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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky reports, "In Israel, A Tsunami Warning."

Uri Avnery exclaims, "It Can Happen Here!"

David Sirota explains, "Why Americans Can't Afford To Eat Healthy."

David Swanson explores why, "Prisoners Have Nothing To Gain By Eating."

Jim Hightower finds, "Michigan Locals Fight For Democracy."

Helen Thomas studies, "The Neo-Con Aftermath."

James Donahue discovers, "Secret Vows Controlling GOP Mindset."

Bernie Sanders with an absolute MUST read, "Congrats To The Gang Of Six, The Powerful, The Wealthy, And Multinational Corporations."

Chris Floyd sees, "The Needle And The Damage Done."

Ray McGovern receives a badge of honor in, "Neocons Fume Over US Boat To Gaza."

Paul Krugman says Obama is, "Letting Bankers Walk."

Chris Hedges examines, "America's Disappeared."

Dean Baker considers, "President Obama's Big Deal."

Nevada Sin-ator Harry Reid wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

John Nichols concludes, "Rupert Murdoch Has Gamed American Politics Every Bit As Thoroughly As Britain's."

Phil Rockstroh laments, "The Arts Of Life They Changed Into The Arts Of Death."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion announces, "U.S. Quietly Slips Out Of Afghanistan In Dead Of Night" but first, Uncle Ernie warns of, "The Gang Of Six."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jeff Stahler, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Dees Illustration.Com, R.J. Matson, John Darkow, RS.Janes, LT Saloon.Org, Armchair Patriots, WTRV.Com, No Sheeples Here.Blogspot.Com, The Onion, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

The Gang Of Six
By Ernest Stewart

"I want to congratulate the Gang of Six for coming up with a plan I think is balanced ... I think we're in same playing field." ~~~ President Barack Obama

Oh Brave New World
Brave New World ~~~ Aldous Huxley.

"People generally will look at it and go, 'That means taking people out of the services.' Not necessarily.
You may just shift the balance of the services from active to Guard or reserve or to - the dirty word - a draft!"
~~~ Marine Gen. James "Hoss" Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs ~~~

"The willingness to share does not make one charitable; it makes one free." ~~~ Robert Brault

Well, apparently Obamahood is standing by to sign his name on a Bill that will all but destroy Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This new balanced budget amendment will balance itself on the backs of the poor, the hungry, the sick, the elderly, and the working class -- while giving the rich, steady... wait for it... wait for it... another f*cking tax break!

Yes, the so-called "Gang of Six" is made up of both fascist Demoncrats and Rethuglicans, and they have a plan that screws the bottom half -- while making the insanely-rich even richer. Is anyone really surprised by this? I'm not surprised; but I am madder than hell, how about you?

One lone voice in the Sin-ate opposed this outrage and stood against it and began a filibuster which was quickly suppressed by Harry Reid -- again not surprising. Bernie Sanders was that one voice of sanity that Reid squelched.

The Gang of Six are Rethuglican Con-gressman John Boner, Sin-ators Lamar Alexander and Tom Coburn, the Demoncrats are Con-gressman Mark Udall and Sin-ators Dick Durbin and Harry Reid and suddenly Tom Coburn is catching a case of cold feet, after no doubt hearing from the folks back home. This is a bi-sexual, bi-partisan plan to steal trillions from you and give it to the rich. Of course, Obamahood has been smirking and rubbing his hands together in anticipation of this gigantic rip-off. (And when he tries to defend this outrage, I bet he says he did it because it was the best deal he could get. That should set those deja vu bells a ringing!)

Barry has already gotten rid of Elizabeth Warren for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as his bankster puppet masters wanted and replaced her with another Wall Street goon, Richard Cordray. Ergo, not a single, nary a one, zip, zilch, zero liberals have been appointed by Barry after riding to the White House on a liberal groundswell. I know the Sheeple are incredibly dumb; but are they dumb enough to elect Barry to a second term? Well, of course, they are! However, there're fifty million old folks that are just starting to get mad as Hell, and are rising as one to remind our politicians what happens to those who steal from Social Security -- a program that has absolutely nothing to do with the deficit! A program which pays for itself with the Social Security taxes and has nothing to do with this debacle, but will no doubt be looted by this gang of pirates -- to try to sate the unquenchable desire for even more money by our corpo-rat masters.

Is there anyone up for a Third American Revolution, America? Does anyone know where we can lay our hands on about one hundred guillotines? Oh, and how about getting behind a candidacy of Bernie Sanders for President in 2012? He's certainly got my vote!

In Other News

So, how do you climate deniers like the way 2011 is turning out? After 2010 being the hottest year on record comes record tornados, record floods, a heat wave from north to south with parts of the south in three digits for over three weeks, and the north breaking records for heat and humidity. Yes, don't believe your lying eyes, America. Don't believe all those learned men, the science experts and all their undeniable truth. Just keep believing what the nice talking heads on Fox Spews say, or that corpo-rat stooge from the oil, gas and coal corpo-rats, or what that government spin master tells you!

It must be hard to be Oklahoma Sinator -- and national laughing stock -- James Inhofe. James is America's "Global Warming Denier General. After three weeks of temperatures in the triple digits, I wonder what the folks in Tulsa have to say to James on that subject? Can James and the other hardcore deniers be that stupid? Well, of course, they can; but that's not to say that the corpo-rat bag men haven't bought the "Best Congress that money can buy" to deny the obvious truth!

Let's not forget that a new dust bowl is rearing its ugly head over the Southwest -- the last ones, you may recall, were a calling card of the "Great" Depression! Have you seen those dust clouds blacking out part of Arizona, or the huge fires that are burning all across the Southwest and almost burned most of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to the ground? Global Warming is turning vast new areas into desert with severe droughts which are lasting for years, and all that rain is falling elsewhere making floods. With huge tracts of farm lands being destroyed, what are you going to eat if the crops keep failing?

For years, scientists have told us that as the planet warms up, we can expect changes in whole patterns of weather and in trends like how much moisture the atmosphere will hold. Global warming causes more and heavier snowstorms -- that's what happens when there's more moisture in the air in the winter. Some places will get dryer, others wetter, and others hotter. In its "2010 State of the Climate Report," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration traced some 41 indicators showing that "broad shifts and individual extreme events that have occurred over the past year are indeed consistent with scientists' predictions of a warmer world."

You can follow the unbelievers to the hell that they surely have waiting for you and your descendants for decades or centuries to come and face an early death for all, or you can cowboy up and face "An Inconvenient Truth." A coward dies a thousand deaths; a brave man dies but once!

And Finally

I see that our military is now threatening our children if we don't keep them fully funded.

Marine Gen. James "Hoss" Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, offered a timeline for how deep cuts will affect the force during the next decade, including big reductions in operational budgets, slashing the size of the active-duty force and even scaling back entitlements such as retirement and health care, according to the Military Times newspapers.

The Pentagoons are considering massive changes to the force - including a draft - amid fears that new and far deeper budget cuts are looming just over the horizon, a top military official said Thursday.

You got that right, America; if they shrink in size then they won't be able to attract enough recruits even though with a much larger all-volunteer military they won't have to draft to fill it up!

Uh, huh, I'll let Hoss's logic sink in for a while... and I'll repeat that equation again for those of you on drugs.

The good general's math states that "one and one equals 711!"

Should our military be threatening our children as a way to keep their budget-breaking funds intact? I wonder what the Pentagoons will do next to keep their power flowing? This is, however, the essence of the military mind -- somehow "Hoss" has risen to the rank of a four-star general with that logic. With logic like that, it's easy to see why we can't beat a backward, bombed-back-to-the-stone-age resistance in almost three times as long as it took us to win against three first-class armies in WW II!

Truth is, we need less than half of our current military, especially if we stop our current (and committed no more) war crimes for oil. We have more nukes that the entire world combined has, so we could certainly do without half of the navy. Keep all the very new boats and no more than six carrier battle groups - half the the attack and boomer submarines - keep the new - mothball the rest. Do we really need those 60 year-old B-52s? Not really. Do we need over 800 military bases? Not at all. For what we spend on the military for a single week, we could build new schools all over America. New bridges and desperately-needed infrastructure could be built coast-to-coast with another week's military cost. Etc., etc., etc! The cost of rounding-up Osama could have been the cost of plane tickets, had we promised to give him a fair trial -- not over $4 trillion and counting, not to mention the mass murder that we've committed, destruction of whole countries and the deaths and wounding of tens of thousands of our children! Did I factor in the destruction of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

Keepin' On

It's coming on down to it again, folks; but thanks to some of you we're almost there for this bill cycle, i.e., the bills due on August first. Thanks to Ernie from Ontario, Teri from Toronto, Dr. Phil and the mysterious "Mr. Jack" from Manassas, we're within $200 of our goal!

We would've had enough money for this one had we not had to spend the money we had saved for this bill on paying off June's bill, cest la vie, or, as Meatloaf once sang, "It's always something!" From what I can tell, most all of the independent liberal sites are in the same boat. The only ones thriving are the corpo-rat funded sites, which often change direction at the drop of a dime; literally, ask our former columnist Arianna how that works! Most of these sites still back Obama to the hilt, turning their backs on what they used to whine to high heaven about when "Old dead-eye Dick" and "Smirky" did the exact same things that Obamahood does.

Some defended themselves saying so-and-so hates everybody! So? What is wrong with that? That pretty much describes yours truly, does it not? We're against anyone who isn't working solely for the people. If you have a corpo-rat master, then we're going to write it on the wall, so be forewarned. If you like our no-holds-barred intellectual reporting style and want see it continue, please help us if you can.


03-12-1917 ~ 07-15-2011
Thanks for the film noir!


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


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

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

In Israel, A Tsunami Warning
By Noam Chomsky

In May, in a closed meeting of many of Israel's business leaders, Idan Ofer, a holding-company magnate, warned, "We are quickly turning into South Africa. The economic blow of sanctions will be felt by every family in Israel."

The business leaders' particular concern was the U.N. General Assembly session this September, where the Palestinian Authority is planning to call for recognition of a Palestinian state.

Dan Gillerman, Israel's former ambassador to the United Nations, warned participants that "the morning after the anticipated announcement of recognition of a Palestinian state, a painful and dramatic process of Southafricanization will begin" -- meaning that Israel would become a pariah state, subject to international sanctions.

In this and subsequent meetings, the oligarchs urged the government to initiate efforts modeled on the Saudi (Arab League) proposals and the unofficial Geneva Accord of 2003, in which high-level Palestinian and Israeli negotiators detailed a two-state settlement that was welcomed by most of the world, dismissed by Israel and ignored by Washington.

In March, Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned of the prospective U.N. action as a "tsunami." The fear is that the world will condemn Israel not only for violating international law but also for carrying out its criminal acts in an occupied state recognized by the U.N.

The U.S. and Israel are waging intensive diplomatic campaigns to head off the tsunami. If they fail, recognition of a Palestinian state is likely.

More than 100 states already recognize Palestine. The United Kingdom, France and other European nations have upgraded the Palestine General Delegation to "diplomatic missions and embassies -- a status normally reserved only for states," Victor Kattan observes in the American Journal of International Law.

Palestine has also been admitted to U.N. organizations apart from UNESCO and the World Health Organization, which have avoided the issue for fear of U.S. defunding -- no idle threat.

In June the U.S. Senate passed a resolution threatening to suspend aid for the Palestine Authority if it persists with its U.N. initiative. Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., warned that there was "no greater threat" to U.S. funding of the U.N. "than the prospect of Palestinian statehood being endorsed by member states," The (London) Daily Telegraph reports. Israel's new U.N. Ambassador, Ron Prosor, informed the Israeli press that U.N. recognition "would lead to violence and war."

The U.N. would presumably recognize Palestine in the internationally accepted borders, including the Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza. The heights were annexed by Israel in December 1981, in violation of U.N. Security Council orders.

In the West Bank, the settlements and acts to support them are clearly in violation of international law, as affirmed by the World Court and the Security Council.

In February 2006, the U.S. and Israel imposed a siege in Gaza after the "wrong side" -- Hamas -- won elections in Palestine, recognized as free and fair. The siege became much harsher in June 2007 after the failure of a U.S.-backed military coup to overthrow the elected government.

In June 2010, the siege of Gaza was condemned by the International Committee of the Red Cross -- which rarely issues such reports -- as "collective punishment imposed in clear violation" of international humanitarian law. The BBC reported that the ICRC "paints a bleak picture of conditions in Gaza: hospitals short of equipment, power cuts lasting hours each day, drinking water unfit for consumption," and the population of course imprisoned.

The criminal siege extends the U.S.-Israeli policy since 1991 of separating Gaza from the West Bank, thus ensuring that any eventual Palestinian state would be effectively contained within hostile powers -- Israel and the Jordanian dictatorship. The Oslo Accords, signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1993, proscribe separating Gaza from the West Bank.

A more immediate threat facing U.S.-Israeli rejectionism is the Freedom Flotilla that seeks to challenge the blockade of Gaza by bringing letters and humanitarian aid. In May 2010, the last such attempt led to an attack by Israeli commandoes in international waters -- a major crime in itself -- in which nine passengers were killed, actions bitterly condemned outside the U.S.

In Israel, most people convinced themselves that the commandoes were the innocent victims, attacked by passengers, another sign of the self-destructive irrationality sweeping the society.

Today the U.S. and Israel are vigorously seeking to block the flotilla. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton virtually authorized violence, stating that "Israelis have the right to defend themselves" if flotillas "try to provoke action by entering into Israeli waters" -- that is, the territorial waters of Gaza, as if Gaza belonged to Israel.

Greece agreed to prevent the boats from leaving (that is, those boats not already sabotaged) -- though, unlike Clinton, Greece referred rightly to "the maritime area of Gaza."

In January 2009, Greece had distinguished itself by refusing to permit U.S. arms to be shipped to Israel from Greek ports during the vicious U.S.-Israeli assault in Gaza. No longer an independent country in its current financial duress, Greece evidently cannot risk such unusual integrity.

Asked whether the flotilla is a "provocation," Chris Gunness, the spokesperson for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the major aid agency for Gaza, described the situation as desperate: "If there were no humanitarian crisis, if there weren't a crisis in almost every aspect of life in Gaza there would be no need for the flotilla. 95 percent of all water in Gaza is undrinkable, 40 percent of all disease is water-borne … 45.2 percent of the labor force is unemployed, 80 percent aid dependency, a tripling of the abject poor since the start of the blockade. Let's get rid of this blockade and there would be no need for a flotilla."

Diplomatic initiatives such as the Palestinian state strategy, and nonviolent actions generally, threaten those who hold a virtual monopoly on violence. The U.S. and Israel are trying to sustain indefensible positions: the occupation and its subversion of the overwhelming, long-standing consensus on a diplomatic settlement.
(c) 2011 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is

It Can Happen Here!
By Uri Avnery

YEARS AGO I said that there are but two miracles in Israel: the Hebrew language and democracy.

Hebrew had been a dead language for many generations, more or less like Latin, when it was still used in the Catholic church. Then, suddenly, concurrent with the emergence of Zionism (but independently) it sprang back to life. This never happened to any other language.

Theodor Herzl laughed at the idea that Jews in Palestine would speak Hebrew. He wanted us to speak German. "Are they going to ask for a railway ticket in Hebrew?" he scoffed.

Well, we now buy airline tickets in Hebrew. We read the Bible in its Hebrew original and enjoy it tremendously. As Abba Eban once said, if King David were to come to life in Jerusalem today, he could understand the language spoken in the street. Though with some difficulty, because our language gets corrupted, like most other languages.

Anyhow, the position of Hebrew is secure. Babies and Nobel Prize laureates speak it.

The fate of the other miracle is far less assured.

THE FUTURE - indeed, the present - of Israeli democracy is shrouded in doubt.

It is a miracle, because it did not grow slowly over generations, like Anglo-Saxon democracy. There was no democracy in the Jewish shtetl. Neither is there anything like it in Jewish religious tradition. But the Zionist Founding Fathers, mostly West and Central European Jews, aspired to the highest social ideals of their time.

I have always warned that our democracy has very shallow and tender roots, and needs our constant care. Where did the Jews who founded Israel, and who came here thereafter, grow up? Under the dictatorship of the British High Commissioner, the Russian Czar, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, the king of Morocco, Pilsudsky's Poland and similar regimes. Those of us who came from democratic countries like Weimar Germany or the US were a tiny minority.

Yet the founders of Israel succeeded in establishing a vibrant democracy that - at least until 1967 - was in no way inferior, and in some ways superior, to the British or American models. We were proud of it, and the world admired it. The appellation "the Only Democracy in the Middle East" was not a hollow propaganda slogan.

Some claim that with the occupation of the Palestinian territories, which have lived since 1967 under a harsh military regime without the slightest trace of democracy and human rights, this situation already came to an end. Whatever one thinks about that, in fact Israel in its pre-1967 borders maintained a reasonable record until recently. For the ordinary citizen, democracy was still a fact of life. Even Arab citizens enjoyed democratic rights far superior to anything in the Arab world.

This week, all this was put in doubt. Some say that this doubt has now been dispersed, and that a stark reality is being exposed.

CHARLES BOYCOTT, the agent of a British landowner in Ireland, could never have imagined that he would play a role in a country called Israel 130 years after his name had become a world-wide symbol.

Captain Boycott evicted Irish tenants, who defaulted on their rent because of desperate economic straits. The Irish reacted with a new weapon: no one would speak with him, work for him, buy from him. His name became synonymous with this kind of non-violent action.

The method itself was born even earlier. The list is long. Among others: in 1830 the "negroes" in the US declared a "boycott" of slave-produced products. The later Civil Rights movement started with a boycott of the Montgomery bus company that seated blacks and whites separately. During the American Revolution, the insurgents declared a boycott on British goods. So did Mahatma Gandhi in India.

American Jews boycotted the cars of the infamous anti-Semite Henry Ford. Jews in many countries took part in a boycott of German goods immediately after the Nazis came to power in 1933.

The Chinese boycotted Japan after the invasion of their country. The US boycotted the Olympic Games in Moscow. People of conscience all over the world boycotted the products and the athletes of Apartheid South Africa and helped to bring it to its knees.

All these campaigns used a basic democratic right: every person is entitled to refuse to buy from people he detests. Everyone can refuse to support with his money causes which contradict his innermost moral convictions.

It is this right that has been put to the test in Israel this week.

IN 1997, Gush Shalom declared a boycott of the products of the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. We believe that these settlements, which are being set up with the express purpose of preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state, are endangering the future of Israel.

The press conference, in which we announced this step, was not attended by a single Israeli journalist. But the boycott gathered momentum. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis do not buy settlement products. The European Union, which has a trade agreement that practically treats Israel as a member of the union, was induced to enforce the clause that excludes products of the settlements from these privileges.

There are now hundreds of factories in the settlements. They were literally compelled, or seduced, to go there, because the (stolen) land there is far cheaper than in Israel proper. They enjoy generous government subsidies and tax exemptions, and they can exploit Palestinian workers for ridiculous wages. The Palestinians have no other way of supporting their families than to toil for their oppressors.

Our boycott was designed, among other things, to counter these advantages. And indeed, several big enterprises have already given in and moved out, under pressure from foreign investors and buyers. Alarmed, the settlers instructed their lackeys in the Knesset to draft a law that would counter this boycott.

Last Monday, the "Boycott Law" was enacted, setting off an unprecedented storm in the country. Already Tuesday morning, Gush Shalom submitted to the Supreme Court a 22 page application to annul this law.

THE "BOYCOTT LAW" is a very clever piece of work. Obviously, it was not drafted by the parliamentary simpletons who introduced it, but by some very sophisticated legal minds, probably financed by the Casino barons and Evangelical crazies who support the extreme Right in Israel.

First of all, the law is disguised as a means to fight the de-legitimization of the State of Israel throughout the world. The law bans all calls for the boycott of the State of Israel, "including the areas under Israeli control." Since there are not a dozen Israelis who call for the boycott of the state, it is clear that the real and sole purpose is to outlaw the boycott of the settlements.

In its initial draft, the law made this a criminal offense. That would have suited us fine: we were quite willing to go to prison for this cause. But the law, in its final form, imposes sanctions that are another thing.

According to the law, any settler who feels that he has been harmed by the boycott can demand unlimited compensation from any person or organization calling for the boycott - without having to prove any actual damage. This means that each of the 300,000 settlers can claim millions from every single peace activist associated with the call for boycott, thus destroying the peace movement altogether.

AS WE point out in our application to the Supreme Court, the law is clearly unconstitutional. True, Israel has no formal constitution, but several "basic laws" are considered by the Supreme Court to function effectively as such.

First, the law clearly contravenes the basic right to freedom of expression. A call for a boycott is a legitimate political action, much as a street demonstration, a manifesto or a mass petition.

Second, the law contravenes the principle of equality. The law does not apply to any other boycott that is now being implemented in Israel: from the religious boycott of stores that sell non-kosher meat (posters calling for this cover the walls of the religious quarters in Jerusalem and elsewhere), to the recent very successful call to boycott the producers of cottage cheese because of their high price. The call of right-wing groups to boycott artists who have not served in the army will be legal, the declaration by left-wing artists that they will not appear in the settlements will be illegal.

Since these and other provisions of the law clearly violate the Basic Laws, the Legal Advisor of the Knesset, in a highly unusual step, published his opinion that the law is unconstitutional and undermines "the core of democracy." Even the supreme governmental legal authority, the "legal advisor of the government", has published a statement saying that the law in "on the border" of unconstitutionality. Being mortally afraid of the settlers, he added that he will defend it in court nevertheless. The opportunity for this is not far off: the Supreme Court has given him 60 days to respond to our petition.

A SMALL group of minor parliamentarians is terrorizing the Knesset majority and can pass any law at all. The power of the settlers is immense, and moderate right-wing members are rightly afraid that, if they are not radical enough, they will not be re-elected by the Likud Central Council, which selects the candidates for the party list. This creates a dynamic of competition: who can appear the most radical.

No wonder that one anti-democratic law follows another: a law that practically bars Arab citizens from living in localities of less than 400 families. A law that takes away the pension rights of former Knesset members who do not show up for police investigations (like Azmi Bishara.) A law that abolishes the citizenship of people convicted of "assisting terrorism". A law that obliges NGOs to disclose donations by foreign governmental institutions. A law that gives preference for civil service positions to people who have served in the army (thus automatically excluding almost all Arab citizens). A law that outlaws any commemoration of the 1948 Naqba (the expulsion of Arab inhabitants from areas conquered by Israel). An extension of the law that prohibits (almost exclusively) Arab citizens, who marry spouses from the Palestinian territories, to live with them in Israel.

Soon to be enacted is a bill that forbids NGOs to accept donations of more than 5000 dollars from abroad, a bill that will impose an income tax of 45% on any NGO that is not specifically exempted by the government, a bill to compel universities to sing the national anthem on every possible occasion, the appointment of a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry to investigate the financial resources of left-wing [sic] organizations.

Looming over everything else is the explicit threat of right-wing factions to attack the hated "liberal" Supreme Court directly, shear it of its ability to overrule unconstitutional laws and control the appointment of the Supreme Court judges.

FIFTY-ONE YEARS ago, on the eve of the Eichmann trial, I wrote a book about Nazi Germany. In the last chapter, I asked: "Can It Happen Here?"

My answer still stands: yes, it can.
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Why Americans Can't Afford To Eat Healthy
The real reason Big Macs are cheaper than more nutritious alternatives? Government subsidies
By David Sirota

The easiest way to explain Gallup's discovery that millions of Americans are eating fewer fruits and vegetables than they ate last year is to simply crack a snarky joke about Whole Foods really being "Whole Paycheck." Rooted in the old limousine liberal iconography, the quip conjures the notion that only Birkenstock-wearing trust-funders can afford to eat right in tough times.

It seems a tidy explanation for a disturbing trend, implying that healthy food is inherently more expensive, and thus can only be for wealthy Endive Elitists when the economy falters. But if the talking point's carefully crafted mix of faux populism and oversimplification seems a bit facile -- if the glib explanation seems almost too perfectly sculpted for your local right-wing radio blowhard -- that's because it dishonestly omits the most important part of the story. The part about how healthy food could easily be more affordable for everyone right now, if not for those ultimate elitists: agribusiness CEOs, their lobbyists and the politicians they own.

As with most issues in this new Gilded Age, the tale of the American diet is a story of the worst form of corporatism -- the kind whereby the government uses public monies to protect private profit.

In this chapter of that larger tragicomedy, lawmakers whose campaigns are underwritten by agribusinesses have used billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize those agribusinesses' specific commodities (corn, soybeans, wheat, etc.) that are the key ingredients of unhealthy food. Not surprisingly, the subsidies have manufactured a price inequality that helps junk food undersell nutritious-but-unsubsidized foodstuffs like fruits and vegetables. The end result is that recession-battered consumers are increasingly forced by economic circumstance to "choose" the lower-priced junk food that their taxes support.

Corn -- which is processed into the junk-food staple corn syrup and which feeds the livestock that produce meat -- exemplifies the scheme.

"Over the past decade, the federal government has poured more than $50 billion into the corn industry, keeping prices for the crop ... artificially low," reports Time magazine. "That's why McDonald's can sell you a Big Mac, fries and a Coke for around $5 -- a bargain."

Yes, it is a bargain, but one created by deliberate government policy that serves the corn industry titans, not by any genetic advantage that makes corn derivatives automatically more affordable for the budget-strapped commoner.

The aggregate effect of such market manipulation across the agriculture industry, notes Time, is "that a dollar [can] buy 1,200 calories of potato chips or 875 calories of soda but just 250 calories of vegetables or 170 calories of fresh fruit."

So while it may be amusing to use Americans' worsening recession-era diet as another excuse to promote cultural stereotypes, the nutrition crisis costing us billions in unnecessary healthcare costs is more about public policy and powerful special interests than it is about epicurean snobs and affluent tastes. Indeed, this is a problem not of individual proclivities or of agricultural biology that supposedly makes nutrition naturally unaffordable -- it is a problem of rigged economics and corrupt policymaking.

Solving the crisis, then, requires everything from recalibrating our subsidies to halting the low-income school lunch program's support for the pizza and French fry lobby (yes, they have a powerful lobby). It requires, in other words, a new level of maturity, a better appreciation for the nuanced politics of food and a commitment to changing those politics for the future.

Impossible? Hardly. A country that can engineer the seemingly unattainable economics of a $5 McDonald's feast certainly has the capacity to produce a healthy meal for the same price. It's just a matter of will -- or won't.
(c) 2010 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Prisoners Have Nothing To Gain By Eating
By David Swanson

Prisoners risking death by refusing food in the Pelican Bay supermax, and those hunger striking in solidarity in prisons around California are a judgment of our sickness. "The degree of civilization in a society," said Dostoyevsky, "can be judged by entering its prisons."

Civilization is something we no longer seem to aspire to. The United States locks up more people and a greater percentage of its people than anyone else. We lock them in training centers for anger and violence. We subject them to rape, assault, humiliation, and isolation. We throw the innocent in with the guilty, the young with the old, the nonviolent with the violent, the hopeful with those who've lost all interest in life.

And we routinely subject large numbers of prisoners to the torture of near-total isolation. We lock human beings in little boxes for 22 or 23 hours per day. When it's done to an accused whistleblower like Bradley Manning, we protest. But what about when it's done to thousands of people, many of them baselessly accused of being members of gangs? Where is the outrage?

We should be refusing to eat. We should be shutting down our government with nonviolent action. We should be risking the lives we have. Instead the burden has fallen to those who have little or no lives to risk. The prisoners themselves are taking action and gaining power from behind bars.

Look at the prisoners' demands. They want an end to group punishment of individual rules violations. That seems like a basic requirement of justice. Bombing a nation because some terrorists spent time there may make sense to our politicians, but it is horribly unjust to the people living and dying under the bombs. Stopping and searching people who look like they might be immigrants may make sense to those whose hatred of immigrants is distorting their thinking, but it is outrageously unjust from the perspective of the innocent people repeatedly harassed. Punishing everyone in a prison for something one person did make sense if the goal is cruelty. But will the innocent prisoners thus abused eventually emerge from prison believing they've been given fair treatment by a justice system with which they should comply? Or will they be released thirsting for vengeance? Or thirst for vengeance while never being released? And will we be able to keep what we have done to them secret from ourselves? Will we not continue to grow more ill?

They want an end to the use of completely unreliable criteria for labeling a prisoner a gang member and on that basis subjecting them to the torture of isolation. Should a tattoo or the word of someone offered decent food in exchange for a name really be the test of whether a human being should be placed at risk of severe mental damage? Should anything? Would we stand for another nation treating people this way? Don't tell me it's necessary and responsible. It would cost a lot less money to offer children decent schools and food and guidance than it does to imprison men. This is a luxury. It's a sick indulgence of a wealthy country. We can afford to engage in massive sadistic cruelty. But that shouldn't mean that we have to do it.

They want compliance with the recommendations found in the latest study our government produced to make itself feel better despite ignoring it. They want an end to the long-term solitary confinement that takes people's minds away. They are risking death by starvation to end death by deprivation of human contact. We could risk a lot less to do it for them.

They want adequate food provided to all prisoners and an end to the practice of depriving some and feeding others as a tool for manipulating people like wild beasts. They want basic decency, including the ability to make one phone call per week. They want standards of health and humanity that do not even begin to approach those we are required by international treaty to provide to prisoners of war. For that matter, they want to cease being treated in a manner that would get you locked up with them if you treated a dog or a cat that way.

All the prisoners are asking of us is that we spread the word. But in fact they are not asking this of us. They are offering it to us. They are leading us where we need to go, and doing it from behind bars. We would need to go to this place even if we had no prisons. We are allowing our government to destroy the physical environment. Our children will have no more reason to eat than these prisoners do, if we fail to act. We are allowing our government to murder on a massive scale through what it calls the "Defense" Department, a name as skillfully chosen as that of a "Corrections" Department. We need to do some real defending and correcting. Some of us have plans for October. The least among us are showing us how right now.
(c) 2011 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Rick gives the corpo-rat salute

Michigan Locals Fight For Democracy

If Rick Snyder ever comes to help you, run away as fast and as far as you can.

Snyder is the right-wing, corporate-hugging governor of Michigan whose extremist anti-worker, anti-government agenda was handed to him by a Koch-funded front group named the Mackinac Center. Included in the package was a doozy of autocratic mischief-making called the Local Government Fiscal Accountability Act. The new law turns Synder into a perverse hybrid of a Soviet czar and a tinhorn banana republic potentate, and it has infuriated the public. Now trying to backpedal, the governor's new line is that, "It's about helping communities."

Helping? This law allows him to seize control of any city, county, school district, etc. that he decides is in fiscal trouble, authorizing him to appoint an "emergency manager," which may be a private corporation, to run the entity. This autocratic regent is empowered to cancel labor contracts, repeal the public budget, privatize government assets, dismiss elected officials, and even dissolve the local entity.

This is the kind of "help" that a fox brings to the hen house, so the governor is now being sued by his own astonished citizenry. Snyder's tyrannical law, they point out, violates the state's Constitution by usurping the right of local residents to elect their officials. As the director of a community legal group in Detroit puts it, the governor's designated emergency manager would control all, "including the right to enact or repeal local ordinances."

You might be thinking, "Thank goodness I don't live in Michigan." But if Snyder's anti-democratic coup succeeds there, you can bet that various Koch-backed right-wing front groups will bring the Michigan Model to your state. For information on the Michigan fight, contact Detroit's Sugar Law Center
(c) 2011 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

The Neo-Con Aftermath
By Helen Thomas

Where are the neo-conservatives who brought on this economic and political mess?

They are evidently hiding in their think tanks or taking asylum in academia. Anyway, they are in safe havens, satisfied that they achieved their stated goals of regime change by toppling their nemesis - Saddam Hussein. Though none of those neo-cons wore the country's uniform, they pushed others to get into the fight.

It was the neo-cons who decided America should have an empire in the 21st century. Their design for the world has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths - not to mention the wounded and displaced.

Many of the neo-cons may have been kicked out of top government positions, but their influence in former President George W. Bush's administration was enormous. They convinced Bush of the need for torture. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama has not ended the unlawful practice.

It's not surprising that the neo-con aspiration to get Saddam coincided with Israel's purpose, or that Saddam was accused of holding weapons of mass destruction. Iraq had none. Hans Blix, the former head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, begged Bush to let him go into Iraq to prove Iraq had no such lethal weapons. Bush refused. He wanted to invade Iraq.

Bush once told an interviewer that only war presidents are remembered in history. He will go down in history all right. Ironically, Bush and his cohorts - and the world in fact - know that only Israel had a nuclear arsenal in the Middle East. Top American officials, from Obama on down, have lost their credibility by refusing to say that Israel is a nuclear power.

The next target for the neo-con empire builders is Iran, another major enemy of Israel. If Iran succeeds in developing a nuclear bomb, the United States is supposed to attack Iran. So far, Obama has resisted the neo-con orders, but who knows for how long.

Their agenda was laid out in Project for the New American Century. Their "Statement of Principles" promotes increasing military spending; modernizing our armed forces; strengthening ties to democratic allies to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values; promoting the causes of political and economic freedom abroad; and accepting responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, prosperity and principles. These are goals not easily won without war.

By the end of 2006, PNAC was "reduced to a voice-mail box and a ghostly website," with "a single employee" "left to wrap things up," according to the BBC News. In 2006, Gary Schmitt, former executive director of the PNAC, stated that PNAC had come to a natural end.

The PNAC was a platform for a new American colonialism - and the neo-cons continue to lobby in Congress. They also are welcomed on the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post for their ultra-right points of view.

Others on the neo-con team include Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Kagan, both former Reaganites and Bush propagandists.

The neo-cons stated that the failure to depose Saddam would have resulted in a "decisive surrender in the international war on terrorism." They did not estimate the cost in American lives and money - and they probably didn't care.

Critics of the neo-cons have called them "chicken-hawks - men who have never seen the horror of war but are in love with the idea of war." They accuse the neo-cons of taking it a step further than the conservatives, who believe in maintaining a strong national defense. The neo-cons can only succeed in promoting their goals by blurring the lines between policing the world and maintain a strong national defense.

While many Republicans have begun to question the old neo-con foreign policy consensus that dominated Bush's GOP, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is the new neo-con hopeful.

While the neo-cons have achieved some of their goals, they have betrayed the good will of Americans and the decency of the country. They should be ashamed!
(c) 2011 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row At The White House: My Life and Times.

Secret Vows Controlling GOP Mindset
By James Donahue

It was a newsy report when Republican presidential contenders Michele Bachmann and Rich Santorum revealed that they have signed something now dubbed the "Marriage Pledge," a vow of opposition to gay marriage, prostitution, and pornography. And with Republican members of Congress in deadlock with President Barack Obama and the Democrats over the issue of raising taxes on wealthy Americans to help stave off a looming budget crisis and raising the national debt ceiling, reports of a secret "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" have begun to leak into the news.

So just what is in these pledges and how are they affecting . . . or threatening to affect the decisions by our elected leadership? The Taxpayer Protection Pledge is a vow reportedly taken by 41 senators and 236 Congressional representatives . . . all but three of them Republicans . . . that they will stand opposed to any tax increase. And if Congress eliminates tax breaks for special interests, the pledge demands that they be "matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."

The taxpayer pledge is the brainchild of Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative group that has secretly risen to power within a shadow government that prevails in Washington. That pledge, which Republicans appear to be so loyal to they are willing to let the nation go into economic collapse rather than allow the Obama Administration to fulfill his election promise to eliminate the Bush era tax cuts for Americans earning $250,000 a year or higher, appears to be the root of the financial deadlock occurring in Washington.

The scary point to this story is that Norquist is not an elected public official. He is a silent power figure operating in the shadows, and wielding enough influence that Republicans believe they must take his demands for a pledge against taxes or risk not being elected to office.

Now that a new presidential election looms in 2012, we learn of yet another pledge, already taken by two ultra-conservative candidates, Bachmann and Santorum, that supports the thread-bare "sanctity of marriage" between a man and woman, opposes marriage among homosexuals, and goes so far as to declare war against anything threatening "normal" marriage such as prostitution and pornography.

This new "Marriage Vow" is a lengthy document put forth by Bob Vander Plaats, head of Family Leader, an ultra conservative organization headquartered in Iowa. Signing the pledge is required before candidates get an endorsement by Vander Plaats' group. While he once ran unsuccessfully for governor in Iowa, Vander Plaats is not an elected political official. But like Norquist, he appears to be wielding a growing secret power within another wing of the shadow government that is having an impact on the legislation occurring in Washington.

While the Taxpayer Protection Pledge is a simple, two point document as described above, the Marriage Vow is much more complex in its ramifications.

Those that take this vow pledge to "defend and to uphold the institution of marriage as only between one man and one woman," swear to "personal fidelity to my spouse," and support "official fidelity to the U.S. Constitution, supporting the elevation of none but faithful constitutionalists as judges or justices."

The pledge supports "prompt reform of uneconomic, anti-marriage aspects of welfare policy, tax policy, and marital/divorce law, and extended 'second chance' or 'cooling-off' periods for those seeking a "quickie divorce."

It declares "rejection of Sharia Islam and all other anti-woman, anti-human rights forms of totalitarian control."

After these and numerous other declarations opposing gay marriage and supporting the Christian concept of marriage and child rearing in the home, the Vander Plaats pledge tacks on these zingers for good measure:

"Commitment to downsizing government and the enormous burden upon American families of the USA's $14.3 trillion public debt, its $77 trillion in unfunded liabilities, its $1.5 trillion federal deficit and its $3.5 trillion federal budget.

"Fierce defense of the First Amendment's rights of Religious Liberty and Freedom of Speech, especially against the intolerance of any who would undermine law-abiding American citizens and institutions of faith and conscience for their adherence to, and defense of, faithful heterosexual monogamy."

While most Americans would not argue against some of the doctrines outlined in the Marriage Vow, the document as a whole speaks out against the changing mores of American society, which are already beginning to be reflected in laws protecting the rights of gay marriage, divorce and the protection of women and children following the breakdown of marriage.

The frightening aspect of the two organizations that appear to be gaining control of elected political leadership through secret vows is that documents other than the Constitution appear to be now guiding the thoughts and actions of the men and women in power.

We are witnessing the dangerous result of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge even now, as the Republican controlled House stands firm against raising taxes against the very people who have stolen the wealth and now hold the keys to the kingdom.

We have suspected the existence of a secret shadow government working behind the scenes in Washington for a long time. Now that these two power figures have been revealed, we must wonder what other vows are our elected representatives being goaded into taking? How many boots must our Senators and Congressmen kiss before they can gain those coveted offices in our nation's capital?

The biggest question of them all is: if not the people we think we elect, who really runs our country?
(c) 2011 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Congrats To The Gang Of Six, The Powerful, The Wealthy, And Multinational Corporations
By Bernie Sanders

If there was ever a time in the modern history of America that the American people should become engaged in what's going on here in Washington, now is that time. Decisions are being made that will impact not only our generation but the lives of our children and our grandchildren for decades to come, and I fear very much that the decisions being contemplated are not good decisions, are not fair decisions.

There is increased understanding that that defaulting for the first time in our history on our debts would be a disaster for the American economy and for the world's economy. We should not do that.

There also is increased discussion about long-term deficit reduction and how we address the crisis which we face today of a record-breaking deficit of $1.4 trillion and a $14 trillion-plus national debt.

One of the long-term deficit reduction plans came from the so-called Gang of Six. We do not know all of the details of that proposal. In fact, we never will know because a lot of the decisions are booted to committees to work out the details.

It is fair to say, however, that Senators Coburn, Senator Crapo and Chambliss deserve congratulations. Clearly, they have won this debate in a very significant way. My guess is that they will probably get 80 percent or 90 percent of what they wanted. In this town, that is quite an achievement, but they have stood firm in their desire to represent the wealthy and the powerful and multinational corporations. They have threatened. They have been smart. They have been determined. And at the end of the day, they will get almost all of what they want. That is their victory, and I congratulate them.

Unfortunately, their victory will be a disaster for working families in this country, for the elderly, for the sick, for the children and for low-income people.

Based on the limited information that we have, I think it is important to highlight some of what is in this so-called Gang of Six proposal that the corporate media, among others, are enthralled about.

Some may remember that for a number of years, leading Democrats said that we will do everything that we can to protect Social Security, that Social Security has been an extraordinary success in our country, that for 75 years, with such volatility in the economy, Social Security has paid out every nickel owed to every eligible American. I heard Democrats say that Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. That is right because Social Security is funded by the payroll tax, not by the U.S. Treasury. Social Security has a $2.6 trillion surplus today. It can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 25 years. It is an enormously popular program. Poll after poll from the American people says doesn't cut Social Security. Two and a half years ago when Barack Obama, then a senator from Illinois, ran for president of the United States, he made it very clear if you voted for him there would be no cuts in Social Security.

What Senators Coburn, Crapo and Chambliss have managed to do in the Gang of Six is reach an agreement where there will be major cuts in Social Security. Don't let anybody kid you about this being some minor thing. It is not. What we are talking about is that Social Security cuts would go into effect virtually immediately. Ten years from now, the typical 75-year-old person will see their Social Security benefits cut by $560 a year. The average 85-year-old will see a cut of $1,000 a year. Now, for some people here in Washington, maybe the big lobbyists who make hundreds of thousands a year, $560 a year or $1,000 a year may not seem like a lot of money, but if you are a senior trying to get by on $14,000, $15,000, $18,000 a year and you're 85 years old, the end of your life, you're totally vulnerable, you're sick -- a $1,000 per year cut in what you otherwise would have received is a major, major blow.

So I congratulate Senator Coburn, Senator Crapo, Senator Chambliss for doing what president Obama said would not happen under his watch, what the Democrats have said would not happen under their watch.

But it's not just Social Security. We have 50 million Americans today who have no health insurance at all. Under the Gang of Six proposals, there will be cuts in Medicare over a 10-year period of almost $300 billion. There will be massive cuts in Medicaid and other health care programs. There will be caps on spending, which mean that there will be major cuts in education. If you are a working-class family, hoping that you're going to be able to send your kid to college and thinking that you will be eligible for a Pell grant, think twice about that. Pell grants may not be there. If you're a senior who relies on a nutrition program, that nutrition program may not be there. If you think it's a good idea that we enforce clean air and clean water provisions so that our kids can be healthy, those provisions may not be there because there will be major cuts in environmental protection.

Some people think that's not so good, but at least our Republican friends are saying we need revenue and we're going to get $1 trillion in revenue. But wait a minute,. If you read the proposal, there are very, very clear provisions making sure that we are going to make massive cuts in programs for working families, for the elderly, for the children. Those cuts are written in black and white. What about the revenue? Well, it's kind of vague. The projection is that we would rise over a 10-year period $100 billion in revenue. Where is that going to come? Is it necessarily going to come from the wealthiest people in this economy? Is it going to come from large corporations who are enjoying huge tax breaks? That is not clear at all. I want middle-class families to understand that when we talk about increased revenues, do you know where that comes from? It may come from cutbacks in the home mortgage interest deduction program, which is so very important to millions and millions of families. It may mean that if you have a health care program today, that health care program may be taxed. That's a way to raise revenue. It may be that there will be increased taxes on your retirement programs, your I.R.A.'s, your 401(k)'s. But we don't have the details for that. All we have is some kind of vague promise that we're going to raise $1 trillion over the next 10 years, no enforcement mechanism and no clarity as to where that revenue will come from.

That is why it is so terribly important that the American people become engaged in this debate which will have a huge impact on them, on their parents and on their children. The American people must fight for a fair deal. At a time when the wealthiest people in this country are doing phenomenally well and their effective tax rate is the lowest on record, at a time when the top 400 individuals in this country own more wealth than 150 million Americans, at a time when corporate profits are soaring and in many instances corporations, these same corporations pay nothing in taxes, at a time when we have tripled military spending since 1997, there are fair ways to move toward deficit reduction which do not slash programs that working families and children and the elderly desperately depend upon.

This senator is going to fight back. I was not elected to the United States Senate to make devastating cuts in Social Security, in Medicare, in Medicaid, in children's programs while lowering tax rates for the wealthiest people in this country.
Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website.

The Needle And The Damage Done
Toxic Fallout From the CIA's Human Shield Operation
By Chris Floyd

When I first saw the stories about the CIA's super-cunning covert op - setting up a fake vaccination scheme to try to get DNA from Osama bin Laden's children in Abbottabad - I immediately thought: How many innocent people are going to die or suffer needlessly from this unconscionable tainting of medical programmes by Terror War subterfuge? How many people will now turn away from ostensibly genuine humanitarian efforts, wary of being used by foreign spies infiltrating their country? How many more genuine medical relief and health care workers will now be targeted as agents of militarist agendas in troubled lands already rightly suspicious of the murderous spy games being played in their midst?

Now Medecins Sans Frontieres has voiced the same concerns, in public blast on Thursday which called the CIA's toying with the lives and health of vulnerable children "grave manipulation of the medical act."

Of course, the story has already been forgotten in the American media echo chamber, now solely obsessed with the epic battle between Obama and the Republicans to see who can degrade the largest number of American lives and usher in oligarchic rule the fastest. [For more on this, see the superb piece by Arthur Silber.] So we'll let the Guardian re-set the scene:

The CIA recruited a Pakistani doctor and health visitors before the operation in May that killed Bin Laden in Abbottabad in northern Pakistan, to try to ascertain whether the al-Qaida leader was living in the compound. The doctor, Shakil Afridi, set up a vaccination drive for Hepatitis B in the town in order to try to gain entry to the Bin Laden compound and obtain DNA samples from those living there. ..

However, on the ground in Abbottabad the Guardian discovered that while the vaccine doses themselves were genuine, the medical professionals involved were not following procedures. In an area called Nawa Sher, they did not return a month after the first dose to provide the required second batch. Instead, according to local officials and residents, the team moved on, in April this year, to Bilal Town, the suburb where Bin Laden lived.

These vaccines are not effective unless the full course of doses is administered. The CIA thus suborned genuine medical professionals, without their knowledge, and then left the children being used as -- dare we say it? -- human shields for the spy agency still at grave risk of contracting Hepatitis B. Having established their front in the poorest part of town, luring in the most vulnerable, they simply "moved on." What of the children of Nawa Sher? Who cares? They're expendable.

The Guardian story spells out the larger implications:

"The risk is that vulnerable communities - anywhere - needing access to essential health services will understandably question the true motivation of medical workers and humanitarian aid," said Unni Karunakara, MSF's international president. "The potential consequence is that even basic healthcare, including vaccination, does not reach those who need it most."

"It is challenging enough for health agencies and humanitarian aid workers to gain access to, and the trust of, communities, especially populations already sceptical of the motives of any outside assistance," said MSF. "Deceptive use of medical care also endangers those who provide legitimate and essential health services."

The impact of the fake vaccination drive may be keenly felt in Pakistan, where the public already sees an American conspiracy everywhere. Polio campaigns could be at particular risk, as Pakistan has the biggest polio problem in the world.

But again, none of that matters. These are non-people, unpersons, Untermenschen. The only thing that matters is that American elites are made to look tough, willing to do "whatever it takes." The Guardian quotes the usual anonymous Obama Administration official defending the use of innocent children as human shields for black ops:

The US official said: "The vaccination campaign was part of the hunt for the world's top terrorist, and nothing else. If the United States hadn't shown this kind of creativity, people would be scratching their heads asking why it hadn't used all tools at its disposal to find Bin Laden."

Yes, inquiring minds want to know: why didn't the United States abuse and exploit and endanger even more innocent children to find bin Laden? (Aside from the thousands of children killed in the post-9/11 Terror Wars, of course.) Thank god the Peace Laureate and his people have more "creativity" than his cloddish predecessors!

Oh, and what was the upshot of this "creativity"? I mean, sure, they put the poorest children in Abbotabad at grave risk of suffering, and yeah, they endangered vaccination and health programs and medical workers all over the world -- but hey, the fake vaccine thing worked, didn't it? It helped them get bin Laden, didn't it?

Er, no. Like so much else in the Terror War -- indeed, like the Terror War in its entirety -- the CIA human shield operation in Abbotabad was a busted flush. The whole thing was designed to suck blood from bin Laden's children to get the DNA that would confirm his presence in the house -- but it didn't even do that. As the New York Times reports:

The American official said that the doctor managed to temporarily gain access to the compound, but that he never saw Bin Laden and was not successful in getting DNA samples from any Bin Laden family members.

Endangering children, increasing mistrust and instability around the world, militarizing medicine, polluting every notion of a greater common good or human fellow-feeling -- and all for absolutely nothing (aside from the perpetuation of the pointless dominance of a witless, brutal, all-devouring elite): that pretty much sums up the foreign policy of our rotting, blundering, bankrupt empire.
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd

Neocons Fume Over US Boat To Gaza
By Ray McGovern

My co-passengers and I of the U.S. Boat to Gaza have now gone from "High-Seas Hippies," according to the right-wing Washington Times, to participants in a flotilla full of "fools, knaves, hypocrites, bigots, and supporters of terrorism," says Alan Dershowitz in his usual measured prose.

Poor Alan, he seems upset at our audacity not only to hope for humane treatment of the 1.6 million Gazans, who currently live under a cruel blockade, but to force the issue. To stop our boat before it could leave Greek waters, Israel's Likud government gave itself a self-inflicted black eye and again brought the oppression of Gazans to worldwide attention.

This time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government did not even have to kill people to add to Israel's growing "delegitimization" before the civilized world. Facing growing international condemnation, Netanyahu and his allies have reason to worry.

In recognition of our modest accomplishments, we U.S. boaters have now made it onto Dershowitz's "Dishonor Roll!" At first reading of his intended insults, my laughter was uncontrollable. I've been called a lot of things before, but I cannot remember being labeled a "knave."

Anyone know what a knave is? Does it have something to do with what Damon Runyon used to call "the Harvards," among whom Dershowitz has long toiled as a law professor?

Dershowitz also lashes out at the American Jews onboard, including 86-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, with the shopworn epithet for Jews who dare to criticize Israel's government as "self-hating."

I suppose if I had criticized some of the ugly extremism in Ireland a few decades back, I would be a "self-hating Irishman."

But the bottom line is this: Dershowitz's Likud friends and their neocon chums in the Obama administration realize they have suffered a stinging - and unnecessary - PR defeat. They could easily have let our peaceful boat carrying passengers, media and letters of goodwill reach the isolated people of Gaza.

What we boaters appear to have accomplished is to provoke the mighty diplomats of Israel and the United States into a full-court press that brought renewed attention to the plight of the Gazans.

Greek authorities, already tied up in knots over their national financial crisis, had their arms twisted to thwart a group of humanitarians and peace activists - including poet Alice Walker, retired Army Col. Ann Wright and Code Pink's Medea Benjamin - from sailing a boat to Gaza.

By putting the issue of Israel's blockade front and center, we also managed to force discomforted U.S. State Department spokespersons to dissemble about the legality of Israel's illegal blockade. They ducked declaring something so clearly illegal legal, knowing that otherwise they would have invited international ridicule.

But caution. The injured-animal syndrome among the Likudniks poses distinct dangers for the people of the Middle East - the more so, as we watch President Barack Obama continue to let Netanyahu walk all over him.

US Appeasement

Official Washington's appeasement of the Likud Lobby seems to encourage Israeli leaders to believe that not only the U.S. Congress but also America's lusting-for-a-second-term President will condone just about any action Tel Aviv might undertake. That makes the situation very volatile.

In my view, there is more danger, in present circumstances, that the extreme right in Israel will flail out in a very misguided way than there has been in several years. The Netanyahu regime is in a very defensive, reactive posture.

It certainly appears that the Likudniks, the U.S. neocons and some of the "Harvards" are running scared as Israel's growing extremism and anti-Muslim bigotry becomes harder to perfume over with every passing day.

Beyond expanding settlements on Palestinian lands and resisting serious peace talks, Netanyahu's government has takento segregating not only Arabs from Jews but secular Jews from ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Plus, over the past two years, Netanyahu's right-wing coalition has lost its co-opted ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt as well as the once-friendly Turks and bit-by-bit its legitimacy. This reality is finally sinking in. Tel Aviv, Washington and Cambridge see a significant weakening of Israel's worldwide standing.

And, as for "delegitimizing" Israel, no one could do that job better than the Likudniks themselves - the more so, given their penchant for knee-jerk overreactions and risible rhetoric.

The likely "legitimization" of a Palestinian state by the U.N. in September is being seen in some Israeli right-wing quarters as the last straw.

But Netanyahu's thuggish regime still can count on influential apologists like Dershowitz to excuse whatever it does. Dershowitz and other neocon voices pipe up whenever Israel's drift toward an unconscionable apartheid system is noted.

As part of that propaganda, we are now hearing, again and again, bizarre accounts about how wonderful life is for the Gazans. In his pro-blockade diatribe, Dershowitz depicted a fun-and-sun existence for these Palestinians, who are, in reality, trapped in what amounts to a squalid open-air prison.

Besides cutting the Gazans off from the world, Israel has strangled their economy by tightly restricting construction material needed to rebuild homes, businesses and schools damaged in Israel's 2008-09 invasion, which killed an estimated 1,400 Palestinians, compared to 13 Israeli deaths.

However, to gloss over the ugly reality, Dershowitz selectively cites a recent New York Times article, which noted that construction material smuggled in from Egypt in the aftermath of Mubarak's ouster is fueling a mini-boom in construction in Hamas-ruled Gaza and slightly lessening the jobless crisis.

Here's Dershowitz's slanted version: "According to reporting by The New York Times, Gaza has been thriving recently. Luxury hotels are being built; stores are stocked with food; beaches are filled with children; and life is far better than in neighboring Al Arish, which is across the border in Egypt."

Yet, the few positives were only part of what the Times' Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner reported. In the same article, he wrote, "So is that the news from Gaza in mid-2011? Yes, but so is this: Thousands of homes that were destroyed in the Israeli antirocket invasion two and a half years ago have not been rebuilt.

"Hospitals have canceled elective surgery for lack of supplies. Electricity remains maddeningly irregular. The much-publicized opening of the Egyptian border has fizzled, so people remain trapped here. The number of residents living on less than $1.60 a day has tripled in four years. Three-quarters of the population rely on food aid."

Strangled Economy

The Israeli human rights group Gisha, which has campaigned against the closure of Gaza, notes that while Gaza now has adequate food supplies, "economic recovery is blocked by sweeping restrictions."

Gisha noted that:

"The continued ban on export, construction materials, and travel between Gaza and the West Bank contradicts the 2010 Israeli government decision to facilitate economic recovery in Gaza.

"At least 83% of Gaza's factories are either closed or working at a capacity of 50% or less, according to the Palestinian Federation of Industries. The manufacturing sector cannot recover under the present Israeli ban on export.

"Even during the winter agricultural season, when Israel allowed the export of agricultural produce, the quantities were economically negligible: an average of two trucks per day, compared to the 400 trucks a day agreed upon in the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access.

"Israel has banned completely goods destined for Israel and the West Bank, even though prior to 2007, 85% of the goods leaving Gaza were sold to Israel and the West Bank." [Emphasis in original.]

In other words, the situation for Gazans remains horribly bleak, although perhaps slightly less bleak now that Egypt is looking the other way on the smuggling of concrete, steel beams and other construction material.

Under international pressure - brought about partly by earlier challenges to the four-year-old sea blockade - Israel also has lightened up somewhat on the land transport of some goods.

But Dershowitz's slanted argument is offensive for other reasons. Arguing that some people in the Middle East might be worse off than the Gazans is reminiscent of the claims by white South Africans that "their" blacks were better off than some blacks living in poorer parts of Africa, thus justifying apartheid.

Or the neocon musings in the United States some years back that slavery wasn't so bad because Africans who were captured by European slavers and forcibly shipped to the New World had a chance for a better life - more so than Africans who weren't lucky enough to be put in chains, crowded into foul slave ships (where many died), sold to plantation owners in a strange land, and then be subjected to whippings, rapes, endless humiliations and lynching. Yes, the "upside" of slavery.

To tout a couple of "luxury hotels" being built in Gaza, some children at the beach and the possibility that some other Arabs might be more miserable than the Gazans - as an excuse for the entrapment and collective punishment of 1.6 million people - is the same kind of rationalizing on behalf of injustice.

As for Dershowitz's insults toward me and the other passengers on our Boat to Gaza, the old saying surely applies: "Names can never harm you." But we would all be well advised to keep a keen eye peeled for future sticks and stones.

We U.S. boaters have just begun; we will get to Gaza. But watch out for Israeli-sponsored provocations, which could become the prelude to even more violence in the months ahead. (c) 2011 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years -- from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one-on-one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Letting Bankers Walk
By Paul Krugman

Ever since the current economic crisis began, it has seemed that five words sum up the central principle of United States financial policy: go easy on the bankers.

This principle was on display during the final months of the Bush administration, when a huge lifeline for the banks was made available with few strings attached. It was equally on display in the early months of the Obama administration, when President Obama reneged on his campaign pledge to "change our bankruptcy laws to make it easier for families to stay in their homes." And the principle is still operating right now, as federal officials press state attorneys general to accept a very modest settlement from banks that engaged in abusive mortgage practices.

Why the kid-gloves treatment? Money and influence no doubt play their part; Wall Street is a huge source of campaign donations, and agencies that are supposed to regulate banks often end up serving them instead. But officials have also argued at each point of the process that letting banks off the hook serves the interests of the economy as a whole.

It doesn't. The failure to seek real mortgage relief early in the Obama administration is one reason we still have 9 percent unemployment. And right now, the arguments that officials are reportedly making for a quick, bank-friendly settlement of the mortgage-abuse scandal don't make sense.

Before I get to that, a word about the current state of the mortgage mess.

Last fall, we learned that many mortgage lenders were engaging in illegal foreclosures. Most conspicuously, "robo-signers" were attesting that banks had the required documentation to seize homes without checking to see whether they actually had the right to do so -and in many cases they didn't.

How widespread and serious were the abuses? The answer is that we don't know. Nine months have passed since the robo-signing scandal broke, yet there still hasn't been a serious investigation of its reach. That's because states, suffering from severe budget troubles, lack the resources for a full investigation -and federal officials, who do have the resources, have chosen not to use them.

Instead, these officials are pushing for a settlement with mortgage companies that, reports Shahien Nasiripour of The Huffington Post, "would broadly absolve the firms of wrongdoing in exchange for penalties reaching $30 billion and assurances that the firms will adhere to better practices."

Why the rush to settle? As far as I can tell, there are two principal arguments being made for letting the banks off easy. The first is the claim that resolving the mortgage mess quickly is the key to getting the housing market back on its feet. The second, less explicitly stated, is the claim that getting tough with the banks would undermine broader prospects for recovery.

Neither of these arguments makes much sense.

The claim that removing the legal cloud over foreclosure would help the housing market -in particular, that it would help support housing prices -leaves me scratching my head. It would just accelerate foreclosures, and if more families were evicted from their homes, that would mean more homes offered for sale -an increase in supply. An increase in the supply of a good usually pushes that good's price down, not up. Why should the effect on housing go the opposite way?

You might point to the mortgage relief that would supposedly be extracted as part of the settlement. But if mortgage relief is that crucial, why isn't the administration making a major push to reinvigorate its own Home Affordable Modification Program, which has spent only a small fraction of its money? Or if making that program actually work is hard, why should we believe that any program instituted as part of a mortgage-abuse settlement would work any better?

Sorry, but the case that letting banks off the hook would help the housing market just doesn't hold together.

What about the argument that getting tough with the banks would threaten the overall economy? Here the question is: What's holding the economy back?

It's not the state of the banks. It's true that fears about bank solvency disrupted financial markets in late 2008 and early 2009. But those markets have long since returned to normal, in large part because everyone now knows that banks will be bailed out if they get in trouble.

The big drag on the economy now is the overhang of household debt, largely created by the $5.6 trillion in mortgage debt that households took on during the bubble years. Serious mortgage relief could make a dent in that problem; a $30 billion settlement from the banks, even if it proved more effective than the government's modification program, would not.

So when officials tell you that we must rush to settle with the banks for the sake of the economy, don't believe them. We should do this right, and hold bankers accountable for their actions.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Everything that everyone is afraid of has already happened: The fragility of capitalism, which we don't want to admit; the loss of the empire of the United States; and American exceptionalism. In fact, American exceptionalism is that we are exceptionally backward in about fifteen different categories, from education to infrastructure. But we're in a stage of denial: we want to re-establish things as they used to be, to put the country back where it was."
~~~ James Hillman

America's Disappeared
By Chris Hedges

Dr. Silvia Quintela was "disappeared" by the death squads in Argentina in 1977 when she was four months pregnant with her first child. She reportedly was kept alive at a military base until she gave birth to her son and then, like other victims of the military junta, most probably was drugged, stripped naked, chained to other unconscious victims and piled onto a cargo plane that was part of the "death flights" that disposed of the estimated 20,000 disappeared. The military planes with their inert human cargo would fly over the Atlantic at night and the chained bodies would be pushed out the door into the ocean. Quintela, who had worked as a doctor in the city's slums, was 28 when she was murdered.

A military doctor, Maj. Norberto Atilio Bianco, who was extradited Friday from Paraguay to Argentina for baby trafficking, is alleged to have seized Quintela's infant son along with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other babies. The children were handed to military families for adoption. Bianco, who was the head of the clandestine maternity unit that functioned during the Dirty War in the military hospital of Campo de Mayo, was reported by eyewitnesses to have personally carried the babies out of the military hospital. He also kept one of the infants. Argentina on Thursday convicted retired Gen. Hector Gamen and former Col. Hugo Pascarelli of committing crimes against humanity at the "El Vesubio" prison, where 2,500 people were tortured in 1976-1978. They were sentenced to life in prison. Since revoking an amnesty law in 2005 designed to protect the military, Argentina has prosecuted 807 for crimes against humanity, although only 212 people have been sentenced. It has been, for those of us who lived in Argentina during the military dictatorship, a painfully slow march toward justice.

Most of the disappeared in Argentina were not armed radicals but labor leaders, community organizers, leftist intellectuals, student activists and those who happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Few had any connection with armed campaigns of resistance. Indeed, by the time of the 1976 Argentine coup, the armed guerrilla groups, such as the Montoneros, had largely been wiped out. These radical groups, like al-Qaida in its campaign against the United States, never posed an existential threat to the regime, but the national drive against terror in both Argentina and the United States became an excuse to subvert the legal system, instill fear and passivity in the populace, and form a vast underground prison system populated with torturers and interrogators, as well as government officials and lawyers who operated beyond the rule of law. Torture, prolonged detention without trial, sexual humiliation, rape, disappearance, extortion, looting, random murder and abuse have become, as in Argentina during the Dirty War, part of our own subterranean world of detention sites and torture centers.

We Americans have rewritten our laws, as the Argentines did, to make criminal behavior legal. John Rizzo, the former acting general counsel for the CIA, approved drone attacks that have killed hundreds of people, many of them civilians in Pakistan, although we are not at war with Pakistan. Rizzo has admitted that he signed off on so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. He told Newsweek that the CIA operated "a hit list." He asked in the interview: "How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?" Rizzo, in moral terms, is no different from the deported Argentine doctor Bianco, and this is why lawyers in Britain and Pakistan are calling for his extradition to Pakistan to face charges of murder. Let us hope they succeed.

We know of at least 100 detainees who died during interrogations at our "black sites," many of them succumbing to the blows and mistreatment of our interrogators. There are probably many, many more whose fate has never been made public. Tens of thousands of Muslim men have passed through our clandestine detention centers without due process. "We tortured people unmercifully," admitted retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey. "We probably murdered dozens of them ..., both the armed forces and the C.I.A."

The bodies of many of these victims have never been returned to their families. They disappeared. Anonymous death is the cruelest form of death. There is no closure for the living. There is no way for survivors to fix the end of a life with a time, a ritual and a place. The atrocity is compounded by the atrocity committed against memory. This sacrilege gnaws at survivors. Regimes use clandestine torture centers, murder and anonymous death to keep subject populations off balance, agitated and disturbed. It fuels the collective insanity. The ability of the state to "disappear" people into black sites, hold them for years without charges and carry out torture ensures that soon these techniques will become a routine part of domestic control.

Tens of thousands of Americans are being held in super-maximum-security prisons where they are deprived of contact and psychologically destroyed. Undocumented workers are rounded up and vanish from their families for weeks or months. Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them away in the dead of night as if they were enemy combatants. Habeas corpus no longer exists. American citizens can "legally" be assassinated. Illegal abductions, known euphemistically as "extraordinary rendition," are a staple of the war on terror. Secret evidence makes it impossible for the accused and their lawyers to see the charges against them. All this was experienced by the Argentines. Domestic violence, whether in the form of social unrest, riots or another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil, would, I fear, see the brutal tools of empire cemented into place in the homeland. At that point we would embark on our own version of the Dirty War.

Marguerite Feitlowitz writes in "The Lexicon of Terror" of the experiences of one Argentine prisoner, a physicist named Mario Villani. The collapse of the moral universe of the torturers is displayed when, between torture sessions, the guards take Villani and a few pregnant women prisoners to an amusement park. They make them ride the kiddie train and then take them to a cafe for a beer. A guard, whose nom de guerre is Blood, brings his 6- or 7-year-old daughter into the detention facility to meet Villani and other prisoners. A few years later, Villani runs into one of his principal torturers, a sadist known in the camps as Julian the Turk. Julian recommends that Villani go see another of his former prisoners to ask for a job. The way torture became routine, part of daily work, numbed the torturers to their own crimes. They saw it as a job. Years later they expected their victims to view it with the same twisted logic.

Human Rights Watch, in a new report, "Getting Away With Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees," declared there is "overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration." President Barack Obama, the report went on, is obliged "to order a criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse authorized by former President George W. Bush and other senior officials."

But Obama has no intention of restoring the rule of law. He not only refuses to prosecute flagrant war crimes, but has immunized those who orchestrated, led and carried out the torture. At the same time he has dramatically increased war crimes, including drone strikes in Pakistan. He continues to preside over hundreds of the offshore penal colonies, where abuse and torture remain common. He is complicit with the killers and the torturers.

The only way the rule of law will be restored, if it is restored, is piece by piece, extradition by extradition, trial by trial. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and John Ashcroft will, if we return to the rule of law, face trial. The lawyers who made legal what under international and domestic law is illegal, including not only Rizzo but Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, David Addington, William J. Haynes and John Yoo, will, if we are to dig our way out of this morass, be disbarred and prosecuted. Our senior military leaders, including Gen. David Petraeus, who oversaw death squads in Iraq and widespread torture in clandestine prisons, will be lined up in a courtroom, as were the generals in Argentina, and made to answer for these crimes. This is the only route back. If it happens it will happen because a few courageous souls such as the attorney and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, are trying to make it happen. It will take time-a lot of time; the crimes committed by Bianco and the two former officers sent to prison this month are nearly four decades old. If it does not happen, then we will continue to descend into a terrifying, dystopian police state where our guards will, on a whim, haul us out of our cells to an amusement park and make us ride, numb and bewildered, on the kiddie train, before the next round of torture.
(c) 2011 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

President Obama's Big Deal
Cuts for Social Security, But No Taxes for Wall Street
By Dean Baker

The ability of Washington to turn everything on its head has no limits. We are in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Even though the recession officially ended two years ago, there are still more than 25 million people who are unemployed, can only find part-time work or who have given up looking for work altogether. This is an outrage and a tragedy. These people's lives are being ruined due to the mismanagement of the economy.

And we know the cause of this mismanagement. The folks who get paid to manage and regulate the economy were unable to see an $8 trillion housing bubble. They weren't bothered by the doubling of house prices in many areas, nor the dodgy mortgages that were sold to finance these purchases. Somehow, people like former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan and his sidekick and successor Ben Bernanke thought everything was fine as the Wall Street financers made billions selling junk mortgage and derivative instruments around the world.

When the bubble burst, one of the consequences was an increased budget deficit. This is kind of like two plus two equals four. The collapsing bubble tanked the economy. Tax revenue plummets and we spend more on programs like unemployment insurance and foods stamps. We did also have some tax cuts and stimulus spending to boost the economy. The result is a larger budget deficit.

All of this is about as clear as it can possibly be. The large deficit came about because the housing bubble, which was fueled by Wall Street excesses, crashed the economy. Yet, we are constantly being told by politicians from President Obama to Tea Party Republicans that we have a problem of out-of-control spending.

The claim of out-of-control spending is simply not true. It is an invention, a fabrication, a falsehood with no basis in reality that politicians are pushing to advance their agenda. And that agenda is not pretty.

According to numerous reports in the media, President Obama wants a "big deal" on the budget, which will involve cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. The last is especially ironic, since Social Security is financed by its own designated tax. Therefore, it does not contribute to the deficit. If there is no money in the Social Security trust fund, then benefits will not be paid. The plans to cut to Social Security also seem perverse since we know that the vast majority of retirees are not living especially well right now and the benefits already are not especially generous. If we exclude their Social Security income, more than 80 percent of people over the age of 65 get by on less than $20,000 per year.

The average Social Security check is about $1,100 a month. This would be less than an hour's pay for many of the Wall Street honchos whose greed and incompetence brought down the economy.

Yet, when President Obama preaches equality of sacrifice, it is the elderly and the poor who are supposed to do most of the sacrificing. His plan to change the annual cost-of-living adjustment formula for Social Security would reduce benefits for someone in their seventies by 3 percent, in their eighties by 6 percent and in their nineties by 9 percent.

These are huge cuts. The Republicans are screaming bloody murder because President Obama wants to raise the top tax rate by 4.6 percentage points. Imagine that he proposed raising taxes on the wealthy by twice as much. That is effectively what he is proposing for people in their nineties who are entirely dependent on Social Security.

And he is proposing to impose this tax on seniors who had nothing to do with the crisis, while leaving Wall Street untouched. A modest tax on financial speculation could raise more than $150 billion a year or $1.5 trillion over the course of a decade.

It is striking that a financial speculation tax (FST) has not been mentioned in the debt discussions. The European Union has been actively debating the imposition of a FST ever since the crisis. The European Parliament voted for such a tax by a margin of more than 3 to 1. The United Kingdom has had an FST for decades. It raises the equivalent, relative to the size of its economy, of almost $40 billion a year just by taxing stock trades. Even the International Monetary Fund has come out in support of increased taxes on the financial sector.

Presumably, the continuing power of the financial industry explains why few in Washington are discussing an FST. After all, a director of Morgan Stanley, Erskine Bowles, was the head of President Obama's deficit commission.

And this explains why we are looking to gut Social Security and Medicare in response to Wall Street's wreckage of the economy. The basic story is that the average worker and retiree will have to sacrifice because of the damage that the Wall Street crew did to the economy. That is what democracy in America looks like now.
(c) 2011 Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University.

The Dead Letter Office...

Harry flips the bird to the hungry, the poor, the sick and elderly.

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer Reid,

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Kyle Busch, Anheuser Busch, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Elena (Butch) Kagan.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your refusal to raise the nation's debt; without destroying social Security Medicare and Food Stamps, something you happily did four times under Bush adding 4 trillion to the debt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 09-05-2011. We salute you Herr Reid, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Rupert Murdoch Has Gamed American Politics Every Bit As Thoroughly As Britain's
By John Nichols

Australian-born billionaire Rupert Murdoch has manipulated not just the news but the news landscape of the United States for decades. He has done so by pressuring the Federal Communications Commission and Congress to alter the laws of the land and regulatory standards in order to give his media conglomerate an unfair advantage in "competition" with more locally focused, more engaged and more responsible media.

It's an old story: while Murdoch's Fox News hosts prattle on and on about their enthusiasm for the free market, they work for a firm that seeks to game the system so Murdoch's "properties" are best positioned to monopolize the discourse.

Now, with Murdoch's News Corp. empire in crisis-collapsing bit by bit under the weight of a steady stream of allegations about illegal phone hacking and influence peddling in Britain-there is an odd disconnect occurring in much of the major media of the United States. While there is some acknowledgement that Murdoch has interests in the United States (including not just his Fox News channel but the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post), the suggestion is that Murdoch was more manipulative, more influential, more controlling in Britain than here.

But that's a fantasy. Just as Murdoch has had far too much control over politics and politicians in Britain during periods of conservative dominance-be it under an actual Tory such as former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major and current Prime Minister David Cameron or under a faux Tory such as former Prime Minister Tony Blair-he has had far too much control in the States. And that control, while ideological to some extent, is focused mainly on improving the bottom line for his media properties by securing for them unfair legal and regulatory advantages.

Over the past decade, as media reform groups have battled to prevent FCC and Congressional moves to undermine controls on media consolidation, Murdoch and his lobbyists been a constant presence-pushing from the other side for the lifting of limits on the amount and types of media that one corporation can own in particular communities and nationally.

The objection was never an ideological one. Media owners, editors, reporters and commentators have a right to take the positions they like. Where the trouble comes is when they seek to turn politicians and regulators into corporate handmaidens-and when they build their empires out to such an extent they can demand obedience even from those who do not share their partisan or ideological preferences.

And the corruptions of the process created by Murdoch's manipulation are not merely a British phenomenon.

Murdoch's political pawns in the United States have been every bit as faithful to the mogul and his media machine as the British pols.

When he appeared before the House Judiciary Committee in May of 2003, at a point when he was the chief global cheerleader for George Bush's war with Iraq ("We basically supported...I will say supported the Bush policy," the media mogul would later admit), Murdoch was seeking to secure ownership of the nation's largest satellite television company while pressing for FCC rule changes that would allow him to own newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same cities and for an easing of controls on the extent to which one corporation could dominate television viewership nationally.

Did Murdoch have a hard time of it?

Not hardly.

News reports at the time described the response to the Australian-born media mogul's appearance as "just short of fawning."

The then-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Wisconsin Republican James Sensenbrenner, greeted Murdoch by thanking the media executive for developing the Fox News network. "When my wife doesn't get a good dose of Fox News every day she gets grumpy," chirped Sensenbrenner, "so there are some of us who appreciate what you are doing."

Murdoch was invited to sing the praises of his various operations, and he did just that, claiming, "Innovation and consumer choice are built into our DNA." The whole point of Fox, Murdoch explained, was to "dethrone" more traditional media outlets-outlets that did actual news reporting (Fox is dominated by talking-head commentators) and that were not expressly ideological (in the sense that Fox places itself at the service of the corporate-dominated and militarist wing of the GOP).

That sat well with the Republicans on the committee. "Thank you for what you've done," Utah Congressman Chris Cannon told Murdoch. "Thank you for your risk-taking."

Sensenbrenner was so determined to create a favorable transcript of Murdoch's visit-which he promised to forward to the Justice Department and the FCC, which were examining anti-trust and regulatory issues relating to the expansion of the News Corp. empire-that he prevented Democrats on the committee from asking basic questions.

The ranking Democrat, Michigan Congressman John Conyers, complained that he was prevented from questioning Murdoch about "the connections between [Fox News chairman and CEO] Roger Ailes and the White House. What the hell is that all about? It's like there's a direct line between the administration and Ailes. You can see it. There are plenty of political and policy implications in that."

Conyers was absolutely right. So, too, were consumer groups that complained aggressively about the expansion of Murdoch's media dominance and political reach. But News Corp. got the go-ahead to take over the largest satellite company (DirecTV) and the FCC (which Murdoch had personally lobbied) approved the ownership rule changes he sought.

Ultimately, the DirecTV deal turned out to be problematic for Murdoch, and the courts tripped up the FCC's rule changes.

But Murdoch kept at the latter fight, continuing to push for the FCC to rewrite media ownership rules so that one corporation can own the daily newspapers, the weekly "alternative" newspaper, the city magazine, suburban publications, the eight largest radio stations, the dominant broadcast and cable television stations, popular Internet news and calendar sites, billboards and concert halls in even the largest American city.

This "company-town" scheme-a top goal of Murdoch and his lobbying team, as it complemented their US operations in cities such as New York-was again approved by the FCC in 2008, only to again be up-ended by United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit earlier this month.

Notably, while the Murdoch-friendly 2008 rule change was approved by a Republican-dominated FCC, it was defended this year by current FCC chair Julius Genachowski, an appointee of President Obama.

As in England, Murdoch and his managers have for many years had their way with the American regulators and political players who should have been holding the mogul and the multinational to account. Sometimes Murdoch has succeeded through aggressive personal lobbying, sometimes with generous campaign contributions (with Democrats and Republicans among the favored recipients), sometimes by hiring the likes of Newt Gingrich (who as the Speaker of the House consulted with Murdoch in the 1990s) and Rick Santorum (who as a senator from Pennsylvania was a frequent defender of big media companies), sometimes by making stars of previously marginal figures such as Michele Bachmann.

Former White House political czar Karl Rove, who prodded Fox News to declare George Bush the winner of the disputed 2000 presidential election and who remains a key player in Republican politics to this day, still works for Murdoch, as does former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a prospective GOP vice presidential candidate.

But Murdoch is not the rigid partisan some of his more casual critics imagines. He often discovers unexpected political heroes of heroines-such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former target whose 2000 US Senate run in New York and whose 2008 presidential run earned surprisingly generous coverage from the New York Post and Fox after Murdoch determined that she was on the rise politically. The Clinton embrace was classic Murdoch. He plays both sides of every political divide. But when he is not aiding and abetting the party of the right he looks for conservative and centrist figures (Britain's Blair, America's Clinton) within traditional parties of the left. The point, always, is to assure that those with power are pro-business in general and pro-Murdoch (or, at the least, indebted to Murdoch) in particular.

The strategy has been so successful that, even now, there is some debate about the extent to which Murdoch's influence will diminish in the United States.

Criticism of the media Machiavelli has been muted, and not just from the Republican presidential contenders who are afraid of getting on the wrong side of the Fox team and the equally punitive Wall Street Journal editorial page. Democratic leaders had almost as much trouble finding anything bad to say about Murdoch's alleged wrongdoing-let alone his manipulations of American political life.

After the current scandal began to unfold, a few Democrats with histories of questioning big-media companies, called for inquiries into News Corp. wrongdoing.

Senators Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, and Barbara Boxer asked for an investigation of whether News Corp's extensive use of phone hacking could have violated US laws. "The reported hacking by News Corp. newspapers against a range of individuals-including children-is offensive and a serious breach of journalistic ethics," says Rockefeller said in a statement. "This raises serious questions about whether the company has broken U.S. law, and I encourage the appropriate agencies to investigate to ensure that Americans have not had their privacy violated."

Similarly, Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, asked Attorney General Eric Holder and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Mary Schapiro on Wednesday, to consider whether News Corp.'s allegedly bribery of foreign law enforcement officials violated US law.

"The limited information already reported in this case raises serious questions about the legality of the conduct of News Corp. and its subsidiaries under the [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act]," explained Lautenberg. "Further investigation may reveal that current reports only scratch the surface of the problem at News Corp. Accordingly, I am requesting that DOJ and the SEC examine these circumstances and determine whether U.S. laws have been violated."

New York Congressman Peter King, who represents many families of 9/11 victims, was a lonely Republican advocate for an inquiry.

These requests prompted the US Department of Justice to pursue a limited investigation, with Attorney General Holder saying, "There have been members of Congress in the United States who have asked us to investigate those same allegations and we are progressing in that regard using the appropriate Federal law enforcement agencies."

Holder, a frequent target of abuse from Murdoch media, has taken an appropriate if cautious first step.

An even more appropriate inquiry would go to the heart of the matter and ask: How did Murdoch get such favorable treatment from Congressional committees and regulatory agencies that are supposed to serve the public interest?

Such an inquiry would, undoubtedly, consider the unsettling tale of how former Senate minority leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, seemed to lose interest in challenging media consolidation-an issue on which he had been a good player-after Murdoch's publishing house offered Lott a $250,000 book deal for the senator's forgettable memoir, Herding Cats. It would also consider the strange case of then–Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's decision to take a break from her work at a critical early stage in the war on terror-on a day when a international outcry had stirred with regard to a failed attempt to assassinate a key Al Qaeda leader-to spend a leisurely afternoon briefing Murdoch's editors from around the world.

But the most critical focus of any inquiry into Murdoch's influence over US political and regulatory players would be on those figures, such as the slavishly devoted Congressman Sensenbrenner, who remain in positions where they can do the mogul's bidding.

No doubt, Murdoch's misdeeds deserve to be examined-thoroughly, and aggressively.

So, too, however, do the actions of those American politicians and regulators-Republicans and Democrats-who appear to have been every bit as obedient to Rupert Murdoch as their British counterparts.
(c) 2011 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

The Arts Of Life They Changed Into The Arts Of Death
Bachmann, Palin and Robertson and the limits of logic
By Phil Rockstroh

As of late, Pat Robertson has been waxing apocalyptic regarding mankind's imminent reckoning with wrathful divinity, while liberals have been sharing scary bedtime stories by the ghostly light of computer screens…telling sleep-banishing tales of Michele ("Crazy Eyes") Bachmann, now stalking primary states, assailing common sense and chewing the scenery of sanity during appearances on the twenty-four/seven Creature Feature Theatre, otherwise known as, Cable News programming.

Granted, the sense of unease displayed by right wing, fundamentalist Christians regarding the state of the nation is understandable; although, their attribution as to the origin and cause of the destructive drift of U.S. culture is so far off the mark they would fail to get wet if they fell into a baptismal pool the size of Lake Michigan.

Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Pat Robertson et al, these late empire zealots of shopping mall, militarism, and heterosexual hegemony, harbor a comic, yet mortifying vision of the conditions they believe would bring rebirth and renewal to the nation. Believing, it seems, all that is good and decent can be salvaged, if only the U.S. would be transformed into an earthly analog of their fantasy of an immaculately scrubbed and deodorized, caucasoid heaven (which, of course, to all others, seems a nightmare world where W.A.S.P. faces are permanently affixed on the whole of multi-visaged humanity -- a death mask made of white bread) -- a creepy, blood-bereft, restricted country club Hyperborea, sustained by holy militarism, where well-turned out, obedient children of the lord await the Second Coming -- a cartoon universe deus ex machina -- vis-a-vis the arrival of their version of Jesus Christ -- who seems to resemble a cross between a muscle-blessed, Hollywood super hero and an eternally vigilant, sin-scouring Tidy Bowl Man.

Invoking an impassioned narrative of blood, thunder and descending, supernatural balm, fundamentalism is an attempt, albeit desperate and misguided, to mitigate the uncertainty and angst incurred by the poetry-decimating literalism of the industrial/consumer age.

This system of belief, internalized in the psyches of the populace of the U.S., falls into the Calvinist/Puritan tradition and therefore carries a nostalgic longing for the imagined innocence of lost paradise, regards imperfection as sin and the imagination as suspect, and believes that a vengeful, omniscient God banished humanity from paradise because of our serpent-gifted lust for life and longing for knowledge.

These lost souls of wanting credulity and noxious certitude believe their shame is their ticket back to paradise... If only they could just hate themselves (and the world enough) -- then they will be made perfect in the perfect love of The Lord. They are, of course, insane.

Accordingly, what events and circumstances are responsible for this free-floating psychotic episode extant as the belief system of contemporary, fundamentalist Christianity?

"And all the Arts of Life they changed into the Arts of Death in Albion."
 ~~~~ Jerusalem, Chapter 3., William Blake.

Early in the Industrial Age, William Blake apprehended humankind had begun to negotiate existence "[a]mong these dark Satanic mills." Blake was not mortified by the mill itself: He was repelled by the imprint the machine left on the mind. This was the factor that he deemed Satanic i.e., positing the image as metaphor for the manner that Satan, the mythical embodiment of the human psyche's unconscious drives, desires and compulsions (and attendant rationalizations) can imprison the human psyche and chain it in his service.

Recognizing and rejecting the principles of the mechanized age for its dehumanizing implications, Blake warned against a view of the world that reduces human life to the sum of machine parts -- for the metaphoric hell-bound train of thought that it is…usurping individual identity by commandeering the hours of fleeting existence by placing one's body at the service of greed-driven, nature-decimating agendas.

"Kept ignorant of its use, that they might spend the days of wisdom 
in sorrowful drudgery, to obtain a scanty pittance of bread:
 In ignorance to view a small portion and think that All,
 And call it Demonstration: blind to all the simple rules of life." ~~~ Jerusalem, Chapter 3. William Blake.

As circumstances stand at present, Blake exhibited caution in his augury: An island of garbage, larger than the state of Texas, floats in the Pacific Ocean. Increasing numbers of U.S. children, obese from corporate processed food, are so unhealthy they're falling prey to the illnesses of middle age. The topsoil of the American mid-west has all but disappeared due to the shortsighted greed of industrial mega-farming.

This is why (to cite only a few examples) the present paradigm's days are numbered. And this is not Old Testament-variety raving…spittle flinging, white beard flapping in the harsh desert wind, dark prophetic fantasy. The examples above simply augur the mundane trajectory inherent to systems locked in entropic runaway.

Fortunately, there is a type of hope that resides at the depths of hopelessness…the perennial truth that arrives when one relinquishes all hope that one's ossified understandings and moribund means of existing in the world cannot be maintained nor salvaged.

"I came into a place void of all light,
which bellows like the sea in tempest,
when it is combated by warring winds."
 ~~~ The Divine Comedy, The Inferno, Canto V, lines 28-30.

Dante's epic poem, The Divine Comedy, resonates on a number of levels. It is important to note how the poet limned the suburbs of Hell…as being, a place reserved for those souls who refused to choose either good or evil -- and, seemingly, a prime location for Wal-Mart big box stores.

"This miserable state is borne by the wretched souls of those who lived without disgrace and without praise." 
~~~ The Divine Comedy, The Inferno, Canto III, lines 34-36.

(Apropos, I offer this completely gratuitous fantasy: Of Sam Walton, ruthless emblem of the age of corporate despotism, with his reptilian rictus forever affixed in a forced smile of tyrannical good cheer, condemned for all eternity to be a greeter at the gates of Hell.)

In contrast, Dante counseled, we are provided with a more propitious option: to walk through Hell, as opposed to remaining locked in the stasis of an insular, unexamined existence.

Dante evoked the descent into the underworld to intimate the understanding that darkness is an aspect of human nature and that self-awareness arrives only after an exploration of the hidden, self-censored regions of one's psyche. Only after passing through the inner most circle of the frozen hellscape does it become possible for Dante to look upward and gaze upon Beatrice’s splendor among the spheres of Heaven.

His Journey began, lost in a dark woods, with his path block by a hungry she-wolf and fierce lion. Then, led there by the pagan poet, Virgil, the adamantine gates of Hell (posting that famous sign regarding hope forever abandoned) slammed shut behind him. But the poet's descent deep into the unsavory aspects of his nature made possible those glimpses of beatific light.

You, darkness, that I come from
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world, 
for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone
and then no one outside learns of you.

"But the darkness pulls in everything--
shapes and fires, animals and myself, 
how easily it gathers them! --
powers and people -- and it is possible a great presence is moving near me I have faith in night." ~~~~ Rainer Maria Rilke.

Otherwise, as is the case with the Puritan/Calvinist imagination, an individual risks becoming purity-obsessed and light-intoxicated i.e., lacking in the will and ability to see the dark side of their nature; hence, one is prone to project one's own motives on the actions of others.

Possessed by this state of mind, an individual is capable of inflicting a great amount of damage on his own psyche. Witness: the raging, lower order demons, inhabiting their own personal hellscapes, as channeled by the likes of Bachmann, Palin, and the Reverend Robertson.

Yet, rationalistic devices such as reductionist reasoning and humanistic psychology have proven useless in breaching the high walls of delusion bulwarking fundamentalist, free-floating crazy.

Why? Reductionism is a bi-product of the western Puritan/Calvinist tradition, and as such is prone to the pathologies inherent in the cosmology…wherein there exists: an habitual winnowing down of perception to controllable, exploitable bits; the dismissing of all things (the veracity of imagination, the emanations of nature and the souls of animals) that do not serve narrowed agendas (which are defining characteristics of its scion -- the corporate state -- and those within its institutions who have internalized its raison d'etre).

Both Fundamentalist and reductionist mindsets are cemented in certitude. In fact, each is the shadow side of the other; hence, hyper-rationalists and religious literalists are locked in contemptuous embrace. Both evince, with their obsession with the other, a longing for rapprochement with their missing half, yet their encounters become a courtship dance of animus and antagonism, whereby their mutual yearning for union is expressed as a compulsion to transform the other.

Therefore, the rationalist is driven to proffer balms of superstition-purging logic, as, in turn, the religious true believer frets over the doomed-to-eternal-damnation, mortal soul of the salvation-bereft rationalist. Yet both causation-clutching logicians and credulous lambs of the lord share this trait: both have banished from their respective belief system the appropriation of empathetic imagination and a poetic approach to mystery.

Accordingly, the ideal use of poetic insight, intellectual rigor, and quicksilver wit is to deploy these tools (at times, weapons) of the mind -- in the manner the hubris-hating gods intended -- to confront bullies, rednecks, liars, prigs and hypocrites (including our own self-serving casuistry), to disarm (or, at least, annoy) the brutal, conniving and witless, and, in general, paraphrasing Whitman, "to cheer up slaves and to horrify despots.”

Yet, today, if a poet were to merge his body with the body of America, instead of discovering a Body Electric, he would find himself endowed with the hulking, putrefying corpse of a shambling zombie. Accordingly, he must tear a rotting arm from the monster and beat his own laughing corpse with it. Creating...a movable autopsy...a Book Of The Dead for a dying empire.

Worse, in the world beyond U.S. self-reference, the earth's oceans are dying -- as, on a personal level, Fukushima's isotopes penetrate our bones like parasitic beetles boring into the trunks of dying trees.

And this is not simply a view of the world. In fact, this is the state of the world.

Don't defend the indefensible -- the soul-defying banality of the present system. The neo-liberal superstate is unsustainable and will bring on its own demise.

Instead, like a mourner in a New Orleans funeral march, dance with the dread involved. The music of sorrow is more real than the magical thinking required to believe an insane system is salvageable. Don't stand, back pressed to the wall, frozen in rationalization and equivocation…Exalt in the unfurling mystery of it all.

Crackpot realists demand solutions and Christian Fundamentalist pray for finality. I demur. I stand in awe of the ragged glory immanent in sublime futility.

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better." ~~~ Samuel Beckett.

I suspect this attitude arrives from the southerner/Native American collision of genes in me. One's broken places allow the spirit in. No need to fix the problem, for the problem is the solution. No call for satanic caulk to seal the cracks in one's soul that reveal one's character.

And why is this important, particularly, at a time when our opponents are unflagging in their certitude? Because even when our reason to fight has merit, and nuance is banished, the larger truth that life itself contains paradox and is comprised of ambiguity remains. Thus, fascist fantasies of infallibility are toppled and the misguided trudge toward the mirage of paradise is waylaid...perhaps leveling a measure of humanizing grace.

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." ~~~ Goethe
(c) 2011 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

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This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Jeff Stahler ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

U.S. Quietly Slips Out Of Afghanistan In Dead Of Night

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN-In what officials said was the "only way" to move on from what has become a "sad and unpleasant" situation, all 100,000 U.S. military and intelligence personnel crept out of their barracks in the dead of night Sunday and quietly slipped out of Afghanistan.

U.S. commanders explained their sudden pullout in a short, handwritten note left behind at Bagram Airfield, their largest base of operations in the country.

"By the time you read this, we will be gone," the note to the nation of Afghanistan read in part. "We regret any pain this may cause you, but this was something we needed to do. We couldn't go on like this forever."

"We still care about you very much, but, in the end, we feel this is for the best," the note continued. "Please, just know that we are truly sorry and that we wish you all the greatest of happiness in the future."

According to firsthand accounts, the 90,000 American troops stationed in Afghanistan lay in their beds pretending to be asleep until well after midnight Tuesday. They then reportedly tiptoed out to a fleet of awaiting Humvees, tanks, armored cars, and stealth aircraft; gently eased the doors shut; and departed as silently as possible so as not to wake the 30- million-person nation.

Gen. David Petraeus, outgoing commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, acknowledged that while finally leaving Afghanistan the way they did was perhaps not the "most ideal" way of ending things, emotions in the region had been running too high lately to consider any other alternative.

"We could have slowly and steadily withdrawn from Afghanistan, but trust me, that would have needlessly prolonged what we both knew deep down was an unhealthy, dead-end relationship," Petraeus said. "And we just couldn't bear to look the Afghan people in the eye and tell them flat out that we were packing up and leaving."

"So we decided to sneak out the back through Tajikistan while the country was asleep," Petraeus added. "We're not proud of it, but it was the least painful option for everyone."

According to Pentagon sources, years of growing resentment, deep-seated trust issues, and periods of outright hostility had taken their toll on the relationship, leaving both partners hardened and bitter. After reportedly taking a "long look in the mirror" last week, senior defense officials came to the conclusion that they had "wasted a decade of [their] lives" with Afghanistan, prompting them to finally seek an end to their dysfunctional and destructive long-term engagement.

"When we went into this, everything seemed so perfect-that first democratic election in 2004, Operation Anaconda-those were great times," said Gen. James Mattis of U.S. Central Command, who stated that he would always cherish the warm memory of their early days together in Mazar-i-Sharif. "But we've grown so far apart since then. Sometimes it's hard to remember why we even got involved in the first place."

Despite walking out on Afghanistan, Mattis made it clear that the U.S. still cared deeply about the country and always would. He assured the war-torn nation Americans would never forget about them and promised the U.S. would send several hundred million dollars back to Kabul from time to time to make sure they were getting along okay.

Thus far, Afghans' reactions to the surprise withdrawal have been mixed. While many citizens expressed relief at the pullout, claiming the U.S. had "made [their] lives a living hell," they also admitted the departure had left them feeling deeply unstable and insecure.

"The U.S. told us they cared and that they had our best interests at heart, and I really thought this time might be different, but they were just as selfish as the Soviets and the British," said Pashtun tribal leader Ashraf Rahman Durrani, referring to Afghanistan's history of abusive relationships. "We're a strong, proud nation, though. We've been through a lot, and we'll find a way to get through this, too."

At press time, distraught American officials confirmed they had made a "terrible mistake" ever leaving Afghanistan, and were amassing troops at the border to reinvade the country by week's end.
© 2011 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 29 (c) 07/22/2011

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