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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh examines, "The Politics Of Revenge And Submission."

Uri Avnery warns, “Rejoice Not…”

David Sirota considers, "The High Cost Of Cheap War."

Ted Rall asks, "What If The US Were A Nation Of Laws?"

Jim Hightower oversees, "Helping The Neediest Among Us."

Helen Thomas says, "They’re Dead, Let’s Leave."

James Donahue observes, "Battle For Michigan Opening At Benton Harbor."

Glenn Greenwald concludes, "Bin Laden's Death Doesn't End His Fear-Mongering Value."

Chris Floyd sees through the, "Day Of The Dead."

Bernie Sanders demands, "Single Payer Health, It's Only Fair."

Paul Krugman studies, "The Unwisdom Of Elites."

Chris Hedges declares, "Your Taxes Fund Anti-Muslim Hatred."

Amy Goodman explores, "Tony Kushner And The Angels Of Dissent."

Silsbee Texas, school superintendent, Richard Bain wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols explains, "How Town Hall Protests Against Paul Ryan's Plan Changed The Medicare Debate."

Noam Chomsky with, "My Reaction To Osama bin Laden’s Death."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst reports, "Obama Gets Osama" but first, Uncle Ernie sez, "Find The Cost Of Freedom."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Milt Priggee, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea.Com, Mike Wrathell, Derf City, Micah Wright, Mr. Fish, Tom Toles, Kirsty Wigglesworth, A.P., The Guardian, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

Find The Cost Of Freedom
By Ernest Stewart

Find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground
Mother Earth will swallow you, lay your body down
Find The Cost Of Freedom ~~~ Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" ~~~ Mark 8:36-37 KJV

"I didn't think it was possible for cheerleading to look any less appealing to me -- but, thank you, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, for proving me wrong," ~~~ Tracy Clark-Flory.

“Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person.” ~~~ Albert Einstein

Well, if you believe Obamahood, we got the mastermind behind 9/11, and it wasn't George Tenet! No, Barry pegs CIA henchman Osama bin Laden as the culprit. I say, six of one, half dozen of the other!

Well, then, if we got him, then it's "Mission Accomplished" so we can surely start packing up and bringing our children back home, and cut the Pentagoons budget by at least half, as our part of our peace bonus. It's cost $3 trillion dollars so far in Afghanistan, most of which went into the elites' pockets both here and abroad. Consider that our tab for WWII was $288 billion. Sure, if you put it in 2011 dollars then the cost was $5 trillion dollars. Which means that the one dollar in 1945 is now worth about five cents today; ergo, our money is worthless!

Another similar tab can be laid on Iraq in which we had no reason to be there to begin with as they nothing to do with 9/11, but they did have all that lovely oil which made the oil companies about $1 trillion in profits as they paid nothing for the oil but charged us like they did, and then some!

Of course, that's merely the cost in money, not the cost of blood, minds and turning those countries into something that resembles the craters of the moon. Let's not forget all the people that went from being friends, or at least neutral, into enemies that will be trying to get revenge on us for the next century or so, just what our leaders and their corpo-rat puppet masters want, a never-ending war and never-ending cash flows into their pockets. Oh, and did I mention the cost to our freedoms that are no more and a gutted Bill Of Rights! Nor should we forget the broken families, not only here but all around the world that these war crimes have caused and will continue to cause until we "pull out!" That's not the cost of freedom--that's the cost of fascism that we allowed to take over this country. Part of that cost will be the chickens that come home to roost for us, our children, their children and their children too! Those trillions are just a drop in the bucket of what this will eventually cost us. Rust, like tea baggers, never sleeps!

In Other News

So how do you like global warming, so far? Folks along the Mississippi river are finding all about the joys of corpo-rat climate change. Just like they found out way down yonder with those hundreds of tornadoes last month. Still deny it? The House does! Our "brain trust" under Boner and company voted with a 56 vote margin to deny that global warming exists. Can they really be that incredibly stupid? Well, of course they can! Of course, most of them have a financial stake in this as they're being bribed with billions of dollars to see that their masters who are making money hand-over-fist with their various types of pollution that cause Global Warming. Boner and the boys are killing Americans and people all over the world to stuff their bulging bank accounts with the blood of humanity!

The US Army Corps of Engineers that can't build a dyke to save their asses are now blowing them up, undulating tens of thousands of acres to save Cairo, Illinois -- a town that should have been allowed to drown under its own stupidity decades ago. Let's build a town at the confluence of two major rivers that are both prone to flooding on a yearly basis. A town that sits just a few feet above the rivers, a town that will be going through this from now on, on a yearly basis!

All this is caused by just an one degree in overall temperature rise. That one degree is causing glaciers all over the world to melt along with the Arctic and the Antarctic. When they're through melting, we'll have the Northern Passage that they looked for, for centuries. They'll also have most of the current Eastern Seaboard from Maine to Florida under water. As Frank sang, "I'll Take Manhattan" and in a few years you'll have to take it by boat. The same for Florida where most of the state will be under water. Texas, our most polluted state, seems to have run out of water and is quickly turning into a desert. Meanwhile, instead of cutting back on its pollution, the governor old "Good Hair" is leading prayers for rain. You Texans are so screwed; but like the rest of us, you have only yourselves to blame!

Global warning is just in its tipping stage. At its current rate, by the year 2100, the temperature will have risen 5 degrees, and if you think you've seen bad weather this year from a one degree rise, believe me, you ain't seen nothing yet. Get used to a hundred tornadoes in one day in a single state, or biblical flooding and vast stretches of fertile land turning into desert and blowing away like it did in the 1930s, new dust bowls all over.

So come on Boner, let them blow the top off of whole mountain chains for more choking coal and billion dollar profits. Keep buying giant SUVs that get worse mileage than a tank. Build some more nuke plants next to the sea or on fault lines with nowhere to put those rods that will be deadly for the next quarter million years. Make the insanely-wealthy even richer over the bloated bodies of your victims! I'm sure there'll be a spot for you and your family on some mountain top where the elite will go to watch the rest of us die!

And Finally

Just when you thought education couldn't get any worse, along comes the state of Texas to prove you wrong. You may recall my last two columns where we learn just how evil school systems can be, and along comes the tale of "HS," a girl on the cheerleader squad down in Silsbee, Texas.

HS was 16 when she was raped by some students at a house party, attended by dozens of fellow students from Silsbee High School. One of her assailants, a student athlete named Rakheem Bolton, was arrested, with two other young men.

Bolton was not charged with rape after ratting out the other two and copped a plea to misdemeanor assault. He was still supposed to do a year in jail but it was reduced to two years probation because he was a star athlete! That charge allowed Bolton to return to school -- and the basketball team. Texas law said he should have been sent to another school, but he wasn't, as he was too important for their team. Now here's the kicker: when the victim traveled to a basketball game in January 2009 to cheer on Silsbee's team, she participated in cheers and when Bolton was attempting a free throw, she stood silently with her arms folded. And then she was punished by this week's Vidkun Quisling Award winner Richard Bain, the school superintendent and one sick son-of-a-bitch. (I wrote Richard a letter but I can't print it here as we have young folks that visit) He told HS to leave the gymnasium. Outside, he told her she was required to cheer for Bolton. When the girl said she was unwilling to cheer for a man who had sexually assaulted her, she was expelled from the cheerleading squad! I'm going to repeat that again for those of you on drugs!

The Rape Victim was thrown off the cheer team because she wouldn't cheer for her rapist!

Oh, don't worry, America, it gets worse! When her parents sued the school system for violating her free speech rights, the coach demanded she cheer for her rapist. Two courts ruled against her, arguing:

"As a cheerleader, HS served as a mouthpiece through which [the school district] could disseminate speech - namely, support for its athletic teams," the appeals court decision says. "This act constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, HS was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering, a position she undertook voluntarily."

And with that, came the $45K fine for filing a "frivolous" lawsuit against the school.


Keepin' On

It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world! Is it just me or does it seem to be getting weirder every week? You may recall that Uncle Duke, i.e., Hunter S. Thompson once said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro!" However, that's not something most of us can do, so you must pay rapt attention to what's going down around you. That's where we come in!

Sure, I could turn pro, but I'd rather keep my amateur status and continue to bring you what the mainstream media, doesn't, namely, the truth. Not only will the truth set you free, it will allow you to deal with the next atrocity that is already in the tube winging its way to you and your family.

This week, one of the usual suspects Ernie from Ontario does much more than his fair share and helps us raise the cash that we need to keep on keepin' on. We're about halfway to raising the cash we'll have to pay out in about 5 weeks. Ernie, Phil, George, Marianne, and the rest could use your helping hand in getting this done. Sure, the mainstream media is free but there's a reason for that--it's all corpo-rat lies. It's up to ya'll whether you want the truth--or lies!


06-08-1931 - 05-05-2011
Thanks for the film!

03-10-1931 - 05-09-2011
Thanks for the film!

03-15-1975 - 05-10-2011
Thanks for the film!


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


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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2011 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 10 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

The Politics Of Revenge And Submission
"When the individual feels, the community reels"
By Phil Rockstroh

Osama bin Laden is dead. And so is the U.S. republic. We had to destroy our freedoms in order to save them. What is left to save from the next rampaging dragon when the knights, sworn to kill the monster, destroy everything in their path in the pursuit of him? One killer is dead. Now what are we going to do with all the killers in our midst who killed him.

Since 9/11/2001, due to the lust for revenge of the people of the U.S., hundreds of thousands of innocent Islamic people are dead. These human beings were killed in our name. Be very careful when you proclaim: "I'm glad 'we' got bin Laden. He deserved it." Be very grateful most of us don't get what we deserve.

To appropriate a classical understanding of the situation: Aeschylus, in his Oresteia trilogy, dramatized that civilization begins when (in fact, civilization is not even possible until) retribution yields to justice i.e., The Furies, goddesses adorned with serpent-seething headdresses and an abiding passion for retribution, must be transformed into the Eumenides (the kindly ones). They must cease their seeking of revenge (which engenders endless revenge cycles, inflicting a trauma-wrought callowness on the people of a culture) and become the enemies of those who bear false witness and stand against the democratic process.

In contrast, in the U.S., a state policy of genocide against its native inhabitants determined the geographical dimensions of the nation itself, and, in many ways, determined the inner dimensions of its collective mindscape, which created and maintains the death cult calculus of U.S. militarist imperium. (The U.S. military still envisages its enemies as "Red Indian savages." Witness: Osama bin Laden having been given the moniker, "Geronimo.")

Hence the isolated, alienated U.S. populace (its males in particular) clutch, to the point of fetishizing, their guns, because they feel powerless before the depravations of an exploitive system rigged to benefit a small class of privileged insiders. Much damage is done by this compensatory fantasy: Vulnerable children and teens are bullied by their troubled peers to the point of clinical depression and suicide; in domestic situations, crimes of passion take deadly turns; and episodes of mass shootings erupt across the landscape of exploitation, alienation and anomie.

The collective mode of mind of the corporate consumer/militarist empire leaves both the hoi polloi and the privileged unable to even approach the problem of their alienation…thick walls of self-protection must be breached…In the U.S., individuals have become so withdrawn into themselves, it seems as if Home Depot outlets sell ready-to-assemble, prefab bubbles of self-enclosure, with optional mounted gun turrets.

How is it possible for troubled individuals to live in a culture in which the response of their government (mirrored in its movies, television programs, and video games) to almost every problem abroad involves military force and imperialist coercion -- and not have these death-leveling policies leave their mark on the psyches of the populace?

All too frequently, in the increasingly desperate and denial-ridden nation, deranged chickens come home and reap havoc in the roost (also known as The Law Of Perpetual Poultry Return). As above with its government, so below with its populace: With troubling frequency, in shooting rampages, unhinged individuals stage freelance, military-style commando raids, defending (in the tormented perception of their besieged minds) their internal homeland.

The rigid hierarchical structure of U.S. corporate oligarchy (but veiled by the internalization of its upward class mobility hagiography) imposes a type of domination and control compulsion (and attendant low-level hysteria) in the psyches of the nation's males. Hence, the need for disproportionate amounts of control to displace their own sense of being dominated by brutal power (e. g., they feel so deeply diminished by their own submissive position in the economic order that the men and boys of the nation are driven to taunt other males by bandying demeaning invectives, such as, "You're my bitch.")

What they are expressing is the displaced anger, engendered by their helplessness before the dictates of the corporate state. An insidious order that determines the course of their day: At what hour, they will rise (at the insistence of an alarm clock) to meet the day; what they will eat (generally, processed or fast food); the roads and routes they will travel (stranded in the grinding limbo of commuter traffic); who they will be in contact with during the day (the dharma-decimating exigencies of the workspaces of the neo-liberal economic order). In short, how their day unfolds (exploited for the benefit of the oligarchs of the corporate state) and how their day ends (on edge, enervated, muck-brained, in hyper-attenuated communion with some form of the mass media hologram).

The inimical effect of this mode of being has come to be known as "the American way of life." Therein, individuals, reduced to mere assets of the economic elite, grow bereft of the means and motivation for personal transformation. Moreover, the culture -- always an organic, collaborative effort between individuals and the collective mind of an age -- withers into an economic, as well as, psychic wasteland, because the means of social engagement have been denuded due to the full-spectrum domination of both cultural real estate and individual mindscape by the corporate state.

Corporate domination of everyday life has left the soul with a scant amount of wiggle room. But it has not always been so, even in the Deep South, in the belligerent ignorance and staggering naivety, of my youth.

Homer counseled that we should straddle time with our backs to the future, our faces to the past. Thus this digression:

In the year, 1970, in the summer I turned fourteen, in Piedmont Park, in Atlanta, Georgia, the Allman Brothers, among other bands, would perform free, impromptu concerts for a tie-dye clad, reefer reeking, bell bottoms-caressing-the-Georgia-red-dirt gatherings of "freaks," -- which was the preferred tribalist term, as opposed to the media-created, socially pejorative -- hippies…which, when bandied among counterculture insiders, was generally applied ironically..

Although the park was located only a few miles from my family's home, undertaking the trip presented a degree of peril. To make ones way to the park included traversing a tough, in-town, white working class neighborhood (now a gentrified into soul-sucking blandness, yuppie enclave) where, from the perspective of its denizens, their world, and all they held in reverence and reference, was under siege. And, although inchoate, their animus was instantly distilled, simply upon a glimpse of the untamed tresses of a singular, thin of wrist, dirty hippie, commie faggot -- whose mere presence was considered an affront to their pomade-crowned, muscle car-thundering parcel of redneck paradise.

Accordingly, the locals were pledged to do their part to fight the scourge…by increasing their intake of PBRs and Jack Daniels, and, upon sight of said dirty hippie interlopers, bestowing ass-stompings -- and for no-extra-charge -- involuntary haircuts upon errant longhairs caught in their midst.

Yet as the era progressed, the savage dance between hippie freak and redneck belligerent changed in tone and tempo, an extemporaneous type of metaphysical jiujitsu occurred, in which the predator was subdued and seduced by the prey…as if by cultural contact buzz, redneck fury yielded to counterculture insouciance.

"When the individual feels, the community reels" ... Aldous Huxley

Briefly, this was the anatomy of the seduction: In their pursuit of fleeing freaks into the park, the young males of the cracker tribe happened upon a few of the things of this vast and vivid world even more compelling than the possibility of ass-kicking…in the form of attractive young women.

Yet to the young men, the hippie sphinxes, sirens, waifs, and gypsy queens were baffling, unapproachable; these women were less than taken by their greasy, pompadoured forelocks and aggressive bearing. In short, and to appropriate the parlance of the era, the hippie chicks didn't get off on their "bad vibes…it, like, really harshed their high."

But these great, great grandsons of the Lost Cause proved much more malleable in countenance than the ossified in memory, now enshrined in marble statuary, of their confederate forefathers.

Consequently, a kind of cracker Lysistrata started to unfold. The pomade lacquer faded from stiff pompadours, yielding to lank, draping locks of hippie plumage. The habit of rebel bellicosity was sublimated into an avidity to "boogie." The zealots of ass-kicking became the acolytes of acid and devotees of the gospels of kicking back and getting down.

As time passed, on weekends, as the Allman Brothers preached Sunday sermons vis-a-vis guitar and drum solos, these newly minted freaks could be found in positions of repose and reflection upon the grassy hills of the park, eating Orange Sunshine and drawling, "aw mahn, Dwayne's guitar is shootin' sparks into mah brain…"

Or as Marcel Proust put it, “The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes.”

Yet, in our time, the fervor of the 1960s seems, in the words of a Latin proverb: "Parturiunt montes nascetur ridiculus mus" -- The mountains have labor pains and a ridiculous little mouse is brought forth."

As the psychedelic nimbus of the early nineteen seventies transmogrified into a Nixonian shit-storm, and the long, silent war waged by Disaster Capitalists on the US working class dissipated their hopes and buffeted their sense of wellbeing, a familiar class system wrought aura of misery and meanness began to reassert itself.

The Dixieland Woodstock Nation increasingly began to resemble a southern-fried Weimar Republic, as the Corporate State Altamont grew increasingly pervasive, punitive, and imposed more and more demeaning demands upon the lives of working class Americans.

Yet the present paradigm and its dependence upon a corporate consumer/militarist mindset persists because: "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right." ~~~ Thomas Paine.

Osama bin Laden was taken out by a rival gang of terrorists: And, across the land, the parade of death-reveling fools prattles onward. Hence, the desperate, diminished souls of the empire are driven to contort themselves, collectively, into all manner of positions of casuistry, in a vain attempt to rationalize being complicit in the crimes of the state. Thus, in the compulsion to see ourselves as good and decent folk, we mistake the involuted course of our own dim and brutal thoughts for the darkness and evil of others.

Therefore: This is why self-knowledge is crucial: "When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate." ~~~ Carl Jung.

Over the last few days, witnessing the blood-dimmed spectacle of witless celebrants frothing in glee at the news of the revenge killing of Osama bin Laden, I feel as though I’m having the dubious privilege of peering into an alternative universe where annoyances such as common decency whither into extinction, as all the while, vile, lurid delusions bloom like hot house flowers.

The noxious redolence of these fleur du mal can have an enervating effect on one's will to resist and fight back.

But resist one must. And remember to savor the glorious failure of even a hopeless cause. The most naive and banal response would be to propagate the tired canard of the vacuous, crackpot realist mindset that: "That's just the way it is…that's just how things work…that's the way it is, always was, and always will be."

Dead ass wrong: That is the way a particular system is being operated at a particular time. Moreover, no system operates in stasis therefore are open to systemic change and random fluxes, by a host of variables, known and unknown. Although outcomes, for better or worse, and all combinations therein, are uncertain, thus the world before us remains an extraordinary thing to behold.

"Resistance to the organized mass can be effected only by the man who is as well organized in his individuality as the mass itself.” ~~~ Carl Jung

Even though the earthly remains of Osama bin Laden are now entombed in the sea, the U.S. empire will continue to founder, its people have been made no safer nor have we been placed in an enhanced position to prosper. What would prove helpful would be to cease engaging in this constant, tedious dance with our homicidal shadow self, because every written-in-blood name, listed on every dance card at the Empire's Ball, bears one's own name.
(c) 2011 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

“Rejoice Not…”
By Uri Avnery

“REJOICE NOT when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth, / Lest the Lord see [it], and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.”.

This is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible (Proverbs 24:17-18), and indeed in the Hebrew language. It is beautiful in other languages , too, though no translation comes close to the beauty of the original.

Of course, it is natural to be glad when one’s enemy is defeated, and the thirst for revenge is a human trait. But gloating – schadenfreude - is something different altogether. An ugly thing.

Ancient Hebrew legend has it that God got very angry when the Children of Israel rejoiced as their Egyptian pursuers drowned in the Red Sea. “My creatures are drowning in the sea,”God admonished them, “And you are singing?”

These thoughts crossed my mind when I saw the TV shots of jubilant crowds of young Americans shouting and dancing in the street. Natural, but unseemly. The contorted faces and the aggressive body language were no different from those of crowds in Sudan or Somalia. The ugly sides of human nature seem to be the same everywhere.

THE REJOICING may be premature. Most probably, al-Qaeda did not die with Osama bin-Laden. The effect may be entirely different.

In 1942 the British killed Abraham Stern, whom they called a terrorist. Stern, whose nom de guerre was Ya’ir, was hiding in a cupboard in an apartment in Tel Aviv. In his case too, it was the movements of his courier that gave him away. After making sure that he was the right man, the British police officer in command shot him dead.

That was not the end of his group – rather, a new beginning. It became the bane of British rule in Palestine. Known as the “Stern Gang” (its real name was “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel”), it carried out the most daring attacks on British installations and played a significant role in persuading the colonial power to leave the country.

Hamas did not die when the Israeli air force killed Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the paralyzed founder, ideologue and symbol of Hamas. As a martyr he was far more effective than as a living leader. His martyrdom attracted many new fighters to the cause. Killing a person does not kill an idea. The Christians even took the cross as their symbol.

WHAT WAS the idea that turned Osama bin Laden into a world figure?

He preached the restoration of the Caliphate of the early Muslim centuries, which was not only a huge empire, but also a center of the sciences and the arts, poetry and literature, when Europe was still a barbaric, medieval continent. Every Arab child learns about these glories, and cannot but contrast them with the sorry Muslim present.

(In a way, these longings parallel the Zionist romantics' dreams of a resurrected kingdom of David and Solomon.)

A new Caliphate in the 21st century is as unlikely as the wildest creation of the imagination. It would have been diametrically opposed to the Zeitgeist, were it not for its opponents – the Americans. They needed this dream – or nightmare - more than the Muslims themselves.

The American Empire always needs an antagonist to keep it together and to focus its energies. This has to be a worldwide enemy, a sinister advocate of an evil philosophy.

Such were the Nazis and Imperial Japan, but they did not last long. Fortunately, there was then the Communist Empire, which filled the role admirably.

There were Communists everywhere. All of them were plotting the downfall of freedom, democracy and the United States of America. They were even lurking inside the US, as J. Edgar Hoover and Senator Joe McCarthy so convincingly demonstrated.

For decades, the US flourished in the fight against the Red Menace; its forces spread all over the world, its spaceships reached the moon, its best minds engaged in a titanic battle of ideas, the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness.

And then – suddenly - the whole thing collapsed. Soviet power vanished as if it had never existed. The American spy agencies, with their tremendous capabilities, were flabbergasted. Apparently, they had no idea how ramshackle the Soviet structure actually was. How could they see, blinded as they were by their own ideological preconceptions?

The disappearance of the Communist Threat left a gaping void in the American psyche, which cried out to be filled. Osama Bin Laden kindly offered his services.

It needed, of course, a world-shaking event to lend credibility to such a hare-brained utopia. The 9/11 outrage was just such an event. It produced many changes in the American way of life. And a new global enemy.

Overnight, medieval anti-Islamic prejudices are dusted-off for display. Islam the terrible, the murderous, the fanatical. Islam the anti-democratic, the anti-freedom, anti-all-our-values. Suicide bombers, 72 virgins, jihad.

The US springs to life again. Soldiers, spies and special forces fan out across the globe to fight terrorism. Bin Laden is everywhere. The War Against Terrorism is an apocalyptic struggle with Satan.

American freedoms have to be restricted, the US military machine grows by leaps and bounds. Power-hungry Intellectuals babble about the Clash of Civilizations and sell their souls for instant celebrity.

To produce the lurid paint for such a twisted picture of reality, religious Islamic groups are all thrown into the same pot – the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Ayatollahs in Iran, Hizbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, Indonesian separatists, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere, whoever. All become al-Qaeda, despite the fact that each has a totally different agenda, focused on its own country, while bin Laden aims to abolish all Muslim states and create one Holy Islamic Empire. Details, details.

The Holy War against the Jihad finds warriors everywhere. Ambitious demagogues, for whom this promises an easy way to inflame the masses, spring up in many countries, from France to Finland, from Holland to Italy. The hysteria of Islamophobia displaces good old anti-Semitism, using almost the same language. Tyrannical regimes present themselves as bulwarks against al-Qaeda, as they had once presented themselves as bulwarks against Communism. And, of course, our own Binyamin Netanyahu milks the situation for all it is worth, traveling from capital to capital peddling his wares of anti-Islamism.

Bin Laden had good reason to be proud, and probably was.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

A U.S. Predator drone flies over the moon above Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan.

The High Cost Of Cheap War
The use of drones and non-government contractors makes resorting to military action much too easy
By David Sirota

It seems only fitting that in the very month the "Terminator" sci-fi franchise predicted the rise of militarized artificial intelligence, the Guardian of London reported on a British Ministry of Defence analysis warning that drone warfare may be creating an "incremental and involuntary journey towards a Terminator-like reality." The report's life-imitating-Skynet idea of robots ultimately making combat decisions is certainly scary -- but still a bit fantastical. The more frightening part of the analysis was its look at how roboticized war may already be prompting governments to "resort to war as a policy option far sooner than previously."

The dynamic is not surprising -- nations will inevitably be more willing to use warfare as a foreign policy tool if they possess instruments limiting the cost of waging war. By letting kids in Las Vegas drop remote-controlled bombs on kids in Pakistan, Yemen and now Libya, drones are one of those instruments. But they are only one of many. Indeed, while President Obama preposterously claimed this week that most Americans "know well the costs of war," it's quite the opposite: Most Americans have been insulated from those costs -- and it's no coincidence that as we've become more insulated, we've happily waged more frequent wars.

This process of insulation was a gradual one. The first step was the mastering of aerial attacks, which allowed us to safely commit mass murder at 40,000 feet.

Next came the end of conscription during the Vietnam conflict -- a move that calculatedly defused antiwar sentiment by disconnecting most of the population from the blood-and-guts consequences of war. Then it was on to George W. Bush, who coupled long-term military occupations with massive tax cuts. The twin policies, which defied World War II's ethos of domestic sacrifice, suggested to Americans that there is no longer any personal financial hardship associated with war.

Now it's drones and private military contractors -- the latter of which make war easier in two distinct ways.

Money-wise, government data show that hired guns cost less to employ than regular American troops. Contractors also let Americans circumvent the psychological remorse of casualties. Instead of having to lament the innocent Army serviceman killed in action, we can write off contractor deaths by telling ourselves that death is an occupational hazard the contractors choose to face -- and are paid handsomely to confront.

Considering all this, America's bloated defense budget now stands as the last deterrent to truly permanent war -- as it inflates the deficit, it reminds us that there is some cost for our militarism. This is likely why traditionally hawkish politicians are now talking about cutting Pentagon spending. With every other domestic cost of bloodshed neatly mitigated, these lawmakers know that if war is seen by America as a purely budgetary matter, and if that war budget can be reduced, then America will probably support any war with euphoric cheers of "USA! USA!" -- regardless of a war's motive or ramifications.

Of course, the push to reduce the defense budget is worthy for other reasons. And obviously, the end of conscription and new technologies have come with tangible benefits -- namely, no American is forced to go to war and fewer American soldiers are killed in battle. But those developments all have a downside -- namely, they've eliminated deterrents to institutional violence, as evidenced by our multiple wars and never-ending occupations. Americans may be paying less of a price right now for that violence, but the world is paying in blood -- and both blowback and debt all but guarantee that we will be paying dearly in the future.
(c) 2010 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

What If The US Were A Nation Of Laws?
By Ted Rall

President Obama murdered Osama bin Laden. I am surprised that the left has been so supportive—not of the end result, but of the way it was carried out.

Imagine if the killing had gone down the same exact way, but under Bush. Armed commandos invade a foreign country, storm into a suburban neighborhood, blow a hole in a house and blow away an unarmed man in front of his 12-year-old daughter. The guy is a murder suspect. Mass murder. But there's no attempt to arrest him or bring him to justice. They spirit his bloody corpse out of the country and dump it into the ocean.

Osama bin Laden was suspected ordering of one of the most horrific crimes of the decade. He might have been taken alive. Yet Obama's commandos killed him. A big part of the puzzle—the key to the truth, who might have led us to other people responsible for 9/11—is gone.

Barack Obama is our Jack Ruby.

Liberals would be appalled if this had happened four years ago. They would have protested Bush's violations of international law and basic human rights. They would have complained about killing the Al Qaeda leader before questioning him about possible terrorist plots. They would have demanded investigations.

But this happened under Obama. Which means that even liberal lawyers who ought to (and probably do) know better are going along. At a panel discussion at the Justice Institute at Pace Law School, University of Houston law professor Jordan Paust asserted: "You can [legally] use military force without consent in foreign countries."

"At some point a sovereign state [such as Pakistan] that's harboring an international fugitive loses the right to assert sovereignty," added Robert Van Lierop.

Paust and Van Lierop are, respectively, a leading opponent of torture at Guantánamo and a former UN ambassador known for his activism on climate change. Both are "liberal."

In the U.S., conservatives and "liberals" agree: Might makes right. America's military-intelligence apparatus is so fearsome that it can deploy its soldiers and agents without fear of retribution.

Might makes right.

In 2007, for example, U.S. Special Forces invaded Iran from U.S.-occupied Iraq in order to kidnap Iranian border guards. It was an outrage. In practical terms, however, there was nothing the Iranians could do about it.

The United States' 900-pound gorilla act might go over better if we weren't a nation that constantly prattles on and on about how civilized we are, how important it is that everyone follow the rules. For example:

"We're a nation of laws!" Obama recently exclaimed. "We don't let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate."

He wasn't talking about himself. This was about PFC Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of supplying the big Defense Department data dump to WikiLeaks. Manning has been subjected to torture including sleep deprivation and forced nudity—treatment ordered by Obama.

Truth is, the Constitution, our treaty obligations and our stacks of legal codes are worthless paper. We're not a nation of laws. We're a nation of gun-toting, missile-lobbing, drone-flying goons.

U.S. officials do whatever they feel like and then dress up their brazenly illegal acts with perverse Orwellian propaganda. "I authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice," Obama claimed, as if blowing away an unarmed man in a foreign country was the moral equivalent of filing an extradition request with the Pakistani government and putting him on trial before 12 unbiased jurors in a court of law.

Justice is a legal process. It is not a military assault.

When considering the legality or morality of an act it helps to consider different scenarios. What, for example, if Pakistan had military power equal to ours? Last week's lead news might have begun something like this:

"Pakistan has intercepted four U.S. helicopters over its airspace, forced them to land, and taken 79 "heavily-armed commandos" as prisoners. According to Pakistani military officials, the incident took place about 100 miles from the border of U.S.-occupied Afghanistan. 'They didn't stray across the border accidentally. This was a deliberate act,' said a Pakistani general. President Asif Ali Zardari has asked Pakistan's nuclear weapons infrastructure has been placed on high alert as the parliament, the Majlis-e-Shoora, considers whether to issue a declaration of war…"

Or let's assume a different reimagining. What if the United States really was a nation of laws?

Then the news might look like the following:

"Bipartisan demands for Congressional investigations into the assassination of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden quickly escalated into demands for presidential impeachment after reports that U.S. forces operating under orders from President Obama invaded a sovereign nation without permission to carry out what House Speaker John Boehner called 'a mob-style hit.' Standing at Boehner's side, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi decried Obama's 'cowboy antics' and said she had received numerous phone calls from the relatives of 9/11 victims furious that true justice had been denied. Meanwhile, in New York, U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon moved for sanctions against the United States…"

In fact, no one knows whether Osama bin Laden was involved in 9/11.

They suspect. They feel.

They don't know.

For what it's worth, he denied it:

"Following the latest explosions in the United States, some Americans are pointing the finger at me, but I deny that because I have not done it," bin Laden said in a statement released on 9/16/01. "The United States has always accused me of these incidents which have been caused by its enemies. Reiterating once again, I say that I have not done it, and the perpetrators have carried this out because of their own interest."

Why should we believe him? Why not? He admitted his responsibility for the East Africa embassy bombings in 1998.

Interestingly, the FBI never mentioned 9/11 on his "wanted" poster.

There was the famous "confession video"—but it was translated into English by the CIA, hardly an objective source. Arabic language experts say the CIA manipulated bin Laden's discussion of what he had watched on TV into an admission of guilt. For example, they changed bin Laden's passive-voice discussion to active: "[the 19 hijackers] were required to go" became, in the CIA version, "we asked each of them to go to America."

"The American translators who listened to the tapes and transcribed them apparently wrote a lot of things in that they wanted to hear but that cannot be heard on the tape no matter how many times you listen to it," said Gernot Rotter, professor of Islamic and Arabic Studies at the Asia-Africa Institute at the University of Hamburg.

Other OBL communiqués appear to take credit for 9/11—but there's a possibility that he was trying to keep himself relevant for his Islamist audience. Anyway, a confession does not prove guilt. Police receive numerous "confessions" for high-profile crimes. They can't just shoot everyone who confesses.

I'm not angry that Bin Laden is dead. Nor am I happy. I didn't know the guy or care for his ideology.

I'm angry that, without a trial or a real investigation, we will never know whether he was guilty of 9/11—or, if he was, who else was involved.

Our Jack Ruby, Barack Obama, made sure of that.
Ted Rall is the author of the new books "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East,?" and "The Anti-American Manifesto."

Helping The Neediest Among Us

To be fair to lawmakers, it's not easy making the tough spending choices in these dire times of rising public need and inadequate tax revenues. Legislators in my state of Texas, for example, are trying to find $27 billion in cuts and new revenue to balance an already-miserly budget.

So, assume you're a member of the Texas house. What needy constituency would you try to help – school kids, poor people, old folks in nursing homes... or yacht buyers? Yes, yachts. Big yachts – those costing more than $250,000. You might not be surprised to learn that the Republicans, who have a supermajority in the House, went with yacht buyers.

Some days when you read the news, you don't know whether to go crazy, go bowling, or just go very far away – and this was one of those days. Rep. John Davis, a Houston Republican, passed his bill in committee to give a sales tax break to yacht purchasers. I should note that this tax break is available to anyone, whether rich or poor, so I guess it's fair. But is it really necessary? Using both of his brain cells at once, Davis explains that it is. You see, he says that Florida already provides such a tax giveaway to the yachting crowd, so our state must match it lest Texans go there for their purchases. Davis proudly adds that he sees his bill as an "economic development" measure for our people.

Okay, he's a goofball, but were there no adults in the room? Uh-uh. The committee chairman just shrugged his sorry shoulders and said the yacht break is "one of those things you have to do."

The house budget will take away college aid for 60,000 students, eliminate nearly 100,000 teachers and other school employees, and shortchange health care for poor people by $14 billion dollars – but we've got your yacht covered. You see, it's simply a matter of getting your priorities straight.
(c) 2011 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.

They’re Dead, Let’s Leave
By Helen Thomas

Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are dead. Can we come home now from Iraq and Afghanistan? Not likely. World War II troops who occupied Germany and Japan have been refreshed over the years and still occupy those countries. We also have some 700 plus military outposts around the world.

It is time to declare victory and pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite our excuses, it is expected that our troops will remain in both countries for years to come.

Some elements in these countries will urge the U.S. to continue their occupation. The locals who have cooperated with the American military probably fear reprisals. Others, including top government officials, have profited from our lengthy stay and want us to remain there. If we withdrew our troops, we could save billions of dollars for immense needs at home. We could also solve some of the debt problems now plaguing the country. And we could get our own house in order, by coping with our domestic monetary problems.

We would be able to bolster the treasury and should lay on a big tax increase for the very wealthy, especially billionaires, who have not been asked to sacrifice their lives and have off shore tax shelters for their profits.

The U.S. has a falling down infrastructure - the roads, highways and schools are badly in need of repair. The New Dealers were smart enough to provide jobs during the Great Depression with public programs and Keynesian deficit spending to repair decaying public facilities.

This time around the country remains steady at 8 percent unemployment. But the President has not proposed any new spending programs. He is obviously hamstrung by the huge debt. However, the President has a lack of vision of how to deal with these problems.

On the other hand, Obama is reveling in the successful attack on the Pakistani compound of bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 catastrophe which took more than 3,000 lives at the World Trade Center in New York. And he now has the praise of his critics and potential rivals in the upcoming Presidential race of 2012.

His critics had faulted him for being "weak" on national security matters. But Obama had the upper hand when he and his national security team watched the Navy Seals fatally shoot the unarmed bin Laden. They watched from the White House situation room. Some believe it would have been preferable to capture the terrorist leader and force him to stand trial. But more details of the "secret operation" conducted in Islamabad, Pakistan - unbeknownst to any Pakistani secret agency - are expected to be revealed as time goes on.

Islamic religious rituals were preformed on bin Laden's body before he was dumped in the Arabian sea. Officials explained that they did not want a burial shrine to be created for the former al Qaeda mastermind's devoted followers.

Bin Laden's death has left many questions. One is whether a leaderless al Qaeda will continue terrorist attacks in the western world. In addition, the secret operation caused a riff between the US and Pakistan, and has left some questions on why the Pakistanis obviously harbored bin Laden without telling the U.S. There are reports that bin Laden had lived in the compound for some five years.

There is obviously a need for the U.S. and Pakistan to hash out their relationship. U.S. officials have gone out of their way to paper over the differences that have been exposed by the US intrusion into Pakistani sovereignty. The two allies are dependent on each other for their military operations. The U.S. has provided billions annually to Pakistan, and some congressional critics are questioning the aid to Pakistan.

The U.S. extracted information for its successful operation from prisoners who were interrogated over months. There have been some reports that the U.S. used torture.

Obama is basking in the all round praise for the successful mission to nab bin Laden a decade after 9/11.

The world is changing, especially with the so called Arab spring, in which rebels are trying to topple the strong men dictators in Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Hail to the Chief who is now the front runner in the 2012 Presidential race - and he is smiling.
(c) 2011 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row At The White House: My Life and Times.

Battle For Michigan Opening At Benton Harbor
By James Donahue

The first salvo in Michigan’s battle against Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s planned corporate takeover of elected governments was heard last week in Benton Harbor, the first city in the state to receive the brunt of the GOP’s Emergency Financial Management legislation.

The bill, passed by the Republican dominated state House and Senate shortly after Snyder took the office vacated by Democrat Jennifer Granholm in January, expanded Snyder’s powers under the state’s existing emergency financial manager’s law. The modified law allows managers, appointed at the discretion of the governor, to abolish the jurisdiction of elected officials, suspend public employee contracts, pass laws and even abolish the existence of cities.

The legislation was part of Snyder’s campaign promise to solve the state’s crumbling financial issues in the wake of the loss of automobile manufacturing plants and all of the supporting industries surrounding them which brought deep recession and high unemployment. The loss of local tax revenues coupled with reductions in federal revenues has, indeed, created distressed financial conditions in most towns, counties and school districts throughout Michigan.

Snyder has apparently made Benton Harbor the site of his inaugural use of these his new powers which went into effect on May 1. Benton Harbor was once the home of Whirlpool Corporation with divisions of Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, Amana and other international brand names of kitchen appliances and home heating and cooling systems. Whirlpool moved its last manufacturing plant out of Benton Harbor in March, thus creating the final blow to an already depressed area. The city was ripe for plucking.

Even before the May 1 date, Snyder appointed Joseph Harris, formerly the Chief Financial Officer and Auditor General for Detroit, to serve as Benton Harbor’s Emergency Manager. Harris immediately stripped the city’s elected mayor and commission members of their decision making powers and declared that he may terminate public employee contracts. In an appearance on Fox News, Harris said the council was “effectively . . . fired by the state legislature.”

The City Commission, however, is not leaving without a fight. Members met in special session on May 2 and voted 6-2 to adopt a resolution declaring Harris’ appointment unconstitutional. The resolution also calls for his removal.

Commissioner Dennis Knowles said copies of the resolution will be mailed to the Civil Rights Division, U. S. Department of Justice, and President Barack Obama. It also is going to Governor Snyder and a host of state officials.

Thus it appears that the Snyder corporate takeover of financially strapped towns and schools will be challenged in the courts. Add this to a Snyder recall petition campaign launched in April and the battle for political power in Michigan may soon rival all that went on in neighboring Wisconsin earlier this year.
(c) 2011 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

I recently sat for an interview with the ACLU in Massachusetts on a variety of
topics, including the trade-off between security and freedom. Here is the
two-minute segment on that topic, obviously related to all of this.

Bin Laden's Death Doesn't End His Fear-Mongering Value
By Glenn Greenwald

On Friday, government officials anonymously claimed that "a rushed examination" of the "trove" of documents and computer files taken from the bin Laden home prove -- contrary to the widely held view that he "had been relegated to an inspirational figure with little role in current and future Qaeda operations" -- that in fact "the chief of Al Qaeda played a direct role for years in plotting terror attacks." Specifically, the Government possesses "a handwritten notebook from February 2010 that discusses tampering with tracks to derail a train on a bridge," and that led "Obama administration officials on Thursday to issue a warning that Al Qaeda last year had considered attacks on American railroads." That, in turn, led to headlines around the country like this one, from The Chicago Sun-Times:

The reality, as The New York Times noted deep in its article, was that "the information was both dated and vague," and the official called it merely "aspirational," acknowledging that "there was no evidence the discussion of rail attacks had moved beyond the conceptual stage" In other words, these documents contain little more than a vague expression on the part of Al Qaeda to target railroads in major American cities ("focused on striking Washington, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago," said the Sun-Times): hardly a surprise and -- despite the scary headlines -- hardly constituting any sort of substantial, tangible threat.

But no matter. Even in death, bin Laden continues to serve the valuable role of justifying always-increasing curtailments of liberty and expansions of government power. From Reuters (h/t Atrios):

Sen. Schumer proposes "no-ride list" for Amtrak trains

A senator on Sunday called for a "no-ride list" for Amtrak trains after intelligence gleaned from the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound pointed to potential attacks on the nation's train system.

Sen. Charles Schumer said he would push as well for added funding for rail security and commuter and passenger train track inspections and more monitoring of stations nationwide.

"Circumstances demand we make adjustments by increasing funding to enhance rail safety and monitoring on commuter rail transit and screening who gets on Amtrak passenger trains, so that we can provide a greater level of security to the public," the New York Democrat said at a news conference.

So Al Qaeda breathes the word "trains" and Schumer jumps and demands the creation of a massive, expensive and oppressive new Security State program to keep thousands and thousands of people off trains. The "no-fly" list has been nothing short of a Kafkaesque disaster: with thousands of people secretly placed on it without any explanation or real recourse, oftentimes causing them to be stranded in faraway places and unable to return home.

To replicate that for trains -- all because some documents mentioned them among thousands of other ideas Al Qaeda has undoubtedly considered over the years -- is hysteria and ludicrous over-reaction of the highest order. Trains can obviously be attacked without boarding them (indeed, these documents apparently discussed tampering with the rails, which wouldn't require boarding the trains at all). And if there's a "no-ride" list for Amtrak, why not for subways and buses, too? If Al Qaeda is found to have discussed targeting restaurants, will we have a no-eat list? If Al Qaeda is found to have discussed targeting large intersections or landmarks, will we have a no-walk list? How about a no-shop list in response to the targeting of malls?

But this, more or less, encapsulates the U.S. response to Terrorism since 9/11: the minute Al Qaeda utters a peep about anything, the political class collectively jumps to restrict our freedoms, empower the Government, and bankrupt ourselves in self-destructive pursuit of the ultimate illusion: Absolute Security. Al Qaeda has caused us to do more harm to ourselves than it could have ever dreamed of imposing on its own. And even in death, Osama bin Laden continues to serve as the pretext for all of this.
(c) 2011 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.

Day Of The Dead
The Hit Man as Hero
By Chris Floyd

Already the story is starting to unravel, mutate, transmogrify. Government statements that were presented as gospel truths in every media outlet in the world, and which served as the basis for ten thousand earnest, serious commentaries, turn out, one day later, to have been false.

We had been told – by the president’s top “counterterrorism adviser,” John Brennan – that Osama had been “engaged in a firefight” when he was gunned down by American agents. This was not true; it turns out that he was unarmed when they shot him in the head. We were told that the base coward used his wife as a human shield while he pumped hot lead at America’s boys. This was not true. There were no human shields – although Osama’s wife was shot in the leg, while another woman, wife to a bin Laden aide, was shot and killed by the agents.

Of course, even these new officially released “facts” must be taken with a grain of salt, since they spring from the same impenetrable murk of the security apparat from whence the original story of the raid emerged. Will these new details change tomorrow?

(Meanwhile, actual reporters doing actual reporting independently uncovered another falsehood in the first story: the compound that was raided in Abbottabad was not a “million-dollar mansion,” but a rather ordinary house in a middle-class area, worth about $250,000.)

In any case, we are told by the Fightin’ Patriotic Progressives who now stand foursquare behind the apparat that we should not trouble our little heads over these “discrepancies.” Such things are to be expected in the “fog of war.” (But didn’t the president and his national security team – including John Brennan – actually watch the raid unfold on live video feed? Didn’t Brennan see what happened with his own eyes?)

Or if not fog, then the original misinformation can be put down to “subconscious” mythologizing, as Digby tells us. ("I think it was mythologizing for the sake of mythologizing, even if it was subconscious.") Our leaders wanted an old-fashioned cowboy shoot-out for the big climax of the bin Laden story, and so, somehow, the counterterrorism chief of the United States just, you know, subconsciously rearranged the facts to fit the myth. But as Digby sternly warns us: “Let's not get stupid. The fact that they embellished doesn't mean it didn't happen.” That’s true; but “the fact that they embellished” does mean that we would be, well, stupid to accept anything that belches forth from the Secret State at face value.

I don’t mean to pick on Digby; but the post linked above serves as an almost perfect example of the moral schizophrenia that has gripped the progressive movement since the advent of Obama. At one point, she rightly notes that no one would have been bothered if the Administration had admitted from the start that bin Laden was unarmed when they killed him. As she says, the assassination scenario was duly praised by such rock-ribbed liberal icons as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert; and she notes, astutely, “I don't think there's any political downside, and in fact it probably makes them look more macho in the eyes of the people.”

(Indeed; all manner of liberals have been exulting in the new image of Obama the Heroic Hit Man. For example, Juan Cole and James Wolcott – both long-time scourges of the witless, brutal militarism of the Bush Regime – posted up a lolcat-style photo of a cool, grinning Obama in shades, emblazoned with the tagline, “Sorry it took so long to get you a copy of my birth certificate – I was too busy killing Osama bin Laden.”)

Digby then goes on to offer up another telling – and damning – insight:

Besides, the question of whether the president could order an assassination was settled some time ago. They assert the right to keep prisoners in jail forever and kill American citizens, and nobody cares, so why in the world would there be any domestic blowback for ordering the death of the world's most wanted man?

Here is where the schizophrenia sets in. It is obvious, from this and other posts, that Digby is horrified and outraged at Obama’s open claim of this universal license to kill and imprison with impunity. That is, she fully recognizes that the United States government is led by a man who believes he can murder anyone he pleases, at any time, at his own arbitrary decision. She knows that he has used this power over and over, most extensively in Pakistan, where even by the most conservative estimates hundreds of innocent people – including many women and children – have been killed in Obama’s drone missile campaign.

She knows, in other words, that Obama has killed hundreds of innocent people. Hundreds of innocent people. Little children, women, old folks, young marrieds, fathers, mothers, teenagers – he has killed them in their own homes, in the streets of their villages, in their cars, at their weddings and funerals and birthday parties and family gatherings, raining down missiles, without warning, with no way to escape, no defense, killed them, the babies, the children, the old, the sick, ripped their bodies to shreds, buried them under rubble, tore off their heads, set them on fire to die in the purest agony. She knows this. She decries this. She believes it is wrong. Yet the general thrust of her widely read blog is that this man who does these things, who commits these horrors, who claims these murderous, tyrannous powers, should, at all costs, be retained in power so that he can carry on doing these things which sicken and horrify her.

But this is not simply a case of lesser evilism in a system where all the alternatives are grim – i.e., “Well, Göring is a monster but he’s probably marginally better than Hitler; let’s support a bloody coup to install him as Führer.” No; Digby and many other progressives whose writings show they are perfectly aware of the atrocities that Obama has committed and the evil policies he embraces – such as the unrestricted license to kill – still display an active affection and celebratory support for him. To them, even though he has killed these people and claimed these awful powers, he is still one cool guy.

Witness their delight at Obama’s comedy routine at the Correspondent’s Dinner last week, when he poked fun at the pathetic Donald Trump, garnering big yocks from the Beltway elite – even as NATO missiles were killing three young grandchildren of Moamar Gadafy: more child sacrifices offered up on the altar of our modern Molochs. They didn't even notice.

Oh, they often shake their heads sadly or waggle their fingers sternly at some action or policy of Obama’s. They often can’t understand why he does these things – cut taxes for the rich, bail out the bankers, torture Bradley Manning, form commissions to gut Social Security, escalate and prolong the Terror War, kill hundreds of people with drone missiles, etc., etc. But nothing douses their fundamental (fundamentalist?) fervor to keep him in power and to scorn those who oppose him. Nothing keeps them from seeing themselves as his true and faithful "base," still waiting for him to return to them, despite his many betrayals. (Subconscious betrayals, no doubt.)

And we can expect more encomiums to the president’s eloquence and heroism from these quarters on Thursday, when, with the good taste and tact so characteristic of our bipartisan ruling class, Obama goes to the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York City to celebrate the shooting of an unarmed man in the head.

Yes, the president of the United States, accompanied by various Establishment worthies and doubtless a few dignified clerics, will stand at Ground Zero to glorify a killing that his own minions tell us will change nothing whatsoever: the wars will go on, “vigilance will be redoubled” (i.e., civil liberties will continue to be eroded, black ops will continue in the 70 countries or more where America is carrying out covert operations), the Secret State will keep growing, the universal license to kill and snatch and incarcerate and torture will remain in full force. So what exactly is being celebrated?

A cynic – or someone being skeptically “stupid” in the Digbyian sense – might say the occasion is more exploitation than celebration: exploiting the grief of the families of 9/11 survivors who will be trotted out to express their tearful gratitude to the president who has given them “closure” – and who will reap the poll bounce from this moment of “national unity,” just as his predecessor rode a similar exploitation of death to his own re-election.

Oh, but let us not be stupid. Let us acknowledge that the president kills innocent people and “asserts the right to keep prisoners in jail forever and kill American citizens” and puts out false information (subconsciously, of course! Always subconsciously!) about murky operations which we must take on faith like dutiful subjects in militarized state, not fully-fledged citizens in a republic – but let us still revel in his triumphs, delight in his eloquence, and work with all our strength to make sure he continues to invert, pervert and subvert every progressive value we hold dear.

That’s not “stupid” at all, is it?


UPDATE: Administration officials are now denying that Obama's national security team watched the execution of bin Laden on video feed, as was originally reported. Officials now say that the team was receiving "minute-by-minute updates" -- via unspecified technology -- and that, according to CIA honcho Leon Panetta, "there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes that we really didn't know just exactly what was going on." That would be the 20 or 25 minutes when the actual killing took place, presumably.

It's hard to understand how this wild story about the team watched the whole thing unfold in real time. Just one of those crazy urban myths, I guess. Or perhaps it was because of this bit of "subconscious mythologizing" that was offered up by the president's own chief adviser on counterterrorism, John Brennan, just two days ago:

"We were able to monitor in a real-time basis the progress of the operation from its commencement to its time on target to the extraction of the remains and to then the egress off of the target… we were able to monitor the situation in real time and were able to have regular updates and to ensure that we had real-time visibility into the progress of the operation. I'm not going to go into details about what type of visuals we had or what type of feeds that were there, but it was – it gave us the ability to actually track it on an ongoing basis."

I suppose really vague language like "we were able to monitor in a real-time basis the progress of the operation" from the start to the kill to the "extraction of the remains" and the grand skeedaddle could be twisted by stupid conspiracy theorists into some kind of cockamamie notion that Barry and Hill and, er, John Brennan, had, well, monitored the operation in real time. But now we know better.

UPDATE 2: There will doubtless be more backtracking and backfilling and sidestepping and subconscious mythologizing in the days to come. For it turns out that the crack crew of American agents left a whole group of eyewitnesses to the operation behind -- including the 12-year-old daughter of bin Laden, who saw her father killed -- and was also wounded in the attack.

As the Guardian reports, at least 10 people were left behind after the raid -- presumably because the raiding party did not have room to cart them off after losing one of their helicopters before the kill. Pakistani officials found the survivors -- including bin Laden's wife and the wounded daughter -- when they arrived on the scene just after the American exit. All of the survivors had been handcuffed, Pakistani officials said. The Americans also left four dead bodies behind: three men and a woman, taking only bin Laden and his dead son. From the Guardian:

Local authorities arrived on the scene of the raid as American special forces were leaving. It is believed that the attackers originally planned to evacuate all those in the compound but the breakdown of a helicopter meant there was no space to take them.

Instead, only the bodies of Bin Laden and his son Hamza, who was in his early 20s, were taken to the aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson and buried at sea. Survivors were left with their hands fastened with plastic handcuffs, a second Pakistani official said, adding that initial communications with the survivors had been difficult as the Pakistani police and military arriving at the scene did not speak Arabic.

The survivors are now being held by the Pakistanis, who say they will return them to their home countries as soon as the respective governments ask for them. At the moment, they are not allowing American agents to interrogate them -- strenuously or otherwise. But no doubt as the survivors' stories begin to emerge -- and yes, they will have their own spin and agenda, just like Obama and his subconsciously mythologizing security apparatchiks -- we will see several more "corrections" of the "historical record" now being woven and re-woven in front of our eyes.
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd

Single Payer Health, It's Only Fair
US healthcare is grossly distorted by waste and profit, while millions go uninsured. Americans deserve full universal coverage
By Bernie Sanders

The United States is the only major nation in the industrialised world that does not guarantee healthcare as a right to its people. Meanwhile, we spend about twice as much per capita on healthcare and, in a wide number of instances, our outcomes are not as good as others that spend far less.

It is time that we bring about a fundamental transformation of the American healthcare system. It is time for us to end private, for-profit participation in delivering basic coverage. It is time for the United States to provide a Medicare-for-all, single payer health coverage programme.

Under our dysfunctional system, 45,000 Americans a year die because they delay seeking care they cannot afford. We spent 17.6% of our GDP on healthcare in 2009, which is projected to go up to 20% by 2020, yet we still rank 26th among major, developed nations on life expectancy, and 31st on infant mortality. We must demand a better model of health coverage that emphasises preventive and primary care for every single person without regard for their ability to pay.

It is certainly a step forward that the new health reform law is projected to cover 32 million additional Americans, out of the more than 50 million uninsured today. Yet projections suggest that roughly 23 million will still be without insurance in 2019, while healthcare costs will continue to skyrocket.

Twenty-three million Americans still without health insurance after health reform is implemented? This is unacceptable. And that is why, this week, Representative Jim McDermott and I are announcing the re-introduction of the American Health Security Act, recognising healthcare as a human right and providing every US citizen and permanent resident with healthcare coverage and services through a state-administered, single payer program.

Let's face it: until we put patients over profits, our system will not work for ordinary Americans.

It is incomprehensible that drug companies still get away with charging Americans twice as much, or more, than citizens of Canada or Europe for the exact same drugs manufactured by the exact same companies. It is an outrage that insurers still often hike premiums 20%, 40% and 60% a year on individual policy holders; and some insurers still spend 40 cents of every premium dollar on administration and profits while lavishing multimillion-dollar payouts on their CEOs.

It boggles the mind that approximately 30% of every healthcare dollar spent in the United States goes to administrative costs, rather than to delivering care. We must do better. Taiwan, for example, spends only a little over 6% of GDP on healthcare, while achieving better health outcomes on some key indicators than we do; yet they spend a relative pittance on administrative costs.

I am very proud that my home state of Vermont is now taking big steps to lead the nation in healthcare by moving forward on a plan to establish a single payer healthcare system that puts the interests of patients over chasing profits. The American Health Security Act would make sure every state does the same – taking profits out of the equation by implementing a single payer system, but letting each state administer its own programme, according to strict standards, in a way best suited to its needs.

The goal of real healthcare reform must be high-quality, universal coverage in a cost-effective way. We must ensure, to as great a degree as possible, that the money we put into health coverage goes to the delivery of healthcare, not to paper-pushing, astronomical profits and lining CEOs' pockets.
© 2011 Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website.

The Unwisdom Of Elites
By Paul Krugman

The past three years have been a disaster for most Western economies. The United States has mass long-term unemployment for the first time since the 1930s. Meanwhile, Europe’s single currency is coming apart at the seams. How did it all go so wrong?MO< Well, what I’ve been hearing with growing frequency from members of the policy elite — self-appointed wise men, officials, and pundits in good standing — is the claim that it’s mostly the public’s fault. The idea is that we got into this mess because voters wanted something for nothing, and weak-minded politicians catered to the electorate’s foolishness.

So this seems like a good time to point out that this blame-the-public view isn’t just self-serving, it’s dead wrong.

The fact is that what we’re experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. The policies that got us into this mess weren’t responses to public demand. They were, with few exceptions, policies championed by small groups of influential people — in many cases, the same people now lecturing the rest of us on the need to get serious. And by trying to shift the blame to the general populace, elites are ducking some much-needed reflection on their own catastrophic mistakes.

Let me focus mainly on what happened in the United States, then say a few words about Europe.

These days Americans get constant lectures about the need to reduce the budget deficit. That focus in itself represents distorted priorities, since our immediate concern should be job creation. But suppose we restrict ourselves to talking about the deficit, and ask: What happened to the budget surplus the federal government had in 2000?

The answer is, three main things. First, there were the Bush tax cuts, which added roughly $2 trillion to the national debt over the last decade. Second, there were the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which added an additional $1.1 trillion or so. And third was the Great Recession, which led both to a collapse in revenue and to a sharp rise in spending on unemployment insurance and other safety-net programs.

So who was responsible for these budget busters? It wasn’t the man in the street.

President George W. Bush cut taxes in the service of his party’s ideology, not in response to a groundswell of popular demand — and the bulk of the cuts went to a small, affluent minority.

Similarly, Mr. Bush chose to invade Iraq because that was something he and his advisers wanted to do, not because Americans were clamoring for war against a regime that had nothing to do with 9/11. In fact, it took a highly deceptive sales campaign to get Americans to support the invasion, and even so, voters were never as solidly behind the war as America’s political and pundit elite.

Finally, the Great Recession was brought on by a runaway financial sector, empowered by reckless deregulation. And who was responsible for that deregulation? Powerful people in Washington with close ties to the financial industry, that’s who. Let me give a particular shout-out to Alan Greenspan, who played a crucial role both in financial deregulation and in the passage of the Bush tax cuts — and who is now, of course, among those hectoring us about the deficit.

So it was the bad judgment of the elite, not the greediness of the common man, that caused America’s deficit. And much the same is true of the European crisis. Needless to say, that’s not what you hear from European policy makers. The official story in Europe these days is that governments of troubled nations catered too much to the masses, promising too much to voters while collecting too little in taxes. And that is, to be fair, a reasonably accurate story for Greece. But it’s not at all what happened in Ireland and Spain, both of which had low debt and budget surpluses on the eve of the crisis.

The real story of Europe’s crisis is that leaders created a single currency, the euro, without creating the institutions that were needed to cope with booms and busts within the euro zone. And the drive for a single European currency was the ultimate top-down project, an elite vision imposed on highly reluctant voters.

Does any of this matter? Why should we be concerned about the effort to shift the blame for bad policies onto the general public?

One answer is simple accountability. People who advocated budget-busting policies during the Bush years shouldn’t be allowed to pass themselves off as deficit hawks; people who praised Ireland as a role model shouldn’t be giving lectures on responsible government.

But the larger answer, I’d argue, is that by making up stories about our current predicament that absolve the people who put us here there, we cut off any chance to learn from the crisis. We need to place the blame where it belongs, to chasten our policy elites. Otherwise, they’ll do even more damage in the years ahead.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
~~~ Abraham Lincoln

Your Taxes Fund Anti-Muslim Hatred
By Chris Hedges

News personalities, politicians, self-appointed experts on the Muslim world, and law enforcement and intelligence officials, as well as the Christian right, have successfully demonized Muslims in the United States since the attacks of 2001. It is acceptable to say things openly about Muslims that could never be said about any other ethnic group. And as the economy continues to unravel, as we face the possibility of revenge attacks by Islamic extremists, perhaps on American soil, the plight of Muslims is beginning to mirror that of targeted ethnic minority groups on the eve of the war in the former Yugoslavia, or Jews in the dying days of the Weimar Republic.

The major candidates for the Republican nomination for the presidency, including Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee, along with television personalities such as Bill Maher, routinely employ hate talk against Muslims as a way to attract votes or viewers. Right-wing radio and cable news, including Christian radio and television, along with websites such as Jihad Watch and FrontPage, spew toxic filth about Muslims over the airwaves and the Internet. But perhaps most ominously—as pointed out in “Manufacturing the Muslim Menace,” a report by Political Research Associates—a cadre of right-wing institutions that peddle themselves as counterterrorism specialists and experts on the Muslim world has been indoctrinating thousands of police, intelligence and military personnel in nationwide seminars. These seminars, run by organizations such as Security Solutions International, The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies, and International Counter-Terrorism Officers Association, embrace gross and distorted stereotypes and propagate wild conspiracy theories. And much of this indoctrination within the law enforcement community is funded under two grant programs for training—the State Homeland Security Program and Urban Areas Security Initiative—which made $1.67 billion available to states in 2010. The seminars preach that Islam is a terrorist religion, that an Islamic “fifth column” or “stealth jihad” is subverting the United States from within, that mainstream American Muslims have ties to terrorist groups, that Muslims use litigation, free speech and other legal means (something the trainers have nicknamed “Lawfare”) to advance the subversive Muslim agenda and that the goal of Muslims in the United States is to replace the Constitution with Islamic or Shariah law.

“You would not expect a Democratic administration to fund right-wing groups,” Thom Cincotta, a civil liberties attorney and the author of the Political Research Associates report, told me, “and yet we continue to have hard-right, Islamophobic speakers and companies being paid taxpayer dollars to promote racist doctrines that undermine U.S. national security policy concerning Islam and the Muslim world. Policy expert after policy expert point out that framing our counterterrorism efforts as a war against Islam is a recipe for building increased resentment among Muslims, as well as a potent recruiting tool for those who would like to carry out violent attacks against us. This kind of demonizing breaks down communication between law enforcement agents and Muslim communities, which have proven to be strong allies in the rare instances of domestic extremism. Not only does it threaten to erode basic civil liberties, it threatens freedom of expression and freedom of worship.”

The effects of this campaign of racial hatred are being felt throughout the Muslim community. Those with Muslim names are routinely harassed at airports, and many who wear traditional Muslim dress report mounting cases of verbal and sometimes physical abuse. Muslim children endure taunts in schools. Muslims complain of intrusive surveillance, unconstitutional profiling and frequent mistreatment by law enforcement. The practice of Islam, especially in its traditional forms, is now viewed by many as a sign of criminal intent. And with the rise of the surveillance and security state—we now have 854,000 people working in our domestic security apparatus and 800,000 more employed as police and emergency personnel—national law is being turned into an instrument of overt repression against a religious minority.

Those making war on Islam are ignorant of the practices and beliefs of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims. The Muslim community is not a monolith. It is composed of numerous ethnic, national, cultural and racial groups that often have little in common and in some cases are antagonistic. Of the some 6 million Muslims in the United States, only 5 to 10 percent define themselves as religious. And those groups that express political versions of Islam—the Jamaat al-Islamiyya out of South Asia and the Salafis—are a tiny and marginalized minority.

There is now an industry of well-funded hatemongers producing seminars, courses and books on Islam. Walid Shoebat, one of the stars of the circuit, gives a presentation titled “The Jihad Mindset and How to Defeat It: Why We Want to Kill You.” Shoebat, who bills himself as a reformed terrorist and who speaks to law enforcement officials around the country, tells his listeners that mainstream Muslim organizations such as the Islamic Society of North America and the Council on American-Islamic Relations are terrorist fronts and that Islamists are by nature violent extremists and pedophiles. Shoebat, like most of the other “reformed” Muslims trotted out to speak at these events, has embraced fundamentalist Christianity. He denounces Islam as the religion of the Antichrist. Shoebat is scheduled to be one of the featured speakers Wednesday at the 2nd Annual South Dakota Homeland Security Conference in Rapid City, sponsored by the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

The poison of this rhetoric was on display a few days ago when a trustee of City University of New York blocked the playwright Tony Kushner, who is Jewish, from receiving an honorary doctorate because of Kushner’s criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. The trustee, Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, labeling Kushner “an extremist,” told The New York Times that the Palestinians “who worship death for their children are not human.”

I had dinner in Berkeley recently with my friend Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, an Islamic scholar and the co-founder of Zaytuna College, who has watched the steady deterioration of Muslims’ civil rights since the 2001 attacks. He argues that the stereotypes employed against Muslims mirror, with a different iconography and language, the Cold War Red-baiting that dismantled the militant labor movement and ended all serious challenges to unfettered corporate capitalism. The Red-baiting disempowered a dissident segment of American society and legalized its persecution. Red-baiting turned socialists, anarchists, populists, communists and radicals, who relentlessly challenged the orthodoxies of the permanent war economy and assault on civil liberties, into pariahs and scapegoats. It worked once. It could work again.

The portrayal of Muslims as mortal enemies serves the interests of the expanding security state and the war industry, which consume half of all federal discretionary spending. The “Muslim threat” propagates the culture of fear and ensures our political passivity. Yusuf calls the attacks on American Muslim leadership and Islamic charities “Swiftboating,” in reference to the right-wing smearing of John Kerry’s war record when the senator was running for president in 2004. Create doubt in people’s minds about the allegiances of Muslim leaders and you effectively undermine the entire community. He says these caricatures of Muslims as evil terrorists become effective tools in justifying the ongoing occupations and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the proxy wars in Yemen and Pakistan, and the suspension of basic civil liberties at home. Israel, as well as its supporters in the United States, routinely employs the same racist cant to excuse Israeli war crimes and deny the legitimate rights of Palestinians.

Nazi portrayals of Jews, Yusuf points out, bear a disturbing resemblance to modern portrayals of Muslims. The goal that some of these demagogues have, he said, especially in a time of economic collapse, is to divert widespread rage toward Muslims, just as the leadership of Serbia diverted rage toward Muslims and Croats when that nation’s economy collapsed.

“I was completely humiliated by one of these Homeland Security officials at the San Francisco Airport recently,” Yusuf told me. “He knew who I was. He got more and more antagonistic. He searched all my things. It was one question after another. ‘Who were you visiting?’ he asked. ‘Where were you?’ It was done in front of my wife and children. He would not let up. We had somebody else’s bag who was traveling with us and who had just gone through security. He said, looking at the bag, ‘What kind of a name is that, Hussani?’ I said, ‘It is an American name.’ He looked at me and said: ‘Don’t get smart with me. You’re a big-shot guy. You’re not stupid. You know exactly what I mean. What is that? Is it an Arab name?’ I said, ‘Look, it could be many, many nationalities.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’m asking you about this one.’ He was talking to me like this. After about 30 minutes of this, and I don’t know why I was putting up with this, I guess I was hoping each time would be the last, I finally said, ‘You can arrest me. You can do whatever you want. But I’m not answering another one of these inane questions.’ He tossed my passport at me and said, ‘Have a nice day.’ And I am wondering, did he just go through one of these training seminars?”

Yusuf filed a complaint with his senator and the Homeland Security Department. Homeland Security officials told him they would investigate the matter, and that if he could notify them in advance they would escort him through the airport security line. “But,” he said, “the problem with that approach is it essentially turns us into a Third World country where influential people are treated well, but others suffer the brunt of a regime’s brutality if they are suspect. That’s what happens when I go to counties in the Arab world. They meet me at the airport. I get treated like a VIP. But then Gulam, the little greengrocer from Peshawar, who came here as a refugee 15 years ago from the Afghani war, he gets treated like crap, because he doesn’t have friends or influence. Our creed is supposed to be ‘Liberty and justice for all’ and that’s all I want.”

Yusuf tells Muslims in the United States that they should attempt to understand those who readily embrace these stereotypes. “We can’t demonize those who attend rallies where they demonize us, because in the end the people who attend these rallies are also victims,” he said. “They are victims of these demagogues with bully pulpits. People are scared. They are losing their jobs. Their mortgages have gone into foreclosure. They are angry. Demagogues always arise in these situations to use and direct anger. The Muslim community is just an easy target.”
(c) 2011 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 and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "“Death Of The Liberal Class.”

Tony Kushner And The Angels Of Dissent
By Amy Goodman

Tony Kushner will be receiving an honorary degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. This shouldn’t be big news. Kushner is a renowned playwright who won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, along with an Emmy Award and two Tonys. The degree became big news when it was abruptly shelved by the City University of New York board of trustees during its May 2 meeting, after a trustee accused Kushner of being anti-Israel.

A campaign grew almost immediately, first calling on previous recipients of honorary degrees from CUNY colleges (of which John Jay College is one) to return them. Within days, what would have been a quickly forgotten bestowal of an honorary degree erupted into an international scandal. The chair of the board, Benno Schmidt, former president of Yale University, convened an emergency executive session of the board, which voted unanimously to restore the honor to Kushner.

The controversy exposed the extreme polarity that increasingly defines the Israel/Palestine conflict, and the willingness by some to suppress free speech and vigorous dialogue to further rigid, political dogma. The trustee who attacked Kushner, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, began his tirade at the original board meeting with an attack on Mary Robinson, who was formerly both the president of Ireland and the United Nations high commissioner for human rights. He then went on: “There is a lot of disingenuous and nonintellectual activity directed against the state of Israel on campuses throughout the country, the West generally, and oftentimes the United States, as well.” He presented several quotes that he attributed to Kushner to make his case, ending with, “I don’t want to bore you all with the details.”

Kushner told me, “[W]hat he’s doing is sparing them not boring details, but the full extent of the things that I’ve said about the state of Israel that would in fact make it clear to the board that I am in no way an enemy of the state of Israel, that I am in fact a vocal and ardent supporter of the state of Israel, but I don’t believe that criticism of state policy means that one seeks the destruction of a state. I’ve been very critical of the policies of my own government.”

First, a little history on Kushner’s work. He won the Pulitzer for his play “Angels in America.” The play is subtitled “A Gay Fantasia on National Themes,” and addresses the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the struggle that many gay men and lesbians endure in the United States. A key character in the play is a fictionalized version of Roy Cohn, a prominent attorney who, early in his career, was a key adviser to Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Cohn helped McCarthy with his fanatical pursuit of suspected communists in the U.S. government and beyond. He was considered a lifelong closeted gay man, despite the fact that he helped target people for political persecution for being gay. Cohn died in 1986 of complications due to AIDS, although he publicly described his illness as liver cancer. Thus, in a dramatic, real-life turn of events, Kushner, who has written extensively on the witch hunts of the McCarthy era, has now become the object of such a witch hunt himself.

The CUNY board of trustees’ version of Roy Cohn here is Wiesenfeld, appointed by former Republican governor of New York George Pataki.

I interviewed Tony Kushner soon after he got word that his honorary degree had been restored. He said U.S. policy toward the Middle East “based on right-wing fantasies and theocratic fantasies and scripture-based fantasies of what history and on-the-ground reality is telling us, is catastrophic and is going to lead to the destruction of the state of Israel. These people are not defending it. They’re not supporting it. They’re in fact causing a distortion of U.S. policy regarding Israel and a distortion of the internal politics of Israel itself, because they exert a tremendous influence in Israel and support right-wing politicians who I think have led the country into a very dark and dangerous place.”

During the McCarthy era, the U.S. was a dark and dangerous place as well. Now, amid the uprisings in the Arab and Muslim world, the recent rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas, and the likely recognition of Palestinian statehood by the United Nations General Assembly, there is no more urgent time for vigorous and informed debate.

The future of peace in the Middle East depends on dissent. Those, like Tony Kushner, with the courage to speak out are the true angels in America.
(c) 2011 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Aufsicht Bain,

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, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Kyle Busch, Anheuser-Busch, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Elena (Butch) Kagan.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, your demanding a rape victim cheer for her rapist, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class with diamond clusters, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 07-04-2011. We salute you Herr Bain, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

How Town Hall Protests Against Paul Ryan's Plan Changed The Medicare Debate
By John Nichols

Paul Ryan claims the protests heard so very loud and clear during the House Budget Committee chair’s town hall meetings in April had no influence on his thinking about Medicare.

Perhaps Ryan really does have a tin ear.

But the outcry over his plan to mess with Medicare, heard in Wisconsin communities from Milton to Kenosha, and at spring recess sessions in the districts of Republican freshmen from Pennsylvania to Florida, obviously influenced other Republicans.

Images from Kenosha – a historic factory town in Ryan's district, where hundreds of people showed up to criticize his scheming to cut benefits for working Americans while giving billionaires and multinational corporations new tax breaks – were featured nationally on broadcast network news shows.

Cable news programs focused intense attention on the story. MSNBC's Ed Schultz devoted much of a program last week to the outcry. (In addition to a blistering analysis of the congressman's proposal by the host, this writer provided some on the ground reporting from Kenosha, including details of a brief interview with Ryan, who was typically dismissive of the popular discomfort with his plan.) But other networks -- even Fox -- at least touched on the congressman's troubles.

The reporting was noticed in Washington where, last week, GOP leaders began almost immediately to distance themselves from Ryan’s plan to use Medicare funds to enrich the private insurance firms that have donated so generously to his campaigns.

The disarray among House and Senate Republicans is evident, as they send contradictory signals about how they will treat Medicare and Medicaid in negotiations around Ryan's budget plan. Even as they claim to still be sympathetic to the budget committee chair's plan, GOP leaders are retreating from it.

House Speaker John Boehner now describes the Ryan plan -- which was endorsed by his caucus in a House vote barely a month ago -- as just “one idea” among many.

The No. 2 Republican in the House, Eric Cantor, says he's looking for alternatives to Ryan's proposal.

House Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp, D-Michigan, says he does not plan to hold hearings regarding Ryan's plan.

The operative term among Republicans now is that the budget committee chair's proposal is a “starting point" -- not a destination.

What does this tell us?

The town hall protests across the country shook the GOP.

And the particular protests in Ryan's Wisconsin district had a two-fold impact:

A. They pierced Ryan's image of invincibility. He had long peddled a claim that he could win with these ideas in working-class areas. That was called into question and GOP members from around the country noted it.

B. They made Medicare an issue in Wisconsin and nationally -- even New York where, in a special election for an open U.S. House seat, Democratic contender Kathy Hochul has surged after attacking Ryan’s plan. As the Buffalo News notes, "The Hochul campaign... has recognized the special dynamics of what looms on May 24 and employs an aide with experience in special elections. The campaign has recognized early on that the educated voters who will vote on Election Day know their issues, that they know the term “Ryan budget,” and they know that a major overhaul of Medicare as we know it is part of the deal that Corwin supports. It’s why issues matter in a special election. “I had no idea [at the campaign’s start] that the Ryan budget would be in play,” said (a) Democrat close to the campaign. “But it’s in play.”

What this all adds up to, whether Ryan wants to admit it or not, is the truth that a grassroots intervention by citizens in Wisconsin and states across the country appears to be changing the course of national policymaking.
(c) 2011 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

My Reaction To Osama bin Laden’s Death
By Noam Chomsky

It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”

Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.

There is also much media discussion of Washington’s anger that Pakistan didn’t turn over bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger that the U.S. invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.

There’s more to say about [Cuban airline bomber Orlando] Bosch, who just died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the “Bush doctrine” that societies that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves and should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that Bush was calling for invasion and destruction of the U.S. and murder of its criminal president.

Same with the name, Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound, throughout western society, that no one can perceive that they are glorifying bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance against genocidal invaders. It’s like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It’s as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”

There is much more to say, but even the most obvious and elementary facts should provide us with a good deal to think about.
(c) 2011 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Gaza In Crisis.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Milt Priggee ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Predator Drone TR425 Takes The Stand

Parting Shots...

Obama Gets Osama
By Will Durst

Pull the banner out of storage and string it back across the aircraft carrier. Because this time, Mission Really Accomplished. Barack bested bin Laden. Obama got Osama. Or as the right wing talk shows probably reported it, “Alien President Murders Muslim Brother.” Though not a big fan of the whole killing thing, it would take a stupendously bloodless American to decline the pleasure of hammering a couple of nails into this particular coffin.

The most wanted man on the planet. Found. And you had to admire the way it was done; members of Navy Seal Team Six firing two warning shots into the head. One for each tower. The target was totally unarmed and never had a chance. That’s known as synchronicity. Live by the sneak attack, die by the sneak attack.

President George W Bush famously said: “He can run, but he can’t hide,” and finally was proved right. Although you got to admit, bin Laden gave it a good run: 9 years, 230 days. Think he might have earned Hide and Seek Grand Master Championship status. An award that alas, must be presented posthumously.

Buried at sea, but that’s just a polite way of saying the carcass was kicked overboard. An extreme act of pollution, upon which the Arabian Sea EPA surely frowned. Hopefully, the architect of Ground Zero won’t float across to the Sea of Japan into all that radiation- could spawn a training school of three eyed mutant terrorists.

In a way, it’s too bad we ditched him so soon. Mucho bucks could have been raised by touring the country giving ordinary folks a chance to pose with the corpse like they used to do in the Old West. “Get your picture taken with the Butcher of 911. 10 bucks.” Could have carted the remains around in a refrigerated casket shoved onto the bed of a Ford F-250 traveling to County Fairs and Tractor Pulls. Like what happened with the World Series trophy only with more punching. Eventually the cadaver would end up in Vegas with its own Cirque du Soleil show, or as one of the stiffer stiffs on “Dancing With the Stars.”

The Pakistanis aren’t happy. First they claimed to be an integral partner in the operation. Unh-hunh. “Thanks for your assistance. Here’s a broom. Got to go.” Now they’re whining it made them look bad. You know, our role in making you look bad is superfluous. Head Honcho Al Qaeda himself living for 5 years behind your version of West Point and nobody notices? Right. Like Lady Gaga hiding out at the Vatican. Either you’re complicit, stupid, incompetent, or both.

The safe house was not equipped with internet or phone connection and they burned their trash inside the compound. So, if you think of it, he pretty much was living in hell. All we did was change the location.

We also managed to retrieve a sizable cache of computer disks, which hopefully will reveal a vast network of terrorist contacts and sleeper cell structures, but we all know what’s really on them. Porn. Hot stuff. Muslim women wearing see-through burkas. Beard on veil action.

But now, thank god, this whole thing is over and our troops can come home and we won’t have to take off our shoes at the airport anymore and can turn our attention to hunting down the next biggest threat to democracy: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
(c) 2011 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based political comedian, Will Durst, often writes: this is an example. Don't forget his new CD, "Raging Moderate" from Stand-Up Records now available on both iTunes and Amazon. The New York Times says Emmy-nominated comedian and writer Will Durst “is quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today.” Check out his website: to find out about upcoming stand-up performances or to buy his book, “The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing.”

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 19 (c) 05/13/2011

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