Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky explores, "The Iranian Threat."

Uri Avnery explains why, "A Broomstick Can Shoot."

David Sirota follows the carnage in, "First Gulf Drilling, Now Colorado."

Randall Amster sings, "And It's One, Two, Three, What Are We Fighting For?"

Jim Hightower over looks, "Obama's Pointless Afghanistan War."

Phil Rockstroh recalls, "A Day In A Dying Empire."

James Donahue says, "GOP Playing A Dangerous Power Game."

Joel S. Hirschhorn finds the, "US Economy Stuck In Misery."

Chris Floyd showcases, "The Glittering Prizes."

Case Wagenvoord studies, "The Dead Cow Policy."

Mike Folkerth recommends that you, "Choose Wisely."

Chris Hedges takes a hike in, "Freedom In The Grace Of The World."

David Michael Green wonders, "How's That Recessioney, Oily Thing Working Out For Ya?"

US Con-gressman John Boehner (R-OH) wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald insists, "AP Owes China An Apology."

Sheila Samples returns with, "The Glory Of White-Wing Politics."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Terry Jones finds, "All's Fair In Cuts And War" but first Uncle Ernie sez, Good-bye Social Security, It Was Nice Knowing Ya!

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Kirk Walters, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Destonio, Tony Auth, Don Sidle, Monte Wolverton, Obamicon.Me, Peter Macdiarmid, Flickr, Mike Folkerth 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."

Good-bye Social Security, It Was Nice Knowing Ya!
By Ernest Stewart

"On the spending side, we could and should consider a higher retirement age, or one pegged to lifespan."
~~~ House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D - MD) ~~~

When der Fuhrer says we ist the Master Race
We heil, heil, right in the der Fuhrer's face
Not to love der Fuhrer is a great disgrace
So we heil, heil right in der Fuhrer's face!
Der Fuhrer's Face ~~~ Spike Jones version

Our old mess sergeant's taste buds had been shot off in the war.
But his savory collations add to our esprit de corps.
To think of all the marvelous ways
They're using plastics nowadays.
It makes a fellow proud to be a soldier!
It Makes A Fellow Proud To Be A Soldier ~~~ Tom Lehrer

Ever since old Dementia-head Ray Guns was in office, the Rethuglicans and their blue dog Demoncrat allies have been doing their best to get their hands on the Social Security money stash and let the old folks just die off. They have been stealing billions of dollars every year, under every president, from the trillions of dollars of surplus we Americans have paid into the system.

They love to use the word "entitlements" to describe it like that's a bad thing. We're entitled to it, not as a gift, but because we put the money there so we wouldn't slowly starve to death when we could no longer work. Our millionaire congress doesn't have those problems so they're not interested in them! Hell yes, we're entitled but you'd never know that listening to the likes of Johnny (drinky drinky) Boehner who wants to take it all away to pay for our needless, useless war crimes in the Middle East. Johnny says we're broke. Well then, end the wars, bring our kids home and we'll have several trillion dollars in surpluses. If that's not enough, then bring our jobs back from overseas. A few years of full employment at livable wage jobs and we'll be back in the black.

It's bad enough that they're all bought and paid for by their corporate masters but Rethuglicans want to steal your retirement and give it away to their puppet masters, too, leaving you to die. So do a host of Blue Dog Demoncrats like House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who also thinks that you should have to wait to retire at the age of 70, as Johnny Boehner proposes. Of course, you'll probably be laid off at 50 or so and won't be able to find even a job saying "Welcome to Wally World" so I hope you have lots of gold and sacks of rice to last you until you turn 70!

Oh, and while they're at it, they're going to have to get rid of that pesky Medicare and Medicaid as all that money would be better spent on the other side of the world blowing brown-skinned people into tiny bits. If the Rethuglicans get control of the House and Senate, you'll see their health care plan, i.e., "don't get sick and if you do get sick, die quickly!" Who knows? Perhaps they'll bring back the mobile gas wagons or just send us all off to the gas ovens in the new "Happy Camps!"

Of course, we Americans could get off our fat posteriors and raise some righteous hell with our Con-gressmen and Sin-ators and throw the bums out come November or we could just hope for the best and do nothing. After all, our elected officials are there just to serve the people right? If you buy that, folks, I have this bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to interest you into buying too!

In Other News

I see where Barry met with the leader of "der Master Race" the other day. Being the goyim cow that he is, Barry was kissing plenty of Herr Netanyahu's butt. Benjamin was in town to finalize the plans for the Palestinian "final solution" and being a Zionist puppet, Barry went along with his master's plans.

Although it's been carefully scripted that Washington and Tel Aviv have very different plans for the West Bank and Gaza ghettos, not to mention East Jerusalem, that's only for show, meant to keep Barry from being seen as the Zionist lackey that he is.

Recall, if you will, when Barry first found out that he had the Demoncratic nomination for president. He didn't stop to thank his supporters. He didn't stop to thank the DNC or any of the parties' leaders. He ran straight as an arrow to the AIPAC meeting and vowed his undying allegiance to Israel. Not to America but to Israel!

For those of you wondering how Israel gets such undying allegiance when Jews only make up 1 1/2% of the US population, it's because they control most of the world's money and since we have (as Will Rogers pointed out) "the best politicians that money can buy" and since the Jews have controlled all US currency since we turned the Treasury over to them in 1914, it's rather obvious, is it not, to why they hold such power over Washington!

I'm sure, that during the meeting Barry got his marching orders for the upcoming attack on Iran and instructions on how Tel Aviv wants it spun on Fox spews and other MSM corpo-rat outlets. Perhaps we'll sacrifice an old, outdated, useless fleet of ships like we did at Pearl Harbor or maybe another airliner will take out the Capital Building or some US city, like Houston for example, will awake to a nuclear dawn which will be blamed on Iran. Or maybe Israel doesn't feel like it needs to make any excuses at all and will just nuke Iran because it wants to? If anyone says something negative about their war crimes, they can all start wailing holocaust, holocaust, holocaust, as they do every time they commit a crime against humanity!

I'm guessing the attacks will come just before the November election, when the heat of summer leaves Iran. Perhaps on a Friday evening in the US when the news shuts down and it's Saturday in the gulf and the Jews are out of the Temple. Perhaps on "All Hallows Eve?" Somehow that seems just right, doesn't it? Another good time is summer recess, when your congressional critters are away from Foggy Bottom trying to cover their asses from the righteous wrath of the folks at home and Barry is sitting on a beach on Maui with a fat doobie of Maui Wowie in his hand!

And Finally

They're dancing in the White House tonight! Barry's Gitmo Kangaroo Court got its first conviction for him! Bin Laden's cook pled guilty to terrorism charges and they only had to torture him for 8 years to get a confession. We can all sleep better tonight knowing this rogue cook has gone down!

Ibrahim al Qosi pled guilty to conspiring with al Qaeda (the CIA) and providing material support for terrorism court "stooge" "spokesman" Captain Joe DellaVedova said. Joe, however, didn't mention that when Oosi committed the crime of cooking, it wasn't a crime. It became a crime retroactively in 2006, many years after the fact when Bush's traitors (as the Congress was known at the time) retroactively made it one and Qosi was charged with terrorist cooking, the charge to which he just pled guilty so they would stop water boarding him. He now faces the possibility of life in prison for cooking sh*t-on-a-shingle! Having eaten Army chow I can testify that sh*t-on-a-shingle is, indeed, a crime against humanity but strangely enough, it was my favorite army chow!

Human rights groups said Qosi's conviction was hardly a validation for the Guantanamo court. "In fact Mr. al Qosi's case is a textbook example of the inability of the military commission system -- now in its third incarnation -- to achieve swift justice," said Daphne Eviatar of Human Rights First. "The case has dragged on for more than six years without a trial. By the time he entered his guilty plea today, the commission still hadn't decided whether it even has jurisdiction over him."

Mr. Qosi will be sentenced in August by the Kangaroo Court which now has its fourth conviction. The first two pled guilty to stop their torture and were sent home. The third got life for driving Osama around and that is likely what Oosi will receive for being a terrorist cook! Yes, Barry should be very pleased with himself! It makes me embarrassed to be an American! How about you?

Oh And One More Thing

We'd like to thank Farmer Pete and Robert from Tennessee for their kind donations to the cause of keeping us online and fighting for you. Thanks Ya'll!

Dear Readers,

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Issues & Alibis magazine


06-05-1965 ~ 07-05-2010
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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.

The Iranian Threat
By Noam Chomsky

The dire threat of Iran is widely recognized to be the most serious foreign policy crisis facing the Obama administration. General Petraeus informed the Senate Committee on Armed Services in March 2010 that "the Iranian regime is the primary state-level threat to stability" in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, the Middle East and Central Asia, the primary region of US global concerns. The term "stability" here has its usual technical meaning: firmly under US control. In June 2010 Congress strengthened the sanctions against Iran, with even more severe penalties against foreign companies. The Obama administration has been rapidly expanding US offensive capacity in the African island of Diego Garcia, claimed by Britain, which had expelled the population so that the US could build the massive base it uses for attacks in the Central Command area. The Navy reports sending a submarine tender to the island to service nuclear-powered guided-missile submarines with Tomahawk missiles, which can carry nuclear warheads. Each submarine is reported to have the striking power of a typical carrier battle group. According to a US Navy cargo manifest obtained by the Sunday Herald (Glasgow), the substantial military equipment Obama has dispatched includes 387 "bunker busters" used for blasting hardened underground structures. Planning for these "massive ordnance penetrators," the most powerful bombs in the arsenal short of nuclear weapons, was initiated in the Bush administration, but languished. On taking office, Obama immediately accelerated the plans, and they are to be deployed several years ahead of schedule, aiming specifically at Iran.

"They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran," according to Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London. "US bombers and long range missiles are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours," he said. "The firepower of US forces has quadrupled since 2003," accelerating under Obama.

The Arab press reports that an American fleet (with an Israeli vessel) passed through the Suez Canal on the way to the Persian Gulf, where its task is "to implement the sanctions against Iran and supervise the ships going to and from Iran." British and Israeli media report that Saudi Arabia is providing a corridor for Israeli bombing of Iran (denied by Saudi Arabia). On his return from Afghanistan to reassure NATO allies that the US will stay the course after the replacement of General McChrystal by his superior, General Petraeus, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen visited Israel to meet IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and senior military staff along with intelligence and planning units, continuing the annual strategic dialogue between Israel and the U.S. The meeting focused "on the preparation by both Israel and the U.S. for the possibility of a nuclear capable Iran," according to Haaretz, which reports further that Mullen emphasized that "I always try to see challenges from Israeli perspective." Mullen and Ashkenazi are in regular contact on a secure line.

The increasing threats of military action against Iran are of course in violation of the UN Charter, and in specific violation of Security Council resolution 1887 of September 2009 which reaffirmed the call to all states to resolve disputes related to nuclear issues peacefully, in accordance with the Charter, which bans the use or threat of force.

Some analysts who seem to be taken seriously describe the Iranian threat in apocalyptic terms. Amitai Etzioni warns that "The U.S. will have to confront Iran or give up the Middle East," no less. If Iran's nuclear program proceeds, he asserts, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other states will "move toward" the new Iranian "superpower." To rephrase in less fevered rhetoric, a regional alliance might take shape independent of the US. In the US army journal Military Review, Etzioni urges a US attack that targets not only Iran's nuclear facilities but also its non-nuclear military assets, including infrastructure -- meaning, the civilian society. "This kind of military action is akin to sanctions - causing 'pain' in order to change behaviour, albeit by much more powerful means."

Such inflammatory pronouncements aside, what exactly is the Iranian threat? An authoritative answer is provided by military and intelligence reports to Congress in April 2010 [Lieutenant General Ronald L. Burgess, Director, Defense Intelligence Agency, Statement before the Committee on Armed Services, US Senate, 14 April 2010; Unclassified Report on Military Power of Iran, April 2010; John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service, "Report to Congress Outlines Iranian Threats," April 2010,.

The brutal clerical regime is doubtless a threat to its own people, though it does not rank particularly high in that respect in comparison to US allies in the region. But that is not what concerns the military and intelligence assessments. Rather, they are concerned with the threat Iran poses to the region and the world.

The reports make it clear that the Iranian threat is not military. Iran's military spending is "relatively low compared to the rest of the region," and of course minuscule as compared to the US. Iranian military doctrine is strictly "defensive, designed to slow an invasion and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities." Iran has only "a limited capability to project force beyond its borders." With regard to the nuclear option, "Iran's nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy."

Though the Iranian threat is not military aggression, that does not mean that it might be tolerable to Washington. Iranian deterrent capacity is considered an illegitimate exercise of sovereignty that interferes with US global designs. Specifically, it threatens US control of Middle East energy resources, a high priority of planners since World War II. As one influential figure advised, expressing a common understanding, control of these resources yields "substantial control of the world" (A. A. Berle).

But Iran's threat goes beyond deterrence. It is also seeking to expand its influence. Iran's "current five-year plan seeks to expand bilateral, regional, and international relations, strengthen Iran's ties with friendly states, and enhance its defense and deterrent capabilities. Commensurate with that plan, Iran is seeking to increase its stature by countering U.S. influence and expanding ties with regional actors while advocating Islamic solidarity." In short, Iran is seeking to "destabilize" the region, in the technical sense of the term used by General Petraeus. US invasion and military occupation of Iran's neighbors is "stabilization." Iran's efforts to extend its influence in neighboring countries is "destabilization," hence plainly illegitimate. It should be noted that such revealing usage is routine. Thus the prominent foreign policy analyst James Chace, former editor of the main establishment journal Foreign Affairs, was properly using the term "stability" in its technical sense when he explained that in order to achieve "stability" in Chile it was necessary to "destabilize" the country (by overthrowing the elected Allende government and installing the Pinochet dictatorship).

Beyond these crimes, Iran is also carrying out and supporting terrorism, the reports continue. Its Revolutionary Guards "are behind some of the deadliest terrorist attacks of the past three decades," including attacks on US military facilities in the region and "many of the insurgent attacks on Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces in Iraq since 2003." Furthermore Iran backs Hezbollah and Hamas, the major political forces in Lebanon and in Palestine -- if elections matter. The Hezbollah-based coalition handily won the popular vote in Lebanon's latest (2009) election. Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian election, compelling the US and Israel to institute the harsh and brutal siege of Gaza to punish the miscreants for voting the wrong way in a free election. These have been the only relatively free elections in the Arab world. It is normal for elite opinion to fear the threat of democracy and to act to deter it, but this is a rather striking case, particularly alongside of strong US support for the regional dictatorships, emphasized by Obama with his strong praise for the brutal Egyptian dictator Mubarak on the way to his famous address to the Muslim world in Cairo.

The terrorist acts attributed to Hamas and Hezbollah pale in comparison to US-Israeli terrorism in the same region, but they are worth a look nevertheless.

On May 25 Lebanon celebrated its national holiday Liberation Day, commemorating Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon after 22 years, as a result of Hezbollah resistance -- described by Israeli authorities as "Iranian aggression" against Israel in Israeli-occupied Lebanon (Ephraim Sneh). That too is normal imperial usage. Thus President John F. Kennedy condemned the "the assault from the inside" in South Vietnam, "which is manipulated from the North." This criminal assault by the South Vietnamese resistance against Kennedy's bombers, chemical warfare, programs to drive peasants to virtual concentration camps, and other such benign measures was denounced as "internal aggression" by Kennedy's UN Ambassador, liberal hero Adlai Stevenson. North Vietnamese support for their countrymen in the US-occupied South is aggression, intolerable interference with Washington's righteous mission. Kennedy advisors Arthur Schlesinger and Theodore Sorenson, considered doves, also praised Washington's intervention to reverse "aggression" in South Vietnam -- by the indigenous resistance, as they knew, at least if they read US intelligence reports. In 1955 the US Joint Chiefs of Staff had defined several types of "aggression," including "Aggression other than armed, i.e., political warfare, or subversion." For example, an internal uprising against a US-imposed police state, or elections that come out the wrong way. The usage is also common in scholarship and political commentary, and makes sense on the prevailing assumption that We Own the World.

Hamas resists Israel's military occupation and its illegal and violent actions in the occupied territories. It is accused of refusing to recognize Israel (political parties do not recognize states). In contrast, the US and Israel not only do not recognize Palestine, but have been acting relentlessly and decisively for decades to ensure that it can never come into existence in any meaningful form. The governing party in Israel, in its 1999 campaign platform, bars the existence of any Palestinian state -- a step towards accommodation beyond the official positions of the US and Israel a decade earlier, which held that there cannot be "an additional Palestinian state" between Israel and Jordan, the latter a "Palestinian state" by US-Israeli fiat whatever its benighted inhabitants and government might believe.

Hamas is charged with rocketing Israeli settlements on the border, criminal acts no doubt, though a fraction of Israel's violence in Gaza, let alone elsewhere. It is important to bear in mind, in this connection, that the US and Israel know exactly how to terminate the terror that they deplore with such passion. Israel officially concedes that there were no Hamas rockets as long as Israel partially observed a truce with Hamas in 2008. Israel rejected Hamas's offer to renew the truce, preferring to launch the murderous and destructive Operation Cast Lead against Gaza in December 2008, with full US backing, an exploit of murderous aggression without the slightest credible pretext on either legal or moral grounds.

The model for democracy in the Muslim world, despite serious flaws, is Turkey, which has relatively free elections, and has also been subject to harsh criticism in the US. The most extreme case was when the government followed the position of 95% of the population and refused to join in the invasion of Iraq, eliciting harsh condemnation from Washington for its failure to comprehend how a democratic government should behave: under our concept of democracy, the voice of the Master determines policy, not the near-unanimous voice of the population.

The Obama administration was once again incensed when Turkey joined with Brazil in arranging a deal with Iran to restrict its enrichment of uranium. Obama had praised the initiative in a letter to Brazil's president Lula da Silva, apparently on the assumption that it would fail and provide a propaganda weapon against Iran. When it succeeded, the US was furious, and quickly undermined it by ramming through a Security Council resolution with new sanctions against Iran that were so meaningless that China cheerfully joined at once -- recognizing that at most the sanctions would impede Western interests in competing with China for Iran's resources. Once again, Washington acted forthrightly to ensure that others would not interfere with US control of the region.

Not surprisingly, Turkey (along with Brazil) voted against the US sanctions motion in the Security Council. The other regional member, Lebanon, abstained. These actions aroused further consternation in Washington. Philip Gordon, the Obama administration's top diplomat on European affairs, warned Turkey that its actions are not understood in the US and that it must "demonstrate its commitment to partnership with the West," AP reported, "a rare admonishment of a crucial NATO ally."

The political class understands as well. Steven A. Cook, a scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations, observed that the critical question now is "How do we keep the Turks in their lane?" -- following orders like good democrats. A New York Times headline captured the general mood: "Iran Deal Seen as Spot on Brazilian Leader's Legacy." In brief, do what we say, or else.

There is no indication that other countries in the region favor US sanctions any more than Turkey does. On Iran's opposite border, for example, Pakistan and Iran, meeting in Turkey, recently signed an agreement for a new pipeline. Even more worrisome for the US is that the pipeline might extend to India. The 2008 US treaty with India supporting its nuclear programs -- and indirectly its nuclear weapons programs -- was intended to stop India from joining the pipeline, according to Moeed Yusuf, a South Asia adviser to the United States Institute of Peace, expressing a common interpretation. India and Pakistan are two of the three nuclear powers that have refused to sign the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), the third being Israel. All have developed nuclear weapons with US support, and still do.

No sane person wants Iran to develop nuclear weapons; or anyone. One obvious way to mitigate or eliminate this threat is to establish a nuclear weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East. The issue arose (again) at the NPT conference at United Nations headquarters in early May 2010. Egypt, as chair of the 118 nations of the Non-Aligned Movement, proposed that the conference back a plan calling for the start of negotiations in 2011 on a Middle East NWFZ, as had been agreed by the West, including the US, at the 1995 review conference on the NPT.

Washington still formally agrees, but insists that Israel be exempted -- and has given no hint of allowing such provisions to apply to itself. The time is not yet ripe for creating the zone, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated at the NPT conference, while Washington insisted that no proposal can be accepted that calls for Israel's nuclear program to be placed under the auspices of the IAEA or that calls on signers of the NPT, specifically Washington, to release information about "Israeli nuclear facilities and activities, including information pertaining to previous nuclear transfers to Israel." Obama's technique of evasion is to adopt Israel's position that any such proposal must be conditional on a comprehensive peace settlement, which the US can delay indefinitely, as it has been doing for 35 years, with rare and temporary exceptions.

At the same time, Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, asked foreign ministers of its 151 member states to share views on how to implement a resolution demanding that Israel "accede to" the NPT and throw its nuclear facilities open to IAEA oversight, AP reported.

It is rarely noted that the US and UK have a special responsibility to work to establish a Middle East NWFZ. In attempting to provide a thin legal cover for their invasion of the Iraq in 2003, they appealed to Security Council Resolution 687 (1991), which called on Iraq to terminate its development of weapons of mass destruction. The US and UK claimed that they had not done so. We need not tarry on the excuse, but that Resolution commits its signers to move to establish a NWFZ in the Middle East.

Parenthetically, we may add that US insistence on maintaining nuclear facilities in Diego Garcia undermines the NWFZ) established by the African Union, just as Washington continues to block a Pacific NWFZ by excluding its Pacific dependencies.

Obama's rhetorical commitment to non-proliferation has received much praise, even a Nobel peace prize. One practical step in this direction is establishment of NWFZs. Another is to withdraw support for the nuclear programs of the three non-signers of the NPT. As often, rhetoric and actions are hardly aligned, in fact are in direct contradiction in this case, facts that pass with as little attention as most of what has just been briefly reviewed.

Instead of taking practical steps towards reducing the truly dire threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, the US is taking major steps towards reinforcing US control of the vital Middle East oil-producing regions, by violence if other means do not suffice. That is understandable and even reasonable, under prevailing imperial doctrine, however grim the consequences, yet another illustration of "the savage injustice of the Europeans" that Adam Smith deplored in 1776, with the command center since shifted to their imperial settlement across the seas.
(c) 2010 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Hegemony or Survival Americas Quest for Global Dominance. His writings on linguistics and politics have just been collected in The Essential Noam Chomsky, edited by Anthony Arnove, from the New Press.

A Broomstick Can Shoot
By Uri Avnery

A VICTORY is a victory. A big victory is better than a small one, but a small victory is better than a defeat.

This week we won.

Immediately after the Turkel Commission was set up to investigate the flotilla incident, Gush Shalom filed a petition to the Supreme Court of Justice against its appointment. We demanded its replacement by a full-fledged State Commission of Inquiry. The court hearing was fixed for last Wednesday. But on Tuesday afternoon, the Attorney General's office called our lawyer, Gabi Lasky: the Prime Minister had decided at the last moment to increase the powers of the commission, and the government was about to confirm the change. Therefore, the Attorney General asked us to agree to a postponement of the hearing for ten days.

Not a single Israeli newspaper had published a word about our application - something unthinkable if it had been the initiative of a right-wing organization. But after the change, it became impossible to ignore it anymore: almost all papers pointed out that our application had played an important role in Netanyahu's decision.

Jacob Turkel and his friend, Jacob Neeman, the Minister of Justice who appointed him, had come to the conclusion that they would be defeated in court. That's why Turkel demanded an enlargement of the number of the commission members as well as its powers.

At the beginning, the commission had not been accorded any legal standing at all. Netanyahu just asked three nice people to find out if the government's actions were consistent with international law, nothing more. Now, it seems, it will be given the legal standing of a "Government Commission of Inquiry", but definitely not of a "State Commission of Inquiry". There is a huge difference between the two.

THE INSTITUTION called a "State Commission of Inquiry" is uniquely Israeli. It is based on a special law, which all of us can be proud of.

It has an interesting historical background. In the early 60s, the country was riven by controversy about the Lavon Affair, concerning a number of terrorist attacks carried out by an Israeli spy-ring in Egypt. The operation miscarried, the members of the ring were caught, two were hanged, and the question arose: Who Had Given The Order? The Minister of Defense, Pinhas Lavon, and the chief of army intelligence, Binyamin Gibli, blamed each other. (Later I asked Yitzhak Rabin about it and he told me: "When you are dealing with two pathological liars, how can you know?")

David Ben-Gurion passionately demanded a "Judicial Commission of Inquiry". It became almost an obsession with him. But at the time, Israeli law did not know such a creature. Emotion flared, the government fell, and the lawyer of the Labor Party, Jacob Shimshon Shapira, accused Ben-Gurion of fascism.

It seems that Shapira felt remorse for this accusation, and so, when he became Minister of Justice soon after, he worked out an exemplary bill for the appointment of a "State Commission of Inquiry", which would resemble a regular court. He proposed that such a commission would have the power to summon witnesses, have them testify under oath (with the usual penalties for perjury), cross-examine them, subpoena documents, etc. Also, that the commission would warn in advance any persons whose interests could be harmed by its findings and accord them the right to be represented by a lawyer.

As a member of the Knesset at the time, I submitted two amendments that seemed important to me. The proposed law did provide that the Supreme Justice would appoint the members of the commission, but left it to the government to decide upon the setting up of a commission and its terms of reference. I argued that this would open the door to political manipulations, and proposed to confer upon the Supreme Court also the power to set up a commission and set its terms of reference. My amendments were voted down. The present affair shows how necessary they were.

The law provides an alternative - the appointment of a "Government Commission of Inquiry", which enjoys a far lower standing. It differs from a "state" commission in one extremely important aspect: its members are not appointed by the Chief Justice, but by the government itself.

That is, of course, a huge difference. Anyone with an elementary grasp of politics understands that he who appoints the members of a commission strongly influences its conclusions in advance. If a settler from Qiryat-Arba is appointed to head a commission about the legality of the settlements, its conclusion may not be quite the same as those of a commission chaired by a member of Peace Now.

That has been proven in the past. After the Sabra and Shatila massacre, Prime Minister Menachem Begin initially refused to appoint a State Commission of Inquiry. However, under the intense pressure of Israeli public opinion he was compelled to do so, and the commission removed Ariel Sharon from the Ministry of Defense. Ehud Olmert remembered this and drew the conclusion: after Lebanon War II he obstinately refused the set up a "State Commission" and agreed merely to a "Government Commission", whose members he appointed himself. Not surprisingly, he got away almost unscathed.

THE APPOINTMENT of the Turkel commission was greeted by the Israeli public with unveiled cynicism. The same media which had almost unanimously supported the attack on the flotilla, were now united in their attack on poor Turkel and his commission. They joked about the advanced age of its members, one of whom can move only with the assistance of a Filipino helper. All commentators agree that the commission was not set up to clarify the affair, but only to help President Barack Obama to obstruct the appointment of an international inquiry commission.

All agreed that this is a ridiculous commission without teeth, that its composition is pathetic and the terms of reference marginal. It seems that Judge Turkel himself felt ashamed. After accepting the appointment on Netanyahu's terms, this week he threatened to resign if his powers were not extended. Netanyahu gave in.

Jacob Turkel, 75, is a decent person, born in the country, son of immigrants from Austria (Turkel, actually Turkel, is a German name meaning "little Turk" - rather ironic for a person charged with investigating the attack on a Turkish ship). He is religious, and his record as a judge discloses a rightist orientation. For example: he decided that the criminal behavior of the extreme rightist Moshe Feiglin was not "dishonorable", thus enabling him to run for election. He refused to condemn Rabbi Ido Alba for incitement, after the rabbi had pronounced that killing non-Jews is approved by the Jewish religion. He decided to acquit Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane, the son of Meir Kahane, from a charge of incitement. When Ehud Barak was prime minister, Turkel decided that he was not entitled to conduct peace negotiations because of approaching elections. And so on.

NETANYAHU'S DECISION to enlarge the powers of the commission, so that it will be able to summon witnesses, is far from what is needed. The commission will be unable to investigate how and by whom it was decided to impose the blockade on Gaza, how it was decided to attack the flotilla, how the operation was planned and how it was carried out. We therefore see no reason to withdraw our Supreme Court petition to disband the Turkel commission and to appoint an official State Commission of Inquiry. The more so since Turkel himself, a week before his appointment, had also called for the appointment of a State Commission of Inquiry.

The chances? Not the best. The Supreme Court can interfere in this matter only if we prove that the government's decision is "extremely unreasonable". And indeed, in the past, State Commissions of Inquiry have been appointed for far less important matters than this affair, which has undermined the Israeli public's confidence in the army and the government, aroused the entire world against us and dealt a heavy blow to our relations with Turkey. If this is not a matter of "public interest", as the law demands, what is?

A Jewish joke tells about a woman who dropped a dish of meat in the toilet bowl. When she asked the rabbi whether it was still kosher, he replied: "kosher but stinking". The court may decide in this spirit.

Turkel and his colleagues can, of course, surprise those who appointed them and arbitrarily enlarge the scope of their inquiry. Such things have already happened in the past. As another Jewish saying goes: "If God wills, even a broomstick can shoot." But chances are slim.

THIS AFFAIR has much wider implications than the flotilla incident. It is worthwhile to dwell on them.

Most of Israel's critics, especially abroad, see the country as a one-dimensional monolith. As they see it, all its (Jewish) citizens are marching in lockstep behind their rightist government, consumed by a dark ideology, supporting occupation and settlements and committing war crimes. This, by the way, is a mirror image of the admirers of Israel in the world, who also see Israel as a one-dimensional monolith, with all citizens marching proudly behind their brave and determined leaders - Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Avigdor Lieberman.

The truth is far removed from both these caricatures. It is enough for a foreign visitor to stay a few weeks in Israel and come in contact with its population, to see that reality is far, far more complex. (Indeed, I dare say that anyone who has not done so cannot possibly understand what's happening here.)

All human societies are complex and many-faceted, and Israeli society, with its unique past, is more complex than most. The flotilla affair - relatively small but very typical - shows this again.

The demand to reveal the truth about this affair is a part of the battle for Israeli democracy, for the standing of the Supreme Court, and indeed concerns the essence of the state.

Some see this struggle as a battle between two big blocs - on one side, the nationalist, religious, militaristic, anti-democratic right, and on the other, the liberal, democratic, secular, peace-loving left.

Anyone with such a picture in his head imagines something like the battle of Waterloo, when two big armies clash on the battlefield and one overcomes the other. But the struggle for Israel is more like a medieval battle, when the clash of two armies turns into a melee of thousands of duels, one to one, and can go on for a long time.

THE BATTLE for Israel is indeed composed of hundreds of thousands of small battles, which are being fought out in a thousand and one different arenas. All Israeli citizens are involved - either actively or passively, judges and professors, army officers and politicians, voters and soldiers, activists and onlookers, journalists and youth idols, laborers and tycoons, rabbis and the anti-religious, environment activists and social activists - everyone of us, by his deeds and omissions, takes part in this battle over the character of our state.

The struggle against the occupation and against the settlements is a part of this war. The war itself is for the personality of Israeli society, a society still in the making. This war is far from decided. Anyone who believes that the end is foreseeable, that this or that "must" happen, thus and not otherwise, is mistaken. A defeat in one battle, and even in a series of battles, will not be decisive, because there will be more battles in the days to come. When millions of people are involved - men and women, young and old, Jews and Arabs, Westerners and Orientals, orthodox and secular, rich and poor, old-timers and new immigrants, all the vast spectrum of Israeli society - nothing is certain in advance.

The controversy over the Turkel commission, as well as the fight for freeing Gilad Shalit and all the other struggles taking place in Israel at this moment , must be seen in this light - as small fragments of a big, long and continuous struggle , in which our acts of commission and omission will decide the future of our state.

This, after all, was the aim of the entire historic exercise of creating Israel: to take our fate in our own hands and be responsible for the consequences.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

First Gulf Drilling, Now Colorado
By David Sirota

In recent weeks, Washington has provided ample evidence that the fossil fuel industry remains as powerful as ever in the wake of the Gulf Coast apocalypse. Whether it's Louisiana's Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu demanding more offshore drilling as her state gets covered in sludge, or Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton criticizing the government for forcing BP to finance a spill relief fund, major political players in D.C. still do energy firms' bidding, leaving both national parties disinclined to champion stronger environmental statutes.

Such Beltway intransigence is certainly atrocious, and has rightfully generated media fury. However, congressional reluctance to proactively legislate eco-friendly regulation is less outrageous than the state-based push for full-on deregulation.

The key political battlefield in this little-noticed but big-impact fight is Colorado, which holds one of the country's largest oil and natural gas reserves. In the state's 2010 gubernatorial campaign, former congressman Scott McInnis, a Republican, and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, have turned the race into a competition to see who is more enthusiastic about shredding the minimal energy regulations already on the state's books.

Among the rules in question are: requirements that drillers consult with regulators when operating in sensitive wilderness, provisions creating no-drill buffers around drinking water supplies and mandates that energy companies follow more strict waste management guidelines. To understand how crucial such regulations are in the Rocky Mountain region, just look at Chevron's 20,000-gallon petroleum spill in Utah a few weeks ago, peruse the Denver Post's recent report documenting 1,000 drilling-related spills in Colorado over the last two years, or watch the HBO documentary "Gasland" showing citizens in drilling country lighting their chemically contaminated tap water on fire.

Despite all this, and despite analysts now warning that Gulf-inspired offshore drilling restrictions could mean even more drilling throughout Colorado's fragile ecosystem, both McInnis and Hickenlooper last week told energy executives that they would try to weaken state environmental regulations if elected.

As a former oil lobbyist, McInnis was at least consistent in his "drill, baby, drill" posture. Hickenlooper, by contrast, had been billing himself as an environmental advocate. That is, until he launched his gubernatorial campaign by attacking environmentalists as "overboard," insisting he is skeptical about climate change's potential consequences, and now criticizing energy regulations as "onerous."

But, then, consistency (or lack thereof) is less troubling than both candidates dishonestly justifying their positions with old fables about the environmental rules allegedly hampering energy exploration and killing jobs.

These industry-manufactured claims, mind you, have been previously debunked. The Associated Press, for instance, has reported that though the recession hurt all energy producers including Colorado, the state still "led its energy-producing neighbors" in drilling permits last year - even with the rules. Meanwhile, the Ft. Collins Coloradoan in February noted that "after years of claiming Colorado's new oil and gas regulations will chase the energy industry and its jobs from the state, oil and gas operators and an industry group are now saying the rules will have little impact on future energy development."

In light of those facts, the deregulatory push by McInnis and Hickenlooper can be viewed as the equivalent of trying to ramrod candy down a child's throat. So desperate to display their fealty to the fossil fuel industry, the two candidates have resorted to force feeding oil and gas executives goodies - even if those executives say they don't need them.

Such persistence exposes the destructive corporatism baked into our politics. Suddenly, we can see both parties' ideological rejection of the Gulf Coast's "first do no harm" lesson in favor of industry's consequences-be-damned reflex.

That profiteering ethos, of course, originally birthed the Gulf crisis. Now, thanks to Colorado, it threatens yet more ecologically sensitive regions with the prospect of yet more man-made disasters.
(c) 2010 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

And It's One, Two, Three, What Are We Fighting For?
By Randall Amster

It was 1967, and the world was on fire. War at home and abroad demonstrably began to rear its head, and long-held American values of moral exceptionalism and widespread prosperity were rapidly destabilizing. A Democratic president escalated warfare half a world away, and the generals offered red-herring rationales about resource control and the necessity of finishing the job in order to defeat evil.

Also that year, a large petroleum company named BP positioned itself as a global leader in overseas oil production, with its national sponsors specifically taking measures "to inhibit undue governmental interference in the international oil trade." Meanwhile, Israel exerted its control over Gaza following the Six-Day War, with its actions being endorsed by the US even as many others decried them as violating international law.

BP, Israel and the war machine all operating with impunity: what year were we talking about, again? Indeed, the more things change ... and the rest, as they say, is history. Or actually, the rest is the present, and - unless we work to break the cycle - likely the future as well. As George Santayana once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." To which we might add, "quite literally."

In that fateful year of 1967, Country Joe and the Fish immortalized the utility of the anti-war rag with a song that barely needs updating to fit today's news cycle:

Uncle Sam needs your help again.
He's got himself in a terrible jam
Way down yonder in [Afghanistan]
So put down your books and pick up a gun,
We're gonna have a whole lotta fun.

And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop [Afghanistan.]

Speculating on possible answers to their own musical query about the reasons for war, Joe, et al. continued their ditty by casting a gaze upon certain likely suspects:
Well, come on generals, let's move fast;
Your big chance has come at last....
Well, come on Wall Street, don't move slow,
Why man, this is war au-go-go.
There's plenty good money to be made
By supplying the Army with the tools of the trade.

Today, it gets even better than that. In addition to greasing the skids of military contracting, it turns out that Afghanistan is potentially resource-rich to the tune of up to one, two, three trillion dollars, including certain minerals that are mostly precious to the workings of the digital age and that could render Afghanistan "the Saudi Arabia of lithium" according to intentionally leaked Pentagon memos. As David Sirota notes, there's nothing new about this knowledge of Afghan treasures, but the more important point is the naked assertion of "resource control" as an unabashed national interest sufficient to legitimately deploy the armed forces apparatus. In this lexicon, "war for oil" moves from being a peace placard to becoming a military mantra.

Still, there's nothing new about this turn of events, either. Upon invading Iraq, we were told that the exploitation of oil resources there could make the war essentially "pay for itself" - as if that would somehow overcome objections and justify the bloodbath. In 2008, as documented by Dr. Tom Clonan in The Irish Times, the US Army published a document outlining its modernization strategy, boldly asserting a vision of "perpetual warfare over dwindling resources" for the foreseeable future:

We have entered an era of persistent conflict ... a security environment much more ambiguous and unpredictable than that faced during the cold war .... We face a potential return to traditional security threats posed by emerging near-peers as we compete globally for depleting natural resources and overseas markets.

Regarding Afghanistan, the revisionist invocation of "resource control" as a justification for the necessity of war actually utters a truth long understood by analysts and scholars. At root, warfare is always about resources despite oftentimes being couched in terms of human liberation or national defense. The baseline economic function of militarism is apparent in our federal budgeting process and the sheer scope of the enterprise. It is often said that "war is a continuation of politics by other means," yet, perhaps more to the point is that it serves as a continuation of the economy by similar means, as Thomas Friedman observed in "The Lexus and the Olive Tree":

The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas.... And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

It is of no moment if we spend more to wage a war than the potential resource return on our investment might yield, since the same basic interests make out just fine on both the expenditure and recompense side of the equation. Capitalism and militarism are inextricably intertwined, as Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler famously wrote in 1935:

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.... I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

Butler's exegesis of war is remarkably prescient and unfortunately still spot on. Could you imagine the implications if General Petraeus were to offer such remarks today? Then again, the Pentagon basically admits as much in its protean rationale for continuing the Afghan war on the basis of "hidden treasures untold" and "resource control as essential to national security." Yes, war and the economy are inherently linked - and both are shrilly performing about as well these days. When Butler described war as a "racket," he, thus, might also have used that word in another sense, namely as a cacophony that drowns out good sense and meaningful discussion alike.

Alas, from 1935 to 1967 to 2010, it's one, two, three "war au-go-go" ... and the song (more like a dirge at this point) sadly remains the same.
(c) 2010 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Obama's Pointless Afghanistan War

General Stanley McChrystal is the lucky one. Having been booted from his Afghanistan command for a combination of insubordination and stupidity, he gets to leave. For our country's sake, a better move would've been for President Obama to make the general stay there and let the 90,000 troops who're stuck in this god-awful, pointless war come home.

Last December, as he escalated what is already America's longest war, Obama said to those who do the fighting and dying: "As your commander in chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined and worthy of your service." Yes sir, you do. But you haven't delivered.

The only clear objective we've seen is Washington's bizarre determination to prop up the government and army of Hamid Karzai - and that is not worthy of anyone's service, much less worthy of lost lives. He's not even a legitimate president, having stolen last year's election. His government is inept, incurably corrupt, and widely despised by the Afghan people. Plus, Karzai is a preening, petulant popinjay who is openly dissing the United States, while trying to cut a power-sharing deal with the very Taliban forces that our troops are trying to oust! Why are we fighting for him?

McCrystal is out, but Obama and the military brass insist that the general's "counterinsurgency" strategy is still very much in - even though it is turning out to be an embarrassing failure. Top American officials reportedly concede that we can't win this war, yet they continue to recycle our bone-weary, overused troops on tour after tour through the Afghanistan slog, dumping $12 billion a month into it. That is not merely wrong, it is disgusting.

Even such a hardline conservative as George Will calls this war "a fools errand." More than a thousand Americans have paid for it with their lives. Isn't that enough?
(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.

A Day In A Dying Empire
An intimate fable on current events
By Phil Rockstroh

"Now, from America, empty indifferent things are pouring across, sham things, dummy life. . . . A house, in the American sense, an American apple or a grapevine over there, has nothing in common with the house, the fruit, the grape into which went the hopes and reflections of our forefathers ... Live things, things that lived -- that are conscious of us -- are running out and can no longer be replaced. We are perhaps the last to have known such things." ~~~ Rainer Maria Rilke

This morning, as with so many mornings, as of late, I had to undertake an agonizing, intricate procedure to pull myself together, simply to extract myself from bed to face another day.

Television, cell phone, computer glowed before me: The media nimbus boiled: its hypnagogia-like flux of imagery, its counterfeit immediacy and proffered flummery insistent to drowned out auras of extinction rising from veritable nature; the earth's warnings rising like musical notes ... swelling, reverberating, enveloping us. In the Gulf of Mexico ... literally falling to earth as chemical rain.

I stood dazzled before the scintillating doomscape of the Anthropocene Epoch. It has entered me ... It has made me and undone me. It tells me who I am; it holds me near, enclosing me in the thrall of the false intimacy of its endless spectacle.

Some mornings, I don't think I can compose myself to face it.

But, most days, I make a start: Gathering up and patching together this tattered flesh-garment of DNA. Then: I call to order my swarming termite-cathedral mind ... take a head count of this aggregate of disparate personage deemed me ... attempt to quiet this nattering self nettled by formless dread ... console this besieged I who awakens in redemptive bed ... torn from reverie with dreaming-ocean cosmos to shuffle to toilet for Newtonian piss, to sink for anti-entropic teeth brushing, then commit to wave-particle duality decision of dressing ... in order to meet the manifold machinery of the empire's manifest death-urge revelry.

Awake, dressed, and partially reconstituted, I left the house:

The age of insistent junk rose to meet me: junk groaned and snarled past me on roadways; junk words -- mouthed into junk cell phones; junk pixels -- texted and twittered into meaningless air.

So many enchanted by junk incantations, staring at glowing, tinny appliances like idiots entranced by shiny objects ... giving over the fleeting hours of finite life in the service of Lord Junk -- as sky and sea choke in the miasmic wake of our joyless binge -- and the earth's entropic furies gather.

We stare at our glowing appliances while exquisite things are extinguished, forever ... mistaking configurations of pixels for the breath and brilliance of the world.

I thought of Lorca; in truth, preposterously, I attempted to pray to Lorca who advised that one should listen for the heart of god beating within the monster of the world.

But I am losing heart searching for the monster's heart. Thus far: finding only my own spleen. For this reason: our collectives striving and private equivocations seem the thanotopic dream of destroyer gods: The nightmare manifested before us as strip malls and shopping plazas ... constructed of bones of extinct species; interiors of suburban subdivisions shuffling with resentful phantoms ... estranged from the libido of culture and communion; dead zone freeways ... the air shaken and riven by the roar of its death-enamered fury.

Before me:

Atlanta Georgia, USA ... glazed in asphalt inferno of late-June.

Yet, held in the heat-pummeled air above, I saw fuchsia mimosa blossoms hoisting defiant flags above the misery of traffic.

The effrontery of those spindly blooms of fuchsia, its colors as raw as my own nettled heart. It hurt deep within my chest even to gaze upon such a shade of unconquerable pink.

I want to shake branches of flowering mimosa in the faces of the ministers and minions of junk ... to see ... if they become stricken as I was -- as tickled pink as I am.

Later, will I hear reports on the evening news of a million human beings in their offices and cubicles afflicted with seemingly out-of-context desires ... suffering from spontaneous longings for the caress of blossom-scented winds ... suddenly struck by an ungovernable need to emerge unto city streets and genuflect before the spindling glory of these seditious flowers?

So, in short, the ministrations of the mimosa convinced me to keep on living. But I had little appetite for the endeavor.

The meals prepared from this harvest of junk turned my stomach. I clamped my teeth tight against it. I kept searching for hope's greenhouse -- where blooms of human understanding open and breathe -- but I kept wandering into the empire's slaughtering barn.

I began to mutter, awful.

Awful. Awful. Awful.

Then I chanted it aloud, Awful. Awful. Awful.

Then and there, I decided I would make "awful" my morning and evening prayer.

He's awful, She's awful -- This food is awful -- The news is awful -- Our leaders are awful. You awful people have created such an awful mess by living out the awful implications of your awful lives that all mirrors should be renamed awful frames.

I ask you, Rilke:

What awful angels swim through the poisoned sky?

Anticipating the question, Rilke, a century prior, answered:

I don't have much knowledge yet in grief --
so this massive darkness makes me small.
You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in
then your great transforming will happen to me,
and my great grief cry will happen to you.

So I riffed on it and rasp it, snarled it and sobbed it, whispered it to myself and posited it in public places. I warbled it and choked on it, laughed about it and wept over it. I returned home laughing and sobbing. I could no longer keep the floodgates closed:

The things of the world, massive and minuscule, tragic and preposterous, came coursing into my consciousness: giant squids and chihuahuas arrived, death camps and Dollywood arose, diamonds and Skiddles were proffered, world-destroying comets and blue snow cones hurdled through deep space, while killing sprees and hand jobs, inspired exchanges and insipid palaver, grace and goofiness transpired on earth as always.

My wife found me in this state, both yearning and mortified, hungry and queasy, desperate for solitude and yet longing to be touched.

She reached for me as the two fronts within me met, merging the moist breeze of the tropics and the cold wind of the Arctic ... creating pelting hail and huge, warm raindrops ... engendering weeping and caressing -- as inundating sorrow mingled with torrents of desire.

All the while, I was stammering, "awful, awful, awful," but the pleasure struck me momentarily monosyllabic and only an ecstatic "A-W-E" issued from me.

Shuddering ... awestruck, awfully grateful, I collapsed onto her -- awed by the sublime of our simpatico breathing -- awed by the soft light of scented candles lambent upon her skin --awed by her generosity in faking her own orgasm concurrent with my own (sometimes there is surpassing grace in such small, selfless lies).

And of equal importance: awed by all the awful things that waited outside of our room that I resolved I would try to endure and transmute into song.

As I drifted towards sleep, I said Kaddish for my convictions. I dreamed my lips left impressions traced in ash. Braille sheet-music caressed me from the breeze of an electric fan. All of my points of reference floated away from me like transmigrating galaxies. Everything was adrift: mind, sorrows, heart and heavens.

Upon awakening in bed with my wife of many years, I turned to her and asked, "Pardon me, but have we met?"

I fumbled for conversation ... wanting to make a good first impression.

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky." ~~~ Rainer Maria Rilke

When we win it's with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
~~~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~~~

(c) 2010 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website.

GOP Playing A Dangerous Power Game
By James Donahue

Statisticians say that voters tend to vote against the party in power when economic times are bad. We suspect this may be the game that is being played out by Republican legislators as they use every trick they can muster to block efforts by the Obama Administration to bring about a nation-wide economic recovery and extend unemployment benefits for millions of workers.

We have noticed a general trend that includes stalling, threatening to filibuster and giving the appearance of cooperating in exchange for legislative compromises that, in effect, carve the guts out of key bills before they are allowed to pass both the House and Senate.

Consequently, the national health plan that Mr. Obama promised and worked so hard to bring to fruition lacks in such important provisions as a public option, thus leaving the private insurance companies still in the driver's seat. The bill, however, puts some controls on insurance companies and eliminates restrictions against such things as "pre-existing conditions." Most benefits don't kick in, however, until 2014.

The $17.6 billion job stimulus bill that finally squeaked through the legislative process offers tax breaks for businesses and infrastructure spending. While the Obama Administration has used this money to try to stir job growth . . . and for a while it looked as if it might be working . . . economists warned that the amount of money appropriated was too little to be effective. It now appears that they were right. Obama had asked for much more, but the Republicans blocked more spending saying they were concerned about the national debt.

The Republicans have been consistently blocking a proposed bill to expand unemployment benefits that this week ran out for millions of Americans.

Now instead of the slight turnaround and growth in spending that was causing the rehiring of workers, national indicators are showing another slump in spending, just at the start of the summer tourist season. That and the ongoing disaster caused by the Gulf Oil spill, has put a damper on the economy that threatens once more to send everything crashing.

While it is true that the practices of past administrations and especially those of the outgoing Bush Administration left the nation in a financial dilemma approaching the severity of the Great Depression, the stop-gap measures taken by our legislators since Mr. Obama took office are obviously not getting the job done. The Republicans point to a growing multi-trillion dollar national debt and say they refuse to allow the red ink to flow any deeper. Yet they have no problem appropriating billions more to continue a senseless war in Afghanistan.

Why would elected representatives of the people, no matter what their party affiliation, be willing to waste money like that blowing up rocks and sand hills in the Middle East, and ignore the plight of the millions of jobless, hungry and homeless people in their own back yard? Do they really think American voters will be so foolish as to vote them back into power this November and again in 2012?

That appears to be the gamble. The statisticians like Karl Rove and other wizards operating behind the curtain appear to be counting on an angry block of voters flocking to the polls this fall bent on one thing . . . change. And change always means voting out the incumbents and bringing in new blood. That could backfire on some of the incumbent Republicans, as well it should.

But if you look at some of the "new blood" getting nominated for those GOP posts in various primary elections, that ought to scare us all silly. We do not appear to be getting quality among the candidates. The people lined up for those jobs are so radical they could be dangerous. They are talking the language of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the Teabaggers.

The bottom line to all of this is that if the Republicans are playing a calculated game designed to drive Mr. Obama and the Democrats out of power, they may, instead, be pushing our nation to the brink of total economic collapse.

Is this by design? Is it all sour grapes or is there something more sinister afoot here? Just who are these people and what is their real motive?
(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.

US Economy Stuck In Misery
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

The middle class is dead. The US has produced a self-sustaining two-class society. Most Lower Class Americans are in bad or uncertain economic shape but the rich and powerful Upper Class crowd keeps making and spending money as if there has been no recession.

Talk about a possible double-dip recession misses the larger reality: For many millions of Americans the first recession is still here; there has been no recovery for them. Too bad President Obama cannot comprehend that. Nice that only 23 percent of people believe that his policies have made economic conditions better. Maybe they got the change they were waiting for.

A new survey by the Pew Research Center provides disturbing data that no amount of lies from politicians can refute. Without a lot more consumer spending, remember, the US economy will not regain lasting health. The scope of the economic shock is shown by the 60 percent of Americans that have cut down on borrowing and spending. And nearly 50 percent are in worse financial shape because of the economic downturn. Forty percent of adults have tapped savings and retirement accounts to make ends meet. Nearly 25 percent have had to borrow money from someone. Ten percent have moved back with their parents to survive the economic tsunami, and that rises to 24 percent for workers between 18 and 29 years old.

More and more Americans now recognize that retirement will have to wait. For those 62 and older and still working, 35 percent have postponed retirement. That jumps to 60 percent as a likely action for working adults between ages 50 and 61. Replace the golden years with the disappointment years, especially when inevitable reduced Social Security and Medicare benefits hit hard.

For those still lucky enough to have jobs, the Commerce Department reports that the personal savings rate in May -- the part of wage income that goes unspent -- rose to 4 percent, the highest amount in nearly a year, as anxious consumers faced continued economic woes, such as fears about losing jobs or homes, affording food and health care, and a tumbling stock market.

And always remember that the official jobless rate of just under 10 percent is pure bunk; it really is close to 20 percent nationally, and a lot worse in many places and for African-Americans and Hispanics. The average time for being without a job is now six months, with many more people jobless for a whole lot more, often several years. All this means suppressed consumer spending and continued high home foreclosure rates. No big surprise that consumer confidence crashed almost 10 points between May and June. Welcome to high anxiety.

Also keep in mind that even as the general consumer spending shows little life, the Upper Class keeps on living it up. Gallup reported "Upper-income Americans' self-reported spending rose 33% to an average of $145 per day in May -- up from $109 per day in April 2010 and May 2009, and the highest monthly average since November 2008." The rest of the population's self-reported spending averaged $59 per day in May. So, rich Americans are spending nearly twice as much as the vast majority of Americans every day. Indeed, Tiffany reports sales up 17 percent in the jeweler's most recent quarter. Overall US luxury sales, says MasterCard SpendingPulse, jumped 22.7 percent in March, over the previous year. The increase in luxury buying appears to be coming almost totally from the "ultra-affluents," those households making over $250,000 a year. Their first-quarter spending increased 22.6 percent, meaning that they have returned to spending at pre-recession levels.

And here is a gem of a new statistic. In 2009, the Economic Policy Institute reports that the typical working American with a four-year college degree took home $1,025 per week, $5 a week less than Americans with a four-year degree took home, after adjusting for inflation, in the year 2000. How's that for progress?

Meanwhile, almost half of U.S. companies that reduced or suspended their contributions to employee retirement plans during the recession haven't restored them.

The ultra ugly truth is that there is very little hope for the US economy providing true prosperity for the vast majority of people in the foreseeable future. Unemployment will remain high and consumer spending will remain low except for the wealthy. Economic inequality is terrible and punishing most Americans who should forget about that fabled American dream. To visualize America's staggeringly unequal distribution of wealth, suggests University of Tennessee at Martin historian David Barber, envision a 100-seat auditorium filled with 100 people. If seating in that auditorium reflected our current wealth distribution, the single richest person in the hall "would be able to spread out smartly" over nearly 43 seats. The poorest 60 would have to squeeze into just one.

As government deficits continue at historic high levels there will be even more pain as local and state governments cut employment and services. All the economic impacts of the BP oil spill in the Gulf region will continue to expand and reverberate and it is doubtful that enough money will come from BP to those in pain soon enough to prevent catastrophes for millions of people.

Some impacted people may turn to religion as if God has not already shown total disdain for humanity. Some will delude themselves that voting for certain candidates in the coming midterm elections will help. Others will bury themselves in various distractions or choose to believe the political lies of President Obama and other politicians. [How did all that federal stimulus spending work for you?] Perhaps far more Lower Class people [Are you in denial about your Lower Class status?] should consider the advice of the deeply cynical: Kill Yourself. If only politicians would take that advice.

Happy Fourth of July. Time to try and remember the good old days.
(c) 2010 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The Glittering Prizes
War Crime Continues to Pay
By Chris Floyd

"The world continues to offer glittering prizes to those who have stout hearts and sharp swords." -- F.E. Smith, Earl of Birkenhead

Another day, another glittering prize for one of the great war criminals of our day. We speak of course of that tanned and gurning jackanapes, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.

It was announced this week that Blair would be receiving a great big bushel basket of simoleons -- a hundred thousand of them -- from some U.S. outfit called The National Constitution Center. It seems the sinister twit has been awarded the Center's "Liberty Medal" for, among other things, his "steadfast efforts to broker peace" in the Middle East, as the BBC reports.

This is of course most appropriate; for there are currently in excess of one million human beings enjoying eternal peace thanks to the war of aggression that Blair was instrumental in unleashing against Iraq. Oddly enough, just as the Liberty award was being announced, the Chilcot Inquiry into the war's origins was disgorging even more confirmation of Blair's adamant determination to march "shoulder to shoulder" with George W. Bush into the annals of Nurembergian perfidy.

As the Independent reports, new documents show how Blair was told -- repeatedly -- by his Attorney General that the planned attack on Iraq would be illegal. The legal chief, Peter Goldsmith, insisted on this position -- despite Blair's growing impatience -- until almost the last moment. As is well known, Goldsmith had a confab with the gilded thugs of Bush's war council, and suddenly reversed his long-held, closely-argued, legally detailed objections to the attack. One can only suppose that Blair and the Bushists "made him an offer he couldn't refuse." From the Independent:

The drafts of legal advice and letters sent to the Prime Minister by Lord Goldsmith had been kept secret despite repeated calls for them to be published. Yesterday they were released by the Chilcot Inquiry into the war, after the head of the Civil Service, Sir Gus O'Donnell, stated that the "long-standing convention" for such documents to be kept confidential had to be waived because the issue of the legality of the Iraq war had a "unique status".

...Tony Blair appeared to show his irritation with the warnings over military actions [from Goldsmith], saying in a handwritten note: "I just do not understand this." In another note, a Downing Street aide said: "We do not need further advice on this matter."

In the documents released yesterday, Lord Goldsmith repeatedly stated that an invasion without a fresh UN resolution would be illegal, and warned against using Saddam Hussein's supposed WMD (weapons of mass destruction) as a reason for attack.

In January 2003 Mr Blair met President Bush at the White House. The Prime Minister's foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning, wrote a memo paraphrasing Mr Bush's comments at the meeting as: "The start date for the military campaign was now pencilled for 10th March. This was when the bombing would begin."

In a letter to Mr Blair dated 30 January 2003, after the UN had passed another resolution on Iraq, 1441, Lord Goldsmith wrote: "In view of your meeting with President Bush on Friday, I thought you might wish to know whether a further decision of the Security Council is legally required in order to authorise the use of force against Iraq." The letter marked "secret" continued: "I remain of the view that the correct legal interpretation of Resolution 1441 is that it does not authorise the use of military force without a further determination by the Security Council."

The story details the legal chapter-and-verse behind Goldsmith's conclusions, which only grew stronger as the pre-planned invasion grew nearer. In the end, Goldsmith bowed to the will of raw power, remained in his richly robed office until Blair resigned, and now reaps his monetary reward as a top corporate litigator for a New York law firm.

Meanwhile, his blood-caked boss continues to rake in the moolah his own self. He gobbles down millions every year from "advising" JP Morgan and Zurich Financial Services, from the usual exorbitant fees that our modern war criminals command on the rubber chicken circuit, and from the usual backroom grease racket that our great and good set up to milk their connections after leaving office. ("Tony Blair Associates" -- you know, like "Kissinger Associates.")

Blair has also been wadding his trousers with loot from UI Energy, a South Korean oil firm seeking to suck up some of the Iraqi oil that Blair helped "liberate" for corporate exploitation. Oh yes, and for the last three years, he has also been drawing a regular check from the Kuwaiti royal family. And what is the royal hireling doing to earn this crust? Why, he's earnestly "producing a general report on the oil state's future over the next 30 years, at a reported 1 million pound fee," the Guardian reports.

Blair will receive his Liberty Prize from one of his great mentors and partners in international war crime. No, not George W. Bush -- Bill Clinton, who is chairman of the National Constitution Center. After all, it was Clinton and Blair who pioneered the technique -- later perfected by Blair and Bush -- of bypassing the UN and unilaterally attacking a country, under false pretenses, that had not attacked them. And of course, after taking office in 1997, Blair stood shoulder to shoulder with Clinton in strangling the ordinary people of Iraq with a sanctions regime that killed -- at the barest minimum -- more than half a million innocent children. (Not to mention the innocent adults who died from the blockade.)

So what a joyous occasion it will be, when these two giants of international statesmanship meet on the podium in Philadelphia -- the city of brotherly love -- to celebrate a partnership, nay, a special relationship, that has left such an indelible mark on the world. It will surely be an inspiring occasion -- as long as they don't choke on the viscera dribbling from their lips as they utter their self-praising pieties.

Or to put it another way, as I did in an earlier report on the Chilcot panel:

O that the universe was not cold and indifferent, with no avenging furies to drive these bloodstained, sanctimonious wretches into soul-rending storms of madness and remorse. But there is not even an earthly venue where the scurrying servitors of power can receive even a modicum of justice. All we have are a few locked-down, buttoned-up, quasi-secret panels of worthies here and there now and then, to cause, at most, a moment or two of embarrassment before the servitors walk free to line their pockets and heap themselves with honors. Their only punishment, I suppose, must be to be what they are: the stunted, deadened husks of a full humanity which they have lost and will never recover.

(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

The Dead Cow Policy
By Case Wagenvoord

Barack Obama has lifted to the highest aesthetic level a tradition that has made our country what it is today: Our talent for mistaking a contingent and transitory reality for an eternal truth. We're like the farmer who keeps milking the cow long after its dead. When a decayed teat slimes off in his hand, he calls it progress.

Take, for example, the Cold War. When World War II ended, the Soviet Union and we were the only two military powers still standing. Our military and industrial leaders looked across the ocean and instead of seeing Josef Stalin they saw a cash cow. I mean, why waste all that military equipment, why send all those scientists back to academia where they would only make trouble, why force prosperous defense industries to cut back? Let the good times roll!

During the war, we had made an exciting discovery. Paranoia is great for crowd control. That great statesman, Arthur Vandenberg nailed it when he told Truman the key to governance in the new world order was to, "scare the hell out of the American people." Thus, paranoia became part and parcel of the American character. If we weren't scared of Commies, we were scared of germs and body odor. It was great: everybody conformed; everybody kept their mouths shut.

Obama is clinging to that Cold War mentality even though it's as irrelevant as a dead cow's teat. He continues to make it sing; only now the song is in Pashtun instead of Russian. He's outdoing the Cold Warriors of old. Every time they tried to mess with our civil liberties, the public raised hell. Look at how he continues to trample on them with nary a peep out of the people. The reason is simple: The people who raised the most hell back then were the people who remembered what life was like in a democratic republic. They are dying out. The only thing the Boomers have ever known is the presence of a constant threat. Their greatest fear is a freedom that tolerates diversity. This is the source of their silence.
(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

Choose Wisely
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning all of you free thinkers out there in Sanity Land; your King of Simple News is on the air.

As I wind down this site I want to thank my readers and commenter's and award you the title of "Best of the Best" in the genre of "basic controlling economics," and your innate understanding of the integral part that human psychology plays in the madness of our impossible exponential growth culture.

Madness, delusion, hallucinations, insanity, psychosis, it what you may, but the patients are in fact running the asylum. A smattering of examples are in order.

The great marble city of Washington D.C. is touted as a shining beacon of hope and freedom to the remainder of the world as our leadership gathers to allocate Billions upon Billons of borrowed fiat dollars to assist poverty stricken people around the planet. Yet, just outside the Beltway, in that same city of Washington D.C., lies a predominantly Black community that has never known anything other than poverty, crime, and corruption and which remains invisible to this day.

As Americans search the world for poverty stricken foreign children to adopt and add to our already overpopulated nation; thousands of American children live in abject poverty, choosing a gang and drug culture as a pure survival mechanism in a failed societal system.

In the land of opportunity for all and the epitome of freedom and justice, we house the greatest percentage of our citizens in prisons of any nation in the world.

As we flood our borders with both legal and illegal immigrants, our children and grandchildren can no longer find viable employment. To combat the unemployment issue, our leadership authors new laws that legally export our most important jobs.

The Colorado River has gone dry; L.A., Las Vegas and Phoenix plan on using more water from that source.

As Atlanta's water supply, Lake Lanier, is drying up; Atlanta plans on more growth and greater water consumption.

As oil declines; we plan to grow our population and use ever greater amounts of oil.

As the world fisheries decline and totally perish; we plan on eating more fish.

As the last of the rare earth minerals are harvested; we plan on using ever greater amounts of the same to produce solar panels to replace our reliance on fossil fuels.

As our cities, towns, counties, and states lack the funding to maintain their current infrastructure; we plan on building more infrastructure.

As finite physical inputs decline; we plan on exponentially increased outputs.

I could go on for pages, but there is no need. "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed," is playing out in real life and real time. It is physically impossible to grow exponentially in a finite world.

Nearly two years ago I stated that the United States had reached PHYSICAL ZENITH and that real GDP cannot possibly grow if one cares to factor in increased debt, inflation, and per-capita share of that same GDP.

I have also stated that there is no possibility of linear decline from the delusional state that I have described above.

The path followed from a problem that was created by an exponential function being included in our very means of survival is the backside of a vertical exponential curve; better described as a cliff. There is no other way.

There are problems that if left uncorrected for a sufficient period of time, eclipse the possibility of a palatable solution. Our system of debt-based-growth-capitalism is just such an example. It is my unswerving opinion that there are no pleasant solutions left available to us as a whole.

So that brings us down to the proverbial fork in the road doesn't it? We can follow the well traveled path of the deluded multitudes, or make difficult personal choices that require thought and knowledge and that follow the dim trail of non-convention. Choose wisely.
(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."

Editors Note: Mike is terminating his site but will continue to write articles for Issues & Alibis. We welcome Mike's readership to the magazine and thank Mike for his insight, wit and wisdom and remind him that the key to the bar is under the mat!

The Quotable Quote...

"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing"
~~~ Albert Einstein

Freedom In The Grace Of The World
By Chris Hedges

Earl Shaffer, adrift after serving in the South Pacific in World War II and struggling with the loss of his childhood friend Walter Winemiller during the assault on Iwo Jima, made his way to Mount Oglethorpe in Georgia in 1947. He headed north toward Mount Katahdin in Maine and for the next 124 days, averaging 16.5 miles a day, beat back the demons of war. His goal, he said, was to ''walk the Army out of my system.'' He was the first person to hike the full length of the Appalachian Trail.

The beauty and tranquility of the old-growth forests, the vistas that stretch for miles over unbroken treetops, the waterfalls and rivers, the severance from the noise and electronic hallucinations of modern existence, becomes, if you stay out long enough, a balm to wounds. It is in solitude, contemplation and a connection with nature that we transcend the frenzied and desperate existence imposed upon us by the distortions of a commodity culture.

The mountains that loom on the northern part of the trail in New Hampshire and Maine, most of them in the White Mountain National Forest, are also forbidding, even in summer, when winds can routinely reach 60 or 70 miles per hour accompanied by lashing rain. The highest surface wind speed recorded on the planet, 231 miles per hour, was measured on April 12, 1934, at the Mount Washington Observatory. Boulders and steep inclines become slippery and treacherous when wet and shrouded in dense fog. Thunderstorms, racing across treeless ridge lines with the speed of a freight train, turn the razor-backed peaks into lightning rods. The Penacooks, one of two Native American tribes that dominated the area, called Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, Agiochook or "place of the Great Spirit."

The Penacooks, fearing the power of Agiochook to inflict death, did not climb to its summit. The fury you bring into the mountains is overpowered by the fury of nature itself. Nature always extracts justice. Defy nature and it obliterates the human species. The more we divorce ourselves from nature, the more we permit the natural world to be exploited and polluted by corporations for profit, the more estranged we become from the essence of life. Corporate systems, which grow our food and ship it across country in trucks, which drill deep into the ocean to extract diminishing fossil fuels and send container ships to bring us piles of electronics and cloths from China, have created fragile, unsustainable man-made infrastructures that will collapse. Corporations have, at the same time, destroyed sustainable local communities. We do not know how to grow our own food. We do not know how to make our own clothes. We are helpless appendages of the corporate state. We are fooled by virtual mirages into mistaking the busy, corporate hives of human activity and the salacious images and gossip that clog our minds as real. The natural world, the real world, on which our life depends, is walled off from view as it is systematically slaughtered. The oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico is one assault. There are thousands more, including the coal-burning power plants dumping gases into our atmosphere that are largely unseen. Left unchecked, this arrogant defiance of nature will kill us.

"We have reached a point at which we must either consciously desire and choose and determine the future of the Earth or submit to such an involvement in our destructiveness that the Earth, and ourselves with it, must certainly be destroyed," writer-poet Wendell Barry warns. "And we have come to this at a time when it is hard, if not impossible, to foresee a future that is not terrifying." Year after year I returned to these forbidding peaks from conflicts in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. I had a house in Maine on an 800-foot hill with no television, cell phone or Internet service. The phone number was unlisted. It rarely rang. I refused to give the number to my employer, The New York Times. I brought with me the stench of death, the cries of the wounded, the bloated bodies on the side of the road, the fear, the paranoia, the alienation, the insomnia, the anger and the despair and threw it at these mountains. I strapped my pack on in the pounding rain at trailheads and drove myself, and later my son, up mountains. I rarely stopped. Once, in a bitter rain, I crested the peak of Mount Madison in August and was immediately thrown backward by howling winds whipping across the ridge and pelting hailstones. It was impossible to reach the summit. On a hike in the remote Pemigewasset Wilderness I made a wrong turn and, fearing hypothermia, walked all night. By the time the sun rose my blisters had turned to open sores. I wrung the blood out of my socks. I go to the mountains to at once spend this fury and seek renewal, to be reminded of my tiny, insignificant place in the universe and to confront mystery. Berry writes in "The Peace of Wild Things":

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

I climbed my first mountain in the White Mountain National Forest when I was 7. It was Mount Chocorua. The mountain, capped with a rocky dome and perhaps the most beautiful in the park, is named for a legendary Pequawket chief who refused to flee with his tribe to Canada and was supposedly pursued to its summit by white settlers, where he leapt to his death. It is a climb I have repeated nearly every year, now with my children. I guided trips in the mountains in college. I would lie, years later, awake in San Salvador, Gaza, Juba or Sarajevo and try to recall the sound of the wind, the smell of the pine forests and the cacophony of bird song. To know the forests and mountains were there, to know that I would return to them, gave me a psychological and physical refuge. And as my two older children grew to adulthood I dragged them up one peak after another, pushing them perhaps too hard. My college-age son is deeply connected to the mountains. He works in the summer as a guide and has spent upward of seven weeks at a time backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. My teenage daughter, perhaps reflecting her sanity, is reticent to enter the mountains with the two of us.

I stood a few days ago in a parking lot at Crawford Notch with Rick Sullivan, an Army captain and Afghanistan war veteran. It was the end of our weeklong hike in the White Mountains. Sullivan noticed a man with a T-shirt that read "Operation Iraqi Freedom." The shirt had Arabic and English script warning motorists not to come too close or risk being shot. The man, an Iraqi veteran, was putting on a pack and told us that he was the caretaker of a camp site. He said he left the Army a year ago, drifted, drank too much and worked at a bar as a bouncer. His life was unraveling. He then answered an ad for a park caretaker. The clouds hovering on the peaks above us were an ominous gray. The caretaker said he planned to beat the rain back to the tent site. I thought of Earl Shaffer.

"You try and forget the war but you carry pieces of it with you anyway," the caretaker said. "In the mountains, at least, I can finally sleep."
(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."

How's That Recessioney, Oily Thing Working Out For Ya?
By David Michael Green

Let's be honest: We live in stunningly, jaw-droppingly, ridiculously absurd political times.

Here's the story in a nutshell: A far-right predatory overclass has spent the last thirty years undoing the hard-fought gains of the mid-twentieth century, which had produced a robust middle class and vastly more economic and social justice in America than the country had ever known before. These regressives used every kind of deceit imaginable to persuade unsophisticated voters to choose candidates whose real agenda was to assist their plutocratic puppetmasters in fleecing the very same people who voted for them.

Such candidates ran on issues like the death penalty, immigration, bogus wars, gay marriage and abortion. But what they really were about as legislators was exporting jobs to where workers are dirt cheap and politically neutered, crashing organized labor, shifting the tax burden onto the mass public, deregulating industry to allow unhindered profit-taking on the upside and socialized public responsibility for risk on the downside, and locking in a Supreme Court majority that would never blanch at even the most outrageous rulings enhancing corporate power in American society.

If the product of this slow and silent coup wasn't so bloody and so ruinous to so many lives, you'd really have to hand it to these guys for their political acumen and patience. It took a while, and it required the building of a broad and robust infrastructure, spanning from mainstream media to talk radio and TV to think-tanks to Congress, the presidency and the judiciary, to the GOP and now to the Democratic Party as well, but they have pretty much completely succeeded in grabbing all the levers of power in our society. They dominate its discourse entirely, and they have been almost completely successful to date in securing all the elements of their legislative, regulatory and jurisprudential agenda, at least to this point (how far they ultimately intend to go isn't clear - the US as Honduras, perhaps? - but it's unlikely to be pretty). Perhaps the only major exception to that rule was their 2005 failure to privatize the vast pool of public money sitting in the Social Security coffers, which they lust over lasciviously, like teenage boys inhaling online porn by the bucketful.

The product of these efforts has been precisely what one would expect. Corporations and economic elites have grown fantastically more wealthy than they already were thirty years ago. Their tax liabilities are now negligible and sometimes less than zero. Massive national debt, the product in part of those tax gifts to the rich, plus huge bills for interest on that debt (this alone is one of the largest items in the federal budget each year), is now owned by the mass public, who got nickels and dimes worth of tax cuts, in exchange for which they will now have to literally work years of their lives to pay down the taxes the rich escaped. Working people across the country get less and pay more for everything today. College is becoming increasingly out of the financial reach of average Americans. The minimum wage, which actually often isn't the minimum, is far from a sustainable salary for one person, let alone a family. As of 2004, the richest one percent of Americans possessed sixty percent of all wealth in the country, while the bottom forty percent accounted for a whopping two-tenths of a percent. Between 1979 and 2004, after-tax income for the top one percent of Americans rose by 176 percent, while for those in the bottom 20 percent that figure rose only six percent. And those figures are for six years ago, during what by current standards was flush times for working people. Now jobs are disappearing, with the inevitable effect of driving wages down further, not to mention all the obvious effects on prosperity, security, health, mental health and sheer longevity.

Meanwhile, just the approach to regulation alone has produced three monstrous attacks on American society as a direct result. First the recession-starting-to-become-a-depression and all its devastation, then the recent mining disaster, and now BP's WMD attack on the Gulf Coast states. What all of these have in common is a government regulatory apparatus that over time transitioned from a public service mission into deference to those supposed to be regulated, and then from deference for the corporate sphere into constituting a straight-out satellite office of the corporations themselves, literally having business supposed 'regulatees' fill out their own monitoring forms in pencil, to be inked in later by the planted shills in government. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have been wiped out by these actions and the public is paying for its own thrashing through bail-out funds. I'm sorry, but in what sense is this not treason?

Okay, so far so bad. Nothing particularly Alice-In-Wonderlandy or especially novel about rampant greed, is there? But what's really bizarre to the point of being becoming a fully hallucinogenic experience that really should come under the supervision of the Controlled Substances Act is the effect that this has had on politics. Could there ever be a moment when right-wing 'economics' have been so thoroughly and manifestly repudiated? Could there ever be more overt examples of corporate greed gone nuclear? Could the repercussions of these policy decisions ever more clearly have wrecked the lives of economically insecure ordinary Americans?

No, no and no. All this is as obvious and predictable as sunrise. And yet... Here we find ourselves in this remarkable and remarkably absurd position where the folks who not only created this monster, who not only have worked assiduously to prevent any solutions to the destruction they've wrought, and who now also promise even more of the same - these very folks are poised to win resounding electoral victories in November. And the folks who will be voting for them will once again become victims of their predations. And the folks in Congress and the White House they'll be voting against - supposed socialist-fascists (whatever strange Janus-faced zoological beast that would look like if it actually existed) - are in fact just about the most pro-plutocrat government imaginable. But they're going to get stomped by voters for being socialists.

How on earth did this happen?

Well, to start with, it happened because it was intended to happen. As described above, this is the product of a broad, concerted and patient effort by the radical right to capture and control American government, and it has worked remarkably well, especially when one considers the sheer amount of deceit required to pull it off. It's like trying to sell a cocktail of Dirt Drink mixed with Sawdust Soda to a man dying of thirst. But it can be done, and we know that because the process is now all but complete. When even John McCain refers to Congress "the best government that money can buy" you know you're really hurting, pal. As for that Trotskyite socialist in the White House, well he's staffed his economic team directly out of Goldman Sachs' boardroom, he bails out mega-banks one hundred cents on the dollar without even requiring that they loan money, he wrote a health care bill that forces thirty or forty million Americans to buy a product from bloated thieving insurance companies whether they want it or not, and he has dramatically increased spending on an already astonishingly distended military, while remaining essentially silent about (meager but essential) unemployment benefits right now in the process of terminating for millions of Americans. Yeah, baby - that socialist. "Workers of the world unite" is definitely what they rap about at White House cabinet meetings. Geithner, Summers, Gates - all those revolutionary syndicalists can't talk it up enough. Then they sing "The Internationale."

Clearly, the political branches of the US government have been fully captured by monied elites. Perhaps scariest of all, however, is the newly emboldened ultra-radical majority on the Supreme Court (that description is not reckless hyperbole used for effect - look at what they've done in cases like Bush v. Gore, Ledbetter and Citizens United, and watch what they do in the coming years - it will be astonishing in its scope, radicalism and hypocrisy). After decades of histrionic lies about supposed objections to judicial activism (what they really hated was the impudent offense of an elite court handing down liberal decisions and siding with mere mortals in American society, period), they have now kicked out the jambs to expand the practical definition of the 'activism' term beyond all recognition. Lori Blatt, former attorney in the Solicitor General's Office, put it best: "They are fearless. This is a business court. Now it's the era of the corporation and the interests of business." No case underscored this tendency better than Citizens United, of course, where the regressive majority was so blatantly activist that they literally told the stunned litigants to go home, come back in a month and reargue the case around a far, far bigger question than was at stake for the parties involved, and then sweepingly cast aside long existing law in order to blow blitzkrieg-size breaches in the barriers that had previously controlled corporate influence of elections. The only case that can rival this one for utterly transparent activism seeking a regressive outcome is Bush v. Gore, in which the right-wing bloc simultaneously violated three of their own cardinal tenets - judicial restraint, states' rights, and hostility to civil rights principles - in order to require vote counting be stopped (say what?!) and to crown the mentally deficient dauphin as king. It could hardly be clearer that the Roberts Court ominously completes the troika of the right-wing governmental coup.

But there are other reasons we're in this state, as well. Think about Barack Obama and the Democrats for a second, and then try applying Ms. Blatt's phrase, "They are fearless", to those folks. Now pick yourself up the floor. Change the underwear you just soiled from laughing so hard. Wring out the hanky you just soaked from sobbing so relentlessly. Part of why we're in this mess is that Democrats wouldn't know what guts looked like if they were all board-certified gastrointestinal surgeons. But, of course, to complain that "the people's party" lacks sufficient courage of their convictions assumes that they have any. The good news is that they do, as a matter of fact. The bad news, however, is that those convictions can be reduced neatly down to two: serving themselves and serving the nice folks who donate money to get them elected. It's a bit of a problem when the gang who are meant to protect us from the crimes of the GOP are nearly indistinguishable from Cheney's thugs, apart from stylistically. Democrats are happy to give you a little kiss on the cheek before they screw you. Republicans prefer to just get on with the assault.

Then there's the media in this country, which is, of course, beyond hopeless. Watching Rachel Maddow the other month throwing a few medium-speed hardballs at Rand Paul only served to remind me just how rare it is for any of these pathetic hacks to actually do their job, as opposed to doing the cash-driven bidding of those in power, especially tough-guy Republicans who must get plenty of laughs out of how easy it is to bully the Washington press whores - er, sorry, I mean press corps. There's nothing quite so self-made as the disasters of Election 2000 and the Iraq invasion of 2003, and the absence of any sort of serious media scepticism in those cases simply illustrates how utterly worthless the press truly are. Except, of course, as excellent public relations specialists for plutocrats. These days it seems like the only outlet doing anything approaching serious journalism is Rolling Stone. As to what it says about American society and journalism that you have to wade through cover photos of Lady Gaga's full-on unclad posterior to find out the lies our government is telling us, well, I'll leave that to you.

But clearly the neutering of the obedient profit-motivated media has worked spectacularly. One of the key fronts in this class warfare conducted by the wealthy in America has been with respect to framing. For three decades now, all we've heard is how government is a screw-up and how heroically efficient are the captains of industry in the private sector. The way regressives trash our own government in a democracy would certainly have seemed traitorous in another day. Just imagine if you said the same things about the military, which seems to miraculously escape the right's attention as the biggest and most famously wasteful government bureaucracy of all. Moreover, looking back over Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, not just a small bit of the curtain has been pulled back from the notion of the military's supposed infallibility. It's been two-thirds of a century since the United States won a big war against a serious adversary, and even then the Russians did the heavy lifting, at least in Europe. Somehow we never hear much about big, incompetent government in that context, though.

But, hey, forgive my little flight into logical analysis there. We really cannot have that in these times. For a minute there, I forgot to forget. It won't happen again, Mr. O'Brien, I assure you. From now on, up is down, black is white, war is peace, government is bad and corporations are purveyors of Happy Meals (happy, that is, unless you happen to be a cow, like having small businesses around, have a problem with obesity, don't want your planet to catch fire, or object to the creation of massive great lakes full of animal waste). Yep, big business is good! That's why we need to apologize to BP for our government "shaking them down" and forcing them to be slightly-barely-kinda-nominally-sorta responsible for their ecological and economic epic disaster in the Gulf. Get it?

But the other sad truth is that, at the bottom of this roll call of nefarious predators - under every Cheney and Obama and Brian Williams and Lloyd Blankfein doing (his green) god's work, is a great big stinking pile of yahoos better known as "Us". We'll vote Republican this fall because we utterly lack the intellectual curiosity to investigate other options. We'll vote Republican because we're greedy and lazy and willing to step on anyone's throat to get our little slice of prosperity back. We'll vote Republican as if we weren't only two years ago just absolutely counting down every second until the previous government packed up and left town. You know, the er, uh, Republicans.

But I have just one question for my fellow Americans before they step into that voting booth. The truth is that what ails us now is exactly what y'all have been voting for over the last three decades. The truth is that if you vote Republican in November it will all only get worse. The truth is that you're living the regressive dream just now, right as we speak.

We've let corporations run wild. We've decimated the government whose function it was to regulate them in the public's interest. We've shifted a very large pile of your money into the hands of the richest one percent of us, and given you and your kids loads of government debt to pay off in exchange. We've shipped your job off to China or India. We've completely immunized all branches of your government from any form of influence other than from rapacious plutocrats.

So my question is, fellow Americans, now that we've all had a nice heaping helping of what regressive politics means for us real people down here below the stratosphere, "How's that recessioney, oily thing working out for ya?"

(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 Unterfuhrer Boehner,

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 demand to raise Social Security retirement age to 70 for some while cutting others off to pay for our many illegal, forever, oil wars, i.e., 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 Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 09-05-2010. We salute you Herr Boehner, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

AP Owes China An Apology
By Glenn Greenwald

* From an Associated Press article today on the conviction in China of an American citizen accused of spying and collecting "state secrets":

BEIJING - An American geologist held and tortured by China's state security agents was sentenced to eight years in prison Monday for gathering data on the Chinese oil industry in a case that highlights the government's use of vague secrets laws to restrict business information.

In pronouncing Xue Feng guilty of spying and collecting state secrets, the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court said his actions "endangered our country's national security." . . . Agents from China's internal security agency detained Xue in November 2007 and tortured him, stubbing lit cigarettes into his arms in the early days of his detention.

A few cigarette stubs into a forearm for a handful of days? That's it? That's "torture"? Not according to the official definition of that term adopted by the U.S. Government, as explained by John Yoo:

Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death. For purely mental pain or suffering to amount to torture (under U.S. law), it must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years.

Placing a lit cigarette on someone's arm is unquestionably painful, but clearly does not rise to the level of pain "accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." Moreover, any psychological harm would likely be fleeting, not of "significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years" -- that's at least as true as the psychological harm being repeatedy strapped onto a board and drowned close to the point of death. Making AP's use of the term "torture" even more journalistically inexcusable is that the Chinese Government has repeatedly and categorically denied that it uses "torture":

During the U.N. review of China's human rights record on Monday (Feb. 9), Chinese delegate Song Hansong of the Supreme People's Procuratorate said that use of torture to obtain evidence was a criminal offense and that China had "established a comprehensive safeguard measure against torture in all our prisons and detention facilities."

"China is firmly against torture and would never allow torture to be used on ethnic groups, religious believers or other groups," Song said.

Given the standards of Good Journalism prevailing in the U.S. media, as taught to us just this weekend by high-level executives at the NYT and The Washington Post (and previously at NPR): what right does AP have to "take sides" in this dispute by substituting its own judgment about "torture" for the Chinese Government's? Beyond that, given that the U.S. Government has officially adopted a definition of "torture" that plainly does not include a few cigarette stubs on an arm, shouldn't that preclude any Good Journalist from using the term in this subjective and biased way? I hope AP will be apologizing to the Chinese shortly for its act of journalistic irresponsibility. It's not the role of journalists to take sides this way.

* * * * *

As I noted yesterday, Time's Alex Perry appeared in the comment section at FAIR's website after that media watchdog group had criticized an article Perry wrote on the Congo. FAIR pointed out, accurately, that Perry concealed from his readers the vital role played by the U.S. in foisting the tyrant Mobutu Sese Seko on Congo (while heaping all the blame on that country). Among other petulant complaints, Perry bitterly mocked the idea that an upstanding, important news magazine such as Time would ever, ever shape its news coverage at the direction of the U.S. Government ("grow up," he bellowed). Read Jonathan Schwarz's documented response to that, as compelling a response as I've read on the Internet to something like Perry's denialism. Perry complained that FAIR did not contact him to obtain his comment before writing its critique, so to accommodate Perry's complaint, I've emailed him to ask for his response to Schwarz's post, as well as to other issues raised by his complaints. I've not yet heard from him, but will post his response if and when I receive one.
(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.

The Glory Of White-Wing Politics
By Sheila Samples

"Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress...but then, I repeat myself."~~~ Mark Twain

Much has been written -- argued heatedly by ideological TV pundits -- over the past several years about the inability of members of Congress to agree on anything. Republicans stomp around like elephants in a china closet, shouting "No! No! Hell No!" no matter what legislation comes before them. Democrats, in a timid effort to reach across the aisle, stumble and fall down, where they just sit, plaintively begging, "Please don't hurt me..."

Both parties are adrift; cut loose from their moorings -- in total disarray. Much of the chaos is a result of the previous administration lighting a myriad of fuses before slinking into the shadows, setting off a string of political and financial explosions designed to blow this republic all to hell. What they failed to consider -- and what the bumbling members of Congress have yet to realize is -- when the ship of state sinks, everybody on board is going down with it.

Which appears to be what the race-baiting Rush Limbaugh, the self-appointed "leader" of the Republican Party, is feverishly attempting to provoke. Anybody who doubts that Limbaugh hasn't been in racist meltdown since 2007 when it became obvious that Barack Obama was a threat to White-Wing Limbaughesque "values" just hasn't been paying attention. Throughout the campaign -- from constantly airing the insulting Barack, the Magic Negro jingle to calling Obama and actress Halle Berry "Halfrican-Americans," to accusing Obama of "disowning his white half and deciding to go all in on the black side" -- Limbaugh led the pack.

And he still does. Republicans are united in support of the "I Hope He Fails" Limbaugh Doctrine which El Rushbo announced as millions of relieved -- even giddy -- Americans gathered at the nation's capitol for Obama's inauguration. Just a day later, Limbaugh hit the racist trail, telling Fox's Sean Hannity...

[r]acism in this country is the exclusive province of the left. We're witnessing racism all this week that led up to the inauguration. We're being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles. Bend over forward, backward, whichever, because his father was black, because this is the first black president. We've got to accept this. The racism that everybody thinks exists on our side of the aisle has been on full display throughout their primary campaign. So I think they've done a great job, the media has, of covering up his deficiencies.

So, it's all the Democrats' fault. The Democrats are militantly racist. If we buy into Limbaugh's rationale, none of his hateful, cruel, racist remarks would have been necessary if the Democrats hadn't selected a Halfrican-American who threw his grandma under the bus and then backed over her before going over to the black side as their candidate for president. On his October 12, 2009 show, Limbaugh explained just how innocent and colorblind he is...

I'm interested in people's hearts and their souls, because that's what animates us as human beings. Not our skin color. I'm colorblind. I have reached the point where everybody professes we need to go. I treat everybody equally. Nobody is -- in the political arena -- I don't care. Male, female, black, white, gay, straight, bisexual. If you are opposed to the things I think are great for the country, I'm going to say so. I'm going to criticize you. Not because of whatever it is distinguishes you from me on a surface basis, but because of ideas. I'm just a lone guy here, in the arena of ideas, sharing mine.

The Democrats quake with fear at the thought of being labeled "racist." When Mark Halperin and John Heilemann in their January 2009 book, Game Change, wrote that, during the campaign, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was delighted that Obama was the Democratic presidential candidate, and had said privately that "Obama, as a black candidate, could be successful thanks, in part, to his "light-skinned" appearance and speaking patterns "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one," all hell broke loose.

Reid immediately apologized to the media, to "any and all Americans," and personally called President Obama, as well as "House Democrats Jim Clyburn of South Carolina and Barbara Lee of California; the Rev. Al Sharpton; CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile; NAACP chairman Julian Bond; and the head of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Wade Henderson."

If there is evidence of Limbaugh or any of his White-Wing cohorts in the media, in Congress, or in the dangerously leaderless, out-of-control Teabagging movement offering even the semblance of an apology for their hateful rhetoric, I am unaware of it. Just last week, on July 2, Limbaugh was in full, bouncing racist fervor. According to Media Matters...

Rush stated that President Obama is "no different than Castro, in the sense that neither will be stopped by a governing document." He also asserted that "[w]e are not a Third World country here, putting up shacks and huts like the president's brother lives in." And if that wasn't bad enough, Rush "speculate[d]" that Michelle Obama did not attend the late Sen. Robert Byrd's funeral because of her "authentic slave blood."

Is anybody, other than a bunch of Dittoheads or his obedient followers in Congress, listening to this guy? As if we didn't have history to remind us, racism rots the soul of a nation, and the upheaval in Congress has its roots in racism.

This is about so much more than destroying one man, or even one party. Americans -- not just Democrats -- must find the courage to shout "No! No! Hell No!" to the destruction planned for this republic. Unless we stand up, shake ourselves off, and dare to fight back, the evil glory of White-Wing Politics will devour us.

We have no choice. Because this ship is going down.
(c) 2010 Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is an OEN editor, and a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at:

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Kirk Walters ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

The Four Horsemen
By Metallica

By the last breath of the fourth winds blow
Better raise your ears
The sound of hooves knocks at your door
Lock up your wife and children now
It's time to wield the blade
For now you have got some company

The Horsemen are drawing nearer
On the leather steeds they ride
They have come to take your life
On through the dead of night
With the four Horsemen ride
or choose your fate and die

You have been dying since the day
You were born
You know it has all been planned
The quartet of deliverance rides
A sinner once a sinner twice
No need for confession now
Cause now you have got the fight of your life

The Horsemen are drawing nearer
On the leather steeds they ride
They have come to take your life
On through the dead of night
With the four Horsemen ride
or choose your fate and die

has taken its toll on you
The lines that crack your face
Your body it has torn through
Withered in every place
For what you have had to endure
And what you have put others through
Deliverance for you for sure
There is nothing you can do

So gather round young warriors now
and saddle up your steeds
Killing scores with demon swords
Now is the death of doers of wrong
Swing the judgment hammer down
Safely inside armor blood guts and sweat

The Horsemen are drawing nearer
On the leather steeds they ride
They have come to take your life
On through the dead of night
With the four Horsemen ride
or choose your fate and die
(c) 1983/2010 Metallica

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

George Osborne holds the budget box: according to the IFS, the poorest
10% will see their incomes cut by more than 2.5% over the next five years.

All's Fair In Cuts And War
Thank goodness Osborne didn't cut 'defence' spending - where would we be without our fear of hidden enemies under the bed?
By Terry Jones

Did you notice there was one department that didn't figure in the budget cuts? Yes, it was the Ministry of Defence. Which is pretty surprising, since the UK spends more on its military than Russia. In fact, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, last year it was the world's third biggest spender on military matters. We can be proud that our country, in 2009, a time of economic chaos, managed to spend $69bn on warfare - I'm sorry: "defence."

Only China and the US spent more last year than us. Isn't that something?

Now you may ask: "Who are our enemies, apart from those we've created by invading Iraq and Afghanistan?" After all, fundamentalist Islam wasn't a problem before we started attacking Islamic countries - even secular Islamic countries like Saddam's Iraq. Well the answer is: "We don't know."

But just because we don't know doesn't mean we don't have enemies. They could be anywhere. Hiding under our beds. Peering out of our wardrobes. The world is full of potential enemies and the key thing is to get them before they get us, like the Americans do.

George Osborne also didn't mention Trident. Some people say: "What's the point of lugging nuclear bombs all over the Atlantic that no one will never be able to use? Bombs that, if they ever were used, would kill so many innocent civilians and pollute so much of the planet, it would count as a war crime."

Well, in the first place, they're not our bombs. We bought them off the Americans, and despite what endless prime ministers say, we'd need to ask the Americans' permission to use them. So it would be their fault. In the second place, realistically the only way the UK government would ever actually use Trident would be if the USA were, independently, to mount a nuclear strike against some presumably remote and sandy region, because then we would be expected to join in so that the Americans could claim to be acting in the name of the civilised world.

Now you may say that would make us more likely to be targets for nuclear retaliation, and that the Ministry of Defence ought to be renamed the Ministry of Turning Us Into Sitting Ducks. But you must take into account the feelings of our ministers of state. How can we possibly expect them to hold up their heads, when hob-nobbing with other global military powers, if we don't allow them their weapons of mass destruction? They're only human, after all, and giving up Trident would be like getting knocked out of the World Cup in round two!

According to the British American Security Information Council (or BASIC), the cost of running and maintaining Trident is roughly lb 5bn a year. That's about the cost of 1,000 new secondary schools, 200 new hospitals, 1.2p off income tax and lb 10 a week increase on state pensions.

So giving up Trident isn't going to benefit bankers or hedge-fund managers, is it? And what's even worse, it may make the country safer instead of more vulnerable, which is bad news, if you want to instill fear of terrorism into the population.

Now the chancellor must have been sorely tempted to save lb 4.5bn a year by pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan. But thank goodness he resisted, knowing that our presence there helps to fan the flames of Islamic fundamentalist resentment against the UK. In any case, how else could we be able to kill lots of people attending weddings and going about their own business, in a part of the world that has no impact on us, apart from oil.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that the impact of the budget will bear down five times harder on the poorest 10th of the population than on the richest, by 2015. It is truly inspiring to see how inclusive our society has become under this government. And we can only applaud our poorest citizens, who are now not only subsidising the bankers but subsidising the military and, in consequence, the whole of the arms industry as well. Good for them! Keep it up!
(c) 2010 Terry Jones is a writer, film director, actor and Python.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 28 (c) 07/09/2010

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