Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Robert Reich hears, "The Guns Of August."

Uri Avnery recites, "Tutu's Prayer."

Joe Conason recalls that, "Ted Kennedy Wanted The Public Option."

Jim Hightower asks, "Should Charity Hospitals Be Charitable?"

Eric Alterman remembers, "Novak Without Tears."

Greg Palast foresees, "Economic Hit Men And The Next Drowning Of New Orleans."

Paul Krugman explains, "Missing Richard Nixon."

Chris Floyd smells some, "Big Brass Bull."

Case Wagenvoord exclaims, "It's So Cathartic!"

Mike Folkerth concludes, "Monkey See, Monkey Do."

Chris Hedges calls for a revolution in, "Go To Pittsburgh, Young Man, And Defy Your Empire."

Cynthia McKinney returns with a question, "How Did We Get From There To Here?"

GOP Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald reviews, "The Washington Post's Cheney-ite Defense Of Torture."

Ted Rall says, "We Have Met the Nazis, And They Are Us."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst returns with "Cash For Clunkers: The Sequels" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "It's Always Something!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Tim Campbell, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea.Com, Mr. Fish, Kahalil Bendib,, Keith Tucker, Steve Greenberg, Jeff Parker, E. Baums World.Com, A.P., Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Issues & Alibis.Org and Pink & Blue Films.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

It's Always Something!
By Ernest Stewart

It's all or nothing
And nothings all I ever get
Every time I turn it on
I burn it up and burn it out

Its always something
Theres always something going wrong
That's the only guarantee
That's what this is all about
Life Is A Lemon ~~~ Meatloaf

"Hey dude, are you trying to ask a Bush daughter to dance or something?!"
~~~ Jenna Bush ~~~

Our suburban nightmare came to a head today and we're movin' on up. We've been fightin' the scourge of the south ever since we arrived in this Gothic nightmare of a town. Sure, we were up to our eyeballs in racists and reactionaries, no biggie but, like the Martians in "War Of The Worlds," we've succumbed to one of nature's tiniest-minded beings, and I'm not talking about the RNC, but, rather, the simple fire ant.

There were hundreds of nests in the lawn when we arrived in June of 2008. We fought the good fight and, with an unending supply of boiling water, we killed them all off in the yard but there was no way to reach the billions or trillions of ants under the house.

Then they came inside.

First it was the kitchen and that was last summer, but we found out where they were coming in and put a line of coffee grounds across it and they never came back until Saturday when they discovered the other hundred ways inside the shack and that was in the kitchen alone. We vacuumed them up in their hundreds of thousands and put coffee grounds everywhere but, of course, not everywhere and they're still finding new ways in.

They found several ways into the bathroom, which we sprayed and covered in coffee grounds. So far no biggie as long as they were cornered in those two rooms but this morning Victoria discovered they had found their way into our bedroom and, more importantly, into her clothes which she quickly removed and brushed 50 or so ants off of her body and hence, we're out of here. We had planned on moving in October but when our rent runs out in two weeks we're gone. We're going to pull the pin on a couple of cans of fogging poison and head off to Asheville for a couple of daze before returning and packing it up and in as Victoria has to work two weeks to give them notice. Whether or not I can publish this weeks or ever again is up in the air right now. Will send more when I know what's happening.

And Finally

Here's some interesting entertainment news and perhaps another sign of the Apocolypse! For those of you who were wondering just how low American journalistic standards can go, I say, wonder no more! NBC news has taken a giant leap over the likes of Fox Spews, CBS, CNN or even ABC with the announcement that "The Today Show" producer Jim Bell has managed to get Smirky the Wonder Chimp's daughter Jenna to join "The Today Show's" cast of characters as a news reporter.

I hope that didn't cause ya'll to choke on something! I'll repeat that again for those of you on drugs...

Jenna Bush is going to be a national news reporter and everything!

Of course, Jenna won't be a "real" news reporter but she will play one on the NBC hit comedy series, "Today!" Jenna, long known for her comedy pratfalls, usually plays a drunken "brat"* with her elder sister Barbara and hence should be very well suited to join the other members of this comedy troop. They'll be hijinks and low comedy ahead for NBC this fall! I can hardly wait... NOT!

* I had another word in mind but my editor wouldn't let me use it!


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


05-31-1918 ~ 08-26-2009
The void is calling!

05-06-1988 ~ 08-28-2009
Arf-arf, Arf!


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.


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So please help us if you can...?


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

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

The Guns Of August
How the Republican Right Fired on Health Care
By Robert Reich

What we learned in August is something we've long known but keep forgetting: The most important difference between America's Democratic left and Republican right is that the left has ideas and the right has discipline. Obama and progressive supporters of health care were outmaneuvered in August -- not because the right had any better idea for solving the health care mess but because the right's attack on the Democrats' idea was far more disciplined than was the Democrats' ability to sell it.

I say the Democrats' "idea" but in fact there was no single idea. Obama never sent any detailed plan to Congress. Meanwhile, congressional Democrats were so creative and undisciplined before the August recess that they came up with a kaleidoscope of health care plans. The resulting incoherence served as an open invitation to the Republican right to focus with great precision on convincing the public of their own demonic version of what the Democrats were up to -- that it would take away their Medicare, require "death panels," raise their taxes, and lead to a government takeover of medicine, and so on. The Obama White House -- a veritable idea factory brimming with ingenuity -- thereafter proved unable to come up with a single, convincing narrative to counteract this right-wing hokum. Whatever discipline Obama had mustered during the campaign somehow disappeared.

This is just the latest chapter of a long saga. Over the last twenty years, as progressives have gushed new ideas, the right has became ever more organized and mobilized in resistance -- capable of executing increasingly consistent and focused attacks, moving in ever more perfect lockstep, imposing an exact discipline often extending even to the phrases and words used repeatedly by Hate Radio, Fox News, and the oped pages of The Wall Street Journal ("death tax," "weapons of mass destruction," "government takeover of health care.") I saw it in 1993 and 1994 as the Clinton healthcare plan -- as creatively and wildly convuluted as any policy proposal before or since -- was defeated both by a Democratic majority in congress incapable of coming together around any single bill and a Republican right dedicated to Clinton's destruction. Newt Gingrich's subsequent "contract with America" recaptured Congress for the Republicans not because it contained a single new idea but because Republicans unflinchingly rallied around it while Democrats flailed.

You want to know why the left has ideas and the right has discipline? Because people who like ideas and dislike authority tend to identify with the Democratic left, while people who feel threatened by new ideas and more comfortable in a disciplined and ordered world tend to identify with the Republican right. Democrats and progressives let a thousand flowers bloom. Republicans and the right issue directives. This has been the yin and yang of American politics and culture. But it means that the Democratic left's new ideas often fall victim to its own notorious lack of organization and to the right's highly-organized fear mongering.

I suppose I'm as guilty as anyone. A few weeks ago I casually mentioned in a web conversation on Politico's web page that if supporters of universal health care and a "public option" felt their voices were not being heard in our nation's capital they should march on Washington. A few moments later, when someone wrote in asking when, I glanced at a calendar and in a burst of unreflective enthusiasm offered September 13. I didn't check with anyone, didn't strategize with progressive groups that have been working on health care for years, barely checked in with myself.

I was deluged with emails. Many people said they were planning to march. Someone put up a web page, another a Facebook page, a member of Congress announced his support. But most people said they couldn't manage September 13. It was too soon. It conflicted with other events. It followed too closely behind a right-wing march against health care reform already scheduled for September 12. It was a day AFL leaders were out of town, so couldn't lend their support. Many who emailed me wanted another day -- September 20, or the 27th, or early October. Others said they'd rather march on their state capital, in order that local media cover it. When I finally checked in with the heads of several progressive groups and unions in Washington -- all with big mailing lists and the resources to organize a big march -- they said they were already planning a march, for October. But they still haven't given me a date. (I will pass it on as soon as I hear.)

August is coming to a close, and congressional recess is about over. History is not destiny, and Democrats and progressives can yet enact meaningful health care reform -- with a public option. But to do so, we'll need to be far more disciplined about it. All of us, from Obama on down.
(c) 2009 Robert Reich.

Tutu's Prayer
By Uri Avnery

HOW MUCH did the boycott of South Africa actually contribute to the fall of the racist regime? This week I talked with Desmond Tutu about this question, which has been on my mind for a long time.

No one is better qualified to answer this question than he. Tutu, the South African Anglican archbishop and Nobel prize laureate, was one of the leaders of the fight against apartheid and, later, the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which investigated the crimes of the regime. This week he visited Israel with the "Elders," an organization of elder statesmen from all over the world set up by Nelson Mandela.

The matter of the boycott came up again this week after an article by Dr. Neve Gordon appeared in the Los Angeles Times, calling for a world-wide boycott of Israel. He cited the example of South Africa to show how a world-wide boycott could compel Israel to put an end to the occupation, which he compared to the apartheid regime.

I have known and respected Neve Gordon for many years. Before becoming a lecturer at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, he organized many demonstrations against the Separation Wall in the Jerusalem area, in which I, too, took part.

I am sorry that I cannot agree with him this time - neither about the similarity with South Africa nor about the efficacy of a boycott of Israel.

There are several opinions about the contribution of the boycott to the success of the anti-apartheid struggle. According to one view, it was decisive. Another view claims its impact was marginal. Some believe that it was the collapse of the Soviet Union that was the decisive factor. After that, the US and its allies no longer had any reason for support the regime in South Africa, which until then had been viewed as a pillar of the world-wide struggle against Communism.

"THE BOYCOTT was immensely important," Tutu told me. "Much more than the armed struggle."

It should be remembered that, unlike Mandela, Tutu was an advocate of non-violent struggle. During the 28 years Mandela languished in prison, he could have walked free at any moment, if he had only agreed to sign a statement condemning "terrorism.". He refused.

"The importance of the boycott was not only economic," the archbishop explained, "but also moral. South Africans are, for example, crazy about sports. The boycott, which prevented their teams from competing abroad, hit them very hard. But the main thing was that it gave us the feeling that we are not alone, that the whole world is with us. That gave us the strength to continue."

To show the importance of the boycott he told me the following story: In 1989, the moderate white leader, Frederic Willem de Klerk, was elected President of South Africa. Upon assuming office he declared his intention to set up a multiracial regime. "I called to congratulate him, and the first thing he said was: Will you now call off the boycott?"

IT SEEMS to me that Tutu's answer emphasizes the huge difference between the South African reality at the time and ours today.

The South African struggle was between a large majority and a small minority. Among a general population of almost 50 million, the Whites amounted to less than 10%. That means that more than 90% of the country's inhabitants supported the boycott, in spite of the argument that it hurt them, too.

In Israel, the situation is the very opposite. The Jews amount to more than 80% of Israel's citizens, and constitute a majority of some 60% throughout the country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. 99.9% of the Jews oppose a boycott on Israel.

They will not feel the "the whole world is with us," but rather that "the whole world is against us.".

In South Africa, the world-wide boycott helped in strengthening the majority and steeling it for the struggle. The impact of a boycott on Israel would be the exact opposite: it would push the large majority into the arms of the extreme right and create a fortress mentality against the "anti-Semitic world." (The boycott would, of course, have a different impact on the Palestinians, but that is not the aim of those who advocate it.)

Peoples are not the same everywhere. It seems that the Blacks in South Africa are very different from the Israelis, and from the Palestinians, too. The collapse of the oppressive racist regime did not lead to a bloodbath, as could have been predicted, but on the contrary: to the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Instead of revenge, forgiveness. Those who appeared before the commission and admitted their misdeeds were pardoned. That was in tune with Christian belief, and that was also in tune with the Jewish Biblical promise: "Whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy." (Proverbs 28:13)

I told the bishop that I admire not only the leaders who chose this path but also the people who accepted it.

ONE OF the profound differences between the two conflicts concerns the Holocaust.

Centuries of pogroms have imprinted on the consciousness of the Jews the conviction that the whole world is out to get them. This belief was reinforced a hundredfold by the Holocaust. Every Jewish Israeli child learns in school that "the entire world was silent" when the six million were murdered. This belief is anchored in the deepest recesses of the Jewish soul. Even when it is dormant, it is easy to arouse it.

(That is the conviction which made it possible for Avigdor Lieberman, last week, to accuse the entire Swedish nation of cooperating with the Nazis, because of one idiotic article in a Swedish tabloid.)

It may well be that the Jewish conviction that "the whole world is against us" is irrational. But in the life of nations, as indeed in the life of individuals, it is irrational to ignore the irrational.

The Holocaust will have a decisive impact on any call for a boycott of Israel. The leaders of the racist regime in South Africa openly sympathized with the Nazis and were even interned for this in World War II. Apartheid was based on the same racist theories as inspired Adolf Hitler. It was easy to get the civilized world to boycott such a disgusting regime. The Israelis, on the other hand, are seen as the victims of Nazism. The call for a boycott will remind many people around the world of the Nazi slogan "Kauft nicht bei Juden!" - don't buy from Jews.

That does not apply to every kind of boycott. Some 11 years ago, the Gush Shalom movement, in which I am active, called for a boycott of the product of the settlements. Its intention was to separate the settlers from the Israeli public, and to show that there are two kinds of Israelis. The boycott was designed to strengthen those Israelis who oppose the occupation, without becoming anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic. Since then, the European Union has been working hard to close the gates of the EU to the products of the settlers, and almost nobody has accused it of anti-Semitism.

ONE OF the main battlefields in our fight for peace is Israeli public opinion. Most Israelis believe nowadays that peace is desirable but impossible (because of the Arabs, of course.) We must convince them not that peace would be good for Israel, but that it is realistically achievable.

When the archbishop asked what we, the Israeli peace activists, are hoping for, I told him: We hope for Barack Obama to publish a comprehensive and detailed peace plan and to use the full persuasive power of the United States to convince the parties to accept it. We hope that the entire world will rally behind this endeavor. And we hope that this will help to set the Israeli peace movement back on its feet and convince our public that it is both possible and worthwhile to follow the path of peace with Palestine.

No one who entertains this hope can support the call for boycotting Israel. Those who call for a boycott act out of despair. And that is the root of the matter.

Neve Gordon and his partners in this effort have despaired of the Israelis. They have reached the conclusion that there is no chance of changing Israeli public opinion. According to them, no salvation will come from within. One must ignore the Israeli public and concentrate on mobilizing the world against the State of Israel. (Some of them believe anyhow that the State of Israel should be dismantled and replaced by a bi-national state.)

I do not share either view - neither the despair of the Israeli people, to which I belong, nor the hope that the world will stand up and compel Israel to change its ways against its will. For this to happen, the boycott must gather world-wide momentum, the US must join it, the Israeli economy must collapse and the morale of the Israeli public must break.

How long will this take? Twenty Years? Fifty years? Forever?

I AM afraid that this is an example of a faulty diagnosis leading to faulty treatment. To be precise: the mistaken assumption that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resembles the South African experience leads to a mistaken choice of strategy.

True, the Israeli occupation and the South African apartheid system have certain similar characteristics. In the West Bank, there are roads "for Israelis only." But the Israeli policy is not based on race theories, but on a national conflict. A small but significant example: in South Africa, a white man and a black woman (or the other way round) could not marry, and sexual relations between them were a crime. In Israel there is no such prohibition. On the other hand, an Arab Israeli citizen who marries an Arab woman from the occupied territories (or the other way round) cannot bring his or her spouse to Israel. The reason: safeguarding the Jewish majority in Israel. Both cases are reprehensible, but basically different.

In South Africa there was total agreement between the two sides about the unity of the country. The struggle was about the regime. Both Whites and Blacks considered themselves South Africans and were determined to keep the country intact. The Whites did not want partition, and indeed could not want it, because their economy was based on the labor of the Blacks.

In this country, Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs have nothing in common - not a common national feeling, not a common religion, not a common culture and not a common language. The vast majority of the Israelis want a Jewish (or Hebrew) state. The vast majority of the Palestinians want a Palestinian (or Islamic) state. Israel is not dependent on Palestinian workers - on the contrary, it drives the Palestinians out of the working place. Because of this, there is now a world-wide consensus that the solution lies in the creation of the Palestinian state next to Israel.

In short: the two conflicts are fundamentally different. Therefore, the methods of struggle, too, must necessarily be different.

BACK TO the archbishop, an attractive person whom it is impossible not to like on sight. He told me that he prays frequently, and that his favorite prayer goes like this (I quote from memory):

"Dear God, when I am wrong, please make me willing to see my mistake. And when I am right - please make me tolerable to live with."
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Ted Kennedy Wanted The Public Option
His list of achievements is epic, but he worked to fix healthcare for 40 years. Let's finish the job in his name
By Joe Conason

The rise of Edward M. Kennedy to the greatness now so broadly acknowledged with his passing was a process of years and decades, a journey interrupted by family tragedy and personal failure, a story of focus, determination and principle that placed him in the pantheon of America's most influential statesmen.

Kennedy worked hard for what he became. Those qualities that meant so much in the Senate - from his marvelous gift for friendship to his eagle eye for intellectual talent to his strategic parliamentary skills - surely could have served very different purposes than the important causes he adopted as his own. All that passion, charm, exuberance and competitive drive might have been directed toward much smaller things. Or he might have turned away from the harshness of politics, which often placed his own flaws under unforgiving scrutiny, instead sailing his boat and tending the monuments to his fallen brothers John and Robert.

Now much is being said and written about supposed contrasts with those other Kennedys, who are remembered as more pragmatic and less progressive than he. Much is being said and written, too, about how unpromising and aimless he seemed during his youth, when he was ushered so comfortably through Harvard, the Army and into the Senate, and then the prolonged adolescence that brought misconduct, embarrassment and the tragedy at Chappaquiddick.

Yet those redundant observations possess little meaning in assessing a political career of nearly 50 years. Kennedy's life was a continuation of what his older brothers began, and his political character was formed under their tutelage. They were each liberals in and of their time, as was he. Kennedy was privileged and perhaps arrogant, but no more so than the scions of the Bush clan or many another wealthy politician. His ignominious episodes no longer shock in an era when the iniquity of the righteous right-wing seems to be exposed every day.

What matters about Kennedy - and what he would want remembered about him - is what he did in his resolute, enduring effort to better the lives of Americans, and perhaps how he did it. What deserves to be discussed in detail, beyond anecdote and gossip, is that incomparable record of hundreds of legislative acts that improved education, healthcare, consumer protection, environmental preservation, working conditions, national service, government integrity, human rights, racial and sexual equality, and foreign policy.

The sheer scope of Kennedy's work is simply staggering. The beneficiaries of his achievement numbered in the many millions. They were poor, elderly, women, gays, minorities, immigrants, veterans, students, workers, the disabled, the mentally ill and, perhaps above all, children. To catalog the landmark bills that he sponsored and managed into law is a challenge; to enumerate his entire achievement may be virtually impossible.

Drawing up lists of bills and amendments is inevitably a dry exercise, but it is Kennedy's spirit of compassion that lives in every human being touched by those laws. The homage we owe him is to honor his bedrock belief that government must lift up the oppressed and defend the defenseless.

Nothing was more important to him than bringing government power and resources to the assistance of families and children in or near poverty. As a young senator he helped to start the Legal Services Corporation that advanced the interests of the poor in court, and then defended that institution from the Reaganite plan to destroy it. Year after year, he fought to increase the minimum wage, even when the Republicans were in power and there was no chance that an increase would pass. He led every effort to extend and increase unemployment benefits from one recession to the next, often at times when the unemployed seemed invisible to most of society. Last year, while suffering from the cancer that killed him, he pushed through another 20 weeks of compensation to workers who had lost their jobs in the recession.

He was an unabashed supporter of workers' right to organize, as the chief sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act, and a keen defender of contractual rights as well. He led the fight for passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Clinton administration bill that guaranteed unpaid leave to employees needing time to care for a new baby or the serious illness of a child, parent or spouse. Three years ago, he sponsored the Pension Protection Act, regarded as the most significant pension bill in the past 30 years.

Back in 1989, Kennedy helped to pass the National Military Child Care Act, which established the Defense Department child care system that continues to be among the finest in the country. Ten years later, he established federal funding for the training of pediatricians and pediatric specialists - the tongue-twisting Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education Program, or CHGME - which rectified the financial shortchanging of children's hospitals and research facilities by the Medicare reimbursement system (and helped to educate thousands of doctors who heal kids).

Much better known, of course, was his long battle for the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP or SCHIP, which has provided healthcare to millions of low-income children whose families could not afford insurance or qualify for Medicaid. Legislation or amendments he wrote were responsible for creation of the Early Head Start program, which provides prenatal services and early childhood development assistance to pregnant women and to low-income families with children under 3 years of age; the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program that subsidizes adequate food and nutrition counseling for millions of low-income mothers, their infants and young children; and the COBRA program that permits workers to temporarily continue receiving health insurance when they are laid off or fired from their jobs. With the co-sponsorship of Charles Grassley, the dim Iowa Republican who now seems determined to kill healthcare reform, he passed the Family Opportunity Act in 2006, which enabled working families to purchase Medicaid insurance for their disabled children, rather than lose healthcare when their wages went up.

The summary above does not begin to dent, let alone exhaust, Kennedy's legislative attainments. A list of his landmarks would begin with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, passed when he was still a freshman, which eliminated discriminatory ethnic quotas for immigrants. That list would have to include well over a dozen education and civil rights bills, notably the Pell Grants (named for his collaborator, the late Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I.), the reauthorizations of the Voting Rights Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Star Schools Assistance Act for Math and Science Education, the College Cost Reduction Act, the Higher Education Act, the National Service Act (which created the AmeriCorps program), and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act.

While the bulk of Kennedy's achievements lie in domestic policy, his contributions to democracy at home and abroad shouldn't be slighted. He wrote the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which protects Americans from illicit eavesdropping and wiretapping by intelligence agencies, and he coauthored the first post-Watergate bills that provided public financing for presidential elections and established limits on political contributions in presidential campaigns. He sponsored the bill that lowered the national voting age from 21 to 18, because he believed that anyone old enough to serve in war must be old enough to vote. He was a leading opponent of apartheid in South Africa, a dedicated foe of dictatorships in countries ranging from South Korea to Chile, and an early, courageous opponent of the war in Iraq.

In all of these endeavors, Kennedy fashioned coalitions when he could, and he acted alone when he had no other choice. Looking over the sponsors of the bills that he passed, it is striking to see how many times he was able to persuade a very conservative Republican to join him on the side of progress.

It is true that Kennedy, the friendly warrior, excelled in bipartisanship. Nearly all of the domestic reforms mentioned here were sponsored by at least one Republican senator. But in every case, those stodgy conservatives were cajoled and whispered (and perhaps shamed) into venturing much closer to Kennedy's perspective. He drew them toward him, invariably against their own habits, not by selling out his progressive goal, but by appealing to the decency he perceived in them.

Forty years ago he began the quest for universal healthcare that became the cause of his life when he introduced his first bill outlining that goal. His final bequest to the Senate is the Affordable Health Choices Act, his version of the Obama administration's reform proposals, which was passed by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last month. Republicans now say that if Kennedy had not been forced by illness to relinquish the chairmanship of that committee, he would have negotiated away the strongest provisions of that bill to win passage.

Kennedy's Republican friends should not make that disingenuous argument in his lamented absence. Lest there be any doubt about what he truly wanted, his bill includes a robust public option along with all the insurance reforms and cost controls that the president has endorsed since this process began.

How would he have handled the intransigence and dishonesty of the Republican opposition? We know that he could shout as well as whisper - and that he could be partisan as well as bipartisan. He believed that the time for incremental changes had passed. He was ready to fight. The tragedy of his death is not only that he didn't see the triumph he had dreamed, but that he fell before he could lead the nation to that final victory. Now that victory will have to be won in his name.
(c) 2009 Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer and Salon. You may reach Joe via email at: Joe Conason

Should Charity Hospitals Be Charitable?

As Lily Tomlin says, "No matter how cynical you get, it's almost impossible to keep up."

The truth of Tomlin's observation struck me when I read that lobbyists for America's charity hospitals are campaigning to kill reform legislation that would require charity-care hospitals to provide - get this - charity care. I sat there blinking for a while, thinking: you mean they don't?

As it turns out, no. Although they're called "charity hospitals," and although they are tax-exempt and they get some six-billon dollars a year worth of special tax breaks on the grounds that they provide free health care for low-income folks - they either don't, or provide very-little. In fact, it's hard today to tell the difference between these non-profit entities and your run-of-the-mill for-profit hospital chains. The charitable outfits often turn away the poor from the hospital doors, and when they do provide treatment, they're likely to use nasty, bullying tactics to try to collect money from the poor.

They've gotten away with this by claiming that they meet the charitable standard by holding some health fairs, offering occasional screening days for cholesterol, and doing medical research. A bipartisan proposal in Congress, however, says that tax-exempt hospitals could no longer refuse service to charity cases, and the bill also would rein in the hospital roughhouse bill collectors. In other words, this reform provision would require the non-profits to put the "charity" back in charity care - or lose their tax exemption.

This is Jim Hightower saying... Hospital lobbyists are squealing like stuck pigs. They recently sent an astonishingly-cynical call for charity hospital executives to "oppose charity care." To help battle this greed, join the email campaign by Community Catalyst. Contact the group by email - or call 617-275-2896.
(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.

Novak Without Tears
By Eric Alterman

Journalist and television personality Robert Novak died August 18. I think it's time to do him the honor of taking his life's work seriously.

I got to know Novak a bit in the late 1980s while writing a magazine profile of him, and another of his then-colleague John McLaughlin while researching a book on the history of punditry. I found myself immune to Novak's charms--as he was to mine--but I don't begrudge the fact that many people in Washington did not. Novak was an extremely popular figure within the capital; and while I extend his close friends and family my sincere sympathy, as a historian of journalism I worry that his myriad personal connections may have the effect of obscuring the historical record with regard to his actions. With that in mind, here are a few aspects of Mr. Novak's career that have received short shrift during the past week:

* While six journalists were approached by Bush officials to reveal Valerie Plame's identity as an undercover CIA agent, only Novak did so. This even though Bill Harlow, the agency's spokesman at the time, warned Novak, as he later testified, in the strongest possible terms that Plame's name should not be made public lest it endanger the operations and people with whom she had been secretly associated. Though Novak refused to admit it in public, he gave up his source almost immediately to Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation while other journalists--who did not out Plame--languished in jail and legal limbo. When, after the case ended, CNN finally prepared to ask Novak about his actions, he screamed "Bullshit!" on the air and stalked off the show before the questioning began. He never returned to the network that had paid him and promoted his analysis for more than two decades.

* While Novak freely ignored the patriotic requests of his government when it suited him, he did not mind being used for the purpose of passing along its lies. During the Iran/Contra imbroglio, then-Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams lied to Novak about US involvement in Central America's civil wars, which paved the way for Abrams's criminal conviction for lying to Congress. Yet Novak told me at the time that he "admired" Abrams, who was "lying for reasons of state" while "a lot of people were out to get him." In another column, Novak admitted to lying to protect Watergate-era criminal Charles Colson in defense of Richard Nixon. Novak also burned sources when it suited his needs--as when he put their names in his 2007 memoir. So it should not have surprised his colleagues when he demanded that CBS News reveal the origin of George W. Bush's alleged draft record despite the network's pledge of secrecy to its sources.

* Novak also ceaselessly promoted the lies of the "Swift Boat Veterans" about John Kerry, both on television and in an admiring review of their movement bible Unfit for Command. He did so without revealing that his son, Alex, was in charge of the book's publicity or that the book's publisher, Regnery, was owned by the very same person whose company, Eagle Publishing, distributes the $297-per-year "Evans-Novak Political Report."

* Long before the Washington Post tried it, Novak profited personally by inviting high-profile sources to give off-the-record briefings to CEOs and wealthy individuals who paid exorbitant fees for the privilege of their presence. Journalists were barred from these meetings, which featured top government sources discussing the financial implications of their policy decisions.

* Novak engaged in sexual as well as political McCarthyism. In one column, he and his partner, Rowland Evans, ominously referred to "the alleged homosexuality of one Democrat who might move up the succession ladder." The Republican National Committee was waging a parallel (and equally dishonest) whispering campaign against Tom Foley, the presumptive Speaker of the House, that relied heavily on phrases like "out of the liberal closet." When I asked Novak about this at the time, he went off the record to blame it entirely on Evans, insisting he had not even read the column before it appeared. He then went back on the record to defend the attack before returning to what was then his favorite topic: passing along rumors about John McLaughlin, then in the process of settling a sexual harassment claim by one of his young female underlings.

* Novak, who converted from Judaism to Catholicism, hated Israel with a ferocity extremely rare in American public life. He titled one Bethlehem-based column "Worse Than Apartheid" and lauded Hamas leader Mahmoud Abu Hanoud as a "freedom fighter." Alone in the punditocracy, he promoted Louis Farrakhan. In December 2002 he wrote, "The greatest U.S. assistance to Israel would be to overthrow Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime...and [this] is a major reason U.S. forces today are assembling for war." It should come as no surprise, given these views, that Novak was a supporter of Ron Paul's 2008 presidential candidacy.

I never got the chance to ask Novak about any of his recent actions. He dropped out of a joint C-SPAN appearance we had long scheduled, and when he learned he was to debate me at the University of California, Santa Barbara, during the Plame investigation, he withdrew at the last minute, causing the event's cancellation at considerable expense to our hosts, despite signed contracts and full payment made in advance. (The debate was eventually rescheduled with Tucker Carlson taking his place.)

Senator Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, says of Novak that this is a man who served as "a beacon of truth and light" in American politics. The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes adds, "It's not too much to call Novak journalism's last honest man in Washington." Forgive me, but I fear that statements like these say far more about the present moral and intellectual state of our insider Washington establishment than they do about the life and work of Robert Novak.
(c) 2009 Eric Alterman is a Distinguished Professor of English, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and Professor of Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. He is also "The Liberal Media" columnist for The Nation, a senior fellow and "Altercation" weblogger for Media Matters for America, (formerly at in Washington, DC, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC, where he writes and edits the "Think Again" column, a senior fellow (since 1985) at the World Policy Institute at The New School in New York, and a history consultant to HBO Films. His seventh book, Why We're Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America, was recently published by Viking.

Economic Hit Men And The Next Drowning Of New Orleans
Hurricane Bush Four Years Later, Part 2
By Greg Palast

Who put out the hit on van Heerden?

Ivor van Heerden is the professor at Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center who warned the levees of New Orleans were ready to blow - months and years before Katrina did the job.

For being right, van Heerden was rewarded with ... getting fired. [See Katrina, Four Years Later: Expert Fired Who Warned Levees Would Burst]

But I've been in this investigating game long enough to know that van Heerden's job didn't die of natural causes or academic issues. This was a hit. Some very powerful folks wanted him disappeared and silenced - for good.

So who done it?

Here are the facts.

Dr. van Heerden has lots of friends, mostly the people of New Orleans, those who survived and cheered his fight to save their city. But he also has enemies, many of them, and they are powerful.

First, there is Big Oil. More than a decade ago, van Heerden pointed the finger at oil drilling as a culprit in threatening New Orleans and the Gulf Coast with flooding.

"Certainly he was critical of what the oil companies did to the coast," Louisiana engineer HJ Bosworth told me. "Seeing what kind of bad citizens they were. Dozens and dozens of pipeline canals just carved the living daylights out of the coast just to find some oil."

Well, we need oil, don't we?

True, but Bosworth, who advises, a non-profit group that birddogs hurricane safety work, explained the connection between flooding New Orleans and oil drilling quantified by van Heerden's research. "Takes a million years to build (the protective coastal marsh); once you carve it up, it's just like bleeding a wild animal, hang it up, carve some holes in it, and the juice just drains out of it. Saltwater and tide invade. You make [the state] susceptible to flooding from coastal and tidal surges." So I was amazed to learn that, shortly after van Heerden, wetlands protector, was given the heave-ho by LSU, a group calling itself "America's Wetland" gave the university a fat check for $300,000.

After a little digging, I found that it wasn't really "America's Wetland," the group with the oh-so-green name and love-Mother-Nature website, that provided the money. One-hundred percent of the loot, in fact, came from Chevron Oil Corporation. Chevron had merely "green-washed" the money through "Wetlands."

Was this Big Oil's "thank you" to LSU for canning van Heerden? The University refuses to talk to me about van Heerden's firing ("It's a confidential personnel matter").

Bosworth notes such a grant to the University "doesn't come without strings attached." And this "Wetland" grant appears to have some tangled threads. LSU will monitor the coast's environment, guided by a committee of what the school's PR office describes as "experts" in coastal infrastructure and hurricane research. But the school is pointedly excluding its own expert, van Heerden. Instead of van Heerden, LSU announced it will rely on representatives from Chevron - and Shell Oil.

You can't challenge Shell's expertise on coastal erosion. The Gulf Restoration Network has calculated that the oil giant, "has dredged 8.8 million cubic yards material while laying pipelines since 1983 causing the loss of 22,624 acres."

Shell too is a sponsor of "America's Wetland."

Bad Behavior

Van Heerden and his team of hurricane experts at LSU have other enemies, notably Big Oil's little sisters: The Army Corps of Engineers and its contractors. One internal University memo that has come to light is a complaint from the Army Corps of Engineers' Washington office to an LSU official demanding to know why van Heerden's "irresponsible behavior is tolerated."

By van Heerden's bad "behavior," they seem to be referring to the professor's computer model of the Gulf which predicted, years before Katrina hit, that the levees built by the Army Corp were too short. The Army Corps, van Heerden asserts, compounded the danger to New Orleans by going shovel-crazy, with massive dredging and channel-cutting sought by shipping interests.

Following the complaint from Washington, the University took away van Heerden's computer (no kidding). But they couldn't take away his voice. He began to speak out. University officials do not deny they told him to shut up, to stop speaking to the press about his concerns. They were worried, they told van Heerden, that his statements jeopardized their government funding.

Van Heerden's revelations were, indeed, damning. He revealed that the Bush White House knew, the night Katrina came ashore, that the levees were breaking up, but withheld this crucial information from the state's emergency response center. As a result, the state slowed evacuation and stranded residents were left to drown. (See Big Easy to Big Empty.)

A class action lawsuit has been filed against the Army Corps of Engineers on behalf of all the people of the city who lost homes and loved ones because the Corps-designed levees had failed. Anyone with a TV and two eyes could see that. But the Bush Administration flat out denied it knew its system was flawed and refused any responsibility for the disaster.

Van Heerden, who had warned Washington, long before the flood, that the levees were 18 inches too short, would have been a devastating expert witness for the public. But the university ordered him not to testify, a relief for the Corps. (A verdict is expected soon in the non-jury case.)

The Army Corps and its contractors can feel safer now that van Heerden has been booted. His Hurricane Center will be downsized and instead, the University will expand its "Wetland" program, with Chevron's checkbook.

Joining Chevron and Shell on the LSU board of "wetland" experts will be the Shaw Group, a huge Army Corps contractor.

If you've read John Perkins' book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, you would know about Shaw Group, or at least the subsidiary for whom Perkins did his dirty work: an engineering outfit that used flim-flam, intimidation and fraud to turn a buck. (I once directed a government racketeering investigation of one of their projects before Shaw bought them up. In the 1988 case, a jury found the company was co-conspirator in a multi-billion-dollar fraud, charges the company settled with a civil payment.)

Shaw Group is also a sponsor of "America's Wetland." So is electricity giant Entergy Corporation. That's the company that shut off the power in New Orleans during the flood, then sold the loose juice elsewhere, pocketing a multi-million-dollar windfall.

Yes, America's Wetland does have a green cover, Environmental Defense, exposed in the Guardian UK in 1999 for its icky habit of licking the sugar off corporate candy canes. We caught them trying to set up a lucrative financial operation with the very polluters they were supposed to be challenging. [See Fill your lungs it's only borrowed grime]

I spoke with the Chairman of America's Wetland, King Milling. Milling's just a local good ol' boy, a sincere guy, not a front for Big Oil. But he naively let his group be used to buy the debate over the environment and ice out un-bought experts like van Heerden.

Flood Warning

With LSU deep in the pocket of the corporate powers and under Army Corps pressure, van Heerden didn't stand a chance. For doing nothing more than trying to save a few thousand lives, he has paid quite a price. As he told me this week from his home, "No good turn goes unpunished."

That's van Heerden's fate. But what about the city's? Is New Orleans ready for another Katrina?

His answer is not comforting: "No, definitely not. If anything, it's worse than when Katrina hit. We've lost a lot of wetlands protection. It's not very safe ... A section of the flood wall itself has sunk about 9 inches, a result of [Hurricane] Gustav."

Is anyone listening?

"The [Army] Corps won't talk to me," says van Heerden. "Like everybody else, they are crossing their fingers and hoping we don't have a storm."

Well, don't say we didn't warn you.
(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.

Missing Richard Nixon
By Paul Krugman

Many of the retrospectives on Ted Kennedy's life mention his regret that he didn't accept Richard Nixon's offer of a bipartisan health care deal. The moral some commentators take from that regret is that today's health care reformers should do what Mr. Kennedy balked at doing back then, and reach out to the other side.

But it's a bad analogy, because today's political scene is nothing like that of the early 1970s. In fact, surveying current politics, I find myself missing Richard Nixon.

No, I haven't lost my mind. Nixon was surely the worst person other than Dick Cheney ever to control the executive branch.

But the Nixon era was a time in which leading figures in both parties were capable of speaking rationally about policy, and in which policy decisions weren't as warped by corporate cash as they are now. America is a better country in many ways than it was 35 years ago, but our political system's ability to deal with real problems has been degraded to such an extent that I sometimes wonder whether the country is still governable.

As many people have pointed out, Nixon's proposal for health care reform looks a lot like Democratic proposals today. In fact, in some ways it was stronger. Right now, Republicans are balking at the idea of requiring that large employers offer health insurance to their workers; Nixon proposed requiring that all employers, not just large companies, offer insurance.

Nixon also embraced tighter regulation of insurers, calling on states to "approve specific plans, oversee rates, ensure adequate disclosure, require an annual audit and take other appropriate measures." No illusions there about how the magic of the marketplace solves all problems.

So what happened to the days when a Republican president could sound so nonideological, and offer such a reasonable proposal?

Part of the answer is that the right-wing fringe, which has always been around - as an article by the historian Rick Perlstein puts it, "crazy is a pre-existing condition" - has now, in effect, taken over one of our two major parties. Moderate Republicans, the sort of people with whom one might have been able to negotiate a health care deal, have either been driven out of the party or intimidated into silence. Whom are Democrats supposed to reach out to, when Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who was supposed to be the linchpin of any deal, helped feed the death panel" lies?

But there's another reason health care reform is much harder now than it would have been under Nixon: the vast expansion of corporate influence.

We tend to think of the way things are now, with a huge army of lobbyists permanently camped in the corridors of power, with corporations prepared to unleash misleading ads and organize fake grass-roots protests against any legislation that threatens their bottom line, as the way it always was. But our corporate-cash-dominated system is a relatively recent creation, dating mainly from the late 1970s.

And now that this system exists, reform of any kind has become extremely difficult. That's especially true for health care, where growing spending has made the vested interests far more powerful than they were in Nixon's day. The health insurance industry, in particular, saw its premiums go from 1.5 percent of G.D.P. in 1970 to 5.5 percent in 2007, so that a once minor player has become a political behemoth, one that is currently spending $1.4 million a day lobbying Congress.

That spending fuels debates that otherwise seem incomprehensible. Why are "centrist" Democrats like Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota so opposed to letting a public plan, in which Americans can buy their insurance directly from the government, compete with private insurers? Never mind their often incoherent arguments; what it comes down to is the money.

Given the combination of G.O.P. extremism and corporate power, it's now doubtful whether health reform, even if we get it - which is by no means certain - will be anywhere near as good as Nixon's proposal, even though Democrats control the White House and have a large Congressional majority.

And what about other challenges? Every desperately needed reform I can think of, from controlling greenhouse gases to restoring fiscal balance, will have to run the same gantlet of lobbying and lies.

I'm not saying that reformers should give up. They do, however, have to realize what they're up against. There was a lot of talk last year about how Barack Obama would be a "transformational" president - but true transformation, it turns out, requires a lot more than electing one telegenic leader. Actually turning this country around is going to take years of siege warfare against deeply entrenched interests, defending a deeply dysfunctional political system.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Bryan (forked tongue) Whitman

Big Brass Bull
Pentagon Deceit on Media Manipulation Confirmed
By Chris Floyd

A few days ago, we noted the revelations by Stars and Stripes that the Pentagon was using a shadowy PR firm to identify the political leanings of journalists trying to cover the "Good War" in Afghanistan (as well as the "Forgotten War" in Iraq). The idea, clearly, was to encourage and reward "pro-war" reporters while planting a big red flag on the backs of any writers considered less than gung-ho about the imperial bloodshed in Muslim lands.

Naturally, the Pentagon denied that the vetting program operated by the Rendon Group - which was hired by the Bush gang to help instigate the mass murder in Iraq - was in any way a sinister, slimy attempt to manipulate the news in order to make the endless slaughter of the Terror War more palatable for the folks back home. Perish the thought! declared the brass. Why, goodness mercy me, the only aim of the program is to help reporters tell the truth, and let the chips fall where they may. As Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman put it after S&S first broke the story: "It's a good article if it's accurate. It's a bad article if it's inaccurate. That's the only measurement that we use here at the Defense Department." Makes you want to puddle up, don't it?

Well, Stars and Stripes has done something almost unheard-of in modern journalism - followed up on a story with a skeptical stance toward the bland assurances of authority - and guess what they found? Go ahead, try - you'll never guess. They found that the Pentagon was lying! From S&S:

Contrary to the insistence of Pentagon officials this week that they are not rating the work of reporters covering U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Stars and Stripes has obtained documents that prove that reporters' coverage is being graded as "positive," "neutral" or "negative."

Moreover, the documents - recent confidential profiles of the work of individual reporters prepared by a Pentagon contractor - indicate that the ratings are intended to help Pentagon image-makers manipulate the types of stories that reporters produce while they are embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Well, I never! The Pentagon -- run by honest Brother Bob Gates, who is such a straight arrow that the saintly progressive Barack Obama carried him over from the Bush Regime to keep running our "overseas contingency operations" -- has been caught lying through its teeth! What next? Obama spending his vacation playing golf with sleazy Swiss bankers or something?

Back to S&S:

"The purpose of this memo is to provide an assessment of [a reporter from a major U.S. newspaper] ... in order to gauge the expected sentiment of his work while on an embed mission in Afghanistan," reads the preamble to one of the reporter profiles prepared for the Pentagon by The Rendon Group, a controversial Washington-based public relations firm.

S&S also shreds the post-revelations denials by the Pentagon and Rendon, including the lie by Gates' mouthpiece that the vetting program (that isn't a vetting program, of course) ended last October, in the bad old Bush days:

But the Rendon profiles reviewed by Stars and Stripes prove otherwise. One of the profiles evaluates work published as recently as May, indicating that the rating practice did not in fact cease last October as Whitman stated.

And the explicit suggestions contained in the Rendon profiles detailing how best to manipulate reporters' coverage during their embeds directly contradict the Pentagon's stated policies governing the embed process.

By week's end, the Pentagon was in full retreat on the story (in public, at least), pulling out the old stand-by used to cover a multitude of sins, from torture to corruption to atrocity to systematic deceit: a "review" of the program. Whitman, who days before had been loudly trumpeting the program's decency and goodness, was now declaring -- what else? -- that he didn't know the first thing about it, but he was sure enough gosh-dang-diddley-darn going to find out:

"For me, a tool like this serves no purpose and it doesn't serve me with any value," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters as some of the affected war correspondents began demanding to see their secret military profiles...."I haven't seen anything that violates any policies, but again, I'm learning about aspects of this as I question our folks in Afghanistan," Whitman said. "If I find something that is inconsistent with Defense Department values and policies, you can be sure I will address it."

And we're sure a grateful nation gives its thanks for this great diligence. Whitman, a former Special Forces op whose last wetwork was back in the bug-out from Somalia, has long shown a dogged fealty to the truth: here, for example, planting stories of Iranian "threats" to U.S. boats in the powderkeg of the Strait of Hormuz; or here, early on in the mass murder in Iraq, ardently peddling the Pentagon's knowingly false stories about the "heroic" rescue of Jessica Lynch. There is perhaps one aspect of his promised "review" that might trouble a cynic, however:

Whitman told Pentagon reporters that he was inquiring about the issue, but he added that the Pentagon is not launching any formal inquiry to the matter.

No "formal" review, then. No official inquiry. Just a couple of phone calls from good old Bryan to a few top brass and their mercenary manipulators: "You doing something dirty over there?" "Nope. Everything's jake." "Cool."

Whitman, by the way, is not really a holdover from the Bush Administration, like his boss, Bob Gates. He is actually a holdover from the Clinton Administration, having ascended into the higher Pentagon PR ranks back in 1997, where he helped shape the presentations of Clinton's "good war" against Serbia in 1998, then went on to serve the cause of imperial message massage into Afghanistan and Iraq.

As we always say around here: Continuity! It's what makes America great!
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

It's So Cathartic!
By Case Wagenvoord

It's not just that it's morally repugnant; torture makes no sense. Judged strictly by its results, it's a waste of time and money.

Yet, it remains so appealing because nothing is more bracing than burying a person's humanity beneath a label and having at them, whether it's torture, area bombing, drone attacks, or gas chambers.

Life is so much easier once you have a workable label in place. You can stop thinking and enjoy the vicarious thrill while other's do the dirty work. And for those pouring the water or dropping the bombs or guiding the drones or dropping the gas pellets there's the adrenalin high of engaging is state-sanctioned mayhem.

Torture has been cleverly marketed to the public. It's a real gas watching Jack Bauer torture a suspect on 24. I mean, hell, if it's on prime time it must be okay.

There is something in our national psyche that thrills to the efficiency with which violence yields results. Maybe we watched too many westerns as kids and cheered when the mild mannered hero finally exploded and beat the crap out of the villain.

The problem is that the only "result" violence yields is a pissed-off adversary.

It is interesting to compare 9/11 with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. The only difference between the two is that 9/11 succeeded where the 1993 blast failed. The perpetrators of the 1993 plot placed their van in such a manner that they thought the blast would cause the south tower to collapse and take down the north tower as it fell. They simply didn't pack enough explosives in the van.

What is instructive about 1993 is that without torture or a Patriot Act of a Military Commissions Act or rendition or black holes, and in an open criminal trial in which all of the rules of evidence and procedure were observed, the perpetrators were tried, convicted and sentenced.

Yet with all the above enacted after 9/11, we haven't convicted anyone.

So, there must be a reason for torture's appeal.

The last forty years have not been kind to the Euromerican male, especially those who have entered middle age. Following World War II, they ruled the roost, the world was their oyster and they were loved and admired. Then the rug was pulled out from under them. Their quiet suburban life was shattered by the fires of black anger and the rebellious love-ins of their children. Vietnam took the air out of their hubris, and into the vacuum created by its absence flowed bitterness and anger. Everything pissed them off, be it paying taxes to feed the poor or women burning their bras or their sons burning their draft cards.

Then came Ronnie, riding into the Beltway on his white horse, and all was well again. The white guys were back on top as we regained our national pride with the invasion of Granada. Next, Clinton reformed the welfare system so the poor could once again be the poor.

Then came 9/11 and it was morning in America all over as we became the wronged heroes in the B western that is our nation's history. Violence regained its respectability.

For the male Euromerican marginalized for so long, torture and violence are soothing palliatives. It's a feel-good experience to know that some poor native is being made to suffer so we can maintain our hegemonic greatness. And this feel-goodness is egged on by right-wing shock jocks that spew their white rage over the airways, feeding the cathartic anger of their listeners.

It's no wonder Obama is waffling on torture and rendition. He doesn't want to roil a bunch of pissed-off white males. They can make for a nasty mob.
(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

Monkey See, Monkey Do
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning all of you remaining functioning brain cells out there; your King of Simple News is on the air.

Back in 1982, I pointed out to some of my work partners that Japan was living with a "lit fuse." It was only a matter of time before the whole thing blew up. They thought I was crazy...okay, they knew I was crazy, but figured I had topped my personal best for loony predictions. At the time it was widely argued that Japan was well on the way to taking over the world from both a manufacturing and economic standpoint.

Today, Japan is in deep doo-doo and has been so for many, many years. The second largest economy in the world shrunk by 12.7% in the fourth quarter of 2008 alone and I assure you, they haven't reached firm bottom.

Had the U.S. not continued our debt-death-spiral well beyond the point of reason, and had the U.S. not have also maintained such a massive trade deficit with Japan, the island nation would have been down the drain long ago. In short, one false paradigm was supporting another. Not to mention that Japan was also supporting the burgeoning U.S. debt as our #1 lender.

A year ago, I wrote a short article on the demise of Japan; here are a few clips from that article:

Japan has more problems than Brittney Spears. They live on a bunch of islands that are smaller than California with a population 3.5 times greater than that of the Golden State. The population density is 12 times greater than the U.S.!

Some 80% of Japan's landmass is covered by mountains; mountains with volcanoes, as Japan has 10% of all the active volcanoes in the world. Oh joy.

It would seem that Japan has about everything that a person could want, except for oil, gas, and essential minerals of which they have somewhere around none.

Japan is the second largest importer of oil in the world and that oil comes primarily from the Middle East. In the event that some of you haven't seen the news in the last 2,000 years, the Middle East is somewhat unstable.

Can it get any worse? Well sure it can, Japan also imports most of their food. On a calorie basis, the island nation accounts for less than 40% of their own food production.

Japan just held elections over the weekend and in a landslide vote see to have garnered 300 out of 480 seats in parliament for the left-of-center Democratic Party of Japan, or in essence, the counterpart of Barrack Obama's platform.

Here are a few promises that the Democratic Party of Japan has made. "We feel a strong sense of responsibility to achieve each of our campaign promises." (Now that's a new line).

"The Democrats have embraced a more populist platform, promising handouts for families with children and farmers and a higher minimum wage." (We'll inflate our way out of this).

"We will change Japan," (Change they can believe in).

"The Democrats are proposing toll-free highways, free high schools, income support for farmers, monthly allowances for job seekers in training, a higher minimum wage and tax cuts." (And they blamed the outgoing party for running a deficit. Wait until the people see how much "free" costs).

"The ruling party has betrayed the people over the past four years, driving the economy to the edge of a cliff, building up more than 6 trillion yen ($64.1 billion) in public debt, wasting money, ruining our social security net and widening the gap between the rich and poor," the Democratic Party said in a statement as voting began Sunday. (The Japanese version of "George Bush done it").

Does all of that sound familiar? Of course in the end, the new party will work out about as well as Barrack Obama has worked out for America, as the Japanese leadership has the same control over natural physics as Obama; NONE!

The point of this article is to demonstrate that chronic delusional rationalization is not a condition that is isolated to America.

The Japanese may change the party that gets to run the show, just exactly like the United States voted for change. However, what neither the first nor the second largest economy in the world can change is the ultimate Show-Stopper: "Exponential growth in a finite world is both physically and mathematically impossible." But why let physics get in the way? "Don't try to confuse me with the facts."

How difficult it is to comprehend that something that can't go on forever. . . simply doesn't?
(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...

"When the rich make war it's the poor that die."
~~~ Jean-Paul Sartre

Go To Pittsburgh, Young Man, And Defy Your Empire
By Chris Hedges

Globalization and unfettered capitalism have been swept into the history books along with the open-market theory of the 1920s, the experiments of fascism, communism and the New Deal. It is time for a new economic and political paradigm. It is time for a new language to address our reality. The voices of change, those who speak in powerful and yet unfamiliar words, will cry out Sept. 25 and 26 in Pittsburgh when protesters from around the country gather to defy the heads of state, bankers and finance ministers from the world's 22 largest economies who are convening for a meeting of the G-20. If we heed these dissident voices we have a future. If we do not we will commit collective suicide.

The international power elites will go to Pittsburgh to preach the mantra that globalization is inevitable and eternal. They will discuss a corpse as if it was living. They will urge us to remain in suspended animation and place our trust in the inept bankers and politicians who orchestrated the crisis. This is the usual tactic of bankrupt elites clinging to power. They denigrate and push to the margins the realists-none of whom will be inside their security perimeters-who give words to our disintegration and demand a new, unfamiliar course. The powerful discredit dissent and protest. But human history, as Erich Fromm wrote, always begins anew with disobedience. This disobedience is the first step toward freedom. It makes possible the recovery of reason.

The longer we speak in the language of global capitalism, the longer we utter platitudes about the free market-even as we funnel hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars into the accounts of large corporations-the longer we live in a state of collective self-delusion. Our power elite, who profess to hate government and government involvement in the free market, who claim they are the defenders of competition and individualism, have been stealing hundreds of billions of dollars of our money to nationalize mismanaged corporations and save them from bankruptcy. We hear angry and confused citizens, their minds warped by hate talk radio and television, condemn socialized medicine although we have become, at least for corporations, the most socialized nation on Earth. The schizophrenia between what we profess and what we actually embrace has rendered us incapable of confronting reality. The longer we speak in the old language of markets, capitalism, free trade and globalization the longer the entities that created this collapse will cannibalize the nation.

What are we now? What do we believe? What economic model explains the irrationality of looting the U.S. Treasury to permit speculators at Goldman Sachs to make obscene profits? How can Barack Obama's chief economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, tout a "jobless recovery"? How much longer can we believe the fantasy that global markets will replace nation states and that economics will permit us to create a utopian world where we will all share the same happy goals? When will we denounce the lie that globalization fosters democracy, enlightenment, worldwide prosperity and stability? When we will we realize that unfettered global trade and corporate profit are the bitter enemies of freedom and the common good?

Corporations are pushing through legislation in the United States that will force us to buy defective, for-profit health insurance, a plan that will expand corporate monopolies and profits at our expense and leave tens of millions without adequate care. Corporations are blocking all attempts to move to renewable and sustainable energy to protect the staggering profits of the oil, natural gas and coal industries. Corporations are plunging us deeper and deeper as a nation into debt to feed the permanent war economy and swell the military budget, which consumes half of all discretionary spending. Corporations use lobbyists and campaign contributions to maintain arcane tax codes that offer them tax havens and tax evasions. Corporations are draining the treasury while the working class sheds jobs, sees homes foreclosed and struggles to survive in a new and terrifying global serfdom. This has been the awful price of complacency.

Protests will begin several days before the summit. Many of the activities are being coordinated by Pittsburgh's Thomas Merton Center. There will be a march Sept. 25 for anyone who, as Jessica Benner of the center's Antiwar Committee stated, "has lost a job, a home, a loved one to war, lost value to a retirement plan, gotten sick from environmental pollution, or lived without adequate healthcare, water, or food. ... " There will be at least three tent cities, in addition to a Music Camp beginning Sept. 18 that will be situated at the South Side Riverfront Park near 18th Street. Unemployed workers will set up one tent city at the Monumental Baptist Church on Sept. 20 and five days later will march on the Convention Center. The encampment and the march are being organized by the Bail Out the People Movement. The Institute for Policy Studies, The Nation magazine, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, Pittsburgh United and other organizations will host events including a panel on corporate globalization featuring former World Bank President Joseph Stiglitz, along with a "People's Tribunal." There will be a religious procession calling for social justice and a concert organized by Students for a Democratic Society.

But expect difficulties. The Secret Service has so far denied protesters permits while it determines the size of the "security perimeter" it will impose around the world leaders. Pittsburgh has contracted to bring in an extra 4,000 police officers at an estimated cost of $9.5 million. Activist groups have reported incidents of surveillance and harassment. The struggle to thwart the voices of citizens will be as fierce as the struggle to amplify the voices of the criminal class that is trashing the world's economy. These elites will appear from behind closed doors with their communiques and resolutions to address us in their specialized jargon of power and expertise. They will attempt to convince us they have not lost control. They will make recommitments to free-trade agreements from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or GATT, the World Trade Organization and NAFTA, which have all thrust a knife into the backs of the working class. They will insist that the world can be managed and understood exclusively through their distorted lens of economics. But their day is over. They are the apostles of a dead system. They maintain power through fraud and force. Do not expect them to go without a struggle. But they have nothing left to say to us.

"Those who profess to favor freedom, yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground," Frederick Douglass wrote. "They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

If you can, go to Pittsburgh. This is an opportunity to defy the titans of the corporate state and speak in words that describe our reality. The power elite fear these words. If these words seep into the population, if they become part of our common vernacular, the elite and the systems they defend will be unmasked. Our collective self-delusion will be shattered. These words of defiance expose the lies and crimes the elite use to barrel us toward neofeudalism. And these words, when they become real, propel men and women to resist.

"The end of something often resembles the beginning," the philosopher John Ralston Saul wrote in "Voltaire's Bastards." "More often than not our nose-to-the-glass view makes us believe that the end we are living is in fact a new beginning. This confusion is typical of an old civilization's self-confidence-limited by circumstances and by an absence of memory-and in many ways resembling the sort often produced by senility. Our rational need to control understanding and therefore memory has simply accentuated the confusion. ... Nothing seems more permanent than a long-established government about to lose power, nothing more invincible than a grand army on the morning of its annihilation."
(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."

How Did We Get From There To Here?
By Cynthia McKinney

I never want you to take the journey that I'm currently on. So, I want to tell you about it.

It starts on the front of the refrigerator. "The Healthiest Foods on Earth." A two-page primer from apple to watermelon, touting immunity to male fertility support. Inside the refrigerator, natural and organic foods only. On the countertop is the Jack LaLanne juicer, the Magic Bullet, the handy food chopper plus, the food saver vacuum sealer--all items familiar to us because they are constantly hawked on the midnight cable channels. Hanging from the kitchen cabinet door are plastic bags for recycling: one for plastics, the other for aluminum cans. The house and car are filled with reusable shopping bags made of recycled materials. By the way, a new car was in the works, and not because of the cash for clunkers program of the Federal Government. An American-made hybrid was preferred--keeping U.S. workers working. In the back seat of her Ford Focus is a booklet, "Living in a Healthy Body: A New Look at Health & Weight." What I'm trying to describe is someone working very hard at changing a typically indulgent "American" lifestyle into one more respectful and healthy for the body, healthy for our earth.

So, in an act of preventive medical care, my aunt Hazel went to the doctor to have a colonoscopy. We are all bombarded with television commercials advising us to have a colonoscopy. I know in the black media, those ads abound. And so, dutifully, my aunt abided by those suggestions for healthy choices and had her first colonoscopy. What the family knows is that her colon was perforated. That's when our journey took us on a wrong turn.

Unfortunately, the facility that performed the colonoscopy had told my aunt not to call before the results were published and that would take up to two weeks!!! When my aunt called them because she was feeling so bad, they told her that she'd be ok overnight and that they would call her in the morning. The hospital talked to her and her daughter. The hospital told my aunt to go to sleep overnight and they'd call her back in the morning. But my aunt-tee continued to deteriorate so badly that her daughter called 9-1-1 and by the morning, my aunt-tee was already in surgery at another hospital that was not too busy to care for her. This is when the perforation was discovered and repaired.

While my aunt was recovering in the second hospital, in intensive care, a letter was sent from the hospital where the colonoscopy was performed stating that they were the insured's provider and that the hospital performing the emergency surgery would not get paid. The hospital performing the mal-colostomy demanded my aunt-tee back. So, against the desires of the hospital providing the emergency surgery, my aunt, while still in intensive care, was forced to be transferred to the hospital that, in my opinion, committed a capital crime.

My aunt-tee deteriorated after the transfer, but fought like heck to live. Unfortunately, her body had been so poisoned by the doctor's failure to recognize that he had perforated her colon that her body became toxic. The third affront to my aunt-tee's health and life occurred when morphine was administered, ostensibly for pain and gave her such a blow to her vital statistics that the family objected to a second administration of morphine. But guess what!!! She was given morphine again, despite her children's complaints!!!! My aunt never recovered from that.

My aunt, a divorced mother of two, struggled to live righteously. Those of you in southern California know that she accompanied me almost everywhere I went. She was a hard-working woman, a proud homeowner in Watts, a student working on her Social Work degree, finally able to achieve her dreams after deferring them for so long in order to help her children realize theirs. She also took to the campaign trail too many times, traveling to Georgia to help my father and me realize ours. I can't even believe that she's gone--through no fault of her own--and I'm still wondering how the heck my aunt ended up in this place. Despite all the care she took of herself this is unfathomable to me. And sadly, too many families are arriving at this same place. Iraqi families devastated by U.S. occupation; Afghani families devastated by U.S. war; U.S. families also devastated by U.S. policy makers. Why?

For the last four years, I've spouted off the racial quality-of-life disparities that exist in our country. I've said it so much, it's as if no one heard me. Because even during my tenure in Congress, I gave floor speeches, but the policy change never came. I spoke at banquets and conventions about it, but the policy changes never came. Two steps forward always seemed to end with one step backward. If we got the money appropriated, in too many instances, black institutions couldn't be in charge of it, so only a trickle at best reached the community. I found that the "plantation" was alive and well in patterns of federal spending. So when Dr. David Satcher, President Clinton's Surgeon General, found in a 2005 study that over 83,000 blacks die unnecessary and premature deaths each year due to their treatment after they arrive in a doctor's office, among other factors, I added that datum to my panoply of quality-of-life stats. And now, my aunt factors in Dr. Satcher's numbers.

I have seen such betrayal and lack of principle in the current "health care" debate, I had no intention of getting into it. In our Power to the People campaign, I wrote a platform that included policy recommendations to eliminate all disparities still extant in our society, including for health care. A single-payer system is so obviously needed, it should be too politically costly for our Democratic majority in the Congress and our Democratic White House to do anything else. I recommended an end to war. I advocated public ownership of the Federal Reserve. I even anticipated the skullduggery of the bailouts and recommended that if the "powers that be" were intent on forcing Congress to give these bailouts to institutions that conducted what I would call criminal behavior, then at a minimum, a credible person like David Walker, former U.S. Comptroller, should audit all corporations and institutions receiving such funds. I suggested that Senator Obama use the power of his Senatorial pen to amend the bailout legislation to this effect. It didn't happen.

My aunt-tee had a policy of rarely voting for an incumbent. She understood that just as she was trying to change herself into a lifestyle that she could believe in, she wasn't going to get political, social, and economic change that she could believe in by voting like everyone else, for the same special interest candidates. Once she decided that it was necessary to step outside of the box of political conformity, she discovered that there were Independent, Green Party, Libertarian, and other political party candidates on her ballot that she had long ignored. She began to listen to them and learned to explore the totality of her options. It was glorious to watch my aunt-tee's liberation.

So why is she in the morgue now?

Not enough people took that journey with her. Not enough people saw her example. Not enough was done to change policy. At a time when the policy makers have never been so divorced from the reality borne by the average citizens that they govern, the American people have shown an amazing ability to accept graft, corruption, death, and destruction while continuing to believe that hope alone can produce real change. Why did Cindy Sheehan protest without thousands in front of President Obama's $50,000 a week vacation home?

I've tried to walk my talk. Just last week it came out that one "journalist" who called for my lynching was on the FBI payroll at the time of his comment. He claims to have been paid to say provocative things. I've withstood a lot--for the people. But now, I really don't know how much more walking or talking I'm able to do. I just wonder, how many more will have to experience this before more people write their own Declarations of Independence from this political disorder.

The phone just rang and it was the hospital that performed the botched colonoscopy on my aunt, that ignored her call for help, that demanded that she be transferred while she was in intensive care, that administered morphine twice, despite objections from the family and from which her vitals never recovered. They wanted to know how my aunt would rate their service. I told them poor on every count.

Thank you for reading this with empathy and I thank you all for your support. I apologize for any appointments that I've missed while I've been on the road to this place I'm in now.

P.S. My friend, David Josue, wrote a beautiful notice that I include in this message. Please click on the link at the end of his message because "dying while black" is real. My aunt is just the latest victim. The highlights are mine:

Cynthia McKinney lost a family member . . .
100,000 Unnecessary Black Deaths Per Year!

[09/01/09] It is with a heart full of sorrow that I have to inform you of the death of Cynthia's maternal aunt. Hazel was not sick and took all preventive measures to live a long life. She went to have a colonoscopy and her colon was punctured. What else went wrong during the procedure is still unknown to the family. Hazel survived Jim Crow but could not survive the health care system. Cynthia is deeply affected by this tragic event. She was very close to her aunt and Hazel loved her niece. Hazel was a fervent supporter of Cynthia's six terms in Congress and was so happy to see her niece run for President of the United States in 2008. Only last July the 4th she was in Atlanta with us while we were working around the clock to secure Cynthia's release from an Israeli jail. It is hard to accept that she is no more.

Please visit Professor Vernellia Randall's site
Dying While Black

Thank you

David Josue
(c) 2009 Cynthia McKinney is a former U.S. Congresswoman, Green Party presidential candidate, and an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice. The first African-American woman to represent the state of Georgia, McKinney served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1993-2003, and from 2005-2007. She was arrested and forcibly abducted to Israel while attempting to take humanitarian and reconstruction supplies to Gaza on June 30th. For more information, please see Free Gaza.

The Dead Letter Office...

Lynn does her famous "blackface" routine

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Jenkins,

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 calling for a "Great White Hope" to defeat me, which took the spotlight off our incompetence for a while, 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 10-31-2009. We salute you Frau Jenkins, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Washington Post's Cheney-ite Defense Of Torture
By Glenn Greenwald

If anyone ever tells you that they don't understand what is meant by "stenography journalism" -- or ever insists that America is plagued by a Liberal Media -- you can show them this article from today's Washington Post and, by itself, it should clear up everything. The article's headline is "How a Detainee Became An Asset -- Sept. 11 Plotter Cooperated After Waterboarding" -- though an equally appropriate headline would be: "The Joys and Virtues of Torture -- how Dick Cheney Kept Us Safe." I defy anyone to identify a single way the article would be different if The Post had let Dick Cheney write it himself. The next time someone laments the economic collapse of the modern American newspaper, one might point out that an industry which pays three separate reporters (Peter Finn, Joby Warrick and Julie Tate) and numerous editors to churn out mindless, inane tripe like this has brought about its own demise.

Here's the essence of the article, presented -- in terms of tone, length and placement -- as a Vital New Scoop:

After enduring the CIA's harshest interrogation methods and spending more than a year in the agency's secret prisons, Khalid Sheik Mohammed stood before U.S. intelligence officers in a makeshift lecture hall, leading what they called "terrorist tutorials" . . . .

These scenes provide previously unpublicized details about the transformation of the man known to U.S. officials as KSM from an avowed and truculent enemy of the United States into what the CIA called its "preeminent source" on al-Qaeda. This reversal occurred after Mohammed was subjected to simulated drowning and prolonged sleep deprivation, among other harsh interrogation techniques. . . .

[F]or defenders of waterboarding, the evidence is clear: Mohammed cooperated, and to an extraordinary extent, only when his spirit was broken in the month after his capture March 1, 2003, as the inspector general's report and other documents released this week indicate.

Who are the Post's sources for this full-scale vindication of Dick Cheney's defense of torture? "Two sources who described the sessions, speaking on the condition of anonymity because much information about detainee confinement remains classified"; "one former senior intelligence official said this week after being asked about the effect of waterboarding"; "one former U.S. official with detailed knowledge of how the interrogations were carried out said"; "One former agency official." It's unclear how much overlap there is in that orgy of pro-Cheney anonymity, but there is not a single on-the-record source to corroborate the Torture-Saved-Us-From-Mass-Death narrative, nor is there even a shred of information about the motives or views of these "officials."

What makes the Post's breathless vindication of torture all the more journalistically corrupt is that the document on which it principally bases these claims -- the just-released 2004 CIA Inspector General Report -- provides no support whatsoever for the view that torture produced valuable intelligence, despite the fact that it was based on the claims of CIA officials themselves. Ironically, nobody has done a better job this week of demonstrating how true that is than the Post's own Greg Sargent -- who, in post after post this week -- dissected the IG Report to demonstrate that it provides no evidence for Cheney's claims that torture helped obtain valuable intelligence.

That the released documents provide no support for Cheney's claims was so patently clear that many news articles contained unusually definitive statements reporting that to be so. The New York Times reported that the documents Cheney claimed proved his case "do not refer to any specific interrogation methods and do not assess their effectiveness." ABC News noted that "the visible portions of the heavily redacted reports do not indicate whether such information was obtained as a result of controversial interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding." TPM's Zachary Roth documented that "nowhere do they suggest that that information was gleaned through torture," while The Washington Independent's Spencer Ackerman detailed that, if anything, the documents prove "that non-abusive techniques actually helped elicit some of the most important information the documents cite in defending the value of the CIA's interrogations." As Sargent reported, even Bush's loyal Terrorism adviser, Frances Fargos Townsend, admitted that the IG Report provides no basis for what the Post today is ludicrously implying:

It's very difficult to draw a cause and effect, because it's not clear when techniques were applied vs. when that information was received. It's implicit. It seems, when you read the report, that we got the - the - the most critical information after techniques had been applied. But the report doesn't say that.

Yet The Post today publishes a long, breathless story that, in reality, does little more than claim that (a) Khalid Sheik Mohammed was subjected to "the CIA's harshest interrogation methods" (not "torture," of course) and (b) at some point after that, he provided valuable intelligence. At best, it's nothing more than a statement of obvious chronology, not causation. Nonetheless -- faithfully employing the same semantic game Cheney used to obfuscate chronology and causation, which Sargent first highlighted -- The Post loudly and unmistakably suggests that it was the torture that caused the waterfall of life-saving intelligence, and repeatedly grants anonymity to "intelligence officials" to claim this is so, notwithstanding the complete absence of any evidence for such claims and the ample evidence, as the Post's own Sargent documented, proving this to be untrue.

The debate over whether torture extracted valuable information is, in my view, a total sideshow, both because (a) it inherently begs the question of whether legal interrogation means would have extracted the same information as efficiently if not more so (exactly the same way that claims that warrantless eavesdropping uncovered valuable intelligence begs the question of whether legal eavesdropping would have done so); and (b) torture is a felony and a war crime, and we don't actually have a country (at least we're not suppoesd to) where political leaders are free to commit serious crimes and then claim afterwards that it produced good outcomes. If we want to be a country that uses torture, then we should repeal our laws which criminalize it, withdraw from treaties which ban it, and announce to the world (not that they don't already know) that, as a country, we believe torture is justifiable and just. Let's at least be honest about what we are. Let's explicitly repudiate Ronald Reagan's affirmation that "[n]o exceptional circumstances whatsoever . . . may be invoked as a justification of torture" and that "[e]ach State Party is required [] to prosecute torturers."

But sideshow or not, media outlets ought to exercise at least the most minimal amount of mental thought and skepticism before passing on baseless, anonymous claims that Torture Works and Saves Lives. It's long been clear that most of our establishment media believes in torture -- that's why there was so little outcry from them when the torture regime was implemented and why they're yet again reacting with horror over the prospect of accountability. As a result, they are now eager to argue it worked in order to justify not only what Bush officials did, but also their own complicity in it.

The Post article today is one of the most astoundingly vapid and misleading efforts yet to justify torture -- a true museum exhibit for the transformation of American journalism into little more than mindless amplifiers for those in power. It simultaneously touts facts as new revelations that have, in fact, long been claimed (that KSM provided valuable intelligence), while deceitfully implying facts that are without any evidence whatsoever (that he did so because he was tortured). Dick Cheney couldn't have said it better himself. It's so strange how often that's true of The Liberal Media.

UPDATE: To The Washington Post: if even Politico -- that's Politico -- notices and points out that you appear rather blatantly to be shilling for Dick Cheney by masquerading pure propaganda as "straight news," then that's a rather compelling indication that you're doing exactly that. Politico also points to these comments earlier this week from actual journalist Jane Mayer about Mohammed:

Well, the documents that I've seen, and maybe I'm missing something, but so far, I am amazed at how little support there is for the things that Vice President Cheney has been saying. There is nothing but a mass of claims that they got information from this individual and that individual, many from KSM, who apparently has been the greatest fount of information for them, but there's absolutely nothing saying that they had to beat them to get this information. In fact, as anybody knows who knows anything about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he was dying to tell the world, when he was interviewed by Al Jazeera before he was in US custody, about everything he knew and everything he did. He was proud of his role as the mastermind of 9/11. He loves to talk about it. So there's no evidence that I see in this that these things were necessary. I spoke to someone at the CIA who was an adviser to them who conceded to me that "We could have gotten the same information from tea and crumpets."

It would be one thing for Fred Hiatt to have printed this Post article as an Op-Ed from, say, John Bolton or some dutiful, low-level former Bush official. That's just standard Post behavior. But to print this as a purported "news article" -- and tout it as revealing "previously unpublicized details" -- is, quite arguably, a new propagandistic low even for the Post, which is saying quite a bit.

UPDATE II: Just as happened with the run-up to the Iraq War -- when pro-war newspaper stories based on pro-Cheney leaks became the "evidence" Cheney cited on Sunday news shows to "prove" the Iraqi threat -- the Post article "proving" that Torture Worked will almost certainly be cited by all torture defenders on this weekend's Sunday shows -- including by Cheney himself when he appears on Fox News and his daughter when she appears on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Here's Stephanopoulos, on Twitter, already laying the groundwork for that to happen:

As of today, thanks to the Post article, KSM's torture-caused, life-saving disclosures will be every bit as much a blindly accepted "fact" in our political discourse as Saddam's aluminum tubes were in 2003 -- and both myths were disseminated by the same people and the same "journalistic" methods.
(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.

We Have Met the Nazis, And They Are Us
CIA Atrocities Revealed to a National Shrug
By Ted Rall

Nazis. Americans are Nazis. We are Nazis.

Godwin's Law be damned-it's impossible to read the newly-released CIA report on the torture of Muslim prisoners without thinking of the Third Reich.

Sadism exists in every culture. A century ago, for example, Western adventurers who visited Tibet reported that the authorities in Lhasa, that supposed capital of pacifism, publicly gouged out criminals' eyes and yanked out their tongues. But Nazi atrocities were stylistically distinct from, say, the Turkish genocide of the Armenians or the Rwandan massacres of the early 1990s. German war crimes were characterized by methodical precision, the application of "rational" technology to increase efficiency, the veneer of legality and the perversion of medical science.

Nazi crimes were also marked by public indifference, which amounted to tacit support. Here and now, only 25 percent of Americans told the latest Pew Research poll that they believe torture is always wrong.

"The CIA's secret interrogation program operated under strict rules, and the rules were dictated from Washington with the painstaking, eye-glazing detail beloved by any bureaucracy," observed The New York Times. We have much in common with the Germans.

"In July 2002," the declassified report reveals, a CIA officer "reportedly used a 'pressure point' technique: with both of his hands on the detainee's neck, [he] manipulated his fingers to restrict the detainee's carotid artery." Another agent "watched his eyes to the point that the detainee would nod and start to pass out; then...shook the detainee to wake him. This process was repeated for a total of three applications on the detainee."

The CIA's rinse-lather-repeat approach to torture is reminiscent of Dr. Sigmund Rascher's experiments at Dachau and a parallel project conducted by the Japanese Imperial Army's infamous Unit 731 in occupied Manchuria in 1942-43. Rascher, who was tried for war crimes after World War II, froze or lashed detainees nearly to death, then revived them over and over. German and Japanese doctors developed detailed protocols governing the severity of exposure to which inmates could be subjected-protocols seized by U.S. occupation forces and turned over to the OSS, predecessor of the CIA.

So it was in the CIA's prisons at Guantanamo, Bagram, Diego Garcia, eastern Europe, Thailand and elsewhere.

(Or, to be more accurate, so it is. Bush publicly banned torture in 2006, but we know it was still going on as of 2007. Obama supposedly banned it again earlier this year, but then his CIA director Leon Panetta told Congress the agency reserves the right to keep doing it. Until the entire secret prison network is dismantled and every single prisoner released, it would be absurd to assume that torture is not continuing.)

Among the verbal treasures in the CIA papers is the "Water Dousing" section of the "Guidelines on Medical and Psychological Support to Detainee Rendition, Interrogation and Detention," which "allow for water to be applied using either a hose connected to tap water, or a bottle or similar container as the water source." Ah, the glorious war on terror. Detainees may be soaked in water as cold as 41 degrees Fahrenheit for as long as 20 minutes-no longer, no colder.

For the record, the CIA's medical expertise is about as reliable as its legal and moral sense. Forty-one degrees is bracingly cold; 41 was the temperature of the Hudson River was when US Airways Flight 1549 crashed into it earlier this year. (Remember the ice floes?) "Generally, a person can survive in 41-degree water for 10, 15 or 20 minutes," Dr. Christopher McStay, an emergency room physician at New York City's Bellevue Hospital told Scientific American magazine.

Like its Gestapo and SS antecedents, the CIA is highly bureaucratic. CIA employees were informed that "Advance Headquarters approval is required to use any physical pressures [against prisoners]." And those permissions came from the very top of the chain of command: the White House, which ordered the Office of Legal Counsel and other legal branches of the federal government to draft "CYA" memoranda. The memos, wrote Joshua L. Dratel in his introduction to "The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib," a compilation of memos authorizing torture of Muslim detainees reflect "a wholly result-oriented system in which policy makers start with an objective and work backward."

Also reminiscent of Nazism is the utter absence of firewalls that has come to characterize the behavior of top government officials. Totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany corrupt the judiciary by using the courts to carry out political policy. Beginning under Bush and now under Obama, judicial independence has been eradicated.

On August 28th The New York Times reported: "In July, Leon E. Panetta, the CIA director, tried to head off the investigation [of the CIA's torture program], administration officials said. He sent the CIA's top lawyer, Stephen W. Preston, to [the Department of] Justice to persuade aides to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to abandon any plans for an inquiry." There's a term for this: Obstruction of Justice. You're not supposed to try to influence the outcome of an investigation. It was count six of the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon.

To Holder's credit, he has appointed a special prosecutor. To his discredit, the focus of the investigation is narrow: he will only go after officials who went beyond the Bush Administration's over-the-top torture directives (which allow, as seen above, freezing people to death). He does not plan to go after the worst criminals, who are the Bush Administration lawyers and officials, including Bush and Cheney themselves, who ordered the war crimes-much less those like Obama who are currently covering them up.

He should change his mind. While he's at it, he should throw Leon Panetta in jail.

Holder's brief currently involves just 20 cases, which include detainees who were murdered by the CIA. But even those will be tough to prosecute, reports The New York Times: "Evidence, witnesses and even the bodies of the victims of alleged abuses have not been found in all cases."

Because, you see, the bodies were burned and dumped.

They-the CIA-are Nazis for committing the crimes.

And we are Nazis for not giving a damn. Only a third of Americans told the April 27th CBS News/New York Times poll that there ought to be an investigation of Bush-era war crimes-and they don't care enough to march in the streets, much less break a few windows. So few of my columns on torture have been reprinted by American newspapers or websites that I seriously contemplated not bothering to write this one.

We have met the Nazis, and they are us.
(c) 2009 Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?" an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.)

The Cartoon Corner...

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

W the Movie 1st trailer

To End On A Happy Note...

Don't Inject Me (the Swine Flu Vaccine Song)
By Mike Adams

The swine flu's comin' back
like a viral attack
It's like '76, you gotta cover ya back
But not with a vaccine don't give in to that
Because those medical quacks
are makin money off that

They wanna inject you, infect you with the vaccine
They say they protect but they reject your immunity
And if you protest they arrest you and they lock you down
Can't have people like that walkin' around

The truth is outrageous
Don't you know the drug companies made this flu
And if you're thinkin' you wanna evade this
Then you gotta say this

Don't inject me
Don't infect me
Don't stick that needle in my arm and chemically wreck me

Don't inject me
Don't infect me
Don't stick that needle in my veins and medically wreck me

Don't use me
Don't abuse me
Don't push your medical lies and try to confuse me

Don't trick me
Don't you dick me
With that needle in ya hand don't you dare try to prick me

Don't you know the swine flu is made by man
Pharmaceutical scam
It's all part of the Big Brother population plan
But the thing I don't understand
is why they in Mexico City
in an unmarked military van

They don't want you to see the remedies
you can stop influenza with vitamin D for free
Herbal medicine is all that you need
But they can't charge a fifty dollar fee

They inject you
They infect you
They stick that needle in your arm
and chemically wreck you

They use you
They abuse you
They say they're saving your life while they really confuse you

All you parents grab your kids
And shoot 'em up just like guinea pigs
Inject your teens and your babies in the crib
And when they get paralyzed
That's when you realize
There's no way to undo what you did

The big drug companies are makin' a killing
Collectin' the billions and gettin' away like a James Bond villain
cause they're willin' to do almost anything
Just to make money with the flu vaccine
(c) 2009 by Michael Adams (The Health Ranger)

Have You Seen This...

I Met the Walrus

Parting Shots...

Cash For Clunkers: The Sequels
By Will Durst

Got to give the President a big bowl of props for interrupting Obama Rama on Martha's Vineyard with his valiant effort to paint a big old smiling happy face on the side of the economy. Although in the future, he might want to come up with something a bit more reassuring than "we're losing jobs at a much slower pace." Hey everybody, did you catch that? The economy is doing less badly. Alright! Its not getting worse as rapidly as it previously was. Woo hoo! The brakes are on the slide. About as encouraging as a squad of septuagenarian cheerleaders waving black pom-poms after a loss in the rain at night.

Typically, economists are unsure whether the parachute has or hasn't opened to slow the free fall of our recession. Or why. That's because they're economists. You know that phrase: "couldn't tell his ass from yellow paint?" Next time you see an economist on one of those cable talk shows, check under his fingernails. You got it. Chips of yellow paint. Look up equivocating in the dictionary, there's a picture of an accountant hiding from an economist.

It could be seasonal. Perhaps summer barbecue grill tongs sales peaked above expectations, or back-to-school notebooks flew off the shelf or there's been an early run on Cool Whip in anticipation of massive pumpkin pie production. Could be just the natural way of things. You know, part of that whole good, bad, boom, bust, excellent, sucky cycle. Then again, it might have been the much-vaunted economic stimulus package kicking in. Hard to tell. Although, a lot of folks still maintain the only thing the stimulus package aroused was their suspicion.

Cash for Clunkers might have had a hand in it. The rebate program ended its run with about 700,000 new cars sold, and initial estimates are that 3 or 4 of them were made in America. I got to be honest, when I first heard the phrase Cash for Clunkers, I thought they were talking about raising the per diem for the Senate. Or it was a recurring entry on a lobbyist's expense report.

It hasn't been all roses and sunshine and bubble baths. Some dealers are still whining about government delays in rebate reimbursement. Yeah. You read that right. Auto dealers are complaining someone is slow holding up their end of a bargain. Should have signed up for the undercoating.

Now the feds are rolling out a sequel to Cash for Clunkers whereby consumers earn rebates by trading in large appliances for energy efficient replacements. The old two-birds-with-one-coin strategy. The problem is there's no cute alliterative name for the program. I'm sorry, Cash for Stackable Washer/ Dryer Combos doesn't quite cut it. Cash for Upright Freezers with Manual Defrost lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.

What we need is a series of programs to recapture the public's fancy and open wide their wallets. People eat, don't they? Why not seduce them into consuming domestic donuts? Cash for Dunkers. Or how about our brave American rotisserie chicken establishments? Cash for Cluckers. Maybe a stimulus program for disaffected banjo players... Cash for Pluckers. Oyster restaurants could use assistance: Cash for Shuckers. Let's throw a bone to our indigenous cave explorers. Cash for Spelunkers. And finally, I'm personally hoping to hook into a research grant for exposing fake psychics: You know, Cash for Debunkers.
(c) 2009 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based political comic who writes sometimes. This is one of those times. Please catch his new one man show "The Lieutenant Governor from the State of Confusion," when it appears near you.

The Gross National Debt

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Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 34 (c) 09/04/2009

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