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In This Edition

Victoria Stewart with some, "Final Words."

Robert Scheer wonders, "Endgame For Gramm?"

Uri Avnery mixes joy and regret in, "Rest Has Come To The Weary...."

Ted Rall explains why, "Every Dogi Has Its Day."

Jim Hightower concludes, "Pusillanimity Plus Stupidity Equals More Wall Street Greed."

Johann Hari returns with, "You Are Being Lied To About Pirates."

Amy Goodman celebrates, "Pacifica Radio At 60."

Paul Krugman passes the dunkers in, "Tea Parties Forever."

Chris Floyd totals, "Death By The Numbers."

Case Wagenvoord is, "Canonizing The Lie."

Mike Folkerth finds, "The Limits To Conventional College Education."

Chris Hedges exposes, "Israel's Racist In Chief."

Michael Lind explores why, "America Is Not A Christian Nation."

Barack Obama wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald compares, "Obama And Habeas Corpus -- Then And Now."

Dan Shapley says, "McDonald's Aims For A Low-Pesticide Potato For Its French Fries."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department 'The Onion' reports, "Obama Depressed, Distant Since 'Battlestar Galactica' Series Finale" but first Uncle Ernie has been, "Tilting At Windmills!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Robert Ariail, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Big Fat Whale.Com, Derf City, The Heretik, Mark Bryan, Harn Lay, Kici, K Bendib, Walt Disney Pictures, Pacifica Radio, Issues & Alibis.Org and Pink & Blue Films.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

Tilting At Windmills

By Ernest Stewart

Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It's the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here's a happy one for you.

Happy trails to you,
Until we meet again.
Happy trails to you,
Keep smiling until then.

Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song, and bring the sunny weather.

Happy trails to you,
Till we meet again.
Happy Trails ~~~ Roy Rogers

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Brother Can You Spare A Dime ~~~ Yip Harburg ~ Jay Gorney

Johnny's in the basement
Mixing up the medicine
I'm on the pavement
Thinking about the government
Subterranean Homesick Blues ~~~ Bob Dylan

I've always been a sucker for lost causes. This explains why I dropped everything after the 12-12-2000 coup d'etat to start this magazine. I knew it would change nothing and the only ones I would reach were the already saved! Most people would say, hey wait a minute before you throw it all away. Most people would but not yours truly. A high IQ is no guarantee of common sense. *

I enlisted in the Army during Viet Nam as did so many others but with the draft on, we were in the distinct minority. I've never bitched about the service because I was there by my own stupidity. There is a reason why the armies are mostly made up of children. Children are easily manipulated by authority symbols and if fed a steady diet of lies all their lives, they will, like the sheep that they are, obey any command no matter how evil. Unlike most who were brainwashed during boot camp, I came to my senses, although a little too late. The brainwashing had the exact opposite effect on me and a few others. Which is why when I got out of the Army and went to school I joined every radical group I could find short of the Weather Underground, to stop the war and get rid of the "Trick."

When Nixon resigned, I got out of politics, dropped my poli-sci major and became a DJ. To me music is the only thing humankind does as a whole that's worth a damn. It is the universal language. Everybody on the planet has his favorite tunes that help to keep them sane in all this madness. There I stayed happily oblivious to the political madness that just kept on and on. When Tony (light-fingers) and his brother and sister shills appointed der Fuhrer to the throne something inside me snapped and off I went in search of windmills!

At least Don Quixote had an excuse for his madness, his poor eyesight. I alas, have none. I've been studying poli-sci since the age of 12 and I, of all people, know the folly of our actions. Here's your PhD thesis in poli-sci in 12 words. It says all you'll ever need to know about any political situation and what is bound to happen in the outcome.

"Remember the "Golden Rule." He who has the gold makes the rules!"

It was true in 6,000 BCE. It was true during the Revolutionary War and it is certainly true today.

The good ole United Snakes was designed from day one to be a Roman styled Empire. The US was never meant to be a democracy nor has it ever been one. It was made to let the rich rule and rule they have, and rule they will. The illusion of a two party system is just that folks an illusion. As Gore Vidal once said,

"It makes no difference who you vote for.
The two parties are really one party representing four percent of the people."

Or for those of you on the right as George Wallace once said,

"There's not a dime's worth of difference between the Democrat and Republican Parties."

It may be the only time in his life that George ever spoke the truth but speak it that time he did!

When I started this magazine I hadn't worked full time in three years, other than 50 hours a week writing. I had been busy writing several books but had only finished one, "Uncle Ernie's Hollywood Daze," a book, though very popular with any who've read it, couldn't get past the agents, which you need to get it in front of a publisher. They all said to a man that they enjoyed the book, found it very funny and couldn't put it down but because I told the truth in it and named the names of various "stars" no publisher would touch it. This isn't exactly true, a paperback publisher who ran across it at an internet site wanted to publish it but it had too many pages for his press. Several other of my books looked like they would be published when they were finished but I had to put them down to do this as there just wasn't any time to finish them. I'm going back and finish them now.

Even though I was broke I kept publishing after doing the film as the magazine plays a prominent part and I was hoping after it was released we'd get some money coming in but it's obvious now that's not going to happen. I no longer have the luxury to do the magazine; we had to borrow money last year to keep it afloat. Some of you have been very generous with your donations and have kept us going but just barely and most of you would help us if you could but have enough financial problems of your own and I do understand. I did this because I had to and I could, I no longer can. Ergo this will be the last edition of Issues & Alibis unless manna falls from the sky. I will continue to write a weekly essay but that's all I'll be able to do. I want to thank you all for tuning in every week for over eight years and sending in all your thoughts, which were, I'm happy to say, 99 to 1 in favor of the magazine! Still, I know that this is going to make some folks very happy indeed!

Finally, I think that we are in deep, deep shit boys and girls. The Changeling turned out to be just another politician with feet of clay and has adopted most of the Crime Family Bush's acts of treason as his own. Everything now is in place for the permanent dictatorship of this country. Americorp is the reality and any chance of stopping this is long since past. Like Uncle Duke said,

"Big Darkness, Soon Come!"

So my friends, love yourself, love your neighbors and live in peace!

I'd like to thank all the writers and artists who gave so much of their time and talent to the magazine. Without your kind help all of this would have been impossible. Thank you all so very much!
* See also Bill Clinton!

In Other News

Just like old Yogi, I'm beginning to have a deja vu all over again. This time it's about the "Great Depression" and our current not so "Great Depression!"

The Wall Streets shills down in Foggy Bottom have been throwing several trillion dollars of our hard earned money at their wealthy masters. These billion dollar boys have taken this money and spread it amongst themselves, giving bonuses to one another. These bonuses for creating this financial disaster are a single year bonus and are worth more than the average person will make in his or her lifetime! Your tax dollars at work, America!

Trillions of dollars that no one knows where they're going, much like the money already lost, that all magically disappeared. And suddenly we discover that all of the hard-earned money that was supposed to have restarted the economy wasn't used for that purpose and, in fact, no one knows where it is or what it's being used for! Meanwhile the Sheeple are rallying behind Wall Street's media pals to have "Tea Parties" because Obama has threatened to raise the taxes on the ultra wealthy almost as high as they were under Ronald Ray-guns instead of marching on Wall Street! Imagine that if you can? Zeus knows the American Sheeple are without a doubt the dumbest creatures on the planet! Imagine these brain deads going out to rally for the rich who are doing all they can to enslave these morons. The mind just boggles!

Meanwhile, Obama will no doubt up the ante on Somalia, throwing tens of billions of dollars into a useless war against the pirates who are playing right into the hands of our corpo-rat masters as well. Instead of addressing the underlying problems that led to the rise of these modern day Captain Jack Sparrows, Barry has decided upon the tried and true method of keeping this sideshow at the top of the news while he and both parties continue to rob us blind.

What caused this brouhaha to begin with was factory fishing vessels which came into Somali waters and stole all the fish the Somali fishermen were using to feed the starving Somalis, and by European governments paying Italian Mafioso's to dump their radioactive garbage by the thousands of barrels off the Somali coasts, thereby murdering thousands of innocent Somalis with radiation poisoning. The Pirates started out as a coast guard to prevent these two acts of war! Instead of putting a stop to this, we pretend it never happened and haven't a clue why these starving dying people would do such a thing. In reality, it's all really about us getting revenge for "Blackhawk Down!"

Meanwhile, along with the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the soon to begin war in Iran (after the Zionazis in Israel attack Iran and she goes berserk and destroys most of the gulf states including most of the oil capacity therein!), this cost adds to the heavy drain on our all but bankrupt treasury.

Unlike the Great Depression that lasted 12 years until the start of WWII, I don't look to the start of WWIII to save us from our current "Great Depression" this time around, do you?

And Finally

A few hundred of my neighbors, way down here in Trinity, South Carolina, came out Wednesday to rally at a new "tea party" put on by Fox Spews and the saintly Ron Paul over in the Trinity library parking lot. For a lot of them it was the their first trip to the library but they didn't go inside! I missed this "rally" which was probably a good thing as I'm sure my redneck brothers and sisters would have done me in had I known about it in advance and made my thoughts known to the raucous mob! I only found out about it after it's finale, bummer!

As you know, brother Paul has proposed using an obscure Constitutional provision called "Letters of Marque and Reprisal" wherein Congress can authorize private ship-owners to act on behalf of the United States against pirates in exchange for both loot and bounties, i.e., as privateers! Privateers are a bit like Mouseketeers only with guns and cannons! You may recall the pirate Jean Lafitte during the War of 1812? If not then Yul Brynner in "The Buccaneer?" A sort of sea going Blackwater, just what we need, how nice, NOT! All of this and other smoke and mirrors to keep the real news out of your grasp while the empire dies and the elite lock themselves behind their iron gates!

For example, the G20 leaders have agreed to support a general "SDR" allocation which will inject $250,000,000,000.00 into the world economy and increase global liquidity. SDRs are "Special Drawing Rights," a synthetic paper currency issued by the International Monetary Fund that has lain dormant for half a century.

In effect, the G20 leaders have activated the IMF's power to create money and begin global "quantitative easing." In doing so, they are putting a de facto world currency into play. It is outside the control of any sovereign body. Conspiracy theorists will love it, I know I do! Trouble is, it means what the Chinese have finally figured out, that the dollar is all but worthless. So, while all about me is going to hell in a handbasket let me remind you what we've tried to warn you of one last time.

Along with keeping you up with the important news, we've shown you how to plant a garden, how to make clean water, create electricity, use and build alternate forms of transportation. We've explained why you should buy only heirloom or heritage seeds and where to buy them. I hope you were paying attention because now is the time to buy those seeds, 50 pound bags of rice and beans, water distillation systems, extra clothes, extra ammo, solar power, a good place to hide etc. before the economy crashes and your money is totally worthless! If not you still have one option. You may recall the last thing to do before an atomic attack? The defense we learned way back in grade school, that is to, put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye!


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

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

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

Ernest & Victoria Stewart


08-24-1986 ~ 04-09-2009
You're Out!

04-22-1952 ~ 04-12-2009
R.I.P. sweetie!

08-14-1954 ~ 04-13-2009
Bye bye Birdie!


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


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


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

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

Final Words
By Victoria Stewart

Some weeks I have a hard time finding inspiration for a "political" topic that interests me and is relevant enough to interest someone else. Other weeks, I have a hard time choosing from a cornucopia of astonishing or outrageous events. This week was one of the latter.

Somali pirates. Michelle Obama's garden. The First Dog. TEA Parties-especially the one here in Trinity. The environment. A great new read for our "new normal." (That, by the way, is Toolbox for Sustainable City Living, by Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew.) Afghan women. The drug war. My epiphany about my own leftist naivetÈ. And that's just the beginning. But in that embarrassingly human and mundane way, all of those Big stories were eclipsed by the upcoming demise of Issues and Alibis.

And in an unabashed and unashamed female way, I want to talk about how that feels.

Before I met Ernest Stewart, before I fell in love with and married him (at an absurdly adult age in an even more absurdly un-adult fashion), there was Issues and Alibis.

And I loved Issues and Alibis. I first stumbled across this magazine during a series of especially dark personal experiences, experiences made worse by the violence and mayhem George W. Bush was visiting upon the world. The writers and artists featured in Issues and Alibis gave me comfort in comfortless times. I found like-minded people who shared my outrage about what had happened to our country and the world. I found writers and artists-many of whom now have a measure of fame and recognition-who eloquently and passionately argued for justice, peace and reason.

And it was through Issues and Alibis that I came to know, admire and respect Ernest Stewart. It took a special sort of person to put his life on hold and willingly take on penury and deprivation in order to fight for a people who were, for the most part, willfully ignorant of the danger they faced. In fact, Ernest Stewart was one of the very first Americans to publicly oppose George W. Bush, to name Bush's treason for what it was and to challenge the corporate coup Bush's power grab represented. Ernest's reverence for the strength and dignity of ordinary people, his dedication to speaking out for the powerless, the disenfranchised and the voiceless and his commitment to truth and justice shone through in Issues and Alibis and set it apart from other magazines and later, the blogs and "news" sites. Issues and Alibis was one man's stand for honor and freedom in a world that seemed to value neither.

For almost two years, I have been privileged to share Ernest's vision and I have witnessed the tremendous effort and love he puts into every issue. I have met and interviewed amazingly brave, strong people and I have been honored to bear testament to their stories. I have been humbled by the beauty and tenacity of the human spirit and the miracles that spirit can bring about. For some unfathomable reason I got to be part of something good and true and it makes me sad beyond measure to see it end.

For we are, truly, in terrible trouble.

I spent today in mandatory training on harassment and emergency preparedness (more related, it turns out, than one would suspect) for the "real world" job I have in, well, the "real world." I sat in a room full of well-educated, supposedly intelligent people and watched them behave as if they were one hair's breadth away from a starring role in an episode of "24." I listened to a small-town cop talk about his SWAT training, his FBI contacts and the "knuckleheads (read Muslims) over there" who would be bringing their "terrorism" here if we leave Iraq. (Here? To Trinity, SC? Is no one safe?) I sat among people, all who had huge educational advantages and most who did inhale in the 70's, stunned at their indifference to the totalitarianism masquerading as "safety." It brought home in a terrible way the new world we inhabit, a world of fear and oppression where so many of us in this country wait passively to be herded into ever tighter, darker pens. We are not safe and those we must fear the most live among us.

Time has come for us to regroup. We must quickly and adroitly assess the new dynamic of our economic and geo-political system and develop a tactical response. We are bound by our duty and obligations to our children and their children and all successive generations to find a way to survive and preserve what is good in humanity. And, I suspect, we will need to do it covertly and with cunning.

I do not expect money to pour-or even trickle--in and make it possible for us to continue to the magazine. We understand how strapped everyone is. We will not change our policy and sell advertising. The people Issues and Alibis strove to serve, people like Ernest's family and mine, have been sold by too many for too long and we will not join in that betrayal. We, too, need to examine how best to move through the post-Bush wasteland that our country has become and Trinity is becoming increasingly hostile.

Change is in the wind.

I suspect, however, that in some way the need to speak truth to power, the stubborn insistence upon integrity and freedom that has marked my husband's life and work will continue. To paraphrase Rob Brezny, if anyone could explain the deeper meaning of Paris Hilton and the Octo-mom and the American government's purchase of toxic assets, it would be Ernest. He will find a way .

But for now, for me, it is time to go. Thank you all for the support, the encouragement and the brilliant and brave work you do. I will miss your shining presence every week. It has been an honor.
(c) 2009 Victoria Stewart is the editor of Issues & Alibis magazine.

Endgame For Gramm?
By Robert Scheer

One wonders if Phil Gramm has been made just a tad nervous by the news on Tuesday that one of UBS' super-wealthy private clients has pleaded guilty to tax evasion. That's the second case in two weeks involving the bank at which the former senator is a vice chairman, and 100 other clients are under investigation for possible bank-assisted tax fraud.

Gramm, the Republican former chair of the Senate Finance Committee, where he authored much of the deregulatory legislation at the heart of the current banking meltdown, has for the six years since he left office helped lead a foreign-owned bank specializing in tax dodges for the wealthy. These schemes by the Swiss-based UBS not only force the rest of us taxpayers to pay more to make up the government revenue shortfall but are blatantly illegal. In February, UBS admitted to having committed fraud and conspiracy and agreed to pay a fine of $780 million. Republican "Tea Baggers" take note: Offshore tax havens do not equal populist revolt.

In UBS' "deferred prosecution agreement" with the Justice Department, the bank agreed to turn over the names of its secret account holders to avoid a criminal indictment. The complicity of top executives in this far-ranging scheme to use foreign tax havens to cheat the U.S. treasury of billions in uncollected taxes was noted at the time in a Justice Department statement: "Swiss bankers routinely traveled to the United States to market Swiss bank secrecy to United States clients interested in attempting to evade United States income taxes."

What did Gramm think all of those Swiss bankers from his firm were doing over here? Was he totally clueless? The Justice Department statement suggests otherwise: "UBS executives knew that UBS's cross-border business violated the law. They refused to stop this activity, however, and in fact instructed their bankers to grow the business. The reason was money-the business was too profitable to give up. This was not a mere compliance oversight, but rather a knowing crime motivated by greed and disrespect of the law."

Is it conceivable that this "knowing crime," so widespread within the UBS enterprise, was unknown to Vice Chairman Gramm-even though it primarily involved U.S. tax evasion, and he had been hired by the company because of his expertise in American law, some of which he helped to write? As Gramm said when he was hired in 2002 by UBS, the position "will provide me with the opportunity to practice what I have always preached. I have been involved in every major financial debate since I've been in the Congress."

How could Gramm, who prides himself on expertise in these matters, have been unaware of the damage that the Swiss bankers who worked for him were doing to American taxpayers saddled with making up the shortfall in government revenue? As the Justice Department said: "In 2004 alone, Swiss bankers allegedly traveled to the United States approximately 3,800 times to discuss their clients' Swiss bank accounts. The information further alleges that UBS managers and employees used encrypted laptops and other counter-surveillance techniques to help prevent the detection of their marketing efforts and the identities and offshore assets of their U.S. clients."

But then again, if you are Phil Gramm or his wife, Wendy, you might expect to get away with a great deal in the way of financial machinations. After all, neither has ever been held legally responsible for the Enron debacle, in which the Gramms played a major part.

As a top government regulator, Wendy Gramm changed the rules to make Enron's chicanery possible, and as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Phil codified those rule changes into federal law. While Enron execs like Chairman Ken Lay (a major Gramm campaign contributor) were indicted, the charmed couple that created the loopholes Lay and others jumped through escaped legal responsibility.

After leaving the government, Wendy Gramm joined Enron's board, where she headed the audit committee that managed to avoid auditing the company's disgraceful accounting procedures-just as her husband has apparently looked the other way during his stint in the private sector with UBS.

Sure, Phil Gramm lost his position as the co-chairman of John McCain's presidential campaign when he blamed the recession not on the banking deregulation he championed but rather the people of the United States, which he described as a "nation of whiners." But that was a sideshow compared with the serious charges now swirling around UBS, charges that may finally prove to be Gramm's undoing.
(c) 2009 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

Rest Has Come To The Weary...
By Uri Avnery

PASSOVER Week is a time for outings. News programs on radio and television start with words like: "The masses of the House of Israel spent the day in the national parks..."

It is also a feast of homeland songs. On television one sees groups of white-haired oldsters surrounded by their children and grandchildren fervently singing the songs of their youth, the words of which they know by heart.

"Rest has come to the weary / And repose to the toiler / A pale night spreads / Over the fields of the Valley of Jezreel / Dew below and the moon above / From Beit-Alfa to Nahalal..." The camera focuses on the furrowed face of a grandmother with wet eyes, and it is not hard to imagine her as the beautiful girl she once was. It is easy to see her in a Jezreel kibbutz, with short pants and a long braid swinging behind her, smiling, bowed over tomato plants in the communal vegetable garden.

Nostalgia is having a field-day.

I ADMIT that I am not free from this nostalgia. Something happens to me, too, when I hear the songs, and I join in them involuntarily.

Like many others, I am suffering from "cognitive dissonance." The heart and the head are not coordinated. They operate on different wavelengths. In other words: my head knows that the Zionist enterprise has imposed a historic injustice on the people who lived in this land. But my heart remembers what we felt in those days.

At the age of 10, a few weeks after our flight from Nazi Germany and arrival in this country, my parents sent me to Nahalal, the first Moshav (communal village). I lived with a family of "peasants" - there were not yet known as "agriculturists" - in order to get "acclimatized" and learn Hebrew.

What was Nahalal like in those days? 75 families, their small white houses arranged in a perfect circle, who worked from sunrise to sunset. In the winter, the village became a sea of mud, which stuck to your rubber boots and felt as heavy as lead. In summer, the temperature was often around blood heat. We, the children, went out to work with the adults, and sometimes it was almost unbearable.

Everyone lived in indescribable poverty. A small glass of home-made wine on Friday night was the height of luxury. Money was measured in piasters (dimes). When the mother of the family, at long last, got a Singer sewing machine and could make the family new clothes, it was a cause for celebration.

When the poet Nathan Alterman wrote about the "rest for the weary," it was not a poetic phrase. He was talking about real people.

These people were the sons and daughters of the St. Petersburg and Kiev bourgeoisie, spoilt children of well-to-do parents, who came here to "build the country," walking with open eyes into a life of abject poverty and back-breaking work, learning a foreign language and giving up their mother tongue forever. During the first years they worked hard to drain the swamp on their land. I can't imagine that after a day's work any of them had the energy left to read Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky.

They knew, of course, that there were Arabs around. On the road from Nahalal to Haifa they went past Arab villages. They saw fellaheen working in the fields. But they were from another world. That year - 1934 - was still tranquil, the quiet before the storm of the 1936 "disturbances." They had no contact with Arabs, did not understand their language, had no idea at all about what went on in their heads when they saw the Jews tending their fields. What they knew was that the fields of the Jezreel Valley, many of which had been swamps, had been bought with good money from an Arab landowner. Nobody thought about the peasants who had lived on this land and derived from it their daily bread for generations, and who were evicted when the rich absentee landowner sold it to the Jewish National Fund.

NOSTALGIA IS a human emotion. In every generation, old people remember their youth, and mostly it appears to them as an age of purity and happiness.

This natural, personal nostalgia is joined in our case by another feeling, which causes the old songs to flood us with longing for the innocence of those days, the virtue, the belief in "the rightness of the way," when everything looked so simple.

We felt then that we were taking part in an unprecedented heroic undertaking, creating a new world, a new society, a new human being, a new culture, a new language. We remembered where we came from - from a Europe that was turning into a hell for the Jews. We knew that it was our duty to build a safe haven for millions of Jews who were living in growing danger (even though nobody could yet imagine the Holocaust) and who had nowhere to escape to.

There was a spirit of togetherness, of belonging, of idealism. The new songs expressed it. We all sang them in the youth movements, at Kibbutz evenings, during trips around the country, even in the diverse underground organizations, and of course at school.

When the "disturbances" started in April 1936, we did not see them as an "Arab Revolt." Like the "pogrom" of 1921 and the "massacre" of 1929, they looked to us like a British plot to incite the ignorant Arabs against us in order to continue to rule the country. The "incited" Arab crowds attacked us because they did not understand how good we were for them. They did not grasp that we were bringing to the country progress, modern agriculture, health care, socialism, workers' solidarity. Their leaders, the rich "Effendis" (Turkish for noblemen) were inciting them because they were afraid that they would learn from us to demand higher wages. And there were, of course, those who believed that the Arabs were murdering for the sake of murdering, that murder was their nature and the essence of Islam.

These were not cynical excuses. Zionism was not cynical. The entire Yishuv (the new Hebrew society) believed in this doctrine. In retrospect one can say: this belief was necessary in order to keep up the idealist spirit while ignoring the other side of the coin.

Vladimir Ze'ev Jabotinsky, who lived abroad and had no part in the pioneer endeavor of (the socialist) "Working Eretz Israel," looked at things from afar and saw them as they were: already in the 1920s he stated that the Palestinian Arabs were behaving as any people would if they saw strangers coming to their country with the intent of turning it into their own homeland. But only a few listened to him.

On the Zionist Left there were always some groups and individuals who tried to find a compromise between Zionism and the people of the land, which would not hinder the Zionists from settling all over the country. It was 1946 before there came into being the first group (of which I was one of the founders) which recognized the Palestinian - and the general Arab - National Movement and proposed striking an alliance with it.

IN 1948, the songs of the War of Independence joined the pioneer songs. Regarding them, too, not a few among us suffer from cognitive dissonance. On the one side - what we felt then. On the other - the truth as we know it now.

For the fighters - as for the entire Yishuv - it was, quite simply, an existential war. The slogan was "There is No Alternative," and all of us believed in it completely. We were fighting with our backs to the wall, the lives of our families hanging in the balance. The enemy was all around us. We believed that we, the few, the very few, almost without arms, were standing up against a sea of Arabs. In the first half of the war, the Arab fighters (known to us as "the gangs") indeed dominated all the roads, and in the second half, the regular Arab armies approached the centers of the Hebrew population, surrounding Hebrew Jerusalem and coming close to Tel-Aviv. The Yishuv lost 6000 young people out of a population of some 635 thousand. Whole year-groups were decimated. Innumerable heroic acts were performed.

The idealism of the fighters found its expression in the songs. Most of them are imbued with faith in victory, and, of course, total conviction of the justness of our cause. We did not leave Arabs behind our lines, nor did the Arabs leave any Jews behind theirs. It looked in those circumstances like a simple military necessity. The fighters did not think then about "ethnic cleansing" - a term not yet invented.

We had no understanding about the real balance of power between us and the other side. The Arabs looked to us like a huge force. We did not know that the Palestinians were quarreling with each other, unable to unite and to create a country-wide defense force, that they had a severe shortage of modern arms. Later, when the Arab armies joined the fray, we did not know that they were unable to cooperate with each other, that it was more important for them to compete with each other than to defeat us.

Today, a growing number of Israelis have started to understand the full significance of the "Nakba," the great tragedy of the Palestinian people and all the individuals who lost their homes and most of their homeland. But the songs come and remind us of what we felt at the time, when the things happened. An abyss yawns between the emotional reality of those days and the historical truth as we know it now.

Some see the entire 1948 war as a conspiracy of the Zionist leadership which intended right from the beginning to expel the Palestinians from the country in order to turn it into a Jewish State. According to this view, the soldiers of 1948 were war criminals who implemented a vicious policy, much as the pioneers of the preceding generation were land robbers, knights of ethnic cleansing by expulsion and expropriation.

They are strengthened in this view by today's settlers, who are driving the Palestinians from what remains of their land. By their actions they blacken the pioneer past. Religious fanatics and fascist hooligans, who claim to be the heirs of the pioneers, obliterate the real intentions of that generation.

HOW CAN one overcome the contradiction between the intentions and emotions of the actors and their many magnificent achievements in building a new nation, and the dark side of their actions and the consequences?

How to sing about the hopes and dreams of our youth and at the same time admit to the terrible injustice of many of our actions? Sing with full heart the pioneer songs and the 1948 war songs (one of which I wrote, of which I am far from proud), without denying the terrible tragedy we imposed on the Palestinian people?

Barack Obama told the Turkish people this week that they must come to grips with the massacre of the Armenians committed by their fathers, while at the same time reminding the Americans that they must confront the genocide of the Native Americans and the black slavery exploited by their own forefathers.

I believe we can do this regarding the catastrophe that we have caused the Palestinians. I am convinced that this is important, indeed essential, for our own national mental health, as well as a first step toward eventual reconciliation. We must acknowledge and recognize the consequences of our deeds and repair what can be repaired - without rejecting our past and the songs that express the innocence of our youth.

We must live with this contradiction, because it is the truth of our lives.
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Every Dogi Has Its Day
Americans Lose Their Savings and their Minds
By Ted Rall

When the revolution comes, the tribunal will turn to two sources to determine who should be arrested: a list of the 500 highest-paid CEOs and the Styles section of The New York Times.

Real unemployment is over 20 percent. Millions of people are losing their homes to foreclosure. We've been at war for eight years, with nothing to show for it but a million-plus corpses and trillions in new debt. The United States, in the midst of full-on economic collapse, is teetering on the brink of political implosion. Which has driven some people to... doga.

"Nationwide," an article in the April 9th Times Styles section explains, "classes of doga--yoga with dogs, as it is called--are increasing in number and popularity."

Doga. The name alone inspires lovely fantasies of firing squads. Above the piece and above the fold are photos of dogs being levitated, stretched, and used as weights. Understandably, they generally look puzzled, if not mystified. The online version has a slideshow chronicling the torment of a yellow mutt, his hind quarters being yanked into the heavens by his ever-so-serious Spandex-clad owner. Downward-facing-dog gone wild. The poor beast wears that Admiral Stockdale look: who am I? why am I here?

Why are you doing this to me?

Times reporter Bethany Lyttle, who probably never dreamed she'd end up writing this sort of thing when the thought of becoming a journalist first crossed her mind, paints a grisly tableau in but 45 horrifying words: "In Chicago, Kristyn Caliendo does forward-bends with a Jack Russell draped around her neck. In Manhattan, Grace Yang strikes a warrior pose while balancing a Shih Tzu on her thigh. And in Seattle, Chintale Stiller-Anderson practices an asana that requires side-stretching across a 52-pound vizsla." One wonders, will she have the animal put to sleep in the event of weight change? Will she buy an entire set of dogs, to cover the weight range as her fitness improves?

During the last few months Times political writers have been wondering aloud why Americans haven't reacted to losing their jobs and houses by rioting. Here, just a dozen ever-shrinking pages away, is the answer. They're freaking out, all right. But being Americans, they're freaking out weirdly.

If you've read this far--and I wouldn't blame you if you'd already thrown this down in disgust--you'd might as well know what doga is. Doga!

"Doga," reports The Times (which doesn't run comics or advice columns because those features aren't serious enough), "combines massage and meditation with gentle stretching for dogs and their human partners. In chaturanga, dogs sit with their front paws in the air while their human partners provide support. In an 'upward-paw pose,' or sun salutation, owners lift dogs onto their hind legs. In a resting pose, the person reclines, with legs slightly bent over the dog's torso, bolster-style, to relieve pressure on the spine."

Ready! Aim! Fire! No need for caskets. A shallow grave will suffice. But there's more.

Skeptics of doga, by taking the idea seriously, unintentionally provide the best quotes. "Doga runs the risk of trivializing a 2,500-year-old practice into a fad," the paper quotes a yogi in, naturally, Portland (the one in Oregon, obviously). Ya think? "To live in harmony with all beings, including dogs, is a truly yogic principle. But yoga class may not be the most appropriate way to express this." She thinks about this stuff. Me, I'm holding out for boga--yoga with bugs.

Doga is the perfect end-of-empire moment for a nation wallowing in self-indulgence. The Romans puked out their engorged guts in their vomitoria; we drop $20 a class to drape our yowling schnauzers over our flabby tummies. And as with every great American trend of mass idiocy, controversy swirls arounds doga.

Brenda Bryan, a 43-year-old dogi and yogi (doyogi? yodogi? bowwowwowyippiyagi?) in Seattle, has written the book on doga. "It's a new field so there can be confusion about what doga is and isn't," she says. Why be confused? I know what doga is. Doga is stupid.
(c) 2009 Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?" an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.)

Pusillanimity Plus Stupidity Equals More Wall Street Greed

Once again, we are faced with the question that has long bedeviled political analysts and barstool pundits everywhere: Is the pusillanimity of Democrats worse than the stupidity of Republicans?

The question arises because of a curious vote last week in the House of Representatives to restrict the bonus money going to those nimble-fingered financial whizzes at Wall Street firms being bailed out by you and me.

It was curious because there had already been a vote to do this in March. Back then, after we commoners learned that Merrill Lynch, AIG and others were merrily tossing million-dollar bonus checks to their top executives (even as they pleaded for Washington to rescue their sorry butts), a genuine populist furor swept across the country, sales of pitchforks spiked and Washington simply had to act.

We will "do everything we can to get those bonuses back," promised President Barack Obama, who coolly explained that he was seething inside. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley went further, barking that AIG's bonus-grabbers should do the honorable thing. Return the money? No, fumed the senator, they should commit hari-kari. So, last month, the House voted overwhelmingly to reclaim the bonus money by putting a near total tax on it.

Then, however, pusillanimity and stupidity settled over Washington like a blinding fog. Let's start with the Democrats.

They had put on a good show, denouncing the Wall Street bankers with righteous rhetoric, then pushing a properly populist reform through the House - but suddenly, they went wussy. It seems that lobbyists for the finance industry, which is a major funder of the party's candidates, had been working behind the scenes, applying soothing cold presses to the fevered brows of Democrats and cooing softly about the need to show restraint.

Also, such White House "Friends of the Street" as chief economic advisor Larry Summers were urging a kinder, gentler approach to executives' compensation. (Coincidentally, Larry was paid $5 million last year to be an advisor to one of the biggest hedge funds on Wall Street and drew another $2.7 million in speaking fees from various financial giants now getting taxpayer dollars.)

Next thing you know, Obama himself changed his scolding tone, urging the public not to vilify bankers.

Then, Senate leaders quietly deep-sixed the House "bonus tax," and House leaders substituted the revised bill that passed last week.

This version had all the populism boiled out of it. Rather than yanking back the underserved bonuses, the bill explicitly authorizes such payments - as long as the treasury secretary does not consider them "unreasonable or excessive." Ahhh, sighed Wall Street with a collective smile, that's more like the Democrats we love.

Enter the Republicans. They were furious at the Democrats! Was it because the Dems weaseled, essentially saying "thbtttttt" to the public's sense of moral outrage? No, no, that would have been smart. Instead, House Republican leaders came up with the one and only political strategy that could make them look worse than the Democrats: They rose on their hind legs and loudly, ardently, stupidly defended the "right" of Wall Streeters to shower any excesses they want on their management elite.

They yowled that the effort to limit pay is outrageous governmental interference in the sacrosanct private sector. "Would our forefathers ever have considered giving the government a say on how much a private citizen earns, a so-called say-on-pay?" yelped Rep. Spencer Baucus of Alabama.

Apparently, no one has told the Repubs that AIG, Citigroup and others are now almost wholly owned by taxpayers, so, like any majority owner, we do indeed get a say. Also, has Spencer forgotten that only four months ago, his party was in full howl against Detroit autoworkers, demanding that government power be used to slash their pay?

The Democrats are appallingly timorous about taking a firm populist stand on the side of a riled-up public - but the Republicans? They put the "dumb" in dumbfounding. As a result, Wall Street hucksters skate by, thumbing their noses at you and me.
(c) 2009 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

You Are Being Lied To About Pirates
By Johann Hari

Who imagined that in 2009, the world's governments would be declaring a new War on Pirates? As you read this, the British Royal Navy - backed by the ships of more than two dozen nations, from the US to China - is sailing into Somalian waters to take on men we still picture as parrot-on-the-shoulder pantomime villains. They will soon be fighting Somalian ships and even chasing the pirates onto land, into one of the most broken countries on earth. But behind the arrr-me-hearties oddness of this tale, there is an untold scandal. The people our governments are labeling as "one of the great menace of our times" have an extraordinary story to tell -- and some justice on their side.

Pirates have never been quite who we think they are. In the "golden age of piracy" - from 1650 to 1730 - the idea of the pirate as the senseless, savage thief that lingers today was created by the British government in a great propaganda-heave. Many ordinary people believed it was false: pirates were often rescued from the gallows by supportive crowds. Why? What did they see that we can't? In his book Villains Of All Nations, the historian Marcus Rediker pores through the evidence to find out. If you became a merchant or navy sailor then - plucked from the docks of London's East End, young and hungry - you ended up in a floating wooden Hell. You worked all hours on a cramped, half-starved ship, and if you slacked off for a second, the all-powerful captain would whip you with the Cat O' Nine Tails. If you slacked consistently, you could be thrown overboard. And at the end of months or years of this, you were often cheated of your wages.

Pirates were the first people to rebel against this world. They mutinied against their tyrannical captains - and created a different way of working on the seas. Once they had a ship, the pirates elected their captains, and made all their decisions collectively. They shared their bounty out in what Rediker calls "one of the most egalitarian plans for the disposition of resources to be found anywhere in the eighteenth century." They even took in escaped African slaves and lived with them as equals. The pirates showed "quite clearly - and subversively - that ships did not have to be run in the brutal and oppressive ways of the merchant service and the Royal navy." This is why they were popular, despite being unproductive thieves.

The words of one pirate from that lost age - a young British man called William Scott - should echo into this new age of piracy. Just before he was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, he said: "What I did was to keep me from perishing. I was forced to go a-pirating to live." In 1991, the government of Somalia - in the Horn of Africa - collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since - and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish-stocks by over-exploitation - and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea-life is being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into Somalia's unprotected seas. The local fishermen have suddenly lost their livelihoods, and they are starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."

This is the context in which the men we are calling "pirates" have emerged. Everyone agrees they were ordinary Somalian fishermen who at first took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least wage a 'tax' on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia - and it's not hard to see why. In a surreal telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali, said their motive was "to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters... We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas." William Scott would understand those words.

No, this doesn't make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters - especially those who have held up World Food Programme supplies. But the "pirates" have the overwhelming support of the local population for a reason. The independent Somalian news-site WardherNews conducted the best research we have into what ordinary Somalis are thinking - and it found 70 percent "strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence of the country's territorial waters." During the revolutionary war in America, George Washington and America's founding fathers paid pirates to protect America's territorial waters, because they had no navy or coastguard of their own. Most Americans supported them. Is this so different?

Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our nuclear waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We didn't act on those crimes - but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 percent of the world's oil supply, we begin to shriek about "evil." If we really want to deal with piracy, we need to stop its root cause - our crimes - before we send in the gun-boats to root out Somalia's criminals.

The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarised by another pirate, who lived and died in the fourth century BC. He was captured and brought to Alexander the Great, who demanded to know "what he meant by keeping possession of the sea." The pirate smiled, and responded: "What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor." Once again, our great imperial fleets sail in today - but who is the robber?

POSTSCRIPT: Some commenters seem bemused by the fact that both toxic dumping and the theft of fish are happening in the same place - wouldn't this make the fish contaminated? In fact, Somalia's coastline is vast, stretching to 3300km. Imagine how easy it would be - without any coastguard or army - to steal fish from Florida and dump nuclear waste on California, and you get the idea. These events are happening in different places - but with the same horrible effect: death for the locals, and stirred-up piracy. There's no contradiction.
(c) 2009 Johann Hari has reported from Iraq, Israel/Palestine, the Congo, the Central African Republic, Venezuela, Peru and the US, and his journalism has appeared in publications all over the world. The youngest person to be nominated for the Orwell Prize for political writing, in 2003 he won the Press Gazette Young Journalist of the Year Award and in 2007 Amnesty International named him Newspaper Journalist of the Year. He is a contributing editor of Attitude magazine and published his first book, God Save the Queen?, in 2003.

Pacifica Radio At 60
A Sanctuary of Dissent
By Amy Goodman

Pacifica Radio, the oldest independent media network in the United States, turns 60 years old this week as a deepening crisis engulfs mainstream media. Journalists are being laid off by the hundreds, even thousands. Venerable newspapers, some more than a century old, are being abruptly shuttered. Digital technology is changing the rules, disrupting whole industries, and blending and upending traditional roles of writer, filmmaker, publisher, consumer. Commercial media are losing audience and advertising. People are exploring new models for media, including nonprofit journalism.

Pacifica Radio was founded by Lew Hill, a pacifist who refused to fight in World War II. When he came out of a detention camp after the war, he said the United States needed a media outlet that wasn't run by corporations profiting from war. Instead, he said, it needed a one run by journalists and artists-not by "corporations with nothing to tell and everything to sell that are raising our children today," in the words of the late George Gerbner, one-time dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. KPFA, the first Pacifica station, began in Berkeley, Calif., on April 15, 1949. FM radio was in its infancy at the time, so KPFA had to make and give out FM radios in order for people to hear the station. Pacifica Radio tried something no one thought would work: building a network based on the voluntary financial support of individual listeners, a model later adopted by National Public Radio and public television.

The Pacifica network grew to five stations: KPFA in Berkeley, KPFK in Los Angeles, WBAI in New York, WPFW in Washington and KPFT in Houston.

In 1970, in its first months of operation, KPFT became the only radio station in the United States whose transmitter was blown up. The Ku Klux Klan did it. The KKK's grand wizard described the bombing as his proudest act. I think it was because he understood how dangerous Pacifica was, as it allowed people to speak for themselves. When you hear someone speaking from his or her own experience-a Palestinian child, an Israeli mother, a grandfather from Afghanistan-it breaks down stereotypes that fuel the hate groups that divide society. The media can build bridges between communities, rather than advocating the bombing of bridges.

Pacifica is a sanctuary for dissent. In the 1950s, when the legendary singer and African-American leader Paul Robeson was "whitelisted" during Sen. Joseph McCarthy's witch hunts, banned from almost every public space in the United States but for a few black churches, he knew he could go to KPFA and be heard. The great writer James Baldwin, debating Malcolm X about the effectiveness of nonviolent sit-ins in the South, broadcast over the airwaves of WBAI. I got my start in broadcast journalism in the newsroom of WBAI. Today, the Pacifica tradition is needed more than ever.

In this high-tech digital age, with high-definition television and digital radio, all we get is more static: that veil of distortions, lies, misrepresentations and half-truths that obscures reality. What we need the media to give us is the dictionary definition of static: criticism, opposition, unwanted interference. We need a media that covers power, not covers for power. We need a media that is the fourth estate, not for the state. We need a media that covers the movements that create static and make history.

With more channels than ever, the lack of any diversity of opinion is breathtaking. Freedom of the press is enshrined in the Constitution, yet our media largely act as a megaphone for those in power. As we confront unprecedented crises-from global warming to global warring to a global economic meltdown-there is also an unprecedented opportunity for change.

Where will innovative thinkers, grass-roots activists, human-rights leaders and ordinary citizens come together to hash out solutions to today's most pressing problems?

For example, while there are many people in this country-in the peace movement as well as in the military-who oppose the "surge" in Afghanistan, as they did in Iraq, we see and hear virtually none of these dissenting voices in the U.S. media. While some polls indicate that a majority of Americans support single-payer health care, these voices are essentially ignored or disparaged in the newspapers and network-news programs.

While traveling the country, I was asked the other day what I thought about the mainstream media. I said I thought it would be a good idea. On this 60th anniversary of the Pacifica Radio Network, we should celebrate the tradition of dissent and the power of diverse voices to resolve conflict peacefully.
2009 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 700 stations in North America. She has been awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the "Alternative Nobel Prize" from the Swedish Parliament.

Tea Parties Forever
By Paul Krugman

This is a column about Republicans - and I'm not sure I should even be writing it.

Today's G.O.P. is, after all, very much a minority party. It retains some limited ability to obstruct the Democrats, but has no ability to make or even significantly shape policy.

Beyond that, Republicans have become embarrassing to watch. And it doesn't feel right to make fun of crazy people. Better, perhaps, to focus on the real policy debates, which are all among Democrats.

But here's the thing: the G.O.P. looked as crazy 10 or 15 years ago as it does now. That didn't stop Republicans from taking control of both Congress and the White House. And they could return to power if the Democrats stumble. So it behooves us to look closely at the state of what is, after all, one of our nation's two great political parties.

One way to get a good sense of the current state of the G.O.P., and also to see how little has really changed, is to look at the "tea parties" that have been held in a number of places already, and will be held across the country on Wednesday. These parties - antitaxation demonstrations that are supposed to evoke the memory of the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution - have been the subject of considerable mockery, and rightly so.

But everything that critics mock about these parties has long been standard practice within the Republican Party.

Thus, President Obama is being called a "socialist" who seeks to destroy capitalism. Why? Because he wants to raise the tax rate on the highest-income Americans back to, um, about 10 percentage points less than it was for most of the Reagan administration. Bizarre.

But the charge of socialism is being thrown around only because "liberal" doesn't seem to carry the punch it used to. And if you go back just a few years, you find top Republican figures making equally bizarre claims about what liberals were up to. Remember when Karl Rove declared that liberals wanted to offer "therapy and understanding" to the 9/11 terrorists?

Then there are the claims made at some recent tea-party events that Mr. Obama wasn't born in America, which follow on earlier claims that he is a secret Muslim. Crazy stuff - but nowhere near as crazy as the claims, during the last Democratic administration, that the Clintons were murderers, claims that were supported by a campaign of innuendo on the part of big-league conservative media outlets and figures, especially Rush Limbaugh.

Speaking of Mr. Limbaugh: the most impressive thing about his role right now is the fealty he is able to demand from the rest of the right. The abject apologies he has extracted from Republican politicians who briefly dared to criticize him have been right out of Stalinist show trials. But while it's new to have a talk-radio host in that role, ferocious party discipline has been the norm since the 1990s, when Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, became known as "The Hammer" in part because of the way he took political retribution on opponents.

Going back to those tea parties, Mr. DeLay, a fierce opponent of the theory of evolution - he famously suggested that the teaching of evolution led to the Columbine school massacre - also foreshadowed the denunciations of evolution that have emerged at some of the parties.

Last but not least: it turns out that the tea parties don't represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They're AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.

But that's nothing new, and AstroTurf has worked well for Republicans in the past. The most notable example was the "spontaneous" riot back in 2000 - actually orchestrated by G.O.P. strategists - that shut down the presidential vote recount in Florida's Miami-Dade County.

So what's the implication of the fact that Republicans are refusing to grow up, the fact that they are still behaving the same way they did when history seemed to be on their side? I'd say that it's good for Democrats, at least in the short run - but it's bad for the country.

For now, the Obama administration gains a substantial advantage from the fact that it has no credible opposition, especially on economic policy, where the Republicans seem particularly clueless.

But as I said, the G.O.P. remains one of America's great parties, and events could still put that party back in power. We can only hope that Republicans have moved on by the time that happens.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Death By The Numbers
Pakistan Counts the Toll of the Bush-Obama Drone War
By Chris Floyd

As we all know, the Terror Warriors in the White House (of whatever political stripe) don't do body counts. They just kill people, make unsupported claims of "clean hits" on "militants," backtrack a bit later when eyewitness reports confirm extensive civilian casualties, promise "investigations" that kick the PR can way down the road -- and carry on killing.

But strangely enough, the people who are being killed by these well-wadded, massively protected elites do count how many of their sons and daughters and mothers and fathers are being slaughtered by American ordnance. Imagine that! It's almost like they are real people or something!

Pakistan is the latest target of the Terror Warriors; the progressive, anti-war, last-best-hope-for-world-peace Barack Obama has made it his special project to lay some heavy hurt on the Pakistanis, escalating the drone bombing campaign initiated by his much-emulated predecessor, George Widowmaker Bush. Indeed, the Obama administration is mulling expanding their expansion of the drone war into Pakistan's troubled -- but oil-rich -- southern province of Baluchistan. One begins to suspect that the progressive humanitarians in the White House have been drawing on the beserker fantasies of General Ralph Peters for strategic guidance on the "Af-Pak" front.

In any case, every week brings new reports of deadly attacks in Pakistan's frontier regions, almost all of them involving the deaths of civilians. Americans generally hear little or nothing about these attacks beyond official snippets about "successful" attacks against the apparently endless, ever-replenishing supply of "top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders." [Or to put it in reality's terms, the United States government and its progressive, humanitarian leaders regularly order, admit and applaud the "extrajudicial killing" -- i.e., murder -- of uncharged, untried individuals living within the borders of an allied country. As it saith in the Scriptures: These be your gods, O progressives!] But while Americans turn a deaf ear, in Pakistan the blood cries out, and is measured, as far as possible, by a government that is further shaken by each American attack and the violent extremism it engenders.

This week, Pakistani officials released stunning figures of the civilian death count in the American drone war: almost 700 innocent men, women and children killed so far -- as opposed to 14 actual, wanted extremist leaders. As the Pakistani paper The News reports:

Of the 60 cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians. The success percentage of the US predator strikes thus comes to not more than six per cent....

According to the figures compiled by the Pakistani authorities, a total of 537 people have been killed in 50 incidents of cross-border US predator strikes since January 1, 2008 to April 8, 2009, averaging 34 killings per month and 11 killings per attack. The average per month killings in predator strikes during 12 months of 2008 stood at 32 while the average per attack killings in the 36 drone strikes for the same year stood at 11.

Similarly, 152 people have been killed in 14 incidents of cross-border predator attacks in the tribal areas in the first 99 days of 2009, averaging 38 killings per month and 11 killings per attack.

Now there's change you can believe in (to coin a phrase)! In just a few months in office, Obama has managed to raise the average kill rate achieved by Bush from 32 to 38 per month. And who can doubt that this young, capable, charismatic president will not increase that civilian slaughter rate even further as he ratchets up the drone war in the months -- and years and years -- to come?
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

Canonizing The Lie
By Case Wagenvoord

Lying is a sin; therefore, the only Christian way to deal with the lie is to declare it true. Lies are too important to consign our corporate plutocrats to Hell for mouthing them. If, however, every lie they utter is true, then their place in Paradise is assured.

The lie has increased in importance as America has transitioned from manufacturing capitalism to finance capitalism. As writer Julian Delasantellis explains it:

[I]f it's harder to lie with actual product, it's probably easier to lie with paper...[C]orporate finance has become devilishly complex, with entries for arcane and esoteric corporate practices whose place on the balance sheet sometimes belongs in between, or shift, from the cost to the revenue side of the ledger.

In other words, since it's all smoke and mirrors, anyway, who can tell the difference between a lie and a truth.

Now that we understand that, we understand the cause of our current economic collapse. It's all the fault of a simple accounting rule, FAS 157, which insists that financial institutions tell the truth about their assets by valuing them at what they would actually fetch in a free and open marketplace.

The rule simply reeks of free enterprise, which is anathema to finance capitalism. As Delasantellis explains it, the problem is that:

[T]he value of everything is not determined, or at least should not be determined, by what the owner thinks they are worth, but by what competitive bidders in an informed free market are willing to put up in cold hard cash. Anything else is just some manner of fantasy.

This is bad news for an industry based on fantasy.

Well, our Masters of the Universe couldn't allow this sorry state of affairs to continue. Especially since our zombie banks had become warehouses for toxic toilet paper nobody wanted. Since they were forced to value this paper to what it would fetch in the market (damn little) they appeared to be insolvent, and you can't run a Ponzi scheme with insolvent banks.

So, our oligarchs prevailed on the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to tweak FAS 157, and in doing so, they canonized the lie and raised it to sainthood. Instead of marking to market, our financial institutions will now be allowed to mark their toilet paper to "model." Delasantellis explains it:

Market to model implies the replacement of mark-to-market prices with valuations derived from proprietary mathematical models used by the company.

The key word, here, is "proprietary." This means that not only will these mathematical models be the creations of the company using them, but being proprietary, they will not be subject to peer review.

There you are! With a stroke of the pen, our financial crisis is over, and the lie that once hugged the back alleys of Wall Street has been cleaned up and now sits upon our financial kingdom's paper throne.

This is why America is an economic powerhouse!

--Belacqua Jones
(c) 2009 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

The Limits To Conventional College Education
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning all you bright eyed thinkers out there; your King of Simple News is on the air.

The subject of education certainly stirred up some debate yesterday, as it should have.

The great point is that we have reached the juncture of imbalance in our work force. Our governments attempt to create a college level job base for all by sending our non-college jobs to foreign nations has backfired on them.

Would it be nice if everyone in America could graduate from college? No. Would it be nice if everyone graduating from high school could read and write well, while having a sound comprehension of basic math? Yes.

I'll argue that studies in minutia must come well after the building blocks of all education and life achievements, those of readin' writin' and 'rithmetic. As in any structure, the foundation must come first and it hasn't.

Let's take a little trip this morning and determine how well America would function if everyone were to attend conventional college and receive the promised reward of $100K per year and no heavy lifting.

As we rise from our bed that was made in a factory and throw back the covers that were made in a factory, and step out on to the carpet that was made in a factory, and eat our breakfast that was prepared on factory built appliances and grown by farmers; we make ready for our day at the office.

We leave our home that was built by tradesmen from materials that were produced by industry in our car that was made in a factory and hit the road that is made from oil that was produced by oil field workers and laid by excavators and road builders and decide to pull into the C-store that was also built by tradesmen and serve ourselves coffee that was grown and transported by labor and truck drivers.

We finally arrive at our office and sit down on the furniture that was made in a factory and turn on the computer that was made in a factory which reminds us that we are late for a meeting to discuss the poor quality of the workforce who deserve their plight in life for not attending graduate school and learning the fine art of attending meetings to discuss the poor performance of the workforce. After which we plan the next corporate retreat to Telluride.

Until such time that we evolve into a society where every person can attend the retreats to Telluride where they will be wined and dined by the unfortunate souls who lack an MBA, someone has to do the actual work that keeps America running.

The promise of education solving our current crisis is absolutely valid. However, that education could be cultured by 8th grade. "Exponential growth in a finite world is mathematically impossible." Having that single piece of knowledge and the foundational comprehension of why it is not possible, would change our world.

Yet, I have interviewed graduate after graduate and they have absolutely no grasp of that basic tenet. Nor apparently does the President and Congress of the United States.

It can certainly be effectively argued that we live better today than in the 1800s. What cannot be effectively argued is the false premise that is the foundational guidance taught in every business school in America; that we can continue to borrow against the future in perpetuity without dire consequences befalling future generations.

Those future generations include those who are currently attending college and who find themselves entering a jobless society that in effect, was created by the wrong thinking of those who instructed them.

One future event that I will guarantee, is that the greatest visible revolt that will occur in the coming years will be that of college students. Ya see, education can backfire; these people will be just smart enough to realize that they have been had by the best government that money can buy.

America long ago passed the point of too many chiefs and not enough Indians. The Indians are getting restless.
(c) 2009 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"All people are born alike - except Republicans and Democrats."
~~~ Groucho Marx

Israel's Racist In Chief
By Chris Hedges

It was unthinkable, when I was based as a correspondent in Jerusalem two decades ago, that an Israeli politician who openly advocated ethnically cleansing the Palestinians from Israeli-controlled territory, as well as forcing Arabs in Israel to take loyalty oaths or be forcibly relocated to the West Bank, could sit on the Cabinet. The racist tirades of Jewish proto-fascists like Meir Kahane stood outside the law, were vigorously condemned by most Israelis and were prosecuted accordingly. Kahane's repugnant Kach Party, labeled by the United States, Canada and the European Union as a terrorist organization, was outlawed by the Israeli government in 1988 for inciting racism.

Israel has changed. And the racist virus spread by Kahane, whose thugs were charged with the murders and beatings of dozens of unarmed Palestinians and whose members held rallies in Jerusalem where they chanted "Death to Arabs!" has returned to Israel in the figure of Israel's powerful new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman openly calls for an araberrein Israel-an Israel free of Arabs.

There has been a steady decline from the days of the socialist Labor Party, which founded Israel in 1948 and held within its ranks many leaders, such as Yitzhak Rabin, who were serious about peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians. The moral squalor of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Lieberman reflects the country's degeneration. Labor, like Israel, is a shell of its old self. Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu Party, with 15 seats in the Knesset, is likely to bring down the Netanyahu government the moment his power base is robust enough to move him into the prime minister's office. He is the new face of the Jewish state.

Lieberman, a former nightclub bouncer who was a member of the Kach Party, has the personal and political habits of the Islamic goons he opposes. He was found guilty in 2001 of beating a 12-year-old boy and fined by an Israeli court. He is being investigated for multimillion-dollar fraud and money laundering and is rumored to have close ties with the Russian mafia. He lives, in defiance of international law, in the Jewish settlement of Nokdim on occupied Palestinian land.

Lieberman, as did his mentor Kahane, calls for the eradication of Palestinians from Israel and the territories it occupies. During the massive Israeli bombardment of Gaza in December and January he said that Israel should fight Hamas the way the United States fought the Japanese in World War II. He noted that occupation of Japan was unnecessary to achieve victory, alluding to the dropping of atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. When he assumed his position as foreign minister he announced that the 2007 Annapolis peace agreement was dead. He said in 2004 that 90 percent of Israel's Palestinian citizens "have no place here. They can take their bundles and get lost." This statement was especially galling since Lieberman, unlike the Palestinian majority who can trace their ancestry in the region back generations, immigrated to Israel in 1978 from Moldova and retains a heavy Russian accent.

Lieberman, from the floor of the Knesset, openly fantasized three years ago about executing the handful of Palestinian Knesset members.

"We requested that in the government guidelines it would say explicitly that all the inciters and collaborators with terrorism that sit in this house should bear the brunt of the penalty for those actions," Lieberman said from the Knesset plenum in May of 2006. "All those who continue to meet freely with Hamas and Hezbollah-who go on monthly visits to Lebanon. Those who declared Israel's Independence Day to be Nakba [Arabic for catastrophe] Day and raised black flags. ...

"World War Two ended with the Nuremberg trials. The heads of the Nazi Party went to be executed-but not just them, also those who collaborated with them. Just like [prime minister of Vichy France during WWII Pierre] Laval was later executed, I hope that this is the fate of the collaborators in this house."

He has suggested bombing Egypt's Aswan Dam, an act that would lead to a massive loss of Egyptian lives. As Ariel Sharon's minister of transportation he offered to bus several hundred Palestinian prisoners to the sea and drown them. He recently told the president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, one of Israel's few Arab allies, to "go to hell." And, along with Netanyahu, he advocates massive airstrikes on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Hamas, the Iranian government and the Taliban have been condemned by Washington for advocating policies that mirror those expressed by Lieberman toward Palestinians. Ahmed Tibi, an Arab deputy in the Knesset, has called on the international community to boycott Israel as it did Austria when far-right leader Jorg Haider joined that country's government. This seems a fair request. But I expect the hypocrisy and double standards that characterize our relations with the Middle East, along with our obsequious catering to the Israel lobby, to prevail. Racism, as long as it is directed toward Arabs, does little to perturb our conscience or hinder our support of Israel.

The Israeli leadership, following the assassination of Rabin by a Jewish extremist with ties to Kach, never again sought a viable settlement with the Palestinians. Successive Israeli prime ministers talked the language of peace and negotiations largely to placate the international community and Washington while they vigorously expanded Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, seized huge tracts of the West Bank, including most of the aquifers, and imposed a brutal collective punishment on the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. Palestinians have become, by Israeli design, impoverished, reduced to a level of bare subsistence and dependent on the United Nations for food assistance. They live ringed by Israeli troops in a series of pod-like ghettos in the West Bank and in Gaza, which is a massive, fetid open-air prison. And when these little Bantustans become restive, Israel swiftly turns off the delivery of basic food and supplies or uses F-16 fighter jets or heavy artillery to bomb the squalid concrete hovels.

The public embrace by a senior Israeli official of a policy of ethnic cleansing, however, is ominous. It signals a further evolution of the Israeli state from one that at least paid lip service to equality to one that increasingly resembles the former apartheid regime in South Africa. Racism, once practiced in private and condemned in public, has become to many Israelis acceptable.
(c) 2009 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.

America Is Not A Christian Nation
Religious conservatives argue the Founding Fathers intended the United States to be a Judeo-Christian country. But President Obama is right when he says it isn't.
By Michael Lind

Is America a Christian nation, as many conservatives claim it is? One American doesn't think so. In his press conference on April 6 in Turkey, President Obama explained: "One of the great strengths of the United States is ... we have a very large Christian population -- we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."

Predictably, Obama's remarks have enraged conservative talking heads. But Obama's observations have ample precedent in American diplomacy and constitutional thought. The most striking is the Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1797. Article 11 states: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility [sic], of Mussulmen [Muslims]; and, as the said States never have entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

Conservatives who claim that the U.S. is a "Christian nation" sometimes dismiss the Treaty of Tripoli because it was authored by the U.S. diplomat Joel Barlow, an Enlightenment freethinker. Well, then, how about the tenth president, John Tyler, in an 1843 letter: "The United States have adventured upon a great and noble experiment, which is believed to have been hazarded in the absence of all previous precedent -- that of total separation of Church and State. No religious establishment by law exists among us. The conscience is left free from all restraint and each is permitted to worship his Maker after his own judgment. The offices of the Government are open alike to all. No tithes are levied to support an established Hierarchy, nor is the fallible judgment of man set up as the sure and infallible creed of faith. The Mohammedan, if he will to come among us would have the privilege guaranteed to him by the constitution to worship according to the Koran; and the East Indian might erect a shrine to Brahma, if it so pleased him. Such is the spirit of toleration inculcated by our political Institutions."

Was Tyler too minor a president to be considered an authority on whether the U.S. is a Christian republic or not? Here's George Washington in a letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island in 1790: "The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy -- a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support ... May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants -- while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid."

Eloquent as he is, Barack Obama could not have put it better.

Contrast this with John McCain's interview with Beliefnet during the 2008 presidential campaign: "But I think the number one issue people should make [in the] selection of the President of the United States is, 'Will this person carry on in the Judeo Christian principled tradition that has made this nation the greatest experiment in the history of mankind?'" Asked whether this would rule out a Muslim candidate for the presidency, McCain answered, "But, no, I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles ... personally, I prefer someone who I know has a solid grounding in my faith. But that doesn't mean that I'm sure that someone who is a Muslim would not make a good president. I don't say that we would rule out under any circumstances someone of a different faith. I just would -- I just feel that that's an important part of our qualifications to lead."

Conservatives who, like McCain, assert that the U.S. is in some sense a Christian or Judeo-Christian nation tend to make one of four arguments. The first is anthropological: The majority of Americans describe themselves as Christians, even though the number of voters who describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated has grown from 5.3 percent in 1988 to 12 percent in 2008. But the ratio of Christians to non-Christians in American society as a whole is irrelevant to the question of whether American government is Christian.

The second argument is that the constitution itself is somehow Christian in character. On that point, candidate McCain said: "I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation." Is McCain right? Is the U.S. a Christian republic in the sense that according to their constitutions Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan are all now officially Islamic republics? What does the Constitution say? Article VI states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust in the United States." Then there is the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..." True, over the years since the founding, Christian nationalists have won a few victories -- inserting "In God We Trust" on our money during the Civil War in 1863, adding "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance during the Cold War in 1954. And there are legislative and military chaplains and ceremonial days of thanksgiving. But these are pretty feeble foundations on which to claim that the U.S. is a Christian republic. ("Judeo-Christian" is a weaselly term used by Christian nationalists to avoid offending Jews; it should be translated as "Christian.")

The third argument holds that while the U.S. government itself may not be formally Christian, the Lockean natural rights theory on which American republicanism rests is supported, in its turn, by Christian theology. Jefferson summarized Lockean natural rights liberalism in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights ... that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ..." Many conservatives assert that to be a good Lockean natural nights liberal, one must believe that the Creator who is endowing these rights is the personal God of the Abrahamic religions.

This conflation of Christianity and natural rights liberalism helps to explain one of John McCain's more muddled answers in his Beliefnet interview: "[The] United States of America was founded on the values of Judeo-Christian values [sic], which were translated by our founding fathers which is basically the rights of human dignity and human rights." The same idea lies behind then-Attorney General John Ashcroft's statement to religious broadcasters: "Civilized individuals, Christians, Jews and Muslims" -- sorry, Hindus and Buddhists! -- "all understand that the source of freedom and human dignity is the Creator."

In reality, neither Jewish nor Christian traditions know anything of the ideas of natural rights and social contract found in Hobbes, Gassendi and Locke. That's because those ideas were inspired by themes found in non-Christian Greek and Roman philosophy. Ideas of the social contract were anticipated in the fourth and fifth centuries BC by the sophists Glaucon and Lycophron, according to Plato and Aristotle, and by Epicurus, who banished divine activity from a universe explained by natural forces and taught that justice is an agreement among people neither to harm nor be harmed. The idea that all human beings are equal by nature also comes from the Greek sophists and was planted by the Roman jurist Ulpian in Roman law: "quod ad ius naturale attinet, omnes homines aequales sunt" -- according to the law of nature, all human beings are equal.

Desperate to obscure the actual intellectual roots of the Declaration of Independence in Greek philosophy and Roman law, Christian apologists have sought to identify the "Creator" who endows everyone with unalienable rights with the revealed, personal God of Moses and Jesus. But a few sentences earlier, the Declaration refers to "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God." Adherents of natural rights liberalism often have dropped "Nature's God" and relied solely on "Nature" as the source of natural rights.

In any event, in order to be a good American citizen one need not subscribe to Lockean liberalism. Jefferson, a Lockean liberal himself, did not impose any philosophical or religious test on good citizenship. In his "Notes on the State of Virginia," he wrote: "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

The fourth and final argument made in favor of a "Christian America" by religious conservatives is the best-grounded in history but also the weakest. They point out that American leaders from the founders to the present have seen a role for otherwise privatized and personal religion in turning out moral, law-abiding citizens. As George Washington wrote in his 1796 Farewell Address:

"Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them."

In Washington's day, it may have been reasonable for the elite to worry that only fear of hellfire kept the masses from running amok, but in the 21st century it is clear that democracy as a form of government does not require citizens who believe in supernatural religion. Most of the world's stable democracies are in Europe, where the population is largely post-Christian and secular, and in East Asian countries like Japan where the "Judeo-Christian tradition" has never been part of the majority culture.

The idea that religion is important because it educates democratic citizens in morality is actually quite demeaning to religion. It imposes a political test on religion, as it were -- religions are not true or false, but merely useful or dangerous, when it comes to encouraging the civic virtues that are desirable in citizens of a constitutional, democratic republic. Washington's instrumental view of religion as a kind of prop was agreeable to another two-term American president more than a century and a half later. "[O]ur form of government has no sense unless it is founded on a deeply felt religious faith," said Dwight Eisenhower, "and I don't care what it is." And it's indistinguishable from Edward Gibbon's description of Roman religion in his famous multi-volume "Decline and Fall": "The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious concord."

President Obama, then, is right. The American republic, as distinct from the American population, is not post-Christian because it was never Christian. In the president's words: "We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values." And for that we should thank the gods. All 20 of them.
(c) 2009 Michael Lind

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Fuhrer Obama,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, your constant promises of change, Iraq, Afghanistan and these many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Demoncratic Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Vice Fuhrer, Herr Biden at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 05-23-2009. We salute you Herr Obama, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Obama And Habeas Corpus -- Then And Now
By Glenn Greenwald

It was once the case under the Bush administration that the U.S. would abduct people from around the world, accuse them of being Terrorists, ship them to Guantanamo, and then keep them there for as long as we wanted without offering them any real due process to contest the accusations against them. That due-process-denying framework was legalized by the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Many Democrats -- including Barack Obama -- claimed they were vehemently opposed to this denial of due process for detainees, and on June 12, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Boumediene v. Bush, ruled that the denial of habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo detainees was unconstitutional and that all Guantanamo detainees have the right to a full hearing in which they can contest the accusations against them.

In the wake of the Boumediene ruling, the U.S. Government wanted to preserve the power to abduct people from around the world and bring them to American prisons without having to provide them any due process. So, instead of bringing them to our Guantanamo prison camp (where, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, they were entitled to habeas hearings), the Bush administration would instead simply send them to our prison camp in Bagram, Afghanistan, and then argue that because they were flown to Bagram rather than Guantanamo, they had no rights of any kind and Boudemiene didn't apply to them. The Bush DOJ treated the Boumediene ruling, grounded in our most basic constitutional guarantees, as though it was some sort of a silly game -- fly your abducted prisoners to Guantanamo and they have constitutional rights, but fly them instead to Bagram and you can disappear them forever with no judicial process. Put another way, you just close Guantanamo, move it to Afghanistan, and -- presto -- all constitutional obligations disappear.

Back in February, the Obama administration shocked many civil libertarians by filing a brief in federal court that, in two sentences, declared that it embraced the most extremist Bush theory on this issue -- the Obama DOJ argued, as The New York Times's Charlie Savage put it, "that military detainees in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their imprisonment there, embracing a key argument of former President Bush's legal team." Remember: these are not prisoners captured in Afghanistan on a battlefield. Many of them have nothing to do with Afghanistan and were captured far, far away from that country -- abducted from their homes and workplaces -- and then flown to Bagram to be imprisoned. Indeed, the Bagram detainees in the particular case in which the Obama DOJ filed its brief were Yemenis and Tunisians captured outside of Afghanistan (in Thailand or the UAE, for instance) and then flown to Bagram and locked away there as much as six years without any charges. That is what the Obama DOJ defended, and they argued that those individuals can be imprisoned indefinitely with no rights of any kind -- as long as they are kept in Bagram rather than Guantanamo.

Last month, a federal judge emphatically rejected the Bush/Obama position and held that the rationale of Boudemiene applies every bit as much to Bagram as it does to Guantanamo. Notably, the district judge who so ruled -- John Bates -- is an appointee of George W. Bush, a former Whitewater prosecutor, and a very pro-executive-power judge. In his decision (.pdf), Judge Bates made clear how identical are the constitutional rights of detainees flown to Guantanamo and Bagram and underscored how dangerous is the Bush/Obama claim that the President has the right to abduct people from around the world and imprison them at Bagram with no due process of any kind.

As Judge Bates noted, the prisoners shipped to Bagram actually have even fewer rights than the Guantanamo detainees did prior to Boudemiene, because at least the latter were given a sham Pentagon review (the CSRT tribunal), whereas the U.S. Government -- under both Bush and Obama -- maintain that Bagram prisoners have no rights of any kind.

In the wake of Judge Bates' ruling that foreign detainees shipped to Bagram at least have the right to a hearing to determine their guilt, what is the Obama DOJ doing? This:

The Obama administration said Friday that it would appeal a district court ruling that granted some military prisoners in Afghanistan the right to file lawsuits seeking their release. The decision signaled that the administration was not backing down in its effort to maintain the power to imprison terrorism suspects for extended periods without judicial oversight. . . .

Tina Foster, the executive director of the International Justice Network, which is representing the detainees, condemned the decision in a statement.

"Though he has made many promises regarding the need for our country to rejoin the world community of nations, by filing this appeal, President Obama has taken on the defense of one of the Bush administration's unlawful policies founded on nothing more than the idea that might makes right," she said.

In late February, I interviewed the ACLU's Jonathan Hafetz, counsel to several of the Bagram detainees, who said:

What happened was, these people were picked up in this global war on terror, were brought to Guantanamo in 2004, and once Guantanamo became subject to habeas corpus review, the administration basically, the Bush administration stopped bringing people there, and started bringing them to Bagram, and Bagram's population has shot up, and it's become in some sense the new Guantanamo. . . . And so what you have is you have a situation where the Bush administration, was free to, and the Obama administration will continue to be free to, create a prison outside the law.

The Obama DOJ is now squarely to the Right of an extremely conservative, pro-executive-power, Bush 43-appointed judge on issues of executive power and due-process-less detentions. Leave aside for the moment the issue of whether you believe that the U.S. Government should have the right to abduct people anywhere in the world, ship them to faraway prisons and hold them there indefinitely without charges or any rights at all. The Bush DOJ -- and now the Obama DOJ -- maintain the President does and should have that right, and that's an issue that has been extensively debated. It was, after all, one of the centerpieces of the Bush regime of radicalism, lawlessness and extremism.

Consider, instead, what Barack Obama -- before he became President -- repeatedly claimed to believe about these issues. The Supreme Court's Boudemiene ruling was issued at the height of the presidential campaign, and while John McCain condemned it as "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country," here is what Obama said about it in a statement he issued on the day of the ruling:

Today's Supreme Court decision ensures that we can protect our nation and bring terrorists to justice, while also protecting our core values. The Court's decision is a rejection of the Bush Administration's attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo - yet another failed policy supported by John McCain. This is an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus. Our courts have employed habeas corpus with rigor and fairness for more than two centuries, and we must continue to do so as we defend the freedom that violent extremists seek to destroy.

My, what a ringing and inspiring defense of habeas corpus that was from candidate Barack Obama. So moving and eloquent and passionate. And that George W. Bush sure was an awful tyrant for trying to "create a legal black hole at Guantanamo" -- apparently, all Good People devoted to a restoration of the rule of law and the Constitution know that the place where the U.S. should "create a legal black hole" for abducted detainees is Bagram, not Guantanamo. What a fundamental difference that is. Even worse, here is what Obama said on the floor of the Senate in September, 2006, when he argued in favor of an amendment to the Military Commissions Act that would have restored habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo detainees. I defy anyone to read this and reconcile what he said then to what he is doing now:

The bottom line is this: Current procedures under the CSRT are such that a perfectly innocent individual could be held and could not rebut the Government's case and has no way of proving his innocence.

I would like somebody in this Chamber, somebody in this Government, to tell me why this is necessary. I do not want to hear that this is a new world and we face a new kind of enemy. I know that. . . . But as a parent, I can also imagine the terror I would feel if one of my family members were rounded up in the middle of the night and sent to Guantanamo without even getting one chance to ask why they were being held and being able to prove their innocence.

This is not just an entirely fictional scenario, by the way. We have already had reports by the CIA and various generals over the last few years saying that many of the detainees at Guantanamo should not have been there. As one U.S. commander of Guantanamo told the Wall Street Journal:

"Sometimes, we just didn't get the right folks."

We all know about the recent case of the Canadian man who was suspected of terrorist connections, detained in New York, sent to Syria--through a rendition agreement--tortured, only to find out later it was all a case of mistaken identity and poor information. . . .

This is an extraordinarily difficult war we are prosecuting against terrorists. There are going to be situations in which we cast too wide a net and capture the wrong person. . . .

But what is avoidable is refusing to ever allow our legal system to correct these mistakes. By giving suspects a chance--even one chance--to challenge the terms of their detention in court, to have a judge confirm that the Government has detained the right person for the right suspicions, we could solve this problem without harming our efforts in the war on terror one bit. . . .

Most of us have been willing to make some sacrifices because we know that, in the end, it helps to make us safer. But restricting somebody's right to challenge their imprisonment indefinitely is not going to make us safer. In fact, recent evidence shows it is probably making us less safe.

In Sunday's New York Times, it was reported that previous drafts of the recently released National Intelligence Estimate, a report of 16 different Government intelligence agencies, describe "actions by the United States Government that were determined to have stoked the jihad movement, like the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay."

This is not just unhelpful in our fight against terror, it is unnecessary. We don't need to imprison innocent people to win this war. For people who are guilty, we have the procedures in place to lock them up. That is who we are as a people. We do things right, and we do things fair.

Two days ago, every Member of this body received a letter, signed by 35 U.S. diplomats, many of whom served under Republican Presidents. They urged us to reconsider eliminating the rights of habeas corpus from this bill, saying:

"To deny habeas corpus to our detainees can be seen as a prescription for how the captured members of our own military, diplomatic, and NGO personnel stationed abroad may be treated. ..... The Congress has every duty to insure their protection, and to avoid anything which will be taken as a justification, even by the most disturbed minds, that arbitrary arrest is the acceptable norm of the day in the relations between nations, and that judicial inquiry is an antique, trivial and dispensable luxury."

The world is watching what we do today in America. They will know what we do here today, and they will treat all of us accordingly in the future--our soldiers, our diplomats, our journalists, anybody who travels beyond these borders. I hope we remember this as we go forward. I sincerely hope we can protect what has been called the "great writ" -- a writ that has been in place in the Anglo-American legal system for over 700 years.

Mr. President, this should not be a difficult vote. I hope we pass this amendment because I think it is the only way to make sure this underlying bill preserves all the great traditions of our legal system and our way of life.

I yield the floor.

So that Barack Obama -- the one trying to convince Democrats to make him their nominee and then their President -- said that abducting people and imprisoning them without charges was (a) un-American; (b) tyrannical; (c) unnecessary to fight Terrorism; (d) a potent means for stoking anti-Americanism and fueling Terrorism; (e) a means of endangering captured American troops, Americans traveling abroad and Americans generally; and (f) a violent betrayal of core, centuries-old Western principles of justice. But today's Barack Obama, safely ensconced in the White House, fights tooth and nail to preserve his power to do exactly that.

I'm not searching for ways to criticize Obama. I wish I could be writing paeans celebrating the restoration of the Constitution and the rule of law. But these actions -- these contradictions between what he said and what he is doing, the embrace of the very powers that caused so much anger towards Bush/Cheney -- are so blatant, so transparent, so extreme, that the only way to avoid noticing them is to purposely shut your eyes as tightly as possible and resolve that you don't want to see it, or that you're so convinced of his intrinsic Goodness that you'll just believe that even when it seems like he's doing bad things, he must really be doing them for the Good. If there was any unanimous progressive consensus over the last eight years, it was that the President does not have the power to kidnap people, ship them far away, and then imprison them indefinitely in a cage without due process. Has that progressive consensus changed as of January 20, 2009? I think we're going to find out.

* * * * *

On a related note, the Columbia Journalism Review has a very interesting article tracing the origins of the "Obama/state secrets" controversy of the last week, documenting how it became a scandal, and examining which media outlets have covered it and -- more importantly -- have been ignoring it.

UPDATE: One of the things I always found so striking about debates over Bush/Cheney executive power abuses was that Bush followers who admittedly had no substantive arguments to justify those actions would nonetheless still find reasons to defend their admired leader: Bush knows more than we do and probably has secret reasons for doing it. Bush is a good person and well-motivated and there's no reason to think he's doing bad or abusive things. Rights for Terrorists pale in comparsion to other more important issues. Republican critics of Bush are hysterics and paranoids who are only criticizing him because they want to get on TV and sell books.

As of January 20, 2009, one no longer finds those claims at National Review, Weekly Standard, right-wing blogs and the like, but instead, finds them commonly expressed in Obama-defending venues and some liberal blogs. Scan the comment section to John Cole's post criticizing Obama's Bagram position to see how frequently this mindset is now expressed to justify whatever Obama does -- these are just a representative sample of actual quotes:

* it seems much more plausible to me that Greenwald simply doesn't have access to the same facts the current DOJ does;
* None of us have seen the actual case files and can make informed judgments about whether revealing the relevant information in particular cases would actually pose a threat to national security. That applies equally to Greenwald, and he must know that; it makes his rant silly and intellectually dishonest;
* But Obama picks his battles. You can be upset that he hasn't chosen to make this one of them (I am too), but I'm not sure that it's necessarily on the same plane as the economy, health care, energy independence, etc.;
* look at Obama and tell us if you see a man who is interested in some kind of imperial all-powerful, unchecked presidency. what in his background, his demeanor or his other actions make you think he's that kind of guy ? what does your gut tell you about him? he's a power-hungry authoritarian who is seeking to grab as much power as he can ? bullshit.
* I guess Glenzilla will end up on the cover of Newsweek and have an appearance on Morning Joe soon since he has now said effectively that President Obama is worse than Bush but he is just about to over play his normally spot on hand with his rhetoric;
* Let's also keep in mind here that one of Greenwald's jobs is to get people to read his blog. It's not like he's doing this for Salon pro-bono.

It goes on and on like that (with a fair number of comments who disagree). My response to all of it is here. And Cole commenter Mary adds some important thoughts here.

Most amazing is that the specific comment which John cut and pasted into his post (without approving of it) actually claims that a reading of the Obama DOJ's brief somehow doesn't constitute support for Bush's position even though (a) the Obama DOJ filed a 2-sentence brief in February saying they support the Bush/Cheney position in full; (b) the principal point of the new Brief is to argue that the District Judge was wrong to reject the Bush/Cheney position that Bagram detainees have no rights of any kind; and (c) the Brief repeatedly asserts pure, defining Addington/Yoo propositions about the unchallengeable power of the President to make decisions about detainees.

To recap: Obama files a brief saying he agrees in full with the Bush/Cheney position. He's arguing that the President has the power to abduct, transport and imprison people in Bagram indefinitely with no charges of any kind. He's telling courts that they have no authority to "second-guess" his decisions when it comes to war powers. But this is all totally different than what Bush did, and anyone who says otherwise is a reckless, ill-motivated hysteric who just wants to sell books and get on TV.
(c) 2009 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

McDonald's Aims For A Low-Pesticide Potato For Its French Fries
By Dan Shapley

"You want fries with that?" It's safe to say that most of the 47 million customers that McDonald's serves every day answer "Yes."

But those customers, it's safe to say, did not know they were ordering up pesticides with that, too.

McDonald's, the largest fast-food chain the world and the largest buyer of potatoes in the United States, is under pressure from shareholders to do something about pesticide use on the potatoes it buys. To avoid a shareholder resolution on the subject, McDonald's has agreed to "survey its U.S. suppliers to compile a list of best practices in pesticide reduction and recommend those best practices to its global suppliers," according to Reuters.

Potatoes have been on or near the list of the Environmental Working Group's dirty dozen foods with the most pesticide residue for years. That means, according to a government analysis, that after a typical person buys a typical potato and prepares it in a typical way, it's among the fruits and vegetables most likely to be laced with pesticides. (The government regulates pesticide residue, so any chemical left on food is deemed to pose no health risk; that said, pesticides are designed to kill something -- a bug, worm, fungus, or weed -- and most people don't like the idea of taking each meal with a little drop of poison.)

The spud is the No. 1 most popular veggie in the U.S. The average American eats 130 pounds of potatoes every year -- that's 44% more than the next veggie on the list, the tomato (also sometimes included on the annual Dirty Dozen list).

The bigger concern with pesticide use, typically, is the health of farm workers, farm soils, and the wildlife and people living on or near farms. Potatoes are the largest vegetable crop in the U.S., accounting for 15% of farm sales receipts, according to the Department of Agriculture. The U.S. is the world's fourth-largest producer of potatoes, producing 20 million tons on farmland roughly equivalent to the size of Rhode Island. About 50% of the U.S. potato crop goes to French fries, potato chips, and other potato products.

A variety of pests plague potato crops -- including nematodes, insect, weeds, and diseases -- and conventional farmers turn to pesticides to solve these problems. "Potatoes ... use more pounds of pesticides per acre than most crops," according to Beyond Pesticides:

"Farmers often spray on a weekly basis or even more frequently to try to prevent blight. They also spray herbicides to kill the tops of the plants at the end of the growing season to make the underground tubers easier to harvest. Over 40 toxic pesticides are used on potatoes including ethoprop, mancozeb, chlorothalonil, EPTC, and metribuzin.

Most of these pesticides are linked to serious chronic effects such as cancer, endocrine disruption, and reproductive/developmental effects. Many leach to groundwater and contaminate surface waters. Intensive potato cultivation and pesticides usage have been implicated in the high rates of rare cancers in young children in rural western Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada. The island farming community of about 14,000 has experienced occurrences of osteosarcoma, several lymphomas, Ewing's sarcoma, and a number of myeloid leukemia cases, all among children."

Potato pesticide map

(Could it be, as some recent research suggests, that pesticides cause diabetes, and not the fat those French fries are sizzled in?)

All that said, potatoes are quite nutritious. If you're in the market for a good dose of potassium or vitamin B6 potatoes are for you. Potatoes could even be considered a superfood.

To avoid pesticide residue, choose USDA certified-organic potatoes, which are not grown using chemical pesticides or fertilizers.

McDonald's, for agreeing to survey its potato suppliers -- which include two of the largest U.S. potato businesses, ConAgra Foods Inc.'s Lamb Weston unit and J.R. Simplot Co. -- deserves credit for working to reduce the use of toxic pesticides on food crops. The shareholder groups that pressured McDonald's to make this move -- the Bard College Endowment, Newground Social Investment, and the AFL-CIO Reserve Fund -- deserve even more. That's what socially responsible investing is all about.
(c) 2009 Dan Shapley

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Robert Ariail ~~~

W the Movie Official Trailer

To End On A Happy Note...

Where the Giant Poppies Grow

By Karen Wrighton

We teach them how to ride their bikes and later drive their cars,
We help them with their school work, we say reach for the stars
They say "now come and join us and be the best that you can be"
"Cause There's no greater honor, than to fight for your country"

Will somebody please explain to me 'cause I really need to know,
Why do we send our young men where the giant poppies grow?
Once poppies were for remembrance of those who fell before,
But now they're a symbol of what's to come, the death of many more
We send them off to fight a war, where no other wars been won before,
What do the politicians think they know,
Is reason for sending our sons to sleep where the giant poppies grow?

We sent them off to school so they learned to read and write,
Then they went to college to have a better chance in life,
Then the army enlisted them "to make them into men"
Posted them off to Afghanistan; some never to return again.

So will somebody please explain to me 'cause I really need to know,
Why do we send our young men where the giant poppies grow?
Once poppies were for remembrance of those who fell before,
But now they're a symbol of what's to come, the death of many more
We send them off to fight a war, where no other wars been won before,
What do the politicians think they know,
Is reason for sending our sons to sleep where the giant poppies grow?

So what do they say to a mother about the death of a beloved son
Who died in a land far away in a war that couldn't be won
They justify it by saying "well it's for the greater good"
But 'Greater Good's' a saying that I've never really understood.

So will somebody please explain to me 'cause I really need to know,
Why do we send our young men where the giant poppies grow?
Once poppies were for remembrance of those who fell before,
But now they're a symbol of what's to come, the death of many more
We send them off to fight a war, where no other wars been won before,
What do the politicians think they know,
Is reason for sending our sons to sleep where the giant poppies grow?

So please tell me I really need to know,
Why are our children dying in the land where the giant poppies grow?
(c) 2009 Karen Wrighton

Have You Seen This...

Re-Legalize Marijuana Now Obama (Part 2)

Parting Shots...

Obama told aides he feels "like a cylon without a Resurrection Ship."

Obama Depressed, Distant Since 'Battlestar Galactica' Series Finale

WASHINGTON-According to sources in the White House, President Barack Obama has been uncharacteristically distant and withdrawn ever since last month's two-hour series finale of Battlestar Galactica.

"The president seems to be someplace else lately," said one high-level official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Yesterday we were all being briefed on the encroachment of Iranian drone planes into Iraq, when he just looked up from the table and blurted out, 'What am I supposed to watch on Fridays at 10 p.m. now? Numb3rs?'"

"I haven't seen him this upset since Admiral Adama realized that Earth was actually an uninhabitable wasteland," the official continued. "Or at least that's what he told me. I don't actually watch the show. It's not really my thing."

Since the end of the series, Obama has reportedly brushed off key budgetary decisions, ignored his wife and children, and neglected his daily workouts, claiming that he no longer cares if he lets himself go "just like Lee did before the rescue on New Caprica."

In addition, sources confirmed that instead of meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Monday, the depressed president sat alone in the Oval Office, scouring Internet message boards for posts by other fans about the series conclusion.

Obama attempts to console himself with leaked
production stills from the upcoming spin-off Caprica.

Hoping to cheer himself up, Obama also decided to re-watch the extended director's cut of "Unfinished Business," a season three episode he once described as "bringing the Starbuck-Apollo relationship to a head in the best possible way."

Revisiting the series, however, has only made the president more miserable. After a staffer suggested he bring DVDs of the show along on a recent policy trip to Denver, Obama reportedly muttered under his breath, "What's the point? It's over."

"We were going over his schedule when he sighed and asked if I watched Battlestar," said a White House secretary, whom Obama used to playfully call "Billy." "I told him I was planning on it because my sister's a big fan, but he just stared out the window the whole time."

"I also noticed he took down his Battlestar Galactica season 4.5 poster," she added.

Obama watched the finale just as he had every previous episode, alone in the White House screening room with the volume turned all the way up. Sources said he emerged exhilarated and told several aides that the show's writers "wrapped things up the best they could, though the very end was a little much."

The commander in chief also bragged that he "totally called" the fact that "All Along The Watch Tower" would be used as the jump coordinates for the FTL drive.

Despite his initial excitement, by Monday morning the absence of the hour-long Sci-Fi program had begun to affect the president.

"I'm a little concerned," first lady Michelle Obama was overheard saying at a fundraising event Tuesday. "When Firefly was canceled, he walked around like a zombie for a week, and Serenity was the only thing that snapped him out of it. Last night he said he felt like he had just discovered David Axelrod was one of the Final Five, whatever that means."

A devoted fan of the original 1978 Battlestar Galactica, Obama was initially hesitant to watch the new series, saying he was upset to learn that hotshot pilot Starbuck would be played by a woman. However, during a particularly slow week in the U.S. Senate, Obama decided to rent the first season from Netflix.

Aides said Obama "blew through" season one in a weekend, then purchased season 2.0 from a local Best Buy, and, in order to catch up in time for season three, downloaded the majority of season 2.5 from iTunes.

"When we spoke last month, he said season three was his least favorite because some of the episodes with Helo and the Sagittarons-and pretty much anything that involved Cally-were boring and didn't advance the plot," Afghan president Hamid Karzai said. "But I told him that when you watch it all on DVD, and you don't have to wait a whole week for a new show, those peripheral episodes actually add new color to the already established world."

Added Karzai, "Lately, though, it seems like he'd rather talk about the resurgence of Taliban warlords in Kandahar than the show."

During an emergency press conference on Wednesday, Obama addressed his recent detachment, as well as various other matters facing the United States.

"Our nation finds itself in uncharted territory in the deep emptiness of space," Obama announced. "The Old Girl has limited supplies, no allies, and now, no hope. I never said this would be an easy journey. Yet I promise you this: There is a place where there is no war and no economic turmoil. It is where, according to the Sacred Scrolls handed down to us by the Lords of Kobol, the thirteenth tribe traveled over three thousand years ago. That place is called Earth. Not the other Earth. This Earth. It's complicated. Anyway, I plan to take us there."

Added Obama, "So say we all! So say we all! So say we all!"
(c) 2009 The Onion

The Gross National Debt

Zeitgeist The Movie...

Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 16 (c) 04/17/2009

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