Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Ralph Nader returns with, "Out Of Afghanistan."

Uri Avnery finds it's, "All Quiet On The Eastern Front."

Cynthia McKinney is on the road in a, "Bike4Peace Update."

Randall Amster reports, "Phoenix Rising ... And The Struggle Continues."

Jim Hightower demands, "Give Us A Real Consumer Advocate."

David Sirota examines, "The Deception Of Real-World Inception."

James Donahue reveals, "The Evil Commodity Speculators."

Joel S. Hirschhorn warns, "Beware Rich Political Saviors."

Chris Floyd with Obama's hope and change in Honduras, "Hungry Like The Wolf."

Case Wagenvoord debates mythology in, "A Further Discussion."

Paul Krugman is, "Defining Prosperity Down."

Chris Hedges teaches Zinn in, "Why The Feds Fear Thinkers Like Howard Zinn."

David Michael Green with yet another must read, "Embarrassica The Mutilated."

Con-gressman Louie Gohmert R/Israel wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Phil Rockstroh is, "Hanging A Hammock Between Death And The Abyss."

Mary Pitt asks, "So You Want To Cut Spending?"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion discovers, "Report: Unemployment High Because People Keep Blowing Their Job Interviews" but first Uncle Ernie exclaims, "Mein Fuhrer, I Can Walk!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Rex Babin, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea, Jim Morin, Steve Sack, R.S. Janes, Lee Horsey, Patrick Chappatte, Internet Weekly.Org, Ted Rall, The Onion, Dima Gavrysh/AP, Vincent Pinto and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

Mein Fuhrer, I Can Walk!
By Ernest Stewart

Forecast weather for Tel Aviv for the week of 10/30/2010: Very brief period of extremely bright sunlight followed by variable winds of 2000 knots and temperatures in the mid to upper 6000 degree range with no measurable moisture. SPF 12000 sun block highly recommended if standing near an outside structural wall of less than one meter thick.

"I'm alone, I got the clone... Maybe we'll run into each other on the Funway?" ~ Chairman Barney to Ah-Clem
I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus ~ Firesign Theatre

You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don't need you
Don't go for one will heed you

Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold
I Am The Slime ~~~ Frank Zappa

It may be just hyperbole and BS designed to scare Iran into line but it's more likely the lead up to another American war. The drums of war are ringing loud today for, at the very least, an Israeli strike on Iran. And that might be the worst possible outcome for Israel as it could end up with Israel getting nuked by either the Russians or Chinese!

About a third of the House Rethuglicans, 47 members, support a resolution that would support Israel's right to use "all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by Iran," including military force.

This resolution was introduced by Rep. Louie Gohmert [R-Texas] and 46 co-sponsors.

House Resolution 1553 "condemns the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for its threats of 'annihilating' the United States and the State of Israel, for its continued support of international terrorism, and for its incitement of genocide of the Israeli people."

It "supports using all means of persuading the Government of Iran to stop building and acquiring nuclear weapons" and pledges that the U.S. will ensure that Israel "continues to receive critical economic and military assistance, including missile defense capabilities, needed to address the threat of Iran."

Israel itself says to anyone who will listen that "sanctions cannot stop a determined Iran from pursuing its nuclear goals."

"They're determined to get nuclear military capability. As we see it," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program on Friday. "I don't believe that sanctions will work."

Barak said Israel agreed in essence with the sanctions and that Tel Aviv still believed it was time for sanctions to see whether they worked, but said the measure was not enough. "We have to realize, we cannot wink in front of tough realities, however tough they might be." Israel has also "let slip" that three of their German made submarines carrying nuclear tipped cruise missiles are lying off the Iranian coast ready to rock.

In addition to all this madness, there is the Joker in the deck, i.e. Lebanon, which recently exchanged fire with Israel. The International Crisis Group, warns of the possibility of war with Lebanon and Syria.

The situation in the Levant is ... exceptionally quiet and uniquely dangerous, both for the same reason. The buildup in military forces and threats of an all-out war that would spare neither civilians nor civilian infrastructure, together with the worrisome prospect of its regionalization, are effectively deterring all sides. While Hizballah and its regional backers, Syria and Iran, believe that the buildup in the Shi'ite militia's arsenal and capabilities is deterring Israel from launching attacks on any of them, Israel views the acquisition by Hizballah of a missile arsenal capable of raining destruction on Israeli cities as an intolerable threat. As Hizballah's firepower grows, so too does Israel's desire to tackle the problem before it is too late ... What is holding the current architecture in place is also what could rapidly bring it down.

So like Damocles' sword hanging over their heads, Lebanon, too, might tip the scales.

The trouble with Israel attacking Iran, for the Israelis and maybe the rest of the world, is that both the Chinese and the Russians have engineers and others working at and on some of the targets that will no doubt be attacked. Those countries may not like their people and their resources being wiped out and might decide to do something about it. There is nothing in Israel that a half a dozen larger H-Bombs won't destroy in about 10 or 15 minutes including Israel's entire nuclear arsenal. They, like we, know the location of all Israel's submarines so for all of Israel's 3 or 4 hundred A-bombs, chances are they won't get to fire a single one in retaliation. You can also bet your bottom dollar that we won't jump in and attack either Russia or China over the destruction of Israel and risk our necks!

However, if we attack Iran and kill the same folk, there probably won't be a nuclear war. Most likely, that is! The Chinese and Russians will work behind the scenes to string us out and let the folks in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan do their dirty work for them by supporting them like they're doing now, only more so, in Afghanistan and as they did in Vietnam and Korea!

Meanwhile Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the US military has a plan to attack Iran, although he thinks such a strike is an undesirable option. Yeah, like starting WWIII!

Mullen has often warned that a military strike on Iran would have serious and unpredictable ripple effects around the Middle East. At the same time, he says the risk of Iran developing a nuclear weapon is unacceptable. I personally think that a nuclear Iran would be a good thing. Iran isn't stupid and isn't going to attack Israel or anybody else. To do so would mean almost instant annihilation. What effect it would have is "MAD" or mutually assured destruction, which has worked so well for the rest of the world since Russia got the bomb. It would certainly halt Israel's plans to conquer the Middle East and our hawks desire to attack Iran for revenge and profit!

Mullen would not say which risk he thinks is worse, but he said in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press'' that "a military strike remains an option." He did not elaborate on the plan but just parroted what Hilary, Dubya and old Dead Eye Dick have been saying for almost a decade!

Of course, if we do use the military option that will without a doubt break the bank and totally destroy what little economy is left and empty out the few pennies left in the treasury! The great depression of the 30's will look by comparison like a picnic in the park!

In Other News

I see where England is taking the lead in, who knows, poisoning their population with American made clones. While we lead the world in poisoning our people with both flora and fauna genetically modified foods (see below), we're shipping our cattle clones off to England to test the effects of meat and milk on the unsuspecting British!

Well, they were unsuspecting until the cat got out of the bag (seems to be a lot of that going around, have you noticed?) the other day. It was revealed by the British Food Standards Authority or FSA, in a BBC article:

"Meat of cloned cow offspring in UK food chain, FSA says."

Steve Innes, Newmeadow farmer, says: "We acted in good faith."

Meat from the offspring of a cloned cow was eaten in the UK last year, the Food Standards Agency has said.

Two bulls from the embryos of a cow cloned in the US were bought by a farm near Nairn in the Highlands, and meat from one was sold to consumers.

Farmer Steven Innes told the BBC he had done nothing wrong and the animal had authorisation to enter the food chain.

FSA chief Tim Smith said he had no safety concerns but any suppliers would require approval under European law.

The FSA said it had "traced two bulls born in the UK from embryos harvested from a cloned cow in the US."

The first was slaughtered in July 2009 and its meat entered the food chain. The second was slaughtered on 27 July 2010, but its meat was stopped from entering the food chain.

Well isn't that special? Not only cloned cattle for meat but also cloned dairy cattle are all over Britain. Sounds yummy, huh? Makes you wonder, does it not, that the same folks that sell unlabeled genetically modified foods in America are maybe selling unlabeled cloned meat at the local Wally World, too?

The first question that pops into my mind is have these clones been genetically manipulated as well?

Have no fear, America, as the BBC said:

American biotechnology companies are cloning animals that give high yields of milk and meat to use as breeding stock.

In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration in the US said meat and milk from cloned animals were safe for human consumption, and Professor Hugh Pennington, an expert on food safety from Aberdeen University, told the BBC he agreed with that assessment.

"People are concerned about playing God and that kind of thing... rather than producing products which are dangerous to eat," he said.

"There's absolutely no evidence for that, and I've got no expectation that any such evidence will ever emerge."

So move along, America. There is nothing to see here. Just roll over and go back to sleep and trust in your government to take care of everything. After all, the FDA is in charge, now what could be wrong with that? Read on, dear reader and you will see!

And Finally

We've been discussing the FDA and how it's allowing various poison foods in the American diet as of late in the Forum.

You'll recall that the FDA was first set up as the Department of Agriculture during the "Civil War" or as they call it in my neighborhood, the "War Of Northern Aggression." It was set up to do chemical analysis for various corporations and to cover up for the same, something that had been done prior to that by the Patent Office. The DOA, from it's inception, was a department not for the people but for the corporations and has with one brief exception, been just that.

Under the last good Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, and with the help of Harvey Washington Wiley, Chief Chemist of the Bureau of Chemistry in the Department of Agriculture, they passed the 1906 Pure Food And Drug Act, which was enforced as it should have been until Teddy left the Whitehouse. Ever since then the FDA, which got it's new name in 1930, has been working hand-in-hand with the corpo-rats doing whatever it's been told to the people's great disadvantage.

Now with all the poisons allowed in meat and with most of the crops being poisoned as well by insecticides, and genetically modified vegetables and animals, we're well on down the road to oblivion thanks to agro giant Monsanto whose genetically modified food strains cause a host of diseases and cancers!

I've elucidated, in fact concluded, that this has been done not so much for the obscene profits that come when there is total control of all foods but rather to get rid of most of the excess population in this incredibly overcrowded world! Not only can you get rid of most of us without firing a shot but also it's far cheaper to do so with the victims paying for their own poisoning! One can give up cars, TV, telephones, the grid, etc., but one has to eat, regardless! Which is why the magazine went on for years about how to and which foods to grow, which seeds to use, to keep yourself and your family alive in the coming daze! Of all the various and sundry "how to" articles we ran, the majority were on how to create and feed yourself wholesome foods not only when the supermarkets are bare but while they'll full of poison foods!

Not only will all the food be poisoned but because of the various horrible things it does to your body and mind, it will make you susceptible to many other diseases. For example, most of the people who succumb to AIDS don't die from AIDS itself, but from pneumonia. Like AIDS, these genetically modified food caused diseases will hasten your death by something else, although a lot of folks will die from cancer which is a direct cause and relationship to these poisons!

In summation, you should come and join us in the Forum. You'd be surprised what you might learn!

Oh And One More Thing

Dear Readers,

You may have noticed that the Poll/Quiz is missing. I was forced to delete it a couple of weeks early as Bravenet wanted to bill our credit card early and we can't afford to pay for another year. We've had the Poll/Quiz going on for eight years and several thousand of you took it each week but none of you could afford to send us any money to keep it going. Oh well. If each of you had sent in just a dollar, just one time, we could have kept it up for 40 years. C'est la vie!

In about a month's time the magazine will follow the poll/quiz if we don't receive substantial funds and quickly. Those 16 reports, opinions, and the various departments, videos, music, quotes etc will vanish and the fascists will have won and there will be one more nail in the American coffin, one more liberal voice silenced! A lot of folks in the magazine you'll only find here, for example to my knowledge, as Cynthia has told me, we're the only one that will still publish Cynthia McKinney, the Zionazis have not only removed her from Congress but have all but silenced her beautiful, liberal spirit and voice! When the magazine's gone, everything that's attached to it will be gone as well, as without the magazine, the folks who are giving us the space and hence paying half of our bills, will cease to sponsor the rest, too. Including my literary site Uncle Ernie's Place, the "Happy Camps" section, the magazine's Forum, the US Documents section, our free advertising and links pages Friends of the Revolution and The Archives. Seems a shame to throw 9 1/2 years work down the drain but since this country is going down the drain, maybe it's just par for the course!

Issues & Alibis needs your help so that we can keep on, keeping on. It takes a lot of effort to stay abreast of the latest, greatest plans for your demise. To get to the truth in a mountain of BS! We've cut our costs to the bone and no one is paid anything for their help. In 9 1/2 years, I've never made a dime at this but we do have expenses to pay every year to keep fighting the good fight! In order to continue we need your support!

The good folks who have been supporting us for so many years are, like a growing number of Americans, out of work and can no longer afford to help us. Someone has to step up and take their places. We thank them for their help and hope they come through this in one piece! We've done everything in our power to see that they do. All of those years of weekly "how to" project articles are still in the archives, from how to live off the grid to creating electricity and clean water on the cheap! What to do if it hits the fan!

And thank you for those of you who are stepping up for the first time. Welcome to the good fight, brothers and sisters!

In order to keep overhead low we can only accept, checks, money orders and cash.

If you buy advertising please consider advertising with us. For the size of our readership the ads are a best buy. Compare our rates with Salon, The Nation or The Huffington Post! Go ahead and make my millennium!

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If enough of you care we'll continue our fight to get our Republic back and protect you from the coming madness! We're running on empty, running out of time!

Ernest Stewart
Issues & Alibis magazine


07-04-1911 ~ 07-31-2010
Thanks for the music!

06-01-1942 ~ 07-31-2010
Thanks for the films!

07-26-1938 ~ 08-03-2010
Thanks for the music!


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) 2010 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 9 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book.

Out Of Afghanistan
By Ralph Nader

The war in Afghanistan is nearly nine years old-the longest in American history. After the U.S. quickly toppled the Taliban regime in October 2001, the Taliban, by all accounts, came back stronger and harsher enough to control now at least 30 percent of the country. During this time, U.S. casualties, armaments and expenditures are at record levels.

America's overseas wars have different outcomes when they have no constitutional authority, no war tax, no draft, no regular on the ground press coverage, no Congressional oversight, no spending accountability and, importantly, no affirmative consent of the governed who are, apart from the military families, hardly noticing.

This is an asymmetrical, multi-matrix war. It is a war defined by complex intrigue, shifting alliances, mutating motivations, chronic bribery, remotely-generated civilian deaths, insuperable barriers of language and ethnic and subtribal conflicts. It is fought by warlords, militias, criminal gangs, and special forces discretionary death squads. Millions of civilians are impoverished, terrified and live with violent disruptions. There is no central government to speak of. The White House uses illusions of strategies and tactics to bid for time. In Afghanistan, the historic graveyard of invaders, hope springs infernal.

Neatly dressed Generals-who probably would never have gotten into this mess if they, not the civilian neocon, draft dodgers in the Bush regime, had made the call-regularly trudge up to Congress to testify. There they caveat their status reports, keeping expectations alive, while cowardly politicians praise their bravery. General David Petraeus could receive the Academy Award in Hollywood next year, as long as he doesn't say what he really thinks, obedient soldier that he is. Listen to General Stanley A. McChrystal, not known for his squeamishness. Speaking of civilian deaths and injured at military checkpoints, he said: "We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none have ever proven to be a threat."

On the ground are 100,000 U.S. soldiers with another 100,000 corporate contractors. The human and economic costs are huge. According to the CIA, James Jones-Obama's national security adviser-and other officials, there are only 50 to 100 Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and 300 to 400 members of the group in Pakistan. The rest have scattered to other nations or just melded back into the population. Affiliates of Al Qaeda have emerged in the southern Arabian peninsula, Somalia, North Africa, Indonesia and other locales. There is something awry about this asymmetry.

The Taliban number no more the 30,000 irregular fighters of decidedly mixed motivations entirely focused over there, not toward the U.S. mainland. President Obama describes the Taliban as "a blend of hard-core ideologues, tribal leaders, kids that basically sign up because it's the best job available to them. Not all of them are going to be thinking the same way about the Afghan government, about the future of Afghanistan. And so we're going to have to sort through how these talks take place."

Helping Obama "sort through" are drones blowing up civilian gatherings-by mistake of course-to destroy suspected militants often casually chosen by other natives because of grudges or the transfer of money. Helicopter gunships and fighter planes spread havoc and terror through the populace. "Special forces" go deeper into Pakistan with their secret missions of mayhem. Local resentment and anger continues to boomerang against the U.S. occupiers.

U.S. Army truckloads of hundred dollar bills are paying off various personages of uncertain reliability. At the same time, Obama's representatives regularly accuse President Karzai of rampant corruption. In between, civilian Americans and USAID try to dig wells and construct clinics and schools that might not be there very long in the anarchic, violent, nightfall world of the Afghan tribal areas.

More military force is expected to clear the way for the assumption of Afghan-run duties and security in 2014 by a central government that is neither central, nor governmental. The locals loath the government's attempt to collect taxes, and continue to survive by growing poppies (opium).

In early 2001, George W. Bush awarded the Taliban $40 million for stamping out the poppy trade; now Afghanistan is the number one narco grower in the world. U.S. soldiers walk right past the poppy fields so as not to turn the locals against them.

U.S. dollars pay warlords and the Taliban in order for them not to blow up U.S. conveys going through mountain passes, some carrying fuel that costs taxpayers $400 per delivered gallon. The Taliban receive half the electricity from a U.S. built power plant and collect the monthly electric bills in their controlled areas. The more electricity, the more money for the Taliban to fight the American and British soldiers.

Last year, over three billion dollars in cash moved out of Kabul's airport unaccounted for, while billions of US dollars flow into Kabul for undocumented purposes.

Despite fighting against "insurgents" possessing rifles, propelled grenades and suicide vests, the Obama administration-with an arsenal of massive super-modern weaponry at hand-keeps saying there is no military solution and that only a political settlement will end the conflict.

Tell that to the Afghan people, who suffer from brutal sectarian struggles fueled by American and coalition occupiers and invaders. To them, there's a disconnect between what Obama does and what he says he wants.

Meanwhile, the war spills ever more into Pakistan and its turbulent politics generates more hatred against Americans. These people had nothing to do with 9/11 so why, they ask, are the Americans blowing up their neighborhood?

President Obama says the soldiers should start coming home in July 2011, depending on conditions on the ground. He wants the Taliban commanders, whom he is destroying one by one, to agree to negotiations with Kabul that requires their subservience. His formula is peace through more war. But the Taliban are not known to surrender. They know the terrain where they live and they believe they can wear Obama down, notwithstanding U.S. special forces and drones expected to stay there for years.

Congress-an inkblot so far-needs to assert its constitutional authority over budgets and policy toward the war. Members are regular rubber-stamps of White House recklessness under Bush and Obama.

Furthermore, nothing will happen without a few million Americans back home stomping, marching and bellowing to end the boomeranging, costly invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and concentrate on America's needs at home.
(c) 2010 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

All Quiet On The Eastern Front
By Uri Avnery

PEOPLE ENDOWED with sensitive political ears were startled this week by two words, which, so it seemed, escaped from the mouth of Binyamin Netanyahu by accident: "Eastern front."

Once upon a time these words were part of the everyday vocabulary of the occupation. In recent years they have been gathering dust in the political junkyard.

THE VERBAL couple "Eastern front" was born after the Six-day War. It served to buttress the strategic doctrine that the Jordan River is Israel's <>"security border."

The theory: there is a possibility for three Arab armies - those of Iraq, Syria and Jordan - to gather east of the Jordan, cross the river and endanger the existence of Israel. We must stop them before they enter the country. Therefore, the Jordan Valley must serve as a permanent base for the Israeli army, our troops must stay there.

This was a doubtful theory to start with. In order to take part in such an offensive, the Iraqi army would have to assemble, cross the desert and deploy in Jordan, a lengthy and complex logistical operation that would give the Israeli army ample time to hit the Iraqis long before they reached the bank of the Jordan. As for the Syrians, it would be much easier for them to attack Israel on the Golan Heights than to move their army south and attack from the east. And Jordan has always been a secret - but loyal - partner of Israel (except for the short episode of the Six-day War).

In recent years, the theory has become manifestly ridiculous. The Americans have invaded Iraq and defeated and disbanded Saddam Hussein's glorious army, which turned out to be a paper tiger. The Kingdom of Jordan has signed an official peace treaty with Israel. Syria is using every opportunity to demonstrate its longing for peace, if Israel would only return the Golan Heights. In short, Israel has nothing to fear from its Eastern neighbors.

True, situations can change. Regimes change, alliances change. But it is impossible to imagine a situation in which three terrifying armies cross the Jordan into Canaan, like the children of Israel in the Biblical story.

Moreover, the idea of a ground attack, like the Nazi blitzkrieg in World War II, belongs to history. In any future war, long-range missiles will play a dominant role. One could imagine the Israeli soldiers in the Jordan valley reclining on deckchairs and observing the missiles flying over their heads in both directions.

So how did this silly idea gain new life?

IT MAY be useful to go 43 years back in time, in order to understand how this bogeyman was born.

Only six weeks after the Six-day War, the "Allon plan" was launched. Yigal Allon, then Minister of Labor, submitted it to the government. It was not adopted officially, but it did exercise a major influence on the Israeli leadership. P> No authorized map of the plan was ever published, but the main points became known. Allon proposed to annex to Israel the Jordan Valley and the western shore of the Dead Sea. What was left of the West Bank would become enclaves surrounded by Israeli territory, except for a narrow corridor near Jericho which would connect the West Bank with the Jordanian kingdom. Allon also proposed annexing to Israel certain areas in the West Bank, the North of Sinai ("the Rafah Opening") and the South of the Gaza Strip ("the Katif Bloc').

He did not care whether the West Bank would be returned to Jordan or became a separate Palestinian entity. Once I attacked him from the Knesset rostrum and accused him of obstructing the establishment of the Palestinian state, which I advocated, and when I returned to my seat, he sent me a note: "I am for a Palestinian state in the West Bank. So how am I less of a dove than you?"

The plan was put forward as a military imperative, but its motives were quite different.

In those days I met with Allon fairly regularly, so I had the opportunity to follow his line of thought. He had been one of the outstanding commanders of the 1948 war and was considered a military expert, but above all he was a leading member of the Kibbutz movement, which at the time exercised a lot of influence in the country.

Immediately after the seizure of the West Bank, the people of the Kibbutz movement spread out across the ground, looking for areas that would be suitable for intensive modern agriculture. Naturally, they were attracted to the Jordan Valley. From their point of view, this was an ideal place for new kibbutzim. It has plenty of water, the terrain is flat and eminently suited to modern agricultural machinery. And, most important, it was sparsely populated. All these advantages were lacking in other West Bank regions: their population was dense, the topography mountainous and the water scarce.

In my opinion, the entire Allon plan was a fruit of agricultural greed, and the military theory was nothing but an expedient security pretext. And, indeed, the immediate result was the setting up of a great number of kibbutzim and moshavim (cooperative villages) in the valley.

Years passed before the limits of the Allon Plan were burst open and settlements were established all over the West Bank.

THE ALLON PLAN gave birth to the bogeyman of the "Eastern Front"' and since then it has terrorized those who seek peace. Like a ghost, it comes and goes, materializes and vanishes, once in one form, once in another.

Ariel Sharon demanded the annexation of the "widened valley." The valley itself, a part of the Great Syrian-African Rift Valley, is 120 km long (from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea) but only about 15 km wide. Sharon demanded almost obsessively the addition to it of the "back of the mountain," meaning the eastern slope of the central West Bank mountain range, which would have widened it substantially. When Sharon adopted the Separation Wall project, it was supposed to separate the West Bank not only from Israel proper, but also from the Jordan Valley. This would have enabled what was called the "Allon Plan plus." The wall would have encircled the entire West Bank, without the Jericho corridor. This plan has not been implemented to date, both because of international opposition and because of lack of funds.

Since the Oslo agreement, almost all successive Israeli governments have insisted that the Jordan Valley must remain in Israeli hands in any future peace agreement. This demand appeared in many guises: sometimes the words were "security border", sometimes "warning stations", sometimes "military installations", sometimes "long-term lease", depending on the creative talents of successive Prime Ministers. The common denominator: the valley should remain under Israeli control.

NOW COMES Netanyahu and resurrects the verbal duo "Eastern Front."

What Eastern Front? What threats are there from our eastern neighbors? Where is Saddam Hussein? Where is Hafez al-Assad? Is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad going to send the armored columns of the Revolutionary Guards rolling towards the Jordan crossings?

Well, it goes like this: the Americans are going to leave Iraq some day. Then a new Saddam Hussein will arise, this time a Shiite, and ally himself with Shiite Iran and the treacherous Turks, and how can you rely on the Jordanian king who abhors Netanyahu? Terrible stuff may happen if we don't keep watch on the bank of the Jordan!

This is manifestly ludicrous. So what is the real aim?

The entire world is now busy with the American demand for starting "direct talks" between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. One might be tempted to think that world peace depends on turning the "proximity talks" into "direct talks". Never have so many words of sanctimonious hypocrisy been poured out on such a trivial subject.

The "proximity talks" have been going on for several months now. It would be wrong to say that their results have been close to zero. They were zero. Absolute zero. So what will happen if the two parties sit together in one room? One can predict with absolute certainty: Another zero. In the absence of an American determination to impose a solution, there will be no solution.

So why does Barack Obama insist? There is one explanation: throughout the Middle East, his policies have failed. He is in urgent need of an impressive achievement. He promised to leave Iraq, and the situation there makes it impossible. The war in Afghanistan is going from bad to worse, a general leaves and a general arrives, and victory is further away than ever. One can already imagine the last American climbing into the last helicopter on the roof of the American embassy in Kabul.

Remains the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here, too, Obama is facing failure. He hoped to achieve much without investing anything at all, and was easily defeated by the Israel lobby. To hide the shame, he needs something that can be presented to the ignorant public as a great American victory. The renewal of "direct talks" is meant to be such a victory.

Netanyahu, on his part, is quite satisfied with the situation as it is. Israel is calling for direct talks, the Palestinians refuse. Israel is extending its hand for peace, the Palestinians turn away. Mahmoud Abbas demands that Israel extend the freeze on the settlements and declares in advance that the negotiations will be based on the 1967 borders.

But the Americans are exerting tremendous pressure on Abbas, and Netanyahu fears that Abbas will give in. Therefore he declares that he cannot freeze the settlements, because in that case - God forbid! - his coalition would disintegrate. And if that does not suffice, here comes the Eastern Front. The Israeli government is giving notice to the Palestinians that it will not give up the Jordan Valley.

In order to emphasize the point, Netanyahu has started to remove the remaining Palestinian population in the valley, a few thousand. Villages are being eradicated, starting this week with Farasiya, where all the dwellings and the water installations were destroyed. This is ethnic cleansing pure and simple, much like the similar operation now going on against the Bedouins in the Negev.

What Netanyahu is saying, in so many words, is: Abbas should think twice before he enters "direct talks."

THE JORDAN Valley descends to the lowest point on the surface of the earth, the Dead Sea, 400 meters below mean sea level.

The revival of the Eastern Front may indicate the lowest point of Netanyahu's policy, with the intent of putting to death once and for all any remaining chance for peace.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Bike4Peace Update
By Cynthia McKinney

Well, it is quite a journey for me. The co-founder of Bike4Peace, Vernon Huffman, is a wealth of global experiences that can keep one mesmerized for hours in interesting conversation. His partner, Yaney MacIver, is the reason I am a part of this historic effort and I am grateful to her for her empathy at a time of deep grief for me and for her acceptance of me now, even though I'm not really a biker--she reminds me all the time that she has a full year and a half of training for this moment over me, so all is well. Yaney makes sure we are all properly taken care of and then she spends the rest of her time either driving with me or biking with me.

The bikers are: Annie (now known affectionately as "Hummingbird"). She's an athlete, has run at least two marathons, and just hums right along--even on 80+ mile days!!! She is the epitome of "Yes, I Can!" Annie studies the routes as outlined by Vernon and finishes them with style and grace.

Scott (from Boston) is our Determined rider. Scott is with Bikes Not Bombs and that means his passion for bikes preceded this ride. Scott saw an ad for Bike4Peace in Adventure Cycling and thought this was the ride for him because it combined his passion for biking with a cause he believes in--peace.

Aurelio (allows us to call him what his friends call him: Yay-Yo) has ridden across California and Nevada and into Utah with only SIX GEARS!!!!!!!! Now, because of that, I call him 6!!

These young people are amazing. This is a grueling, expensive, daily grind and they volunteered to do this for a cause. They restore my confidence in our ability to effect the kind of real change that will result in justice and peace. They know that we cannot get from here to where we need to be on the cheap--that it will take real sacrifice and they have opted in.

Bike4Peace will have a lasting impact on the lives that we have touched and will touch as we cross the country. We are connecting with progressive communities across the country. Bike4Peace has sparked the progressive consciousness of what some might have thought were isolated communities. Bike4Peace sends an unequivocal message that we are not alone.

Day Five - Camping: I cannot believe how quiet it was at picturesque Lake Lohantan. By the time we're done with Bike4Peace, I'll be a first-rate camper!!!

Day Six - US-50: The Loneliest Highway in America--perfect for night bicycle rides!!! First stop, Middlegate Station. Well, do we have stories to tell! The nicer one is that my word for the day became "catapult" when my roommate, "Hummingbird" was trying to open our motel room door which got stuck, and when she pushed with all her might, she catapulted right through the door and onto the front porch of the motel. You could say that the primitive digs at Middlegate Station, suitable only for wayward adults, will long be remembered!

Day Seven: - We liked Middlegate Station so much we stayed an extra day!!! We used the day to wash our clothes using a real washing machine!!! And honestly, by now, I've almost developed two phobias: clipping in (when I fell flat on my face trying to clip out) and raw hide (it's just darn uncomfortable and something one has to get used to). Thank you to all who sent suggestions to me on this and other issues I've written about.

Days Eight, Nine, Ten and Eleven: - Austin, Eureka, Ely, and Baker carry us through the Nevada Desert. I highly recommend Hotel Nevada in Ely and a cute shop owned by an artist in Baker, Nevada. Riding at night and sleeping in the day: the vistas are beautiful.

Day Twelve: - Milford, Utah. Throughout one of the longest Bike4Peace rides, it is clear that Utah is a beautiful state. At Middlegate, I played the tambourine with some young southern girls, (we recognized each other's southern accents!) and they told us that Utah was beautiful. Wish its politics matched its complete natural beauty.

Tomorrow, Day Thirteen: - We head to Cedar City and camp at a campground. Now, remember, this will be the third time in my life that I will have pitched a tent!!! I've already told my elementary school girlfriends that we all must go biking and camping together.

During our Power to the People campaign, I admonished people that they must do something they've never done before in order to have something they've never had before. At the time, I was talking about formulating independent analyses of our problems and their solutions and then voting independently for the political party that had the platform that best matched common sense solutions for the problems our country now faces. I'm taking my own advice and I know I'll emerge stronger and better for this journey.

Along the way, I've felt the sting of racism: I've been told that the kitchen was closed---even when the sign said food would be served well into the night and that I should go to "Lenny's next to Denny's" and then I was nearly run out on a stick at Middlegate Station as the owner launched into a tirade about Members of Congress. What he didn't realize--and probably couldn't even begin to fathom, is that I'm on his side--more than he could ever know. Artificial walls of division have been built to steal power from the majority and to empower a minority. But I remember that Bobby Kennedy told us that one act on behalf of justice, when combined with countless other acts for justice, can wash down even the mightiest walls of oppression.

I left Middlegate Station just after playing tambourine to that same owner strumming his guitar; I really felt like we pierced through something when one of the little children that was there at the restaurant/bar/grill/pool hall/country music TV hall with only one channel, ran to me as I was about to exit the door and said to me, "You're beautiful."

Bike4Peace is making a difference one spin at a time. Ron Toppi, the other co-founder of Bike4Peace( and who also served as my gear whisperer while he was with us), reminded me that the revolution we seek will not be motorized and with the special interest press the way it is, we already know it won't be televised. However, thanks to John Hurley, Wayne Madsen, and others at the National Press Club, you'll get to meet all of the wonderful Bike4Peace 2010 bikers and supporters on September 22, 2010. If you're in the area, come on down and spend some time with us. By the time we've biked across the United States, we'll have quite a story to tell!


Silence is the deadliest weapon of mass destruction.
(c) 2010 Cynthia McKinney is a former U.S. Congresswoman, Green Party presidential candidate, and an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice. The first African-American woman to represent the state of Georgia, McKinney served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1993-2003, and from 2005-2007.

Phoenix Rising ... And The Struggle Continues
By Randall Amster

I've written a lot about Arizona since the national controversy over SB 1070 took hold, and in particular during recent weeks as the struggle over the bill's implications and ultimate fate began to reach a fever pitch. This focus is not accidental by any means: I've lived in Arizona for fifteen years, and I care deeply about the causes of social justice reflected in the debate over immigration. And what I've seen here during this time, and especially over the past few days, indicates to me that we are on the cusp of something truly extraordinary. As the creeping fascism of immigrant-bashing becomes starkly evident, people are starting to move from protest to solidarity, and from fear to determination.

Obviously the immigration issue is one that arouses people's passions, sometimes leading to intense vitriol being displayed on both sides but in particular by those who recite paradoxical slogans like "what part of illegal don't you understand?" Folks in this camp take great pains to assert that "it's not about race," and that people like myself are advocating an "open borders" philosophy that will lead the nation to ruin. Proponents of Arizona's "attrition through enforcement" approach to the issue (as epitomized by SB 1070) often argue that illegal immigrants are taking American jobs, draining social services, and causing violent crime to rise. They assert, in short, that we need to build a wall and build it high, with "us" firmly on this side of it and all of "them" shipped back to the other side where they belong.

Lo siento, amigos. Your arguments are nonsensical, and are missing the larger point. People will come here no matter how high you build that wall, because we've dumped our toxic corporations and immiserating economic policies on the other side, from which most of us would flee as well. People will come here because they have family members here (legally) and want to be united with them. People will come because these are, in many cases, their ancestral homelands and part of their cultural heritage. People will come for the same reasons that our ancestors came, legally or otherwise.

And our lives will all be the richer for this. One need only spend a little time with Mexican immigrant communities to appreciate their inherent dignity, spirit of generosity, and emotional grace. These are decent, honest, kind, hardworking people who, ironically, possess many of the traditional skills being lost in our rampantly mechanizing culture: building things, growing food, and rearing children, for instance. Of course there are some bad apples in the bunch; this is no "noble savage" utopia. But there is a cultural ethos at work that is dynamic and passionate about many of the values we are losing.

Arizona's nativist policies and legislative antipathies completely miss the mark. Laws like SB 1070 represent an attempt to pit white workers against nonwhite workers, while the bosses laugh all the way to the bank. They divide families and create an environment of fear that is intended to tamp down the potential political power of migrant communities. They create a category of second-class people made up equally of those who are documented or not. They pass the blame for economic woes and cultural disarray down the line instead of up the ladder, further away from the corrupt bankers and military industrialists who have actually fomented the crises in our midst. Anti-immigrant laws and sentiments express the worst aspects of our Americanism, and threaten to irreparably rend the fabric of society.

Against this, people have begun to lose their fear, and are rising up in their streets and neighborhoods. Mexican-American communities have been under siege for a long time here in Arizona, with the reign of terror led by (but not exclusive to) the self-parodying sheriff, Joe Arpaio. In an impromptu press conference held outside his grim jailhouse on July 29th (the day SB 1070, or what was left of it, took effect), the sheriff deflected questions from reporters and ordinary people alike, with smug retorts like, "Oh, we're gonna pick up a lot of 'em today!" and "Excuse me, I've got raids to conduct now." The highlight of his open mockery came when a young woman of color with an expensive camera asked him a pointed question. "Who are you with?" he asked, to which she replied, "the CBS Evening News." Revealing his true colors, the sheriff snorted and dismissively opined, "Hmph. You don't look like it." This led another young woman to bluntly assert: "You're an un-American racist!" Her eyes were filled with both pride and sadness when she said it.

A few blocks away, hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets and sidewalks to register their opposition to anti-immigrant policies in general and the notion of SB 1070 in particular. Even though a judge had struck down many of the bill's worst parts, people still understood that this was simply one small piece of a much larger struggle for human and civil rights. "The bottom line," said one speaker to a small crowd, "is that even with the judge's ruling, we're worse off today than we were yesterday." The fact that things got only incrementally worse rather than monumentally worse wasn't lost on people, and the larger implications of the issue remained uppermost in their minds. "Our communities have a lot in common," said a speaker from the NAACP, "and too many of our children are sharing the same prison cells." A day earlier, daring activists unfurled a massive banner from a downtown crane that effectively encapsulated the dominant sentiment and the aim of the struggle: "STOP HATE."

The demonstrations in Phoenix and across the state were supported by solidarity actions around the country, from Los Angeles to New York. The protest in Phoenix was the epicenter of engagement because of its obvious centrality to the core of the entire controversy. People, many of whom were undocumented, gathered en masse at the state capitol all day to picnic, dance, and listen to speakers. It was not a rancorous demonstration, but merely an announcement of their presence and diminished fear. Across town, a throng took to the streets adjacent to Cesar Chavez Park and in front of Sheriff Arpaio's offices. Under the banner of "We Will Not Comply" and against a background of ringing chants like "no one is illegal; power to the people" and "arrest Arpaio, not the people," civil disobedients linked arms and sat-in in the tradition of "we will not be moved" political protest. More than 50 were arrested in total, including a few journalists and legal observers, a mother of six young children, community activists, a university professor, and many people of faith.

Despite the occasional caustic remark aimed at Arpaio and various state politicos, the protests in Phoenix were remarkably measured and principled. Some of the rhetoric and signage with Nazi-like imagery were intended to heighten the implicit racism lurking behind SB 1070, yet also made some in the crowd a bit uncomfortable. But are people supposed to be politically correct when calling out racist policies and the devastating pressures of living in a police state? Tensions began to boil over during demonstrations at the county jailhouse, where sheriff's deputies pushed against the noisy crowd with shields up and batons in hand, only to be pushed back into the jail by the throng of peaceful protesters in a process that was repeated again later in a sort of synchronized protest choreography. And over the fracas, a woman silently raised a poignant sign: "Let your compassion be greater than your fear."

And indeed, a great deal of compassion was on display in Phoenix on a sweltering day where the desert heat matched the heat of emotions in the streets. Protesters assisted each other with hydration, shared food, and took pains to be certain the park was completely cleaned up before vacating it. Some even asked the cops if they were okay, standing in the hundred-plus degree heat in full black riot gear like they were. On the other side, one police commander told his troops as they prepared to mass arrest civil disobedients: "One at a time guys, real slow, nice and easy...." A double column of cops with plastic handcuffs at the ready was approaching a wall of protesters blocking the street, and before engaging stopped to pass a bottle of water among themselves in what was a very basic, human moment. At the same time, activists in the crowd shared water among themselves in a parallel manner that suggested something about how we might go forward in the spirit of common humanity. As if to reinforce the point, as one officer was loading an elderly woman into a paddy wagon, she asked about the fate of her nice water bottle that had been removed from her person; the officer retrieved it, and handed it to one of her comrades on the sidewalk for safekeeping, before gently assisting her into the wagon.

None of these small moments accounts for the terrorization of communities and the damage done to families every day at the hands of the state. Protesters can at least take some measure of comfort in Arpaio's admission that the resources being diverted to deal with the demonstrations had delayed his plans to conduct immigration raids that day, albeit temporarily. People reading this from afar might have a hard time fully appreciating the magnitude of these issues, and how much fear has been induced in migrant communities by these sorts of nascent pogroms. But when people begin to lose their fear, bolstered by allies and advocates in a shared struggle, we start to catch a glimpse of what a better world might look like in actual practice. One could see this in Guadalupe at the stroke of midnight on July 29th, when scores of residents of that small Mexican and Yacqui community (joined by activists) blocked the entrance to their town for over an hour, tying up traffic and, ultimately, peacefully dispersing when sheriff's deputies indicated a reluctance to engage in mass arrests that night.

All of this is merely the beginning of an ongoing struggle, representing perhaps THE overarching challenge of humankind. Can we live together, in complementary fashion among ourselves and with the earth that we all share, or will we squander our opportunity in ruthless competition and institutionalized exploitation? The showdown in Arizona suggests a path forward, and begins to articulate the goal in the very means being utilized: shared struggle, mutual interdependence, common humanity, principled resistance, solidarity, compassion, equity, and the inherent power of people to change the conditions of their lives. I'm proud to report that my fellow Arizonans have risen up, and will not give up, in this quest. Far from being some "pie in the sky" optimism or romantic longing, this is as tangible and effective as a sip of water in the desert.
(c) 2010 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Give Us A Real Consumer Advocate

Who do we want? Elizabeth Warren! When do we want her? Now!

What we want is for President Obama to gut it up and appoint a real consumer advocate to serve as director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Created by the Wall Street reform bill that Obama recently signed into law, the CFPB can be an independent, aggressive force to battle banker scams and rip offs on behalf of ordinary Americans. However, it will only be that if an extraordinarily-knowledgeable, feisty fighter who is unafraid to confront the banksters is put in charge.

That description fits Warren perfectly. The first thing you need to know about her is that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the tail-wagging puppy of Wall Street, is trying to block her, because America's banking barons both despise and fear Warren. I don't know about you, but I find that wonderfully refreshing! What finer testimonial could a consumer protector have than to be vehemently opposed by the special interests she would regulate?

Warren, a widely respected Harvard law professor and an expert in bankruptcy law, actually wrote the bill to create this consumer protection agency, so her professional credentials for the job are impeccable. Just as importantly, though, she comes from a working-class Oklahoma family, has personally faced financial crises, and has felt the crushing power of uncaring bankers. "I learned early on what debt means, how vulnerable it makes people," she says. Warren, who has never abandoned her populist roots, is smart, tenacious - and can't be bought. That's why the Wall Street establishment opposes her, and it is precisely why America needs her. To join Sen. Bernie Sanders in urging Obama to choose Elizabeth Warren to be our consumer champion, go to
(c) 2010 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

The Deception Of Real-World Inception
By David Sirota

For all of its "Matrix"-like convolutions and "Alice in Wonderland" allusions, the new film "Inception" adds something significant to the ancient ruminations about reality's authenticity - something profoundly relevant to this epoch of confusion. In the movie's tale of corporate espionage, we are asked to ponder this moment's most disturbing epistemological questions: Namely, how are ideas deposited in people's minds, and how incurable are those ideas when they are wrong?

Many old sci-fi stories, like politics and advertising of the past, subscribed to the "Clockwork Orange" theory that says blatantly propagandistic repetition is the best way to pound concepts into the human brain. But as "Inception's" main character, Cobb, posits, the "most resilient parasite" of all is an idea that individuals are subtly led to think they discovered on their own.

This argument's real-world application was previously outlined by Cal State Fullerton's Nancy Snow, who wrote in 2004 that today's most pervasive and effective propaganda is the kind that is "least noticeable" and consequently "convinces people they are not being manipulated." The flip side is also true: When an idea is obviously propaganda, it loses credibility. Indeed, in the same way the subconscious of "Inception's" characters eviscerate known invaders, we are reflexively hostile to ideas when we know they come from agenda-wielding intruders.

These laws of cognition, of course, are brilliantly exploited by a 24-7 information culture that has succeeded in making "your mind the scene of the crime," as "Inception's" trailer warns. Because we are now so completely immersed in various multimedia dreamscapes, many of the prefabricated - and often inaccurate - ideas in those phantasmagorias can seem wholly self-realized and, hence, totally logical.

The conservative media dreamland, for instance, ensconces its audience in an impregnable bubble - you eat breakfast with the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, you drive to the office with right-wing radio, you flit between Breitbart and Drudge at work, you come home to Fox News. The ideas bouncing around in this world - say, ideas about the Obama administration allegedly favoring blacks - don't seem like propaganda to those inside the bubble. With heavily edited videos of screaming pastors and prejudice-sounding USDA officials, these ideas are cloaked in the veneer of unchallenged fact, leaving the audience to assume its bigoted conclusions are completely self-directed and incontrovertible.

Same thing for those living in the closed-loop of the "traditional" media. Replace conservative news outlets with the New York Times, NPR, and network newscasts, and it's just another dreamscape promulgating certain synthetic ideas (for instance, militarism and market fundamentalism), excluding other ideas (say, antiwar opinions and critiques of the free market) and bringing audiences to seemingly self-conceived and rational judgments - judgments that are tragically misguided.

Taken together, our society has achieved the goal of "Inception's" idea-implanting protagonists - only without all the technological subterfuge. And just like they arose with Cobb's wife, problems are emerging in our democracy as the dreams sow demonstrable fallacies.

As writer Joe Keohane noted in a recent Boston Globe report about new scientific findings, contravening facts no longer "have the power to change our minds" when we are wrong.

"When misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds," he wrote. "In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs."

What is the circuit breaker in this delusive cycle? It's hard to know if one exists, just as it is difficult to know whether Cobb's totem ever stops spinning. For so many, meticulously constructed fantasies seem like indisputable reality. And because those fantasies' artificial inception is now so deftly obscured, we can no longer wake up, even if facts tell us we're in a dream - and even when the dream becomes a nightmare.
(c) 2010 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

The Evil Commodity Speculators
By James Donahue

If you were in a grocery store shopping for cocoa or a chocolate cake mix lately, you may have been shocked at the price you were expected to pay. That is because there has been a manufactured shortage of cocoa on the world market.

While the cocoa crops in Africa, Asia, South America and Central America are still alive and well, certain wealthy investors appear to be buying up large quantities of cocoa and other food products, especially grains, in an obvious effort to force up the price of food.

For example, in a report recently published by the World Development Movement (WDM), a hedge fund identified as Armajaro recently took delivery of 240,000 tons of cocoa in what is described as the largest delivery on the London futures exchange in over 14 years.

A hedge fund is, in essence, a limited number of wealthy investors that have joined forces to put their money on a product, commodity or business believed to produce a healthy profit for every dollar invested.

The WDM report noted that the hedge fund "market players" are not just stopping with cocoa. The report said they "are gambling with people's lives via their commodities trading which risk the most vulnerable in the world starving."

The report said investment banks like Goldman Sachs are "making huge profits by gambling on the price of everyday foods." These commodity investments are driving up the price of food at a time when a large number of people are out of work and going hungry, generating inflation, and worst of all, leaving the poorest people in the world starving."

A report by Johann Hari in the web site Against Market Fundamentalism, American Politics, accused "some of the richest people in the world - Goldman, Deutsch Bank, the traders at Merrill Lynch, and more - have caused the starvation of some of the poorest people in the world, just so they could make a fatter profit."

The Hari article said food prices around the world have been on the rise, without just cause, since late 2006. It said the price of wheat went up 80 percent, maize by 90 percent and rice by 320 percent. These prices made it impossible for the poor nations of the world to buy food. "In a global jolt of hunger, 200 million people - mostly children - couldn't afford to get food any more and sank into malnutrition or starvation."

There were riots in over 30 countries. Then in the spring of 2008, prices strangely fell back to their previous level. Researchers were shaking their heads at first. They found that there was no shortage of grain during that period, and the world demand for grain did not rise, as some suggested. So what cause the mysterious price increase?

The Hari report said it all stems from the passage of the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 that abolished controls on the way big banks and lending institutions do business. The laws put in place by the Roosevelt administration in the 1930s were repealed while President Bill Clinton was in office.

Hari wrote that Goldman Sachs and others lobbied hard to get those regulations abolished. In the meantime, big grain and crop farmers were insuring their crop investments against risk by selling crops early to traders at fixed prices. This guaranteed income for the farmer and the investor gambled for a good crop that put money in his pocket too. If the crop failed, the investor took the loss.

Hari noted that when this process was regulated, and only companies with direct interest in the field getting involved, everything worked well. But after deregulation, the contracts with the farmers could be turned into derivatives that could be bought and sold among world speculators. Suddenly the hedge fund concept fell into place.

What went on in 2006 and 2007 was perhaps a test run of a new and deadly game of food speculation among the big traders. For example, a contract on a large crop of wheat from the Midwest could have been bought by Goldman Sachs at one price, then sold for twice the amount to Deutsche Bank, and then sold again for even more value to Merrill Lynch.

That experiment apparently worked so well, it appears that the hedge fund speculators are at it once again, this time playing for big bucks at the expense of everybody. If you keep an eye on the commodities markets, watch the price of cocoa, wheat, corn, rice, soybeans and coffee.

Did the bill recently signed into law by President Obama put the brakes on reckless bank trading or was it so watered down by the sold-out members of the two houses that it leaves the door wide open for more of the same? Wealth and power breeds more wealth and power. And Washington is where all of the wealth and power appears to be centered these days.

Messing with the world food supply is perhaps the most dangerous game these high rollers could be playing. As happened in 2007 when people were starving, rioting broke out on the streets. If there is anything that is going to get the people in America riled up enough to do something about the greed and corruption, it will be the act of taking away their food.
(c) 2010 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Beware Rich Political Saviors
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Consumer confidence is terrible; citizen confidence is worse: Only 11 percent of Americans have confidence in Congress. No surprise there is record-setting anti-incumbency anger rampant among Americans. But the sad truth is damned if you do and damned if you don't vote for incumbents.

The problem is that the reformers, populist outsiders, tea party candidates, surprise primary winners and others expecting to oust incumbents in the coming mid-term elections for members of Congress and state governors and other officials mostly suck. Why? They are nutty, ignorant, dishonest or racist.

Pathetic US Senate candidates like Alvin Greene on the left in South Carolina and Sharron Angle on the right in Nevada, for example, are intellectual nits and an insult to a once envied political system. And in Memphis, Tennessee Willie Herenton, who is African-American, sells black racism to oust two-term incumbent Congressman Steve Cohen in a primary, telling blacks to not vote for his white opponent.

Many ambitious candidates drained the economy to become super-rich. Is this any time to trust people who have taken advantage of our corrupt corporate system to run the government and serve those they have previously taken advantage of for personal gain? Will anger about the corrupt, dysfunctional government system be sufficient for voters to turn the government over to people who have nothing in common with most Americans?

Consider California. Meg Whitman, a Republican candidate for governor wants to beat the familiar, incumbent-like Democrat Jerry Brown, now attorney general, and was previously the chief executive of eBay. She has outspent all other self-financed candidates across the country by using $91 million of her own money to knock out Steve Poizner, who spent $24 million of his own money, in the Republican primary. California is big, but $91 million and likely even more!! She will greatly outspend Brown. And Carly Fiorina, a Republican who is challenging Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer in California, has the audacity to claim on her website that she will "fight for every job" if elected even though, as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard in 2003 she cut about 18,000 jobs and did little good for the company. She has already spent $5 million. Are these people worthy of public support?

Consider Florida. Republican Rick Scott, the former head of Columbia/HCA Healthcare - an awful large hospital chain that paid $1.7 billion in fines for fraudulently billing government programs like Medicare - has become the front-runner for Florida governor. He supposedly is worth about $200 million. He was ousted by his own board of directors in 1997 amid the nation's biggest health care fraud scandal. He loaned his campaign $22.9 million during the period from April 9 through July 16 and spent $22.65 million of it. In contrast, he received only $415,126 in contributions. Bill McCollum, his Republican opponent, raised a little over $1 million during the reporting period and spent about $1.7 million. He has raised $5.7 million since he announced his campaign last year. He has less than $500,000 left. Democrat candidate Alex Sink, with no primary opponent, raised $1.1 million for the reporting period and has raised $7.3 million so far. Is Scott better qualified because of his wealth and ability to advertise more?

Also in Florida is Jeff Greene who wants to be US Senator, a Democrat who had been a Republican with a strange gang of friends like Mike Tyson and Heidi Fleiss. Incredibly, most of his fortune, estimated at $1.4 billion, came from derivatives that let him profit from the collapse of subprime mortgages which helped tank the US economy. He lives in an oceanfront mansion when he is not on one of his yachts or his plane with gold seat-belt buckles. He recently reported taking a paltry $3,036 in outside contributions, while lending himself - and spending - $5.9 million in the second quarter. Recent polls found Greene roughly even in the primary with Democrat Representative Kendrick B. Meek, who had been the party favorite and took 18 months to raise a similar amount. Incumbent-like candidate Governor Charlie Crist still leads as an independent in a three-way general election. Greene boasts that now is the moment for self-financed candidates. "If 2008 was the year of change, 2010 is the year of frustration," he said. But does frustration justify voting for these characters?

And then there is Linda E. McMahon, a Connecticut Republican who made her fortune in professional wrestling before her Senate run. She has stated a willingness to spend $50 million of her own money to win the election, a lot of money for such a small state, and has already spent $21.5 million. A television ad declares "politicians have had their chance, and blown it" while her jobs plan "is backed by experience." She became president of the WWF as a legal maneuver to save the company in 1993, because her husband was indicted for distributing steroids to his wrestlers. Cleverly, she blew the whistle and told regulators something few in the industry would admit: wrestling matches were scripted shows and not athletic competitions that required the kind of oversight that, say, boxing required. The financial benefit was that her wrestling business operates in 29 states without supervision by state athletic boards or commissions, saving the company licensing fees. She served only a few months on the state Board of Education and then became a candidate. She supports policies that favor the rich and advocates offshore oil drilling. She faces Democrat incumbent-like Richard Blumenthal, now attorney general of Connecticut. Is her wrestling business experience really the basis for being a great senator?

Voters should remember this: None of these characters are legitimate populists, progressives or reformers with a political record to show their true capabilities or positions. Why trust them? Would they perform better than incumbents? I don't think so. More likely, they would serve elites and corporate interests. In the past very few rich candidates have won office (just 11 percent), but considering the anti-incumbency sentiment this year, big money may prevail.

Is the evil you don't know really better than the evil you do know because of failed government experience? Are some incumbents worth support? Or will many Americans admit that voting no longer can fix and reform our battered democracy and stay home? I think I will. There are just too many fools and idiots voting that offset the votes of informed and intelligent citizens. Maybe if voter turnout was totally abysmal, say 20 percent, maybe then we would get the reforms or revolution we need by de-legitimizing our delusional democracy.
(c) 2010 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Our Son-of-a-Bitch

Hungry Like The Wolf
Obama's Legacy of Hope and Change in Honduras
By Chris Floyd

In the first year of his presidency, the first year of the "hope and change" he promised to bring to the conduct of American affairs, Barack Obama countenanced -- and abetted -- a coup in Honduras that ousted a mildly reformist, democratically elected president and replaced him with a clique of thuggish elites who now rule, illegitimately, through repression, threat and outright murder.

Since the installation of these throwbacks to the corrupt and brutal 'banana republics' of yore, Obama's secretary of state, the "progressive" Hillary Clinton, has spent a good deal of time and effort trying to coerce Honduras' outraged neighbors in Latin America to "welcome" the thug-clique, now led by Porfirio Lobo, back into the "community of nations." Let bygones be bygones, Clinton says, as Lobo's regime murders journalists (nine so far this year), political opponents and carries on the wholesale trashing of Honduran independence (such as sacking four Supreme Court justices who opposed the gutting of liberties and the overthrow of constitutional order). After all, isn't that Obama's own philosophy: always "look forward," forget the crimes of the past? Every day is a new day, a clean slate, a chance for a new beginning -- indeed, for "hope and change."

In other words: let the dead bury the dead -- and the rich and powerful reap their rewards.

In her assiduous backroom efforts to "rehabilitate" the killers and crooks that she and Obama have helped foist on Honduras, Clinton might profitably paraphrase a wise old saying of her great hero, Franklin Roosevelt, when he was needled about his support for the murderous Nicaraguan dictator, Anastasio Somoza: "He may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch."

At the London Review of Books blog, John Perry details the state of the stolen nation of Honduras one year after the beloved pets of Barry and Hillary took over:

On the night of 14 June, Luis Arturo Mondrag—n was sitting with his son on the pavement outside his house in the city of El Para’so in western Honduras. He had often criticised local politicians on his weekly radio programme, the latest edition of which had just been broadcast. He had received several death threats, but disregarded them. At 10 p.m. a car drew up and the driver fired four bullets, killing him instantly. Mondrag—n was the ninth journalist to be murdered so far this year. Honduras is now officially the most dangerous country in the world in which to work for the press.

The overthrow of President Zelaya last year was only the second military coup in Latin America since the end of the Cold War. The first, a US-backed attempt to overthrow Ch‡vez in Venezuela in 2002, was a failure. The coup in Tegucigalpa shouldn't have succeeded either: Obama had promised a new approach to US policy in the region, and there was strong popular resistance to the coup in Honduras itself. And yet, a year on, the coup's plotters have got practically everything they wanted. Zelaya is in exile in the Dominican Republic, and the right-wing Porfirio Lobo, elected president in January's widely-boycotted elections, has consolidated his power base. Honduras is slowly being welcomed back into the international fold: it's still excluded from the Organisation of American States, but was quietly invited to rejoin SICA last week. In Honduras, Lobo has reversed the changes begun by Zelaya. In particular, he has blocked land reform and done nothing to resolve violent conflicts between peasants and land owners, supported by the army and police, in the Aguan river valley.

Last month, 27 members of the US congress wrote to Hillary Clinton to express their 'continuing concern regarding the grievous violations of human rights and the democratic order which commenced with the coup and continue to this day'. Along with the murders of the nine journalists, they noted the arbitrary arrests, torture and disappearances of members of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP). They also pointed out that four supreme court judges who opposed the coup have been sacked, while military leaders involved in it have benefitted. General Romeo V‡squez Vel‡squez, the head of the armed forces at the time of the coup, has not only been pardoned for arresting an elected president and expelling him from the country, but in January was allowed to retire from the army and given the presidency of Hondutel, the state-owned telephone company.

How very nice for the general. Perry notes that Roland Valenzuela, a former minister in Zelaya's government, claimed in an interview that he had papers which named several American-connected business figures behind the coup plot, including "former members of the army death squad known as Battalion 316." Perry also notes that "in a separate development, it has become known that the plane which flew Zelaya out of the country first called at the US airforce base Palmerola."

And what has been the upshot of these shocking charges?

Not surprisingly, the exiled Zelaya has claimed that all this points to the prior knowledge and probable involvement of the US government in the coup. The State Department describes his allegation as 'ridiculous'. Unfortunately, Valenzuela is unable to elaborate as, shortly before the recorded interview was broadcast, he was shot.

Yes, that's "continuity" for you; that's just how they did in the good old days, to protect our sons of bitches.

But it turns out that the Honduran people are not as supine as some other folks just north of them that we could mention when it comes to watching their lives and liberties be blighted by rapacious elites. Instead of keeping their heads down, obeying their betters -- or joining "Tea Parties" that support (and are bankrolled by) the very malefactors of great wealth who have ruined their country, they are standing up courageously:

Like the rest of Central America, Honduras celebrates its independence on 15 September. By then the resistance front aims to have collected more than a million signatures (in a country with fewer than eight million people) calling for a new constitution. In his absence, they have elected Zelaya as their leader. They show no signs of giving up the struggle, but on the other hand they are well aware that, if Honduras slips back into obscurity, the oppression will only get worse.

One-eighth of the population openly, adamantly refusing to accept the rule of rapacious elites, even in the face of arbitrary arrest, dispossession and murder! That would translate into more than 37 million Americans fired into action against the fraudsters of Wall Street and the war criminals in Washington.

And that is one main reason why said fraudsters and war criminals will continue to work hard to "rehabilitate" their junta pals in Honduras. For one of the greatest "continuities" of America's bipartisan elite in the past century has been their adamant determination to quash any "bad examples" of people trying to order their lives and societies in any way outside the "Washington Consensus." Those who do must be punished: with juntas, with sanctions, with covert actions -- or with invasions, if need be. The American people must never get the idea that they can get together and stand up to their bosses, their benevolent betters. (See Matt Taibbi's skewering of David Brooks' recent advocacy of this Ÿbermensch rule.)

Of course, this exemplary punishment does not apply solely to foreigners. Remember the last American who seriously threatened the power structure with a mass movement behind his call for economic justice, a "revolution of values" in society and his condemnation of the American War Machine as the "greatest purveyor of violence in the world today?"

That's right; we celebrate his birthday every January 15 ... while forgetting everything he really stood for -- and stood against. I wonder how hard he would be trying to "rehabilitate" the killers of Luis Arturo Mondrag—n?
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

A Further Discussion
By Case Wagenvoord

In my last post one of my readers. Ivan Hentschel, objected to my conflation of empathy and Christian love when I wrote:

The word empathy has the same problem as does "Christian love." Both words have touchy feely quality that evoke images of a maiden clad in a diaphanous white gown skipping through La-La Land with a beatific smile on her face. In truth both require a decent into the deepest pit of Hell coupled with a willingness to love every low-life son-of-a-bitch one finds down there even though one's knee-jerk reaction is to tear their freaking throats out. Both empathy and Christian love are mindsets, which is why people rarely understand their meaning, and that is what makes them problematic as rallying cries.

To which Ivan replied:

Empathy is a useful capacity of human beings. "Christian love" is not.

To which I responded:

Actually, they're one in the same, which is why neither is rarely found in organized religion.

To which Ivan said:

I must disagree. To be in empathy (to "feel with") demonstrates some human compassion and energy sharing. "Christian (or any other brand of religious) love" is self-serving [My God is better than your God] and gratuitous. And it usually requires monetary contributions, whereas empathy does not.

And "organized religion" is probably no longer religion, but probably a financial, real estate and political movement. Just like corporations and political organizations, they have no capacity for empathy.

In short, empathizers, unlike sympathizers, do not manipulate for personal gain. Or at least they shouldn't. If they do, they are merely charlatans.

I found Ivan's comments so interesting I decided to kick them out of the comments section and devote a separate post to them.

In his last comment, Ivan has sunk his teeth into a half-truth...well, maybe a five/eighths truth or more. Yes, it is true that Christianity, like too many other organized religions "is probably no longer a religion, but rather a "financial and political movement." He forgot to mention that Christianity's overemphasis on "personal salvation" contributes much to its loss of empathy because all too often this" personal salvation becomes something to be fearfully protected by shutting out the outside world less it corrupt the purity of one's faith. This is where you find too many Christians who only read Christian newspapers or listen only to Christian radio stations. Though, in truth, the majority of Christians pop into church at most once-a -week and doze through the sermon before rushing out for a week's worth of secular activities.

However, there are a handful of us--a slim majority, a splinter group-for whom the emphasis of our faith in on the Tao of Jesus. In other words, we could care less about Jesus' divinity, or whether he really rose from the dead on the third day, or whether God sent him forth to be a sacrificial lamb to atone for Adam's original sin, or any of the other theological claptrap that surrounds his being.

The message he gave us was to develop a love (a mindset, not an emotion) for all of God's creation, regardless of how it relates to us. This, and this alone, must be the essence of our faith. Anything less than that reduces the faith to a "corporate and political organization."

For those who want to return America to her Christian roots, I am tempted to say let us do so. As Kurt Vonnegut has suggested, instead of posting the Ten Commandments in our public buildings, let us post the Beatitudes form the Sermon on the Mount. In his teachings Jesus reduced the Ten Commandments to two: Love God and love you neighbor. Then he proceeded to expand the definition of neighbor to include our enemies and those who hate us. This included the injunction to turn the other cheek, though the Religious Right is convinced that passage was translated incorrectly and that it should read, "Turn the other's cheek with a fistful of knuckles."

Were we truly a Christian nation, the first thing we would do is sell the Pentagon to a private developer who would turn it into the world's greatest indoor shopping mall. (It has everything-name recognition, parking...) Because for a Christian, all acts of violence against another are evil. True, there are times, in rare circumstances, when this evil becomes a necessity as in the case of self-defense. These are exceptions that should neither be glorified nor honored. There is no such thing as a just war or a good war. Both are oxymorons that serve as thin rationalizations to justify our occasional and collective need to slaughter large number of our fellow beings in an orgy of self destruction.

Admittedly, Christian love is a tricky and difficult proposition fraught with potential danger. In the wrong hands it can become downright toxic as in, "Such is my love for your soul that I am burning you at the stake so your soul may rise heavenward on a column of greasy smoke to be embraced by our Heavenly Father."

Practicing Christian love is a lot like pissing into a hurricane. Most of our output ends up in our laps. But occasionally a drop hits ground, and that makes is all worthwhile.
(c) 2010 Case Wagenvoord. Some years ago, Case Wagenvoord turned off the tube and picked up a book. He's been trouble ever since. His articles have been posted at The Smirking Chimp, Countercurrents and Issues & Alibis. When he's not writing or brooding, he is carving hardwood bowls that have been displayed in galleries and shows across the country. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two cats. His book, Open Letters to George W. Bush is available at

Defining Prosperity Down
By Paul Krugman

I'm starting to have a sick feeling about prospects for American workers - but not, or not entirely, for the reasons you might think.

Yes, growth is slowing, and the odds are that unemployment will rise, not fall, in the months ahead. That's bad. But what's worse is the growing evidence that our governing elite just doesn't care - that a once-unthinkable level of economic distress is in the process of becoming the new normal.

And I worry that those in power, rather than taking responsibility for job creation, will soon declare that high unemployment is "structural," a permanent part of the economic landscape - and that by condemning large numbers of Americans to long-term joblessness, they'll turn that excuse into dismal reality.

Not long ago, anyone predicting that one in six American workers would soon be unemployed or underemployed, and that the average unemployed worker would have been jobless for 35 weeks, would have been dismissed as outlandishly pessimistic - in part because if anything like that happened, policy makers would surely be pulling out all the stops on behalf of job creation.

But now it has happened, and what do we see?

First, we see Congress sitting on its hands, with Republicans and conservative Democrats refusing to spend anything to create jobs, and unwilling even to mitigate the suffering of the jobless.

We're told that we can't afford to help the unemployed - that we must get budget deficits down immediately or the "bond vigilantes" will send U.S. borrowing costs sky-high. Some of us have tried to point out that those bond vigilantes are, as far as anyone can tell, figments of the deficit hawks' imagination - far from fleeing U.S. debt, investors have been buying it eagerly, driving interest rates to historic lows. But the fearmongers are unmoved: fighting deficits, they insist, must take priority over everything else - everything else, that is, except tax cuts for the rich, which must be extended, no matter how much red ink they create.

The point is that a large part of Congress - large enough to block any action on jobs - cares a lot about taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population, but very little about the plight of Americans who can't find work.

Well, if Congress won't act, what about the Federal Reserve? The Fed, after all, is supposed to pursue two goals: full employment and price stability, usually defined in practice as an inflation rate of about 2 percent. Since unemployment is very high and inflation well below target, you might expect the Fed to be taking aggressive action to boost the economy. But it isn't.

It's true that the Fed has already pushed one pedal to the metal: short-term interest rates, its usual policy tool, are near zero. Still, Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, has assured us that he has other options, like holding more mortgage-backed securities and promising to keep short-term rates low. And a large body of research suggests that the Fed could boost the economy by committing to an inflation target higher than 2 percent.

But the Fed hasn't done any of these things. Instead, some officials are defining success down.

For example, last week Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, argued that the Fed bears no responsibility for the economy's weakness, which he attributed to business uncertainty about future regulations - a view that's popular in conservative circles, but completely at odds with all the actual evidence. In effect, he responded to the Fed's failure to achieve one of its two main goals by taking down the goalpost.

He then moved the other goalpost, defining the Fed's aim not as roughly 2 percent inflation, but rather as that of "keeping inflation extremely low and stable."

In short, it's all good. And I predict - having seen this movie before, in Japan - that if and when prices start falling, when below-target inflation becomes deflation, some Fed officials will explain that that's O.K., too.

What lies down this path? Here's what I consider all too likely: Two years from now unemployment will still be extremely high, quite possibly higher than it is now. But instead of taking responsibility for fixing the situation, politicians and Fed officials alike will declare that high unemployment is structural, beyond their control. And as I said, over time these excuses may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the long-term unemployed lose their skills and their connections with the work force, and become unemployable.

I'd like to imagine that public outrage will prevent this outcome. But while Americans are indeed angry, their anger is unfocused. And so I worry that our governing elite, which just isn't all that into the unemployed, will allow the jobs slump to go on and on and on.
(c) 2010 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man."
~~~ Stewart Udall ~~~

Why The Feds Fear Thinkers Like Howard Zinn
By Chris Hedges

Today I will teach my final American history class of the semester to prison inmates. We have spent five weeks reading Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States." The class is taught in a small room in the basement of the prison. I pass through a metal detector, am patted down by a guard and walk through three pairs of iron gates to get to my students. We have covered Spain's genocide of the native inhabitants in the Caribbean and the Americas, the war for independence in the United States and the disgraceful slaughter of Native Americans. We have examined slavery, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the occupations of Cuba and the Philippines, the New Deal, two world wars and the legacy of racism, capitalist exploitation and imperialism that continue to infect American society.

We have looked at these issues, as Zinn did, through the eyes of Native Americans, immigrants, slaves, women, union leaders, persecuted socialists, anarchists and communists, abolitionists, anti-war activists, civil rights leaders and the poor. As I was reading out loud a passage by Sojourner Truth, Chief Joseph, Henry David Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B Du Bois, Randolph Bourne, Malcolm X or Martin Luther King, I have heard students mutter "Damn" or "We been lied to."

The power of Zinn's scholarship-which I have watched over the past few weeks open the eyes of young, mostly African-Americans to their own history and the structures that perpetuate misery for the poor and gluttony and privilege for the elite-explains why the FBI, which released its 423-page file on Zinn on July 30, saw him as a threat.

Zinn, who died in January at the age of 87, did not advocate violence or support the overthrow of the government, something he told FBI interrogators on several occasions. He was rather an example of how genuine intellectual thought is always subversive. It always challenges prevailing assumptions as well as political and economic structures. It is based on a fierce moral autonomy and personal courage and it is uniformly branded by the power elite as "political." Zinn was a threat not because he was a violent revolutionary or a communist but because he was fearless and told the truth.

The cold, dead pages of the FBI file stretch from 1948 to 1974. At one point five agents are assigned to follow Zinn. Agents make repeated phone calls to employers, colleagues and landlords seeking information. The FBI, although Zinn is never suspected of carrying out a crime, eventually labels Zinn a high security risk. J. Edgar Hoover, who took a personal interest in Zinn's activities, on Jan. 10, 1964, drew up a memo to include Zinn "in Reserve Index, Section A," a classification that permitted agents to immediately arrest and detain Zinn if there was a national emergency. Muslim activists, from Dr. Sami Al-Arian to Fahad Hashmi, can tell you that nothing has changed.

The file exposes the absurdity, waste and pettiness of our national security state. And it seems to indicate that our security agencies prefer to hire those with mediocre or stunted intelligence, dubious morality and little common sense. Take for example this gem of a letter, complete with misspellings, mailed by an informant to then FBI Director Hoover about something Zinn wrote.

"While I was visiting my dentist in Michigan City, Indiana," the informant wrote. "This pamphlet was left in my car, and I am mailing it to you, I know is a DOVE call, and not a HOCK call. We have had a number of ethnic groups move into our area in the last few years. We are in a war! And it doesn't look like this pamphlet will help our Government objectives."

Or how about the meeting between an agent and someone identified as Doris Zinn. Doris Zinn, who the agent says is Zinn's sister, is interviewed "under a suitable pretext." She admits that her brother is "employed at the American Labor Party Headquarters in Brooklyn." That is all the useful information that is reported. The fact that Zinn did not have a sister gives a window into the quality of the investigations and the caliber of the agents who carried them out.

FBI agents in November 1953 wrote up an account of a clumsy attempt to recruit Zinn as an informant, an attempt in which they admitted that Zinn "would not volunteer information" and that "additional interviews with ZINN would not turn him from his current attitude." A year later, after another interrogation, an agent wrote that Zinn "concluded the interview by stating he would not under any circumstances testify or furnish information concerning the political opinions of others."

While Zinn steadfastly refused to cooperate in the anti-communist witch hunts in the 1950s, principals and college administrators were busy purging classrooms of those who, like Zinn, exhibited intellectual and moral independence. The widespread dismissals of professors, elementary and high school teachers and public employees-especially social workers whose unions had advocated on behalf of their clients-were carried out quietly. The names of suspected "Reds" were handed to administrators and school officials under the FBI's "Responsibilities Program." It was up to the institutions, nearly all of which complied, to see that those singled out lost their jobs. There rarely were hearings. The victims did not see any purported evidence. They were usually abruptly terminated. Those on the blacklist were effectively locked out of their professions. The historian Ellen Schrecker estimates that between 10,000 and 12,000 people were blackballed through this process.

The FBI spent years following Zinn, and carefully cutting out newspaper articles about their suspect, to amass the inane and the banal. One of Zinn's neighbors, Mrs. Matthew Grell, on Feb. 22, 1952, told agents that she considered Zinn and another neighbor, Mrs. Julius Scheiman, "to be either communists or communist sympathizers" because, the agents wrote, Grell "had observed copies of the Daily Workers in Mrs. Scheiman's apartment and noted that Mrs. Scheiman was a good friend of Howard Zinn."

The FBI, which describes Zinn as a former member of the Communist Party, something Zinn repeatedly denied, appears to have picked up its surveillance when Zinn, who was teaching at Spelman, a historically black women's college, became involved in the civil rights movement. Zinn served on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He took his students out of the classroom to march for civil rights. Spelman's president was not pleased.

"I was fired for insubordination," Zinn recalled. "Which happened to be true."

Zinn in 1962 decried "the clear violations by local police of Constitutional rights" of blacks and noted that "the FBI has not made a single arrest on behalf of Negro citizens." The agent who reported Zinn's words added that Zinn's position was "slanted and biased." Zinn in 1970 was a featured speaker at a rally for the release of the Black Panther leader Bobby Seal held in front of the Boston police headquarters. "It is about time we had a demonstration at the police station," Zinn is reported as telling the crowd by an informant who apparently worked with him at Boston University. "Police in every nation are a blight and the United States is no exception."

"America has been a police state for a long time," Zinn went on. "I believe that policemen should not have guns. I believe they should be disarmed. Policemen with guns are a danger to the community and themselves."

Agents muse in the file about how to help their unnamed university source mount a campaign to have Zinn fired from his job as a professor of history at Boston University.

"[Redacted] indicated [Redacted] intends to call a meeting of the BU Board of Directors in an effort to have ZINN removed from BU. Boston proposes under captioned program with Bureau permission to furnish [Redacted] with public source data regarding ZINN's numerous anti-war activities, including his trip to Hanoi, 1/31/68, in an effort to back [Redacted's] efforts for his removal."

Zinn and the radical Catholic priest Daniel Berrigan had traveled together to North Vietnam in January 1968 to bring home three prisoners of war. The trip was closely monitored by the FBI. Hoover sent a coded teletype to the president, the secretary of state, the director of the CIA, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of the Army, the Department of the Air Force and the White House situation room about the trip. And later, after Berrigan was imprisoned for destroying draft records, Zinn repeatedly championed the priest's defense in public rallies, some of which the FBI noted were sparsely attended. The FBI monitored Zinn as he traveled to the Danbury Federal Prison in Connecticut to visit Berrigan and his brother Philip.

"Mass murders occur, which is what war is," Zinn, who was a bombardier in World War II, said in 1972, according to the file, "because people are split and don't think ... when the government does not serve the people, then it doesn't deserve to be obeyed. ... To be patriotic, you may have to be against your government."

Zinn testified at the trial of Daniel Ellsberg, who gave a copy of the Pentagon Papers to Zinn and Noam Chomsky. The two academics edited the secret documents on the Vietnam War, sections of which had appeared in The New York Times, into the four volumes that were published in 1971.

"During the Pentagon Papers jury trial, Zinn stated that the 'war in Vietnam was a war which involved special interests, and not the defense of the United States,' " his FBI file reads.

By the end of the file one walks away with a profound respect for Zinn and a deep distaste for the buffoonish goons in the FBI who followed and monitored him. There is no reason, with the massive expansion of our internal security apparatus, to think that things have improved. There are today 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies working on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States, The Washington Post reported in an investigation by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin. These agencies employ an estimated 854,000 people, all of whom hold top-secret security clearances, the Post found. And in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together, the paper reported, they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings-about 17 million square feet.

We are amassing unprecedented volumes of secret files, and carrying out extensive surveillance and harassment, as stupid and useless as those that were directed against Zinn. And a few decades from now maybe we will be able to examine the work of the latest generation of dimwitted investigators who have been unleashed upon us in secret by the tens of thousands. Did any of the agents who followed Zinn ever realize how they wasted their time? Do those following us around comprehend how manipulated they are? Do they understand that their primary purpose, as it was with Zinn, is not to prevent terrorism but discredit and destroy social movements as well as protect the elite from those who would expose them?

Zinn's book is revered in my cramped classroom. It is revered because these men intimately know racism, manipulation, poverty, abuse and the lies peddled by the powerful. Zinn recorded their voices and the voices of their ancestors. They respect him for this. Zinn knew that if we do not listen to the stories of those without power, those who suffer discrimination and abuse, those who struggle for justice, we are left parroting the manufactured myths that serve the interests of the privileged. Zinn set out to write history, not myth. And he knew that when these myths implode it is the beginning of hope.

"If you were a Native American," one of my students asked recently, "what would have been the difference between Columbus and Hitler?"
(c) 2010 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

Embarrassica The Mutilated
By David Michael Green

Sometime presidential candidate and full-time lunatic Steve Forbes recently wrote a column on "Obama's Soft-Core Socialism."

In case the title wasn't already enough to knock you off your chair and have you rolling on the floor laughing, consider the big ol' photo that leads in the article. Is it of Barack Obama, the subject of the piece? No, it is not. Is it a picture of Steve Forbes, the author of the essay? No, I'm afraid it isn't. Instead, it's yet another obligatory hagiographic rendering of Saint Ronald the Raygun, complete with jaunty smile, plastic Gumby hairdo, and obligatory American flag in the gauzy background. How very... er, relevant. Check my math, would ya, but wasn't it thirty years ago that this guy was elected president? Before cell phones and CDs, let alone MP3s? And wasn't Reagan the dude who tripled the national debt, shredded the Constitution, and began the process of cutting the legs out from underneath the American middle class?

As if this isn't bizarro enough, consider Forbes' title and thesis. He's arguing that the guy who threw massive mountains of taxpayer money at Wall Street banks to save them from collapse because of the bad casino capitalism bets they had made is a socialist. (Actually, Forbes is not quite so sure - like many apoplectic freaks on the right, he simultaneously wants to call Obama a fascist too, and sorta does so.) He's arguing that the guy whose health care solution involves forcing thirty to forty million private Americans to buy crappy expensive insurance from private companies who provide absolutely no value added in the delivery of a crucial product is a socialist. He's telling us that the president who opened up massive tracts of offshore areas for private sector (read BP) oil extraction in unprecedented quantity, location and scope is a lockstep adherent of Marx and Lenin.

It's really quite breathtaking. If we hadn't learned already (and almost no one in the Democratic Party or the American public seems to have) just how insidiously ingenious and recklessly disingenuous these monsters on the right are when it comes to the art of political framing, it would otherwise be tempting to conclude that people like Forbes must be snorting enough cocaine every day to launch a herd of elephants into space and park them in low earth orbit. That's how paranoid they are.

The piece is riddled with more bad lies than a local Rotary Club golf tournament - after a liquid lunch - and is packed with more stupidity than a truckload of Texas state GOP party platform photocopies coming back from Kinko's. But the line that really caught my eye was this one: "The truth is that not even the Franklin Roosevelt Administration was as hostile to and ignorant about free enterprise as this Administration is. Almost every action Obama officials take underscores their belief in the stereotype that businesspeople are mostly amoral, corner-cutting, consumer-shafting, pollution-loving menaces."

Clearly, Steve Forbes and I read different newspapers. I mean that both literally and figuratively. But it might be more accurate to say that we live in different countries. His is America The Beautiful. Mine is Embarrassica The Mutilated.

I'm sure there are tons of good-hearted small business men and women out there, trying to do an honest day's work for an honest day's wage, and serving their communities in every way they can (in fact, there happens to be someone just like that living in my house). But the big business corporate actors who meet such a description may well be as rare as a fundamentalist preacher who would actually be going to heaven, if there was such a thing. Even if they're not polluting or scamming or downsizing the rest of us with wild abandon, at a minimum these corporate porkers all seem to be lobbying the government (or, what used to be called 'buying Congress') for subsidies, tax exemptions and deregulation, at the expense of the rest of us.

In Steve Forbes' America The Beautiful, these corporations are "doing god's work" as the astonishingly oblivious Lloyd Blankfein described his Goldman Sachs cancer - er, corporation. They're waging battle against the government which seeks to take away all our freedoms. Well, not quite all, of course. For example, the freedom to breathe clean air, eat safe foods, drink clean water, maintain our health, keep our pensions, receive a pathetic minimum wage, work in a safe place, etc.

In my Embarrassica The Mutilated, on the other hand, corporations and the associated plutocracy of the Ÿber-wealthy in this country form an economic dictatorship of unparalleled greed, power and arrogance. Nor am I alone in this regard, and nor is this exactly a flash headline shouting out breaking news.

In fact, this is a very old story, and I'm keeping some pretty good company in retelling it. This guy called Jefferson that you might have heard of once said, "I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." I don't remember seeing that in my sixth grade civics textbook for some odd reason, but that does not diminish the significance of the sentiment. The same might be said of that Madison dude's observation that, "The growing wealth acquired by [corporations] never fails to be a source of abuses."

Or there was Andrew Jackson's take on this question (thanks to Thom Hartmann for collecting these): "The question is distinctly presented whether the people of the United States are to govern through representatives chosen by their unbiased suffrages or whether the money and power of a great corporation are to be secretly exerted to influence their judgment and control their decisions."

Or Grover Cleveland's: "As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear or is trampled to death beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people's masters."

Or Teddy Roosevelt's: "Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day."

I haven't even included FDR's impassioned eloquence on the subject, Lincoln's complaints about banks that he feared more than the Confederate Army, or Dwight (career military man, five-star general, commander of the Normandy invasion, Supreme Commander of NATO, Republican, conservative) Eisenhower's famous invocation against the all-consuming power of the military-industrial complex.

In fact, against the authors of these passages, the actions and rhetoric of Barack Obama look ridiculously tame, passive and corporately compromised by comparison. Which means that, according to the 'thinking' of Steve Forbes - notwithstanding his widespread fame as a profound philosopher and saint-like man of unbridled compassion - Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, Lincoln, Cleveland, Eisenhower and both Roosevelts were even bigger socialist-fascist-whatever-label-paranoid-freaks-will-come-up-with-next than you know who - Commissar Trotsky's just-activated sleeper agent currently ensconced in the White House. Golly, that seems like an awfully big collection of revered and iconic Americans to lump out there in the radical left. By the time you get done dynamiting these traitors' faces off of Mount Rushmore, only Washington would remain (and maybe he said the same sort of things too, for all I know). I know it sounds preposterous, but it almost seems that the problem isn't so much that all of America is way out on the left as it is that people like Steve Forbes are way out there on the right (and, Steve, just so you know - that's what we mean by the word 'fascist').

And, really, does the wisdom of these former presidents or the pathetically mild scolding that occasionally emerges from the current one require such a lengthy leap of logic to comprehend? I mean, what would happen if, for example, Mr. Forbes poked his head out from behind the Wall Street Journal, or the magazine produced by the empire he valiantly pulled himself up by his bootstraps from to inherit from his father, only to read just the few reports of corporate predation still available in the rest of the (largely corporate) media? What might he observe there?

Maybe he'd read about the nice folks on Wall Street who crashed the economy of the entire globe by taking outrageous risks with other people's money, knowing that if their bets went bad the taxpayers and the hated government would ride to their rescue, a hundred pennies on the dollar, and they'd continue to make record salaries and bonuses while nearly one out of five Americans left in the wake of their disaster can't find a job.

Maybe Mr. Forbes would see the same articles I've been seeing about British Petroleum, and its completely unmatched record for greed and disregard of worker and environmental safety that led to producing a series of catastrophes, culminating (we hope) in the Gulf oil spill, the worst environmental disaster in American history.

What if he were to read "Gulf of Mexico Has Long Been Dumping Site" in the New York Times this week, which notes that "at least 324 spills involving offshore drilling have occurred in the gulf since 1964, releasing more than 550,000 barrels of oil and drilling-related substances. Four of these spills even involved earlier equipment failures and accidents on the Deepwater Horizon rig. Thousands of tons of produced water - a drilling byproduct that includes oil, grease and heavy metals - are dumped into the gulf every year." The article also describes how "Even the coast itself - overdeveloped, strip-mined and battered by storms - is falling apart. The wildlife-rich coastal wetlands of Louisiana, sliced up and drastically engineered for oil and gas exploration, shipping and flood control, have lost an area larger than Delaware since 1930. 'This has been the nation's sacrifice zone, and has been for 50-plus years,' said Aaron Viles, campaign director for the Gulf Restoration Network, a nonprofit group. 'What we're seeing right now with BP's crude is just a very photogenic representation of that.'"

Perhaps Mr. Forbes would read the investigative piece revealing that "Millions of Americans are being duped by life insurance companies that have figured out a way to hold onto death benefits owed to families. MetLife and Prudential lead the way in making hundreds of millions of dollars in secret profits every year on money that belongs to relatives of those who die, an investigation by Bloomberg Markets magazine found. Among the people being tricked are parents and spouses of U.S. soldiers killed in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan." The scam is to issue a fake checkbook to beneficiaries, rather than the payout they are owed. The insurance companies then pay the families a whopping 0.5 percent interest on the funds, keeping five to ten times that amount for themselves on all the returns harvested from investing those dollars. Such patriotism, eh? Support Our Troops! Don't forget your yellow ribbon sticker!

Maybe Steve Forbes could take a gander Bob Herbert's latest column, detailing how corporations are doing great right now, in part because they're holding onto gobs of cash rather than hiring workers or paying a decent wage to the ones they've got. "They threw out far more workers and hours than they lost output," said Professor [Andrew] Sum. 'Here's what happened: At the end of the fourth quarter in 2008, you see corporate profits begin to really take off, and they grow by the time you get to the first quarter of 2010 by $572 billion. And over that same time period, wage and salary payments go down by $122 billion.' ... As Professor Sum writes in a new study for the labor market center, this period of economic recovery 'has seen the most lopsided gains in corporate profits relative to real wages and salaries in our history'."

And while he's at it, perhaps Mr. Forbes might want to take a look at the country that's been created by thirty years of bowing to the interests of corporations and other oligarchs, as institutionalized by the Washington whores of both parties whom they've purchased to do their bidding. The US median wage is the same as it was decades ago, and even fell during the Bush years. Today the richest one percent of Americans take home almost a quarter of all income in the country, just like it was in the good old days of 1928, but way up from the less than 10 percent they got in the pre-Reagan years. Meanwhile, millionaires realized a growth in their wealth of fifteen percent last year, rather a different experience than most of the rest of us, I'd say, especially the more than 15 million unemployed people, along with another ten million who either work part-time or have quit looking for work altogether, not to mention the 39 million people in this country who are chronically poor and do not have enough food to eat, or the 47 million without health insurance.

This is just for starters. We could go on and on here. There doesn't appear to be any bottom to the well of greed. It is the Tragedy of the Commons cranked up on a killer cocktail of amphetamines, steroids and radioactive pellets. Our greed seems entirely boundless. Good luck to any geese out there who lay golden eggs, or for that matter geese of any kind. Or the ground they walk on. Or the rivers they drink from. Or the air they breathe. Is there not a way that's been found yet to commoditize and profitize air? If they can't sell it, some good folks will at the very least insist on getting rich polluting it.

This society has just lost its way. But looking at its history of stealing land from Native Americans and then abusing them, slavery, prison labor, oppression of women and minorities, and neocolonialism throughout the developing world, it may be that it never did know its way - or at least a decent, humane way. It just seems so much more grim today.

Today we raise our children with the sort of values that make them (and especially us) seem as though they were never raised at all. Gimme-gimme greed is an embarrassing attitude associated with toddlers. Oh, and adult Americans. Bullying exploitation is a shameful behavior generally left behind on the playgrounds of junior high. Unless, of course, you're a corporate CEO or a leader in American government. Lying is something people are supposed to learn to stop doing when they're kids. Unless you're a regressive, that is.

Plutocratic plunderers just can't seem to wreck this world, its people, and the planet which sustains us all fast enough. We are now rapidly reaching the natural limitations of such exploitation, and the planet is beginning to bite back.

If we're lucky, people will too.
(c) 2010 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Gohmert,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and your calling on Israel to nuke Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class with Diamond clusters, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 09-05-2010. We salute you Herr Gohmert, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Hanging A Hammock Between Death And The Abyss

A GštterdŠmmerung Of Kitsch

By Phil Rockstroh

Given the level of cultural absurdity at large, both the commercially tormented landscape and the mass media dominated mindscape of the United States seem a Gogol goof-take.

If a person had traveled forward in time, arriving from even the recent past, of say, twenty-five to thirty-years ago, and looked upon the present day United States -- he would have thought he had entered some alternative universe inhabited by deranged grotesques. Resembling a dadist reality television program, a sizable portion of the populace of the US (save our ugly, contemporary, sweatshop-assembled clothing) could pass for George Grosz or Max Beckmann caricatures from Weimar Republic Germany.

In the few public spaces remaining, the time traveler would encounter an over-weight, ill-informed citizenry, staring, compulsively, at hand-held electronic appliances, as if the actual world, on the other side of the small, glowing screen, held no interest for them. He would bear witness to an age when mass media imagery has crowded out and colonized almost every area of life, both public and private, and is peopled with caricatures of willful ignorance and brainless self-regard such as Sarah Palin.

As is the case with individuals, every era is endowed with a distinct character, something near a personality, all its own. If that personality could, over time, gain a sense of self-awareness, our own would blush in embarrassment viewing Palin ... Preening, sputtering her word salad palaver, resembling an aging prom queen turned infomercial spokesmodel and speaking as though she acquired the english language from shredded scraps of speeches by Ronald Reagan and random bits of Bazooka Joe bubble gum comix, she is possessed of such an extreme degree of incomprehensible self-regard it seems a form of derangement.

In little danger of gaining self-awareness, Palin both characterizes and is a caricature of the era: obsession with power and celebrity, mindless memes, and the endless, contrived drama and meaningless denouement on display in the short attention span theatre of corporate and social media -- all its devices and collective derangement -- that are reactionary in the shunning of substance and the determination to remain devoid of the deepening implications of human interaction. Ergo, these traits and characteristics are reflected in Palin and vice versa, then back again, ad infinitum, like distortions in carnival funhouse mirrors.

Does one get the feeling that the more powerless we feel, collectively, about the rising levels of economic exploitation exacted upon us and the accelerating rate of ecocide committed on the planet by corporate oligarchs, the more celebrity "news" and other tropes of empty distraction and denial will froth forth from the idiot imaginings of the pop culture douche-scape?

In our time, the understanding of the intrinsic value of almost every endeavor is reduced to the crackpot realism of its commodified and practical worth. In the popular imagination, manic commercial come-ons dominate the day, in which, images of beauty, as well as the force and foibles of human character, has been hijacked and appropriated for strictly commercial exploitation. Naturally, those who long for beauty in human or divine form turn away in mortification, and, more and more become possessed of compensatory prayers for the destruction of this empire of commercial vacuity. As the mind is ground to spittle in the gears of the corporate wheelhouse, one may begin to dream of, even yearn for, apocalypse -- a longing for a GštterdŠmmerung of kitsch.

For many years now, we have been witness to cultural fantasies(both of the religious and secular variety) of decline, decay, of even the end of civilization itself ... that are, perhaps, a collective wish for the taut bindings that modernity places on the psyche to be loosened. The modernist towers must fall; then our insular, nature-denuded mode of mind will be pulled down from its lofty precincts into the Žlan vital of primal dirt ... There, the sterility of the collective, corporatized mind will meet its end, and reborn passion and vital imaginings will bloom like wild flowers in a post-apocalyptic strip mall parking lot ... This is what, I suspect, lies beneath our fascination with apocalyptic scenarios. In these contemporary deluge myths, the hyper-commercialized and commodified psyche, befogged by its own convoluted libido, once destroyed, is now free to start life anew.

Concurrently, in the fundamentalist Christian imagination, narratives of consumerism and End Time Mythology interweave and meld, becoming a gospel of instant gratification and imminent destruction ... This is a religious cosmology resonating from a junk food paradigm: The Gospels of The Drive Thru Jesus; when The Rapture comes, our corporeal bodies will be cast aside like fast food wrappers.

But be warned, by eating of all that high caloric food, all of you Jesus-hungry Lard Asses of The Lord: If your clothes were to fall from you (as your prophecies claim) as you rise skyward, the sight of all your fat, sagging bodies, floating in air, will resemble anything but the dawning of eternal paradise - instead the event will more likely resemble an endless tape loop of a porno video for fat fetishists shot in a zero gravity chamber. The narrative of fundamentalist Christianity has become so encumbered with kitsch imagery that its followers hope for the destruction of the planet itself so that they can escape the soul-defying imprisonment of its creepy dogma.

Hence, the modernist conundrum is: how does one retain the depth and resonance of myth, without concretizing it into a pernicious, fundamentalist death cult? Judaism, Christianity, Islam -- the myths of the jealous, desert god -- present a problem, because they place the answer in heaven i.e., far away in a sterile paradise ... The gods of the earth have been cast-out as sinful. Hence, those religions become so obsessed with a fantasy of purity that earth-dwelling and subterranean drives and desires -- that were symbolized, for example, by the Greeks as the gods Hermes, Pan, and Hades -- appear to Christian believers as Satanic.

In other words, Christians, Jews and Muslims, with their gaze fixed on heaven, view their earthly, human half as demonic. Moreover, by becoming split-off from their human half, followers of monotheistic belief systems are prone to suffer all the ills they attribute to the devil. Satan does have a "wide stance" after all.

This is a view of the world devoid of nuance: it is a cosmology inhabited by angels of light or musky demons of darkness ... In the fantasy, there exists no Orpheus to fuse the two worlds in entrancing song ... no Hermes to guide the hero into the realm of keening and kvetching shades ... no Persephone -- her lips lacquered in pomegranate juice -- metaphorically ending the stasis of collective human childhood with the implications of all life's seasons.

In its monotheistic view of the world, these fundamentalist fantasies are comparable to logic-clutching, dry as dust, modernist narratives, because both perspectives are so confining, so stultifying to the heart and mind of an individual, that their adherents grow obsessed with fantasies of the world's demise as a way of escaping the confining nature of the belief system itself.

Accordingly, we, as a culture, may just get our wish. Beauty and mortification are the language of the soul. If one ignores beauty, then the mind will begin to dwell on beauty's hidden half: horror. One will see it everywhere. Hamlet laments:

O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely.
~~~ Hamlet: Act 1, Scene 2. ~ William Shakespeare ~~~

There is an abiding bleakness present in the hidden half of the hyper-commercialized psyche -- a darkness visible; therein, one must gain a willingness to walk through, even pause, for a time in its stark and repellent landscape ... In order not to crackup, one must crack-wise ... to hang a hammock there, between death and the abyss. Apropos: in polar contrast to the froth, faux urgency, and con artist flattery of mass media imagery, one must be willing to accept the deepening effect of being powerless before the trajectory of history and the proliferation of human folly. Most of the time, there are no solutions, only revealing questions and clear-headed responses. For example:

Upon hearing Larry Summers, Obama's chief economic advisor, bray, "putting limits on growth because of some natural limit is a profound error."

Bill McKibben replied: "Summers is the perfect exemplar of that attitude: an incredibly smart guy whose context is so narrow it ends up making him very dumb indeed."

In my opinion, what caused Summer's level of intelligence to plummet at a Niagara Falls' grade incline can be traced to his unwavering fealty to the tenets of marketplace fundamentalism. The crackpot realist's notion that nature has no value in and of itself, and is only worth what it can be rendered down to as a commodity. The trees of a rain forest can be pulped to paper cups. A human being is only the content of his resume.

This amounts to dharma for dimwits: A bio defines a human being in the same manner and degree of veracity as a restaurant menu describes the various slabs of meat offered ... commodified things that were once living beings.

What Summers' view of existence refuses to acknowledge is: The unsettling truth that what we inflict upon the world we will eventually inflict upon ourselves. When we internalize a self-destructive notion such as a rain forest is expendable -- only fit for commercial exploitation -- then this is the demeaning manner in which we regard fellow human beings. Moreover, it is an absurd and dangerous fantasy to believe our species can have autonomy from nature, and we, for any extended length of time, can have mastery over it.

Federico Garc’a Lorca imagined this delusion of psychological separation from and mechanistic dominance over nature and fellow human beings as follows.

The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the street corner
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the stars.
~~~ Excerpt from: City That Does Not Sleep ~~~

Sadly, from evidence extant, both elite and hoi polloi of our era labor under this deranged perception. I reside on the island of Manhattan and I'm baffled that so many of my fellow New Yorkers (once a feisty, even belligerent breed) don't seem to care or even notice that they are being gamed. Our billionaire mayor protects his class; we pay for their follies, and they continue to grow richer. The game is so throughly rigged, even when they contrive to immolate the global economy, we get "austerity cuts," and they get on their Gulfstream jets and fly to Dubai.

As things stand at present, for the corporate class, their actions seem to yield no consequences. All this defies logic as well as gravity ... the invisible hand of the marketplace (actually the buckling backs of the middle and laboring classes) can't hold up their swaying tower of hubris much longer. But when it comes down, stand clear, there are no bystanders when an empire crumbles. Despite Larry Summer's pronouncements to the contrary.

Since poetic vision has no place in Summer's view of the world nor offers a solution for its ills, he may never seek counsel in what James Hillman has termed: the thought of the heart and the soul of the world. Hillman's view of the world offers a shift in perspective that could help restore our sense of beauty and tragedy, and, in doing so, bestow us with respect for our own humanity and a greater reverence for living things.

John Keats called earthly existence and the suffering therein a "vale of soul-making." In other words, we must descend into the human condition and into our own humanity in order to grow humble enough to learn and adapt to change. For our winged spirits must be forced out of their revelry of self-regard -- the intoxication of their sky-shackled swoon of impersonal flight (privileged passengers of corporate jets included) -- and be wounded by the conflicts and contretemps of this world and thus become more human.

This development means the end of grandiosity and the beginning of an appreciation of life's grandeur. Sarah Palin, Larry Summers, Mayor Bloomberg, and all the rest of the divas and supernumeraries contributing to the opera-scale cognitive dissidence of the age, will continue to belt out their crackpot realist arias, but, backstage, The Second Law of Thermodynamics has just begun to clear its throat.

I'll give the final word to Lorca:

No, I won't; I attack,
I attack the conspiring
of these empty offices
that will not broadcast the sufferings,
that rub out the plans of the forest,
and I offer myself to be eaten by the packed-up cattle
when their mooing fills the valley
where the Hudson is getting drunk on its oil.
~~~ New York (Office and Attack) ~ Federico Garc’a Lorca ~~~

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

So You Want To Cut Spending?
By Mary Pitt

You're sick and tired of the government spending too much money? Is that what's buggin' you, Bubbles? You want to privatize Social Security and cut back on Medicare, Medicaid, and welfare? Well, Bubba, you sit right down and let's talk.

"Living within your means" and "sound economic policy" are matters in which some choice is involved. Unfortunately, for a number of years, those choices, which were made were bad ones and we are already deeply in debt which compounds the severity of the consequences of our choices. Any head of a family will tell you that the first option in this situation is to increase the amount of your income so that debts may be paid. Alternatively, your life partner who is not currently employed outside the home will have to go to work. However, in many cases this option has already been used for years and that second income has also been exhausted.

In the case of government, there is even less choice. Taxes are the only option for increased income but the Republicans do not choose to offend the wealthy by allowing the overly-generous tax cut which President Bush allowed them to die a natural death as it was intended to do. That brings the choice down to how and where to cut spending. But the so-called "entitlements" are necessary "family expenses" and should be the last to be eliminated.

It would appear that the first economy should be to stop the transfer of billions of dollars to "contractors" who, in another day and age would be called "mercenaries" to provide "security" for our diplomats and other Very Important People as they traverse the hostile territories, a job that once was done better, and at less cost, by our own military personnel?

While we're on the subject of contractors, why are we paying them to import the poor from all over the world and make them work long hours at slave wages when our National Guardsmen who are experienced mess personnel and quartermasters are carrying rifles and rocket launchers and fighting Arabs. The same task is being assigned to men who have been trained as engineers and heavy equipment operators, work that is also being done at much greater expense by the "contractors. It does seem that a nation which was built on the principle of "do it yourself" would be able to find the resources to save a bit of money by performing those tasks.

Not enough men in the army, you say? Why not? The last "national emergency" of this magnitude began with a military draft, (and, by the way, a significant tax increase), but now we have a nation of able-bodied men lining up at the employment offices all over the country, looking for jobs and trying to stretch a few dollars of unemployment to cover their expenses. Our greatest need at this time is for jobs and it seems that the military could certainly use the help.

So...what's left? How about all the money that we just give away? Like the foreign aid programs that shuttle money to other nations, particularly to some who do not necessarily take care that it does not aid our enemies? Israel, for instance, uses our money which is intended for their self defense to commit genocide against the Palestinians while we are encouraged not to notice. After all, is that not our "best ally in the Middle East?" Why, then do they keep manufacturing military armaments and weapons, which they sell wherever they can, again without regard to whether those same weapons might destroy American soldiers?

And why is it essential to keep our "army of occupation" stationed in now-friendly nations? You say that this is necessary for our defense? I recall a time, during the Cold War, that we were told that missiles from the central United States could reach any target in the world in minutes! That is the reason that our farmers still have to till their land around the carcasses of the abandoned silos that still litter the landscape of the Great Plains. And yet, we are told that we are in so many nations for "their" protection against invasion by unfriendly neighbors. Does this mean that we are going to maintain our "deterrent" military forces in the Asian nations into the next century?

Throw into the mix the fact that, at the onset of the Afghan War, President Bush simply handed out the national credit card to the military like a benevolent father treating his teen-agers. And the result has been the same.....disaster! There has been no control and no accountability. How could there be when American cash has been shipped overseas, packaged on shipping pallets and moved by forklifts? Nobody was made responsible for accounting for its destination or its use. Billions of dollars have been disbursed to unknown points and paid out to unknown people for unknown purposes.

Among the many mistakes made by George W. Bush was his request for tax cuts for the wealthy at the same time as his single-handedly declaring war on two-fronts. If his goal was to get rid of the surplus "as far as the eye could see," he certainly over-achieved on this ambition! Now, a nation that is in a stubborn recession has no choice but to reform its accounting and disbursement practices and allow the Bush tax cuts to end in the manner and time mandated by Congress and the then-President. The wars are winding down by the Grace of God and now it's time to pay up and go home. The gods of war must always be paid.
(c) 2010 Mary Pitt is eighty years old and has spent a half century working with handicapped and deprived people and advocating on their behalf while caring for her own working-class family. She spends her "Sunset Years" in writing and struggling with The System. Huzzahs and whiney complaints may be sent to

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Rex Babin ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Copperhead Road
By Steve Earle

Well my name's John Lee Pettimore
Same as my daddy and his daddy before
You hardly ever saw Grandaddy down here
He only came to town about twice a year
He'd buy a hundred pounds of yeast and some copper line
Everybody knew that he made moonshine
Now the revenue man wanted Grandaddy bad
He headed up the holler with everything he had
It's before my time but I've been told
He never came back from Copperhead Road

Now Daddy ran the whiskey in a big block Dodge
Bought it at an auction at the Mason's Lodge
Johnson County Sheriff painted on the side
Just shot a coat of primer then he looked inside
Well him and my uncle tore that engine down
I still remember that rumblin' sound
Well the sheriff came around in the middle of the night
Heard mama cryin', knew something wasn't right
He was headed down to Knoxville with the weekly load
You could smell the whiskey burnin' down Copperhead Road

I volunteered for the Army on my birthday
They draft the white trash first,'round here anyway
I done two tours of duty in Vietnam
And I came home with a brand new plan
I take the seed from Colombia and Mexico
I just plant it up the holler down Copperhead Road
Well the D.E.A.'s got a chopper in the air
I wake up screaming like I'm back over there
I learned a thing or two from Charlie don't you know
You better stay away from Copperhead Road

Copperhead Road
Copperhead Road
Copperhead Road
(c) 1988/2010 Steve Earle

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Another applicant blows it by describing his short-term goals as "getting this job."

Report: Unemployment High Because People Keep Blowing Their Job Interviews

WASHINGTON-With unemployment at its highest level in decades, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a report Tuesday suggesting the crisis is primarily the result of millions of Americans just completely blowing their job interviews.

According to the findings, seven out of 10 Americans could have landed their dream job last month if they had known where they see themselves in five years, and the number of unemployed could be reduced from 14.6 million to 5 million if everyone simply greeted potential employers with firmer handshakes, maintained eye contact, and stopped fiddling with their hair and face so much.

"This economy will not recover until job candidates learn how to put their best foot forward," said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, warning that even a small increase in stuttering among applicants who are asked to describe their weaknesses could cause the entire labor market to collapse. "If we're going to dig ourselves out of this mess, Americans need to stop wearing blue jeans to interviews, even if they're nice blue jeans, and even if that particular office happens to have a relaxed dress code."

"They also need to start bringing extra copies of their resumes, as it will show they are prepared and serious," Solis added. "And, by the way, how hard is it to send a hand-written thank-you note afterward? Anyone can dash off an e-mail."

A federal survey of employers found that nearly half of job-seeking Americans botched their interviews by responding no when asked, "So, do you have any questions for me?" Among candidates strongly qualified to perform the jobs they were applying for, 36 percent didn't bring a notepad or pen to the interview, and 16 percent were thrown off guard when the interviewer broached topics unrelated to work, such as the weather, sports, or personal hobbies.

Twelve percent, employers said, did this kind of nervous throat-clearing thing.

"If applicants would just say yes when asked if they played softball or liked golf, we could add 350,000 jobs to the private sector," Deputy Labor Secretary Seth Harris said. "The fact is, right now, today, approximately a third of the country's manufacturing positions are vacant. Auto plants across the country, especially in Detroit, are sitting there just waiting for people to come in and build cars."

"You may be a qualified candidate, but none of that matters if you walk into that interview lacking confidence," he added. "Don't act too confident, though. And don't joke around too much. And don't be overly friendly or ask too many questions. But be yourself."

The Labor Department confirmed their statistics don't take into account the estimated 20 million citizens who were unable to get interiews in the first place because of formatting errors in their resumŽs, or cover letters that slightly exceeded one page.

"At this point, hiring someone who doesn't use bulleted lists, strong action verbs, or boldfaced keywords is completely out of the question," said public relations executive Max Werner, who has been looking for office managers and a CFO since 2008. "And if you're going to end your cover letter with 'best wishes' instead of 'sincerely,' I don't care how experienced you are-you won't be working for me."

President Obama, who last week signed a law extending unemployment benefits, said the legislation would also address joblessness by creating a $1.2 billion program aimed at training Americans to use firm but approachable body language to make a great first impression.

"My administration remains fully committed to putting citizens back to work by making sure they show up at least 15 minutes early to their interview and never badmouth a previous boss," said Obama, flanked by unemployed Americans during an address from the White House Rose Garden. "Our new 'Nail the Interview, Score the Job' initiative will help regular Americans like Paul and Tracy here remember that they should prep ahead of time by learning a few things about the company they want to work for."

"And that little things," he continued, "like making sure your socks match, matter."
(c) 2010 The Onion

The Gross National Debt

Iraq Deaths Estimator

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 32 (c) 08/06/2010

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