Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Tom Ehgelhardt says, "Call The Politburo, We're In Trouble."

Uri Avnery asks, "Who Is Afraid Of A Real Inquiry?"

David Sirota is, "Putting The "I" In The Environment."

Ted Rall returns with, "Ethnic Cleansing In Kyrgyzstan."

Jim Hightower thinks it's, "Time To Kick Tony's Keister."

Amy Goodman uncovers, "Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives."

James Donahue discovers, "America's Wars Strangely Linked To Narcotics Trade."

Melissa Harris-Lacewell sings, "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught."

Joe Conason finds, "Dr. Paul: Not Board-Certified, But Self-Certified."

Case Wagenvoord offers, "A Nasty Little Sacrament."

Mike Folkerth concludes if you, "Want A BIG Problem? Let A Little One Go."

Chris Hedges presents, "A 'Prophecy' Worth Watching."

David Michael Green with another must read, "The Do-Nothing 44th President."

US Sin-ator Orrin Hatch (F-UT) wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald follows, "John McCain On The Evil, Barbaric Iranians."

William Rivers Pitt declares, "Enough Of This Crap."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst considers, "The Third Gulf War" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "The Mob Rules!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Mike Thompson, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Derf City, Mike Keefe, Keith Tucker, Constructive Anarchy.Com/Blog, Jeff Koterba, Despair.Com, Ari Mintz, Ed Reinke, CBC, CNN and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

The Mob Rules
By Ernest Stewart

It's over, it's done
The end is begun
If you listen to fools...
The Mob Rules
The Mob Rules ~~~ Black Sabbath

Mr. Marks, by mandate of the District of Columbia Precrime Division, I'm placing you under arrest for the future murder of Sarah Marks and Donald Dubin that was to take place today, April 22 at 0800 hours and four minutes. ~~~ John Anderton
Minority Report ~~~ Tom Cruise

LA Jews for Peace condemns Israel's piracy of the Freedom Flotilla in international waters, a clear violation of International Law, and the killing of civilian members of the Flotilla who were bringing humanitarian supplies to the 1.5 million people living in the besieged Gaza Strip. We also condemn the U.S. government's full complicity in these crimes. Both the White House and Congress (both parties) are fully supportive of Israel's illegal siege of Gaza. ~~~ LA Jews For Peace ~ June 2, 2010

The Mad Hatter of the tea baggers, Rand Paul, proves that the nut doesn't fall far from the tree! Rand, who was named after Ayn Rand author of Atlas Shrugged, the worst book ever published in the English language. Paul has a similar problem with words!

Unlike his daddy, Ron, Rand hasn't learned to speak in Rethuglican code. He just speaks his fascist, racist mind and yet Kentuckians voted him the Rethuglican candidate for US Senate in May.

Rand wants us to return to those "Thrilling Days of Yesteryear!" You know, back to those days of "whoppin' slaves and sellin' cotton?"

Rand isn't a big fan of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and thinks businesses should be able to refuse service and hotel accommodations and hire only those they choose to. You know, discriminate! In fact, if Rand had his way there would be no federal loans for college. If you're not rich or a jock you're not going to school. It's off to the coalmines for the likes of you! No laws requiring access to building or even sidewalks for the disabled. Can't get up those steps or over that curb in your wheel chair? Too bad!

Have you heard Paul's recent analysis of the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? The Obama administration faces growing criticism for not being tough enough on BP for its failure to stop the gushing flow of crude that is fouling many of the South's ecologically sensitive coastal marshes and beaches but Rand says:

What I don't like from the president's administration is this sort of, 'I'll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,' I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.

The "un-American" part is consistent with the campaign by tea bagger wingnuts, the general idea being that it's wrong to hold private firms strictly accountable for disasters which they directly cause such as the Gulf spill, even though BP is currently guilty of 800 safety violations on their Gulf rigs, some of which directly caused the murder of those 11 workers and uncounted chaos in the region! This is typical Rand. He also dismisses the recent West Virginia mine explosion at the Massey Energy mine in which 29 miners were killed. This explosion was directly caused by safety violations but Rand said:

We had a mining accident that was very tragic. Then we come in, and it's always someone's fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen.

Accidents like you winning the Rethuglican primary, Rand? But maybe accidents are less likely to happen when appropriate safety standards are enforced. This kind of cause-and-effect reasoning is meaningful only to those who live in the real world, however, from all evidence, Rand lives in "Libertarian La-La Land" a.k.a. "The Twilight Zone!"

Finally, is anyone surprised by the fact that Dr. Rand isn't board certified? According to a story in the Louisville Courier-Journal on the candidate's history with the American Board of Ophthalmology, the ABO no longer certifies Rand. That may be but I'm pretty sure if Rand went before a board of psychiatrists he could be board certified insane! I can't wait to see if racism and stupidity win out in Kentucky come November. Stay turned, America!

In Other News

Have you heard about the strange case of David Pyles? I hope this is a strange case but in Oregon it maybe the norm. You'll recall Oregon is the home of the Jack Booted Thugs who like to beat up on unarmed little old ladies and babes-in-arms for daring to lawfully, peacefully assemble to protest the coming of George Walker Bush. (See my report, "Hell Comes To Frog Town.") So I'm not really surprised by what happened to David.

David's fatal mistake was to argue with one of his betters where he works at the Oregon Department of Transportation. David was in the process of resolving this though normal channels and union procedures when he was told he would have to work from home. Can you say petty power trip, boys and girls? David's other mistake was to buy a shotgun, which he had been planning to buy for months when some extra money from his tax refund came through. He did and his purchase was approved by the Oregon State Police. It was this purchase that allowed the Oregon Gestapo to surround his house in the middle of the night and give him a call.

One of the Jack booted thugs called David and asked him to come out of his house "just to talk." David was assured that there was nothing wrong, that he wouldn't be arrested or taken off his property. But they lied. David noted he was surrounded by dozens of men with machine guns and therefore "volunteers" to come out, because not to do so would be folly and death! David came out and was immediately hand cuffed and taken away to the funny farm while his house was ransacked and his guns were confiscated. He wasn't arrested, however, (as they had no warrant to arrest or search his house) ergo he had no right to an attorney, no right to remain silent and could be held incommunicado for up to 6 months and made to take heavy medications! "Uncle Joe" Stalin would be proud of Oregon's finest!

What law had David broken, as far as the cops could tell, absolutely none! Hence no warrant and no arrest! David had fallen under Oregon's "precrime" laws!

It seems after the State Police approved his gun purchase they contacted local law enforcement in what appears to be a blatant violation of the law. And because his employer accused him of being "disgruntled," (which could included 9 out 10 American workers) his perfectly legal gun buys became the excuse for an unlawful and unwarranted attack on his freedom and property. Because David just might have bought that new shotgun, (even though he already had other guns in his house) to seek revenge against his betters. Under Oregon law what went down is perfectly legal. Perfectly legal, even though David had broken no law, had never had any police problems in his past, was a respected member of his community, had made no threats or in any way given anybody including the folks at work any reason to believe that he was any threat to anyone (including himself) at all.

A short time after being dragged to an involuntary "psychological evaluation," David was released following clinical psychiatric evaluation, which determined that "he was sane, of no threat to anyone, and of no threat of harm to himself." Lucky for David he came before an honest shrink and not some state sanctioned goon! But the police kept his guns. At first, he was told he would have to wait 2 to 4 weeks to get his confiscated property back, but as soon as the story broke the police quickly returned his property.

His employer meanwhile posted notices warning other workers to run away if they saw David and call police. (Can you imagine the multi-million dollar lawsuit that is to come?) Although they also said David had made no threats to anyone.

Now the NRA types see this as Obama's buy-a-gun-and-go-to-the-funny-farm plan. I think that has very little to do with this and the reasons are far scarier. Remember that David broke no law. He committed no crime and had threatened no one. His legal gun purchase was approved by the state police. Yet, with no warrant and no probable cause, David was dragged off into the night by heavily armed Jack Booted Thugs with no legal authority to do so and he was given none of the protections that a child molester would get from the legal system and it was all perfectly legal! How you fixed for goose bumps?

As a fan of Phillip K. Dick, I was expecting this long before Spielberg turned his short story "The Minority Report" into the film, "Minority Report." In the story and the film, police arrest people for crimes before they're committed or even before they're planned and punished them as if they had committed the crime. Just like what happened to David. David got lucky when they came for him! I wonder if you or I will be as lucky when they come for us?

And Finally

As we have stated on many occasions, not all Jews are Zionazis, just the evil ones. Most Jews are in favor of the two state solution for occupied Palestine and many put their lives, careers and well-being on the line to try and accomplish this goal. You are, of course, familiar with Gush Shalom, the group that Uri Avnery has been a spokesman of for many years, but have you heard about the EJJP or JFJFP?

European Jews for a Just Peace (EJJP) is about to launch their own flotilla to break the Gaza blockade! EJJP is an umbrella organization of Jewish groups from 10 European countries against the occupation of Palestine. Their aim is to deliver humanitarian aid such as schoolbooks and medicines to the Gaza Strip, and to draw attention to the blockade, which they call, "immoral."

"We want to show that not all Jews support Israel," said Edith Lutz, a German member of the EJJP. "We are calling for a just solution and for an end to the blockade."

On board the ships will be activists from across Europe including Germany and the UK, as well as an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor from Israel. The voyage was originally meant to carry only a small number of activists together with journalists from Europe and Israel, but organizers say that a huge response from the Jewish community has meant that a second boat has been arranged, and the possibility of a third is being discussed!

"In the beginning it was not meant to be an exclusively Jewish trip, we had a variety of people. But many more Jewish people came forward wanting to come on board, and we realized this was important politically," said Lutz.

This sentiment was echoed by Glyn Secker, a member of the British based Jews for Justice for Palestinians who will captain one of the ships. "I think it will have particular significance because it is a group of Jewish people saying that as Jews, we are critical of Israeli policy. We believe that there should be a just peace for the Palestinians," he said.

Organizers hope to draw attention to the injustice of the blockade while delivering much-needed supplies to the impoverished territory of 1.5 million people, 80 percent of whom rely on some sort of food aid according to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA.

"The supplies are symbolic," said Secker, "they include medical supplies, books, art materials and some musical instruments to give to the children."

"We want to make a very clear moral statement that the way Israel is treating the Palestinians is, we believe, extremely immoral. We want to say emphatically: 'not in our name,'" Secker added.

Another motivation for the trip, organizers said, was the effect Israeli policies have on the treatment of Jews living outside of Israel.

"We are frightened that Israeli policies will help anti-Semitism to grow. We also want to show that these actions are not Jewish," said Lutz.

The group said they would depart from a port in an undisclosed country toward the end of July. The current number of people on board is approximately 40, but organizers said this number could grow by the time they depart.

I wonder if the trigger-happy IDF will be so quick to slaughter Jews the way they are to slaughter Goyim cattle?

Oh And One More Thing

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


08-10-1928 ~ 06-13-2010
Thanks for the entertainment!

07-24-1953 ~ 06-16-2010
Thanks for the Funk!


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


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

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

Call The Politburo, We're In Trouble
Entering the Soviet Era in America
By Tom Engelhardt

Mark it on your calendar. It seems we've finally entered the Soviet era in America.

You remember the Soviet Union, now almost 20 years in its grave. But who gives it a second thought today? Even in its glory years that "evil empire" was sometimes referred to as "the second superpower." In 1991, after seven decades, it suddenly disintegrated and disappeared, leaving the United States -- the "sole superpower," even the "hyperpower," on planet Earth -- surprised but triumphant.

The USSR had been heading for the exits for quite a while, not that official Washington had a clue. At the moment it happened, Soviet "experts" like Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (then director of the CIA) still expected the Cold War to go on and on. In Washington, eyes were trained on the might of the Soviet military, which the Soviet leadership had never stopped feeding, even as its sclerotic bureaucracy was rotting, its economy (which had ceased to grow in the late 1970s) was tanking, budget deficits were soaring, indebtedness to other countries was growing, and social welfare payments were eating into what funds remained. Not even a vigorous, reformist leader like Mikhail Gorbachev could staunch the rot, especially when, in the late 1980s, the price of Russian oil fell drastically.

Looking back, the most distinctive feature of the last years of the Soviet Union may have been the way it continued to pour money into its military -- and its military adventure in Afghanistan -- when it was already going bankrupt and the society it had built was beginning to collapse around it. In the end, its aging leaders made a devastating miscalculation. They mistook military power for power on this planet. Armed to the teeth and possessing a nuclear force capable of destroying the Earth many times over, the Soviets nonetheless remained the vastly poorer, weaker, and (except when it came to the arms race) far less technologically innovative of the two superpowers.

In December 1979, perhaps taking the bait of the Carter administration whose national security advisor was eager to see the Soviets bloodied by a "Vietnam" of their own, the Red Army invaded Afghanistan to support a weak communist government in Kabul. When resistance in the countryside, led by Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas and backed by the other superpower, only grew, the Soviets sent in more troops, launched major offensives, called in air power, and fought on brutally and futilely for a decade until, in 1989, long after they had been whipped, they withdrew in defeat.

Gorbachev had dubbed Afghanistan "the bleeding wound," and when the wounded Red Army finally limped home, it was to a country that would soon cease to exist. For the Soviet Union, Afghanistan had literally proven "the graveyard of empires." If, at the end, its military remained standing, the empire didn't. (And if you don't already find this description just a tad eerie, given the present moment in the U.S., you should.)

In Washington, the Bush administration -- G.H.W.'s, not G.W.'s -- declared victory and then left the much ballyhooed "peace dividend" in the nearest ditch. Caught off guard by the collapse of the Soviet Union, Washington's consensus policymakers drew no meaningful lessons from it (just as they had drawn few that mattered from their Vietnam defeat 16 years earlier).

Quite the opposite, successive American administrations would blindly head down the very path that had led the Soviets to ruin. They would serially agree that, in a world without significant enemies, the key to U.S. global power still was the care and feeding of the American military and the military-industrial complex that went with it. As the years passed, that military would be sent ever more regularly into the far reaches of the planet to fight frontier wars, establish military bases, and finally impose a global Pax Americana on the planet.

This urge, delusional in retrospect, seemed to reach its ultimate expression in the second Bush administration, whose infamous "unilateralism" rested on a belief that no country or even bloc of countries should ever again be allowed to come close to matching U.S. military power. (As its National Security Strategy of 2002 put the matter -- and it couldn't have been blunter on the subject -- the U.S. was to "build and maintain" its military power "beyond challenge.") Bush's military fundamentalists firmly believed that, in the face of the most technologically advanced, bulked-up, destructive force around, hostile states would be "shocked and awed" by a simple demonstration of its power and friendly ones would have little choice but to come to heel as well. After all, as the president said in front of a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in 2007, the U.S. military was "the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known."

In this way, far more than the Soviets, the top officials of the Bush administration mistook military power for power, a gargantuan misreading of the U.S. economic position in the world and of their moment.

Boundless Military Ambitions

The attacks of September 11, 2001, that "Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century," clinched the deal. In the space the Soviet Union had deserted, which had been occupied by minor outlaw states like North Korea for years, there was a new shape-shifting enemy, al-Qaeda (aka Islamic extremism, aka the new "totalitarianism"), which could be just as big as you wanted to make it. Suddenly, we were in what the Bush administration instantly dubbed "the Global War on Terror" (GWOT, one of the worst acronyms ever invented) -- and this time there would be nothing "cold" about it.

Bush administration officials promptly suggested that they were prepared to use a newly agile American military to "drain the swamp" of global terrorism. ("While we'll try to find every snake in the swamp, the essence of the strategy is draining the swamp," insisted Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz two weeks after 9/11.) They were prepared, they made clear, to undertake those draining operations against Islamic "terrorist networks" in no less than 60 countries around the planet. Their military ambitions, in other words, knew no bounds; nor, it seemed, did the money and resources which began to flow into the Pentagon, the weapons industries, the country's increasingly militarized intelligence services, mercenary companies like Blackwater and KBR that grew fat on a privatizing administration's war plans and the multi-billion-dollar no-bid contracts it was eager to proffer, the new Department of Homeland Security, and a ramped-up, ever more powerful national security state.

As the Pentagon expanded, taking on ever newer roles, the numbers would prove staggering. By the end of the Bush years, Washington was doling out almost twice what the next nine nations combined were spending on their militaries, while total U.S. military expenditures came to just under half the world's total. Similarly, by 2008, the U.S. controlled almost 70% of the global arms market. It also had 11 aircraft carrier battle groups capable of patrolling the world's seas and oceans at a time when no power that could faintly be considered a possible future enemy had more than one.

By then, private contractors had built for the Pentagon almost 300 military bases in Iraq, ranging from tiny combat outposts to massive "American towns" holding tens of thousands of troops and private contractors, with multiple bus lines, PX's, fast-food "boardwalks," massage parlors, water treatment and power plants, barracks, and airfields. They were in the process of doing the same in Afghanistan and, to a lesser extent, in the Persian Gulf region generally. This, too, represented a massive investment in what looked like a permanent occupation of the oil heartlands of the planet. As right-wing pundit Max Boot put it after a recent flying tour of America's global garrisons, the U.S. possesses military bases that add up to "a virtual American empire of Wal-Mart-style PXs, fast-food restaurants, golf courses, and gyms."

Depending on just what you counted, there were anywhere from 700 to perhaps 1,200 or more U.S. bases, micro to macro, acknowledged and unacknowledged, around the globe. Meanwhile, the Pentagon was pouring money into the wildest blue-skies thinking at its advanced research arm, DARPA, whose budget grew by 50%. Through DARPA, well-funded scientists experimented with various ways to fight sci-fi-style wars in the near and distant future (at a moment when no one was ready to put significant government money into blue-skies thinking about, for instance, how to improve the education of young Americans). The Pentagon was also pioneering a new form of air power, drone warfare, in which "we" wouldn't be within thousands of miles of the battlefield, and the battlefield would no longer necessarily be in a country with which we were at war.

It was also embroiled in two disastrous, potentially trillion-dollar wars (and various global skirmishes) -- and all this at top dollar at a time when next to no money was being invested in, among other things, the bridges, tunnels, waterworks, and the like that made up an aging American infrastructure. Except when it came to victory, the military stood ever taller, while its many missions expanded exponentially, even as the domestic economy was spinning out of control, budget deficits were increasing rapidly, the governmental bureaucracy was growing ever more sclerotic, and indebtedness to other nations was rising by leaps and bounds.

In other words, in a far wealthier country, another set of leaders, having watched the Soviet Union implode, decisively embarked on the Soviet path to disaster.

Military Profligacy

In the fall of 2008, the abyss opened under the U.S. economy, which the Bush administration had been blissfully ignoring, and millions of people fell into it. Giant institutions wobbled or crashed; extended unemployment wouldn't go away; foreclosures happened on a mind-boggling scale; infrastructure began to buckle; state budgets were caught in a death grip; teachers' jobs, another kind of infrastructure, went down the tubes in startling numbers; and the federal deficit soared.

Of course, a new president also entered the Oval Office, someone (many voters believed) intent on winding up (or at least down) Bush's wars and the delusions of military omnipotence and technological omniscience that went with them. If George W. Bush had pushed this country to the edge of disaster, at least his military policies, as many of his critics saw it, were as extreme and anomalous as the cult of executive power his top officials fostered.

But here was the strange thing. In the midst of the Great Recession, under a new president with assumedly far fewer illusions about American omnipotence and power, war policy continued to expand in just about every way. The Pentagon budget rose by Bushian increments in fiscal year 2010; and while the Iraq War reached a kind of dismal stasis, the new president doubled down in Afghanistan on entering office -- and then doubled down again before the end of 2009. There, he "surged" in multiple ways. At best, the U.S. was only drawing down one war, in Iraq, to feed the flames of another.

As in the Soviet Union before its collapse, the exaltation and feeding of the military at the expense of the rest of society and the economy had by now become the new normal; so much so that hardly a serious word could be said -- lest you not "support our troops" -- when it came to ending the American way of war or downsizing the global mission or ponying up the funds demanded of Congress to pursue war preparations and war-making.

Even when, after years of astronomical growth, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates began to talk about cost-cutting at the Pentagon, it was in the service of the reallocation of ever more money to war-fighting. Here was how the New York Times summed up what reduction actually meant for our ultimate super-sized institution in tough times: "Current budget plans project growth of only 1 percent in the Pentagon budget, after inflation, over the next five years." Only 1% growth -- at a time when state budgets, for instance, are being slashed to the bone. Like the Soviet military, the Pentagon, in other words, is planning to remain obese whatever else goes down.

Meanwhile, the "anti-war" president has been overseeing the expansion of the new normal on many fronts, including the expanding size of the Army itself. In fact, when it comes to the Global War on Terror -- even with the name now in disuse -- the profligacy can still take your breath away.

Consider, for instance, the $2.2 billion Host Nation Trucking contract the Pentagon uses to pay protection money to Afghan security companies which, in turn, slip some part of those payments to the Taliban to let American supplies travel safely on Afghan roads. Or if you don't want to think about how your tax dollar supports the Taliban, consider the $683,000 the Pentagon spent, according to the Washington Post, to "renovate a cafe that sells ice cream and Starbucks coffee" at its base/prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Or the $773,000 used there "to remodel a cinder-block building to house a KFC/Taco Bell restaurant," or the $7.3 million spent on baseball and football fields, or the $60,000 batting cage, or a promised $20,000 soccer cage, all part of the approximately two billion dollars that have gone into the American base and prison complex that Barack Obama promised to, but can't, close.

Or what about the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, that 104-acre, almost three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar, 21-building homage to the American-mall-as-fortified-citadel? It costs more than $1.5 billion a year to run, and bears about as much relationship to an "embassy" as McDonald's does to a neighborhood hamburger joint. According to a recent audit, millions of dollars in "federal property" assigned to what is essentially a vast command center for the region, including 159 of the embassy's 1,168 vehicles, are missing or unaccounted for. And as long as we're talking about expansion in distant lands, how about the Pentagon's most recent construction plans in Central Asia, part of a prospective "mini-building boom" there. They are to include an anti-terrorism training center to be constructed for a bargain basement $5.5 million in... no, not Toledo or Akron or El Paso, but the combustible city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan. And that's just one of several projects there and in neighboring Tajikistan that are reportedly to be funded out of the U.S. Central Command's "counter-narcotics fund" (and ultimately, of course, your pocket).

Or consider a particularly striking example of military expansion under President Obama, superbly reported by the Washington Post's Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe in a piece headlined, "U.S. 'secret war' expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role." As a story, it sank without a trace in a country evidently unfazed by the idea of having its forces garrisoned and potentially readying to fight everywhere on the planet.

Here's how the piece began:

"Beneath its commitment to soft-spoken diplomacy and beyond the combat zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Obama administration has significantly expanded a largely secret U.S. war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups, according to senior military and administration officials. Special Operations forces have grown both in number and budget, and are deployed in 75 countries, compared with about 60 at the beginning of last year." Now, without opening an atlas, just try to name any 75 countries on this planet -- more than one-third, that is, of the states belonging to the United Nations. And yet U.S. special operatives are now engaging in war, or preparing for war, or training others to do so, or covertly collecting intelligence in that many countries across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. Fifteen more than in the Bush era.

Whatever it is or isn't called, this remains Bush's Global War on Terror on an expansionist trajectory. DeYoung and Jaffe quote an unnamed "senior military official" saying that the Obama administration has allowed "things that the previous administration did not," and report that Special Operations commanders are now "a far more regular presence at the White House" than in the Bush years. Not surprisingly, those Special Operations forces have themselves expanded in the first year and a half of the Obama presidency and, for fiscal year 2011, with 13,000 of them already deployed abroad, the administration has requested a 5.7% hike in their budget to $6.3 billion. Once upon a time, Special Operations forces got their name because they were small and "special." Now, they are, in essence, being transformed into a covert military within the military and, as befits their growing size, reports Noah Shachtman of the Wired's Danger Room, the Army Special Forces alone are slated to get a new $100 million "headquarters" in northern Afghanistan. It will cover about 17 acres and will include a "communications building, Tactical Operations Center, training facility, medical aid station, Vehicle Maintenance Facility... dining facility, laundry facility, and a kennel to support working dogs... Supporting facilities include roads, power production system and electrical distribution, water well, non-potable water production, water storage, water distribution, sanitary sewer collection system, communication manhole/duct system, curbs, walkways, drainage and parking."

This headquarters, adds Shachtman, will take a year to build, "at which point, the U.S. is allegedly supposed to begin drawing down its forces in Afghanistan. Allegedly." And mind you, the Special Operations troops are but one expanding part of the U.S. military.

Creeping Gigantism

The first year and a half of the Obama administration has seen a continuation of what could be considered the monumental socialist-realist era of American war-making (including a decision to construct another huge, Baghdad-style "embassy" in Islamabad, Pakistan). This sort of creeping gigantism, with all its assorted cost overruns and private perks, would undoubtedly have seemed familiar to the Soviets. Certainly no less familiar will be the near decade the U.S. military has spent, increasingly disastrously, in the Afghan graveyard.

Drunk on war as Washington may be, the U.S. is still not the Soviet Union in 1991 -- not yet. But it's not the triumphant "sole superpower" anymore either. Its global power is visibly waning, its ability to win wars distinctly in question, its economic viability open to doubt. It has been transformed from a can-do into a can't-do nation, a fact only highlighted by the ongoing BP catastrophe and "rescue" in the Gulf of Mexico. Its airports are less shiny and more Third World-like every year. Unlike France or China, it has not a mile of high-speed rail. And when it comes to the future, especially the creation and support of innovative industries in alternative energy, it's chasing the pack. It is increasingly a low-end service economy, losing good jobs that will never return.

And if its armies come home in defeat... watch out.

In 1991, the Soviet Union suddenly evaporated. The Cold War was over. Like many wars, it seemed to have an obvious winner and an obvious loser. Nearly 20 years later, as the U.S. heads down the Soviet road to disaster -- even if the world can't imagine what a bankrupt America might mean -- it's far clearer that, in the titanic struggle of the two superpowers that we came to call the Cold War, there were actually two losers, and that, when the "second superpower" left the scene, the first was already heading for the exits, just ever so slowly and in a state of self-intoxicated self-congratulation. Nearly every decision in Washington since then, including Barack Obama's to expand both the Afghan War and the war on terror, has only made what, in 1991, was one possible path seem like fate itself.

Call up the Politburo in Washington. We're in trouble.
(c) 2010 Tom Engelhardt

Who Is Afraid Of A Real Inquiry?
By Uri Avnery

If a real Commission of Inquiry had been set up (instead of the pathetic excuse for a commission), here are some of the questions it should have addressed:

1. What is the real aim of the Gaza Strip blockade?

2. If the aim is to prevent the flow of arms into the Strip, why are only 100 products allowed in (as compared to the more than 12 thousand products in an average Israeli supermarket)?

3. Why is it forbidden to bring in chocolate, toys, writing material, many kinds of fruits and vegetables (and why cinnamon but not coriander)?

4. What is the connection between the decision to forbid the import of construction materials for the replacement or repair of the thousands of buildings destroyed or damaged during the Cast Lead operation and the argument that they may serve Hamas for building bunkers - when more than enough materials for this purpose are brought into the Strip through the tunnels?

5. Is the real aim of the blockade to turn the lives of the 1.5 million human beings in the Strip into hell, in the hope of inducing them to overthrow the Hamas regime?

6. Since this has not happened, but - on the contrary - Hamas has become stronger during the three years of the blockade, did the government ever entertain second thoughts on this matter?

7. Has the blockade been imposed in the hope of freeing the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit?

8. If so, has the blockade contributed anything to the realization of this aim, or has it been counter-productive?

9. Why does the Israeli government refuse to exchange Shalit for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, when Hamas agrees to such a deal?

10. Is it true that the US government has imposed a veto on the exchange of prisoners, on the grounds that it would strengthen Hamas?

11. Has there been any discussion in our government about fulfilling its undertaking in the Oslo agreement - to enable and encourage the development of the Gaza port - in a way that would prevent the passage of arms?

12. Why does the Israeli government declare again and again that the territorial waters of the Gaza strip are part of Israel's own territorial waters, and that ships entering them "infringe on Israeli sovereignty", contrary to the fact that the Gaza Strip was never annexed to Israel and that Israel officially announced in 2006 that it had "separated" itself from it?

13. Why has the Attorney General's office declared that the peace activists captured on the high seas, who had no intention whatsoever of entering Israel, had "tried to enter Israel illegally", and brought them before a judge for the extension of their arrest under the law that concerns "illegal entry into Israel"?

14. Who is responsible for these contradictory legal claims, when the Israeli government argues one minute that Israel has "separated itself from the Gaza Strip" and that the "occupation there has come to an end" - and the next minute claims sovereignty over the coastal waters of the Strip?

Question concerning the decision to attack the flotilla:

15. When did the preparation for this flotilla become known to the Israeli intelligence services? (Evidence on this may be heard in camera.)

16. When was this brought to the attention of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, the Cabinet, the Committee of Seven (in charge of security matters) and the IDF Chief of Staff? (ditto)

17. What were the deliberations of these officials and institutions? (ditto)

18. What intelligence was submitted to each of them? (ditto)

19. When, by whom and how was the decision taken to stop the flotilla by force?

20. Is it true that the secretary of the cabinet, Tzvi Hauser, warned of the severe consequences of such action and advised letting the flotilla sail to Gaza?

21. Were there others who also advised doing so?

22. Was the Foreign Ministry a full partner in all the discussions?

23. If so, did the Foreign Ministry warn of the impact of such an action on our relations with Turkey and other countries?

24. In light of the fact that, prior to the incident, the Turkish government informed the Israeli Foreign Ministry that the flotilla was organized by a private organization which is not under the control of the government and does not violate any Turkish law - did the Foreign Ministry consider approaching the organization in order to try to reach an agreement to avoid violence?

25. Was due consideration given to the alternative of stopping the flotilla in territorial waters, inspecting the cargo for arms and letting it sail on?

26. Was the impact of the action on international public opinion considered?

27. Was the impact of the action on our relations with the US considered?

28. Was it taken into consideration that the action may actually strengthen Hamas?

29. Was it taken into consideration that the action may make the continuation of the blockade more difficult?

Question concerning the planning of the action:

30. What intelligence was at the disposal of the planners? (Evidence may be heard in camera.)

31. Was it considered that the composition of the group of activists in this flotilla was different from that in earlier protest ships, because of the addition of the Turkish component?

32. Was it taken into consideration that contrary to the European peace activists, who believe in passive resistance, the Turkish activists may adopt a policy of active resistance to soldiers invading a Turkish ship?

33. Were alternative courses of action considered, such as blocking the progress of the flotilla with navy boats?

34. If so, what were the alternatives considered, and why were they rejected?

35. Who was responsible for the actual planning of the operation - the IDF Chief of Staff or the Commander of the Navy?

36. If it was the Navy Commander who decided on the method employed, was the decision approved by the Chief of Staff, the Minister of Defense and the Prime Minister?

37. How were the responsibilities for planning divided between these?

38. Why was the action undertaken outside of the territorial waters of Israel and the Gaza Strip?

39. Why was it executed in darkness?

40. Did anyone in the navy object to the idea of soldiers descending from helicopters onto the deck of the ship "Mavi Marmara"?

41. During the deliberations, did anyone bring up the similarity between the planned operation and the British action against the ship "Exodus 1947", which ended in a political disaster for the British?

Questions concerning the action itself:

42. Why was the flotilla cut off from any contact with the world throughout the operation, if there was nothing to hide?

43. Did anyone protest that the soldiers were actually being sent into a trap?

44. Was it taken into consideration that the plan adopted would place the soldiers for several critical minutes in a dangerously inferior position?

45. When exactly did the soldiers start to shoot live ammunition?

46. Which of the soldiers was the first to fire?

47. Was the shooting - all or part of it - justified?

48 Is it true that the soldiers started firing even before descending onto the deck, as asserted by the passengers?

49. Is it true that the fire continued even after the captain of the ship and the activists announced several times over loudspeakers that the ship had surrendered, and after they had actually hoisted white flags?

50. Is it true that five of the nine people killed were shot in the back, indicating that they were trying to get away from the soldiers and thus could not be endangering their lives?

51. Why was the killed man Ibrahim Bilgen, 61 years old and father of six and a candidate for mayor in his home town, described as a terrorist?

52. Why was the killed man Cetin Topcoglu, 54 years old, trainer of the Turkish national taekwondo (Korean martial arts) team, whose wife was also on the ship, described as a terrorist?

53. Why was the killed man Cevdet Kiliclar, a 38 year old journalist, described as a terrorist?

54. Why was the killed man Ali Haydar Bengi, father of four, graduate of the al-Azhar school for literature in Cairo, described as a terrorist?

55. Why were the killed men Necdet Yaldirim, 32 years old, father of a daughter; Fahri Yaldiz, 43 years old, father of four; Cengiz Songur, 47 years old, father of seven; and Cengiz Akyuz, 41 years old, father of three, described as terrorists?

56. Is it a lie that the activists took a pistol from a soldier and shot him with it, as described by the IDF, or is it true that the activists did in fact throw the pistol into the sea without using it?

57. Is it true, as stated by Jamal Elshayyal, a British subject, that the soldiers prevented treatment for the Turkish wounded for three hours, during which time several of them died?

58.. Is it true, as stated by this journalist, that he was handcuffed behind his back and forced to kneel for three hours in the blazing sun, that he was not allowed to go and urinate and told to "piss in his pants", that he remained handcuffed for 24 hours without water, that his British passport was taken from him and not returned; that his laptop computer, three cellular telephones and 1500 dollars in cash were taken from him and not returned?

59. Did the IDF cut off the passengers from the world for 48 hours and confiscate all the cameras, films and cell phones of the journalists on board in order to suppress any information that did not conform to the IDF story?

60. Is it a standing procedure to keep the Prime Minister (or his acting deputy, Moshe Yaalon in this case) in the picture during an operation, was this procedure implemented, and was it implemented in previous cases, such as the Entebbe operation or the boarding of the ship "Karin A"?

Questions concerning the behavior of the IDF Spokesman:

61. IS it true that the IDF Spokesman spread a series of fabrications during the first few hours, in order to justify the action in the eyes of both the Israeli and the international public?

62. Are the few minutes of film which have been shown hundreds of times on Israeli TV, from the first day on until now, a carefully edited clip, so that it is not seen what happened just before and just after?

63. What is the truth of the assertion that the soldiers who were taken by the activists into the interior of the ship were about to be "lynched", when the photos clearly show that they were surrounded for a considerable time by dozens of activists without being harmed, and that a doctor or medic from among the activists even treated them?

64. What evidence is there for the assertion that the Turkish NGO called IHH has connections with al-Qaeda?

65. On what grounds was it stated again and again that it was a "terrorist organization", though no evidence for this claim was offered?

66. Why was it asserted that the association was acting under the orders of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, when in fact it is close to an opposition party?

67. If it was in fact a terrorist organization known to the Israeli intelligence services, why was this not taken into account during the planning of the operation?

68. Why did the Israeli government not announce this before the attack on the flotilla?

69. Why were the words of one of the activists, who declared on his return that he wanted to be a "shahid", translated by official propaganda in a manifestly dishonest manner, as if he had said that he wanted "to kill and be killed" ("shahid" means a person who sacrifices his life in order to testify to his belief in God, much like a Christian martyr)?

70. What is the source of the lie that the Turks called out "Go back to Auschwitz"?

71. Why were the Israeli doctors not called to inform the public at once about the character of the wounds of the injured soldiers, after it was announced that at least one of them was shot?

72. Who invented the story that there were arms on the ship, and that they had been thrown into the sea?

73. Who invented the story that the activists had brought with them deadly weapons - when the exhibition organized by the IDF Spokesman himself showed nothing but tools found on any ship, including binoculars, a blood infusion instrument, knives and axes, as well as decorative Arab daggers and kitchen knives that are to be found on every ship, even one not equipped for 1000 passengers?

74. Do all these items - coupled with the endless repetition of the word "terrorists" and the blocking of any contrary information - not constitute brainwashing?

Questions concerning the inquiry:

75. Why does the Israeli government refuse to take part in an international board of inquiry, composed of neutral personalities acceptable to them?

76. Why have the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense announced that they are ready to testify - but not to answer questions?

77. Where does the argument come from that soldiers must not be called to testify - when in all previous investigations senior officers, junior officers and enlisted men were indeed subjected to questioning?

78. Why does the government refuse to appoint a State Commission of Inquiry under the Israeli law that was enacted by the Knesset in 1966 for this very purpose, especially in view of the fact that such commissions were appointed after the Yom Kippur war, after the Sabra and Shatila massacre, after the podium of the al-Aqsa Mosque was set on fire by an insane Australian, as well as to investigate corruption in sport and the murder of the Zionist leader Chaim Arlosoroff (some fifty years after it occurred!)?

79. Does the government have something to fear from such a commission, whose members are appointed by the President of the Supreme Court, and which is empowered to summon witnesses and cross-examine them, demand the production of documents and determine the personal responsibility for mistakes and crimes?

80. Why was it decided in the end to appoint a pathetic committee, devoid of any legal powers, which will lack all credibility both in Israel and abroad?

And, finally, the question of questions:

81. What is our political and military leadership trying to hide?

(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Putting The "I" In The Environment
By David Sirota

For those who are not (yet) heartless cynics or emotionless Ayn Rand acolytes, the now-famous photographs of sludge-soaked pelicans on the Gulf Coast are painful to behold. It's those hollow pupils peeking out of the brown death, screaming in silence. They are an avian version of the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg that F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote about - and they implicate us all.

As President Obama correctly stated: "Easily accessible oil has already been sucked up out of the ground" - and drilling companies must now use ever-riskier techniques to find the oil we demand. While British Petroleum and federal regulators are certainly at fault for their reckless behavior, every American who uses oil - which is to say, every American - is incriminated in this ecological holocaust.

If we accept that culpability - a big "if" in this accountability-shirking society - we can start considering how to reduce our oil addiction so as to prevent such holocausts in the future. And when pondering that challenge, we must avoid focusing exclusively on legislation. As Colin Beavan argues in his tome "No Impact Man," green statutes are important, but not enough. Those oil-poisoned birds, choking to death on our energy gluttony, implore us to also take individual action.

This does not necessarily mean radical lifestyle changes - good news for those who remain locked into various forms of oil use. Millions, for instance, must drive or fly to workplaces where no alternative transportation exists. And most of us don't have the cash to trade in our cars for Priuses, and don't have the option of telecommuting.

However, almost everyone regardless of income or employment can take steps that are so absurdly simple and cost-effective that there's simply no excuse not to.

Here are two: We can stop using disposable plastic bags and stop buying plastic-bottled water. Though no big sacrifice, doing this is a huge way to reduce oil use. The Sierra Club estimates that Americans "use 100 billion plastic shopping bags each year, which are made from an estimated 12 million barrels of oil." Likewise, the Pacific Institute reports that the equivalent of 17 million barrels of oil are used to produce plastic water bottles - incredibly wasteful considering that clean tap water is ubiquitously available in America.

Here's another: In a country that puts one-fifth of its fossil fuel use into agriculture, we can make a difference by slightly reducing our consumption of animal flesh, the culinary gas-guzzler.

Today, the average American eats 200 pounds of meat annually, "an increase of 50 pounds per person from 50 years ago," according to The New York Times. Setting aside morality questions about executing 10 billion living beings a year simply to satiate an epicurean fancy, the sheer energy costs of this dietary choice are monstrous.

Quoting Cornell University researchers, Time magazine reports that producing animal protein requires eight times as much fossil fuel as producing a comparable amount of plant protein. Carbon-emissions-wise (which roughly reflects energy use), geophysicists Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin find that cutting meat consumption by just 20 percent - say, going meatless two days a week - is equal to switching from a standard sedan to a hybrid.

Using knapsacks at supermarkets, drinking free tap water and replacing meat with comparatively inexpensive vegetable protein - these are easy steps. Sure, they will not singularly end our oil dependence, but they will decrease it. As importantly, they will begin building a national culture that takes personal responsibility for combating the ecological crisis we've all created.

Are we willing to make minimal behavioral reforms? Are we willing to assume such responsibility? Those, of course, are the crucial questions - the ones nobody wants to ask, but the ones those crude-drenched birds beg us to answer.
(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

Ethnic Cleansing In Kyrgyzstan
More American Chickens Come Home to Roost
By Ted Rall

NEW YORK--Believe it or not, I don't scour the headlines looking for tragedies and atrocities to blame on the United States.

But that's how it often works out.

When the big earthquake ravaged Haiti earlier this year, it would have been a relief to look at the resulting pain and despair and see nothing more than the terrible result of tectonic movements. It would have been nice to be able to blame nature. Or France.

But France's crimes were over a century old. The freshly spilt blood in Haiti was and remains on the hands of the Americans who raped the Caribbean nation throughout the 20th century, and opened the 21st by keeping relief supplies and rescue teams out of the disaster zone so long that the people trapped under the rubble had bled or starved to death.

Now it's Kyrgyzstan's turn to fall apart as the result of American malfeasance.

The images coming out of Osh, a culturally diverse Silk Road city in the Ferghana Valley that recently celebrated its 5000th anniversary, are reminiscent of the collapse of Yugoslavia. Ethnic Kyrgyz, resentful over the recent ouster of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and angry about an economy that always seems to get worse, have murdered hundreds of ethnic Uzbeks because they support the new interim government. Kyrgyz rioters burned Uzbek-owned homes and businesses, prompting tens of thousands of Uzbeks to flee across the border into Uzbekistan. Buildings spray-painted with the word "Kyrgyz" were spared.

Even by the never-a-dull-moment standards of Central Asia, this is worrisome. When feuding neighbors like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have a dispute, they bring in Kyrgyz mediators due to their reputation for wisdom and levelheadedness.

U.S. news consumers following the Kyrgyz crisis are repeatedly reminded about America's airbase near the capital of Bishkek, used to supply NATO forces occupying Afghanistan. The base, they say, is what we should care about. As for the recent violence, U.S. state-controlled media implies, this is more of the same in a region where tribes are constantly at one another's throats. "In 1990," reminded the Associated Press, "hundreds of people were killed in a violent land dispute between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in Osh, and only the quick deployment of Soviet troops quelled the fighting."

But the base isn't why Kyrgyzstan really matters. The big effect is that the events in Osh mark the beginning of a new surge of anti-Americanism with long-term repercussions.

Sadly the voices of the most reliable experts on Central Asia, people like Ahmed Rashid and Martha Louise Alcott, are missing from an Ameri-centric narrative cut-and-pasted from wire service stories and neoconservative commentators.

True, Osh can be a tense place. In August 2000 my drivers were detained by Kyrgyz cops on suspicion of being Tajik. Hours later, I was forced to flee when hundreds of guerillas of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a radical Islamic group allied with the Taliban and based in Tajikistan, swarmed into the city.

Nevertheless, the conventional wisdom is wrong. This latest outbreak of violence represents something new. First, it's worse: bigger and more widespread. Second, as most Central Asians know, it's delayed fallout from George W. Bush's misadventures in regime change.

Bush's military-CIA complex had more than Iraq and Afghanistan on its collective mind. Over the course of six years, they toppled or attempted to overthrow the governments of Venezuela, Haiti, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine--and, yes, Kyrgyzstan.

In March 2005 a CIA-backed (and in some cases -trained) mob of conservative Muslim young men from Osh drove up to Bishkek and stormed the presidential palace. President Askar Akayev, a former physicist who had been the only democratically-elected president in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, fled into exile in Russia.

Akayev, considered a liberal reformer throughout the 1990s, had turned more autocratic during his last years in power. Still, he had nothing on neighboring dictators like Uzbek President Islam Karimov, known for boiling political dissidents to death, or Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had his two main political opponents tied up, shot, dumped on the side of a road--and declared suicides shortly before a presidential election. As of 2005 Akayev held exactly one political prisoner in custody.

Anyway, Akayev's real mistake was crossing Bush. After 9/11 the U.S. demanded an airbase at Manas airport, paying nominal rent. Reconsidering after the fact, the Kyrgyz government demanded more money: $10 million a year, quite a chunk of change in a country with an average salary of $25 a month.

Bakiyev, the Osh-based leader who replaced Akayev, was supposed to be more accommodating. Instead, he threatened to kick out the Americans unless they raised the rent again. Which they did, from $17 million to $63 million.

And now he's in exile too.

Obama learned a lot from Bush.

Just two weeks ago, on June 2nd, Obama's Air Force was again at odds with the Kyrgyz over money--this time over jet fuel prices. The post-Bakiyev interim government of Acting Prime Minister Roza Otunbayeva wants to close the base-but, as the residents of Okinawa can attest, the U.S. military is harder to get rid of than crabgrass.

Kyrgyzstan was never a lucky country. Surrounded by neighbors with vast energy resources and other natural resources, the Kyrgyz have little but water and rocks. But it enjoyed a strategic location. Under Akayev, people were poor but the country enjoyed relative stability.

Since then there has been political disintegration, with southern provinces turned into de facto fiefdoms run by brutal for-profit warlords. Neither Bakiyev nor Otunbayeva, both brought to power by mobs, has enjoyed legitimacy or full acceptance. This is the real story: political and economic chaos masquerading as ethnic cleansing.

Once again--as in Haiti--it's largely our fault.
(c) 2010 Ted Rall is the author of the upcoming "The Anti-American Manifesto," to be published in September by Seven Stories Press.

Time To Kick Tony's Keister

He's done it again! Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, has spewed another gusher of nonsense out of his mouth, which seems to run non-stop. Forget capping the oil well - BP needs to cap Tony's mouth!

His latest whopper was to insist that deep sea life in the Gulf of Mexico would not be devastated by the massive plumes of toxic oil spreading down toward the Gulf floor. Why? Because, Tony blithely asserted, they don't exist. "The oil is on the surface. There aren't any plumes," he cheerfully explained, apparently adrift in another of his see-no-evil fantasies. Nice try, chief, but scientists quickly confirmed that deepwater plumes were already stretching as far as 50 miles from BP's botched well.

Meanwhile, the Center for Public Integrity has revealed that the oil giant's current catastrophic mess should come as no surprise, for it has a long and sorry record of causing calamities. In the last three years, the center says, an astonishing "97 percent of all flagrant violations found in the refining industry by government safety inspectors" came at BP facilities. These included 760 violations rated as "egregious" and "willful." In contrast, the oil company with the second-worst record had only eight such citations.

Hayward, however, doesn't seem to have much respect for numbers, seeming to make them up as he goes along. Here are some, though, that could get his attention. Under the 1990 Oil Pollution Act, BP must pay $1,000 for every barrel now spewing into the Gulf - and $3,000 per barrel if the corporation has been grossly negligent. That would put BP's tally at more than $3 billion... and counting.

President Obama says that he's gathering facts on this disaster so he can know "whose [keister] to kick." I'd say that Tony might as well bend over right now.
(c) 2010 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives
By Amy Goodman

Federal authorities are investigating whether officials of the government south of the border participated in a citizen's kidnapping and torture-Canadian authorities, that is, investigating the possible role of U.S. officials in the "extraordinary rendition" of Canadian citizen Maher Arar. "Extraordinary rendition" is White House-speak for arresting someone and secretly sending him to another country, where he is likely to be tortured. Arar revealed that, for the past four years, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has been investigating possible roles of U.S. and Syrian officials in his rendition and torture. This announcement follows the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that it will not consider Arar's case, ending his pursuit of justice through U.S. courts.

Ontario Justice Dennis O'Connor headed the Canadian government's inquiry into Arar's arrest, removal to Syria and subsequent torture. From 2004 to 2006, O'Connor interviewed scores of people and reviewed thousands of documents. The inquiry completely exonerated Arar. The conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized, and Arar was awarded $11.5 million in reparations and legal fees. Now, we learn, the RCMP, the Canadian equivalent of the FBI, is conducting an investigation that could lead to criminal charges. Arar told me: "They've been collecting evidence. They've been interviewing people both in Canada and internationally ... their focus is on the Syrian torturers, as well as those American officials who were complicit in my torture."

If the RCMP charges U.S. officials with complicity in the abduction and torture of Arar, it would put the strong extradition treaty between the U.S. and Canada to the test. In the meantime, the Center for Constitutional Rights is encouraging people to contact the White House and their representatives in Congress to demand redress for Arar, including an apology, his removal from the terrorist watch list, financial damages, an investigation and assurances that no one else will suffer a similar fate.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who chairs the powerful Judiciary Committee, expressed his disappointment with this week's Supreme Court decision, saying the Arar case "remains a stain on this nation's legacy as a human-rights leader around the world ... the United States has continued to deny culpability in this case." Back in a January 2007 hearing, Leahy fumed at then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: "We knew damn well, if he went to Canada, he wouldn't be tortured. He'd be held. He'd be investigated. We also knew damn well, if he went to Syria, he'd be tortured."

The Obama administration continues controversial Bush-era policies, with detention without charge at Guantanamo and the Bagram air base, and with, as Leahy has noted, reliance on "state secrets" privilege to dodge legal actions to expose and punish torture. On the same day as this week's Supreme Court announcement, another court in Washington, D.C., acquitted 24 anti-torture activists who were arrested at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 21, 2010, the day by which President Barack Obama originally pledged Guantanamo would be closed. Their banner read "Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives." Several were arrested inside the Capitol Rotunda while conducting a funeral service for three Guantanamo prisoners who may have been tortured to death. The U.S. government claims they committed suicide.

Maher Arar has completed his Ph.D. in Canada and founded an online news magazine, He has been focusing on the case of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, who was arrested in Afghanistan as a child and has grown to adulthood in the Guantanamo prison. Arar, married with two children, told me, "The struggle for justice and struggle against oppression has become a way of life for me, and I can never go back to just a simple nine-to-five engineer anymore."
(c) 2010 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.

America's Wars Strangely Linked To Narcotics Trade
By James Donahue

Since the Vietnam conflict there has been a peculiar connection with the place where our troops are fighting and the trafficking of narcotics into the United States. We don't think this is by accident.

Could it be that the trafficking of hard and addictive mind-destroying drugs has become such a lucrative multi-billion dollar industry since Nixon launched America's "War On Drugs" that this alone has been the real incentive for the United States to be continually at war somewhere in the world?

From yet another point of view, we have heard the suggestion that the massive influx of such hard drugs as heroin and cocaine, and the official "crack down" beginning during the time of the great hippie movement and the distribution of such mind expanding drugs as psilocybin mushrooms, peyote and LSD, may have been a deliberate diversion designed to prevent people from stumbling into what could have been a natural spiritual awakening to a new reality.

Notice that the mere possession or use of such things as the "magic mushroom" or LSD is regarded as a felony and punishable by a prison term. People merely caught in possession or passing marijuana to friends are serving time in jails. Yet these substances are not found to be addictive or harmful to human health. Albert Hofmann, the inventor of LSD, continued to use this substance throughout his life. He recently died at the age of 102.

The Vietnam War was raging and the hippie movement was in full force when President Richard M. Nixon came into office in 1969. It was Nixon who launched the War On Drugs which forced narcotics operations deep into the shadows, brought about a steep increase in the cost of street drugs, and made organized criminals dealing in the narcotics trade very wealthy. It also launched deadly gang wars as dealers fought over one-another's turf. The killing at the U.S.-Mexican border is rooted in the narcotics trade and big money..

Stories were told about secret poppy fields in Laos and Vietnam and shipments of heroin to the United States on military aircraft. It was said that a lot of the heroin rode home with the bodies of dead soldiers.

One heavy heroin smuggling business was run by Leslie "Ike" Atkinson who was convicted of operating from a bar he ran in Bangkok, Thailand from 1968 to 1975. The record shows that Atkinson and his organization shipped the narcotic on U.S. Air Force aircraft to Fort Bragg, North Carolina and other military bases where it was sold to American distributors.

Atkinson was caught after a woman got suspicious about one of the packages he sent, thinking that it contained a bomb, and called the police. We wonder how many other heroin operations like this went undetected, and may still be in business?

Was Nixon, a known amphetamine user, a participant in an organized crime plot to force the narcotics trade into the shadows and set gangs up for huge profits?

Consider what happened when Ronald Reagan got into the White House. His "Just Say No" drug policy helped escalate the Nixon War on Drugs to an even higher level. During his term Congress set mandatory minimum sentencing for convicted drug offenders, thus setting off a massive new business venture involving housing a massive influx of jailed and prison inmates. Thus new prisons were built and their operation, much of it passed to private enterprise, became yet another big business in America.

At last count, the United States had 2.3 million people serving time in prison. We have the largest prison population in the world and the highest rate of prisoners per capita of all other nations. One out of every 142 Americans are in prison. Almost one-half million are doing time for drug charges.

It was during the Reagan years that the Iran-Contra Scandal broke. We all watched the hearings on our television screens and heard how Oliver North and the CIA were involved in a large narcotics smuggling ring in the United States designed to help finance the Contras, a counter-revolutionary group seeking to gain power in Nicaragua. The operation was dubbed Reagan's "Secret War."

What was really going on all over the United States during that period was that cocaine, and later cheap crack cocaine was suddenly appearing on the streets. What was once a rich man's drug that sold for something like $200 an ounce suddenly was available at prices that made it easily available to poor and middleclass Americans. Suddenly cocaine was the social drug of choice.

How did that happen? In 1998, after years of federal investigations by the Kerry Congressional Committee, the CIA admitted to its involvement in drug trafficking in the United States. The agency was allowing cocaine trafficking by the Contras to raise money to support their war.

At least that was the official story.

Notice now that our troops are again fighting an unnecessary and unwinnable war, this time in Afghanistan, where the poppy flower is a primary crop. And behold, heroin is suddenly becoming a popular drug of choice once more. Is this by accident?

While all of this narcotic trafficking is going on throughout the United States, the War on Drugs continues to remain on the books. Billions of federal dollars are being wasted every year financing a constant attack by local and federal narcotics officers against mostly marijuana growers. The War on Drugs has become big business even for law enforcement officers, the courts as well as the prison system.

By-and-large, the narcotics trade is thriving and it will continue to do so until something is done to bring an end to this insane War On Drugs. Now that the money spigot is wide open, however, it may take a miracle to turn it back off.
(c) 2010 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Louisville chapter Youth for Rand Paul.

You've Got To Be Carefully Taught
By Melissa Harris-Lacewell

I spent Memorial Day in New Orleans, where I watched a group of citizens lay a wreath at the foot of a statue of Jefferson Davis. It was a jarring reminder of how the South understands American history. Memorial Day was founded after the Civil War to honor Union soldiers. When Southerners choose to memorialize Confederate leaders, it is an act of subversive historical revision and an indication of the unresolved political and cultural anxieties that stir just below the surface of the "New South."

The white New Orleanians paying their respects to Davis made me nervous. Few things disgusted Confederates more than property-owning women, free blacks and evidence of miscegenation. I am all of these, so I feel the very legitimacy of my citizenship is challenged by their nostalgia. But I noticed that those gathered at the monument appeared to be mostly senior citizens. In contrast, young New Orleanians were hanging out in integrated groups in the park, listening to music, drinking beer and worrying about how the impending hurricane season would affect the BP oil disaster.

The generational divide in how these Southerners spent Memorial Day was jarring and instructive. In May, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill cutting state funding to schools that offer classes "designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group" or "advocating ethnic solidarity." The law aims to ban ethnic studies curriculums and implies that classes in African-American history or Latino literature are dangerous and discriminatory. Then the Texas State Board of Education voted to introduce a considerably more conservative slant to the social studies curriculum. In the revised Texas version of history, there is an increased emphasis on Phyllis Schlafly, segregationist George Wallace and the National Rifle Association, while the United Nations is presented as an enemy of American sovereignty and the separation of church and state is reduced to an ideological suggestion rather than a constitutional mandate.

The celebration of Confederate traitors as American heroes, the whitewash of school curriculums and the conservative reinterpretation of national history are weapons in America's decades-long culture war. These policies reflect an impulse similar to the Cultural Revolution of Communist China: an attempt to gain authority by controlling the very definitions of truth available to young people. After all, it is among young Americans that conservatives are losing this war, and if they are serious about taking back their country, the education of American youth is the critical terrain where they plan to make a stand.

Young Americans are significantly different from their older counterparts. At the end of the Clinton administration a majority of young Americans strongly supported multicultural education and believed that the government should ensure integrated schools and workplaces. In the year George W. Bush was re-elected, an overwhelming majority of young Americans believed gay men and lesbians should have equal protection in housing and employment and should be protected under hate crimes legislation. Barack Obama garnered two of every three votes cast by people under 30. Across parties, ideologies, regions and religions, young people are less likely to subscribe to racial stereotypes, more likely to support legal equality for gay Americans and more likely to believe tolerance is an important ideal. These enduring generational trends have prompted some observers to question the long-term viability of the GOP-which seems to be growing older but not grander.

These statistics are comforting for progressives, who tend to believe that generational replacement will be enough to usher in a new liberal majority. They wax poetic about how the Obama generation-young people coming of age with a black president, female secretary of state and Hispanic justice of the Supreme Court-will undoubtedly extend the social safety net, end discriminatory state practices and create a more just nation. But the differences between younger and older Americans are neither automatic nor inevitable; they are the result of demographic, policy and curricular changes that occurred as the result of protest and struggle in post-civil rights America.

Although poor urban minorities continue to suffer the effects of hyper-segregated communities, young white Americans live in a more diverse world than their parents did as children. More than ever, white children learn in integrated classrooms, have mothers who work outside the home, encounter racial minorities in positions of authority, learn about different religious traditions, read literature by diverse authors, encounter same-sex families as a routine part of the popular culture and have technology-based access to a dizzying array of opinions. These experiences are widely seen as necessary components for contemporary citizenship. In fact, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's Bollinger decision, the state's compelling interest in ensuring diverse educational environments is the last legal standard on which affirmative action rests.

Social conservatives shudder with apocalyptic anxiety about these generational trends. They understand that the best defense against this frightening, changing world is to wrest control of the historical narrative. To retake the country, they must first reshape young people's reality by revising the meaning of their daily lives. They must make traitors into heroes, erase the contributions of marginal groups, decry self-knowledge as sedition and reinforce fear of those who are different. I'm reminded of the lyrics of a song in South Pacific, Rodgers and Hammerstein's controversial 1949 musical: "You've got to be taught to hate and fear,/You've got to be taught from year to year,/It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear-/You've got to be carefully taught." Arizona and Texas policy-makers seem to be using the lyrics as a guide to curriculum development, but they may find that the world has already moved beyond their fearful grasp.
(c) 2010 Melissa Harris-Lacewell, an associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, is completing her latest book, Sister Citizen: A Text for Colored Girls Who've Considered Politics When Being Strong Isn't Enough. She is a contributor to MSNBC.

Dr. Paul: Not Board-Certified, But Self-Certified
Asked by a Louisville reporter when he would explain his dubious certification, Rand Paul said: "Uh ... never"
By Joe Conason

Libertarian ideology rejects most of the modern regulatory systems that protect consumers, because everyone should be responsible for determining whether the hamburger contains E. coli on his own. But does that do-it-yourself dogma apply to the regulation of medicine, too? If you're Dr. Rand Paul, practicing ophthalmologist, the answer is emphatically yes.

According to an amusing story in today's Louisville Courier-Journal, the Kentucky Republican Senate candidate bills himself as a "board-certified" physician even though he is not actually certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology -- the only recognized body that certifies doctors in his specialty.

Paul's only certification was provided instead by something called the National Board of Ophthalmology, which is very convenient because he operates that organization himself. As the Courier-Journal explains drily, the American Board of Ophthalmology, which maintains a fully staffed headquarters in Philadelphia, has existed for roughly a century and currently lists about 16,000 doctors on its rolls. (Most hospitals and insurance companies strongly prefer doctors who are board-certified because certification indicates that they have kept up with changes in technology, best practices and so on.) The National Board of Ophthalmology has existed since 1999, when Paul "founded" it, lists no more than seven doctors, and its address is a post-office box in Bowling Green, Ky. He had claimed to be certified by both boards, but Courier-Journal reporter Joseph Gerth quickly discovered that claim was false.

When Gerth tried to ask Paul why he claims to be board-certified when he isn't and why he set up the National Board of Ophthalmology, the candidate stonewalled:

"I'm not going to go through all that right now," Paul said while at the Great Eastern National Gun Day Show and JAG Military Show, in Louisville. Asked when he would talk, Paul said: "Uh, you know, never ... What does this have to do with our election?"

Gerth replied in his column in Sunday's Courier-Journal, after Paul's campaign manager said he would only answer questions in writing. His explanation is pithy and his questions seem almost too reasonable:

Rand Paul misses the point. He is right that the questions about his National Board of Ophthalmology have nothing to do with issues of national policy.

They have nothing to do with the federal debt. They have nothing to do with the decision to go to war in Iraq or Afghanistan. And they have nothing to do with plans to shutter the U.S. Department of Education.

They have to do with trust.

Patients have come to expect that a doctor who holds himself out as a "board certified" specialist, as Paul does, meets rigorous standards created by an independent body?

And, if the American Board of Medical Specialties, the American Medical Association, the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure and the American Academy of Ophthalmologists don't recognize Paul's National Board of Ophthalmology, exactly what are the standards required for certification by that board?

You can find the requirements of the American Board of Ophthalmology at Paul's group maintains no such website.

Raising even more questions is that when asked more than a month ago which board he was certified by, Paul incorrectly said that he is certified by both his own group and the widely recognized American Board of Ophthalmology.

Though we won't provide Paul with a full list of questions, we will present a few of them here, just so you know a little bit about what we're looking for.

What does the National Board of Ophthalmology certification process require? Does it require additional continuing medical education classes -- over and above what is required by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure -- like the American Board of Ophthalmology requires?

Do doctors have to take a proctored exam to earn or maintain their certification? If so, what does that exam entail and who wrote the test?

The American Board of Ophthalmology recertification process costs about $1,500 every 10 years. How much does the National Board of Ophthalmology charge, and where do any proceeds from the organization go?

Those questions aren't that tough. Neither are the rest of them we'd like to ask.

(c) 2010 Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer and Salon. You may reach Joe via email at: Joe Conason

A Nasty Little Sacrament
By Case Wagenvoord

What a nasty little sacrament the flag lapel pin has become. The church defines a sacrament as an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. The difference between sacrament and a sign is that a sacrament participates in the reality it represents.

Imperial sacraments take this one step further. As one sage pointed out, as imperial overlords we create a reality that is not real but appears to be real simply because we are imperial overlords and thus are able to create the reality of which any given sacrament is a part. One of the privileges of being an imperial overlord is the privilege of living in a fantasy world.

Nowhere is this demonic creation of reality more manifest than in the flag lapel pin. The pins our leaders wear is not the flag of social justice but of military prowess. It is not the flag of democracy but the flag of corporate management techniques. It is not the flag of freedom for the people but freedom of the few to exploit the many.

It is also rapidly becoming the flag of cultural purity as ICE agents continue to arrest and deport "illegal" aliens. Our leaders are determined to prove to the world that we are not a salsa culture and Arizona is in the front ranks of the war to keep it that way.

It is this obsession with cultural purity that is the real bond between the United States and Israel. Each of us, in our own way, represents the pinnacle of Western Civilization, and each of us is determined to prevent its corruption by brown-skinned aliens. The only difference is that Israel's aliens shoot rockets while ours clean offices. Therefore, Israel needs a different methodology in dealing with its alien problem.

Call it what you may, but it's not racism. Any alien willing to get with the program, internalize our Western values and claw his way to a CEO position is welcome with open arms. That's why we have an alien in the White House. Those who won't get with the program are deported, jailed or bombed out of existence. It's a question of behavior and attitude, not race.

It's only a matter of time before the values that gave us World Wars I and II are the norm and the world enters a golden age of carnage and fat defense contracts.
(c) 2010 Case Wagenvoord. Some years ago, Case Wagenvoord turned off the tube and picked up a book. He's been trouble ever since. His articles have been posted at The Smirking Chimp, Countercurrents and Issues & Alibis. When he's not writing or brooding, he is carving hardwood bowls that have been displayed in galleries and shows across the country. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two cats. His book, Open Letters to George W. Bush is available at

Want A BIG Problem? Let A Little One Go
By Mike Folkerth

The majority of really bad problems start out life as little problems; after which they are ignored for a sufficient period of time as to allow them to grow into Godzilla before being addressed.

Our border with Mexico is just one such issue. As a silly comparison, if you allow your kids to jump on the couch until they are 18 and then suddenly threaten them for doing so...let's just say the conversation is not going to go well.

The Mexican border has been a literal sieve for as long as I can remember. Originally, farmers wanted cheap labor and our government wanted for them to have cheap labor in order for the farmers to produce cheap food because Americans really, really, like the word "cheap" and tend to vote for the politicians who provide cheap anything. (Only FREE is better).

Of course, you get what you pay for and when you pay for "cheap" politicians, they eventually become very expensive. In this case, the cost was our way of life.

But back to the problem at hand, since there are laws in the United States that set minimum labor costs, benefits, and working conditions it became necessary to come up with some folks who were not protected by our laws (at least not originally). These new cheap workers were formerly referred to as "wetbacks" from swimming across the Rio Grande, but today, since the Rio Grande is dry, they are most often referred to as illegal immigrants or undocumented guest workers.

The new flow of labor who would work longer, harder, cheaper and have no taxes deducted at all, was working out quite well for the farmers when the home builders caught wind of the farmers good fortune.

Jealousy brewed up among the home builders over the farmers' comparative advantage, as it did with the upper crust citizens who had been paying nannies, gardeners, and pool boys American wages. Since you can't do for one without helping out the other, our government once more turned a blind eye toward the invasion and hung out the "Bienvenido Amigo" sign.

Encouraging illegal entry does not necessarily come by way of a written invitation, but instead, through a willing act of non-enforcement. Once a few thousand illegals arrived and found jobs, housing, and a subculture of support; they wrote home of their exceptional luck and included a map and their address.

This cozy no-tell, no-foul arrangement with our federal government continued to the point of some 20 million brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews and mothers in law joining the club. Until that is, some of the brighter bulbs in America noted that a major problem had developed; the Mexican Nationals had gainful employment in America, and Americans didn't.

At first, the problem was explained away by such slick tongued individuals as Bill Clinton and George Bush saying, "These people do work that Americans won't do." Bill and George were following an accepted propaganda model of telling really big lies and telling them often. To this day I hear normal intelligent American's saying, "The Mexicans do work that Americans won't do." What they really mean is that Mexicans do work that THEY won't do." Not yet anyway.

I have explained many times that our system of exponential growth was failing as early as 1971 and that importing cheap labor illegally was nothing more than an attempt to get a few more miles out of a dead horse. Add $13 TRILLION to our National Debt over the same period and you will arrive at 2010.

I have also explained that full employment creates poor eyesight. No one could spot 20 million people who weren't supposed to be here. A startling medical discovery of recent finding concludes that long term unemployment seems to restore our eyesight to 20/20. Amazin' isn't it? By the way, Americans actually will pour your sidewalk and stucco your house and even mow your grass for money.

So then, whose fault is it that we have a Mexican border that is threatening to break out in full blown riots? Who is in charge of maintaining the sovereignty of our nation and securing our borders? Who is in charge of maintaining our borders, language and culture? Who allowed this mess to materialize and who now wants an amnesty program so they can do better next time? Who is chastising individual state leadership for attempting to enforce the laws and take back their own nation?

November is coming and hopefully all of those unemployed people who supposedly won't work can at least saunter on down to the ballot box and work on installing new leadership.
(c) 2010 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"A people without reliable news is, sooner or later, a people without the basis of freedom."
~~~ Harold J. Laski ~ A Grammar of Politics ~~~

A 'Prophecy' Worth Watching
By Chris Hedges

Orson Welles and John Houseman were preparing to mount a production in June 1937 in New York City called "The Cradle Will Rock," a musical written by Marc Blitzstein and set in "Steeltown USA." The musical followed the efforts of a worker, Larry Foreman, as he attempted to unionize steelworkers. His nemesis was the heartless industrialist Mister Mister, who owned the steel mill and controlled the press, the church, local civic groups, politicians, the arts and the local university, where, as a trustee, Mister Mister made sure the pliant college president fired professors who did not laud the manly arts of war and capitalism. "The Cradle Will Rock" spared no one, from Mister Mister's philanthropic wife and spoiled children to Reverend Salvation, who preached war in the name of Jesus, to feckless artists who devoted themselves to the cult of art. At one point the artists, along with Mister Mister's wife, sing:

And we love Art for Art's sake,
It's smart, for Art's sake,
To Part, for Art's sake,
With your heart, for Art's sake,
And your mind, for Art's sake,
Be Blind, for Art's sake
And Deaf for Art's sake,
And dumb, for Art's sake,
They kill, for Art's sake,
All the Art for Art's sake.

The show was scheduled to open at the Maxine Elliott Theatre with an elaborate set and a 28-piece orchestra. But Washington, bowing to complaints, at the last minute announced that no new shows would be funded by the theater project until after the fiscal year. The theater was surrounded by armed guards since, the government argued, props and costumes inside were government property. Welles, Houseman and Blitzstein-who would later be blacklisted-rented the Venice Theater and a piano. They met the audience outside the shuttered Maxine Elliott Theatre and marched the theatergoers and the cast 20 blocks to the Venice. They invited onlookers to join them and filled the 1,742-seat house. Actor's Equity had forbidden the cast to perform the piece "onstage" so the actors stood in the audience singing across the seats. The poet Archibald MacLeish, who attended, thought it was one of the most moving theatrical experiences of his life.

"This was censorship by another form," the head of the Federal Theater Project, Hallie Flanagan, noted acidly at the time. By 1939 the Federal Theater Project was killed. It was the first of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects to be dismantled, "a reminder," the playwright Karen Malpede said, "of the power of the theater."

The corporate and government censorship-practiced in the name of sponsorship-that was imposed on "The Cradle Will Rock" is the censorship that has decimated the arts, the universities, the press and the church and destroyed the theater. These liberal institutions have been bought off. Corporate money, grants and government support reward those who stay on script, who do not challenge the cruel structures of American imperialism, our permanent war economy and unfettered capitalism. And those productions that break the rules are tossed aside. It is this kind of insidious censorship that takes cutting-edge productions, such as Malpede's fierce new anti-war play, "Prophecy," running at the Fourth Street Theater in the East Village in New York City until June 20, and relegates them to obscurity.

"Prophecy," which has a superb cast including veteran stage actors Kathleen Chalfant and George Bartenieff, as well as the versatile Najla Said, examines the hollowness of our own imperial virtues. It explores the psychic and physical pain of war. Malpede's play is perhaps too ambitious in its sweep, encompassing Vietnam, the wars in Lebanon and the occupied territories in Israel and Iraq. The writer in me would edit it down to focus on the war-tossed relationship between Hala, a Muslim woman; her former lover, Alan; Alan's wife, Sarah; and Alan and Hala's daughter, Mariam. But "Prophecy" goes to places most modern theater productions will not. It has a conscience. And "Prophecy" keeps alive the tenuous link with productions, including "The Cradle Will Rock," that prize truth. It speaks in the unfamiliar language of justice.

"What happened?" Malpede asked when we spoke. "The Vietnam War finally ended, but the peace movement persisted in large numbers through the dirty wars in South America and the growing anti-nuclear movement. Yet, it became more and more difficult to produce socially conscious, poetic theater. The old dogma of the 1950s reasserted itself: Art and politics don't mix. When Ronald Reagan was elected [as president] in 1980, he immediately ordered National Endowment of the Arts grants to small-read leftist-theaters be abolished. Reaganism eroded the public perception that a great democracy deserves great art."

"Without government support for funding innovation and the non-commercial, the theater began to institutionalize and to censor itself," Malpede went on. "The growing network of regional theaters became ever more reliant upon planning subscription seasons which would not offend any of their local donors, and the institutional theaters began to function more and more as social clubs for the wealthy and philanthropic. Sometimes, there was a breakthrough. 'Angels in America' was one-the result, too, of an aggressive gay activist movement. But to a large degree, the theater no longer wanted to shake people up. The institutional theaters began to 'develop' plays-a process geared to securing grants from the few foundations which still, in our age of austerity, fund the arts. Development means that most new plays receive a series of readings and workshops during which all sorts of dramaturges, literary managers, directors and artistic directors give their 'input,' most often thoroughly confusing especially young playwrights and frequently damaging whatever was authentic to begin with. Fewer and fewer of these plays ever reach production. As the economy worsens, fewer and fewer risks are taken. Some subjects are out of bounds altogether, including strong critiques of capitalism or American foreign policy; in other words, anything that might cause individual donors to stop donating."

Theater, once again unplugged from what gave it vitality, withered. It became increasingly mediocre, produced as spectacle or driven by the presence of Hollywood celebrities. Audience numbers have dwindled and aged. Critical debate on stage is largely banished. Theater criticism, as much of a curse as a blessing given the orthodoxy imposed by newspapers such as The New York Times, is vanishing with the death of newspapers. And when the dinosaurs do bellow, as they did when The New York Times reviewed "Prophecy," they often hold up the artistic ideal parodied in "The Cradle Will Rock."

"With the effective disempowering of artists, and with artists' collusion in their own disempowerment, the theater now serves no meaningful function," said Malpede. "It seldom startles, enlivens, enrages, or encourages its audience to become more fiercely aware of their own or of others' humanity."

Mariam, played by Said, returns from Lebanon as a young woman to meet her biological father, Alan, an American Jew who runs an international relief agency. She and her mother, Hala, also played by Said, left the United States for Beirut shortly after she was born. Mariam enters her father's office clutching a handbag tightly to her chest.

I see. I thought it would be nice if you knew me, if you understood everything in your last minutes, if your whole life flashed before you, and you got to know at the very last moment that this child who was supposed to bring in the new world, only you never got to watch her grow up, unfortunate, that, but there was always a war on, after all, and how could you leave your important job to go there, anyway. It was always so unsafe. But, I wanted you to know, now, at last, about the new world you made with your big dreams, your empty words, and the murderous actions they cover up, the peace plans, the road maps running every which way, they have to bulldoze so many houses to get there, and put up such a big wall, build a fence around Gaza, such a nice prison they built, to keep the fishermen from being able to fish, and there is no where to run, you get blown up if you go to the beach, if you leave, you can't get back in, and, then, why not send Lebanon back to the stone age, the people, after all, are so primitive. But none of that matters, now, at all, because most of all I wanted to see your face at the moment you understand it is your own flesh who is going to blow you up.

At this, Alan makes a lunge for her, and he grabs her bag.

I wouldn't open the clasp.

He stands frozen, holding the bag away from him, not knowing what to do. Mariam laughs.

We are all terrorists, after all.

She takes the bag away from him.

Forget about me. I'm an old man. Don't ruin your life.

Get ready, Alan. I'm going to give you a treat. Parents are always already dead. They don't get to hear this:

Mariam begins to recite the Kaddish.

Yeetgadal v'yeetkadash sh'mey rabbah
B'almach dee v'rah kheer'utey
V'yanleekh malkhutei, b'chahyeykhohn, uv' yohmeykhohn
Uv'chahyei d'chohl beyt yisrael

Alan freezes. Mariam opens the bag and dumps its contents onto the floor: lipsticks, pens, her passport, a diary, a wallet, keys, the usual stuff, a book. Alan feels like a fool, but he relaxes. Mariam picks up the book.

See Under Love by David Grossman. A great Israeli novelist. A great Holocaust book. And do you know that David Grossman had a son, Uri. He was a tank commander in the ground invasion. His father had just signed a petition with other Jewish intellectuals calling for an end to the fighting. This war could have ended before Uri Grossman got killed by a Hezbollah rocket. He was twenty years old. And you think we are the only ones who love to make martyrs? Do you think we are the only ones who love death?

"What is to be done?" Malpede asks. "Here I speak only from experience. 'Prophecy' had six public readings, each packed with attentive and wildly enthusiastic audiences, yet was refused production by every theater that hosted these readings and by others to whom the play was sent. One producer called the play 'brilliant' but told me it was 'too risky' and he would 'never produce' it at his theater. His was among the most honest responses. Another producer told me she found the play 'very moving' when she read it, but is of the opinion that neither critics nor audiences wish to 'see anything about anything.' Another potential producer, who, after witnessing 150 people at the Kennedy Center become totally engrossed in a reading and hearing their amazingly positive feedback afterwards, wrote me, coolly, that he 'had received negative emails' and withdrew his offer to consider the play.

"George Bartenieff, my partner, and I decided we had to produce the play ourselves. We had developed a devoted core audience, and the play had no trouble attracting wonderfully talented actors. In fact, I had written it for Najla Said and Kathleen Chalfant, and both were eager to do it. Najla went to London, where 'Prophecy' premiered in a co-production, which we partially funded, mainly from a small pension fund of mine left over after I had been denied tenure at the Tisch School of the Arts for 'being an artist,' not a postmodern theorist.

"Bartenieff and I maintain a small not-for-profit organization, Theater Three Collaborative, just for the purpose of creating the sort of poetic, social theater we revere. We had already produced 'The Beekeeper's Daughter,' about a Bosnian refugee, and 'I Will Bear Witness,' based on the Victor Klemperer diaries. After London, we set about raising the money, and finally completely depleting my pension, to produce 'Prophecy' in New York."

It is only when artists control their own work that great socially relevant theater can be sustained. The funding for this kind of work will never come out of the world of corporate sponsorships. Corporations see theater and the arts as a diversion. Great theater will never find support among liberal institutions that have become tools, as "The Cradle Will Rock" pointed out, of the power elite.

"The theater needs to be funded with public money, as it was in Athens, where it began, and where all citizens were required to attend the dramatic festival, because the theater is, when it functions, a corrective against the excesses of empire," Malpede says. "As such it remains necessary to the functioning of a democratic state and though it might make the functionaries of such a state uncomfortable, it will and must be a beacon of truth. At its best, such a theater provides the experience of heightened feeling, heightened aliveness, heightened awareness of self and other. It makes us more human and humane, and, therefore, more able to take action in the world."

Editor's note: To see video clips from "Prophecy" and interviews with Karen Malpede and others associated with the play, click here.
(c) 2010 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

The Do-Nothing 44th President
David Michael Green

What do nine dead Gaza activists in the Mediterranean, nine-plus percent unemployment, and ninety years of oil catastrophe clean-up have in common? How about one astonishingly tepid president?

How about one guy in the White House who squirms in his chair anytime someone uses the word "bold" and actually means it?

How about one dude in the Oval Office who seems much more interested in making deals to determine who should be the Democratic candidates for various state offices than in actually solving national problems?

We could hardly have a president more ill-suited to our time if we were to dig up Herbert Hoover and prop his weary bones up on the presidential throne.

Barack Obama has five major problems as president. The first is that he doesn't understand priorities. The second is that he seems to have little strong conviction on any given issue. The third is that to the extent he stands for anything, it is for maintenance of a status quo that continues to wreck the country in order to service the greed of a few oligarchs. The fourth is that he fundamentally does not understand the powers and the role of the modern presidency. And the fifth is that he maintains the worst communications apparatus in the White House since Jimmy Carter prowled its corridors. In fairness to his communications team, though, he has given them almost nothing to sell. You try singing the praises of bailing out Goldman Sachs one hundred cents on the dollar, or of a health care plan that forces people to buy plans they don't want from hated insurance vultures. It ain't easy, pal. Yet, on the other hand, Bush and Cheney had far less than nothing to sell when it came to the Iraq war - indeed, they had nothing but lies - and their team handled that masterfully.

The fundamental characteristic of the Obama presidency is that the president is a reactive object, essentially the victim of events and other political forces, rather than the single greatest center of power in the country, and arguably on the planet. He is the Mr. Bill of politicians. People sometimes excuse the Obama torpor by making reference to all the problems on his plate, and all the enemies at his gate. But what they fail to understand - and, most crucially, what he fails to understand - is the nature of the modern presidency. Successful presidents today (by which I mean those who get what they want) not only drive outcomes in their preferred direction, but shape the very character of the debate itself. And they not only shape the character of the debate, but they determine which items are on the docket.

Moreover, there is a continuously evolving and reciprocal relationship between presidential boldness and achievement. In the same way that nothing breeds success like success, nothing sets the president up for achieving his or her next goal better than succeeding dramatically on the last go around.

This is absolutely a matter of perception, and you can see it best in the way that Congress and especially the Washington press corps fawn over bold and intimidating presidents like Reagan and George W. Bush. The political teams surrounding these presidents understood the psychology of power all too well. They knew that by simultaneously creating a steamroller effect and feigning a clubby atmosphere for Congress and the press, they could leave such hapless hangers-on with only one remaining way to pretend to preserve their dignities. By jumping on board the freight train, they could be given the illusion of being next to power, of being part of the winning team. And so, with virtually the sole exception of the now retired Helen Thomas, this is precisely what they did.

But the game of successfully governing is substantive as well as psychological. More often than not, timidity turns out not to yield the safe course anticipated by those with weak knees, but rather their subsequent undoing. The three cases mentioned at the top of this essay are paradigmatic.

By far and away the most crucial problem on the minds of most Americans today is the economy, as is often the case, but now more than ever. It's hard to quite figure where Barack Obama is on this issue. What is always most puzzling with this guy is reconciling the fundamentally irrational behavior of his presidency with the obvious intellectual abilities of the president and the administrative masterfulness of the campaign he ran to obtain that office. It seems to me that there are four options for understanding Obama's self-defeating tendency when it comes to the economic disaster he inherited. One is that he simply isn't so smart, and doesn't get the ramifications of continued unemployment at the level it's currently running. The second option is that he's just a policy bungler, who has the right intentions but makes lousy choices for trying to get there. The third possibility is that Obama recognizes this latest recession as the capstone (we hope) of a three decade long process by the economic oligarchy seeking nothing less than the downsizing of the American middle class, and he simply lacks the courage to attempt any reversal of this tsunami of wealth redistribution. The final, and scariest - but by no means least probable - explanation for Obama's behavior is that he is ultimately no less a tool in that very piracy project than was George W. Bush or Bill Clinton.

Whatever the explanation, Obama's timidity early in his presidency not only failed to solve the problem, but more crucially, now precludes him from introducing any meaningful subsequent attempt at solving the problem. Obama's management of the economic stimulus bill in the first weeks of his presidency was the very model of how a president should govern - provided, that is, that the nineteenth century hadn't actually ended over a hundred years ago. This president, who has turned deference to others - including to his sworn enemies - into an art form, told Congress that he wanted a stimulus bill and let them fill in the details. What he got, accordingly, was a giant monstrosity filled with pet projects for each congressional district in America, with about one-third of it constituted by tax cuts in order to buy Republican votes which never came anyhow. Nor has there been, to this day, any urgency about the spending of those funds.

The upshot of all of this is threefold, all of it hugely negative. First, the government spent an enormous amount of money on the stimulus without solving the problem of the recession and unemployment. Second, it therefore massively exacerbated the national debt problem, with little gain to show for it. And, third, the combination of the first two factors effectively precludes any subsequent stimulus package from emerging out of Congress for the foreseeable future, the politics of spending in general and the stimulus in particular having become altogether radioactive.

And here we see how Obama's failure to lead in the first instance has succeeded above all in digging him into a hole subsequently. We are likely looking at nine or ten percent unemployment for years to come, and Obama's legislative cowardice has created a situation in which the only remaining meaningful tool by which to transcend this deep recession has been taken off the table. The public looks around and asks, "Why should we spend more money on economic stimulus, when all it does is fail to produce results, while simultaneously increasing the national debt?" It's a legitimate question, except that it omits consideration of a third alternative, which is to actually do a stimulus correctly, pumping money into infrastructure, alternative energy projects, unemployment compensation, retraining programs and the like, all of which would positively impact the economy in both the short, medium and long terms.

You see the same phenomenon in virtually everything Obama touches. Lots of spiffy rhetoric. But then lots of deference to every other actor in the play (except, of course, for the interests of the American public or for his base of progressive voters), including those who are overtly trying to destroy the president. "You say that Republicans want to remove the public option from the health care bill? Okay, let's give that to them. It's bound to buy, golly, what? ... zero whole votes from their caucus!" "You say they demand yet more tax cuts be included in the stimulus bill? Let's do that! And watch them vote against it almost without exception." Brilliant.

In the Middle East, Obama has spent his first year-and-a-half in office getting bitch-slapped by Noxious Netanyahu, with nothing to show for it but total embarrassment. It's gotten so bad that you can no longer tell which country is the client state of the other. Is it the one with the economy, military, territory, population and political power that dwarfs the other, or is it the one that continually receives financial, military and political support from the other, no matter what it does? Including, for example, regularly invading its neighbors, strangling a population of over a million people, pissing off the whole world, and humiliating both the president and vice-president of its benefactor country by continuing to build more illegal, peace-preventing settlements, in direct, intentional and arrogant contravention of their expressed preference to the contrary. If Obama could possibly be more passive in this situation, it's difficult to know how. Perhaps he could strap on a construction belt and assist the Israelis himself in building some apartment complexes in East Jerusalem. While he was at it, maybe he'd take his shirt off in the hot Mediterranean sun, and get in another one of those hunky president photos he seems so fond of.

The story is the same back in the Gulf of Mexico, where Obama recently had his very own Michael Dukakis moment. Trying to look tough, like Dukakis did haplessly riding around on that tank in the picture that spoke a million words (and sank a presidential campaign), Obama decided to use a four-letter word to show how serious he is about those mean fellows at BP and their errant flow of oil. Except that this president is so inept that he could only manage three of the requisite four letters. He told NBC's Matt Lauer that he has been visiting the oil spill region "so I know whose ass to kick." I mean, raise your hand if you think that that little display of anger for the cameras was about as authentic as Cheese Whiz. And simultaneously both far less and far more cheesy. But it gets worse. It then turns out that during all of the last 45 or so days, the president hasn't yet had a phone conversation with the CEO of British Petroleum. Turns out Obama traveled all that way to New Orleans and still couldn't get a postal code for the limey arse to which to fax over his presidential boot.

Like he would use it if he had it, anyhow. Can you imagine the conversation he might have with Tony Hayward?

Obama: "Hey, Tony, your oil spill is really causing me problems, so I thought I'd call to kick your ass a little."

Hayward: "Screw you, punk. You do what I tell you."

Obama: "Oh god, you're right. Christ! Sorry. I forgot myself. For a minute there I thought I was talking to my daughter about her homework."

Hayward: "Get your facts straight, pal. Starting with who here works for whom."

Obama: "Yes, sir. Right away, sir. What can we do for you?"

Hayward: "Nothing at all would be perfect, just like you have been doing. Just let us drill where we want, spill where want, thrill as is our wont to the sheer brazenness of our lies, and bill your account for the damages. We're not greedy we won't ask for more than that."

Obama: "You got it, Mr. Hayward. We'll get right on it. Raaaahhm!!!"

The only thing more grim than the visage of the pathetic Obama administration in non-action is a consideration of the opportunity lost here. Obama had all the cards stacked in his favor, ranging from a destroyed opposition party, to a series of crises, to a public demanding change, to massive majorities in Congress, to global good will. He's pissed it all away in his unrelenting dedication to mediocrity and inoffensiveness.

And the only thing more grim than that is to consider where this all leads. Every day I shudder a little more as yet another two-by-four is crow-barred out from the edifice of America's experiment in liberal democracy. Every time the Supreme Court hands down a decision, it means more power for the state, more power for the imperial president (whom they also select when they feel like it), and especially, more power for the rich. Every day more people are dying in the stupid and endless wars of the twilight empire, for which nobody can even articulate a purpose. Every election cycle more lethally vicious regressives are victorious, crushing common sense and human rights in tandem, moving the country further in the direction of mindless fascism.

There's no other word for it. This country is just plain rotting from within. And, thus, perhaps the most tragic aspect of the Obama regime will not be the embarrassingly hapless conduct of this baseball of a president, getting smacked around by big steroid-sculpted biceps swinging fat slabs of menacing lumber at the velocity of their choice. Nor will it be the blown opportunities of epic proportion, not likely to be seen again for a long time.

It is likely to be, instead, the door that was opened for far worse to be inflicted upon the American public and the world.

By failing to stand for anything while the country crumbles, Obama has virtually begged those who would make the trains run on time to seize power.

And why shouldn't they "take their country back" from this president, anyhow?

I mean, the guy wasn't even born in America, right?
(c) 2010 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer Hatch,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, your demanding that all persons receiving unemployment benefits that they've already paid for be drug tested, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "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 07-03-2010. We salute you Herr Hatch, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

John McCain On The Evil, Barbaric Iranians
By Glenn Greenwald

John McCain has a new article in The New Republic -- which is exactly where it should be -- calling for regime change in Iran. The whole article contains one paragraph after the next of the favorite pastime of America's political and media class: self-righteously condemning other nations for what we ourselves do (at least) as much. Of all McCain's paragraphs, this is probably my favorite (h/t sandbun):

Is it any wonder that this is the same regime that spends its people's precious resources not on roads, or schools, or hospitals, or jobs that benefit all Iranians -- but on funding violent groups of foreign extremists who murder the innocent?

As the American war in Afghanistan enters its ninth full year and our occupation of Iraq its seventh, and as we continue to find all new ways to kill innocent civilians in various countries around the world, and as we continue to transfer billions of dollars every year to Israel and the Egyptian dictatorship -- all while thinking about how to slash Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and thus erode the weak safety net even further, while confronting collapsing domestic infrastructure, rampant unemployment, and massive teacher lay-offs and even grade elimination for American children -- is there any other country you can think of, besides Iran, which "spends its people's precious resources not on roads, or schools, or hospitals, or jobs that benefit all [citizens]" but rather on wars and support for foreign groups which kill "the innocent"? And over the last decade, what was the position of John McCain and his party on whether the "people's precious resources" should be spent (a) on "roads, or schools, or hospitals, or jobs that benefit all" (see here) or (b) wars that kill the innocent

And then there's this:

We -- the government and the people of the United States -- need to stand up for the Iranian people. We need to make their goals our goals, their interests our interests, their work our work.

Oh, yes -- John McCain is so deeply concerned about the welfare of The Iranian People. He just adores them. That's why his Siamese twin, Joe Lieberman, advocates that we bomb their country, while McCain merrilly sings songs about doing so. The best way to show how noble and profoundly caring you are about other people is to bomb their country; they love that and it's really, really good for them. One other thing about the Iranians that McCain wants to note:

And is it any wonder that this Iranian regime has been, and will always be, uncompromising in its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability . . . .
Those murderous monsters! What kind of evil fanatics would want a nuclear weapons capability? In the interview I just did with The Atlantic, I was asked: "If you could correct one mis-impression among Americans that is exacerbated by media, what would it be?" I replied: "our media's refusal to report that we ourselves frequently do exactly that which we like to believe only the Bad, Tyrannical countries do." Thank you to John McCain -- and his like-minded friends at The New Republic -- for providing such a classic illustration.
(c) 2010 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.

Enough Of This Crap
By William Rivers Pitt

Reports have been coming out of the Gulf for days about British Petroleum blocking access to beaches and animal-cleaning stations, in some instances using private Blackwater-style mercenaries to do so. Journalists as well as citizens have been thwarted in their attempts to see for themselves the extent of the damage being done by the runaway Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Know what I'd like to see happen? I would like to see a thousand people, ten thousand, a hundred thousand, just show the hell up down there and demand access. Citizens and reporters alike, just get down there, link arms, and walk to the beaches and the marshlands with digital cameras and cell phones for instantaneous blogging of what they see, hear and smell. Pile into as many rented, borrowed and begged boats as can be mustered and plow out there to the scene of the crime. Dare the gendarmes to stop us.

One of two things would happen: either the people would break through those unconscionable corporate barriers and show the world what is really going on in the Gulf, or the forces BP has arrayed against the truth would react with violence, which would tell us everything we need to know about what is happening, and would be enough to break that God damned criminal corporation finally and forever. Either way, there would be thousands of people down there to chronicle what is happening, a ready-made army of volunteers who can also pitch in as best they can and begin the epic process of trying to undo what has been done.

Sounds crazy? Maybe, but it is the kind of direct action that has been missing from our national narrative, not just in the Gulf but all over. What would happen if a million people marched on Wall Street, parked themselves in the road, and demanded that every "too big to fail" institution be torn down a brick at a time? What would happen if a million people parked themselves on Pennsylvania Avenue and refused to leave until American military forces are removed from Iraq, as promised?

Big stuff would happen, friends. The kind of stuff we'd be proud to tell our grandchildren about. Yes, Virginia, there is a We The People, and in the second decade on the 21st century, we rose up righteous and turned the tide away from this corporate war-machine oligarchy whose seemingly overwhelming power and masterful media manipulation put us all to sleep...but only for a while. Yes, Virginia, there was a way, and we found it, and we did it.

A very old friend of mine recently described President Obama as a "narcotic," and it was as spot-on an analysis as I have ever heard. Millions upon millions of people were mobilized during the psychotic tenure of George W. Bush; we knew what was wrong, we knew why it was wrong, and we summoned the care and courage to throw ourselves into a determined effort to bugger his deranged intentions. We failed far more often than we succeeded, but at a minimum, we were on the move.

Now, a year and a half later, We The People have become stuck in the mud as matters continue to go badly and dangerously wrong. Too many of the Bush-era policies we railed against are still in effect, with a few extra twists of the knife (escalation in Afghanistan, pre-Deepwater approval of more offshore oil drilling, etc.) that are putting us even deeper into a hole. Where is the action? Where are the voices raised in a roaring chorus of "No"?

Obama is a narcotic, my friend said, and that has a lot to do with it. Too many people think things are better now, despite all evidence to the contrary, because Bush is gone and this wildly intelligent, grand-speaking new president is in office. We are not necessarily asleep, but we are on the nod, watching the world burn around us without lifting a finger because, well, things are better now. Right?


Perhaps having thousands of people descent upon the Gulf is a dumb idea, not feasible, even crazy. But imagine what would happen if we did just that. Imagine Wall Street thronged with citizens whose futures have been looted, refusing to leave until real change is finally effected. Imagine what would happen if this slumbering, pissed off nation rose up and got moving again.

A large enough lever can move the world. It is long past time for We The People to remember that, shake off the narcotic comfort of delusional hope, and start working the shoe leather again.

Enough of this crap.
(c) 2010 William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is now available from PoliPointPress.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Mike Thompson ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Big Yellow Taxi
By Joni Mitchel

They paved paradise
Put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot

Don't it always seem to go
You don't know what you've got till it's gone
They paved paradise
Put up a parking lot

Well they took all the trees
Put'em in a tree museum
And they charged all the people
A dollar and a half just to see'em

I said, don't it always seem to go
You don't know what you've got till it's gone
They paved paradise
Put up a parking lot

Hey farmer farmer
Put away that D.D.T. now
Give me spots on my apples
But leave me the birds and the bees

Don't it always seem to go
You don't know what you've got till it's gone
They paved paradise
Put up a parking lot

Late last night
I heard that screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi
Come and took away my old man

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got till it's gone
They paved paradise
Put up a parking lot

Late last night
I heard that screen door slam
And a big yellow tractor
Came and took away my house
And took away my land

I said don't it always seem to go
You don't know what you've got till it's gone
They paved paradise
Put up a parking lot

They paved paradise
Put up a parking lot

They paved paradise
Put up a parking lot
(c) 1970/2010 Joni Mitchel

Have You Seen This...

Alvin Greene On Countdown

Parting Shots...

The Third Gulf War
By Will Durst

The President may have wrestled Afghanistan and Iraq to shaky standoffs but the newest skirmish in the heads- up display of Air Force One shows him losing the third Gulf war and losing bad. Taking shots from both sides- from both sides. Republicans are yelling at Obama for holding BP responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster AND for not doing enough to clean it up. That man sure is a geographic oddity. On two wrong sides of the same issue. Which ain't easy.

The main burst of charges that Obama is scapegoating British Petroleum are oozing from the newest Republican Senate candidate from Kentucky, Rand Paul. A man naturally disposed to disturbing people with both his views and his coif. Please, someone, have the simple common human decency to tell him that 1985 is calling and it wants its hair back. Not even Lyle Lovett wears it like that anymore. Anthony Geary maybe.

But I digress. Calls are streaming across the aisle for the President to ignore BP's jurisdictional claims and have the military take over. Because people suspect BP cannot be trusted. About anything. If they smile and say "hello," check your back for shards of a malfunctioning Blowout Protector. "We're trying our best." We are familiar with your best. Your best sucks.

Top Kill was supposed to take 12 hours, then 24, 48 and now 96. You don't have to be Stephen Hawking to spot a mathematical progression here. 12,288 is a mere 7 press conferences spewed down the line. They didn't want the video feed to go public because even you and me and your five year old helper- monkey would see the ferocious gushing and realize, "whoa, that's more than 5,000 gallons a day. That's 5,000 gallons a frame. Where's my banana?"

BP's sole object is protecting profit. Covering corporate butt. In the last ten weeks, not a single word that has leaked out of their mouths has been true. Eventually they will divest themselves of all US assets, change their name and seep offshore to escape financial culpability in the courts but until then, the main object is to deflect blame keeping responsibility to a minimum. And when I say responsibility, I mean- money. The ultimate lubricant.

BP is not concerned with plugging or cleaning or stopping or fixing or reimbursing, except for how it affects the quarterly dividend. To that end they will lie and deny and incomply and do whatever it takes. They will lie about what happened, what is happening and what will happen. They will lie because that is the culture in which corporations live. They will lie because it is their nature. They will lie because they're good at it. They will lie to stay in practice. They will lie about lying. Offer up proof. They will lie. They will claim it was their evil twin. Remember when this all started on Earth Day and they said there was no leak. Why? Because they hoping to get it under control and nobody would be the wiser.

Some people are calling for a boycott of BP. Not enough. Don't just boycott British Petroleum; ride a bicycle to one of their stations, seize their toilet paper assets and send them to the Gulf. To help clean up. If Obama and the Oil Flushers can't do the right thing, we'll do it for them. Then stay on that bicycle for as long as you can.
(c) 2010 Will Durst , is a San Francisco based political comic, who often writes. This being an indignant example. Catch his one man show "The Lieutenant Governor from the State of Confusion." And don't forget his new CD, "Raging Moderate" from Stand-Up Records now available on both iTunes and Amazon.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 25 (c) 06/018/2010

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