Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Charlie Sheen spends, "Twenty Minutes With The President."

Uri Avnery watches out for, "Wobbly Stools."

Joe Conason explores why, "Republican Politicians Have No Empathy."

Jim Hightower explains why, "Why Bankers Hate Judge Arthur Schack."

Eric Alterman wants you to, "Think Again."

Joel Hircshhorn concludes, "Corporate Corruption Killing America."

Paul Krugman catches hell for daring to state the truth in, "Freshwater Rage."

Chris Floyd with a must read, "Tears Of Fire."

Case Wagenvoord finds, "The Media Void Lives."

Mike Folkerth sees a, " Decline; Steep And Deep."

Chris Hedges with some brilliant insight in, "Stop Begging Obama To Be Obama And Get Mad."

Ted Rall critiques, "The Impotent Dictator."

South Carolina Con-gressman Joe Wilson wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald asks, "Who Are The Undeserving "Others" Benefiting From Expanded Government Actions?"

Gary Younge finds, "A Method To Their Madness."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department the fabulous Betty Bowers returns with, "Don't let Mr. Obama Brainwash Children: That's OUR JOB!" but first Uncle Ernie considers "Endless Wars And Endless Rhetoric."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of J.D. Crowe, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea.Com, Left Wing Conspiracy.Com, Mrs. Betty Bowers, Ed Stein, Walt Kelly, Ted Rall, David Bromley, Bruce Beattie, John Branch, Matt Wuerker, Llama Butchers, JiHo, YouTube, Eldib.WordPress.Com, ABC, NYT, Issues & Alibis.Org and Pink & Blue Films.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

Endless Wars And Endless Rhetoric
By Ernest Stewart

"There would be an end of war and preparations for war if the cost were borne by those responsible for war. There would be an end of armaments and preparedness if incomes and inheritances and the landed estates of the feudal classes paid for the protection which their privileges enjoy. War and preparations for war are possible only because the ruling classes are able to shift a great part of the cost onto the poor by indirect taxation and loans. War expenditures are tolerated only because the burdens are concealed in the increased cost of the things people consume. 'The art of plucking the goose without making it cry out' has been developed to a high state of perfection at the hands of the war makers." ~~~ Frederic Clemson Howe ~ Why War

"Spot gold reached a high of $1,011.10 an ounce, its firmest since February 2008 and was at $1,008.20 at 1329 GMT, against $995.50 late in New York on Thursday." ~~~ Money.Com

"Ours is not the first generation to understand the dire need for health reform. And I am not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last." --- President Barack Obama

Like old Yogi said, "This is like deja vu all over again." I'm having that feeling about Obama, who has adopted most all of Bush's war crimes and acts of treason. Like Bush and Rumsfeld, who said we're in an "Endless War" against terrorism (which must mean we're in a war against ourselves, England, and Israel the three biggest terrorist nations on Earth), Obama said in a speech to the VFW that the war in Afghanistan, which has gone on for 8 years, will be longer still. You may recall that we beat the Germans, Italians, and Japanese in less than four years! Barry said...

"This will not be quick, nor easy. But we must never forget: This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is a -- this is fundamental to the defense of our people."

You'll recall (red alert ) that Barry is playing Cheney's fear card himself, which is bringing on yet another deja vu attack. Later on he said...

"And at every step of the way, we will assess our efforts to defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies, and to help the Afghan and Pakistani people build the future that they seek."

Don't know how to explain this to you, Barry, but those people hate our guts and only want us to leave them alone. The longer we stay the more they'll hate us, the more they'll join the Taliban. They'll have to come to Langley Virginia to join Al Qaeda, as that's a CIA "Black Ops" group!

I know I've said many times before and will no doubt say it many times in the future, where is all that "Change" that we heard so much about at? Hmmm? Yet I must admit I do agree with Barry on one subject, that of Kanye West!

In Other News

I see where the price of an ounce of gold is around $1011.00. That price pretty much says it all; the dollar is all but worthless. That fact is well known around the world where governments both friendly and hostile are doing whatever they can to rid themselves of what was once the world standard currency!

It's a far cry from the daze of my youth where a meager $35 dollars would buy you an ounce of gold. Unless it was an ounce of Acapulco gold, which went for $10. I could spend around $12 a week on groceries and eat well if I was careful. Go ahead and try that today. The average cost of a new house then was $15,550, uh huh! Your average monthly rent for an apartment, $135. A brand new Toyota Corona was $1,950, a new Volkswagen Beetle $1600. Gas was 35 cents a gallon for premium! Cigarettes $2 a carton! The dollar was worth something in those days!

The reason for this was that we were on the "gold standard!" The "Bretton Woods System," enacted in 1946 created a system of fixed exchange rates that allowed governments to sell their gold to the United States treasury at the price of $35/ounce. All counties were on this system and their currencies were worth a similar amount. It worked well and you knew what your money was worth.

However, along came another useless, worthless war of imperial conquest and, like Afghanistan and the Iraq wars, Vietnam was a war that never ended, until it did. Now, almost eight years later in Afghanistan and over 6 years later in Iraq, we're still mired with no light at the end of the tunnel. Our twenty years in Vietnam destroyed the economy and on August 15, 1971, Dick (the trick) Nixon ended the trading of gold at the fixed price of $35/ounce and we've been on a downhill slide ever since.

Things are bad enough now but they're only going to get worse when our trading partners dump their US Bonds and promissory notes. Who knows what an ounce of gold will be worth? What will you do when a carrot goes for $50 or a potato or an apple? Hope you know how to grow your own food. Now that most all soybeans are a GMO food, I understand that you will be able to buy Soylent Green at a really reasonable price. Bon appetite, America!

And Finally

I don't know when I joined Obama's cabinet and inner circle but I must have, as Barry keeps writing me asking for my input and support on various things. I don't mind, mind you, giving Barry advice but all I want to know is how much does it pay, what kind of health insurance is there and what other perks do I get? Here's the latest, followed by my reply...

"Ernest --

I just finished laying out my plan for health reform at a joint session of Congress. Now, I'm writing directly to you because what happens next is critical -- and I need your help.

Change this big will not happen because I ask for it. It can only come when the nation demands it. Congress knows where I stand. Now they need to hear from you.

Add your voice: Ask your representatives to support my plan for real health reform in 2009.

The heart of my plan is simple: bring stability and security to Americans who already have health insurance, guarantee affordable coverage for those who don't, and rein in the cost of health care.

Tonight, I offered a specific plan for how to make it happen. I incorporated the best ideas from Democrats and Republicans to create a plan that's bold, practical, and represents the broad consensus of the American people.

We've come closer to real health reform in the last few months than we have in the last 60 years. But those who profit from the status quo -- and those who put partisan advantage above all else -- will fight us every inch of the way.

We do not seek that fight, but we will not shrink from it. The stakes are too high to let scare tactics cloud the debate, or to allow partisan bickering to block the path. Your voice, right now, is essential.

See my full plan and call on your representatives to support it.

Ours is not the first generation to understand the dire need for health reform. And I am not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama"

Here's my reply

Barack -

While there are many things in this bill, that if, and that's a big if, they were passed, would be good things such as requiring insurance companies to drop the death panel excuses of pre-existing conditions, too old, too sick etc. You pay in, you get full coverage! I just wonder how that will play out in real life with all that lobby money out there?

Seems like the rock bottom principal of government source supplier, which we must have to get any relief from the corpo-rat goons, is now a thing that you could do without if you had to. Without the government option there is NO reform. None, nada, zero, zip.

What you now propose makes it worse on the people who don't have insurance in the first place. You want to make it mandatory and, without the government option, that makes everybody a slave to the insurance goons! And not only mandatory but also a $1500 to $3800 per family annual penalty for people who don't buy in. You offer tax credits, which are worthless unless you have a job. All you are doing is selling us down the river to the corpo-rats. I'm guessing that's the plan, huh?

What are the current figures? 10% unemployed and another 10% not counted because they've given up looking for that nonexistent job. So the Rethuglicans and your Blue Dog buddies are going to cover these 40 to 60 million people without a government plan? Guess again. There are also tens of millions who are underemployed since, thanks to Slick Willie, most all of the good paying, middle class jobs went overseas. Millions of degrees became worthless and people had to learn to say things like, "Would you like fries with that, sir?" Or, "Welcome to Wal-Mart!" Most of the working poor cannot afford to buy insurance, no matter the tax breaks. They would have to buy insurance instead of food for the table and instead of paying their electric bills. If they buy insurance, the kids starve in a dark, cold house. The parents would be arrested for child abuse and the kids would be taken away, but they will get health care of sorts while they're in the "Big House!" People who work to put bread on the table will get fined more than the cost of food. What could be wrong with that?

Health care should be free for all legal US citizens, no ifs, ands, or buts! FREE! Health care could cost about a quarter of what it now costs. It could be easily paid for with no new taxes if we stop being the imperialist swine we are and bring the troops home and cut the military services by about 80%. If we did that we could pay off the debt in a couple years and have a surplus. Since we have more nukes than the rest of the world combined, nobody is going to attack us! If you did that, Barry, you could be a hero to America and to the world and the most beloved of our presidents, instead of just being W Jr.

President of Issues & Alibis magazine

Ernest Stewart

I'll let you know if I get a reply.

One final note. South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson is apparently a hypocrite as well as a racist. How else to explain that Joe voted to fund health care for illegal aliens in 2003 under a Bush bill, a bill that is still funding their health care to this day. I guess if Barry had been white Joe wouldn't have had anything to say? Racism is alive and well in 2009 in South Carolina, a fact I can testify to after living here in Trinity for over a year. Almost every white person here is a racist and most of them don't even know it!


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

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

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

Ernest & Victoria Stewart


06-17-1941 ~ 09-11-2009
Norma Rae's crying!

02-25-1928 ~ 09-11-2009
Tell Pseudolus and Marcus Lycus Uncle said hey!

03-25-1914 ~ 09-12-2009
Thanks for the bread!

07-21-1926 ~ 09-13-2009
Thanks for the memories!

09-30-1943 ~ 09-14-2009
Well said!

08-18-1952 ~ 09-14-2009
Ghost for real!

08-21-1935 ~ 09-14-2009
I'm Dead, by Henry Gibson

08-24-1974 ~ 09-14-2009
Thanks for all the bananas!

11-09-1936 ~ 09-16-2009
Dragons live forever...


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."

Twenty Minutes With The President
By Charlie Sheen

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with our 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama, while he was out promoting his health care reform initiative. I requested 30 minutes given the scope and detail of my inquiry; they said I could have 20. Twenty minutes, 1200 seconds, not a lot of time to question the President about one of the most important events in our nation's history. The following is a transcript of our remarkable discussion.

Charlie Sheen - Good afternoon Mr. President, thank you so much for taking time out of your demanding schedule.

President Barack Obama - My pleasure, the content of your request seemed like something I should carve out a few minutes for.

CS - I should point out that I voted for you, as your promises of hope and change, transparency and accountability, as well as putting government back into the hands of the American people, struck an emotional chord in me that I hadn't felt in quite some time, perhaps ever.

PBO - And I appreciate that Charlie. Big fan of the show, by the way.

CS - Sir, I can't imagine when you might find the time to actually watch my show given the measure of what you inherited.

PBO - I have it Tivo'd on Air Force One. Nice break from the traveling press corps. (He glances at his watch) not to be abrupt or to rush you, but you have 19 minutes left.

CS - I'll take that as an invitation to cut to the chase.

PBO - I'm all ears. Or so I've been told.

CS - Sir, in the very near future we will be experiencing our first 9/11 anniversary with you as Commander in Chief.

PBO - Yes. A very solemn day for our Nation. A day of reflection and yet a day of historical consciousness as well.

CS - Very much so sir, very much so indeed.... Now; In researching your position regarding the events of 9/11 and the subsequent investigation that followed, am I correct to understand that you fully support and endorse the findings of the commission report otherwise known as the 'official story'?

PBO - Do I have any reason not to? Given that most of us are presumably in touch with similar evidence.

CS - I really wish that were the case, sir. Are you aware, Mr. President, of the recent stunning revelations that sixty percent of the 9/11 commissioners have publicly stated that the government agreed not to tell the truth about 9/11 and that the Pentagon was engaged in deliberate deception [1] about their response to the attack?

PBO - I am aware of certain "in fighting" during the course of their very thorough and tireless investigative process.

CS - Mr. President, it's hard to label this type of friction as "in fighting" or make the irresponsible leap to "thorough," when the evidence I insist you examine regarding 6 of the 10 members are statements of fact. (At this point one of Obama's senior aides approaches the President and whispers into his ear. Obama glances quickly at his watch and nods as the aide resumes his post at the doorway, directly behind me.)

PBO - No disrespect Mr. Sheen, but I have to ask; what is it that you seem to be implying with the initial direction of this discussion?

CS - I am not implying anything Mr. President. I am here to present the facts and see what you plan to do with them.

PBO - Let me guess; your 'facts,' allegedly supporting these claims are in the folders you brought with you?

CS - Good guess Mr. President.

(I hand the first folder of documents to the President)

CS - Again sir, these are not my opinions or assumptions, this is all a matter of public record, reported through mainstream media, painstakingly fact checked and verified.

(the President glances into the folder I handed him)

CS - You'll notice sir on page one of the dossier dated August of '06 from the Washington Post [1], the statements of John Farmer, senior council to the 9/11 commission, his quote stating, "I was shocked how different the truth was from the way it was described."

PBO - (as he glances down at the report, almost inaudible) .... um hmm....

CS - He goes on to further state "The [NORAD Air Defense] tapes told a radically different story from what had been told to us and the public for two years...."

(the President continues to view the documents)

CS- On pages two and three, sir, are the statements, as well, from commission co-chairmen Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton [2], commissioners Bob Kerrey [3], Timothy Roemer [2] and John Lehman, as well as the statements of commissioner Max Cleland, an ex-Senator from Georgia , who resigned, stating

[4]: "It is a national scandal. This investigation is now compromised. One of these days we will have to get the full story because the 9/11 issue is so important to America. But this White House wants to cover it up."

He also described President Bush's desire to delay the process as not to damage the '04 re-election bid. They suspected deception to the point where they considered referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation. Mr. President, this information alone is unequivocally grounds for a new investigation!

PBO - Mistakes were clearly made but we as a people and as a country need to move forward. It is obviously in our best interest as a democratic society to focus our efforts and our resources on the future of this great nation and our ability to protect the American people and our allies from this type of terrorism in the coming years.

CS - Sir, how can we focus on the future when THE COMMISSION ITSELF is on record stating that they still do not know the truth??

PBO - Even if what you state, might in some capacity, begin to approach an open discussion or balanced debate, I can't speak for, or about the decisions certain commission members made during an extremely difficult period. Perhaps you should be interviewing them instead of me. Wait, don't tell me; I was easier to track down than they were?

CS - Not exactly sir, but let's be honest. You're the President of the United States, the leader of the free world, the buck stops with you. 9/11 has been the pretext for the systematic dismantling of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Your administration is reading from the same playbook that the Bush administration foisted on America through documented secrecy and deception.

PBO - Mr. Sheen, I'm having a difficult time sitting here and listening to you draw distorted parallels between the Bush/Cheney regime and mine.

CS - Mr. President the parallels are not distorted just because you say they are. Let's stick to the facts. You promised to abolish the Patriot Act and then voted to re-authorize it. You pledged to end warrantless wire tapping against the American people and now energetically defend it. You decried the practice of rendition and now continue it. You promised over and over again on the campaign trail, that you would end the practice of indefinite detention and instead, you have expanded it to permanent detention of "detainees" without trial. This far exceeds the outrages of the former administration. Call me crazy Mr. President, but is this not your record?

[5] PBO - Mr. Sheen, my staff and I authorized this interview based on your request to discuss 9/11 and deliver some additional information you're convinced I'd not previously reviewed. Call me crazy, But it appears as though you've blindly wandered off topic.

CS - Sir, the examples I just illustrated are a direct result of 9/11.

PBO - And I'm telling you that we must move forward, we must endure through these dangerous and politically challenging years ahead.

CS - Mr. President, we cannot move forward with a bottomless warren of unanswered questions surrounding that day and its aftermath.

PBO - I read the official report. Every word every page. Perhaps you should do the same.

CS - I have sir, and so have thousands of family members of the victims, and guess what; they have the same questions I do and probably a lot more [6]. I didn't lose a loved one on that horrific day Mr. President and neither did you. But since then I, along with millions of other Americans lost something we held true and dear for most of our lives in this great country of ours; we lost our hope.

PBO - And I'd like to believe that I am here to restore that hope. To restore confidence in your leaders, in the system that the voting public chose through a peaceful transfer of power.

(An odd moment of silence between us. Precious time ticking away).

CS - Mr. President, are you aware of the number of days it took to begin the investigation into JFK's assassination?

PBO - If memory serves I believe it was two weeks.

CS - Close. Seventeen days to be exact. Are you aware sir, how long it took to begin the investigation into Pearl Harbor?

PBO - I would say again about...,two weeks.

CS - Close again sir, eleven days to be exact. Are you aware Mr. President how long it took to begin the investigation into 9/11?

PBO - I know it must have seemed like a very long time for all the grieving families.

CS - It was a very long time Mr. President - four hundred and forty days. Roughly 14 months. Does it bother you Mr. President that it only took FIVE HOURS for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld [7] after the initial attack to recommend and endorse a full scale offensive against Iraq?

PBO - I am not aware of any such purported claim.

CS - I have the proof Mr. President, along with scores of documents and facts I'd like you to take a look at. Here.

(I hand him another file - much thicker than the first)

PBO - I see you came prepared Charlie.

CS - No other way to show up Mr. President. When in doubt over prepare I always say.

PBO - Now you sound like the First Lady.

CS - That's quite a compliment sir.

PBO - As you wish. Please continue.

CS - Sir, I'd like to direct your attention to the stack of documents in the folder I just handed you. The first in from the top is entitled "Operation Northwoods [8]", a declassified Pentagon plan to stage terror attacks on US soil, to be blamed on Cuba as a pretext for war.

PBO - And I'd like to direct your attention to the fact that the principle draftsman of this improbable blueprint was quickly denied a second term as Joint Chiefs chairman and sent packing to a European NATO garrison. Thank God his otherworldly ambitions never saw the light of day.

CS - I wouldn't be so certain about that Mr. President.

PBO - I could easily say the same to you Charlie.

(the President checks his watch)

CS - The next document reads "Declassified staged provocations." Now, Honestly Mr. President I wish I was making this stuff up. I'm certain you are familiar with the USS Maine Incident, the sinking of the Lusitania, which we all now know brought us into WW1, and of course the most famous, the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

PBO - Of course I am familiar with these historical events and I'm aware that there's a measure of controversy surrounding them. But to be quite frank with you, this is all ancient history.

CS - Mr. President, it has been often said; "Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it." And I concede to you sir, these events are the past.

PBO - A vastly different world young man, shouldering a radically disparate state of universal affairs.

CS - No argument sir, I'm merely inviting you to acknowledge some credibility to the pattern or the theme. Case in point; the next document in your folder. It was published by the think-tank, Project For a New American Century and it's entitled "Rebuilding Americas Defenses, [9]" and was written by Dick Cheney and Jeb Bush. To quote from the document sir - (the President interrupts)

PBO - "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."

CS - Touché, sir. Your thoughts on this statement Mr. President?

PBO - I would call this a blatant case of misjudgment fueled by an unfortunate milieu of assumption. For some, the uninformed denial of coincidence.

CS - Interesting angle sir. Nevertheless, Vice President Cheney didn't stop there. In early 2008, Pulitzer prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh [10] and MSNBC [11], both reported that Cheney had proposed to the Pentagon an outrageous plan to have the U.S. Navy create fake Iranian patrol boats, to be manned by Navy Seals, who would then stage an attack on US destroyers in the Strait of Hormuz. This event was to be blamed on Iran and used as a pretext for war. Does any of this information worry you Mr. President? Should we just ignore it, until these realities can be dismissed years from now by our children, as ancient history as well?

PBO - Of course this information worries me, yet it's not nearly as worrisome as you sitting here today suspiciously implying that 9/11 was somehow allowed to happen or even orchestrated from the inside.

CS - Mr. President I am not suspiciously implying anything. I am merely exposing the documents and asking the questions that nobody in power will even look at or acknowledge. And as I stated earlier, I voted for you, I believed in your message of hope and change. Mr. President I have come to you specifically hoping for a change. A change in the perception that our government has not yet made itself open and accountable to the people. These are your words Mr. President not mine. The lives of thousands were brutally cut short and those left behind to suffer their infinite pain are with me today Mr. President. They are with me in spirit and flesh, and the message we carry will not be silenced anymore by media fueled mantras insisting how they are supposed to feel. Deciding for them, for 8 long years, what can be thought, what can be said, what can be asked.

PBO - And I appreciate your passion, I appreciate your conviction. In spite of your concerns, in spite of what your data might or might not reveal, what you and the families must understand and accept is that we are doing everything we can to protect you.

CS - Mr. President , I realize were very short on time, so please allow me to run down a list of bullet points that might illuminate some reasons why we don't embrace the warm hug of Federal protection.

PBO- We've come this far. Fire away.

CS - Please keep in mind Mr. President everything I'm about to say is documented as fact and part of the public record. The information you are holding in your hands chronicles and verifies each and every point.

PBO - You have five minutes left. The floor is yours. Brief me.

[5] CS - Thank you Mr. President. Okay, first; On the FBI's most wanted list [12] Osama Bin Laden is not charged with the crimes of 911. When I called the FBI to ask them why this was the case, they replied: "There's not enough evidence to link Bin Laden to the crime scene," I later discovered he had never even been indicted by the D.O.J.

CS - Number 2 [13]; FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, was dismissed and gagged by the D.O.J. after she revealed that the government had foreknowledge of plans to attack American cities using planes as bombs as early as April 2001. In July of '09, Mrs. Edmonds broke the Federal gag order and went public to reveal that Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the Taliban were all working for and with the C.I.A. up until the day of 9/11.

CS - Number 3 [14]; The following is a quote from Mayor Giuliani during an interview on 9/11 with Peter Jennings for ABC News. "I went down to the scene and we set up headquarters at 75 Barkley Street, which was right there with the Police Commissioner, the Fire Commissioner, the Head of Emergency Management, and we were operating out of there when we were told that the World Trade Center was going to collapse. And it did collapse before we could actually get out of the building, so we were trapped in the building for 10, 15 minutes, and finally found an exit and got out, walked north, and took a lot of people with us." WHO TOLD HIM THIS??? To this day, the answer to this question remains unanswered, completely ignored and emphatically DENIED by Mayor Giuliani on several public occasions.

CS - Number 4 [15]; In April 2004, USA Today reported, "In the two years before the Sept. 11 attacks, the North American Aerospace Defense Command conducted exercises simulating what the White House says was unimaginable at the time: hijacked airliners used as weapons to crash into targets and cause mass casualties." One of the targets was the World Trade Center.

CS - Number 5 [16]; On September 12th 2007, CNN's 'Anderson Cooper 360', reported that the mysterious "white plane" spotted and videotaped by multiple media outlets, flying in restricted airspace over the White House shortly before 10am on the morning of 9/11, was in fact the Air Force's E-4B, a specially modified Boeing 747 with a communications pod behind the cockpit; otherwise known as "The Doomsday Plane." Though fully aware of the event, the 9/11 Commission did not deem the appearance of the military plane to be of any interest and did not include it in the final 9/11 Commission report.

CS - Number 6 [17]; Three F-16s assigned to Andrews Air Force Base, ten miles from Washington, DC, are conducting training exercises in North Carolina 207 miles away as the first plane crashes into the WTC. Even at significantly less than their top speed of 1500 mph, they could still have defended the skies over Washington well before 9am, more than 37 minutes before Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon, however, they did not return until after 9:55am. Andrews AFB had no armed fighters on alert and ready to take off on the morning of 9/11.

CS - Number 7 [18]; WTC Building 7. Watch the video of its collapse.

CS - Number 8 [19]; Flight 93 is fourth plane to crash on 9/11 at 10:03am. V.P. Cheney only gives shoot down order at 10:10-10:20am and this is not communicated to NORAD until 28 minutes after Flight 93 has crashed.

Fueling further suspicion on this front is the fact that three months before the attacks of 9/11, Dick Cheney usurped control of NORAD, and therefore he, and no one else on planet Earth, had the power to call for military sorties on the hijacked airliners on 9/11. He did not exercise that power. Three months after 9/11, he relinquished command of NORAD and returned it to military operation.

CS - Number 9 [20]; Scores of main stream news outlets reported that the F.B.I. conducted an investigation of at least FIVE of the 9/11 hijackers being trained at U.S. military flight schools. Those investigations are now sealed and need to be declassified.

CS - Number 10 [21]; In 2004, New York firefighters Mike Bellone and Nicholas DeMasi went public to say they had found the black boxes at the World Trade Center, but were told to keep their mouths shut by FBI agents. Nicholas DeMasi said that he escorted federal agents on an all-terrain vehicle in October 2001 and helped them locate the devices, a story backed up by rescue volunteer Mike Bellone.

As the Philadelphia Daily News reported at the time, "Their story raises the question of whether there was a some type of cover-up at Ground Zero."

CS - Number 11 [22] - Hundreds of eye witnesses including first responders, fire captains, news reporters, and police, all described multiple explosions in both towers before and during the collapse.

CS - Number 12 [23]; An astounding video uncovered from the archives shows BBC News correspondent Jane Standley reporting on the collapse of WTC Building 7 over twenty minutes before it fell at 5:20pm on the afternoon of 9/11. Tapes from earlier BBC broadcasts show news anchors discussing the collapse of WTC 7 a full 26 minutes in advance. The BBC at first claimed that their tapes from 9/11 had been "lost" before admitting that they made the "error" of reporting the collapse of WTC 7 before it happened without adequately explaining how they could have obtained advance knowledge of the event.

In addition, over an hour before the collapse of WTC 7, at 4:10pm, CNN's Aaron Brown reported that the building "has either collapsed, or is collapsing."

CS - Number 13 [24]; Solicitor General Ted Olson's claim that his wife Barbara Olsen called him twice from Flight 77, describing hijackers with box cutters, was a central plank of the official 9/11 story.

However, the credibility of the story was completely undermined after Olsen kept changing his story about whether his wife used her cell phone or the airplane phone. The technology to enable cell phone calls from high-altitude airline flights was not created until 2004. American Airlines confirmed that Flight 77 was a Boeing 757 and that this plane did not have airplane phones on board.

According to the FBI, Barbara Olsen attempted to call her husband only once and the call failed to connect, therefore Olsen must have been lying when he claimed he had spoken to his wife from Flight 77.

CS - Number 14 [25]; The size of a Boeing 757 is approximately 125ft in width and yet images of the impact zone at the Pentagon supposedly caused by the crash merely show a hole no more than 16ft in diameter. The engines of the 757 would have punctured a hole bigger than this, never mind the whole plane. Images before the partial collapse of the impact zone show little real impact damage and a sparse debris field completely inconsistent with the crash of a large jetliner, especially when contrasted with other images showing airplane crashes into buildings.

CS - Number 15 [26]; What is the meaning behind the following quote attributed to Dick Cheney which came to light during the 9/11 Commission hearings? The passage is taken from testimony given by then Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta.

During the time that the airplane was coming in to the Pentagon, there was a young man who would come in and say to the Vice President, "The plane is 50 miles out." "The plane is 30 miles out." And when it got down to "the plane is 10 miles out," the young man also said to the Vice President, "Do the orders still stand?" And the Vice President turned and whipped his neck around and said, "Of course the orders still stand. Have you heard anything to the contrary?"

As the plane was not shot down, in addition to the fact that armed fighter jets were nowhere near the plane and the Pentagon defensive system was not activated, are we to take it that the orders were to let the plane find its target?

CS - Number 16 [27]; In May 2003, the Miami Herald reported how the Bush administration was refusing to release a 900-page congressional report on 9/11 because it wanted to "avoid enshrining embarrassing details in the report," particularly regarding pre-9/11 warnings as well as the fact that the hijackers were trained at U.S. flight schools.

CS - Number 17 [28]; Top Pentagon officials cancelled their scheduled flights for September 11th on September 10th. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, following a security warning, cancelled a flight into New York that was scheduled for the morning of 9/11.

CS - Number 18 [29]; The technology to enable cell phone calls from high-altitude airline flights was not created until 2004, and even by that point it was only in the trial phase. Calls from cell phones which formed an integral part of the official government version of events were technologically impossible at the time.

CS - Number 19 [30]: On April 29, 2004, President Bush and V.P. Cheney would only meet with the commission under specific clandestine conditions. They insisted on testifying together and not under oath. They also demanded that their testimony be treated as a matter of "state secret." To date, nothing they spoke of that day exists in the public domain.

CS - And finally Mr. President - Number 20 [31]; A few days after the attack, several newspapers as well as the FBI reported that a paper passport had been found in the ruins of the WTC. In August 2004, CNN reported that 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah's visa was found in the remains of Flight 93 which went down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

At least a third of the WTC victim's bodies were vaporized and many of the victims of the Pentagon incident were burned beyond recognition. And yet visas and paper passports which identify the perpetrators and back up the official version of events miraculously survive explosions and fires that we are told melted steel buildings.

(The Senior aide appears again beside the President whispering in his ear. He then quickly moves off).

PBO - Well Charlie I can't say this hasn't been interesting. As I said earlier you've showed up today focused and organized. Regardless how I feel about the material you've presented, I must commend your dedication and zeal. However, our time here is up.

(the President rises from his chair , I do the same).

CS - Mr. President! One more second!

(The President starts towards the door - I follow him quickly step for step).

CS - Mr. President, I implore you based on the evidence you now possess, to use your Executive Power. Prove to us all Sir, that you do, in fact, care. Create a truly comprehensive and open Congressional investigation of 9/11 and its aftermath. The families deserve the truth, the American people and the rest of the free world deserve the truth. Mr. President.

(He pauses. We shake hands).

CS - Make sure your on the right side of history.

(The President breaks the handshake).

PBO - I am on the right side of history. Thank you Charlie, my staff and I will be in touch.

(I watch as he strides gracefully out of the room, the truth I provided him held firmly by his side; in the hand of providence.)
(c) 2009 Charlie Sheen

Wobbly Stools
By Uri Avnery

EVEN THE Romans never saw a game like this in their arena: three gladiators fighting against each other, while at the same time each of them has to defend himself against attackers from behind.

All three of them - Barack Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas - are fighting for their political life. The three battles are quite different from each other, yet interconnected.

OBAMA IS in big trouble. Big? Huge! The most important struggle concerns health insurance.

This has no connection with Israel. Moreover, for an Israeli it is difficult even to understand it.

For us it is hard - indeed impossible - to grasp how a modern, progressive country can function without health insurance for all. Our health system came into being long before the foundation of the State of Israel. Sick funds covered practically the whole Jewish population in Palestine. After the foundation of Israel, this became law for all citizens. Every Israeli is insured by one of four officially recognized sick funds. All of these are financed to a large extent by the government, which also decides what services they are obliged to provide.

In a progressive society, a person has a right to basic medical care, including hospital care, operations and medicines. So it seems very odd that in the richest nation in the world there are tens of millions of people who lack this essential protection. Especially in a country where medical expenditure - as a percentage of the gross national product - is far higher then in ours.

Along comes Obama and proposes a plan that offers these people an option of governmental medical insurance. What could be more natural? But in the US, powerful forces are out to prevent it, on behalf of Free Enterprise, the Market, the Right to Privacy and such high-sounding pretexts. They portray Obama as a Second Hitler or a Second Stalin, if not both, and his popularity is sinking dramatically.

Odd? Mad? Perhaps. But we have to take it seriously. It concerns us directly.

BECAUSE OBAMA is a central actor in our own play.

When he came to power, he understood that he must change the situation in the extended Middle East. Most Muslims in the world, including most Arabs, hate the United States. Even an imperial power cannot function effectively in an atmosphere of general hatred. The main reason for the hatred is the unlimited US support for the government of Israel, which oppresses the Palestinians.

For eight years, President Bill Clinton acted as an agent of the Jewish lobby for Israel. After that, for another eight years, President George W. Bush acted as an agent of the Christian fundamentalist lobby for Israel. President Obama understands that basic US interests demand an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is poisoning the entire region.

The war in Afghanistan makes it even worse. Obama got stuck in this quagmire by mistake: in the heat of the election campaign he announced that he would withdraw from Iraq. But in order not to be accused of defeatism, he added that he would intensify the American intervention in Afghanistan.

That was a rash promise. Afghanistan is far worse than even Iraq. It is a different war, in a different environment, against a different enemy. The US has no chance of "winning" this war, which has no clear aim and no clear enemy, against a population that since antiquity has been honing its expertise in expelling foreign invaders.

It is easy to walk into a swamp, difficult to get out of it. Obama has no exit strategy from Afghanistan. That, too, will endanger his popularity in the near future.

THIS IS the situation in which he enters the struggle with Binyamin Netanyahu.

There no question anymore that the only recipe for healing the Israeli-Palestinian wound is the termination of the occupation and the establishment of peace between the State of Israel and the new State of Palestine beside it. This demands meaningful and intense negotiations, within a fixed time span. That is impossible if at the same time settlements continue to expand. As the Palestinian lawyer Michael Tarasi aptly put it: "We are negotiating about the division of a pizza and in the meantime Israel is eating the pizza."

That's why Obama has presented the Israeli government with an unequivocal demand: an immediate stop to all building in the settlements, including East Jerusalem. A clear and logical demand. But while pressuring Netanyahu, he himself is exposed to heavy pressure at home over the health insurance system and the Afghan war.

NETANYAHU'S SITUATION is no less complex.

His government is based on a coalition of five different parties. The settlers and their supporters constitute a majority. The "leftist" in this coalition, Ehud Barak, has been responsible for setting up more settlements than Netanyahu himself ever has.

Netanyahu is dancing on a thin tightrope at the Israeli fair, high above the heads of the audience, without a safety net. He must avoid a head on clash with Obama, while satisfying the nationalists in his own party and his coalition.

How to do this? One has to convince Obama to allow a small amount of building in the settlements, just another tiny bit, in order to appease the settlers. One has to convince the settlers that the promise to freeze building is just window dressing, and that in reality building will continue at full speed.

The Americans recognize, of course, that our government is trying to deceive them. If they allow the building of just another 500 houses in the settlement blocks, and the completion of just another 2500 houses whose construction has already begun, and just a few more in East Jerusalem, in practice the building will go on unchecked.

The settlers know perfectly well that their whole enterprise has been based on deceit and trickery, house after house and neighborhood after neighborhood, and they are happy to allow Netanyahu to continue with this method. For the time being, they do not cry out, they are not worried, the more so as no large Israeli public movement has yet arisen in support of Obama's peace efforts.

Obama's troubles concerning the health issue look to Netanyahu like the answer to a prayer. Perhaps he is not satisfied with divine help alone, and the pro-Israel lobby is quietly helping the enemies of reform. If Obama's people decide that the time is not ripe for a confrontation with Netanyahu and that it is worth giving in about small matters - some houses here, some houses there - that would be a huge victory for Netanyahu. Every Israeli will see it this way: Netanyahu stood up like a man, Obama blinked first. But thereafter, in the second and third battle, when Obama insists and does not give in, neither in word nor in deed, Netanyahu will be in trouble.

MAHMOUD ABBAS is the weakest of the three gladiators. His situation is the most precarious.

He is on a slippery slope and has to rely on support from Obama, who himself stands atop a tower that may collapse. He has already learned that Netanyahu does not intend to conduct real negotiations with him. And Hamas accuses him of collaboration with the occupation.

West Bank public opinion polls seem to show that the popularity of Fatah there is on the rise and that Hamas is losing. But polls in Palestine can almost be counted on to be wrong (as on the eve of the last elections, when they forecast a huge Fatah victory). More than a thousand Hamas militants are in the prisons of the Palestinian Authority. The Authority's security services, which are being trained by the American general Keith Dayton, are working in close cooperation with the occupation forces and serve, quite openly, as their sub-contractors. What does the ordinary Palestinian in the street think about that?

Life in the occupied West Bank is built on an illusion. Commentators praise the success of the PA's Prime Minister, Salaam Fayad, in reconstructing the Palestinian economy. Ramallah is flowering. New businesses are being opened. Netanyahu's "economic peace" is becoming a reality. But that is, of course, a delicate bubble: the Israeli army can eradicate all this in half an hour, as it did in the 2002 "Defensive Shield" operation.

If Abbas does not succeed in achieving impressive progress towards peace within a few months, the whole structure may come crashing down. General Dayton has already warned that if peace is not achieved

"within two years," the forces now being trained by him may rise up against the Israeli occupation (and against Abbas, of course). Hamas is breathing heavily down their necks.

IN A FEW days, the three - Obama, Netanyahu and Abbas - are supposed to hold a summit conference in New York and to launch the Ship of Peace.

It will be an interesting meeting - if it takes place - because each of the three will be sitting on a wobbly stool, with unequal legs. While talking with his two colleagues, each will be preoccupied with his enemies at home.

That is not, of course, an unusual situation. Henry Kissinger once said that Israel has no foreign policy, only a domestic policy. But that is more or less true for every country. The United States, Israel and Palestine are not unique in this respect.

Commentators in ivory towers, who are used to handling out gratuitous advice to political leaders and telling them what to do, frequently miss this dimension. A person who has never experienced the heat of an election campaign cannot come near to understanding the full depths of a politician's motives. In the words of Otto von Bismarck, a politician through and through: "Politics is the art of the possible."

How to move the peace efforts back from the realm of the impossible? In this campaign, the Israeli peace camp has a double task: first, to expose the policy of evasion and deceit of our government; and, second, to strengthen Obama's hand in his endeavor to bring peace to this region. It is important that a strong and authentic Israeli camp express support for his efforts. Our friends in the US, in Europe and throughout the entire world have a similar task.

This three-sided struggle is not taking place in a Roman arena, and we are not just spectators looking on from the terraces. At stake in this game is nothing less than our lives.
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Republican Politicians Have No Empathy
They only want government to intervene when they suffer personally -- so let's yank their federal health insurance
By Joe Conason

In the lyrical conclusion of President Obama's speech on healthcare, he talked about the emotions and experiences that drove his late friend Sen. Edward Kennedy to work so tirelessly and passionately for universal coverage. He tried to describe what Kennedy must have felt as two of his children suffered through bouts of cancer. Ordeals such as those, said the president, had helped Kennedy to understand the "sheer terror and helplessness" of parents whose children are stricken by serious disease, and lack the means to save them.

Reaching out to his opponents, the president tried to emphasize that such empathy toward other human beings "is not a partisan feeling," but is instead an aspect of our national character. This kind of Americanism represents "our ability to stand in other people's shoes -- a recognition that we are all in this together; that when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand ... and an acknowledgment that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise."

To support that reassuring observation, he cited the landmark bills that Kennedy's Republican colleagues have co-sponsored in years past to extend healthcare to children and protect hospital patients. As he said, Americans of all parties (and none) surely possess the capacity for compassion.

But why then do nearly all of the Republicans in Congress find it so difficult to empathize with the tens of millions of their uninsured and underinsured fellow citizens -- and so easy to contemplate the ruin of reform yet again, even though that means condemning hundreds of thousands to sickness, bankruptcy and even death? Why would they still insist, after 40 successful years of Medicare, that government must have no further role in ensuring decent healthcare for every American?

Perhaps the problem is that a certain kind of Republican -- often with a connection to the White House or Capitol Hill -- will only endorse government action to remedy the adversity they have experienced for themselves. The most recent example is Cindy McCain, the wife of the Arizona senator, who announced the other day that she suffers from migraine headaches, which she considers a "disability." She is outraged that the United States government only spends $13 million annually for medical research on migraines, and is bent on increasing that amount drastically. She is determined that a remedy will be found someday soon -- with federal money.

"I'm missing a large part of my life," she said. "I want to stay active. I want a cure."

Nothing wrong with that ambition, of course -- except that the McCain approach to healthcare, expressed during last year's presidential campaign, rejects government action in favor of market fundamentalism. His plan would have deregulated the insurance companies and diminished the insufficient protections that government now provides to consumers, while covering a tiny percentage of the uninsured. He is leading the Senate attack on the "public option" in the Obama health plan, because he thinks government is already too big and too wasteful.

Why then should that same big, deficit-ridden government spend millions upon millions more to alleviate Mrs. McCain's headaches? Why shouldn't the migraine sufferers be left to the mercy of the marketplace, where the pharmaceutical manufacturers will take tender care of them? The market alone won't provide the necessary scientific effort, as Mrs. McCain perhaps understands -- so effective empathy requires federal support.

A constricted compassion that arises solely from personal experience has somehow come to seem peculiarly Republican. The most famous examples include former first lady Nancy Reagan's crusade for stem-cell research and former Sen. Pete Domenici's campaign for mental-health insurance parity. While both were admirable and courageous efforts that resulted in important legislation, they were cast as narrow exceptions to conservative ideology -- exceptions grounded strictly in personal misfortune.

Only after her husband began to disappear into the twilight of Alzheimer's disease did Mrs. Reagan perceive the value of the kind of government action they both had spent a lifetime denigrating. Government was the problem, not the solution, according to the Reaganite dogma. But then Nancy realized that federal support for stem-cell research might someday bring relief to patients like her beloved Ronnie, and anguished families like hers. Suddenly, spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on something other than Star Wars wasn't such a terrible idea.

As for Domenici, the tragedy that opened his eyes began when his daughter Clare, then in college, started to exhibit symptoms of the schizophrenia that eventually disabled her. That was when the New Mexico senator, often described by the Washington press as "a crusty conservative," discovered how much of society, including the insurance industry, discriminated against mental patients and their families.

Domenici's chief ally in the long struggle for mental-health parity was the late Paul Wellstone, the legendary progressive senator from Minnesota whose older brother had lived with severe mental illness from adolescence.

Six years ago, Wellstone carefully spelled out to the New York Times how he and his conservative colleague had joined together on the issue of mental healthcare. "There has been a personal, crystallizing experience in each of our lives. You almost wish it didn't have to work that way, that all of us would care deeply anyway about people who were vulnerable and not getting the care they need. But this kind of thing happens a lot in politics for fully human reasons."

That last remark was typically generous of him. Yet it is the differences between a Wellstone or a Kennedy and a Domenici or a McCain -- and not their fleeting alliances -- that may explain why we still don't provide care for all of the vulnerable who need it.

All his life, Wellstone demanded a more compassionate society and a more decent government -- not because he or his family was suffering but because he felt a moral imperative. And despite the president's poetic explanation of Kennedy's commitment, the truth is that his fight for universal healthcare began years before either of his children was stricken with cancer. Affliction may have deepened their commitment, but their perception always extended far beyond their own plight.

Even the best of today's Republicans seem to lack that quality, to say the least. Enjoying the ample blessings of the Federal Employee Health Benefits program and access to the best military hospitals, they're totally insulated from the troubles of those who lack adequate insurance, or any insurance at all.

If the Republican right manages to kill healthcare reform this year, then perhaps some brave Democrat should introduce a new kind of bill -- cutting off every member of Congress from the "public option" that protects them and their families.
(c) 2009 Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer and Salon. You may reach Joe via email at: Joe Conason

American hero Judge Schack

Why Bankers Hate Judge Arthur Schack

With his trusty slingshot, David won that famous confrontation with Goliath - but, generally speaking, the Goliaths of our world usually stomp on us Davids.

This is because today's corporate Goliaths often have such supposedly-impartial public institutions as our courts bending the rules to help them run roughshod over us. Occasionally, however, the Davids draw a judge who refuses to bend to injustice.

Arthur Schack of the New York Supreme Court is one of these happy exceptions. Powerhouse banks regularly show up in his court for approval to take the homes of people who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments. These requests are routinely rubber-stamped, but Schack does something unusal: He actually reads the paperwork. And, more often than not, he finds it riddled with errors, bordering on fraud. In one foreclosure filing, for example, the banker who signed the papers claimed to be an executive of two different banks, his signature was notarized in Texas but his office was in Kansas City, and the bank seeking to take the home didn't even own the mortgage.

Schack regularly shocks bank executives by refusing to okay such raw deals. "I'm a little guy who doesn't belong to their country clubs," he says. "I wont accept their comedy of errors." He adds that, "If you are going to take away someone's house, everything should be legal and correct. I'm a strange guy - I don't want to put a family on the street unless its legitimate."

He rejects almost half of the foreclosures the banking Goliaths present to him, because they are not legitimate. As an expert in consumer credit says of Schack, "His rulings are hardly revolutionary. [He's] unusual only because we so rarely hold large corporations to the rules."

If President Obama wonders what kind of judges he should be appointing, Arthur Schack is the perfect model for him. America needs a lot more judges like him.
(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.

Think Again
Why Can't the Media Explain Our Woes (and Why Other Countries Don't Have Them)?
By Eric Alterman

The most moving part of President Barack Obama's powerful speech Wednesday night was undoubtedly the letter from which he read, sent to him from "our beloved friend and colleague" Ted Kennedy. Kennedy had asked, back in May when he wrote it, that the letter should not be opened until after his death. As Obama reported, Kennedy "expressed confidence that this would be the year that health care reform-'that great unfinished business of our society,' he called it-would finally pass," and in doing so, define "the character of our country." Indeed, it is amazing that while Kennedy served for more than four decades in the Senate and dedicated much of his energy and superb legislative skills to the passage of just such a program, the problem has only gotten worse over time.

Given the degree of the problem, it can difficult to understand, writes Serge Halimi, editor of France's prestigious Le Monde Diplomatique, why Barack Obama, who has established himself as one of America's most effective diagnosticians of what ails our health care system, is proposing so modest a reform to address its failures. As the president told a Montana town hall meeting this past August, "We are held hostage by health insurance companies that deny coverage, or drop coverage, or charge fees that people can't afford for care they desperately need ... We have a health care system that too often works better for the insurance industry than it does for the American people."

Halimi answers his own question: "American politics is so poisoned by money flowing from industrial and financial lobbies that the only proposals ensured a smooth ride through Congress are those that cut taxes." Indeed, according to BusinessWeek, in 15 states more than half of the "market" is held by one private health care company, and this kind of monopoly profit is not going to go off quietly into the night. And yet this essential fact is often missing from a media debate that focuses on nonexistent, often crazy issues like imaginary "death panels" and whether or not Sarah Palin would be forced to murder her own child.

Late in the dog days of August, The Washington Post published a piece by T.R. Reid, a reporter who has left the paper and written a book called The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care, delineating what he called "five myths about health care around the world." It's worth reading the piece, not only for the information it offers, but for the picture of just how far our debate has drifted from reality. Barack Obama is right. We do have a health care system that is not only unsustainable in the long term, but a great shame on the heads of those of us who can afford to buy the health care we need whenever we need it. Not only are the alleged horror stories about "socialized medicine" untrue, but its superiority to our own system is largely absent from our debate.

In addition to the issues Reid raises-I have not yet read his book-I did some research on this question while writing Why We're Liberals, and I found the following:

* The United States and South Africa are the only two developed countries in the world that do not provide health care for all of their citizens.

* Nationally, 29 percent of children had no health insurance at some point in the last 12 months, and many get neither checkups nor vaccinations.

* The United States ranks 84th in the world for measles immunizations and 89th for polio. These figures are particularly shocking given that Americans spend almost two and a half times the industrialized world's median on health care, nearly a third of which is wasted on bureaucracy and administration.

* Americans have fewer doctors per capita than most Western countries. We go to the doctor less than people in other Western countries. We get admitted to the hospital less frequently than people in other Western countries. We are less satisfied with our health care than our counterparts in other countries. American life expectancy is lower than the Western average. Childhood-immunization rates in the United States are lower than average. Infant-mortality rates are in the 19th percentile of industrialized nations. Doctors here perform more high-end medical procedures, such as coronary angioplasties, than in other countries, but most of the wealthier Western countries have more CT scanners than the United States does, and Switzerland, Japan, Austria, and Finland all have more MRI machines per capita. Nor is our system more efficient. The United States spends more than $1000 per capita per year-or close to $400 billion-on health care-related paperwork and administration, whereas Canada, for example, spends only about $300 per capita. And, of course, every other country in the industrialized world insures all its citizens; despite those extra hundreds of billions of dollars we spend each year, we leave 45 million people without any insurance.

* Meanwhile, the Finns, for instance, devote less than half of what we do to medical care, as a percentage of GDP, and yet their infant mortality rate is half that of the United States-and one-sixth that of African-American babies-while their life expectancy rate is greater. The United States ranked 42 in life expectancy behind not only Japan and most of Europe but also Jordan, Guam, and the Cayman Islands, according to the most recent census figures.

Conservatives, members of the American medical industrial complex, and other defenders of the U.S. status quo frequently berate the European health care alternative because they say the care that patients receive there is both less responsive and less advanced than that available to Americans, however much more we may have to pay for ours. But American patients wait longer, on average, for routine treatments than those in France and Germany. Moreover, hospitals in those two nations also provide new mothers more than four days to recover, while insurance companies insist that doctors send American mothers home after only two.

Swedes enjoy better success rates treating cervical and ovarian cancers. The French best the American system when it comes to stomach cancer, Hodgkin's disease, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The French also benefit from more cancer radiation equipment than Americans. And despite so many American boasts on exactly this topic, Germans get the most hip replacements. In the area where one hears the loudest cheers for the American system-making new cancer treatments available to patients as quickly (however expensively) as possible, the United States is merely tied with Austria, France, and Switzerland.

I could go on-almost indefinitely. And perhaps there are good reasons why we cannot match the performances of all of these countries when it comes to providing decent health care to our citizens despite being the wealthiest nation in the world. But the arguments related to economic efficiency are demonstrably false. Conservatives so consistently denigrate the amazing achievements of 21st-century Europeans that one can't help but wonder what has them so worried. "If you want a lower standard of living," conservative policy experts Grace-Marie Turner and Robert Moffit argued in a December 2006 op-ed, "the Europeans have the right prescription." Their argument echoes views, as The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn noted, that are popular across the conservative spectrum, from Newsweek's Robert Samuelson ("Europe is history's has-been") to The National Review's Jonah Goldberg ("Europe has an asthmatic economy") to The New York Times pundit David Brooks ("The European model is flat-out unsustainable").

Conservatives have been making exactly these arguments for roughly five decades now, yet these same European nations have by almost every measurement-individual rights and community, capitalist enterprise and social solidarity, and even personal mobility-demonstrated results that Americans can only envy. (You can find the details supporting these claims in chapter one of Why We're Liberals.)

In the meantime, shouldn't we be able to at least discuss these issues, instead of largely ignoring them and focusing on the shouts and screams of hysterical crazy people who accuse our president of being a racist, a Communist, and a Nazi, only to be rewarded with guest appearances (and even their own shows) on Fox? Can America have fallen so far that this is our answer to Ted Kennedy regarding the content of our character? Barack Obama gave one answer last night but, let's face it, it rested on "hope." Congress and the American people will give a more final answer in the coming months; let's hope it demonstrates a different form of "character" than that on display on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox, alas.
(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.

Corporate Corruption Killing America
Joel S. Hirschhorn

Anyone smart and strong enough to fight delusional thinking and who pays attention to current events should clearly see that corporate corruption of the US political system is so pervasive and powerful that there will be no genuine reform of both the health care and financial sectors.

I always believed that president Obama was just a different color corrupt politician who was subservient to the two-party plutocracy. His so-called reform efforts and ludicrous federal deficit spending should disappoint all his non-delusional supporters.

For health reform the only genuine and sensible reform legislation should have been not much more than a single sentence mandating that every American has a right to full Medicare coverage. Period. End of story. True reform. True universal health insurance.

Let the health insurance industry sell their garbage to those choosing it over Medicare and as supplemental insurance, as is done today, to cover what Medicare does not. The one major reason why the US spends more of its wealth on health care than any other nation, but with lousy results for the population as a whole is that so many Americans and their employers buy costly private health insurance. Some things essential for human survival require government programs, like police and fire protection. The overwhelming opinion of those in Medicare is very positive. In fact it is far more positive than those using private health insurance.

But the health insurance industry and others have successfully corrupted Congress and brainwashed much of the population to fear true reforms. Sure, Congress will pass some legislation that Obama will sign and they all will claim victory. But the nation will not get true reforms and health care spending will continue to rise and bankrupt the nation.

And now we also are learning slowly that the financial sector that tanked our economy by pursuing enormously risky but profitable business practices and then was bailed out by the government has not learned any lessons. Banks and all kinds of financial companies are still pursuing risky businesses, still overpaying their top executives and still screwing consumers. Congress is unlikely to pass really tough regulations to put a halt to all the awful practices by financial companies. Why? Because Congress has been corrupted by money from this financial sector.

Make no mistake: Corporate corruption is a true bipartisan effort, perhaps the most bipartisan enterprise.

Obama is no more of a real reformer than any Republican. That so many on the far right think he is a socialist is laughable. He is nothing more than a defender of the corporate-owned two-party plutocracy. To see anything else is pure delusion. The US is being flushed away. A populist Second American Revolution is the only way to save the nation. It will not come from the efforts of anyone that is a Democrat or Republican.

Wake up America! Voting for Democrats or Republicans just perpetuates this corrupt system. They fiddled while Rome burned; we borrow while America sinks.
(c) 2009 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author.

Freshwater Rage
By Paul Krugman

I'm still on the road, with only sporadic internet access. So I've missed out on much of the outpouring of rage over my magazine article. I gather, though, that the usual suspects are utterly outraged at my suggestion that freshwater macro has spent several decades heading down the wrong path. They're smart! They work hard, using hard math! How dare I say such a thing?

And all of this, of course, without a hint of irony.

For when freshwater macro took over a good part of the field, its leaders gleefully dismissed all the work Keynesian economists had done over the previous few decades, often with sneers and sniggers.

And that same adolescent quality was evident in the reactions to the Obama administration's attempts to deal with the crisis - as Brad DeLong points out, people like Robert Lucas and John Cochrane (not to mention Richard Posner, who isn't a macroeconomist but gets his take from his colleagues) didn't say that when serious scholars like Christina Romer based policy recommendations on Keynesian economics, they were wrong; the freshwater crowd declared that anyone with Keynesian views was, by definition, either a fool or intellectually dishonest.

So the freshwater outrage over finding their own point of view criticized is, you might think, a classic case of people who can dish it out but can't take it.

But it's actually even worse than that.

When freshwater macro came in, there was an active purge of competing views: students were not exposed, at all, to any alternatives. People like Prescott boasted that Keynes was never mentioned in their graduate programs. And what has become clear in the recent debate - for example, in the assertion that Ricardian equivalence rules out any effect from government spending changes, which is just wrong - is that the freshwater side not only turned Keynes into an unperson, but systematically ignored the work being done in the New Keynesian vein. Nobody who had read, say, Obstfeld and Rogoff would have been as clueless about the logic of temporary fiscal expansion as these guys have been. Freshwater macro became totally insular.

And hence the most surprising thing in the debate over fiscal stimulus: the raw ignorance that has characterized so many of the freshwater comments. Above all, we've seen the phenomenon of well-known economists "rediscovering" Say's Law and the Treasury view (the view that government cannot affect the overall level of demand), not because they've transcended the Keynesian refutation of these views, but because they were unaware that there had ever been such a debate.

It's a sad story. And the even sadder thing is that it's very unlikely that anything will change: freshwater macro will get even more insular, and its devotees will wonder why nobody in the real world of policy and action pays any attention to what they say.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Your tax dollars at work!

Tears Of Fire
Mourning in the Macabre Killing Fields of Afghanistan
By Chris Floyd

"I took some flesh home and called it my son."

The NATO airstrike that killed more than 70 civilians near Kunduz earlier this month was a deadly confluence of two primary elements that characterize the living hell of Afghanistan: relentless violence and crushing poverty.

The villagers were slaughtered while trying to siphon gasoline from two fuel tankers that the Taliban had hijacked from the occupation forces. The trucks were stranded in the ford of a shallow river. Unable to get the trucks out, the insurgents invited local villagers to come gather the fuel for themselves. The prospect of salvaging a can or two of free fuel to help them get through the coming winter drove many of the villagers out into the dead of night. At about 1 a.m, an airstrike ordered by a German commander struck the fuel tankers and the surrounding area.

The result was a firestorm that ripped the villagers to pieces and roasted their bodies beyond all recognition. But that was not the end of it, nor, perhaps, the worst of it. For then the survivors of the slain had to come to the smoking field and try to find their loved ones amidst the gruesome, ungodly residue.

The Guardian's Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, who has contributed some of the most remarkable reporting from the Terror War's fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan, spoke to some of the survivors. Their stories speak with bleak and harrowing eloquence of the reality of the war, beyond all the pious rhetoric and strategic reviews and "serious" analysis in the imperial courts.

Below are some excerpts, but you should read the entire piece, which was the top story, blazoned across the top of the front page, in the print edition of Saturday's Guardian. Saturday editions of UK papers are generally the equivalent of Sunday editions of US paper, the big showcase edition of the week. Try to imagine a major American paper giving up such prime real estate to let the victims of the "good war" in Afghanistan tell their story in their own words.

From the Guardian:

At first light last Friday, in the Chardarah district of Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan, the villagers gathered around the twisted wreckage of two fuel tankers that had been hit by a Nato airstrike. They picked their way through a heap of almost a hundred charred bodies and mangled limbs which were mixed with ash, mud and the melted plastic of jerry cans, looking for their brothers, sons and cousins. They called out their names but received no answers. By this time, everyone was dead.

What followed is one of the more macabre scenes of this or any war. The grief-stricken relatives began to argue and fight over the remains of the men and boys who a few hours earlier had greedily sought the tanker's fuel. Poor people in one of the world's poorest countries, they had been trying to hoard as much as they could for the coming winter.

"We didn't recognise any of the dead when we arrived," said Omar Khan, the turbaned village chief of Eissa Khail. "It was like a chemical bomb had gone off, everything was burned. The bodies were like this," he brought his two hands together, his fingers curling like claws. "There were like burned tree logs, like charcoal.

"The villagers were fighting over the corpses. People were saying this is my brother, this is my cousin, and no one could identify anyone."

So the elders stepped in. They collected all the bodies they could and asked the people to tell them how many relatives each family had lost.

A queue formed. One by one the bereaved gave the names of missing brothers, cousins, sons and nephews, and each in turn received their quota of corpses. It didn't matter who was who, everyone was mangled beyond recognition anyway. All that mattered was that they had a body to bury and perform prayers upon.

...Jan Mohammad, an old man with a white beard and green eyes, said angrily: "I ran, I ran to find my son because nobody would give me a lift. I couldn't find him."

He dropped his head on his palm that was resting on the table, and started banging his head against his white mottled hand. When he raised his head his eyes were red and tears were rolling down his cheek: "I couldn't find my son, so I took a piece of flesh with me home and I called it my son. I told my wife we had him, but I didn't let his children or anyone see. We buried the flesh as it if was my son."

He broke off, then shouted at the young Assadullah, who had knocked at the old man's house and told his son to come with them there was free fuel for everyone, "You destroyed my home", Assadu-llah turned his head and looked at the wall. "You destroyed my home," he shouted again. Jan Mohammad dropped his head again on his palm and rolled it left and right, his big gray turban moving like a huge pendulum, "Taouba [forgiveness]," he hissed. "People lost their fathers and sons for a little bit of fuel. Forgiveness."

Omar Khan, the village chief, was crying now and looking at the ceiling.

...Islamu-ldin, a 20-year-old from Issa khail village with tufts of hair sprouting from his cheek, took his turn to speak. He said he ran for three hours to get to the riverbed to look for his brother.

"Our village is far from the river, I searched a lot through the dead, and I found my brother. I recognized him from his clothes. But we only found his upper body, maybe someone took the legs, maybe it just burned to ashes."

Omar Khan was weeping openly now. A few other men resisted, but their eyes were as red as those of Jan Muhamad, who was babbling and shouting at the young Assadullah again and again.

.."At midnight my brother and nephew went to get fuel. I also wanted to go but I didn't have a car," said Saleh Muhamad. "At one in the morning I went to bed. When I heard the explosion I called my brother but his phone was off ... when I arrived at 3am there were dead everywhereI was searching for my brother and nephew but I couldn't find anyone.

"I had a torch with me and I could see well, but I still couldn't recognise anyone." His eyes looked straight through me as he said: "I found one body and took it home and we buried it. It was a full body, with arms and legs. We buried it well."

Further comment would be superfluous here. Omar Khan's reaction is the only proper, fully human response to the horrific reality of these monstrous operations of power, the blind, brute drive for domination.
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

The Media Void Lives
By Case Wagonvoord

Back when we were a nation, death didn't upset us. It was a fact of life best expressed by Gus in Lonesome Dove, "Life is short; some are shorter than others." Middle class homes all had parlors where the bodies of love ones were displayed before burials.

When we went to war, we honored the dead through photographs and drawings. Mathew Brady brought the Civil War home to America with his horrific photographs of corpse-strewn battlefields. World Wars, Korea and Vietnam featured film footage and photographs of the fallen.

It kept our leaders honest. The public accepted the death of the young only as long as they felt the war was necessary. But if, as in Vietnam, the war appeared to be unnecessary, the public, shocked by scenes of carnage, turned against it.

But, that was when we were a nation. Now that we are a corporate state, things are different. Corporate states thrive on dishonest wars. In dishonest wars, public support is tenuous at best' so wars must be sanitized and reduced to video games.

This means no more dead bodies, no more film clips of grieving parents of children killed in airstrikes. In the public's eye, war now takes place in a sterile void where there is neither blood nor death. It's war that isn't really war, a make-believe Noh drama in which the public quickly loses interest, especially if it's been going on for eight years.

Our corporate masters like it that way. It gives them a great deal of latitude to wreak havoc on the world while its citizens sit comatose and unaware.

But, God help the media that allows reality to dribble into this void!

Recently, the Associated Press released a photograph of a wounded Marine who later died.

The outcry showed that hypocrisy is the cement that hold the corporate state together. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the Associated Press lacked "common decency." He spoke of the "pain and suffering inflicted upon the Marine's family."

I hate stating the obvious, but I have no choice here. Since when did bombing civilians cease to display a lack of "common decency?" Which caused the Marine's family more anguish, the photograph or the death of their son in an unnecessary war?

It is telling that so few people noted the obvious. The corporate state has done its job well.
(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

Decline; Steep And Deep
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning out there in reality land; your King of Simple News is on the air.

I hope that everyone had a good weekend. The weather was beautiful here in Western Colorado and so we did what people do on beautiful fall days; we worked. There was firewood to stack and outdoor painting to be done along with a thorough outdoor cleanup before white snow takes the place of green grass.

The construction season that never started is coming to a disappointing end. Much of the United States experiences winter and we are in for a dozy from a financial standpoint. In Alaska, we always called the first dusting of snow on the distant mountains "termination dust," as the construction layoffs were not far behind. That won't be much of an issue this year, as hiring must precede layoffs and that didn't happen.

While I don't see construction returning any time soon, I do see the costly heating and holiday season approaching just around the bend. I have written countless articles that predicted the fall of the commercial real estate sector and I haven't changed my mind. For the commercial sector to remain solvent, power shopping is a must.

As a little poll on the above subject, how many of you are planning to get out there and power shop for Chinese Christmas presents this year? How many have a big holiday trip planned to a high-end ski resort right here in Colorado? Those who answered in the affirmative are reading the wrong blog.

After 9-11, George Bush may have said, "Get out there and shop," but The King of Simple is saying, "duct-tape your purses and wallets shut and brace for the worst."

Our world has changed permanently and it will never return to our borrow and spend past; it simply can't do so from a physical perspective. The pyramid scheme has reached the top of the mountain and the valley on the other side is steep and deep.

Years ago I wrote a weekly column titled, "Beneath All, Lies the Land." I was in the real estate business at the time and the purpose of the column was to demonstrate the value of real estate, as all that we possess comes from the limited resources of our finite planet. That being said, every living thing grows to an optimum size that can be supported by the available natural resources.

King of Simple News friends and commenter's Greg, and George 45-70, both sent me links to articles that demonstrate just how steep the valley we are descending into may be.

Greg e-mailed me an article regarding clean water, or in this case, the lack thereof. All of the water that we currently have on earth came with this spaceship. The same stuff that you drink was a wading pool for big dinosaurs with weak kidneys, and more recently, has been through the modern sewage treatment plant several times.

It's clear (not the water) that we have done our level best to destroy the purity of this critical element that is necessary for all of us to be alive three days from now, and I want to report that we are making good progress on polishing off the last clean water on the planet. To the point in fact, that there is raging debate as to how much weed poison is safe in drinking water.

More than 500,000 violations of the clean water act have been noted. Few of the violators have been punished. Why? It would hamper growth and since growth is America's only plan... well, what's a little weed poison going to hurt?

George 45-70 e-mailed me a new post from Bloomberg News that points out that the financial sector is not really in better shape than it was before the financial collapse; in fact, it's worse. My long standing opinion has always been that finance is a manmade system that benefits those who designed it. Those who designed it also designed the makeup of those who represent us in Congress.

I have attempted to mathematically demonstrate that the single element of compounding interest that is woven into the very fabric of our monetary system is a Show-Stopper. The government bailout of the financials and the banking systems continual brash and risky behavior should be evidence enough that those at the top are gathering up the final loot before heading down into that steep and deep valley that I talked about earlier.

Our president is currently suggesting that he needs to get back to pushing for finance reform as the focus on medical care has distracted his effort to reform banking. Ha-ha. The barn door was left open long enough for the horses to have relocated to a foreign county and written back to say they are enjoying the warm climate, and now, we will securely lock the doors.

Plan for yourself, because your government certainly does not have your best interests at heart.
(c) 2009 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."
~~~ Jonathan Swift

Stop Begging Obama To Be Obama And Get Mad
By Chris Hedges

The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true. He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations. He is squandering the country's future with deficits that can never be repaid. He has retained and even bolstered our surveillance state to spy on Americans. He is forcing us to buy into a health care system that will enrich corporations and expand the abuse of our for-profit medical care. He will not stanch unemployment. He will not end our wars. He will not rebuild the nation. He is a tool of the corporate state.

The right wing is not wrong. It is not the problem. We are the problem. If we do not tap into the justifiable anger sweeping across the nation, if we do not militantly push back against corporate fraud and imperial wars that we cannot win or afford, the political vacuum we have created will be filled with right-wing lunatics and proto-fascists. The goons will inherit power not because they are astute, but because we are weak and inept.

Violence is a dark undercurrent of American history. It is exacerbated by war and economic decline. Violence is spreading outward from the killing fields in Iraq and Afghanistan to slowly tear apart individuals, families and communities. There is no immunity. The longer the wars continue, the longer the members of our working class are transformed by corporate overlords into serfs, the more violence will dominate the landscape. The slide into chaos and a police state will become inevitable.

The soldiers and Marines who return from Iraq and Afghanistan are often traumatized and then shipped back a few months later to be traumatized again. This was less frequent in Vietnam. Veterans, when they get out, search for the usual escape routes of alienation, addictions and medication. But there is also the escape route of violence. We risk creating a homegrown Freikorps, the demobilized German soldiers from World War I who violently tore down the edifice of the Weimar Republic and helped open the way to Nazism.

The Afghanistan and Iraq wars have unloaded hundreds of thousands of combat troops, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, back into society. According to a joint Veterans Affairs Department-University of San Francisco study published in July, 418,000 of the roughly 1.9 million service members who have fought in or supported the wars suffer from PTSD. As of August 2008, the latest data available, about a quarter-million military veterans were imprisoned on any given day-about 9.4 percent of the total daily imprisoned population, according to the National GAINS Center Forum on Combat Veterans, Trauma and the Justice System. There are 223,000 veterans in jail or prison cells on an average day, and an unknown number among the 4 million Americans on probation. They don't have much to look forward to upon release. And if any of these incarcerated vets do not have PTSD when they are arrested, our corrections system will probably rectify the deficiency. Throw in the cocktail of unemployment, powerlessness, depression, alienation, anger, alcohol and drugs and you create thousands, if not tens of thousands, who will seek out violence the way an addict seeks out a bag of heroin.

War and conflict have marked most of my adult life. I know what prolonged exposure to industrial slaughter does to you. I know what it is to confront memories, buried deep within the subconscious, which jerk you awake at night, your heart racing and your body covered in sweat. I know what it is like to lie, unable to sleep, your heart pounding, trying to remember what it was that caused such terror. I know how it feels to be overcome by the vivid images of violence that make you wonder if the dream or the darkness around you is real. I know what it feels like to stumble through the day carrying a shock and horror, an awful cement-like despair, which you cannot shed. And I know how after a few nights like this you are left numb and exhausted, unable to connect with anyone around you, even those you love the most. I know how you drink or medicate yourself into a coma so you do not have to remember your dreams. And I know that great divide that opens between you and the rest of the world, especially the civilian world, which cannot imagine your pain and your hatred. I know how easily this hatred is directed toward those in that world.

There are minefields of stimulants for those who return from war. Smells, sounds, bridges, the whoosh of a helicopter, thrust you back to Iraq or another zone of slaughter, back to a time of terror and blood, back to the darkest regions of your heart, regions you wish did not exist. Life, on some days, is a simple battle to stay upright, to cope with memories and trauma that are unexplainable, probably unimaginable, to those seated across from you at the breakfast table. Families will watch these veterans fall silent, see the thousand-yard stare, and know they have again lost these men and women. They hope somehow they will come back. Some won't. Those who cannot cope, even by using Zoloft or Paxil, blow their brains out with drugs, alcohol or a gun. More Vietnam veterans died from suicide in the years after the war than during the conflict itself. But it would be a mistake to blame this on Vietnam. War does this to you. It destroys part of you. You live maimed. If you are not able to live maimed, you check out.

But what happens in a society where everything conspires to check you out even when you make the herculean effort to integrate into the world of malls, celebrity gossip and too many brands of cereal on a supermarket shelf? What happens when the corporate state says that you can die in its wars but at home you are human refuse, that there is no job, no way to pay your medical bills or your mortgage, no hope? Then you retreat into your private hell of rage, terror and alienation. You do not return from the world of war. You yearn for its sleek and powerful weapons, its speed and noise, its ability to abolish the lines between sanity and madness. You long for the alluring, hallucinogenic landscapes of combat. You miss the psychedelic visions of carnage and suffering, the smells, sounds, shrieks, explosions and destruction that jolt you back to the present, which make you aware in ways you never were before. The thrill of violence, the God-like power that comes when you can take a human life with impunity, is matched against the pathetic existence of waiting for an unemployment check. You look to rejoin the fraternity of killers. Here. There. It no longer matters.

There is a yawning indifference at home about what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. The hollow language of heroism and glory, used by the war makers and often aped by those in the media, allows the nation to feel good about war, about "service." But it is also a way of muzzling the voices that attempt to tell us the truth about war. And when these men and women do find the moral courage to speak, they often find that many fellow Americans turn away in disgust or attack them for shattering the myth. The myth of war is too enjoyable, and too profitable, to be punctured by reality. And so these veterans nurse their fantasies of power. They begin to hate those who sent them as much as they hate those they fought. Some cannot distinguish one from the other.

As I stared into the faces of the men from A Gathering of Eagles on Saturday at a protest calling for the closure of the Army Experience Center in Philadelphia, I recognized these emotions. These men had arrived on black motorcycles. They were wearing leather jackets. They had lined up, most holding large American flags, to greet the protesters, some of whom were also veterans. They chanted "Traitors!" at the seven people who were arrested for refusing the police order to leave the premises. They sought vindication from a system that had, although they could not admit it, betrayed them. They yearned to be powerful, if only for a moment, if only by breaking through the police line and knocking some God-hating communist faggot to the ground. They wanted the war to come home.

It is we who are guilty, guilty for sending these young men and women to wars that did not have to be fought. It is we who are guilty for turning away from the truth of war to wallow in a self-aggrandizing myth, guilty because we create and decorate killers and when they come home maimed and broken we discard them. It is we who are guilty for failing to defy a Democratic Party that since 1994 has betrayed the working class by destroying our manufacturing base, slashing funds to assist the poor and cravenly doing the bidding of corporations. It is we who are guilty for refusing to mass on Washington and demand single-payer, not-for-profit health care for all Americans. It is we who are guilty for supporting Democrats while they funnel billions in taxpayer dollars to sustain speculative Wall Street interests. The rage of the confused and angry right-wing marchers, the ones fired up by trash-talking talk show hosts, the ones liberals belittle and maybe even laugh at, should be our rage. And if it is not our rage soon, if we continue to humiliate and debase ourselves by begging Obama to be Obama, we will see our open society dismantled not because of the shrewdness of the far right, but because of our moral cowardice.
(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."

The Impotent Dictator
How Many More Must Die for Karzai?
By Ted Rall

"For five years Mr. Karzai was my president," Ashraf Ghani, an opposition candidate, bemoaned after widespread reports that incumbent Hamid Karzai had used fraud on a massive scale to steal the election. "Now how many Afghans will consider him their president?"

Not many. In a country where civil war is the national pastime and five-year-old boys learn how to fire an AK-47, this is not good. But Ghani is asking the wrong question. The real question is, how many Americans will continue to see Karzai as viable--and be willing to continue to pay the price of propping him up?

California Senator Diane Feinstein used to support Karzai. "Afghanistan is our beachhead on our war on terror. We cannot lose it, or we lose our war on terror," she said in 2002. What a difference seven years makes! "I do not believe we can build a democratic state in Afghanistan," she finally admitted last week.

Americans are finally waking up. Afghanistan, most people finally understand, is not "the good war" but the stupid one. We can't win. Even worse, there's nothing to win. The historical parallels aren't perfect--they never are--but it's hard not to think of the cost of propping up the corrupt Diem regime and its successors in South Vietnam when you see Hamid Karzai prancing around in Kabul, never an arm's length away from U.S. Special Forces commandos. You see, Karzai's own troops can't be trusted not to kill him.

A July headline in The Christian Science Monitor asked an intentionally hilarious question: "Afghan Election: Can Karzai's Rivals Close the Gap?" Not with the way Karzai stuffs ballot boxes!

There were at least 800 fake polling sites on Afghanistan's election day--places that "existed only on paper," reported The New York Times. "We think that about 15 percent of the polling sites never opened on Election Day," the paper quoted a "senior Western diplomat." "But they still managed to report thousands of ballots for Karzai."

Also, "Mr. Karzai's supporters also took over approximately 800 [additional] legitimate polling centers and used them to fraudulently report tens of thousands of additional ballots for Mr. Karzai."

Actually, make that hundreds of thousands. In "Kandahar...preliminary results indicate that more than 350,000 ballots have been turned in to be counted. But Western officials estimated that only about 25,000 people actually voted there."

Overall "pro-Karzai ballots," reports the Times, "may exceed the people who actually voted by a factor of 10."

The truth is, there's nothing new here. Ashraf Ghani may have been the only Afghan to have ever considered Karzai legitimate. To most Afghans, Karzai has always been a curious "impotent dictator," propped up by U.S. military force but with insufficient funding to exert his power outside the capital Kabul. In the provinces, tribal warlords fight the Taliban for control.

Looking at Karzai's resume, it's hard to imagine what George W. Bush and his "pet Afghan" Zalmay Khalilzad were thinking when they appointed Karzai as the U.S. puppet "interim president" of occupied Afghanistan in late 2001. Granted, all three were oilmen--Karzai and Khalilzad had both worked as consultants for the energy corporation Unocal, which tried to build an oil-gas pipeline across Afghanistan in the mid-1990s.

But Karzai lacked both integrity--as a Taliban official in 1997, Karzai was caught embezzling government funds and forced to flee the country--and support. He was a Pashtun, and the new Northern Alliance government was predominantly Tajik. Always essential in a nation permanently at war, Karzai had no military bona fides, having rarely seen a shot fired in anger.

Karzai's drive to consolidate power since 2001 has been marked by trickery, intimidation, ballot stuffing and systemic corruption. One "election" has followed another. But none have been conducted legitimately.

Perhaps democracy was too much to hope for in a nation whose infrastructure had been degraded to the 14th century. There was no census, no house addresses, no mail service. How could a fair election be held?

Karzai didn't even try.

At a June 2002 loya jirga (grand assembly) to choose the new head of state, Karzai got his U.S. masters to lean on his main rival, former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah. Zahir Shah withdrew, as did 70 of his delegates. They did the same to ex-President Burhanuddin Rabbani, guaranteeing Karzai a phony mandate.

"Voting for the loya jirga has been plagued by violence and vote-buying," said UN envoy to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi at the time. "There were attempts at manipulation, violence, unfortunately. Money was used, threats were used."

"This is not a democracy, it is a rubber stamp. Everything has already been decided by the powerful ones," added the Women's Affairs minister.

On October 9, 2004, Karzai "won" his first "democratic election." As before, Karzai's goons stacked the deck. Unsympathetic elections officials were kidnapped. The UN concluded that "that fraud had occurred, particularly ballot-box stuffing" in the 2004 election. The UN "noted that some estimates have said that 10 percent to 15 percent of the 11.5 million registered voters, in Afghanistan and among Afghan refugees abroad, may be registered more than once," reported The New York Times at the time. The three-member committee that counted the ballots were all appointed by Karzai.

Those who can't win, cheat. Without the U.S., Karzai would never have won power in Afghanistan. He certainly wouldn't have kept it.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported May 18, 2009 that Zalmay Khalilzad "could assume a powerful, unelected position inside the Afghan government under a plan he is discussing with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, according to senior American and Afghan officials."

Bush's corrupt oilmen are still having fun looting Afghanistan. The question for us Americans is: why should anyone die to help them?
(c) 2009 Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?" an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.)

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Wilson,

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 shouting out "liar" over healthcare for illegal aliens (something that you voted for under Bush) takes the focus off our illegal immoral wars and gives us an excuse not to have a single payer for health care, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican 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 Wilson, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Who Are The Undeserving "Others" Benefiting From Expanded Government Actions?
By Glenn Greenwald

The New York Times' Ross Douthat argues, uncontroversially, that the tea-party protests, townhall outbursts and related appendages aren't about specific health care proposals but, instead, are motivated by a more generalized anger over what is happening in Washington:

At the same time, [the health care protests have] become the vessel for a year's worth of anxieties about bailouts, deficits and Beltway incompetence.

This August's town-hall fury wasn't just about the details of health care. Neither were the anti-Obama protests that crowded Washington over the weekend. They were about the Wall Street bailout, the G.M. takeover, the A.I.G. bonuses, and countless smaller examples of middle-income Americans' "playing by the rules," as [GOP pollster Frank] Luntz puts it, "and having someone else benefit."

Notably, Douthat never specifies the identity of this so-called "someone else" who, as a result of government behavior, is unfairly benefiting from the hard work of middle-class Americans, but he gives a clue when he compares current anger over the health care bill to the anger over the 1994 crime bill, which he argues drove Democrats out of, and Newt Gingrich into, Beltway power:

Instead, the crime bill became a lightning rod for populist outrage. The price tag made it seem fiscally irresponsible. (Back then, $30 billion was real money.) The billions it lavished on crime prevention -- like the infamous funding of "midnight basketball" -- looked liked ineffective welfare spending. The gun-control provisions felt like liberalism-as-usual.

"Every day that the Republicans delayed the bill," Luntz remembers, "the public learned more about it -- and the more they learned, the angrier they got."

In other words, the 1994 fury over the crime bill was driven by the belief that the Clinton-led federal government would steal money from middle-class Americans and give it to "midnight basketball" programs, i.e., "welfare" recipients. The racial and class-war components of that fear-mongering campaign were manifest: Bill Clinton wanted to steal the money of "'middle-income Americans playing by the rules" and transfer it to the inner-city (see Ta-Nehisi Coates' examination of the racial, class and similar cultural appeals that fueled vitriolic right-wing attacks on Clinton).

In that sense, Douthat (and Luntz) are correct when they say: "That's exactly what's been happening now." Just as was true for the 1994 crime bill, the right-wing fury over health care reform is motivated by the fear that middle-class Americans will have their money taken away by Obama while -- all together now, euphemistically -- "having someone else benefit." And this "someone else" are, as always, the poor minorities and other undeserving deadbeats who, in right-wing lore, somehow (despite their sorry state) exert immensely powerful influence over the U.S. Government and are thus the beneficiaries of endless, undeserved largesse: people too lazy to work, illegal immigrants, those living below the poverty line. That's why Joe Wilson's outburst resonated so forcefully among the Right and why he became an immediate folk hero: he was voicing the core right-wing fear that their money was being stolen from them by Obama in order to lavish the Undeserving and the Others -- in this case illegal immigrants -- with ill-gotten gains ("having someone else benefit," as Douthat/Luntz put it).

* * * * *

This is the paradox of the tea-party movement and other right-wing protests fueled by genuine citizen anger and fear. It is true that the federal government embraces redistributive policies and that middle-class income is seized in order that "someone else benefits." But so obviously, that "someone else" who is benefiting is not the poor and lower classes -- who continue to get poorer as the numbers living below the poverty line expand and the rich-poor gap grows in the U.S. to unprecedented proportions. The "someone else" that is benefiting from Washington policies are -- as usual -- the super-rich, the tiny number of huge corporations which literally own and control the Government. The premise of these citizen protests is not wrong: Washington politicians are in thrall to special interests and are, in essence, corruptly stealing the country's economic security in order to provide increasing benefits to a small and undeserving minority. But the "minority" here isn't what Fox News means by that term, but is the tiny sliver of corporate power which literally writes our laws and, in every case, ends up benefiting.

It wasn't the poor or illegal immigrants who were the beneficiaries of the Wall St. bailout; it was the investment banks which, not even a year later, are wallowing in record profits and bonuses thanks to massive taxpayer-funded welfare. The endlessly expanding (and secret) balance sheet of the Federal Reserve isn't going to fund midnight basketball programs or health care for Mexican immigrants but is enabling extreme profiteering by the very people who, just a year ago, almost brought the global economic system to full-scale collapse. Our endless wars and always-expanding Surveillance State -- fueled by constant fear-mongering campaigns against the Latest Scary Enemy -- keep the National Security corporations drowning in profits, paid for by middle-class taxes. And even health-care reform -- which supposedly began with anger over extreme insurance company profiteering at the expense of people's health -- will be an enormous boon to that same industry, as tens of millions of people are forced by the Government to become their customers with the central mechanism to control costs (the public option) blocked by that same industry. That's why those industries are enthusiastically in favor of reform: because, as always, they will benefit massively from it.

This is what is so strange and remarkable about these tea-party protests. The people who win when government acts aren't the poor, minorities or illegal immigrants -- the prime targets of these protesters' resentment. Their plight only worsens by the day. In Washington, members of those groups are even more powerless than "middle-income Americans." That's so obvious. The people who win whenever the federal government expands its power are the ones who, through their massive resources and lobbyists armies, control what the government does: the richest and most powerful corporations. And yet -- in an extreme paradox -- those are the people who are venerated by the Right: they simultaneously spew rage at what's happening in Washington while revering and defending the interests of the oligarchs who are most responsible.

What's really happening with these protests is that the genuine rage and not unreasonable economic insecurity of these citizens is being stoked, exploited, distorted and manipulated by movement leaders for entirely different ends. The people who are leading them -- Rush Limbaugh, the Murdoch-owned Fox News, Glenn Beck, business-dominated organizations of the type led by Dick Armey -- are cultural warriors above everything else. They're all in a far different socioeconomic position than the "middle-income Americans" whose anger they're ostensibly representing. Their principal preoccupation is their cultural contempt for various groups (illegal immigrants, the "undeserving" poor, liberals) and their desire to preserve the status quo whereby the prime beneficiaries of government policies remain themselves: the super rich and the interests that control Washington. It's certainly true that many of these protesters are driven by the standard right-wing cultural issues which have long shaped that movement -- social issues, religious fears, cultural and racial divisions, and hatred for "liberals" as Communist-Muslim-Terrorist-lovers. For many, all of that is intensified by the humiliation of being completely thrown out of power, at the hands of the first black President. But much of it is fueled by the pillaging of the corporations and Wall St. interests which own their government.

That's what accounts for the gaping paradox of these protests movements: genuine anger (over the core corruption of Washington and the eroding economic security for virtually everyone other than a tiny minority) is being bizarrely directed at those who never benefit (the poorest and most downtrodden), while those who are most responsible (the wealthiest and largest corporations) are depicted as the victims who need defending (they want to seize Wall St. bonuses and soak the rich!!). Several months ago, Matt Taibbi perfectly described the bizarre contradiction driving these protests:

After all, the reason the winger crowd can't find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It never has. The setup always goes the other way: when the excesses of business interests and their political proteges in Washington leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but at each other. That's why even people like [Glenn] Beck's audience, who I'd wager are mostly lower-income people, can't imagine themselves protesting against the Wall Street barons who in actuality are the ones who fucked them over. . . .

Actual rich people can't ever be the target. It's a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master's carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you're a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit. Whatever the master does, you're on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger. And that's what we've got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around for a non-target to mis-punish . . . can't be mad at AIG, can't be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those bonuses! If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it's struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It's really weird stuff.

A significant reason this has happened is that the Democratic Party has largely ridden to power based on its servitude to these corporate interests -- chief party-fundraiser Chuck Schumer is the Senator from Wall St. and the Blue Dogs are little more than corporate-owned subsidiaries -- and thus can't possibly pretend to be opponents of the status quo. They can't and don't want to tap into any populist anger because they're every bit as supportive of, servants to, the corporate agenda as the GOP establishment is. K Street support is what sustains their power. Super-rich corporations aren't benefiting from a free market, laissez faire approach. They're benefiting from the opposite: a constant merging of government and corporate power whereby the latter exploits the former for its own benefit. The right-wing theme that an expansion of federal government power means a contraction in corporate freedom is completely obsolete: government power is the means by which large corporations benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else.

Both parties -- but particularly the one in power at any given moment -- perpetuate that system because they benefit from it. That's what has left the gaping void into which Fox News, Glenn Beck, Limbaugh and the like have stepped: absurdly parading around as populist leaders while supporting policies designed to further crush the interests of the people who they are leading.

* * * * *

In a rational world, there ought to be citizen rage towards the government that transcends -- indeed, that has little to do with -- divisions between the so-called "Right" and "Left." One saw the incipient emergence of that sort of citizen anger during the rage over the Wall St. bailouts and AIG bonuses, where the divisions were defined not as "conservatives v. liberals" but as "outsiders" (citizens of all ideologies who were enraged by such blatant corruption and stealing) v. "insiders" (who defended it all as necessary and scorned the irresponsible dirty masses who were protesting). The real power dynamic in this country has little to do with the cable-generated "right v. left" drama and much more to do with "outsider/insider" divisions, since the same corporate interests control the Government regardless of which political party wins.

But these protests end up expressing themselves in dichotomies that are largely besides the point -- "right v. left" or "Democratic v. GOP" -- because that's how their leaders define it. These protests, at their leadership level, are little more than Fox-News-generated events. That is notable in itself: it's extremely unusual (if not unprecedented) for a political movement in the U.S. to be led and galvanized by a "news" media outlet; that's usually something that happens elsewhere ("opposition television or radio stations" sponsoring street protests in Italy, Venezuela, Rwanda). Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are part of the class that has long controlled and benefited from Washington, and thus promote a view of the world based in the Douthat/Luntz "having someone else benefit": the Democrats are socialists coming to steal your money and give it to the poor, the minorities and the immigrants. As a result, citizen rage is directed towards everyone except those who are actually responsible for their plight.

If Fox News, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh were truly opposed to expanded government power, where were they when George Bush and Dick Cheney were expanding federal power in virtually every realm, driving up the national debt to unprecedented proportions, destroying middle-class economic security in order to benefit the wealthiest, and generally ensuring government intrusion into every aspect of people's lives? They were supporting it and cheering it on. That's what gives the lie to their pretense of "small-government" rhetoric. These citizen protests have a core of truth and validity to them -- it would be bizarre if citizens weren't enraged by what is taking place -- but that is all being misdirected and exploited for ends that have nothing to do with the interests (or even their claimed beliefs) of the protesters themselves.
(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.

A Method To Their Madness
Beneath the Radar
By Gary Younge

Spare a thought, and maybe even a dime, for Kenneth Gladney. In August he and other members of the right-wing St. Louis Tea Party arrived at a town-hall meeting organized by Missouri Democrat Russ Carnahan to lobby against universal healthcare. In the spirit of this fraught summer, a fight broke out, ending in six arrests.

Who threw the first punch depends on whom you ask. But who got the worst of it was fairly clear. Gladney was taken to the emergency room with injuries to his knee, back, elbow, shoulder and face and ended up in a wheelchair. His troubles were just beginning. Recently laid off, this particular anti-health reform protester, it turned out, had no health insurance. Last heard, he was still accepting donations for his medical expenses.

It's not difficult to ridicule the American right. Its peculiar blend of paranoia, mania, fantasy and misanthropy has been given full rein these past few months. Those who demanded in July to see Obama's birth certificate (which does exist) ended August invoking the British healthcare system's "death panels" (which do not). That most of their claims were verifiably false was of little consequence--to them at least. At one point they insisted that if scientist Stephen Hawking were British and subject to the National Health Service, he would be dead, even though Hawking is British, alive and grateful to the NHS for his care.

So progressives could be forgiven for branding the right as stupid and crazy. But they would also be wrong. For if this is madness, there is great method in it. It is well organized and well funded. It has proven effective in mobilizing support, creating "controversy" where little exists and disrupting and disorienting whatever national conversation there is. If it is stupid, then what does it say about us, since time and again it manages to outmaneuver the left? Annoying, bizarre, incoherent, divisive, intolerant, small-minded, misinformed, ill informed and disinformed, certainly. But stupid and crazy--anything but. It takes considerable skill to convince people that something that is clearly good for them--like universal healthcare--is not. If the right is crazy, it is crazy like a Fox News presenter. Reducing a political strategy or belief to a psychological disorder to dismiss and ridicule its proponents may be comforting. But it also abandons any hope of defeating it or stymieing its influence beyond therapy.

There are three important points to acknowledge about people like Gladney. First, they are not new. The cold war in general and McCarthyism in particular was built on lies, misinformation, obsession and guilt by the most tenuous of associations. After Eisenhower defeated Taft at the 1952 GOP convention, a woman emerged insisting, "This means eight more years of socialism." In the late 1940s, a chairman of a federal loyalty review board conceded, "Of course, the fact that a person believes in racial equality doesn't prove that he's a communist. But it certainly makes you look twice, doesn't it? You can't get away from the fact that racial equality is part of the communist line." Today the Internet distributes these slurs faster, and cable TV gives them more outlets. But there has always been a sizable section of society that seeks to fashion a bespoke reality out of whole cloth. These are the people who believe that civil rights was really about miscegenation, abortion rights is about promiscuity and gay rights is about pedophilia. There are more of them than we'd like to think. And they are not going away.

Second, you can't argue with them. A good two and a half weeks after failed rescue efforts during Hurricane Katrina left bodies floating in the streets and people abandoned on roofs, 35 percent of the country believed that George W. Bush had done a good or excellent job responding to the crisis. That is roughly the proportion of the country with whom there is no real means of engagement. These are the birthers, Swiftboaters, climate change skeptics, Obamaphobes and Palin-tologists--the base. They live in a politically parallel world where everyone they know believes the same as they do. They don't like established facts, so they come armed with their own. The left has such people too, but they are marginal. With no news channels to promote them or Congressmen prepared to advocate for them, their views rarely reach the mainstream.

Third, we can beat them. These people gain the kind of purchase that shifts them from an irritant to an obstacle only when there is a vacuum of leadership and the absence of good alternatives. It is only under these conditions that they are able to cast unreasonable doubt in the reasonable minds of those who seek clarification, encouragement or a stake in any substantive change. This is precisely what has happened with the healthcare debate over the past few months.

Less than a third of the country believes Obama has clearly explained his plans for healthcare reform. Two-thirds of independents and more than a third of Democrats believe he hasn't. According to a CNN poll, only one in five believes he or she will be better off after healthcare reform has passed, and 40 percent say they are confused by the proposals. Who can blame them?

A decisive portion of the country is desperate to be convinced. They know that what they have now is terrible but have yet to be convinced that what might come is better. How could it be otherwise when the very person who launched the reform process--the president--keeps hedging on its most essential element: the public option? The only thing that is controversial about universal healthcare is that America does not have it. The idea that a Democratic president with substantial Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress might fail to pass healthcare reform, well, that's enough to make anyone crazy.
(c) 2009 Gary Younge, is the Alfred Knobler Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute, is the New York correspondent for the Guardian and the author of No Place Like Home: A Black Briton's Journey Through the Deep South (Mississippi) and Stranger in a Strange Land: Travels in the Disunited States (New Press).

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ J.D. Crowe ~~~

W the Movie Official Trailer

To End On A Happy Note...

We're Number 37!
By Paul Hipp

Here we go...

Come one come all
Down to the hall
We're gonna make noise
We're gonna bust balls

We're gonna disrupt
Gonna jump in the fray
I gotta list of all the things
That we're supposed to say
We're gonna get real rowdy
Have a barrel of fun
But we're the USA so by the way
Be sure to bring your gun

And buddy we're number 37
We're the USA
We're number 37
And we're so proud to say
We got old people crying at the pharmacy
Paying deductibles, this ain't the land of the free grandma
We're number 37
We're the USA

People of the town
Come on down
Well if you got a crazy rumor
You can spread it around
I kind of like my insurance
And I like my health
The other 47 million can go treat themselves
To some prayer in a chapel
Fold your hands and pray
Because we are a Christian Nation
And that is the Christian way

And brother we're number 37
We're the USA
The big number 37
And we're so proud to say
We're number one in tanks
We're number one in planes
We're number one in war
But number two for brains

Oh buddy we're number 37
We're the USA

I drew a Hitler moustache
On the President,
Yeah ain't that neat
My brother had a hernia operation last year
And now he's livin' out on the street

And buddy, we're number 37
We're the USA
Yeah we're number 37
And we want to keep it that way
Be sure and bring the kids
All of the boys and girls
Because number one healthcare system in the world
Is in, what...? France!

We're number 37
Yeah we're the USA
We're number 37
And we got somethin' to say
We pay more for less
Forty percent in fact
Thats why the finger rock shout at the handicap

'Cause buddy
We're number 37
We're the USA
We're number 37
We're the USA
We're number 37
We're the USA
I want my country back...
(c) 2009 Paul Hipp

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

(c) 2009 Mrs. Betty Bowers

The Gross National Debt

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Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 36 (c) 09/18/2009

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