Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Gore Vidal examines, "America The Great ... Police State."

Uri Avnery exclaims, "Yes, You Can!"

Jeremy Scahill reports, "Blackwater Seeks Gag Order."

Jim Hightower asks, "Why Support Corporations That Don't Support Us?"

Greg Palast recalls, "The Day The President Turned Black."

Joe Conason discovers, "Blue Dogs Heel When Lobbyists Whistle."

Paul Krugman explores, "An Incoherent Truth."

Chris Floyd studies the, "Continuity In Kyrgyzstan."

Case Wagenvoord has plans for, "Saving our Pentagon."

Mike Folkerth concludes, "Obama; Poor Choices Seem To Be A Habit."

Chris Hedges explains why, "Happiness Consultants Won't Stop A Depression."

Sam Harris reminds us that, "Science Is In The Details."

Con-gressman Jared Polis wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald reviews, "The Cheney Plan To Deploy The U.S. Military On U.S. Soil."

Frank Scott returns with, "Bulletin... Bulletin: Mocha Revolution And More."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Bill Maher has a, "New Rule: Not Everything In America Has To Make A Profit" but first Uncle Ernie sings, "Got Dem Ole Blue Dog Blues Again!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Matt Bors, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea.Com, Ted Rall, Pavlovian Obeisance.Com, Internet Weekly.Org, Yaakov Kirschen, Lip Service.Com, R.J. Matson, Thomas Nast, 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."

Got Dem Ole Blue Dog Blues Again!
By Ernest Stewart

"Well I wake up in da mornin'
Wit dem ole Blue Dog Blues Again."
Blue Dog Blues ~~~ Uncle Ernie

"I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University." ~~~ William F. Buckley, Jr.

"There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. 'That's some catch, that Catch-22,' Yossarian observed. 'It's the best there is,' Doc Daneeka agreed."
Catch-22 ~~~ Joseph Heller

Way back yonder when I was a lad, there were no Republicans in the South. In fact, except for a few blacks during Reconstruction, there never were. If someone said that they were a Republican, they'd likely be spit on and run out of town on a rail or simply disappear after a KKK rally. Lyndon Baines Johnson changed all that. With Tricky Dick, the South suddenly went Republican.

Oh, don't get me wrong. Before they went Republican the southern politicians were a bunch of "good ole boy" fascists but they were Democratic fascists, much like the Democratic party is today. They were called Dixiecrats to differentiate between them and the Northern liberal Democrats.

Within the last few elections the Republicans started losing in the south only to be replaced by a new crop of Dixiecrats. Of course, they are no longer called Dixiecrats but are now known by the epithet of "Blue Dog" Democrats. Billy Tauzin, a Democratic Con-gressman from Louisiana started the group in 1994 before jumping ship to run as a Republican the last time a Democratic controlled House, Senate, and President tried to pass a one payer Health Care system. The Democrats balked just as they're doing today and lost both houses as they may do in 2010. I'm guessing that is the purpose of all this brouhaha by the "Blue Dogs"? Oh, and to get rid of that uppity Obama come 2012.

The Blue Dogs are standing in the way of a system where everybody will be able to see a doctor and perhaps not die from the flu or a simple infection. Funny how we can afford to give them the best medical coverage on the planet but can't afford it when it comes to the people who are buying their coverage. Funny thing, huh?

We can afford three imperialistic wars that are destroying our treasury and children, not to mention millions of Muslims. Plenty of money to spare for that and all those corpo-rat cost overruns! If, for example, we were to stop murdering babies around the world in just one of our wars for just one year we could fund health care for everyone for ten years! Of course, the insurance groups that are pulling the "Blue Dog's" puppet strings would be out of business and that would probably hurt the manufacturing of corpo-rat jets and yachts, and caviar sales might plummet but c'est la vie! I don't know about you, America, but I'd rather have healthy Americans than fish eggs on a cracker! Wouldn't you, Mr. and Ms. America?

Update: Barry sent me another letter, (see below) and it's a real eye-opener!

In Other News

I used to tell people that I went to Harvard and Oxford and believe it or not it's true. I went to Harvard several times to party with friends and I did attend Oxford for six years but it was Oxford Elementary in Dearborn, Michigan. I actually went to college at U of M, Ann Arbor.

I quit telling the Harvard part back in 2001 when we got our beloved west Texas prairie monkey in charge of things. Bush, you may recall, had an MBA from Harvard and look what that did to the economy! Our current fearless leader has a law degree from there and spends most of his time defending Bush's acts of treason in various courts throughout the land! This goes to show what a degree from Harvard is actually worth! If you said "It's worth next to nothing" then you may stay after class and clean the erasers!

So I wasn't surprised when Harvard faculty member Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. ended up being arrested and Obama jumped right into the fray with his two cents worth. Professor Gates got upset and high and mighty when some cops showed up on his doorstep after he was seen by a passer by breaking into his house.

Professor Gates, who has a PhD (which apparently in this case stands for Pin Headed Dope), got right up into the cops face yelling and screaming and promptly got placed under arrest and taken down to the station. The cops arrested Professor Gates not because they were racists but because they were cops, i.e., fascists. Had the professor had the brains that Zeus gave to ducks he would have known better than to do this. Even I, who dropped out of my masters program, know better than to f*ck with cops, no matter if I'm in right and they are incredibly wrong. You also shouldn't, "tug on Superman's cape, piss into the wind and pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger," either!

Had the Professor kept his mouth shut, told them what they wanted to know and after they left called the station and raised hell with their chief, there would have been a curt apology and the matter would have ended. But Gates who being black, should have known better as it certainly doesn't take a PhD to grasp the fact that you don't screw with the screws. Any "homie in the hood" could have told him that.

This brings us to that other Harvard grad Barry, who overreacted to his friend's problems by making a fool of himself and giving America's "main stream media" something to dissect now that "Wacko Jacko" is starting to fade. Just another reason to go on and on about "Much Ado About Nothing" instead of the real news that America needs to know. Don't get me wrong, America. That's OK with me because that's what I do, bring you the news that you won't find on Fox or the rest. Important stuff, that you need to know about just to survive in this "brave new world" of Harvard grads leading us into oblivion!

And Finally

What's wrong with this letter from Barry?

Dear Ernest,

If you're like most Americans, there's nothing more important to you about health care than peace of mind.

Given the status quo, that's understandable. The current system often denies insurance due to pre-existing conditions, charges steep out-of-pocket fees - and sometimes isn't there at all if you become seriously ill.

It's time to fix our unsustainable insurance system and create a new foundation for health care security. That means guaranteeing your health care security and stability with eight basic consumer protections:

* No discrimination for pre-existing conditions
No exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles or co-pays
No cost-sharing for preventive care
No dropping of coverage if you become seriously ill
No gender discrimination
No annual or lifetime caps on coverage
Extended coverage for young adults
Guaranteed insurance renewal so long as premiums are paid

Learn more about these consumer protections at

Over the next month there is going to be an avalanche of misinformation and scare tactics from those seeking to perpetuate the status quo. But we know the cost of doing nothing is too high. Health care costs will double over the next decade, millions more will become uninsured, and state and local governments will go bankrupt.

It's time to act and reform health insurance, drive down costs and guarantee the health care security and stability of every American family. You can help by putting these core principles of reform in the hands of your friends, your family, and the rest of your social network.

Thank you,
Barack Obama

So what's missing from that little song-and-dance? Hmmm?

What about a government option, i.e., the one payer system, if you're unemployed the government will give you Medicare type insurance? Whatever happened to that? Not to mention that all this does is continue your enslavement to the insurance companies. It does nothing to keep prices down and your insurance payments could go right through the roof like the mortgage payments did! Did you see anything about limiting the amounts that they can charge? And about this being socialism, so what? What's the difference whether a government agent tells me I can have this operation but not that one or a insurance company does it. The insurance companies have huge whole departments, which do nothing but think up excuses not to cover your needs. Personally, I can't wait to be old enough to get Medicare! My current policy has a $6,000.00 deductible. Great if I get hit by a bus but pays nothing for prescriptions, doctor's office visits or hospital bills under $6,000.00!

What if you can't afford this mandatory insurance? That is why, after all, 50 million Americans don't have coverage in the first place. They can't afford it, remember? When it comes to putting food on the table or a roof over your head and paying some corpo-rat goon a outrageous sum of money for what might, or might not, happen tomorrow and then watching your child starve to death while said goon goes to the bank, many have opted out of buying insurance.

However, under this program you won't be able to not buy insurance. You must have insurance whether or not the kids starve to death, in which case they'll arrest you for not feeding them or if you do feed them for not having them insured? Can you say "Catch-22" boys and girls?


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


06-20-1955 ~~~ 07-23-2009
What became of the broken hearted?

05-07-1931 ~~~ 07-26-2009
What's for dinner?


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


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


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

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

America The Great ... Police State
By Gore Vidal

For those of us who had hoped that the Obama administration would present us with a rebirth of the old republic that was so rudely erased a few years ago by that team of judicial wreckers, Bush and Gonzales, which led, in turn, to a recent incident in Cambridge, Mass. that inspired a degree of alarm in many Americans. But what was most alarming was the plain fact that neither the president nor a "stupid" local policeman seemed to understand the rules of behavior in a new America, where we find ourselves marooned as well as guarded (is that the verb?) by armed police who have been instructed that they are indeed, once armed, the law and may not be criticized verbally or in any other way and are certainly not subject to any restrictions as to whom they arrest or otherwise torment.

This is rather worse than anyone might have predicted, even though the signs have been clear for some years that ours is now a proto-fascist nation and there appears to be no turning back; nor, indeed, much awareness on the part of our ever-alert media. Forgive me if you find my irony heavy, but I too get tired of carrying it about in "the greatest nation in the country," as Spiro Agnew liked to say.

I was first made aware of this development in 1946 when I was limping around in army uniform in New York City and noticed that the local police (admired by none) were beginning to run wild, possibly because so many of the able-bodied young had, like myself, been serving for some years overseas. I recall that some sort of parade was being held and what looked to be a thousand or two citizens were trying unsuccessfully to cross Fifth Avenue. I waited on a street corner for an hour in my uniform, limping from my disability earned by my service in the war. But after nearly an hour of waiting, I stopped a policeman who was wandering idly around and asked him politely when I'd be able to cross Fifth Avenue. He shrieked at me, "Go call da mayor!" And I said, "Oh I will, I will." Actually, I did know the mayor at that time, but he was not available on that sacred day. I did make a protest as a veteran who had mustered out with a disability for life, but this seemed to be a cause of great merriment. In any case, that was my first experience of a Nazi-like police force in New York City, a city pretty much home to me from childhood on.

I was also aware as the years passed how often friends would be beaten up in front of what were called "faggot bars." Meanwhile, the police never seemed to stop an incessant whining about the enormous dangers to which their work subjected them as they gallantly served our great city, even though they were insufficiently paid and admired. I thought then that the whole damn lot of them should be sent to Camp Lejeune to be put through a strong course of basic training by the Marine Corps.

I also propose this as a solution to the problem that they currently pose us, not only on Fifth Avenue but in Harvard Yard, where a young policeman recently distinguished himself by being rude to the president, complaining with the irresistible policeman's whine that he and the president were just alike in their problems, only he was being particularly bugged by the press, in effect, said, "join the club." Now that they were becoming buddies in embarrassment, the little corporal said, characteristically allowing his envy to show, "You've got a bigger lawn than mine"-thus, proving how serious daydreaming can place yourself into a position of parity.

But the true meaning of the mess in Cambridge has been carefully avoided by a media incapable of getting the point to anything if they can excitingly change the subject to something else. So here we now have a cast of characters that includes the president himself, a distinguished scholar and a feckless young policeman who on the radio said, when asked why he had behaved so rudely to the scholar, he said because the old guy had been rude about his mother. I haven't heard this excuse since the playground of St. Alban's in 1935.

One interesting fallout from the tragic business in Cambridge - and it is tragic, let me tell you - was that the president was forced to speak suddenly in his own voice, and at his very best, and not swathed in the authority of his great rank, but simply as a citizen making a sensible comment about a nobody policeman. Yes, I mean "nobody" literally - I know all human beings, if they are Americans, are highly valued and worshiped, indeed, for their wonderfulness and their helpfulness to fellow citizens. I state this ironically, as you might suspect. After all, why would the young man be armed unless he was a superior citizen, elected, as it were, by his fellows to ride herd on an unruly mob unless he was demonstrably special by virtue of being legally armed, which is how we are supposed to tell them from us?

But there the president was, saying, this is stupid. But he did not say, "How dare you go after a 58-year-old man who is one of the great scholars of the country and think you can get away with it?" Unfortunately, it never seemed to have crossed the president's mind in this crisis that he is expected to do something about it. I know there is a great deal, as they say, on his plate, but after displays of this sort, he should call together a commission involving every section of the country. Every municipality is complaining about local police forces run wild. And no one does anything about it. And our masters are armed to the teeth and would seem more likely to fire at us instead of at the troublemakers. I can't think of any civilized country that would allow this, from the look of these bulky guardians of the peace, to whom no right-minded person would allow even a slingshot to be given.

So, we are a weirdly militarized citizenry governed by the worst elements in the United States, and something is bound to blow up, as I have felt for some time now. In my wanderings around the U.S., I talk to people without money, without power, ordinary voters, as well as nowadays, people maimed by war, or time, or life or whatever, and I am convinced more and more that this is a vicious country in which the police are allowed to run amok, absolutely independent of anyone, and that is why from time to time they are allowed to get away with murder. One surprisingly knew that a wrinkle has been discovered in the seamless surface of our troubled state. Policemen are seldom tried for their crimes, or indeed, held responsible for what they do, which disturbs the peace and causes distress among the orderly.

I would suggest that the president, if he wants to be useful-and not many presidents do in my experience-he might as well call together a commission in response to citizens of every major municipality in the United States who are complaining to central authority about police forces out of control. And no one dares do anything because the police will say, "Well, you know they are acting like this because they are bad people who hate us because we are good people, rescuing cats from trees and otherwise loved by every decent person in the land."

What the police in their ignorance have not figured out is that they have lost all credibility since World War II. They are sort of parasites on the fringe of society and do no particular good for anyone except possibly themselves. Certainly to hear them complain-you've never heard such whines as from a policeman who feels he's been wronged! Apparently, all Earth owes him a living, and he's the bravest man on any block.

One aspect of the events in Cambridge was that the president could have been characteristically brilliant on this subject, as he has been on so many subjects having to do with our general welfare as citizens (and he is also one of the useful, hands-on presidents), but the media, conditioned always to miss the point, went out of their way to miss the point here by many a mile. They blamed it all on - you guessed it - RACE! Well, you can blame anything on race, including Scripture, or the tides and the moon, and this and that, but that president and that professor are by coincidence both black, which to the plain horror of the media, had nothing to do with the brave little corporal who was feeling his oats and wanted to have some fun with an older man who couldn't fight back. They get very bored in those jobs, and, of course, he was armed with a gun, and able to kill anybody he wanted and probably get away with it-what a temptation!

Anyway, the president has not done what he should have done, which is to have reminded us that the United Kingdom-a more livable nation than the United States, let me say with first-hand experience of both-has disarmed its police. There are no angry men wandering around carrying guns over there. This is a lesson to us, but we've armed practically every grange house in the United States because our regular guys just want to swagger around.

Incidentally, it was quite funny to hear one of the favorite adjectives that our new masters use to describe vicious civilians who deliberately mock them, like the professor and myself on Fifth Avenue, and I think they would include the president, too, if the Secret Service was not lurking nearby. Their term for any civilian who criticizes them is "arrogant," but they are themselves far gone in arrogance and spite.

Let us accept the facts staring us in the face-that demonstrably we are no longer a republic. We are no longer governed by laws, only by armed men and force. This is just like the days of Billy the Kid. You have an armed man going down a dusty street and that is authority. And it has come to this for us.

If the media will ever become alert to real news, they will put paid to their universal cry that no matter what happens of a disagreeable nature in the streets or elsewhere in public, it is due to racial hatred. Both corporal and president made no attempt to clear this matter up. Arguably, you can say that everything is subject to it or tarred by it, but it was not true in this case. The young man with the gun seems to have been correct on these issues; he was training others like himself to put up with the lesser breeds, and to say that this was race-inspired because both the president and the professor were black-am I making too subtle a point?-is a serious, murderous mistake in a country like ours.

As I listened to the fallout from these stirring events, I wondered if this might be a moment when the media would reform themselves and only print actual news; for one thing, not all explosions of temper and so on are attributable to race. It would be nice if the media realized how dangerous they when they begin to falsify motives which, to be blunt, they have no authority to do. If a black person is in any way in a jam of any kind, it is because he is responding to racism or if a white person goes berserk over anything with anybody, racism drove him to it. This is a great, great red herring like some giant whale gliding across the pages of police dockets.

So let me mention the real issue. The real issue is class. We have the greatest divide between the very rich and the very poor of any country on Earth, surpassing even France. And this division gets wider and wider as financial disasters overwhelm us. We were already in pretty bad shape before things began to fall apart a year or two ago. We must acknowledge that our character, never much good in these matters, is now reprehensible, and the police seem to have taken it upon themselves to exact revenge for a full professor and his-plainly, in their view-insulting income, which they figure must be considerable. The days of greed through which we all lived now have not done us much good, nor have they taught us any lessons, but you cannot live long with such divisions, which in my view as an outsider overlooking the scene seems to be a nation of total liars. Everybody is lying. Television lies, candidates lie. And everyone says, "Oh they always have." I love that excuse. Well they haven't always done that. Sometimes lying to the people is a great mistake. And it is well-known that the rich will tell almost any lie to avoid paying taxes.

My last view of what looked to me to be parade's end occurred during a walk in the woods that I took below a Duke University campus building, where I saw a broken bridge over a stream. I turned to what looked to be a local farmer, who realized that I was looking with "suspicious" interest at a vast pile of repair work: bags of cement, etc., and he anticipated my question: "They're going to rebuild this bridge-it's something very, very big," he said. "Why in the middle of the woods?" I asked. "There are no roads here." He said, "No, there's a trail, true, it's not much of a trail." "So why are they building such a huge bridge," I wondered, "when they've been happy apparently for many years with a very small bridge?" And he said, "Well, we've been told by the feds that they fear that there may be civilian insurrections. And they want to be prepared for them, and they need this bridge, no matter how small, to cross the stream in case of an emergency."

Needless to say, I had no quick rejoinder. But he seemed to want to talk, and so I said, "What was here before?" And he said, "A small bridge which a small pickup truck could go back and forth over." So I asked, "And who told you that it was in case of civilian problems?" And he said, "Well, everybody told us that and explained the size of it and most people here thought it was better to have a big bridge than no bridge at all, and here we are."

I went back to the lecture hall at Duke where I'd been speaking, and I chatted about the woods, about the bridge. Nobody seemed to have noticed it. I asked a politically minded professor, and he said, "Well, it's a problem." He said, "The government's getting ready for something; we don't know what it is, but something's obviously on their minds that's disturbing them." And I said, "Revolution?" "Oh," he laughed, "this is North Carolina, don't bother about that, but whatever it is, they're putting a lot of money into this bridge."

A year or two later, I took the same walk again. There was a very large bridge of solid cement, and it looked entirely finished. I found another gentleman of the forest, and I said, "Well, can you find much use for this huge and expensive bridge?" He said, "It certainly was expensive, I can tell you that." He had the happy look of someone who had benefited from the expense. We chatted about the government and what they were up to, and a certain wariness could be heard in our dialogue. We were puzzled; something unexpected had happened, something really unimaginable-a vast work had been constructed for imminent horrors, it would have seemed. I did ask here and there about it, but I was given no answer.
(c) 2009 Gore Vidal

Yes, You Can!
By Uri Avnery

FIRST, AN honest disclosure: I loved the Shepherd hotel very much.

In the first years after the Six-Day War, I was a frequent guest there. My work in the Knesset demanded that I stay in Jerusalem at least two nights every week, and after the war I switched from the hotels of West Jerusalem to those in the Eastern part of the city. My favorite was the Shepherd. I felt at home there.

The charm of the place lay in its special atmosphere. It is located in the middle of that ancient Arab town which itself aroused my intense curiosity. Its rooms have high ceilings and old furniture, and it was run by remarkable people - two elderly Arab ladies who were educated in Beirut and steeped in Palestinian-Lebanese culture.

The area surrounding the hotel is the neighborhood of the al-Husseini clan. The holdings of this vast extended family, with more than 5000 members, comprise the greater part of the Sheikh Jarrah quarter, which also includes the legendary Orient House.

The al-Husseini family is one of the handful of aristocratic Jerusalemite families, and perhaps the most respected one (its members certainly think so). For centuries the family has filled at least one of the three most important positions in the town: those of Grand Mufti, mayor and the notable in charge of the Islamic shrines. Shepherd was built by Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti who led the Arab Rebellion in the 1930s and became the Arab the Hebrew community most loved to hate.

I spent hours in conversation with the two ladies, learnt a lot from them and grew very attached to the place. It was a sad day for me when it was closed.

I don't know how this property fell into the hands of the American millionaire, the Bingo king whose declared intention is to set up Jewish settlements all over the Arab town. Now he wants to build a housing project in the grounds of the Shepherd.

But that's enough of him. My business is with Binyamin Netanyahu.

NETANYAHU'S AIM is to Judaize Jerusalem. This week he boasted that in his last term in office, ten years ago, he had set up the fortified Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa.

To Har Homa - whose real name is Jebel Abu Ghneim, Mountain of the Father of Sheep - I also have a sentimental attachment. I spent many days and nights in the struggle to prevent the creation of the monstrous housing project that looms there now.

The leader in this struggle was another Husseini - the unforgettable Feisal. I held him in high esteem. I don't hesitate to say that I loved him. He was a nobleman in the real sense of the word: a scion of nobility but modest in his manners, generous and approachable, a man of peace but fearless in his confrontations with the occupation troops, a real Palestinian patriot, moderate in his opinions, wise and courageous. He was the son of Abd-al-Kader al-Husseini, the leader of the Arab fighters in the Jerusalem district in the 1948 war, who was killed in the battle for the "Castel" near the city. I had no part in that battle, but I passed by a few hours later in a relief convoy for the besieged Jewish part of Jerusalem. Like most of my comrades, I respected him as an honorable enemy.

The site of Har Homa, for those who have already forgotten, used to be a unique place of beauty between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, a rounded hill covered with a dense wood. The destroyers of Jerusalem - that brutal coalition of real estate sharks, fanatical Zionists, American millionaires and religious mystics - had decided to eliminate that last spot of beauty in order to build a dense, fortified and particularly ugly Jewish settlement. Under the leadership of Feisal and Ta'amri, the former husband of a Jordanian princess, a tent camp was set up. When the bulldozers started to cut down the trees and level the top of the hill, we held dozens of demonstrations and vigils. In one of them I suffered a hemorrhage and would have ended my life there and then, if a Palestinian ambulance had not succeeded in reaching me in that road-less stone desert and got me to the hospital in time. So I have a sentimental attachment to the place.

THE SHEPHERD provocation is a part of the tireless effort to "Judaize" Jerusalem. In simple words: to carry out ethnic cleansing. This campaign has been going on for 42 years already, from the first day of the occupation of East Jerusalem, but the timing of this particular operation results from tactical considerations.

Netanyahu is facing heavy American pressure to freeze the settlements in the West Bank. He is quite unable to do so, as long as he remains at the head of the coalition he himself chose, which consists of Rightists, religious zealots, settlers and outright fascists. He has offered several "compromises," all based on various fraudulent ploys, but the Americans have learnt the lessons of the past and did not fall into any of his traps.

His Siamese twin, Ehud Barak, is busy leaking to the media "news" about a grandiose operation: at any moment, with one stroke, like Alexander and the Gordian knot, the dozens of settlement "outposts" that have been set up since 2001 with secret government support will be uprooted. But except for the media people themselves, hardly anyone believes that this will really happen. Certainly not the settlers, judging by their knowing smiles.

So what to do in order to avoid having to dismantle the outposts? Netanyahu, the King of Spin, has a solution: a new provocation to draw attention away from the last one. The Shepherd hotel is now diverting the world's attention away from the hills of "Judea and Samaria." When you have a toothache, you forget about your bellyache.

What, he says, the Goyim want to stop us building in Jerusalem, our Holy City?! Our eternal capital, which has been reunited for all eternity?! What Chutzpah! Will they prohibit Jews from building in New York?! Will they forbid Englishmen to build in London?!

Netanyahu really hit his stride when he declared that any Arab can live in West Jerusalem, so why should a Jew not build a home in East Jerusalem?

Clear and to the point - and absolutely false. When Netanyahu says things like that, it is hard to know whether he is spreading lies consciously (though they can easily be exposed), or if he believes his falsehoods himself. Thus, for example, he claimed to remember the British soldiers in front of his home when he was a child - when the last British soldier left the country a year before he was born.

The truth is that with extremely rare exceptions, no Arab can acquire an apartment in West Jerusalem, not to mention building a house there - though large sections of the Western part of the city consist of former Arab neighborhoods, whose inhabitants fled or were driven out during the 1948 war. The former owners of the houses in these quarters (including Talbiya, Katamon, Dir Yassin), who found refuge in East Jerusalem, were not allowed to return to their homes when Jerusalem was "united" in 1967, neither were they paid compensation (as I proposed in the Knesset).

But Netanyahu does not care so much whether people believe him or not. This week, like every other week since he returned to power, he was fully occupied with survival. In order to survive, the coalition must remain intact. To achieve this, he must show that he does not "fold" under American pressure. No better place to prove this than Jerusalem.

About Jerusalem, as official spokesmen never tire of telling us, about Jerusalem there is a national consensus. From wall to wall. From left to extreme right.

However, this myth is long dead. No such consensus exists. Right now, most Israelis are ready to return the Arab quarters of East Jerusalem to Palestinian rule in return for real peace. I know of no Jewish mother who is ready to sacrifice her son in a war for the Shepherd hotel.

I BEG to contradict yet another myth that is being propagated relentlessly by our media: that a national consensus against President Obama is forming.

As we say in classical Hebrew: No bears and no forest. Or more colloquially: No birds and no shoes. Many Israelis, very many, hope that Barack Obama will do for them what seems impossible without him: bring them peace. They have despaired of our political system, of both the coalition and the opposition, of both Right and Left. They are convinced that only an outside force can realize this hope.

If indeed Obama does clash with Netanyahu over his refusal to freeze the settlements in the West Bank and his insistence on continuing to build in East Jerusalem, it is for Obama's victory that many Israelis will be praying. They know that in this battle, it is not Netanyahu but Obama who represents the true interests of Israel.

The question is whether Obama has the power to follow through, as no preceding president since Dwight Eisenhower has done.

Netanyahu does not believe so. His American partners - the defeated Republicans, the Neocons who are now in hiding, the almost-silent Evangelical preachers - this defeated camp is hoping to recover its fortunes by encouraging the Jewish lobby and the Israeli government to provoke Obama. Netanyahu, who has mobilized Congress against the White House in the past, believes that he can do it once again.

Our newspapers are gleefully reporting, with charts and graphs to bear them out, that Obama's standing in America is sinking. It is not hard to divine that most of this information emanates from Avigdor Lieberman's Foreign Office, the same source that is feeding the American media with reports of the growing opposition of the Israeli public against Obama. Soon the American media will show Israeli protesters waving posters with Obama in SS uniform, as happened with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin before him.

The battle is not about 20 outposts, nor about 20 apartments in the grounds of the Shepherd hotel. Every house in every West Bank settlement serves one supreme purpose: to destroy any possibility for peace. Every Israeli house in East Jerusalem serves the same sublime aim. The opponents of peace know that no Arab leader will ever sign a peace agreement that does not designate East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and no Arab leader will ever sign a peace agreement that does not assign all of the West Bank to the State of Palestine.

A historic responsibility rests on the shoulders of Barack Obama: not to fold, not to give in, not to "compromise." To insist on the total freeze of the settlements, as a first and necessary step towards peace. For his sake, and for ours too.

As an Israeli, I feel like calling out to him: Yes, You Can!
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Blackwater Seeks Gag Order
By Jeremy Scahill

It became common practice during the Iraq occupation for the US State Department to work with private security companies like Blackwater to help facilitate giving what amounted to hush money to the families of Iraqis shot dead by private security contractors. In fact, Blackwater's owner, Erik Prince, discussed this practice when he testified in front of Congress in October 2007 and admitted to paying $20,000 to a Blackwater victim's family and $5,000 to another.

"We don't determine that value," Prince told Congress when asked how his company decides how much an Iraqi life is worth. "That's kind of an Iraqi-wide policy. We don't make that one."

Now, Blackwater (which recently renamed itself "Xe") is attempting to use other means to silence its victims. On July 20, the company's high-powered lawyers from Mayer Brown, which boasts that it represents eighty-nine of the Fortune 100 companies and thirty-five of the fifty largest US banks, filed a motion in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to impose a gag order on Iraqi civilians suing the company. The motion also seeks to silence the lawyers representing the families of Iraqis allegedly killed or injured by Blackwater in a series of violent incidents spanning several years. Four cases in the Washington, DC, area were recently consolidated before Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia for pretrial motions. After preliminary issues are resolved, each case is slated to be tried individually.

The July 20 motion, filed on behalf of Blackwater by Peter H. White of Mayer Brown, requests that Judge Ellis issue "an Order restraining extrajudicial statements relating to these cases by the parties and their counsel to ensure that all parties receive a fair trial and a decision from an impartial jury." The motion specifically seeks to prohibit statements to "the national and local news media."

At the same time, according to a court filing, Blackwater is also asking Judge Ellis to seal evidence that Blackwater claims is confidential or could impact national security. The company argues that if its contracts with the State Department and its "Tactical Standard Operating Procedure" guide are publicly revealed, it "could give valuable information to those who wish to plan more effective attacks against diplomatic personnel stationed in Iraq." Susan Burke, the lead attorney on the civil lawsuits against Blackwater, is not contesting Blackwater's request to seal these specific documents--primarily because they will still remain evidence. But, it does mean that the public will not be able to view them. "Blackwater is basically trying to keep from public view all of the evidence that shows their criminality," says Burke. "They are trying to ensure that we cannot apprise the public of the progress of the lawsuit."

Blackwater's gag-order motion focuses at length on Burke. It cites her labeling of Erik Prince as "a modern-day merchant of death" whose "repeated illegal conduct...must be stopped" and then lists statements by Burke and other lawyers that Blackwater says "are merely the latest in a long line of inflammatory public utterances":

€ The death of plaintiff Sa'adoon was "part of a pattern of illegal Xe-Blackwater shootings around the globe known to company management," and part of a "culture of lawlessness and unaccountability" fostered by the company.

€ The deaths of plaintiffs in the Hassoon case "reflect the pattern and practice of recklessness in the use of deadly force" by Blackwater "mercenaries" who have "flouted the laws of the United States and their host nation Iraq."

€ "Xe-Blackwater's repeated illegal conduct has caused hundreds of unnecessary deaths and thousands of unnecessary injuries. This shooting of [plaintiff] Rabea was not an isolated event. Xe-Blackwater personnel repeatedly and routinely shot for no reason as they prowled the streets of Iraq."

When asked about these specific statements, Burke quickly shot back: "It's all accurate. Those are all completely accurate statements. I stand by what I said."

The Blackwater legal team argues "there is no constitutional right to sway potential jurors through press releases, media interviews, and other extrajudicial statements. 'Legal trials,' the Supreme Court has observed, 'are not like elections, to be won through the use of the meeting-hall, the radio and the newspaper.'"

Burke's partner in the lawsuit, the Center for Constitutional Rights, says it will fight vigorously against Blackwater's attempt to silence their Iraqi clients and attorneys. "Blackwater has consistently spent millions of dollars on PR and public advocacy to try to promote their position and this is something that they have done before," says Bill Quigley, CCR's Legal Director. "This is a blatant attempt to gag the First Amendment rights of the individual Iraqis, their families, their lawyers and the public at large and to bury these factual allegations under a cone of silence. It's not new for Blackwater."

Judge Ellis has scheduled a public hearing on Blackwater's requests for sealed evidence for July 28 at 5:30 pm, where journalists and the public can express their views to the judge. A hearing on the gag order request is set for August 7. Both will be held in the Eastern District of Virginia court. It is possible that Blackwater could ask the State Department to intervene on the company's behalf to support the sealing of documents, as Blackwater has done in the past with the Department of Defense. "I would encourage the State Department, the Obama administration and anybody else that thinks that Blackwater's misdeeds should be kept out of the public eye to really think very, very carefully before advancing that position publicly," says CCR's Quigley. As for the gag order, among the arguments Burke could make is this: Blackwater itself has a record of leaking information from court cases to the media.

Earlier this year, lawyers from the US Justice Department prosecuting five Blackwater operatives for the September 2007 Nisour Square massacre accused Blackwater's attorneys of improperly passing court discovery material to journalists, specifically Matt Apuzzo of the Associated Press. Apuzzo wrote several stories based on leaked "evidence" that supported Blackwater's line on the case, namely that their men fired in self-defense. (Apuzzo is a reporter with a track record of confronting US government attempts to keep information from the public or "off the record." There is no allegation Apuzzo engaged in improper or unethical conduct in covering Blackwater.) On April 6, 2009, US Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor wrote:

Since the prosecutors sent a letter to the defendants on December 3, 2008, formally advising them to surrender themselves for arrest, there have been a number of documents and other material associated with this case that have been selectively provided to Mr. Matt Apuzzo, a reporter for the Associated Press wire service. In each instance, the material was provided to Mr. Apuzzo in an apparent attempt to influence improperly the opinions of prospective jurors at a trial in this case.... [Blackwater's] counsel have insisted on the right to disseminate copies of discovery material to third parties as they deem appropriate, and have declined to accept language that would place enforceable limitations on what those third parties can do with the material.

The judge in that case issued an order clarifying the rules, and Blackwater's lawyers, who insisted they had done nothing wrong, reached an agreement with prosecutors not to leak information. This case shows that "it's Blackwater, not us, that has been violating court strictures," says Burke. "For them to actually be bringing this on against us is ridiculous. There's nothing we've done that would merit any kind of order."

Quigley sees Blackwater's attempt to gag the Iraqi victims, their families and the attorneys representing them as an attack on the public's right to information about a government contractor that has been paid more than $1 billion in US taxpayer funds. "Blackwater is concerned about what the lawyers say and what the parties say and what's in the record, but what they're really concerned about is that journalists will cover it," says Quigley. "And so, even though this isn't an attempt directly to gag journalists, it's clearly--the thrust of this thing is to deprive journalists of any information that they can use to write about Blackwater or to hold Blackwater accountable or even to discuss the issues of hired mercenaries by our government."

Another interesting line to emerge in Blackwater's motion is that the company now prefers to be called by one of its recently created alternate identities, "US Training Center." One would be forgiven for thinking this is an Olympic facility, instead of a mercenary operation. The lawyer representing Blackwater, Peter H. White, boasts in his bio that he is "listed in The Best Lawyers in America--White Collar Criminal Defense."

Blackwater/Xe/US Training Center did not respond to a request for comment.
(c) 2009 Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author of the bestselling Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, published by Nation Books. He is an award-winning investigative journalist and correspondent for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!

Why Support Corporations That Don't Support Us?

Yes, our overall economy is a wreck - but you'll be glad to know that one business sector is booming: outsourcing American jobs to India.

It almost makes you burst with patriotic pride, doesn't it? Even as unemployment nears 10 percent across our country, more and more U.S. corporations are literally cutting out on America's middle class, eliminating employees here as they shift their operations and jobs to low-wage workers 8,000 miles away.

Some in Washington talk about measures to keep good jobs in the USA, but greedheaded corporate executives lobby furiously to prevent any action. "Anything that stops the globalization activity," declares David Cote, CEO of Honeywell, "will be harmful." Oh? To whom? Perhaps to him, but not to Honeywell's American workers, who're suffering from Honeywell's pell mell pursuit of globalization. Cote has been closing plants here and eliminating hundreds of jobs at the same time he is investing $50 million to build a new R&D center in India that will hire 3,000 people.

Likewise, Hewlett-Packard is offing some 15,000 American employees, even as it is establishing "HP Software Universities" in eight Indian cities to train thousands of new high-tech workers there. Why not invest in training Americans? Because those running these multibillion-dollar outfits feel no allegiance to America, thus they feel free to abandon our middle class - for nothing more noble than lining their own pockets by paying low wages to workers abroad.

Insurance giants, drug makers, corporate law firms, media conglomerates, and others are joining in the abandonment. They say "it's less costly" for them. Never mind what it cost their country.

If these profiteers have no loyalty to us, why be loyal to them? We should yank away all subsidies and every single benefit they get from America.
(c) 2009 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

The Day The President Turned Black
But has he turned back?
By Greg Palast

He's in hot water now. For a moment, on national television, the President of the United States turned black!

Last week, when his buddy "Skip" Gates got busted for being Black in Boston, Barack Obama forgot his official role: to soothe America's conscience with the happy fairy tale that his election marked the end of racism in the USA.

Instead, Obama, the excruciatingly middle-of-the-road President, was seized by Barack the militant State Senator from the South Side of Chicago, who reminded us that cops bust Black guys for no goddamn good reason all the goddamn time.

I'm reminded that it was not so long ago that we watched the vicious gang-beating by Los Angeles cops of a defenseless, handcuffed, Rodney King, an African-American. King's beating was unusual only in that it was caught on videotape.

Yeah, I know: we've come a hell of a long way. Obama won, Jessie cried, Beyoncé has her own line of perfume and Tiger Woods plays where 30 years ago he couldn't eat lunch.

Good on them.

But what about Robert Pratt, Mr. President?

Pratt, a United Auto Workers member, has five kids and a mortgage payment of $1,100 a month on a house in Detroit worth no more than $40,000. The payment's astronomical because he pays 11% on his mortgage balance, double the national average interest rate. Now, on those crazy terms, he's sure to lose his house.

How did that happen? Pratt, whose story we've been tracking, was "steered" into a sub-prime loan by Countrywide Financial. "Steering" is the polite term for forcing folk into crappy loan terms. And not just any folk: Black folk, like Pratt. Over 60% of African-American mortgage applicants were (and ARE) steered into "sub-prime" predatory loans.

According to exhaustive studies by the Federal Reserve Board and the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), African Americans are 250% more likely to get a loan with an "exploding interest" clause than white borrowers - and notably, the higher the income and the better the credit rating of a Black borrower, the more likely the discrimination.

As an economist, I can tell you it's not a stretch to say that Obama's failure to deal with endemic racism in the finance system is killing off hope of the nation's economic recovery. The "exploding rate" attack centered on Black and Hispanic communities has, according to the CLR, caused 40.2 million homes to lose value due to their proximity to foreclosed properties.

Yet, not a peep from the Obama Administration about ending this Ku Klux lending practice which has laid waste Black neighborhoods and taken a hunk of White America's housing values with it.

Instead, Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is the honored guest of the Board of Directors of JP Morgan, owner of one of the most outrageous of the financial predators, Washington Mutual. Morgan/WaMu, with its racially-poisoned mortgage trickery, makes the Cambridge Police Department look like the NAACP.

(Indeed, Emanuel's host JP Morgan was sued last week by the NAACP for "systematic, institutionalized racism in making home mortgage loans.")

The cold truth is, financial attacks on the Black community continue as freely under Obama as under Bush, despite Obama's power to halt it instantly by banning loan-sharking as a condition of continued bail-outs for these banks. Obama has directed the FDIC to guarantee JP Morgan loans, saving the bank $3.1 billion this year. Obama has directed the FDIC to guarantee Mr. Pratt, uh, "hope."

And what about Thomas Johnson, Mr. President?

Johnson's a minister in Florida who lost his vote in 2000, alongside at least 94,000 others falsely accused of being felons without the right to vote. Most of the innocents accused and abused were Black, the minister included. I know, because I saw those state records with the carefully recorded "BLA" next to the voters' names.

I had an editor on the story, won't say his name because he was so typical, who asked me why Johnson, an African-American, didn't pound the table and DEMAND his ballot. Johnson's no Harvard professor in Boston with the President's phone number on his speed dial.

My extremely white editor, a Yale graduate, sitting in San Francisco, could not imagine what would happen if a dark-skinned Rev. Johnson had started making a scene in Alachua County, in the Deep Deep South. The Reverend was smart not to pull a "Skippy Gates" and lip-off at authority: just a couple months ago, Alachua cops 'Tased' an angry, but unarmed, Black man, then shot him dead with seven bullets.

Johnson's vote loss, you might say, was "so 2000." This is post-racial 2009. Bullshit. In last year's election, Florida went right back into the racially biased block-and-purge of Black voters, barring thousands from the ballot through new ID laws that would have made Jim Crow segregationists of the Fifties proud. (See the investigative report, "Block the Vote," by myself and Bobby Kennedy, from the October 2008 Rolling Stone).

Yet, the Obama Administration appears quite squeamish about taking down the nouvelle ballot-box Bull Connors.


What I'm saying is that the venom of structural racism in America continues to sicken us all, in our economy, in our voting stations, in our schools (don't get me started), our health care system, our ... well, you name it.

Yes, I joined the Hope Parade and voted for Obama, expecting just this one change: a direct attack on the remaining areas of official sanction of racist policies and practices. I'm still waiting.

It was quite inspiring, last Thursday, to the see a Black man appear, if momentarily, behind the Presidential seal. Unfortunately, Obama's swift demand for equal justice under the law was provoked only when the whip came down on someone, like himself, whose professional and class status had, they presumed, made them exempt from the daily insults and assaults visited on their less privileged brothers.

So much was made of Gates' Harvard post that the issue seemed to be "It's not right to cuff a dark-skinned man who's a HARVARD PROFESSOR." The race-neutral rules of class privilege had been violated.

What's missing in America - and in the Oval Office - is any hint of outrage at the endemic, systemic cruelties visited on Black Americans, like Pratt and Johnson, who lack a key to the Harvard Alumni Club.
(c) 2009 Greg Palast is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow for Investigative Reporting at the Nation Institute, New York. Read the rest of this story by picking up his New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse: Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales from a White House Gone Wild. His investigative reports for BBC Television and Democracy Now were recently released as a film on DVD: Palast Investigates: From 8-Mile to the Amazon, on the Trail of the Financial Marauders. Join Palast's Network on MySpace, on FaceBook or on YouTube.

Blue Dogs Heel When Lobbyists Whistle
Why their vaunted "fiscal conservatism" targets health reform -- and never Pentagon waste
By Joe Conason

Nobody could be better positioned than the Democrats who call themselves "Blue Dogs" to sabotage healthcare reform, the primary objective of their president and the signature issue of their party for more than 60 years. Thanks to fawning publicity in the mainstream media that persistently describes them as fiscally conservative and ideologically moderate, the Blue Dogs enjoy an almost unassailable position in the middle of Washington's stunted political spectrum.

Certainly the Blue Dogs are astute players of the game, their power enhanced by their willingness to echo Republican rhetoric while enjoying the perks and prerogatives of Democratic power. But this is a cynical group indeed, whose reputation for fiscal probity is grossly inflated -- and whose loyalty to corporate interests, over and above the priorities of their party and the welfare of their constituents, is a darkening stain.

What supposedly troubles the Blue Dogs these days is the estimated cost of healthcare reform. By their calculations, a trillion dollars over 10 years represents an unsustainable expenditure, even if the program succeeds in providing universal quality coverage. The chairman of the Blue Dog healthcare task force, Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., has repeatedly threatened to kill any reform bill that increases the deficit. "We have to take steps to hold healthcare costs to the rate of inflation, or we will never balance our federal budget again, and health insurance costs will continue to become less and less affordable for the American people," he said last week. Holding healthcare costs to the rate of inflation is a laudable if unlikely goal for Ross and his fellow Blue Dogs, but the simple fact is that their concern over costs and deficits is highly selective -- and their claim to fiscal conservatism is utterly unearned. That should be instantly obvious to anyone who glances at the Mike Ross House Web site, where all of his puffery about holding down the deficit and saving taxpayer money gives way to his boasting about the pork he brings home to Arkansas. His most recent spate of news releases touts earmarks adding up to $66 million, mostly in the House Energy and Water appropriations bill. (If every member of Congress snatched that amount, the total would far exceed $300 billion, by the way.) That doesn't include the $87 million that Ross claimed for Arkansas to weatherize homes and schools, courtesy of the president's stimulus legislation.

Chances are that the river and port improvement projects forming the bulk of the Ross earmarks are perfectly legitimate -- and that may well be true of most of the earmarks that the other Blue Dogs regularly grab for their home districts. But who knows? When talking to Washington reporters they proclaim their single-minded dedication to fiscal prudence; when talking to the home folks, they brag about their skill at pork barreling. So as sentinels of the public treasury, they have about as little credibility as the Republicans who used to control Congress.

If the Blue Dogs were truly worried about wasteful spending, they might use their influence to curb the outrageous looting of the federal Treasury by defense contractors, which remains by far the largest drain on the public purse. They might have spoken out against the brazen theft of billions of dollars by private contractors in Iraq, whose thievery harmed troops as well as taxpayers. They might have cautioned against squandering hundreds of billions of dollars on programs that don't work and probably never will, from the F-22 jet fighter to the Ballistic Missile Defense System.

Yet with precious few exceptions, the Blue Dogs whisper nary a word against military extravagance. If they are like Ross, they mindlessly endorse the expansion of virtually any and all military programs, simply because some of those dollars end up in their districts. At a time when the Pentagon's annual cost overruns approach $300 billion a year -- dwarfing the entire defense budgets of most developed countries -- these "fiscal watchdogs" simply have nothing useful to say on the subject. Their silence is regularly shamed, or should be, by the efforts of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., an actual conservative who at least tries to trim around the fattiest edges of the defense budget.

If the Blue Dogs aren't really worried by wasteful spending, then what do they find so troubling about the prospect of change in healthcare? The unflattering answer, which may be found in a study just released by the Center for Public Integrity, is money. Corporate interests are showering dollars on the Blue Dogs and their political action committees in record amounts. The center's analysis of the latest campaign financial data shows that well over half of the Blue Dog PAC's million-dollars-plus over the past six months came from three industries -- energy, finance and healthcare. Much the same pattern pertains to the individual PACS maintained by Ross and the other Blue Dog leaders. These pooches heel when the lobbyists whistle.

But why would we expect anything else from them?

Let's recall that the founder of the House Blue Dog caucus -- and still a guiding mentor to its members -- is Billy Tauzin, a Democrat from Louisiana who helped start the group in 1994 and then jumped ship to the Republicans a year later. Just months before he retired from Congress in 2005, he pushed through the Medicare prescription drug bill, guaranteeing hundreds of billions in waste and enormous profits for the drug companies.

As soon as he left Congress, Tauzin became the chief lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, where he makes sure the Blue Dogs never get carried away with any of that rhetoric about fiscal prudence or holding down costs -- by writing generous checks.
(c) 2009 Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer. You may reach Joe via email at: Joe Conason

An Incoherent Truth
By Paul Krugman

Right now the fate of health care reform seems to rest in the hands of relatively conservative Democrats - mainly members of the Blue Dog Coalition, created in 1995. And you might be tempted to say that President Obama needs to give those Democrats what they want.

But he can't - because the Blue Dogs aren't making sense.

To grasp the problem, you need to understand the outline of the proposed reform (all of the Democratic plans on the table agree on the essentials.)

Reform, if it happens, will rest on four main pillars: regulation, mandates, subsidies and competition.

By regulation I mean the nationwide imposition of rules that would prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on your medical history, or dropping your coverage when you get sick. This would stop insurers from gaming the system by covering only healthy people.

On the other side, individuals would also be prevented from gaming the system: Americans would be required to buy insurance even if they're currently healthy, rather than signing up only when they need care. And all but the smallest businesses would be required either to provide their employees with insurance, or to pay fees that help cover the cost of subsidies - subsidies that would make insurance affordable for lower-income American families.

Finally, there would be a public option: a government-run insurance plan competing with private insurers, which would help hold down costs.

The subsidy portion of health reform would cost around a trillion dollars over the next decade. In all the plans currently on the table, this expense would be offset with a combination of cost savings elsewhere and additional taxes, so that there would be no overall effect on the federal deficit.

So what are the objections of the Blue Dogs?

Well, they talk a lot about fiscal responsibility, which basically boils down to worrying about the cost of those subsidies. And it's tempting to stop right there, and cry foul. After all, where were those concerns about fiscal responsibility back in 2001, when most conservative Democrats voted enthusiastically for that year's big Bush tax cut - a tax cut that added $1.35 trillion to the deficit?

But it's actually much worse than that - because even as they complain about the plan's cost, the Blue Dogs are making demands that would greatly increase that cost.

There has been a lot of publicity about Blue Dog opposition to the public option, and rightly so: a plan without a public option to hold down insurance premiums would cost taxpayers more than a plan with such an option.

But Blue Dogs have also been complaining about the employer mandate, which is even more at odds with their supposed concern about spending. The Congressional Budget Office has already weighed in on this issue: without an employer mandate, health care reform would be undermined as many companies dropped their existing insurance plans, forcing workers to seek federal aid - and causing the cost of subsidies to balloon. It makes no sense at all to complain about the cost of subsidies and at the same time oppose an employer mandate.

So what do the Blue Dogs want?

Maybe they're just being complete hypocrites. It's worth remembering the history of one of the Blue Dog Coalition's founders: former Representative Billy Tauzin of Louisiana. Mr. Tauzin switched to the Republicans soon after the group's creation; eight years later he pushed through the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act, a deeply irresponsible bill that included huge giveaways to drug and insurance companies. And then he left Congress to become, yes, the lavishly paid president of PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry lobby.

One interpretation, then, is that the Blue Dogs are basically following in Mr. Tauzin's footsteps: if their position is incoherent, it's because they're nothing but corporate tools, defending special interests. And as the Center for Responsive Politics pointed out in a recent report, drug and insurance companies have lately been pouring money into Blue Dog coffers.

But I guess I'm not quite that cynical. After all, today's Blue Dogs are politicians who didn't go the Tauzin route - they didn't switch parties even when the G.O.P. seemed to hold all the cards and pundits were declaring the Republican majority permanent. So these are Democrats who, despite their relative conservatism, have shown some commitment to their party and its values.

Now, however, they face their moment of truth. For they can't extract major concessions on the shape of health care reform without dooming the whole project: knock away any of the four main pillars of reform, and the whole thing will collapse - and probably take the Obama presidency down with it.

Is that what the Blue Dogs really want to see happen? We'll soon find out.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Continuity In Kyrgyzstan
The Same Old Imperial Game Goes On
By Chris Floyd

The New York Times tells us that the ongoing political crackdown in America's Terror War ally Kyrgyzstan is an example of the difficult "challenge" faced by the Obama administration as it seeks to "balance" its strategic needs with its "concerns" for human rights.

But of course this is not a "challenge" at all. It's remarkably simple. When you are conducting wars of imperial domination in far-flung, hard-to-access lands, you must keep the local satraps sweet -- unless or until you can replace them with your own hand-picked stooges. Everything else is just window dressing for the rubes back home.

In Kyrgyzstan, there is the added element of the local thug getting backing from another Great Gamester, the Kremlin. Theoretically, such a thing could complicate matters, but in this particular case, it does not, because Washington and Moscow are both backing the same side in Afghanistan's protracted civil war. Obama has already wrung new levels of cooperation from Russia's double-headed leadership in pushing his broad military escalation in Afghanistan. And in any case, the Kremlin is a hobbled gamester these days, concerned mostly with protecting its flanks against further encroachments on its historic hegemony - and protecting its own hand-picked stooges, such as the savage Chechen warlord, Ramzan Kadyrov, whose critics are being assassinated one by one. The Kremlin is also concerned with fending off the bristling missile bases the United States is installing around its frontiers, with the Obama Administration eagerly taking up and advancing the Bush Regime's aggressive provocation.

But back to Kyrgyzstan, where the oh-so-progressive peaceniks of Brand Obama have tossed that milksoppy 'human rights' jazz overboard and are lavishing love and largess on the increasingly brutal strongman, Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Shall we be dull and mention "continuity" yet again? I'm afraid we must. For here, as elsewhere - everywhere - imperial concerns (known as "strategic issues" in our ever-obfuscating Beltway jargon) trump all others. As Scott Horton notes at Harper's, referring to the Times' account of brutal beatings doled out to Bakiyev's opponents:

In a recent description of challenges to his administration, he put the word "freedom" in first place. Is he concerned that the Kyrgyz have too much of it? Accounts like the one above suggest that he's out to give "freedom" a good, sound thrashing. So how does the United States react? Since early 2002, the Kyrgyz Republic has had an important position in Washington's view-it is home to Ganci Air Force Base. And maintaining that military installation has been the alpha and omega of U.S.-Kyrgyz relations. The collapse of the nation's nascent democracy hardly seems to be given a second thought.

To sum up, it seems the government of Kyrgyzstan is repressive, undemocratic and corrupt. But because it's willing to offer a plot of land for yet another outpost in America's empire of military domination, all is forgiven.

Which suggests that if Iran wants to get past its little spot of bother with Washington that keeps cropping up - you know, where America's "chief diplomat" constantly declares her doubts that, er, diplomacy will resolve any of the Empire's problems with Iran, and warns that the "nuclear clock is ticking" toward some promised if unspecified unpleasantness if Tehran doesn't knuckle under - then the mullahs should consider hosting a couple of big ole American bases in the Persian hinterlands.

After that, the Iranians - like Iraq's Nouri al-Maliki, who is currently "hosting" more than a quarter of a million American forces (public and private) and signalling his willingness to keep them on indefinitely - could arrest, repress and torture who they please, without a discouraging word from Washington. A win-win situation all around!
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

Saving our Pentagon
By Case Wagenvoord

It's a mistake to call them imperial wars when they are little more than corporate wars fought for resources and market share.

And the way Secretary of Defense Robert Gates talks, we are going to be bouncing from war to war to war like a nine-year-old girl playing hopscotch. What else can you expect from a nation so addicted to military Keynesianism that unnecessary wars have become a way of life? If there is no enemy to fight, we will create one.

Gates is one of our tepid barbarians whose brilliance is refracted through the broken lens of adolescent groupthink. In other words, he's your typical corporatist.

While he and his minions obsess over the corporate bottom line, they are blithely unaware of the existential bottom line that is slowly wrapping itself around the nation's neck: we can no long afford the defense establishment so necessary for the execution of serial corporate wars.

We haven't been able to afford them for some time, but the public tolerated them as long as it could maintain the illusion of indebted prosperity. Now that this is no longer possible, the public could well come to the conclusion that our corporate military establishment is no more than a bloated leech that is sucking our economy dry for the sake of keeping our oligarch safe and secure in their Park Avenue penthouses.

There is, however, a way our corporatists can have their cake and eat it too.

Every time I look at the Pentagon, I see what could potentially be the world's greatest indoor shopping mall. Hell, it's got everything a mall needs-ample parking and loads of square footage. Its war room is the ultimate video game arcade.

Which brings me to our salvation: Instead of fighting real wars, let's fight virtual ones. We're halfway there already. I mean, how virtual can you get when some geek in an air conditioned room in Los Vegas, armed only with a laptop, can direct a drone over Afghanistan? The only difference between that and a video game is that a wedding party ends up getting wiped out.

It would be much more cost-effective to fight make believe wars than real ones. Lock our policy wonks in the war room and let them have at it with an elaborately plotted video game along the lines if SimCity. Call it Simnatinal defense and they'd stay out of our hair for years.

The geek at his lap top would get the same euphoric high only state-sanctioned slaughter can bring even if the wedding party is virtual instead of real, and his elders could continue to play out their adolescent fantasies of domination and power.
(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

Obama; Poor Choices Seem To Be A Habit
By Mike Folkerth

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

Cops been hassling you lately? Call Barrack Obama on the phone for immediate intervention. That is, if you are an important black man who is a personal friend of the president.

Our president recently took time out from his busy job of running the United States into the ground to come to the aid of his friend, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., who was found with a friend prying his own front door open and subsequently arrested after he refused to cooperate with police.

I'm sure that you have read the details of the incident; the police didn't just show up, they were called by a neighbor who saw what was described as "suspicious behavior."

But that's not the important part; does anyone ever remember any other president who personally intervened in a personal matter? Obama personally called both friend Gates and the police officer. Obama also made a knee jerk remark by publicly stating that the police "acted stupidly," prior to knowing the entire story. He now says that he regrets that remark. No kiddin'. It should be considered that personal behavior displaying favoritism of this nature by the President of the United States is very dangerous.

To make matters worse, Obama has now invited both Gates and the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley (who is white), to the White House for a beer! You gotta be kidding; right?

In the mean time, what was the headline news used to dampen the colossal blunder of our young president demonstrating his true traits? How about this; "Seven years ago, President Bush considered having federal troops arrest a group of terrorist's in Buffalo but ultimately decided against it." Wow, I was hoping that important story would come out. Now my only dying curiosity is to determine exactly what's happening these days with the deported little Cuban illegal immigrant, Elian Gonzalez, who served so well as a smoke screen in the Clinton scandal.

Barrack Obama purposely saddled a rank horse when he elected to run for president and made countless unrealistic promises. He now needs to ride that bronc on his own, outside the safety of the bucking chute, and quit blaming the past for his current failures.

In other phony news, I viewed a 20-20 special with Charley Gibson titled, "Over a Barrel: The Truth About Oil." It was one of the poorest productions on that subject that I've ever viewed with the exception of the clips from every president since Nixon, promising to end our dependency on foreign oil including Barrack Hussein Obama.

"The truth about oil." can be read in the most famous publication of all time on that subject; the 1949 paper, "Energy from Fossil Fuels, Science" by the American Geophysicist Marion King Hubbert. Apparently Charley Gibson has selective reading skills along with our past and current presidents and Congressional members.

In the 20-20 segment, the words, "addicted to oil," were spoken over and over. I'm sure that we will soon hear the words, "addicted to natural gas, coal, food, water and shelter," as those niceties also fall in short supply. In all actuality, one could have read about the shortcomings of our earth to support exponential population growth in the 1798 publication, "An Essay on the Principals of Population," by Thomas Malthus. But then, what would some idiot from another century know? It now appears that Malthus knew a lot.

In the hierarchy of energy, oil sits at the very top of the pile with natural gas and coal coming in at a near tie for second and third. Not only is oil our most important energy source for motor, aviation, and marine fuel, it is also a fundamental element of rubber, plastic, roads, building materials, and an ongoing list that would occupy a small book. "Addicted," is a poor choice of words to describe oil as it suggests that we could simply do without the substance known as "black gold."

Our young inexperienced president says that in 10 years, we will no longer need Middle East oil. He is going to get after making that promise come true while at the same time growing our economy, our population, our consumption, and saving the auto industry; just as soon as he finishes drinking beer with Professor Gates and the stupid cop.
(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...

"Man's mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions."
~~~ Oliver Wendell Holmes ~~~

Happiness Consultants Won't Stop A Depression
By Chris Hedges

Anthony Vasquez, a student at the University of California, Berkeley, worked at FedEx Kinkos for about two years. His store's slogan was: "Yes We Can." "It meant that if a customer asked us to do a job for them, no matter what it was, we were to say 'Yes We Can!'" he said.

Posters of the slogan were posted on telephones and in the backroom. Corporate auditors enforced the slogan by "Yes We Can" call audits. Employees would be punished as a group for failures, and individuals could be fired. Other slogans at the Santa Cruz, Calif., FedEx Kinkos included "Winning by engaging the hearts and minds of every team member" and "I promise to make every FedEx experience outstanding."

Vasquez worked with a trainee named Sam until Sam was fired. The store managers didn't announce the dismissal. They kept Sam on the schedule to make it appear he was skipping work and then used this as grounds for removal. After two weeks and some conversations with Sam, Vasquez wrote "Fired" in pencil under Sam's name on the schedule. It was at that point that Vasquez got a taste of the ideology of modern corporate management, which uses therapeutic forms of social control and calls for group harmony to impose rigid conformity.

Angela and Nancy, the store managers, reprimanded Vasquez with a "Positive Discipline Documentation Form." They charged him with defacing company property.

"The document explained how I had made 'false or malicious statements' against Sam," said Vasquez. "Angela and Nancy looked at each other, breathed deeply, and asked if I had any comments. I told them they were being duplicitous and that nothing I wrote had been false or malicious. I told them that if they wanted to make 'our organization a success' they could start by paying me a fair wage. I went on and on until they both threw their hands in the air and told me to stop being difficult. I told them that I wasn't the one being difficult. They stared hard at me and said 'We know.'"

Mendez signed the document and left the office.

"It must have been in 2006, the company was holding another mandatory meeting for team members, which is what they call us," he said. "I went with a couple of co-workers to Fresno, where we met a lot of other employees from various stores in Northern California. ... The meeting took place in this rented room, and the woman from corporate had all these toys, markers and candy in the middle of each table. The first thing she had us do was organize ourselves according to duration of employment at the company. While in this line, we had to introduce ourselves and say how long we had been working. The girl on the far end had been hired two months prior, the man on the other had been with the company for almost 20 years."

Vasquez saw that some of his co-workers didn't like having to speak about private, potentially embarrassing information. But the corporate manager tried to pump them up.

"She spun it so hard I felt dizzy," said Vasquez. "'Isn't this wonderful?! We have such a wide range of great team members. This really shows what a great place this is to work, and how you can make a career here!' she said."

"One man stared at the floor in anger and embarrassment," Vasquez said. "If he had said anything she would have e-mailed his center manager and he would have been written up and probably denied a raise. By the way, raises are 25 cents a year."

"The purpose of the meeting was, her euphemisms aside, to push merchandise and services onto customers that they didn't want. I believe it's called upselling," he said. "She wanted us to talk about our positive customer service experiences. Most of us struggled with this, as nearly all of our experiences with customers and the company had been extremely negative and stressful. But she was all smiles, no matter what we said, and I noticed she was able to make almost everyone there smile and laugh and have a good time. She used the toys, the candy, the markers, and activities like skits and competitions to get people active and involved with each other. She used the happiness and was able to switch its source from human interaction to the company. You aren't happy because you are being social, you are happy because you work for the company."

The driving ideology of corporate culture is a blind faith in the power and virtue of the corporate collective. All quotas can be met. All things are possible. Profits can always be raised. It is only a question of the right attitude. The highest form of personal happiness, we are told, is when the corporation thrives. Corporate retreats are built around this idea of merging the self with the corporate collective. They often have the feel of a religious revival. They are designed to whip up emotions. Office managers and sales staffs are given inspirational talks by sports stars, retired military commanders, billionaires and self-help specialists like Tony Robbins who tell them, in essence, the impossible is always possible. And when this proves not to be true it is we who are the problem. We simply have to try harder.

The belief that by thinking about things, by visualizing them, by wanting them, we can make them happen is magical thinking. The purpose, structure and goals of the corporation can never be questioned. To question, to engage in criticism of the corporate collective, is to be obstructive and negative. We can always make more money, meet new quotas and advance our career if we have enough faith. This magical thinking is largely responsible for our economic collapse since any Cassandra who saw it coming was dismissed as "negative." This childish belief discredits legitimate concerns and anxieties. It exacerbates despair and passivity. It fosters a state of self-delusion. And it has perverted the way we think about the nation and ourselves.

Corporate employees, like everyone else, are gripped by personal dilemmas, anxieties and troubles. They are not permitted, however, to ask whether the problem is the corporate structure and the corporate state. If they are not happy there is, they are told, something wrong with them. Real debate, real clashes of opinion, are, in the happy world of corporatism, forbidden. They are considered rude. The corporations enforce a relentless optimism that curtails honest appraisal of reality and preserves hierarchical forms of organization under the guise of "participation." Corporate culture provides, as Christopher Lasch pointed out, a society dominated by corporate elites with an anti-elitist ideology.

Positive psychology, which claims to be able to engineer happiness and provides the psychological tools for enforcing corporate conformity, is to the corporate state what eugenics was to the Nazis. Positive psychology is a quack science that throws a smoke screen over corporate domination, abuse and greed. Those academics who preach it are awash in corporate grants. They are invited to corporate retreats to assure corporate employees that they can find happiness by sublimating their selves into corporate culture. They hold academic conferences. They publish a Journal of Happiness Studies and a World Database of Happiness. There are more than a hundred courses on positive psychology available on college campuses. The University of Pennsylvania offers a master of applied positive psychology program chaired by Martin Seligman, considered the father of the discipline, and author of "Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment." The School of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences at Claremont Graduate University offers a Ph.D. and M.A. concentrations on what it calls "the Science of Positive Psychology." Degree programs are also available at the University of East London and in Milan and Mexico City.

Dr. Tal D. Ben-Shahar, who wrote "Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment," taught hugely popular courses at Harvard University titled "Positive Psychology" and "The Psychology of Leadership." He called himself, when he taught at Harvard, the "Harvard Happiness Professor."

"There is mounting evidence in the psychological literature showing that focusing on cultivating strengths, optimism, gratitude, and a positive perspective can lead to growth during difficult times," Ben-Shahar has stated.

Positive psychology therapy instructs patients to write a letter of gratitude to someone who has been kind to them. Patients pen little essays called "You at your best" in which they are asked "to write about a time when they were at their best and then to reflect on personal strengths displayed in the story." They are instructed to "review the story once every day for a week and to reflect on the strengths they had identified." And the professionals argue that their research shows that many of their patients have "lastingly increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms."

Ben-Shahar pumps out the catchy slogans and clichés that color all self-improvement schemes. "Learn to fail or fail to learn," he says, and "not 'it happened for the best,' but 'how can I make the best of what happened?'"

He argues that if a traumatic episode can result in post-traumatic stress disorder it may be possible to create the opposite phenomenon with a single glorious, ecstatic experience. This could, he says, dramatically change a person's life for the better.

Those who fail to exhibit positive attitudes, no matter the external reality, are seen as maladjusted and in need of assistance. Their attitudes need correction. Once we adopt an upbeat vision of reality, positive things will happen. This belief encourages us to flee from reality when reality does not elicit positive feelings. These specialists in "happiness" have formulated something they call the "Law of Attraction." It argues that we attract those things in life, whether it is money, relationships or employment, which we focus on. Suddenly, abused and battered wives or children, the unemployed, the depressed and mentally ill, the illiterate, the lonely, those grieving for lost loved ones, those crushed by poverty, the terminally ill, those fighting with addictions, those suffering from trauma, those trapped in menial and poorly paid jobs, those whose homes are in foreclosure or who are filing for bankruptcy because they cannot pay their medical bills, are to blame for their negativity. The ideology justifies the cruelty of unfettered capitalism, shifting the blame from the power elite to those they oppress. And many of us have internalized this pernicious message, which in times of difficulty leads to personal despair, passivity and disillusionment.

This flight into the collective self-delusion of corporate ideology, especially as we undergo financial collapse and the pillaging of the U.S. treasury by corporations, is no more helpful in solving our problems than alchemy. But there are university departments and reams of pseudoscientific scholarship to give an academic patina to the fantasy of happiness and success through positive thinking. The message that we can have everything we want if we dig deep enough inside ourselves, if we truly believe we are exceptional, is pumped out daily over the airwaves in advertisements, through the plot and story lines of television programs and films, and bolstered by the sickeningly cheerful and upbeat banter of well-groomed television hosts. This is the twisted ideological lens through which we view the world.

"From my two years at the company: positive psychology is a euphemism for spin," Vasquez went on. "They try to spin their employees so much they can't tell right from left, and in the process they forget they do the work of three people, have no health insurance, and three-quarters of their paycheck goes to rent."

This ideology condemns all social critics, iconoclasts, dissidents and individualists, for failing to seek fulfillment in the collective chant of the corporate herd. It strangles creativity and moral autonomy. It is about being molded and shaped into a compliant and repressed collective. It is not, at its core, about happiness. It is about conformity, a conformity that all totalitarian and authoritarian structures seek to impose on the crowd. Its unrealistic promise of happiness, in fact, probably produces more internal anxiety and feelings of inadequacy than genuine happiness. The nagging undercurrents of alienation, the constant pressure to exhibit a false enthusiasm and buoyancy, the loneliness of a work life in which one must always be about upbeat presentation, the awful feeling that being positive may not in fact work if one is laid off, are buried and suppressed.

There are no gross injustices, no abuses to question, no economic systems to challenge in the land of happy thoughts. In the land of happy thoughts we are to blame if things go wrong. The corporate state, we are assured, is beneficent and good. It will make us happy and comfortable and prosperous even as it funnels billions of taxpayer dollars into its bank accounts. Mao and Stalin used the same language of harmony and strength through the collective, the same love of spectacles and slogans, the same coercive power of groups and state propaganda, to enslave and impoverish millions of their citizens. And, if we do not free ourselves from the grip of this ideology and the corporate vampires who disseminate it, this is what will happen to us.
(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. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

Science Is In The Details
By Sam Harris

PRESIDENT OBAMA has nominated Francis Collins to be the next director of the National Institutes of Health. It would seem a brilliant choice. Dr. Collins's credentials are impeccable: he is a physical chemist, a medical geneticist and the former head of the Human Genome Project. He is also, by his own account, living proof that there is no conflict between science and religion. In 2006, he published "The Language of God," in which he claimed to demonstrate "a consistent and profoundly satisfying harmony" between 21st-century science and evangelical Christianity.

Dr. Collins is regularly praised by secular scientists for what he is not: he is not a "young earth creationist," nor is he a proponent of "intelligent design." Given the state of the evidence for evolution, these are both very good things for a scientist not to be.

But as director of the institutes, Dr. Collins will have more responsibility for biomedical and health-related research than any person on earth, controlling an annual budget of more than $30 billion. He will also be one of the foremost representatives of science in the United States. For this reason, it is important that we understand Dr. Collins and his faith as they relate to scientific inquiry.

What follows are a series of slides, presented in order, from a lecture on science and belief that Dr. Collins gave at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2008:

Slide 1: "Almighty God, who is not limited in space or time, created a universe 13.7 billion years ago with its parameters precisely tuned to allow the development of complexity over long periods of time."

Slide 2: "God's plan included the mechanism of evolution to create the marvelous diversity of living things on our planet. Most especially, that creative plan included human beings."

Slide 3: "After evolution had prepared a sufficiently advanced 'house' (the human brain), God gifted humanity with the knowledge of good and evil (the moral law), with free will, and with an immortal soul."

Slide 4: "We humans used our free will to break the moral law, leading to our estrangement from God. For Christians, Jesus is the solution to that estrangement."

Slide 5: "If the moral law is just a side effect of evolution, then there is no such thing as good or evil. It's all an illusion. We've been hoodwinked. Are any of us, especially the strong atheists, really prepared to live our lives within that worldview?"

Why should Dr. Collins's beliefs be of concern?

There is an epidemic of scientific ignorance in the United States. This isn't surprising, as very few scientific truths are self-evident, and many are counterintuitive. It is by no means obvious that empty space has structure or that we share a common ancestor with both the housefly and the banana. It can be difficult to think like a scientist. But few things make thinking like a scientist more difficult than religion.

Dr. Collins has written that science makes belief in God "intensely plausible" - the Big Bang, the fine-tuning of nature's constants, the emergence of complex life, the effectiveness of mathematics, all suggest the existence of a "loving, logical and consistent" God.

But when challenged with alternative accounts of these phenomena - or with evidence that suggests that God might be unloving, illogical, inconsistent or, indeed, absent - Dr. Collins will say that God stands outside of Nature, and thus science cannot address the question of his existence at all.

Similarly, Dr. Collins insists that our moral intuitions attest to God's existence, to his perfectly moral character and to his desire to have fellowship with every member of our species. But when our moral intuitions recoil at the casual destruction of innocents by, say, a tidal wave or earthquake, Dr. Collins assures us that our time-bound notions of good and evil can't be trusted and that God's will is a mystery.

Most scientists who study the human mind are convinced that minds are the products of brains, and brains are the products of evolution. Dr. Collins takes a different approach: he insists that at some moment in the development of our species God inserted crucial components - including an immortal soul, free will, the moral law, spiritual hunger, genuine altruism, etc.

As someone who believes that our understanding of human nature can be derived from neuroscience, psychology, cognitive science and behavioral economics, among others, I am troubled by Dr. Collins's line of thinking. I also believe it would seriously undercut fields like neuroscience and our growing understanding of the human mind. If we must look to religion to explain our moral sense, what should we make of the deficits of moral reasoning associated with conditions like frontal lobe syndrome and psychopathy? Are these disorders best addressed by theology?

Dr. Collins has written that "science offers no answers to the most pressing questions of human existence" and that "the claims of atheistic materialism must be steadfastly resisted."

One can only hope that these convictions will not affect his judgment at the institutes of health. After all, understanding human well-being at the level of the brain might very well offer some "answers to the most pressing questions of human existence" - questions like, Why do we suffer? Or, indeed, is it possible to love one's neighbor as oneself? And wouldn't any effort to explain human nature without reference to a soul, and to explain morality without reference to God, necessarily constitute "atheistic materialism?"

Francis Collins is an accomplished scientist and a man who is sincere in his beliefs. And that is precisely what makes me so uncomfortable about his nomination. Must we really entrust the future of biomedical research in the United States to a man who sincerely believes that a scientific understanding of human nature is impossible?
(c) 2008 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Polis,

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 demand to not tax the rich to pay for healthcare, 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 Polis, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Cheney Plan To Deploy The U.S. Military On U.S. Soil
By Glenn Greenwald

This new report today from The New York Times' Mark Mazzetti and David Johnston reveals an entirely unsurprising though still important event: in 2002, Dick Cheney and David Addington urged that U.S. military troops be used to arrest and detain American citizens, inside the U.S., who were suspected of involvement with Al Qaeda. That was done pursuant to a previously released DOJ memo (.pdf) authored by John Yoo and Robert Delahunty, addressed to Alberto Gonzales, dated October 23, 2001, and chillingly entitled "Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the U.S." That Memo had concluded that the President had authority to deploy the U.S. military against American citizens on U.S. soil. Far worse, it asserted that in exercising that power, the President could not be bound either by Congressional statutes prohibiting such use (such as the Posse Comitatus Act) or even by the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which -- the Memo concluded -- was "inapplicable" to what it called "domestic military operations."

Though it received very little press attention, it is not hyperbole to observe that this October 23 Memo was one of the most significant events in American politics in the last several decades, because it explicitly declared the U.S. Constitution -- the Bill of Rights -- inoperative inside the U.S., as applied to U.S. citizens. Just read what it said in arguing that neither the Fourth Amendment -- nor even the First Amendment -- can constrain what the President can do when overseeing "domestic military operations" (I wrote about that Memo when it was released last March and excerpted the most revealing and tyrannical portions: here). Here's just a small sample to convey the rancid taste of that Memo:

Today's NYT report is the first which reveals that high-level Bush officials actively considered and even advocated that the power to use the military to arrest American citizens on U.S. soil be used. In this instance, Cheney and Addington argued that the U.S. Army should be deployed to Buffalo to arrest six American citizens -- dubbed the "Lackawanna Six" -- suspected of being Al Qaeda members (though not suspected of being anywhere near executing an actual Terrorist attack). The Cheney/Addington plan was opposed by DOJ officials who wanted domestic law enforcement jurisdiction for themselves, and the plan was ultimately rejected by Bush, who instead dispatched the FBI to arrest them [all six were ultimately charged in federal court with crimes ("material support for terrorism"); all pled guilty and were sentenced to long prison terms, and they then cooperated in other cases, once again illustrating how effective our normal criminal justice and federal prison systems are in incapacitating Terrorists].

All that said, the Bush administration did use a very similar power when it dispatched FBI agents to arrest U.S. citizen Jose Padilla on American soil (at Chicago's O'Hare Airport), but then very shortly thereafter transferred him to military custody, where he was held for the next 3 years with no trial, no charges, and no contact with the outside world, including lawyers. The only thing distinguishing the Padilla case from what Cheney/Addington argued be done in the Lackawanna Six case was that the military wasn't used to make the initial apprehension of Padilla. But Padilla was then transferred to military custody and held on U.S. soil for years in a brig, incommunicado and tortured, with no charges of any kind (another U.S. citizen, Yaser Hamdi, was treated similarly until the Supreme Court ruled he was entitled to some sort of hearing, after which he was sent to Saudi Arabia).

All of this underscores why it is so important to vigorously oppose the efforts of the Obama administration (a) to continue many of the radical Bush/Cheney Terrorism programs and even to implement new ones (preventive detention, military commissions, extreme secrecy policies, warrantless surveillance, denial of habeas corpus) and (b) to endorse the core Orwellian premise that enables all of that (i.e., the "battlefield" is anywhere and everywhere; the battle against Terrorism is a "War" like the Civil War or World War II and justifies the same powers). By itself, the extreme injustice imposed by our Government on the individuals subjected to such tyrannical powers (i.e., those held in cages for years without charges or any prospect for release) should be sufficient to compel firm opposition. But the importance of these issues goes far beyond that. Even if the original intention is to use these powers in very limited circumstances and even for allegedly noble purposes ("only" for Guantanamo detainees who were tortured, "only" for people shipped to Bagram, "only" for the Most Dangerous Terrorists), it's extremely dangerous to implement systems and vest the President with powers that depart from, and violently betray, our core precepts of justice.

It's the nature of governments that powers of this type, once vested, rarely remain confined to their original purpose. They inevitably and invariably expand far beyond that. Powers that are endowed to address a limited and supposedly temporary circumstance almost always endure for years if not decades. Once a political official possesses a particular power, they almost never relinquish it voluntarily (there are exceptions -- Jimmy Carter in 1978 signed, and subsequent Presidents until Bush complied with, FISA, which barred Presidents from eavesdropping without a judicial warrant, but such instances are exceedingly rare). Perhaps most dangerous of all, detention and punishment schemes that are implemented in relatively normal times (such as now) will inevitably expand, and expand wildly, in the case of some heightened threat (such as another Terrorist attack). Put another way, once we depart for ostensibly limited purposes from our fundamental principles of justice -- in order to indefinitely detain "just some special cases" without charges -- then, by definition, we're fundamentally altering our system of justice far beyond that.

Worse still, if -- after eight years of Yoo memos and theories of presidential omnipotence and denial of habeas corpus -- a Democratic President with a Democratic Congress implements his own kinder, gentler version of such programs, then they will cease to be a twisted aberration from the post-9/11 Bush era and will instead become the new bipartisan, American consensus approach to justice. We'll have a national (rather than right-wing) endorsement of the "principle" that national security threats justify denial of the most basic rights when it comes to detention and imprisonment. When I interviewed The New York Times' Charlie Savage in May, after he wrote another article detailing the similarities between the Bush/Cheney and Obama approaches to Terrorism, this is how he put it:

I had this interesting conversation when I was working on this article that came out this morning with Jack Balkin at Yale Law School, and he compares this moment to when Dwight Eisenhower took over, in 1953, and after FDR and then Truman had built up the New Deal administrative state, which Republicans hated, but then Eisenhower, instead of dismantling it, just sort of adjusted it with his own policies a little bit, and kept it going. And at that point, there was no longer any sort of partisan controversy about the fact that we were going to have this massive administrative state; it just sort of became a permanent part of the governing structure of the country.

And in the same way he said in 1969 when Richard Nixon took over from LBJ, he did some adjustments to the great society welfare state that LBJ had built up, but he didn't scrap it. And at that point, Republicans and Democrats had both presided over the welfare state and the welfare state became part of just how government worked.

That in the same way, Obama now, by continuing the broad outlines of the various surveillance and detention and counter-terrorism programs, is draining them of plausible partisan controversy, and so they are going to become entrenched and consolidated as permanent features of American government as well, going forward.

Those are the stakes when it comes to debates over Obama's detention, surveillance and secrecy policies. To endorse the idea that Terrorism justifies extreme presidential powers in these areas is to ensure that we permanently embrace a radical departure from our core principles of justice. It should come as no surprise that once John Yoo did what he was meant to do -- give his legal approval to a truly limitless presidency, one literally unconstrained even by the Bill of Rights, even as applied to American citizens on U.S. soil -- then Dick Cheney and David Addington sought to use those powers (in the Buffalo case) and Bush did use them (in the case of Jose Padilla). That's how extreme powers work: once implemented, they will be used, and used far beyond their original intent -- whether by the well-intentioned implementing President or a subsequent one with less benign motives. That's why it's so vital that such policies be opposed before they take root.

UPDATE: On a mostly (though not entirely) unrelated note, here is a prime example of Digby's excellence: her commentary on the prevailing authoritarian mentality towards government and police power in the U.S., as reflected by the Gates controversy.

UPDATE II: As Kitt notes in Comments, Obama himself, as a candidate, repeatedly embraced these ideas. Here is what he said in February, 2008, after he convinced Chris Dodd to endorse him during the primary and while he tried to convince Dodd voters, who made civil liberties and a restoration core Constitutional values one of their highest priorities, to support him as well:

We know it's time to time to restore our Constitution and the rule of law. This is an issue that was at the heart of Senator Dodd's candidacy, and I share his passion for restoring the balance between the security we demand and the civil liberties that we cherish.

The American people must be able to trust that their president values principle over politics, and justice over unchecked power. I've been proud to stand with Senator Dodd in his fight against retroactive immunity for the telecommunications industry [GG: This was just four months before Obama would vote for a bill granting immunity to the telecoms]. Secrecy and special interests must not trump accountability [GG: This was roughly 11 months before the Obama DOJ began embracing the Bush/Cheney "state secrets" privilege to shield lawless programs from judicial review]. We must show our citizens -- and set an example to the world -- that laws cannot be ignored when it is inconvenient. Because in America -- no one is above the law [GG: This was about a year before he announced that no Bush officials should be prosecuted for crimes because we must Look Forward].

It's time to reject torture without equivocation. It's time to close Guantanamo and to restore habeas corpus [GG: This was about a year before his administration began insisting that people we abduct and ship to Bagram have no right to habeas review]. It's time to give our intelligence and law enforcement agencies the tools they need to track down and take out terrorists, while ensuring that their actions are subject to vigorous oversight that protects our freedom [GG: This was just four months before Obama would vote for a bill massively expanding warrantless eavesdropping]. So let me be perfectly clear: I have taught the Constitution, I understand the Constitution, and I will obey the Constitution when I am President of the United States.

The Barack Obama who understands those things still exists. That's why the effort to induce him to act on -- rather than violate -- those principles is so imperative.

UPDATE III: As several commenters note, this revelation about Cheney sheds new light on the reason many people were concerned by prior reports that a U.S. Army brigade, for the first time, was being permanently deployed to the domestic U.S. Many of us expressing that concern were accused of indulging bizarre paranoia that the U.S. Army would ever be deployed against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. I wonder how those who made such shrill accusations feel now in light of today's revelation that Cheney was advocating for precisely that.

On a different note, I was on The Mike Malloy Show last night, with guest host Brad Friedman, discussing Obama and civil liberties. Those interested can hear the segments I did here, beginning at the start of HOUR ONE.
(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.

Bulletin... Bulletin: Mocha Revolution And More
By Frank Scott

Mocha Revolution In New York!

New York prep school students at the prestigious K. Wiford Ditzworthy Academy rose up in what they called a Mocha Revolution after a planned luncheon was canceled by a delivery service which decided they weren't paying enough.

"Our workers are facing lay offs while these rich kids have caviar and crepes delivered to their schools, and they demand we lower our prices?"

But student leader W. Rutledge Goldworthy claimed that there was intense disrespect shown for the students by "these uneducated lower class workers who often make their deliveries without curtsying to our female classmates. We're all feminists here and won't stand for our girls being dissed by these low lives, most of whom speak a foreign language which isn't even French."

At a hastily called press conference, a pretty student spokesperson said "We're not going to stand for this? We're very serious?We won't tolerate disrespect from workers, teachers or our parents? We do not speak in declarative sentences? We are rich and you are all assholes? This press conference is over?"

A reporter for Woman's Wear Weakly expressed shock at the student's performance. "Her Arpeggio Dilettante shoes were lovely, and the mink lined chador was a nice bow to the Iranian rebels, though the ear rings were a knock off and not really Gustave del Buttonna originals, but except for some coffee stains on her sleeve, I saw no mocha at all... did you? This can't be a 'mocha' revolution!"

When asked to clarify this serious political point, student W. Bennington Crassworthy said "We originally wanted to call it a Cappuccino revolution, but that really isn't, like, a color, so we took Mocha, which is, like, one of our favorite drinks and really is a nice sort of, like, off shade of brown or tan which some of our fashion team really liked."

School principal B. Geoffrey Twitworthy said that this could all be related to the recession stress, the closing of several high fashion boutiques in the area, and cutbacks on student trips to the Bahamas, Tibet and other exotic locales. But he added, "we do expect an economic upsurge for neighborhood psychologists, at least, from the increase in family therapy visits this crisis is likely to create"

Still, after some parents have grounded their children, threatened to cut off allowances, close trust funds and imposed a curfew, the >I>"Mocha" revolution (U.S. Trademark, pat. pending) goes on, with defiant students taking to their roofs and penthouses chanting "money is great" and "death to the caterers."

Single Payer Finally Wins!

After months of wrangling, wheeling, dealing and then some more wrangling, congress and the president have bowed to citizen demand and created a single payer health care system for the USA. Under the new system, every single person in the USA will pay for his or her health care, choosing between private, public, religious or secret insurance agencies which will guarantee that in return for premiums, monthly, weekly and deductible fees, all Americans will be able to buy health care. Every single one of them.

"We saw the pollssss that showed a great majority of our people wanted to be able to pay sssssingly, and we bowed to those demandssssss" sssaid the presssident.

Peace Rules! Nearly 2 Billion cut from military budget!

Peace movement, antiwar and other completely forgotten sources of criticism for previous administration's were rejoicing over a cut in one Pentagon program which took nearly two billion dollars out of a more than 600 billion dollar military budget.

"We knew that if we persevered by not making any public criticism, not organizing any demonstrations against war, and accepting the humanitarian notion that there are smart and winnable wars as opposed to stupid and losable ones, we would get this administration to come around to our way of thinking and cut the military budget by almost .003%" said a spokesperson for the Weakness Over Unity coalition.

The group, elated over its great victory, has promised to confront global poverty next, vowing to create a free lunch kitchen for the starving and hungry billions who are being affected by the current global recession. At this rate of progress, the coalition of groups declared that all wars and all poverty should be gone by, maybe, the year 2525.

Stay Tuned!
(c) 2009 Frank Scott writes political commentary which appears in the Coastal Post, a monthly publication from Marin County, California, on numerous web sites and his shared blog.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Matt Bors ~~~

W The Movie_teaser1

To End On A Happy Note...

Where Is The Love?
By Black Eyed Peas

What's wrong with the world, mama
People livin' like they ain't got no mamas
I think the whole world addicted to the drama
Only attracted to things that'll bring you trauma
Overseas, yeah, we try to stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here livin'
In the USA, the big CIA
The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK
But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you're bound to get irate, yeah
Madness is what you demonstrate
And that's exactly how anger works and operates
Man, you gotta have love just to set it straight
Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love, y'all, y'all

People killin', people dyin'
Children hurt and you hear them cryin'
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek

Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love (Love)

Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love
The love, the love

It just ain't the same, always unchanged
New days are strange, is the world insane
If love and peace is so strong
Why are there pieces of love that don't belong
Nations droppin' bombs
Chemical gasses fillin' lungs of little ones
With ongoin' sufferin' as the youth die young
So ask yourself is the lovin' really gone
So I could ask myself really what is goin' wrong
In this world that we livin' in people keep on givin' in
Makin' wrong decisions, only visions of them dividends
Not respectin' each other, deny thy brother
A war is goin' on but the reason's undercover
The truth is kept secret, it's swept under the rug
If you never know truth then you never know love
Where's the love, y'all, come on (I don't know)
Where's the truth, y'all, come on (I don't know)
Where's the love, y'all

People killin', people dyin'
Children hurt and you hear them cryin'
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek

Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love (Love)

Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love, the love, the love?

I feel the weight of the world on my shoulder
As I'm gettin' older, y'all, people gets colder
Most of us only care about money makin'
Selfishness got us followin' our wrong direction
Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what they see in the cinema
Yo', whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness in equality
Instead of spreading love we're spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading lives away from unity
That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' under
That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' down
There's no wonder why sometimes I'm feelin' under
Gotta keep my faith alive till love is found
Now ask yourself

Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?

Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love?

Sing wit me y'all:
One world, one world (We only got)
One world, one world (That's all we got)
One world, one world
And something's wrong wit it (Yeah)
Something's wrong wit it (Yeah)
Something's wrong wit the wo-wo-world, yeah
We only got
(One world, one world)
That's all we got
(One world, one world)
(c) 2003/2009 Black Eyed Peas

Have You Seen This...

Democracy Now

Parting Shots...

New Rule: Not Everything In America Has To Make A Profit
By Bill Maher

How about this for a New Rule: Not everything in America has to make a profit. It used to be that there were some services and institutions so vital to our nation that they were exempt from market pressures. Some things we just didn't do for money. The United States always defined capitalism, but it didn't used to define us. But now it's becoming all that we are.

Did you know, for example, that there was a time when being called a "war profiteer" was a bad thing? But now our war zones are dominated by private contractors and mercenaries who work for corporations. There are more private contractors in Iraq than American troops, and we pay them generous salaries to do jobs the troops used to do for themselves _-- like laundry. War is not supposed to turn a profit, but our wars have become boondoggles for weapons manufacturers and connected civilian contractors.

Prisons used to be a non-profit business, too. And for good reason --_ who the hell wants to own a prison? By definition you're going to have trouble with the tenants. But now prisons are big business. A company called the Corrections Corporation of America is on the New York Stock Exchange, which is convenient since that's where all the real crime is happening anyway. The CCA and similar corporations actually lobby Congress for stiffer sentencing laws so they can lock more people up and make more money. That's why America has the world;s largest prison population _-- because actually rehabilitating people would have a negative impact on the bottom line.

Television news is another area that used to be roped off from the profit motive. When Walter Cronkite died last week, it was odd to see news anchor after news anchor talking about how much better the news coverage was back in Cronkite's day. I thought, "Gee, if only you were in a position to do something about it."

But maybe they aren't. Because unlike in Cronkite's day, today's news has to make a profit like all the other divisions in a media conglomerate. That's why it wasn't surprising to see the CBS Evening News broadcast live from the Staples Center for two nights this month, just in case Michael Jackson came back to life and sold Iran nuclear weapons. In Uncle Walter's time, the news division was a loss leader. Making money was the job of The Beverly Hillbillies. And now that we have reporters moving to Alaska to hang out with the Palin family, the news is The Beverly Hillbillies.

And finally, there's health care. It wasn't that long ago that when a kid broke his leg playing stickball, his parents took him to the local Catholic hospital, the nun put a thermometer in his mouth, the doctor slapped some plaster on his ankle and you were done. The bill was $1.50, plus you got to keep the thermometer.

But like everything else that's good and noble in life, some Wall Street wizard decided that hospitals could be big business, so now they're run by some bean counters in a corporate plaza in Charlotte. In the U.S. today, three giant for-profit conglomerates own close to 600 hospitals and other health care facilities. They're not hospitals anymore; they're Jiffy Lubes with bedpans. America's largest hospital chain, HCA, was founded by the family of Bill Frist, who perfectly represents the Republican attitude toward health care: it's not a right, it's a racket. The more people who get sick and need medicine, the higher their profit margins. Which is why they're always pushing the Jell-O.

Because medicine is now for-profit we have things like "recision," where insurance companies hire people to figure out ways to deny you coverage when you get sick, even though you've been paying into your plan for years.

When did the profit motive become the only reason to do anything? When did that become the new patriotism? Ask not what you could do for your country, ask what's in it for Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

If conservatives get to call universal health care "socialized medicine," I get to call private health care "soulless vampires making money off human pain." The problem with President Obama's health care plan isn't socialism, it's capitalism.

And if medicine is for profit, and war, and the news, and the penal system, my question is: what's wrong with firemen? Why don't they charge? They must be commies. Oh my God! That explains the red trucks!
(c) 2009 Bill Maher is host of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher.

The Gross National Debt

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Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 29 (c) 07/31/2009

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