Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. reports, "A President Breaks Hearts In Appalachia."

Uri Avnery says Israel has gone, "Bananas."

Mike Wrathell fights for our rights in, "Only In Bozeman."

Jim Hightower finds that, "The Governor Is Out."

Ted Rall sees through, "The Fog Of Obama."

Scott Ritter wonders, "So This Is What Victory Looks Like?"

Paul Krugman thinks, "HELP Is On The Way."

Chris Floyd says Biden is causing world peace to be, "Slip Sliding Away."

Case Wagenvoord preaches, "The Theology Of Gravity."

Mike Folkerth continues the lecture with, "Show-Stoppers; Part 5."

Chris Hedges watches as, "The Crooks Get Cash While The Poor Get Screwed."

Cynthia McKinney writes a, "Letter From An Israeli Jail."

"Vice" President Joe Biden wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald explains why, "The NYT Calls Iranian Interrogation Tactics 'Torture.'"

Robert Scheer reminds us that, "McNamara's Evil Lives On."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reveals, "Comedians Mourn Palin's Resignation" but first Uncle Ernie exclaims, "That God Damn Uncle Ernie!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Nate Beeler, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City.Com, Ted Rall, Jeff Gentner, Pat Oliphant, Bob Gorrell, Jez, WR, Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Issues & Alibis.Org and Pink & Blue Films.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

That God Damn Uncle Ernie
By Ernest Stewart

"That God Damn Uncle Ernie!"
W The Movie ~~~ W

I support the left, though I'm leaning, leaning to the right.
I support the left, though I'm leaning to the right.
But I'm just not there when it's coming to a fight.
Politician ~~~ Cream

And remember when the revolution wasn't just a fad
It was on the brink of happening then the acid all went bad
And they took away the pot and replaced it with crack
Turned the Panthers into zombies, said, "Lock up all them fags!"
Well FUCK THE SHADOW GOVERNMENT for running the show
If you see what I see then let them know
They can take away our liberties but they can't take our souls!
33rd Degree ~~~ Delphi

Every once in a while I get a letter from one of our fascist brothers and sisters who, needless to say, disagree with whatever I've written. For every hundred or so thank you notes of praise, I get one that curses me and the horse I rode into town on, too! This usually ends with a "God Damn Uncle Ernie," which by a strange coincidence, is my favorite line from "W the Movie."

In the film towards the end, W opens a copy of Issues & Alibis which states in bold letters "W Regime Under Investigation For War Crimes" he turns to "The Judge" who is standing beside him and says, "That God Damn Uncle Ernie!" which always gives me chills. It's a pity it didn't happen in real life. With Barry in the White House the "Crime Family Bush" and their lackeys will remain above the law and will never be brought to trial to pay for their war crimes, crimes against humanity and the US Constitution, etc. etc. etc.!

I loved hearing fascists curse me long before the movie and still do to this day. If you want to cause me to have a mental orgasm, by all means curse me for daring to tell you the truth. Go ahead, punk and make my day! Oh baby BABY!

I've noticed of late that I get this reaction from people who couldn't get enough of the truth when it was about Smirky and his friends but when it comes to reporting the truth about the Changeling, all bets are off.

For the last couple of weeks (yes I know it seems like an eternity!) we've been under constant bombardment by the MSM of everything Jocko, and as a result America goes berserk at our "great loss" of this freak of nature pedophile. It is easy to see by this example of how the elite keep the Sheeple in enslavement.

How supposedly otherwise sane people would buy the same bullshit from Barry that they wouldn't buy from W. How I get grief from both sides of the right-wing from both Rethuglicans and Demoncrats for the simple act of telling the truth. I've also noticed a 40% drop in the readership since I begin to point out the facts of life about Mr. Obama and a resulting drop in donations. Oh well. C'est la guerre! If I were doing this to be popular, I'd do like some "liberal" sites do and take a center right-wing stance and spend most of my time making excuses for the Changeling. If I were doing this to be rich, I'd take a far right stance and in a few days, I'd be rolling in corpo-rat money. I didn't spend the last 8 years doing this to be either popular or rich I did it to try and warn those who weren't hip to the dangers we are facing whether we choose to acknowledge them or not! Ergo, we'll continue to tell the truth no matter where it takes us and let the chips fall where they may.

Well do keep it up; I wear those insults as a badge of honor. If I really piss you off, then good, I've gotten through to you with the truth. You may not like it or believe it. Hell, you may even know it to be true but just can't face it as it would destroy your little world of talking snakes and hope with Barry. It's OK. I understand and I don't mind. You can apologize and thank me for it later!

In Other News

You've got to hand it to the Russians, I could never do what they did. It was truly amazing. Not once, no matter where he went and who he talked to, did the Russians laugh out loud, hold their sides and stumble around until they collapsed on the floor with gales of laughter. Not once. Not even when the Changeling lectured them about coveting thy neighbor's oil:

"In 2009, a great power does not show strength by dominating or demonizing other countries. The days when empires could treat sovereign states as pieces on a chess board are over. As I said in Cairo, ... given our interdependence, any world order that tries to elevate one nation or one group of people over another will inevitably fail. The pursuit of power is no longer a zero-sum game - progress must be shared." Obama said, speaking to the graduates of Moscow's "New Economic School."

Not even a smirk. I laughed out loud for several minutes! Where in the hell do we get off lecturing anyone about anything? As Obama was saying this we were killing hundreds in Pakistan. We have our military in well over 100 counties with literally hundreds and hundreds of military bases in sovereign states throughout the world. We have three hot wars and are getting ready to start another war crime in Iran; one even bigger than the Acts of War that our Navy Seals, Rangers and Green Berets are committing inside Iran today. It wouldn't be so (as Tweety Bird says) Hypo-twit-ical if we had at least the balls to say, Get out of Georgia, Russia. It is, after all, our job to conquer and rule the world, not yours. Of course, that is exactly what Barry was saying but you had to read between the lines to see it.

Another funny line by the Changeling was:

"That is why America is committed to stopping nuclear proliferation, and ultimately seeking a world without nuclear weapons ... And while I know this goal won't be met soon, pursuing it provides the legal and moral foundation to prevent the proliferation and eventual use of nuclear weapons."

In other words when all is said and done, others having nukes is bad because we can't destroy their country and steal their resources if there is a chance they might vaporize us if we try. Some people can have some nukes, others cannot and since we are your overlords, we will decide who can and that's that. Oh and it's not torture when we do it, just when it's done to us, you see?

Next Obama delivered a tough, though implicit, critique of Kremlin foreign policy, rejecting the claim it has "privileged interests" in post-Soviet countries. He said the 19th-century doctrine of spheres of influence and "great powers forging competing blocs" was finished.

He said that while telling Russia that if people wanted to join our sphere of influence, i.e., NATO, that was different and not to worry about that missile defense system on your border in Poland and the Czech Republic. It's only for those crazy Iranians who have no missiles that can reach Europe-yet. We just want to be prepared! The Russians, being no one's fool, said via Sergey Lavrov, their foreign minister who spoke a day after the Russian and U.S. presidents reached a preliminary agreement setting targets for further reductions of the world's largest offensive nuclear arsenals:

"If our partners (the U.S.) make a decision to create an American missile defense system with global reach, then that will doubtless place a big question mark over the prospects for further reductions in strategic offensive weapons."

I think our problem stems in this instance from American politicians who are used to having the Sheeple totally fooled and thinking that the rest of the world buys their bullshit just like we do. They don't, America and that's where our problems lie. No one else is "doing what we say and not what we do." Like I said, you have to hand it to the Russians!

And Finally

Old foot-in-mouth Biden was in the news again, this time letting his masters in Tel Aviv know that we'll say or do nothing if they attack Iran. Joe said:

"Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do," he said.

Which is funny beyond words as that is exactly what we do wherever we go. Ask the folks in Kabul, Baghdad and Islamabad how that's working out for them? I'm guessing that Joe and Barry share the same group of comedy writers, how about you?

Trouble with Joe's rhetoric is what's good for the goose is also good for the gander! If we won't move a finger to keep Israel from attacking Iran then we have to stand by and watch if Iran attacks Israel. Which is something Israel should really understand about the US. Sooner or later (as we have on almost all of our allies) we will turn on Israel and enslave them, too! I guess it also means that it would be OK if the rest of the world got tired of our antics and nuked us, too, as they will no doubt one day do if we don't come to our senses and give peace a chance.

Then Joe was off for a surprise visit to Iraq to get photographed with the troops to show how macho he is and then with his son to remind everybody that he at least puts his son where his mouth is! All of this was over in the "Green Zone" down by Photo-Op City where there was no chance of Joe getting even a scratch, Joe is as excited by our war crimes today as he was 6 years ago. What a guy.

Then Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke up and said that he had been "for some time concerned about any strike on Iran." He also said that military action shouldn't be ruled out and that a nuclear-armed Iran was a highly troubling prospect.

"I worry about it being very destabilizing not just in and of itself but the unintended consequences of a strike like that," he told CBS' "Face the Nation." "At the same time, I'm one that thinks Iran should not have nuclear weapons. I think that's very destabilizing." I think it would be just the opposite. If Tehran had a few nukes that would end our day dreams of invading them and stealing their oil, and Israel's ambitions of adding the rest of the middle east to their "Greater Middle-Eastern Co-Prosperity Sphere!"

Mullen said if Iran obtained a nuclear weapon, other countries in the Middle East could follow suit. That would open the door to a destabilizing proliferation of nuclear technology. Mullen added that he discusses the subject regularly with his Israeli counterpart.

I'm having another one of those deja vu all over again scenarios. Except it was another chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Lyndon Baines Johnson who warned of the "domino effect" in Asia. That war cost us sixty thousand American dead and another half a million wounded and all of our good standing in the world. It cost the Southeast Asians three and a half million dead, several million more wounded, and four countries destroyed. It was not until the total destruction of the US Treasury that we finally came home. We could no longer back our currency with gold or anything else, for that matter, and we began our long down hill slide toward financial oblivion, which, thanks to our current three wars, we are reaching today.


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

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

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

Ernest & Victoria Stewart


07-21-1922 ~~~ 07-01-2009
Tell Miss Brahms I said hi!

06-09-1916 ~~~ 07-06-2009
What were you thinking?


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


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


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

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

A mountaintop coal mining site at Kayford Mountain in West Virginia.

A President Breaks Hearts In Appalachia
By Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Mountaintop removal coal mining is the worst environmental tragedy in American history. When will the Obama administration finally stop this Appalachian apocalypse?

If ever an issue deserved President Obama's promise of change, this is it. Mining syndicates are detonating 2,500 tons of explosives each day -- the equivalent of a Hiroshima bomb weekly -- to blow up Appalachia's mountains and extract sub-surface coal seams. They have demolished 500 mountains -- encompassing about a million acres -- buried hundreds of valley streams under tons of rubble, poisoned and uprooted countless communities, and caused widespread contamination to the region's air and water. On this continent, only Appalachia's rich woodlands survived the Pleistocene ice ages that turned the rest of North America into a treeless tundra. King Coal is now accomplishing what the glaciers could not -- obliterating the hemisphere's oldest, most biologically dense and diverse forests. Highly mechanized processes allow giant machines to flatten in months mountains older than the Himalayas -- while employing fewer workers for far less time than other types of mining. The coal industry's promise to restore the desolate wastelands is a cruel joke, and the industry's fallback position, that the flattened landscapes will provide space for economic development, is the weak punchline. America adores its Adirondacks and reveres the Rockies, while the Appalachian Mountains -- with their impoverished and alienated population -- are dismantled by coal moguls who dominate state politics and have little to prevent them from blasting the physical landscape to smithereens.

Obama promised science-based policies that would save what remains of Appalachia, but last month senior administration officials finally weighed in with a mixture of strong words and weak action that broke hearts across the region. The modest measures federal bureaucrats promised amount to little more than a tepid pledge of better enforcement of existing laws.

And government claims of doing everything possible to halt the holocaust are simply not true. George Bush gutted Clean Water Act protections. Obama must restore them.

First, the White House should fix the "fill" rule the Bush administration adopted in 2002 to allow coal companies to use streams as waste dumps. Under this perverse interpretation of the Clean Water Act, 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams have been interred under mining waste. Obama could reverse the "fill" rule to reflect its original meaning, which forbids waste matter from being dumped into waterways.

Second, the Interior Department should strictly enforce the widely ignored "buffer zone" rule that forbids dumping waste within 100 feet of intermittent or perennial streams.

Third, our laws require companies to restore mined areas to their original condition. The administration should end the absurd fiction that extraction pits filled with unconsolidated rocks and rubble where trees will never grow and streams will never flow are "reclaimed."

Fourth, current law forbids the issuance of "fill" permits that will cause "significant degradation" to waterways. It is absurd for the Army Corps of Engineers to endorse the canard that filling miles of streams is not causing significant degradation. The president should require the Corps to deny and rescind permits where operations will cause downstream damage.

Fifth, the Clean Water Act requires mining operators to prove that they can restore the "function and structure" of affected streams. Operators have never been compelled to make the functional or structural analyses of the aquatic ecosystem required by the act. Obama should order his officials to stop ignoring this requirement.

Sixth, the administration should enforce the law requiring an environmental impact study for each permit when a mine "may have significant environmental impacts," individually or cumulatively. The Corps of Engineers routinely allows coal operators to escape this mandate -- an illegal practice that should stop.

Instead of acting to enforce these laws, administration officials indicated last month that they will allow more than 100 permits to go forward while they carefully review their regulatory options. If they act accordingly, the ruined landscapes of Appalachia will be Obama's legacy.

President Obama should go to Appalachia and see mountaintop removal. My father visited Appalachia in 1966 and was so horrified by strip mining -- then in its infancy -- that he made it a key priority of his political agenda. He complained that Appalachia, with our nation's richest natural resources, was home to America's poorest populations, its worst education system, and its highest illiteracy and unemployment rates. These statistics are even grimmer today as mining saps state wealth. In 1966, 46,000 West Virginia miners were collecting salaries and pensions and reinvesting in their communities. Mechanization has shrunk that number to fewer than 11,000. They extract more coal annually, but virtually all the profits leave the state for Wall Street.

The coal industry provides only 2 percent of the jobs in Central Appalachia. Wal-Mart employs more people than the coal companies in West Virginia. Last week a major study documented how coal imposes a net cost to Kentucky of more than $100 million per year. Coal is not an economic engine in the coalfields. It is an extraction engine.

Obama has the authority to end mountaintop removal, without further action from Congress and without formal rulemaking. He just needs to make the coal barons obey the law.
(c) 2009 Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is credited with leading the fight to protect New York City's water supply, but his reputation as a resolute defender of the environment stems from a litany of successful legal actions. The list includes winning numerous settlements for Riverkeeper, prosecuting governments and companies for polluting the Hudson River and Long Island Sound, arguing cases to expand citizen access to the shoreline, and suing treatment plants to force compliance with the Clean Water Act.

Mr. Kennedy acts as Chief Prosecuting Attorney for Riverkeeper. He also serves as Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council and as President of the Waterkeeper Alliance. At Pace University School of Law, he is a Clinical Professor and Supervising Attorney at the Environmental Litigation Clinic in White Plains, New York. Earlier in his career Mr. Kennedy served as Assistant District Attorney in New York City.

By Uri Avnery

NOT EVERY day, and not even every decade, does the Supreme Court rebuke the Military Advocate General. The last time this happened was 20 years ago, when the Advocate General refused to issue a proper indictment against an officer who ordered his men to break the arms and legs of a bound Palestinian. The officer argued that he considered this to be his duty, after the Minister of Defense, Yitzhak Rabin, had called for "breaking their bones."

Well, this week it happened again. The Supreme Court made a decision that was tantamount to a slap in the face of the army's current chief legal officer, Brigadier Avichai Mendelblit.

The incident in question took place in Ni'alin, a village which has been robbed of a great part of its land by the Separation Fence. Like their neighbors in Bilin, the villagers demonstrate every week against the Fence. Generally, the army's reactions in Ni'alin are even more violent than in Bilin. Four protesters have already been killed there.

In this particular incident, Lieutenant Colonel Omri Borberg took a Palestinian demonstrator, who was sitting on the ground, handcuffed and blindfolded, and suggested to one of his soldiers "let's go aside and give him a rubber." He ordered the soldier to shoot a rubber bullet, point blank.

For those who do not know: "rubber bullets" are steel bullets coated with rubber. From a distance, they cause painful injuries. At short range, they can be fatal. Officially, soldiers are allowed to use them at a minimum range of 40 meters.

Without hesitating, the soldier shot the prisoner in the foot, although this was a "manifestly illegal order," which a soldier is obliged by army law to disobey. According to the classic definition of Judge Binyamin Halevy in the 1957 Kafr Kassem massacre case, the "black flag of illegality" is waving over such orders. The prisoner, Ashraf Abu-Rakhma, was hit and fell on the ground.

Veterans of the Ni'alin and Bilin demonstrations know that such and similar incidents happen all the time. But the Abu-Rakhma case was special for one reason: it was documented by a young local woman from a balcony near the crime scene with one of the cameras provided to villagers by B'tselem, an Israeli human rights organization.

Thus the Lt. Col. committed an unforgivable sin: he was photographed in the act. Generally, when peace activists disclose such misdeeds, the army spokesman reaches into his bag of lies and comes up with some mendacious statement or other ("Attacked the soldier", "Tried to grab his weapon", "Resisted arrest"). But even a talented spokesman has difficulties denying something that is clearly seen on film.

When the Military Advocate General decided to prosecute the officer and the soldier for "conduct unbecoming," Abu-Rakhma and some Israeli human rights organizations applied to the Supreme Court. The judges advised the Advocate to change the indictment. He refused, and so the matter reached the court again.

This week, in a decision unusual for its severe language, the three justices (including a female judge and a religious one) found the "conduct unbecoming" charge itself unbecoming. They ordered the indictment of both officer and soldier on a far more serious criminal charge, in order to make it clear to all military personnel that mistreating a prisoner "is contrary to the spirit of the state and the army."

After such a slap in the face, any decent person would have resigned in shame. But not Mendelblit. The bearded and kippa-wearing brigadier is a personal friend of the Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, and is expecting promotion to Major General at any moment.

Recently, the Advocate General refused to indict a senior officer who asserted in court, while testifying on behalf of a subordinate, that it is right to abuse Palestinians physically.

Ashkenazi owes a lot to his Advocate General, and for other reasons. Mendelblit has made a huge effort to cover up war crimes committed during the recent Gaza War, from Ashkenazi's war plan itself to the crimes of individual soldiers. Nobody has been put on trial, nobody even seriously investigated.

ON THE day the Supreme Court decision concerning Mendelblit was published, another brigadier also made the headlines. Curiously enough, his first name is also Avichai (not a very common name), he is also bearded and wears a kippa.

In a speech before religious female soldiers, the Chief Rabbi of the army, Brigadier Avichai Rontzky, expressed the opinion that the army service of women is forbidden by the Jewish religion.

Since every Jewish young woman in Israel is bound by law to serve for two years, and women perform many essential jobs in the army, this was a seditious statement. But nobody was really surprised by this Rabbi.

Rontzky was chosen for this post by the former Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz. He knew what he was doing.

The Rabbi was not born into a religious family. Indeed, he was quite "secular," a member of an elite army unit, when he saw the light and was "reborn."Like many of this kind, he did not stop halfway but went to the furthest extreme, becoming a settler and setting up a Yeshiva (religious seminary) in one of the most fanatical settlements.

Rontzky is a man in the spirit of the person who appointed him. It will be remembered that, when asked what he felt when dropping a one-ton bomb on a residential area, Air Force General Halutz answered: "a slight bump on the wing." In a discussion about whether to treat a wounded Palestinian on the Shabbat, Rontzky wrote that "the life of a goy is certainly valuable...but the Shabbat is more important." Meaning: a dying goy should not be treated on Shabbat. Later he retracted. (In modern colloquial Hebrew, a goy is a non-Jew. The term has distinctly derogatory connotations.)

The Israeli army has something that is called the "Ethical Code." True, the spiritual father of the Code, Professor Asa Kasher, did defend the atrocities of the "Molten Lead" operation, but Rontzky went much further: he stated unequivocally that "When there is a clash between...the Ethical Code and the Halakha (religious law), certainly the Halakha must be followed."

In a publication distributed by him, it was said that "the Bible prohibits us from giving up even one millimeter of Eretz Israel." In other words, the Chief Rabbi of the army, a Brigadier of the IDF, asserts that the official policy of the Israeli government - from Ariel Sharon's "Separation" to the recent speech by Binyamin Netanyahu on a "demilitarized Palestinian State" - is a mortal sin.

But the peak was reached in a brochure that the army rabbinate distributed to soldiers during the Gaza War: "Exercising mercy towards a cruel enemy means being cruel towards innocent and honest soldiers. In war as in war."

That was a clear incitement to brutality. It can be seen as a call for acts that constitute war crimes - the very same acts that his colleague, the Military Advocate General, has done everything possible to cover up.

NEITHER OF the two bearded brigadiers would have remained in office for a single day had they not enjoyed the full support of the Chief of Staff. The army is a hierarchical institution, and full responsibility for everything that happens falls squarely and entirely on the Chief.

Unlike his predecessors, Gaby Ashkenazi does not show off and does not speak in public frequently. If he has political ambitions, he is hiding them well. But during his term in office, the army has assumed a certain character, which is perfectly represented by these two officers.

This did not start, of course, with Ashkenazi. He is continuing - and perhaps intensifying - a tendency that started long ago, and that has been changing the Israeli army beyond recognition.

The founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, famously wrote in his book "Der Judenstaat," the founding document of the movement: "We shall know how to keep our clerics in the temples, as we shall know how to keep our regular army in the barracks...they will not be allowed to interfere in the affairs of the state."

Now the very opposite is happening: the rabbis have penetrated the army, the army officers come from the synagogues.

The hard core of the fanatical settlers, which is almost entirely composed of religious people (many of whom are "reborn Jews") decided long ago to gain control of the army from within. In a systematic campaign, which is in full swing, they penetrate the officers' corps from below - from the junior ranks to the middle to the senior ones. One can see their success in statistics: from year to year the number of kippa-wearing officers is growing.

When the Israeli army came into being, the officers' corps was full of kibbutz members. Not only were kibbutzniks considered the elite of the new Hebrew society, which was based on values of morality and culture, and not only were they the first to volunteer for every national task, but there were also inbuilt "technical" reasons.

The nucleus of the army came from the pre-state Palmach. The Palmach companies constituted a fully-mobilized regular army, part of the underground military organization, the Haganah. They could exist and operate freely only in the kibbutzim, where their identity could be camouflaged. As a result, almost all the outstanding commanders in the 1948 war were from the Palmach, kibbutz members or close to them.

These did everything to imbue the new Defense Forces with the spirit of a pioneering, moral and humanist citizens army, the very opposite of an occupation army. True, the reality was always different, but the ideal was important as an aim to strive for. As I showed in my 1950 book, "The Other Side of the Coin," our "purity of arms" has always been a myth. But the aspiration to be an army with humanist values was important. Atrocities were hidden or denied, because they were considered shameful and dishonoring our camp.

Nothing has remained of all this, except phrases. Since the beginning of the occupation in 1967, the character of the army has changed completely. The army that was founded in order to protect the state from external dangers has become an army of occupation, whose task is to oppress another people, crush their resistance, expropriate land, protect land robbers called settlers, man roadblocks, humiliate human beings every day. Of course, it is not the army alone that has changed, but also the state that gives the army its orders as well as its ongoing brainwashing.

In such an army, a process of natural selection takes place. People of discrimination, with a high moral standard, who detest such actions, leave sooner or later. Their place is taken by other types, people of different values or no values at all, "professional soldiers" who "just follow orders.".

Of course, one must beware of generalizing. In today's army there are not a few people who believe that they are fulfilling a mission, for whom the Ethical Code is more than just a compilation of sanctimonious phrases. These people are disgusted by what they see. From time to time we hear their protests and see their disclosures. However, it is not they who set the tone, but types like Rontzky and Mendelblit.

THAT SHOULD worry us very much. We cannot treat the army as if it was a foreign realm that does not concern us. We cannot tell ourselves: "we don't want to have anything to do with the army of a Moshe Ya'alon, a Shaul Mofaz, a Dan Halutz or a Gabi Ashkenazi." We cannot turn our back on the problem. We must face it, because it is our problem.

The state needs an army. Even after achieving peace, we shall need a strong and effective army in order to protect the state until peace strikes deep roots and we can set up a regional body along the lines of the European Union, perhaps.

The army is us. Its character has an impact on all our lives, on the life of our state itself. It has already been said: "Israel is not a banana republic. It is a republic that slips on bananas." And what bananas!
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Greg Sullivan

Only In Bozeman
By Mike Wrathell

My Grampa Wrathell almost got killed on the beaches of Normandy, not so Bozeman could have my Facebook password. He was a captain in the U. S. Army and then a homicide detective in the Detroit Police Department. Yes, he got injured stateside before being deployed to France where most, if not all, of the officers who landed where he was going to land were killed, but all the same, we are free because of our veterans and each and every one of us needs to respect each and every hard-won freedom we possess.

Greg Sullivan is the city attorney for the City of Bozeman, "The Most Livable Place" in the Universe, if you look at their website. How livable is a place, though, when you must sell out your right to privacy to some schmuck who has about as much respect for your right to privacy as Muammar al-Gaddafi has respect for a safe flight from London to New York?

When I heard about the hiring policy of Bozeman that asks you to "list any and all, current personal or business websites, web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo,, MySpace, etc." and your user name and passwords to all such accounts, I decided to fire off an email to the Fire Chief of Bozeman. I could not find the email address of the mayor on their website:

dear chief shrauger,

please provide me the home phone, cell phone and home address of the mayor and the entire city council, and their social security numbers, as well as you and the police chief

thank you in advance for this humble request


mike wrathell, esq. (member of state bar of michigan)

Do you like the e. e. cummings style? Looks sort of Unibomberish, doesn't it? Well, I was sending it to Montana, after all.....

Fire Chief Jason Shrauger decided to pass the ball to Mr. Sullivan:


This is the only email I have received to date on the UN/PW issue. I figured it was best for me to send it to you to keep with your folder rather than creating a new one of my own with only 1 email in it.

Let me know if you would prefer a different angle.


I am not sure what Fire Chief Jason Shrauger meant by "a different angle," but I am thinking Mr. Sullivan thought the Fire Chief might get a kick out of the little intimidation trick he pulled on me by sending a copy of his email not only to me, but to the State Bar of Michigan, as if I had done something unethical by defending the right to privacy and free speech. My bad! I guess I am suppposed to do the whole "wink and nod" when a fellow shark, I mean, shyster, I mean, attorney conspires with city officials to deprive Americans of their basic rights in the name of baseball, hot dogs and apple pie, or, in the words of Mr. Sullivan himself:

"So, we have positions ranging from fire and police, which require people of high integrity for those positions, all the way down to the lifeguards and the folks that work in city hall here. So we do those types of investigations to make sure the people that we hire have the highest moral character and are a good fit for the City," Sullivan soapboxed from a mound of prairie oysters.

A few days later, on 6.24.9, I got this email back in reply:

Mr. Wrathell:

I have copied Ms. Diane VanAken, Manager of Character and Fitness for the Michigan State Bar, on my email to you.

The Bozeman Fire Chief forwarded me your below request for information related to the Bozeman City Commission.

The purpose of my email to you, as a fellow attorney bound by similar rules of professional conduct as you are, is to clarify whether your statements below are merely a comment on the City of Bozeman's past practices related to the use of social networking sites in its hiring practices or whether you are genuinely interested in obtaining the information you request below, and, if so, the purposes behind your request.

If the later, pursuant to Montana's open records law, Sect. 2-6-101, et seq., MCA, upon receipt of your response and your stated purposes, I will determine whether the interest of the individual Commissioners privacy clearly exceeds the merits of disclosure as stated by you for each component of the information you request and issue a response accordingly.


Greg Sullivan
Bozeman City Attorney

Gee, if I did not know any better, I would think he is trying to intimidate and "chill" my right to express myself. But I took it in good stead and wrote him back, with a cc. to Ms. VanAken:

Dear Mr. Sullivan,

I was being sarcastic out of the outrage of asking for people's passwords to their social networking sites. That is a clear violation of their right to privacy and wanted the Fire Chief and the others asked to feel viscerally how very violative such a request is.

I hope I accomplished my objective.

I also hope you will stop asking for passwords from now on. It is a violation of your oath to honor The U. S. Constitution, for the right to privacy has been adjudged to be a fundamental right.

If you disagree with me, I am happy to debate you on this issue.


Mike Wrathell, Esq.

And dear Mr. Sullivan wrote me one final email back:

Mr. Wrathell,

Thank you for the clarification regarding your request. As such, I will not be sending you the information.

Greg Sullivan
Bozeman City Attorney

And, I sent him one final email:

Dear Mr. Sullivan,

You are welcome. My apologies to the Fire Chief for any misunderstanding. I was a bit hot when I sent it, but rightly so, when all is said and done, probably should have had a more accurate target to my wrath, though.



Yes, the right targets were Mr. Sullivan and the City Manager, I think. But everyone who took advantage of the wrongful harvest of personal information is culpable, and, they still have it, and have been harvesting such for a few years now. I hope the people who have been hired during this time will not be punished for changing their passwords and user names.

Ironically, two days before I fired off my email to Fire Chief Shrauger, the City of Bozeman caved and I did not know it. Here is a portion of the press release:

"The extent of our request for a candidate's password, user name, or other Internet information appears to have exceeded that which is acceptable to our community. We appreciate the concern many citizens have expressed regarding this practice and apologize for the negative impact this issue is having on the City of Bozeman."

But, ole Sully leaves the door open for a new assault on the right to privacy and Freedom of Speech by saying the policy is merely frozen until the City "conducts a more comprehensive evaluation of the practice." You might want to look at "Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479" too, Greg.

Moral of the story, if you are driving on I-90 and you want to stop for the night and the next stop is Bozeman, maybe stop for a Mountain Dew at the Flying J Travel Plaza in nearby Belgrade (Exit 298), but keep going to Billings if you are going east or Butte if you are going west! And watch out for any lot lizards named Greg!
(c) 2009 Mike Wrathell. is an artist, attorney and a reporter for Issues & Alibis Magazine and America Jr. He is also an actor in the new motion picture "W." Write Mike @.

The Governor Is Out

It's Monday - do you know where your governor is?

The recent outbreak of hot and heavy gubernatorial hanky-panky by South Carolina's Mark Sanford has caused some political panic in governors' offices all across the country. Sanford, the disappearing governor who's now infamous for taking a loooong, five-day "hike" on the Appalachian Trail - a secret trip that actually took him to a romantic rendezvous with his mistress in Argentina - has raised questions about other governors. The Associated Press telephoned every governor's office to ask if the incumbents were... well, in.

Most were, and the staff of those who were not assured AP that they always could find their boss. In fact, some governors might be too reachable. For example, when Florida's Charlie Crist got married last December, he didn't let romance get in the way of duty - his press aide says she "talked to the governor 100 times while he was on his honeymoon."

Sometimes, though, you'd rather not know what your governor is doing. When AP's reporter called Rick Perry of Texas and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, neither was working on the people's business. Instead, both were working their lists of fat-cat contributors, hustling campaign cash.

It turns out that a few states are totally relaxed about their governors' whereabouts. In North Dakota, John Hoeven drives his own car and doesn't have a security detail, so who knows where he goes? Or cares?

Indeed, the one newsworthy tidbit that AP uncovered in its survey is that Sanford himself found it easy to hop out of the country undetected. He simply lied to his staff and family and dismissed his security detail. As the head of South Carolina's security agency put it: "As an adult male, he's free to come and go as he pleases. And so we just honestly quit looking for him." That won't boost Sanford's ego - but it does make sense.
(c) 2009 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

The Fog Of Obama
Why Can't Obama See His Wars Are Unwinnable?
By Ted Rall

Robert McNamara, one of the "best and the brightest" technocrats behind the escalation of the Vietnam War, eventually came to regret his actions. But his public contrition, which included a book and a series of interviews for the documentary "The Fog of War," were greeted with derision.

"Mr. McNamara must not escape the lasting moral condemnation of his countrymen," editorialized The New York Times in 1995. "Surely he must in every quiet and prosperous moment hear the ceaseless whispers of those poor boys in the infantry, dying in the tall grass, platoon by platoon, for no purpose. What he took from them cannot be repaid by prime-time apology and stale tears, three decades late."

McNamara's change of heart came 58,000 American and 2,000,000 Vietnamese lives too late. If the dead could speak, surely they would ask: why couldn't you see then what you understand so clearly now? Why didn't you listen to the millions of experts, journalists and ordinary Americans who knew that death and defeat would be the only outcome?

Though Errol Morris' film served as ipso facto indictment, its title was yet a kind of justification. There is no "fog of war." There is only hubris, stubbornness, and the psychological compartmentalization that allows a man to sign papers that will lead others to die before going home to play with his children.

McNamara is dead. Barack Obama is his successor.

Some call McNamara's life tragic. Tragedy-inducing is closer to the truth. Yes, he suffered guilt in his later years. "He wore the expression of a haunted man," wrote the author of his Times obit. "He could be seen in the streets of Washington-stooped, his shirttail flapping in the wind-walking to and from his office a few blocks from the White House, wearing frayed running shoes and a thousand-yard stare." But the men and women and boys and girls blown up by bombs and mines and impaled by bullets and maimed in countless ways deserve more vengeance than a pair of ratty Nikes. Neither McNamara nor LBJ nor the millions of Americans who were for the war merit understanding, much less sympathy.

Now Obama is following the same doomed journey.

"We must try to put ourselves inside their skin and look at us through their eyes," McNamara warned long after the fact, speaking of "America's enemies" but really just about people-people who live in other countries. People whose countries possess reserves of natural gas (Vietnam) or oil (Iraq) or are situated between energy reserves and deep-sea ports where oil tankers dock (Afghanistan and Pakistan).

Why can't President Obama imagine himself living in a poor village in Pakistan? Why can't he feel the anger and contempt felt by Pakistanis who hear pilotless drone planes buzzing overhead, firing missiles willy-nilly at civilians and guerilla fighters alike, dispatched by a distant enemy too cowardly to put live soldiers and pilots in harm's way?

"We burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo-men, women and children," McNamara said. "LeMay said, 'If we'd lost the war, we'd all have been prosecuted as war criminals.' And I think he's right. He-and I'd say I-were behaving as war criminals." 900,000 Japanese civilians died in all.

At least Japan started the war. What of Afghanistan and Iraq, where approximately 2,000,000 civilians have been killed by U.S. forces? Neither country attacked us. Shouldn't Bush, Rumsfeld and the rest be prosecuted as war criminals? Why not Obama? After all, Obama is leaving 50,000 troops in Iraq after the war there is supposedly coming to an end. He's escalating the unjustifiable, unwinnable tragedy in Afghanistan-there are 68,000 U.S. troops there now, probably going up to 100,000 by next year-while spreading the conflict into Pakistan.

"Make no mistake, the international community is not winning in Afghanistan," concluded the Atlantic Council in 2008. Things have only gotten worse as U.S. troop presence has increased: more violence, more drugs, less reconstruction.

Like McNamara, Obama doesn't understand a basic truth: you can't successfully manage an inherently doomed premise. Colonialism is dead. Occupiers will never enjoy peace. Neither the Afghans nor the Iraqis nor the Pakistanis will rest until we withdraw our forces. The only success we will find is in accepting defeat sooner rather than later.

"What went wrong [in Vietnam] was a basic misunderstanding or misevaluation of the threat to our security represented by the North Vietnamese," McNamara said in his Berkeley oral history. Today's domino theory is Bush's (now Obama's) clash of civilizations, the argument that unless we fight them "there" we will have to fight them here. Afghanistan and Iraq don't present security threats to the United States. The presence of U.S. troops and drone planes, on the other hand...

In fairness to McNamara, it only took two years for him to call to an end of the bombing of North Vietnam. By 1966 he was advising LBJ to start pulling back. But, like a gambler trying to recoup and justify his losses, the president kept doubling down. "We didn't know our opposition," concluded McNamara. "So the first lesson is know your opponents. I want to suggest to you that we don't know our potential opponents today."

Actually, it's worse than that. Then, like now, we don't have opponents. We create them.
(c) 2009 Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?" an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.)

So This Is What Victory Looks Like?
By Scott Ritter

Fireworks lit up the Baghdad sky on the evening of June 30th, signaling the advent of "National Sovereignty Day." Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared the new holiday to commemorate the withdrawal of American combat troops from the Iraqi capital and all other major urban centers, although thousands of "advisers" would remain in the cities, embedded with Iraqi forces. The celebration transpired inside a city that has been radically transformed over the past six years. Even with American combat forces ostensibly withdrawn, Baghdad remains one of the most militarized urban areas in the world. It wasn't always so. When I was in Baghdad during the 1990s, I was struck by the lack of an overt military presence for a nation purported to be governed by one of the world's worst militaristic dictatorships.

Of course, in the city areas housing Saddam Hussein, his family and inner circle, and the seat of government, one would see green-clad soldiers of the Special Republican Guard standing watch over the gates controlling access into and out of these islands of power and privilege. But in the rest of the city-the vast majority of the city-there was no military presence. Traffic police stood on little islands in the middle of busy intersections, keeping the bustle of a modern city moving along at a brisk pace. There were soldiers in uniform around, but they carried no weapons, being on leave from their duties in Iraq's conscript military. Just like their fellow servicemen in other cities around the world, they would enjoy a day or two walking the streets and markets of Baghdad, taking in the sights and sounds, grabbing a glass of tea, a quick meal and the sight of pretty girls neatly attired in Western-style dress.

Let there be no doubt, Iraq was a police state, and the streets of the city were also filled with agents and informers of the regime, quick to detect any hint of rebellion or insurrection. Telephone calls were listened in on and conversations illicitly recorded in the hope of finding evidence of dissent. And when dissent was found, the forces of repression would mobilize quickly to crush it-secret police and paramilitary forces for small incidents, and the battalions of Special Republican Guard for larger threats. But Baghdad, like Mosul and other major cities, was also a place where someone-whether resident, visitor or even U.N. weapons inspector-could leave his or her home or workplace in the evening and travel freely without fear of endless roadblocks, checkpoints, car bombs and firefights.

One could take in a street market in what was then known as Saddam City (today we call it Sadr City), the Shiite-dominated neighborhood in the northeast corner of Baghdad. Or grab a kebab in Karrada, a Sunni-dominated neighborhood in the center of town. Or visit the shopping districts of Monsouriyah, or tour the gold-domed mosques in Khadamiyah (Shiite) or across the Tigris River in Adamiyah (Sunni). The quality of the Baghdad-Iraq experience fluctuated given the state of the economy (U.N. sanctions crippled Iraq from 1991 until 1996, when the controversial oil-for-food program breathed new life into what had become a stagnant existence). But whether the shelves in a given shop were full or empty, one thing remained constant-Baghdad and the other major cities of Iraq functioned in a manner more in keeping with the open societies of Europe, and less like the municipality under siege that exists today.

Baghdad survives now as a city defined not by its thousands of years of history, but rather segregation brought on by policies of deliberate ethnic cleansing. The city is now a checkerboard of neighborhoods walled off from one another by giant concrete-block dividers installed by American troops in an effort to keep Iraqis from killing one another, a phenomenon born from ethnic and religious differences which have violently come to a head in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. Once we get beyond the pageantry and spectacle of the deception that is taking place in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities "formerly" occupied by U.S. troops, the pretense of progress is difficult to sustain.

Iraqi soldiers, primarily Shiite troops loyal to the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister al-Maliki, are everywhere. They man checkpoints and mini-garrisons throughout the city and constantly patrol streets and neighborhoods which function less as communities and more like tiny feudal fiefdoms. Militias, like street gangs in Western ghettos, lurk inside every walled-off zone, sometimes working with the Iraqi military, sometimes working against it. To attempt to move from zone to zone today is an exercise in futility and frustration, as well as a flagrant temptation of fate. Sunni and Shiite, Arabs and Kurds, Christians and Muslims-all used to be able to mingle freely in the streets of Baghdad. Today these diverse elements are segregated from one another, their daily existence dictated by a kill-or-be-killed mentality that manifests itself in violence and a growing diaspora of Iraqi refugees no longer able to sustain life in a city they once called home.

Many in the West continue to delude themselves into seeing progress-and therefore "victory"-when in fact the situation in Iraq has only regressed. It is in vogue for Western journalists, pundits and government officials to compare and contrast conditions in Baghdad today with those that existed in 2007, when the U.S. began its "surge" of military forces into the urban areas of Iraq in an effort to quell violence that had reached epidemic proportions. There is no debate over the fact that the level of violence in Baghdad and elsewhere throughout Iraq has dropped dramatically since the surge was instituted. But the cost paid by Iraqi society, shredded by ethnic cleansing and segregation, raises the question of whether or not the alleged "cure" is any better than the "disease" it purports to address. One thing is certain: Iraq remains a very sick patient. The U.S., in designing a surge that addressed only the most visible symptoms of the problems which ravage Iraq in the post-Saddam era, has created a false sense of accomplishment when in fact the underlying conditions that caused the violence prior to the surge still exist. It's like a cancer temporarily stunned into remission by a drug that weakened the body and now is being withdrawn without actually curing anything. The Shiite-Sunni schism has only worsened, and there is increasing risk that the Arab-Kurd disagreement over oil rights will escalate from a war of words into something more violent.

The absolute failure of the surge is even more evident when one considers conditions inside Iraq before the U.S. invasion in 2003. There is simply no serious benchmark by which one can make a viable argument for improvement. Even the Bush administration stopped the pretense that we had brought democracy to the country. Stability is now the term of choice, and when one compares the situation in Iraq circa February 2003 to today, the facts scream out loud and clear that Iraq is far more unstable in its present condition than when governed by Saddam Hussein.

Take oil, the commodity that was going to pay for the invasion and guarantee the political and economic future of Iraq. Not only is the Iraqi government divided on how to move forward with a new legal framework designed to encourage foreign investment in Iraq's oil sector, but the billions of dollars already spent on Iraq's oil industry since the U.S. invasion have actually produced less oil per day than when Saddam was in power-and one must keep in mind that Saddam's Iraq suffered under crushing economic sanctions.

The number of Iraqi refugees has more than quadrupled since the invasion. Some 500,000 Iraqis had fled the abuses of the Saddam regime, while today more than 2 million Iraqis have been compelled to leave the country as a direct result of the U.S.-led invasion and subsequent occupation. Another 2 million have been forced from their homes and are internally displaced.

Unemployment is rampant. Iraq's health care system is in tatters, as is its education system. But apparently these figures are meaningless in the face of the one major statistic the Twitter-crazed Western media seems to have fallen in love with: There are nearly 18 million cell phones in use in Iraq today, up from a mere 80,000 when Saddam Hussein governed. The fact that most of these phones operate with intermittent or nonexistent service is irrelevant. Iraq has cell phone coverage. God Bless America.

It is wishful thinking to believe that the Iraqi military and paramilitary forces under the government of Prime Minister al-Maliki will be able to hold the ruins of Iraqi society together without major U.S. intervention. The sad reality is not only that Baghdad is a far more militarized city today than at any time under Saddam Hussein, but the United States has assumed the role of Saddam's Special Republican Guard. American soldiers are now an iron fist lurking on the edges of the city, waiting to be called in to crush any sign of rebellion or insurrection. That our role has so readily transformed from liberator to occupier should come as a surprise to no one.

In 1999 I warned Americans that a war between Iraq and the United States would appear on the surface to be deceptively easy. I predicted that a force of no more than 250,000 troops (we actually did it with less-about 200,000 troops deployed either in Iraq or in theater) would require less than a month (the U.S.-led attack began on March 19, and Baghdad was occupied on April 9), and would result in relatively few casualties (139 American military personnel died in action from March 20 through May 1, 2003). The easy part, I noted, would be getting rid of Saddam Hussein. The hard part would be securing victory in the aftermath of Saddam's demise. And this task, I warned, would be made even harder, indeed virtually impossible, by the fact that the U.S.-led invasion would lack any justification under international law, especially if a case for war were to be cobbled together using U.N. weapons inspections and Iraqi WMD as an excuse. The U.S. did invade, and the rest is history.

The incompetence, corruption and futility of the U.S. occupation of Iraq are matters of record. America has failed in Iraq, a fact many Americans recognized when they voted for change in 2008 by electing Barack Obama over John McCain. And yet today these same Americans appear to be as self-deceiving as those who supported George W. Bush's attempts to spin the tragedy of the American experience in Iraq as something noble and worthy of support. To date, the war in Iraq has cost more than 4,300 American service members their lives. Tens of thousands more have been physically wounded or permanently scarred by the psychological horror of participating in the Iraqi conflict. We've stopped seriously trying to count the number of Iraqi dead, with estimates ranging from 100,000 to more than a million. Even before the U.S. "withdrawal" from Baghdad, acts of violence in that city and elsewhere were on the rise. There is little doubt that the many Iraqi enemies of the government of al-Maliki will soon try to flex their muscle. Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence is all but assured. Some Iraqi military units will, at least initially, perform well; others will not. Neighborhoods once secured by U.S. occupiers will fall out of the control of central Iraqi authority. The more the Iraqi military tries to suppress this dissent, the more the dissent will grow. Though major U.S. combat forces are currently out of Baghdad, there is little doubt that there will soon be a call for their return, in force, either to respond to an ambush of a U.S. convoy supplying the American Embassy enclave in central Baghdad or to bail out the Iraqi military when it fumbles its effort to suppress the opponents of the government.

Iraq, for President Obama and his military leaders, is a lose-lose situation. There is no path toward military victory there today. With American forces out of the major urban areas of Iraq, the next step for Obama is to complete the planned withdrawal on schedule, with most U.S. forces leaving Iraq in 2010. This will be impossible to accomplish if America finds itself sucked back into the urban centers of the country to maintain the false perception of stability created through the surge.

The biggest challenge in Iraq facing the Obama administration is not to fall victim to the need to be seen as victorious. Victory today can be measured only in terms of mitigating the consequences of failure. There will be no "Battleship Missouri moment," with the forces of a defeated Iraqi insurgency lined up to formally surrender. Instead, America will have to deal with the reality that, no matter how we spin facts, President Bush's ill-advised Iraqi adventure has ended in defeat. Whether this defeat is memorialized with imagery reminiscent of the U.S. retreat from Saigon, with helicopters pulling the last occupiers from the roofs of the American Embassy in Baghdad (unlikely), or repeats the pathos of the Russian retreat from Afghanistan, with a convoy of American troops crossing over into Kuwait in orderly fashion (more likely), there is no victory to be had in the classic sense.

In one of the last patrols conducted by U.S. forces before the formal withdrawal from Baghdad, four American soldiers lost their lives. The patrol itself was wholly symbolic-a show of force and will at a time when every military reason for the patrol had ceased to exist-a tragic yet fitting analogy for the entire U.S. military presence in Iraq. No more American troops need to die, or be physically or psychologically maimed, participating in futile "last patrols" designed to salvage the reputations of politicians. There are those who will argue for sustaining the failed military misadventure in Iraq out of a misplaced sense of national pride and honor. President Obama must confront his own ego and hubris and accept the fact that in order to secure a lasting legacy as a peacemaker he will need to ride out the short-term criticism.
(c) 2009 Scott Ritter a former Marine Corps intelligence officer, was a chief inspector for the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq from 1991 until 1998. He is the author of several books; "Target Iran," with a new afterword by the author, was recently released in paperback by Nation Books.

HELP Is On The Way
By Paul Krugman

A few weeks ago there was a furor when the budget office "scored" two incomplete Senate health reform proposals - that is, estimated their costs and likely impacts over the next 10 years. One proposal came in more expensive than expected; the other didn't cover enough people. Health reform, it seemed, was in trouble.

But last week the budget office scored the full proposed legislation from the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). And the news - which got far less play in the media than the downbeat earlier analysis - was very, very good. Yes, we can reform health care.

Let me start by pointing out something serious health economists have known all along: on general principles, universal health insurance should be eminently affordable.

After all, every other advanced country offers universal coverage, while spending much less on health care than we do. For example, the French health care system covers everyone, offers excellent care and costs barely more than half as much per person as our system.

And even if we didn't have this international evidence to reassure us, a look at the U.S. numbers makes it clear that insuring the uninsured shouldn't cost all that much, for two reasons.

First, the uninsured are disproportionately young adults, whose medical costs tend to be relatively low. The big spending is mainly on the elderly, who are already covered by Medicare.

Second, even now the uninsured receive a considerable (though inadequate) amount of "uncompensated" care, whose costs are passed on to the rest of the population. So the net cost of giving the uninsured explicit coverage is substantially less than it might seem.

Putting these observations together, what sounds at first like a daunting prospect - extending coverage to most or all of the 45 million people in America without health insurance - should, in the end, add only a few percent to our overall national health bill. And that's exactly what the budget office found when scoring the HELP proposal.

Now, about those specifics: The HELP plan achieves near-universal coverage through a combination of regulation and subsidies. Insurance companies would be required to offer the same coverage to everyone, regardless of medical history; on the other side, everyone except the poor and near-poor would be obliged to buy insurance, with the aid of subsidies that would limit premiums as a share of income.

Employers would also have to chip in, with all firms employing more than 25 people required to offer their workers insurance or pay a penalty. By the way, the absence of such an "employer mandate" was the big problem with the earlier, incomplete version of the plan.

And those who prefer not to buy insurance from the private sector would be able to choose a public plan instead. This would, among other things, bring some real competition to the health insurance market, which is currently a collection of local monopolies and cartels.

The budget office says that all this would cost $597 billion over the next decade. But that doesn't include the cost of insuring the poor and near-poor, whom HELP suggests covering via an expansion of Medicaid (which is outside the committee's jurisdiction). Add in the cost of this expansion, and we're probably looking at between $1 trillion and $1.3 trillion.

There are a number of ways to look at this number, but maybe the best is to point out that it's less than 4 percent of the $33 trillion the U.S. government predicts we'll spend on health care over the next decade. And that in turn means that much of the expense can be offset with straightforward cost-saving measures, like ending Medicare overpayments to private health insurers and reining in spending on medical procedures with no demonstrated health benefits.

So fundamental health reform - reform that would eliminate the insecurity about health coverage that looms so large for many Americans - is now within reach. The "centrist" senators, most of them Democrats, who have been holding up reform can no longer claim either that universal coverage is unaffordable or that it won't work.

The only question now is whether a combination of persuasion from President Obama, pressure from health reform activists and, one hopes, senators' own consciences will get the centrists on board - or at least get them to vote for cloture, so that diehard opponents of reform can't block it with a filibuster.

This is a historic opportunity - arguably the best opportunity since 1947, when the A.M.A. killed Harry Truman's health-care dreams. We're right on the cusp. All it takes is a few more senators, and HELP will be on the way.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Slip Sliding Away
Joe Biden Gives Iran Green Light to Attack Israel
Written by Chris Floyd

Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place....
Burnt Norton ~~~ T.S. Eliot

In a surprise move, Vice President Joe Biden signaled that the United States would not intervene to stop Iran from launching a "pre-emptive" attack on Israel. Biden's declaration came during an appearance on the ABC news-talk show, "This Week," with former Bill Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos. Here are Biden's exact words, as reported by the New York Times:

"Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination - if they make a determination - that they're existentially threatened and their survival is threatened by another country."

It is of course well known that Israel possesses a formidable nuclear arsenal -- which it developed illegally, in secret, "rogue-state" style. It is also well-known that an Israeli attack on Iran is a constant, open topic of discussion -- and advanced planning and war-gaming -- at the highest levels of the Israeli government and military.

Given the fact that a nuclear-armed nation is openly discussing and planning an attack on their country, the Iranians could quite logically "make a determination that they are existentially threatened and their survival is threatened by another country."

Thus, by Biden's logic, it would be quite legitimate for the Iranians to mount an attack to "take out the nuclear program" in Israel, given the ever-present existential threat this poses to their survival. And the United States, according to Biden, would not do anything to stop such an attack, because Washington "cannot dictate to another sovereign nation" what it can do when it feels threatened to such a degree.

This then is the actual, logical meaning of the actual words that Biden used on Sunday: If Iran's Supreme Leader "made a determination" that his nation's existence was in peril from attack by a very hostile nuclear-armed nation, then he would be justified in taking pre-emptive action to save his people.

This Hobbesian, dog-eat-dog logic could also apply to any other potential conflict in the world. Any nation whose leaders declare is under "existential threat" is thereby justified in any pre-emptive attack to quell the threat. That's it. That's all it takes. That is the quintessence of the philosophy of international statecraft voiced by Biden on Sunday.

But in practice, of course, this justification for military aggression is not meant to apply universally. It is reserved solely for the United States -- indeed, it is the very heart of the U.S. government's officially promulgated "National Security Doctrine" -- and for any favored American clients and allies. Israel is the prime example of the latter category; any and all acts of aggression by its government are always justified -- and usually praised to high heaven -- by Washington. But this exception also applies to other nations whose aggression serves America's agenda at any given time: Ethiopia's American-aided invasion of Somalia, for example, a brutal act of aggression that killed thousands, displaced hundreds of thousands, radicalized thousands, exacerbated sectarian strife, and sparked off a new, vicious civil war -- all in service of America's Terror War "regime change" agenda.

The machtpolitik philosophy enunciated so clearly by Biden underlies the Terror War operations being continued -- and expanded -- by his boss, Barack Obama, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and now, once more, in Somalia. Obama continually affirms that America is under an "existential threat" if Afghanistan is not conquered and the "recalcitrant tribes" of Pakistan not bombed and droned into submission.

But nations outside the golden circle of imperial favor are not allowed to make such claims -- even if nuclear weapons really are aimed at them, by governments who really do call for their destruction. Thus once again we see American leaders trying to justify their own (and their favorites') military aggression by referring to some grand, universal principle -- which they immediately subvert by failing to apply it universally.

Yet it is certain that no one in the upper reaches of the American power structure will note -- or even recognize -- the howling illogic of Biden's position. Why should they? It is their own underlying, animating principle, the very air they breathe: whatever We and Ours do is good, is true, is right, is righteous.

If We torture, it is good; in fact, it's not even torture. If We invade other countries without provocation, it's not aggression; it's liberation. If We kill innocent people to further Our political agenda, it's not terrorism; it's heroism, it's a "defense of the realm," of "our way of life." If We and Ours openly call and plan for "regime change" in other countries, those countries have no right to feel threatened; they should simply fall into line with Our wishes. This, again, is the unquestioned and apparently unquestionable core assumption of the American political, corporate and business classes.

This can be seen in the New York Times story on Biden's interview. Reporter Brian Knowlton makes what he believes is a telling point. After devoting a couple of paragraphs to some of the dangers of an attack on Iran that various American officials have expressed, Knowlton says:

Still, the disputed Iranian election result has raised concerns in Israel. Officials there say that the victory by Mr. Ahmadinejad, who has called for the destruction of Israel, underscored the Iranian threat and bolstered the argument for tough action.

Here of course, Knowlton repeats the blood libel that Ahmadinejad has "called for the destruction of Israel." As Juan Cole and many others have constantly pointed out, Ahmadinejad has done no such thing:

...the actual quote, which comes from an old speech of Khomeini, does not imply military action, or killing anyone at all. The second reason is that it is just an inexact translation. The phrase is almost metaphysical. He quoted Khomeini that "the occupation regime over Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time." It is in fact probably a reference to some phrase in a medieval Persian poem. It is not about tanks.

In other words, Ahmadinejad was indulging in the flatulent, high-falutin rhetorical bilgewater favored by politicians around the globe, from the dawn of time. In doing so, he expressed the same kind of hope that the American government and the United States government have formally expressed in the Iran Freedom Support Act, in which the nation's leaders committed $10 million of the public's money to support the removal of the current Iranian regime. Unlike Ahmadinejad's cloudy evocation, the Americans openly put cold hard cash on the line to help make the Iranian regime "vanish from the page of time." (All of this is in addition to the far larger covert efforts -- including terrorism, sabotage and other black ops -- also being carried out in Iran by the United States and local proxies.)

In any case, for all his manifold faults, Ahmadinejad did not and has not "called for the destruction of Israel," nor issued any "existential threat" against the people in Israel -- nor could he actually destroy Israel or even threaten its existence even he wanted to. Israel, on the other hand, has the aforementioned rogue nuclear arsenal, and a bipartisan leadership that constantly declares its strong intent to "eliminate the Iranian threat" -- and which is backed to the hilt by the most powerful military in the history of the world, whose vice president has just publicly affirmed that America will not stop any Israeli attack on Iran.

Who then, by Biden's own logic, is actually facing an existential threat which, by Biden's own logic, would justify a pre-emptive attack?


But the grim NYT story -- presaging, as it does, a monstrous act of folly and hubris that could kill thousands upon thousands of innocent human beings -- does end with a bit of comic relief. Dig this:

In May, Mr. Obama told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel during a meeting at the White House that "we're not going to have talks forever" with Iran; in the absence of cooperation from Tehran, he said, the administration would not rule out "a range of steps."

"We're not going to have talks forever"! That's a hoot, ain't it? These "talks," presumably, are the "talks" that "we" are not actually having at all. Obama appears to believe that talking about the possibility of having talks is the same thing as actually having talks -- and is eager to assure his warlike allies, at home and abroad, that he will not drag out these non-existent talks any longer than necessary.

And earlier in the story, Knowlton points out that Obama "has said that diplomatic efforts to halt Iran's nuclear program should be given to the end of the year." Please note well the usage here; in the midst of so much slipping, sliding and perishing of words, our leaders' imprecision is sometimes chillingly precise. Obama says that he is -- graciously, imperiously -- willing to give diplomacy a few more months to stop Iran's nuclear program. Not its nuclear weapons program, which, by all evidence, does not exist, but its nuclear energy program in general -- which by international treaty Iran has every right to pursue, and has pursued under the most stringent international supervision.

Obama is thus leaving open the possibility of overt American moves "beyond diplomacy" if Iran is still pursuing its perfectly legal, internationally sanctioned nuclear program next year -- that is, if Israel is not given the green light for a proxy shot first.

Certainly the trial balloons to habituate the public to the idea of a strike are going up again; on the very day that Biden was signalling American acquiescence to an Israeli strike on Iran, the Times of London -- a frequent stovepipe for the Anglo-American militarist elite -- headlines this little item: Saudis give nod to Israeli raid on Iran.

This in turn dovetails with news that Israel's much-preferred candidate, Japanese diplomat and sanctions maven, Yukiya Amano, has just been named director-general of the International Atomic Energy Association, which is overseeing the draconian strictures on Iran's nuclear program. It is thought that Amano will be much tougher on Iran than outgoing director Mohamed El Baradei, who occasionally committed the cardinal sin of adhering to law, and logic. There will no more of that nonsense from IAEA now. In fact, Amano is off to a flying start, as Gordon Prather notes at, pointing us to this piece from Bloomberg: UN's Amano Says Iran 'Under Obligation' to Suspend Nuclear Work.

The strenuous effort to get the pliable Amano in place -- as Bloomberg notes, he "previously failed to win majority support in three meetings of the IAEA board" -- eerily recall the machinations to oust the head of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons as a prelude to the invasion of Iraq. As I noted in the Moscow Times in April 2002:

Jose Bustani is an accomplished Brazilian diplomat, a man of learning and enlightenment, with extensive experience in international affairs, including postings in Vienna, Montreal, the United Nations and Moscow. For decades, he has served as a high-level negotiator on a number of international treaties, hammering out agreements on disarmament, pollution, scientific research and maritime law. In 1997, he became director general of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which enforces the international Chemical Weapons Convention.

In that post, as The Guardian reports, Bustani engineered the destruction of 2 million chemical weapons and the dismantling of two-thirds of the world's production facilities for biological mass murder. He was so well regarded by his colleagues that he was re-elected to a five-year term - unanimously - in May 2000. Just a few months ago, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell publicly lauded him for his "very impressive work."

There was one thing wrong with Jose Bustani, however. He was negotiating to bring Iraq into the Chemical Weapons Convention. That was his job, after all: to get as many nations as possible under the treaty's umbrella. So he was trying to persuade Iraq to accept the Convention and its strictures - including the destruction of chemical weapons stores and facilities, and constant independent monitoring to ensure compliance. If he had succeeded, the Middle East - and the world - would have been an immeasurably safer place.

But there were sinister forces - thugs - who didn't want Bustani to succeed. These thugs have big plans for Iraq, you see. They're going to puff up their chests, beat their hairy bellies and rape Iraq, force it down into the dirt and have their way with it. But they can only do that if Iraq remains a threat - or at least can be credibly framed as a threat to the little ones back home.

[Note: Yes, it was that obvious, that early, that the United States was going to invade Iraq. Although the Bush Regime did make a big show of insisting that "diplomatic efforts to [disarm Iraq] should be given to the end of the year," the fix was firmly in. Remember Iraq's frantic disclosures at the end of that year -- thousands of documents sent to the UN to prove the dismantling of its WMD programs, and Iraq's complete acquiescence to all UN inspections? Remember how much good it did them, responding to such "diplomatic efforts"? Well, of course no one in America remembers the pre-history of the act of aggression that Barack Obama now calls an "extraordinary achievement;" but you can be the Iranians do.]

And so George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and the rest of the pack started in on Bustani. First they softened him up with some bureaucratic brass knuckles: they illegally withheld U.S. funding for the Convention, leading to a cash crisis at the agency. Next came a boot in the groin: having themselves engineered the Convention's money troubles, they accused Bustani of "financial mismanagement" and demanded that Brazil recall him. The Brazilians refused.

Then the switchblades came out. Last month, the thugs called for a vote of "no confidence" in Bustani from the Convention's 145 member nations. This was foiled - like the gang's recent attempt to muscle in on Venezuela - by an unexpected show of nerve from the "little guys" who normally quake when the thugs start to bellow. The no-confidence vote failed.

Now the pack was in full cry. They called an unprecedented (and illegal) "special session" of the Convention to force Bustani's ouster. In good thug fashion, they put the squeeze on, threatening to bankrupt the agency or pull out of it altogether - a move that would have collapsed the treaty and set off a world-wide explosion in chemical weapons production. (Even as it is, the thugs have arbitrarily excluded themselves from most of the treaty's provisions - including the very same inspection programs that Iraq is condemned for rejecting.)

And this week, they finally unloaded with both barrels. At the "special session" in The Hague on Monday, the thugs strong-armed 47 of the little guys into voting against Bustani. Seven countries, including Russia, stood their ground for the man they had all unanimously elected less than two years before, while 43 other countries abstained. More than 50 countries boycotted the shameful spectacle altogether.

Just as in those heady days of yore, we can now see several dangerous ducks being put in a row. The process is being helped by the current election crisis in Iran, which has greatly exacerbated the ongoing, never-ending demonization of perfidious Persia. The hardliners' crackdown on dissent has been a particular godsend in this regard. Ahmadinejad, a loose-tongued, bellicose fundamentalist, has always been a most serviceable villain for Western militarists, who need easily caricatured hardliners in charge of their regime change targets. Which is why they stonewalled the Iranian reformists when they held the presidency, rejecting every opportunity to nurture a genuine, peaceful evolution of Iranian democracy, and were cock-a-hoop when a poltroon like Ahmadinejad took over.(As Muhammad Sahimi details here.) Now his goon squad tactics in the election aftermath are doing more to help the American militarists than a thousand warmongering Bill Kristol columns or whole boatload of screeching AEI forums could do.

(Isn't it marvelous how hardliners always buttress their counterparts among the "enemy"? Like the old "we will bury you" Commies providing endless ammo for American reactionaries -- and vice versa. Both sides strenuously fought reform of their systems and called for more repression -- pointing to the ravings of opposing hardliners as justification. The same dynamic is also at work in the Terror War's intimate dance between Western militarists and Islamic extremists, each pointing to the other's depredations as justification for....more depredations.)

Again, let us not forget that America's vast covert forces are sponsoring deadly terrorist attacks inside Iran -- an ongoing provocation that is guaranteed to rouse hardliner ire, undermine all genuine, independent reform movements, and make a mockery of Obama's ludicrous rhetoric about "dialogue." The Iranians -- scraping the bodies of their policemen, and the inevitable "collaterals," from the streets after yet another terrorist attack -- know full well that the Americans are not sincere about "dialogue" and "negotiations." They know the only negotiations the Americans are interested in are terms of surrender.

The Tehran regime's only hope is to make it clear that an attack on them would cost the West more than it is willing to pay, in terms of lives lost, heightened domestic insecurity from reprisal threats, and economic turmoil. This survival strategy inevitably leads to more militarism, the mentality of a fortress besieged: hardly a conducive atmosphere for peaceful reform and better lives for ordinary Iranians. But of course, none of the American militarists -- including, most emphatically, the "progressive" leaders now in charge of the ever-expanding war machine -- give a damn about that, despite the rivers of crocodile tears we've seen since the Iranian election.

At any rate, our new "Tail Gunner Joe" says it's A-OK for the Israelis to strike Iran whenever they feel like it. Looks like surf's up on the old blood-dimmed tide this summer.
(c) 2009
Chris Floyd

The Theology Of Gravity
By Case Wagenvoord

There is no "law of gravity;" there is only a Theology of Gravity as those of us who are followers of the true Creator of the Universe, the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM), know.

This "law of gravity" nonsense is a Vatican plot designed to undercut the one true faith, Pastafarianism. Evolution and Intelligent Design serve the same purpose. Christianity sweats as Pastafarianism swells in the heat of its slightly salted cooking water.

The truth is that the universe was created by FSM's Noodly Appendages. "Gravity" is nothing more than these same Appendages that keep us from flying into orbit by maintaining a gentle pressure on the tops of our heads.

Tragically, this explains why we're seeing more and more madness in the world.

After he created man out of two tomatoes and a tablespoon of basil, the FSM has no trouble keeping everyone in place with his "Noodly Appendages," with plenty to spare for future generations.

Unfortunately, the population explosion that began in the nineteenth century outstripped his Appendages. He simply didn't have enough to keep everyone in place 24/7.

He has solved this problem by flipping his Appendages from head to head. He's so fast that his Appendage only vacates a given head for a nanosecond, which is why the Earth isn't circled by a belt of orbiting human beings.

However, that nanosecond is just enough time to allow the brain to slam against the top of the cranium. Repeated collisions between brain and cranium mean that everybody on earth is crazy.

Except for the elect.

Like all organized religions, Pastafarianism has its elite, those of us who are Knights in the Order of Al Dente. This is an honor reserved for pirates who are the only ones to whom the FSM speaks. While I never sailed under the Jolly Roger, I did work in insurance, which is close enough.

Many people believe that the device I wear in my left ear is a hearing aid. They are wrong; it is a radio receiver that keeps me in contact with the Martians. You see, just before his Appendage leaves a head, it gives an orgasmic throb. The Martians have the angle to see this throb, so as soon as our receivers beep, we Al Dentians cry "Arghhh!" and slap the tops of our heads as hard as we can. The force of the blow keeps the brain in place until the Appendage can return.

Now, one would think that everyone who worked on Wall Street and the Beltway would be Knights of the Order of Al Dente. But, it's not enough to be a pirate; one has to be a believer, as well. Wall Street believes in Mammon and the Beltway believes in God. This really pisses FSM off, so their collective brains spend a lot more time smashing into their collective craniums, which goes a long way towards explaining the state of the world and the economy.

There is hope! If you ever see an elderly gentleman with a "hearing aid" in his ear slapping his head and crying "Arghhh!" do the same. If you're quick enough, it might keep you relatively sane.
(c) 2009 Case Wagenvoord. Some years ago, Case Wagenvoord turned off the tube and picked up a book. He's been trouble ever since. His articles have been posted at The Smirking Chimp, Countercurrents and Issues & Alibis. When he's not writing or brooding, he is carving hardwood bowls that have been displayed in galleries and shows across the country. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two cats. His book, Open Letters to George W. Bush is available at

Show-Stoppers; Part 5
By Mike Folkerth

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

Continuing with my Show-Stopper series this morning, I'm reminded that most people seem to have a mental block when it comes to considering just where employment materializes from. The average person doesn't believe that it's possible for the labor force to grow larger than the job base in the United States. But then, the King of Simple readers aren't the average people because the average person doesn't read!

Since writing this Show-Stopper series, I now believe that employment is in fact the element that will effectively bring down the tent.


The basis for the United States economy and also the source of the underlying tax collection is stable employment. In the back to back years of 1994 and 1995, President William Jefferson Clinton signed first the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and then the World Trade Organization Agreement (WTO) into law. The promise was world prosperity; the reality was the guaranteed loss of the most important Middle Class jobs in America and the eventual loss of Middle America itself. In keeping party line politics at bay here, it is important to realize that both Bush Presidencies supported NAFTA and the WTO.

The suggested method for arriving at global prosperity was for the U.S. to shift from an agricultural and manufacturing basis to that of a "service economy." Unfortunately for Middle America, there is no such thing as a service economy. Rather than reap the suggestive status of lounging around the pool drinking banana daiquiri's, Middle America has now found themselves, cleaning the pool and serving the drinks.

It is important to realize that jobs are not simply created out of thin air to match our growing population and the increasing need for tax collection. "Real jobs materialize by filling real needs; not from the social whims of mortal man aimed at producing unlimited growth." ~~~ Mike Folkerth

"Most employment now is merely pushing paper around. The actual work needed to keep a stable society running is a very small fraction of available manpower." ~~~ Dr. M. King Hubbert, American Geophysicist, October 5, 1903 ~ October 11, 1989. Acting contrary to sound economics, the entry into NAFTA and the WTO sought to "level the global playing field." The entire proposal of competing with nations whose workers average incomes are 60 times less than those of their American counterparts was delusional. The scheme amounted to nothing more than greater profits for American Corporations and provided a legal exit for our elite to escape the fate of our failed growth economy. Middle America had plainly outgrown their usefulness in a developing and mobile global economy.

Unfortunately, the jobs were gone long before the reality of the situation was realized. A false tech boom that collapsed in 2000, followed by a phony housing bubble that folded in 2007, masked the true consequences of globalization for the period of time necessary to accomplish the wholesale destruction of base Middle Class employment.

At the same time, export nations with near slave labor, few labor laws, little to no environmental controls, and top down governments; benefited immensely. To such a degree in fact, that Communist China has now become our primary lender.

Had it been suggested not so long ago that Communist China would be loaning the most powerful nation on earth the money to continue to tread water, the proposal would have been laughable. We now understand that there is nothing funny about it.

China, India, South Korea, and other low cost export nations have benefited tremendously from both the American job losses and greatest U.S. trade deficits in our history. Interestingly enough, Japan and South Korea are fast becoming the new victims of a world where cheap labor is king.

At the same time that America is losing jobs by the millions, we are simultaneously incurring the greatest amount of debt creation in the history of this nation. To repay that debt will require increases in tax collection beyond anything ever experienced in our nation's history.

To increase tax collection to this new level would necessarily require job creation at a pace that will not only put the millions of currently unemployed and underemployed back to work at higher wages, but at the same time, it would also be essential to experience additional job growth at hyper levels. Remember, "Real jobs materialize by filling real needs; not from the social whims of mortal man aimed at producing unlimited growth."

Bear in mind, we couldn't pay our previous debts while at full employment. We are now simply and shamelessly supporting our prosperity by borrowing against our children's futures.

"All attempts to reduce the deficit, balance the budget, or pay off the national debt are futile. The deficit and the national debt represent the subsidy the government has paid in its attempt to keep growth and unemployment at the level of social tolerance." ~~~ Robert L. Hickerson, March 1, 1995.

Another sobering reality that has materialized from our so called "service and information economy," is the very real and easily verifiable fact that nearly 50% of Americans today no longer have sufficient income to be required to pay income taxes. This means that we certainly can't count on that half of the folks to help us out with the tax collection problem stated above.

It also means that fully half of Americans have little or no disposable income (income left over after paying for the essentials) to spend into the greater economy. This group of non-taxpaying people continues to grow in numbers by leaps and bounds. We have reached the sad statistic, where through transfer of wealth, the lower 60% of the population now own only 4% of total American wealth. The bottom 40% own less than 1% of the wealth! Wealth disparities of this magnitude are absolutely unsustainable in a free market economy.

The only three sectors of our economy that have grown over the past few years are education, medical care, and government. Note the commonality of these three growth sectors; all are tax based.

The president's new economic plan calls for unprecedented growth in all three of the above mentioned sectors, which would then necessarily anticipate unprecedented tax collection to support that growth.

Add to this the reality that the combination of legal and illegal immigration adds a conservative 1.6 Million new job seekers to our already jobless society each and every year. These newcomers then compete against the current millions who are unemployed and underemployed. The dog is now in full pursuit of his tail.

There is yet another issue that will continue to affect employment in the United States, that of technical innovation. The combination of continual labor reducing technology, coupled with tariff free world trade, has thrust the United States well beyond the potential for maximum viable employment.

It is my stated opinion that the U.S. will never again realize full employment while at the same time attempting to pursue the false economic promise of globalization. This possibility is further challenged by the constraints of a so called "service and information economy" that constantly experiences elevated job competition through liberal immigration policies and a surplus global workforce. You can write that on the wall.

So the question for this section, while considering the above facts, is, "From where will the real job growth materialize that could possibly drive our economy and job base to the necessary hyper levels?"

"The promise of competing in the global economy is a hoax perpetrated upon the working and unemployed people of this country because over time a nation needs to buy and sell overseas in roughly equivalent amounts. Increasingly desperate means will be used by those who think we can continue to have business as usual." ~~~ Robert L. Hickerson ~ in a paper published March 1, 1995.
(c) 2009 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"Heresy is only another word for freedom of thought."
~~~ Graham Greene

The Crooks Get Cash While The Poor Get Screwed
By Chris Hedges

Tearyan Brown became a father when he was 16. He did what a lot of inner-city kids desperate to make money do. He sold drugs. He was arrested and sent to jail three years later for dealing marijuana and PCP on the streets of Trenton, N.J., mostly to white kids driving in from the suburbs. It was a job which saw him robbed at gunpoint and stabbed in the chest. But it made him about $1,400 a week.

Brown, when he got out after three and a half years, was done with street life. He got a job as a security guard and then as a fork lift operator. He eventually made about $30,000 a year. He shepherded his son through high school, then college and a master's degree. His boy, now 24, is a high school teacher in Texas. Brown would not leave the streets of Trenton but his son would. It made him proud. It gave him hope.

And then one morning in 2005 when he was visiting his mother's house the cops showed up. He saw the cruiser and the officers standing on his mother's porch. He hurried down the block toward the home to see what was wrong. What was wrong was him. On the basis of a police photograph, he had been identified by an 82-year-old woman as the man who had robbed her of $9 at gunpoint a few hours earlier. The only other witness to the crime insisted the elderly victim was confused. The witness told the police Brown was innocent. Brown's friends said Brown was with them when the robbery took place.

"Why would I rob a woman for $9," he asks me. "I had been paid the day before. I had not committed a crime in 20 years. It didn't make any sense."

He was again sent to jail. But this time he was charged with armed robbery. If convicted, he would be locked away for many years. His grown son and his three young boys would live, as he had, without the presence of a father. The little ones-11-year-old twins and a 10-year-old-would be adults when he got out. When he met with his state-appointed attorney, the lawyer, like most state-appointed attorneys, pushed for accepting a plea bargain, one that would see him behind bars for at least the next decade. Brown pulled the pictures of his children out of his wallet, laid the pictures carefully on the table in front of the lawyer, looked at the faces of his children and broke down in tears. He shook and sobbed. It was a hard thing to do for a man who stands nearly 6 feet tall and weights 210 pounds and has coped with a lot in his life.

"I didn't do nothing," he choked out to the lawyer.

He refused the plea bargain offer. He sat in jail for the next two years before getting a trial. It was a time of deep despair. Jail had changed since he had last been incarcerated. The facilities were overcrowded, with inmates sleeping in corridors and on the floor. The gangs taunted those who, like Brown, were not affiliated with a gang. Gang members knocked trays of food to the floor. They pissed on mattresses. They stole canteen items and commissary orders. And there was nothing the victims could do about it.

"See this," he says to me in a dimly lit coffee shop in downtown Trenton as he rolls up the right sleeve of his T-shirt. "It's the grim reaper. I got it in jail. I was so scared. I was scared I wouldn't get out this time. I was scared I would not see my kids grow up. They make their own tattoo guns in jail with a toothbrush, a staple and the motor of a Walkman. It cost me $15, well, not really dollars. I had to give him about 10 soups and a package of cigarettes. On the street this would be three or four hundred dollars."

Under the tattoo of the scythe-wielding, hooded figure are the words "Death Awaits."

He had a trial after two years in jail and was found not guilty. The sheriff's deputies in the courtroom said as he was walking out that they "had never seen anything like this." He reaches into his baggy jeans and pulls out his thin brown wallet. He opens it to show me a folded piece of paper. The paper says, "Verdict: Defendant found not guilty on all charges." It is dated Jan. 31, 2008.

But innocence and guilt are funny things in America. If you are rich and guilty, if you have defrauded banks and customers and investment firms of billions of dollars, as AIG or Citibank has, if you wear fancy suits and have degrees from elite universities that cost more per year than Brown used to make, you get taxpayer money. You get lots of it. You maintain the lavish lifestyle of jets and spas and million-dollar bonuses. You live a life of unchecked greed and have too much in a world where most have too little. If you are moral scum in America we take care of you. But if you are poor, if you are, say, Tearyan Brown and African-American and 39 years old with four kids and no job and you live in the inner city, you are in trouble. No one comes to help you. You don't get a second chance. This is what being poor means.

Brown found that life had changed when he got out. He had lost his job as a fork lift operator. And there were no new jobs to be found. He had faithfully paid child support until his arrest but, with no income, he could not pay from jail and now he was being hauled into court by the state every few weeks for being in arrears for $13,000. The mother of his three youngest boys goes to court with him. She explains that he paid regularly while he had work. She explains that when she works on the weekends Brown takes the kids. She asks that he be forgiven until he can get a job and begin paying again. But there are no jobs.

"I would not be in arrears in child support if I had not been incarcerated for something I didn't do," he says. "I will never get above ground owing $13,000. How can I pay $120 a week when I don't have a job?"

Brown lives on $200 a month in food stamps and $40 in cash. Welfare will pay his apartment for another four months. He is barely making it. I ask him what he will do when he loses the rent subsidy.

"I'll be homeless," he says.

"My son says come down to Texas," he adds. "Start a new life with me. But what about my three little boys? I can't leave them. I can't leave them in Trenton. They need a father."

Brown works out every day. He does calisthenics. He is a vegetarian. He volunteers at a food pantry. He attends the Jerusalem Baptist Church with his little boys. "They are church kids," he tells me proudly. "They are pretty much raised by the church."

He is trying to keep himself together. But he lives in a world that is falling apart. The gangs on the streets of Trenton carry Glock 9-millimeter pistols and AK-47 assault rifles. When the Trenton police stop a car or raid a house filled with suspected gang members, they approach with loaded M-16s. A local newspaper, The Trentonian, reports the daily chronicle of crime, decay and neglect. The lead story in the day's paper, which Brown has with him, is about a young man named James Deonte James, whose street name is "Lurch." James was charged in the death of a 13-year-old girl during a gang shooting. He is reputed to be a "five star general in the Sex Money Murder set of the Bloods street gang."

In another story, an ex-con and reputed mobster, Michael "Mickey Rome" Dimattia, was arrested in his car after a woman behind the wheel was seen driving erratically. "Mickey Rome," dressed in a black bathrobe with a red scarf around his neck, was found to be wearing a bulletproof vest, with three guns stuck in his waistband, and had a crack pipe, crack cocaine and prescription pills in his pockets. He had been convicted in 1990 of killing a 17-year-old boy with a shotgun blast to the head. He served less than three years for the murder.

A feature story on Page 4 of the paper is about a man with AIDS who raped his girlfriend's son 55 times and infected the boy with the virus. The boy was 9 when the rapes took place.

"There are thousands more guns out there than when I was on the street," Brown says. "It is easier to buy a gun than get liquor from a liquor store."

He says he rarely goes out at night, even to the corner store. It is too dangerous.

The desperation is palpable. People don't know where to turn. Benefits are running out. More and more people are out of work.

"You see things getting worse and worse," he says. "You see people who wonder how they are going to eat and take care of themselves and their kids. You see people starting to do anything to get food, to hustle or rob, to go back to doing things they do not want to do. Good people start doin' bad things. People are getting eviler."

He pauses.

"All things are better with God," he says softly, looking down at the tabletop.

He is reading a book about the Bible. It is about Jesus and God. It is about learning to trust in God's help. In America that is about all the poor have left. And when God fails them, they are on their own.
(c) 2009 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.

Letter From An Israeli Jail
By Cynthia McKinney

Original audio message available here.

This is Cynthia McKinney and I'm speaking from an Israeli prison cellblock in Ramle. [I am one of] the Free Gaza 21, human rights activists currently imprisoned for trying to take medical supplies to Gaza, building supplies - and even crayons for children, I had a suitcase full of crayons for children. While we were on our way to Gaza the Israelis threatened to fire on our boat, but we did not turn around. The Israelis high-jacked and arrested us because we wanted to give crayons to the children in Gaza. We have been detained, and we want the people of the world to see how we have been treated just because we wanted to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.

At the outbreak of Israel's Operation 'Cast Lead' [in December 2008], I boarded a Free Gaza boat with one day's notice and tried, as the US representative in a multi-national delegation, to deliver 3 tons of medical supplies to an already besieged and ravaged Gaza.

During Operation Cast Lead, U.S.-supplied F-16's rained hellfire on a trapped people. Ethnic cleansing became full scale outright genocide. U.S.-supplied white phosphorus, depleted uranium, robotic technology, DIME weapons, and cluster bombs - new weapons creating injuries never treated before by Jordanian and Norwegian doctors. I was later told by doctors who were there in Gaza during Israel's onslaught that Gaza had become Israel's veritable weapons testing laboratory, people used to test and improve the kill ratio of their weapons.

The world saw Israel's despicable violence thanks to al-Jazeera Arabic and Press TV that broadcast in English. I saw those broadcasts live and around the clock, not from the USA but from Lebanon, where my first attempt to get into Gaza had ended because the Israeli military rammed the boat I was on in international water ... It's a miracle that I'm even here to write about my second encounter with the Israeli military, again a humanitarian mission aborted by the Israeli military.

The Israeli authorities have tried to get us to confess that we committed a crime ... I am now known as Israeli prisoner number 88794. How can I be in prison for collecting crayons to kids?

Zionism has surely run out of its last legitimacy if this is what it does to people who believe so deeply in human rights for all that they put their own lives on the line for someone else's children. Israel is the fullest expression of Zionism, but if Israel fears for its security because Gaza's children have crayons then not only has Israel lost its last shred of legitimacy, but Israel must be declared a failed state.

I am facing deportation from the state that brought me here at gunpoint after commandeering our boat. I was brought to Israel against my will. I am being held in this prison because I had a dream that Gaza's children could color & paint, that Gaza's wounded could be healed, and that Gaza's bombed-out houses could be rebuilt.

But I've learned an interesting thing by being inside this prison. First of all, it's incredibly black: populated mostly by Ethiopians who also had a dream ... like my cellmates, one who is pregnant. They are all are in their twenties. They thought they were coming to the Holy Land. They had a dream that their lives would be better ... The once proud, never colonized Ethiopia [has been thrown into] the back pocket of the United States, and become a place of torture, rendition, and occupation. Ethiopians must free their country because superpower politics [have] become more important than human rights and self-determination.

My cellmates came to the Holy Land so they could be free from the exigencies of superpower politics. They committed no crime except to have a dream. They came to Israel because they thought that Israel held promise for them. Their journey to Israel through Sudan and Egypt was arduous. I can only imagine what it must have been like for them. And it wasn't cheap. Many of them represent their family's best collective efforts for self-fulfilment. They made their way to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. They got their yellow paper of identification. They got their certificate for police protection. They are refugees from tragedy, and they made it to Israel only after they arrived Israel told them "there is no UN in Israel."

The police here have license to pick them up & suck them into the black hole of a farce for a justice system. These beautiful, industrious and proud women represent the hopes of entire families. The idea of Israel tricked them and the rest of us. In a widely propagandized slick marketing campaign, Israel represented itself as a place of refuge and safety for the world's first Jews and Christian. I too believed that marketing and failed to look deeper.

The truth is that Israel lied to the world. Israel lied to the families of these young women. Israel lied to the women themselves who are now trapped in Ramle's detention facility. And what are we to do? One of my cellmates cried today. She has been here for 6 months. As an American, crying with them is not enough. The policy of the United States must be better, and while we watch President Obama give 12.8 trillion dollars to the financial elite of the United States it ought now be clear that hope, change, and 'yes we can' were powerfully presented images of dignity and self-fulfilment, individually and nationally, that besieged people everywhere truly believed in.

It was a slick marketing campaign as slickly put to the world and to the voters of America as was Israel's marketing to the world. It tricked all of us but, more tragically, these young women.

We must cast an informed vote about better candidates seeking to represent us. I have read and re-read Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's letter from a Birmingham jail. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined that I too would one day have to do so. It is clear that taxpayers in Europe and the U.S. have a lot to atone for, for what they've done to others around the world.

What an irony! My son begins his law school program without me because I am in prison, in my own way trying to do my best, again, for other people's children. Forgive me, my son. I guess I'm experiencing the harsh reality which is why people need dreams. [But] I'm lucky. I will leave this place. Has Israel become the place where dreams die?

Ask the people of Palestine. Ask the stream of black and Asian men whom I see being processed at Ramle. Ask the women on my cellblock. [Ask yourself:] what are you willing to do?

Let's change the world together & reclaim what we all need as human beings: Dignity. I appeal to the United Nations to get these women of Ramle, who have done nothing wrong other than to believe in Israel as the guardian of the Holy Land, resettled in safe homes. I appeal to the United State's Department of State to include the plight of detained UNHCR-certified refugees in the Israel country report in its annual human rights report. I appeal once again to President Obama to go to Gaza: send your special envoy, George Mitchell there, and to engage Hamas as the elected choice of the Palestinian people.

I dedicate this message to those who struggle to achieve a free Palestine, and to the women I've met at Ramle. This is Cynthia McKinney, July 2nd 2009, also known as Ramle prisoner number 88794.

Update: Well, all I can say is "Thank you!" Your calls, faxes, protests, and prayers all made a huge difference and helped to secure our protection and our release. I would also like to thank those at the Tel Aviv Embassy for their work on behalf of the three U.S. citizens held by the Israelis. For those of you who missed it, here is the statement I put out from the Israeli prison. Please forgive the undone, but needed edits. I have tried twice, now, to get into Gaza. I just got off the phone with George Galloway who extended a personal invitation to me to join him and the US convoy in Viva Palestina! I'm certainly excited about that. Maybe I will finally make it to Gaza.
(c) 2009 Cynthia McKinney is a former U.S. Congresswoman, Green Party presidential candidate, and an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice. The first African-American woman to represent the state of Georgia, McKinney served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1993-2003, and from 2005-2007. She was arrested and forcibly abducted to Israel while attempting to take humanitarian and reconstruction supplies to Gaza on June 30th. For more information, please see Free Gaza.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Vize-Fuhrer Biden,

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

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

Along with this award you will be given the The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 08-29-2009. We salute you Herr Biden, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Deputy Fuhrer Clinton

Heil Obama

The NYT Calls Iranian Interrogation Tactics "Torture"
By Glenn Greenwald

Today is the ideal day to celebrate America's specialness, and America's paper of record inspirationally leads the ritual:

Clark Hoyt, New York Times Public Editor, April 26, 2009:

A LINGUISTIC shift took place in this newspaper as it reported the details of how the Central Intelligence Agency was allowed to strip Al Qaeda prisoners naked, bash them against walls, keep them awake for up to 11 straight days, sometimes with their arms chained to the ceiling, confine them in dark boxes and make them feel as if they were drowning.

Until this month, what the Bush administration called "enhanced" interrogation techniques were "harsh" techniques in the news pages of The Times. Increasingly, they are "brutal". . . . .

The word had appeared a few times before in this context, most recently on April 10, when the Central Intelligence Agency said it was closing the network of secret overseas prisons where interrogations took place. Scott Shane, who covers national security, said he and his editor in the Washington bureau, Douglas Jehl, negotiated over the wording of the first paragraph. Shane wrote that methods used in the prisons were "widely denounced as illegal torture." Jehl changed that to the "harshest interrogation methods" since the Sept. 11 attacks. Shane said he felt that with more information coming to light, including a leaked report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the words harsh and even harshest no longer sufficed. He proposed brutal, and Jehl agreed. . . .

And why not, then, go all the way to torture? Jehl said that when the paper is discussing what is generally regarded as the most extreme interrogation method the C.I.A. used, waterboarding, "we've become more explicit in saying in a first reference that it's a near-drowning technique" that Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and many other experts "have called torture." But he said: "I have resisted using torture without qualification or to describe all the techniques. Exactly what constitutes torture continues to be a matter of debate and hasn't been resolved by a court. This president and this attorney general say waterboarding is torture, but the previous president and attorney general said it is not. On what basis should a newspaper render its own verdict, short of charges being filed or a legal judgment rendered?" Jehl argued for precision and caution. I agree.

The New York Times today:

Top Reformers Admitted Plot, Iran Declares

CAIRO -- Iranian leaders say they have obtained confessions from top reformist officials that they plotted to bring down the government with a "velvet" revolution. Such confessions, almost always extracted under duress, are part of an effort to recast the civil unrest set off by Iran's disputed presidential election as a conspiracy orchestrated by foreign nations, human rights groups say. . . .

The government has made it a practice to publicize confessions from political prisoners held without charge or legal representation, often subjected to pressure tactics like sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and torture, according to human rights groups and former political prisoners. . . .

In 2001, Ali Afshari was arrested for his work as a student leader. He said he was held in solitary confinement for 335 days and resisted confessing for the first two months. But after two mock executions and a five-day stretch where his interrogators would not let him sleep, he said he eventually caved in.

"They tortured me, some beatings, sleep deprivation, insults, psychological torture, standing me for several hours in front of a wall, keeping me in solitary confinement for one year," Mr. Afshari said in an interview from his home in Washington. "They eventually broke my resistance."

Virtually every tactic which the article describes the Iranians as using has been used by the U.S. during the War on Terror, while several tactics authorized by Bush officials (waterboarding, placing detainees in coffin-like boxes, hypothermia) aren't among those the article claims are used by the Iranians. Nonetheless, "torture" appears to be a perfectly fine term for The New York Times to use to describe what the Iranians do, but one that is explicitly banned to describe what the U.S. did. Despite its claimed policy, the NYT has also recently demonstrated its eagerness to use the word "torture" to describe these same tactics . . . when used by the Chinese against an American detainee.

Notably, the NYT article today seems to take particular offense that the Iranian Government is putting people on trial using confessions they obtained via torture ("the government planned to put on trial several Iranian employees of the British Embassy - after confessions were extracted"). Just two days ago, The Washington Post reported:

The American Civil Liberties Union yesterday accused the Obama administration of using statements elicited through torture to justify the confinement of a detainee it represents at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The ACLU is asking a federal judge to throw out those statements and others made by Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan who may have been as young as 12 when he was captured. His attorney argued that Jawad was abused in U.S. custody, threatened and subjected to intense sleep deprivation.

"The government's continued reliance on evidence gained by torture and other abuse violates centuries of U.S. law and suggests the current administration is not really serious about breaking with the past," said ACLU lawyer Jonathan Hafetz, who is representing Jawad in a lawsuit challenging his detention."The government's continued reliance on evidence gained by torture and other abuse violates centuries of U.S. law and suggests the current administration is not really serious about breaking with the past," said ACLU lawyer Jonathan Hafetz, who is representing Jawad in a lawsuit challenging his detention.

Just read the details of what we did to this adolescent to marvel at what the NYT (and, of course, NPR) refuse to call "torture" when done by us. Though the human rights abuses of the Iranian Government are well-documented and severe, there's also no mention in the NYT article of these interrogation tactics being applied by Iran to teenagers (such as Jawad) or resulting in numerous detainee deaths (as happened during the Bush era).

During the presidential campaign, Rudy Giuliani was widely ridiculed for arguing that whether these tactics are "torture" depends, at least in part, on who uses them (it's torture if They do it, but not when We do it). But he could take that definitive moral relativism to any leading American newspaper, become an Editor, and fit right in, since that's exactly the editorial policy of our leading media outlets. What's most striking about all this media behavior is that people around the world -- outside of the U.S. -- aren't fooled by these sorts of blatant double standards, whereby the U.S. even claims the power to change the meaning of words based on whether it or another country is doing something. The target of this government and media behavior is purely domestic.

It's not particularly unusual for a government to permit itself to do something that it prohibits others from doing. The U.S. is hardly the only country that does that. But when that country's media collectively abets that government effort by molding its language to reflect that exceptionalism, it elevates the propaganda to a much different level. When I documented the American media's obsession with journalists detained by other countries and its virtually complete blackout of much, much longer (and often more oppressive) detentions of foreign journalists by the U.S., that was the central point I tried to emphasize:

Pointing to other governments and highlighting their oppressive behavior can be cathartic, fun and gratifying in a self-justifying sort of way. Ask Fred Hiatt; it's virtually all he ever does. But the first duty of the American media -- like the first duty of American citizens -- is to oppose oppressive behavior by our own government. That's not as fun or as easy, but it is far more important. Moreover, obsessively complaining about the rights-abridging behavior of other countries while ignoring the same behavior from our own government is worse than a mere failure of duty. It is propagandistic and deceitful, as it paints a misleading picture that it is other governments -- but not our own -- which engage in such conduct.

Since the American Government has acted -- and continues to act -- overtly to protect and shield those who engaged in this conduct, will it condemn Iran for torturing detainees? As for The New York Times, at this point, they don't even seem interested in pretending that they make these editorial judgments independently or with a pretense of objectivity. They're perfectly happy to have you know that when the U.S. Government does X, it is called one thing, but when foreign governments do X, it is called something else entirely.


Meditations On Freedom: Refugee Finds Peace In U.S.

Musa Saidykhan had been a reporter in his home country of Gambia for more than a decade when he was arrested and later tortured by government officials. Following Saidykhan's imprisonment, he fled the country with his family and now lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Saidykhan explains how he will commemorate freedom on this, his first, Independence Day in the U.S.

All the impediments that prevent American media organizations from using the word "torture" certainly do evaporate quickly when it comes to other countries.
(c) 2009 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

McNamara's Evil Lives On
By Robert Scheer

Why not speak ill of the dead?

Robert McNamara, who died this week, was a complex man-charming even, in a blustery way, and someone I found quite thoughtful when I interviewed him. In the third act of his life he was often an advocate for enlightened positions on world poverty and the dangers of the nuclear arms race. But whatever his better nature, it was the stark evil he perpetrated as secretary of defense that must indelibly frame our memory of him.

To not speak out fully because of respect for the deceased would be to mock the memory of the millions of innocent people McNamara caused to be maimed and killed in a war that he later freely admitted never made any sense. Much has been made of the fact that he recanted his support for the war, but that came 20 years after the holocaust he visited upon Vietnam was over.

Is holocaust too emotionally charged a word? How many millions of dead innocent civilians does it take to qualify labels like holocaust, genocide or terrorism? How many of the limbless victims of his fragmentation bombs and land mines whom I saw in Vietnam during and after the war? Or are America's leaders always to be exempted from such questions? Perhaps if McNamara had been held legally accountable for his actions, the architects of the Iraq debacle might have paused.

Instead, McNamara was honored with the Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson, to whom he had written a private memo nine months earlier offering this assessment of their Vietnam carnage: "The picture of the world's greatest superpower killing or seriously injuring 1,000 noncombatants a week, while trying to pound a tiny backward nation into submission on an issue whose merits are hotly disputed, is not a pretty one."

He knew it then, and, give him this, the dimensions of that horror never left him. When I interviewed him for the Los Angeles Times in 1995, after the publication of his confessional memoir, his assessment of the madness he had unleashed was all too clear:

"Look, we dropped three to four times the tonnage on that tiny little area as were dropped by the Allies in all of the theaters in World War II over a period of five years. It was unbelievable. We killed-there were killed-3,200,000 Vietnamese, excluding the South Vietnamese military. My God! The killing, the tonnage-it was fantastic. The problem was that we were trying to do something that was militarily impossible-we were trying to break the will; I don't think we can break the will by bombing short of genocide."

We-no, he-couldn't break their will because their fight was for national independence. They had defeated the French and would defeat the Americans who took over when French colonialists gave up the ghost. The war was a lie from the first. It never had anything to do with the freedom of the Vietnamese (we installed one tyrant after another in power), but instead had to do with our irrational Cold War obsession with "international communism." Irrational, as President Richard Nixon acknowledged when he embraced détente with the Soviet communists, toasted China's fierce communist Mao Tse-tung and then escalated the war against "communist" Vietnam and neutral Cambodia.

It was always a lie and our leaders knew it, but that did not give them pause. Both Johnson and Nixon make it quite clear on their White House tapes that the mindless killing, McNamara's infamous body count, was about domestic politics and never security.

The lies are clearly revealed in the Pentagon Papers study that McNamara commissioned, but they were made public only through the bravery of Daniel Ellsberg. Yet when Ellsberg, a former Marine who had worked for McNamara in the Pentagon, was in the docket facing the full wrath of Nixon's Justice Department, McNamara would lift not a finger in his defense. Worse, as Ellsberg reminded me this week, McNamara threatened that if subpoenaed to testify at the trial by Ellsberg's defense team, "I would hurt your client badly."

Not as badly as those he killed or severely wounded. Not as badly as the almost 59,000 American soldiers killed and the many more horribly hurt. One of them was the writer and activist Ron Kovic, who as a kid from Long Island was seduced by McNamara's lies into volunteering for two tours in Vietnam. Eventually, struggling with his mostly paralyzed body, he spoke out against the war in the hope that others would not have to suffer as he did (and still does). Meanwhile, McNamara maintained his golden silence, even as Richard Nixon managed to kill and maim millions more. What McNamara did was evil-deeply so.
(c) 2009 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Nate Beeler ~~~

Jesus and her Gospel of Yes trailer

To End On A Happy Note...

By Jimi Hendrix

Hurray I awake from yesterday
Alive but the war is here to stay
So my love Catherina and me
Decide to take our last walk thru the noise to the sea
Not to die but to be reborn
Away from the lands so battred and torn
Forever forever

Oh say can you see it's really such a mess
Every inch of earth is a fighting nest
Giant pencil and lipstick-tube shaped things
Continue to rain and cause screamin' pain
And the arctic stains from silver blue to bloody red
As our feet find the sand
And the sea is straight ahead
Straight up ahead

Well it's too bad that our friends can't be with us today
Well it's too bad
The machine that we built
Would never save us that's what they say
(That's why they ain't comin' with us today)
And they also said it's impossible
For a man to live and breathe underwater
Forever was a main complaint
Yeah and they also threw this in my face they said
Anyway you know good and well
It would be beyond the will of god
And the grace of the king
Grace of the king

So my darling and I make love in the sand
To salute the last moment ever on dry land
Our machine it has done its work played its part well
Without a scratch on our body when we bid it farewell
Starfish and giant foams greet us with a smile
Before our heads go under we take our last look at the killing noise
Of the out of style
The out of style out of style oh yeah

So down and down and down and down and down and down we go
Hurry my darlin' we mustn't be, late for the show
Neptune champion games to an aqua world is so my dear
Right this way smiles a mermaid
I can hear Atlantis full of cheer
Atlantis full of cheer
I can hear Atlantis full of cheer
Oh yeah
(c) 1967/2009 Jimi Hendrix

Have You Seen This...

The Asterisk President by Ted Rall

Parting Shots...

Comedians Mourn Palin's Resignation
Candlelight Vigils Held
By Andy Borowitz

Moments after Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announced her resignation from office, comedians from coast to coast held candlelight vigils to mourn what one comic called "a devastating loss."

"To say that we are heartbroken is a massive understatement," said Shecky Sheinbaum, a regular headliner at Cincinnati's Laugh Hut. "I feel like the chicken crossing the road has been run over by a truck before it gets to the other side."

Mr. Sheinbaum echoed the words of many comics when he said "the world of comedy has lost one of its greatest targets."

"We have gone though a rough couple of weeks," he said. "First Michael Jackson, now this."
(c) 2009 Andy Borowitz

The Gross National Debt

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Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 26 (c) 07/10/2009

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