Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Justin Raimondo explores the up coming war in Iran, "Obama's War Signals."

Uri Avnery explains, "The Johnny Procedure."

Sheila Samples returns with, "Fading Into Mist...."

Jim Hightower gives, "The Numbers Behind Washington's Banker Bailout."

Ted Rall says, "Heckuva Job, Barry."

Michael Doyle concludes, "In Stark Legal Turnaround, Obama Now Resembles Bush."

Paul Krugman discovers, "The Joy Of Sachs."

Chris Floyd considers, "Family Planning."

Case Wagenvoord remembers the real fairy tales in, "NC-17."

Mike Folkerth wonders, "Job Retraining; For What?"

Chris Hedges studies, "War Without Purpose."

Joel S. Hirschhorn follows a, "Government Gone Mad."

General Counsel for the United States Department of Defense Jeh Johnson wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald is, "Celebrating Cronkite."

Mary Pitt calls for the revolution in, "Living Rich And Crying Poor."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Garrison Keilor desires, "Freedom From Lobbyists" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "The Germans Were More Humane."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Chip Bok, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Eugene Delacroix, Ted Rall, Nonnie 9999, Freaking News.Com, MoBuck.Com, Steve Greenberg, Pat Oliphant, Etirtrart, Associated Press, Issues & Alibis.Org and Pink & Blue Films.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

The Germans Were More Humane
By Ernest Stewart

"There is no such thing as a Palestinian people... It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn't exist" ~~~ Golda Meir ~ 1969

The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act slipped under the radar when George Bush signed it into law as part of the 2006 Defense Appropriations Act (HR 2863). It lets the HHS Secretary declare any disease an epidemic or national emergency requiring mandatory vaccinations. Nothing in the Act lists criteria that warrant a threat. Also potential penalties aren't specified for those who balk, but very likely they'd include quarantine and possible fines.

The HHS web site also says the Secretary may "issue a declaration....that provides immunity from tort liability (except for willful misconduct) for claims of loss caused, arising out of, relating to, or resulting from administration or use of (vaccine or other pharmaceutical) countermeasures to diseases, threats and conditions determined by the Secretary to constitute a present, or credible risk of a future public health emergency...." ~~~ Barbara Raisbeck MD

"If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America." ~~~ Lyndon Baines Johnson

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing good to say about the German Nazis with the possible exception that they bankrupted England and made it a second rate power!

They were, for the most part, nasty, evil sons-of-bitches who got what they deserved. Their cites were bombed to dust, seven million died and as many more were wounded, and their country was divided between the victors. It was not reunified under German leaderships for 45 years. Quite a price to pay for following a crazy Austrian!

The Germans killed around 40 million people, mostly Russians, and sent about 10 million people to their death camps including 4 to 6 million European Jews. Their war against Jews began in 1933 but really didn't get underway until November 9, 1938, during what was called Kristallnacht or Crystal Night, the night of broken glass. It was only then that the round ups began at a slowly building pace until the death camps opened in 1941. These camps operated until 1945. A total of less than seven years, or for the sake of argument, let's say less than eleven years from the time the Nazi's consolidated their power after President Paul von Hindenburg's death on August 2, 1934.

Now compare and contrast that with the 61 years the Zionazis in occupied Palestine have been doing essentially the same things to the Palestinians. In truth, the various pogroms carried out against the Palestinians go back many decades further.

Like the Germans, the Zionazis have herded the Palestinians into death camps and ghettos called the West Bank and Gaza. They built ghetto walls around them as the Germans did in Warsaw. Like the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto who took on the SS and various Panzer units with a few pistols and rifles, the Palestinians have fought back with what can only be described as bottle rockets against jet bombers, attack helicopters, and tanks.

When the Jews talk of the resistance to the Germans, it's with awe and reverence but when the Palestinians do the very same thing, well it's a very different story, huh?

The German death camps lasted a few years and most of their victims died relatively quickly, at least when compared to what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians. The Palestinians have suffered well over six decades and are still enslaved and slowly starving to death with the help of your tax dollars and American politicians. Hell, they don't even get sawdust bread. Ask Cynthia McKinney what's going on in Gaza. Have no doubt, sooner or later, and I'm guessing sooner, the Zionazis will be made to pay for their genocide and war crimes and as their enabler, we'll end up paying too, just like the Germans did!

In Other News

I'm sure you've heard by now that the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, has signed a decree granting vaccine makers and government officials (such as herself) total legal immunity from any lawsuits that result from any new "Swine Flu" vaccine. Do you hear those alarm bells ringing, America?

Now our phony flu has a new phony vaccine that will be forced on American kids long before the test results are in. This will be at first a mandatory vaccination and we're spending seven billion of your tax dollars to speed up the process from a mid December arrival to a mid September arrival, long before any test are done, even before they know what the proper dosage might be. Or if they're "hot batches."

The document signed by Sebelius last month, grants immunity to those making a swine flu vaccine, under the provisions of a 2006 law (The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act) for public health emergencies. It allows for a compensation fund, if needed. A federal court handles claims and decides who will be paid from a special fund and who will be told to go and f*ck themselves.

Last week we warned you of this new scam and reminded you of what happened the last time there was a phony swine flu pandemic. Ask yourself since in the last 8 months fewer people have died from this flu than die in a day from the regular flu, why all the "much ado about nothing?" Why is Sebelius covering her ass and big pharma's asses with what might very well be considered mass murder? Why the hurry for something that kills less often than the common cold? In addition, wasn't Sebelius the giant three-headed dog who guarded the gates of Hades? Or was that Cerberus? I get those two confused. But wouldn't that explain a lot of things? I mean, wouldn't it?

And Finally

As you know the last real American TV journalist died the other day taking with him the last spark of journalism from the Main Stream Media.

Sure, Uncle Walter was far from perfect. It took him four years to come out against the Vietnam War. That was about 30,000 dead American kids and over one million dead Southeast Asians too late. He knew, as most did, that this was a phony war, started on a phony pretext, i.e., the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Had he spoke up to begin with, a lot of people might not be dead or crippled in another war for Wall Street. We might not even be in the financial mess we're in if we hadn't had to go off the gold standard after wasting hundreds of billions on that phony war.

Still, he finally did muster up the courage to stand up against LBJ and the Foggy Bottom hawks, and by doing so perhaps saved another million lives. When he finally came out against the war, LBJ knew that the writing was on the wall and realized he had lost the support he needed. Soon after he announced that he wouldn't seek reelection.

Of course, Cronkite's imperfections which were there for all to see, made him one of us. He openly wept when JFK was murdered and swelled with pride when we walked on the moon. As time passed, he garnered his courage, spoke out against all needless wars and kept us glued to our sets during the Iranian hostage crisis.

No, he wasn't perfect (who amongst us is?) but when compared to the rest of what passed as TV journalism "Uncle Walter" was head and shoulders above them all. When compared to today's crop of talking heads, he was almost a god. Don't believe it? Then I suggest you compare and contrast Walter to what oozes out of Fox Spews. I think you'll see the difference!


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

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

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Ernest & Victoria Stewart


11-04-1916 ~~~ 07-17-2009
...And that's the way it was!

06-04-1945 ~~~ 07-17-2009
In A World Without You!

08-19-1930 ~~~ 07-19-2009
Frank's Ashes!

06-16-1945 ~~~ 07-21-2009
Goodbye Panama Red!


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


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So please help us if you can...?


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

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

Obama's War Signals
By Justin Raimondo

Only Richard Nixon, whose political career was launched and sustained by an ostensibly militant anti-communism, could have traveled to China, and - with conservative support - effected a de facto strategic alliance with a country long considered an implacable enemy. This Nixon-to-China meme is regularly invoked as aphoristic evidence that we must expect the unexpected, and it comes to mind when considering the prospects of an impending military conflict with Iran: it occurs to me that only Barack Obama, who won the White House in large part due to his opposition to the Iraq war, could take us to war with Iran, and rally liberals and much of the left behind it.

Oh, I can hear the outraged howls of protest from the Obama cult, but consider:

The president has already set a September deadline for Iran to respond to our as-yet-informal proposal to negotiate over the completely phony nuclear issue - an oddly confrontational approach to opening the first on-the-record high level talks with the Islamic Republic since the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979.

The nuke issue is phony because our own intelligence community, speaking through the CIA, determined "with high confidence" the Iranians gave up their nuclear weapons program in 2003. Yet Obama has repeatedly said Iran is working to develop nuclear weapons. The great sigh of relief we all breathed when the CIA assessment was made public last year - effectively blocking any last-minute attempt by the Bushies to strike Iran in the waning days of Dubya's reign - gives way to new anxieties.

The evidence that Obama is ramping up the US effort to encircle and eventually strike at Iran is building: added deployments to Afghanistan and our increasing intervention in Pakistan can always be attributed to the vagaries of the Af-pak front, but one can't blame the Iranians from looking at it differently. The US military presence, to the south and the east, is looming larger. This, in tandem with an apparent hardening of the US stance - e.g. the "muscularity" of Hillary Clinton's most recent peroration - can only be seen by Tehran as prefiguring war.

The spin prior to delivering her speech to the Council on Foreign Relations was that this was going to be a "muscular" speech, and indeed it was: threatening to use the military to "defend our interests, our allies, and our people" when it comes to Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program, she declared, with typical Clintonian glibness: "this is not an option we seek nor is it a threat; it is a promise."

With those words, the first rhetorical shots of the third Middle Eastern war - and potentially the most devastating, both to the region and our national interests - have been fired. The phraseology is almost Bushian in its studied belligerence, and it is most certainly not a précis to a rapprochement with Tehran.

This is just about what any observer of the scene would have expected from our Secretary of State, given her past statements - the most recent being her threat to launch a "first strike" (her words) on Iran - and her ongoing refusal to retract her enthusiasm for the Iraq war. Indeed, in her comments to George Stephanopoulos on "This Week," she held up the invasion of Iraq as a model for how to deal with the Iranians.

As I pointed out on the occasion of her appointment, the State Department is going to serve as the War Party's operational command post in this administration, and Hillary's war cry delivered in the form of a speech is the signal that the push for war has begun. The CFR speech was widely touted as auguring Hillary's great comeback, after taking a nasty fall, and her rising prominence and visibility puts an all-too-familiar face on American foreign policy, one that hasn't changed in any but a cosmetic sense, at least as far as Iran is concerned.

Obama, consumed with the rapidly deteriorating US economy, will let Hillary define the terrain on which the conflict with Iran will unfold: the stage is being set. The actors take their places, and, amid frantic preparations taking place behind the curtains, hardly suspected by the audience, the drama takes its preordained course.

This will consist of three acts: the first, "negotiations," is bound to be the longest, and least interesting, as the US issues the usual ultimatums, accompanied by threats of economic and diplomatic sanctions. This is ostensibly meant to cow the Iranians into giving up their perfectly legal nuclear power program, which the IAEA says shows no signs of morphing into an effort to create a nuclear weapon - but Act One has little to do with Tehran. The real point is to convince the audience (that's you, the international community and the American people) we tried talking before we started bombing.

Act Two will take us to the UN, where the "debate" will begin. At this point, that bothersome National Intelligence Estimate [.pdf] - you know, the one that said Iran has no nukes, and isn't on the verge of acquiring them, either - is bound to be "revised," in light of new "intelligence." "The clock is ticking" on Iran, says Obama, and, like his predecessor, he'll no doubt find the "facts" to fit a course of action that is preordained in the script.

To draw out the simile to what is perhaps the stretching point, what we ought to be asking at this point is: who are the scriptwriters?

Who wants war with Iran? Who has been demanding it, hoping for it, and doing their best to provoke it? What faction of the foreign policy "community" has been warning that Iran is months away from creating a nuclear weapon, and will certainly target a small "democratic" US ally in the region, one which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad purportedly (but not really) threatened to "wipe off the map"?

It's no secret the Israel lobby has been in the forefront of the effort to mobilize American political, diplomatic and military muscle for a dust-up with Iran: the alleged "threat" emanating from Iran was the theme of the last AIPAC conference, and the propaganda machine that does Tel Aviv's bidding has been going full-bore since the Iraq war ended in "mission accomplished," targeting Tehran as the next victim of our post-9/11 madness. The current power struggle within the Iranian leadership, that culminated in the election fraud protests and the hard-liner clampdown, set the confrontational tone for the pro forma "negotiations" that will segue seamlessly into the second act, and, finally, the third - which will be played out here in this country, on the op ed pages of the nation's newspapers (what's left of them, anyway), and around dinner tables all across America.

Act Three will feature the debate here at home, but it will not take place in a vacuum: having carefully laid the basis for military action by establishing 1) Iranian intransigence, and 2) the veracity of US "intelligence" regarding Iran's nuclear program, all the conditions for a launching an attack will have been met, but for one - the consent of the American people.

Of course, they'd never let us vote on it. Unfortunately, the Ludlow Amendment never passed, and since that time we've become so habituated to being hectored and bullied into war by all-knowing elites that no one has seriously proposed anything like it.

Yet the War Party can't just go barging into a major military conflict without at least the passive acceptance of those who will be paying for it, as well as fighting and dying for it. Once we're in, no matter how slender the pretext, the argument can be made that we can't retreat without a major loss of face, and the "waste" of lives that have already been lost - essentially the same argument that sustained the Iraq war long after the futility and dishonesty of the effort had been widely acknowledged. The trick is getting in.

They say Iran's possession of a nuclear weapons capability represents an "existential threat" to the Jewish state. This may indeed be true, and yet that threat is no more substantial than the threat to the US represented by Soviet nukes during the cold war era. In that historic facedown, each side was constrained by the certainty of mutual assured destruction if war should break out. Since Israel, as everyone knows, possesses a large nuclear arsenal, the Iranians would be similarly constrained not to use theirs. The great problem in the Middle East today is that Israel is not so constrained, at the moment: the Israelis enjoy a nuclear monopoly in the region, and they are determined to maintain it - yes, even if it means war.

Not a war between Israel and Iran, of course, but between the US and Iran. Israel is sending all kinds of signals that if we don't start the bombing, they will, but the Israelis have neither the technical means nor the inclination to risk their own necks - and why should they bother, when they have us to do their dirty work for them?

The way to achieve a regional settlement of the nuclear issue ought to be clear enough: direct negotiations between Tel Aviv and Tehran and a mutual disarmament pact. Syria long ago proposed that the Middle East be declared a nuclear-free zone, a suggestion steadfastly ignored by Washington, and barely reported in the Western media. The Israelis, for their part, won't even acknowledge having a substantial nuclear arsenal, and refuse to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, while Iran, a signatory, has opened its nuclear facilities to inspection.

This kind of even-handed common sense approach to peacefully resolving regional tensions is strictly forbidden in elite foreign policy circles, however, no matter which party is in power - for that would put the Israelis on the same level as everyone else in the Middle East, which Tel Aviv (especially the current regime) regards as an insult. There is one standard for Israel, and another for the rest of the inhabitants of the region - and anything less (or more) than that is evidence of "anti-Semitism."

Make no mistake: the enormous power of the Israel lobby - and it is formidable, don't let anyone kid you - is being utilized to bring us to the brink, and we are moving along at a fairly rapid pace. It won't be long before the clock stops ticking, and the fireworks begin: oh, to be sure, there will be plenty of drama, and secondary plots, along the way, but the essential narrative - Mad mullahs plan on blowing up Israel, if not the world - has already been written, rehearsed, and audience-tested.

It remains to be seen, however, if this particular show ever gets out of summer stock. The American people are in no mood for another war - certainly not a war of the scope necessitated by a huge and populous nation such as Iran. It will take a sustained political and propaganda campaign by the War Party to pull this one off - and yet you shouldn't doubt they have the resources and the will to do it.

You thought you were safe, now that George W. Bush is out of the White House, and the neoconservatives have gone back to their well-subsidized holes - but you were wrong. I would not be at all surprised if the Iranian "crisis" - and it will be declared a "crisis,"complete with ticking clocks and lines in the sand, of that you can be sure - required a "delay" in our plans to withdraw from Iraq. At that point, the American people will either rise up and put an end to the nonsense - or else they'll acquiesce, without much protest, to what seems like the inevitable.
(c) 2009 Justin Raimondo is an American author and the editorial director of the website

The Johnny Procedure
By Uri Avnery

LIKE THE ghost of Hamlet's father, the evil spirit of the Gaza War refuses to leave us in peace. This week it came back to disturb the tranquility of the chiefs of the state and the army.

"Breaking the Silence," a group of courageous former combat soldiers, published a report comprising the testimonies of 30 Gaza War fighters. A hard-hitting report about actions that may be considered war crimes.

The generals went automatically into denial mode. Why don't the soldiers disclose their identity, they asked innocently. Why do they obscure their faces in the video testimonies? Why do they hide their names and units?

How can we be sure that they are not actors reading a text prepared for them by the enemies of Israel? How do we know that this organization is not manipulated by foreigners, who finance their actions? And anyhow, how do we know that they are not lying out of spite?

One can answer with a Hebrew adage: "It has the feel of Truth." Anyone who has ever been a combat soldier in war, whatever war, recognizes at once the truth in these reports. Each of them has met a soldier who is not ready to return home without an X on his gun showing that he killed at least one enemy. (One such person appears in my book "The Other Side of the Coin," which was written 60 years ago and published in English last year as the second part of "1948: A soldier's Tale.") We have been there.

The testimonies about the use of phosphorus, about massive bombardment of buildings, about "the neighbor procedure" (using civilians as human shields), about killing "everything that moves," about the use of all methods to avoid casualties on our side - all these corroborate earlier testimonies about the Gaza War, there can be no reasonable doubt about their authenticity. I learned from the report that the "neighbor procedure" is now called "Johnny procedure," God knows why Johnny and not Ahmad.

The height of hypocrisy is reached by the generals with their demand that the soldiers come forward and lodge their complaints with their commanders, so that the army can investigate them through the proper channels.

First of all, we have already seen the farce of the army investigating itself.

Second, and this is the main point: only a person intent on becoming a martyr would do so. A solder in a combat unit is a part of a tightly knit group whose highest principle is loyalty to comrades and whose commandment is "Thou shalt not squeal!" If he discloses questionable acts he has witnessed, he will be considered a traitor and ostracized. His life will become hell. He knows that all his superiors, from squad leader right up to division commander, will persecute him.

This call to go through "official channels" is a vile method of the generals - members of the General Staff, Army Spokesmen, Army Lawyers - to divert the discussion from the accusations themselves to the identity of the witnesses. No less despicable are the tin soldiers called "military correspondents,",who collaborate with them.

BUT BEFORE accusing the soldiers who committed the acts described in the testimonies, one has to ask whether the decision to start the war did not itself lead inevitably to the crimes.

Professor Assa Kasher, the father of the army "Code of Ethics" and one of the most ardent supporters of the Gaza War, asserted in an essay on this subject that a state has the right to go to war only in self defense, and only if the war constitutes "a last resort". "All alternative courses" to attain the rightful aim "must have been exhausted. "

The official cause of the war was the launching from the Gaza Strip of rockets against Southern Israeli towns and villages. It goes without saying that it is the duty of the state to defend its citizens against missiles. But had all the means to achieve this aim without war really been exhausted? Kasher answers with a resounding "yes." His key argument is that "there is no justification for demanding that Israel negotiate directly with a terrorist organization that does not recognize it and denies its very right to exist."

This does not pass the test of logic. The aim of the negotiations was not supposed to be the recognition by Hamas of the State of Israel and its right to exist (who needs this anyway?) but getting them to stop launching missiles at Israeli citizens. In such negotiations, the other side would understandably have demanded the lifting of the blockade against the population of the Gaza Strip and the opening of the supply passages. It is reasonable to assume that it was possible to reach - with Egyptian help - an agreement that would also have included the exchange of prisoners.

No only was this course not exhausted - it was not even tried. The Israeli government has consistently refused to negotiate with a "terrorist organization" and even with the Palestinian Unity Government that was in existence for some time and in which Hamas was represented.

Therefore, the decision to start the War on Gaza, with a civilian population of a million and a half, was unjustified even according to the criteria of Kasher himself. "All the alternative courses" had not been exhausted, or even attempted.

But we all know that, apart from the official reason, there was also an unofficial one: to topple the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. In the course of the war, official spokesmen stated that there was a need to attach a "price tag" - in other words, to cause death and destruction not in order to hurt the "terrorists" themselves (which would have been almost impossible) but to turn the life of the civilian population into hell, so they would rise up and overthrow Hamas.

The immorality of this strategy is matched by its inefficacy: our own experience has taught us that such methods only serve to harden the resolve of the population and unite them around their courageous leadership.

WAS IT at all possible to conduct this war without committing war crimes? When a government decides to hurl its regular armed forces at a guerrilla organization, which by its very nature fights from within the civilian population, it is perfectly clear that terrible suffering will be caused to that population. The argument that the harm caused to the population, and the killing of over a thousand men, women and children was inevitable should, by itself, have led to the conclusion that the decision to start this was a terrible act right from the beginning.

The Defense Establishment takes the easy way out. The ministers and generals simply assert that they do not believe the Palestinian and international reports about the death and destruction, stating that they are, again in Kasher's words, "mistaken and false.".Just to be sure, they decided to boycott the UN commission that is currently investigating the war, headed by a respected South African judge who is both a Jew and a Zionist.

Assa Kasher is adopting a similar attitude when he says: "Somebody who does not know all the details of an action cannot assess it in a serious, professional and responsible way, and therefore should not do so, in spite of all emotional or political temptations." He demands that we wait until the Israeli army completes its investigations, before we even discuss the matter.

Really? Every organization that investigates itself lacks credibility, not to mention a hierarchical body like the army. Moreover, the army does not - and cannot - obtain testimony from the main eye-witnesses: the inhabitants of Gaza. An investigation based only on the testimony of the perpetrators, but not of the victims, is ridiculous. Now even the testimonies of the soldiers of Breaking the Silence are discounted, because they cannot disclose their identity.

IN A war between a mighty army, equipped with the most sophisticated weaponry in the world, and a guerrilla organization, some basic ethical questions arise. How should the soldiers behave when faced with a structure in which there are not only enemy fighters, which they are "allowed" to hit, but also unarmed civilians, which they are "forbidden" to hit?

Kasher cites several such situations. For example: a building in which there are both "terrorists" and non-fighters. Should it be hit by aircraft or artillery fire that will kill everybody, or should soldiers be sent in who will risk their lives and kill only the fighters? His answer: there is no justification for the risking of the lives of our soldiers in order to save the lives of enemy civilians. An aerial or artillery attack must be preferred.

That does not answer the question about the use of the Air Force to destroy hundreds of houses far enough from our soldiers that there was no danger emanating from them, nor about the killing of scores of recruits of the Palestinian civilian police on parade, nor about the killing of UN personnel in food supply convoys. Nor about the illegal use of white phosphorus against civilians, as described in the soldiers' testimonies gathered by Breaking the Silence, and the use of depleted uranium and other carcinogenic substances.

The entire country experienced on live TV how a shell hit the apartment of a doctor and wiped out almost all of his family. According to the testimony of Palestinian civilians and international observers, many such incidents took place.

The Israeli army took great pride in its method of warning the inhabitants by means of leaflets, phone calls and such, so as to induce them to flee. But everyone - and first of all the warners themselves - knew that the civilians had nowhere secure to escape to and that there were no clear and safe escape routes. Indeed, many civilians were shot while trying to flee.

WE SHALL not evade the hardest moral question of all: is it permissible to risk the lives of our soldiers in order to save the old people, women and children of the "enemy"? The answer of Assa Kasher, the ideologue of the "Most Moral Army in the World," is unequivocal: it is absolutely forbidden to risk the lives of the soldiers. The most telling sentence in his entire essay is: "Therefore...the state must give preference to the lives of its soldiers above the lives of the (unarmed) neighbors of a terrorist."

These words should be read twice and three times, in order to grasp their full implications. What is actually being said here is: if necessary to avoid casualties among our soldiers, it is better to kill enemy civilians without any limit.

In retrospect, one can only be glad that the British soldiers, who fought against the Irgun and the Stern Group, did not have an ethical guide like Kasher.

This is the principle that guided the Israeli army in the Gaza War, and, as far as I know, this is a new doctrine: in order to avoid the loss of one single soldier of ours, it is permissible to kill 10, 100 and even 1000 enemy civilians. War without casualties on our side. The numerical result bears witness: more than 1000 people killed in Gaza, a third or two thirds of them (depending on who you ask) civilians, women and children, as against 6 (six) Israeli soldiers killed by enemy fire. (Four more were killed by "friendly" fire.)

Kasher states explicitly that it is justified to kill a Palestinian child who is in the company of a hundred "terrorists," because the "terrorists" might kill children in Sderot. But in reality, it was a case of killing a hundred children who were in the company of one "terrorist."

If we strip this doctrine of all ornaments, what remains is a simple principle: the state must protect the lives of its soldiers at any price, without any limit or law. A war of zero casualties. That leads necessarily to a tactic of killing every person and destroying every building that could represent a danger to the soldiers, creating an empty space in front of the advancing troops.

Only one conclusion can be drawn from this: from now on, any Israeli decision to start a war in a built-up area is a war crime, and the soldiers who rise up against this crime should be honored. May they be blessed.
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Fading Into Mist...
By Sheila Samples

If you keep on excusing, you eventually give your blessing to the slave camp, to cowardly force, to organized executioners, to the cynicism of great political monsters; you finally hand over your brothers ~~~ Albert Camus

There is no subject more restricted nor more controlled in the United States than a critical discussion of Israel. Balanced argument is ignored while each word is parsed -- and condemned. It's strange that we are free to rant and rave and point out the war crimes of our own administration -- of all other administrations throughout the world -- but not those of Israel. The few who dare to question the damage Israel has wrought throughout the Middle East for decades are immediately labeled "anti-Semitic," and are in danger of losing their friends, jobs, their reputations and, if they persist, their country -- for America has zero tolerance for those who recognize Israel's brutality.

Why is this? Are not crimes against humanity just that, regardless of who is committing them? For example, when one-and-a-half million human beings are imprisoned like caged animals, with no food, electricity, medical care, clean water, and then are exterminated like so many insects -- cut to pieces, burned to a crisp with illegal weapons banned by the Geneva Conventions -- is that not a crime against humanity? Are the men, women and children trapped behind the walls of Gaza with nowhere to run -- nowhere to hide -- not human?

Kill Them All

If you've been listening to the Israeli leadership for the past 60 years, the last 10 years -- the last year -- you know very well that Palestinians are many things, but not human. In 1982, former Likud leader and prime minister Menahim Begin said Palestinians "are beasts walking on two legs." The next year, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces Raphael Eitan gloated, "When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle." And, in 1988, Yitzhak Shamir, a Likudnik elected Prime Minister twice, told the settlers taking over the Palestinian land, "The Palestinians will be crushed like grasshoppers...heads smashed against the boulders and walls."

But it was our own Evangelical, oxy-moronic (sic) Judeo-Christian (sic) cloven-hoofed Pat Robertson, who chats often with God who gave us the real lowdown on Israel's "moral" savagery. Robertson explained God's rationale to his 700 Club members in May 1985...

"The wars of extermination have given a lot of people trouble unless they know what was going on. The people in the land of Palestine were very wicked. They were given over to idolatry; they sacrificed their children; they had all kinds of abominable sex practices; they were having sex, apparently, with animals; they were having sex men with men, and women with women; they were committing adultery, fornication; they were worshipping idols, offering their children up; and they were forsaking God.

"God told the Israelites to kill them all -- men, women and children, to destroy them. And that seems to be a terrible thing to do. Is it? Or isn't it? Well, let us assume there were 2,000 of them, or 10,000 of them living in the land, or whatever number there was of them. I don't have the exact number. Pick a number. God said, 'Kill them all.' . . . the abomination was there like a contagion. God saw that there was no cure for it. It wasn't going to change; their hearts weren't going to change; and all they would do is cause trouble for the Israelites, and pull the Israelites away from God, and prevent the truth of God from reaching the Earth. So, God, in love, took away a small number that he might not have to take away a large number."

Beasts. Insects. Victims of a relentless, methodical genocide that grinds away, day after day, year after year, with no analysis, no reflection, no questions -- subsidized with US equipment, US political support, US taxpayers' money. How easily we have not only excused, but given our blessing to Israel's crimes -- handed over our brothers -- from the 1967 attack on the USS Liberty using US-financed French aircraft leaving 34 dead and 174 injured American sailors, to massacres using US-furnished weapons in Jenin, Rafah, Sabara, Shatila, Lebanon, and repeatedly in Gaza.

How silently we stood on March 16, 2003 when an Israeli soldier in a US Caterpillar bulldozer crushed to death 23-year-old Rachel Corrie -- shot and seriously wounded 26-year-old Brian Avery on April 5, 2003 -- and, on April 11, 2003, shot and killed 21-year-old Tom Hurndall while he was attempting to save three terrified Palestine children who were being shot at as they played.

Political Monsters

Israel's grotesque 22-day foray into Gaza earlier this year shocked the world with its savagery -- with one notable exception -- the United States. Perhaps that's because, according to the Australian Herald, one week before the invasion, the US shipped 989 containers of munitions, including white phosphorous, to Israel. Three months earlier, Congress approved a $77 million sale to Israel of 1,000 Boeing Corp. GBU-39 bunker-buster bombs which arrived just in time to wreck havoc on the Gaza infrastructure.

Despite the layers upon layers of justification Israel cites, there is only one reason it continues its heinous extermination of the Palestinian people -- because it can. Because the United States supports such atrocity. Because the United States finances, arms and equips Israel, and -- more important -- protects it from having to account for any of its crimes. So, who's to blame here? From whose hands does the blood of Palestinian men, women and children run? Israel or the United States? Who are the monsters?

Speak, memory.

Scarcely a week after the "war" on Gaza began, the jubilation in both houses of Congress was palatable. Members elbowed each other out of the way to co-sponsor and vote for resolutions condemning Hamas for forcing Israel to maim and kill its Gaza population. Resolutions were submitted and passed by voice vote on Jan. 8. TheA< HREF=""> Senate Resolution had 34 co-sponsors; the House Resolution chalked up 116. The votes and the blame were shamefully one-sided, with Hamas being blamed for both the war and the death of its own citizens. Israel did not receive a single rebuke; was praised throughout -- ironically, for facilitating "humanitarian aid to Gaza with hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian assistance and numerous ambulances entering the Gaza Strip since the war began."

Three days later, investigative journalist Max Blumenthal covered a 10,000-strong rally in New York City. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) whipped the crowd into a frenzy, shouting about the morality of Israel text-messaging Palestinians to "vacate their homes because there were weapons in them..." Schumer, giddy with pride, his fist waving in the air, cried -- "What other country would do that!"

According to Blumenthal, the rally was pulsating with hate. He said...

"Right in front of the stage, a man held a banner reading, "Islam Is A Death Cult." Rally attendees described the people of Gaza to me as a "cancer," called for Israel to "wipe them all out," insisting, "They are forcing us to kill their children in order to defend our own children." A young woman told me,"Those who die are suffering God's wrath." "They are not distinguishing between civilians and military, so why should we?" said a member of the group of messianic Orthodox Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch group that flocked to the rally.

"No one I spoke to could seem to find any circumstance in which they would begin to question Israel's war. No number of civilian deaths, no displays of extreme suffering -- nothing could deter their enthusiasm for attacking one of the most vulnerable populations in the world with the world's most advanced weaponry. There are no limits, no matter what Israel does, no matter how it does it."

As I watched those caught up in the shockingly racist excitement of that rally, I could not help but wonder what these people -- what US politicians -- would do if the children being blown to bits, the homes bombed and bulldozed, the families mutilated, the livelihoods destroyed -- were theirs. And, I also am forced to wonder -- is the inability to hold back tears at the sight of so much inhumane lust for blood anti-Semitic -- even anti-American?

Blame the Jews?

Perhaps I am the wrong person to address this issue. I was raised, for the most part, in the wilds of New Mexico by parents completely devoid of racism, bigotry or hate. Those ugly ideologies weren't just ignored -- they didn't exist. This may sound naive, but I never met a Jew until I was married, my husband was in the Army and stationed at Fort Monmouth in Long Branch, New Jersey. We rented a bedroom "apartment" from the Brodskys, a Jewish family -- wonderful, joyous, good-natured people who welcomed us into their midst as if they had been waiting for us all their lives. For me, for years, the Brodskys personified all Jews.

So, when I look to the Middle East and see human beings abused, without food or adequate health care, their infrastructure destroyed, their children slaughtered for sport, it is difficult for me to believe such barbaric savagery is being committed, or even condoned, by Jews who are aware of what is happening. American Jews, Jews in Israel, Jews around the world are vigorously opposed to such treatment. Far more Jews than non-Jews in this country speak out about Israel's relentless execution of Palestinians. They protest, engage in "die-ins," hold 24-hour vigils with signs heralding their dissent. They scream to heaven -- but their voices are silenced and the media steadfastly refuses to cover their views.

There was no mention of the rally in New York City in support of Gaza on the same day as the Schumer Screamer; no mention of IDF soldiers who refused to serve because of the violence against innocent Palestinians; no mention of the 700 Israeli citizens arrested in the first two weeks for protesting the assault; and no mention of a Jan 8 meeting of prominent Canadians who spoke out against the war on Gaza.

Toronto psychotherapist Judith Weisman, a Jew who is a member of Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for a Just Peace, the Jewish Women's Committee to End the Occupation of Palestine, and a founding member of Not In Our Name, said, "Zionism is the scourge of the Jewish people. It is Zionism that has created all of this."

Weisman, herself a former "committed Zionist," said, "it took many years for the scales to literally fall off of my eyes and for me to see what Israel has wrought among the Palestinians." Weisman says she is frightened at the influence Israel now has around the world, and the "power that Israel and the United States are using to control so much of what is happening around the world."

It's not that nobody is listening, it's that -- for those hog-tied to the US media -- there's nothing to hear but silence, propaganda and lies. Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz that fully a third of those killed were children. Levy said...

"The public's shocking indifference to these figures is incomprehensible. A thousand propagandists and apologists cannot excuse this criminal killing. One can blame Hamas for the death of children, but no reasonable person in the world will buy these ludicrous, flawed propagandistic goods in light of the pictures and statistics coming from Gaza."

No matter. We here in the United States have moved on. We have given our blessing to the great political monsters. It is as George Orwell wrote in his prescient 1984...

"Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth."
(c) 2009 Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at:

The Numbers Behind Washington's Banker Bailout

You'd think that Wall Street bankers - who have caused a national economic collapse and cost taxpayers $12 trillion just to keep banks in business - would be pariahs in Washington.

But no - not only are they still being glad-handed and back-slapped in the Capitol corridors by officials of both parties, but the banking lobby is still winning legislative and regulatory battles over you, me, and the public interest. Why is that?

Remember the words of Willie Sutton, who said he robbed banks "Because that's where the money is." Even though today's robbers are the bankers themselves, they are still a reliable source of campaign money for both Democrats and Republicans - and that money buys them friends in high places.

In a recent survey by The Hill, a newspaper that covers the Capitol, Wall Street interests were found to have amassed more than $6 million in their political action committees this year - even as they were taking bailout funds from us. For example, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and JP Morgan Chase each had between half-a-million and $1.3 million in their PACs - money to entice and reward lawmakers.

There's no subtlety to what they're doing. Bank of America, for one, openly admits that it's keeping tabs on which members stand with it on votes against you and me. "We're doing our research," explains a spokeswoman. A lobbyist for the biggest financial corporations asserts that campaign donations are merely Wall Street's way of helping members of Congress develop good public policy. "Now more than ever," he says, "they need to hear from industry." Hogwash. We're in this mess because Congress listened to Wall Street, rather than to our streets. Here's something for Congress critters to contemplate: only six percent of Americans support your big banker bailout.
(c) 2009 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Heckuva Job, Barry
By Ted Rall

NEW YORK: Pro-Obama political cartoonists have drawn variations of the same cartoon: the president, in the role of badgered parent on a family trip, is driving a car labeled "The Economy." The American public, depicted as Uncle Sam or Joe Average, whines: "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"

With official unemployment approaching 10 percent and underemployment at 16.5 percent, Americans are running out of money--and patience. Obama's approval ratings are down between 15 and 20 points, meaning that he has lost one in six Americans. His biggest weakness: the economy.

"I think the public knows three things: We inherited a total mess; we're working hard on it; and we're not going to get out of it overnight," says Chief White House propagandist Rahm Emanuel. That part is true.

The trouble for Obama is that people don't see any light at the end of the tunnel. "The key to what this year is about is rescuing the economy from falling off the cliff and trying to put in place the building blocks of recovery"--i.e., bailing out the banks, insurers and automakers, says Emanuel. That's what 2009 has been about for Obama. But for ordinary Americans, 2009 is about keeping or finding a job.

Creating jobs, unfortunately, doesn't seem to be an Obama Administration priority.

Were the bailouts necessary? Economists won't know for years. What we do know is that the Administration's approach won't give the American people what they want and need more than anything else: jobs.

What's the point of being patient? Even Obama admits help isn't on the way.

Obama's plan is Reaganomics redux. Give trillions of dollars to big corporations, he argues, and they'll use it to capitalize new ventures, hire workers, and unclog the credit markets. Eventually. "We must let it work the way it's supposed to, with the understanding that in any recession, unemployment tends to recover more slowly than other measures of economic activity," he says.

Obama says his plan "was not designed to work in four months. It was designed to work over two years." But if current trends continue, if everything goes the way he hopes, it will never work. We will have lost 14 million jobs by 2010. That would leave us up 4 million at most--a net loss of 10 million. That's a disaster.

Obama's approach won't work economically, and it won't work politically. Setting bailouts aside, what the United States needs right now--what it needed over a year ago--was a ginormous federal jobs program.

What happened to the infrastructure construction projects, like high-speed rail, that attracted so much enthusiasm during the campaign? Right-wing economic czar Lawrence Summers and a bunch of wimpy Democrats trashed them. "Transportation spending was gutted by Republicans who insisted on more tax cuts--none of whom voted for the measure anyway--and by Obama advisers who shifted priorities to advance policy goals," reported the AP.

Earlier this year the American Society of Civil Engineers said the nation's long-neglected highways, bridges and tunnels require $2,200 billion in repairs just to get them up to basic safety code--not including high-speed rail. Obama's stimulus plan included a mere $42 billion (less than two percent). Rail got $2 billion out of a needed $25 billion. Unless Obama does something soon, nothing is going to get built and unemployment will continue to soar.

Now that Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs are reporting record profits, it's time to "claw back" the bailouts, pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and direct federal dollars where we need them most: jobs. Give tax breaks to employers who add new workers, direct federal agencies to grow in size, and create zero-interest lending programs to laid-off would-be entrepreneurs. And let's build some friggin' infrastructure. Every $1 spent on infrastructure generates a $1.59 payback in the form of increased tax revenues--and creates a lasting legacy.

Speaking of cartoons, the Treasury Department's Bureau of Public Debt recently came under fire for trying to hire a cartoonist to < I>"discuss the power of humor in the workplace [and] the close relationship between humor and stress." A Democratic Senator nixed the idea.
(c) 2009 Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?" an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.)

In Stark Legal Turnaround, Obama Now Resembles Bush
By Michael Doyle

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama is morphing into George W. Bush, as administration attorneys repeatedly adopt the executive-authority and national-security rationales that their Republican predecessors preferred.

In courtroom battles and freedom-of-information fights from Washington, D.C., to California, Obama's legal arguments repeatedly mirror Bush's: White House turf is to be protected, secrets must be retained and dire warnings are wielded as weapons.

"It's putting up a veritable wall around the White House, and it's so at odds with Obama's campaign commitment to more open government," said Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a legal watchdog group.

Certainly, some differences exist.

The Obama administration, for instance, has released documents on global warming from the Council on Environmental Quality that the Bush administration sought to suppress. Some questions, such as access to White House visitor logs, remain a work in progress.

On policies that are at the heart of presidential power and prerogatives, however, this administration's legal arguments have blended into the other. The persistence can reflect everything from institutional momentum and a quest for continuity to the clout of career employees.

"There is no question that there are (durable) cultures and mindsets in agencies," Weismann acknowledged.

A courtroom clash Thursday illustrated how Obama has come to emulate Bush.

Weismann's organization sued last year to obtain the notes from an interview that the FBI conducted with then-Vice President Dick Cheney. The interview was part of an investigation into leaks concerning undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame, and the Bush administration vigorously fought the release of the notes.

"The records contain descriptions of confidential deliberations among top White House officials which are protected by the deliberative process and presidential communications privileges," Bush's Justice Department argued in an Oct. 10, 2008, legal brief.

Obama's Justice Department held the same line Thursday.

"The new leadership of the department supports those arguments," Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Smith told U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan during the oral argument. "The Department of Justice is an ongoing entity, and it is not normal for us to update cases simply because we have a new attorney general."

Perspectives, of course, often change once candidates assume responsibility upon taking office. As a candidate, for instance, Obama opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

As president, however, he's following Bush's lead in defending in court the federal marriage law, which a California same-sex couple is challenging.

The law "reflects a cautiously limited response to society's still-evolving understanding of the institution of marriage," Assistant Attorney General Tony West declared in a legal filing June 11.

Legally speaking, every administration inherits lawsuits filed against its predecessor. The Solicitor General's Office, which represents the government in appeals, traditionally tries to hold a steady course. Personnel, too, stick around. John Brennan, the CIA director's chief of staff during the Bush administration, is now closely advising Obama as a senior National Security Council staffer.

Whatever the reasons, policy persists.

The Bush White House sought to keep e-mails secret. The Obama White House has followed suit. The Bush White House sought to keep visitor logs secret. The Obama White House, so far, takes the same view.

Petaluma, Calif., resident Carolyn Jewel and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a legal activist group, sued the Bush administration over warrantless wiretaps. The Bush administration said that the lawsuit endangered national security. The Obama administration now agrees.

"The disclosure of the information implicated by this case, which concerns how the United States seeks to detect and prevent terrorist attacks, would cause exceptionally grave harm to national security," Acting Assistant Attorney General Michael F. Hertz declared in a brief April 3.

Similarly, the Bush administration objected to an American Civil Liberties Union request for access to documents that include photographs that reportedly show the abuse of foreign prisoners held by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Obama administration declared in April that it would release the photographs.

Three weeks later, Obama reversed course and declared that "releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger." The administration's attorneys followed up with a legal brief, augmented by a 24-page declaration that CIA Director Leon Panetta filed June 9.

"Information containing details of the (interrogation techniques) being applied would provide ready-made ammunition for al Qaida propaganda," Panetta declared. "The resultant damage to the national security would likely be exceptionally grave."

In an interview, ACLU attorney Amrit Singh said that "the trend, as it is now, is disappointing" as Obama follows the Bush lead. The Obama administration now will appeal to the Supreme Court in an effort to keep the photos and related information secret.

On the opposite coast, a similar drama is playing out in a clash over so-called "torture flights."

An ACLU lawsuit, initially filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., contends that the Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan knowingly supported a CIA operation that flew terrorism suspects to brutal overseas prisons. The Bush administration invoked the "state secrets" privilege in an effort to stop the suit.

"Further litigation of this case would pose an unacceptable risk of disclosure of information that the nation's security requires not be disclosed," the Bush administration declared in a legal filing on Oct. 18, 2007.

The Obama administration now says the same, after a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled April 21 that the case could proceed.

"Permitting this suit to proceed would pose an unacceptable risk to national security," the Obama administration declared in a legal filing June 12.

For both arguments, the two administrations relied on the attestations of the same man: former Bush CIA Director Michael Hayden.
(c) 2009 Michael Doyle is a reporter in the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers who covers California issues and legal affairs. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs. His non-fiction book "The Forestport Breaks: A 19th Century Conspiracy Along the Black River Canal" is published by Syracuse University Press.

The Joy Of Sachs
By Paul Krugman

First, it tells us that Goldman is very good at what it does. Unfortunately, what it does is bad for America.

Second, it shows that Wall Street's bad habits - above all, the system of compensation that helped cause the financial crisis - have not gone away.

Third, it shows that by rescuing the financial system without reforming it, Washington has done nothing to protect us from a new crisis, and, in fact, has made another crisis more likely.

Let's start by talking about how Goldman makes money.

Over the past generation - ever since the banking deregulation of the Reagan years - the U.S. economy has been "financialized." The business of moving money around, of slicing, dicing and repackaging financial claims, has soared in importance compared with the actual production of useful stuff. The sector officially labeled "securities, commodity contracts and investments" has grown especially fast, from only 0.3 percent of G.D.P. in the late 1970s to 1.7 percent of G.D.P. in 2007.

Such growth would be fine if financialization really delivered on its promises - if financial firms made money by directing capital to its most productive uses, by developing innovative ways to spread and reduce risk. But can anyone, at this point, make those claims with a straight face? Financial firms, we now know, directed vast quantities of capital into the construction of unsellable houses and empty shopping malls. They increased risk rather than reducing it, and concentrated risk rather than spreading it. In effect, the industry was selling dangerous patent medicine to gullible consumers.

Goldman's role in the financialization of America was similar to that of other players, except for one thing: Goldman didn't believe its own hype. Other banks invested heavily in the same toxic waste they were selling to the public at large. Goldman, famously, made a lot of money selling securities backed by subprime mortgages - then made a lot more money by selling mortgage-backed securities short, just before their value crashed. All of this was perfectly legal, but the net effect was that Goldman made profits by playing the rest of us for suckers.

And Wall Streeters have every incentive to keep playing that kind of game.

The huge bonuses Goldman will soon hand out show that financial-industry highfliers are still operating under a system of heads they win, tails other people lose. If you're a banker, and you generate big short-term profits, you get lavishly rewarded - and you don't have to give the money back if and when those profits turn out to have been a mirage. You have every reason, then, to steer investors into taking risks they don't understand.

And the events of the past year have skewed those incentives even more, by putting taxpayers as well as investors on the hook if things go wrong.

I won't try to parse the competing claims about how much direct benefit Goldman received from recent financial bailouts, especially the government's assumption of A.I.G.'s liabilities. What's clear is that Wall Street in general, Goldman very much included, benefited hugely from the government's provision of a financial backstop - an assurance that it will rescue major financial players whenever things go wrong.

You can argue that such rescues are necessary if we're to avoid a replay of the Great Depression. In fact, I agree. But the result is that the financial system's liabilities are now backed by an implicit government guarantee.

Now the last time there was a comparable expansion of the financial safety net, the creation of federal deposit insurance in the 1930s, it was accompanied by much tighter regulation, to ensure that banks didn't abuse their privileges. This time, new regulations are still in the drawing-board stage - and the finance lobby is already fighting against even the most basic protections for consumers.

If these lobbying efforts succeed, we'll have set the stage for an even bigger financial disaster a few years down the road. The next crisis could look something like the savings-and-loan mess of the 1980s, in which deregulated banks gambled with, or in some cases stole, taxpayers' money - except that it would involve the financial industry as a whole.

The bottom line is that Goldman's blowout quarter is good news for Goldman and the people who work there. It's good news for financial superstars in general, whose paychecks are rapidly climbing back to precrisis levels. But it's bad news for almost everyone else.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Family Planning
"Totalitarians for God" Spread Poison Web
By Chris Floyd

In a new piece for, Jeff Sharlet has more on the domestic side of the militarist-fundamentalist drive to devour the state, which we wrote about here yesterday. Sharlet writes of "The Family" -- the self-described "Christian Mafia" centered on the "C Street House" in Washington -- which for decades has spread its invisible, insidious influence throughout the U.S. government, while supporting mass-murdering dictators, rapacious crony capitalism -- and providing convenient cover and absolution for the high crimes and sexual misdemeanors of its members.

Sharlet has written of The Family for years, in articles for Harper's and in his book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. He has described in great detail -- and from the inside -- a disturbing, decades-old network of big-time power players guided by cranks who push Pol Pot, Osama bin Laden, and Stalin as worthy role models in the pursuit of the Family's ultimate goal: a militarized, unfettered "totalitarianism of God." You would think that Sharlet's earlier revelations would have brought intensive, horrified scrutiny to bear on this nest of democracy-hating accomplices of atrocity and corruption -- but the stories never gained much traction in the corporate media. Who cares about all that boring stuff?

But now that several of The Family's members and associates have found themselves caught in good old juicy sex scandals, suddenly the media has "re-discovered" the C Street House, and shined at least a little more light on that dark corner. Because as we all know, the only offense that an American politician must ever pay for is a sexual indiscretion. When it comes to murder, torture, oppression, war crimes, military aggression, tyranny, etc -- well, it's always best to "move on" from such unseemly doings, and stay "focused on the future, not the past."

Although truth to tell, even sexual indiscretions are increasingly unpaid for by our coddled, unaccountable elites. Look at Bill Clinton, swanning around the world like a rock star, swimming in his millions. And of course, all rightwing pols caught with their pants down can always play the "fallen sinner redeemed by God" card, and start all over again. Clinton also played this card for all it was worth, of course; recall his hilarious "counseling sessions" with various high-profile religious leaders, who, we are to believe, sat down with the President of the United States and gave him earnest, prayerful counsel on how to keep his pecker in his pants.

Even so, messing around in the sexual cellarage still causes a politician more of a spot of bother than, say, authorizing a drone strike (i.e., "targeted assassination," i.e., "extrajudicial assassination," i.e., "act of mass murder") that kills dozens of innocent people. The irony, of course, as Magnificent Valor points out, is that these sexual indiscretions are often the only interesting and vaguely human thing these time-serving, box-ticking, elitist automatons have ever done.

In any case, the wanton willy-waggling of Mark Sanford, John Ensign, Chip Pickering and other "Family" stalwarts has provided us with yet another glimpse at the truly strange and deranged power structure that governs our lives. You should read Sharlet's piece in full, but here are a few choice bits:

The Family likes to call itself a "Christian Mafia," but it began 74 years ago as an anti-New Deal coalition of businessmen convinced that organized labor was under the sway of Satan. The Great Depression, they believed, was a punishment from God for what they viewed as FDR's socialism. The Family's goal was the "consecration" of America to God, first through the repeal of New Deal reforms, then through the aggressive expansion of American power during the Cold War...

Historically, the Family has been strongly Republican [Sharlet includes a copious list of current power-players in the Family ranks], but it includes Democrats, too. There's Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, for instance, a vocal defender of putting the Ten Commandments in public places, and Sen. Mark Pryor, the pro-war Arkansas Democrat responsible for scuttling Obama's labor agenda. Sen. Pryor explained to me the meaning of bipartisanship he'd learned through the Family: "Jesus didn't come to take sides. He came to take over." And by Jesus, the Family means the Family.

Family leaders consider their political network to be Christ's avant garde, an elite that transcends not just conventional morality but also earthly laws regulating lobbying. ... Founder Abraham Vereide decided that the group could be more effective by working personally with politicians. "The more invisible you can make your organization," Vereide's successor, current leader Doug Coe preaches, "the more influence you can have."

...I met [David Coe, Doug Coe's son and heir apparent], when I lived for several weeks as a member of the Family... Attempting to explain what it means to be chosen for leadership like King David was -- or Mark Sanford, according to his own estimate -- he asked a young man who'd put himself, body and soul, under the Family's authority, "Let's say I hear you raped three little girls. What would I think of you?" The man guessed that Coe would probably think that he was a monster. "No," answered Coe, "I wouldn't." Why? Because, as a member of the Family, he's among what Family leaders refer to as the "new chosen." If you're chosen, the normal rules don't apply.

If that doesn't tell you all you need to know about our nation's rulers, then I don't know what will. And of course, this "three rapes--so what?" philosophy of unaccountability is not confined to members of "The Family": it permeates the entire power structure.

And as we noted yesterday, this drive toward "Christian totalitarianism" seeks to use the military as one of its primary vehicles of subversion:

Christian right leader -- and Watergate felon -- Chuck Colson, converted through the efforts of the Family, has boasted of it as a "veritable underground of Christ's men all through government." What do they do? Rep. Zach Wamp, one of Ensign's fellow C Streeters who's been in the news for defending the Family's secrecy, has teamed up with Family-linked Reps. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., and John R. Carter, R-Texas, on an obscure appropriations committee to help greenlight tens of millions in federal funds for new megachurch-style chapels on military bases around the country.

But of course, one of the main thrusts of The Family's business has been succoring murderous dictators around the world:

One needn't be a Marxist to find fault with the Family's mash-up of New Testament and unfettered capitalism -- Adam Smith himself would have recognized that theology as a disingenuous form of self-interest by proxy. Such interests have led the Family into some strange alliances over the years. Seduced by the Indonesian dictator Suharto's militant anti-communism, they described the murder of hundreds of thousands that brought him to power as a "spiritual revolution," and sent delegations of congressmen and oil executives to pray to Jesus with the Muslim leader. In Africa, they anointed the Somali killer Siad Barre as God's man and sent Sen. Grassley and a defense contractor as emissaries. Barre described himself as a "Koranic Marxist," but he agreed to pray to Grassley's American Christ in return for American military aid, which he then used to wreak a biblical terror on his nation. It has not yet recovered.

Needless to say, while this group of gilded sectarians leave mounds of corpses in their political gaming around the world, their main business is -- what else? -- business:

[In their Family-paid junkets, members are] representing "Jesus plus nothing," as Doug Coe puts it, the "totalitarianism of God," in the words of an early Family leader, a vision that encompasses not just social issues but also the kind of free-market fundamentalism that is the real object of devotion for Ensign, Coburn, Pickering, Wamp and Sanford, along with Family insiders such as Sens. DeMint, Sam Brownback and Chuck Grassley. At the heart of the Family's spiritual advice for its proxies in Congress is the conviction that the market's invisible hand represents the guidance of God, and that God wants his "new chosen" to look out for one another.

As we all know, one of the most dangerous creatures on earth is the bullshitter who believes his own bullshit. There is absolutely no doubt that Adolf Hitler went to his death thinking he was a swell guy, a worthy, righteous man more sinned against than sinning. The self-absolution -- and self-hypnosis -- of fanatical certitude is a deadly toxin; not just for the individual, but for the world. We see the fruits of Family-style fundamentalism all around us today, in the blood-soaked ruin of the Terror Wars, in the collapse of communities, families, individuals -- and the world economy -- from the rapine of "godly" market extremism, even down to the rise in teen pregnancies and sexual disease, which are, of course, most prevalent and growing in the very areas dominated by the Dominationists' wilfully ignorant, sexually obsessed sectarianism, as the Guardian reports. These are real lives, of real people, blighted -- or blotted out -- by the divinely-robed barbarism of their leaders.

What the elites reserve for themselves -- security, assistance, wealth, power, personal license -- they deny to others. Indeed, this denial is essential to their identity as the "chosen;" if others have what they have, how can they be exalted, set apart, special? Thus they must be implacable enemies of the very idea of the common good -- at home, abroad, at every level of life. It is, at its heart, a sinister vision of life -- yet it has become the unspoken, unquestioned ruling assumption underlying our society today.
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

By Case Wagenvoord

It's time to blow the lid off the Disneyfied world of children's fairy tales and reveal their sordid origins. These were not saccharin tales of pastoral beauty in which everyone lived happily ever after. They were passion-filled narratives seeped in gore and violence.

Take "Sleeping Beauty" for example. It first appeared as "Sun, Moon, and Talia," published by Giambattista Basile in 1634. No Prince Charming awakens the sleeping beauty with a kiss. Rather, a married king rapes her. Nine months later she gives birth to twins. Unable to expose her breasts so they could suckle, one of the twins sucks on her finger, and in doing so, withdraws the splinter of flax that had rendered her comatose, and she awakens.

When the king's wife learns of his dalliance, she sends for the children intending to cook them into a meal she will serve the king. Only a compassionate cooks saves them.

Carlo Collodi wrote Pinocchio in 1881. The book bears little resemblance to the Disney movie of the same name. In the book, the puppet is a subversive rebel who refused to live by nineteenth century mores. Among other things, he gets Geppetto thrown in jail and manages to burn his wooden legs off in a fire. (Geppetto carves replacements.)

And the cricket? He's squashed on page 15.

In the Grimm brothers "Cinderella" the step sisters are so hot to have the glass slipper fit that one cuts off her heel while the other cuts off her toes. When the slipper fits Cinderella's foot without surgery, she invites her step-mother and sisters to their wedding. On the way there, a flock of pigeons descend and pluck out their eyes.

Here, now, is the unvarnished story of "Little Red Riding Hood," an eighteenth century French peasant's tale as recorded by Robert Darnton in his book, The Great Cat Massacre. (Spoiler alert: There is no hood, red or otherwise.)

Once a little girl was told by her mother to bring some bread and milk to her grandmother. As the girl was walking through the forest, a wolf came up to her and asked where she was going.

"To grandmother's house," she replied.

"Which path are you taking, the path of the pins or the path of the needles?"

"The path of the needles."

So the wolf took the path of the pins and arrived first at the house. He killed grandmother, poured her blood into a bottle, and sliced her flesh onto a platter. Then he got into her night clothes and waited in bed.

"Knock, knock."

"Come in, my dear."

"Hello, grandmother. I've brought you some bread and milk."

"Have something yourself, my dear. There is meat and wine in the pantry."

So the little girl ate what was offered; and as she did, a little cat said, "Slut! To eat the flesh and drink the blood of your grandmother!"

Then the wolf said, "Undress and get into bed with me."

"Where shall I put my apron?"

"Throw it on the fire; you won't need it any more."

For each garment-bodice, skirt, petticoat, and stockings-the girl asked the same question; and each time the wolf answered, "Throw it on the fire; you won't need it any more."

When the girl was in bed, she said, "Oh, grandmother! How hairy you are!

"It's to keep me warm, my dear."

"Oh, grandmother! What big shoulders you have!"

"It's for better carrying firewood."

"Oh, grandmother! what long nails you have!"

"It's for scratching myself better."

"Oh, grandmother! What big teeth you have!

"It's for eating you better, my dear.

And he ate her.

I mention this in passing because we have an administration that has Disneyfied war and torture, turning them into sanitized abstractions. Perhaps we can learn from children's fairy tales that reality is much grimmer than the fairy tales that come out of the Beltway. The green sprouts of economic recovery bear thorns, and those of us who haven't yet been bloodied, soon will be.

And, there's no Prince Charming coming to rescue us. At best, we might look for a married king. Some might say he's already arrived.
(c) 2009 Case Wagenvoord. Some years ago, Case Wagenvoord turned off the tube and picked up a book. He's been trouble ever since. His articles have been posted at The Smirking Chimp, Countercurrents and Issues & Alibis. When he's not writing or brooding, he is carving hardwood bowls that have been displayed in galleries and shows across the country. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two cats. His book, Open Letters to George W. Bush is available at

Job Retraining; For What?
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning to all of you Middle Class thinkers; your King of Simple News is on the air.

As unemployment continues to make the headlines and comments such as, "It looks as if we have found a bottom in this recession, new unemployment claims are down to 600,000 this week," continue to appear; I feel compelled to respond in Mikeronomic English.

A whole lot of folks join our little work-a-day club each and every month. Or should I say, want to join and can't! Those who fail to find employment include the first time workers who just graduated from high school, college and trade schools. And then, there are those who have quit high school, college and trade school. And, there are those who are self employed and no longer have work. There are also the 100,000 legal monthly immigrants. And of course, who can forget the untold numbers of illegal immigrants? Did I mention the discouraged workers who have been off for a year or more? Or the part-time workers who want and need full time work?

What do all of the above have in common? None of them qualify for unemployment. Therefore, they are not counted in the official unemployment numbers. So then, what is the actual unemployment number and where are we going with this thing?

When a nation that experiences a cold period (commonly referred to as winter), is busy laying off people in the most opportune employment season (commonly referred to as summer), the coming cold time could in fact be considered to be downright frigid when applied to employment.

Employment for the Christmas shopping season (most recently known as the Chinese product distribution season) has never been real employment to begin with, but this year, I'm bettin' the Chinese product distribution season will see new will the associated temporary employment.

We certainly can't count on the automakers, homebuilders, or California to lead us out of the unemployment wilderness this winter, so therefore, most government economists have lengthened their recovery expectations to the spring thaw, or as they like to say, "A resurgence in the economy is expected to occur in Q-2 2010." The obvious problem is, and I'll write real slow in the event that some politicians are reading this, t h e r e a r e n o r e a l j o b s t h a t n e e d t o b e d o n e. We sent the real jobs that needed to be done to China, Japan, Korea and India. Now we have permanent unemployment in the service economy that replaced industry. Surprise, surprise.

On that subject, I had this to say in my book:

The concept of making a smooth transition from an agricultural and manufacturing nation to an information and services-based economy seems preposterous to me. If one believes this idea plausible, then one must also assume that steelworkers, autoworkers, machinists, farmers, livestock producers, etc., can seamlessly transition to such employment as systems analysts, computer programmers, and stock brokers. That is one of the bits of information that was omitted from the speech about jobs aplenty for the taking, along with the failure to mention the requirement of two years' experience and a degree in computer science. I can visualize the retraining classes now. "Sir, I believe that if you remove your welding helmet, you could see the computer monitor more clearly."

The government's answer to the loss of nearly all real jobs was a massive program that most are unaware of titled TAA, or Trade Adjustment Assistance. Those who lose their employment due to the massive jobs exportation to foreign nations are eligible for government paid retraining under TAA. They are retrained from a life of employment to a life of unemployment.

Retraining is as great a farce as was an "information and service" economy. It is now being discovered (by the Department of Labor no less) that "retrained" workers have little to no advantage of being rehired over those who have not undergone retraining!

One commenter made the following quote, "TAA has also been referred to as 'Hospice for Manufacturing' which says it all." If you didn't go to this link provided by George 45-70 on the weekend post, please do.
(c) 2009 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"Of all the frictional resistances, the one that most retards human movement is ignorance."
~~~ Nikola Tesla ~~~

War Without Purpose
By Chris Hedges

Al-Qaida could not care less what we do in Afghanistan. We can bomb Afghan villages, hunt the Taliban in Helmand province, build a 100,000-strong client Afghan army, stand by passively as Afghan warlords execute hundreds, maybe thousands, of Taliban prisoners, build huge, elaborate military bases and send drones to drop bombs on Pakistan. It will make no difference. The war will not halt the attacks of Islamic radicals. Terrorist and insurgent groups are not conventional forces. They do not play by the rules of warfare our commanders have drilled into them in war colleges and service academies. And these underground groups are protean, changing shape and color as they drift from one failed state to the next, plan a terrorist attack and then fade back into the shadows. We are fighting with the wrong tools. We are fighting the wrong people. We are on the wrong side of history. And we will be defeated in Afghanistan as we will be in Iraq.

The cost of the Afghanistan war is rising. Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed or wounded. July has been the deadliest month in the war for NATO combatants, with at least 50 troops, including 26 Americans, killed. Roadside bomb attacks on coalition forces are swelling the number of wounded and killed. In June, the tally of incidents involving roadside bombs, also called improvised explosive devices (IEDs), hit 736, a record for the fourth straight month; the number had risen from 361 in March to 407 in April and to 465 in May. The decision by President Barack Obama to send 21,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan has increased our presence to 57,000 American troops. The total is expected to rise to at least 68,000 by the end of 2009. It will only mean more death, expanded fighting and greater futility.

We have stumbled into a confusing mix of armed groups that include criminal gangs, drug traffickers, Pashtun and Tajik militias, kidnapping rings, death squads and mercenaries. We are embroiled in a civil war. The Pashtuns, who make up most of the Taliban and are the traditional rulers of Afghanistan, are battling the Tajiks and Uzbeks, who make up the Northern Alliance, which, with foreign help, won the civil war in 2001. The old Northern Alliance now dominates the corrupt and incompetent government. It is deeply hated. And it will fall with us.

We are losing the war in Afghanistan. When we invaded the country eight years ago the Taliban controlled about 75 percent of Afghanistan. Today its reach has crept back to about half the country. The Taliban runs the poppy trade, which brings in an annual income of about $300 million a year. It brazenly carries out attacks in Kabul, the capital, and foreigners, fearing kidnapping, rarely walk the streets of most Afghan cities. It is life-threatening to go into the countryside, where 80 percent of all Afghanis live, unless escorted by NATO troops. And intrepid reporters can interview Taliban officials in downtown coffee shops in Kabul. Osama bin Laden has, to the amusement of much of the rest of the world, become the Where's Waldo of the Middle East. Take away the bullets and the bombs and you have a Gilbert and Sullivan farce.

No one seems to be able to articulate why we are in Afghanistan. Is it to hunt down bin Laden and al-Qaida? Is it to consolidate progress? Have we declared war on the Taliban? Are we building democracy? Are we fighting terrorists there so we do not have to fight them here? Are we "liberating" the women of Afghanistan? The absurdity of the questions, used as thought-terminating clichés, exposes the absurdity of the war. The confusion of purpose mirrors the confusion on the ground. We don't know what we are doing.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the new commander of U.S. and NATO-led troops in Afghanistan, announced recently that coalition forces must make a "cultural shift" in Afghanistan. He said they should move away from their normal combat orientation and toward protecting civilians. He understands that airstrikes, which have killed hundreds of civilians, are a potent recruiting tool for the Taliban. The goal is lofty but the reality of war defies its implementation. NATO forces will always call in close air support when they are under attack. This is what troops under fire do. They do not have the luxury of canvassing the local population first. They ask questions later. The May 4 aerial attack on Farah province, which killed dozens of civilians, violated standing orders about airstrikes. So did the air assault in Kandahar province last week in which four civilians were killed and 13 were wounded. The NATO strike targeted a village in the Shawalikot district. Wounded villagers at a hospital in the provincial capital told AP that attack helicopters started bombarding their homes at about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. One man said his 3-year-old granddaughter was killed. Combat creates its own rules, and civilians are almost always the losers.

The offensive by NATO forces in Helmand province will follow the usual scenario laid out by military commanders, who know much about weapons systems and conventional armies and little about the nuances of irregular warfare. The Taliban will withdraw, probably to sanctuaries in Pakistan. We will declare the operation a success. Our force presence will be reduced. And the Taliban will creep back into the zones we will have "cleansed." The roadside bombs will continue to exact their deadly toll. Soldiers and Marines, frustrated at trying to fight an elusive and often invisible enemy, will lash out with greater fury at phantoms and continue to increase the numbers of civilian dead. It is a game as old as insurgency itself, and yet each generation of warriors thinks it has finally found the magic key to victory.

We have ensured that Iraq and Afghanistan are failed states. Next on our list appears to be Pakistan. Pakistan, like Iraq and Afghanistan, is also a bizarre construct of Western powers that drew arbitrary and artificial borders, ones the clans and ethnic groups divided by these lines ignore. As Pakistan has unraveled, its army has sought legitimacy in militant Islam. It was the Pakistani military that created the Taliban. The Pakistanis determined how the billions in U.S. aid to the resistance during the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was allocated. And nearly all of it went to the most extremist wings of the Afghan resistance movement. The Taliban, in Pakistan's eyes, is not only an effective weapon to defeat foreign invaders, whether Russian or American, but is a bulwark against India. Muslim radicals in Kabul are never going to build an alliance with India against Pakistan. And India, not Afghanistan, is Pakistan's primary concern. Pakistan, no matter how many billions we give to it, will always nurture and protect the Taliban, which it knows is going to inherit Afghanistan. And the government's well-publicized battle with the Taliban in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, rather than a new beginning, is part of a choreographed charade that does nothing to break the unholy alliance.

The only way to defeat terrorist groups is to isolate them within their own societies. This requires wooing the population away from radicals. It is a political, economic and cultural war. The terrible algebra of military occupation and violence is always counterproductive to this kind of battle. It always creates more insurgents than it kills. It always legitimizes terrorism. And while we squander resources and lives, the real enemy, al-Qaida, has moved on to build networks in Indonesia, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Morocco and depressed Muslim communities such as those in France's Lyon and London's Brixton area. There is no shortage of backwaters and broken patches of the Earth where al-Qaida can hide and operate. It does not need Afghanistan, and neither do we.
(c) 2009 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.

Government Gone Mad
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Perhaps most Americans deserve the federal government they have. A government that, contrary to the lofty rhetoric of Barack Obama, is pure politics as usual. A government that is as corrupted by moneyed interests as ever. A government that is as dysfunctional and inefficient as ever.

As Robert J. Samuelson has aptly said, the federal $787 billion stimulus package is "mostly a political exercise, designed to claim credit for any recovery, shower benefits on favored constituencies and signal support for fashionable causes. As a result, much of the stimulus's potential benefit has been squandered."

The result is that most Americans hit hard by the recession have seen very few meaningful benefits. Unemployment not only has mounted, but will surely keep increasing and may well approach 15 percent nationally. Indeed, it is already that bad in some places, like Michigan.

If there was ever something that should have sparked a Second American Revolution it is the Goldman Sachs story in this recession. Goldman Sachs reported that it earned $3.44 billion in the second quarter, and is preparing its largest bonus payout in history. Did this company with so many former executives running the federal government's financial system manage this strictly on its own merits? Not exactly. It received a $10 billion injection of TARP funds to help it handle the fiscal crisis. It was allowed to convert itself into a commercial bank and member of the Federal Reserve system, gaining access to low or zero cost capital at the Fed Discount window and access to federally guaranteed borrowing through the FDIC Temporary Liquidity Guaranty Program. And it had the good fortune (literally) to receive a $13 billion payout of federal dollars at one hundred cents on the dollar for its outstanding credit default swap contracts with AIG.

Was all this recession garbage the change we were waiting for? Have we seen anything other than politics as usual? No.

The whole Obama story and the Democratic control of Congress are a disgrace. Progressives who eagerly supported Obama should be ashamed of themselves. They should be leading a revolution, not make excuses for Obama and the Democrats.

The icing on the corruption cake will probably be phony and delusional health care reform, as stupid and deceptive as all the federal efforts at reversing the recession. It could not be clearer that most Democrats are totally under the thrall of the health insurance industry. How do you explain the incontrovertible fact that even though the US spends more money per capita on health care than any other nation we have some of the worst health statistics of any nation? Simple. A huge fraction of the national spending on health care goes to the private health insurance industry. Does the US offer some of the very best health care in the world? Yes, but unless you are wealthy or have terrific health insurance, like members of Congress have, you will not have affordable access to that terrific health care. So our national statistics stink because such a huge fraction of the population does not get the first rate health care.

When he campaigned Obama said he supported single payer universal health care. But not now. Unless we get rid of the dominant private health insurance industry and replace it with an extension of Medicare, we will not get true and necessary reform. Nor will we really see decreases in health care costs. Nor will all people get effective health insurance.

As I feared, Obama and the Democrat controlled Congress are giving us government gone mad, exactly what most Americans deserve. Don't hold your breath for the populist revolution.
(c) 2009 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Berater Johnson,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, your ruling that we may hold anyone including those who were ruled innocent of any crimes forever at Barry's whim, Afghanistan, Pakistan and these many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Demoncratic Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross with diamond clusters presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 08-29-2009. We salute you Herr Johnson, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Celebrating Cronkite
While ignoring what he did
By Glenn Greenwald

"The Vietcong did not win by a knockout [in the Tet Offensive], but neither did we. The referees of history may make it a draw. . . . We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds. . . .

"For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. . . . To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past" -- Walter Cronkite, CBS Evening News, February 27, 1968.

"I think there are a lot of critics who think that [in the run-up to the Iraq War] . . . . if we did not stand up and say this is bogus, and you're a liar, and why are you doing this, that we didn't do our job. I respectfully disagree. It's not our role" -- David Gregory, MSNBC, May 28, 2008.

When Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam died, media stars everywhere commemorated his death as though he were one of them -- as though they do what he did -- even though he had nothing but bottomless, intense disdain for everything they do. As he put it in a 2005 speech to students at the Columbia School of Journalism:

"the better you do your job, often going against conventional mores, the less popular you are likely to be . . . . By and large, the more famous you are, the less of a journalist you are."

In that same speech, Halberstam cited as the "proudest moment" of his career a bitter argument he had in 1963 with U.S. Generals in Vietnam, by which point, as a young reporter, he was already considered an "enemy" of the Kennedy White House for routinely contradicting the White House's claims about the war (the President himself asked his editor to pull Halberstam from reporting on Vietnam). During that conflict, he stood up to a General in a Press Conference in Saigon who was attempting to intimidate him for having actively doubted and aggressively investigated military claims, rather than taking and repeating them at face value:

Picture if you will rather small room, about the size of a classroom, with about 10 or 12 reporters there in the center of the room. And in the back, and outside, some 40 military officers, all of them big time brass. It was clearly an attempt to intimidate us.

General Stilwell tried to take the intimidation a step further. He began by saying that Neil and I had bothered General Harkins and Ambassador Lodge and other VIPs, and we were not to do it again. Period.

And I stood up, my heart beating wildly -- and told him that we were not his corporals or privates, that we worked for The New York Times and UP and AP and Newsweek, not for the Department of Defense.

I said that we knew that 30 American helicopters and perhaps 150 American soldiers had gone into battle, and the American people had a right to know what happened. I went on to say that we would continue to press to go on missions and call Ambassador Lodge and General Harkins, but he could, if he chose, write to our editors telling them that we were being too aggressive, and were pushing much too hard to go into battle. That was certainly his right.

Can anyone imagine any big media stars -- who swoon in reverence both to political power and especially military authority -- defying military instructions that way, let alone being proud of it? Halberstam certainly couldn't imagine any of them doing it, which is why, in 1999, he wrote:

Obviously, it should be a brilliant moment in American journalism, a time of a genuine flowering of a journalistic culture . . .

But the reverse is true. Those to whom the most is given, the executives of our three networks, have steadily moved away from their greatest responsibilities, which is using their news departments to tell the American people complicated truths, not only about their own country, but about the world around us. . . .

Somewhere in there, gradually, but systematically, there has been an abdication of responsibility within the profession, most particularly in the networks. . . . So, if we look at the media today, we ought to be aware not just of what we are getting, but what we are not getting; the difference between what is authentic and what is inauthentic in contemporary American life and in the world, with a warning that in this celebrity culture, the forces of the inauthentic are becoming more powerful all the time.

All of that was ignored when he died, with establishment media figures exploiting his death to suggest that his greatness reflected well on what they do, as though what he did was the same thing as what they do (much the same way that Martin Luther King's vehement criticisms of the United States generally and its imperialism and aggression specifically have been entirely whitewashed from his hagiography).

So, too, with the death of Walter Cronkite. Tellingly, his most celebrated and significant moment -- Greg Mitchell says "this broadcast would help save many thousands of lives, U.S. and Vietnamese, perhaps even a million" -- was when he stood up and announced that Americans shouldn't trust the statements being made about the war by the U.S. Government and military, and that the specific claims they were making were almost certainly false. In other words, Cronkite's best moment was when he did exactly that which the modern journalist today insists they must not ever do -- directly contradict claims from government and military officials and suggest that such claims should not be believed. These days, our leading media outlets won't even use words that are disapproved of by the Government.

Despite that, media stars will spend ample time flamboyantly commemorating Cronkite's death as though he reflects well on what they do (though probably not nearly as much time as they spent dwelling on the death of Tim Russert, whose sycophantic servitude to Beltway power and "accommodating head waiter"-like, mindless stenography did indeed represent quite accurately what today's media stars actually do). In fact, within Cronkite's most important moments one finds the essence of journalism that today's modern media stars not only fail to exhibit, but explicitly disclaim as their responsibility.

UPDATE: A reader reminds me that -- very shortly after Tim Russert's June, 2008 death -- long-time Harper's editor Lewis Lapham attended a party to mark the release of a new book on Hunter Thompson, and Lapham said a few words. According to New York Magazine's Jada Yuan, this is what happened:

Lewis Lapham isn't happy with political journalism today. "There was a time in America when the press and the government were on opposite sides of the field," he said at a premiere party for Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson on June 25. "The press was supposed to speak on behalf of the people. The new tradition is that the press speaks on behalf of the government." An example? "Tim Russert was a spokesman for power, wealth, and privilege," Lapham said. "That's why 1,000 people came to his memorial service. Because essentially he was a shill for the government. It didn't matter whether it was Democratic or Republican. It was for the status quo." What about Russert's rep for catching pols in lies? "That was bullshit," he said. "Thompson and Russert were two opposite poles."

Writing in Harper's a few weeks later, Lapham -- in the essay about Russert (entitled "An Elegy for a Rubber Stamp") where he said Russert's "on-air persona was that of an attentive and accommodating headwaiter, as helpless as Charlie Rose in his infatuation with A-list celebrity" -- echoed Halberstam by writing:

Long ago in the days before journalists became celebrities, their enterprise was reviled and poorly paid, and it was understood by working newspapermen that the presence of more than two people at their funeral could be taken as a sign that they had disgraced the profession.

That Lapham essay is full of piercing invective ("On Monday I thought I'd heard the end of the sales promotion. Tim presumably had ascended to the great studio camera in the sky to ask Thomas Jefferson if he intended to run for president in 1804"), and -- from a person who spent his entire adult life in journalism -- it contains the essential truth about modern establishment journalism in America:

On television the voices of dissent can't be counted upon to match the studio drapes or serve as tasteful lead-ins to the advertisements for Pantene Pro-V and the U.S. Marine Corps. What we now know as the "news media" serve at the pleasure of the corporate sponsor, their purpose not to tell truth to the powerful but to transmit lies to the powerless. Like Russert, who served his apprenticeship as an aide-de-camp to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, most of the prominent figures in the Washington press corps (among them George Stephanopoulos, Bob Woodward, and Karl Rove) began their careers as bagmen in the employ of a dissembling politician or a corrupt legislature. Regarding themselves as de facto members of government, enabling and codependent, their point of view is that of the country's landlords, their practice equivalent to what is known among Wall Street stock-market touts as "securitizing the junk." When requesting explanations from secretaries of defense or congressional committee chairmen, they do so with the understanding that any explanation will do. Explain to us, my captain, why the United States must go to war in Iraq, and we will relay the message to the American people in words of one or two syllables. Instruct us, Mr. Chairman, in the reasons why K-Street lobbyists produce the paper that Congress passes into law, and we will show that the reasons are healthy, wealthy, and wise. Do not be frightened by our pretending to be suspicious or scornful. Together with the television camera that sees but doesn't think, we're here to watch, to fall in with your whims and approve your injustices. Give us this day our daily bread, and we will hide your vices in the rosebushes of salacious gossip and clothe your crimes in the aura of inspirational anecdote.

That's why they so intensely celebrated Tim Russert: because he was the epitome of what they do, and it's why they'll celebrate Walter Cronkite (like they did with David Halberstam) only by ignoring the fact that his most consequential moments were ones where he did exactly that which they will never do.

UPDATE II: In the hours and hours of preening, ponderous, self-serving media tributes to Walter Cronkite, here is a clip you won't see, in which Cronkite -- when asked what is his biggest regret -- says (h/t sysprog):

What do I regret? Well, I regret that in our attempt to establish some standards, we didn't make them stick. We couldn't find a way to pass them on to another generation.

It's impossible even to imagine the likes of Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw and friends interrupting their pompously baritone, melodramatic, self-glorifying exploitation of Cronkite's death to spend a second pondering what he meant by that.
(c) 2009 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

Living Rich And Crying Poor
By Mary Pitt

As a member of the "Depression Generation." I have loved my country as one loves a husband; for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Now there are those who tell us that our nation is as severely ill as it was at that time.

I recall, one summer evening, following my father outside as he searched the scorching sky for signs of a rain cloud. "What happened to all the rain, Daddy?." I asked this man who persisted in stirring the dusty soil, planting seeds, and praying for a crop. I shall never forget his reply:

"There is as much rain in the world as there ever was. The problem is that it just isn't falling where we need it."

Now, as our nation is suffering from the damage caused by the fiscal policies of the last few administrations, our efforts at correction are met by the cries of "the money just isn't there!" To paraphrase my father, there is as money as there ever was. The problem is that it is not distributed where it is needed. It is lying in offshore banks, invested in foreign businesses, and safely tucked away in the pockets of those who gained control of it by means of greed, graft, and corruption. These are the very people who, we are told, provide the jobs, the very livelihood of all of us. Therefore, we must not ask them to pay a greater price for the luxury in which they are proud to live for fear that they may withhold their efforts to provide for our needs.

History is replete with examples of other nations that have suffered from maldistribution of wealth, with peasants struggling beneath bundles of sticks being felled by the drivers of golden carriages careening down the road carrying a rich man to a fancy ball. Those nations no longer exist, and rightly so. Our official deference to those who hold our money under their control has reached a critical point and the future of our country is at stake.

The United States was founded by the efforts of brave people who were willing to lay down their lives for their freedom and opportunity for a better life. Their blood still flows in the veins of those who now find themselves with no work, no income, and no ability to provide their children with the necessities of life while those who are living in splendor from the fruits of their labor complain that "there is no money."

These, the productive people of our society, found the money to "bail out" the bankers and were repaid by having their loans denied as all the money found its way into those same offshore banks and foreign corporations. Then these same people were asked to bail out the automotive companies. No new jobs have yet been created as those companies "compact their operations."

Now the sorely needed "health care reform" is being so constructed that the people will "bail out" the insurance companies by means of allowing the insurance companies to continue to drain off a third of the national cost of health care to stash in the offshore banks and foreign corporations. People who barely have money enought to buy food will be required by law to further contribute to the added wealth of the people with the "golden carriages."

One day, (though I pray not in my lifetime), the people will awake and arise as they realize there is as much money in the land as there ever was. It is just not where it is needed. When that happens, one can only hope that they will have the wisdom to take back their "government of the people, by the people, and for the people" and thus prevent the brave experiment which is the United States from fading into the dusty history books.
(c) 2009 Mary Pitt is a very "with-it" old lady who aspires to bring a bit of truth, justice, and common sense to a nation that has lost touch with its humanity in the search for societal "perfection." Huzzahs and whiney complaints may be sent to

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Chip Bok ~~~

W the Movie Official Trailer

To End On A Happy Note...

Thunder On The Mountain
By Bob Dylan

Thunder on the mountain, and there's fires on the moon
A ruckus in the alley and the sun will be here soon
Today's the day, gonna grab my trombone and blow
Well, there's hot stuff here and it's everywhere I go

I was thinkin' 'bout Alicia Keys, couldn't keep from crying
When she was born in Hell's Kitchen, I was living down the line
I'm wondering where in the world Alicia Keys could be
I been looking for her even clear through Tennessee

Feel like my soul is beginning to expand
Look into my heart and you will sort of understand
You brought me here, now you're trying to run me away
The writing on the wall, come read it, come see what it say

Thunder on the mountain, rollin' like a drum
Gonna sleep over there, that's where the music coming from
I don't need any guide, I already know the way
Remember this, I'm your servant both night and day

The pistols are poppin' and the power is down
I'd like to try somethin' but I'm so far from town
The sun keeps shinin' and the North Wind keeps picking up speed
Gonna forget about myself for a while, gonna go out and see what others need

I've been sittin' down studyin' the art of love
I think it will fit me like a glove
I want some real good woman to do just what I say
Everybody got to wonder what's the matter with this cruel world today

Thunder on the mountain rolling to the ground
Gonna get up in the morning walk the hard road down
Some sweet day I'll stand beside my king
I wouldn't betray your love or any other thing

Gonna raise me an army, some tough sons of bitches
I'll recruit my army from the orphanages
I been to St. Herman's church, said my religious vows
I've sucked the milk out of a thousand cows

I got the porkchops, she got the pie
She ain't no angel and neither am I
Shame on your greed, shame on your wicked schemes
I'll say this, I don't give a damn about your dreams

Thunder on the mountain heavy as can be
Mean old twister bearing down on me
All the ladies in Washington scrambling to get out of town
Looks like something bad gonna happen, better roll your airplane down

Everybody going and I want to go too
Don't wanna take a chance with somebody new
I did all I could, I did it right there and then
I've already confessed - no need to confess again

Gonna make a lot of money, gonna go up north
I'll plant and I'll harvest what the earth brings forth
The hammer's on the table, the pitchfork's on the shelf
For the love of God, you ought to take pity on yourself
(c) 2006/2009 Bob Dylan

Have You Seen This...

911 Conspiracy predicted by The Lone Gunmen (HD)

Parting Shots...

Freedom From Lobbyists
What's good for the drug companies may not be so good for the hapless pedestrian
By Garrison Keillor

It was a good Fourth of July where I was -- no Republicans or Democrats, just a crowd of sunburned people sitting on the grass, and a brass band played amid the smell of hot dogs, and Clarence and Ralph, two World War II vets, described their European tour of 1944-45 from Normandy through the Hurtgen Forest, and it was duly noted that the Revolution was not going well in the summer of 1776 when Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and Hancock put their names to the Declaration of Independence, an act of treason and great bravado, and then the crowd stood and sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" and discovered that, in the key of G, it is a fine piece of music and very singable. And people know the words.

It's interesting about the national anthem: First of all, nobody really wants to sing it, and if there's a soloist we won't, but if someone asks us to sing it and gives us a note and a downbeat we jump to our feet and sing and once we're into it, we love it. It is powerful and moving and when we hold the note on "free" and the sopranos wail, it's opera.

This simple less-is-more approach is the genius of conservatism -- get out of their way and the people will provide -- and it holds true in many areas of life, such as education, the arts, broiling hamburgers (a committee around the grill is always going to overcook the food), and not so much in others, such as national defense, bank regulation and healthcare.

In the past two weeks, I've attended two benefit concerts to raise money for musicians to pay their medical bills, and that is just ridiculous. Why should anyone, least of all a valuable contributing member of society, have to pass the hat to pay the doctor? But there I was, watching one of America's few true-blue cowboy singers hoist himself on crutches onto the stage to sing "The Old Chisholm Trail" as we put our twenties in the pot to pay for his pelvis, broken when a horse threw him. A cowboy singer can only afford the $10,000 deductible health plan and that means that he must sell Old Paint or become a charity case.

Meanwhile, a friend visiting London forgets to look to the right while crossing the street and gets whacked by a taxi and is scooped up and taken to the hospital with a broken leg where -- wait for it -- nobody ever asks him for an insurance card, they just go about doing what needs to be done. A civilized people, whatever you may think of the beer, that they treat a fallen American the same as if he were one of them.

Health insurance is the business that Congress is taking up this summer with the help of hundreds of high-paid lobbyists, many of them former congressmen or congressional staffers, all of them arguing for schemes that will be good for the pharmaceutical industry and the insurance companies and not necessarily good for the cowboy or the careless pedestrian. Reports the size of Sears catalogs will be circulated, and smart men and women smelling of citrus and sandalwood will argue persuasively and extensively for all points of view.

Our representatives will face pages and pages of statistics, acres of numerals, and even as they wander in the great fog of data and expertise, they will be at least as confused as the rest of us. Somehow out of this dance hall and sausage mill will come legislation that must stand the light of day, a miracle if it should happen, and then we shall see if the common good was served or if we have been sold down the river into the hands of cheats and scoundrels.

I shall not be spending my summer in Washington being lectured to on healthcare issues by self-important people. I plan to write a novel instead, a genre of literature that is deeply and sincerely authoritarian. I get to decide who is in it, and I plan to include a blizzard and some ghosts and a goose dinner. I work at home, whenever I feel like it, and then once a week I write a column in which I may, if I wish, castigate public servants for their lack of heroism. I tell you, this is a great country for the indolent and the callow.
(c) 2009 Garrison Keillor is the author of a new Lake Wobegon novel, "Liberty," published by Viking and "77 Love Sonnets," published by Common Good Books.

The Gross National Debt

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Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 28 (c) 07/24/2009

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