Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Jeremy Scahill explores, "Blackwater's Black Ops."

Uri Avnery studies, "Concept And Contempt."

Matthew Rothschild says, "Republicans Cry "Class Warfare" When They're Winning the War."

Randall Amster examines, "Web Of Dependency."

Jim Hightower finds, "Conservatism Has Turned Into Crackpotism."

David Sirota points out that, "Synthetic Novelty Is Not Reality."

James Donahue wonders, "Is History Repeating Itself?"

Joel S. Hirschhorn has a final solution for, "Constitutional Traitors."

Chris Floyd explains, "Circle Jerks."

Ted Rall discovers the, "Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline Still A Dream."

Paul Krugman warns of, "The Angry Rich."

Chris Hedges considers the, "Wisdom Of The Terrorist's Son."

David Michael Green has, "Tea With Frankenstein."

Maryland Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald pokes holes in, "The Obscenity Of Comparing Americans To Killers And Terrorists."

Amy Goodman sees that the, "Torture In Iraq Continues, Unabated."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Delaware Masturbators March Against O'Donnell" but first Uncle Ernie sings, "With a Knick-Knack Paddy-Whack Throw The Left A Bone."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Dwayne Booth, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, All Hat No Cattle.Com, Chan Lowe, Henry Payne, E.D. Kain, Andy Borowitz Report.Com, Walt Disney Pictures, Iran Times, Vincent Pinto and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

With A Knick-Knack Paddy-Whack Throw The Left A Bone
By Ernest Stewart

"For years, financial companies have been able to spend millions of dollars on their own watchdog - lobbyists who look out for their interests and fight for their priorities. That is their right. But from now on, consumers will also have a powerful watchdog, a tough and independent watchdog whose job it is to stand up for their financial interests, for their families future." ~~~ President Obama

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate. ~~~ Article V ~ U.S. Constitution

For what is a man, what has he got,
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things, he truly feels,
And not the words, of one who kneels.
The record shows, I took the blows
And did it my way!
My Way ~~~ Frank Sinatra

Well baby, listen baby, don't ya treat me this-a way
Cause I'll be back on my feet some day.
(Don't care if you do 'cause it's understood)
(You ain't got no money you just ain't no good.)
Well, I guess if you say so
I'd have to pack my things and go. (That's right)

(Hit the road Jack and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.)
(Hit the road Jack and don't you come back no more.)
What you say?
(Hit the road Jack and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.)
(Hit the road Jack and don't you come back no more.)
Hit The Road Jack ~~~ Ray Charles

Election day must be near. It's the only reason that I can think of for Obama to throw the left a bone. The same left that he used to get elected with pretty words like Hope and Change and then once in office not only abandon the left for his corpo-rat pals but adopted many of the more viscous programs from Bush as well as many of the same criminals from Bush's cabinet which made things much worse for the folks that elected him. Do you suppose that the "Professional Left" will forget the horrors of the last 21 months for this single, dry bone?

Now don't get me wrong, Elizabeth Warren is a good choice to head the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. Warren began fighting for the creation of such an agency designed to protect consumers from predatory lending practices back in 2007 and kept at it until it was born last July from the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act 2010. Warren was the chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel and a professor of law at Harvard University.

Trouble is, that she has to work with the very people that caused our financial ruin that Obama first named to his cabinet and to this day have continued to carry out the same programs that got us into this mess to begin with. I speak of course about Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council chief Larry Summers. At least Summers will soon be gone as he tendered his resignation this week to return to his web in academia as president emeritus at Harvard. At least Net-neutrality may stand a chance with Larry gone? However Zeus only knows what Obama will pick to replace him? What Elizabeth our "new sheriff" of Wall Street can actually accomplish depends on how hard she has to fight the enemies within the White House and the enemies without and how much power Barry actually gives her to bring Wall Street to its knees where it belongs. Without the power she needs she is only a figure head; however if that is the case I'm sure we'll hear about it from Elizabeth much to Barry's dismay!

I'm guessing that this token leftist is mere window dressing to cover up Barry's crimes against the people and is a show piece, to say, see I'm on your side now, just roll over and go back to sleep after you vote for us in November. Also, methinks it's too little to late! What do you think, America?

In Other News

I've been arguing privately with Joel Hirschhorn the merits of having an Article Five Convention for years. Joel is for it and I'm against it. Joel is a bright lad, he has a PhD and normally I haven't a single argument to say against his columns. However, I'm not buying his arguments on a convention but we'll leave it up to you dear reader to seek which is on target and which isn't. As always I'd be happy to hear your thoughts! You can read Joel's column here and here's mine. You might want to read Joel's column first as mine is a reply to his.


You just made the perfect case as why this would be incredibly dangerous undertaking. Look who is for it. Fox News, John Cornyn, The Wall Street Journal and the Goldwater Institute, all of whom are a couple of light years to the right of Darth Vader. I'm just surprised that there wasn't a quote from Mein Kampf! Don't those groups set off alarm bells ringing wildly in your head, they do in mind? All of whom I would trust to do the right thing about as far as I could comfortably spit out a very large sewer rat! Not very far indeed! Once these fascist traitors got their hands on it you can kiss The Constitution and Bill of Rights goodbye.

Ah yes, the craziness framework, I've been also taught not to put a loaded gun in my mouth and pull the trigger, call it crazy if you like, but that's not how I see it.

"We should not invite, respect or participate in arguments by opponents that fit these two frameworks." Especially if you have no point that can stand an argument, just some blind wish that everything will be ok and just roll over and go back to sleep. Our state politicians would never hurt us, oh really? What, you didn't argue your thesis? I had to argue mind, there's a reason for that, ya know? If you can't argue why this is a good thing, a safe thing, and make valid points to back up your assertions methinks that there something wrong with your logic.

And what could we look forward too, why prayer in public schools, official prayer in public schools. So much for the separation that has served us so well for so long, huh? Which would be the official prayer? Which mythology? Some mythologies call for some really bizarre stuff, "Can I sacrifice a virgin to the sun god so I can pass my math test, teacher? Come here Billy!" Or, "It's not fair, teacher, Mary Lou is wearing her magic underwear again, make her take them off!" Will Atheists and Agnostics get equal time or will they just be burnt at the stake? Can't you just see the result of some "Baptist kid proselytizing to a Muslim kid? You talk about your "holy war!" As far as I can tell if you wish to talk to yourself and pretend some cosmic space muffin hears you, you can, right now and in fact you always could, you need not make that nonsense official, besides didn't Yahweh say to take all that BS inside your closet unless you would be, as Tweety Bird said, a "Hypo-Twit?" Do the various religions really want the federal government getting involved in religion? I know, Joel, that this sounds crazy, unlike all those wise, deep thinking, Teabaggers who are taking over state governments and who would be the ones at the conventions calling the shots. Can't you just see the 28th amendment calling for all masturbators to be stoned to death! That will certainly thin out the herd by about 90%. After another dozen or so like amendments the 41st amendment would outlaw any further Article V Convention's. Then what? Couldn't happen, oh really, what's to stop it? Common sense? We're talking about, Americans here! Patriotic fervor, have you seen the patriots that are running loose at those Teabagger rallies, screaming Obama wasn't born here, is a Muslim, is a socialist, while carrying assault rifles? Oh please!

Sure setting term limits for Foggy Bottom and getting rid of the Electoral College are good ideas and they'd get my vote in a heart beat but what guarantees do we have that any convention would go there, do you really think politicians are going to cut their own throats, really? Not to mention that a convention could last a decade, (as we keep sliding farther and farther to the right) would that be a good thing too? Exactly what guarantees for our safety do you offer for opening Pandora's Box? None, absolutely none!

Then you said, "When they openly oppose a convention they are a constitutional traitor replacing the Founders thinking with theirs, putting themselves above the law." Which, you may recall, is exactly what the founding fathers did, put themselves above the law! They had a lot of great ideas too, like slavery, native America genocide, Manifest Destiny, only the rich white males getting the vote, the Electoral College, this country by design never to be a democracy. I can go on and on about the power elite that rebelled against the British corporations for their own profit and how our laws were designed to keep them in power and us as their share croppers! If I have to agree to the wisdom of the founding fathers (funny how there were no founding mothers, huh?) then by all means call me a traitor. However, I wouldn't advise you to do that to my face! Not after all the sh*t I've been through for this country!

Fortunately the convention has about the same chance of happening as a snow ball's chance in hell. Until America leaves the 13th century and joins us in the 21st, believe me, that's not a bad thing! Be careful what you wish for Joel, you might just get it!


And Finally

As it stands today next weeks edition will be the last for at least a week and perhaps, forever? I'm being forced out of my aerie, high up in the safety and beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains for the plains of Hell just outside Detroit!

Apparently, the cost for moving has gone up so I'll have little left to set up housekeeping with and certainly not enough to get a new computer which is a requirement for this job! In fact, the only computer I'm likely to have access to is at the library about a three-mile walk so I won't be online very often. Not to mention if any of you could help me out in the interim before I can get a p.o. box your only option will be to wire me something through Western Union and then email me the password, which if you had plans on sending me something now you might want to wire it now as on the 4th of October I'll be gone and heading back to Michigan and the USPO can be incredibly slow. Also, I probably won't have a bank account for some time!

What have I learned in the ten years of publishing the magazine? One thing is that being a real patriot in America doesn't pay squat. To make any money you have to be an insane liar and work for the dark side, like Rush, Bill or Beck. Another thing I've learned is, if you can pry someone away from the Matrix and show them the truth, chances are they will hurry to plug themselves back in. Apparently, it's scary and cold out in reality! Finally, you can fight city hall but in the long run it doesn't do a lot of good!

So cest la guerre, America! Tune in next week, same bat time, same bat channel for what maybe Issues & Alibis "Final Edition!"

It's Over

Dear Readers,

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

Canada is still in the lead of helping your old Uncle get home but Robert in St Pete's is giving me a deja vu all over again! Thanks Bob! Still, I'm wondering why my American readers who are still working 9 to 5 can't lend me a hand in this emergency. If you're as broke as I, don't feel bad, I understand that, but if you've been reading us for free for the last nine years isn't it about time you gave us a helping hand? I've gotten about half the money that I need to move and time is running out!

Oh, and even more "good" news. The computer that I thought I had access to, I don't, which means I now have to raise another $1200 for a computer and software. Or the magazine will be closed until about the first of March, instead of for a week, as I'm going to be broke until I start getting social security checks in December. So as I write this I need about $2000. Anyone who can help in any way, i.e., transport, cash, a computer, please email me at once! Thanks Ya'll!


01-11-1933 ~ 09-20-2010
Thanks for being a prick!

09-21-1913 ~ 09-21-2010
Thanks for the films!


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


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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2010 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 9 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

Blackwater's Black Ops
By Jeremy Scahill

Over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation. Blackwater's work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies owned by Blackwater's owner and founder, Erik Prince: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the chairman of both companies in internal company documents, which show how the web of companies functions as a highly coordinated operation. Officials from Total Intelligence, TRC and Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe Services) did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article.

One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the "intel arm" of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.

Governmental recipients of intelligence services and counterterrorism training from Prince's companies include the Kingdom of Jordan, the Canadian military and the Netherlands police, as well as several US military bases, including Fort Bragg, home of the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and Fort Huachuca, where military interrogators are trained, according to the documents. In addition, Blackwater worked through the companies for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the US European Command.

On September 3 the New York Times reported that Blackwater had "created a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq." The documents obtained by The Nation reveal previously unreported details of several such companies and open a rare window into the sensitive intelligence and security operations Blackwater performs for a range of powerful corporations and government agencies. The new evidence also sheds light on the key roles of several former top CIA officials who went on to work for Blackwater.

The coordinator of Blackwater's covert CIA business, former CIA paramilitary officer Enrique "Ric" Prado, set up a global network of foreign operatives, offering their "deniability" as a "big plus" for potential Blackwater customers, according to company documents. The CIA has long used proxy forces to carry out extralegal actions or to shield US government involvement in unsavory operations from scrutiny. In some cases, these "deniable" foreign forces don't even know who they are working for. Prado and Prince built up a network of such foreigners while Blackwater was at the center of the CIA's assassination program, beginning in 2004. They trained special missions units at one of Prince's properties in Virginia with the intent of hunting terrorism suspects globally, often working with foreign operatives. A former senior CIA official said the benefit of using Blackwater's foreign operatives in CIA operations was that "you wouldn't want to have American fingerprints on it."

While the network was originally established for use in CIA operations, documents show that Prado viewed it as potentially valuable to other government agencies. In an e-mail in October 2007 with the subject line "POSSIBLE OPPORTUNITY IN DEA-READ AND DELETE," Prado wrote to a Total Intelligence executive with a pitch for the Drug Enforcement Administration. That executive was an eighteen-year DEA veteran with extensive government connections who had recently joined the firm. Prado explained that Blackwater had developed "a rapidly growing, worldwide network of folks that can do everything from surveillance to ground truth to disruption operations." He added, "These are all foreign nationals (except for a few cases where US persons are the conduit but no longer 'play' on the street), so deniability is built in and should be a big plus."

The executive wrote back and suggested there "may be an interest" in those services. The executive suggested that "one of the best places to start may be the Special Operations Division, (SOD) which is located in Chantilly, VA," telling Prado the name of the special agent in charge. The SOD is a secretive joint command within the Justice Department, run by the DEA. It serves as the command-and-control center for some of the most sensitive counternarcotics and law enforcement operations conducted by federal forces. The executive also told Prado that US attachŽs in Mexico; Bogot‡, Colombia; and Bangkok, Thailand, would potentially be interested in Prado's network. Whether this network was activated, and for what customers, cannot be confirmed. A former Blackwater employee who worked on the company's CIA program declined to comment on Prado's work for the company, citing its classified status.

In November 2007 officials from Prince's companies developed a pricing structure for security and intelligence services for private companies and wealthy individuals. One official wrote that Prado had the capacity to "develop infrastructures" and "conduct ground-truth and security activities." According to the pricing chart, potential customers could hire Prado and other Blackwater officials to operate in the United States and globally: in Latin America, North Africa, francophone countries, the Middle East, Europe, China, Russia, Japan, and Central and Southeast Asia. A four-man team headed by Prado for countersurveillance in the United States cost $33,600 weekly, while "safehouses" could be established for $250,000, plus operational costs. Identical services were offered globally. For $5,000 a day, clients could hire Prado or former senior CIA officials Cofer Black and Robert Richer for "representation" to national "decision-makers." Before joining Blackwater, Black, a twenty-eight-year CIA veteran, ran the agency's counterterrorism center, while Richer was the agency's deputy director of operations. (Neither Black nor Richer currently works for the company.)

As Blackwater became embroiled in controversy following the Nisour Square massacre, Prado set up his own company, Constellation Consulting Group (CCG), apparently taking some of Blackwater's covert CIA work with him, though he maintained close ties to his former employer. In an e-mail to a Total Intelligence executive in February 2008, Prado wrote that he "recently had major success in developing capabilities in Mali [Africa] that are of extreme interest to our major sponsor and which will soon launch a substantial effort via my small shop." He requested Total Intelligence's help in analyzing the "North Mali/Niger terrorist problem."

In October 2009 Blackwater executives faced a crisis when they could not account for their government-issued Secure Telephone Unit, which is used by the CIA, the National Security Agency and other military and intelligence services for secure communications. A flurry of e-mails were sent around as personnel from various Blackwater entities tried to locate the device. One former Blackwater official wrote that because he had left the company it was "not really my problem," while another declared, "I have no 'dog in this fight.'" Eventually, Prado stepped in, e-mailing the Blackwater officials to "pass my number" to the "OGA POC," meaning the Other Government Agency (parlance for CIA) Point of Contact.

What relationship Prado's CCG has with the CIA is not known. An early version of his company's website boasted that "CCG professionals have already conducted operations on five continents, and have proven their ability to meet the most demanding client needs" and that the company has the "ability to manage highly-classified contracts." CCG, the site said, "is uniquely positioned to deliver services that no other company can, and can deliver results in the most remote areas with little or no outside support." Among the services advertised were "Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence (human and electronic), Unconventional Military Operations, Counterdrug Operations, Aviation Services, Competitive Intelligence, Denied Area Access...and Paramilitary Training."

The Nation has previously reported on Blackwater's work for the CIA and JSOC in Pakistan. New documents reveal a history of activity relating to Pakistan by Blackwater. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto worked with the company when she returned to Pakistan to campaign for the 2008 elections, according to the documents. In October 2007, when media reports emerged that Bhutto had hired "American security," senior Blackwater official Robert Richer wrote to company executives, "We need to watch this carefully from a number of angles. If our name surfaces, the Pakistani press reaction will be very important. How that plays through the Muslim world will also need tracking." Richer wrote that "we should be prepared to [sic] a communique from an affiliate of Al-Qaida if our name surfaces (BW). That will impact the security profile." Clearly a word is missing in the e-mail or there is a typo that leaves unclear what Richer meant when he mentioned the Al Qaeda communiquŽ. Bhutto was assassinated two months later. Blackwater officials subsequently scheduled a meeting with her family representatives in Washington, in January 2008.

Through Total Intelligence and the Terrorism Research Center, Blackwater also did business with a range of multinational corporations. According to internal Total Intelligence communications, biotech giant Monsanto-the world's largest supplier of genetically modified seeds-hired the firm in 2008-09. The relationship between the two companies appears to have been solidified in January 2008 when Total Intelligence chair Cofer Black traveled to Zurich to meet with Kevin Wilson, Monsanto's security manager for global issues.

After the meeting in Zurich, Black sent an e-mail to other Blackwater executives, including to Prince and Prado at their Blackwater e-mail addresses. Black wrote that Wilson "understands that we can span collection from internet, to reach out, to boots on the ground on legit basis protecting the Monsanto [brand] name.... Ahead of the curve info and insight/heads up is what he is looking for." Black added that Total Intelligence "would develop into acting as intel arm of Monsanto." Black also noted that Monsanto was concerned about animal rights activists and that they discussed how Blackwater "could have our person(s) actually join [activist] group(s) legally." Black wrote that initial payments to Total Intelligence would be paid out of Monsanto's "generous protection budget" but would eventually become a line item in the company's annual budget. He estimated the potential payments to Total Intelligence at between $100,000 and $500,000. According to documents, Monsanto paid Total Intelligence $127,000 in 2008 and $105,000 in 2009.

Reached by telephone and asked about the meeting with Black in Zurich, Monsanto's Wilson initially said, "I'm not going to discuss it with you." In a subsequent e-mail to The Nation, Wilson confirmed he met Black in Zurich and that Monsanto hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and worked with the company until early 2010. He denied that he and Black discussed infiltrating animal rights groups, stating "there was no such discussion." He claimed that Total Intelligence only provided Monsanto "with reports about the activities of groups or individuals that could pose a risk to company personnel or operations around the world which were developed by monitoring local media reports and other publicly available information. The subject matter ranged from information regarding terrorist incidents in Asia or kidnappings in Central America to scanning the content of activist blogs and websites." Wilson asserted that Black told him Total Intelligence was "a completely separate entity from Blackwater."

Monsanto was hardly the only powerful corporation to enlist the services of Blackwater's constellation of companies. The Walt Disney Company hired Total Intelligence and TRC to do a "threat assessment" for potential film shoot locations in Morocco, with former CIA officials Black and Richer reaching out to their former Moroccan intel counterparts for information. The job provided a "good chance to impress Disney," one company executive wrote. How impressed Disney was is not clear; in 2009 the company paid Total Intelligence just $24,000.

Total Intelligence and TRC also provided intelligence assessments on China to Deutsche Bank. The Chinese technical counterintelligence threat is one of the highest in the world, a TRC analyst wrote, adding, "Many four and five star hotel rooms and restaurants are live-monitored with both audio and video" by Chinese intelligence. He also said that computers, PDAs and other electronic devices left unattended in hotel rooms could be cloned. Cellphones using the Chinese networks, the analyst wrote, could have their microphones remotely activated, meaning they could operate as permanent listening devices. He concluded that Deutsche Bank reps should "bring no electronic equipment into China." Warning of the use of female Chinese agents, the analyst wrote, "If you don't have women coming onto you all the time at home, then you should be suspicious if they start coming onto you when you arrive in China." For these and other services, the bank paid Total Intelligence $70,000 in 2009.

TRC also did background checks on Libyan and Saudi businessmen for British banking giant Barclays. In February 2008 a TRC executive e-mailed Prado and Richer revealing that Barclays asked TRC and Total Intelligence for background research on the top executives from the Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) and their potential "associations/connections with the Royal family and connections with Osama bin Ladin." In his report, Richer wrote that SBG's chair, Bakr Mohammed bin Laden, "is well and favorably known to both arab and western intelligence service[s]" for cooperating in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Another SBG executive, Sheikh Saleh bin Laden, is described by Richer as "a very savvy businessman" who is "committed to operating with full transparency to Saudi's security services" and is considered "the most vehement within the extended BL family in terms of criticizing UBL's actions and beliefs."

In August Blackwater and the State Department reached a $42 million settlement for hundreds of violations of US export control regulations. Among the violations cited was the unauthorized export of technical data to the Canadian military. Meanwhile, Blackwater's dealings with Jordanian officials are the subject of a federal criminal prosecution of five former top Blackwater executives. The Jordanian government paid Total Intelligence more than $1.6 million in 2009.

Some of the training Blackwater provided to Canadian military forces was in Blackwater/TRC's "Mirror Image" course, where trainees live as a mock Al Qaeda cell in an effort to understand the mindset and culture of insurgents. Company literature describes it as "a classroom and field training program designed to simulate terrorist recruitment, training, techniques and operational tactics." Documents show that in March 2009 Blackwater/TRC spent $6,500 purchasing local tribal clothing in Afghanistan as well as assorted "propaganda materials-posters, Pakistan Urdu maps, etc." for Mirror Image, and another $9,500 on similar materials this past January in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

According to internal documents, in 2009 alone the Canadian military paid Blackwater more than $1.6 million through TRC. A Canadian military official praised the program in a letter to the center, saying it provided "unique and valid cultural awareness and mission specific deployment training for our soldiers in Afghanistan," adding that it was "a very effective and operationally current training program that is beneficial to our mission."

This past summer Erik Prince put Blackwater up for sale and moved to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. But he doesn't seem to be leaving the shadowy world of security and intelligence. He says he moved to Abu Dhabi because of its "great proximity to potential opportunities across the entire Middle East, and great logistics," adding that it has "a friendly business climate, low to no taxes, free trade and no out of control trial lawyers or labor unions. It's pro-business and opportunity." It also has no extradition treaty with the United States.
(c) 2010 Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author of the bestselling Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, published by Nation Books. He is an award-winning investigative journalist and correspondent for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!

Concept And Contempt
By Uri Avnery

IN THE main thoroughfare, beneath my window, there was absolute silence. Not a single vehicle was moving.

We were sunk in conversation with a friend of ours, when something unbelievable happened.

The air-raid sirens started to wail.

Within minutes, cars started to race down the street at a crazy speed, men were leaving their houses in haste, wearing their reserve uniforms, bearing backpacks.

The radio, which had been silent, as usual on this day, woke to sudden life.

A war had broken out. The Egyptians and the Syrians had launched an attack on Israel.

Yom Kippur, by far the holiest day of Judaism, 37 years ago today (according to the Hebrew calendar).

SINCE THEN, on every Yom Kippur we remember that fateful day. Impossible not to. It was a watershed in our life and in the history of Israel, a formative event for the entire Semitic region.

Today, as on every Yom Kippur since, the quiet, the silence in the streets, encourages us to think. As a witness, I have the urge to testify.

What was the impact of that war on us?

The first thing to be said: It was a superfluous war.

That is not, of course, something extraordinary. But for a few exceptions, such as World War II (and perhaps our 1948 war), every war was "superfluous". World War I, that orgy of death and destruction, was completely superfluous. Until today, historians try to find a logical reason for its outbreak. The motives of all parties were dwarfed by the consequences.

Well before the Yom Kippur war, the President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, was ready to make peace with Israel. Reliable mediators did convey this to the Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir. She ignored the information with contempt.

Before the sudden death of Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, Sadat's predecessor, credible information reached Israel about Egypt's readiness to make peace in return for the Egyptian territories that were conquered in the 1967 war. I myself brought such a message to Pinhas Sapir, after Nasser had revealed his thoughts to my friend, the French journalist Eric Rouleau, in an off-the-record conversation. Rouleau permitted me to transmit the information in secret to the Israeli government. Sapir, at the time the most important minister and the real boss of the Labor Party, treated the information with complete lack of interest. My legal advisor, Amnon Zichroni, who was accompanying me to the meeting, was as stunned as I. I assume that I was not the only one who conveyed messages.

Some months before the war, I met with some Egyptians close to their country's leadership. Following these conversations, I made a speech in the Knesset warning that, unless we immediately started a peace initiative that would return the Suez canal and Sinai to the Egyptians, they would attack, even without any chance of winning. The Knesset did not listen.

After the war I accused Golda Meir publicly of the murder of 2700 young Israelis and an untold number of young Egyptians and Syrians. Golda, a person with frighteningly narrow horizons, shrugged it off and lived to the end of her days with a clear conscience.

IN THE first hours of the war, the Egyptians astounded the world when they succeeded in crossing the Suez Canal - a formidable water obstacle - and breaking the Bar Lev line, the pride of the Israeli army.

It was one of the great surprise victories in the annals of war. In spite of the difference in dimensions, some compare it to the start of Operation Barbarossa (the German attack on the Soviet Union) and the bombing of Pearl Harbor (the Japanese attack on the US).

How was such a surprise possible? After all, the Egyptian army had to concentrate its forces and arrive at the starting positions without being detected. The area between Cairo and the canal is completely bare.

After the war, Dado invited me to his home and let me have a look at the files. Dado - Chief of Staff General David Elazar - was forced out of the army on the morrow of the war because of his responsibility for the "Omission" (the decision not to mobilize the reserves and move the tanks on the eve of the war). I was a friendly magazine editor, and Dado wanted to convince me of his innocence. The files showed that Army Intelligence had all the necessary information - and far more - about the Egyptian preparations for the attack.

For example, an intercepted order by a mufti (Muslim chaplain) of a brigade to break the Ramadan fast, one of the most important Muslim commandments, and start eating at a certain hour.

An intercepted communication by an Egyptian wireless operator to his brother, a wireless operator in another unit, which included the Muslim prayer before facing death.

An intercepted message of a shore station to the submarines at sea to break off all radio communications at a certain time.

And so forth, a wealth of intelligence. According to Dado, nothing of this reached him, the Chief of Staff. The chief of the army Intelligence department, Eli Zeira, suppressed it all.

Why? Zeira, a person endowed with a lot of self-confidence, was the prisoner of a "concept": that the Egyptians would never attack without air superiority. But this does not really explain the magnitude of the Omission. Nor do the sophisticated Egyptian attempts at deception. The reason is much more profound: contempt for the Arabs.

THIS CONTEMPT is one of the curses of the state, and it accompanies us (Jewish) Israelis until this very day.

It did not exist in the 1948 war, the longest and hardest of Israeli wars. As I well remember, the soldiers at the time respected the enemy. We, the fighters on the Southern Front, had much respect for the Egyptian army (one of whose junior commanders was Gamal Abd-al-Nasser), and the fighters of the Central Front respected the Jordanian "Arab Legion". The Syrian and Iraqi fighters were also rated highly.

The respect evaporated in the 1956 war, and for the wrong reasons. The Egyptian soldiers tried to get away when our army invaded Sinai, and there were some who left their boots behind, but that had a simple reason: they received orders to retreat in haste, since the British and the French were landing in their rear and threatening to turn all of Sinai into a death trap. At that time it was the Egyptians who were surprised by the French-Israeli-British collusion.

But the contempt reached its climax in the 1967 war. After three weeks of mounting existential fear, the Israelis saw their army smashing the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, reinforced by contingents from other Arab countries, within six days. It looked like a miracle. For those who do not believe in divine intervention, there was no miracle: the Israeli military, and especially the Air Force, had meticulously planned the war well in advance, and the plan was executed by the best high command our army ever had.

This victory was a historic disaster. It was too big, too smashing, too stunning. Israel entered a bout of euphoria that lasted for six years. It was clear to everyone that Arabs can't fight, that the Israeli army was the best in the world, that it was invincible. Ariel Sharon declared at the time that the army could reach Libya's capital, Tripoli, within six days.

What happened on Yom Kippur 1973 was a direct consequence of that victory. The abysmal contempt for the Arabs gave birth to the "Kontsepsia" (as we say "concept" in Hebrew), the Kontsepsia gave birth to the Omission - two words that became the symbols of the war. The contempt created the belief that the Egyptians would not dare to attack the Bar Lev line, a string of fortified positions that were thinly manned on Yom Kippur by second-grade units. (Two generals objected to the creation of the Bar Lev line to start with: the tank general Israel Tal, who died this week, and the infantry general Ariel Sharon, who lives on in a coma. "Talik" and "Arik" proposed keeping mobile forces well to the rear, ready to counter any Egyptian breakthrough with a massive counter-attack.)

THE WAR started with outstanding Egyptian (and Syrian) successes and ended with an Israeli military victory. The Israeli army was not yet corrupted by the occupation (another disastrous result of the 1967 victory), and most of its commanders were of a quality that can only be envied today. But politically, the war ended in a draw.

Talik, who took part in the cease-fire talks at Kilometer 101, told me that the Egyptian commander, Abd-al-Ghani al-Gamasy, offered to start direct peace negotiations at once. Talik rushed to Golda Meir, but she forbade him to go on. She had promised Henry Kissinger that all negotiations would go through the US. The peace with Egypt was held up for four more years, until Sadat started his historic initiative behind the backs of the Americans.

The war returned to the Egyptians their self-respect. I visited the Ramadan War Museum (that's how the Egyptians call this war). A great effort was made there to visualize the canal crossing realistically with sound and light effects. The hundreds of Egyptians who packed each performance several times every day were filled with pride.

This pride made it easier for Sadat to go on his historic mission. When I landed in Cairo, several days after his coming to Jerusalem, the city was plastered with posters: "Anwar Sadat, Hero of War, Hero of Peace!"

Immediately after the war, Yasser Arafat started out on his long quest for peace, which led 20 years later to the Oslo agreement. He once told me how he arrived at his decision: when he realized that the big surprise successes of the Arab armies at the start of the war ended in a military defeat, he drew the logical conclusion that there is no way of realizing the Palestinian national aims by war, and that a peaceful settlement was the only solution.

THESE CONCLUSIONS are as right today as ever:

Hubris leads to disaster.

A concept based on contempt for the Arabs will lead to a historical omission.

Every war in this region is superfluous: after every war we shall achieve - in the best case - what we could have got before the war.

There is no military solution, not for the Arabs, not for us.

There are many heroes in war. But the real glory goes to the hero of peace.

As the Jewish sages said almost 1800 years ago: "Who is a hero? He who turns his enemy into his friend."
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Republicans Cry "Class Warfare" When They're Winning the War
By Matthew Rothschild

Whenever Republicans are at risk of not getting their way for their millionaire constituents, they cry "class warfare."

So it was that House Minority Whip Eric Cantor just whipped out the old accusation again in the Wall Street Journal, blaming the Democrats and "the progressive left" for "provocative class warfare rhetoric."

What Cantor doesn't like is the rhetoric.

But he's content with the class warfare, because his class keeps winning, battle after battle, war after war.

Look how much ground the richest of the rich have gained from the Bush tax cuts, which the Republicans are so intent on keeping for this cohort. The top 0.1 percent of Americans gained more than $2,326,607 a piece, whereas people making between thirty and forty thousand gained only $7,040, according to a great chart in Sunday's New York Times Week in Review.

"Over the past three decades, income inequality has grown dramatically," notes a recent report by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.

"After remaining relatively constant for much of the post-war era, the share of total income accrued by the wealthiest 10 percent of households jumped from 34.6 percent in 1980 to 48.2 percent in 2008.1 Much of the spike was driven by the share of total income accrued by the richest 1 percent of households. Between 1980 and 2008, their share rose from 10.0 percent to 21.0 percent, making the United States as one of the most unequal countries in the world."

Over the last decade, most Americans have been losing ground, with real wages stagnating and household incomes falling.

"Real median income for working-age households is now $4,925 below its peak in the year 2000," according to the Economic Policy Institute. Right now, they are desperate for tax cuts, and those tax cuts would inject a lot of money into the economy.

Whereas, the top 0.1 percent aren't desperate for tax cuts; they're just greedy.

But in our economy, and in our political system, it's the richest and the greediest who win the class war, no matter what you call it.
(c)2010 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

Web Of Dependency
The Thin New Line
By Randall Amster

In just a few short years, it has become increasingly apparent that humankind is fast approaching a technological tipping point. Particularly in the West - the First World , the Developed Nations, or whatever self-consciously superlative designation you prefer - a thoroughgoing dependence on "high technology" for life-sustaining essentials is evident in all spheres of modern society. The hardware of our lives, from food and energy to transportation and shelter, is entirely bound up with the workings of a highly mechanized and digitized global economy. And no less so, the software of our existence - communications, community, entertainment, education, media, politics, and the like - is equally entwined within that same technocratic system.

This is not a lamentation, just an observation. To describe this state of affairs as a fait accompli or to conspiratorially suggest an orchestrated inevitability misses the larger point that it merely constitutes what is at this point in history. The utter dependency of our collective lives on the intricate workings of a hypertechnical web makes the perpetuation and evolution of that network a survival strategy for a significant portion of the species. Simply put, we need it. And in that, we come to realize the double-edged meaning of "the web" as something that simultaneously interconnects and ensnares. Our habituation to this web traps us even as it brings us together.

Consider the implications from the perspective of a typical modern life. First and foremost, our entire financial being - and with it the capacity to procure everything else - exists almost exclusively due to a computer's ability to recognize and recall our bona fides to transact. More and more of our work activities and labor energies are expended on digitally-based tasks that likewise rely upon computerized repositories and retrieval mechanisms of which we are scarcely knowledgeable. A substantial portion of our political, educational, and healthcare opportunities are similarly enmeshed in remote databases and personal delivery devices. And increasingly, our social interactions are coming to be dependent upon equivalent circuits of electronic exchange.

What would transpire if this web suddenly was to disappear? I'm not inclined to view humankind through a Hobbesian lens of aggression and ruthlessness. We might find surprising ways to reconnect to people and place that stave off the worst forms of behavioral descent, and even open up new pathways for sustainable and just living arrangements both among ourselves and with the balance of nature. There may be enough farmers, builders, teachers, and artists among us with old-school skills sufficient to sustain communities, if not cultures, on some level. Perhaps there yet remains an atavistic thread of time-tested humanity still within us that devolves upon the basic ways that the species survived for the overwhelming majority of our existence.

Indeed, such an admittedly romantic vision could come to pass for some of us. But in a more incisive "realist" rendering, it might also be surmised that many will perish or otherwise suffer in the process of any such rapid digital demise. Similarly, it might be tempting to suppose that people in the Third World - the Global South, the Developing Nations, or whatever other pejorative pearl comes to mind - could somehow escape the worst outcomes should the "grid go down" precipitously. Yet their lives, too, are rapidly becoming conditioned upon the existence of the same system that binds us - even as they oftentimes will experience it from the "business end" of the machine, whereas we tend to see only ourselves in its polished surfaces.

Here, then, is the tipping point just up ahead. There is a threshold of dependency that, once crossed, may be irreversible in terms of our basic humanity. Essential survival skills are bred out and replaced with capacities suitable for application to the global web. Consciousness and desire likewise adapt to the pervasive technologies in our midst, as even emotions and sensations are approximately replicable. Our very identities become reflexively intertwined with this grid, just as our bodies are contingent upon its workings. At a certain point in time, if not already realized by now, there comes into existence a new line of humankind: homo technologicus.

We are potentially on the cusp of one of the most significant alterations in the fabric of the species. Instantiated concretely, we can easily envision a near future where everyone possesses (or has implanted, if you want to go there) a personal communications device that carries with it real-time GPS and RFID data-streaming capabilities in a fully-wired world. Wherever we move in this landscape, our location is logged electronically and our economic credentials are verified biometrically. We can simply pick up items from store shelves and stroll out with them, with each purchase being automatically tabulated. Status updates of our movements and interactions will be uploaded instantaneously to our personal profiles for remote friends to share. And in fact, whether in physical or virtual space, the likes and preferences of our circles of association will be with us, helping to guide our choices of real goods and focal points of information alike.

This is just around the next corner, technologically speaking. Even more compelling, however, will be the speed at which this brave new world moves. Microprocessors that mirror the capacity (even if not quite the efficacy) of the human brain will become part and parcel of the enterprise. Mere thought alone could activate the various nodes of consumption and communication that define the nexus of our lives. The texture of reality gradually begins to shift, as perception equally includes the tangible and intangible aspects of existence. Over time, with new evolutions of the paradigm introduced incrementally so as to allow seamless adaptation, the virtual comes to eclipse the physical as the dominant sphere of human interchange. We are not merely dependent upon the technological web that undergirds our lives - we have become symbiotic with it and, in a remarkable progression of interdependent fortunes, just as integral to its survival as it is to ours.

You use your own science-fiction allusions to speculate on where humanity is bound on its current path. Some will be tempted to opt imaginarily for a Matrix-like scenario in which our total enslavement is ensured by those who promulgate and profit from the baseline technological inputs that frame our lives. Others may see an almost spiritual deliverance in the experience of reality from a formless, transcendent viewpoint in which our minds live freed from the shackles of mundane existence. A few may indeed be seeking to craft a calculated and integrated vision of economy, theology, and bureaucracy for less than altruistic purposes. A handful are striving to opt out in anticipation of an upheaval that seems perpetually in the offing. On some level, all of us are being and will be impacted by the rapid changes at hand. That thin line between utopia and dystopia, between autonomy and captivity, awaits us like a back-porch web in the breeze.

I sat for a while the other day and watched a flock of birds delicately pick seeds from the tenuous fruit of a majestic tree. Gazing down a vast green canopy that slowly yields to bustling prairies below, I watched in receptive stillness as wraithlike clouds skirted atop obsidian peaks, stoically rising behind rich vermillion cliffs on the unending horizon. In my mind's eye, I could never imagine a system as elegant and enduring as that before me. Nor am I all that inclined even to try.
(c) 2010 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Conservatism Has Turned Into Crackpotism

I'm at a loss for words, so I need your help.

Not so long ago, Republican officeholders in our country were conservatives, a political philosophy which literally encompasses the notion of conservation. Those Republicans wanted to conserve important things - like the public infrastructure, the rule of law, public education, and even our environment. During the last 30 years, though, voters in the GOP's primaries systematically culled these classic conservatives from office, replacing them with right-wing, laissez-faire ideologues. These new-breed Republicans largely rejected our country's commitment to the common good, instead supporting privatization of government functions and tax favoritism for the corporate elite.

The media, however, made no linguistic adjustment to this fundamental change in philosophy, simply shifting the "conservative" label to the right-wingers. But if they can be called conservative, what the hell do we call the new new-breed Republicans who're presently displacing those politicos who displaced the actual conservatives?

This year, the Republican primary has gone from plain old right-wingism to right-wing crackpotism. In Nevada, Wisconsin, Colorado, Delaware, New York, Kentucky, and elsewhere, many GOP nominees to Congress and other offices are farther out than Pluto! "End Social Security," they rant, "Stop punishing BP," "Cut off unemployment benefits to jobless Americans," "Keep the government's hands off of our Medicare" ... and on and on. Instead of tea, I think there these people's tea bags are filled with loco weed.

Once again, however, the media merely labels them "conservatives." Surely you can think of a better, more apt term. Send your suggestions to Best suggestion wins a free subscription to The Hightower Lowdown.
(c) 2010 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Synthetic Novelty Is Not Reality
By David Sirota

A week removed from the ninth anniversary of 9/11, after all the sound and fury has temporarily subsided, we can look back and know that we have just witnessed the realization of historian Daniel J. Boorstin's most renowned prophecy.

In his 1961 classic, "The Image," Boorstin famously predicted that real news and serious discourse would eventually be replaced by a "new kind of synthetic novelty" called "pseudo-events" - synthetic for their media-manufactured artificiality, pseudo for their lack of authenticity. Though these contrivances attract attention, Boorstin correctly pointed out that they typically represent no deeper ethos than vainglory.

That, of course, perfectly describes the hullabaloo surrounding Florida pastor Terry Jones and his much-hyped plans to burn the Quran. This hateful act, we were told, would have inflamed anti-Americanism in the Islamic world, potentially provoking a terrorist backlash. So grave was this supposed threat that the major media devoted 24/7 coverage to the controversy; President Obama publicly appealed to the pastor to abstain from creating "a recruitment bonanza for al-Qaida," and Defense Secretary Robert Gates personally intervened - as if it were a Defcon-1-worthy emergency.

As pseudo-events go, this was a landmark - not for Jones' abhorrent prejudice (unfortunately, we've seen this kind of detestable bigotry before) but for the outsized reaction to one obscure gadfly desperately seeking celebrity. Indeed, the national pandemonium was an emergent symptom of a destructive aneurysm deep within the American cortex - one that has profoundly altered our psychology. Whereas pseudo-events were once seen as cheap attempts to manipulate the public's perception of significance, the public - in the form of the media, the government and the rapt audience - took part in this pseudo-event, thus manufacturing significance from scratch.

That complicity - both in making this extremist an international star and in subsequently encouraging more such pseudo-events - is this story's real commentary on the downsides of distorted values, selective outrage and myopic worldviews. A commentary not about Jones, but about us, as just a few comparisons prove.

Consider, for instance, that in the very week the American media, political establishment and electorate fretted over the possibility of Jones enraging the Muslim world, the same media, political establishment and electorate paid no attention to a Guardian of London report finding that "Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret 'kill team' that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies." We ignored this, as if the tasteless theater of a single iconoclast in Gainesville is somehow more troubling to Muslims than allegations that their innocent brethren are being hunted for sport in their homeland.

Similarly, as the president took to national television to worry about Jones posing a clear and present danger to national security, he didn't mention - nor did almost anyone else - that America's continued military occupation of two Islamic countries might endanger national security in a much bigger way.

And, of course, as pundits and their couch-potato sycophants lit up cable TV and talk radio with arguments about Jones potentially inciting a terrorist blowback against U.S. troops, few bothered noting that the killing of between 600,000 and 1 million Iraqi civilians in our war has probably done far more to prompt such a blowback.

No, we are too mesmerized by the synthetic novelty - too entranced, in this case, by the handlebar mustache and the camera-friendly promise of book burning. We don't think to ask uncomfortable questions nor do we strive for enlightened perspective. We instead tell ourselves that by joining the cartoonish pseudo-events, we will magically defuse pressing crises - even as our participation in those pseudo-events allows those crises to fester.
(c) 2010 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @davidsirota. David is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Is History Repeating Itself?
By James Donahue

The similarities between the events that lead up to the Great Depression of 1929 and those occurring today are scary. It almost appears as if our government's economic advisors are ignorant of the historical record and are blindly following the same path that America did in the 1920s.

A third possibility, which we are loathe to suggest, is that the people pulling the economic strings know very well what they are doing and are purposely steering the nation and the global economy into another planned crash.

America was at war in Europe from 1914 to 1918. During that time federal spending grew to three times more than the national income from tax collections. A decision to cut federal spending to balance the budget in 1920 triggered a severe recession that became the catalyst for what was to follow.

By comparison, our nation today is still involved in heavy war spending in Afghanistan and Iraq, our national deficit has now grown into the trillions, and Republicans are pushing hard to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and at the same time, reduce federal spending in an effort to balance the budget. America is currently in a severe recession with no clear sign of a recovery soon.

During the period from 1920 to 1929, an average of 600 banks failed every year. A similar cycle of bank failures has begun in the midst of the current crisis. It began with three banks crashing in 2007, then 25 banks in 2008, and 140 banks in 2009. So far in 2010, as of August 20, another 118 bank failures have occurred. The pace of bank failures this year appears to be leading to an even larger number of banks to be shut down than 2009.

Organized labor membership declined during the years preceding the depression. The United Mine Workers Union, for example, experienced a drop of membership from 500,000 in 1920 to only 75,000 in 1928. Because many major industrial plants have been moved out of the United States to Mexico, China, Indonesia and India as corporations search for low cost labor and non-union shops, labor has been losing its membership and its influence in the United States. Statics show that union membership declined steadily in the United States since 1983.

During the decade before October 24, 1929, an estimated 1,200 business and corporate mergers swallowed up more than 6,000 different companies. By the time of the crash, only 200 corporations controlled more than half of all American industry. The picture appears much more complex today, but corporate mergers, often on a global scale, are in the news almost daily. They range from banks and manufacturing companies to electronic and pharmaceutical corporations as well as Internet business ventures. Some of the nation's banks have swallowed up so much of the banking industry they are labeled "too big to fail."

In the 1920s people were working but wages fell below the minimum standards to meet household needs. Consequently families were struggling. An ultra conservative U.S. Supreme Court favored big industry, striking down legislation designed to stop child labor practices and a proposed minimum wage law for women in the District of Columbia. An almost identical work environment exists in America today, with even people earning at the established minimum wage failing to bring home enough money to meet household financial demands. And like it was prior to the depression, the current Supreme Court is strongly conservative.

Just prior to the 1929 crash, the bottom 80 percent of all income-earners in America were removed from the tax rolls. Also taxes on the rich were drastically reduced. By 1929 about one percent of the people owned 40 percent of the nation's wealth. The bottom 93 percent experienced a drop in real disposable per-capita income between 1923 and 1929. Are we not seeing this exact same scenario being played out in America today? As the national deficit grows to incredible levels, the wealthy are working hard to force an extension of the Bush imposed tax cuts for the wealthy. The tax burden, then, is shifting to a disappearing middle class and the poor who are earning so little that most have dropped off the tax rolls.

In 1924 the stock market went into what was then described as a "spectacular rise," with investors enjoying rich returns. Yet what was occurring on the markets did not reflect the reality of economic conditions on the street. It was an artificial boom. A similar situation is occurring in the country today. The stock market has been making erratic fulgurations, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average remaining at or around the 10,000 level, while business struggles to remain afloat throughout the nation.

Another recession swept the country in August, 1929. During a two-month period before the collapse production, wholesale prices and personal income all began to slide. October 24, 1929, was remembered as Black Tuesday. The bottom fell out of the markets and losses were estimated at $16 billion. That was a lot of money in 1929.

The Federal Reserve didn't act to cut prime interest rates on money loaned to banks until February, 1930. Currently the reserve has already acted to reduce rates to incredibly low levels. As happened in 1930, and is occurring again now, the action proves to be of little help in stimulating the economy.

Everything continued to get worse during the four years from 1929 to 1933 that Herbert Hoover remained in office as president. It was not until Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933 that steps were taken to fix the mess created by the power figures that were in control of the nation's wealth.

When a panic caused a run on the banks in March, 1933, Roosevelt declared a Bank Holiday. He closed all of the banks, and launched a plan to redistribute the wealth from the rich to all of the people.

Alarmed by Roosevelt's "socialistic ideas" a group of millionaire businessmen led by J. P. Morgan and the Du Pont empires, attempted to overthrow Roosevelt with a military coup and install a fascist government modeled after the government Mussolini had established in Italy. The plan was foiled when General Smedley Butler got word of the plan and reported it to Congress.

Is the Tea Party movement, which also expresses grass roots concerns about big government spending and President Obama's "socialistic ideas," designed to stop the Obama Administration? Instead of doing it by force, this group is trying to accomplish its goals at the ballot box. It the Tea Party wins, what then?

The Congress under Roosevelt had some spine in 1933, unlike the Congress currently serving under President Obama. Within a year after Roosevelt came to power his administration created the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Farm Credit Administration, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the National Recovery Administration, the Public Works Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Congress also passed the Emergency Banking Bill, the Glass-Steagall Act, the Farm Credit Act, the National Industrial Recovery Act and the Truth-in-Securities Act.

These were all brilliant steps in the right direction, but Roosevelt, concerned about maintaining a balanced federal budget, at first rejected a proposal by controversial British economist John Keynes to go into heavy deficit spending to create government financed jobs to get people back to work. This same see-saw thinking is being bantered around among Washington politicians and their economic advisors today and it is stalling any chance of recovery.

While federal public works jobs became a key to the nation's recovery during the Roosevelt years, the president's reluctance to dip heavily into deficit spending resulted in a slow recovery that lasted, some say, until the United States entered World War II. During this period, unemployment rose to about 25 percent.

The Obama Administration, even though hampered by an already overwhelming federal budget deficit created by the former Republican dominated Bush Administration, attempted to launch a public works program designed to put a lot of Americans back to work rebuilding a crumbling infrastructure, moving into a green technology and building public rail transportation systems to replace the need for so many automobiles. Republicans, however, managed to whittle the amount of money devoted to the bill to a point where it became relatively ineffective.

The question raised at the beginning of this report continues to nag us. Is history repeating itself? Are we blindly plunging into another economic collapse, perhaps worse than experienced during the Great Depression?
(c) 2010 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Constitutional Traitors
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

In recent days the idea of using the Article V convention option in the Constitution received support in an article by Texas US Senator John Cornyn published on the Fox News website. He noted "Recent polling suggests that a plurality of Americans support a convention to propose a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution if Congress will not do so." He made a good case for using the convention option by saying it "would be part of a national conversation that could last well beyond one or two election cycles. The very length of the convention and ratification process would allow the American people ample opportunity to judge proposed reforms, and ensure that they would strengthen the checks and balances that have served our nation well."

A few days later, on the pages of the Wall Street Journal a strong case was made for a "repeal amendment" that would give state legislatures the power to veto federal laws, something worth proposing. Though the oped by a professor and the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates did not say so, obviously Congress would never propose such an amendment. That means using an Article V convention whereby state delegates could propose new amendments just as Congress has done, which the Speaker has acknowledged elsewhere.

At the same time a policy report from the Goldwater Institute recommended that "states seriously consider" using the convention option "to restrain the federal government."

So the issue of using this convention option that Congress has refused to convene despite hundreds of state applications and that establishment powers on the political left and right have long opposed merits serious examination. Start with this: Americans overwhelmingly say they love and respect the Constitution and usually specific amendments, though often different ones on the political left and right. Three frameworks help understanding why most Americans oppose using the Article V convention option. Two explain why convention proponents have not been able to impact most opponents that fit these two frameworks. I offer a third framework or plan of attack which I believe will work.

First, consider the craziness framework. Many Americans have been taught to fear using the convention option, even though it has never been used. They are irrational. This is like being afraid to eat the fruit of the constitutional tree first planted by the Founders even though no one has ever tasted or been harmed by the fruit. Such people stubbornly think they are acting rationally; I think they are crazy and irrational. This delusional thinking based on what is imagined to might happen is not easily changed, because such people have been purposefully and successfully brainwashed. They have an emotional block. Rather than fear a runaway convention, people should fear our runaway politicians and government.

Second, consider the analytic framework. Many Americans use what they think are rational, substantive arguments. Convention proponents use facts based on the exact language in Article V or other historical facts to objectively contradict wrong-headed thinking. But correcting the record has not worked sufficiently, largely because opponents invent their own facts, ignore correct ones, and consume disinformation disseminated by convention opponents. They have an intellectual block. Cognitive dissonance works to prevent the pain of accepting new information incompatible with their negative views about a convention.

We should not invite, respect or participate in arguments by opponents that fit these two frameworks. We should, in particular, recognize and condemn morally offensive fear mongering used intentionally by convention opponents. Convention opponents seeking protection of their ability to influence the political system and selling fear and disinformation must face their constitutional guilt.

Converting convention opponents to proponents requires a paradigm change, which is very difficult. However, the current justified high level of dissatisfaction with government, politicians and both major political parties and the strong desire for reform of government justify use of a new approach.

The patriotic framework better gets to the root of the problem from a rule of law perspective. Rather than condemn convention opponents as irrational or ignorant, we condemn unpatriotic constitutional hypocrites. When they openly oppose the convention option they are constitutional traitors.

With the patriotic framework we take advantage of frequent strong public support for constitutional amendments not proposed by Congress, including these: In 1996, 74 percent of Americans favored a constitutional amendment to limit the number of terms that members of Congress and the US Senate could serve. In 2005, 76 percent favored an amendment to allow voluntary prayer in public schools, and in 1983 81 percent favored it. In both 2000 and 2004 61 percent favored amending the Constitution so that the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes would win, replacing the Electoral College. In 1995, a balanced budget amendment passed the House but failed to meet the two-thirds requirement in the Senate by a single vote; this year there is a strong national movement to get it and a number of other amendments that would surely earn broad public support.

The basis for the new framework is this: Virtually everyone professes respect and admiration for the US Constitution and knows that it includes a process for amending it. But if someone opposes using the Article V convention option, then he or she is an unpatriotic constitutional hypocrite. When they openly oppose a convention they are a constitutional traitor replacing the Founders thinking with theirs, putting themselves above the law.

Moreover, it is impermissible to pick and choose what parts of the Constitution are supported and obeyed. Similarly, elected public officials who swear obedience to the Constitution cannot pick and choose which parts to obey. Such behavior makes a mockery of the supreme law of the land, the rule of law, and our constitutional republic. Silence by public officials on the issue is cowardly opposition to using the convention option.

No one can accurately forecast exactly what a convention would propose, but we do know that continuation of the status quo will not eliminate the corruption and dysfunction sustained by the two-party plutocracy. The two major parties are rejected by 58 percent of the public for not effectively representing them, but a convention is far more attractive than forming a competitive third party. Many reforms can only be achieved through constitutional amendments that Congress will never propose; this is inarguable. Voting in elections to get reforms is passŽ. A hard truth to take.

Amending the Constitution in our modern world should compete with ordinary elections. With Internet news, blogging, email, tweeting, texting and myriad other forms of instant communication, holding a convention is a new way to satisfy public thirst for true reforms, not promises. Amending the Constitution can be done relatively quickly. Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven took one year or less to become the law of the land because of public engagement. The 26th amendment (giving the right to vote to 18 year-olds) took only 3 months and 8 days to be ratified in 1971! Public pressure works. It will work for and against specific amendments. Americans deserve the constitutional opportunity that Congress has deprived them of.

Americans must be taught this: Just by being in the Constitution the convention option demands public support. Citizens are obliged to support it. People cannot be allowed to have it both ways and be two-faced and hypocritical. Embrace the convention option or be openly and aggressively condemned for unpatriotic hypocrisy and behavior that undermines the sanctity of the Constitution and the rule of law, both crucial for maintaining the integrity of our republic.

Trust is the crucial issue. So many Americans have lost trust in their government and politicians but far less so in their Constitution. Trusting the Constitution means trusting the Founders' wisdom in providing the Article V convention option. They anticipated the day when citizens would lose trust in the federal government, which has surely arrived. The convention option bypasses Congress, the President and the Supreme Court; it gives power to the states and citizens. Wisely, ratification by the states is required for any proposed amendments from a convention, providing a hedge against dangerous amendments. When it comes to reform and making government work for we the people, the greatest risk for the nation is not using the convention option.

What political powers on the left and right fear and oppose we the people must demand. They are guilty constitutional traitors. We must be courageous patriots. There is no room for compromise with convention opponents. We must shame and embarrass them; they are lousy citizens. The time to argue about specific amendments is when the convention is in session and delegates must contend with public sentiments and later when proposed amendments are considered for ratification by states.

We cannot know with certainty whether holding a convention would revitalize the nation. But refusing to use the convention option as a constitutional path to reform disrespects and undermines our constitutional republic. The sorry state of the nation demands that we do more than just talk about it. This year every candidate for the House and Senate should be compelled to publicly support using the convention option. Lack of support for it should be grounds for defeating them.

This article was presented at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School Article V symposium in Lansing, Michigan on September 16, 2010
(c) 2010 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Circle Jerks
Delaware Distraction Obscures Oval Office Atrocities
By Chris Floyd


The political-media-blogospherical establishment is currently working itself into a lather over the elevation of a "nutty" Tea Party woman to the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in Delaware. The selection of Christine O'Donnell by a tiny sliver of voters in a closed primary in a tiny state whose main claim to fame is its decades of whorish service as a protective front for rapacious corporations is, we are told, an event of world-shaking proportions fit for endless analysis and scary headlines all over the world.

It's true that O'Donnell has taken the politically risky step of denouncing America's national pastime -- masturbation -- and has, over the years, supported any number of positions that put her on the far side of common sense. But one struggles in vain to find that she has advanced anything remotely as radical -- or lunatic -- as the idea that the President of the United States is some kind of intergalactic emperor who holds the power of life and death over every living being on earth in his autocratic hands. Yet this is precisely the position proclaimed -- openly, before Congress, God and everybody -- by the highly educated, intellectually sophisticated, super-savvy Laureate of Peace currently residing in the White House.

This same president has also fought tooth and nail -- often in open court -- to shield torturers, escalate pointless wars of aggression, relentlessly expand a liberty-stripping Stasi-style security apparatus, give trillions of tax dollars to rapacious financiers, health-care corporations, insurance companies and bloodstained war profiteers, while launching cowardly drone missile attacks on the sovereign territory of close ally, killing hundreds of civilians in the process - and has just signed off on the biggest arms deal in history with one of the most viciously repressive tyrannies on earth.

So I'm sorry, but I just don't see how a putzy, klutzy, wilfully ignorant Tea Partier from perhaps the most corrupt state in the Union is somehow more dangerous than the people we have in power now -- including a Vice-President who for decades was the senator (and corporate bagman) from this very same most corrupt state in the Union, and used his power to advance a "Bankruptcy Bill" that was one of the most savage class-war attacks on working people -- and the poor, and the sick, and the vulnerable -- that we have seen in many a year. Then again, as far as I know, Joe "Bankruptcy Bill" Biden has never publicly condemned the practice of masturbation.

Do I want to see Christine O'Donnell in the Senate? No, of course not. Not only because in her freely chosen ignorance she has embraced the most primitive, bleakly reductive understandings of religion, politics, power, sexuality and human reality in general, but also -- and mainly -- because she will support all of the policies delineated above: the imperial wars for loot and domination, the presidential power to kill and incarcerate at will, the slavish support for Big Money in all of its destructive manifestations, the perversion of every single public program into an engine of private profit for the elite, and so on down the line. But as her Democratic opponent will do the same thing if he is elected, I don't see why we should be all het up about O'Donnell's corporate-funded victory in the teeny-tiny Republican primary in little bitty Delaware.

But hey, it's all good fun, right? The tribal partisans get to jerk their knees in orgiastic spasms, drawing oceans of newsprint and TV airtime, while the real business of empire -- slaughtering, torturing and repressing human beings -- goes on unnoticed and unabated.


But a hardy few out there are still trying to draw attention to the actual crimes and moral atrocities being committed by the actual holders of actual power. One of these is Andy Worthington, who is beginning an eight-part series on the remaining prisoners still being held in the still-unclosed American concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay. As Worthington says:

the series will help explain how few of the remaining prisoners have any connection to terrorism, how some are civilians, and how others were foot soldiers for the Taliban, in an inter-Muslim civil war in Afghanistan that had nothing to do with 9/11, and very little to do with al-Qaeda. I also hope that it may contribute to the almost non-existent debate regarding the Authorization for Use of Military Force, and the administration's misplaced use of it to hold foot soldiers in Guantanamo, as well as highlighting other aspects of the habeas litigation, the military commissions, the moratorium on releasing Yemenis, and the decision to hold 48 of the prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial.

Hey, but you know what's more important than that, Andy? The fact that someone who won the votes of a sliver of the electorate in a tiny state doesn't think people should masturbate! Let's get our priorities straight here.

Another campaign now underway is a major effort to free Bradley Manning, the young soldier who committed the cardinal sin of trying to unearth a few nuggets of truth about the murderous reality of the American Terror War, now being prosecuted and expanded so assiduously by the Continuer-in-Chief. On Thursday, filmmaker Michael Moore and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg launched "The Campaign to Free Manning" in Oakland. The Guardian reports:

Demonstrations are planned in the US, Canada and Australia over the next three days in support of Manning, an army intelligence analyst who is being held at a military prison in Virginia ...Manning, 23, is also accused of involvement in WikiLeaks' exposure of a video of a US helicopter attack on apparently unarmed Iraqis in a Baghdad street. Two Reuters employees were among those killed.

Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon papers to the New York Times that laid bare the extent of US government duplicity in its claims to be winning the Vietnam War, said Manning was defending the constitution in revealing the truth about the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Soldiers' sworn oath is to defend and support the constitution. Bradley Manning has been defending and supporting our constitution," he said.

Moore ... said the US military was being hypocritical in its attempts to discredit Manning and accuse WikiLeaks by asserting that making the secret documents public endangered the lives of Afghans collaborating with coalition forces.

"To suggest that lives were put in danger by the release of the WikiLeaks documents is the most cynical of statements," Moore said. "Lives were put in danger the night we invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq, an act that had nothing to do with what the Bradley Mannings of this country signed up for: to defend our people from attack. It was a war based on a complete lie and lives were not only put in danger, hundreds of thousands of them were exterminated. For those who organised this massacre to point a finger at Bradley Manning is the ultimate example of Orwellian hypocrisy."

Below is a quick roundup of a few other recent stories that aren't nearly as important as the selection by a minority party of a candidate who doesn't approve of masturbation.

1. Seven Civilians Killed in US-Iraqi Raid

That was the original headline for the New York Times story about the raid in Fallujah; within a few hours, however, the Pentagon PR units had rolled into action, and the seven civilians killed at the site of perhaps the most savage American campaign of the war had suddenly morphed into figures of vague menace. The story did note that of the dead, four were brothers "between the ages of 10 and 18." So America's non-combat soldiers killed a 10-year-old boy in a non-combat raid in the brave new era of non-combat service that has opened for the 50,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq.

But what is the life of that boy compared to the sliver of voters in a tiny state who voted in a closed, partisan primary for some gushing goober who doesn't like masturbation?

2. US Drone Strikes Kill 15 in N. Waziristan

Juan Cole reports:

The Associated Press does an important story about an intensive drone strike campaign by the US military since September 2 in southern Afghanistan and in Pakistan's North Waziristan that has left 60 persons dead, among them innocent civilians.

On Tuesday alone, US drone attacks targeted suspected militants killed some 15 persons in the village of Dargah Mandi village on the outskirts of Miranshah, N. Waziristan's main city.

The drone strikes have targeted fighters of the Haqqani network, one of five or so major insurgent groups fighting against the US & NATO presence in Afghanistan and against the Karzai government. Jalaluddin Haqqani is one of Ronald Reagan's "Freedom Fighters," who battled the Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan in the 1980s with American aid. He could not accept the US invasion and occupation of his country, either, and organized an insurgency now mainly led by his son Siraj. The Haqqani group is not Taliban but rather Mujahidin and has only a vague tactical alliance with Mulla Omar's Taliban and similar groups.

Cole also notes that protests against these continuing deadly incursions into Pakistan have been muted -- because the Pakistanis are still dying in floodwaters, and in the water's pestiferous wake. Millions are living in deadly deprivation. But look over there -- somebody's masturbating, or not masturbating, or something! Who cares about the drowned and drone-bombed dead?

3. Obama's Thatcherite Gift to the Banks

OK, the Terror War goes on -- but at least Obama's finally waking up to the need for more FDR-like stimulus for the economy -- and more FDR-style war on the fat cats who are strangling us, right? What about that big $50 billion infrastructure plan he announced on Labor Day?

Well, as Michael Hudson explains, the plan is yet another giveaway of billions of tax dollars to rapacious financial interests:

The Obama transport plan is like a Fannie Mae for bankers, based on the President's guiding mantra: "Let's help Wall Street put Americans back to work." The theory is that giving public guarantees and bailouts will enable financial managers to use some of the money to fund some projects that employ people - with newly created, non-unionized companies, presumably.

Here's the problem. Transportation projects will make real estate speculators, the construction industry and their bankers very rich unless the government recovers its public spending through windfall site-value gains on property along the right-of-way ... But Obama's infrastructure plan is for Wall Street investors to get the windfall - as property owners or as mortgage lenders making much larger loans against the enhanced site value.

The plan would not add to the government deficit, Obama promised. Unfortunately, in place of government taking more revenue, it will be the finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector that does the taking. The banking system will now do what government was supposed to do back in the Progressive Era: finance infrastructure. The difference today is that instead of funding transportation out of tax proceeds (levied progressively on the wealthy) or by the central bank monetizing public debt, the Obama plan calls for borrowing $50 billion at interest from banks.

The problem is that this will build in high interest charges, high private management charges, underwriting fees - and government guarantees. User fees will need to cover these financial and other privatization costs "freed" from the government budget. This will build about $2 billion a year into the cost of providing the transport services.

This threatens to be the kind of tollbooth program that the World Bank and IMF have been foisting on hapless Third World populations for the past half-century. ... It looks like President Obama sat down with Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and his other Rubinomics holdovers from the Clinton/Goldman-Sachs Administration and asked what policies can be funded without taxing the wealthy, but by borrowing via a separate entity - with a government guarantee like the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac gravy train for Wall Street.

Well, yeah, but at least you don't hear him talking trash about masturbation, do you? That's why we must support him. If we don't, a bunch of kooks who just want serve corporate interests will get into power! Then what will happen?

4. State Secrecy and Official Criminality

Scott Horton at Harper's tells us how Barack Obama -- whom we have every reason to believe is a modern, rational man who has no problem with masturbation -- is diligently, doggedly working to protect not only the torturers of the Bush Administration (and his own) from the legal process, but also any and every kind of state criminality.

Obama has just won a great court victory for state torturers, state murderers, state terrorists -- and good old-fashioned grafters pigging out in the public trough -- when an appeals court voted narrowly to uphold Obama's contention that the government can shield any criminality from justice by crying "state secrets."

Horton quotes the LA Times' description of just what Obama wanted to cover up by killing a civil suit filed by an innocent victim of America's gulag. The victim was suing the CIA agent who had "rendered" him over to America's terror war allies, knowing he would be tortured:

The decision to short-circuit the trial process is more than a misreading of the law; it's an egregious miscarriage of justice. That's obvious from a perusal of the plaintiffs' complaint. One said that while he was imprisoned in Egypt, electrodes were attached to his earlobes, nipples and genitals. A second, held in Morocco, said he was beaten, denied food and threatened with sexual torture and castration. A third claimed that his Moroccan captors broke his bones and cut him with a scalpel all over his body, and poured hot, stinging liquid into his open wounds.

There were no "state secrets," real or otherwise, involved in the case. The details were already known, around the world, from legal proceeding in the UK and elsewhere. But for Obama -- imperial militarist to the core -- there was a matter of principle at stake; i.e., the principle that the imperial court can shield the minions who carry out its ordered atrocities behind the unpassable gates of "state secrets."

Truth? No. Justice? Out. Compassion? Nix. Peace? Never. But masturbation -- sure, why not? We're not kooks like that Christine O'Donnell!

Now that's "progressivism."
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline Still A Dream
Presidents and Bankers, But No Action on the Ground
by Ted Rall

KARA-TEPE, AFGHANISTAN - There is no pipeline. There probably won't be one. Yet the pipeline-that-will-never-exist is one of the main reasons that hundreds of thousands of Afghans and two thousand American soldiers are dead.

Among my goals during my late-summer trip to Afghanistan was to find the construction site for the Trans-Afghanistan oil and gas pipeline (TAP). Also known as Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan, TAP would carry the world's biggest new energy reserves, which are in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan's sections of the landlocked Caspian Sea, across Afghanistan to a deep-sea port in Pakistan. (A modified version of the plan, TAPI, would add an extension to India.)

Some background:

The idea dates to the mid-1990s. Unocal, owner of the Union 76 gas station chain, led a consortium of oil companies that negotiated with the Taliban government. Among their consultants was Zalmay Khalilzad, who later served as Bush's ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations. (While in Kabul, Khalilzad engineered the U.S.-backed coup that installed Hamid Karzai-also a former Unocal consultant-over the wishes of the loya jirga.

As you'd expect, political instability has been the primary obstacle preventing a "New Silk Road" of oil and gas to flow across Central and South Asia. The planned route for TAP follows Afghanistan's "ring road" from the northwestern city of Herat across soaring mountains and bleak deserts through Kandahar province, the heart of Taliban territory. Hundreds of warlords and regional commanders would have to be paid protection money.

[The most comprehensive history of TAP is my 2003 book "Gas War: The Truth Behind the U.S. Occupation of Afghanistan."]

Unocal pulled out in 1998, citing the civil war between the Taliban and Northern Alliance. But logic can't kill a dream.

In February 2001 the new Bush-Cheney Administration invited Taliban representatives to Texas for new talks. When the Afghans insisted upon higher transit fees than the White House oilmen were prepared to offer, things turned ugly. "Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold," a frustrated U.S. negotiator snapped at the Talibs on May 15, 2001, "or we bury you under a carpet of bombs."

The last Bush-Taliban pipeline discussions took place on August 2, 2001 in Islamabad between Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca, a former CIA employee, and Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan. (By the way Zaeef's memoir "My Life in the Taliban" is riveting.)

The 9/11 attacks, planned in Pakistan and carried out by Pakistani-trained Saudis and Egyptians, provided the pretext for invading Afghanistan. Was TAP the only motivation? Certainly not: Afghanistan also offered a "dry run" invasion of a defenseless Muslim nation pre-Iraq, as well as a chance to exert geopolitical muscle-flexing at the expense of regional rivals Russia and Iran. But TAP was part of the calculus.

Since 2002 the presidents of Turkmenistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan have repeatedly met to talk about TAP(I). The Asian Development Bank has financed feasibility studies for the $8 billion deal.

"Of late, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has spoken often of TAPI," U.S. government-backed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported September 14, 2010. "He has contacted the leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India since the start of September to arrange meetings in New York and Ashgabat. Berdymukhammedov is calling for a summit of TAPI leaders in Ashgabat in December."

Politicians want the pipeline. Bankers want it too. But has ground been broken? A number of mainstream news accounts said yes, that the 52-inch pipe was already being laid along the highway that runs north from Herat to the Turkmen border.

I wanted confirmation. And photos. Something to shove in the faces of those neocons who dismiss TAP as a conspiracy theory.

Unfortunately, all the journalists in Afghanistan are embedded with soldiers, running around the mountains near the Pakistani border in a war that is irrelevant to the Afghan people but looks good on the nightly news. They're too busy supporting the troops to do any real reporting. So, accompanied by fellow cartoonists Matt Bors and Steven Cloud, I set out up that road from Herat two weeks ago.

My goal: the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline. Not on paper. In real life.

It's a hot, dusty drive. There isn't much to see: desert, scrub, goatherds, adobe-style mud-brick villages. The Koshk District, the region's major population center, is so infested with Talibs that Afghan national policemen are afraid to drive through. I can tell you what you don't see: the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline. There's no construction of any kind alongside that highway.

There was, however, fun to be had.

We stopped locals to ask them about TAP. Finally, one geezer brightened up. He had seen it! Our Afghan driver got excited. He turned to us: "It was here! But the local people stole it."

"They stole the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline?"

"Yes! They used it to make a mosque. He is going to show us."

I was happy. What a story! I took out my camera, ready to document the amazing tale of the Our Lady of TAP mosque, indirectly financed by American hubris. We followed the man down an alley and across a small garden. He walked us into what can only be described as a modest building. Less charitably, as a dump.

I am not charitable.

He gestured. There it is! Said his gesture. There, indeed it was: a dumpy little building, which I'll call a mosque though there was no way to identify it as a house of God, with pipes holding up the corners and serving as rafters. Small pipes. Very small pipes.

Nine-inch pipes. Maybe eight.

"That's not an oil pipeline," I told my driver. "What we're looking for is big. I made a big circle with my arms. "BIIIGG."

He pointed again. He smiled as if to say: Look harder.

"This pipeline came from Turkmenistan," said my driver. "I was a boy when the Soviets built it. For oil."

"No. This is a water pipe," I said. "Or maybe sewage. Besides, we're looking for something new. Not Soviet."

Because it seemed rude not to, I snapped a few photos and tipped the old guy. It was like that scene in "Spinal Tap" when the mini-Stonehenge drops from the ceiling. I stifled a laugh as we got back into our car.

An hour later, we were under arrest. But that's another story.
(c) 2010 Ted Rall is just back from Afghanistan. He is the author of "The Anti-American Manifesto," published by Seven Stories Press.

The Angry Rich
By Paul Krugman

Anger is sweeping America. True, this white-hot rage is a minority phenomenon, not something that characterizes most of our fellow citizens. But the angry minority is angry indeed, consisting of people who feel that things to which they are entitled are being taken away. And they're out for revenge.

No, I'm not talking about the Tea Partiers. I'm talking about the rich.

These are terrible times for many people in this country. Poverty, especially acute poverty, has soared in the economic slump; millions of people have lost their homes. Young people can't find jobs; laid-off 50-somethings fear that they'll never work again.

Yet if you want to find real political rage - the kind of rage that makes people compare President Obama to Hitler, or accuse him of treason - you won't find it among these suffering Americans. You'll find it instead among the very privileged, people who don't have to worry about losing their jobs, their homes, or their health insurance, but who are outraged, outraged, at the thought of paying modestly higher taxes.

The rage of the rich has been building ever since Mr. Obama took office. At first, however, it was largely confined to Wall Street. Thus when New York magazine published an article titled "The Wail Of the 1%," it was talking about financial wheeler-dealers whose firms had been bailed out with taxpayer funds, but were furious at suggestions that the price of these bailouts should include temporary limits on bonuses. When the billionaire Stephen Schwarzman compared an Obama proposal to the Nazi invasion of Poland, the proposal in question would have closed a tax loophole that specifically benefits fund managers like him.

Now, however, as decision time looms for the fate of the Bush tax cuts - will top tax rates go back to Clinton-era levels? - the rage of the rich has broadened, and also in some ways changed its character.

For one thing, craziness has gone mainstream. It's one thing when a billionaire rants at a dinner event. It's another when Forbes magazine runs a cover story alleging that the president of the United States is deliberately trying to bring America down as part of his Kenyan, "anticolonialist" agenda, that "the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s." When it comes to defending the interests of the rich, it seems, the normal rules of civilized (and rational) discourse no longer apply.

At the same time, self-pity among the privileged has become acceptable, even fashionable.

Tax-cut advocates used to pretend that they were mainly concerned about helping typical American families. Even tax breaks for the rich were justified in terms of trickle-down economics, the claim that lower taxes at the top would make the economy stronger for everyone.

These days, however, tax-cutters are hardly even trying to make the trickle-down case. Yes, Republicans are pushing the line that raising taxes at the top would hurt small businesses, but their hearts don't really seem in it. Instead, it has become common to hear vehement denials that people making $400,000 or $500,000 a year are rich. I mean, look at the expenses of people in that income class - the property taxes they have to pay on their expensive houses, the cost of sending their kids to elite private schools, and so on. Why, they can barely make ends meet.

And among the undeniably rich, a belligerent sense of entitlement has taken hold: it's their money, and they have the right to keep it. "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society," said Oliver Wendell Holmes - but that was a long time ago.

The spectacle of high-income Americans, the world's luckiest people, wallowing in self-pity and self-righteousness would be funny, except for one thing: they may well get their way. Never mind the $700 billion price tag for extending the high-end tax breaks: virtually all Republicans and some Democrats are rushing to the aid of the oppressed affluent.

You see, the rich are different from you and me: they have more influence. It's partly a matter of campaign contributions, but it's also a matter of social pressure, since politicians spend a lot of time hanging out with the wealthy. So when the rich face the prospect of paying an extra 3 or 4 percent of their income in taxes, politicians feel their pain - feel it much more acutely, it's clear, than they feel the pain of families who are losing their jobs, their houses, and their hopes.

And when the tax fight is over, one way or another, you can be sure that the people currently defending the incomes of the elite will go back to demanding cuts in Social Security and aid to the unemployed. America must make hard choices, they'll say; we all have to be willing to make sacrifices.

But when they say "we," they mean "you." Sacrifice is for the little people.
(c) 2010 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Only the dead have seen the end of war."
~~~ Plato

Wisdom Of The Terrorist's Son
By Chris Hedges

Those who embrace violence, whether in the form of acts of terrorism or acts of war, are necrophiliacs. They worship death. They sacrifice life, including at times their own, for the heady intoxication that comes with becoming an angel of destruction. And in the wake of their fury and violence they not only leave grief, pain and suffering, but they perpetuate new cycles of revenge and murder like bad karma. These killers are presented to us in many forms. They come packaged as patriots and heroes, wearing rows of medals like David Petraeus or Stanley McChrystal, or they stumble onto the stage as bearded villains wearing suicide belts. But they are all killers. They all drink the same, dark elixir of death. They all partake of the same drug. They all take life in the name of high national or religious ideals. And they are all the scourge of the human race.

Zak Ebrahim, with whom I spoke in Philadelphia, knows intimately the old, sad tale of retribution, violence and revenge. His father is El Sayid Nosair, who, on Nov. 5, 1990, in New York City, assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane, the head of the Kach Party, labeled by the United States, Canada and the European Union as a terrorist organization. The party was outlawed by the Israeli government in 1988 for inciting racism. Kahane's armed followers, whom I often encountered heavily armed at improvised roadblocks in the occupied Palestinian territories, were responsible for the murders and beatings of dozens of unarmed Palestinians. They held rallies in Jerusalem where they chanted "Death to Arabs!" And to many Palestinians, as well as many Muslims in the Arab world, Ebrahim's father, currently in ADX Florence Supermax Prison in Florence, Colo., is celebrated as a hero. But to his son, who was then 7, he became something else. He became the father who disappeared because murder for a cause was more important than a life with his wife and three small children. And if anyone understands the line demarcating seductive ideologies of death and the fragility and sanctity of systems of life, it is Ebrahim.

His father, like many other immigrants arriving in the United States as young adults, struggled. When he first lived in Pittsburgh, a woman who was thinking of converting to Islam accused him of rape. The charges were eventually dropped due to lack of evidence. But it made him wary and distrustful of American culture. The family moved to Jersey City, N.J., where Nosair's cousin offered him a job. A few months later he was severely electrocuted. He was unable to work for weeks. He fell into a deep depression.

"He spent a lot of his time sitting next to his radiator in the living room with his Koran and praying," Ebrahim said. "Those two things, which were things he had not expected when he immigrated, led him towards a group he felt more comfortable with, which was Muslims. Unfortunately, that led him to Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman."

Rahman, a blind Egyptian cleric who was implicated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was the leader of a radical mosque in Jersey City. He is serving a life sentence at the Butner Medical Center, which is part of the Butner Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C. The 1993 attack killed six people, including a pregnant woman, and injured hundreds more.

"I remember him as being a very normal, Egyptian Muslim father," said Ebrahim, 27, in fluent, unaccented English. "He was very funny, always trying to make us laugh. We lived in a happy home. My parents didn't argue. He was never violent with us. But over the course of that last year, when he started going to the Masjid Al-Salaam mosque in Jersey City, he drifted away from us. He was spending more and more time with this group of Muslim men. My mother noticed that he was starting to become initially a little more fundamentalist and then he announced he wanted to go to Afghanistan to fight in the Afghan war. He brought my grandfather here from Egypt to try and convince him to take the family back to Egypt with him so that he could go fight there. My mother was very much against him leaving to fight in this war."

Nosair's father strictly forbade his son to go to Afghanistan and told him his duty was to remain at home and support his family.

"He was spending more and more time at the mosque," said Ebrahim, who was born Abdulaziz El-Sayed Nosair but changed his name after the Kahane assassination. "The mosque had a small store on the second floor of the building that sold Islamic materials, Korans and posters, which they used to raise funds for the war in Afghanistan. I am not sure when the turning point was, but when his father told him your family is your responsibility, you need to stay here and take care of them, and he was left with this need to make a change, to help his fellow Muslims, or however he saw it, he decided to go a different route. He decided to target people in the United States."

Shortly before the assassination, Nosair, who repaired air conditioners in New York City's courts, took his young son to a shooting range in Long Island. The range, it turned out, was under surveillance by the FBI. The father and son practiced firing automatic rifles.

"I was forced to understand at a very young age, after my father went to prison, that using violence to solve a situation only makes it worse," Ebrahim said. "This was made clear to me because so many people were killed in retribution after Kahane's murder, including Kahane's son, who was killed with his wife and some of his children. The assassination solved nothing. It was only used as a tool to further fanaticize extremist groups."

As a boy Ebrahim traveled with his mother, sister and brother to spend three days and two nights in a small residence at Attica State prison with his father.

"You could rent movies," he said. "There was a little playground. It was three days of feeling like a normal family out of 362 other days. We would pretend to be a family for a couple of days. We would be happy. Then we could go back home to Jersey City, poor and without a father."

"I think he was coerced into doing this by cunning people who were skilled at turning disaffected Muslims into extremists, although he is finally responsible for what he did," Ebrahim said of his father's descent into terrorism. "Most of the men involved in the assassination and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center were taken advantage of. They were tools. They were used. These men had very little understanding of what they were doing, even though many of the men were highly educated. I knew Mohammed Salameh, who was involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He wanted to marry my sister. The years after my father went to prison Salameh only made it clearer that he wanted to marry my sister. He said it would be a great honor. But I saw that he was very young and very naive. A lot of people who come to this country are looking for ways to feel they belong and things that remind them of back home. It is amazing what you can get people to do when they feel part of a group."

Life in the wake of the Kahane assassination became very difficult for the family. Donations and money from Osama bin Laden to pay for his father's defense, led by the radical lawyer William Kunstler, eventually ran out. Ebrahim, his mother, sister and brother fell into abject poverty. The principal at the Cliffside Elementary School told the family that Ebrahim and his young brother would no longer be allowed to attend school. The children, for a time, received scholarships to a private Islamic school in Jersey City. The family, having difficulty supporting itself, would move 22 times over Ebrahim's childhood; for a while they lived in Egypt. The appearance of a physically abusive stepfather, once his mother divorced Nosair, added to the trauma. Ebrahim kept his father's identity hidden until this year, telling friends and acquaintances his father had died of a heart attack.

"My mother wore not only the hegab but the nekab, which covers the face," he said. "And she was constantly being attacked on the street [in the U.S.] although people did not know who she was. It was amazing how many times immigrants with thick accents were telling my mother to go back to her country and she was born in Pittsburgh. People would call her 'ninja' or 'ghost.' After the World Trade Center bombing, when we went outside she was often targeted."

Ebrahim has not seen his father for 15 years. They have not communicated for more than a decade. He said he is dedicating his life to speaking out as an advocate for nonviolence. He has a website at

"We talked on the phone regularly after he went to prison, at least once a week or once every two weeks," he said. "It became very tedious. I was having a hard time at school and home. I was being bullied very badly at school and abused by my stepfather. The conversations with my dad about making all my prayers and being good to my mother got old. It was the same conversation over and over again. If he cared about what was going on in my life he should have stuck around for it."

"We dropped off the radar," he said of his mother and two siblings. "We changed our names when we moved to Egypt. We did not want anyone to know we were over there. My father is a household name in Egypt. We ended all contact with him. For years he has been trying to get back in touch with us."

"If we sat down together I am not sure what we would talk about," he said. "I have spent so much time trying to protect myself from being hurt by him that I have reduced the importance of one day having a grown-up conversation with him. Perhaps this is my defense mechanism. It is easier for me not to put too much importance on the answers to questions I might put to him. He has spent 20 years in prison and well over 10 years not having contact with his children. I wonder if this makes him regret his decision, but who knows. A lot of people who commit those acts in the name of religion consider themselves martyrs."

"I came from an extremist background," he said. "I was exposed to the things Americans fear most about Islam. But I promote peace. I am not a fanatic. We must embrace tolerance and nonviolence. Who knows this better than the son of a terrorist?"
(c) 2010 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

Tea With Frankenstein
Please No Masturbation
By David Michael Green

Just when you thought you'd reached the ground floor in the well of American self-destruction, you find out once again that that pit is absolutely bottomless.

Now that primary season is almost over, the far-right tea party movement has scored impressive victories over the far-right establishment in a slew of Republican primaries. I've always said that the regressive movement would end up eating its young, and now it is.

The new batch of Republican monsters includes a candidate - now the official Republican nominee for the United States Senate from Delaware, mind you - who has staked out a tough position against - no, I'm not kidding here - masturbation.

Christine O'Donnell once averred that "The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So you can't masturbate without lust."

And why the hell not? Surely the reason that our country has so rapidly fallen into decline is that god is punishing America because so many of us are jerking off all the time.

You know who you are.

Oh, and did you hear that she was once a witch? That she believes that scientists have bred mice-men with human brains? That she has no job? And that - despite running on a platform of cleaning up Washington's fiscal disaster - she has a train wreck for a record of her personal finances?

I'm not kidding. Remember way back when - like, you know, yesterday - when you would have accused me of bad comedy writing for making such things up? Guess what? None of these are.

America, this is you, 2010. Kinda makes you pine for the good ol' days of the thirteenth century, doesn't it?

Here in New York the nominee is a bazillionaire who sends out racist and pornographic email to people. Hah-hah. Love that kind of real working man's humor, don't you? After being rejected by the Republican party initially, Carl Paladino hired Richard Nixon's political hit man to run his campaign, injected millions of his own money to fund it, and trounced the hapless establishment candidate, Rick Lazio, who just couldn't get extreme enough to win, whore himself as he might, and as he readily did.

The Christian Science Monitor notes that, "Paladino, who espouses family values, has a daughter with a former employee who is not his wife." It is also noted of this great and incendiary paragon of small government that, "As a landlord, he made a lot of money renting space to the state in Albany and using state tax incentives for his real estate empire."

Similarly, Paladino has compared labor unions to pigs, and, according to the Huffington Post, "said he would transform some New York prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients, where they could work in state-sponsored jobs, get employment training and take lessons in 'personal hygiene.'"

Did I mention that his father was employed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression? Perhaps if Franklin Roosevelt had incarcerated pre Paladino and instructed him in better hygiene - instead of wasting taxpayer money to create a monstrously big government in remote Washington, DC that continually oppressed the people with stupid wasteful programs that like, oh, you know, kept starving Americans alive - we in New York wouldn't be stuck with the fruit of his loins assaulting our senses today.

Whatever. I mean, what's the point of having Republicans if it's not gonna be all about hypocrisy and twisted sexual obsession, anyhow?

Meanwhile, America's thirty year March to the Sea goes on unabated. It is the most astonishing thing, if you think about it. Of course 'thinking' and 'America' are increasingly becoming words that can no longer be smashed into the same sentence anymore, even with the use of advanced new weaponry the Pentagon is producing. But indulge me for the moment.

What has happened to this country is that the United States - which was holding a pretty goddam good winning hand, thank you very much, by the middle of the twentieth century - started following (what were inaccurately labeled) conservative politicians and policies in the 1980s, and things got a lot worse. Then we followed even more regressive idiots this last decade, and things got a whole lot worse yet.

So what are we up to now, in reaction to these twin debacles of precambrian policymaking? Following even crazier still Ÿber-extremist right-wing monster freakazoid criminals dressed up as ordinary angry citizens, of course. Natch, babe. In for a penny, in for a pound. In for a pound, in for a planet.

It is the stuff of fiction, really - almost unimaginable to remotely sentient beings operating in the real world. Something that requires a master novelist to do it proper justice. But Orwell's long dead, so even that possibility is off the table.

Not everybody quite gets how perilous is the moment, however. Democratic pundits who are rejoicing over the tea party primary victories, thinking that they are good for the Democratic Party, are stupid slugs who ought to have the living shit kicked out of them, just for brainlessly taking up space on the planet. First of all, who could possibly care in the slightest about the fate of the Democratic Party? Am I really supposed to be so filled with motivating joy about the prospects of electing slightly less regressive agents of the American oligarchy to Congress that I will run down to party headquarters and start phone banking for my local Democrat? Are we really supposed get electrified and rally around our president and the inspirational likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, simply because they are marginally less obnoxious than the alternative? Golly, I just don't think so.

But more importantly, Democrats are the very reason for the tea party, this latest episode of American idiocy. Had the party done something with the grand historic opportunity handed to them two years ago, none of this would be happening. Had they not booted so badly a rare alignment of the stars that gave them crises allowing real, serious solutions, along with a despised opposition allowing the final crushing of the conservative disease for a generation or more, we wouldn't be sitting here today laughing at serious candidates for the United States Senate who have staked out firm positions on the societal perils of onanism.

If Barack Obama had channeled Harry Truman instead of Neville Chamberlain, this show would have been over a long time ago. But the president instead decided to make nice with vicious thugs, even though he never needed to, and even though they were publicly excoriating him in the ugliest and most deceitful terms, just as he was negotiating with them. And negotiating. And negotiating some more. The Fool Down The Hill spent a year cutting deals with Republicans in Congress on his health care debacle, giving in to them at every turn, and stiff-arming the progressives who had made him president, only to achieve exactly what anyone who has been remotely conscious since Joe McCarthy's day knew would be the outcome: no Republican votes for a bill they themselves had helped water down to near insignificance. Add to that Republican obstruction on every other issue, the almost complete absence of GOP votes on anything - even legislation they had previously sponsored - the Democrats favored, along with the right's continuous assault on every real or (mostly) imagined personal characteristic of the president, and now you see a huge part of the explanation for the tragicomedy that is American politics at this moment.

What's worse, Obama's stupidity is a gift that will keep on giving for a long time. By means of his actions in the White House so far, he has nearly guaranteed that he cannot recover in the coming years, no matter what. He has done one of the few things that more or less assures his presidency of being finished. The right will never let up on him, even if he were to adopt their agenda wholesale. And let's be clear about this - he more or less already has. If you lay out the positions of the Obama administration on everything from civil liberties to gay rights to economic policy to national 'defense' and more, there's hardly a damn shred of difference between his positions and George W. Bush's. It's a ludicrous lie to call this milquetoast regressive in a Democratic suit a liberal, let alone a socialist. And we've only just begun with Bad Barry, folks. After he gets his ass royally kicked in November, Obama will lurch even further to the right. But that will engender even greater scorn from the sickos living over there under their slime-infested rocks, as well as endless congressional investigations of bogus administration scandals, likely including an impeachment. Or did you miss the 1990s entirely, Barack?

But that's only the start of it. Because Obama was too dumb to recognize that everything hinged on reviving the economy (did you miss the last century, too, Bro?), and because he was too cowardly to move boldly on anything whatsoever that he did, he has also lost ordinary, centrist, independent voters who think both parties are generally worthless but will vote for anyone who can actually produce solutions. It's possible that you can bring those people back, but it ain't likely. The first rule of politics is that people vote their pocketbooks. Thus, any prayer at winning again would require an economic recovery. But that isn't gonna happen, in part because Half O'Bama half-assed the stimulus bill, partly because he was seeking bipartisan support which - wait for it now - never came, despite the compromises which reduced the size of the stimulus and turned one-third of it into ineffective tax cuts that the one-tune-jukebox Neanderthals demanded. It's also not gonna happen because this downturn is less a one-off event than it is the culmination (we grimly hope - it could get worse yet) of a thirty year grand national downsizing project, and because it is less an economic recession than it is a wholesale and permanent restructuring. No economist I've heard of sees any shred of economic recovery anywhere on the horizon throughout all of 2011, and neither do I. In fact, there are good reasons to think it gets worse from here. And that means Obama and his party are toast, not just in this election cycle, but the next one as well.

Having thus irrevocably alienated aliens on the right in addition to the just-gimme-some-results voters in the middle, Obama is producing some of the same effect on progressives as well. It was a very bad idea to speak in bold, Lincolnesque strokes as a candidate if you intended to govern like a small town city manager, and a feeble one at that. Lots of young folks, especially, who flocked to the banner of hope and change are now feeling burned, and well they should. For many others - including the dude I see in my bathroom mirror every morning - this is more like the last straw, the final frontier. Having spent decades holding our noses and voting for Democrats just because the Republicans were so goddam destructive, many of us are now done, possibly forever. Not only is it unimaginable to me that I would vote for Obama in 2012 - no matter who is his Republican opponent - I refuse, with rare possible exception, to vote for any Democrat ever again, until the party can at least get back in the ballpark of progressive politics.

And so it is Obama and his co-conspirators in Congress have lost the right and the center, and at least the enthusiasm if not the votes of the left. But, more importantly, they have done so in ways that are mostly permanent, ways that mostly preclude any possible recovery of these voters' support. This is precisely the reason that Democratic pundits and functionaries are even more self-destructively stupid now than they have been for thirty years, rejoicing in tea party primary victories, thinking that those represent good news for their party. Consider the appropriately-named Bob Shrum as one example, he whose great wisdom has produced an astonishing zero-for-eight record as a top presidential campaign staffer over the decades (in a hissy fit after nine days on board, he actually quit the Jimmy Carter campaign, the only successful one he was ever involved with). Looking ahead to the presidential prospects of 2012 given the surge of the tea party, he surveys the Republican field, noting that, "The GOP's 1964 tragedy of Goldwater, who was at least a serious figure, could be repeated in the farce of Palin. ... Newt Gingrich is positioning himself as Palin with a brain. Gingrich has now become a font of smears and off-the-rail ideas - from privatizing Social Security to the transparently racist charge that Obama channels the Kenyan anti-colonialism of the father he barely knew. With his pandering to both prejudice and extremism, Gingrich could be the 2012 nominee. He would be unelectable. ... So would Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who's proposed scrapping the progressive income tax, the sinister idea championed by that great socialist Republican Theodore Roosevelt. ... In desperation, Republican strategists are thinking of Mississippi Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, who would also compete with an appeal to the birthers, the resentful, and the backlash base. But Barbour was a legendary D.C. lobbyist for the most powerful vested interests, from tobacco to oil. Perhaps he could run on the slogan: 'Remove the Middleman.' For Republicans, payback could come as early as November, with Democrats keeping the Senate - maybe even the House. But 2012, I believe, will provide the ultimate irony: The people who most revile President Obama - and the Republican leaders who enlisted them only to see their party hijacked by them - may assure an Obama re-election."

To say that this analysis displays astonishing naivete would be an unfair and unkind cut on simpletons the world over. This is pure lunacy, and it shows both the self-interested narrowness and the analytical imbecility of Democratic strategists (to abuse a term) and pundits. Maybe these folks haven't noticed lately, but in American politics "pandering to both prejudice and extremism" is not exactly a losing strategy. Maybe these people (and there's a lot more of them than just Shrum) aren't paying real close attention, but most American voters don't even have a clue who Teddy Roosevelt was or what he did. And they don't exactly shrink from the idea of slashing taxes just because some dude had a different approach a hundred years ago. Or was it a thousand?

Most importantly, Shrum's assumption of rationality amongst voters leads him to conclude that the nomination of Palin in 2012 would result in the "ironic" "farce" of her Goldwater-like crushing defeat at the polls. It is no surprise this guy keeps booting presidential campaigns. The twin wonders are why anyone continues to hire him, and why anyone publishes his analysis of politics. For all I know, he could be a world-class expert at philately or the intricacies nineteenth century cricket, but, meanwhile, opinion journal publishers might want to take note of the increasingly inconvenient fact that the guy clearly knows nothing about politics.

Here's the deal, Bob (et al.), and feel free to take notes: This is not 1964. The country is not flush. The middle class is not robust, thriving and expanding. The incumbent party is not riding a wave of peace and prosperity, nor is it benefitting from public sympathy for the young, handsome, witty and beloved leader just recently tragically cut down in his prime. Okay? Which means that, unlike Lyndon Johnson and crew, Democrats are not gonna get a lot of votes from people happy with the magic of our moment, and therefore especially uninterested in a taking a gamble on a self-described extremist like Barry Goldwater. Indeed, precisely the opposite logic applies here, which will produce precisely the opposite outcome. Democrats should be familiar with this - it's exactly the reverse of what transpired not even two years ago: Very unhappy voters in 2012 will choose the candidate of the party not in the White House, because those voters will desperately crave change. You remember "change", don't you, Bob? Thus, the real race will be for the Republican nomination - decided exclusively by Republican primary voters, who are merely certifiably insane on a good day - not the general election, which will be a sure thing for the GOP. And thus the next president of the United States will be Sarah Palin.

It would be nice if that were the bad part. But, sadly, as ugly as that prospect is, it's only the warm-up act for the real fun. Republicans - tea party variant or not (and, ideologically, there ain't much difference between the two) - have absolutely zero solutions for the crises the country faces (not to mention the irony of them being responsible for creating those crises, of course). Their only plan for economic recovery is more tax cuts for the rich. That will do nothing for the economy, of course, other than plunging the country deeper into debt and exacerbating already dramatic disparities in the country's distribution of wealth. Their plan for health care is to repeal Obama's. Their plan for global warming is to pretend it doesn't exist and support fossil fuel related industries such that the problem gets worse. Their foreign policy is war. Their plan for Middle East peace is to support Israel no matter what it does, thus guaranteeing no peace agreement. Their plan for the financial crisis is to slash any restrictions that might meaningfully control the behavior of Wall Street predators. And so on. They have no solutions, and can only succeed in making the bad situation they created worse.

And now here is where it starts to get really scary. Imagine us in 2014, the same distance into a Republican government (on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue) that we are today into a Democratic one. Except that there are two big differences. The first is that the public has had four more years - four years! - of decline, demoralization and economic terrorism under their belts by this time, with no solutions remotely in sight. What is their likely disposition? They will be turning on Republicans and showing their canines in a way that makes 2010 look like a friendly game of Scrabble by comparison.

The second difference will be in the nature of those inhabiting a government which at that point will be firmly backed up against the wall. About the only positive thing I can say regarding Democrats is that they have some limitations on what they are willing to do out of self-interest. Not much, but some. Not so the animals of the GOP, least of all the tea party sociopathic freaks. These people are not going to go down lightly. These people will be faced with a choice between humiliation and destruction on the one hand, and generating a diversionary, and probably jingoistic feel-good, catastrophe on the other. They would not be the first failing government in history to choose the annihilation of others in order to sustain a bit longer the unsustainable. They would not even be the first to take out tens of millions in such a quest. Scary only begins to describe where this is all going.

People often scoff at me when I tell them that I think Sarah Palin is likely to be the next American president. Or they think I wax a bit apocalyptic when I start talking about outcomes that smell all too much like Germany in the 1930s. So let me review the bidding in summary form to explain why we should be very afraid. Jump in anywhere you see a chink in the chain of logic.

The first question is, Will Barack Obama preside over economic recovery substantial and early enough to be reelected in 2012? Perhaps, of course. But not likely as things look now. Second, will voters conform with nearly universal past practice and choose to go with the alternative to the status quo under conditions of economic (and other) duress? Highly likely. Third, will they be willing to elect somebody whose ideas are extreme and who quite recently was widely portrayed in the media as a dummy and a clown, if that is their only realistic alternative to the failed sitting president and his party? I dunno - can you say "Ronald Reagan in 1980"? Fourth, given the composition of Republican primary voters who are already choosing candidates so extreme that even Karl Rove is describing them as "nutty", and given what we saw from these people in 2008, who is most likely to be the 2012 GOP nominee, and therefore shoe-in winner of the general election in November of that year? You know her name. Fifth, will a Republican program of tax cuts for the rich, reduced standard of living for everyone else, increased economic insecurity, more war, environmental wreckage, a Wall Street bacchanal and unfettered corporate pillage give Americans in 2013 and 2014 the solutions they were looking for when they desperately voted out the incumbent in 2012? Of course not. And, finally, and most grimly of all, Would a Sarah Palin administration or its equivalent stand by and watch itself go down in flames of complete destruction - sorta like what Barack Obama is now doing - when it had at its disposal a way to instead change the channel of public dissatisfaction?

I think we all know the answer to that one too. Each of these questions has more than one possible answer, and I am far from claiming any outcome as inevitable. However, I will say that I think the sequence of events I've outlined above - not just individually, but the more daunting probability of all these things happening - is more likely than not. I have a hard time seeing this country recover in two years time. I have a hard time seeing Obama winning reelection. I not only cannot imagine a non-radical GOP nominee in 2012, I can't even name one such person in the party considering a presidential bid. I know for sure that their 'solutions' don't work - indeed, I, like you, am living the consequences of those very policies as we speak. And, finally, I also know that the people who did Iraq and debt hemorrhaging tax cuts and Katrina and torture and the rest are capable of anything. Anything. And these weren't even the tea partiers, who are even sicker than the Bushes and Roves out there.

People like Bob Shrum or perhaps Barack Obama and the strategists around him would merely be insane to applaud tea party successes this year, if all that was at stake was their own worthless careers. (And it is, of course, a measure of their utter failure as politicians that the best thing they have going in this election cycle is the hope that their opponents will choose lunatics as candidates.) Yes, yes, Bob and Barack and Rahm and David and David, this may be good news six weeks from now for a Democratic Party that is so pathetic it depends on the GOP to implode in order to only get partially devastated in the coming election. But even that won't stop scads of tea baggers from winning seats in the United States Congress this year. And - far more importantly - it won't stop the rise of this movement that is so disastrous for the country going forward.

Far, far more is at stake here than one failed president's second term, or the careers of a bunch of party hacks and media retreads.

The truth is, we stand now on the edge of a precipice. And it is a very long way down to the bottom.
(c) 2010 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Kandidatin O'Donnell,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and your promise to get rid of Social Security and Medicare, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross first class with ruby clusters, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 10-31-2010. We salute you Frau O'Donnell, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Obscenity Of Comparing Americans To Killers And Terrorists
By Glenn Greenwald

A couple of weeks ago, I took issue with some of the objections being voiced by progressive critics of Markos Moulitsas' new book, The American Taliban. In particular, I found this sentence from The American Prospect's Jamelle Bouie -- fairly representative of the negative reaction to the book -- to be not only absurd but almost offensive in its self-loving nationalism: "Yes, progressives are depressed and despondent about the future, but . . . . it doesn't excuse the obscenity of comparing our political opponents to killers and terrorists." For the reasons I explained, it seems to me that only jingoistic blindness can account for the belief that it is "obscene" to compare the American architects and enablers of the attack on Iraq and the worldwide torture regime (among other crimes) to "killers and terrorists." The former are the latter, by definition.

I didn't intend to return to this topic, but The American Prospect's Adam Serwer has now defended his colleague Bouie against my critique, a defense cited yesterday (presumably with approval) by Andrew Sullivan. Beyond that, there's one substantive point raised by this dispute which I think is quite interesting and important and thus merits more attention. Initially, I must note how odd it is for Serwer and The Prospect, of all people, to be leading this charge, given that Serwer himself six months ago wrote a (genuinely superb) piece for The Atlantic entitled "American Takfiris" which equates John Yoo, Jay Bybee and their "cohorts in the [Bush] Office of Legal Counsel" with Al Qaeda leaders ("takfirism," Serwer explains, is what "allowed al Qaeda to, for all intents and purposes, kill anyone they wanted without violating the laws of Islam": somehow, "American Taliban" is beyond the rhetorical pale, but "American Takfiris" is perfectly acceptable). And then there's the fact that TAP's Editor-in-Chief, Robert Kuttner, wrote an article in February of this year -- in that very magazine -- entitled . . . . wait for it . . . . "American Taliban," which repeatedly compared the American Right to the Taliban with sentences like this one: "With the complete takeover of the GOP by an American Taliban, the party should be doomed to minority status." How can Prospect writers possibly rail against Moulitsas as though he committed some grave sin without grappling with these identical "transgressions," including from TAP's own chief editor and from Serwer himself (Serwer claims that his Al Qaeda comparison was narrowly focused on Bush OLC lawyers while Moulitsas generalized much more, but I wonder if Serwer even read American Taliban because Moulitsas is quite specific in citing his culprits, as opposed to Kuttner, who applied the term to the GOP generally).

As for the substance of the argument, I want to be clear: I believe and wrote explicitly (contrary to what TAP's own Editor apparently believes) that in many areas -- sexual morality, the status of women, state enforcement of religious dogma, etc. -- the actual Taliban is so much more extreme than the mainstream American Right that, shared premises notwithstanding, they are not similar (and in those areas, Moulitsas is using a rhetorical tactic to subvert the Right's own tactics; the efficacy and fairness of Moulitsas' approach in that regard can be and has been reasonably debated). But in other areas, particularly war -- which happens to be the title of Chapter 2 of Moulitsas' book -- the comparison is more than apt in a literal sense. To see why that is so, just consider the chart above by E.D. Kain.

What's "obscene" is not the comparison between those responsible for this and the Taliban. The real obscenity are those who stand up and say: how dare you compare my fellow Americans who did this "to killers and terrorists" (and, it should be noted, this chart reflects the most conservative estimate of the number of Iraqis killed). That righteous objection is designed to minimize the breadth and depth of American crimes -- oh, it may be bad, but it's not that bad/American warmongers may be bad, but they're still Americans, and thus shouldn't be compared to those inhuman foreign Muslims over there -- and that's the real "obscenity."

In a Twitter exchange I had with him, Bouie argued that the number of innocent civilians killed is not the only factor determining one's immorality. That's true, but it's certainly one factor: a very important one. But move beyond numbers. As I documented in my original argument, The Nuremberg Trials established the proposition that "aggressive war" -- which is what the attack on Iraq unquestionably was -- is the supreme crime ("The central crime in this pattern of crimes, the kingpin which holds them all together, is the plot for aggressive wars"), and a central purpose of the Tribunal was to deter future "aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment." And Sullivan himself has repeatedly compared America's torture regime to the Gestapo system and others used by history's most monstrous regimes both in terms of tactics and justifying rationale ("The question Americans have to ask themselves is why they hold the former president and vice-president to lower moral and ethical standards than the United States once held the Gestapo"). Given all of that, what's the basis for the claim that it's wildly inappropriate to compare Americans responsible for such crimes to "killers and terrorists"?

I believe what's driving the discomfort with the comparison is that we all know people who cheered for the attack on Iraq, America's torture regime, lawless imprisonment and the like. They're our relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, political allies and sometimes even ourselves. But few of us know supporters of the Taliban. Thus, as is always true with people we don't know, we're perfectly comfortable with extreme, two-dimensional demonization of Taliban sympathizers and other Islamic extremists, while taking offense at the notion that the people we know -- like that funny, kibbitzy guy down the hallway in The Atlantic offices -- could possibly be anything like them, notwithstanding their support for similar, extremist actions. One sees this premise creeping into Serwer's response, quoting what I wrote:

Point is, you cannot argue that the demonization of a religious and ethnic other for the purposes of justifying endless, limitless war is a bad thing and then apply the same blanket comparisons to your political opponents. Rather than "destroying the rotted premise" at the heart of the moral cretinism of the warmongers he is criticizing, Greenwald is reinforcing it by legitimizing its use in domestic political debate. This argument doesn't illuminate anything about the motivations of "The Enemy"; it makes the GOP as a whole "something utterly foreign, inhuman, and subject to entirely different drives than Us." I don't see where that gets anyone, particularly since I don't think it's accurate.

Actually, this disagreement represents the precise opposite dynamic. Unlike Serwer (apparently), I don't consider the Taliban "something utterly foreign, inhuman, and subject to entirely different drives than Us." Therefore, I don't see the comparison of the American Right (as well as Democrats who support its radical policies) to the Taliban as a suggestion that "the GOP as a whole [is] 'something utterly foreign, inhuman, and subject to entirely different drives than Us'." That's the whole point: those who are so upset by this comparison (how dare you compare Americans to the Taliban) have ingested the tribalistic, propagnadistic delusion that no matter what we do, We are always fundamentally different and better than Them.

The cartoonish demonization of our Enemy is accomplished by mindlessly screaming inflammatory, manipulated labels at them --"Terrorists!" -- designed to rob them of their Humanness, obliterate nuances among them, and convert them into some incomprehensible Other. That's how we justify to ourselves what we do to them. But the reality is much more complex than that. As even American military leaders acknowledge, "the Taliban" is composed of many diverse factions and many motivations, including a desire to expel foreign armies (i.e., us) from their country. Many of their leaders are malicious extremists and monsters who advocate heinous policies and engage in incomprehensibly vile acts, while many of their supporters are motivated by innocuous or even reasonable fears and objectives which are easily exploited. In other words, they are quite similar in composition and drives to most other political factions which end up endorsing and perpetrating heinous acts, even when those factions are American.

The insistence that this comparison between Us and Them is inherently invalid and even "obscene" lies at the heart of so much mischief -- it's the linchpin of exceptionalism and jingoism -- and it's very disappointing to see this claim being so casually invoked in reaction to this book. The nature of tribalism is that one always thinks their side is better and the other side worse, and that comparisons between the two sides (or even equal application of standards to each) is deeply unfair and offensive ("moral relativism"). Tribalism is a powerful human drive, which is why even those who are aware of its intoxicating effects and even consciously try to avoid it -- all of us -- nonetheless sometimes succumb to its temptations.
(c) 2010 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

Torture In Iraq Continues, Unabated
By Amy Goodman

Combat operations in Iraq are over, if you believe President Barack Obama's rhetoric. But torture in Iraq's prisons, first exposed during the Abu Ghraib scandal, is thriving, increasingly distant from any scrutiny or accountability. After arresting tens of thousands of Iraqis, often without charge, and holding many for years without trial, the United States has handed over control of Iraqi prisons, and 10,000 prisoners, to the Iraqi government. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

After landing in London late Saturday night, we traveled to the small suburb of Kilburn to speak with Rabiha al-Qassab, an Iraqi refugee who was granted political asylum in Britain after her brother was executed by Saddam Hussein. Her husband, 68-year-old Ramze Shihab Ahmed, was a general in the Iraqi army under Saddam, fought in the Iran-Iraq War and was part of a failed plot to overthrow the Iraqi dictator. The couple was living peacefully for years in London, until September 2009.

It was then that Ramze Ahmed learned his son, Omar, had been arrested in Mosul, Iraq. Ahmed returned to Iraq to find him and was arrested himself.

For months, Rabiha didn't know what had become of her husband. Then, on March 28, her cell phone rang. "I don't know the voice," she told me.

"I said, 'Who are you?' He said he is very sick ... he said, 'Me, Ramze, Ramze. Call embassy.' And they took the mobile, and they stop talking."

Ramze Ahmed was being held in a secret prison at the old Muthanna Airport in Baghdad. A recent report from Amnesty International, titled "New Order, Same Abuses," describes Muthanna as "one of the harshest" prisons in Iraq, the scene of extensive torture and under the control of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

As Rabiha showed me family photos, a piece of paper with English and Arabic words slipped out. Rabiha explained that in order to describe in English what happened to her husband, she had to consult a dictionary, since she had never used several of the English words: "Rape." "Stick." "Torture." She wept as she described his account of being sodomized with a stick, suffocated repeatedly with plastic bags placed over his head, and shocked with electricity.

Not surprisingly, as detailed in the Amnesty report, the Iraqi government said that Ramze Shihab Ahmed had confessed to links to al-Qaida in Iraq. In a January 2010 press conference organized by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, videotapes were played showing nine others confessing to crimes, including Ahmed's son, Omar, who, showing signs of beatings, confessed to "the killing of several Christians in Mosul and the detonation of a bomb in a village near Mosul."

Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa program, told me in London, "there's a culture of abuse [in Iraq] that has taken root. It was certainly there during the days of Saddam Hussein, but what we wanted to see from 2003 was a turning of the page, and that hasn't happened. So we see secret prisons, people being tortured and ill-treated, being forced to make confessions ... the perpetrators are not being held to account. They're not being identified."

After that brief, interrupted phone call that Rabiha received from her husband, she did call the British government, and its embassy in Iraq tracked Ahmed down in al-Rusafa prison in Baghdad. Normally with a cane, they found him in a wheelchair. Rabiha has a photo of him taken by the British representative.

Amnesty reports that there are an estimated 30,000 prisoners in Iraq (200 remaining under U.S. control). The condition and treatment of the Iraqi prisoners is considered by the U.S. to be, Smart says, "an Iraqi issue." But with the U.S. continuing to pour billions of dollars into its ongoing military presence there, and to fund the Iraqi government, the treatment of prisoners is clearly a U.S. issue as well. Amnesty has launched a grass-roots campaign to spur further action to secure Ahmed's release.

Meanwhile, Rabiha al-Qassab, isolated and alone in north London, spends time feeding the ducks in a local park, which her husband used to do.

She told me: "I talk with the ducks. I say, 'You remember the man who gave you the food? He is in a prison. Ask God to help him.'"
(c) 2010 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Dwayne Booth ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Since I've Been Loving You
By Led Zeppelin

I've been workin' from seven to eleven every night
really makes life a drag
I don't think that's right
I've really been the best, the best of fools
I did what I could, yeah
'Cause I love you, baby, how I love you, darlin'
How I love you, baby, mama, love, little girl, little girl

Oh but, baby, since I've been lovin' you, yeah
I'm about to lose my worried mind, aw, yeah

Everybody tryin' to tell me that you didn't mean me no good
I've been tryin', lord, let me tell ya
Let me tell ya, I really did the best I could
I've been, I've been workin' from seven ah to eleven every night
I said, it kind of makes your life a drag, drag, drag, drag
Lord, yeah, that ain't right, now, now

Since I've been lovin' you, yeah
I'm about to lose my worried mind, yeah

I said, I've been cryin', yeah
All my tears, they fell like rain
Don'tcha see them, don'tcha see them fallin'
Don'tcha see them, don'tcha see them fallin'

Do you remember, mama, when I knocked upon your door
I said, you had the nerve to tell me
You didn't want me no more, yeah
I open my front door, I hear my back door slam
You know, I must have one of them new-fangled, new-fangled
Back-door man, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
I've been workin' from seven, seven, seven
To eleven every night, it kinda makin' life a drag
A drag, drag, oh, yeah, it makes it a drag

Baby, since I've been lovin' you
I'm about to lose, I'm about to lose, lose my worried mind
And just one more, just one more
Oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, yeah, since I've been lovin' you
I'm gonna lose my, my worried mind
(c) 1970/2010 Led Zeppelin

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Delaware Masturbators March Against O'Donnell
Largest Pro-wanking Demonstration in History
By Andy Borowitz

WILMINGTON (The Borowitz Report) - Galvanized by Republican senatorial nominee Christine O'Donnell's anti-masturbation stance, masturbators from across the state converged on Wilmington today in what some are calling the largest pro-wanking protest in American history.

Carrying signs reading, "O'Donnell: Hands Off Our Masturbation," the angry masturbators clogged downtown Wilmington, stopping traffic for blocks.

Harley Farger, a leading Delaware masturbator and planner of the Million Masturbators March, said it was difficult to organize masturbators "because they're used to acting alone."

Mr. Farger, the executive director of the pro-monkey-spanking group MasturNation, said that the "wank and file" of his organization believe that masturbation is an inalienable right guaranteed by the Constitution.

"Our country was founded by rugged individualists," he said. "And you know what individualists like to do."

He said that Ms. O'Donnell's anti-whacking position was "ill-timed," adding, "In this economy, masturbation is one of the few simple pleasures people still can afford."

Tracy Klugian, a homemaker and masturbator from Dover, Delaware, said she is "puzzled" by what she sees as the contradictory nature of candidate O'Donnell's position: "If you're against masturbation, why would you want to serve in Congress?"?

A spokesman for the Wilmington Police Department, Crandall Darlington, said that the Million Masturbators March could cost the city tens of thousands of dollars, "especially when you include the cost of cleaning up afterwards."
(c) 2010 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 39 (c) 09/24/2010

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