Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky explores, "Crisis And Hope."

Uri Avnery follows, "The Drama And The Farce."

Robert Scheer concludes we need to be, "Exorcising America's Diplomatic Demons."

Jim Hightower demands we, "Try Some Real Economic Indicators."

David Sirota exposes Obama's hypocrisy in, "Obama Crushes Democratic Dissent."

John Nichols declares, "Congressman Grayson Has Just Begun To Fight."

Paul Krugman investigates the, "Cassandras Of Climate."

Chris Floyd oversees the, "Happy Junta Grounds."

Case Wagenvoord explains, "Saving Big Pharma."

Mike Folkerth reviews, "Career Choices; Winners And Losers."

Chris Hedges presents, "The War On Language."

Bruce A Dixon explains, "Why The Public Option Is Doomed To Fail."

Sin-ator Tom Carper wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Paul Craig Roberts studies, "Hypocrisy In Pittsburgh."

Gary Younge reports, "Shifting Powers In The Caribbean Emphasize The End Of Empire."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz says, "Mental Patient Breaks into U.N., Gives Ninety-minute Speech" but first Uncle Ernie remembers, "Fairy Tales And Children's Rhymes."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Bill Day, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Married To The Sea, Mr. Fish, Daryl Cagle, Freaking News.Com, Rico Dog, George Romney, CBS, Issues & Alibis.Org and Pink & Blue Films.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

Fairy Tales And Children's Rhymes
By Ernest Stewart

I had a little bird,
It's name was Enza.
I opened up the window
And in-flu-enza!
Child's rhyme 1918

"O brave new world, that has such people in it!"
The Tempest ~ William Shakespeare

"So I'm packing my bags for the Misty Mountains."
Misty Mountains Hop ~ Led Zeppelin

Like the above poem from 1918, most "fairy tales" and nursery rhymes are based on a pretty horrible event. The above children's rhyme is from the 1918 epidemic that killed far more people than WWI. I'm not talking about the sanitized, homogenized bullshit that oozes out from the Disney Corpo-rats but the real stuff. For example, that old rhyme from the middle ages:

Ring around the rosy
A pocketful of posies
Ashes, Ashes
We all fall down!

Innocent huh? Well it's a rhyme about the bubonic plague that liked to have wiped out Europe in the 13th century and England in the 17th century. This particular version comes from mid 17th century London where the population was almost destroyed by the plague until the "Great London Fire of 1666" killed the rats and stop it in it's tracks.

"Ring around the rosy," describes the skin lesions made by bubonic plague a red mark surrounded by a red ring that was the first sign of the plague.

"A pocket full of posies" describes what people did, stuff flowers in their pockets and hankercheifs to try and kill the smell of the millions of dying, dead and burning bodies.

"Ashes, ashes" is about the fires that were used to get rid of the millions of corpses.

"All fall down," describes most everyone dying from the plague.

We still have bubonic plague in America to this day. It is, for the most part, confined to a few Indian reservation in New Mexico and Arizona and is carried, for the most part, by deer mice and spread by their feces. Never sweep up anything in the effected areas because if you do and happen to breath in, it's your ass! Always use a vacuum cleaner! Fortunately, today, simple antibiotics can completely cure the plague if caught in time, so almost nobody dies from it anymore.

Another famous children's rhyme is said by some to be about members of my family. I'm sure you've heard of...

Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

This supposedly refers to events immediately preceding the so called "Glorious Revolution of 1688."

The baby is supposed to be the son of King James II of England, who was believed by some to be someone else's child smuggled into the birthing room in order to provide a Catholic heir for Uncle Jimi.

The "wind" is said to be the political "wind" blowing from the Netherlands, bringing James' nephew and son-in-law, Protestant William III of England, a.k.a. William of Orange (who married Mary Stuart, James' Protestant daughter), who would eventually depose dear old dad in the revolution which is celebrated every year by the Protestant Orangemen of Northern Ireland much to the dismay of the local Catholics. One side of my family battling the other over power and religion.

The "cradle" is the House of Stuart/Stewart and the Stuart monarchy.

The original fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and others also captured real events and were used to scare and warn the little ones about the horrors of everyday living. I wrote one of my own based on the original Hansel and Grethel that I called Hansel and Grethel Revisited which catches the mood of the original, cannibalism, murder and such, but told from a modern perspective.

I only bring this up because of the overwhelming fairy tales that flow from Con-gress and Obama about health care and almost every other thing. The health care fairy tale is being told about getting insurance costs in line with reality, insuring everyone, including the 50 million without insurance, and a single payer option, like Medicare. Of course, the reality is America is being sold down the river to the insurance industry, making mandatory insurance for everyone whether or not you can afford it and regardless what cost our insurance overlords demand for insurance. Insurance, I might add, that will come with real, not imaginary, insurance company death panels, just as they currently have! Another trillion or so dollars like the bankers' gifts from the American taxpayer and, since almost no one is working, those few who are will see skyrocketing tax bills! Talk about your grim fairy tales!

In Other News

I had a rather scary thought the other day. What if it's true and not just mindless speculation that there is something majorly wrong with the swine flu shots? I mean, not something that will just make you sick and maybe kill you in a decade or two. So far the only mandatory shots are going to healthcare workers and emergency responders. What happens to you and me if all the doctors and nurses, all the firefighters and police all suddenly drop dead, then what?

Would the corpo-rats do that to this or any population? After all rumor has it they want to kill off about 6 billion of us and leave only about half a billion to wait on them and keep the systems up and running for their enjoyment. What better way to achieve this goal than to start by killing off everyone who could stop a real epidemic, who could stand in their way?

I've always thought that this "pandemic," like New Orleans, was for FEMA, a dry run, practice for the real things to come. What if they were just practicing to iron out all the kinks with a dry run for the genocide to come? A practice disease and practice serum to see how many would just get in line for the vaccinations and how many wouldn't. What could be done about those who wouldn't?

It was just a bizarre, scary thought, nothing to worry about. Or was it a premonition of things to come?

And Finally

We're going to be gone for a couple of weeks as we move back to the "Misty Mountains." Then, if I survive that move, I'm off to Detroit to get my things out of storage there and bring them back to our new home. Providing I make that trip and there is enough money left to resume the magazine, I will. If not, best of luck to you and yours!

I hope I've made ya'll aware of what's going down and what you can do about it. How to prepare yourself and your families to be ready when it hits the fan! How to survive in the "Brave New World" to come.

Remember, love yourself, love your neighbors and live in peace! However if they won't let you live in peace, shoot to kill!

Oh And One More Thing

For all of you who have written in over the last four years wanting to see my pet project, i.e., "W The Movie" and couldn't get to it's very limited run in the theatres or film festivals, here's your chance. "W The Movie" is now available on DVD through If you are so inclined please use the link/portal for the film, which maybe found towards the bottom of this page. That way Amazon will send me a few pennies for each purchase, which may allow the continuation of the magazine as donations have been few and far between in this year of depression and we're running at a loss that we cannot afford to sustain.

This film, unlike Oliver Stone's love fest of W, takes our side. Thanks to Ollie and Lions Gate films, you weren't allowed to see "W The Movie" in the theatres or at most film festivals because, like in those Communist Witch Hunts daze of the 1950's, we were black listed by Ollie and company, less we cut into their profits. When exactly was it that Ollie join the dark side and became a capitalist swine? Does anybody know?

While "W The Movie" is campy, surreal and side-splittingly funny, it is also as serious as a heart attack. "W The Movie" dares to ask the question, "What if the 'Crime Family Bush' came from outer space to rule the world? Wouldn't that explain a lot of things? I mean, wouldn't it?" Hear award-winning music from Beethoven, Mahler and DJ Monkey! See the Issues & Alibis office complex and your wicked old Uncle in action. See if you can find me playing four different roles including myself, by far the most difficult role! See for yourself through the portal below! Makes the perfect gift!


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

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

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

Ernest & Victoria Stewart


02-19-1963 ~ 09-28-2009
Lucy in the sky with diamonds!

05-07-1948 ~ 09-24-2009
Sharon's waiting for you Sadie Mae

12-17-1929 ~ 09-27-2009
Ding dong the bitch is dead!


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


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


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

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

Crisis And Hope
Theirs and Ours
By Noam Chomsky

Perhaps I may begin with a few words about the title. There is too much nuance and variety to make such sharp distinctions as theirs-and-ours, them-and-us. And neither I nor anyone can presume to speak for "us." But I will pretend it is possible.

There is also a problem with the term "crisis." Which one? There are numerous very severe crises, interwoven in ways that preclude any clear separation. But again I will pretend otherwise, for simplicity.

One way to enter this morass is offered by the June 11 issue of the New York Review of Books. The front-cover headline reads "How to Deal With the Crisis"; the issue features a symposium of specialists on how to do so. It is very much worth reading, but with attention to the definite article. For the West the phrase "the crisis" has a clear enough meaning: the financial crisis that hit the rich countries with great impact, and is therefore of supreme importance. But even for the rich and privileged that is by no means the only crisis, nor even the most severe. And others see the world quite differently. For example, in the October 26, 2008 edition of the Bangladeshi newspaper The New Nation, we read:

"It's very telling that trillions have already been spent to patch up leading world financial institutions, while out of the comparatively small sum of $12.3 billion pledged in Rome earlier this year, to offset the food crisis, only $1 billion has been delivered. The hope that at least extreme poverty can be eradicated by the end of 2015, as stipulated in the UN's Millennium Development Goals, seems as unrealistic as ever, not due to lack of resources but a lack of true concern for the world's poor."

The article goes on to predict that World Food Day in October 2009 "will bring . . . devastating news about the plight of the world's poor . . . which is likely to remain that: mere 'news' that requires little action, if any at all." Western leaders seem determined to fulfill these grim predictions. On June 11 the Financial Times reported, "the United Nations' World Food Programme is cutting food aid rations and shutting down some operations as donor countries that face a fiscal crunch at home slash contributions to its funding." Victims include Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, and others. The sharp budget cut comes as the toll of hunger passes a billion -- with over one hundred million added in the past six months -- while food prices rise, and remittances decline as a result of the economic crisis in the West.

As The New Nation anticipated, the "devastating news" released by the World Food Programme barely even reached the level of "mere 'news.'" In The New York Times, the WFP report of the reduction in the meager Western efforts to deal with this growing "human catastrophe" merited 150 words on page ten under "World Briefing." That is not in the least unusual. The United Nations also released an estimate that desertification is endangering the lives of up to a billion people, while announcing World Desertification Day. Its goal, according to the Nigerian newspaper THISDAY, is "to combat desertification and drought worldwide by promoting public awareness and the implementation of conventions dealing with desertification in member countries." The effort to raise public awareness passed without mention in the national U.S. press. Such neglect is all too common.

It may be instructive to recall that when they landed in what today is Bangladesh, the British invaders were stunned by its wealth and splendor. It was soon on its way to becoming the very symbol of misery, and not by an act of God.

As the fate of Bangladesh illustrates, the terrible food crisis is not just a result of "lack of true concern" in the centers of wealth and power. In large part it results from very definite concerns of global managers: for their own welfare. It is always well to keep in mind Adam Smith's astute observation about policy formation in England. He recognized that the "principal architects" of policy -- in his day the "merchants and manufacturers" -- made sure that their own interests had "been most peculiarly attended to" however "grievous" the effect on others, including the people of England and, far more so, those who were subjected to "the savage injustice of the Europeans," particularly in conquered India, Smith's own prime concern in the domains of European conquest.

Smith was referring specifically to the mercantilist system, but his observation generalizes, and as such, stands as one of the few solid and enduring principles of both international relations and domestic affairs. It should not, however, be over-generalized. There are interesting cases where state interests, including long-term strategic and economic interests, overwhelm the parochial concerns of the concentrations of economic power that largely shape state policy. Iran and Cuba are instructive cases, but I will have to put these topics aside here.

The food crisis erupted first and most dramatically in Haiti in early 2008. Like Bangladesh, Haiti today is a symbol of misery and despair. And, like Bangladesh, when European explorers arrived, the island was remarkably rich in resources, with a large and flourishing population. It later became the source of much of France's wealth. I will not run through the sordid history, but the current food crisis can be traced directly to 1915, Woodrow Wilson's invasion: murderous, brutal, and destructive. Among Wilson's many crimes was dissolving the Haitian Parliament at gunpoint because it refused to pass "progressive legislation" that would have allowed U.S. businesses to take over Haitian lands. Wilson's Marines then ran a free election, in which the legislation was passed by 99.9 percent of the 5 percent of the public permitted to vote. All of this comes down through history as "Wilsonian idealism."

Later, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) instituted programs to turn Haiti into the "Taiwan of the Caribbean," by adhering to the sacred principle of comparative advantage: Haiti must import food and other commodities from the United States, while working people, mostly women, toil under miserable conditions in U.S.-owned assembly plants. Haiti's first free election, in 1990, threatened these economically rational programs. The poor majority entered the political arena for the first time and elected their own candidate, a populist priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Washington adopted the standard operating procedures for such a case, moving at once to undermine the regime. A few months later came the anticipated military coup, and the resulting junta instituted a reign of terror, which was backed by Bush senior and even more fully by Clinton, despite pretenses. By 1994 Clinton decided that the population was sufficiently intimidated and sent U.S. forces to restore the elected president, but on the strict condition that he accept a harsh neoliberal regime. In particular, there must be no protection for the economy. Haitian rice farmers are efficient, but cannot compete with U.S. agribusiness that relies on huge government subsidies, thanks largely to Reagan, anointed High Priest of free trade with little regard to his record of extreme protectionism and state intervention in the economy.

There is nothing surprising about what followed: a 1995 USAID report observed that the "export-driven trade and investment policy" -- that Washington mandated -- will "relentlessly squeeze the domestic rice farmer." Neoliberal policies dismantled what was left of economic sovereignty and drove the country into chaos, accelerated by Bush junior's blocking of international aid on cynical grounds. In February 2004 the two traditional torturers of Haiti, France and the United States, backed a military coup and spirited President Aristide off to Africa. Haiti had, by then, lost the capacity to feed itself, leaving it highly vulnerable to food price fluctuation, the immediate cause of the 2008 food crisis.

The story is fairly similar in much of the world. In a narrow sense, it may be true enough that the food crisis results from Western lack of concern: a pittance could overcome its worst immediate effects. But more fundamentally it results from dedication to the basic principles of business-run state policy, the Adam Smith generalization. These are all matters that we too easily evade -- along with the fact that bailing out banks is not uppermost in the minds of the billion people now facing starvation, not forgetting the tens of millions enduring hunger in the richest country in the world.

Also sidelined is a possible way to make a significant dent in the financial and food crises. It is suggested by the recent publication of the authoritative annual report on military spending by SIPRI, the Swedish peace research institute. The scale of military spending is phenomenal, regularly increasing. The United States is responsible for almost as much as the rest of the world combined, seven times as much as its nearest rival, China. There is no need to waste time commenting.


The distribution of concerns illustrates another crisis, a cultural crisis: the tendency to focus on short-term parochial gains, a core element of our socioeconomic institutions and their ideological support system. One illustration is the array of perverse incentives devised for corporate managers to enrich themselves, however grievous the impact on others -- for example, the "too big to fail" insurance policies provided by the unwitting public.

There are also deeper problems inherent in market inefficiencies. One of these, now belatedly recognized to be among the roots of the financial crisis, is the under-pricing of systemic risk: if you and I make a transaction, we factor in the cost to us, but not to others. The financial industry, that means Goldman Sachs, if managed properly, will calculate the potential cost to itself if a loan goes bad, but not the impact on the financial system, which can be severe. This inherent deficiency of markets is well known. Ten years ago, at the height of the euphoria about efficient markets, two prominent economists, John Eatwell and Lance Taylor, wrote Global Finance at Risk, an important book in which they spelled out the consequences of these market inefficiencies and outlined means to deal with them. Their proposals conflicted sharply with the deregulatory rage that was then consuming the Clinton administration, under the leadership of those whom Obama has now called upon to put band-aids on the disaster they helped to create.

In substantial measure, the food crisis plaguing much of the South and the financial crisis of the North have a common source: the shift toward neoliberalism since the 1970s, which brought to an end the Bretton Woods system instituted by the United States and United Kingdom after World War II. The architects of Bretton Woods, John Maynard Keynes and Harry Dexter White, anticipated that its core principles -- including capital controls and regulated currencies -- would lead to rapid and relatively balanced economic growth and would also free governments to institute the social democratic programs that had very strong public support. Mostly, they were vindicated on both counts. Many economists call the years that followed, until the 1970s, the "golden age of capitalism."

The "golden age" saw not only unprecedented and relatively egalitarian growth, but also the introduction of welfare-state measures. As Keynes and White were aware, free capital movement and speculation inhibit those options. To quote from the professional literature, free flow of capital creates a "virtual senate" of lenders and investors who carry out a "moment-by-moment referendum" on government policies, and if they find them irrational -- that is, designed to help people, not profits -- they vote against them by capital flight, attacks on currency, and other means. Democratic governments therefore have a "dual constituency": the population, and the virtual senate, who typically prevail.

In his standard history of the financial system, Barry Eichengreen writes that, in earlier years, the costs imposed by market inefficiencies and failures could be imposed on the public, but that became difficult when governments were "politicized" by "universal male suffrage and the rise of trade unionism and parliamentary labor parties" and later by the radicalization of the general public during the Great Depression and the anti-fascist war. Accordingly, in the Bretton Woods system, "limits on capital mobility substituted for limits on democracy as a source of insulation from market pressures." There is a corollary: dismantling of the Bretton Woods restrictions on capital during the neoliberal period restores a powerful weapon against democracy.

The neoliberal rollback of democracy -- often called "democracy promotion" -- has enabled other means of control and marginalization of the public. One illustration is the management of electoral extravaganzas in the United States by the public relations industry, peaking with Obama, who won the industry's award for "marketer of the year for 2008." Industry executives exulted in the business press that Obama was the highest achievement yet of those who "helped pioneer the packaging of candidates as consumer brands 30 years ago," when they designed the Reagan campaign. The Financial Times paraphrased one marketing executive suggesting that the Obama triumph should "have more influence on boardrooms than any president since Ronald Reagan, [who] redefined what it was to be a CEO." Reagan taught, "you had to give [your organization] a vision," leading to the "reign of the imperial CEO" in the 1980s and 1990s. The synergy of running corporations and controlling politics, including the marketing of candidates as commodities, offers great prospects for the future management of democracy.

For working people, small farmers, and the poor, at home and abroad, all of this spells regular disaster. One of the reasons for the radical difference in development between Latin America and East Asia in the last half century is that Latin America did not control capital flight, which often approached the level of its crushing debt and has regularly been wielded as a weapon against the threat of democracy and social reform. In contrast, during South Korea's remarkable growth period, capital flight was not only banned, but could bring the death penalty.

Where neoliberal rules have been observed since the '70s, economic performance has generally deteriorated and social democratic programs have substantially weakened. In the United States, which partially accepted these rules, real wages for the majority have largely stagnated for 30 years, instead of tracking productivity growth as before, while work hours have increased, now well beyond those of Europe. Benefits, which always lagged, have declined further. Social indicators -- general measures of the health of the society -- also tracked growth until the mid-'70s, when they began to decline, falling to the 1960 level by the end of the millennium. Economic growth found its way into few pockets, increasingly in the financial industries. Finance constituted a few percentage points of GDP in 1970, and has since risen to well over one-third, while productive industry has declined, and with it, living standards for much of the workforce. The economy has been punctuated by bubbles, financial crises, and public bailouts, currently reaching new highs. A few outstanding international economists explained and predicted these results from the start. But mythology about "efficient markets" and "rational choice" prevailed. This is no surprise: it was highly beneficial to the narrow sectors of privilege and power that provide the "principal architects of policy."


The phrase "golden age of capitalism" might itself be challenged. The period can more accurately be called "state capitalism." The state sector was, and remains, a primary factor in development and innovation through a variety of measures, among them research and development, procurement, subsidy, and bailouts. In the U.S. version, these policies operated mainly under a Pentagon cover as long as the cutting edge of the advanced economy was electronics-based. In recent years there has been a shift toward health-oriented state institutions as the cutting edge becomes more biology-based. The outcomes include computers, the Internet, satellites, and most of the rest of the IT revolution, but also much else: civilian aircraft, advanced machine tools, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and a lot more. The crucial state role in economic development should be kept in mind when we hear dire warnings about government intervention in the financial system after private management has once again driven it to crisis, this time, an unusually severe crisis, and one that harms the rich, not just the poor, so it merits special concern. It is a little odd, to say the least, to read economic historian Niall Ferguson in the New York Review of Books symposium on "The Crisis" saying that "the lesson of economic history is very clear. Economic growth . . . comes from technological innovation and gains in productivity, and these things come from the private sector, not from the state" -- remarks that were probably written on a computer and sent via the Internet, which were substantially in the state sector for decades before they became available for private profit. His is hardly the clear lesson of economic history.

Large-scale state intervention in the economy is not just a phenomenon of the post-World War II era, either. On the contrary, the state has always been a central factor in economic development. Once they gained their independence, the American colonies were free to abandon the orthodox economic policies that dictated adherence to their comparative advantage in export of primary commodities while importing superior British manufacturing goods. Instead, the Hamiltonian economy imposed very high tariffs so that an industrial economy could develop: textiles, steel, and much else. The eminent economic historian Paul Bairoch describes the United States as "the mother country and bastion of modern protectionism," with the highest tariffs in the world during its great growth period. And protectionism is only one of the many forms of state intervention. Protectionist policies continued until the mid-twentieth century, when the United States was so far in the lead that the playing field was tilted in the proper direction -- that is, to the advantage of U.S. corporations. And when necessary, it has been tilted further, notably by Reagan, who virtually doubled protectionist barriers among other measures to rescue incompetent U.S. corporate management unable to compete with Japan.

From the outset the United States was following Britain's lead. The other developed countries did likewise, while orthodox policies were rammed down the throats of the colonies, with predictable effects. It is noteworthy that the one country of the (metaphorical) South to develop, Japan, also successfully resisted colonization. Others that developed, like the United States, did so after they escaped colonial domination. Selective application of economic prinicples -- orthodox economics forced on the colonies while violated at will by those free to do so -- is a basic factor in the creation of the sharp North-South divide. Like many other economic historians, Bairoch concludes from a broad survey that "it is difficult to find another case where the facts so contradict a dominant theory" as the doctrine that free markets were the engine of growth, a harsh lesson that the developing world has learned again in recent decades. Even the poster child of neoliberalism, Chile, depends heavily on the world's largest copper producer, Codelco, nationalized by Allende.

In earlier years the cotton-based economy of the industrial revolution relied on massive ethnic cleansing and slavery, rather severe forms of state intervention in the economy. Though theoretically slavery was ended with the Civil War, it emerged again after Reconstruction in a form that was in many ways more virulent, with what amounted to criminalization of African-American life and widespread use of convict labor, which continued until World War II. The industrial revolution, from the late nineteenth century, relied heavily on this new form of slavery, a hideous story that has only recently been exposed in its shocking detail in a very important study by Wall Street Journal bureau chief Douglas Blackmon. During the post-World War II "golden age," African Americans were able for the first time to enjoy some level of social and economic advancement, but the disgraceful post-Reconstruction history has been partially reconstituted during the neoliberal years with the rapid growth of what some criminologists call "the prison-industrial complex," a uniquely American crime committed continuously since the 1980s and exacerbated by the dismantling of productive industry.

The American system of mass production that astonished the world in the nineteenth century was largely created in military arsenals. Solving the major nineteenth-century management problem -- railroads -- was beyond the capacity of private capital, so the challenge was handed over to the army. A century ago the toughest problems of electrical and mechanical engineering involved placing a huge gun on a moving platform to hit a moving target -- naval gunnery. The leaders were Germany and England, and the outcomes quickly spilled over into the civilian economy. Some economic historians compare that episode to state-run space programs today. Reagan's "Star Wars" was sold to industry as a traditional gift from government, and was understood that way elsewhere too: that is why Europe and Japan wanted to buy in. There was a dramatic increase in the state role after World War II, particularly in the United States, where a good part of the advanced economy developed in this framework.


State-guided modes of economic development require considerable deceit in a society where the public cannot be controlled by force. People cannot be told that the advanced economy relies heavily on their risk-taking, while eventual profit is privatized, and "eventual" can be a long time, sometimes decades. After World War II Americans were told that their taxes were going to defense against monsters about to overcome us -- as in the '80s, when Reagan pulled on his cowboy boots and declared a National Emergency because Nicaraguan hordes were only two days from Harlingen, Texas. Or twenty years earlier when LBJ warned that there are only 150 million of us and 3 billion of them, and if might makes right, they will sweep over us and take what we have, so we have to stop them in Vietnam.

For those concerned with the realities of the Cold War, and how it was used to control the public, one obvious moment to inspect carefully is the fall of the Berlin Wall twenty years ago and its aftermath. Celebration of the anniversary in November 2009 has already begun, with ample coverage, which will surely increase as the date approaches. The revealing implications of the policies that were instituted after the fall have, however, been ignored, as in the past, and probably will continue to be come November.

Reacting immediately to the Wall's fall, the Bush senior administration issued a new National Security Strategy and budget proposal to set the course after the collapse of Kennedy's "monolithic and ruthless conspiracy" to conquer the world and Reagan's "evil empire" -- a collapse that took with it the whole framework of domestic population control. Washington's response was straightforward: everything will stay much the same, but with new pretexts. We still need a huge military system, but for a new reason: the "technological sophistication" of Third World powers. We have to maintain the "defense industrial base," a euphemism for state-supported high-tech industry. We must also maintain intervention forces directed at the Middle East's energy-rich regions, where the threats to our interests that required military intervention "could not be laid at the Kremlin's door," contrary to decades of pretense. The charade had sometimes been acknowledged, as when Robert Komer -- the architect of President Carter's Rapid Deployment Force (later Central Command), aimed primarily at the Middle East -- testified before Congress in 1980 that the Force's most likely use was not resisting Soviet attack, but dealing with indigenous and regional unrest, in particular the "radical nationalism" that has always been a primary concern throughout the world.

With the Soviet Union gone, the clouds lifted, and actual policy concerns were more visible for those who chose to see. The Cold War propaganda framework made two fundamental contributions: sustaining the dynamic state sector of the economy (of which military industry is only a small part) and protecting the interests of the "principal architects of policy" abroad.

The fate of NATO exposes the same concerns, and it is highly pertinent today. Prior to Gorbachev NATO's announced purpose was to deter a Russian invasion of Europe. The legitimacy of that agenda was debatable right from the end of World War II. In May 1945 Churchill ordered war plans to be drawn up for Operation Unthinkable, aimed at "the elimination of Russia." The plans -- declassified ten years ago -- are discussed extensively in the major scholarly study of British intelligence records, Richard Aldrich's The Hidden Hand. According to Aldrich, they called for a surprise attack by hundreds of thousands of British and American troops, joined by one hundred thousand rearmed German soldiers, while the RAF would attack Soviet cities from bases in Northern Europe. Nuclear weapons were soon added to the mix. The official stand also was not easy to take too seriously a decade later, when Khrushchev took over in Russia, and soon proposed a sharp mutual reduction in offensive weaponry. He understood very well that the much weaker Soviet economy could not sustain an arms race and still develop. When the United States dismissed the offer, he carried out the reduction unilaterally. Kennedy reacted with a substantial increase in military spending, which the Soviet military tried to match after the Cuban missile crisis dramatically revealed its relative weakness. The Soviet economy tanked, as Khrushchev had anticipated. That was a crucial factor in the later Soviet collapse.


But the defensive pretext for NATO at least had some credibility. After the Soviet disintegration, the pretext evaporated. In the final days of the USSR, Gorbachev made an astonishing concession: he permitted a unified Germany to join a hostile military alliance run by the global superpower, though Germany alone had almost destroyed Russia twice in the century. There was a quid pro quo, recently clarified. In the first careful study of the original documents, Mark Kramer, apparently seeking to refute charges of U.S. duplicity, in fact shows that it went far beyond what had been assumed. It turns out, Kramer wrote this year in The Washington Quarterly, that Bush senior and Secretary of State James Baker promised Gorbachev that "no NATO forces would ever be deployed on the territory of the former GDR . . . NATO's jurisdiction or forces would not move eastward." They also assured Gorbachev "that NATO would be transforming itself into a more political organization." There is no need to comment on that promise. What followed tells us a lot more about the Cold War itself, and the world that emerged from its ending.

As soon as Clinton came into office, he began the expansion of NATO to the east. The process accelerated with Bush junior's aggressive militarism. These moves posed a serious security threat to Russia, which naturally reacted by developing more advanced offensive military capacities. Obama's National Security Advisor, James Jones, has a still-more expansive vision: he calls for extending NATO further east and south, becoming in effect a U.S.-run global intervention force, as it is today in Afghanistan -- "Afpak" as the region is now called -- where Obama is sharply escalating Bush's war, which had already intensified in 2004. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer informed a NATO meeting that "NATO troops have to guard pipelines that transport oil and gas that is directed for the West," and more generally have to protect sea routes used by tankers and other "crucial infrastructure" of the energy system. These plans open a new phase of Western imperial domination -- more politely called "bringing stability" and "peace."

As recently as November 2007, the White House announced plans for a long-term military presence in Iraq and a policy of "encouraging the flow of foreign investments to Iraq, especially American investments." The plans were withdrawn under Iraqi pressure, the continuation of a process that began when the United States was compelled by mass demonstrations to permit elections. In Afpak Obama is building enormous new embassies and other facilities, on the model of the city-within-a-city in Baghdad. These new installations in Iraq and Afpak are like no embassies in the world, just as the United States is alone in its vast military-basing system and control of the air, sea, and space for military purposes.

While Obama is signaling his intention to establish a firm and large-scale presence in the region, he is also following General Petraeus's strategy to drive the Taliban into Pakistan, with potentially quite serious consequences for this dangerous and unstable state facing insurrections throughout its territory. These are most extreme in the tribal areas crossing the British-imposed Durand line separating Afghanistan from Pakistan, which the Pashtun tribes on both sides of the artificial border have never recognized, nor did the Afghan government when it was independent. In an April publication of the Center for International Policy, one of the leading U.S. specialists on the region, Selig Harrison, writes that the outcome of Washington's current policies might well be "what Pakistani ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani has called an 'Islamic Pashtunistan.'" Haqqani's predecessor had warned that if the Taliban and Pashtun nationalists merge, "we've had it, and we're on the verge of that."

Prospects become still more ominous as drone attacks that embitter the population are escalated with their huge civilian toll. Also troubling is the unprecedented authority just granted General Stanley McChrystal -- a special forces assassin -- to head the operations. Petraeus's own counter-insurgency adviser in Iraq, David Kilcullen, describes the Obama-Petraeus-McChrystal policies as a fundamental "strategic error," which may lead to "the collapse of the Pakistani state," a calamity that would "dwarf" other current crises.

It is also not encouraging that Pakistan and India are now rapidly expanding their nuclear arsenals. Pakistan's were developed with Reagan's crucial aid, and India's nuclear weapons programs got a major shot in the arm from the recent U.S.-India nuclear agreement, which was also a sharp blow to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. India and Pakistan have twice come close to nuclear war over Kashmir, and have also been engaged in a proxy war in Afghanistan. These developments pose a very serious threat to world peace.

Returning home, it is worth noting that the more sophisticated are aware of the deceit that is employed as a device to control the public, and regard it as praiseworthy. The distinguished liberal statesman Dean Acheson advised that leaders must speak in a way that is "clearer than truth." Harvard Professor of the Science of Government Samuel Huntington, who quite frankly explained the need to delude the public about the Soviet threat 30 years ago, urged more generally that power must remain invisible: "The architects of power in the United States must create a force that can be felt but not seen. Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight it begins to evaporate." An important lesson for those who want power to devolve to the public, a critical battle that is fought daily.


Whether the deceit about the monstrous enemy was sincere or not, if Americans a half century ago had been given the choice of directing their tax money to Pentagon programs to enable their grandchildren to have computers, iPods, the Internet, and so on, or putting it into developing a livable and sustainable socioeconomic order, they might have made the latter choice. But they had no choice. That is standard. There is a striking gap between public opinion and public policy on a host of major issues, domestic and foreign, and public opinion is often more sane, at least in my judgment. It also tends to be fairly consistent over time, despite the fact that public concerns and aspirations are marginalized or ridiculed -- one very significant feature of the yawning "democratic deficit," the failure of formal democratic institutions to function properly. That is no trivial matter. In a forthcoming book, the writer and activist Arundhati Roy asks whether the evolution of formal democracy in India and the United States -- and not only there -- "might turn out to be the endgame of the human race." It is not an idle question.

It should be recalled that the American republic was founded on the principle that there should be a democratic deficit. James Madison, the main framer of the Constitutional order, held that power should be in the hands of "the wealth of the nation," the "more capable set of men," who have sympathy for property owners and their rights. Possibly with Shay's Rebellion in mind, he was concerned that "the equal laws of suffrage" might shift power into the hands of those who might seek agrarian reform, an intolerable attack on property rights. He feared that "symptoms of a levelling spirit" had appeared sufficiently "in certain quarters to give warning of the future danger." Madison sought to construct a system of government that would "protect the minority of the opulent against the majority." That is why his constitutional framework did not have coequal branches: the legislature prevailed, and within the legislature, power was to be vested in the Senate, where the wealth of the nation would be dominant and protected from the general population, which was to be fragmented and marginalized in various ways. As historian Gordon Wood summarizes the thoughts of the founders: "The Constitution was intrinsically an aristocratic document designed to check the democratic tendencies of the period," delivering power to a "better sort" of people and excluding "those who were not rich, well born, or prominent from exercising political power."

In Madison's defense, his picture of the world was pre-capitalist: he thought that power would be held by the "enlightened Statesman" and "benevolent philosopher," men who are "pure and noble,""chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interests of their country and whose patriotism and love of justice would be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations," guarding the public interest against the "mischiefs" of democratic majorities. Adam Smith had a clearer vision.

There has been constant struggle over this constrained version of democracy, which we call "guided democracy" in the case of enemies: Iran right now, for example. Popular struggles have won a great many rights, but concentrated power and privilege clings to the Madisonian conception in ways that vary as society changes. By World War I, business leaders and elite intellectuals recognized that the population had won so many rights that they could not be controlled by force, so it would be necessary to turn to control of attitudes and opinions. Those are the years when the huge public relations industry emerged -- in the freest countries of the world, Britain and United States, where the problem was most acute. The industry was devoted to what Walter Lippmann approvingly called "a new art in the practice of democracy," the "manufacture of consent" -- the "engineering of consent" in the phrase of his contemporary Edward Bernays, one of the founders of the public relations industry. Both Lippmann and Bernays took part in Wilson's state propaganda organization, the Committee on Public Information, created to drive a pacifist population to jingoist fanaticism and hatred of all things German. It succeeded brilliantly. The same techniques, it was hoped, would ensure that the "intelligent minorities" would rule, undisturbed by "the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd," the general public, "ignorant and meddlesome outsiders" whose "function" is to be "spectators," not "participants." This was a central theme of the highly regarded "progressive essays on democracy" by the leading public intellectual of the twentieth century (Lippmann), whose thinking captures well the perceptions of progressive intellectual opinion: President Wilson, for example, held that an elite of gentlemen with "elevated ideals" must be empowered to preserve "stability and righteousness," essentially the Madisonian perspective. In more recent years, the gentlemen are transmuted into the "technocratic elite" and "action intellectuals" of Camelot, "Straussian" neocons, or other configurations. But throughout, one or another variant of the doctrine prevails, with its Leninist overtones.

And on a more hopeful note, popular struggle continues to clip its wings, quite impressively so in the wake of 1960s activism, which had a substantial impact on civilizing the country and raised its prospects to a considerably higher plane.


Returning to what the West sees as "the crisis" -- the financial crisis -- it will presumably be patched up somehow, while leaving the institutions that created it pretty much in place. Recently the Treasury Department permitted early TARP repayments, which reduce bank capacity to lend, as was immediately pointed out, but allow the banks to pour money into the pockets of the few who matter. The mood on Wall Street was captured by two Bank of New York Mellon employees, who, as reported in The New York Times, "predicted their lives -- and pay -- would improve, even if the broader economy did not."

The chair of the prominent law firm Sullivan & Cromwell offered the equally apt prediction that "Wall Street, after getting billions of taxpayer dollars, will emerge from the financial crisis looking much the same as before markets collapsed." The reasons were pointed out, by, among others, Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the IMF: "Throughout the crisis, the government has taken extreme care not to upset the interests of the financial institutions, or to question the basic outlines of the system that got us here," and the "elite business interests [that] played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse . . . are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive."

Meanwhile "the government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them." Again no surprise, at least to those who remember their Adam Smith.

But there is a far more serious crisis, even for the rich and powerful. It is discussed by Bill McKibben, who has been warning for years about the impact of global warming, in the same issue of the New York Review of Books that I mentioned earlier. His recent article relies on the British Stern report, which is very highly regarded by leading scientists and a raft of Nobel laureates in economics. On this basis McKibben concludes, not unrealistically, "2009 may well turn out to be the decisive year in the human relationship with our home planet." In December a conference in Copenhagen is "to sign a new global accord on global warming," which will tell us "whether or not our political systems are up to the unprecedented challenge that climate change represents." He thinks the signals are mixed. That may be optimistic, unless there is a really massive public campaign to overcome the insistence of the managers of the state-corporate sector on privileging short-term gain for the few over the hope that their grandchildren will have a decent future.

At least some of the barriers are beginning to crumble -- in part because the business world perceives new opportunities for profit. Even The Wall Street Journal, one of the most stalwart deniers, recently published a supplement with dire warnings about "climate disaster," urging that none of the options being considered may be sufficient, and it may be necessary to undertake more radical measures of geoengineering, "cooling the planet" in some manner.

As always, those who suffer most will be the poor. Bangladesh will soon have a lot more to worry about than even the terrible food crisis. As the sea level rises, much of the country, including its most productive regions, might be under water. Current crises are almost sure to be exacerbated as the Himalayan glaciers continue to disappear, and with them the great river systems that keep South Asia alive. Right now, as glaciers melt in the mountain heights where Pakistani and Indian troops suffer and die, they expose the relics of their crazed conflict over Kashmir, "a pristine monument to human folly," Roy comments with despair. The picture might be much more grim than even the Stern report predicts. A group of MIT scientists have just released the results of what they describe as "the most comprehensive modeling yet carried out on the likelihood of how much hotter the Earth's climate will get in this century, [showing] that without rapid and massive action, the problem will be about twice as severe as previously estimated six years ago -- and could be even worse than that."

Worse because the model "does not fully incorporate other positive feedbacks that can occur, for example, if increased temperatures caused a large-scale melting of permafrost in arctic regions and subsequent release of large quantities of methane."

The leader of the project says, "There's no way the world can or should take these risks," and that "the least-cost option to lower the risk is to start now and steadily transform the global energy system over the coming decades to low or zero greenhouse gas-emitting technologies." There is far too little sign of that.

While new technologies are essential, the problems go well beyond. We have to face up to the need to reverse the huge state-corporate social engineering projects of the post-World War II period, which quite purposefully promoted an energy-wasting and environmentally destructive fossil fuel-based economy. The state-corporate programs, which included massive projects of suburbanization along with destruction and then gentrification of inner cities, began with a conspiracy by General Motors, Firestone, and Standard Oil of California to buy up and destroy efficient electric public transportation systems in Los Angeles and dozens of other cities; they were convicted of criminal conspiracy and given a slap on the wrist. The federal government then took over, relocating infrastructure and capital stock to suburban areas and creating the massive interstate highway system, under the usual pretext of "defense." Railroads were displaced by government-financed motor and air transport.

The programs were understood as a means to prevent a depression after the Korean War. One of their Congressional architects described them as "a nice solid floor across the whole economy in times of recession." The public played almost no role, apart from choice within the narrowly structured framework of options designed by state-corporate managers. One result is atomization of society and entrapment of isolated individuals with self-destructive ambitions and crushing debt. These efforts to "fabricate consumers" (to borrow Veblen's term) and to direct people "to the superficial things of life, like fashionable consumption" (in the words of the business press), emerged from the recognition a century ago of the need to curtail democratic achievements and to ensure that the "opulent minority" are protected from the "ignorant and meddlesome outsiders."

While state-corporate power was vigorously promoting privatization of life and maximal waste of energy, it was also undermining the efficient choices that the market does not provide -- another destructive built-in market inefficiency. To put it simply, if I want to get home from work, the market offers me a choice between a Ford and a Toyota, but not between a car and a subway. That is a social decision, and in a democratic society, would be the decision of an organized public. But that is just what the dedicated elite attack on democracy seeks to undermine.

The consequences are right before our eyes in ways that are sometimes surreal. In May The Wall Street Journal reported:

"U.S. transportation chief [Ray LaHood] is in Spain meeting with high-speed rail suppliers. . . . Europe's engineering and rail companies are lining up for some potentially lucrative U.S. contracts for high-speed rail projects. At stake is $13 billion in stimulus funds that the Obama administration is allocating to upgrade existing rail lines and build new ones that could one day rival Europe's fastest. . . . [LaHood is also] expected to visit Spanish construction, civil engineering and train-building companies."

Spain and other European countries are hoping to get U.S. taxpayer funding for the high-speed rail and related infrastructure that is badly needed in the United States. At the same time, Washington is busy dismantling leading sectors of U.S. industry, ruining the lives of the workforce and communities. It is difficult to conjure up a more damning indictment of the economic system that has been constructed by state-corporate managers. Surely the auto industry could be reconstructed to produce what the country needs, using its highly skilled workforce -- and what the world needs, and soon, if we are to have some hope of averting major catastrophe. It has been done before, after all. During World War II the semi-command economy not only ended the Depression but initiated the most spectacular period of growth in economic history, virtually quadrupling industrial production in four years as the economy was retooled for war, and also laying the basis for the "golden age" that followed.


Warnings about the purposeful destruction of U.S. productive capacity have been familiar for decades and perhaps sounded most prominently by the late Seymour Melman. Melman also pointed to a sensible way to reverse the process. The state-corporate leadership has other commitments, but there is no reason for passivity on the part of the "stakeholders" -- workers and communities. With enough popular support, they could take over the plants and carry out the task of reconstruction themselves. That is not a particularly radical proposal. One standard text on corporations, The Myth of the Global Corporation, points out, "nowhere is it written in stone that the short-term interests of corporate shareholders in the United States deserve a higher priority than all other corporate 'stakeholders.'"

It is also important to remind ourselves that the notion of workers' control is as American as apple pie. In the early days of the industrial revolution in New England, working people took it for granted that "those who work in the mills should own them." They also regarded wage labor as different from slavery only in that it was temporary; Abraham Lincoln held the same view.

And the leading twentieth-century social philosopher, John Dewey, basically agreed. Much like ninetheenth-century working people, he called for elimination of "business for private profit through private control of banking, land, industry, reinforced by command of the press, press agents and other means of publicity and propaganda." Industry must be changed "from a feudalistic to a democratic social order" based on workers' control, free association, and federal organization, in the general style of a range of thought that includes, along with many anarchists, G.D.H. Cole's guild socialism and such left Marxists as Anton Pannekoek, Rosa Luxemburg, Paul Mattick, and others. Unless those goals are attained, Dewey held, politics will remain "the shadow cast on society by big business, [and] the attenuation of the shadow will not change the substance." He argued that without industrial democracy, political democratic forms will lack real content, and people will work "not freely and intelligently," but for pay, a condition that is "illiberal and immoral" -- ideals that go back to the Enlightenment and classical liberalism before they were wrecked on the shoals of capitalism, as the anarchosyndicalist thinker Rudolf Rocker put it 70 years ago.

There have been immense efforts to drive these thoughts out of people's heads -- to win what the business world called "the everlasting battle for the minds of men." On the surface, corporate interests may appear to have succeeded, but one need not dig too deeply to find latent resistance that can be revived. There have been some important efforts. One was undertaken 30 years ago in Youngstown Ohio, where U.S. Steel was about to shut down a major facility at the heart of this steel town. First came substantial protests by the workforce and community, then an effort led by Staughton Lynd to convince the courts that stakeholders should have the highest priority. The effort failed that time, but with enough popular support it could succeed.

It is a propitious time to revive such efforts, though it would be necessary to overcome the effects of the concerted campaign to drive our own history and culture out of our minds. A dramatic illustration of the challenge arose in early February 2009, when President Obama decided to show his solidarity with working people by giving a talk at a factory in Illinois. He chose a Caterpillar plant, over objections of church, peace, and human rights groups that were protesting Caterpillar's role in providing Israel with the means to devastate the territories it occupies and to destroy the lives of the population. A Caterpillar bulldozer had also been used to kill American volunteer Rachel Corrie, who tried to block the destruction of a home. Apparently forgotten, however, was something else. In the 1980s, following Reagan's lead with the dismantling of the air traffic controllerss union, Caterpillar managers decided to rescind their labor contract with the United Auto Workers and seriously harm the union by bringing in scabs to break a strike for the first time in generations. The practice was illegal in other industrial countries apart from South Africa at the time; now the United States is in splendid isolation, as far as I know.

Whether Obama purposely chose a corporation that led the way to undermine labor rights I don't know. More likely, he and his handlers were unaware of the facts.

But at the time of Caterpillar's innovation in labor relations, Obama was a civil rights lawyer in Chicago. He certainly read the Chicago Tribune, which published a careful study of these events. The Tribune reported that the union was "stunned" to find that unemployed workers crossed the picket line with no remorse, while Caterpillar workers found little "moral support" in their community, one of the many where the union had "lifted the standard of living." Wiping out those memories is another victory for the highly class-conscious American business sector in its relentless campaign to destroy workers' rights and democracy. The union leadership had refused to understand. It was only in 1978 that UAW President Doug Fraser recognized what was happening and criticized the "leaders of the business community" for having "chosen to wage a one-sided class war in this country -- a war against working people, the unemployed, the poor, the minorities, the very young and the very old, and even many in the middle class of our society," and for having "broken and discarded the fragile, unwritten compact previously existing during a period of growth and progress." Placing one's faith in a compact with owners and managers is suicidal. The UAW is discovering that again today, as the state-corporate leadership proceeds to eliminate the hard-fought gains of working people while dismantling the productive core of the American economy.

Investors are now wailing that the unions are being granted "workers' control" in the restructuring of the auto industry, but they surely know better. The government task force ensured that the workforce will have no shareholder voting rights and will lose benefits and wages, eliminating what was the gold standard for blue-collar workers.

This is only a fragment of what is underway. It highlights the importance of short- and long-term strategies to build -- in part resurrect -- the foundations of a functioning democratic society. An immediate goal is to pressure Congress to permit organizing rights, the Employee Free Choice Act that was promised but seems to be languishing. One short-term goal is to support the revival of a strong and independent labor movement, which in its heyday was a critical base for advancing democracy and human and civil rights, a primary reason why it has been subject to such unremitting attack in policy and propaganda. A longer-term goal is to win the educational and cultural battle that has been waged with such bitterness in the "one-sided class war" that the UAW president perceived far too late. That means tearing down an enormous edifice of delusions about markets, free trade, and democracy that has been assiduously constructed over many years and to overcome the marginalization and atomization of the public so that they can become "participants," not mere "spectators of action," as progressive democratic theoreticians have prescribed.

Of all of the crises that afflict us, the growing democratic deficit may be the most severe. Unless it is reversed, Roy's forecast may prove accurate. The conversion of democracy to a performance with the public as mere spectators -- hardly a distant possibility -- might have truly dire consequences.
(c) 2009 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Hegemony or Survival Americas Quest for Global Dominance. His writings on linguistics and politics have just been collected in The Essential Noam Chomsky, edited by Anthony Arnove, from the New Press.

The Drama And The Farce
By Uri Avnery

NO POINT denying it: in the first round of the match between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu, Obama was beaten.

Obama had demanded a freeze of all settlement activity, including East Jerusalem, as a condition for convening a tripartite summit meeting, in the wake of which accelerated peace negotiations were to start, leading to peace between two states - Israel and Palestine.

In the words of the ancient proverb, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Netanyahu has tripped Obama on his first step. The President of the United States has stumbled.

THE THREEFOLD summit did indeed take place. But instead of a shining achievement for the new American administration, we witnessed a humbling demonstration of weakness. After Obama was compelled to give up his demand for a settlement freeze, the meeting no longer had any content.

True, Mahmoud Abbas did come, after all. He was dragged there against his will. The poor man was unable to refuse the invitation from Obama, his only support. But he will pay a heavy price for this flight: the Palestinians, and the entire Arab world, have seen his weakness. And Obama, who had started his term with a ringing speech to the Muslim world from Cairo, now looks like a broken reed.

The Israeli peace movement has been dealt another painful blow. It had pinned its hopes on the steadfastness of the American president. Obama's victory and the settlement freeze were to show the Israeli public that the refusal policy of Netanyahu was leading to disaster.

But Netanyahu has won, and in a big way. Not only did he survive, not only has he shown that he is no "sucker" (a word he uses all the time), he has proven to his people - and to the public at large - that there is nothing to fear: Obama is nothing but a paper tiger. The settlements can go on expanding without hindrance. Any negotiations that start, if they start at all, can go on until the coming of the Messiah. Nothing will come out of them.

For Netanyahu, the threat of peace has passed. At least for the time being.

IT IS difficult to understand how Obama allowed himself to get into this embarrassing situation.

Machiavelli taught that one should not challenge a lion unless one is able to kill him. And Netanyahu is not even a lion, just a fox.

Why did Obama insist on the settlement freeze - in itself a very reasonable demand - if he was unable to stand his ground? Or, in other words, if he was unable to impose it on Netanyahu?

Before entering into such a campaign, a statesman must weigh up the array of forces: What power is at my disposal? What forces are confronting me? How determined is the other side? What means am I ready to employ? How far am I prepared to go in using my power?

Obama has a host of able advisors, headed by Rahm Emanuel, whose Israeli origins (and name) were supposed to give him special insights. George Mitchell, a hard-nosed and experienced diplomat, was supposed to provide sober assessments. How did they all fail?

Logic would say that Obama, before entering the fray, should have decided which instruments of pressure to employ. The arsenal is inexhaustible - from a threat by the US not to shield the Israeli government with its veto in the Security Council, to delaying the next shipment of arms. In 1992 James Baker, George Bush Sr's Secretary of State, threatened to withhold American guarantees for Israel's loans abroad. That was enough to drag even Yitzhak Shamir to the Madrid conference.

It seems that Obama was either unable or unwilling to exert such pressures, even secretly, even behind the scenes. This week he allowed the American navy to conduct major joint war-games with the Israeli Air Force.

Some people hoped that Obama would use the Goldstone report to exert pressure on Netanyahu. Just one hint that the US might not use its veto in the Security Council would have sown panic in Jerusalem. Instead, Washington published a statement on the report, dutifully toeing the Israeli propaganda line.

True, it is hard for the US to condemn war crimes that are so similar to those committed by its own soldiers. If Israeli commanders are put on trial in The Hague, American generals may be next in line. Until now, only the losers in wars were indicted. What will the world come to if those who remain in office are also accused?

THE INESCAPABLE conclusion is that Obama's defeat is the outcome of a faulty assessment of the situation. His advisors, who are considered seasoned politicians, were wrong about the forces involved.

That has happened already in the crucial health insurance debate. The opposition is far stronger than anticipated by Obama's people. In order to get out of this mess somehow, Obama needs the support of every senator and congressman he can lay his hands on. That automatically strengthens the position of the pro-Israel lobby, which already has immense influence in Congress.

The last thing that Obama needs at this moment is a declaration of war by AIPAC and Co. Netanyahu, an expert on domestic American politics, scented Obama's weakness and exploited it.

Obama could do nothing but gnash his teeth and fold up.

That debacle is especially painful at this precise point in time. The impression is rapidly gaining ground that he is indeed an inspiring speaker with an uplifting message, but a weak politician, unable to turn his vision into reality. If this view of him firms up, it may cast a shadow over his whole term.

BUT IS Netanyahu's policy wise from the Israeli point of view?

This may well turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory.

Obama will not disappear. He has three and a half years in office before him, and thereafter perhaps four more. That's a lot of time to plan revenge for someone hurt and humiliated at a delicate moment, at the beginning of his term of office.

One cannot know, of course, what is happening in the depths of Obama's heart and in the back of his mind. He is an introvert who keeps his cards close to his chest. His many years as a young black man in the United States have probably taught him to keep his feelings to himself.

He may draw the conclusion, in the footsteps of all his predecessors since Dwight Eisenhower (except Father Bush during Baker's short stint as hatchet man): Don't Mess With Israel. With the help of its partners and servants in the US, it can cause grievous harm to any President.

But he may also draw the opposite conclusion: Wait for the right opportunity, when your standing in the domestic arena is solid, and pay Netanyahu back with interest. If that happens, Netanyahu's air of victory may turn out to be premature.

IF I were asked for advice (not to worry, it won't happen), I would tell him:

The forging of Israeli-Palestinian peace would mean a historic turnabout, a reversal of a 120 year old trend. That is not an easy operation, not to be undertaken lightly. It is not a matter for diplomats and secretaries. It demands a determined leader with a stout heart and a steady hand. If one is not ready for it, one should not even start.

An American President who wants to undertake such a role must formulate a clear and detailed peace plan, with a strict timetable, and be prepared to invest all his resources and all his political capital in its realization. Among other things, he must be ready to confront, face to face, the powerful pro-Israel lobby.

This will not succeed unless public opinion in Israel, Palestine, the Arab world, the United States and the whole world is thoroughly prepared well in advance. It will not succeed without an effective Israeli peace movement, without strong support from US public opinion, especially Jewish-American opinion, without a strong Palestinian leadership and without Arab unity.

At the appropriate moment, the President of the United States must come to Jerusalem and address the Israeli public from the Knesset rostrum, like Anwar Sadat and President Jimmy Carter before him, as well as the Palestinian parliament, like President Bill Clinton.

I don't know if Obama is the man. Some in the peace camp have already given up on him, which effectively means that they have despaired of peace as such. I am not ready for this. One battle rarely decides a war, and one mistake does not foretell the future. A lost battle can steel the loser, a mistake can teach a valuable lesson.

IN ONE of his essays, Karl Marx said that when history repeats itself: The first time it is as tragedy, the second time it is as farce.

The 2000 threefold summit meeting at Camp David was high drama. Many hopes were pinned on it, success seemed to be within reach, but in the end it collapsed, with the participants blaming each other.

The 2009 Waldorf-Astoria summit was the farce.
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Exorcising America's Diplomatic Demons
By Robert Scheer

This week the Chinese Communists celebrate their 60th year in power, an event that the make-war-not-peace crowd, now bloviating over Iran and Afghanistan, might benefit from contemplating. They might also recall a time when the mere suggestion of peaceful coexistence with the Red Menace of China was a career-ender for high school teachers and State Department officials alike. Now the danger from the Chinese Reds is that, being more prudent capitalists than Americans, they might be unwilling to continue carrying our rapidly growing debt.

According to the demonology that has long driven U.S. foreign policy, no country has ever cast a larger shadow as evil incarnate than Communist China. All communists in the Cold War era, like all Islamic radicals today, were assumed to be part of a unified internationalist movement bent on world conquest. And the Chinese, as the Iranians now, were thought to be the worst of the pack. Incapable of change and therefore the fit object of unrelenting hostility, they needed to be confronted militarily, up to the point of nuclear annihilation if that's what it took, as the taped musings of various U.S. presidents attest. This was also a prospect for Iran that Hillary Clinton contemplated as a presidential candidate.

Communism once was, as the Islamic terrorist threat is today, presented as an undifferentiated revolutionary impulse that could never be diplomatically accommodated without sacrificing our own security or, indeed, our freedom. The various communist nations and movements, like those currently led by a polyglot collection of Islamist radicals, were stripped of any complexity, be it in their national identity or ideology.

That mentality prevailed until the day that President Richard Nixon suddenly decided that we could do business with Mao Zedong, the most fervently revolutionary communist of them all. What Nixon recognized was that the Chinese Communists were, like their Soviet counterparts, nationalists first and foremost. Any notion of an international communist conspiracy with a timetable for the takeover of the world (the correct answer on more than one social studies test I took as a kid) was rendered absurd by the fervent, even xenophobic, nationalism of a Tito, Castro or Ho Chi Minh. All of them made their revolutions, as did the Chinese, without significant outside help and were hostile to any foreign interference, no matter the source. Ho, who had successfully battled French colonialists, hardly wanted to exchange them for the Chinese overlords who had governed his country for a thousand years.

Yet that obvious fact did not stop Nixon from continuing to kill millions more in Vietnam and Cambodia in the name of combating international communism-even after he went to Beijing to toast Mao. Fast-forward to last weekend, when John McCain, as his way of justifying an escalation in Afghanistan, was on talk shows bemoaning our failure to win the Vietnam War. Nobody asked him what national security purpose a U.S. victory in Afghanistan would serve. Our defeat in Vietnam led not to dominos falling all the way to San Diego, as was predicted, but rather to Communist Vietnam and Communist China going to war against each other. Today those still-communist powers are battling for shelf space in Wal-Mart and Costco. This would have happened without sacrificing almost 59,000 American soldiers and the 3.4 million locals who died in a war that Defense Secretary Robert McNamara said he could never honestly justify.

The limits of demonology as a substitute for thoughtful foreign policy are amply on display in the approach to Iran as the purported leading agent of Islamic terrorism. Once again we are the self-defined white hats blithely ignoring our long history of affronting Iranian national integrity. That assault began with the CIA-engineered overthrow of Mohammed Mosaddeq, the last secular elected leader of his country, and continued with our support of Iraq's Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran. By ultimately overthrowing Saddam, the U.S. vastly increased the power of Iran's religious hard-liners by installing their disciples in power in Iraq. By supporting the Islamic radicals in Afghanistan, whom Ronald Reagan called "freedom fighters," the U.S. introduced al-Qaida to that country. Blowback is the inevitable outcome of a dangerous game that must be stopped.

What we need is for Barack Obama to pull a Nixon and attempt to cut a deal with Tehran as well as with competing forces in Afghanistan that meets their nationalist aspirations and our security interests. That won't be easy, since he is a Democrat and the Republican hard-liners will not allow him the slack given to Nixon. It is also true that the Iranian leadership can veer into outrageous behavior, making the international pursuit of peace extremely difficult. But does anyone believe that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can hold a candle to Mao when it comes to provocative rhetoric?
(c) 2009 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

Try Some Real Economic Indicators

The Almighty Ben hath spoken. And he bringeth glad tidings to fill all hearts with great joy!

Ben Bernanke, that is, chairman of the Federal Reserve. As America's banker-in-chief, Bernanke periodically reads the economic tea leaves and announces his findings. On September 15, the guru offered this pronouncement: "From a technical perspective, the recession is very likely over at this point." There. Feel better?

Statistical indicators, we're told, show an upward turn in everything from stock prices to bank profits - so, they exult, the bluebird of happiness is back in America!

Really? Try these indicators: my income is down and my job is being outsourced; my health insurance company has canceled my policy because I got sick and tried to use it; the value of my house has plummeted, but the interest rate on my mortgage just went through the roof; my kid can't find a job, can't afford college, and is moving back into our house; and I just heard some goober who's a Merrill Lynch economist saying that working families must be patient because, "Eventually a rising tide lifts all boats." Hey - how about he and I switch boats!

Economists, bankers, CEOs, the rich - these are the same goofballs who always preach that "economic growth" benefits all, yet the only bank accounts that actually grow are theirs. Last year, for example, the median income in America - ie, the income of the middle class - shrank by $2,000. Meanwhile, a recent study shows that the benefits of growth are shoved to the top - for the last several years, for example, two-thirds of all income gains in America went to the richest one percent of families, which are those hauling in more than $400,000 a year.

Forget Ben Bernanke and official indictors - we'll know there's a recovery when every American is doing better, not just one-percent of us.
(c) 2009 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Obama Crushes Democratic Dissent
The president is obstructing his own agenda by shielding incumbent senators from primary challengers
By David Sirota

The recent headlines about President Obama working to crush primary campaigns against Democratic incumbents would be great fodder for a canned column looking at hypocrisy.

Yes, it would be easy to read about the president trying to clear the Empire State's primary field for appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and then pen a screed wondering how that squares with Obama promising to avoid "be(ing) the kingmaker" in local elections.

With the White House citing genteel deference to incumbents as justification for its efforts to stop a Democratic primary against Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, it would be a cinch to write an essay noting that Obama might never have become a successful politician had he not first taken on incumbents in 1996 and 2000.

Watching Obama help newly appointed Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., attempt to thwart a primary challenge from former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D), I might have a grand time simply railing on a president who never would have reached national prominence had he not run against machine-backed puppets in a Senate primary. Indeed, this Colorado example is a replica of that now-famous Illinois contest in 2004. Bennet, like one of Obama's toughest opponents back then, is a millionaire who has never run for public office. And as in 2004, that millionaire is being propped up by the establishment against an Obama-esque state legislator who has oodles of experience and grass-roots support. The hypocrisy, of course, is that Obama is now backing the tycoon instead of his former self.

No doubt, if I devoted this column to any of that history, presidential aides would respond (if at all) by saying Obama is only aiming to preserve Democratic Party strength. And then I would publish an even easier-to-write follow-up reminding those aides that last year, Obama said primaries like his 2008 presidential campaign have helped the Democratic Party because they have "engaged and involved people like never before."

But incongruity and deceit are tired subjects. From Glenn Beck attacking Wall Street largess that he previously applauded, to Congresspeople criticizing deficits they originally created, there's so much discrepancy in today's public sphere that it is no longer interesting. Obviously, Obama and other politicians are happy to "kick away the ladder," as the saying goes -- that is, to close off paths they once used and to undermine local democracy with tactics they heretofore inveighed against. Obviously. And it would be a waste of space to obsess over that grotesque banality.

Far less obvious -- and far more worthy of precious column inches -- is an examination of what the hypocrisy says about the president's outlook, beyond letting us know he sees Washington as a country club that must protect its own members.

At a moment when Obama's agenda is acutely threatened by congressional Democratic recalcitrance, the president's anti-primary posture tells all Democratic incumbents he will defend them, regardless of their position on issues. And that message blunts Obama's most powerful instrument of legislative leverage: fear of contested elections.

Without vigorous primaries forcing Democratic legislators to face Democratic voters, those legislators feel free to defy the president's Democratic agenda. Alternately, with primaries, Democratic lawmakers typically compete to show who is more committed to the Democratic agenda. As two examples, Sens. Specter and Bennet went from mealy-mouthed equivocation to strong support of the public healthcare option immediately after opponents announced primary challenges to them.

Hence, in trying to prevent or weaken primaries against incumbents, Obama is not merely signaling a royalist's disdain for local democracy. He is exposing a corrupted pol's willingness to prioritize country club etiquette over policy results. If his agenda ends up being killed, that cynical choice will be a key cause of death.
(c) 2009 David Sirota

Congressman Grayson Has Just Begun To Fight
By John Nichols

Washington Republicans are horrified, horrified, horrified by the bluntness of Florida Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson.

The tough kid from the Bronx (and Harvard Law School) who represents an until recently Republican Orlando-area district pulled no punches Tuesday, when he declared on the House floor:

"The Republican health care plan is this: Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly."

After his GOP colleagues recovered from the shock of a Democrat actually calling them out, they demanded an apology.

Grayson returned to the House floor to announce that:

"I would like to apologize, I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven't voted sooner to end this holocaust in America."

So unfamiliar with the notion that a Democrat might actually take the healthcare debate seriously enough to try and win it, the Republicans presumed that Grayson had gone off the deep end. The National Republican Congressional Committee screeched:

"This is an unstable man who has come unhinged. The depths to which Alan Grayson will sink to defend his indefensible comments know no bounds."

NRCC spokesman Ken Spain claimed in an interview with the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill that: "This is an individual who has established a pathological pattern of unstable behavior."

Grayson hasn't cracked.

The former assistant (on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to current U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, and conservative judicial icon Robert Bork) is dealing in facts.

Indeed, the Harvard grad has seized on a study produced by researchers at his old school that details how 44,000 Americans die annually because they lack health insurance. And he is laughing off a Republican attempt to formally condemn his choice of words.

Georgia GOP Congressman Tom Price does not think it is fair for a Democrat to counter months of Republican hyperbole with actual statistics. So the Georgian has drafted a resolution that accuses Grayson of committing "a breach of decorum and (degrading) the integrity and proceedings of the House."

Grayson's response:

"A resolution like that doesn't save one human being's life."

The resolution has yet to be introduced and is unlikely to get far in the overwhelmingly Democratic House. Like the silly Democratic resolution seeking objecting to South Carolina Republican Congressman Joe Wilson's boorish behavior during President Obama's address to the Joint Session of Congress, Price's proposal is a meaningless exercise.

Yet, Grayson's more cautious colleagues in the Democratic caucus (notably caucus chair John Larson of Connecticut) say they'll urge their Jewish colleague to back away from some of his remarks -- especially a Holocaust reference that, while on-point to the view of those who see the denial of healthcare to the sick as an act of brutality, seemed gratuitous and unnecessary to politicians who are ill at ease with such passionate language.

Grayson, whose official biography begins with a telling quotation from the Torah ("Justice, justice, ye shall seek..."), shows no signs of backing down.

The congressman, who beat an entrenched Republican incumbent in 2008 and is confident he'll win again in 2010 (perhaps with some support from libertarian Republicans who appreciate his loose alliance with 2008 GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul on issues of holding Federal Reserve bankers to account) says he is hearing a lot more praise than criticism.

"People are calling us from all over the country to congratulate us for telling the truth," says Grayson. "People are happy to see a Democrat with guts."

In fact, Grayson has a lot to teach a Democratic caucus that has not begun to fight for health care reform.

While Republicans have been waging a war against reform, Democrats have been in duck-and-cover mode -- until now.

Grayson may sound a little over-the-top to some Capitol insiders.

Some of his language may unsettle even his allies.

But to Americans who this week witnessed the revolting rejection by Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee of even mild reforms like the proposed "public option," the Florida congressman's words will sound like the sanest message coming not just from his side of the aisle but from all of official Washington.
(c) 2009 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

Cassandras Of Climate
By Paul Krugman

Every once in a while I feel despair over the fate of the planet. If you've been following climate science, you know what I mean: the sense that we're hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it.

And here's the thing: I'm not engaging in hyperbole. These days, dire warnings aren't the delusional raving of cranks. They're what come out of the most widely respected climate models, devised by the leading researchers. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.

What's driving this new pessimism? Partly it's the fact that some predicted changes, like a decline in Arctic Sea ice, are happening much faster than expected. Partly it's growing evidence that feedback loops amplifying the effects of man-made greenhouse gas emissions are stronger than previously realized. For example, it has long been understood that global warming will cause the tundra to thaw, releasing carbon dioxide, which will cause even more warming, but new research shows far more carbon locked in the permafrost than previously thought, which means a much bigger feedback effect.

The result of all this is that climate scientists have, en masse, become Cassandras - gifted with the ability to prophesy future disasters, but cursed with the inability to get anyone to believe them.

And we're not just talking about disasters in the distant future, either. The really big rise in global temperature probably won't take place until the second half of this century, but there will be plenty of damage long before then.

For example, one 2007 paper in the journal Science is titled "Model Projections of an Imminent Transition to a More Arid Climate in Southwestern North America" - yes, "imminent" - and reports "a broad consensus among climate models" that a permanent drought, bringing Dust Bowl-type conditions, "will become the new climatology of the American Southwest within a time frame of years to decades." So if you live in, say, Los Angeles, and liked those pictures of red skies and choking dust in Sydney, Australia, last week, no need to travel. They'll be coming your way in the not-too-distant future.

Now, at this point I have to make the obligatory disclaimer that no individual weather event can be attributed to global warming. The point, however, is that climate change will make events like that Australian dust storm much more common.

In a rational world, then, the looming climate disaster would be our dominant political and policy concern. But it manifestly isn't. Why not?

Part of the answer is that it's hard to keep peoples' attention focused. Weather fluctuates - New Yorkers may recall the heat wave that pushed the thermometer above 90 in April - and even at a global level, this is enough to cause substantial year-to-year wobbles in average temperature. As a result, any year with record heat is normally followed by a number of cooler years: According to Britain's Met Office, 1998 was the hottest year so far, although NASA - which arguably has better data - says it was 2005. And it's all too easy to reach the false conclusion that the danger is past.

But the larger reason we're ignoring climate change is that Al Gore was right: This truth is just too inconvenient. Responding to climate change with the vigor that the threat deserves would not, contrary to legend, be devastating for the economy as a whole. But it would shuffle the economic deck, hurting some powerful vested interests even as it created new economic opportunities. And the industries of the past have armies of lobbyists in place right now; the industries of the future don't.

Nor is it just a matter of vested interests. It's also a matter of vested ideas. For three decades the dominant political ideology in America has extolled private enterprise and denigrated government, but climate change is a problem that can only be addressed through government action. And rather than concede the limits of their philosophy, many on the right have chosen to deny that the problem exists.

So here we are, with the greatest challenge facing mankind on the back burner, at best, as a policy issue. I'm not, by the way, saying that the Obama administration was wrong to push health care first. It was necessary to show voters a tangible achievement before next November. But climate change legislation had better be next.

And as I pointed out in my last column, we can afford to do this. Even as climate modelers have been reaching consensus on the view that the threat is worse than we realized, economic modelers have been reaching consensus on the view that the costs of emission control are lower than many feared.

So the time for action is now. O.K., strictly speaking it's long past. But better late than never.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Happy Junta Grounds
Militarist Machiavellis Maneuver for More War
By Chris Floyd

These days, the always noxious air of the Beltway is astir with the machinations of the military junta that now dominates the gutted and looted ruins of the American republic. Two recent articles provide excellent guides to the brazen Pentagon squeeze play to ensure that the civilian government does not stray from the militarist agenda of more war, all the time, everywhere, always -- a condition best captured in the marvelous title of the latest volume of Christopher Logue's serial reworking of The Illiad: All-Day Permanent Red.

First up, Tom Englehardt focuses on the powerful proconsul who is directing the squeeze play from the shadows. Yes, we speak of General David Petraeus, an ambitious little beaver with an eye on the White House. Curiously, Petraeus seems to think that - unlike victorious generals-turned-presidents like Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower -- he can win the Oval Office after directing not one but two failed wars. Even more curiously, he just might be right, especially given the slavishly kowtowing treatment he has always unaccountably received from the political establishment and the corporate media. Good PR, not battlefield prowess, is the only thing that counts these days, in our vastly altered state of permanent war. As Englehardt notes:

Over the nearly six decades that separate us from Truman's great moment [firing the overreaching General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War], the Pentagon has become a far more overwhelming institution. In Afghanistan, as in Washington, it has swallowed up much of what once was intelligence, as it is swallowing up much of what once was diplomacy. It is linked to one of the two businesses, the Pentagon-subsidized weapons industry, which has proven an American success story even in the worst of economic times (the other remains Hollywood). It now holds a far different position in a society that seems to feed on war.

It's one thing for the leaders of a country to say that war should be left to the generals when suddenly embroiled in conflict, quite another when that country is eternally in a state of war. In such a case, if you turn crucial war decisions over to the military, you functionally turn foreign policy over to them as well. All of this is made more complicated, because the cast of "civilians" theoretically pitted against the military right now includes Karl W. Eikenberry, a retired lieutenant general who is the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Douglas Lute, a lieutenant general who is the president's special advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan (dubbed the "war czar" when he held the same position in the Bush administration), and James Jones, a retired Marine Corps general, who is national security advisor, not to speak of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The question is: will an already heavily militarized foreign policy geared to endless global war be surrendered to the generals?

I would say that it already has. Obama may or may not have "buyer's remorse," but as Englehardt notes, he has long wanted to "own" this war -- it was a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, the means by which he sought to prove his "national security" cajones -- and now he's got it. I doubt very much if he really is being "forced" into escalating the war -- and I would be astonished if he does not give in and send more troops into Afghanistan, while continuing to expand his deadly, destabilizing forays into Pakistan.

In any case, Harry Truman got away with sacking MacArthur not only because the Pentagon was less overwhelming in those days -- but also because the Joint Chiefs and the rest of the top military brass were themselves sick of the ageing prima donna and his high-handed ways, which had unraveled an imminent victory in Korea and led to the slaughter of thousands of American troops at the hands of the Chinese whom MacArthur had deliberately baited into the war. (This tale is well told in David Halberstam's last book, The Coldest Winter.) Now the Pentagon is far more powerful. And our modern, cut-rate MacArthur (at least MacArthur had several genuine military triumphs to his credit, unlike Petraeus) is fully backed by the top brass (many of whom are his creatures, as he now controls promotions in the Army). And they are all acting in brazen concert to hogtie the civilian government into doing their bidding, as Jeff Huber, our second good guide, reports:

The long war mafia made clear its opposition to candidate Obama's campaign promise to establish a timeline to draw down the Iraq war. Even after Obama had assumed office, Odierno, commander in Iraq, stated publicly (through Petraeus's hagiographer Tom Ricks) that he expected to keep 30,000 more troops in Iraq through 2014 or 2015, well after the December 2011 exit deadline called for in the Status of Forces Agreement.

Mullen, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, has been a leading chanter of the mantra that says we must stay committed in Afghanistan. In a recent Joint Force Quarterly article, Mullen wrote, "The most common questions that I get in Pakistan and Afghanistan are: 'Will you really stay with us this time?' 'Can we really count on you?' I tell them that we will and that they can."

In a recent appearance on Al Jazeera, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, "both Afghanistan and Pakistan can count on us for the long term."

Every American should be stunned that our top military leadership made these kinds of foreign policy commitments without so much as a by-your-leave from the president or Congress. This is a velvet-fisted version of the kind of military junta we'd expect to see in a banana republic.

And of course, as both Huber and Englehardt note, the power structure's mouthpiece par excellence, former military intelligence officer Bob Woodward has played a key role in what Huber calls the Pentagon's "unrestricted information warfare campaign." Woodward passed along a carefully edited "leak" of the "strategy review" by General Stanley "Dirty War is My Business" McChrystal, who is Obama's new commander of the "Af-Pak" front. The heavily redacted document virtually screamed its warning that if the sissy civilians in Washington didn't keep Afghanistan burning at white heat -- by throwing more cannon fodder into the furnace, along with giant bales of cash -- then they, not the Pentagon, will be to blame for the FUBAR that follows.

Then again, any rational, sentient being knows that an escalation of the war will be a FUBAR of monstrous proportions, further destabilizing the most volatile region on earth, killing more and more civilians, driving more Afghans into the insurgency, propping up an utterly corrupt puppet government, wasting billions upon billions of dollars and thousands of American lives, and exacerbating extremism around the world. This is glaringly obvious, but our militarists simply don't care. As Huber notes, McChrystal and Petraeus scarcely bother to put together a coherent strategy for the war:

McChrystal's report is incoherent on the subject of strategy. It says, "We must conduct classic counterinsurgency operations" and states that success depends not on "seizing terrain or destroying insurgent forces" but on "gaining the support of the people." That's laughable in light of the fact that classic clear-hold-build counterinsurgency operations involve seizing terrain and destroying the insurgent forces that occupy it. The notion that we can separate the Afghan people from the insurgents is as ludicrous as the idea of invading Mexico to separate the Hispanics from the Latinos. Nor can we pretend to be the good guys when the Karzai government we prop up is as bad or worse than the insurgents. McChrystal admits that Afghans have "little reason to support their government."

McChrystal says he sees no sign of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. So, his argument goes, in order to disrupt al-Qaeda terror network, we need 45,000 more troops to occupy a country al-Qaeda is not in to make sure it doesn't come back. And what exactly is this al-Qaeda juggernaut we've come to quake in fear of? As former CIA officer Philip Giraldi recently noted, "An assessment by France's highly regarded Paris Institute of Political Studies [suggests that] Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda has likely been reduced to a core group of eight to ten terrorists who are on the run more often than not."

If McChrystal and his allies get their way, we'll have deployed over 135,000 troops to Afghanistan - on top of the roughly 130,000 troops still in Iraq - for the purpose of rounding up fewer than a dozen bad guys. Daffy Duck and Wiley Coyote could come up with a better strategy than that. Our military leadership and its supporters are a thundering herd of buffoons whose only real objective is to keep the cash caissons rolling and the gravy ships afloat and the wild blue budget sky high.

And to keep the power, privilege and dominance they have come to exercise over our society -- a position of rulership to which they now feel entitled, and which whole generations of Americans are now growing up to believe is the natural order of things. Gary Wills limns the corrupt and corrosive reality of the National Security State in a recent New York Review piece:

The monopoly on use of nuclear weaponry, the cult of the commander in chief, the worldwide network of military bases to maintain nuclear alert and supremacy, the secret intelligence agencies, the entire national security state, the classification and clearance systems, the expansion of state secrets, the withholding of evidence and information, the permanent emergency that has melded World War II with the cold war and the cold war with the "war on terror"-all these make a vast and intricate structure that may not yield to effort at dismantling it. Sixty-eight straight years of war emergency powers (1941-2009) have made the abnormal normal, and constitutional diminishment the settled order....

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that turning around the huge secret empire built by the National Security State is a hard, perhaps impossible, task. After most of the wars in US history there was a return to the constitutional condition of the pre-war world. But after those wars there was no lasting institutional security apparatus of the sort that was laboriously assembled in the 1940s and 1950s. After World War I, for instance, there was no CIA, no NSA, no mountain of secret documents to be guarded from unauthorized readers, no atomic bomb to guard, develop, deploy, and maintain in readiness on land, in the air, and on (or in) the sea.

Now a new president quickly becomes aware of the vast empire that is largely invisible to the citizenry. The United States maintains an estimated one thousand military bases in other countries. I say "estimated" because the exact number, location, and size of the bases are either partly or entirely cloaked in secrecy, among other things to protect nuclear installations. The secrecy involved is such that during the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy did not even know, at first, that we had nuclear missiles stationed in Turkey.

Huber holds out a no doubt wan hope that Obama will emulate Eisenhower, "stand up to America's militaristic madness," and negotiate an end to the Afghan War, as Eisenhower did in Korea. However, the ever-astute Huber certainly knows this is highly unlikely. Obama has never given the slightest indication that he objects in any serious way to the militaristic madness of our globe-striding empire of bases and our permanent war machine. He accepts it in principle, and most assuredly in practice. And while it is true that we may be seeing the first faint inklings of a distant glimmer of a vague, dim realization by the White House that the present course in Afghanistan -- surge, bomb, kill, repeat -- is, perhaps, not the most productive approach, the only alternative that the administration seems to be considering is "scaling back" the military footprint in Afghanistan (to some unspecified level), while escalating the on-going campaign of attacks on Pakistan -- including the introduction of Special Forces ground troops.

This "alternative" is said to be the course being pushed by Vice President Joe Biden. And one can well believe it: the plan's destructive boneheadedness is certainly redolent of Biden's statecraft, which has included such splendors as supporting the aggressive war in Iraq, calling for the bloody dismemberment of the conquered land, and, of course, successfully spearheading a draconian "Bankruptcy Bill" that has devastated the lives of millions of people while protecting the profits of Biden's paymasters in the credit card industry. This is the man that Obama hand-picked to stand by his side and help devise strategy and policy at the highest levels.

Escalating the war in Pakistan -- with ground troops, no less -- is, to put it bluntly, insane. The efforts already undertaken there have been greatly destabilizing -- in a nuclear-armed nation riven by ethnic and regional conflicts. One thing that does unite the Pakistanis, however, is their vociferous opposition to American attacks on their soil. But the fact that Pakistan is a sovereign nation -- and an American ally -- cuts absolutely no ice at all with the war councils in Washington -- or with their faithful media scribes. Witness the astonishing passage from a Washington Post story about Pakistan's increasing pushback against the heavy imperial hand. Trying to somehow explain this strange reaction, the Post comes up with this:

Pakistanis, who are extremely sensitive about national sovereignty, oppose allowing foreign troops on their soil and have protested U.S. missile attacks launched from unmanned aircraft against suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda targets inside Pakistan.

Can you imagine that! The Pakistanis are "extremely sensitive about national sovereignty." Obviously, this is some kind of strange, barbaric trait of those dark, primitive tribes; for everyone knows that most countries love to have foreign armies carrying out combat operations in their homeland. Certainly, Americans are intensely relaxed about allowing foreign troops on their soil. And good gracious, the Pakistanis even get all het up about foreign governments launching missile attacks into their territory! Again, you would never see this kind of tetchiness in the sophisticated, civilized West.

But American leaders just can't understand why they are unpopular in Pakistan. Here's Obama's super-special envoy to the "Af-Pak" front, Richard Holbrooke, scratching his head about the grubby little Asian ingrates:

"We recognize that Pakistani public opinion on the United States is still surprisingly low, given the tremendous effort by the United States to lead an international coalition in support of Pakistan," Richard C. Holbrooke.

We throw good money at these gooks, and they still don't like us to invade their country and kill their people! Really! What does an empire have to do to get a little love around here?

No, I don't think we will see Obama emulating Ike in ending a pointless, unpopular war, or channeling Truman in resisting the political agenda of an ambitious general. If Obama is as intelligent as he is reputed to be, he already knew the score when he threw himself body and soul into the pursuit of the presidency; he went into it with eyes wide open, and made his deal with the devil.

And in the unlikely event that he is actually clueless enough to believe that he can now back out of the deal, and tries to cut down -- or even seriously curtail -- the militarist machine....then he will very likely find himself stretched out in a pine box beneath the Capitol rotunda, a much-mourned victim of the usual "lone nut" gunman.
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

Saving Big Pharma
By Case Wagonvoord

I'm not gloating because this is not something to gloat about. However, even as far back as July, 2008 I knew Obama was a dud. He was just another charming corporate Democrat who had no intention of messing with the status quo.

Well, guess what: his do-nothingism scored another victory, Thursday, when the Senate Finance Committee voted down an amendment to the health "reform" bill that would have required Big Pharma to give deeper discounts on drugs sold to older Americans.

If you remember, Obama cut a closed-door deal with Big Pharma in June in which the drug companies agreed to $80 billion in reduced costs over the next ten years, a cut that wouldn't even put a dent in their bloated profits. In exchange, the drug dealers agreed to support the health care reform bill.

Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, introduced an amendment that would have upped that discount to $100 billion.

Well, holy shit! You would have thought his amendment wanted to sell the United States to al Qaeda.

The reason for voting the amendment down is telling. According to Senator Thomas Carper, Democrat of Delaware, asking the drug companies to contribute more to the public welfare would "undermine our ability to pass comprehensive health care reform in this Congress." It seems Big Pharma would pull their support if the government did a sensible thing like using its purchasing power to affect deep discounts, something any corporation worth its salt (think Wal-Mart) wouldn't hesitate to do.

Let's see if I have this straight: seventy-percent of the public wants health care reform, yet Congress is more worried about Big Pharma's tender feelings than the wishes and desires of the public it purportedly represents.

My, this has a familiar ring to it.

Big Pharma was right there waving the bloody flag of potential unemployment if it was forced to sell its over-priced drugs at a fair price. A spokesman said, "If our contribution to health care reform exceeds $80 billion, you reach a point where you risk sacrificing someone's job for some else's health insurance." It is always amazing how our corporate oligarchy is quick to whine about lost jobs whenever any sort of reform is suggested, but will not hesitate to lay off tens of thousands of workers if it will ads a point or to two the profit margin.

I'm sorry to say that my senators, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, was one of three Democrats to vote against the amendment that would have saved our seniors, whose retirement accounts have been savaged by our corporate masters, a few bucks. Well, when he comes up for reelection, I'm voting for Rush. At least I'd know what I was getting.
(c) 2009 Case Wagenvoord. Some years ago, Case Wagenvoord turned off the tube and picked up a book. He's been trouble ever since. His articles have been posted at The Smirking Chimp, Countercurrents and Issues & Alibis. When he's not writing or brooding, he is carving hardwood bowls that have been displayed in galleries and shows across the country. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two cats. His book, Open Letters to George W. Bush is available at

Career Choices; Winners And Losers
By Mike Folkerth

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

As we continually see evidence that employment is waning daily, I want to point out that there will always be a core economy that will provide jobs so long as humans inhabit the planet.

It's important to try and separate the wheat from the chafe in order to determine what constitutes the core. To do so, we need to separate needs from wants. One of my old friends always reminds me that his grandfather often commented that people went broke buying things that they didn't need with money that they didn't have. That will soon change as will the jobs that were associated with wants that aren't needs.

Targeting core employment is extremely important to young people, as the unemployment rate for those between the ages of 18 and 24 years is now 52.2%! Slow job growth for this sector is predicted. What a surprise.

To help to focus on this subject, I want to recall an article that I wrote some time back titled "Choosing Teams." That article follows:

Life in America is changing as we enter a new era where the conscious thought of natural resource depletion and continual population expansion will become an everyday exercise.

In a way, we will reinvent the way that we live as Americans, and perhaps, it will be a better way in the end; which brings me to the subject of today's article.

While I was sitting at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level in the beautiful forests and clear rushing streams of Western Colorado's majestic San Juan Mountains, I had a thought. What if we could wipe the slate clean and pick teams for a new start for America? Who would be picked first and last?

Would we pick a high paid CEO to lead us? Would we pick a current Congressperson to represent us? At what point would we pick a Wall Street trader to be part of our team? Or, a multi-million dollar movie or sports star?

My opinion is that the above mentioned people wouldn't get to be on our team at all. We would pick those who would benefit our team, not weigh it down.

Remember Gilligan's Island? While the plot was created as a spoof, there was a little more truth than fiction that played out in the scripts. The movie star was glamorous, but worthless as part of the survival effort. The millionaire and his wife wanted the others to take care of them as they attempted to continue living their past lifestyle.

Gilligan was the village idiot and more a hindrance than a help. The Captain was capable with some direction, but without the professor, who constantly offered practical knowledge, and Maryanne, with her common sense, they would all have been doomed.

My opinion is that if we really could pick teams, we would pick those who possess the knowledge that created our country through free enterprise, not those who have risen to a position to exploit the spoils of unbridled capitalism.

When choosing our teams, first round picks would go to those who excel in the fields of engineering, machining, medicine, farming, manufacturing, metallurgy, mechanical repair, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, teachers, scientists, food preservation, energy and so on.

Note that these people first chosen are those who provide the knowledge and labor necessary to establish a civil and functioning society and not the profiteers of the civilization that the aforementioned created.

It's interesting that the profiteers (including political leaders) have risen to a level of wealth well above those who created and continue to make our society possible.

America today is laced with millions of people who do little more than shuffle papers and consume foreign made products as we unwisely follow a flawed economic platform that was never designed to last long term.

As our fatally flawed system of exponential growth and consumption continues to unveil the physical and mathematical impasses that were built into that structure, America will go in one of two directions. We will either become a third world, two tiered system of haves and have-nots, or, we will face the fact that our underlying economy must be totally rethought including our monetary system.

The latter will require choosing new teams. If you were elected captain, who would you choose for your team mates?

It's never too late to do the right thing.
(c) 2009 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"And on the most exalted throne in the world sits nothing but a man's arse."
~~~ Montaigne

The War On Language
By Chris Hedges

There is a scene in "Othello" when the Moor is so consumed by jealousy and rage that he loses the eloquence and poetry that make him the most articulate man in Venice. He turns to the audience, shortly before he murders Desdemona, and sputters, "Goats and monkeys!" Othello fell prey to wild self-delusion and unchecked rage, and his words became captive to hollow cliches. The debasement of language, which Shakespeare understood was a prelude to violence, is the curse of modernity. We have stopped communicating, even with ourselves. And the consequences will be as extreme as in the Shakespearean tragedy.

Those who seek to dominate our behavior first seek to dominate our speech. They seek to obscure meaning. They make war on language. And the English- and Arabic-speaking worlds are each beset with a similar assault on language. The graffiti on the mud walls of Gaza that calls for holy war or the crude rants of Islamic militants are expressed in a simplified, impoverished form of Arabic. This is not the classical language of 1,500 years of science, poetry and philosophy. It is an argot of cliches, distorted Quranic verses and slogans. This Arabic is no more comprehensible to the literate in the Arab world than the carnival barking that pollutes our airwaves is comprehensible to our literate classes. The reduction of popular discourse to banalities, exacerbated by the elite's retreat into obscure, specialized jargon, creates internal walls that thwart real communication. This breakdown in language makes reflection and debate impossible. It transforms foreign cultures, which we lack the capacity to investigate, into reversed images of ourselves. If we represent virtue, progress and justice, as our cliches constantly assure us, then the Arabs, or the Iranians, or anyone else we deem hostile, represent evil, backwardness and injustice. An impoverished language solidifies a binary world and renders us children with weapons.

How do you respond to "Islam is the solution" or "Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior"? How do you converse with someone who justifies the war in Iraq-as Christopher Hitchens does-with the tautology that we have to "kill them over there so they do not kill us over here"? Those who speak in these thought-terminating cliches banish rational discussion. Their minds are shut. They sputter and rant like a demented Othello. The paucity of public discourse in our culture, even among those deemed to be public intellectuals, is matched by the paucity of public discourse in the Arab world.

This emptiness of language is a gift to demagogues and the corporations that saturate the landscape with manipulated images and the idiom of mass culture. Manufactured phrases inflame passions and distort reality. The collective chants, jargon and epithets permit people to surrender their moral autonomy to the heady excitement of the crowd. "The crowd doesn't have to know," Mussolini often said. "It must believe. ... If only we can give them faith that mountains can be moved, they will accept the illusion that mountains are moveable, and thus an illusion may become reality." Always, he said, be "electric and explosive." Belief can triumph over knowledge. Emotion can vanquish thought. Our demagogues distort the Bible and the Constitution, while their demagogues distort the Quran, or any other foundational document deemed to be sacred, fueling self-exaltation and hatred at the expense of understanding. The more illiterate a society becomes, the more power those who speak in this corrupted form of speech amass, the more music and images replace words and thought. We are cursed not by a cultural divide but by mutual cultural self-destruction.

The educated elites in the Arab world are now as alienated as the educated elites in the United States. To speak with a vocabulary that the illiterate or semiliterate do not immediately grasp is to be ostracized, distrusted and often ridiculed. It is to impart knowledge, which fosters doubt. And doubt in calcified societies, which prefer to speak in the absolute metaphors of war and science, is a form of heresy. It was not accidental that the founding biblical myth saw the deliverer of knowledge as evil and the loss of innocence as a catastrophe. "This probably had less to do with religion than with the standard desire of those in authority to control those who are not," John Ralston Saul wrote. "And control of the Western species of the human race seems to turn upon language."

The infantile slogans that are used to make sense of the world express, whether in tea party rallies or in Gaza street demonstrations, a very real alienation, yearning and rage. These cliches, hollow to the literate, are electric with power to those for whom these words are the only currency in which they can express anguish and despair. And as the economy worsens, as war in the Middle East and elsewhere continues, as our corporate state strips us of power and reduces us to serfs, expect this rage, and the demented language used to give it voice, to grow.

The Arabic of the Quran is as poetic as the intricate theology of Islam. It is nuanced and difficult to master. But the language of the Quran has been debased in the slums and poor villages across the Middle East by the words and phrases of political Islam. This process is no different from what has taken place with Christianity in the United States. Our mainstream churches have been as complacent in fighting heretics as have the mainstream mosques and religious scholars in the Middle East. Demented forms of Christianity and Islam have largely supplanted genuine and more open forms of religious expression. And they have done so because liberal elites were cowed into silence. Corruptions of Islamic terms and passages are as numerous in the militants' ideology as in the ideology of the Christian right. The word jihad for the militants means the impunity to kill, kidnap, hijack and bomb anyone they see as an infidel, including children and other Muslims. Jihad, however, does not always mean holy war, or even war, in the Quran. According to Islamic tradition, the "great jihad" is the battle within one's self to live in accord with God's will. A jihad, for the prophet Muhammad, is often the struggle to achieve inner-worldly asceticism, in accord with his call "to command the good and forbid evil with the heart, the tongue and the hand." And the Quran condemns the use of violence to propagate the faith. "There is no compulsion in religion," it states. The Quran also denounces forced piety and conversion as insincere. Calls to martyrdom, presented by militants as a direct path toward eternal life, conveniently eschew the Quran's rigid ban on suicide. But theological nuance is beside the point for zealots. The fantasies peddled by the Christian right, from the Rapture, which is not in the Bible, to the belief that Jesus, who was a pacifist, would bless wars in the Middle East, injects our own version of sanctified slogans into the vernacular.

Our crisis is a crisis of language. Victor Klemperer in his book "Lingua Tertii Imperii" noted that the distortion of language by the Nazis was vital in creating fascist culture. He was repeatedly perplexed by how the masses, even those who opposed the Nazis, willingly ingested the linguistic poison the Nazis used to perpetuate collective self-delusion. "Words may be little doses of arsenic," he wrote. "They are consumed without being noticed; they seem at first to have no effect, but after a while, indeed, the effect is there."
(c) 2009 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

Why The Public Option Is Doomed To Fail
And what Can Be Done About It
By Bruce A. Dixon

The generous, expansive public option on the lips of Congressional progressives, which would be open to all and compete to lower insurance prices is largely imaginary, while the president's stingy, divisive and means-tested version is all too real. But what about the third version of the public option? What is the Congressional Progressive Caucus doing to promote it, and to allow states to pursue single payer on their own?

Some highly profitable and job creating industries simply can't be reformed. Slavery and child labor cannot not be made humane and reasonable, not with kind and solicitous masters or school and limited hours for the kids. Both these practices were eventually cast aside. Allowing souless, greedy private insurance corporations to collect a toll for standing between patients and doctors may be next.

The president's health care plan is designed to preserve the parasitic private insurance industry a little while longer. In this context, the public option is a cruel and cynical hoax, an excuse not to abolish the role of private insurance death panels and toll collectors in the nation's health care system.

The president's health care plan is designed to preserve the parasitic private insurance industry a little while longer. In this context, the public option is a cruel and cynical hoax, an excuse not to abolish the role of private insurance death panels and toll collectors in the nation's health care system.

Nobody can read the president's mind, but he did promise to construct health care legislation in an open and transparent manner, even "on C-SPAN." Instead, Obama handed off the drafting of health care legislation to five House and three Senate committees. The most generous view is that he did this to give legislators a stake in the bills, and because there is this thing called the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.

Another view is that the embedded influence of Big Insurance, Big Pharma, and Big Medicine was easier to conceal when spread out over several committees, where the lobbyists are themselves former congressmen, senators and their top staffers, and many current members and staff look forward to the same career paths. These are the men and women who wrote what is and will be the president's health insurance reform legislation. The result has been a half dozen versions of a thousand-plus page bill, chock full, as Rolling Stone's Matt Taibi points out, of deliberately obscure references to other legislation. Nobody can authoritatively claim to have read, much less understand all of it. And that's just the way insurance companies and the president like it. HR 676, the Enhanced Medicare For All Act, which does provide universal coverage at reasonable cost, comes in at under thirty pages.

To begin with, there are no less than three versions of the public option. The first is an imaginary public option first conceived by Political Science grad student Jacob Hatcher in 2001. It was to postpone the death of private insurance companies by forcing them to compete with a publicly funded insurer open to all comers which would drive their prices downward. This imaginary public option has never been written into law, and is not under consideration in Congress this year. It lives pretty much in the minds of the public and the lips of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, MoveOn.Org and many others. It's in the mouth of Howard Dean, who says it will be just like Medicare, only available to everybody. To distinguish it from the President Obama's version, it is usually called "the robust public option."

The second version of the public option is not imaginary, it is all too real. President Obama explicitly outlined its contours in his health care address earlier this month. Unlike the expansive and inclusive imaginary public option championed by MoveOn.Org, the president's public option will be stingy, means-tested, socially divisive, actuarially unsound and doomed to failure, unless its objective is simply to discredit the word "public" in the term "public option." The president has said it will be limited to 5% of the nation's population, those Americans too poor to afford the cheapest insurance available on his regulated "insurance exchanges" which won't be fully implemented anyway till 2013.

Hence those making more than a very small wage will be ineligible for the president's version of the public option, and those who currently get insurance from their employers, no matter how skimpy the coverage, how high the co-pays and deductibles, will also not qualify. Those who receive relatively good (or maybe not so good) coverage from their employers will pay a special tax to support both the public option and the subsidies the government will pay to enable others not quite poor enough for the public option to fulfill their legal obligation to buy shoddy insurance from private vendors. In a social culture where Americans have been taught to despise poverty and the poor, even when they themselves are poor and near poverty, this will be bitterly and inherently divisive. It will provide economic incentive for the working poor to look down on and resent whatever benefits those even poorer than themselves receive. It turns medical coverage for the poor into stigmatized welfare subsidized by the near-poor, and all to the continuing profit of insurance companies.

And since the pool accessed by the public option will be relatively older, poorer and thus more chronically ill, it will not be economically viable in and of itself, must less of the size needed to compete with private insurers and drive their prices downward.

The only good thing one can say about the president's version of the public option is that even he is not firmly attached to it, and does not regard it as essential to his package. That's actually good news.

Beyond the imaginary "robust public option" of MoveOn.Org, and the divisive, destructive public option of the president, there is a third public option, a very real one. It's HR 676, the Enhanced Medicare For All bill, sponsored by John Conyers and Dennis Kucinich. Unlike the mostly imaginary "robust public option" of MoveOn.Org, it actually exists and ordinary people can read and understand it. Unlike the president's public option, which does not take effect till 2013, a fact still ignored by most of the mainstream media, HR 676 can be put into effect almost immediately. The first Medicare back in 1965-66 took only eleven months to send out the first cards and pay the first medical bills.

The White House of course, is not listening to the public outcry for Medicare For All. For example, a group of Oregon physicians calling themselves the Mad As Hell Doctors put up a web site that included an email-the-president page. After the White House received only about 5,000 emails in the first few days, it elected to block emails [1] coming from the Mad As Hell Doctors as spam. Never mind that tracking polls as late as this June indicate majority support among the public for the simple extension of Medicare benefits to everybody.

And although the progressive caucus in Congress continues to wistfully describe its imaginary version of the public option as a line in the sand, it is neither lining up votes for a promised HR 676 floor vote, nor are they demanding that caucus members support amendments to let states to pursue their own versions of single payer in the near future. Congress is being set up to accept anything with the name "public option" and be done with it, even the president's cynical and divisive proposal. The die is cast. The Obama proposals, written by the health insurance lobbyists may pass, but they're not worthwhile. The president's version of the public option, if it stays in the bill is doomed to fail, and the MoveOn version never existed. The only possibility for the real public option, Medicare For All, this year is on the state level. That door will be opened or closed by the Congress this year.

The Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus can partially redeem their sorry capitulation to the president and Big Insurance by insisting that states be allowed to go their own way on single payer, the only real public option.
(c) 2009 Bruce A. Dixon is the Managing Editor of Black Agenda Report.

The Dead Letter Office...

Sinator Carper

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer Carper,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, your joining with the Rethuglicans to veto a slight raise in taxes against big Pharma and your catch phrase to the American people of "Take A Hike" will echo for decades, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Demoncratic Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross, first class, with diamond clusters presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 10-31-2009. We salute you Herr Carper, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Hypocrisy In Pittsburgh
More Lies, More Deceptions
By Paul Craig Roberts

The G-20 ministers declared their meeting in Pittsburgh a success, but as Rob Kall reports in, the meeting's main success was to turn Pittsburgh into "a ghost-town, emptied of workers and the usual pedestrians, but filled to overflowing with over 12,000 swat cops from all over the US."

This is "freedom and democracy" at work. The leaders of the G-20 countries, which account for 85% of the world's income, cannot meet in an American city without 12,000 cops outfitted like the emperor's storm troopers in Star Wars. And the US government complains about Iran.

The US government's complaints about Iran have reached a new level of shrillness. On September 25 Obama declared: "Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow." The heads of America's British, French, and German puppet states added their two cents worth, giving the government of Iran three months to meet the "international community's demands" to give up its rights as a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty to nuclear energy. In case you don't know, the term "international community" is shorthand for the US, Israel, and Europe, a handful of arrogant and rich countries that oppress the rest of the world.

Who is breaking the rules? Iran or the United States?

Iran is insisting that the US government abide by the non-proliferation treaty that the US originated and pushed and that Iran signed. But the US government, which is currently engaged in three wars of aggression and has occupying troops in a number of other countries, insists that Iran, which is invading and occupying no country, cannot be trusted with nuclear energy capability, because the capability might in the future lead to nuclear weapon capability, like Israel's, India's, and Pakistan's--all non-signatories to the nuclear proliferation treaty, countries that, unlike Iran, have never submitted to IAEA inspections. Indeed, at this very moment the Israeli government is screaming and yelling "anti-semite" to the suggestion that Israel submit to IAEA inspections. Iran has submitted to the IAEA inspections for years.

In keeping with its obligations under the treaty, on September 21 Iran disclosed to the International Atomic Energy Agency that it is constructing another nuclear facility. The British prime minister Gordon Brown confused Iran's disclosure with "serial deception," and declared, "We will not let this matter rest."

What matter? Why does Gordon Brown think that Iran's disclosure to the IAEA is a deception. Does the moronic UK prime minister mean that Iran is claiming to be constructing a plant but is not, and thus by claiming one is deceiving the world?

Not to be outdone in idiocy, out of Obama's mouth jumped Orwellian doublespeak: "The Iranian government must now demonstrate through deeds its peaceful intentions or be held accountable to international standards and international law."

The incongruity blows the mind. Here is Obama, with troops engaged in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan demanding that a peaceful nation at war with no one demonstrate "its peaceful intentions or be held accountable to international standards and international law."

It is the US government and its NATO puppet states, and militarist Israel, of course, that need to be held accountable to international law. Under international law the US, its NATO puppets, and Israel are war criminal governments. There is no doubt about it. The record is totally clear. The US, Israel, and the NATO puppet states have committed military aggression exactly as did Germany's Third Reich, and they have murdered large numbers of civilians. Following the Fuhrer's script, "the great democratic republics" have justified these acts of lawlessness with lies and deceptions.

Rudy Giuliani, the former US Attorney who framed high profile victims in order to gain name recognition for a political career, keynoted a rally against Iran in New York on September 25. According to Richard Silverstein at AlterNet, the rally was sponsored by an Israeli lobby group and an organization with connections to an Iranian terror organization (probably financed by the US government) that calls for the violent overthrow of the Iranian government.

The efforts to build pressure for acts of war against Iran continue despite the repeated declaration from the IAEA that there is no sign of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, and despite the reaffirmation by US intelligence agencies that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program years ago.

Meanwhile, the US and Israeli governments, who are so solicitous of international law and holding accountable countries that violate it, have moved to prevent the report of Judge Richard Goldstone from reaching the UN Security Council.


Judge Goldstone's report found Israel guilty of war crimes in its massive military assault against civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza.

The continuous efforts of the world's two militarist-aggressor states--the United States and Israel--to demonize Iran was addressed by Ahmadinejad in his speech to the UN General Assembly (September 23). Ahmadinejad spoke of the assault on human dignity and spiritual values by the selfish material interests of the US and its puppet states. Seeking hegemony "under the mantle of freedom," the US and its puppets use "the ugliest methods of intimidation and deceit" to disguise that they are "the first who violate" the fundamental principles that they espouse and apply to others.

Why, Ahmadinejad asked the UN General Assembly, do the countries of the world sit there while Israel murders and dispossesses the Palestinian people?

Why, asked Ahmadinejad, do the countries of the world sit there while the US, from thousands of miles away, sends troops to the Middle East, "spreading war, bloodshed, aggression, terror and intimidation in the whole region," while blaming the countries that are suffering the West's naked aggression?

Ahmadinejad told the General Assembly what most of the UN representatives already know, that "selfishness and insatiable greed have taken the place of such humanitarian concepts as love, sacrifice, dignity, and justice. . . . Lies have taken the place of honesty; hypocrisy has replaced integrity, and selfishness has taken the place of sacrifice. Deception in foreign affairs is called foresight and statesmanship, looting the wealth of other nations is called development efforts; occupation is said to be a gift that promotes freedom and democracy; and defenseless nations are subjected to repression in the name of defending human rights."

It could not be put any clearer. However, if Ahmadinejad's speech is reported by the US print and TV media, statements will be taken out of context and used to enrage the conservatives and Christian Zionists in order to unify them behind the Obama/Israeli assault on Iran.

America will not be satisfied until, like Rome, she has more enemies and more wars than she can survive.
(c) 2009 Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and is coauthor of "The Tyranny of Good Intentions," co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law, was published by Random House.

Shifting Powers In The Caribbean Emphasize The End Of Empire
Britain needs to develop a more realistic, modest view of its role in the world if its foreign policy is to have any impact
By Gary Younge

From the building that houses the ministry for trade, industry, consumer and diaspora affairs in Dominica you can see the Windsor Park cricket stadium and Roseau's grammar school. Take a short trip towards the West Coast Road and you'll pass the Princess Margaret hospital. All the tropes of postcolonial nationhood are here. The Queen smiles from the notes while towns called Trafalgar and Portsmouth pepper the map.

But these historical markers belie a dramatic shift in allegiance in this Caribbean island, which only gained independence from Britain 31 years ago. While the place names bear the imprimatur of the British establishment, their provenance bears witness to new money. The stadium, grammar school and road were all built by the Chinese, who also refurbished the hospital. Locals with certain kinds of eye ailments are not treated on the island but taken to Cuba for surgery. The Venezuelans pay for this along with the massive oil subsidies. Meanwhile, many of the country's brightest and best are heading to Beijing, Caracas and Havana for training. In the ministry's anteroom a choice of two magazines is offered: The Beijing Review and Latin Trade.

"At one time England were the rulers," explains the minister, Colin McIntyre. "We still have a good relationship with them through the Commonwealth. But increasingly our most important economic partners are China, Venezuela and Cuba."

This is a regional rather than a national phenomenon. China's trade with the Caribbean as a whole, including Cuba, more than doubled between 1991 and 2001 and has grown considerably since then. In 2007, China earmarked about $1.5bn for Chinese companies to invest in the region. Add this to Hugo Chavez's Bolivarian pretensions and Cuba's social capital and you have a strong bloc of support for aid, trade and development in an area that has long felt neglected.

To some this may seem of little consequence. The Caribbean is a small band of islands, many still under foreign control, with tiny populations and little economic clout (Dominica is five times smaller than America's smallest state, Rhode Island). But there is a reason why French, Dutch, English, Spanish and Creole are spoken among such a relatively tiny group of people: for centuries, from the slave revolt of Santo Domingo to the Cuban missile crisis, the region has been at the centre of geopolitical jockeying and has long punched above its weight in global affairs.

The Americans understand this. In May Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described China's growing influence in the region as "quite disturbing." But at present the US can do relatively little about it. Notwithstanding its unrivalled cultural influence, America has neither the political will, economic leverage nor diplomatic credibility to compete with what else is on offer. Whether the British understand this is not clear, and it doesn't really matter.

This is what makes the recent British tantrum over the fate of the "special relationship," after Barack Obama held bilateral talks with the Japanese, Chinese and Russian leaders but not Gordon Brown, so pathetic. The relationship hinged on the notion that Britain's demise as a colonial power could be in some way mitigated by its role as an interlocutor between the US, Europe and the former empire. There are two problems with this. First, it has long represented a delusional sense of Britain's importance to the US, Europe and everywhere else. Second, it increasingly represents an exaggerated view of America's status in the world too.

Seeing Britain clinging desperately to this role evokes not so much two bald men fighting over a comb as one bald man begging to accompany another bald man to the hairdresser so they can both get a perm.

The nostalgia for the status of Britain's imperial past is deeply ingrained. It is "a process driven by the need to get back to the place or moment before the country lost its moral and cultural bearing," explains renowned academic Paul Gilroy in his book After Empire. Gilroy, who branded these sentiments, "postcolonial melancholia" argues that Britain settled upon the second world war and the defeat of Nazism as its basis for historical self-esteem. "Once the history of the empire became a source of discomfort, shame and perplexity, its complexities and ambiguities were readily set aside." At the level of a revival for Dame Vera Lynn, this is harmless. But when it comes to shaping foreign policy, it is disastrous. The desire of a country with a per capita GDP on a par with Belgium, to play a leading role in world affairs has entrenched a level of dysfunction in our international relations that has proved difficult to shift. Far from moving towards a moral bearing, this obsession keeps moving us away from it. One would have hoped that Iraq would have made this perfectly clear. Tony Blair suggested that only through our involvement could we temper US belligerence and steer it towards the international community. But it did the opposite, giving the Bush administration the appearance of being far less isolated than it actually was. The UK had a seat at the table. But it was the kiddie's table. The grown ups decided what we should eat and when we should finish.

Even if the relationship were more equitable, to pursue it at this stage would be a flawed strategy. Bush's excesses revealed the limits of US military and economic power. In the meantime, as Dominica's experience suggests, a mixture of more assertive regional and global powers have emerged that signal lucrative, meaningful alliances without reference to the US or Europe, let alone an interlocutor. This is increasingly true in almost every continent, but particularly Africa, South America and Asia.

"Owing to the relative decline of its economic and, to a lesser extent, military power, the US will no longer have the same flexibility in choosing among as many policy options," concluded the US National Intelligence Council (which co-ordinates analysis from all US intelligence agencies) in November.

What this means for countries such as Dominica is unclear. Venezuela's largesse is unpredictable: the economic and political forces that produce it are precarious. China is far more stable, but no less problematic. Aid from Beijing often comes with strings attached that may prove far more beneficial to the Chinese than the developing world, in a manner that can foster local corruption. Its generosity in the Caribbean is payment for the region's One-China policy that recognises the People's Republic as the sole legitimate government of mainland China (including Tibet and Taiwan.

But what it means for the "special relationship" is fairly obvious. Britain needs to develop a far more realistic, modest, nuanced understanding of its role in the world if its foreign policy is to have an impact. That will doubtless demand a less obsequious and all-encompassing relationship with the US. It will also mean deepening more meaningful ties with Europe and leveraging the historical connections with the Commonwealth. If it must live in the past, the very least we can ask is that it be deluded by its own grandeur and not someone else's.
(c) 2009 Gary Younge, is the Alfred Knobler Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute, is the New York correspondent for the Guardian and the author of No Place Like Home: A Black Briton's Journey Through the Deep South (Mississippi) and Stranger in a Strange Land: Travels in the Disunited States (New Press).

The Cartoon Corner...

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

To End On A Happy Note...


By Alice In Chains

Ain't found a way to kill me yet
Eyes burn with stinging sweat
Seems every path leads me to nowhere
Wife and kids household pet
Army green was no safe bet
The bullets scream to me from somewhere

Yeah they come to snuff the rooster of yeah
Yeah here come the rooster, yeah
You know he ain't gonna die
No, no, no, ya know he ain't gonna die

Yeah they come to snuff the rooster
Yeah here come the rooster, yeah
You know he ain't gonna die
No, no, no, ya know he ain't gonna die

Walkin' tall machine gun man
They spit on me in my home land
Gloria sent me pictures of my boy
Got my pills gainst mosquito death
My buddy's breathin' his dyin' breath
Oh God please wont you help me make it through

Here they come to snuff the rooster oh yeah
Yeah here come the rooster, yeah
You know he ain't gonna die
No, no, no ya know he ain't gonna die
(c) 1992/2009 Alice In Chains

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Netanyahu addresses assembly

Mental Patient Breaks into U.N., Gives Ninety-minute Speech
Breach of Security Under Review

An escaped mental patient broke into the United Nations yesterday, getting all the way to the General Assembly and delivering a ninety-minute speech.

A day after the stunning security breach, U.N. officials were still attempting to sort out how it was allowed to happen.

"We're trying not to play the blame game here," said U.N. spokesperson Carol Foyler. "The simple fact is, a legally insane man somehow got all the way to the podium, so how do we keep that from happening again?"

Theories abound as to how the mental patient made it to the U.N., with some suggesting that he may have escaped during a field trip to a county fair.

Reacting to the rambling and incoherent ninety-minute rant, Sec. of State Hillary Clinton echoed the feelings of many: "I was like, where's Kanye when you need him?"
(c) 2009 Andy Borowitz

The Gross National Debt

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Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 38 (c) 10/02/2009

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