Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Naomi Klein joins, "The Toronto Declaration."

Uri Avnery argues on in, "The Boycott Revisited."

Joe Conason concludes, "Healthcare Didn't Have To Go This Way."

Jim Hightower follows, "Executive Pay: There They Go Again."

Eric Alterman isn't, "Hiding Truths From The Goyim And Ourselves."

Greg Palast asks, "Where's Your Homework, Mr. President?"

Paul Krugman is, "Hoping For Audacity."

Chris Floyd uncovers the cover up, "Outrageous Behavior: Bogus Bluster From Bigwigs Hides Lockerbie Truth."

Case Wagenvoord reminds us that, "Greed Never Sleeps."

Mike Folkerth wants to know, "What's This "WE" Stuff?"

Chris Hedges says, "Food Is Power And The Powerful Are Poisoning Us."

Amy Goodman shines a, "New Light On Copenhagen Climate Talks."

Sin-ator Max Baucus wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald finds, "Major Ruling Against Ashcroft Highlights Evils Of Preventive Detention."

Megan Tady wonders, "Will 'Astroturf' Groups Block Net Neutrality Reform?"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz returns with, "In Week Before Labor Day, Pointless 'Filler' Columns Abound" but first Uncle Ernie is, "Revisiting 911 Again."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of John Cole, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Dees Illustration.Com, Micah Wright, Jen Sorensen, Worth 1000.Com, Audacity.Org, Pundit Kitchen.Com, The Green House.Blogspot.Com, A.P., MGM, Issues & Alibis.Org and Pink & Blue Films.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
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To End On A Happy Note...
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Parting Shots...

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

Revisiting 911 Again
By Ernest Stewart

"Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor..." ~~~ Project for the New American Century: A roadmap for global domination

"We thought it was a mistake. We are now in contact with the Libyan government, and want to make sure that if in fact this transfer has taken place, he is not welcomed back in some way but instead should be under house arrest." ~~~ Barack Obama

"If this works the way I want it to, more Americans will know what Canada is doing in Afghanistan."
Lieutenant-Colonel Douglas Martin, a military attache at the Canadian embassy.

It's finally official! With support from the Obama regime for the "Crime Family Bush's" various acts of treason against the Constitution and Bill of Rights, we declare Osama Ben successful. You may recall that we were told that Osama and the Muslims attacked us because they were jealous of our freedoms, not because we had been murdering them and stealing their resources.

Well, eight years down line and a change in our fearless leaders, we resemble Orwell's 1984 more than ever. So if that was what 911 was really about, then Osama wins! Of course we know that wasn't what it was about. As we read in PNAC 911 was the new Pearl Harbor that was needed by our corpo-rat masters so that they could rule the world.

911, a CIA/Mossad operation with its group called "the method," was carried out with the blessings of the "Crime Family Bush" and covered up by them as well! Several airliners were hi-jacked, two hitting the World Trade Center building. Another one was accidentally shot down over Pennsylvania and a Cruise missile struck a mostly empty section of the Pentagon.

2,752 people died at the World Trade Center. Hundreds more would have died but Israel sent emails to its citizens telling them to stay home that day. The two towers as well as building 7 were all brought down by controlled demolitions. There was no investigation and all materials were immediately trucked away before the explosive materials could be found. CIA agent Ben Laden was blamed for it along with 19 Arabs, mostly from Saudi Arabia. So we decided to attacked Afghanistan because the Taliban refused our July 2001 offer of a carpet of gold to allow Dick (the psycho) Cheney to build a gas pipeline across the country. We told them if they didn't accept our carpet of gold we'd give them a carpet of bombs and we did!

Osama, who was no doubt assassinated by then, was replaced by a look-alike shill to egg us on and on. We were off on a never-ending war on terror and a never-ending war against the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the American people! Happy 911-day, America! Yippee!

In Other News

The truth is beginning to spill out about the Lockerbie fiasco, at last. I've maintained since day one that Libya had nothing to do with it. It turns out, as I surmised, Iran was behind it.

You recall when one of our AEGIS guided missile cruisers shot down that Iranian airliner into the gulf? We said it was a big mistake but then turned around and gave medals and advancement in rank to all those who had a hand in that war crime. To put the icing on the cake, Papa Smirk said, "I'll never apologize for the United States of America, ever. I don't care what the facts are." The Iranians were merely pissed off before he said that. They went berserk afterwards and called upon the Palestinians, a people we have enslaved and murdered by the tens of thousands for over 60 years, to do the ground work of the tit-for-tat. That eternal bad boy Mo Gaddafi and Libya were chosen by us and Britain to be the scapegoat.

So we knew who did it from day one, as did the British. We didn't pursue the Iranians and Palestinians for the Lockerbie crime for several reasons. For one, what goes around, comes around but the main reason was that we needed Iran's help in our illegal, immoral invasions of Iraq in the first round of the Gulf war, "Desert Storm." Both Bushes knew the truth about Lockerbie. Tony the Poodle knew it, as did the three Scottish judges. Barry and Hillary know it as does our new poodle at Downing Street, Gordon Brown.

Trouble is the British have a judicial system that still works somewhat and the truth about Lockerbie was about to come out in the 600 pages that were to be released for Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi's appeal. When that became apparent, the word came down to get rid of Megrahi before it hit the fan! While Megrahi wanted his day in court he was forced to drop his appeal for political reasons, as Colonel Gaddafi had big oil deals on with England and the puppet Scottish government went along for the ride.

And Finally

A couple of closing thoughts this week.

First: Those crazy "hosers" from the "Great White North" are at it again! They're going to be presenting a little morality play this month in Washington D.C. on the grounds of the Canadian embassy. They will be attacking a mocked up Afghani village complete with bombs exploding and other special effects and attacking Canadian troops to highlight their role in Afghanistan. Who knows they might even bandage one of their victims to show us their caring side, too. Yeah, I know, where to begin? Well, you know me. I sent the Canadian Embassy and the "Globe and Mail," where this story ran, a short note...

What do you think will happen if this stunt kills a passerby with a heart attack? Imagine the Marines in Montreal setting off baby nukes 'cause that's what we do!

We get your role in Afghanistan, you murder babies, women and old men, just like you do in Iraq and have done with your native population, not to mention baby seals. We get it, you're America Jr. without the nukes. We don't need to hear bombs in Washington D.C. If you want to do a play, how about doing "Old Calcutta?" This war play will no doubt get our attention but I'm pretty sure you won't like it when it does, eh? The Lt. Colonel needs to get a life!

Hosers, tsk, tsk, tsk!

Your American pal,

Second: Victoria and I would like to thank all of you who wrote in to commiserate with us over the fire ant invasion. Our landlords sent out a guy to spray the house and surrounding property. Trouble is this guy-looked frighteningly like the old exterminator himself, Tom Delay! Spooky. I wonder...? Nah!

We'll be staying for another month before heading back to the mountains of Asheville the first week of October, providing that the ants stay away until then.


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


12-17-1952 ~ 08-05-2009
Rock on brother!


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


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


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

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

The Toronto Declaration
No Celebration of Occupation
By Naomi Klein

As members of the Canadian and international film, culture and media arts communities, we are deeply disturbed by the Toronto International Film Festival's decision to host a celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv. We protest that TIFF, whether intentionally or not, has become complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine.

In 2008, the Israeli government and Canadian partners Sidney Greenberg of Astral Media, David Asper of Canwest Global Communications and Joel Reitman of MIJO Corporation launched "Brand Israel," a million dollar media and advertising campaign aimed at changing Canadian perceptions of Israel. Brand Israel would take the focus off Israel's treatment of Palestinians and its aggressive wars, and refocus it on achievements in medicine, science and culture. An article in Canadian Jewish News quotes Israeli consul general Amir Gissin as saying that Toronto would be the test city for a promotion that could then be deployed around the world. According to Gissin, the culmination of the campaign would be a major Israeli presence at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. (Andy Levy-Alzenkopf, "Brand Israel set to launch in GTA," Canadian Jewish News, August 28, 2008.)

In 2009, TIFF announced that it would inaugurate its new City to City program with a focus on Tel Aviv. According to program notes by Festival co-director and City to City programmer Cameron Bailey, "The ten films in this year's City to City programme will showcase the complex currents running through today's Tel Aviv. Celebrating its 100th birthday in 2009, Tel Aviv is a young, dynamic city that, like Toronto, celebrates its diversity."

The emphasis on 'diversity' in City to City is empty given the absence of Palestinian filmmakers in the program. Furthermore, what this description does not say is that Tel Aviv is built on destroyed Palestinian villages, and that the city of Jaffa, Palestine's main cultural hub until 1948, was annexed to Tel Aviv after the mass exiling of the Palestinian population. This program ignores the suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants of the Tel Aviv/Jaffa area who currently live in refugee camps in the Occupied Territories or who have been dispersed to other countries, including Canada. Looking at modern, sophisticated Tel Aviv without also considering the city's past and the realities of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip, would be like rhapsodizing about the beauty and elegant lifestyles in white-only Cape Town or Johannesburg during apartheid without acknowledging the corresponding black townships of Khayelitsha and Soweto.

We do not protest the individual Israeli filmmakers included in City to City, nor do we in any way suggest that Israeli films should be unwelcome at TIFF. However, especially in the wake of this year's brutal assault on Gaza, we object to the use of such an important international festival in staging a propaganda campaign on behalf of what South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and UN General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann have all characterized as an apartheid regime.

This letter was drafted by the following ad hoc committee:

Udi Aloni, filmmaker, Israel; Elle Flanders, filmmaker, Canada; Richard Fung, video artist, Canada; John Greyson, filmmaker, Canada; Naomi Klein, writer and filmmaker, Canada; Kathy Wazana, filmmaker, Canada; Cynthia Wright, writer and academic, Canada; b h Yael, film and video artist, Canada.

Endorsed by:

Ahmad Abdalla, Filmmaker, Egypt
Hany Abu-Assad, Filmmaker, Palestine
Mark Achbar, Filmmaker, Canada
Zackie Achmat, AIDS activist, South Africa
Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, Filmmaker, Jerusalem
Anthony Arnove, Publisher and Producer, USA
Ruba Atiyeh, Documentary Director, Lebanon
Joslyn Barnes, Writer and Producer, USA
John Berger, Author, France
David Byrne, Musician, USA
Guy Davidi Director, Israel
Na-iem Dollie, Journalist/Writer, South Africa
Igor Drljaca, Filmmaker, Canada
Eve Ensler, Playwright, Author, USA
Eyal Eithcowich, Director, Israel
Sophie Fiennes, Filmmaker, UK
Peter Fitting, Professor, Canada
Jane Fonda, Actor and Author, USA
Danny Glover, Filmmaker and Actor, USA
Noam Gonick, Director, Canada
Malcolm Guy, Filmmaker, Canada
Mike Hoolboom, Filmmaker, Canada
Annemarie Jacir, Filmmaker, Palestine
Fredric Jameson, Literary Critic, USA
Juliano Mer Khamis, Filmmaker, Jenin/Haifa
Bonnie Sherr Klein Filmmaker, Canada
Paul Laverty, Producer, UK
Paul Lee, Filmmaker, Canada
Yael Lerer, publisher, Tel Aviv
Jack Lewis, Filmmaker, South Africa
Ken Loach, Filmmaker, UK
Arab Lotfi, Filmmaker, Egypt/Lebanon
Kyo Maclear, Author, Toronto
Mahmood Mamdani, Professor, USA
Fatima Mawas, Filmmaker, Australia
Tessa McWatt, Author, Canada and UK
Cornelius Moore, Film Distributor, USA
Yousry Nasrallah, Director, Egypt
Rebecca O'Brien, Producer, UK
Pratibha Parmar, Producer/Director, UK
Jeremy Pikser, Screenwriter, USA
John Pilger, Filmmaker, UK
Shai Carmeli Pollak, Filmmaker, Israel
Ian Iqbal Rashid, Filmmaker, Canada
Judy Rebick, Professor, Canada
David Reeb, Artist, Tel Aviv
B. Ruby Rich, Critic and Professor, USA
Wallace Shawn, Playwright, Actor, USA
Eyal Sivan, Filmmaker and Scholar, Paris/London/Sderot
Ernest Stewart, Writer/Producer, USA
Elia Suleiman, Fimmlaker, Nazareth/Paris/New York
Eran Torbiner, Filmmaker, Israel
Alice Walker, Writer, USA
Thomas Waugh, Professor, Canada
Howard Zinn, Writer, USA
Slavoj Zizek, Professor, Slovenia
(c) 2009 Naomi Klein is the author of, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism."

The Boycott Revisited
By Uri Avnery

THE PEOPLE of Sodom, the Bible tells us, were very wicked indeed.

They had a nasty habit of putting every passing stranger into one particular bed. If the stranger was too tall, his legs were shortened. If he was too short, his body was stretched to the required length.

In a way, each of us has such a bed, into which we put everything new. Confronted with a novel situation, we tend to equate it with a situation we have known in the past.

In politics, this method is especially pervasive. It relieves us of the irksome necessity of studying an unfamiliar situation and drawing new conclusions.

Once, the pattern of Vietnam was applied to every struggle around the world - from Argentina to North Korea. Nowadays, the fashion points to South Africa. Everything resembles the struggle against apartheid, unless proven otherwise.

SINCE SENDING out last week's article, "Tutu's Prayer," I have been flooded with responses, some laudatory, some abusive, some thoughtful, some merely angry.

Generally, I don't argue with my esteemed readers. I don't want to impose my views, I just want to provide food for thought and leave it to the reader to form his or her own opinion.

This time I feel that I owe it to my readers to clear up some of the points I was trying to make and answer some of the objections. So here we go.

I HAVE no argument with people who hate Israel. That's entirely their right. I just don't think that we have any common ground for discussion.

I would only like to point out that hatred is a very bad advisor. Hatred leads nowhere, but to more hatred. That, by the way, is a positive lesson we can draw from the South African experience. There they overcame hatred to a remarkable extent, largely thanks to the "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" headed by Archbishop Tutu, where people admitted their past offenses.

One thing is certain: hatred does not lead towards peace. Let me be quite explicit about this, because I sense that some people, in their righteous indignation over Israel's occupation, have lost sight of this.

Peace is made between enemies, after war, in which awful things invariably happen. Peace can be made and maintained between peoples who are prepared to live with each other, respect each other, recognize the humanity of each other. They don't have to love each other.

Describing the other side as monsters may be useful in waging war, but singularly unhelpful in waging peace.

When I receive a missive that is dripping with hatred of Israel, that portrays all Israelis (including myself, of course) as monsters, I fail to envision how the writer imagines peace. Peace with monsters? Angels and monsters living side by side in peace and harmony in one state, hating each other's guts?

The view of Israel as a monolithic entity composed of racists and brutal oppressors is a caricature. Israel is a complex society, struggling with itself. The forces of good and evil, and many in between, are locked in a daily battle on many different fronts. The settlers and their supporters are strong, perhaps getting stronger (though I doubt it), but are far - even in their own view - from a decisive victory. Neve Gordon, for example, has been left unmolested in his post at Ben-Gurion University, because any attempt to remove him would have caused a public outcry.

I ALSO have no argument with those who want to abolish the State of Israel. It is as much their right to aspire to that as it is my right to want to dismantle, let's say, the USA or France, neither of which has an unblemished past.

Reading some of the messages sent to me and trying to analyze their contents, I get the feeling they are not so much about a boycott on Israel as about the very existence of Israel. Some of the writers obviously believe that the creation of the State of Israel was a terrible mistake to start with, and therefore should be reversed. Turn the wheel of history back some 62 years and start anew.

What really disturbs me about this is that almost nobody in the West comes out and says clearly: Israel must be abolished. Some of the proposals, like those for a "One State" solution, sound like euphemisms. If one believes that the State of Israel should be abolished and replaced by a State of Palestine or a State of Happiness - why not say so openly?

Of course, that does not mean peace. Peace between Israel and Palestine presupposes that Israel is there. Peace between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people presupposes that both peoples have a right to self-determination and agree to the peace. Does anyone really believe that racist monsters like us would agree to give up our state because of a boycott? The French and the Germans did not agree to live in one joint state, though the differences between them are incomparably smaller than those between Jewish Israelis and Arab Palestinians. Instead, they set up a European Union, composed of nation-states. Some 50 years ago I called for a similar Semitic Union, including Israel and Palestine. I still do.

Anyway, there is no sense in arguing with those who pray for the disappearance of the sovereign State of Israel, rather than for the appearance of the sovereign State of Palestine at its side.

THE REAL argument is among those who want to see peace between the two states, Israel and Palestine. The question is: how can it be achieved? This is an honest debate and is generally conducted in a civil manner. My debate with Neve Gordon is in this framework.

The advocates of boycott believe that the main, indeed the only way to induce Israel to give up the occupied territories and agree to peace is to exert pressure from the outside.

I have no quarrel with the idea of outside pressure. The question is: pressure on whom? On the government, the settlers and their supporters? Or on the entire Israeli people?

The first answer is, I believe, the right one. That's why I hope that President Barack Obama will publish a detailed peace plan with a fixed timetable and apply the immense powers of persuasion of the USA to get both sides to agree. I don't think that this is politically possible without the support of a large part of Israeli society (and, by the way, of the US Jewish community).

Some readers have lost all hope in Obama. That is, without doubt, premature. Obama has not surrendered to Binyamin Netanyahu - indeed, it is quite conceivable that the opposite is happening. The struggle is on, it is a hard struggle against determined opposition, and we should do all we can to help Obama's peace policy to prevail. We must do this as Israelis, from inside Israel, and thereby show that this is not a struggle of the US against Israel, but a joint struggle against the Israeli government and the settlers.

It follows that any boycott must serve this purpose: to isolate the settlers and the individuals and institutions which openly support them, but not declare war on Israel and the Israeli people as such. In the 11 years since Gush Shalom declared a boycott of the products of the settlements, this process has been gaining momentum. We must laud the Norwegian decision, this week, to divest from the Israeli Elbit company because of their involvement with the "Separation Fence" that is being built on Palestinian land and whose main purposeis to annex occupied territories to Israel. This is a splendid example: a focused action against a specific target, based on a ruling of the International Court.

I think that far more can be done by a concentrated national and international campaign. A central office should be set up to direct this effort throughout the world against clear and specific targets. Such an effort could be helped by world public opinion, which recoils from the idea of boycotting the State of Israel, and not only because of the memory of the Holocaust, but will identify itself with action against the occupation and the oppression.

I have been asked about the Palestinian reaction to the boycott idea. At present, Palestinians do not boycott even the settlements, indeed it is Palestinian workers who are building almost all the houses there, out of economic necessity. Their feelings can only be guessed. All self-respecting Palestinians would, of course, support any effective measure directed against the occupation. But it would not be honest to dangle before their eyes the false hope that a world-wide boycott would bring Israel to its knees. The truth is that only the close cooperation of Palestinian, Israeli and international peace forces could generate the necessary momentum to end the occupation and achieve peace.

This is especially important because our task in Israel today is not so much to convince the majority of Israelis that peace is good and the price acceptable, but first that peace is possible at all. Most Israelis have lost that hope, and its revival is absolutely vital on the way to peace.

TO REMOVE any misconceptions about myself, let me state as clearly as possible where I stand:

I am an Israeli.

I am an Israeli patriot.

I want my state to be democratic, secular, and liberal, ending the occupation and living at peace both with the free and sovereign State of Palestine that will come into being next to it, and with the entire Arab world.

I want Israel to be a state belonging to all its citizens, without distinction of ethnic origin, gender, religion or language; with completely equal rights for all; a state in which the Hebrew-speaking majority will retain its close ties with the Jewish communities around the world, and the Arab-speaking citizens will be free to cherish their close ties with their Palestinian brothers and sisters and the Arab world at large.

If this is racism, Zionism or worse - so be it.
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Healthcare Didn't Have To Go This Way
Obama gave away the store on this crucial issue. It's time to take it back
By Joe Conason

Achieving humane and affordable healthcare in America was never going to be easy, even with an audacious new president and large majorities in both houses of Congress. Compromise between the Democratic Party's diverse representatives -- let alone with the tiny handful of Republicans who actually care about the need for reform -- was always inevitable. And when the moment for compromise arrived, the result was certain to disappoint many of the president's most ardent voters, who cherished his campaign's promises of change. But the mundane grind of making legislation need not have been quite as painful as it is today, when progressives feel betrayed, and Democrats feel deflated.

The essence of President Obama's problem can be found in an anonymous quote, attributed to a White House official, that appeared on the front page of the New York Times last Wednesday. "It's so important to get a deal," confided the unnamed aide, that the president "will do almost anything it takes to get one." Such desperate confessions of politics as usual, which have appeared in dozens of such remarks in the press over the past several months, not only serve the president poorly but damage the fresh brand that he brought to Washington after his triumphant election last year. They are the residue of an ill-conceived strategy that has left Obama politically vulnerable, attenuated his connection with loyal progressives, and blurred his most important message.

That message was Obama himself, of course -- meaning what he represented and what he meant to accomplish. From the outset of the 2008 campaign, the rationale for his long-shot candidacy was that he stood firmly for a set of principles in policy and governance and against political business as usual, as well as a style of politics that emphasized citizen activism. He would drive the corporate lobbyists away from Capitol Hill, the White House and the federal agencies. He would insist on transparency and integrity in conducting the people's business. Above all, he would pursue the public interest forthrightly rather than inch forward triangularly and incrementally.

Perhaps none of these happy promises was likely to be fulfilled, and perhaps that was something Obama and his campaign aides always understood. But as the new White House came to terms with the realities of Washington, they seem to have thrown off their original images and ideals insouciantly -- as if unburdening themselves of unfashionable baggage that embarrassed them in the big city.

Nowhere has this fundamental mistake been more visible than in the effort to reform healthcare. From more than six decades of struggle over the question of universal coverage and cost control, the Obama team must have known that they would face enormous opposition. They should also have known, from the ugly mood of the Republican campaign during the final weeks of the election and the partisan history of the past 15 years, that chances for bipartisan agreement were minimal. And they ought to have realized that the energy of the progressive movement, expressed in their own campaign, could become their most formidable weapon in that battle.

That was the insight attributed to FDR in a famous anecdote. When progressive leaders approached him with a wish list of reform programs and liberal legislation, he nodded. "I agree with you, I want to do it. Now make me do it." Although Roosevelt biographers consider that story apocryphal, it expresses a truth of political history that remained salient from the labor organizing of the Depression through the civil rights, antiwar, feminist and environmental movements. For a president who wants reform and change, citizen agitation is an important instrument of power, not an obstacle to deal making.

But this president surrendered that powerful weapon when he chose aides who prefer lobbyists to activists and adopted a strategy that ranks bipartisan agreement above policy substance. The telltale remark came from still another anonymous aide who boasted recently that the White House would welcome a "confrontation" with Democratic liberals over healthcare because it would "show he is willing to stare down his own party to get things done."

No doubt this willingness to further divide Democrats and punish liberals is pleasing to Beltway pundits. It arises from the same instinct that welcomed a parade of lobbyists into the White House and that fawned over Republican senators and Blue Dog representatives, even as they conspired to wreck reform. Meanwhile, the political environment was suffused with right-wing messages about the president and his program, while the White House failed to promote or explain its plan. (No great sophistication is required to determine who, aside from the president himself, bears the greatest blame for these tactical and strategic errors.)

While this depressing scenario may seem preordained, especially in the conventional idiocy of Washington politics, there were other possibilities, had Obama remained true to his promise and platform. Instead of seeking to silence supporters of a single-payer, Medicare-for-all plan, for example, the Obama team could have encouraged those organizations to create pressure from below. Then the public option might have become part of the ultimate deal, rather than an ideal that gets traded away. All the whispered White House waffling over the public option -- which remains on Obama's own Web site as a central feature of his reform plan -- has only made him appear weak, indecisive and unreliable.

Can he regain the initiative and restore his brand when he addresses a joint session of Congress next week? Only if he returns to the principles enunciated in his campaign and his inaugural address. He must tell the people and their representatives again that it is time to put away childish things. He must explain why it is imperative to bring our healthcare system into the 21st century, like every developed nation that accomplished this fundamental task long ago. He must stand fast for universal coverage.

And he must vow that he will do whatever must be done to achieve that promise -- rather than sell off whatever he can, including the security of millions of families, simply to pass any bill.
(c) 2009 Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer and Salon. You may reach Joe via email at: Joe Conason

Executive Pay: There They Go Again

If you hit yourself over the head with a ballpeen hammer - that's stupid. But if you do it again, that's insane.

Welcome to the insanity of Wall Street. Having fostered a corrupting culture of banker greed by basing the lavish pay of top executives on their ability to score short-term profits (whether by hook or crook) the reckless financial titans crashed their own banks and our economy. So, barely a year after the crash, what's the response of the banks? "Hey," they're shouting, "that was fun - let's do it again!"

James Reda, an executive pay consultant, studied the changes that 191 of America's largest banks and corporations have made this year in the way they reward top managers. With the public outraged by executive excess and congress considering pay limits, Reda presumed that most bosses would have cut back on the short-term, grab-all-you-can pay incentives and shifted to a rational system that rewards executives for long-term performance.

Wrong. It seems that corporate culture is at war with sanity. Reda found that companies did change their pay policies - but by increasing short-term incentives and actually reducing incentives for sound, long-term performance! Reda found that these big outfits are even retaining such ridiculous perks as "tax gross-ups," which mean that executives don't even have to shell out for the taxes they owe on their exorbitant pay - instead, shareholders pick up their tax tabs. The message to pampered managers is clear: You'll be paid more if you take additional unethical shortcuts and take greater speculative risks than you did before.

Let me reiterate that the short-term profiteering they did "before" is what wrecked the rest of us. Why is Washington letting them hit us over the head again with the same ballpeen hammer?
(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.

Hiding Truths From The Goyim And Ourselves
Eric Alterman

After I graduated college in 1982, the year Israel invaded Lebanon, I hosted a luncheon at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC. I was an intern at the time and the speaker was Karen DeYoung, who then served as foreign editor of The Washington Post. The newspaper, then as now, was under a great deal of pressure from various Washington-based Jewish organizations for its coverage of Israel-these were the days of the siege of Beirut and the massacre at Sabra and Shatilla-and it felt compelled to invite some members of said community to the newsroom to observe the process of how it chose what stories to cover and what information went into them before they were published in the paper.

According to DeYoung, a report came in from Beirut that Israeli soldiers had taken over a Palestinian think-tank and were urinating and defecating on Palestinian documents they found there in a fit of macho pique. But when the editor moved to publish this detail, the representative of one of the invited Jewish organizations demanded that it be taken out of the story because it could not possibly be true. No Jewish boy would ever do such a thing. The reporter was simply inventing it. It didn't matter that the Washington Post reporter was a professional-indeed a Pulitzer Prize winner-who had witnessed the events in question. The guy in Washington, who knew nothing whatsoever about it, knew all he needed to know to try to censor the story.

I have a book I've been saving since I purchased it in 1986 called The Media's War Against Israel. With a red banner "The Full Exposť of the Book No One Dared Publish" across its front cover, it consists of articles about the press coverage of Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon reprinted from The New Republic, Commentary, etc. that demonstrates, with slightly greater sophistication, exactly the same tactic. The articles have titles like "The New York Times Propaganda War Against Israel" and "Time Against Israel," "The Media Blames Israel" and "The Great Media Cover-up."

TNR owner Marty Peretz, who had been escorted around Lebanon by the Israel Defense Forces, assured his readers, "Much of what you have read in the newspapers and news-magazines about the war in Lebanon-and even more of what you have seen and heard on television-is simply not true." Commentary's editor-in-chief, Norman Podhoretz, per usual, went him one step better, equating the coverage of the war with "acquiescence in terrorism [and the]...appeasement of totalitarianism. And I accuse all of those who have joined in these attacks not merely of anti-Semitism but of the broader sin of faithlessness to the interest of the United States and indeed to the values of Western civilization as a whole."

Yeah, right. The Columbia Journalism Review's assessment of the coverage of the invasion found that most members of the U.S. media "reported what it saw for the most part fairly and accurately, and sometimes brilliantly, provided balanced comment, and provoked and absorbed controversy. For performance under fire, readers and viewers could have asked for little more." The wisdom of those who care deeply about the fate of Israel, but understood at the time that the invasion would likely lead to catastrophe, has been more than borne out. But never mind that.

I was reminded of these sorts of attacks when, in late July, five revered Orthodox rabbis from New Jersey and New York were arrested on charges of operating a multimillion dollar money-laundering ring that relied on a network of Jewish charities. One of those arrested was Rabbi Saul J. Kassin, the leader of Brooklyn's Shaare Zion, the largest Sephardic synagogue in the U.S.

Quick to come to Kassin's defense was David Ben-Hooren, a member of the congregation and publisher of The Jewish Voice newspaper, without access to any of the information that had led to the spectacular arrests. As Ben-Hooren explained to The New York Times: "When the facts come out, we'll find out that those rabbis never broke the law.... I believe they're going to be vindicated. Knowing those rabbis for many years, I know that they devoted their lives to charity, and there's no way that they benefited from any of those activities."

Well, good for him. He is only following the example of so many leaders of the Jewish community like those quoted above. When it comes to Jews, Israel and anything else that to my bubbe, may she rest in peace, might serve as a shande for the goyim, they tell you that what you are seeing and hearing is not really what you are seeing and hearing.

Sometimes this practice takes comic proportions. David A. Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, wrote a letter to The New York Times in December complaining that the paper should not pay so much attention to the fact of Bernie Madoff's Jewishness and its "[relevance] to his being arrested for cheating investors" and "his evolution as a businessman," because they were not, somehow, central to the story. Does any sane person believe that? Abe Foxman, Grand Poobah of the Anti-Defamation League, complained to Joel Stein of Time that "the number of people who think Jews run Hollywood is still too high," when, as Stein easily demonstrated, it's pretty damn obvious that Hollywood is and always has been, for better and for worse, controlled by people who happen to be Jews.

Thing is, nobody-not even my late bubbe-believed this stuff. It just made her feel better to hear someone say it, and I imagine she was willing to pony up her requisite contribution to these organizations to allow them to keep doing it, credible or not. And I suppose, as many a Jew over time has been heard to say, "it's a living," but one that I'm guessing convinces fewer and fewer people these days.
(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. His seventh book, Why We're Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America, was published by Viking.

Where's Your Homework, Mr. President?
Greg gets a lesson from super-teacher Bill Roney
By Greg Palast

The Looney-Tunes Right Wing is all bent up that our President is planning to tell kids to do their homework in a broadcast to schools set for Tuesday. They're panicked he's going to "sell socialism," says one, and apparently, encourage kiddies to join the military to marry someone of their own sex.

But the teacher does have a serious question for the President: Barack, why haven't you done your homework?

That's right, Mr. A Student. Where is it?

Teacher wants to know.

And not just any teacher. William (Bill) Roney has been Yonkers' Teacher of the Year, recipient of a Disney national teaching award, recognizing him as one of America's top classroom educators; he was even picked for Ronald Reagan's teacher in space program until that idea, well, blew up.

The latest fad among politicians is to put our schools in the hands of "entrepreneurs" (as if coming up with a bogus derivative to sell to Iceland is preparation for teaching long division to fifth graders). But I've decided to commit a heresy by asking advice on fixing our schools from, heavens!, a teacher. And this one knows his stuff.

Roney modestly suggests, "Before Obama tells children to do their homework, he ought to do his own." While I'm disturbed that Obama has adopted George Bush's war on Afghanistan, Super-teacher Roney is concerned that Obama has, weirdly, inexplicably, adopted Bush's war on educators, a program best described as No Child's Behind Left.

Roney has taken a heavy red pencil to the President's Bush-Lite program, and found five big fat errors that need correcting:

1. Stop stop STOP wasting billions of dollars and millions of school hours on testing testing testing. Measuring your height won't make you taller. Endless standardized testing, as a substitute for funding, has failed the exam.

(For a taste of these tests, I've attached part of an actual one, used in New York, right here.)

2. Enough with the Charter Schools, Mr. President. They've flunked out. Draining local budgets to fund a few schools that get to cherry pick the easiest students is not a solution for overloaded classrooms.

Ironically, the rare success stories among charters may have to do with the fact that they are exempt from - you guessed it - standardized testing.

Want to see charter schools in action system-wide, where it's taken over a city? Go to New Orleans. That's our Charter School future: Louisiana. Heaven help us.

3. The federal government demands extraordinarily expensive special education programs for the learning disabled. That's great. But the feds have provided exactly zero to pay for it. That's not great; that's school-system suicide. The federal government pays a chintzy 8.4 cents on the dollar for primary and secondary education. The schools are starving and the feds' response is, "Let them eat tests."

4. ... I'd rather you get lessons 4, 5 and more from Roney himself. Click here for the podcast: Greg Palast interviews Super-Teacher Bill Roney for Cynthia Black's ActionPoint radio.

And take, notes, Mr. Obama, there will be a test.
(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.

Hoping For Audacity
By Paul Krugman

President Obama will give his big health-care speech tomorrow. Let's hope he does it right.

What does that mean? It means not playing professor; it means not having the speech read as if it were written by a committee (like that woefully weak op-ed in the Times a couple of weeks back); it means showing real passion about health care, which has been sadly lacking so far.

I, for one, won't be obsessing about exactly which pieces of proposed reform he emphasizes - because that's not what's driving the politics. Americans haven't become skeptical about Obamacare because they'd rather shave an extra $30 billion a year off the cost; they have not, contrary to "centrist" fantasies, been turned off by the details of the stimulus plan or cap-and-trade. What has been missing is a vision. And this is probably the last chance to supply that vision.

So what should Obama do? I am not a speechwriter, but here's my view:

1. Make it personal: In general, I'm not big on the personal anecdotes. But right now, Obama really needs to make it clear that the horrors of our health care system can lead to nightmarish outcomes - and that those nightmares can happen to you, or someone like you. This is the time for "Lois Lane, of Smallville, Kansas, lost her coverage when her employer went bankrupt. When she tried to get individual coverage, she was turned down because she once had a rash in college. Then she got cancer ..."

2. Talk about Medicare: Incredibly, the Obama administration has let conservatives - conservatives! - position themselves as the defenders of Medicare. Obama needs to remind viewers that Medicare was a deeply controversial program, that there were dire warnings about what the program would do, and that the people who tried to prevent the creation of Medicare (and keep trying to dismantle it) are the very same people now opposing health-care reform. Talk about how many Republicans voted for a resolution calling for Medicare privatization just months ago!

3. Talk about the system's troubles: Obama really needs to convey the urgency of reform; he should talk about the doubling of premiums over the past decade and, crucially, the way ever fewer employers are offering coverage. The message should be, even if you think your insurance is OK now, it could well be gone in a few years.

4. Explain the plan in as few words as possible: Here's my stab at it - one hopes the speechwriters can do better, but it gets at the essence. "We're going to make sure that every American has access to the same insurance deals big employers get. We're going make sure that no American can be denied coverage at a reasonable rate because of previous medical history. And for those Americans who find it hard to afford essential insurance, we'll provide financial aid.

"Now, there are a few things we'll need to do to make this work. We'll have to require that all large employers either offer coverage to their workers or pay into a fund that helps them get their own insurance. We'll sign people up for insurance now, even if they're healthy, because it's not fair to others if you wait until you're sick to join the system. And we'll keep the insurance companies honest by offering people the choice of buying their insurance directly from a public plan.

"Let me be honest: this won't come free. But this plan will give Americans the fundamental security of knowing that for the rest of their lives they and their families will have the health insurance they need, insurance that they can't lose."

That's the main thrust.

Oh, and about the public option: yes, it should be in the speech - and not just because it will lower costs. From personal discussions I know that the individual mandate really gets peoples' hackles up, because they see it as a giveaway to the insurance industry (you may recall that many Obama supporters made precisely that case during the primary). Yet the individual mandate is necessary - so it's crucial to have the counter-argument that look, people can choose the public option. Yes, some senators will fight against that option tooth and nail - but that's for later.

What I hope Obama realizes is that this speech should not be aimed at Kent Conrad or Susan Collins. A national address is not where you do your backroom deals. This speech has to be aimed at regaining the trust of the American people. It needs to be something with vision and sweep, not an item-by-item detailing of what the administration is prepared to concede.

This is a time for Obama to show real leadership - not to uplift the nation with vague generalities, not to sound like a technocrat, but to persuade America that it needs to change. Can he do it? Let's see.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Outrageous Behavior: Bogus Bluster From Bigwigs Hides Lockerbie Truth
By Chris Floyd

If you need more proof that we are living in a masquerade, in a world of sham, show and deceit, in a veritable -- dare we say it? -- empire burlesque, look no further than the recent manufactured "scandal" over the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the bombing of PanAm 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988.

Al-Megrahi, who is dying, was released on "compassionate grounds" by the Scottish government last week, and returned to a hero's welcome in his native land of Libya. As soon as he was freed, we heard howls of outrage from Washington: how could such a heinous killer be allowed to walk free? There were stern words from the UK government in London, which pretended that it had nothing to do with the Scots' decision. There was ponderous talk from various punditti about a breach in the "special relationship," even of boycotts of British goods.

All of this -- every bit of it -- was just shoddy theatrics, a puppet show for the rubes. You can bet that every single official trumpeting their moral outrage at al-Megrahi's release knew the truth of the matter: he was not released because he was dying, but because the slow-turning wheels of his appeals process was about to force the release of hundreds of pages of damning documents that would confirm, yet again, that he had been, as the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission put it, the victim of a "miscarriage of justice" -- a frame job by the US and UK governments which has been covered up, in admirable bipartisan fashion, for years.

Why did they frame al-Megrahi, when they knew the real instigators of the bombing? Because they needed the support of the instigators to launch the wanton slaughterfest known as "Desert Storm."

John Pilger and William Blum No one in authority has had the guts to state the truth about the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 above the Scottish village of Lockerbie on 21 December 1988 in which 270 people were killed. The governments in England and Scotland in effect blackmailed Megrahi into dropping his appeal as a condition of his immediate release. Of course there were oil and arms deals under way with Libya; but had Megrahi proceeded with his appeal, some 600 pages of new and deliberately suppressed evidence would have set the seal on his innocence and given us more than a glimpse of how and why he was stitched up for the benefit of "strategic interests."

"The endgame came down to damage limitation," said the former CIA officer Robert Baer, who took part in the original investigation, "because the evidence amassed by [Megrahi's] appeal is explosive and extremely damning to the system of justice." New witnesses would show that it was impossible for Megrahi to have bought clothes that were found in the wreckage of the Pan Am aircraft - he was convicted on the word of a Maltese shopowner who claimed to have sold him the clothes, then gave a false description of him in 19 separate statements and even failed to recognize him in the courtroom....

Megrahi was convicted by three Scottish judges sitting in a courtroom in "neutral" Holland. There was no jury. One of the few reporters to sit through the long and often farcical proceedings was the late Paul Foot, whose landmark investigation in Private Eye exposed it as a cacophony of blunders, deceptions and lies: a whitewash.

...Foot reported that most of the staff of the US embassy in Moscow who had reserved seats on Pan Am flights from Frankfurt canceled their bookings when they were alerted by US intelligence that a terrorist attack was planned. He named Margaret Thatcher the "architect" of the cover-up after revealing that she killed the independent inquiry her transport secretary Cecil Parkinson had promised the Lockerbie families; and in a phone call to President George Bush Sr. on 11 January 1990, she agreed to "low-key" the disaster after their intelligence services had reported "beyond doubt" that the Lockerbie bomb had been placed by a Palestinian group contracted by Tehran as a reprisal for the shooting down of an Iranian airliner by a US warship in Iranian territorial waters. Among the 290 dead were 66 children. In 1990, the ship's captain was awarded the Legion of Merit by Bush Sr. "for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as commanding officer."

Perversely, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1991, Bush needed Iran's support as he built a "coalition" to expel his wayward client from an American oil colony. The only country that defied Bush and backed Iraq was Libya. "Like lazy and overfed fish," wrote Foot, "the British media jumped to the bait. In almost unanimous chorus, they engaged in furious vilification and op-ed warmongering against Libya." The framing of Libya for the Lockerbie crime was inevitable. Since then, a US defense intelligence agency report, obtained under Freedom of Information, has confirmed these truths and identified the likely bomber; it was to be centerpiece of Megrahi's defense.

And that is the crux of the matter, and the reason for the release. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission had referred the case for appeal. The intelligence agency reports would have been forced into the open by a new hearing. No one wanted that. The sacred "continuity" of the militarist oligarchies in America and Britain would have been shaken if the truth of how they really operate -- regardless of which party is in office -- came out.

Here's Blum:

President Obama said that the jubilant welcome Megrahi received was "highly objectionable". His White House spokesman Robert Gibbs added that the welcoming scenes in Libya were "outrageous and disgusting". British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was "angry and repulsed", while his foreign secretary, David Miliband, termed the celebratory images "deeply upsetting." Miliband warned: "How the Libyan government handles itself in the next few days will be very significant in the way the world views Libya's reentry into the civilized community of nations."

Ah yes, "the civilized community of nations", that place we so often hear about but so seldom get to actually see. American officials, British officials, and Scottish officials know that Megrahi is innocent. They know that Iran financed the PFLP-GC, a Palestinian group, to carry out the bombing with the cooperation of Syria, in retaliation for the American naval ship, the Vincennes, shooting down an Iranian passenger plane in July of the same year, which took the lives of more people than did the 103 bombing. And it should be pointed out that the Vincennes captain, plus the officer in command of air warfare, and the crew were all awarded medals or ribbons afterward. No one in the US government or media found this objectionable or outrageous, or disgusting or repulsive. The United States has always insisted that the shooting down of the Iranian plane was an "accident". Why then give awards to those responsible?

Today's oh-so-civilized officials have known of Megrahi's innocence since 1989. The Scottish judges who found Megrahi guilty know he's innocent. They admit as much in their written final opinion. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which investigated Megrahi's trial, knows it. They stated in 2007 that they had uncovered six separate grounds for believing the conviction may have been a miscarriage of justice, clearing the way for him to file a new appeal of his case. 3 The evidence for all this is considerable. And most importantly, there is no evidence that Megrahi was involved in the act of terror.

The first step of the alleged crime, sine qua non - loading the bomb into a suitcase at the Malta airport - for this there was no witness, no video, no document, no fingerprints, nothing to tie Megrahi to the particular brown Samsonite suitcase, no past history of terrorism, no forensic evidence of any kind linking him to such an act.

And the court admitted it: "The absence of any explanation of the method by which the primary suitcase might have been placed on board KM180 [Air Malta to Frankfurt] is a major difficulty for the Crown case."

The scenario implicating Iran, Syria, and the PFLP-GC was the Original Official Version, endorsed by the US, UK, Scotland, even West Germany - guaranteed, sworn to, scout's honor, case closed - until the buildup to the Gulf War came along in 1990 and the support of Iran and Syria was needed for the broad Middle East coalition the United States was readying for the ouster of Iraq's troops from Kuwait. Washington was also anxious to achieve the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by groups close to Iran. Thus it was that the scurrying sound of backtracking could be heard in the corridors of the White House. Suddenly, in October 1990, there was a New Official Version: it was Libya - the Arab state least supportive of the US build-up to the Gulf War and the sanctions imposed against Iraq - that was behind the bombing after all, declared Washington.

The two Libyans were formally indicted in the US and Scotland on Nov. 14, 1991. Within the next 20 days, the remaining four American hostages were released in Lebanon along with the most prominent British hostage, Terry Waite.

They overlooked hundreds of innocent people killed in a covert terrorist attack in revenge for hundreds of other innocent people killed in a celebrated, decorated state terrorist attack in order to ensure that they could kill thousands of innocent people in a pointless war to preserve the fortunes of the Bush family business partners and Western favorites, the repressive, undemocratic tyrants of Kuwait, who were having a financial and territorial dispute with the repressive, undemocratic tyrant of Iraq, who until he threatened the Bush partners had been a favorite of the West. This is the corrupt, blood-soaked reality that lies behind the trumpery of the "respectable" world.

You know what? Barack Obama was right, after all. The whole thing is a damnable "outrage."
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

Greed Never Sleeps
By Case Wagonvoord

Greed is blind to its own ineptitude. It is good up to a point, but beyond that point, it turns financial wizards into financial retards.

Having been nearly destroyed by the securitization of mortgages, Wall Street is now casting a venal eye at bundling life insurance policies. This is like a drunk switching from vodka to scotch and expecting a better outcome.

According to Sunday's New York Times, here's how it works: Say grandpa has a $2 million life insurance policy for which he pays an annual premium of $50,000. If he tried to cash it in before croaking, he'd get a paltry $58,000.

Along comes a "life settlement company" and offers him $215,000 for the policy. They continue to pay the premiums on the expectation that he is going to kick off in a couple of years, at which time they will collect on the policy and make a bundle. Such companies are already in existence.

The banks want to add a new wrinkle by bundling these purchased policies into bonds, which they would slice, dice and trance so each bond would minimize risk by bundling a variety of life expectancies and diseases.

They plan to sell these bonds to the pension funds they burned with their mortgage bonds.

Now, the problem is that the longer people live, the smaller the return on investment is.

Not to worry! The same mathematical geniuses who figured out how to slice and dice mortgages are on the job! Their solution is, "A bond made up of life settlements would ideally have policies from people with a range of diseases-leukemia, lung cancer, heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's."

This conjures up a warm image of gramps in his hospital bed, wires and tubes running into what's left of his body as the medical expenses add up at a frightening rate, when suddenly a savior appears in the form of a "life settlement" salesman who offers gramps 22 cents on the dollar if gramps will just sign over his policy.

With a trembling hand, he signs the policy over. Gramps' family is screwed out of a hunk of change, and a bond holder stands to make a healthy profit when gramps croaks. (Should the Angel of the Lord come down and lay a healing hand on gramps forehead, the bondholder loses money. But if the "life settlement" companies only work the terminally ill, most of whom are too drugged to think clearly, they minimize that risk.)

Let us not call them vultures because that would be an insult to a noble bird. And I am sure they have enough integrity that they would never think of working in cahoots with a life insurance company to deliberately sell life policies to the aged and ill with an eye to buying them back at pennies on the dollar just so they can be securitized.

That would as dishonest as approving a mortgage for someone who didn't have a dime to their name.
(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

What's This "WE" Stuff?
By Mike Folkerth

Good Day, your King of Simple News is on the air.

I'm going to leave this article up today. As we start back to work after our Labor Day weekend, it seems an appropriate time to take a moment to determine just exactly what our labors are being exchanged for.

A comment from Bobcat (screen name) on my last article "Labor an Infinite Commodity," raised my blood pressure a few points. Not that Bobcat was wrong, in fact, exactly the opposite; he was dead right!

Here's what Bobcat had to say; "Labor is in infinite supply. That's a fundamental problem for all but the wealthy. Along with the finite resources, it points to a surplus of people. Solutions are ugly."

"The point of this article is that the pyramid scheme that these programs were based on was never possible."

"Fine. I want a refund. That'd be more than the benefit I would theoretically get."

"In the meanwhile, if we can't take care of our people, we certainly can't afford the gratuitous wars we're involved in or all the military bases abroad. We can't afford the Mexicans mooching off the infrastructure. We can't afford to keep half our prisoners locked up for dope."

What Bobcat hit on is yet one more element of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed." It is pounded into us that "We," are responsible for supporting every mess that our government and our system of unbridled exponential-growth capitalism creates. It would un-American to be otherwise; right?

"We," can be substituted for Middle America throughout the remainder of this article.

"We," have become responsible for Millions upon Millions of people around the world by affording them protection, fighting their wars, and in some instances, providing their sole economic basis with our continuous military spending in foreign nations.

To clarify the amount of tax dollars required to support our war machine, the United States represents 4.8% of the global population and accounts for 48 percent of the world's total military spending. Yet, at the same time that military spending increases, the American Middle Class has fallen into severe recession.

"We," are also responsible for supporting the highest per-capita prison population in the world.

Therefore, "we" must certainly be the safest people on earth? Not even close, "we" don't even make the list of the top five safest countries in the world. How could that be?

"We" have become responsible for supporting Millions upon Millions of poor non-English speaking immigrants who have no interest in our culture, language, or customs, and have established massive sub-cultures within our borders with no intent whatsoever of assimilating into what was once America.

"We" have also become responsible for Millions upon Millions of illegal immigrants who were encouraged by lack of enforcement to freely waltz in and set up housekeeping. These illegal's will eventually be given amnesty and will have to be supported in some fashion forever as employment at levels that could possibly support this labor class at acceptable living standards will continue to stagnate. After all, labor is an infinite commodity with a diminishing demand.

The connotation of a collective "we," also suggests that regardless of the conscious decisions of many of our citizens to produce unlimited children (seen as a given right), that the parent's are not responsible for the welfare, education, healthcare, and eventual viable employment of the same; "we" are. All for one, one for all, rah, rah rah. After all, this is America where no one is personally responsible for anything!

Ask yourself, why do people without children pay higher tax rates and receive markedly fewer services?

America has always lived with the socially ignored and hidden slums that are comprised mainly of poor non-assimilating immigrants and their offspring. What is the answer to curing that age old problem? Sure, import more poverty stricken, non-English speaking, non-assimilating immigrants to keep them company. But, more importantly, to support the burgeoning (and highly profitable) industry that consists of our so-called welfare system. When welfare recipients are continually imported, it becomes difficult to believe that government ever had any real plans of eliminating welfare.

Tough talk today huh? Telling all of these obvious truths is not acceptable in the United States where political correctness runs rough shod over the truth. I, for one, am sick and tired of ignoring the obvious in order to remain politically correct. Wrong is wrong.

I'll leave you with one thought; when a non-swimmer jumps in to save a drowning person, the news tomorrow will report that two people were drowned.
(c) 2009 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"I'm not saying I wish that I were black, but there are times when I wish that I wasn't WHITE."
~~~ Frank Zappa ~~~

Food Is Power And The Powerful Are Poisoning Us
By Chris Hedges

Our most potent political weapon is food. If we take back our agriculture, if we buy and raise produce locally, we can begin to break the grip of corporations that control a food system as fragile, unsafe and destined for collapse as our financial system. If we continue to allow corporations to determine what we eat, as well as how food is harvested and distributed, then we will become captive to rising prices and shortages and increasingly dependent on cheap, mass-produced food filled with sugar and fat. Food, along with energy, will be the most pressing issue of our age. And if we do not build alternative food networks soon, the social and political ramifications of shortages and hunger will be devastating.

The effects of climate change, especially with widespread droughts in Australia, Africa, California and the Midwest, coupled with the rising cost of fossil fuels, have already blighted the environments of millions. The poor can often no longer afford a balanced diet. Global food prices increased an average of 43 percent since 2007, according to the International Monetary Fund. These increases have been horrific for the approximately 1 billion people-one-sixth of the world's population-who subsist on less than $1 per day. And 162 million of these people survive on less than 50 cents per day. The global poor spend as much as 60 percent of their income on food, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute.

There have been food riots in many parts of the world, including Austria, Hungary, Mexico, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Yemen, Mauritania, Senegal and Uzbekistan. Russia and Pakistan have introduced food rationing. Pakistani troops guard imported wheat. India has banned the export of rice, except for high-end basmati. And the shortages and price increases are being felt in the industrialized world as we continue to shed hundreds of thousands of jobs and food prices climb. There are 33.2 million Americans, or one in nine, who depend on food stamps. And in 20 states as many as one in eight are on the food stamp program, according to the Food Research Center. The average monthly benefit was $113.87 per person, leaving many, even with government assistance, without adequate food. The USDA says 36.2 million Americans, or 11 percent of households, struggle to get enough food, and one-third of them have to sometimes skip or cut back on meals. Congress allocated some $54 billion for food stamps this fiscal year, up from $39 billion last year. In the new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, costs will be $60 billion, according to estimates.

Food shortages have been tinder for social upheaval throughout history. But this time around, because we have lost the skills to feed and clothe ourselves, it will be much harder for most of us to become self-sustaining. The large agro-businesses have largely wiped out small farmers. They have poisoned our soil with pesticides and contaminated animals in filthy and overcrowded stockyards with high doses of antibiotics and steroids. They have pumped nutrients and phosphorus into water systems, causing algae bloom and fish die-off in our rivers and streams. Crop yields, under the onslaught of changing weather patterns and chemical pollution, are declining in the Northeast, where a blight has nearly wiped out the tomato crop. The draconian Food Modernization Safety Act, another gift from our governing elite to corporations, means small farms will only continue to dwindle in number. Sites such as La Via Campesina do a good job of tracking these disturbing global trends.

"The entire economy built around food is unsafe and unethical," activist Henry Harris of the Food Security Roundtable told me. The group builds distribution systems between independent farmers and city residents.

"Food is the greatest place for communities to start taking back power," he said. "The national food system is collapsing by degrees. More than 50 percent of what we eat comes from the Central Valley of California. What happens when gasoline becomes $5 a gallon or drought sweeps across the cropland? The monolithic system of food production is highly unstable. It has to be replaced very soon with small, diverse sources that provide greater food security."

Cornell University recently did a study to determine whether New York state could feed itself. The research is described in two articles published in 2006 and 2008 by the journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. If all agricultural land were in use, and food distribution were optimized to minimize the total distance that food travels, New York state could, the researchers found, have 34 percent of its food needs met from within its boundaries. This is not encouraging news to those who live in New York City. New York once relied on New Jersey, still known as the Garden State, instead of having food shipped from across the country. But New Jersey farms have largely given way to soulless housing developments. Farming communities upstate, their downtowns boarded up and desolate, have been gutted by industrial farming.

The ties most Americans had to rural communities during the Great Depression kept many alive. A barter economy replaced the formal economy. Families could grow food or had relatives to feed them. But in a world where we do not know where our food comes from, or how to produce it, we have become vulnerable. And many will be forced, as food prices continue to rise, to shift to a diet of cheap, fatty, mass-produced foods, already a staple of the nation's poor. Junk food, a major factor in obesity, diabetes and heart disease, is often the only food those in the inner city can buy because supermarkets and nutritious food are geographically and financially beyond reach. As the economy continues to deteriorate, the middle class will soon join them.

"It is clear to anyone who looks carefully at any crowd that we are wasting our bodies exactly as we are wasting our land," Wendell Berry observed in "The Unsettling of America." "Our bodies are fat, weak, joyless, sickly, ugly, the virtual prey of the manufacturers of medicine and cosmetics. Our bodies have become marginal; they are growing useless like our 'marginal land' because we have less and less use for them. After the games and idle flourishes of modern youth, we use them only as shipping cartons to transport our brains and our few employable muscles back and forth to work."

Berry, who lives on a farm in Kentucky where his family has farmed for generations, argues that local farming is fundamental to sustaining communities. Industrial farming, he says, has estranged us from the land. It has rendered us powerless to provide for ourselves. It has left us complicit in the corporate destruction of the ecosystem. Its moral cost, Berry argues, has been as devastating as its physical cost.

"The people will eat what the corporations decide for them to eat," writes Berry. "They will be detached and remote from the sources of their life, joined to them only by corporate tolerance. They will have become consumers purely-consumptive machines-which is to say, the slaves of producers. What ... model farms very powerfully suggest, then, is that the concept of total control may be impossible to confine within the boundaries of the specialist enterprise-that it is impossible to mechanize production without mechanizing consumption, impossible to make machines of soil, plants, and animals without making machines also of people."

The nascent effort by communities to reclaim local food production is the first step toward reclaiming lives severed and fragmented by corporate culture. It is more than a return to local food production. It is a return to community. It brings us back to the values that sustain community. It is a return to the recognition of the fragility, interconnectedness and sacredness of all living systems and our dependence on each other. It turns back to an ethic that can save us.

"[The commercial] revolution ... , " writes Berry, "did not stop with the subjugation of the Indians, but went on to impose substantially the same catastrophe upon the small farms and the farm communities, upon the shops of small local tradesmen of all sorts, upon the workshops of independent craftsmen, and upon the households of citizens. It is a revolution that is still going on. The economy is still substantially that of the fur trade, still based on the same general kinds of commercial items: technology, weapons, ornaments, novelties, and drugs. The one great difference is that by now the revolution has deprived the mass of consumers of any independent access to the staples of life: clothing, shelter, food, even water. Air remains the only necessity that the average user can still get for himself, and the revolution has imposed a heavy tax on that by way of pollution. Commercial conquest is far more thorough and final than military defeat.

"The inevitable result of such an economy," Berry adds, "is that no farm or any other usable property can safely be regarded by anyone as a home, no home is ultimately worthy of our loyalty, nothing is ultimately worth doing, and no place or task or person is worth a lifetime's devotion. 'Waste,' in such an economy, must eventually include several categories of humans-the unborn, the old, 'disinvested' farmers, the unemployed, the 'unemployable.' Indeed, once our homeland, our source, is regarded as a resource, we are all sliding downward toward the ash heap or the dump."
(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."

New Light On Copenhagen Climate Talks
By Amy Goodman

On Sept. 1, the European Union stopped manufacturing and importing incandescent light bulbs. Europeans will now turn to the much more efficient compact fluorescent, halogen and LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs. Incandescents, critics argue, waste up to 95 percent of energy as heat, using only 5 percent for light. The EU hopes to save the equivalent of 11 million households' energy usage through the year 2020, worth $7.33 billion per year to the European economy.

The ban precedes the December 2009 Copenhagen climate conference, held by the United Nations to update the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Greenhouse-gas emissions now occur faster than ever. Copenhagen will be critical to the success or failure of establishing a practical, binding global plan of action before human-caused climate change reaches the point of no return, creating a cascade of catastrophes.

Eventually, global warming will become irreversible if action is not taken. Greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere are measured in "parts per million" (PPM). Environmentalist Bill McKibben says that a sustainable level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 350 PPM. He has named his organization to reinforce the point. We are currently at 387 PPM and climbing. McKibben and are calling for a global day of action, on Oct. 24, to pressure governments before the Copenhagen summit.

A new generation of environmental activists is already in motion. This week, two young people were arrested in West Virginia for halting a Massey Energy Co. mountaintop coal-mining operation with a weeklong "tree sit," and six people in London were arrested at the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters for protesting the bank's investment in fossil fuels. They glued themselves together and to the floor of the bank to hamper their removal, leading Reuters to headline its story "Protesters stick together in UK bank demonstration."

The road to Copenhagen also is paved with gold: money being spent by the wealthy oil, gas and coal industries to derail or weaken any outcome. The American Petroleum Institute (API) has launched an "AstroTurf" (not to be confused with grass roots) campaign in the U.S., paying for and organizing rallies, largely attended by oil, gas and coal company employees, under the banner of "Energy Citizens." Employees are bused in to the staged rallies with signs proclaiming "I'll pass on $4 gas" and "Congress, don't take away my job!" Similarities to the organized mobs at health care reform town-hall-style meetings are not merely coincidental; former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey's group FreedomWorks, funded by, among others, oil and pharmaceutical corporations, is listed as a consultant to each industry campaign.

The API is attempting to undermine the U.S. Senate's consideration of climate-change legislation, and it just might succeed. The House bill, referred to as the American Clean Energy and Security Act or the Waxman-Markey climate bill, is up for consideration by the Senate in September. Fast action would be required in order to grant President Barack Obama the room to negotiate at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh in late September, a key step in the lead-up to Copenhagen. But Sens. Barbara Boxer and John Kerry said this week that the bill will be delayed, citing the health-care debate and the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy. How ironic. Every week that the health care and energy bills are delayed is a victory for the opponents of change, which is especially sad since these were two of the most important issues to Kennedy.

Genuine citizen action, in the U.S. and beyond, will be critical to counter industry influence over the Copenhagen talks. There is a light at the end of the climate tunnel-it just isn't incandescent.
(c) 2009 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback.

The Dead Letter Office...

Max and his "date" out on the town!

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer Baucus,

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 total sell out of the working class and the poor to the insurance industry has given us the excuses we need to drop the single payer and government options, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Blue Dog 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 Herr Baucus, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Major Ruling Against Ashcroft Highlights Evils Of Preventive Detention
By Glenn Greenwald

Yesterday -- in a very significant decision (.pdf) written by Bush-43-appointed federal judge Milan Smith and joined by a Reagan-appointed judge -- the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed a lawsuit to proceed that was brought against John Ashcroft for the illegal and unconstitutional detention of American Muslims. The suit was brought by Abdullah al-Kidd, an American citizen of African-American descent who converted to Islam. Al-Kidd was arrested, detained under abusive conditions, and then had his movements and freedoms severely restricted for sixteen months despite no evidence that he had done anything wrong.

The suit arises out of a policy established by Ashcroft of abusing the "material witness" statute, which authorizes the detention of key witnesses to a criminal case where it's likely they will be unavailable to testify in the absence of their pre-trial detention. Ashcroft used that statute as a pretext for arresting American Muslims where there was insufficient evidence to establish probable cause they had committed a crime (the standard required to justify their arrest). In other words, Ashcroft's DOJ would pretend that they wanted to detain Muslim citizens because they were "material witnesses" to a crime, when the real reason was that they suspected them of Terrorist connections and wanted to arrest and investigate them but lacked the evidence required by law to justify an arrest -- i.e., they wanted to "preventively detain" them in the absence of any criminal wrongdoing.

The real significance of this case is that it highlights the dangers and evils of preventive detention -- an issue that will be front and center when Obama shortly presents his proposal for a preventive detention scheme, something he first advocated in May. What Ashcroft is accused of doing illegally is exactly the same thing Obama wants the legal power to do (except that Obama's powers would presumably apply to foreign nationals, not citizens): namely, order people imprisoned as Terrorist suspects -- "preventively detained" -- where there is insufficient evidence to prove they committed any crime.

I really urge everyone to read the section of the court's decision which sets forth in a concise, clear and non-legalistic manner the facts of what was done to al-Kidd by the DOJ: it's just 3 pages long, beginning on page 12271 ("Facts and Procedural Background") through 12274 (the three pages after that, also highly recommended, detail Ashcroft's culpability in creating this nefarious, illegal detention scheme). Please just go read this 3-page section laying out the facts of what was done to al-Kidd's life and what preventive detention powers allow the Government to do. Anyone who supports Obama's call for a preventive detention scheme is, by definition, supporting things like this (though, if anything, what happened to al-Kidd -- as horrible as it is -- is short and innocuous compared to what a "prolonged detention" scheme would permit: years of indefinite, charge-free imprisonment).

The principal legal issue strictly resolved by the court here is somewhat narrow and legalistic. A political official has absolute immunity from lawsuits based on decisions made in a prosecutorial capacity (e.g., whether to indict or prosecute someone), but not for law enforcement decisions (e.g., whether to arrest or detain someone). You can't ever sue a prosecutor for deciding to prosecute you, but you can sue someone who arrests you if they acted illegally and in clear violation of your legal rights. The Ninth Circuit ruled that where, as here, there is credible evidence that the real reason an official ordered someone detained as a material witness (normally a prosecutorial act) was to arrest them, that is a law enforcement act, not a prosecutorial one, and he is therefore not entitled to absolute immunity from lawsuits if he violated the law when doing so. Hence, this lawsuit against Ashcroft personally -- alleging that he ordered Muslims detained in clear violation of their legal rights -- can proceed.

But, as the court obviously recognized, the real significance of this ruling goes far beyond that narrow immunity issue. There are few powers more anathema to our system of government than the power to imprison people in the absence of proof that they committed a crime. Yet when Obama advocated that Congress enact a preventive detention scheme, that is exactly the power he sought for himself. Here is the court's eloquent concluding section, manifestly applicable not only to the case before it but to the wider, imminent debate over preventive detention:

None of that changes because it is a non-citizen who is imprisoned without evidence of any crimes. Preventive detention is a noxious and dangerous power to vest in the Government. That's what Thomas Jefferson meant when -- in a 1789 letter to Thomas Paine -- he wrote: "I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution" (emphasis added). John Ashcroft's abuse of the material witness statute to "preventively detain" numerous American Muslims who had done nothing wrong was "repugnant," dangerous and tyrannical -- and that's exactly what any Congressional scheme would be that purports to vest the President with the legal power to "preventively detain" people in the absence of criminal charges.
(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.

Will 'Astroturf' Groups Block Net Neutrality Reform?
By Megan Tady

Chris, McGreal, a reporter for Britain's Guardian newspaper, took to the road last month to report on how Americans living along Route 66--made famous in John Steinbeck's fictional Grapes of Wrath journey--are faring during the recession.

You might think McGreal quickly encountered "real Americans" protesting President Obama's "socialist" healthcare agenda by hurling insults at town hall meetings. Cable news channels are full of these images, which together portray the United States as a giant angry grassroots rally against reform-minded policies.

Odd, then, that McGreal reports this:

The outbursts against President Obama's healthcare plans filling television screens, with opponents calling him a Nazi and accusing him of planning death committees to do in old people, are to a large degree manufactured by the same people who use similar tactics to oppose abortion.

McGreal has it right: There is no genuine mass uprising against healthcare reform or climate change legislation. But the industry groups and corporations who benefit from the status quo--and thus have the most at stake in these debates--want us to think otherwise. And they've developed a slick way of manufacturing dissent: creating fake grassroots-->"astroturf"--organizations to do their bidding in our name.

Jim Hightower describes astroturf organizations as "the corporate version of grassroots...well-orchestrated PR efforts that put real folks out front, but are instigated, organized and funded by corporate interests and right-wing front groups."

Astroturf groups like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks rent themselves out to combat policies that hurt major corporations, from ExxonMobile to AT&T. They were behind April's Tea Bag rallies, which protested tax increases, and flew hot air balloons as part of a campaign to discredit climate change.

Now corporations--AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Qwest--are paying astroturf groups to derail one of the most important public policy initiatives of our time: Net Neutrality. The cable and telecom lobby is spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to become the Web's new gatekeepers.

What is Net Neutrality?

Astroturf groups have set their sights on blocking the passage of a valuable new bill called the Internet Freedom Preservation Act. The bill, introduced into the House in early August, would protect the Internet from telecommunications and cable companies who want to control access to online content--and thereby make more money.

The principle that protects the Internet freedom we now enjoy is Net Neutrality, which leaves us free to visit any website and create and share anything we can imagine. This "open" platform allows us to bypass the old corporate gatekeepers to create our own entertainment, and organize for social change without fearing that an Internet service provider like Comcast or AT&T will block our messages because they disagree with our politics.

Net Neutrality as a baseline rule for the Internet was stripped away by a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling (PDF link) that effectively allowed phone and cable companies to discriminate against websites, applications or services that they didn't like.

We must restore this guiding principle to protect and ensure a free-flowing Web for all. The new legislation would mandate that all ISPs adhere to Net Neutrality and refrain from controlling, blocking or slowing down online content.

Rolling out the Astroturf.

So who exactly is shilling for industry? Let's connect the dots.

It's no secret the five biggest cable and telecommunications companies want Net Neutrality to disappear. All five just happen to be members of the "pro-consumer" (read: astroturf) group, which is trying to make this nasty problem go away for them. Scott Cleland, who heads the operation, has made it his job to bash Net Neutrality, even likening it to socialism: "Just like the Soviet socialists, the net neutrality movement blatantly misrepresents the facts."

And when FreedomWorks isn't throwing a tea party, they're throwing a tantrum about Net Neutrality. Take it from Dick Armey, the former House majority leader who leads the group: "The proponents of Net Neutrality have some very nice sound bites and flowery talking points that would lead you to believe that it's about keeping the Internet free," he writes. "I assure you nothing could be further from the truth."

Who has paid FreedomWorks bills? AT&T.

Meanwhile, the American Consumer Institute--doesn't that sound innocuous--is questioning the new Net Neutrality bill for consumers. Stephen Pociask, a telecom consultant and former chief economist for Bell Atlantic, is behind the site.

In 2006, when a similar Net Neutrality bill was introduced, this group actively worked to get lawmakers to vote against it.

Speak out or cede control.

What's the difference between a real grassroots organization and a fake one? Astroturf groups are paid shills who don't openly disclose their funding sources, pretend they're taking a stance in the public's interest and manufacture events to make them appear to be backed by a public majority.

For too long, special interest money has polluted the waters of public discourse in America. And unfortunately, our entrenched corporate media system is all too willing to repeat astroturf messages, thereby legitimizing them and stifling genuine debate.

The open Internet lets us speak for ourselves--unlike nearly all other media platforms. If we speak out in support of the Internet Freedom Preservation Act and drown out the din of astroturf groups and industry lobbyists, it will remain that way.
(c) 2009 Megan Tady is a blogger, content producer and campaign coordinator for Free Press.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ John Cole ~~~

W The Movie_teaser1

To End On A Happy Note...

What If God Smoked Cannabis?
By Weird Al Yankovik

If God had long hair
And a goatee,
And if his eyes were pretty glazed...
If He looked spaced out
Would you buy his story?
Would you believe he had an eye infection?

And yeah, yeah, God looks baked
Yeah, yeah, God smells good,
Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah yeah...

What if God smoked cannabis?
Hit the bong like some of us?
Drove a tie-dyed microbus,
And he subscribes to Rolling Stone?

When God made this place,
In the beginning,
Did He plant any seeds?
Or did he put them there for Adam and Eve,
So they'd be hungry for the apple that the snake
Was always offering?

And yeah, yeah... God rolls great,
And yeah, yeah, God smells good,
Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah yeah...

What if God smoked cannabis?
Do you suppose he had a buzz
When he made the platypus
When he created Earth, our home?
Does He like Pearl Jam or The Stones?
And do you think He rolls His own
Up there in heaven on the throne?

And when the saints go marching home,
Maybe he sits and smokes a bone?
(c) 1993/2009 Al Yankovik

Have You Seen This...

Kseniya Simonova's Amazing Sand Drawing

Parting Shots...

In Week Before Labor Day, Pointless 'Filler' Columns Abound
Lazy Columnists Pad Out Stories by Quoting Experts, Experts Say
By Andy Borowitz

In a phenomenon that occurs every year in the week before Labor Day, national columnists across America file pointless, content-free "filler" columns, enabling the lazy scribes to hit the beach earlier, according to observers who have been following this trend.

The "filler" columns are churned out in a matter of minutes with no loftier goal than meeting a deadline and filling up space -- meaning that columnists will often resort to using the same words or phrase again and again and again and again and again.

And rather than doing any original writing, the slothful columnists will rely on so-called "experts" to supply them with quotes to fill up space, experts say.

"They'll often quote people you've never heard of," says Harold Crimmins, an expert in the field of filler columns. "It's pretty shameless." The typical "filler" column is often a reprint of a previously published column, but the writer will later plug in one cursory reference to current events, such as the health care reform controversy, to disguise this fact.

And in order to fill up space even faster, Crimmins says, the lazy beach-bound columnist will compose his summer "filler" columns with short paragraphs.

Many of these paragraphs will be as short as one sentence, he says.

"Or shorter," he adds.

There are other telltale signs a reader can look for in order to determine whether a writer has, in fact, filed a so-called "filler" column, according to Crimmins.

One of these is a tendency to repeat information that the reader has already read earlier in the article, with columnists even stooping to using the same quote twice.

"They'll often quote people you've never heard of," Crimmins says.

Another tip-off is if the column ends abruptly.
(c) 2009 Andy Borowitz

The Gross National Debt

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Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 35 (c) 09/11/2009

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