Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Sam Harris says, "Obama Backpedals On Mosque."

Uri Avnery wonders, "Harakiri?"

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

Phil Rockstroh explains, "Part Tinker Bell, Part Predator Drone."

Randall Amster discovers, "Noncooperation With Evil In The Streets Of Arizona."

Jim Hightower uncovers Con-gress "Rigging The Rules Against Unions."

David Sirota finds, "Elites' Democratic Days Are Numbered."

James Donahue asks with tongue-in-cheek, "Why Would Anybody Want To Be President?"

Joel S. Hirschhorn warns, "Wake Up Obama."

Chris Floyd considers, "Timebends."

Ray McGovern wonders, "Can WikiLeaks Help Save Lives?"

Paul Krugman reports as Obama and the right are, "Attacking Social Security."

Chris Hedges examines, "Formalizing Israel's Land Grab."

David Michael Green explores, "Our Professional Failure."

Con-gressman Louis Gohmert R/Texas wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald returns with, "Obama Defends 'Ground Zero Mosque.'"

John Nichols with a 'what if' question, "What If We Google 'Democracy' And Get 'Oligarchy'?"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst sees a, "Spa Spangled Bog" but first Uncle Ernie comments on a, "Ground Zero Mentality."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Pat Bagley, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea, Clay Bennett, Khalil Bendib, Tom Toles, Motivated Photos.Com, Tim Eagen, Keith Tucker, John Deering, Dees Illustration.Com, Jim Morin, Buddy Duncan, 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."

Ground Zero Mentality
By Ernest Stewart

"Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the holocaust museum in Washington, we would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor." ~~~ Newt Gingrich

"Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America. This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination."
~~~ Bradlee Dean ~ You Can Run But You Cannot Hide ~ "Christian" rock band~~~

"Al Qaeda may be sending women to the U.S. to birth a contingent of future terrorists credentialed with American passports." ~~~ Congressman Louis Gohmert R/Texas

All the rainbows in the sky
Start to weep, then say goodbye
You won't be seeing rainbows any more.

Setting suns before they fall,
Echo to you that's all that's all
But you'll see lonely sunsets after all.

It's over. It's over. It's over. It's over!
It's Over ~~~ Roy Orbinson

You know me, I'm an Atheist and if I were king of the world there would be no Islam and certainly no 'Ground Zero Mosque.' Of course, there would be no Vatican, Salt Lake City Temple and certainly no Zionists in occupied Palestine. No Protestantism, no Church of England, no Buddhism, no Hinduism, no Shintoism, no Thors or Lokis or Joves, etc., etc., etc.!

However, I don't rule the world so I guess I'm stuck living in America with the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, at least what's left of them, and they separate both Church and State and allow one the freedom to worship or not, when and where one likes!

It obvious that the Jews knew about 911 in advance as they all took the day off from the World Trade Center, so perhaps, using the logic being thrown out by such deep thinkers as Newt, Sarah, Rush and Bill, there shouldn't be any Temples allowed in lower Manhattan? Oy Vey! In polls Americans come out by a margin of 2-1 against allowing Muslims to have a community center half a dozen blocks from the hole in ground where the Twin Towers stood. I'm sure if you asked these same Americans if it were their community center being built in a string of abandoned buildings you'd get a different answer.

From what I can discern, 911 was a CIA attack. Since that is basically a Christian organization (except for their black ops groups like Al Queda) as was the Christian President who set it in motion, should there be Christian churches allowed at Ground Zero? Oh, and let's not forget what good Christians did to the Lanape tribes at Ground Zero. You'll recall they massacred more Americans then than were killed on 911 which makes Manhattan sacred ground to the Indians so should there really be Christian churches anywhere in the area, or for that matter anywhere in this country?

Just across from the sacred hole in the ground is St Paul's Chapel and down the block, a Catholic church, the Church of St. Peter. Those are the ground zero churches! There are no Muslim churches nor will there be a Muslim Church at "Ground Zero!"

The Ground Zero Mosque isn't even a Mosque. It's a community center. It has a basketball court, a cooking school, yes Muslims can pray there but so can Christians or any other religious loony toon who walks in the door as it is open to all! All the brouhaha is just about rat wing bigotry and attempts to destroy even more of our Constitutional guarantees. If they can keep Muslims from being there they can do the same to you and your groups. Either we all have the same rights or no one has any rights! So which is it going to be, America?

In Other News

I see where retailers Target and Best Buy are under fire from human rights groups which are organizing boycotts over those companies' corporate donations to support Republican Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who is said to be a virulently anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-union scum bag. The donations of $150,000 and $100,000, respectively, were made under the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allows unlimited political donations by corporations. This confrontation will test the limiting effect of the free market on Citizens United.

CEO Gregg Steinhafel, who has given quite a bit of money to fuel anti-gay politicians on a personal level, including Rep. Michele "gay people are pedophiles" Bachmann. Tom also admires Sharia law that says that gay folks should be put to death!

I wrote Target's CEO Gregg Steinhafel a letter...

Target's support of fascism

Hey Greg,

I see that Target sent $150,000 in support of neo-nazi looney tune, Rep. Tom Emmer. Tom, who is a little to the right of Darth Vader and supports Arizona's draconian immigration laws, wants to abolish the minimum wage and has given money to a fringe group that condones executing gay people. I mean what's not to like, huh Gregg?

By all means support whatever goose-stepping, rat-wing, enemy-of-the-people, asshole you like but hence forth you won't be doing it with the money I used to spend at Target! And when I tell my readers about your support, not only of Rethuglicans but of the " for Governor campaign," I'm pretty sure they'll shop elsewhere, too.

Still, I have to admit, Gregg, that I do admire your shiny new Jack Boots and that Rethuglican armband is to die for, literally!

A former Target shopper,
Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis magazine

I didn't send a similar letter to Best Buy as I stopped shopping there over a decade ago but if you still do, why not take the time to let Best Buy and Target know how you feel!

And Finally

Just when you thought that the rat-wing couldn't get anymore insanely paranoid along comes this weeks Vidkun Quisling Award winner to prove you wrong! Con-gressman "Louie Louie" Gohmert, Texas' national embarrassment is warning anyone who will listen to him of terrorist babies! You heard me right! Louie is scared to death that our enemies will be sneaking evil pregnant moms across the border with those millions of good illegal Mexicans. They'll dropping their babies in the good old USA and then sneaking back across the border with the newest citizens of America in tow.

Then, Louie imagines, 20 years down the road these same babies, having since been trained to kill and indoctrinated to hate us by mom and dad, will take up their American citizenship and destroy us all in some kind of holy Jihad! Yeah, Louie is a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic, all right. I bet the folks back home are proud of him, huh?

You can hear Louie's explanation down in our "Dead Letter Office." Your tax dollars at work, America!

It's Over

Dear Readers,

I got my walking papers the other day! She wants me G.O.N.E. A.S.A.P.. Trouble is, I done spent all my money financing this magazine and I'm flat broke. I desperately need $1,000 to get me and my stuff back to Detroit and set up housekeeping, before it and I end up on the street walking the 700 miles back to Detroit, and with COPD I don't imagine I'll get very far. If you can help me please do so today. To say that I'm desperate is a vast understatement! HELP! Contact me at:


02-06-1946 ~ 08-12-2010
Thanks for the Jams!

08-06-1930 ~ 08-14-2010
Thanks for the Jazz!

03-16-1957 ~ 08-16-2010
R.I.P. my brother!


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.

Obama Backpedals On Mosque
By Sam Harris

After weeks of dodging the issue, at a White House Ramadan dinner Friday night, President Obama came out in support of Park51, the planned Muslim community center and mosque two blocks away from the World Trade Center site.The President says he wasn't endorsing the ground zero mosque-only defending the right to build it. Sam Harris on his failure to acknowledge that Islam is different than other faiths.

Should a 15-story mosque and Islamic cultural center be built two blocks from the site of the worst jihadist atrocity in living memory? Put this way, the question nearly answers itself. This is not to say, however, that I think we should prevent our fellow citizens from building "the ground zero mosque." There is probably no legal basis to do so in any case-nor should there be. But the margin between what is legal and what is desirable, or even decent, leaves room for many projects that well-intentioned people might still find offensive. If you can raise the requisite $100 million, you might also build a shrine to Satan on this spot, complete with the names of all the non-believing victims of 9/11 destined to suffer for eternity in Hell. You could also build an Institute of "9/11 Truth," catering to the credulity, masochism, and paranoia of the 16 percent of Americans who imagine that the World Trade Center was intentionally demolished by agents of the U.S. government. Incidentally, any shrine to conspiracy thinking should probably also contain a mosque, along with a list of the 4,000 Jews who suspiciously declined to practice their usury in the Twin Towers on the day of the attack.

The New York Times has declared that the proposed mosque will be nothing less than "a monument to tolerance." It goes without saying that tolerance is a value to which we should all be deeply committed. Nor can we ignore the fact that many who oppose the construction of this mosque embody all that is terrifyingly askew in conservative America-"birthers," those sincerely awaiting the Rapture, opportunistic Republican politicians, and utter lunatics who yearn to see Sarah Palin become the next president of the United States (note that Palin herself probably falls into several of these categories). These people are wrong about almost everything under the sun. The problem, however, is that they are not quite wrong about Islam.

In his speech supporting the mosque, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: "We would betray our values-and play into our enemies' hands-if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else." This statement has the virtue of being almost true. But it is also true that honest, freedom-loving Muslims should be the first to view their fellow Muslims somewhat differently. At this point in human history, Islam simply is different from other faiths. The challenge we all face, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, is to find the most benign and practical ways of mitigating these differences and of changing this religion for the better.

It is both ironic and instructive that at the very moment that the path was finally smoothed for the construction of the ground zero mosque, the Hamburg mosque that nurtured the 9/11 hijackers was shut down by the German government. No doubt there were German Muslims who felt their religious liberty was shamefully abridged. However, after a decade of treating this mosque as a monument to tolerance, the Germans were forced to admit that it was actually an incorrigible incubator of jihadism and anti-Western values. And so, the question must be asked: Which of these sister mosques represents the true face of Islam?

In his speech, Mayor Bloomberg said, "It is my hope that the mosque will help to bring our city even closer together and help repudiate the false and repugnant idea that the attacks of 9/11 were in any way consistent with Islam." He has since said that anyone opposed to this project "ought to be ashamed of themselves." This, incidentally, is the same Mayor Bloomberg who could not bring himself to publicly condemn the practice of "oral suction" used by Orthodox mohels during the ritual of circumcision, despite the fact that it spreads herpes to infant boys, causing occasional brain damage and even death. Such failures of secular nerve can be given a general description: Tolerance of religious stupidity has a way of making liars and cowards of people who should have nothing to fear from the fruits of honest reasoning.

And honest reasoning declares that there is much that is objectionable-and, frankly, terrifying-about the religion of Islam and about the state of discourse among Muslims living in the West, and it is decidedly inconvenient that discussing these facts publicly is considered a sign of "intolerance" by well-intentioned liberals, in part because such criticism resonates with the actual bigotry of not-so-well-intentioned conservatives. I can see no remedy for this, however, apart from simply ramming the crucial points home, again and again.

The first thing that all honest students of Islam must admit is that it is not absolutely clear where members of al Qaeda, the Taliban, al-Shabab, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hamas, and other Muslim terrorist groups have misconstrued their religious obligations. If they are "extremists" who have deformed an ancient faith into a death cult, they haven't deformed it by much. When one reads the Koran and the hadith, and consults the opinions of Muslim jurists over the centuries, one discovers that killing apostates, treating women like livestock, and waging jihad-not merely as an inner, spiritual struggle but as holy war against infidels-are practices that are central to the faith. Granted, one path out of this madness might be for mainstream Muslims to simply pretend that this isn't so-and by this pretense persuade the next generation that the "true" Islam is peaceful, tolerant of difference, egalitarian, and fully compatible with a global civil society. But the holy books remain forever to be consulted, and no one will dare to edit them. Consequently, the most barbarous and divisive passages in these texts will remain forever open to being given their most plausible interpretations.

Thus, when Allah commands his followers to slay infidels wherever they find them, until Islam reigns supreme (2:191-193; 4:76; 8:39; 9:123; 47:4; 66:9)-only to emphasize that such violent conquest is obligatory, as unpleasant as that might seem (2:216), and that death in jihad is actually the best thing that can happen to a person, given the rewards that martyrs receive in Paradise (3:140-171; 4:74; 47:5-6)-He means just that. And, being the creator of the universe, his words were meant to guide Muslims for all time. Yes, it is true that the Old Testament contains even greater barbarism-but there are obvious historical and theological reasons why it inspires far less Jewish and Christian violence today. Anyone who elides these distinctions, or who acknowledges the problem of jihad and Muslim terrorism only to swiftly mention the Crusades, Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, the Tamil Tigers, and the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma, is simply not thinking honestly about the problem of Islam.

What one doesn't generally hear from Western Muslims is any frank acknowledgment of these unpleasant truths. In response to serious concerns raised over Islamic doctrines related to jihad, martyrdom, apostasy, and blasphemy-along with their incontrovertible link to terrorism, threats of violence, cartoon "controversies," and the like-one generally meets with petulance, feigned confusion, half-truths, and non sequiturs. Apologists for Islam have even sought to defend their faith from criticism by inventing a psychological disorder known as "Islamophobia." My friend Ayaan Hirsi Ali is said to be suffering from it. Though she was circumcised as a girl by religious barbarians (as 98 percent of Somali girls still are) has been in constant flight from theocrats ever since, and must retain a bodyguard everywhere she goes, even her criticism of Islam is viewed as a form of "bigotry" and "racism" by many "moderate" Muslims. And yet, moderate Muslims should be the first to observe how obscene Muslim bullying is-and they should be the first to defend the right of public intellectuals, cartoonists, and novelists to criticize the faith.

There is no such thing as Islamophobia. Bigotry and racism exist, of course-and they are evils that all well-intentioned people must oppose. And prejudice against Muslims or Arabs, purely because of the accident of their birth, is despicable. But like all religions, Islam is a system of ideas and practices. And it is not a form of bigotry or racism to observe that the specific tenets of the faith pose a special threat to civil society. Nor is it a sign of intolerance to notice when people are simply not being honest about what they and their co-religionists believe.

The claim that the events of September 11, 2001, had "nothing to do with Islam" is an abject and destabilizing lie. This murder of 3,000 innocents was viewed as a victory for the One True Faith by millions of Muslims throughout the world (even, idiotically, by those who think it was perpetrated by the Mossad). And the erection of a mosque upon the ashes of this atrocity will also be viewed by many millions of Muslims as a victory-and as a sign that the liberal values of the West are synonymous with decadence and cowardice. This may not be reason enough for the supporters of this mosque to reconsider their project. And perhaps they shouldn't. Perhaps there is some form of Islam that could issue from this site that would be better, all things considered, than simply not building another mosque in the first place. But this leads me to a somewhat paradoxical conclusion: American Muslims should be absolutely free to build a mosque two blocks from ground zero; but the ones who should do it probably wouldn't want to.
(c) 2010 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values.

By Uri Avnery

IF GOD wills, even a broomstick can shoot - so I wrote after the appointment of the Turkel commission. I was quoting the Jewish saying in the hope that in spite of everything, something would come out of it.

The commission was born in sin. Those who appointed it were not interested in discovering the truth but in preventing the setting up of an international inquiry commission or an Israeli State Board of Inquiry. The "terms of reference" that were dictated to the commission were extremely narrow. At the beginning, the commission was not even empowered to compel witnesses to testify.

In short: a commission without wings, a broomstick without the brush.

I hoped that the members of the commission would not agree to dance to the government's tune. Today it is still too early to judge whether they have passed this test, but it can already be said: they have broken their chains.

AFTER THE testimony of the three central witnesses this week - Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Gabi Ashkenazi - one can already draw the first conclusion: the commission is ignoring the terms of reference that were imposed on it. The terms have disappeared. The commission hardly mentioned the subject it was charged with exploring - international law - and instead took up all the rest.

That was not difficult, because all three witnesses disregarded the terms of reference they themselves had framed. Each of them was so eager to show how right and wise he was, that the official subject of the investigation was well-nigh forgotten.

Thus a fait accompli was established: the commission is not fettered anymore by its terms of reference, but is dealing with all the aspects of the failed operation. (The terms of reference may however pop up again when the time comes to draw up their findings.)

IT WAS interesting to observe how the three testimonies were received by the media.

Almost all the media fell upon the first two witnesses and glorified the third.

Netanyahu was careless to the point of frivolity, put all the responsibility on Barak and did not even master the facts. After all, he was abroad at the time, so what do they want from him, it was Barak who managed the affair single-handedly.

After the media assaulted him ferociously, Netanyahu quickly convened an improvised press conference and grandly announced that he was taking all the responsibility upon himself.

Barak was more studious. He spoke endlessly, drowned the commission in a deluge of details and also took the responsibility upon himself, but immediately kicked it downstairs, to the military. The government, he stated, decides upon the mission, it is the military that is responsible for the implementation. He, too, was sharply taken to task by the media.

The Chief of Staff pointed to the errors in the execution of the operation which were committed by the lower military ranks, the navy and army intelligence, but with impressive magnanimity took upon himself the responsibility for these, too.

His testimony was a masterpiece. Rather surprisingly, it appeared that he was far more astute than the two experienced politicians. While they looked like slippery eels, out only to defend themselves, he appeared like a lovable, bumbling, unsophisticated bear, a simple, honest, artless soldier, radiating integrity, who tells the truth because he doesn't know otherwise.

Ashkenazi is much smarter than he looks. True, his testimony may have been prepared by his advisers, but the smartness of a leader also finds expression in the ability to choose smart advisers.

Again it was proven that the media - and, indeed, the entire state - is controlled by the army. The same remarks that were greeted with jeers when uttered by Netanyahu and Barak were received with reverent attention when they came from the Chief of Staff. A chorus of admirers praised him on TV, on the radio and in the newspapers. What an honest person! What an upright soldier! What a responsible, level-headed commander! If there was any difference between the uniformed army spokesmen and the military correspondents in civilian cloths, it could hardly be discerned.

THE GENERAL picture that emerged from the three main testimonies is quite clear: there were no serious preparations for dealing with the flotilla, though the plans for it were known many months in advance. Everything was done in an amateurish way, in the famous tradition of Israeli improvisation, "rely on me" and "it'll be OK".

Previous aid ships carried only non-violent peace activists, and everybody assumed that this would continue to be so. Nobody paid attention to the fact that the Turkish activists were imbued with quite a different ideology. Who cares, anyhow, what Turks are thinking. The glorious Mossad did not even take the trouble to plant an agent among the hundreds of activists on board the ship.

The planning of the operation was slapdash, without enough intelligence, without sufficient consideration of the alternatives, without taking into account potential dangerous scenarios. After all, one did not have to be a prophet to foresee that the Turkish activists, instilled with religious fervor, would forcefully oppose the boarding of a Turkish ship on the high seas by Israeli soldiers. What a surprise!

What is the conclusion? The Chief of Staff disclosed it without hesitation: next time, the army will use snipers to pick off everybody on deck (or, in the language of the military commentators, "the attackers") while the soldiers abseil from the helicopters.

Since Netanyahu and Barak pushed all the responsibility onto the military, and Ashkenazi pointed to the faults in planning and execution, there again arises a practical question: how can the members of the Turkel commission do a serious job when they are not allowed to summon military personnel?

To forestall the problem, the Chief of Staff threw them two bones: the Army Advocate General and Giora Eyland will be allowed to give evidence. (Eyland is the retired general who conducted the army's internal investigation.) But that is far from sufficient. To fulfill its mission, the commission must hear evidence from the chief of the navy and his staff. In response to the Gush Shalom petition, the Supreme Court has already hinted that if Turkel demands their appearance, the court will compel compliance.

NONE OF the three witnesses touched upon the main question: the existence of the Gaza blockade itself.

In the fateful meeting of "The Seven" (the senior ministers), it was clear that all of them believe in the necessity of the blockade, as well as in the necessity of the forceful suppression of any attempt to break it.

The legal side of the matter is liable to arouse much debate. It seems that international law is unclear here, both as far as the imposition and the implementation of a blockade is concerned. The law is not set down in writing in a consistent format. It allows for many different interpretations. There will not be a single, agreed and clear answer.

The real question is in any case not legal, but moral and political: for what purpose was the blockade imposed?

All the witnesses who have appeared so far have repeated the same agreed argument: we are at war with the Gaza Strip (whatever its legal standing), the blockade is designed to prevent the import of war material. Therefore it is both legal and moral.

But that is a complete lie.

It is very simple to control the movement of cargo by sea. In such cases, it is customary to stop ships on the high seas, inspect the cargo, impound war materials (if any) and allow them to continue on their way. The cargo can also be inspected at the port of departure.

These methods were not employed, because the whole matter of war materials is nothing but a pretext. The aim of the blockade is just the opposite: to prevent the transfer of non-military goods, the same goods which were also not allowed through the land crossings: many sorts of foodstuffs and medicines, raw materials for industry, building materials, spare parts and many other goods, from children's copybooks to water purification equipment.

The little that made life bearable came through the tunnels, and the prices were sky-high, far beyond the means of most inhabitants.

From the beginning, the purpose was to disrupt normal life in the Gaza Strip, to bring the population to the brink of despair and induce them to rise and overthrow the Hamas government. This aim was obviously supported by the government of the US and its satellites in the Arab world, and perhaps, as some believe, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

Netanyahu argued in his testimony that "there was no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip". That depends very much on the interpretation of the term.

True, people did not die of hunger or disease in the streets. It was not a Warsaw ghetto. But there was widespread malnutrition among the children, misery and poverty. The blockade caused general unemployment, because almost all industrial and agricultural production was made impossible. There was no import of raw materials, no exports at all, insufficient fuel. Products from Gaza were unable to reach the West Bank, Israel or Europe. All this is also true now, even though the flotilla has partly succeeded in its task and has compelled the Israeli government to allow the bringing in of many types of goods that were blocked before.

The closure of Gaza port has also contributed to the humanitarian crisis. Seventeen years ago, Shimon Peres wrote: "The Gaza port has a very great potential for growth. The goods and cargos that will be handled there and will leave its gates on the way to Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, Saudi and even Iraqi recipients, will illustrate the economic revolution that will come to the entire region." Perhaps Peres should be summoned to testify.

THE KEY word in all the testimonies was "responsibility". Every witness took responsibility and kicked it as far away as possible - like soccer players who receive the ball and pass it to somebody else.

What does responsibility mean? Once upon a time, when a Japanese leader took responsibility for failure, he stuck a knife into his belly - it was called Hara-kiri ("belly cutting"). No such barbaric habit exists in the West, but there, too, a leader responsible for failure resigns.

Not here. At least, not now. Here, a person who "takes responsibility" evokes praise. What courage! What nobility! He takes responsibility!

And that's the end of that.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Bike4Peace Update
Days Eighteen thru Twenty-Four: Common Ground Along an Uncommon Route
By Cynthia McKinney

Along this trip, I've been testing a line: "We're biking for peace. We started at the House of Common Sense in Oakland, California and we'll end up at the White House that needs some common sense!" Everyone in every state has enthusiastically agreed!

Now, you won't believe this! I have broken bread with militia members who voted for Obama! Now, I know that doesn't sound possible, but I overheard the conversation of some Utah men discussing what the heck they were going to do to put this country -right and bingo-an admission that they had voted for Obama! They lamented that they certainly weren't going to do that again, but they couldn't vote Republican, because Bush had ruined the country, and so they just didn't know what they were going to do. That's when my feet began to glide uncontrollably in their direction. The idea of these men having voted for Obama just overtook me and I begged their indulgence and interjected myself into their conversation. In just a few short moments it was clear that we had similar concerns about the direction of our country. I never let on to them who I was. I just reminded them that they did have options, even in Utah, where the Green Party was on the ballot. That they didn't have to give their most precious political asset-their vote-to a political party that didn't deserve it. Interestingly, I left them saying to myself that I always knew that with dialogue we could find areas of commonality, just as I had done that in the first Congressional District that sent me to Washington, D.C,. and that if we worked hard enough at dialogue, that we could bring this country together. So, Bike4Peace 2010 took me into a conversation that most likely I would never have witnessed were I not here. It only reinforces my belief that we really can build bridges to each other, if only the hate-mongering, fear-proselytizing politicians would get out of the way

One last thing: Now, I think I'm beginning to understand how bikers feel when they're on a bike. Just before leaving Gunnison, Colorado, I decided to bike into town all by myself!!!!! To buy some jewelry to go with the outfit I bought in Telluride. Even with the bike helmet on, I imagined Mel Gibson yelling, FREEDOM! I think that explains why we've met so many bikers, all alone on the road, from all parts of the world, criss-crossing our country. Once one gets over the "rumpus hurticus," a term coined by our fellow traveler Paul Stutzman, biking can become quite addictive, and if not addictive, certainly fun and challenging!

Day Eighteen -- We left Hite, Utah and Glen Canyon and headed into Blanding, our last Utah stop.

Day Nineteen -- Can you believe that the core riders have ridden across California, Nevada, and Utah and are about to do the same in Colorado. We arrive in Dolores and begin the process of unloading the car and setting up the cabin to receive company!!! We are in a cabin along the Dolores River and by chance, Yaney discovers an e-mail from Marion saying that he'd like to meet us while we're in Dolores. Marion bought dinner for us and brought along his friends to enjoy. Marion s a courageous young, Black man who sued the county for discrimination! He also has a copy of the documentary, American Blackout, for me to autograph. I knew he'd want to take a photo so I dressed up in the tie-dye dress that I bought from Marianne! All evening, he wanted to know about Obama. I was able to cut through much of the propaganda and the prejudice and give him the truth and the facts about our President. In addition, I reminded him of the reason we participate in politics and what our responsibilities are if our expectations are not met. We had a very potent political discussion.

Day Twenty - Everyone anticipated arriving in Telluride. Well, as it turns out, it was in Telluride that I posed the question for the first time-what the heck am I doing here??? But before I deal with that, let me say that the shopping was very satisfying. Between Dolores and Telluride, I made my first commitment to leave the group. My intention was not to leave the group during the entire ride. But I received an offer I could not turn down: September 11 with Luke Rudkowski (WeAreChange-NYC), Daniel Sunjata, my sister Cindy Sheehan, and former UK MP George Galloway!!!!! And since I didn't pack anything but bicycle clothes, I needed something to wear. Telluride provided the perfect answer. Only thing, the young lady who helped me was sooo ready to talk. She was disappointed with politics. She had been excited and had even majored in political science. She wanted to explain her disappointment and how because of it, she found her way to the architecture department. She is now working to go back to school to get her masters. I commented to her that it was a shame that a bunch of bankers had to get in-between her and her education. After shopping, YeYo took me for a bike ride and we went on the gondolas, too. After that, back to City Park where we pitched tents and that's when I had my "why am I here" moment. That next morning, Day Twenty-One, I was sooooooo cold. I now know why we have Thermarest-it does protect you from the cold ground.

Day Twenty-One - What a wonderful shop in Ridgeway, Colorado!!! Bought some street clothes since I've figured that walking around in the bike shorts isn't good for me at all!!! Overnight in Montrose, Colorado. The view of the mountains is awesome. However, Utah for me is still the most beautiful!!!

Day Twenty-Two - Gunnison, Colorado.

Day Twenty-Three - Rest Day. Our hotel is outside of town so I ride the bike back into town in my first solo ride of the trip!!!

Day Twenty-Four - Monarch Pass!!! 11,300 feet today and the core bikers rode all the way up and down. Tonight we sleep in Poncha Springs with a great sense of accomplishment. We're on the other side now of the Great Divide! Scott says we've done about half of the elevation and about one-third of the mileage!!! Amazing!!!

I think Nora Jones's "Above Ground" is the great song for this week. That's what I played on my father's iPhone as Yaney and I crossed Monarch Pass and started our journey on the Atlantic side of the Continental Divide.

Oh beautiful for spacious skies . . . The scale of this country and all its bounty. On this day, University of Georgia scientists expose the lie that all of the oil is gone from the Gulf while the world counts the hours until Israel strikes Iran with weapons supplied by the U.S. My son awaits a storm in Georgia, that originated in the Gulf of Mexico, to see if it will rain oil in Georgia the way it has already in Louisiana. We all know what this could mean. Let's hope it doesn't happen. On both counts.

Oh, why can't our country be a better partner for Mother Earth and the global community? Who will step up and make it so?


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.

Part Tinker Bell, Part Predator Drone
The Fantasy of the Presidency as Deus ex Machina
By Phil Rockstroh

The devices employed in US election cycles and its national politics, in general, are akin to the dramatic conventions of children's theatre. Every two to four years, voters are instructed to clap their hands and believe in Tinker Bell. "Children, you have to believe -- you really, really have to believe in Tinker Bell." But behind the stagecraft is oligarchy. President Obama took millions from Goldman Sachs, et al. If there is a Captain Hook in this show, it is those Wall Street pirates who threw the global economy to the crocodiles for their ill-gotten gains.

Of course, this is a tired, old show, riddled with shopworn devices, performed by a rotating cast of hacks. Ronald Reagan set the fool's gold standard of a president playacting the role of populist, matinee hero -- Clinton, Bush, and Obama all learned from him -- as, all the while, he, in reality, went about the business of protecting and enhancing the holdings of the moneyed elite.

In Reagan's case, this con game was both an act of inspired career advancement and banal casuistry. Reagan, b-grade actor that he was, was never deep enough to harbor any belief he wasn't paid to evince. By professional necessity, he convinced himself he believed those bright and shining lies and polished platitudes he pitched to a public of credulous marks; for this is the mode of mind of effective salesmen and good showmen ... having the ability to conflate shallow self interest with the good of all.

Such self-deception -- played out as public legerdemain and state stagecraft -- is now the modus operandi of media age presidencies. The effect of this transformation, from executive gravitas to virtual playacting, has been somewhat less than salubrious for the health of the republic. When, for example, an American city drowns in floodwater and Americans are drowning in economic woes, US presidents know how to act like a president -- but not act as president. The soundbites make the man; not the man makes the soundbites.

Thus far, Obama's role has been to front the status quo. Whose interest do you think he had in mind when he picked Larry Summers and Tim Geithner as his top economic advisors? Hint: not those who clutch a subway strap nor sit stranded in freeway traffic, in bank-financed motor vehicles, on their daily commute to and from work.

Presidents, as is the case with all people, internalize the social and cultural architecture of their times. Reagan, the actor, had to find a way to believe what movie industry scriptwriters and film directors wanted from him insofar as the creation of character -- and, during the cold war and McCarthy era witchhunts, when G.E. and other defense industry giants started writing his checks (after his movie career died a lackluster death) he performed his role as resolute cold warrior as requested. And he, as has every president since, became a shill and enabler of the national security state.

Barack Obama's transformation from progressive hope-monger to status quo water-carrier should not come as a shock. It would be nearly impossible for the US populace, chief executives included, not to have internalized the tenets of the corporate capitalist/consumer empire. This corporate structure is as pervasive internally as it is extant. It exists as both outer architecture and inner psychological imprinting. Therefore, corporatism is as real to us as the deep forests and its woodland gods were to European pagans and The Church and its dogma was to the peasants of the Dark and Middle Ages.

The circumstances of the present era, like the ancient belief in the acts of self-involved gods whose doings were heedless to the fate of mere mortals, are larger than us and will not cede to our demands to behave with compassion or even sanity. To name but one example: The earth's oceans are suffering, many oceanographers say dying, due to the death cult calculus of runaway capitalism. In essence, we are confronted by a situation in which we experience abject powerlessness. An aura of unease and anomie prevails.

This unease contributes to a desperate fantasy of the presidency as deus ex machina. The right's deification of Reagan cast the fantasy into the realm of bughouse raving: The dead president as savor zombie. The belief that Ronald Reagan brought down the Soviet Union with 1940's era movie jibes and bromides is such a preposterous fantasy ... that it evokes one of my own: Ronald Reagan, endlessly imprisoned in a soundbite loop in Hell, throwing back his shoulders, doing that portrayal of manly resolve he wore out during his time in office ... then bandying into the indifference of eternity, this variation of his patented platitude, "Mr. Devil, tear down this wall of fire."

What is the emotional toil taken by the reality that in life, unlike theatre, there will be no sudden plot reversal brought about by a device of deus ex machina? In these desperate imaginings, we demand our president both lay on hands to heal the wounds inflicted by capitalism and smite our perceived enemies abroad. We insist he be not only a steely eyed warrior-king but our collective killer Christ.

Democratic presidents, and their handlers and advisers, become possessed of this errant archetype as well. Hence, according to the fantasy, to be viable as commander-in-chief, they are driven to prove their toughness, preferably, in some he-man display of resolute stupidity. They must prove they have a pair of killer/redeemer god balls -- which might be termed, Christesticles -- by bombing somebody -- anybody. At present, it appears this fraternity of hubris-blinded killer clowns has Iran in their cross hairs.

The act of imagining enemies serves as distraction from the angst arising from the vast economic inequities of life in the contemporary US. This is the good versus evil, dramatic conventions of the children's theatre of our politics: We boo the villains -- and are instructed to clap our hands to bring about an intervention by supernatural forces ... In this case, in the form of an action hero/magical being to do our killing: a deity -- who is part Tinker Bell, part predator drone.

But our situation is closer to that of the flawed protagonists in Waiting For Godot -- Samuel Becket's brilliant take on the self-deception at work within the alienated hearts of those who believe their suffering will be assuaged by the arrival of a god-like being. The last lines and final stage instructions of the play are emblematic of the Obama presidency:

VLADIMIR: Well? Shall we go?

ESTRAGON: Yes, let's go.

(Stage direction: They do not move.)

Obama and the Democrats do not move. They do not act. They do not govern. They do not serve their constituents.

Although, in reality, they do serve their true constituents ... the corporate elite -- the forces behind the rising level of authoritarian control over the lives of the people of the nation, both of ordinary citizens and the political class.

In situations of veiled coercion, where unspoken threats to one's economic security and social standing are the primary motivating factors determining an individual's response to an exploitive system, there is no need to threaten potential dissenters with crude, old school totalitarian methods of repression such as forced deportment to labor and reeducation camps. In the class stratified, debt shackled US work force, where the personal consequences of financial upheaval are devastating, the implicit threat of being cast into the nation's urban gulag archipelago of homelessness coerces most into compliance with the dictates of the corporate oligarchs.

The effects are insidious. In such an environment, there is no call for the Sturm und Drang of mass spectacle, replete with blazing torches and blown banners hoisted by serried ranks of jut jawed, jack-booted ubermensch: corporatism establishes an authoritarian order by way of a series of overt bribes and tacit threats. This social and cultural criteria causes an individual to become cautious. A Triumph of the bland reigns. Obama's bland, non-threatening charm was cultivated in this hybrid, corporate soil.

As is the case with Obama, corporatism demands employees (and Obama is first among us underlings) render themselves fecklessly pleasant. This is the mandatory mode of being demanded of corporate hires -- self-annihilation by habitual amiability. And Barack Obama has perfected the form.

In his memoir, Dreams From My Father, Obama stated that he learned early: Never scare old, white people ... that is a good description of how he has dealt with BP and the banksters, and all the other old white men in their perches of privilege and power.

Obama, as was the case with Bill Clinton, will not challenge the corporate oligarchs. Both he and Clinton are gifted, intelligent men, but are products of their time. They are men of, what was once termed, "modest birth" who -- out necessity to rise past the circumstances of their origins -- studied, internalized, and made allegiance to the corporate structure. Why? Because, in the age of corporate oligarchy, they knew the only way to rise to power would be to serve its interests. In contrast, FDR came from the ruling class; he knew their ways ... wasn't tempted by the rewards and adulation that come with privilege. He was born into it, could never lose its advantages, and it held no novelty for him.

I'm not positing Clinton was simply a shallow narcissist, as was a fashionable invective aimed at his hulking frame and over-sized persona during his tenure as POTUS ... such palaver was so much shadow projection on the part of the vampiric careerists of the Washington-New York nexus of blood-sucking media undead. Rather, Clinton was a big talent. He was Byronic in his expansive nature. And like Byron he could claim, in all honesty, he could love a thousand women (and not only women, but varieties of constituents) in a thousand different ways, all at once. He was a romantic at heart in an age of crackpot realists. He was a large presence in a small-minded time. And this is how his trouble in the 1990s, and ours, in the present time, began.

When the Cold War ended, and the arrogant fantasies of neoliberal capitalism were ascendant, virtuoso of the zeitgeist that Clinton was, his prodigious wings caught those heady updrafts and he took the nation on an Icarian flight of Reaganesque economic deregulation, that would, later, contribute to the spiraling fall -- known, at present, as "the economic downturn."

Clinton could have used some saturnine apprehension regarding the dark side of capitalism, rather than the intoxication gained from the provisional, mutually serving alliances he made with his Wall Street bubble salesmen buddies, Rubin, Summers, and Geithner.

Clinton's periodic, erotic contretemps were not the problem; it was his and his advisor's flights of economic fancy that had real consequences for those of us who live at ground level among the debris and ash resultant from the inevitable fiery crash of their vanity and cupidity.

Enter Obama when the bubble burst. The stage is set for sweeping reform. Instead, we have received faux populist bromides, as all the while, behind the scenes, he has gone about the business of accommodation, capitulation, and general lickspittle boot-buffing of the corporate class.

If you listen closely, you might hear, all the way from the realm of the damned below, Ronald Reagan cackling in glee over it with his lower order demon companions from within their eternal prison of flames.
(c) 2010 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

Noncooperation With Evil In The Streets Of Arizona
By Randall Amster

The history of nonviolent social change is filled with injunctions to refuse compliance with unjust laws and policies. As Gandhi once famously said, "non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good." Reflecting on the Montgomery bus boycott, Martin Luther King, Jr. observed that "what we were really doing was withdrawing our cooperation from an evil system. ... We were simply saying to the white community: We can no longer lend our cooperation to an evil system. From that moment on I conceived of our movement as an act of massive non-cooperation." In Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau mapped out the terrain in ways that would later influence both Gandhi and King:

Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? ... It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. ... Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.

These teachings were alive and well during the demonstrations in Arizona against SB 1070, the state's anti-immigrant law that was partially struck down by a federal judge two days before it took effect. In recognition of the larger issues raised by the bill, as well as the realization that open persecution of "illegals" would remain official state policy going forward, hundreds of people took to the streets on July 29th under the banner of the movement's mantra, "We Will Not Comply." Almost 100 people were arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience during these protests, and a clear message of the refusal to cooperate with injustice was communicated to both local officials and an international audience alike.

While many of the events of that day have been well-reported, the opening salvo that set the tone of noncompliance and civil resistance seemed to slip by almost without notice. It was, however, a poignant and powerful action that reflected the best qualities of the nonviolence paradigm. Here is my recollection of what transpired that night as SB 1070 was to take effect:

The clock nudged toward midnight on a cool Arizona summer evening. With monsoon moisture in the air and faint stars flickering above, two columns of people solemnly proceeded on opposite sides of the street to the main entry point into their city. Families, children, and elders together filed into the street, with an air of celebratory defiance building as each individual added their body to the blockade. None would pass into this community for the foreseeable future, and people living in terror had openly lost their fear. The tone was now set, and the events of the coming day would reflect it, consciously or not.

This was the beginning of Arizona's July 29th demonstrations against SB 1070 and related anti-immigrant policies. At 12:01AM that day, the parts of the bill that had not been struck down earlier in the week by a federal judge - including a mandate that all state officials and agencies enforce federal immigration laws to their fullest extent, and also a provision that criminalizes harboring or transporting undocumented persons - took effect. And in the tiny town of Guadalupe (pop. 6000) on the outskirts of Phoenix, community members fired the first nonviolent "shot" in the day's struggle against legalized oppression.

As the tension mounted, city buses began to stack up and sheriff's deputies slowly encroached toward the human blockade from both sides of the street. The line of resistance stood firm, however, and soon doubled when another line was formed mostly of local activists and allies in the struggle for justice and human rights. Law enforcement officers now bluntly stated their intention to make mass arrests unless the intersection was cleared. Still no one moved. The flummoxed deputy again made his pronouncement, and again the blockade remained. When the warning was repeated a third time, it became clear that neither the political will nor manpower was present to effectively deal with the dozens of civil disobedients who had physically created a wall of noncompliance at the edge of their town.

Following a phone call from the mayor, and with due regard to the facts that the symbolic action had accomplished its purpose and the people had stood up in solidarity, the blockade self-dispersed after more than an hour of holding the street. The point had been made: people were tired of living in fear, and they would not comply with laws like SB 1070 that seek to institutionalize that fear. Make no mistake, the provisions of the law were designed not so much to change the realities of living as an undocumented person in Arizona, but more so to inculcate a climate of permanent fear and to institutionally legitimize the worst of the state's unjust police practices. But on this day, when the world would be watching, people stood up.

Episodes like this need to be placed in a context to fully understand their import. For the residents of tiny Guadalupe, a town made up of equal parts Mexican and Yacqui, there has been a constant reign of terror in their midst with the main perpetrators being Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies. Guadalupe has no police force of its own, and so had made a contract with the county sheriff's department to take on the role of policing the township. Over the years there have been numerous incidents and allegations of police misconduct, leading to a very public feud between Guadalupe's former mayor and Arpaio that resulted in the contract being suspended and the sheriff's department becoming unwelcome there.P <> What specifically prompted this dust-up were a set of 2008 immigration "raids" conducted by the sheriff's office, which resulted in about 150 arrests with nearly half having immigration implications. The raids themselves essentially devolve upon massive sting operations where deputies scrutinize moving vehicles for the most minute traffic violations - for example, a cracked taillight or windshield, changing lanes without adequately signaling, or the improper use of a horn. These stops then result in ID checks, searches, and other escalations that can lead straight to deportations. The raids are conducted primarily in communities of color, leading many to suggest that the true nature of the "crime" being targeted is simply being brown-skinned.

Guadalupe's political leadership at the time publicly averred that Arpaio and his forces had not been invited to the town to conduct these raids, with the former Vice Mayor bluntly stating that "Arpaio is doing it because he wants to show the Latin people that he has power." A former councilwoman concurred, noting that "this is racial profiling and it needs to stop." For her stance against Arpaio, former mayor Rebecca Jimenez was herself pulled over and ticketed by sheriff's deputies for a broken headlight. "How do you like working for a sheriff who racially profiles against people of color?" Jimenez asked the deputy who pulled her over, according to a report released by the sheriff. "I didn't think that Sheriff Joe was going to retaliate against me, but I guess that I was wrong," she said, according to the report.

This is the backdrop against which Guadalupe's residents took the streets in the opening hours of July 29th. The Phoenix New Times later reported that the crowd had "faced down" Arpaio's deputies, with one resident saying that "regardless of what the law says, we're all human beings. We shouldn't be treated as something else." Following the action, protest organizer Andrew Sanchez said that "it was peaceful, it was successful, and we managed to get the cops' attention." Indeed, this action of open noncompliance with unjust laws and practices was done in the best tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience, and it merits our attention as an important part of what will be an ongoing campaign of "noncooperation with evil" in the days ahead.
(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).

Rigging The Rules Against Unions

There's one direct, grassroots way that workaday folks can create more fairness in our country's plutocratic, corporate-controlled economy: unite in unions. Indeed, some 60 million workers say they'd join a union today if they could.

Well... why can't they?

Because corporate chieftains and Wall Street financiers don't want us hoi polloi having any real say over such things as offshoring, downsizing, wages, benefits, and working conditions. So, for decades, they have deployed their lawyers, lobbyists, and politicians to rig the rules of unionization to keep people from joining together.

For example, the Railway Labor Act, which sets union rules for railroads and airlines, has a tricky little provision to sidetrack nearly all new unionizing efforts in these industries. When a vote is taken among workers to decide whether they want a union, all employees who do not vote are counted as "no" - rather than not counted at all, as happens with non-voters in every other American election.

However, the Obama administration has now repealed this absurdity, and - Whoa, Nellie! - the airlines have gone bonkers, unleashing their political partisans to howl in protest. Sen. Johnny Isakson, a well-funded attack dog for Delta Airlines, stood on his hind legs to declare that deleting non-voters from the "no" column was an "assault on employee rights."

Really Johnny? Then how would you like playing by such rigged rules for your own elections? In his last run, 79% of eligible Georgians either voted against Isakson or did not vote - so non-voters would've soundly defeated him.

Hmmm... If it would get rid of all the Isaksons, maybe the non-voter system might be a good thing after all - which is why hypocrites like him would never be for it.
(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.

Elites' Democratic Days Are Numbered
By David Sirota

Call me an '80s junkie, but when I saw the results of this week's closely watched Colorado election, I immediately thought of "Spaceballs." In that Mel Brooks masterpiece, a Darth Vader spoof named Dark Helmet says "evil will always triumph because good is dumb." Make it "dumb and broke," and you have a powerful explanation for incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet's narrow primary victory over former state legislator Andrew Romanoff.

In just the 20 months since being appointed to fill the vacated Senate seat of now-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Bennet became one of Congress' top recipients of corporate cash. A wealthy businessman who had never held elected office before, he ultimately raised and spent almost $6 million on his campaign - more than any primary candidate in the history of Colorado. He was additionally aided by the Democratic National Committee and Organizing for America's phone-banking, by President Barack Obama's full-throated endorsement and by the built-in advantages that come with a taxpayer-financed Senate office.

Romanoff, by contrast, swore off special-interest money from the beginning. As a former state House speaker with a deep grassroots network throughout Colorado, he constructed a scrappy campaign on less than $2 million of mostly small-dollar, in-state contributions. In the relatively few ads he was able to afford, he juxtaposed his own progressive economic platform with Bennet's odious Senate votes to protect the big banks, oil firms and health insurance companies that Americans despise and that financed Bennet's campaign.

Alas, it wasn't enough. The Bennet campaign's ads obscured the incumbent's true record, and because those ads were backed with so much money, Romanoff's spots were like a pin dropping at a Metallica concert, and the challenger lost.

So it's true - this particular political contest, like so many others, can indeed be summed up by paraphrasing Dark Helmet and noting that malevolent forces triumph because good is dumb and broke. The simple fact is, in elections across the country, many well-intentioned voters remain ill-informed and many principled candidates are still too underfinanced to mount a winning campaign.

However, the longer view tells a different story - one that may foreshadow the end of this "Spaceballs" axiom in the future.

Considering Bennet's wealth, corporate fundraising, incumbency and presidential support, it is astounding that a whopping 46 percent of this bellwether state's Democratic voters cast their ballots against him, against their own party's establishment and against their own party's president.

For those who care about a progressive economic agenda and about injecting democracy into the Democratic Party, this is encouraging when put next to the similarly impressive results of White House-thwarting Democratic primary challengers in Pennsylvania and Arkansas. And that trend explains the increasingly fierce pushback from Washington.

Yes, this is why Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, so vociferously berated the progressive movement on the eve of Colorado's primary, and why DNC powerbrokers moved so forcefully against Romanoff. He was the latest candidate to represent what those elites know to be an ascendant national progressive uprising inside the Democratic Party - one that keenly understands money's corrosive effects on public policy and that, therefore, rejects the Beltway's corporatist model.

Seeing that this uprising threatens their power and their D.C. worldview, these elites are desperate to preserve Dark Helmet's principle - so desperate, in fact, they have resorted to employing Obama's presidential campaign infrastructure to prop up more conservative candidates against progressive challengers in intra-party battles.

This unholy alliance managed to hold off the onslaught this time. But make no mistake - Colorado is yet more evidence that the days of "Spaceballs" defining the Democratic Party are ending.
(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 or follow him on Twitter @davidsirota. David is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Why Would Anybody Want To Be President?
By James Donahue

While watching and listening to the constant assaults against President Barack Obama, it occurred to me that this man is suffering through such an overwhelming stack of issues it is hard to imagine how he keeps going.

After clawing his way into his job in one of the most vigorously fought presidential battles we can remember, Mr. Obama took the reins of a nation collapsing under the weight of its own debt, caught up in two wars overseas and burdened with so many social, environmental and infrastructure problems it was almost impossible to decide what needed attention first.

The wheels of intensifying the problem of a collapsing economic system were already turning by the time Mr. Obama was sworn into office. He could do little to put the brakes on this massive swindle by big business interests that seemed intent on cleaning out the national treasury before the new Democratic Administration had a chance to make any decisions.

Even though outgoing President George W. Bush and his administration had already driven the nation into a multi-trillion dollar deficit, Mr. Obama gambled on even more debt in an effort to not only keep the housing market and automobile makers solvent but to launch a public works program designed to put as many people as possible back to work and help them avoid foreclosure on their homes. He has had no cooperation from the House and Senate Republicans who are using every trick they can muster to block or weaken every move Mr. Obama and Democratic legislators attempt to make.

What Mr. Obama has had going for him is a Democratic majority in both the House and Senate, which, in the end, has helped push through a lot of important legislation in spite of Republican generated bottlenecks. It has just taken time to accomplish, thus tying the president up on these issues instead of giving him the freedom to tackle the long list of other matters that are daily flying into his face.

While he did squeak a national health care plan through the cogs of the House and Senate, it took a year to do it and what was finally drafted fell far short of what the people needed. Most benefits from the program won't even go into effect until 2014, which gives the Republicans time to regain power and change it into something far worse than it already is.

In the meantime, Rupert Murdock's growing newspaper and television enterprise is busy stirring up as much trouble is possible. Commentators like Glenn Beck on Murdock's Fox News cable network and Rush Limbaugh on his Fox-owned radio networks have been busy spewing constant assaults on every move Mr. Obama makes, and working hard to frighten followers who appear to take the daily garbage they deliver seriously.

Fox News was instrumental in helping launch the national Tea Party movement that has attached itself to the extreme right wing of the Republican Party. Also various militia movements are springing up in frightening numbers. A recent documentary by MSNBC's Chris Matthews explored this phenomenon and found that these groups appear to be extremely conservative. Members are upset about such a wide variety of topics it is difficult to find a single uniting objective for their existence. In general, they think the government has become too big, is a threat to state sovereignty and individual freedom, and they don't like the fact that America now has a black President.

The British Petroleum disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has helped fuel the fire of discontent. Ironically, while the Tea Baggers are calling for less government, they are expecting Mr. Obama to assume a role of leadership in resolving a problem that even the best minds in the petroleum industry couldn't seem to fix. It has been a runaway oil well, spewing millions of barrels of raw crude oil and methane gas into the Gulf every day from a broken pipe located a mile under the ocean surface.

While BP officials claim to have capped the spill, there is still some question as to just how "capped" that damaged pipe really is. And few people believe reports that most of the oil and the millions of gallons of chemical dispersant dumped into the oil-contaminated gulf waters have gone away.

What it all boils down to is that big money interests in the United States and possibly also abroad, are doing everything possible to make sure that Mr. Obama does not succeed in accomplishing the ambitious agenda he outlined during his presidential campaign. Even though Obama swept enough Democratic Party candidates into office with him to capture potential control of both the House and Senate, it appears that some of those Democrats have sold out to lobbyists representing big business interests, and are not cooperating with the Obama agenda.

In spite of all of the obstacles, President Obama has achieved a remarkable list of accomplishments in the two years he has been in office, both on a national and international scale. We notice, however, that this president's hair is turning white and he is aging quickly from the weight of the job he has undertaken. So we must ask again; why would anybody want to be president of the United States, especially at this difficult time in American history? And how can any president, even a bright and dynamic one with the natural charisma that Mr. Obama portrays, lead us out of the quagmires if people rebel and refuse to follow?

After the George W. Bush debacle, with that president not only handed an illegitimate seat by a right wing dominated Supreme Court but then selling his soul to big business interests, the cartoon image of Mr. Bush still raises guffaws among the boys in the back room.

Those Tea Baggers may have been among the millions of other people in the United States who had hope and joy in their hearts the day Barack Obama was sworn in as our new President. Everybody knew then that the nation was in terrible trouble and this upstart young Democrat had promised that he had a plan to fix the mess and get America back on the right track once again.

Some of the television talking heads were even comparing Mr. Obama to the late President John F. Kennedy in those early days, suggesting that a man with the charisma and mental skills that he was demonstrating were just what was needed to offer the kind of bold leadership this nation needed at such a dark time in history. They remarked how amazing it was that such men always seemed to come out of the woodwork when we needed them.

Then the propaganda machine went into high gear. How quickly the masses forgot how badly this nation needed fresh leadership.

Mr. Obama appears to be going above and beyond the task he may have thought awaited him in the job he was elected to do. Instead of belittling and criticizing this president, Americans should be supporting him in prayer and voiced words of respect.

He is not superman and he is bound to make mistakes. Many of his advisors may be steering him down wrong pathways, especially in dealing with the complexities of the economic melt-down and the Bush wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet when you sit back and look at President Obama from an objective point of view, no one can say that he is not giving this job all of the gusto he can muster.
(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.

Wake Up Obama
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

If the United States is not kaput it is certainly withering away even as a rich upper class enjoys all the things that money buys. There is massive, widespread economic pain inflicting a huge fraction of Americans who are unemployed, underemployed, relying on food stamps, losing their homes, and who are feeling totally insecure financially. This maintains sluggish consumer spending that makes necessary economic growth impossible.

The corporate bigwigs meanwhile are essentially using economic blackmail as they sit on trillions of dollars in cash, refusing to invest their capital and making great profits because they have cut workers and increased productivity. They want even more benefits from government that they think Republicans will give them.

No wonder that only 11 percent of people have confidence in Congress and most Americans are fed up with both major political parties. It is bewildering why more Americans are not openly condemning President Obama and his administration. Perhaps because there is no clear Republican that warrants support to replace him.

It seems that Obama has taken some power-narcotic and entered into a delusional mental state. He persists in talking as if the Great Recession is over and all is going just swell. His wife takes the kids for a vacation in Spain and soon the whole family will go up to a swank place in Cape Cod for another vacation and, of course, Obama likes to go out golfing frequently. Does any rational being perceive he really feels the pain that so many citizens feel? He lives the life of a typical rich and powerful corporate CEO, not a servant of the people.

Progressives often seem amazed and befuddled by Obama's persistent policies that take care of the business and financial sectors, apparently forgetting that when he campaigned for the presidency he took huge amounts of money from those people. If he does not appoint Elizabeth Warrant to head the new consumer protection financial agency Obama should be openly and loudly condemned by everyone on the left.

Obama finds self-satisfaction in making the argument that everything he has done is surely better than any Republican has done or would do. He misses the point that being better than the worst imaginable is not the same as doing a really first rate job that serves the interests of ordinary people and especially of those hit the hardest by the continuing recession. In many respects the economic conditions now savaging the nation are as bad as the Great Depression. The many millions facing hunger, no jobs, homelessness, foreclosure, inadequate better health care, bankruptcy and financial insecurity define a nation way down the toilet. The middle class has been murdered. We are now a two-class society with a rich Upper Class and a suffering Lower Class.

That billions and billions of dollars are still being spent on two unnecessary wars should make everyone feel as if they are living in a big insane asylum. All that money should be going to investment (especially public infrastructure) and jobs creation here in the USA.

No wonder that a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll this week found that nearly 6 in 10 Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, a majority disapproves of President Obama's handling of the economy, and nearly two-thirds expect the economy to get worse, which it will.

Even more important than Obama waking up to reality is that more Americans wake up to their nasty political reality. Voting in elections has become a political placebo. Electing more Republicans to Congress in the fall is nothing more than taking two aspirin when you are near death from starvation.

The real medicine needed for our delusional democracy is revolution that overthrows the two-party plutocracy. We need leaders for one, but there are none that most Americans could and should support, not even in the Tea Party movement. Time to learn from history: Even the greatest nations and societies end up losing their glory, wealth and power.
(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.

The Further Fruits of Revelation
By Chris Floyd

I noted here a couple of weeks ago that I was looking "forward to seeing more of the genuine revelations of heretofore undisclosed crimes that will likely be emerging from the still largely unexplored documents" released by Wikileaks last month. I have not been disappointed. (I've also been in the process of revising much of my first reaction to the document dump; but more on that later perhaps.)

As the media froth surrounding the initial appearance of the documents recedes, the nuggets of hard truth become clearer, with diligent researchers digging through the trove. For example, Bretigne Shaffer finds some of the underpinning for the media blitz now obviously under way to reverse the growing public discontent with the war in Afghanistan.

The most glaring emblem of this campaign, of course, is the recent Time Magazine cover of the horrifically mutilated Afghan girl, which was accompanied by the headline: "What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan." (As Shaffer notes, this was posed not as a question, but as a stark statement of fact, with this not-so-subtle-implication: "If you oppose this war, you are objectively pro-mutilation.") Of course, the atrocity committed against this young woman is indeed a wicked, sickening crime. But it has nothing to do with "our" presence in Afghanistan.

No wait, strike that; it has everything to do with our presence in Afghanistan -- a presence which is greatly exacerbating the societal breakdown and empowering the kind of retrograde extremism that together lead to the perpetuation of such practices. As Shaffer notes, there is a close parallel here to the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, who came to power after the United States essentially obliterated that nation with a beserker frenzy of bombing that surpassed the tonnage of all the bombs dropped by the Allies in World War II.

In any case, such horrific crimes against women and children go on all the time, all over the world, in every culture. Why would Time Magazine, which usually ignores such things, decide to highlight this particular crime, at this particular time -- and use it directly to make a "moral" case for continuing the war? Shaffer points out what she found in the Wikileaks dump:

As if the implicit pitch for more war as a solution to violence against women did not provide enough cognitive dissonance, the woman pictured was actually disfigured by family members at the order of a Taliban official last year - eight years after US forces entered Afghanistan.

In fact, the Time piece fits very neatly with something found in one of the leaked documents that has the White House so concerned. Titled "CIA Red Cell Special Memorandum: Afghanistan: Sustaining West European Support for the NATO-led Mission-Why Counting on Apathy Might Not Be Enough," the document ."..outlines possible PR strategies to shore up public support in Germany and France for a continued war in Afghanistan."

The Memorandum continues:

"The proposed PR strategies focus on pressure points that have been identified within these countries. For France it is the sympathy of the public for Afghan refugees and women... Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories with French, German, and other European women could help to overcome pervasive skepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF mission... Media events that feature testimonials by Afghan women would probably be most effective if broadcast on programs that have large and disproportionately female audiences." (Emphasis Shaffer's)

Putting a year-old atrocity on the cover of Time Magazine is indeed an effective "media opportunity" for a war machine eager to keep its blood-greased engines churning. And not that anyone cares, but the Taliban hotly denies any involvement in the crime against the young woman, which was carried out by her own in-laws. As AFP reports:

Independent US monitoring agency SITE said the English-language statement from the Taliban spokesman was posted on Saturday on the website of the group, which calls itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan:

"As far as the story of Aisha is concerned, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has condemned this barbaric, inhumane and un-Islamic act and declares that this case has never been forwarded to any court or persons of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."

The statement goes on to point out that under Islamic law the "cutting of human ears and noses whether the human is alive or dead is illegal and prohibited."

But yes, there is violence against women in Afghanistan -- great violence. But this has only increased, not decreased, as the American military presence drags on, as Shaffer notes (see original for links):

Says Ann Jones, journalist and author of Kabul in Winter, "For most Afghan women, life has stayed the same. And for a great number, life has gotten much worse."

Sonali Kolhatkar, co-director of the Afghan Women's Mission, says "the attacks against women both external and within the family have gone up. Domestic violence has increased. (The current) judiciary is imprisoning more women than ever before in Afghanistan. And they are imprisoning them for running away from their homes, for refusing to marry the man that their family picked for them, for even being a victim of rape."

Anand Gopal, Afghanistan correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, says "The situation for women in the Pashtun area is actually worse than it was during the Taliban time. ...(U)nder the Taliban, women were kept in burqas and in their homes, away from education. Today, the same situation persists. They're kept in burqas, in homes, away from education, but on top of that they are also living in a war zone."

Shaffer then points us to a remarkable article by Mohammad Qayoumi in Foreign Policy earlier this year: a photo essay on what Afghanistan looked like 50 years ago:

The photos were taken from an old book published by Afghanistan's planning ministry in the 1950s and 60s, and were accompanied by Qayoumi's commentary recalling the Afghanistan he had known as a young man. The images depict men and women in western dress going about their daily lives in what appears to be a fairly well-developed, functioning society. Qayoumi recounts:

"A half-century ago, Afghan women pursued careers in medicine; men and women mingled casually at movie theaters and university campuses in Kabul; factories in the suburbs churned out textiles and other goods. There was a tradition of law and order, and a government capable of undertaking large national infrastructure projects, like building hydropower stations and roads, albeit with outside help. Ordinary people had a sense of hope, a belief that education could open opportunities for all, a conviction that a bright future lay ahead. All that has been destroyed by three decades of war, but it was real."

The images are in stark contrast to pretty much any photos from Afghanistan today, and are a poignant reminder of how much that country has lost.

She also points out how these images jar with the brutal pig-ignorance that holds sway in the imperial mindset of American policymakers and their war-profiteering whores like Blackwater's Eric Prince. She first excerpts a recent quote by Prince, then gives her conclusion:

"You know," [Prince said], "people ask me that all the time: 'Aren't you concerned that you folks aren't covered under the Geneva Convention in [operating] in the likes of Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan?' And I say, 'Absolutely not,' because these people, they crawled out of the sewer and they have a 1200 AD mentality. They're barbarians. They don't know where Geneva is, let alone that there was a convention there."

As Qayoumi's photo essay demonstrates so clearly, Afghanistan is not a devastated nation because its people "have a 1200 AD mentality." It is devastated because it has been invaded and occupied by hostile foreign powers for years. Anyone who truly cares about the welfare of the Afghan people would do well to remember this fact before proposing more of what has caused that country's problems as their solution.

(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

Can WikiLeaks Help Save Lives?
By Ray McGovern

If independent-minded Web sites, like WikiLeaks or, say,, existed 43 years ago, I might have risen to the occasion and helped save the lives of some 25,000 U.S. soldiers, and a million Vietnamese, by exposing the lies contained in just one SECRET/EYES ONLY cable from Saigon.

I need to speak out now because I have been sickened watching the herculean effort by Official Washington and our Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) to divert attention from the violence and deceit in Afghanistan, reflected in thousands of U.S. Army documents, by shooting the messenger(s) - WikiLeaks and Pvt. Bradley Manning.

After all the indiscriminate death and destruction from nearly nine years of war, the hypocrisy is all too transparent when WikiLeaks and suspected leaker Manning are accused of risking lives by exposing too much truth.

Besides, I still have a guilty conscience for what I chose NOT to do in exposing facts about the Vietnam War that might have saved lives. The sad-but-true story recounted below is offered in the hope that those in similar circumstances today might show more courage than I was able to muster in 1967, and take full advantage of the incredible advancements in technology since then.

Many of my Junior Officer Trainee Program colleagues at CIA came to Washington in the early Sixties inspired by President John Kennedy's Inaugural speech in which he asked us to ask ourselves what we might do for our country. (Sounds corny nowadays, I suppose; I guess I'll just have to ask you to take it on faith. It may not have been Camelot exactly, but the spirit and ambience were fresh - and good.)

Among those who found Kennedy's summons compelling was Sam Adams, a young former naval officer out of Harvard College. After the Navy, Sam tried Harvard Law School, but found it boring. Instead, he decided to go to Washington, join the CIA as an officer trainee, and do something more adventurous. He got more than his share of adventure.

Sam was one of the brightest and most dedicated among us. Quite early in his career, he acquired a very lively and important account - that of assessing Vietnamese Communist strength early in the war. He took to the task with uncommon resourcefulness and quickly proved himself the consummate analyst. Relying largely on captured documents, buttressed by reporting from all manner of other sources, Adams concluded in 1967 that there were twice as many Communists (about 600,000) under arms in South Vietnam as the U.S. military there would admit.

Dissembling in Saigon

Visiting Saigon during 1967, Adams learned from Army analysts that their commanding general, William Westmoreland, had placed an artificial cap on the official Army count rather than risk questions regarding "progress" in the war (sound familiar?). It was a clash of cultures; with Army intelligence analysts saluting generals following politically dictated orders, and Sam Adams aghast at the dishonesty - consequential dishonesty.

From time to time I would have lunch with Sam and learn of the formidable opposition he encountered in trying to get out the truth.

Commiserating with Sam over lunch one day in late August 1967, I asked what could possibly be Gen. Westmoreland's incentive to make enemy strength appear to be half what it actually was. Sam gave me the answer he had from the horse's mouth in Saigon.

Adams told me that in a cable dated Aug. 20, 1967, Westmoreland's deputy, Gen. Creighton Abrams, set forth the rationale for the deception.

Abrams wrote that the new, higher numbers (reflecting Sam's count, which was supported by all intelligence agencies except Army intelligence, which reflected the "command position") "were in sharp contrast to the current overall strength figure of about 299,000 given to the press."

Abrams emphasized, "We have been projecting an image of success over recent months" and cautioned that if the higher figures became public, "all available caveats and explanations will not prevent the press from drawing an erroneous and gloomy conclusion."

No further proof was needed that the most senior U.S. Army commanders were lying, so that they could continue to feign "progress" in the war. Equally unfortunate, the crassness and callousness of Abrams's cable notwithstanding, it had become increasingly clear that rather than stand up for Sam, his superiors would probably acquiesce in the Army's bogus figures. Sadly, that's what they did.

CIA Director Richard Helms, who saw his primary duty quite narrowly as "protecting" the agency, set the tone. He told subordinates that he could not discharge that duty if he let the agency get involved in a heated argument with the U.S. Army on such a key issue in wartime.

This cut across the grain of what we had been led to believe was the prime duty of CIA analysts - to speak truth to power without fear or favor. And our experience thus far had shown both of us that this ethos amounted to much more than just slogans. We had, so far, been able to "tell it like it is."

After lunch with Sam, for the first time ever I had no appetite for dessert. Sam and I had not come to Washington to "protect the agency." And, having served in Vietnam, Sam knew first hand that thousands upon thousands were being killed in a feckless war.

What to Do?

I have an all-too-distinct memory of a long silence over coffee, as each of us ruminated on what might be done. I recall thinking to myself; someone should take the Abrams cable down to the New York Times (at the time an independent-minded newspaper).

Clearly, the only reason for the cable's SECRET/EYES ONLY classification was to hide deliberate deception by our most senior generals regarding "progress" in the war and deprive the American people of the chance to know the truth.

Going to the press was, of course, antithetical to the culture of secrecy in which we had been trained. Besides, you would likely be caught at your next polygraph examination. Better not to stick your neck out.

I pondered all this in the days after that lunch with Adams. And I succeeded in coming up with a slew of reasons why I ought to keep silent: a mortgage; a plum overseas assignment for which I was in the final stages of language training; and, not least, the analytic work - important, exciting work on which Sam and I thrived.

Better to keep quiet for now, grow in gravitas, and live on to slay other dragons. Right?

One can, I suppose, always find excuses for not sticking one's neck out. The neck, after all, is a convenient connection between head and torso, albeit the "neck" that was the focus of my concern was a figurative one, suggesting possible loss of career, money and status - not the literal "necks" of both Americans and Vietnamese that were on the line daily in the war.

But if there is nothing for which you would risk your career "neck" - like, say, saving the lives of soldiers and civilians in a war zone - your "neck" has become your idol, and your career is not worthy of that. I now regret giving such worship to my own neck.

Not only did I fail the neck test. I had not thought things through very rigorously from a moral point of view.

Promises to Keep?

As a condition of employment, I had signed a promise not to divulge classified information so as not to endanger sources, methods or national security. Promises are important, and one should not lightly violate them. Plus, there are legitimate reasons for protecting some secrets. But were any of those legitimate concerns the real reasons why Abrams's cable was stamped SECRET/EYES ONLY? I think not.

It is not good to operate in a moral vacuum, oblivious to the reality that there exists a hierarchy of values and that circumstances often determine the morality of a course of action.

How does a written promise to keep secret everything with a classified stamp on it square with one's moral responsibility to stop a war based on lies? Does stopping a misbegotten war not supersede a secrecy promise? Ethicists use the words "supervening value" for this; the concept makes sense to me.

And is there yet another value? As an Army officer, I had taken a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic. It was also drummed into us that officers do not lie. (Pardon, if that has come to seem quaint or obsolete.)

How did the lying by the Army command in Saigon square with all that? Were/are generals exempt? Should we not call them out when we learn of deliberate deception that subverts the democratic process? Can the American people make good, informed decisions if they are lied to?

Would I have helped stop unnecessary killing by giving the New York Times the not-really-secret, SECRET/EYES ONLY cable from Gen. Abrams? We'll never know, will we? And I live with that.

I could not take the easy way out, saying Let Sam Do It. Because I knew he wouldn't. Sam chose to go through the established grievance channels and got the royal run-around, even after the Communist countrywide offensive at Tet in January-February 1968 proved beyond any doubt that his count of Communist forces was correct.

When the Tet offensive began, as a way of keeping his sanity, Adams drafted a caustic cable to Saigon saying, "It is something of an anomaly to be taking so much punishment from Communist soldiers whose existence is not officially acknowledged." But he did not think the situation at all funny.

Dan Ellsberg Steps In

Sam kept playing by the rules, but it happened that - unbeknown to Sam - Dan Ellsberg gave Sam's figures on enemy strength to the New York Times, which published them on March 19, 1968. Dan had learned that President Lyndon Johnson was about to bow to Pentagon pressure to widen the war into Cambodia, Laos and up to the Chinese border - perhaps even beyond.

Later, it became clear that his timely leak - together with another unauthorized disclosure to the Times that the Pentagon had requested 206,000 more troops - prevented a wider war. On March 25, Johnson complained to a small gathering, "The leaks to the New York Times hurt us. ... We have no support for the war. ... I would have given Westy the 206,000 men."

Ellsberg later copied the Pentagon Papers - the 7,000-page top-secret history of U.S. decision-making on Vietnam from 1945 to 1967 - and, in 1971, he gave copies to the New York Times, Washington Post and other news organizations. In the years since, Ellsberg has had difficulty shaking off the thought that, had he released the Pentagon Papers sooner, the war might have ended years earlier with untold lives saved. Ellsberg has put it this way:

"Like so many others, I put personal loyalty to the president above all else - above loyalty to the Constitution and above obligation to the law, to truth, to Americans, and to humankind. I was wrong."

And so was I wrong in not asking Sam for a copy of that cable from Gen. Abrams. Sam, too, eventually had strong too-late regrets. He doggedly pursued the matter, but within CIA, until he learned that Dan Ellsberg was on trial in 1973 for releasing the Pentagon Papers and was being accused of endangering national security by revealing figures on enemy strength.

Which figures? The same old faked numbers from 1967! "Imagine," said Adams, "hanging a man for leaking faked numbers," as he hustled off to testify on Dan's behalf. (The case against Ellsberg was ultimately thrown out of court because of abuses by the Nixon administration.)

After the war drew down, Adams was tormented by the thought that, had he not let himself be diddled by the system, the entire left half of the Vietnam Memorial wall would not be there. There would have been no new names to chisel into such a wall.

Sam Adams died prematurely at age 55 with nagging remorse that he had not done enough.

In a letter appearing in the (then independent-minded) New York Times on Oct. 18, 1975, John T. Moore, a CIA analyst who worked in Saigon and the Pentagon from 1965 to 1970, confirmed Adams's story after Sam told it in detail in the May 1975 issue of Harper's magazine. Moore wrote:

"My only regret is that I did not have Sam's courage. ... The record is clear. It speaks of misfeasance, nonfeasance and malfeasance, of outright dishonesty and professional cowardice.

"It reflects an intelligence community captured by an aging bureaucracy, which too often placed institutional self-interest or personal advancement before the national interest. It is a page of shame in the history of American intelligence."

Tanks But No Thanks, Abrams

What about Gen. Creighton Abrams? Not every general gets the Army's main battle tank named after him. The honor, though, came not from his service in Vietnam, but rather from his courage in the early days of his military career, leading his tanks through German lines to relieve Bastogne during World War II's Battle of the Bulge. Gen. George Patton praised Abrams as the only tank commander he considered his equal.

Sadly, as things turned out, 23 years later Abrams became a poster child for old soldiers who, as Gen. Douglas McArthur suggested, should "just fade away," rather than hang on too long after their genuinely distinguished accomplishments. In May 1967, Abrams was picked to be Westmoreland's deputy in Vietnam and succeeded him a year later. But Abrams could not succeed in the war, no matter how effective "an image of success" his subordinates projected for the media.

The "erroneous and gloomy conclusions of the press" that Abrams had tried so hard to head off proved all too accurate.

Ironically, when reality hit home, it fell to Abrams to cut back U.S. forces in Vietnam from a peak of 543,000 in early 1969 to 49,000 in June 1972 - almost five years after Abrams's progress-defending cable from Saigon. By 1972, some 58,000 U.S. troops, not to mention two to three million Vietnamese, had been killed.

Both Westmoreland and Abrams had reasonably good reputations when they started out-but, when they finished, not so much.

And Petraeus?

Comparisons can be invidious, but Gen. David Petraeus is another Army commander who has wowed Congress with his ribbons, medals and merit badges. A pity he was not born early enough to have served in Vietnam where he might have learned some real-life hard lessons about the limitations of counterinsurgency theories.

Moreover, it appears that no one took the trouble to tell him that in the early Sixties we young infantry officers already had plenty of counterinsurgency manuals to study at Fort Bragg and Fort Benning. There are many things one cannot learn from reading or writing manuals - as many of my Army colleagues learned too late in the jungles and mountains of South Vietnam.

Unless one is to believe, contrary to all indications, that Petraeus is not all that bright, one has to assume he knows that the Afghanistan expedition is a folly beyond repair. Thus, it is not encouraging that he regaled a Washington Post reporter yesterday (Sunday) in Kabul with stories about "incipient signs of [you guessed it!] progress in parts of the volatile south" and "nascent steps" to reintegrate low-level insurgents.

According to the Post, Petraeus has been "burrowing into operations here [Afghanistan] and traveling to the far reaches of this country," and "has concluded that the U.S. strategy to win the nearly nine-year-old war is 'fundamentally sound.'" Does this not sound very much like the approach taken by Gen. Abrams in his August 1967 cable from Saigon?

It is rubbish, and it is hard to believe Petraeus does not recognize it as such. Moreover, it is virtually impossible to believe that Ambassador Karl Eikenberry (see below) shares that rosy view. This, of course, is precisely why the ground-truth of the documents released by WikiLeaks is so important. We need, among other things, to hear more from Eikenberry, and we will not get anything useful from some public speech.

Whistleblowers Galore

And it's not just the WikiLeaks documents that have caused consternation inside the U.S. government. Investigators reportedly are rigorously searching for the source that provided the New York Times with the texts of two cables (of 6 and 9 November 2009) from Ambassador Eikenberry in Kabul.

To its credit, even today's far-less independent New York Times published a major story based on the information in those cables, while President Barack Obama was still trying to figure out what to do about Afghanistan. Later the Times posted the entire texts of the cables, which were classified TOP SECRET and NODIS (meaning "no dissemination" to anyone but the most senior officials to whom the documents were addressed).

The cables conveyed Eikenberry's experienced, cogent views on the foolishness of the policy in place and, implicitly, of any eventual decision to double down on the Afghan War. (That, of course, is pretty much what the President ended up doing.) Eikenberry provided chapter and verse to explain why, as he put it, "I cannot support [the Defense Department's] recommendation for an immediate Presidential decision to deploy another 40,000 here."

Such frank disclosures are anathema to self-serving bureaucrats and ideologues who would much prefer depriving the American people of information that might lead them to question the government's benighted policy-in this case toward Afghanistan.

As the New York Times/Eikenberry cables show, even today's FCM may sometimes display the old spunk of American journalism and refuse to hide or fudge the truth, even if the facts might cause the people to draw "an erroneous and gloomy conclusion," to borrow Gen. Abrams's words of 43 years ago.

Polished Pentagon Spokesman

Remember "Baghdad Bob," the irrepressible and unreliable Iraqi Information Minister at the time of the U.S.-led invasion? He came to mind as I watched Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell's chaotic, quixotic press briefing on Aug. 5 regarding the WikiLeaks exposures.

The briefing was revealing in several respects. Clear from his prepared statement was what is bothering the Pentagon the most. Here's Morrell:

"WikiLeaks's webpage constitutes a brazen solicitation to U.S. government officials, including our military, to break the law. WikiLeaks's public assertion that submitting confidential material to WikiLeaks is safe, easy and protected by law is materially false and misleading. The Department of Defense therefore also demands that WikiLeaks discontinue any solicitation of this type."

Rest assured that the Defense Department will do all it can to make it "unsafe" for any government official or contractor to provide WikiLeaks with sensitive material. But it is contending with a clever group of hi-tech experts who have built in precautions to allow information to be submitted anonymously.

That the Pentagon will prevail anytime soon is far from certain.

Also, in a ludicrous attempt to close the barn door after tens of thousands of classified documents had already escaped, Morrell insisted that WikiLeaks give back all the documents and electronic media in its possession. Even the normally docile Pentagon press corps could not suppress a collective laugh, irritating the Pentagon spokesman no end. The impression gained was one of a Pentagon Gulliver tied down by terabytes of Lilliputians.

Morrell's self-righteous appeal to the leaders of WikiLeaks to "do the right thing" was accompanied by an explicit threat that, otherwise, "We shall have to compel them to do the right thing." His attempt to assert Pentagon power in this regard fell flat, given the realities.

Morrell also chose the occasion to remind the Pentagon press corps to behave themselves or face rejection when applying to be embedded in units of U.S. armed forces. The correspondents were shown nodding docilely as Morrell reminded them that permission for embedding "is by no means a right. It is a privilege." The generals giveth and the generals taketh away.

It was a moment of arrogance - and press subservience - that would have sickened Thomas Jefferson or James Madison, not to mention the courageous war correspondents who did their duty in Vietnam.

Morrell and the generals can control the "embeds"; they cannot control the ether. Not yet, anyway.

And that was all too apparent beneath the strutting, preening, and finger waving by the Pentagon's fancy silk necktie to the world. Actually, the opportunities afforded by WikiLeaks and other Internet Web sites can serve to diminish what few advantages there are to being in bed with the Army.

What Would I Have Done

Would I have had the courage to whisk Gen. Abrams's cable into the ether in 1967, if WikiLeaks or other Web sites had been available to provide a viable opportunity to expose the deceit of the top Army command in Saigon? I cannot speak with certainty about "then." What I can say is I am confident I would be able to summon that courage today, having made a serious effort to think through not only the technology aspects but-more important-issues regarding how one properly goes about prioritizing competing values.

The Pentagon can argue that using the Internet this way is not "safe, easy, and protected by law." We shall have to watch how that argument fares in court. Meanwhile, this way of exposing information needed by people in a democracy will continue to be attractive - and, while perhaps not entirely "safe," surely a lot easier than running the risk of being seen with someone from the New York Times.

From what I have learned over these past 43 years, supervening moral values can, and should, trump lesser promises. Today, I am confident I would "do the right thing," were I to have access to an Abrams-like cable from Petraeus in Kabul.

And I believe that Sam Adams, if he were alive today, would enthusiastically agree that this would be not only the morally correct decision, but also the only one with half a chance of exposing the lies.

Footnote: In the Tradition of Sam Adams

Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII) is a group of former CIA colleagues and other associates of former intelligence analyst Sam Adams, who hold up his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power.

Sam did precisely that, and in honoring his memory, SAAII confers an award each year to a lamp lighter exemplifying Sam Adam's courage, persistence, and devotion to truth - no matter the consequences. The Washington, DC, presentations are held in the fall, usually before a large university audience; Dan Ellsberg, a charter member, is usually with us.

Sam Adams Annual Award recipients:

-Coleen Rowley of the FBI, in Washington, DC
-Katharine Gun
of British Intelligence; in Copenhagen, Denmark
-Sibel Edmonds
of the FBI; in Washington, DC
-Craig Murray
, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; in NY City
-Sam Provance
, former Sgt, US Army, truth teller about Abu Ghraib; in Washington, DC
-Frank Grevil, Maj
., Danish Army Intelligence, imprisoned for giving the Danish press documents showing that Denmark's Prime Minister disregarded warnings that there was no authentic evidence of WMD in Iraq; in Copenhagen, Denmark
-Larry Wilkerson, Col
., US Army (ret.), former chief of staff to Secretary Colin Powell at the State Department, who has exposed what he called the "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal;" in Washington, DC

In April, the SAAII nominating committee decided unanimously to give this year's award to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. Stay tuned for information on time and place for the presentation. Or check with Geoff Morrell, who is likely to know as soon as we decide.
(c) 2010 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years -- from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one-on-one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Attacking Social Security
By Paul Krugman

Social Security turned 75 last week. It should have been a joyous occasion, a time to celebrate a program that has brought dignity and decency to the lives of older Americans.

But the program is under attack, with some Democrats as well as nearly all Republicans joining the assault. Rumor has it that President Obama's deficit commission may call for deep benefit cuts, in particular a sharp rise in the retirement age.

Social Security's attackers claim that they're concerned about the program's financial future. But their math doesn't add up, and their hostility isn't really about dollars and cents. Instead, it's about ideology and posturing. And underneath it all is ignorance of or indifference to the realities of life for many Americans.

About that math: Legally, Social Security has its own, dedicated funding, via the payroll tax ("FICA" on your pay statement). But it's also part of the broader federal budget. This dual accounting means that there are two ways Social Security could face financial problems. First, that dedicated funding could prove inadequate, forcing the program either to cut benefits or to turn to Congress for aid. Second, Social Security costs could prove unsupportable for the federal budget as a whole.

But neither of these potential problems is a clear and present danger. Social Security has been running surpluses for the last quarter-century, banking those surpluses in a special account, the so-called trust fund. The program won't have to turn to Congress for help or cut benefits until or unless the trust fund is exhausted, which the program's actuaries don't expect to happen until 2037 - and there's a significant chance, according to their estimates, that that day will never come.

Meanwhile, an aging population will eventually (over the course of the next 20 years) cause the cost of paying Social Security benefits to rise from its current 4.8 percent of G.D.P. to about 6 percent of G.D.P. To give you some perspective, that's a significantly smaller increase than the rise in defense spending since 2001, which Washington certainly didn't consider a crisis, or even a reason to rethink some of the Bush tax cuts.

So where do claims of crisis come from? To a large extent they rely on bad-faith accounting. In particular, they rely on an exercise in three-card monte in which the surpluses Social Security has been running for a quarter-century don't count - because hey, the program doesn't have any independent existence; it's just part of the general federal budget - while future Social Security deficits are unacceptable - because hey, the program has to stand on its own.

It would be easy to dismiss this bait-and-switch as obvious nonsense, except for one thing: many influential people - including Alan Simpson, co-chairman of the president's deficit commission - are peddling this nonsense.

And having invented a crisis, what do Social Security's attackers want to do? They don't propose cutting benefits to current retirees; invariably the plan is, instead, to cut benefits many years in the future. So think about it this way: In order to avoid the possibility of future benefit cuts, we must cut future benefits. O.K.

What's really going on here? Conservatives hate Social Security for ideological reasons: its success undermines their claim that government is always the problem, never the solution. But they receive crucial support from Washington insiders, for whom a declared willingness to cut Social Security has long served as a badge of fiscal seriousness, never mind the arithmetic.

And neither wing of the anti-Social-Security coalition seems to know or care about the hardship its favorite proposals would cause.

The currently fashionable idea of raising the retirement age even more than it will rise under existing law - it has already gone from 65 to 66, it's scheduled to rise to 67, but now some are proposing that it go to 70 - is usually justified with assertions that life expectancy has risen, so people can easily work later into life. But that's only true for affluent, white-collar workers - the people who need Social Security least.

I'm not just talking about the fact that it's a lot easier to imagine working until you're 70 if you have a comfortable office job than if you're engaged in manual labor. America is becoming an increasingly unequal society - and the growing disparities extend to matters of life and death. Life expectancy at age 65 has risen a lot at the top of the income distribution, but much less for lower-income workers. And remember, the retirement age is already scheduled to rise under current law.

So let's beat back this unnecessary, unfair and - let's not mince words - cruel attack on working Americans. Big cuts in Social Security should not be on the table.
(c) 2010 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies."
~~~ Groucho Marx

Formalizing Israel's Land Grab
By Chris Hedges

Time is running out for Israel. And the Israeli government knows it. The Jewish Diaspora, especially the young, has a waning emotional and ideological investment in Israel. The demographic boom means that Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories will soon outnumber Jews. And Israel's increasing status as a pariah nation means that informal and eventually formal state sanctions against the country are probably inevitable.

Desperate Israeli politicians, watching opposition to their apartheid state mount, have proposed a perverted form of what they term "the one-state solution." It is the latest tool to thwart a Palestinian state and allow Israel to retain its huge settlement complexes and land seizures in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The idea of a single state was backed by Moshe Arens, a former defense minister and foreign minister from the Likud Party, in a column he wrote last month in the newspaper Haaretz asking "Is There Another Option?" Arens has been joined by several other Israeli politicians including Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.

The Israeli vision, however, does not include a state with equal rights for Jewish and Palestinians citizens. The call for a single state appears to include pushing Gaza into the unwilling arms of Egypt and incorporating the West Bank and East Jerusalem into Israel. Palestinians within Israeli-controlled territory, however, will remain burdened with crippling travel, work and security restrictions already in place. Palestinians in the occupied territories, for example, cannot reclaim lost property or acquire Israeli citizenship, yet watch as Jews born outside of Israel and with no prior tie to the country become Israeli citizens and receive government-subsidized housing. Palestinians in the West Bank live in a series of roughly eight squalid, ringed ghettos and are governed by military courts. Jews living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, like all full Israeli citizens, are subject to Israeli civilian law and constitutional protection. Palestinians cannot serve in the armed forces or the security services, while Jewish settlers are issued automatic weapons and protected by the Israel Defense Force.

If Israel sheds Gaza, which has 1.5 million Palestinians, the Jewish state will be left with 5.8 million Jews and 3.8 million Arabs. And, at least in the near future, Jews will remain the majority. This seems to be the main attraction of the plan.

The landscape of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, known as "facts on the ground," has altered dramatically since I first went to Jerusalem over two decades ago. Huge fortress-like apartment complexes ring East Jerusalem and dominate the hillsides in the West Bank. The settler population is now more than 462,000, with 271,400 living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and 191,000 living in and around Jerusalem. The settler population has grown at the rate of 4.6 percent per year since 1990 while the Israeli society taken as a whole has grown at 1.5 percent.

The net effect of the Israeli seizure of land in East Jerusalem, which includes recent approval for an additional 9,000 housing units, and the West Bank is to promulgate a form of administrative ethnic cleansing. Palestinian families are being pushed off land they have owned for generations and evicted from their homes by Israeli authorities. Dozens of families, tossed out of dwellings they have occupied in East Jerusalem for decades, have been forced onto the streets. Groups such as Ateret Cohanim, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish private organization that collects funds from abroad, purchases Palestinian properties and pursues legal strategies to evict families that have long resided in East Jerusalem. Israel's judicial system and police, in violation of international law, facilitate and enforce these evictions and land seizures.

Heavily armed settlers carry out frequent unprovoked attacks and ad hoc raids and house evictions to supplement the terror imposed by the police and military. They are the civilian arm of the occupation.

"This acquiescence in settler violence is particularly objectionable from the perspective of international humanitarian law because the settlers are already unlawfully present in occupied territory, making it perverse to victimize those who should be protected-the Palestinians-and offer protection to those who are lawbreakers-the settlers," said Richard Falk when we spoke a few days ago. Falk is the U.N. special rapporteur who was denied entry into the occupied territories by the Israeli government.

Falk said that incorporating Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank into a single Israeli state would see Israel impose gradations of citizenship.

"If the Palestinians in pre-'67 Israel enjoy second-class citizenship, those in the West Bank and East Jerusalem will be given a third-class citizenship,""The real proposal, the envisioned outcome of this kind of proposal, is an extension of Israeli control over the occupied territory as a permanent reality. It is presently a de facto annexation. The creation of a single state would give the arrangement a more legalistic cover. It would seek to resolve the issue of occupied territory without the bother of international negotiations."

"The effect is to fragment the Palestinian people in such defining ways as to make it almost impossible to envision the emergence of a viable Palestinian sovereign state," said Falk. "The longer it continues, the more difficult it is to overcome, and the more serious are the abridgement of fundamental Palestinian rights."

Falk, who taught international law at Princeton University, will issue a report to the United Nations this fall in which he will assert that the Israeli process of colonialism and apartheid has accelerated over the past three years. He will call in the report for the U.N. to consider unilaterally declaring Palestine an independent state, as it did with Kosovo. Falk cites as examples of Israeli colonialism the official 121 Jewish settlements, as well as roughly 100 "illegal outposts" in the West Bank, and the extensive network of roads reserved exclusively for Jews that connects the settlements to one another and to Israel behind the green line. He estimates, when "all restrictions on Palestinian control and development are taken into account," that Israel has effectively seized 38 to 40 percent of the West Bank.

The punishing conditions imposed by the Israeli blockade of the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza have been replicated for the roughly 40,000 Palestinians who live in "Area C," the 60 percent of the West Bank that remains under complete Israeli military control. Save the Children, UK (STCUK), in a recent report called "Life on the Edge" argues that Israeli policies of land confiscation, expanding settlements, lack of basic services such as food, water, shelter and medical clinics are at "a crisis point." The report concludes that food security problems are even worse than in Gaza. According to the report, "[s]eventy-nine percent of communities surveyed recently don't have enough nutritious food; this is higher than in blockaded Gaza where the rate is 61 percent." Palestinian children growing up in Area C experience, according to the report, malnutrition and stunted growth at double the level of children in Gaza. Forty-four percent of these children were found to suffer from diarrhea, often with lethal effects. STCUK writes that "Israel's restrictions on Palestinian access to and development of agricultural land-in an area where almost all families are herders-mean that thousands of children are going hungry and are vulnerable to killer illnesses like diarrhea and pneumonia."

"Children are being forced to cross settlement areas and risk beatings and harassment by settlers, or walk for hours, just to get to school ... many children are losing hope in the future," Jihad al-Shommali of the Defense for Children International Palestine Section was recently quoted as saying with reference to the problems of children in Area C.

Falk said, "This overall pattern suggests systematic violations by Israel of Article 55 of Geneva IV and Article 69 of the First Geneva Protocol of 1977 that delimits Israel's obligations to ensure adequate provision of the basic needs of people living under its occupation, especially in Area C where it exercises undivided control."

The annexation of Palestinian territory has been reinforced by the construction of 85 percent of the separation wall-256 of a planned 435 miles has been completed-on occupied Palestinian territory. The barrier cuts the West Bank off from Israel and has been built in a configuration which plunges deep into the West Bank. The settlements and the land to the west of the wall, which makes up 9.4 percent of the West Bank, have already been absorbed into Israel. The seizure of nearly 40 percent of the West Bank includes Israeli control of most of the Palestinians' water supply. The Jewish settlers in the West Bank are allotted per capita four to five times the amount of water allotted to Palestinians by the Israeli government.

The settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank violate Article 49(6) of Geneva IV, which prohibits the transfer of the population of an occupying power to the territory temporarily occupied. Israel's stubborn rejection of the demand of Security Council Resolution 242 that it withdraw from Palestinian territories it occupied in 1967 creates, as Falk said, "a background that resembles, and in some dimensions exceeds, in important respects the situation confronting the government of Kosovo." "Lengthy negotiations have not resolved the issue of the status of Palestine, nor do they give any reasonable prospect that any resolution by negotiation or unilateral withdrawal will soon occur," he said. "Under these circumstances, it would seem that one option available to the Palestine Liberation Organization [the Oslo Agreement empowered the PLO to negotiate international status issues] acting on its own or by way of the Palestinian Authority under international law would be to issue a unilateral declaration of status, seeking independence, diplomatic recognition and membership in the United Nations. The recent Kosovo advisory opinion of the World Court in The Hague provides a well-reasoned legal precedent for such an option."
(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."

Our Professional Failure
By David Michael Green

Hey, Robert Gibbs: Screw you, and the president you rode in on.

I've always heard former presidents and their staff remark about the insularity of working in the White House. Now I see what they mean. These people are losing it.

Press Secretary Gibbs recently did an interview with The Hill magazine in which he vented what is apparently widespread anger within the White House toward progressives who express their disappointment with this presidency. Among other comments, he noted that the "professional left" wasn't recognizing the administration's accomplishments to date. Gibbs said, "They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we've eliminated the Pentagon. That's not reality." He also said, "I hear these people saying he's like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested. I mean, it's crazy". And he argued that liberals would never be happy, saying, "They wouldn't be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president."

Let's leave aside how insulting and demeaning these comments are to millions of Americans who happen to share three key attributes: One, they really care about their country, two, they worked harder than anyone to get Barack Obama and Gibbs their current jobs, and, three - unlike much of the rest of America today - they have so far resisted slipping into insanity. In truth, this White House has been bitch-slapping its own base since it walked in the door, staffing up with Republicans and Wall Street bankers, negotiating endlessly at every opportunity with the absolute worst elements of both political parties, and completely ignoring any progressive initiatives or components of key legislation. Now it comes along and adds grievous insult to injury with these degrading remarks.

Which also happen to be stupid remarks. As I have wondered aloud previously, just who exactly does Barack Obama think will be voting for him in 2012? The right? Golly, that seems unlikely. They don't even think the sonuvabitch is an American. The center? He punted away these voters three months into his presidency, chiefly over fiscal issues, and they're not coming back. This loss was largely unnecessary, but it nicely highlights the values, results and ineptitude of the White House. Anyhow, take away the right and the middle and that leaves the rest of us worthless whiners, out here on the professional left. Sure, prolly a lot of liberals will vote for this guy again, especially when they see their foaming-at-the-mouth other option nominated by the GOP. But is that supposed to represent a winning coalition? Two-thirds of the twenty percent of Americans who self-describe as liberals voting half-heartedly for Obama's reelection because the other choice is too horrible to imagine? Is that their vision of a ringing endorsement? As for me - and I think I speak for many others here - I'd rather eat metal than vote for Obama in 2012. I'd rather shit bricks. Big, rough, rocky ones. I'm not sure if I'll ever vote for another Democrat again for the rest of my life, but if I do it sure won't be this pathetic punk.

Yet all of this appears to be quite lost on the White House, where the reigning dogma is that they're doing wonderful things and dummies on the right and now the left (oh, and the middle too) just don't recognize it. It's all perfectly clear when you're inside the bubble.

And, in fairness, there is some bit of reason to see the world in this fashion. A large part of how we measure the success of presidents involves the degree to which they are able to fulfill their legislative agendas. This president has put through Congress three major, difficult, bills - the stimulus package, the health care bill, and the financial reform act - which gives the outward appearance of outstanding and unusually strong success.

But, of course, appearances are often deceptive. As in this case. This is, in fact, a failed presidency - and tragically so. Here are ten reasons why:

First, Obama has indeed shepherded through Congress several major pieces of legislation. No doubt. But the bills are crap. It's like the difference between a sperm donor and a dad who has actively raised a kid for twenty years. You can accurately label both 'father', but they are very different animals. Similarly, you can push through Congress massive bills which do many things, and accurately call them 'stimulus' or 'health care reform' or 'financial reform', but that doesn't make them quality legislation.

And, in fact, these were not. Yes, Obama did in fact get health care legislation through Congress, and yes, it does include some necessary and beneficial changes. But otherwise this was a lousy bill. The fact that the insurance industry applauded it in the end (and, indeed, the president cut a secret deal with them from the very start) tells you everything you need to know about who were the winners here (hint: you are in that other category). This legislation took everything that's fundamentally broken with American health care - namely, the whole for-profit modality of the system - and exacerbated it expansively, forcing thirty to forty million Americans to buy this useless predatory product, and stealing money from Medicare in order to pay for it. Moreover, there is nothing within the legislation to contain the escalating costs of health care delivery in America, or to prevent insurance companies from just jacking up their rates. Recently the president was seen wagging his finger at the industry, trying to prevent them from doing just that. Can you imagine the laughs they have inside corporate headquarters across America at the expense of this rube?

The same is true of the two other major bills associated with this presidency. The stimulus bill was a grab-bag of pork and Republican tax cuts which was wholly insufficient in scale and entirely unfocused on projects that would actually stimulate the economy. Yes, it seems very likely that things would be worse now than had the bill not been passed, but is that our current standard of presidential achievement? "Life is bad, my fellow Americans, but it would be worse without me"? Likewise, there are some good items in the financial reform bill, but it fundamentally doesn't address the problems that got us where we are and will therefore take us down even further on the next iteration. Wall Street is reportedly happy with this package, which, again, tells you just about all you need to know. Think about it. Imagine that Congress had passed legislation on criminal penalties for sexual assault that left serial rapists applauding the quality of their work. Get the picture?

The second reason that the Obama presidency is tanking has to do with the process by which the president moved these bills. The White House displayed ineptitude that could make Keystone Kops wince. They make pi–atas seem like the new standard of proactive advocacy by comparison. This president evidently sees Mr. Bill as his model for self-actualization. And so he holds endless negotiating sessions with every rapacious barbarian and grotesque freak in the American political system (and nobody does political sickos quite like we do), even as those same folks quite literally label him a granny killer, a socialist and a fascist. And then, of course, after a year of cutting deals with these monsters, watering down the bills to meet their requirements, while completely stiff-arming progressives, none of them vote for his bills anyhow. Meanwhile, the president, the Democratic Party, the progressive agenda, and the country have all been deeply damaged by the dithering dummkopf in the White House. Are you really surprised that we're not excited about your legislative achievements, Mr. Gibbs, after you put us through such a tortuous process only to yield such detritus, the legislative equivalent of junk bonds?

But it actually gets worse. The fundamental reason that Obama is producing lousy legislation - and the third reason his presidency is failing - is because he is serving the wrong masters. Anyone who thinks that he or his pals in the Democratic Party are any less whores of the corporate oligarchy in this country than are the Reptilicans is living in the 1930s. Obama, like Clinton before him, and like Reid and Pelosi and even Barney Frank, know who their constituents are, and it sure ain't you and me. This is a president who wrote health care legislation that will massively enrich predatory insurance companies which contribute nothing to the actual delivery of health care. This is an administration that continued to let BP and other oil companies run wild and unregulated, both before and after the Gulf spill. These guys are going to hugely increase offshore drilling. They gave away public funds to bail out Wall Street thieves, one hundred cents on the dollar, after those nice men wrecked the global economy. This presidency keeps feeding the military-industrial complex ever more and more, setting new records for 'defense' spending. And on and on. I hope the president and his professional mouthpiece can forgive us progressives for not getting excited about yet another administration that - even in the midst of the worst economic times since the Great Depression - continues to serve the American oligarchy and leaves the rest of the country out flapping in the wind. Maybe that makes us seem from inside the White House bubble like we're a bunch of fussy, demanding cranks. So be it. People are dying out here in the real world, while the wealthiest among us are blowing out all records for the accumulation of wealth, and the hyper-polarization of class in America marches on unabated.

But what really is most laughable about Gibbs' remarks is how he has confused legislating with solving people's problems. And, after all, that's what people expect from a president. No one gives a damn how many bills he can ram through Congress or how hard it is to get it done. Odd as it may seem, what people want is results. Talk about needing drug-testing, do the folks in the White House really think that the public is happy about the state of the economy now? Do they really think that passing a stimulus bill - even a good one - is necessarily the same as creating jobs? It's a real measure of the insularity (or desperation) of these fools that the president is running around these days talking happy talk about how the economy is in recovery mode, at exactly the same moment that the tapped-out Fed is reaching deeper than ever into its bag of tricks seeking unconventional tools to stimulate an economy that they overtly admit is heading southward again. The same lunacy applies to Obama's other legislative 'achievements'. Which one of us is on drugs here? Robert Gibbs for thinking we should all be pumped about being forced to buy health insurance when the legislation actually kicks in in 2014, or that we should be excited about how Wall Street criminals remain as unregulated as ever? Or those of us sitting out here in the real world, experiencing zero change in our lives as a product of this presidency?

But there's more to what Obama has done than simply legislation, and this gives us reason number five for why progressives think the guy sucks. He's massively increased America's commitment to a war in Afghanistan that might have made sense at one time, but now gives every appearance of being a poorly executed attempt to achieve objectives that would likely be completely impossible, were they ever to be adequately defined. He has staffed his economic team with almost no one who isn't an acolyte of Robber Rubin and his kleptocratic klan of legalized Wall Street Madoffs. He's appointed what appear to be careerist nothingburger vague moderates to key Supreme Court justice positions, at a time when the twisted mutants who form the majority of the Court are going absolutely off the rails, without any sort of constraint. He's actually gone to court defending the Defense of Marriage Act. He has made claims for executive power and national security-based intrusions on civil liberties that could make John Yoo blanch. Every time the right runs a smear campaign against some low-ranking individual in the administration he immediately capitulates and has them fired. The administration has radically increased the offshore areas available for oil drilling in ways that environmentalists never thought Dick Cheney would contemplate.

And there's more still where all that came from. But a sixth reason that the Obama administration is not impressing progressives has less to do with what it's done and more to do with what it hasn't. Somehow, Harry Truman could integrate the military racially, but Obama can't seem to do the same for gays. Nor can he close Guant‡namo either, well after he promised he would do so. And despite the fact that Russia is quite literally on fire now (and this is just the beginning of the fun that is to come), this guy can't do anything about global warming. What's worse is that he isn't even seriously trying. But perhaps the most glaring omission of all right now is the president's absence without leave on behalf of the struggling people of his country. He has no plan for economic stimulus, and he couldn't possibly get one through Congress at this point anyhow, having blown his political capital on the first one which was both too small and not remotely focused enough. My favorite of all, though, is his near silence on the most basic decency of unemployment insurance. The utter-scum-with-human-DNA otherwise known as American conservatives have been running around at a time of huge and genuine public suffering talking about how we can't afford to continue meager unemployment benefits for lowlifes who are just too lazy to work. And this president, who never seems to get animated about anything, can't even muster sufficient compassion and outrage to rise to the defense of the millions of poor slobs being ground under the wheels of this Government Sachs Depression. Of course progressives are disenchanted with Barack Obama. On so many key issues, we can't even find the guy.

Of course, all this adds up to disaster for the president as well as the rest of us, a seventh very fine explanation for why we professional lefties - who, after all, have no jobs and nothing else to do - gripe about the Great One, his amazing achievements notwithstanding. Do they actually not notice in the White House, that Barack Obama's job approval rating has sunk by twenty points since he came into office? Are they really not aware that they have facilitated the revival of a Republican Party that less than two years ago was rightly (pardon the pun) on death's door? Are they actually not cognizant of the fact that voters are about to reward their accomplishments by smashing Democrats everywhere next November, likely causing them to give up control of the House, possibly the Senate, and lots of state legislative and gubernatorial positions that will be key to redistricting for the next ten years? Have they not asked themselves why so many Democratic candidates across the country are busy, uh, doing laundry, when the president flies into town to campaign on their behalf? I'm sorry, but if this is a democracy (and that's a debate that must be reserved as the subject of another essay, or ten), then isn't the ultimate measure of how you're doing just how it plays in Peoria? Don't we know without question whether the administration is succeeding just by looking at these figures? Yes, we more or less do, and it ain't a pretty picture.

But don't get me wrong. It would be fair to say that I couldn't care less what happens to Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Geithner, Summers and that whole lot, except that it's not quite true - I would actually like to see them smacked upside the head for their treason (and I choose my words carefully here) against the American people at a time of such great need. But the reason that their sinking prospects nevertheless remains so troubling to progressives is twofold. First, because what will replace these professional failures will actually be worse. In many ways there isn't much difference between the parties, but at least Democrats don't seem to feel the need to start wars so frequently, or slash taxes on the rich so much, adding to the national debt so significantly. At least they don't embarrass the country so thoroughly abroad. That's the first way, Mr. Gibbs, in which your failure translates into our punishment. The other is that because you've been such boobs in office, and because you've let the lunatic right (which is the only kind there is any more) falsely paint you as liberals, socialists and every other kind of mad creature from left field, you've managed to do great damage to the marketing prospects of real progressive ideas and badly needed solutions, damage that is likely to be around for a very long time. Great work, fellas. Thanks so much for pissing in our pond.

A ninth reason why Obama has left his erstwhile base empty-handed and exasperated is because he refuses to grab the reins of an institution he profoundly misunderstands. I'm sick of this administration and its apologists - some of them nominally progressive - impatiently explaining to hopelessly naive lefties like myself how Obama has only (only!) sixty Democrats in the Senate and an equal percentage in the House, and how the very, very bad men of the right constantly say many unpleasant things about Mr. Happyface, tearing him down with supreme unfairness. Gee, I don't really remember this being a problem for the last president, who often had no majorities in Congress. Or for Reagan or Johnson or Franklin Roosevelt. Why? Because they understood the nature of the presidency.

It's all about the bully pulpit. You don't sit there like a can of corn waiting for the likes of Sarah Palin to take a Louisville Slugger upside your freakin' head. You don't park yourself in the White House and fret about the lack of public support for your policies. You don't attack your base for insufficient obsequiousness. What you do is go out there and you sell your program to the public, insisting that people demand Congress acts the way you want them to. And then you go to Congress and you twist the limbs of those little freaks out of their sockets. Hell, you can even rip their arms right off their shoulders and use them to vote on the bill yourself. In short, you get the job done. You create the reality you need to achieve the goals of your administration. The Obama people are astonishingly inept at this, and thus he has become the most passive president in memory, something right out of the nineteenth century. Which explains why even when they win a legislative battle, they lose. A yawning, indifferent public, never mobilized behind your agenda in the first place, isn't going to notice when you pass big legislation, even if it happened to be good stuff - which this is decidedly not. Ironically, Republicans get this concept all too well. They've been wielding the bully pulpit like masters of the craft, and they don't even own it right now. This tells you everything you need to know about why Obama's presidency is sinking, along with the country's welfare and progressives' aspirations with it.

The upshot of all this is that yes, Barack Obama is in fact quite a bit like George W. Bush. Except, of course, that Bush and his people were only cowardly when it came to fighting America's wars themselves, as opposed to sending other kids off to do it. Obama, on the other hand, can't even muster a bit of courage to use the office with which he's been entrusted. Otherwise, though - policywise - Gibbs is completely wrong in his indignation directed at lefties for thinking Obama is like Bush. His war policies are like Bush's. His state power, national security and civil liberties policies are like Bush's and maybe worse. He said he wanted to close Gitmo but hasn't, just as Bush did. His "fierce urgency of now" seems to have settled in for a long nappy-time when it comes civil rights for gays, just like with Bush. He serves America's oligarchy just as fully as Bush did, Geithner and Summers stepping right in where Snow and Paulson once stood. He's doing nothing about the most urgent issue of our time, or any time - global warming - just as Bush also fiddled while the planet burned.

So, yeah, Robert, we do say that your boss is hardly distinguishable from his predecessor because, in every way that counts, he is hardly distinguishable from his predecessor. I don't particularly care that Obama smiles where Bush smirked. I don't really give a damn that Obama is doing war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq while Bush did them in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are nuances on nuances. When it comes to actual policy and effective governance, this presidency has been every bit the regressive disaster as was Bush's or Clinton's or Reagan's - but more so because now the country is deeply mired in crises brought on by the last three decades of these abysmal policies.

And so I confess that I'm not all that psyched when I see the press secretary of a failed president lecturing the people who put him into office, following two years of betraying them while cutting deals with the scariest predatory monsters in the country.

And I especially don't want to hear it from folks who don't have the good sense to have good sense about themselves and their record. Obama recently gave himself a grade of "incomplete" for his presidency, but said he has a "pretty good track record". Last year it was a B+, with an A- after health care passed. He's certainly entitled to his opinion, which his fawning press secretary and other White House staff no doubt share in spades. It's just that no one else does.

Maybe if Obama was up twenty points instead of down that many, maybe if he was adored by a grateful public, maybe if he was poised to increase his party's majorities in Congress rather than turn over control of both houses to people like Sharon Angle and Rand Paul, maybe if he was genuinely changing the country for the better - maybe then he'd have a soapbox to stand on and lecture the left.

Until then, it's not working.

And you're the problem, Mr. Gibbs, not us progressives with the integrity to speak honestly about the transparency of your emperor boss's new clothes.
(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 especially the 14th amendment because of terrorist babies, 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

Obama Defends 'Ground Zero Mosque'
By Glenn Greenwald

This is one of the most impressive and commendable things Obama has done since being inaugurated:

President Obama delivered a strong defense on Friday night of a proposed Muslim community center and mosque near ground zero in Manhattan, using a White House dinner celebrating Ramadan to proclaim that "as a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country" . . . .

"I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground zero is, indeed, hallowed ground," the president said in remarks prepared for the annual White House iftar, the sunset meal breaking the day's fast.

But, he continued: "This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are" . .

. . What makes this particularly commendable is there is virtually no political gain to be had from doing it, and substantial political risk. Polls shows overwhelming opposition to the mosque nationwide (close to 70% opposed), and that's true even in New York, where an extraordinary "50% of Democrats, 74% of Republicans, and 52% of 'non-enrolled' voters, don't want to see the mosque built." The White House originally indicated it would refrain from involving itself in the dispute, and there was little pressure or controversy over that decision. There was little anger over the President's silence even among liberal critics. And given the standard attacks directed at Obama -- everything from being "soft on Terror" to being a hidden Muslim -- choosing this issue on which to take a very politically unpopular and controversial stand is commendable in the extreme.

The campaign against this mosque is one of the ugliest and most odious controversies in some time. It's based purely on appeals to base fear and bigotry. There are no reasonable arguments against it, and the precedent that would be set if its construction were prevented -- equating Islam with Terrorism, implying 9/11 guilt for Muslims generally, imposing serious restrictions on core religious liberty -- are quite serious. It was Michael Bloomberg who first stood up and eloquently condemned this anti-mosque campaign for what it is, but Obama's choice to lend his voice to a vital and noble cause is a rare demonstration of principled, politically risky leadership. It's not merely a symbolic gesture, but also an important substantive stand against something quite ugly and wrong. This is an act that deserves pure praise.

UPDATE: To anyone wanting to quibble with what was done here -- the timing, the wording, etc. -- I'll just pose this question: when is the last time a President voluntarily entered an inflammatory public controversy by taking a position opposed by 70% of the public?

UPDATE II: In the face of the controversy created by last night's remarks, Obama came out today and emphasized the very limited nature of the position he took:

President Obama said on Saturday that in defending the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque near Ground Zero he "was not commenting" on "the wisdom" of that particular project, but rather trying to uphold the broader principle that government should "treat everybody equally" regardless of religion. . . .

In clarifying his remarks, Mr. Obama was apparently seeking to address criticism that he is using his presidential platform to promote a particular project that has aroused the ire of many New Yorkers. And on Saturday at least three prominent Republicans spoke out against Mr. Obama's stance.

White House officials said earlier in the day that Mr. Obama was not trying to promote the project, but rather sought more broadly to make a statement about freedom of religion and American values. "In this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion," Mr. Obama said at the Coast Guard station. "I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That's what our country is about."

It's technically true, as Darren Hutchinson points out, that Obama isn't changing what he said, as his speech last night was devoted to a defense of "the right" of the mosque to be built, and it said nothing about whether it should be built near Ground Zero. But clearly, the tone and the emphasis of his speech -- and the absence of the fine distinctions he's drawing today -- made it obvious that it would be interpreted as siding with the mosque proponents and against those opposing the mosque, and that's exactly how it was interpreted by virtually everyone.

But by insisting now that he was merely commenting on the technical "rights" of the project developers -- as a way of responding to Republican criticism that he was advocating for the project itself -- he has diminished his remarks from a courageous and inspiring act into a non sequitur, somewhat of an irrelevancy. After all, the "right" of the mosque isn't really in question and didn't need a defense. As Ben Smith correctly explains:

Obama's new remarks, literally speaking, re-open the question of which side he's on. Most of the mosque's foes recognize the legal right to build, and have asked the builders to reconsider.

But the clarification is, in political terms, puzzling. The signal Obama sent with his rhetoric last night wasn't that he had chosen to make a trivial, legal point about the First Amendment. He chose to make headlines in support of the mosque project, and he won't be able to walk them back now with this sprinkling of doubt. All he'll do is frustrate some of the people who so eagerly welcomed his words yesterday as a return to form.

Indeed, with today's clarification, Obama is not really on any side of this controversy. What made Bloomberg's speech so inspiring was how unapologetic and emphatic it was in defense of the mosque itself -- not just some sort of "right" that very few people were even questioning. Even worse, the primary focus of my praise here -- that Obama was taking a politically unpopular position -- isn't even true in light of this clarification. As Nate Silver documents, the same polls which show that large majorities oppose the mosque also show that majorities affirm the "right" for it to be built. That means Obama was merely echoing what polls show is the majority view, while explicitly distancing himself today from any view that is unpopular. So even that praise of him now seems inapplicable.

On the whole, it's still preferable for Obama to say what he said rather than say nothing. The notion that Muslims enjoy the same religious freedom as everyone else and are not to blame for Terrorism are always nice to hear. But by parsing his remarks to be as inoffensive as possible, and retreating from what was the totally predictable way his speech would be understood, he has reduced his own commendable act into something which is, at best, rather pedestrian and even slightly irritating. See also: this excellent commentary on the "clarification" from the Palestinian-American journalist Ali Abunimah, quoted in the original NYT article praising Obama, on the strangeness of how these events developed.

UPDATE III: Digby has a worthwhile analysis of the "clarification" issued today by Obama. There's nothing worth criticizing Obama for here: what he did say was perfectly fine and true. The remarks, as explicitly limited today, just don't merit the effusive praise I heaped on it, particularly because my central cause for praise -- that he was embracing an opinion opposed by a large majority of Americans -- isn't true.
(c) 2010 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

What If We Google 'Democracy' And Get 'Oligarchy'?
By John Nichols

It's the beach from which most us step off to surf the World Wide Web.

We tap a few words in a box-which is framed by a whimsical drawing-and instantly we have found that recipe for madeleines, that definition of antidisestablishmentarianism, the truth about where Barack Obama was really born, the nearest bowling alley and a life partner.

But, last week, activists with civil rights, social justice and free speech groups were protesting outside Google's Mountain View, California, "campus," where they voiced objections to a backroom deal between Google and Verizon that threatens to make the Internet over as a digital version of a bad cable-TV package.

Instead of a free and open Internet that will take Americans wherever they want to go-thanks to the net neutrality principle that is best understood as the first amendment of Internet governance-the Google-Verizon deal threatens to create a circumstance that would allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to speed up access to some content while leaving the rest in the dust. This "pay-for-priority" approach would mean that big corporations could effectively buy speed, quality and other advantages.

Here's how it might work. Suppose you rely on Verizon for wireless service. You want to know about the oil spill on the Gulf Coast. You type in some words to direct the search and up pops a BP site, beautifully-presented and seemingly packed with all the latest news. And what is the news? The BP was a victim of circumstance, that it is doing everything in its power to clean things up, that it certainly should not be held responsible in any formal manner. Chances are the second site that pops up will be that of a BP front group. And the third. And the fourth. Where's the real story? Not on the information superhighway that BP travels but on the digital dirt roads to which public-interest groups that cannot afford to pay the big bucks are relegated.

If the fastest and highest-quality service only takes you to the sites of paying customers, the small "d" democratic promise of the Internet will collapse and this incredible invention-which has so much potential to connect us all to one another and the world-will become he cable TV of the twenty-first century. Or worse.

The "Save the Internet" coalition is fighting the Google-Verizon deal and demanding that the Federal Communications Commission and Congress keep the Internet free and open.

Here's what the defenders of net neutrality say:

"The Google-Verizon pact isn't just as bad as we feared-it's much worse. They are attacking the Internet while claiming to preserve it. Google users won't be fooled.

"They are promising Net Neutrality only for a certain part of the Internet, one that they'll likely stop investing in. But they are also paving the way for a new 'Internet' via fiber and wireless phones where Net Neutrality will not apply and corporations can pick and choose which sites people can easily view on their phones or any other Internet device using these networks.

"It would open the door to outright blocking of applications, just as Comcast did with BitTorrent, or the blocking of content, just as Verizon did with text messages from NARAL Pro-choice America. It would divide the information superhighway, creating new private fast lanes for the big players while leaving the little guy stranded on a winding dirt road.

"Worse still, this pact would turn the Federal Communications Commission into a toothless watchdog, left fruitlessly chasing complaints and unable to make rules of its own.

"This is not real Net Neutrality. And this pact would harm the millions of Americans who have pleaded with our leaders in Washington to defend the free and open Internet. President Obama, Congress and the FCC should reject this deal, restore the authority of the agency that's supposed to protect Internet users, and safeguard Net Neutrality once and for all." <>

The fight that is ahead will not be an easy one for citizens and consumers. Wealthy and powerful interests are determined to replace the civic and democratic values that have underpinned the digital revolution up to this point with the commercial and entertainment values that have made old media a "vast wasteland."

They will use every tool at their disposal-lobbying, campaign contributions, spin and media manipulation included-to prevail.

But citizens and consumers can't let that happen.

It is not just a question of ISPs or wireless service, nor of new media versus old. This is a debate about whether the digital communications that shape our lives and choices in the twenty-first century will serve the bottom line of a few powerful corporations or the best interests, the ideals and the democratic aspirations of a people who have understood since they days when Tom Paine was penning pamphlets that there is no democracy unless all Americans have easy and equal access to all the information and all the ideas that are necessary to govern their own affairs and protect their own freedoms.
(c) 2010 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Bruce Beattie ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day
By Jethro Tull

Meanwhile back in the year One --- when you belonged to no-one ---
You didn't stand a chance son, if your pants were undone.
`Cause you were bred for humanity and sold to society ---
One day you'll wake up in the Present Day ---
A million generations removed from expectations
Of being who you really want to be.

Skating away ---
Skating away ---
Skating away on the thin ice of the New Day.

So as you push off from the shore,
Won't you turn your head once more --- and make your peace with everyone?
For those who choose to stay,
Will live just one more day ---
To do the things they should have done.
And as you cross the wilderness, spinning in your emptiness:
You feel you have to pray.
Looking for a sign
That the Universal Mind (!) has written you into the Passion Play.

Skating away ---
Skating away ---
Skating away on the thin ice of the New Day.

And as you cross the circle line, the ice-wall creaks behind ---
You're a rabbit on the run.
And the silver splinters fly in the corner of your eye ---
Shining in the setting sun.
Well, do you ever get the feeling that the story's
Too damn real and in the present tense?
Or that everybody's on the stage, and it seems like
You're the only person sitting in the audience?

Skating away ---
Skating away ---
Skating away on the thin ice of the New Day.

Skating away ---
Skating away ---
Skating away ---
(c) 1974/2010 Ian Anderson

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Spa Spangled Bog
By Will Durst

To say the release of 91,000 classified documents has revealed a disconnect between our public position on Afghanistan and the actual situation on the ground is like inferring a disparity between yoga and bayonets. Dawn dishwashing liquid and green olive tapenade. A tray full of Southern Comfort old- fashioned sweets and a herringbone Segway.

Unlike the Pentagon Papers, we can't even work up a good outrage, mainly because come on, 91,000 documents. That's like reading all seven Harry Potter books thirty times over. I don't care how authentically rustic your wand is, nobody's doing that. There's even questions as to whether it's 91,000 documents, 92,000 documents, if all the documents have been released or more are being held in reserve for we mere Muggles.

I know. What's a thousand documents amongst friends? Well, there's your problem. We don't have any friends. Corruption over there is endemic, pandemic and epidemic. Our allies aren't necessarily allied on our side. The fighting is going badly and a halfway decent deep-dish pizza crust remains a concept the Afghanis seem unable or unwilling to embrace. Not to mention Democracy.

Unplug the drain and the ring around the tub is we've been there 8 years and things are so not getting better. As a matter of fact you could say the movement more resembles whatever is the opposite of getting better. Don't even mention quagmire. Hah. Hah. We sneer at your quagmire. Our Afghanistan participation makes a quagmire look like a refreshing dip in a spring fed pool with buckets of frosty beer within reach and cold cucumbers slices on our eyelids. Spa spangled bog.

This dastardly document dump also managed to tick off Pakistani officials who dispute claims that the ISI, their intelligence agency, is collaborating with the Taliban. "These allegations are always repeated." Hmm. Curious as to why those allegations would always be repeated, eh what? Maybe because, like the sun and those silly allegations about the rising in the East, they're... TRUE?

And for those of you surprised by the amount of grandstanding caused by the WikiLeaks disclosures, either you forgot it was an election year or have been making too many side trips to the magic brownie counter in your medicinal marijuana store. A veritable slew of Congressmen are sharpening their budget scalpels, asking how we can toss Pakistan a couple billion a year in foreign aid while they're helping Afghani insurgents? With friends like these, who needs enemy combatants?

As unexpected as a checkered tablecloth in a pizzeria, the Administration is playing down any revelations. "Nothing new to see here. Everything generally known. Move along." Perhaps, just not generally known by the general public. Privately, White House officials anticipate using these leaks to pressure Pakistan to play nice. Yeah. Right. Dream on, big river. You got a better chance convincing Lindsay Lohan to give up all her nasty habits and start wearing one.

If this leak tells us anything, it's that this is not a winnable war. Right now, America has a lot of stuff on a lot of plates and keeping them all spinning is neither cheap nor easy. Afghan plates, on the other hand, are not very full and they seem to like it like that. Especially when deep-dish pizza crumbs can get them beheaded. As they say in Animal House, "If I were us, I'd be... leaving."
(c) 2010 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based political comic, who often writes. This being an example of questionable merit. Catch his one man show "The Lieutenant Governor from the State of Confusion." And don't forget his new CD, "Raging Moderate" from Stand-Up Records now available on both iTunes and Amazon.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 34 (c) 08/20/2010

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