Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

James Ridgeway reports on, "Town Halls And The Resurgence Of The Reactionary Right."

Uri Avnery reviews, "The Bogie Horror Show."

Joe Conason states the obvious, "Now More Than Ever, Bipartisanship Is For Suckers."

Jim Hightower studies, "Rick Scotts Latest Fraud."

Robert Scheer is, "Remembering The Real Deal."

Greg Palast finds, "Expert Fired Who Warned Levees Would Burst."

Paul Krugman watches, "All The President's Zombies."

Chris Floyd explores the, "Af-Pak Masquerade: The Untold Truths Of War."

Case Wagenvoord says, "Ben Saves The Day."

Mike Folkerth concludes it's a, "Bad Plan From The Get-Go!"

Chris Hedges declares, "This Isn't Reform, It's Robbery."

Amy Goodman wonders, "Who Is Obama Playing Ball With?"

GOP Congressman Peter King wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald pits, "Thomas Paine v. The Right's Torture Defenders."

Mike Wrathell exclaims, "Let Them Eat Skittles!"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department 'The Landover Baptist Church' returns with, "Obama's Death Squads Target The Nightmares Of America's Children!" but first Uncle Ernie finds, "Health Care Obama's Waterloo."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Gordon Campbell, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Big Fat Whale, Mike Wrathell, Mr. Fish, Derf City, Mario Piperni.Com, Dees Illustration.Com, Kerry Waghorn, M.C. Escher, Auguste Millière, South Park, UPI, The Saturday Evening Post, Issues & Alibis.Org and Pink & Blue Films.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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To End On A Happy Note...
Have You Seen This...
Parting Shots...

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

Health Care Obama's Waterloo
Is he Napoleon or Wellington?
By Ernest Stewart

"If they are able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."
~~~ Senator Jim DeMint ~ South Carolina ~~~

"This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent." ~~~ Tony (light-fingers) Scalia

Alex Furlong: Man, if it's come down to this. What's the point?
Eagle Man: He Riddles me. The ancient riddle: "What's the point?" Have you ever seen an eagle flying back to his home with dinner for the Mrs. and all the little eagle babies. And he's flying against the wind and he's flying in the rain and he's flying through bullets and all kinds of hell, and then right at that moment when he's about to get back to his nest, he says, "What the fuck, it's a drag being an eagle" and right then two little x'es comes across his eyes just like in the old fashion cartoons. And he goes plunging down, and down and down and BAM. He's just a splatter of feathers and then we don't have the national bird of America no more. Did you ever see that?
Alex Furlong: No.
Eagle Man: Me Neither. Eagle's got too much self-respect. How's yours?
Freejack ~~~ Emilio Estevez to Frankie Faison

Letters, we get letters! Here's one from one our right-wing brothers and sisters.





Boy I guess he's mad (everything is in caps) as well as uninformed, huh? I wrote him back!

So Socialism ain't so bad after all, huh? Medicare and Social Security are socialism. You got your social insurance so the 50 million Americans who don't have insurance should just drop dead otherwise the corpo-rat goons who deny millions with their corpo-rat death panels every year might not stay in business. Hmmm, methinks the right is what "Tweety Bird" called Hypo-twits? We are the only top tiered country in the world that doesn't supply medical insurance for all of it's citizens, the only one. Why is that, do you suppose? Consider that a vast majority of the those people from all those countries wouldn't change a thing!

Nothing's being cut from your social security checks, just no COLA this year. Hell we're in a depression brought on by the Crime Family Bush and their corpo-rat masters and you want a raise? Oh and guess what, Obama is just like Bush and is owned and operated by the very same people. You folks should love him. All of Bush's illegal wars go on; all of Bush's many acts of treason are being preserved; the only real difference is Obama is only half white. I wonder if that's why the right doesn't like him? I know as a leftist I don't like him because he's Bush jr.

Ya'll can't have it both ways. If you don't want socialism, don't take those Social Security checks and don't use Medicare or any of the many other socialist programs that exist to help the people.

I'm sure that those billionaires you watch on TV and listen to on the radio will be more than happy to help, huh? Walk right up to Rush or Bill O'Reilly and ask them if they'll pay for your health insurance and give you money to live on. Go ahead and make my day! (Here're a couple of guys, if they spent a million dollars a day for the rest of their lives couldn't spend it all and you think they're one of you! Oh my.) Just let me know if you do so we can get it on film!

I can't wait another 5 years until I can get Medicare and seven years when I can get Social Security. The $1200 a month I'd get is slightly more than we make working right now! You don't know when you have it made! Billions of people around the world would gladly swap places with you.

Stop just one of our needless, useless, illegal wars for one year and you'd have the money to fund Medicare for everyone for ten years. Stop them all and you'd have money to fund all the social programs for the rest of our lives without raising a penny in new taxes. Keep those wars going and we'll be bankrupt in another year of two. Bush long ago cleaned out the surplus in the treasury and now we owe trillions to China, England and the Saudis! Proper funding and putting everyone on Medicare would cut about 60% off of all health related costs. Do nothing and the cost will double in five years and we'll have 100 million uninsured and your taxes will go up and up to pay for it!

Neither side of the aisle wants a single payer system. They all want things to remain the same so that they all can keep going to the bank while we, the excess population, drop like flies. That's exactly where it's at! It's time ya'll learned to see though the smoke and mirrors!

In Other News

Out of the mouths of babes and Extreme Court Justices often comes the truth. Old Tony (light-fingers) Scalia gave it all away the other day when he said that the Supremes have never quibbled if an innocent man is executed even if he can prove that he is innocent as long as he's had a trial. Verdict's in, "supper's waitin' at home and I gotta get to it!"

After all, sh*t happens. There are well over six billion of us and if innocents are murdered by the state, law says nothing can be done. Much like the flu vaccine that's about to decimate our ranks. Barry has seen to that. The corpo-rats behind this latest pandemic can't be touched no matter how many they murder. The fix is in!

It's an old tradition among the state, big Pharma and the AMA dating back ninety years to the first pandemic which killed tens of millions after they got vaccinated. More died from these vaccinations then that were killed in WWI. Most think this first time it wasn't so much greed than lack of basic knowledge. Be that as it may, the next time they knew better and did it to make a buck.

The first one of these happened in Jackson, Missouri in 1921 when big Pharma and the AMA decided to give millions of doses of smallpox to the otherwise healthy citizenry. (Giving innocents smallpox is a centuries old American tradition, dating to the late 17th century when Indian tribes were given free blankets infested with smallpox. They wiped out whole nations of people.) They succeeded but were caught in the process and although they made millions of dollars and tens of thousands got sick or died, they got a slap on the wrist and the whole thing was covered up. Therefore, by the fall of 1924 it was time to do it again in Pittsburg with much the same results. Thousands of innocents died, millions were made, the ones that planned it got a slap on the wrist and once again this crime against humanity was covered up.

So, as you can see, it's been an old American tradition to thin the herd and make some serious ducats! This has gone on every few years ever since. You may recall the last swine flu epidemic back in 1976 when the traitor Gerald Ford and big Pharma did it again. The CDC was crying that the sky was falling and thousands got either Lupus or Guillan-Barre Syndrome. They finally called off the vaccinations but only after the truth came out some eight months later. A truth the CDC had known about at the very beginning! Remember the 2004 "Bird Flu" pandemic and millions made by Deputy Fuhrer Rumsfeld with Tamiflu? The only ones who died were the few who actually slept with their chickens but the scare tactics worked and billions were made from selling most all of the countries in the world a vaccination that wasn't even needed. Today the CDC says Swine Flu will kill as many as 90,000 people this year. What they don't say is that the vast majority of those deaths will be caused by the vaccine which will be mandatory for your children. The "Swine Flu" so far has killed fewer in nine months worldwide than the regular flu kills in a single day in the United Snakes. When you are burying little Billy Bob or Mary Lou, how do you think you're going to feel, America? Will the death of your children finally get you to rock the boat, get off of your couch and into the streets? Or will you just shrug your shoulders and says it's "God's Will?"

And Finally

It's that time of the year again. About this time when the bills haven't been paid and things are beginning to look bleak I whip out an essay I wrote during a similar situation back in 2004 entitled "Tilting At Windmills." I wrote it for the magazine and put it up on the building page but before I could run it I got a slew of emails from folks who just couldn't wait until we publish and read the building page. They wanted to know if it were true, that I could no longer carry on and all offering me the support that we needed to keep publishing. That was the first time I asked for help. Until that time I had handled all the publishing costs out of my dwindling bankbook, which no longer exists.

As you may have garnered from the first piece the best we can do is one skinny job that brings in a little over $1100 a month, which means we live in the ghetto, in what is generously described as substandard housing; the floors are rotting, the wiring is early 20th century and the insulation is non-existent. We shop at what I like to call "used food stores" for food. Considering Victoria and I are well educated with degrees from major universities with decades of experience you'd think we could do better but we can't, not away down yonder in Trinity, South Carolina.

So with the bills coming due and no chance of paying them ourselves I dusted off the old copy and laid it all on Victoria. Surprisingly, she wouldn't hear of it. She explained the important role Issues & Alibis has played the last eight years and all the people the magazine has helped and continues to help. The trouble with being a leftist publication is that there is little money to be had from our readers, many of whom are worse off than we are. With a change in format we could be rolling in dough. We'd have to sell our souls but many Americans have and while others lose everything, it's never been so good for the "Main Stream Media" aka far right media. I'm not going to do that, I'd rather ask you if you'd like fries with that and to pull around to the window, or even get a insane grin on my face and say "Welcome to Walmart!"

Ergo, if you like what we do, please send in whatever you can as soon as you can so we can keep meeting like this and let people talk! There's about a month left before I dig out that old essay!


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

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

We aren't asking for much-not thousands of dollars a month, not tens of thousands a year. What we need is simply enough money to cover expenses for the magazine. A few thousand dollars a year. A few hundred dollars a month. We cannot continue to go into debt to publish Issues and Alibis but at the same time we cannot, in good conscience, go quietly about our daily lives, remaining silent in face of the injustices perpetrated by our leaders and our government. So we need your help. We need your spare change. A dollar, five dollars, whatever you can contribute. Every penny makes a difference.

Ernest & Victoria Stewart


08-04-1940 ~ 08-20-2009
Tell Jimi, Jim and Janis Uncle said hey!

06-02-1934 ~ 08-21-2009
You've bopped your last sha bop, sha bop!

05-21-1917 ~ 11-22-1963
11-20-1925 ~ 06-06-1968
02-22-1932 ~ 08-25-2009
Anybody here seen my old friend Teddy?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
I thought I saw him walkin' up over the hill.
With Bobby, Martin and John.


The "W" theatre trailers are up along with the new movie poster and screen shots from the film. They are all available at the all-new "W" movie site: All five "W" trailers are available along with the trailer from our first movie "Jesus and her Gospel of Yes" at the Pink & Blue Films site on YouTube.


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


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

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

Town Halls And The Resurgence Of The Reactionary Right
By James Ridgeway

Across the nation this summer, unknown numbers of people are hunkering down and arming up for what they believe is an imminent battle for the soul of America. Town halls and tea parties provide just a small glimpse of the rage, fear, and paranoia fomenting on front porches and in Internet chat rooms, in the conservative heartland and beyond. While the details may vary, the visions in such forums share a common theme: In one way or another, a fight to the death is coming, and coming soon.

These deep-seated fears explain at least some of the vitriol, the violent scuffles, and death threats bubbling up in town hall protests against health care reform. It's all too easy for certain right-wing activists to accept that the president's plan will create death panels or mandate taxpayer-funded abortions. Because some of these people don't just believe that Obama wants to destroy capitalism and kill their granny and their unborn child-they believe he wants to kill them, too.

At a town hall meeting with Democratic Senator Ben Cardin in Hagerstown, Maryland, on August 12, one attendee carried a sign that read "Death to Obama," and "Death to Michelle and her two stupid kids." Another sign at the same event compared Obama to Hitler. At least some of the Obama-Hitler iconography originates from followers of perennial whack-job Lyndon LaRouche, but the comparison has been disseminated by Rush Limbaugh to a wider audience of hardline conservatives.

That's not the only insidious comparison making the rounds: One protester who attended a raucous town hall with Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter told a Village Voice reporter that Obama was a "21st-century Marxist" who would adopt the same methods Hugo Chavez used to take power in Venezuela: "infiltration of the education system, political correctness, class warfare ideology, voter fraud, brainwashing through the mainstream media."

As the town halls have become more heated, the hints of violence have become increasingly overt. One man showed up outside the president's town hall meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with a hand gun strapped to his thigh; on August 17, another brought an assault rifle to a demonstration at the site of Obama's speech to veterans in Phoenix. It emerged that the latter's presence at the meeting had been coordinated with a former member of the Viper Militia, whose adherents were convicted of weapons and conspiracy charges in the 1990s and were accused of plotting to blow up federal buildings.

Clearly, this is about far more than health care policy. Instead, it's just one sign out of many heralding a resurgence of the extreme right wing. It's been widely reported that extremist groups are growing, in numbers and membership, since Obama launched his presidential campaign. As in the past, some of the ideas espoused by these groups are working their way further toward the political core with the help of right-wing politicians and media figures.

For instance, take Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-Minn.) claim that expanding AmeriCorps would result in liberal "re-education camps." This statement has now morphed into rumors that the young community service volunteers are being armed to take over the country-possibly with some help from the New Black Panther Party.

Similarly, Dick Armey, the former House majority leader and lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry, is predicting an October surprise from Obama in the form of "a hyped-up outbreak of the swine flu, which they'll say is as bad as the bubonic plague to scare the bed-wetters to vote for health care reform."

The assertion may sound ludicrous, but it dovetails nicely with a view among conspiracy theorists that a sweeping and deadly plot lurks behind the swine flu pandemic. Influenced by the work of a whacked-out Austrian "journalist" named Jane Bürgermeister, some on the far right believe the virus was manufactured by the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and the rest of the black helicopter crowd's usual suspects, as "part of a long-term plan by the syndicate, who have built large numbers of FEMA concentration camps with incinerators and prepared mass graves in states such as Indiana and in New York to quarantine people and dispose of the bodies of the people who are killed by the bioweapons attack." This "depopulation" scheme has in turn been linked by conspiracy theorists to the Obama administration's plans for a "global planetary regime to enforce forced abortion" and sterilizing the population through the water supply.

Among liberals, the dominant take on all of this seems to be ridicule and derision, or else impotent hand-wringing about the demise of "civil discourse." It's as if they'd forgotten that many of these so-called loonies just happen to own guns-and while liberals go on chattering, these folks are stocking up on ammunition. And right-wing radicals have an advantage when it comes to ideological fervor. Obama and the Democrats in Congress quickly frittered away any populist energy that might have come out of the recession, the fiasco of the Bush years, or the 2008 election. All that's left are the compromises on top of compromises that they call policymaking, for which no one can muster much enthusiasm. Right-wing zealots, on the other hand, think they are fighting for their lives by standing fast against communism, or the anti-Christ, or both; they're not only doing God's work, but also fulfilling their destiny as true American patriots.

Indeed, the right-wing revival is infused with the words and imagery of the American Revolution. The gun-toting protestor at Obama's New Hampshire health care town hall was also carrying a sign that read, "It Is Time To Water The Tree Of Liberty"-a clear reference to a quote from Thomas Jefferson that the "tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." (Because he had a permit and wasn't in shooting range of the tyrant, the patriot was allowed to keep his gun.) On a website also called The Tree of Liberty, members exchange Obama insults and apocalyptic visions in a forum called Committees of Correspondence, named for assemblies in colonial America that protested tyrannical British policies.

The denizens of these gatherings and websites, the tea parties and the raucous town halls, represent a long-standing force in the country's political culture: American nativism. This oft-ignored strain draws its central impulse from an opposition to anything that challenges the vision of America as a white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant nation. Nativists have taken aim at Catholics, Jews, freed slaves, and successive waves of immigrants, beginning with the Irish fleeing the potato famine in the 1840s and continuing through to present-day immigrants from Latin America. They call for a closing of US borders and support strict adherence to the Constitution in its most literal sense, shorn of equivocating amendments, as a remedy for unwanted social change. And they have been inextricably linked to racist right-wing movements, from the Ku Klux Klan to the Militias to the Minutemen who now "guard" the border. (In the current debate over health care reform, one of the most powerful myths is that it will extend free coverage to illegal immigrants at the expense of "real" Americans.)

Many followers of modern extremist right-wing groups also adhere to the doctrine of Christian Identity, which teaches that white men are the descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel, who traced their lineage back to Adam and Eve. The black and yellow people, they believe, are of lesser stature, likened by some to a bad first copy made by God in his fashioning of the Garden of Eden. They are not real people, the thinking goes, and should be cast down as "mud people." The American Founding Fathers were among the true sovereigns, and the white patriots of today are their descendants. Even before Obama's election, many believed that the nation's political and economic systems had been taken over by the Zionist Occupied Government. Jews, according to them, are not true white people, and are bent upon world domination, with the aid of their henchmen, the racial minorities.

That's why the election of Barack Obama adds even more fuel to nativist rage: The president is a black man, child of an interracial union, the son of a foreigner who bears a foreign name. According to some, he is not even an American citizen. "[T]he face of the federal government-the enemy that almost all parts of the extreme right see as the primary threat to freedom-is now black," says a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups. "And the fact that the president is an African American has injected a strong racial element into even those parts of the radical right, like the militias, that in the past were not primarily motivated by race hate."

For me, the recent outpourings on the right-wing fringe resonate strongly with what I witnessed in the mid-1980s, when I was working on a book and film on the racialist far right called Blood in the Face; I came across people caught in the misery of economic depression, caused by tough loan practices and declining prices for farm commodities, along with a drive by big banks and insurance companies-the primary farm lenders-to consolidate smaller farms into bigger and bigger agribusiness units in the interest of larger profits. Many residents were losing farms that had been in their families for generations.

In this atmosphere of desperation, paranoia flourished. Some talked about a hunting party in Mexico that had spotted a secret airfield of MIGs. Some had heard reports from Baja California of a troop of North Korean troops hidden in the forest. Others said they knew the Russians were breeding an especially strong horse to haul heavy artillery across the Bering Strait for the coming attack. Still others told me that the US and the Soviets were making deals aboard small submarines under the Arctic ice. And the new superhighways leading from Texas up the Mississippi River, they said, were part of a secret plan to accommodate Mexicans carrying backpacks stuffed with small nuclear bombs. Many also saw social factors like abortion, feminism, homosexuality, and interracial marriage as symptoms of the general devolution of American culture after it had been wrested from the hands of the true sovereigns. Behind it all, they believed were the Jewish bankers, the Trilateral Commission, the Federal Reserve, the UN-and the US government.

The people who believed these things bought food and ammunition and hid it in safe places. They got out of the banks, went from paper money to gold, bought mini 14s. Some built bomb shelters, or small forts for defense. They studied the Bible at night and believed they had discovered in Scripture secret plans to eradicate their way of life. They got ready to fight. A few actually died in bloody shoot-outs with the Feds: Elusive Posse Comitatus leader Gordon Kaul and the Order's Bob Mathews were the movement's first martyrs in the 1980s, followed by those who died in the 1990s at Ruby Ridge and WACO-both cited by Timothy McVeigh as inspiration for the Oklahoma City bombing. The vision of dead babies being carried out of the Murrah building in 1995 prompted a crackdown on far-right movements by federal law enforcement. But even before Obama's election, pockets of activity remained.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported rapid growth among right-wing fringe organizations, although it says the numbers don't yet equal the heyday of the militias in the 1990s. Still, the greatest danger is likely to come not from card-carrying members of any organization, but from small, leaderless cells or lone gunmen, perhaps inspired by another far-right favorite: the biblical story of the Phineas Priest, a man who caught an interracial couple together and slew them both, declaring that he was acting in the name of a just God. It is the same notion of justifiable homicide-whether in self-defense or in defense of a just cause-that has reportedly drove Scott Roeder, the gunman accused of killing abortion doctor George Tiller, and James von Brunn, accused of murdering a guard at the Holocaust Museum.

The people I met back in the 1980s told me about their theories and their plans for the coming conflict earnestly, fervently. I first saw this fervor resurface last year, while covering the election in the so-called heartland. I saw it on the fringes of Sarah Palin rallies, and I saw it when a Missouri ethanol plant manager leaned forward confidentially and declared, for the video cameras, why he was against Obama-because the candidate, he said, bore the mark of the Beast, of Satan, or the anti-Christ: 666.
(c) 2009 James Ridgeway is the Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" magazine. For many years he was the Washington correspondent for "The Village Voice."

The Bogie Horror Show
By Uri Avnery

MY FIRST thought was: Good God, this man was responsible for the lives of our soldiers!

The second thought was: What's the big surprise? You always knew what kind of person he was! After all, during his years as the army's Chief of Staff he quietly supported the setting up of "illegal" settlement outposts all over the West Bank!

The third thought: And this person is now Vice Prime Minister and a member of the "Sextet" - the six ministers who constitute the real government of Israel.

THE OCCASION for these frightening thoughts was the participation of Moshe ("Bogie") Ya'alon in a gathering of the Jewish Leadership Faction. "Peace Now is a virus," he said there. And not only they. All the media" are also a virus. They influence the public discourse "in a distorted manner, a lying manner." The virus also includes "the elite" in general.

In addition, the "politicians" are to blame. "Every time the politicians bring in the dove of peace, we, the army, have to clean up after it."

His summing up: "The Jews have a right to settle in any place throughout Eretz Israel." And if this upsets the Americans, Ya'alon has a ready answer: "I am not afraid of the Americans!" All this was said a few days after Ya'alon paid a well publicized visit to the occupied territories, accompanied by Shas leader Eli Yishai and several other ministers of the extreme Right. This band visited the settlement outposts, which the Israeli government long ago promised the Americans to dismantle, and expressed total opposition to their evacuation. They concluded their visit in Homesh, the West Bank settlement evacuated by Ariel Sharon in the course of the "disengagement." Ya'alon demanded the resettlement of the place.

THESE TONES come together in a frightening melody, a tune we know all too well. It is anthem of fascism.

First: the term "elite". In the jargon of the Israeli extreme Right, this includes everybody they hate: the intellectuals, the universities, the liberal politicians, the Supreme Court, the media.

The term is rooted in the Latin verb "eligere," to pick out, meaning the best, the select. Since this is an undefined body, the term can be applied to different targets. When the demagogues address the Oriental Jewish masses, "the elite" clearly consists of the Ashkenazis who rule the country. When addressing the religious community, "the elite" consist of the secular, the atheist, who are strangers to Jewish Tradition. When addressing the Russian immigrants, "the elite" consists of the old established Israelis, the native born, who obstruct the path of the new immigrants.

When one bundles all these together, there emerges a picture of "them" and "us." "Them" - the handful of arrogant old-timers, who occupy all the key positions in the state, and "us" - the simple, honest people, the patriots, the keepers of tradition, the discriminated against, the oppressed.

Every fascist group in the world entertains such a view of "the elite." (Never mind that Ya'alon, like most of the other demagogues, himself belongs to the elite. He was born in the country, an Ashkenazi of Ukrainian descent. His original name was Smilansky. He is still officially a member of an "elitist" kibbutz and belongs to the super-privileged senior officers' corps.)

Second: The traitors. There is an enemy within. This is no less dangerous than the foreign enemy, indeed, much more dangerous. When Ya'alon speaks about Peace Now, he means all the peace camp, the liberal and secular section of society. That is the Fifth Column, the Trojan horse within the walls. They have to be eliminated, before one can turn to fight the foreign foe.

Third: The "politicians." The demagogues are, of course, themselves politicians, but they exclude themselves here. Ya'alon paints a picture of "the politicians" who bring in a disgusting peace dove, whose excrement the army has to clean up.

The knavish, scheming, cowardly politicians on the one side, the clean-cut, heroic, loyal army on the other - that is a very familiar picture. The best known example was current in Germany after World War I. The "knife in the back" legend was a stepping stone to power for Adolf Hitler: the German army stood up to the enemy and had victory in its sights, when "the politicians," the Jews, the socialists and the other "November criminals" stuck a knife in the back of the heroic fighters.

The peace dove leaves its droppings and the soldiers are compelled to clean up the filth of peace.

And also: "All the media." That is one of the marks of fascism in Israel and throughout the world. The media are always "leftist", "anti-national," they are the "hostile media." The journalists and broadcasters are a secret league of Israel-bashers, who spread lies and distort reality in order to undermine national morale, defame the army, besmirch our national values and give comfort to the enemy.

Reality is, of course, very, very different. The Israeli media slavishly repeat the official propaganda in all national and security matters. They are conformist to a high degree and mobilized from wall to wall. There is not a single leftist newspaper in the country. Most political correspondents repeat like parrots the statements of "official sources;" almost all the correspondents for Arab affairs are former army intelligence officers; and almost all military correspondents serve as unofficial army spokesmen. In the news pages and news programs, right-wing terminology reigns supreme. But because in less important matters the media criticize the government, as they are duty-bound to do in a democratic society, it is easy to portray them as "leftist" and subversive. The same is true for academia.

And finally: The "virus." The description of political opponents as infectious agents or disgusting vermin is one of the most distinguishing features of the extreme Right. It is sufficient to remember Dr. Joseph Goebbels' film "The Eternal Jew," in which the Jews were shown as rats spreading disease. If one puts all these features together - the hatred of "the elite," the glorification of the army, the contempt for "the politicians," the demonization of the peace camp, the incitement against the media - it's the ugly face of fascism that emerges. Here in Israel and all over the world.

NO LESS important are the location and the company.

Ya'alon spoke at a gathering of the "Jewish Leadership Faction." This is a group of ultra-ultra rightists, who entered the Likud with the declared objective of conquering it from within. It is headed by one Moshe Feiglin, hence its followers are usually called "the Feiglins."

On the eve of the last elections, Binyamin Netanyahu made an all-out effort, using kosher and not-so-kosher means, to remove Feiglin from the Likud's list of candidates. He was determined to avoid the Likud being presented as an extreme-Right party. The Likud's main competitor, Kadima, defined itself as a center or moderate-rightist party and tried very hard to push Netanyahu to the right. Netanyahu thought that by driving the Feiglins out he could blunt this attack.

The question is whether this was his only aim. If so, why did he raise Benny Begin, a person who personifies the far-right, into a conspicuous place on the list? And why did he enlist and embrace Moshe Ya'alon, who was already known as a person of extreme rightist views? That embrace was very costly, since in the end Kadima, against all expectations, won one seat more than the Likud.

But Netanyahu, a born politician, had more than one objective in mind. He was afraid that Feiglin would one day threaten his hold on the Likud leadership. To forestall this possibility, he denied Feiglin a seat in the Knesset.

And here comes Ya'alon, Netanyahu's pampered protégé, and joins Feiglin of all people. As the Hebrew saying goes, the swallow went to visit the crow. But it is not quite clear who is the swallow and who the crow. Is Feiglin using Ya'alon - or is Ya'alon intending to use Feiglin in order to position himself as the leader of a big extreme-Right camp?

ONE SHOULD also pay attention to Ya'alon's declaration that "I am not afraid of the Americans."

The Americans demand the freezing of the settlements? To hell with them! Who do they think they are? What, these Goyim are ordering us around? Barack Obama wants to tell us where we can settle and where we can't?

That is another feature of the emerging Israeli fascism: the readiness to engage in an open confrontation with the United States, and especially with President Obama. Already an Israeli campaign against "Barack Saddam Hussein," the New Hitler, is in full swing. The American Right and the Israeli Right easily find a common language. An Israeli woman in the US is heading the well publicized effort to prove that Obama was not born in the US, that his father never was a US citizen, and that he should therefore be driven out of the White House.

The whole thing borders on madness. Israel is dependent on the US for practically everything: economic assistance, arms, intelligence cooperation, diplomatic support like the veto in the Security Council. Netanyahu is trying to avoid a confrontation by using every trick of deceit and diversion. And here come Ya'alon & Co. and call for an open revolt against the USA!

There is method in this madness. The Israeli education system glorifies the Zealots, who some 1940 years ago declared war on the Roman Empire. The Zealots became the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine and launched a revolt that had no chance at all of succeeding. The rebels were defeated, Jerusalem was destroyed, the Temple was burned to the ground.

THE BOGIE HORROR SHOW has wider ramifications.

It presents a picture of a mad group of extremists challenging the moderate, responsible Netanyahu. Netanyahu signals to Obama and his people: Help! If you pressure me on the freezing of the settlements and the dismantling of the outposts, it will be the end of me! My government will fall, and you will have to deal with the crazies!

That would be more convincing, if Netanyahu had used his legal prerogative and dismissed Ya'alon from the government, even though that represents a political risk. Instead, "Bibi" summoned "Bogie," like a headmaster who summons a boy and orders him to write a hundred times "I shall be a good boy." So Ya'alon remains Vice Prime Minister, Minister in Charge of Strategic Affairs and a member of the governing Sextet of Ministers (the others being Avigdor Lieberman, Benny Begin, Eli Yishai, Dan Meridor and Binyamin Netanyahu himself.)

This being so, Netanyahu cannot evade responsibility for everything Ya'alon does and says.
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Now More Than Ever, Bipartisanship Is For Suckers
Republicans want Obama to fail. He needs to stop seeking consensus, because it makes him look weak
By Joe Conason

From the earliest moments of Barack Obama's presidency, the most perplexing question was how he would fulfill his promise to change Washington's partisan standoff - and whether that promise was ever more than a rhetorical and political campaign gambit. More than once, observers have suggested that he always knew he couldn't rely on Republicans to act in good faith, to negotiate reasonable compromises, or even to speak honestly in debate. According to that theory, Obama's commitment to bipartisan solutions was and is theater aimed at persuading independent or centrist voters to trust him.

But if seeking consensus is still his strategy, as he and his advisors insist, it may be time for a rethink. All the months of bipartisanship in talk and tactics from the White House have neither brought congressional Republicans closer to supporting Obama's objectives nor preserved Obama's early support among moderate voters. What they have done is encourage the most outrageous conduct by his opponents - including those who themselves claim the bipartisan mantle - and make the president look weak.

The simple truth is that there is nobody on the Republican side who wants to negotiate with Obama. They are no longer afraid of him, and they unanimously want to ruin his presidency, regardless of the consequences. They are in thrall to the stupid extremism that questions the president's citizenship and suspects that he is driving the country toward a socialist dictatorship - while simultaneously demanding angrily that the government be stopped from interfering with Medicare.

Whether there was ever any prospect of significant Republican support for Obama's recovery and reform agenda is a moot point. Certainly, the potential for obstruction and worse, in a party dominated by Rush Limbaugh and William Kristol, always outweighed the possibility of cooperation. Now, however, it should be clear to the president that even the supposedly reasonable Republicans scarcely pretend to want to work with him anymore. What the president must do is make that reality clear to the public.

Lately those reasonable Republicans have given him plenty of opportunities. The most widely noted example is Charles Grassley, the Iowa senator whose dishonest endorsement of the "death panels" myth at a town hall meeting must have ranked as one of the most craven performances by an elected official in that state's history. Dim and reactionary as he usually seems to be, Grassley outdid himself by encouraging Americans to "fear" the healthcare legislation that he is allegedly negotiating in the Senate Finance Committee. He is one of those Republicans - like Sarah Palin - who has demonized end-of-life counseling despite his own past support of that essential service for families enduring distress.

With Grassley it is also important to remember his role in shepherding the Medicare prescription drug legislation sponsored by the Bush White House, the extraordinarily expensive and flawed bill that subsidized Big Pharma and only became law through gross chicanery. For a man who now professes to worry about the evil effects of a new health bureaucracy, he created a hellish paperwork nightmare when that bill passed.

As for the current health legislation, Grassley's position isn't easy to understand. Sometimes he says that he will vote for a bill that meets his positions on certain issues - and sometimes he says he won't, because too many other Republican senators refuse to support any bill.

What number would make him feel cozy and compliant? According to Grassley - and his equally insincere colleagues Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah - any health reform bill must win at least 75-80 votes in the Senate before it could be considered truly bipartisan. Of course, this isn't a standard that any of these legislators required to support initiatives of the Bush administration, or any other Republican bill for that matter. Only Obama must somehow clear that absurd hurdle for them.

Unfortunately, Obama opened himself to this hypocritical gaming when he pledged to pass bipartisan legislation, and he does himself no favors by reiterating that dead promise. He must not be listening when Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., says openly what all of his colleagues believe - namely, that their party's future depends on destroying Obama, which will begin with defeating healthcare reform.

The opportunistic and irresponsible stance of the Republicans was cemented, so to speak, by their amazing reversible positions on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or stimulus bill. Having voted or campaigned against it, they proceeded to take credit for spending in their own communities as if they had supported the bill all along. (Now that it is obviously working, they will probably claim credit for that, too.)

Even John McCain, the Republican who could truthfully boast of working with Democrats on serious legislation, and often did during his presidential campaign, now indulges in sourly partisan posturing. Unlike many other conservatives, who refuse to admit that climate change is real and must be mitigated by government action, McCain has advocated measures to reduce carbon emissions for years, against the grain of his own party. But now that grave issue matters less to him than defeating Obama, so he denounces the White House for seeking "cap-and-tax" legislation, calling it a "giant government slush fund." Instead of negotiating, he pandered to the right by foreclosing hopes for bipartisan compromise.

Faced with lying and demagoguery, confronted by unflinching partisans who want nothing but his destruction, the president has so far refused to respond with equal force. To most Americans, especially those without strong ideological perspectives, that is not a sign of strength. In a time of uncertainty, strength is what the public demands. What matters is not what Obama believes, but how willing he is to fight for what he believes.
(c) 2009 Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer and Salon. You may reach Joe via email at: Joe Conason

Rick Scotts Latest Fraud

Our country's corporatized health care system is so uncaring that 76 percent of Americans tell pollsters it must be "fundamentally changed" or "completely rebuilt." But Rick Scott says uh-uh - what health care needs is more corporatization - and even Wal-Martization.

Rick who? He's the ex-CEO of the massive Columbia/HCA hospital chain and a laissez-fairyland zealot who is feverishly opposing Barack Obama's health reform ideas.

I say "ex-CEO" because his profit-above-all-else approach to running Columbia ran it into a very deep ditch - and got him fired in 1997. Among his "health care" tactics were overbilling Medicare, giving kickbacks to doctors who referred patients to his hospitals, and dangerously understaffing hospitals to cut costs. Columbia later pled guilty and paid $1.7 billion to settle fraud charges against it.

Yet, he's running TV ads and infomercials featuring him as a health care "expert." Scott's ads attack Obama with that tired, old bugaboo of "Government Run Health Care," and to coordinate his attack, he has hired the same PR hacks who ran the infamous "Swift Boat Veterans" assault on John Kerry in 2004.

Scott's television blitz features theatrical horror stories of "socialized medicine," direly warning that this is Obama's plan. Only... it isn't. Not even close. Private doctors, nurses, and others of our choosing would continue to provide our health care. The change that Obama seeks is merely in how we pay these practitioners. By offering a new "public option" we'd have the choice of sticking with an insurance corporation, or buying into a public insurance pool.

This is Jim Hightower saying... This disgraced ex-CEO is flailing ridiculously at the strawman of government-run health care - which no one has even proposed. To keep posted on Rick Scotts latest fraud, go .
(c) 2009 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Remembering The Real Deal
By Robert Scheer

The light has gone out, and with it that infectious warm laugh and intensely progressive commitment of the best of the Kennedys. Not, at this point, to take anything away from the memory of his siblings-Bobby, whom I also got to know, was pretty terrific in his last years-but Senator Ted Kennedy was the real deal.

Unable to move with his brothers' intellectual alacrity, sometimes plodding in impromptu expression but smooth and skillful while reading from a script, the youngest Kennedy made up for his shortcomings early in his Senate career by resolutely working the substance of issues. His principled determination, plus his capacity to truly care about the real-world outcomes of legislation for ordinary people rather than its impact on his or anyone else's election, became his signature qualities as a lawmaker. But for those same reasons, he also wanted legislation passed, and his ability to work with the opposition, as he did three years ago with John McCain on immigration reform, now grants him a legacy as one of the nation's great senators.

Oddly enough, for one born into such immense familial expectations, he was a surprisingly accessible and down-to-earth politician in the eyes of most journalists who covered him. I think of him as always authentic and never oily. As opposed to most politicians, the offstage Ted Kennedy was the more appealing one.

Although he excelled as an orator, never more so than delivering the speech that Bob Shrum crafted for him at the 1980 Democratic Convention but which was informed by Kennedy's own deeply felt passion, it was in his less choreographed moments that he was at his best. I spent quite a few hours over the years interviewing him on subjects ranging from health care to nuclear arms control, mostly as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and while his grammar could be troubling, his sentiments never were.

Not once in those interviews did I find Kennedy to equivocate or slide into the amoral triangulation that defines almost all successful politicians. They position themselves, but he took positions, and as in the case of health care reform, he would end his life fighting for those causes with his last breath.

I would put Kennedy alongside my other hero, George McGovern, as the two most trusted standard-bearers of the Democratic Party's too-often-sabotaged liberalism. I just could never imagine either of them ever selling us out. Indeed, I haven't felt quite so sad about the passing of a political leader since the day when people started bawling all over the Bronx with the news that FDR had died. In a political world dominated by bipartisan cynicism, there are few touchstones of integrity for the common folk, and Kennedy was one of them.

Lest I be accused of surrendering to the emotions of the moment, let me quote from a column I wrote in January of 2008 when the Democratic presidential primary battle hung in the balance:

"It should mean a great deal to progressives that in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination Sen. Ted Kennedy favors Sen. Barack Obama over two other colleagues he has worked with in the Senate. No one in the history of that institution has been a more consistent and effective fighter than Kennedy for an enlightened agenda, be it civil rights and liberty, gender equality, labor and immigrant justice, environmental protection, educational opportunity or opposing military adventures.

"Kennedy was a rare sane voice among the Democrats in strongly opposing the Iraq war, and it is no small tribute when he states: `We know the record of Barack Obama. There is the courage he showed when so many others were silent or simply went along. From the beginning, he opposed the war in Iraq. And let no one deny that truth.'"

Hopefully, it will be added to Ted Kennedy's legacy that he was right about Obama, just as he was consistently right on every major issue that he dealt with as a senator. Kennedy's endorsement of Obama was critical to our current president's historic nomination and election, and it is therefore fitting that the favor of that all-important endorsement be returned with a significant reform of the ailing U.S. health care system.

In the first year of the George W. Bush presidency, I wrote a column for the Los Angeles Times entitled "Bush Could Really Use a Fireside Chat with FDR," stating, "This is a president who never learned that it is possible to be a leader born of privilege and yet be absorbed with the fate of those in need. ... Not so Roosevelt, a true aristocrat whose genuine love of the common man united this country to save it during its most severe time of economic turmoil and devastating war." Kennedy wrote me a note thanking me for the column and adding, "I can think of at least fifty on the Senate side of Capital Hill that could benefit from a good fireside chat as well."

That's also a worthy epitaph for Ted Kennedy: Born of privilege, and yet absorbed with the fate of those in need.
(c) 2009 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

Dr. Van Heerden

Expert Fired Who Warned Levees Would Burst
Hurricane George, Four Years Later
By Greg Palast

There's another floater. Four years on, there's another victim face down in the waters of Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Ivor van Heerden.

I don't get to use the word "heroic" very often. Van Heerden is heroic. The Deputy Director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, it was van Heerden who told me, on camera, something so horrible, so frightening, that, if it weren't for his international stature, it would have been hard to believe:

"By midnight on Monday the White House knew. Monday night I was at the state Emergency Operations Center and nobody was aware that the levees had breached. Nobody."

On the night of August 29, 2005, van Heerden was shut in at the state emergency center in Baton Rouge, providing technical advice to the rescue effort. As Hurricane Katrina came ashore, van Heerden and the State Police there were high-fiving it: Katrina missed the city of New Orleans, turning east.

What they did not know was that the levees had cracked. For crucial hours, the White House knew, but withheld the information that the levees of New Orleans had broken and that the city was about to drown. Bush's boys did not notify the State of the flood to come which would have allowed police to launch an emergency hunt for the thousands that remained stranded.

"Fifteen hundred people drowned. That's the bottom line," said van Heerden. He shouldn't have told me that. The professor was already in trouble for saying, publicly, that the levees around New Orleans were no good, too short, by 18". They couldn't stand up to a storm like Katrina. He said it months before Katrina hit - in a call to the White House, and later in the press.

So, even before Katrina, even before our interview, the professor was in hot water. Van Heerden was told by University officials that his complaints jeopardized funding from the Bush Administration. They tried to gag him. He didn't care: he ripped off the gag and spoke out.

It didn't matter to Bush, to the State, to the University, that van Heerden was right- devastatingly right. Exactly as van Heerden predicted, the levees could not stand up to the storm surge.

In 2006, I met van Heerden in his office at the University's hurricane center; a cubby filled with charts of the city under water. He's a soft-spoken, even-tempered man, given to understatement and academic reserve. But his words were hand grenades: the Bush White House did nothing about the levees, despite warning after warning.

Why? A hurricane is an Act of God. But a levee failure is an Act of Bush - of the federal government. Under the Flood Control Act of 1928, once the levees break, it's Washington's responsibility to save lives -- and to compensate the victims for lost homes and lost loved ones.

By telling me this, the professor had to know he was putting his job on the line. This week marks the fourth anniversary of the drowning of New Orleans.

Shakoor Aljuwani of the Rebuilding Lives Coalition reminds me it is also the fourth year of exile for more than half of the low-income Black residents who once lived in the Crescent City. In the Lower Ninth Ward, 81% have yet to return.

And it marks the end of Dr. van Heerden's career at LSU. They got him. Once the network cameras were turned away from New Orleans, as America and Anderson Cooper shifted attention to Brad and Angelina and other news, the University put an end to Dr. van Heerden. "In 2006 they started the nonsense - they stopped me from teaching. They tried last year to get faculty to vote me out."

His contract was not renewed; he was forced out too, dumped along with the chief of the Hurricane Center who led the academics who supported van Heerden's research. The Man Who Was Right was fired.

Cronies and Contracts

I did not seek out professor van Heerden about Bush's deadly silence. Rather, I'd come to LSU to ask him about a strange little company, "Innovative Emergency Management," a politically well-connected firm that, a year before the hurricane, had finagled a contract to plan the evacuation of New Orleans.

Innovative Emergency Management knew a lot about political contributions, but seemed to have zero experience in hurricane response planning. In fact, their "plan" for New Orleans called for evacuating the city by automobile. When Katrina hit, 127,000 wheel-less New Orleans folk were left to float out.

And van Heerden knew all about it. Well before the hurricane, I discovered, he'd pointed out flaws in the "Innovative" plan - and was threatened for the revelation by a state official. The same official later joined the payroll of Innovative Emergency Management.

When I asked the company, at their office, for a copy of the plan, they body-blocked our Democracy Now! camerawoman and called the cops.

Not everyone shared the harsh fate of van Heerden. Just this month, Innovative Emergency Management, the firm with the drive-for-your-life plan, was handed a fat contract by the State of Alabama to draft - you guessed it - a hurricane evacuation plan for Mobile.

The City That Care Forgot

After the flood, I filmed the uplifting story of Common Ground, the commune of Katrina survivors who, under the leadership of the community organizer Malik Rahim, rebuilt a shattered hulk of a building with their own sweat and donated materials. They housed 350 displaced families.

Malik RahimSince I broadcast that film in 2006, Rahim and the tenants were evicted by speculators who bought the building. Just before Christmas, elderly residents were carried out and dumped in the street, literally, by marshals. The speculators paid the families who build their new edifice not one dime.

We also filmed the story of Patricia Thomas, a woman fighting to return to her home in the beautiful Lafitte public housing project. Speculators have long lusted for this property on the edge of the French Quarter.

And now the speculators have it. Patricia's home, unscathed by Katrina, was nevertheless bulldozed. As Rahim puts it, "They wanted them poor niggers out of there and they ain't had no intention to allow it to be reopened to no poor niggers." Their plan succeeded. Patricia, homeless, died last year.

This Friday, take a moment to remember a courageous professor, an indefatigable activist and the refugee families who once lived in what was once called, "The City That Care Forgot."

Now, in 2009, you could call it the city that everyone forgot.

For one week only, the International Humanities Center is offering, free of charge, a download of Greg Palast's investigative report for Democracy Now!, "Big Easy to Big Empty - the untold story of how the White House drowned New Orleans" at
(c) 2009 Greg Palast is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow for Investigative Reporting at the Nation Institute, New York. Read the rest of this story by picking up his New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse: Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales from a White House Gone Wild. His investigative reports for BBC Television and Democracy Now were recently released as a film on DVD: Palast Investigates: From 8-Mile to the Amazon, on the Trail of the Financial Marauders. Join Palast's Network on MySpace, on FaceBook or on YouTube.

All The President's Zombies
By Paul Krugman

The debate over the "public option" in health care has been dismaying in many ways. Perhaps the most depressing aspect for progressives, however, has been the extent to which opponents of greater choice in health care have gained traction - in Congress, if not with the broader public - simply by repeating, over and over again, that the public option would be, horrors, a government program.

Washington, it seems, is still ruled by Reaganism - by an ideology that says government intervention is always bad, and leaving the private sector to its own devices is always good.

Call me naïve, but I actually hoped that the failure of Reaganism in practice would kill it. It turns out, however, to be a zombie doctrine: even though it should be dead, it keeps on coming.

Let's talk for a moment about why the age of Reagan should be over.

First of all, even before the current crisis Reaganomics had failed to deliver what it promised. Remember how lower taxes on high incomes and deregulation that unleashed the "magic of the marketplace" were supposed to lead to dramatically better outcomes for everyone? Well, it didn't happen.

To be sure, the wealthy benefited enormously: the real incomes of the top .01 percent of Americans rose sevenfold between 1980 and 2007. But the real income of the median family rose only 22 percent, less than a third its growth over the previous 27 years.

Moreover, most of whatever gains ordinary Americans achieved came during the Clinton years. President George W. Bush, who had the distinction of being the first Reaganite president to also have a fully Republican Congress, also had the distinction of presiding over the first administration since Herbert Hoover in which the typical family failed to see any significant income gains.

And then there's the small matter of the worst recession since the 1930s.

There's a lot to be said about the financial disaster of the last two years, but the short version is simple: politicians in the thrall of Reaganite ideology dismantled the New Deal regulations that had prevented banking crises for half a century, believing that financial markets could take care of themselves. The effect was to make the financial system vulnerable to a 1930s-style crisis - and the crisis came.

"We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals," said Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937. "We know now that it is bad economics." And last year we learned that lesson all over again.

Or did we? The astonishing thing about the current political scene is the extent to which nothing has changed.

The debate over the public option has, as I said, been depressing in its inanity. Opponents of the option - not just Republicans, but Democrats like Senator Kent Conrad and Senator Ben Nelson - have offered no coherent arguments against it. Mr. Nelson has warned ominously that if the option were available, Americans would choose it over private insurance - which he treats as a self-evidently bad thing, rather than as what should happen if the government plan was, in fact, better than what private insurers offer.

But it's much the same on other fronts. Efforts to strengthen bank regulation appear to be losing steam, as opponents of reform declare that more regulation would lead to less financial innovation - this just months after the wonders of innovation brought our financial system to the edge of collapse, a collapse that was averted only with huge infusions of taxpayer funds.

So why won't these zombie ideas die?

Part of the answer is that there's a lot of money behind them. "It is difficult to get a man to understand something," said Upton Sinclair, "when his salary" - or, I would add, his campaign contributions - "depend upon his not understanding it." In particular, vast amounts of insurance industry money have been flowing to obstructionist Democrats like Mr. Nelson and Senator Max Baucus, whose Gang of Six negotiations have been a crucial roadblock to legislation.

But some of the blame also must rest with President Obama, who famously praised Reagan during the Democratic primary, and hasn't used the bully pulpit to confront government-is-bad fundamentalism. That's ironic, in a way, since a large part of what made Reagan so effective, for better or for worse, was the fact that he sought to change America's thinking as well as its tax code.

How will this all work out? I don't know. But it's hard to avoid the sense that a crucial opportunity is being missed, that we're at what should be a turning point but are failing to make the turn.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Af-Pak Masquerade: The Untold Truths Of War
By Chris Floyd

William Pfaff has the low-down on the empire burlesque going on in Barack Obama's "Af-Pak" war. The whole piece is well worth reading, but below are a few highlights, including the pearl of wisdom in the first sentence:

The problem with U.S.-sponsored elections in Asia and elsewhere in the non-Western world, as in Afghanistan Aug. 20, is that they are sponsored by the United States primarily to legitimize its own presence in the country.

This is a truth so self-evident that it should not even have to be said; yet such is the impenetrable ignorance and arrogance of the American political class (including most emphatically the corporate media) that it needs to be loudly shouted in every available media, for hours on end, day after day, in the wan hope that it might finally get through to our leaders and "opinion-formers." And what is the fruit of Obama's "continuity" and expansion of the policy of his imperial predecessors? Back to Pfaff:

The new administration's under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, Judith A. McHale, met a group of Pakistani journalists, including Ansar Abbasi, an important commentator critical of U.S. policy. She spoke warmly of U.S.-Pakistani relations, and Abbasi politely listened, thanking her for coming. He then, according to McHale afterward, said, "You should know that we hate all Americans. From the bottom of our souls, we hate you."

Under Secretary McHale also reported that Abbasi went on to explain that Americans "are no longer human beings because (their) goal was to eliminate other humans." He said that "thousands of innocent people had been killed because (Americans) are trying to find Osama bin Laden."

While Abbasi's reading of Pakistani sentiment might be accurate, he is of course incorrect in his final observation. Of all the many reasons why Americans are killing thousands of innocent people, "trying to find Osama bin Laden" is not one of them. Does anyone believe that if Osama bin Laden was found tomorrow -- dead or alive -- the Terror War would suddenly stop? The Terror Warriors long ago gave up even the pretense that the war in Afghanistan is about "getting" bin Laden. We hear different justifications for the continued churning of the war machine practically every day. As Pfaff notes, the new line, apparently, is that we are killing thousands of innocent people -- and losing handfuls of our own soldiers every month -- in order to build a public health system in Afghanistan and help provide more business opportunities for Pakistanis.

This is the line now being trotted out by Obama's hand-picked high poobah of Af-Pak affairs, Richard Holbrooke. As Pfaff notes:

Holbrooke ... told an audience in Karachi that the U.S. under President Obama wants to see an improvement in the lives of Pakistanis, and more business opportunities for them as well....

Twelve days earlier, in Washington, Holbrooke had held another press conference, accompanied by many from his team in Pakistan. The purpose was to explain to the American television audience that the mission in Afghanistan is to kill or capture drug traffickers, help farmers grow food instead of poppies, build a public health system, build "civil society" there, and in general rebuild the country.

What's more, Holbrooke seems to think that our drone missiles, our military bases and our bombings of weddings and funerals are all integral parts of a Muslim Reformation:

Ambassador Holbrooke expressed the ambition to add a spiritual dimension to his efforts in the region. He said the religiously motivated enemies of the American presence in Asia "present themselves as false messengers of a prophet, which is what they do. And we need to combat it." (Surely he has his theology badly confused?)

But of course the reason why Holbrooke's "theology" is confused here is because he is not trying to make actual sense with his words. He -- like his boss, and all the other servants of Ares in the American elite --is merely making vaguely agreeable noises to obfuscate the blood-and-iron reality of empire in action. They want loot, power, and obedience -- but they can't come out and say it. And so we will continue to hear, from Republican and Democrat, from conservative and progressive, lie after lie after lie about "building" freedom and democracy and rights and law and prosperity and security by "killing thousands of innocent people" in broken and volatile lands.
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

Ben Saves The Day
By Case Wagonvoord

It's nice to know that in the depth of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the world's central bankers can still afford to hold a little soiree amid the luxurious digs of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. One would think they'd be hard pressed to afford a diner in Hoboken, NJ.

Ah, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, an isle of black in a sea of red. At least this is the message from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. According to Saturday's New York Times, Ben reassured his cohorts that, "The prospects for a return to growth in the near term appear good."

Okay, so we kind of have to overlook Ben's announcement of the Great Moderation in his February, 2004 speech in which he declared an end to market volatility. In the context of the day on which he made that speech he was correct. The economy was floating heavenward like a hot air balloon. How was Ben to know the balloon was a fragile bubble?

Granted, "recovery" may seem to be a bizarre concept to an unemployed auto worker or to a family that's just lost their home and are sleeping in their car. For many, the light at the end of the tunnel is a cop's flashlight rousting a homeless man sleeping in a doorway.

The problem the poor have is that they simply don't understand what Ben means when he says "recovery." It is, after all, a new economy.

Recovery use to mean that the unemployed would get their jobs back. A return to growth meant that factories would start producing and workers would use their newly minted paychecks to buy what they produced.

The problem is that in all this contemporary talk of recovery, there is a little adjective attached to the word that puts a nasty backspin on it: "jobless." There may be a recovery, but the lower classes in this country ain't going to see it. The factories that start producing are all off shore.

So, whose going to recover? When he speaks of recovery, Ben means an increased flow of pus seeping from America's running sore, Wall Street.

The banks are thriving; therefore the economy is thriving, regardless of the misery enveloping Main Street. That great economic delusion, the Dow, is up, bonuses are being paid and the banks have cooked their books and are turning a profit.

It makes no difference that it's all smoke and mirrors as long as Wall Street believes it's real.

Of course, any recovery has to navigate its way around a landmine so wide and deep that it can't be avoided-oil. The price of oil is down because demand is down. Once recovery begins, demand will increase and the price of oil will go up. Once price of oil goes up, the landmine explodes and the recovery is no more.

This is why Ben's reassurances are so important. If we can't have a recovery, we might as well believe in one. Where the discipline of economics falters, the discipline of theology rushes in to fill the void.
(c) 2009 Case Wagenvoord. Some years ago, Case Wagenvoord turned off the tube and picked up a book. He's been trouble ever since. His articles have been posted at The Smirking Chimp, Countercurrents and Issues & Alibis. When he's not writing or brooding, he is carving hardwood bowls that have been displayed in galleries and shows across the country. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two cats. His book, Open Letters to George W. Bush is available at

Bad Plan From The Get-Go!
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning Middle America; your King of Simple News is on the air.

I did an hour last night as the featured guest on Frosty Wooldridge's radio program, "Connecting the Dots." Frosty asked me if I could explain why our leadership would continue to pursue population growth as a way out of our current mess.

It's an easy question to answer; our leadership is firmly wedged in a failed paradigm. They are pursuing the course that has always worked before; grow population, grow consumption, grow the tax base. It's an easy plan, and politicians like easy.

The obvious problem is that we reached the top of the mathematical mountain for our exponential growth plan some time back and everything on the other side of that mountain was downhill. We now find ourselves living in a failed growth economy, and rather than back off, leadership is shoving the throttles to full thrust with the plane tied down.

Please remember that the title of my book is "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed." That lie was of course that America could grow forever. Nothing can grow forever and that includes America. The trump card nevertheless, is that our entire system was designed lock, stock, and barrel, for continuous exponential growth; and yes, continuous forever. Now that's a problem isn't it?

Admitting that our entire system has fatal mathematical flaws built into Social Security, Medicare, banking, employment, natural resources, etc., etc., and that we must undergo a radical and painful paradigm shift is not news that assures reelection.

So then, the answer to why our leadership behaves the way they do is easy; power and greed pretty well sum up that burning question.

Why the public has bought into the ludicrous plan for all of these years may be even easier to answer. The public at large is dumb as a brick and to steal a phrase from Staples, they want an "easy button." Hey, give the people what they want.

Full employment, lots of vacation, short work hours, a large home, a new car, free medical care, free transportation, free food, ample Social Security payments; yep, that's what I want. I'm not delusional, I'm an American dammit, I've got it comin'.

One of my quotes is, "Exponential growth is the plan; it ain't possible is the problem." And now my friends, we have that problem showing up in full living color and high definition. But then, we've known it was coming for a very long time, or could have known it was coming had we cared to face stark reality which I explained above that we don't.

Thomas Malthus pointed out the obvious problems of unchecked growth in 1798 when he wrote "An Essay on the Principals of Population." But let's jump forward a little and say that most people couldn't read in 1798.

We talked yesterday about "technological unemployment." M. King Hubbert pointed out the obvious problems in 1935. In short, all technological innovations are aimed at reducing labor and making our lives a little easier or perhaps more enjoyable. Hubbert stated that a small percentage of the available manpower could provide the means for a stable economy.

The continual reduction of human labor over a century would undoubtedly calculate to a smart eight grader to mean one of two things; fewer humans, or shorter working hours. But then, the average eight grader has yet to be debriefed of their common sense and certainly has yet to attend Harvard Business School.

Therefore, the average eight grader is not tuned into the third possibility of "gorilla capitalism." which goes like this. Technology equals more production, fewer employees, and higher corporate profits without end. It also means owning the government and controlling the money supply. The latter is not a big issue, as money equals power the world over.

The obvious fly in the ointment is that we continued to increase population under the above described plan of purposeful technologically driven declining employment while exporting our most important jobs in order to achieve greater profits. How's that been workin' out for ya?
(c) 2009 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"I never would have agreed to the formulation of the Central Intelligence Agency back in forty-seven, if I had known it would become the American Gestapo."
~~~ Harry S. Truman

This Isn't Reform, It's Robbery
By Chris Hedges

Percentage change since 2002 in average premiums paid to large US health-insurance companies: +87%

Percentage change in the profits of the top ten insurance companies: +428%

Chances that an American bankrupted by medical bills has health insurance: 7 in 10

~~~ Harper's Index, September 2009 ~~~

Capitalists, as my friend Father Michael Doyle says, should never be allowed near a health care system. They hold sick children hostage as they force parents to bankrupt themselves in the desperate scramble to pay for medical care. The sick do not have a choice. Medical care is not a consumable good. We can choose to buy a used car or a new car, shop at a boutique or a thrift store, but there is no choice between illness and health. And any debate about health care must acknowledge that the for-profit health care industry is the problem and must be destroyed. This is an industry that hires doctors and analysts to deny care to patients in order to increase profits. It is an industry that causes half of all bankruptcies. And the 20,000 Americans who died last year because they did not receive adequate care condemn these corporations as complicit in murder.

The current health care debate in Congress has nothing to do with death panels or public options or socialized medicine. The real debate, the only one that counts, is how much money our blood-sucking insurance, pharmaceutical and for-profit health services are going to be able to siphon off from new health care legislation. The proposed plans rattling around Congress all ensure that the profits for these corporations will increase and the misery for ordinary Americans will be compounded. The corporate state, enabled by both Democrats and Republicans, is yet again cannibalizing the Treasury. It is yet again pushing Americans, especially the poor and the working class, into levels of despair and rage that will continue to fuel the violent, proto-fascist movements leaping up around the edges of American society. And the traditional watchdogs-those in public office, the press and citizens groups-are as useless as the perfumed fops of another era who busied their days with court intrigue at Versailles. Canada never looked so good.

The Democrats are collaborating with lobbyists for the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and for-profit health care providers to craft the current health care reform legislation. "Corporate and industry players are inside the tent this time," says David Merritt, project director at Newt Gingrich's Center for Health Transformation, "so there is a vacuum on the outside." And these lobbyists have already killed a viable public option and made sure nothing in the bills will impede their growing profits and capacity for abuse.

"It will basically be a government law that says you have to buy their defective product," says Dr. David Himmelstein, a professor at Harvard Medical School and a founder of Physicians for a National Health Plan. "Next the government will tell us a Pinto in every garage, a lead-coated toy to every child and melamine-laced puppy chow for every dog."

"Health insurance is not a race to the top; it is a race to the bottom," he told me from Cambridge, Mass. "The way you make money is by abusing people. And if a public-option plan is not ready and willing to abuse patients it is stuck with the expensive patients. The premiums will go up until it is noncompetitive. The conditions that have now been set for the plans include a hobbled public option. Under the best-case scenario there will be tens of millions [who] will remain uninsured at the outset, and the number will climb as more and more people are priced out of the insurance market."

The inclusion of these corporations in the crafting of health care legislation has not stopped figures like Rick Scott, the former head of the Columbia/HCA health care company, from attempting to sabotage any plan. Scott's company was forced to pay a $1.7 billion fraud settlement-the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history-for stealing hundreds of millions from taxpayers by overbilling for medical care. Scott, who made his money primarily from Medicare, is now saturating the airwaves in a reputed $20 million ad campaign that is stoking the anger and fear of many Americans. His ads are coordinated by CRC Public Relations, the group that masterminded the "Swift boat" attacks against 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

"They are using our money to campaign against us," Dr. Himmelstein told me. "The money for these commercials came from health care interests that collect fees from American patients. We experienced this before in Massachusetts. We ran a ballot initiative for universal health care in 2000 and the insurance industry spent $5 million on it, including the insurance company I am insured by. They used my premiums to smear an idea that 70 percent in Massachusetts, according to polls, favored before this smear campaign. Universal health care was narrowly defeated."

The bills now in Congress will, at best, impose on the country the failed model in Massachusetts. That model will demand that Americans buy health insurance from private insurers. There will be some subsidies for the very poor but not for anyone above a modest income. Insurers will be allowed to continue to jack up premiums, including for the elderly. The bankruptcies due to medical bills and swelling premiums will mount along with rising deductibles and co-payments. Health care will be beyond the reach of many families. In Massachusetts one in six people who have mandated insurance still say they cannot afford care, and 30,000 people were evicted from the state program this month because of budget cuts. Expect the same debacle nationwide.

"For someone my age who is making $40,000 a year you are required to lay out $5,000 for an insurance premium for coverage that covers nothing until you have spent $2,000 out of pocket," Himmelstein said. "You are $7,000 out of pocket before you have any coverage at all. For most people that means you are already bankrupt before you have insurance. If anything, that has made them worse off. Instead of having that $5,000 to cover some of their medical expenses they have laid it out in premiums."

The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care-$7,129 per capita-although 45.7 million Americans remain without health coverage and millions more are inadequately covered. There are 14,000 Americans a day now losing their health coverage. A report in the journal Health Affairs estimates that, if the system is left unchanged, one of every five dollars spent by Americans in 2017 will go to health coverage. Private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third, 31 percent, of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $400 billion per year, enough, Physicians for a National Health Plan points out, to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans. But the proposed America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (H.R. 3200 in the House) will, rather than cut costs, add an estimated $239 billion over 10 years to the federal deficit. This is very good for the corporations. It is very bad for us.

The lobbyists have, as they did with the obscene bailouts for banks and investment firms, hijacked legislation in order to fleece the citizen. The five largest private health insurers and their trade group, America's Health Insurance Plans, spent more than $6 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2009. Pfizer, the world's biggest drug maker, spent more than $9 million during the last quarter of 2008 and the first three months of this year. The Washington Post reported that up to 30 members of Congress from both parties who hold key committee memberships have major investments in health care companies totaling between $11 million and $27 million. President Barack Obama's director of health care policy, who will not discuss single-payer as an option, has served on the boards of several health care corporations.

Obama and the congressional leadership have shut out advocates of single-payer. The press, including papers such as The New York Times, treats single-payer as a fringe movement. The television networks rarely mention it. And yet between 45 and 60 percent of doctors favor single-payer. Between 40 and 62 percent of the American people, including 80 percent of registered Democrats, want universal, single-payer not-for-profit health care for all Americans. The ability of the corporations to discredit and silence voices that represent at least half of the population is another sad testament to the power of our corporate state.

"We are considering a variety of striking efforts for early in the fall," Dr. Himmelstein said, "including protests outside state capitals by doctors around the country, video links of conferences in 70 or 80 cities around the country, with protests and potential doctors chaining themselves to the fence of the White House."

Make sure you join them.
(c) 2009 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

Bobby and Barry shake on it!

Who Is Obama Playing Ball With?
By Amy Goodman

It looked like it was business as usual for President Barack Obama on the first day of his Martha's Vineyard vacation, as he spent five hours golfing with Robert Wolf, president of UBS Investment Bank and chairman and CEO of UBS Group Americas. Wolf, an early financial backer of Obama's presidential campaign, raised $250,000 for him back in 2006, and in February was appointed by the president to the White House's Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Economic recovery for whom?

Interestingly, Wolf's appointment came in the same month that UBS agreed to pay the U.S. $780 million to settle civil and criminal charges related to helping people in the U.S. avoid taxes. Not to worry. UBS, an ailing bank with a pre-existing condition, had great insurance coverage. It was actually receiving $2.5 billion in a backdoor bailout from bailed-out insurance giant AIG. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said, "It looks like we're simply laundering this money through AIG." UBS, this bank that shelters wealthy tax dodgers, was actually being bailed out by hardworking U.S. taxpayers.

UBS, which once stood for Union Bank of Switzerland, was founded more than a century ago. Its success hinges on Switzerland's famous banking secrecy laws, allowing people to squirrel money away in untraceable "numbered accounts." Secret Swiss bank accounts have become a favorite way for wealthy people in the U.S. to dodge taxes. According to the U.S. Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, in a July 2008 report, "From at least 2000 to 2007, UBS made a concerted effort to open accounts in Switzerland for wealthy U.S. clients, employing practices that could facilitate, and have resulted in, tax evasion by U.S. clients."

As part of the settlement, UBS agreed to share client account information with the U.S. government. While there may be as many as 52,000 such accounts, UBS is releasing around 4,450 client names. Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Doug Shulman said in a press release, "We will be receiving an unprecedented amount of information on taxpayers who have evaded their tax obligation by hiding money offshore at UBS." UBS will be sending account holders notification that their names may be among those delivered to the IRS, and the IRS, in turn, is granting leniency to tax dodgers who turn themselves in before Sept. 23. Account holders won't know if their names are included, though, so gamblers among them may keep quiet and hope their accounts stay secret.

Last Friday, as Wolf was preparing for his golf game with Obama, UBS whistle-blower Bradley Birkenfeld was sentenced to 40 months in prison for facilitating offshore tax evasion through UBS banking schemes, despite assisting federal investigators in exposing the secretive bank.

Above the entrance to UBS's headquarters in Zurich is a bust of the Greek god Hermes - not only the fleet-footed messenger of the gods, but also the god of thieves and merchants. The symbolism is striking. Whether or not Wolf won his golf game against Obama, UBS has clearly scored a hole-in-one.
(c) 2009 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback.

The Dead Letter Office...

GOP Congressman Peter King poses
with Saddam Hussein in happier times.

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer King,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, your tirades against bringing our tortures to justice makes it possible to look forward to, 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, first class, with diamond clusters presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 08-29-2009. We salute you Herr King, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Thomas Paine v. The Right's Torture Defenders
By Glenn Greenwald

GOP Congressman Peter King had this rancid outburst today in Politico regarding Eric Holder's decision to investigate whether laws were broken by the Bush administration's torture:

"It's bullshit. It's disgraceful. You wonder which side they're on. [It's' a] declaration of war against the CIA, and against common sense. . . . When Holder was talking about being 'shocked' [before the report's release], I thought they were going to have cutting guys' fingers off or something -- or that they actually used the power drill. . . "

Pressed on whether interrogators had actually broken the law, King said he didn't think the Geneva Convention "applies to terrorists."

Never mind that the Supreme Court in Hamdan ruled exactly the opposite: that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to all detainees, including accused Terrorists. Never mind that the War Crimes Act makes it a felony to inflict "prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from . . . the threat of imminent death; or the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering. . . ." and that these acts are therefore criminal whether or not King likes them.

Never mind that scores of people have died -- not merely been threatened with death -- in American custody as a result of "interrogation tactics." Never mind that Ronald Reagan signed the Convention Against Torture which compels the U.S. to prosecute anyone authorizing torture; that the Treaty proclaims that "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever . . . may be invoked as a justification of torture"; and that Reagan himself said the Treaty "will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today." And most of all, never mind that King has no idea whether these people are actually "terrorists" because the people we tortured were never given trials, never proven to have done anything wrong, and in many cases were -- as federal courts have repeatedly found and as the CIA IG Report itself recognized -- completely innocent.

My email inbox and comment section are filled with King-like accusatory sentiments that to oppose Torture is to defend Terrorists, because Terrorists deserve to be tortured, and that to oppose their abuse is to be treasonous because it's terrible to care if Terrorists are abused, etc. etc. In his 1795 essay, which he entitled Dissertations on First Principles of Government, Thomas Paine wrote this as his last paragraph:

An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

Can that be any clearer? Of course, Paine also wrote in Common Sense that "so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king" and "in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other." And in his Dissertations, he also wrote:

The executive is not invested with the power of deliberating whether it shall act or not; it has no discretionary authority in the case; for it can act no other thing than what the laws decree, and it is obliged to act conformably thereto. . . .

For anyone who believes in the basic principles of the founding, the fact that these acts of torture are illegal -- felonies -- ought to end the discussion about whether they were justified.

Few things are more repellent than watching the contemporary Right in America invoke the principles of the Founders -- in general -- to justify their warped and lawless authoritarianism. But nothing is more repulsive them watching them pretend that Thomas Paine of all people has anything to do with them (Glenn Beck actually wrote his most recent book based on the pretense that he is the modern day Paine). Any casual reading of Paine makes clear that, today, he would be so far on what is deemed the "left" side of the spectrum that you'd be unable to find him. Paine is nothing but what Joe Klein refers to as a "crazy civil liberties absolutist" and what Rush Limbaugh similarly calls "far, fringe, lunatic kooks, far left radical lunatic fringe."

The Right today argues that condemning torture is wrong because the people who were tortured were just Terrorists -- barely human -- and they deserve no defense, not even the force of law. Thomas Paine argued as a first principle that those devoted to liberty "must guard even his enemy from oppression." Could the contrast be any more stark?
(c) 2009 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

Let Them Eat Skittles!
The Ruckus That Was Not
By Mike Wrathell

President Barack H. Obama matriculated Montana on August 14th, 2009 to help him put an end to traditional town hall meetings, having his in an airport hanger with hand-picked Montanans just outside of Bozeman, where people were recently required to give up their Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter passwords and user names to work for the city government. How fitting. Obama also launched a barb at the media.

"Teevy loves a ruckus," Obama exclaimed. Gee whiz, Barack, I love a nice ruckus, too! Ha!

When I played hockey in ninth grade for the Holmes-Craft Americans out of Fraser Hockeyland, sometimes I raised quite the ruckus. One time, sitting on the bench during a game, some idiot from St. Clair Shores swung his stick at my goalie's face on purpose and yelled out at the same time while coming in on a breakaway without the puck. No one on my team on the ice did anything about it, so I guess I felt there was a score to settle, so later in the game I did the same thing to their goalie, yell and all, except that I misjudged distances and accidentally whacked him pretty good in the face with the blade of my stick. It was a spur of the moment inspiration.

One of the smallest players on either team skated towards me, and I timed a perfect right to his face, knocking him down. He got back up and skated again toward me, and I knocked him down again with another right to the center of his face. I still admire him to this day. I always kept my glove on when I threw a punch. Then, a real ruckus broke out.

Ever since, I love a good ruckus, so imagine my chagrin when my Representative in the House, Congressman Sander Levin, opted for a "Community Resource Fair" instead of a town hall meeting in Mt. Clemens this past Thursday. What's up with that, Holmes?

The Fair was held at the Cairns Community Center in the middle of an urban neighborhood just north of downtown, and Rep. Levin was sporting an urban look: going belt-less.

When I worked as a counselor for teenage male sex offenders in Troutdale, Oregon, we were required to make sure the boys wore belts and kept the ice cube trays full. Oh, how I wish I was a fly in Sander's freezer!

The Fair had tables set up where I learned all sorts of fascinating things. Did you know there is a census in 2010? Wow! Next thing you know, they're going to say there is one every ten years! And I even got a free Census 2010 coffee cup as proof!

And Skittles! Let me tell you about those Skittles! One table with information on how seniors can avoid reefer madness was giving away packets of limited edition Skittles with Crazy Cores! Crazy Kewl! Who needs to vent about your concerns regarding Obama Care when you can pop a few Skittles in your mouth. That will shut you up, you tart!

Another table was run by a nice lady named Erika Lojko from the Macomb County Health Department. She was giving away key chains and stickers for kids, and, oh yeah, some literature about the swine flu pandemic that might be coming our way.

Even Sander Levin's staff was manning and womanning a table with all sorts of literature, some about the health care bill, and a form to leave a comment or question for the 77-year-old codger. That way if you are an illiterate ruckus-raiser, you are totally screwed. Clinton Township businessman Dan Tollis, who ran for state representative in 2008, engaged Rep. Levin in a short discussion on the ObamaCare Bill and Rep. Levin assured him euthanasia was not in the bill, and that it would not pay for abortions, anymore than you pay for them if you have Blue Cross at least, even though Blue Cross does pay for that "service." Sander also said there are not death panels in the bill, and I blurted out that Dick Morris, former advisor to President Clinton, thinks there are. Our eyes met briefly. Ha.

Dick Morris said on, "The whole 'reform' scheme is one giant death panel in its own right....Even without a federal board voting on whom to kill, Obama Care will ration care extensively, leading to the same result."

I filled out one of Levin's comment forms and suggested some Democrat debate Dick Morris, in fact. I hate loose ends.

Speaking of services, my 1996 Saturn/clunker could use a new engine and tranny, could you throw that in the Bill, Sander? No one will notice. I live in your district, too!

I also engaged Rep. Levin in a short conversation, asking him if he was going to have any town halls and he said no without saying no. He said I could always make an appointment to meet with him, that that would be better than a ruckus. Damn!

I also asked his staff at the aforementioned table about why the town hall ended up a fair and one of them condescendingly mentioned how his constituents could make appointments and ask questions. I countered that only one person would hear Levin's answers. One of them then said that the next person could ask "the same questions." I told them that nothing is the same, like every snowflake is different. Ha! I guess public discussion of important matters is not Sander's cup of tea. Democracy with the threat of a even a baby ruckus is just too much for him. Sounds like it's nap time!

There were some protesters near the entrance of the parking lot, some members of the Macomb County Republican Party, some not. One lady protesting was afraid to tell anyone her name or any information about herself and wore dark sunglasses. She was cool. Her sign said, "STOP OBAMA."

In conclusion, Sander Levin's "Community Resource Fair" brings Marie Antoinette's famous words to mind, in a slightly modernized form: "Let them eat Skittles!"
(c) 2009 Mike Wrathell. is an artist, attorney and a reporter for Issues & Alibis Magazine and America Jr. He is also an actor in the new motion picture "W." Write Mike @.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Gordon Campbell ~~~

W the Movie Music Video DJ Monkey's 3rd World War

To End On A Happy Note...

Wasteland Of The Free
By Iris Dement

We got preachers dealing in politics and diamond mines
And their speech is growing increasingly unkind
They say they are Christ's disciples
But they don't look like Jesus to me
And it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We got politicians running races on corporate cash
Now don't tell me they don't turn around and kiss them peoples' ass
You may call me old-fashioned
But that don't fit my picture of a true democracy
And it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We got CEO's making two hundred times the workers' pay
But they'll fight like hell against raising the minimum wage
And If you don't like it, mister, they'll ship your job
To some third-world country 'cross the sea
And it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

Living in the wasteland of the free
Where the poor have now become the enemy
Let's blame our troubles on the weak ones
Sounds like some kind of Hitler remedy
Living in the wasteland of the free

We got little kids with guns fighting inner city wars
So what do we do, we put these little kids behind prison doors
And we call ourselves the advanced civilization
That sounds like crap to me
And it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We got high-school kids running 'round in Calvin Klein and Guess
Who cannot pass a sixth-grade reading test
But if you ask them, they can tell you
The name of every crotch on MTV
And it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We kill for oil, then we throw a party when we win
Some guy refuses to fight, and we call that the sin
But he's standing up for what he believes in
And that seems pretty damned American to me
And it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

Living in the wasteland of the free
Where the poor have now become the enemy
Let's blame our troubles on the weak ones
Sounds like some kind of Hitler remedy
Living in the wasteland of the free

While we sit gloating in our greatness
Justice is sinking to the bottom of the sea
Living in the wasteland of the free
Living in the wasteland of the free
Living in the wasteland of the free
(c) 1996/2009 Iris Demint

Have You Seen This...

Democracy Now

Parting Shots...

Obama's Death Squads Target The Nightmares Of America's Children!

Freehold, Iowa - World renowned Pastor and child Counselor, Deacon Fred received a troubling letter from a concerned homeschooler that disturbed him so greatly, he ordered it to be posted onto the World Wide Web so that every American can see it. A Christian Child's Depiction of The Future! Click Here for a Larger Image of This Christian Child's Nightmare About Obama's Death Squads Click Here to Enlarge Image

This innocent drawing from a concerned Christian child, is a tell-tale sign that things are NOT well in the Land of the Free! Politics are one thing! But when you start putting strange ideas into the precious minds of American children, well - that's a whole different kettle altogether, Mr. President! ~~~ Pastor Deacon Fred


Conservative experts are learning that innocent children across America are having trouble sleeping at night. They live in constant fear. They can't stop thinking about President Obama's diabolical plan to mandate Death Squads to kill their grandparents, and take from them everything they hold dear! Their screams can be heard across the nation and our tears are falling into a puddle that cries out for restoration!

Respected Creation Scientist and Christian Child Psychologist, Dr. Jonathan Edwards says, "There is not enough children's sleep-aid medication on hand to deal with this epidemic! Kids are worried about the future! They're worried that President Obama is going to order residents of every nursing home in our Great Nation outside and simply shoot them all! They are terrified that President Obama is going to sneak up to their window at night and put a bullet into the head of a retarded cousin sleeping in the corner! The only way these nightmares can end is for Mr. Obama to stop talking about health care, and to focus on more important issues, like mandating morning prayers over loud speakers to the Lord Jesus Christ in public schools!"
(c) 2009 The Landover Baptist Church

The Gross National Debt

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Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 33 (c) 08/28/2009

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(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors."