in the way of a remedy except more tax cuts for the rich.

This is the party of trickle down and weapons of mass destruction, the party of birthers and death-panel lunatics. This is the party that genuflects at the altar of right-wing talk radio, with its insane, nauseating, nonstop commitment to hatred and bigotry.

Glenn Beck of Fox News has called President Obama a "racist" and asserted that he "has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture."

Mike Huckabee, a former Republican presidential candidate, has said of Mr. Obama's economic policies: "Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff."

The G.O.P. poisons the political atmosphere and then has the gall to complain about an absence of bipartisanship.

The toxic clouds that are the inevitable result of the fear and the bitter conflicts so relentlessly stoked by the Republican Party - think blacks against whites, gays versus straights, and a whole range of folks against immigrants - tend to obscure the tremendous damage that the party's policies have inflicted on the country. If people are arguing over immigrants or abortion or whether gays should be allowed to marry, they're not calling the G.O.P. to account for (to take just one example) the horribly destructive policy of cutting taxes while the nation was fighting two wars.

If you're all fired up about Republican-inspired tales of Democrats planning to send grandma to some death chamber, you'll never get to the G.O.P.'s war against the right of ordinary workers to organize and negotiate in their own best interests - a war that has diminished living standards for working people for decades.

With a freer hand, the Republicans would have done more damage. George W. Bush tried to undermine Social Security. John McCain was willing to put Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the Oval Office and thought Phil Gramm would have made a crackerjack Treasury secretary. (For those who may not remember, Mr. Gramm was a deregulation zealot who told us during the presidential campaign that we were suffering from a "mental recession.")

A party that promotes ignorance ("Just say no to global warming") and provides a safe house for bigotry cannot serve the best interests of our country. Back in the 1960s, John Lewis risked his life and endured savage beatings to secure fundamental rights for black Americans while right-wing Republicans like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan were lining up with segregationist Democrats to oppose landmark civil rights legislation.

Since then, the right-wingers have taken over the G.O.P. and Mr. Lewis, now a congressman, must still endure the garbage they have wrought.
(c) 2010 Bob Herbert ~~~ The New York Times

Night Riders
Afghan Atrocity and American Values
By Chris Floyd

If you are an American -- or indeed, any denizen of "Western Civilization" whose security and values are supposedly being "defended" on the far-flung fields of the Terror War -- then take a good, long look at what is being done in your name, with your money, by the ever-surging Peace Laureate and his War Machine. From The Times:

Covert troops who killed two pregnant women and a teenage girl in eastern Afghanistan went on to inflict "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" on the survivors of a botched night raid, a report by the UN said.

The family of the victims in Paktiya province have accused Nato of trying to cover up the atrocity after an investigation by The Times revealed that two men, who were also killed, were not the intended targets of the raid. One was a police commander and his brother was a district-attorney.

...The report, written in the aftermath of the February 12 attack, states: "As a result of the operation, five people were killed, two men and three women, all belonging to the same family." There were about 25 guests and three musicians at the house on the night of the raid. They had gathered to celebrate the naming of a newborn child. It was only when a musician stepped outside to go to the lavatory at about 3.30am, that someone flashed a light in his eyes and he ran back inside shouting "Taleban".

Witnesses said that Commander Dawood, the policeman, was shot with his son, Sediqullah, 15, when they ran across a courtyard. His brother, Saranwal Zahir, was shot trying to protest the family's innocence. The three women were caught in a volley of fire behind him.

They had gathered to celebrate the naming of a newborn child. They had gathered in a family home, in their own country. They were not insurgents -- indeed, they at first mistook the Guardians of Western Civilization themselves as "Taliban," and sought to flee from them. But they were caught, shot, killed -- in their own country, in a family home, celebrating the naming of a newborn child.

The Times has more:

The UN report said that guests and injured relatives were then "assaulted by US and Afghan forces, restrained and forced to stand barefeet for several hours outside in the cold". "Further allegations were also raised that US and Afghan forces refused to provide adequate and timely medical support to two people who sustained bullet injuries, resulting in their deaths hours later," the report added. ...

Waheedullah, 22, one of the guests at the party who works as an ambulance driver in Gardez, said that he was dragged across the compound by his hair. "The Afghans said put up your hands. I stood up and I don't know who was behind me. I was kicked from behind and fell over," he added.

He saw a gunman with blond hair and a fair beard. "They were American special forces," he said. The Afghan troops were using American rifles and wore patches on their sleeves with the local phrase for Nato's International Security Assistance Force. The Americans were wearing "wood yellow" clothes, he said, which were different from the regular army's green uniforms.

An earlier Times story on the incident reveals yet another outpouring of the usual slanderous lies from the occupation forces when one of their units has been caught in an atrocity. The original story told by NATO mouthpieces was that when the brave, unmarked covert soldiers appeared in the dead of night to carry out their courageous sneak attack on the sleeping village, they found the women already "tied up, gagged and killed." Then, while no doubt weeping salt tears at such a disturbing sight, the bold, courageous sneak attackers were set upon by "several insurgents," who were then killed by return fire from the brave, secret, non-uniformed night-stalking Defenders of Western Values.

NATO claimed that the women "were victims of an 'honor' killing" -- that is to say, they had been murdered by the dirty filthy primitive slaughterous wogs who populate the ghastly reeking hellhole that the Guardian Defenders of Civilized Western Values have come to liberate and enlighten. But as the Times drolly notes:

However, they did not explain why [if it was an honor killing,] the bodies would have been kept in the house overnight, against Islamic custom, nor why the family had invited 25 guests to celebrate the naming of a newborn child the same evening.

The NATO story was a brazen lie -- and was known to be a lie when the mouthpieces dribbled it from their lips like cud. There were no insurgents. There was no firefight. There was only a policeman, his brother, and three women shot dead in the middle of the night. But that didn't matter. The most important thing was that the first stories out of the gate on the atrocity fixed the "honor killing" motif in the public perception. (The miniscule portion of the public who gives the slightest, merest damn about civilians being killed in Afghanistan, that is.) Now, many weeks later, the truth comes out, but who cares? It's in some UN report, for God's sake, in a foreign newspaper. Such things have no resonance, no purchase, no meaning in the egotistical echo chamber of the Homeland.

Anyway, don't you know there's a health care vote coming up? Don't you know the most important thing in the entire world is how this vote by a pack of cranks, crooks and bagmen on a steaming mess of corporate pottage will affect the precious political fortunes of Barack Obama? I mean, my God, what if he only gets to sit in the White House coddling billionaires, cutting social programs and waging war for only three more years instead of seven? Isn't that infinitely more important than the lives of a few innocent people? This, by the way, was the main argument offered by Dennis Kucinich, when he abandoned his opposition to the Obambazoole health care bill: ""We have to be very careful that the potential of President Obama's presidency not be destroyed by this debate." And he said this just days after he had introduced a bill to bring the Afghan War to an immediate end -- precisely because it was a pointless, destructive exercise in imperial power that was killing innocent people and breeding hatred and blowback against the United States. But in the end, it seems that "saving" the power of the man who is directing and expanding this murderous exercise is the most important thing -- as long as he is on your side of the political fence.

Here one recalls the searing insight of Maxim Gorky in April 1917:

"Politics is the seedbed of social enmity, evil suspicions, shameless lies, morbid ambitions, and disrespect for the individual. Name anything bad in man, and it is precisely in the soil of political struggle that it grows in abundance."


And who were these people killed by our tough, bold, stubbly sneak attackers in their courageous, Homeric assault on a sleeping village at three o'clock in the morning? Afghans -- including a policeman -- who had bowed to main force and thrown in their lot with ... the Americans. From the Times:

An undated document seen by The Times that was presented by US forces to Commander Dawood, the dead policeman, praised him for his work and "dedication and willingness to serve the people of Afghanistan". It said he would "ensure the stability of your country for many years".

Commander Dawood's brother, Saranwal Zahir, was a district attorney in Ahmadabad district, also in Paktia. The two married women were four and five months pregnant. The teenage girl, Gulalai, was engaged to be married this summer.

And what is the inevitable result of this magnificent feat of arms in service of the values of Western Civilization? The Times headline says it all: "Survivors of family killed in Afghanistan raid threaten suicide attacks."

Local elders delivered $2,000 in compensation for each of the five victims to the head of the family, Haji Sharabuddin, after protests brought Gardez, the capital of Paktia, to a halt. "I don't want money. I want justice," he said. "All our family, we now don't care about our lives. We will all do suicide attacks and [the whole province] will support us." ...

"Before, when I heard reports of raids like this and elders said [foreign troops] only came to colonize Afghanistan, I told them they are here to help us," said Sayed Mohammed Mal, the vice-chancellor of Gardez University, whose son Mansoor was Gulalai's fiance. "But when I witnessed this in my family's home, I realized I was wrong. Now I accept the things those people told me. I hate [foreign forces]. I hate the Government."

... "My father was friends with the Americans and they killed him," said Commander Dawood's son, Abdul Ghafar, as he held a dog-eared photograph showing the policeman with three US soldiers. One of the Americans had his arm around Mr. Dawood. "They killed my father. I want to kill them. I want the killers brought to justice." ...

"The foreigners are always talking about human rights. But they don't care about human rights," said Gulalai's father, Mohammed Tahir. "They teach us human rights then they kill a load of civilians. They didn't come here to end terrorism. They are terrorists."

Of course, we must excuse Mr. Tahir; no doubt he's a bit tired and over-emotional. We all know that Americans -- by definition -- cannot be terrorists. (Unless they are Muslim-Americans, that is.) Americans can only, at the very worst, make the occasional mistake -- and that only out of their admirably bumbling zeal to do altruistic good. And naturally, Mr. Tahir is far too primitive to comprehend the higher-order thought of Western Civilization, which finds its most apt expression in that elegant and subtle metaphor which encapsulates the quintessence of our enlightened values: you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

We are sure that one day, when the omelet of a free, civilized, enlightened Afghanistan -- happily connected to the world by peaceful ties of friendship and profitable networks of pipelines -- is finally cooked, he will be happy that his young daughter will be part of the sumptuous feast.
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

Dance Macabre
By Belacqua Jones

The world is a Manichean struggle between Eros and Thanatos. Eros is the wimp-ass god of nurture and sentimentality a cosmic Love Boat, plying the seas of fantasy and treacle. It's a female thing best kept confined to the hearth and the nursery.

Thanatos, on the other hand, is the stern-faced god of morality, with his call to self-discipline and sacrifice. He is the god of manly death.

We have a choice between living the adrenalin high offered by the slash-and-burn world of Thanatos, or the numbness of love and sentiment that is the legacy of Eros. Thanatos demands orderly ranks; Eros tolerates an unruly rabble. Thanatos is bracing liberation; Eros is stifling boredom.

Our problem is that Thanatos is a little too stern, and sternness is so yesterday. We've got to lighten up his image and repackage him to increase his marketability. He needs multiple identities that appeal to all segments of the fragmented demographic we call America.

He will need many costumes to fulfill his multiple roles: the dress-down fashion of the Yuppie, the ragged robes of the mendicant, the torn jeans, funky T-shirts, body piercings and tattoos of the youthful mall rebel. He'll sport the dark suits of the oligarchs, the designer sweat suits of the soccer mom, the logo loaded jacket of the NASCAR devotee, and, above all, the robes of the preacher.

Let him polish his Mercedes, recharge his cell and ramp up the sound system until the walls quake! Give him games to play, violent videos to watch, meds to deal with the psychic damage he must endure to thrive.

Let him dance with abandoned gaiety; drive the beat of his dance macabre with the throbbing riff of guitar and drum! Place a Bible in his hand and let him invoke the loving wrath of the redemptive Christ, leading the masses into the yawning jaws of the apocalypse.

It's the mad dance of death and destruction, sanitized by the rose-colored glasses of the thirty-second spot! It makes the heart sing songs of joyful dirges and lamentations!

But, I am spent. The wine bottle is empty and the last roach has turned to ash. I go now to sleep the manly sleep of the dead.
(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!

A BS In Order Picking?
By Mike Folkerth

Well, they've finally validated our collective fears. At least at one company, you now need a college degree to drive a forklift. You can't make this kind of stuff up.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote two back to back articles on the subject of higher education. Great discussion followed as we batted around the very real fact that when it came to the time, cost, and value of conventional college educations, there were natural limits to the college level jobs that were awaiting the growing number of egger young unemployed grads.

Unless that is, qualifications for the drive up position at the fast food restaurant suddenly required a BS in Order Communication. Or perhaps a degree in Cashregistry? Maybe even Trashcollectomy? We haven't quite reached that point; but close. The following ad, courtesy of a post on Pete Murphy's site, has elevated the fine art of forklift driving and order picking to college grads only.

"He/she will be responsible for performing data entry into various databases and ensuring department compliance with policies and procedures.

"He/she will use manual labor, pallet jacks and forklifts to move product and non-GMP supplies from storage areas and delivery trucks."


"This position requires a Bachelor's degree (a concentration in Life or Physical Sciences is preferred) or extensive inventory management/industry experience in bio/pharma. The candidate will have the ability to follow detailed verbal and written instruction, work in a highly cooperative team environment and repeatedly lift 40 pounds.

"Strong organizational, communications and interpersonal skills are essential, as are good basic math skills. The candidate should be proficient with PC desktop applications and business operations software system. He/she should also have flexibility in duty assignment and ability to work overtime, different shifts, holidays and weekends as necessary.

"The candidate will accurately pick and pack marketed product against shipping orders and also record creation, collection and storage per corporate retention schedules." [End ad]

So what do you think? Do you believe the flowery language? When I was a young guy just out of the service, I held this exact position with 3-M, as did my brother. It was called a shipping and receiving clerk. It was far more difficult at that point, as computer slaves had yet to be harnessed and we were forced to think rather than be prompted.

Consider what they are saying in the advertisement. Should it be possible for any kid in America to graduate from high school without those skills? So how can they possibly require four years of college? Easy, the college grads have to eat and buy gas and thus far no other offers for their services have been tendered.

Here's how the advertisement should have read:

"Exciting dead end opportunity driving a forklift, lifting heavy boxes, filling orders at night, on weekends, and holidays, in a fun filled environment with no possibly for advancement. We require a college education because experience has shown us that you didn't learn basic readin' writin' and 'rithmetic in high school."

Once again, I'm not putting down the value of education; I'm putting down the growth industry of conventional education that has purposely devalued that education to the point of being less than worthless. What possible chance is there that an order picker position (advertised as a Logistics Specialist) could EVER repay the cost and time that were required to obtain that degree? Where is the value?

One year of on the job training in this particular field would be equal to 10 years of college unless you can now get a PhD in Forklift! What manner of order picker is a college grad going to make? Can you imagine the level of disappointment and the effect that disappointment would have on job performance? I can't.

This is where we're headin' folks. We cannot continue this terrible charade any longer. It certainly isn't fair to the kids who are brainwashed into believing that a conventional four year college education leads to a $60,000 starting wage with no heavy lifting. (Maybe 40 pounds isn't considered to be heavy?) It also isn't fair to the parents who are encouraged to forgo their own lives and retirement to pay for the continually elevating costs of college.

All civilized societies must have laws and rules that apply equally to everyone. Otherwise, the smart will take advantage of the dumb, the healthy will prey on the sick, the strong will harm the weak, the rich will disadvantage the poor, and the politicians will do all of us in.
(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...

"A heretic is a man who sees with his own eyes."
~~~ Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

The Health Care Hindenburg Has Landed
By Chris Hedges

Rep. Dennis Kucinich's decision to vote "yes" in Sunday's House action on the health care bill, although he had sworn to oppose the legislation unless there was a public option, is a perfect example of why I would never be a politician. I respect Kucinich. As politicians go, he is about as good as they get, but he is still a politician. He has to run for office. He has to raise money. He has to placate the Democratic machine or risk retaliation and defeat. And so he signed on to a bill that will do nothing to ameliorate the suffering of many Americans, will force tens of millions of people to fork over a lot of money for a defective product and, in the end, will add to the ranks of our uninsured.

The claims made by the proponents of the bill are the usual deceptive corporate advertising. The bill will not expand coverage to 30 million uninsured, especially since government subsidies will not take effect until 2014. Families who cannot pay the high premiums, deductibles and co-payments, estimated to be between 15 and 18 percent of most family incomes, will have to default, increasing the number of uninsured. Insurance companies can unilaterally raise prices without ceilings or caps and monopolize local markets to shut out competitors. The $1.055 trillion spent over the next decade will add new layers of bureaucratic red tape to what is an unmanageable and ultimately unsustainable system.

The mendacity of the Democratic leadership in the face of this reality is staggering. Howard Dean, who is a doctor, said recently: "This is a vote about one thing: Are you for the insurance companies or are you for the American people?" Here is a man who once championed the public option and now has sold his soul. What is the point in supporting him or any of the other Democrats? How much more craven can they get?

Take a look at the health care debacle in Massachusetts, a model for what we will get nationwide. One in six people there who have the mandated insurance say they cannot afford care, and tens of thousands of people have been evicted from the state program because of budget cuts. The 45,000 Americans who die each year because they cannot afford coverage will not be saved under the federal legislation. Half of all personal bankruptcies will still be caused by an inability to pay astronomical medical bills. The only good news is that health care stocks and bonuses for the heads of these corporations are shooting upward. Chalk this up as yet another victory for our feudal overlords and a defeat for the serfs.

The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care-$7,129 per capita-although 45.7 million Americans remain without health coverage and millions more are inadequately covered, meaning that if they get seriously ill they are not covered. Fourteen thousand Americans a day are now losing their health coverage. A report in the journal Health Affairs estimates that, if the system is left unchanged, one of every five dollars spent by Americans in 2017 will go to health coverage. Private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume 31 cents of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $400 billion per year, enough, Physicians for a National Health Plan points out, to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans. Check out It has some of the best analysis.

This bill is not about fiscal responsibility or the common good. The bill is about increasing corporate profit at taxpayer expense. It is the health care industry's version of the Wall Street bailout. It lavishes hundreds of billions in government subsidies on insurance and drug companies. The some 3,000 health care lobbyists in Washington, whose dirty little hands are all over the bill, have once more betrayed the American people for money. The bill is another example of why change will never come from within the Democratic Party. The party is owned and managed by corporations. The five largest private health insurers and their trade group, America's Health Insurance Plans, spent more than $6 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2009. Pfizer, the world's biggest drug maker, spent more than $9 million during the last quarter of 2008 and the first three months of 2009. The Washington Post reported that up to 30 members of Congress from both parties who hold key committee memberships have major investments in health care companies totaling between $11 million and $27 million. President Barack Obama's director of health care policy, who will not discuss single payer as an option, has served on the boards of several health care corporations. And as salaries for most Americans have stagnated or declined during the past decade, health insurance profits have risen by 480 percent.

Obama and the congressional leadership have consciously shut out advocates of single payer from the debate. The press, including papers such as The New York Times, treats single payer as a fringe movement. The television networks rarely mention it. And yet between 45 and 60 percent of doctors favor single payer. Between 40 and 62 percent of the American people, including 80 percent of registered Democrats, want universal, single-payer not-for-profit health care for all Americans. The ability of the corporations to discredit and silence voices that represent at least half of the population is another sad testament to the power of our corporate state to frame all discussions.

Change will come only by building movements that stand in fierce and uncompromising opposition to the Democrats and the Republicans. If they can herd Kucinich and John Conyers, the sponsors of House Resolution 676, a bill that would create a publicly funded National Health Program by eliminating private health insurers, onto the House floor to vote for this corporate theft, what is the point in pretending there is any room left for us in the party? And why should we waste our time with gutless liberal groups such as, which felt the need to collect more than $1 million to pressure House Democrats who had voted "no" on the original bill to recant? What was this purportedly anti-war group doing anyway serving as an obsequious recruiting arm of the Obama election campaign? The longer we tie ourselves to the Democrats and these bankrupt liberal organizations the more ridiculous and impotent we appear.

"I'm ready to listen to the White House, if the White House is ready to listen to the concerns about putting a public option in this bill," the old Kucinich said on the "Democracy Now!" radio and television program before he flipped. "I mean, they can do that. You know, they're still cutting last-minute deals. Put the public option back in. Make it a robust public option. Give the people a chance to really negotiate rates with the insurance companies ... from the standpoint of having a public option. But don't just tell the people that you're going to call this health care reform, when you're giving insurance companies an even more powerful monopoly status in our economy."
(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."

Stumbling About In The Graveyard Of Empires
By David Michael Green

If there was ever a decent justification visible for the American war in Afghanistan, there isn't now.

That doesn't mean that one is impossible to imagine. I'm no fan of the Taliban or al Qaeda, though that alone doesn't justify invading the country. Nor does a military occupation necessarily make things better, even if you assume that a particular regime is noxious enough that a regime decapitation is warranted. Time after time, great powers have learned to their chagrin that the natives don't always necessarily appreciate being invaded, occupied and told who the new boss replacing the old boss will be. People can be odd that way.

But leave all that aside for the moment. Maybe al Qaeda did 9/11, as we were told. Maybe the Taliban were harboring them. Maybe both had a violent, regressive and otherwise just generally ugly agenda. Maybe there was even justification enough for invading in 2001.

I nevertheless meant my initial critique quite literally, however. Whatever may or may not have been the case in 2001, it's now 2010, and any such clarity or justification is now invisible. Indeed, what I find most astonishing about America's latest military adventure is just how much this gravest of national decisions is not being seriously discussed in our national discourse.

Perhaps even more amazing is the degree to which that is true from the bottom of the national security policy process all the way up to the top. The proper way to conceive and consider these issues, I would argue, is in the form of a nested contextual hierarchy, in which each level of policy analysis has to justify decisions to the one, and ones, above it. We, as a body politic, are talking about and thinking about Afghanistan at none of these levels. In fact, of course, we're basically not talking about and thinking about Afghanistan at all.

The lowest level of policy decision-making is the tactical. America has to decide exactly how it is going to prosecute the war. We don't hear very much about that, which is itself more than troubling. Reports are now beginning to show up in the alternative press - but, significantly, not in the mainstream - of tactical operations all too reminiscent of those brutal affairs which have appeared previously in Iraq and Pakistan. Allegations are now surfacing about innocent civilians either being subjected to intentional human rights and war crimes violations, right up to and including murder, or at least wanton disregard for the "collateral damage" caused by battlefield tactics. There is certainly a moral question at stake here, and one that we are just not discussing.

But there is also simply the pragmatic question of whether such tactics properly service our strategy in Afghanistan, the next level up in the hierarchy. But was is American strategy? The latest version seems to be an 'improvement' over the notion of simply defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda in battlefield engagements. Now the Pentagon brass and theater commanders are talking about following military clearing operations with 'government-in-a-box' nation-building initiatives, ostensibly for purposes of winning the ubiquitous hearts and minds typically sought by contemporary counterinsurgency occupation forces. Theoretically, providing Afghans with security and with efficient, corruption-free governance will help to win their allegiance to a 'better' (read American sponsored) way. While the ideas have some merit on paper, they also ignore the historical realities of similar attempts in Vietnam and Iraq, and they require for credibility that we suspend everything we know about America's long-time ongoing national version of the same strategy in Afghanistan, which has witnessed the Karzai puppet regime spending the better part of the last decade demonstrating just how corrupt a government can possibly be, and just how ineffective as well - at least when it comes to everything other than stealing elections or just plain stealing.

But strategy, of course, is not its own end. Strategy is used to achieve certain objectives which form the very purpose for fighting a war. Barack Obama is not quite as lame as George W. Bush in this respect (not exactly a stunning achievement, that), who argued that America should be at war with the weapon terrorism - as opposed to an actual adversary using that weapon. While we can say that Obama is not as deceitful (at least on this score) or idiotic as Bush, that's pretty much true of the entire world, isn't it? More importantly, what are America's aims in massively escalating our presence in Afghanistan? Are we trying to defeat the Taliban? Remove al Qaeda from the country (even though the Pentagon says there's only about a hundred of them left there)? Create a Jeffersonian democracy? Install an ally? Lift the country out of poverty? Again, it astonishes me that one could take a country to war without this most obvious question being part of the national discourse. But it isn't.

And neither is the question of how 'winning' in Afghanistan, whatever that would actually mean, would effect American national security, just in the short term. If only for the sake of argument, suppose the United States could achieve whatever objectives are entailed by the notion of winning the war there. How long would it take? What would it cost in dollars? How many lives would be lost? What actual, live, current threat would be extinguished, such that America would be safer? What would be traded off, in terms of other uses of the money - from education to infrastructure to paying down the national debt - in order to win this war? What other possible security concerns would go unaddressed because the US took all its armies on the Risk board and moved them from Irkutsk and Yakutsk and Mongolia to Kamchatka? None of these questions have been addressed in the United States, let alone answered. And those just represent short-term security concerns.

As for each level of security policy analysis discussed above, short-term definitions of success should be constructed to give service to the next level up, medium-term ones. If it's true that there is a broader struggle going on against some sort of wider American enemy, of which Afghanistan is simply a single theater of operations, then the medium-term security question one has to ask is whether putting so many resources into that single theater makes sense in the context of the bigger objective. If al Qaeda is located in 60 countries, for example, is it smart to stick 100,000 American troops in just one of them, and spend a trillion bucks hunting down a hundred people, especially when they can just slide over the border into Pakistan almost at will?

Finally, is the medium-term aspiration for the country serving well the long-term foreign policy goals of the United States in which it should be nested? Are these policies likely to leave us better off, somehow, twenty and fifty years from now? Does an American presence in Afghanistan better America's position in the world, both with respect to friendly countries, and with respect to rivals, real and potential? It certainly doesn't seem to be having a positive effect with the former group, as NATO allies appear less and less interested in supporting American efforts in the country, either by being there at all, or by being anywhere near harm's way. As to potential rivals, could anything possibly be more amusing than this war to the grand strategists in Moscow and Beijing, hoping to supercede American as the hegemon of the new century? If there is any such possibility, it could only be the US blunder in Iraq. Either way, America could hardly have given its rivals a greater gift if we had simply wrapped a ribbon around the capitol and stuck a bow on the dome. Yes, as a matter of fact, history's lesson is correct - empires do die from within, not from external assault. Idiocy is more lethal than are Huns.

Like everything in America, both the Afghan war and US foreign policy in general have been relentlessly politicized in the last decades, ever since doing so was discovered as a survival technique for the otherwise completely bankrupt politics of the right. Regressives get more mileage out of knee-jerk reactionary national security fears than anything else they can invent as a reason for their existence. At the same time, pacifists on the left make the mistake of believing that there is no situation for which war is the appropriate response. I wish that that were true, but, unfortunately, it isn't. If I have to choose between World War II and a Thousand-Year Reich of darkness descending over the planet (which would, of course, entail at least as much mass violence, anyhow, to go along with all the repression and civilizational regression), I reluctantly choose war.

The problem for the United States, however, is that it long ago forgot about the reluctant part. We just keep going to war, decade after decade, from Korea to Vietnam to Grenada to Iraq to Panama to Bosnia and back to Iraq and so on. You could make an argument, as regressives often do, that the reason that we are completely unmatched by any other country in the world for the frequency with which we have gone to war over the last century is because we are doing the heavy lifting of international security that others either cannot or will not do. I'd say there's even some truth to that in some cases. By my estimation, about half of America's wars had at least a moderately legitimate casus belli. But that, of course, leaves the other half. When you're talking about the single gravest decision a society can make, it wouldn't hurt to get it right more often than you would by random chance, say by flipping a coin.

Afghanistan is one of the muddier cases, from the perspective of its moral justification. That's true, first, because it is really two cases - then and now. If it was actually true that al Qaeda did 9/11 and that the Taliban refused to give up the perpetrators, then I think invading Afghanistan in order to go after those individuals was an appropriate response, however reluctant I am ever to support violence, especially at the scale of war, and however clear it is that America's policies in the world all too often harm others. (Similarly, I think it equally appropriate that George W. Bush and gang ought to be sitting in an ICC courtroom right now, on trial for their crimes.) But now that first version of the war is long over, yet another botched product of the Bush administration, and al Qaeda has largely been neither captured nor killed, but instead driven into Pakistan. Whatever legitimate justification there was for the first phase of a US war in Afghanistan seems to me completely absent now that we are in the second.

And yet the president (another botch king, of a somewhat different and some similar sort) is dramatically escalating the American military presence there. I do not see any moral justification for that.

But part of why I don't see that is because we basically have not been presented with any justification whatsoever. And the reason that hasn't happened is because we, as a society, are not addressing seriously any of the nested policy questions necessary to an intelligent and just formulation of American foreign policy.

Are we using tactics in Afghanistan that are as humane as possible and that can work?

Do those tactics serve our strategy there, assuming we know what that is?

Does our strategy serve our goals for fighting a war in Afghanistan?

Do those political goals for the war serve a broader short-term American foreign policy outside of Afghanistan?

Do those short-term goals advance medium-term US foreign policy goals?

And do those medium-term goals serve the country's long-term goals?

Most of these questions are almost impossible to answer decisively, for the reason that we don't actually know what the country's tactics or strategy or goals are.

But if one had to try to answer these questions, based on the best information available, you'd probably have to say: No, no, no, no, no, no and no!

Not very impressive. It's one thing for a government to act recklessly with the lives of its citizens and those of other people, elsewhere. In less politically mature countries, like America, that is all too sadly still to be expected.

But where is the public which, in a democracy, can control their government? Where are the fine American citizens, with their "Support the Troops" bumper-stickers cracked and fading on the back of their SUVs? Where are the great advocates of Christian morality, reading about cheek-turning in their bibles at night, and pouring out of churches on Sunday mornings?

Where are they, indeed?

Probably too busy watching American Idol reruns to ask these crucial questions, and to demand legitimate answers to them before they will allow their government to fight an increasingly violent war in Afghanistan.

It's important to keep your priorities straight, you know.
(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...

Florida Con-gressman Grayson

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Grayson,

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 Grayson, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Keep The Change...
By Sheila Samples

"Change is the process by which the future invades our lives."
~~~ Alvin Toffler, "Future Shock" ~~~

Each time it appears that Republicans can't get any nastier, any more bereft of morality, they wrap themselves in the flag, grab their guns and Bibles, and manage once again to hit the bottom of the ethical barrel. A good example is Ben Smith's recent startling revelation in, which exposed the dirty tricks Republican National Committee (RNC) operatives were planning to play, not only on Democrats in the upcoming elections -- but on their own donors. Smith writes...

"Manipulating donors with crude caricatures and playing on their fears is hardly unique to Republicans or to the RNC -- Democrats raised millions off George W. Bush in similar terms -- but rarely is it practiced in such cartoonish terms.

"One page, headed "The Evil Empire," pictures Obama as the Joker from Batman, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leaders Harry Reid are depicted as Cruella DeVille and Scooby Doo, respectively."

Ruh-Roh. I can't help it -- that's good for a grin, albeit a ghoulish one. And the "tchochkes," or swag, such as T-shirts, tote bags, baseball caps, and other useless crap they planned to give to their donors in exchange for big bucks made some of us laugh out loud.

But that's just the funny part. The far more frightening aspect is the lengths the rabid radical right -- not just the Republican Party -- is willing to go in order to destroy President Obama and the "socialist commies" who elected him. They are very open about it; proud to be the "Party of No," and brag about burying Obama under a burning health-care pyre. Nearly a year ago, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint gloated -- "this health-care issue is D-Day for freedom in America...If we're able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."

Former Bush speech writer David Frum admitted to MSNBC's Ed Shultz on his March 18 show that negotiation has never been on the Republican's health-care table. Frum said...

"It's critical for everybody, and not just the president. It's critical for us on the Republican side, too. If this thing passes, there is going to be an accountability moment on the Republican side. We had a choice, do we negotiate and try to get some of our values in the bill? Or do we go for total defeat of the president and bet everything on that?

"I was one of those who said negotiate. That advice was rejected. We went for total defeat of the president. If he prevails, it is going to be a shutout of Republican views in one of the most important pieces of legislation ever passed in the United States."

Some are disillusioned with Obama because they feel he has not been forthcoming with his promise of change. They do not seem to realize that, for more than a decade, change in this nation has been overwhelming. Since the Kafkaesque mutation of the Republican establishment, whose metamorphosis into a destructive force was sudden as a result of five right-wing justices on the U.S. Supreme Court stopping the Florida recount in December 2000 and handing the presidency to one of their own even though his opponent won the national popular vote by more than a half million ballots, the change within the Republican party has been nothing less than frenetic.

This is no longer about politics, where opposing sides butt heads, twist arms and kick ass until they manage to agree on legislation that will benefit American citizens on both sides of the aisle. It is not, as Frum said, about merely defeating this president. It is about destroying him; about weaving a noose for him out of lies and dirty tricks; about sending a message to future generations of African Americans that the "White" House means just that.

If you doubt that the right-wing crusade is about race, you are either so oblivious of the past that you see nothing unusual about the present -- or you haven't been to a Tea Party lately. At Tea Parties across the nation, Obama is not only portrayed in hideous caricatures as the Joker, but as others such as Adolph Hitler, Karl Marx and Osama bin Laden.

Initially, the Tea Party movement was started by Congressman Ron Paul to appeal to Americans who were frustrated and fed-up with such things as taxes and wars, but it was immediately co-opted by right-wing think tanks and by Fox News whose target-eyed pundits brayed 24/7 about a massive "white culture" crusade taking over the nation. Racist hatemongers joined the party, especially Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and in no time at all, had David Duke, a "white nationalist" and former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, looking like a rank amateur.

These guys aren't crazy -- okay, maybe they are -- but they know exactly what they're doing. They learned from eight years of K-K-Karl Rove and Dick Cheney that fear and hate are the two easiest emotions to work with. Stir in a generous helping of rage, and entire cultures can be manipulated into a frenzy. And, when those emotions feed on racism, a gathering can be turned into a mob, which can then be whipped into a destructive, extremist riot.

In the Spring 2010 Intelligence Report published by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Mark Potok examines the "Rage on the Right." He writes...

"Since the installation of Barack Obama, right-wing extremists have murdered six law enforcement officers. Racist skinheads and others have been arrested in alleged plots to assassinate the nation's first black president. One man from Brockton, Mass. -- who told police he had learned on white supremacist websites that a genocide was under way against whites -- is charged with murdering two black people and planning to kill as many Jews as possible on the day after Obama's inauguration. Most recently, a rash of individuals with anti-government, survivalist or racist views have been arrested in a series of bomb cases.

"As the movement has exploded, so has the reach of its ideas, aided and abetted by commentators and politicians in the ostensible mainstream. While in the 1990s, the movement got good reviews from a few lawmakers and talk-radio hosts, some of its central ideas today are being plugged by people with far larger audiences like FOX News' Glenn Beck and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn). Beck, for instance, re-popularized a key Patriot conspiracy theory -- the charge that FEMA is secretly running concentration camps -- before finally "debunking" it.

"Last year also experienced levels of cross-pollination between different sectors of the radical right not seen in years. Nativist activists increasingly adopted the ideas of the Patriots; racist rants against Obama and others coursed through the Patriot movement; and conspiracy theories involving the government appeared in all kinds of right-wing venues."

The SPLC also reports that just in the first year of the Obama presidency, "an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) -- a 244% jump."

We are falling apart. We have lost our sense of decency, our sense of direction. The past is overtaking us, and will soon be our future. We are surrounded by increasingly violent gun-toting "Patriots" who are eager to water the Tree of Liberty with the blood of loony liberals, Commies, and Socialists -- starting with their Black President who, according to the mad dogs on the right, is determined to destroy the freedoms of loyal Americans.

Are we going to stand here, suffering from change shock -- too much change in too short a period of time -- and do nothing? It's tempting, but as Chris Hedges warns,

"To give up acts of resistance is spiritual and intellectual death. It is to surrender to the dehumanizing ideology of totalitarian capitalism. Acts of resistance keep alive another narrative, sustain our integrity and empower others, who we may never meet, to stand up and carry the flame we pass to them. No act of resistance is useless. ... But we will have to resist and then find the faith that resistance is worthwhile, for we will not immediately alter the awful configuration of power. And in this long, long war a community to sustain us, emotionally and materially, will be the key to a life of defiance. As long as we are willing to defy these forces we have a chance, if not for ourselves, then at least for those who follow."

I agree. We must resist -- in order to stop the right-wing's race to destruction before it's too late -- and to change the shock of our children's future.
(c) 2010 Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is an OEN editor, and a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at:

A Gathering Of Vultures
By Mary Pitt

As the Liberals in Congress struggle against the Party-of-No Republicans and the Blue Dog DINOs, the people in the lower economic level are being picked of the last flesh on their living bones by the circling vultures. After they have lost almost everything they possess by the too-big-to-fail banks and investment companies, bled by the co-payments for essential medical care for their children, and either lost their homes in foreclosure or have trouble paying their rent, the vultures have gathered for the last pickings.

One cannot long watch television without the realization of precisely what the aims are of the remaining ghouls that dog their tracks. First and foremost are the "easy credit" advertisements by which they are bombarded. If you get a paycheck, you can get money quick to last until then. It only costs you a "little" more than you borrow, (only an APR of a hundred or two), and you can spend on anything you want. If you own a car, bring in your title and get the same sweet deal. The commercials depict happy people enjoying the prospect of living it up on all that "Easy Cash."

Congress is currently struggling with the task of regulating these vultures against those who think that the poor are not sufficiently important to protect. They appear to rest secure in their opinion that those who are dumb enough to fall for those deceptions deserve to be victimized. The fact that many may be so financially strapped in this "Land of Plenty" that they have no other avenue of survival.

Another source of income to the television channels are the advertisements telling those who have won lawsuits and have judgments, which are to be, paid over time that they don't have to wait for their money. They can really sell those judgments, (at discount prices, of course), and obtain a large amount of "cash now" with which they can "live it up" until it's all gone. They do not, ever, tell how much the discount will be and how much they will collect of the proceeds for corporate profit. Often, these judgments or annuities are the only source of supplemental income available to these people and they will suffer terribly by their loss but, what the hell, it's all "Free Enterprise"!

A third enticement, aimed the elderly, is one that I particularly find reprehensible. They dig up all the old has-beens like Pat Boone, Robert Wagner, or Peter Graves, who were the heartthrobs of our youth, to hawk the idea of "reverse mortgages" wherein they promise monthly stipends in return for signing a contract that allows those lending institutions to own your home when you die. Now, every elderly person whom I have met will tell you that they have made precise plans for whom they want to inherit from them and they will deprive themselves of essentials of life to retain their property for that purpose.

Further, this arrangement amounts to the bidding company actually wagering that you will not live very long because the more quickly you die, the more profit they will gain. Let us hope that most of these elderly have brains enough to know that, should they determine that they want to leave the old home place, that they will make more money by selling it outright, even if they themselves carry a contract for a balance. At least, they won't have to live the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders and wondering whether their "heirs:" are becoming impatient.

(To add insult to injury, they continually remind us of our advanced years by showing us how decrepit our once-upon-a-time have gone through the same deterioration that we must deal with every day. This comment from a person who refused to attend the 60-year class reunion because she prefers to recall the raucous friends of her youth rather than the old codgers who now creep around with canes and walkers. She prefers to remember the friends of her youth as vital and energetic as they were so long ago.)

(Note: Peter Graves has passed away since this writing and I, for one, will always remember him as the dashing and daring Mr. Phelps of "Mission Impossible" and not as the enfeebled huckster for reverse mortgages.)

As macabre as these three "vultures" may appear, there is still one that is so reprehensible that they don't even advertise. They merely contact the elderly personally in the effort to purchase their paid-up life insurance policies. The proposal is that they will discount the amount payable on your death and give you that amount "today". In return, they become the beneficiary of that policy and collect it only on your death. I can't speak for anyone else but it would seem that one could never again sleep comfortably at night.

While the comfortably wealthy worship at the altar of Capitalism and engage in the preservation of Free Enterprise while resisting any regulation of banks and other lending institutions. The sheep have already been stripped of their fleece and new ways are being developed to profit from the disposal of their bones. Meanwhile, the vultures go about their work of devouring whatever value remains of their being.

Does anybody out there care? Will the Senate shape up and pass the Consumer Financial Protection Act, which has been passed by the House? Or will the Republicans continue the campaign to end the Class Warfare in their usual manner; by forcing the poor back to the status of serfs in bondage to the privileged?

Stay tuned.
(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
~~~ Henry Payne ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Oh, Afghanistan
By The Firesign Theatre

When I come to Billville I had another name
But the city ordinance makes us all the same
Oh, Afghanistan
Oh, Afghanistan

I love Billville like a native son
I changed my name to Bill so I'd feel more like one
Oh, Afghanistan
Save us from Babylon
If they can take your name away
Can't take us too?

I live in Billville on a street named Bill
Near the corner of Bill street and Bill
Oh, Afghanistan
Oh, Afghanistan

I love Billville with a fierce pride
I look for a girl name Bill to be Bill's bride
Oh, Afghanistan
Save us from Babylon
If the can take your name away
Can't they take us too? (They can you know!)

I work in the Bill building with a boss named Bill
Gonna have three kids name them Bill, Bill, Bill
Oh, Afghanistan
Oh, Afghanistan

We believe in a big god named Bill
The first and last of the house of Bill
Oh, Afghanistan
Save us from Babylon
If they can take your name away
Can't they take us too?

People of Billville we stretch out our hands
Welcome all Bills to the promise land
Oh, Afghanistan
Oh, Afghanistan

If in your heart you want to change your name to Fred
I'm gonna pray to big Bill to strike you dead
Oh, Afghanistan
Save us from Babylon
If they can take your name away
Can't they take us too?

Oh, Afghanistan
Save us from Babylon
If they can take your name away
Can't they take us too?

If they can take your name away
Can't they take us too?
(c) 1980/2010 The Firesign Theatre

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Kooky Kabuki Terrain
By Will Durst

This health care thing has driven people crazier than Johnny Depp in a Max Fleischer cartoon on acid. Pro or con, your rhetoric better be cranked up to eleven and soaring past the outer orbit of Neptune, or you're going to be as invisible as a tax collector with a soggy paper plate full of Swedish meatballs sitting next to the deceased at a wake.

Talk show host Rush Limbaugh jumped into this peculiar March Madness feet first, threatening to leave the US should health care reform pass. He must realize for a lot of people, that's a big win-win. And if the prospect of his permanently playing ex-pat doesn't motivate progressives, nothing will. He even mentioned Costa Rica as a possible destination. Where they have universal heath care. Just like every industrialized country in the world. Although your access to Oxycontin may vary.

Eric Massa, the New York Democrat who admitted grabbing a staffer's staff, embarked on a media based whining tour charging he was hounded out of office by the White House and smeared because of his opposition to health care reform. But even though he was willing to speak ill of the Administration, Glenn Beck washed his hands of Tickle-Me-Eric, after the former Congressman trotted out some intra-personal top bunk Naval snorkeling documentation. When a pissed off Democrat is too far gone for Glenn Beck, things truly have escalated into kooky Kabuki terrain.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, Senator Orrin Hatch railed that if Democrats try to jam a health care bill through Congress it will destroy bipartisanship. Oh no. Not that! They're killing the dodo. Apparently this guy is more worried about a dead fantasy than sick Americans. Then Senator Mitch McConnell ratcheted up the exponential wackiness by warning Democrats they face Electoral Armageddon in the fall, which isn't fair; like regaling 6 year old girls with tales of the hairy spiders that live under their bed before saying "sleep tight."

Obama, his own self, can be found careening around the country like an over- caffeinated Chihuahua engaged in a last ditch effort to sell the bill to what you might call his hesitant posse. Yeah. Recalcitrant Democrats. What are the odds? Like calling a flash flood-irksome. Hell, at this point Obama would be happy to pass anything. Health care. The jobs bill. A hook pattern. Kidney stone. Toyota Prius.

The overwhelming discombobulating apprehension is the President isn't just piloting his own kamikaze fighter into the carrier of health care, he's sending vulnerable troops on the same suicide mission. One that will make Gallipoli look like a weekend pass at an Istanbul brothel. After all, it's not his butt on the re-election line this fall, and the GOP strategy to stall proceedings has frothed Democratic incumbents into such a lather, the sweat dripping off their faces is shorting out microphones all across this great land of ours.

Now we're hearing the target passage date might be a bit more elastic than the waistband of a RINO's tutu. The good news is sooner or later, this bill will either become law or not become law and everybody can settle back down to their normal routine of accusation, obfuscation, and procrastination until election day. But until then, keep taking your vitamins, this health care debate seems to be making a lot of people sick.
(c) 2010 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based political comic, who writes sometimes. Of which this would be a glaring example.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 13 (c) 03/26/2010

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