Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Cynthia McKinney orates, "Vers La Verite."

Uri Avnery shows the, "Other Israel."

Peter Scheer tries, "The Phone Made Out of Corn."

Jim Hightower watches as Baucus is, "Goofing Up Health Care Reform."

Howard Zinn wonders, "Nobel Prize For Promises?"

John Nichols listens to the, "Whiner-in-Chief."

Paul Krugman follows, "Misguided Monetary Mentalities."

Chris Floyd says, "Well, Nobel Was the Inventor Of Dynamite, After All."

Case Wagenvoord explains, "Marketing Docility."

Mike Folkerth exclaims, "Growth At All Costs; Even the Death Of America!"

James Bamford wants to know, "Who's In Big Brother's Database?"

Tom Engelhardt asks, "Are We The Martians Of The Twenty-First Century?"

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

Paul Craig Roberts finds that, "War Criminals Are Becoming The Arbiters Of Law."

Sheila Samples returns with the, "Charge Of The Beckerheads...."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst with some helpful hints, "How Not To Get The Swine Flu" but first Uncle Ernie studies, "The Nobel Piece Prize."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jeff Darcy, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Married To The Sea, Patrick Chappatte, Drift Glass, Daryl Cagle, Samsung, Wikipedia, Paramount Pictures, MGM, 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."

The Nobel Piece Prize
By Ernest Stewart

"I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize!" ~~~ Steven Wright

"It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no
distinctly native American criminal class except Congress." ~~~ Mark Twain

"The bill was the best resolution that lawmakers were able to reach."
~~~ Senator Barack Obama ~~~ explaining why he sold us out to the telecoms.

When I heard that "The Changeling" had won the Nobel Peace Prize for his mass murders in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan I was taken aback a little until I realized that the Peace Prize is often given to war criminals. Still, I just had to let the Nobel committee know that they were fooling no one and what a bunch of brain deads they truly are. So I wrote them the following...
Subject: Peace prize or piece prize?
Date: Fri, 9 Oct 2009 17:46:57 -0500

I'm a little confused. You've awarded the Peace Prize to the biggest mass murderer currently in power on the planet. Why? I guess the Nobel Peace Prize is now the Nobel Joke Prize! That spinning noise you may hear in the background is Alfred spinning in his grave. Obama, a man of peace? Please! Do run that on the survivors of all the thousands he's murdered in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and soon in Iran and see what they say about it. Peace Prize my ass! More like "Piece Prize" for all the tiny pieces of the women and children he's blown up. Thanks for writing next week's editorial for me. Giving Obama the prize is a war crime in itself!

Still, for having said all that, I really am not surprised at all. Giving the Nobel Peace Prize to a war criminal is an old established tradition, is it not? After all you've already given it to such American monsters and war criminals as Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Kissinger and foreign monsters such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabinso, so why should I be surprised or upset when you gave it to Obama? Actually, I'm not confused at all!

Disgustingly yours,
Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis magazine

You might want to drop them a line too?

In Other News

I see where the geniuses in the Senate Finance Committee passed by a 14 to 9 vote their version of a healthcare reform bill, euphemistically called "America's Healthy Future Act." Are our Sin-ators clever with words to cover up their various acts of treason or what? Ya'll remember the "Patriot" Act?

This little sell-out to their puppet masters in the insurance industry doesn't have a public option so there will be no reason for the Insurance goons to lower their already outrageous prices. It does, however, have fines for those who can't afford to buy any. It also leaves at least 25 million people will no health care at all.

I read a good example the other day of what this might mean to you and yours. It was a story about a man who makes $100 grand a year, after taxes about 75 g's. His insurance cost per year for his family of four comes to slightly over $29,000.00 or about 39% of all his money. What if you only took home $35,000? Could you and your family live on $6,000 a year? This, of course, assumes that insurance companies don't raise their rates, which we know they surely will do, as this turkey of a bill will do for them what Clinton's fiddling with the bank's restraints did for banks and Wall Street!

In addition to all of that, you will be paying higher taxes to pay for this trillion-dollar gift to our corpo-rat masters. Yippee! NOT!

Here's a couple of closing thoughts from a pair of truly great Americans:

As the populist Will Rogers once said, "We have the best Congress money can buy." (And ain't it the truth?)

And Samuel Langhorne Clemens a.k.a. Mark Twain gets a bit redundant with, "Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself!"

And Finally

Apparently I've had it backwards all along. Barry's Just-us Department admitted in the court of U.S. District Court Judge Jeffery White that the telephone companies are an arm of the government! And I thought it was the other way around!

In defense of a suit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, (who wanted to see what role telecom lobbying of the Justice Department played when the government began its year-long push to win retroactive immunity for AT&T, Verizon and others being sued for unlawfully spying on American citizens) the Justice Department admitted that the nation's telecom companies are an arm of the government, at least when it comes to secret spying! You may recall that Sin-ator Obama sold what little honor he had left and voted for immunity in what can only be called an act of treason for his corpo-rat masters! This pretty much ended the 4th Amendment for all practical purposes!

This kind of reminds me of the "Santa Clara County versus the Southern Pacific Railroad" decision of 1886. The deliberate misrepresentation made by an apparently corrupt court reporter made corporations persons under the law. The Supreme Court's actual decision did NOT give corporations the Constitutional rights of people. However, the clerk's commentary, known as "header notes," said it did and this error, which was intentional, eventually took on the force of law. Funny thing about this is that it could have been corrected by the Con-gress or Extreme Court at any time during the last 123 years but hasn't been. Imagine that if you can!

The judge ruled against the Justice Department's legalese of:

"The communications between the agencies and telecommunications companies regarding the immunity provisions of the proposed legislation have been regarded as intra-agency because the government and the companies have a common interest in the defense of the pending litigation and the communications regarding the immunity provisions concerned that common interest."

Judge White disagreed and ruled on September 24 that the feds had to release the names of the telecom employees that contacted the Justice Department and the White House to lobby for a get-out-of-jail-free card. Judge White said...

"Here, the telecommunications companies communicated with the government to ensure that Congress would pass legislation to grant them immunity from legal liability for their participation in the surveillance. Those documents are not protected from disclosure because the companies communicated with the government agencies 'with their own ... interests in mind,' rather than the agency's interests."

The feds were supposed to make the documents available last Friday, but in a motion filed late last Thursday, the Obama administration is asking for a 30-day emergency stay so it can file a further appeal. I wonder which one lobbied Obama and how much he was paid. What would you bet that it was 30 pieces of silver?


I'm going to be off next week as I drive up to the Motor City and back to move some of my goodies out of storage and back to our Misty Mountains lair. We'll publish again for Halloween. I got some real "spooky" stuff for that edition and the mailing lists.

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 joined 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


09-12-1948 ~ 10-12-2009
Ain't no cure for the summer time blues!

10-07-1927 ~ 10-13-2009
Tell Vito his "Uncle" said hey!

07-29-1933 ~ 10-14-2009
Down for the count!


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."

Vers La Verite
By Cynthia McKinney


There were people there from all over Europe. A healthy contingent even took the bus or train from London. Many US ex pats came and heard Annie Machon tell of why she became a whistleblower at MI-5 (the British equivalent of our FBI); I spoke, and then after me, Giulietto Chiesa, former Member of Parliament, Italy, made a movie entitle "Zero," which was played. Then Dr. Nils (I can't remember his last name) who found the nanothermite material in the Ground Zero dust spoke about his research and that was totally fascinating. We are definitely hooked up with the right people in Europe and as a result, our coalition will be strong, diverse, and global.

Here are my remarks made tonight/this afternoon U.S. time:

President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize was not the only news yesterday. And in my opinion, it's not even the biggest news. It's not even the saddest news. But it does provide us with some critical information as we move forward. The three-part question for us, tonight however, is "What are we moving forward TO; is that the place we want to go; and if not, what do we do about it?

In other words, "What is our vision for the future and how do we define success?"

I have been and am still in deep pain over the institutional homicide of my aunt and in my grief, I've considered giving up.

But then, I wiped the tears from my eyes long enough to remember communities of people that I've been blessed enough to get to know, from Toronto, Canada to Cape Town, South Africa; from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Valdosta, Georgia, there are people struggling through their own pain, their own deep personal disappointments to reach a better place-not just for themselves, but for the global community of man. And I know deep in my own heart, as broken as it is, that I cannot give up. My brain tells me that the struggle for truth, justice, peace, and dignity is too important to lose because of heartbreak.

The one thing that probably best defines everyone in this room are our search for and activities on behalf of principles that are bigger than ourselves. We want our governments to tell us the truth; we want them to deliver justice; we want our global community to live in peace; and we want respect for the dignity of all humankind.

So if these are the ingredients of our vision, what tools do we need to produce the desired result?

Well, first of all, the desired result has to have definition.

I mentioned in one of my messages to a dear friend in response to the Nobel award to President Barack Obama that we needed to keep our eyes on the prize and then I erased it because I don't think we've sufficiently defined what the prize is.

So there must be a small, cohesive, international group of rock-solid people feverishly working to redefine for all who want to be active, and a part of our vision, just what the prize is. And this "prize," our vision, must be repeated and explained often so people can differentiate our vision, from their reality.

Here is where language becomes important. If we want policy instead of speeches, then this must be repeated early and often because what I'm alarmed by is that in the absence of us providing real definition, and there are reasons for that, people are beginning to think that a speech IS policy.

But, as I said earlier, there was a lot of news yesterday. Some of it even more important than the Nobel Peace Prize Award, but the award certainly overshadowed all other stories.

And I'm always searching for context. Because, as the U.S. military puts it, "perception management" is important. And we must understand the context of what happens and when it happens, in order to understand why.

I always say that we must see the invisible, hear the unspoken, and read the unwritten. That's what some of the organizers of Vers La Verite were professionally trained to do, before they became whistleblowers, and now our leaders.

Now, what were some of those other interesting news items?

Well, at a Native American Lodge located next to Senator John McCain's ranch, two people died and several others were hospitalized following a hazardous materials situation at the Sweat Lodge, which is like a spiritual retreat led by Native Americans. I've even been invited to participate in one upon my return to the U.S.

Now, I find this interesting and a story that should be followed up on and I will be doing that because I want to make sure there's no bigger story hidden in an important cultural ritual of the Native Americans who are victims of a genocide in North America that continues to this day.

On the day that the Nobel Prize was announced, we also learned that the U.S. bunker buster bomb will be ready in a few more months.

This is the bomb that holds over 5,000 pounds of explosives and is designed to penetrate hardened facilities, including those underground. Some brilliant people in the U.S. even want to put nuclear tips on bunker buster bombs. However, in announcing the near deployment of the project that pays McDonnell Douglas to adapt the B-2 bomber so it can deliver the Boeing-made bomb to its intended target, the Pentagon press secretary said, "The reality is that the world we live in is one in which there are people who seek to build weapons of mass destruction and they seek to do so in a clandestine fashion." The article noted that the Obama Administration had not ruled out military action against Iran.

Another story noted that hours after winning the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama met with his military advisors about troop levels in Afghanistan. The troop increase requested by the U.S. Commander ranged, it is reported, from 10,000 to 60,000-although the top number isn't listed in that news report. One has to go to another news item to see the true top number. At any rate, it seems that the choices confronting U.S. and European leaders is whether to increase the current 68,000 U.S. boots on the ground in Afghanistan or to merely increase the number of drone attacks. Decreasing death and destruction and bringing our young men and women home is not on the Nobel Peace Prize winner's agenda for discussion.

The last article of note is about a restaurant in west Georgia that is using the "N-word" on its marquee to describe President Obama. It reminds me of the Atlanta area restaurant that put on its marquee that I was Buckwheat with Boobs. Now, those of you who are from the U.S. will know what that means and the depth of insult that was intended. The article notes that I've made this restaurant's marquee, too. Both restaurant owners claim to not be racists and to be protected by free speech.

My point in including this particular news item is that we still have so far to go just in terms of our human relations. It is imperative that we do what we can to spread our message and our vision and reach those who can be reached.

Which brings me to who can be reached.

Those with enough discernment to know that what is being pronounced from on high is not their reality. And rather than accept or discount the contradictions, we want them to join us and struggle for a better reality for everybody.

I am saddened beyond belief that on the day of the Peace Prize award, a struggling democracy in Honduras was besieged with U.S. supplied weapons and U.S.-trained paramilitaries and snipers in support of coup leaders over the democratically-elected people's leaders. In fact, the latest dispatch from Honduras is that many of the snipers and paramilitaries-now descending on Honduras from all over Latin America-were trained in my home state of Georgia.

More and more people are experiencing cognitive dissonance and rightly so. Our leaders and respected organizations are lying to us! One friend and former Congressional Staffer of mine puts it this way: we need a democratic military instead of a militarized democracy.

The United States, with the help of its European and Asian allies maintains over 700 bases around the world. The number is increasing under President Obama.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that we must combat racism, poverty, and militarism. Our movement cannot struggle against militarism and fail to address racism. We must be comprehensive and to racism, militarism, and poverty, we must now add gaining control of a media that will allow us to communicate to a broader community and not just within our small spheres, and regaining control of education so that people are not so dumbed down that they actually believe that war is peace, slavery is freedom, ignorance is strength, and lies are truth.

And if we are right, then others will join us. They will share with us their dreams and their passions and we will help to empower them.

Global resistance combined with local action, organization, vision, commitment, and resources will allow us to have significant victories in the future.

Vers La Verite understands that the foundation of all of this action, attainment of the prize, can only happen with truth as our foundation.

It's already a brave new world, let's get busy and make it ours!!!
(c) 2009 Cynthia McKinney is a former U.S. Congresswoman, Green Party presidential candidate, and an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice. The first African-American woman to represent the state of Georgia, McKinney served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1993-2003, and from 2005-2007.

Other Israel
By Uri Avnery

YESTERDAY, OUR table celebrated with Ada Yonath.

This "table" just had its 50th anniversary. It started by accident in "California", the Cafe established at the time by Abie Nathan, who later became famous as the Peace Pilot. Afterwards, we met for many years at the legendary Artists' Cafe Cassith. Since that place was closed down - like many other Tel Aviv landmarks - the table wandered to several other places and became known as the "Cassith exiles' table". The "House of Lords" one newspaper nicknamed it..

The habitues of the table come from very different walks of life. There is a former director of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, several senior journalists, a linguist and Bible expert, a film producer, a professor of medicine, a psychiatrist, a town planner, an industrialist, a translator of literature, a radio program producer. And a scientist.

The table is not political. But all its habitues tend, as it so happens, to lean towards the left.

For years, Ada Yonath has been our candidate for the Nobel Prize. Nine years ago, she invited us to look at her historic discovery. As far as chemistry - or any other science, for that matter - is concerned, I am a total idiot. So I did not really understand what it is all about: the structure and function of the ribosome, one of the building blocks of life. Not by accident was this discovery made in Israel - Ada had a stroke of genius when she chose for her experiments a microbe found in the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, unique in the world.

Throughout the years she has entertained us with amusing stories about the frequent scientific conferences she has attended all over the world, and also about the hair-raising intrigues at the very top of the scientific world. Some very senior scientists tried to expropriate her discovery for themselves. I learned that Ada's discoveries are immensely significant, far more than many that have been crowned with the prize throughout the years. They concern the fundamentals of life and its creation and are as momentous as the unraveling of the human genome. They may open the door to completely new ways of healing diseases.

I RECOUNT all this not only in order to boast about the fact that Ada "belongs to us", and not only in order to take part in Ada's joy, but in order to point to a fact that is often forgotten in the debates about our wars and the occupation: that there is another Israel.

This year there were three Israelis among the acknowledged contenders for the Nobel Prizes who made it to the finals: besides Ada Yonath there were also the physicist Yakir Aharonov and the writer Amos Oz.

For a small country like Israel, that is an impressive feat

Ada Yonath is as Israeli as can be: a Sabra (native of the country), born in Jerusalem, who received all her education in Israeli schools. Her character traits are those considered typical for Israelis: a direct approach, simple manners, a hatred of formality, a readiness to laugh at oneself. There is not an ounce of arrogance or vanity, but an incredible power of persistence.

A stranger who follows the daily news about Israel could not even guess at the existence of this Israel, the Israel Ada belongs to. This week, too, the news was dominated by the occupation, the brutality, the coarseness of the official Israel.

The news about Ada's prize was like an oasis in the desert. Almost all the other news on TV and radio and in the newspapers dealt with blood and riots. The battle for the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif), the clashes between the police and protesters in the Arab quarters of Jerusalem, side by side with ordinary criminal news about murders, drunken youngsters stabbing each other to death, an old man killing his sleeping wife with a hammer, a group of boys robbing and raping a middle-aged women in broad daylight.

And over everything there still hovers the Goldstone report about crimes committed during the Gaza War, which the Israeli government almost succeeded in squashing, with the generous assistance of Mahmoud Abbas.

THE SUBJECT dominating this week's news was Jerusalem.

Everything happened "suddenly". Suddenly the flames broke out on the Temple Mount, after the month of Ramadan had passed relatively quietly. Suddenly the Islamic Movement in Israel called upon the Arab citizens to rush and save the al-Aqsa mosque. Suddenly, senior Islamic preachers all over the Muslim world urged the one and a half billion Muslims to rise to the defense of the holy shrines. (Nothing happened.)

The police chief in Jerusalem has a ready explanation: the Muslims are "ungrateful". To wit: we have "allowed them" to pray safely all through Ramadan, and that is how they repay us. This colonial arrogance infuriated the Arabs even more.

According to the Israeli authorities, nothing has happened that could justify this "sudden" upheaval. Meaning: it is an Arab provocation, a vile effort to create a conflict out of nothing.

But in Arab - and not only Arab - eyes it looks very different. For years now, the Arab community in Jerusalem has been under siege. Since Binyamin Netanyahu became Prime Minister, and since Nir Barkat became mayor of Jerusalem, the sense of siege increased many fold. Both men belong to the radical Right, and both are leading towards ethnic cleansing.

This finds its foremost expression in the systematic building of Jewish neighborhoods in the heart of the Arab quarters in the annexed Eastern part of the city, which is supposed to become the capital of the Palestinian state and whose final status is still to be decided by negotiation. The execution is entrusted to a group of extreme Rightists called Ateret Cohanim ("the crown of priests"), financed by the American Bingo king Irwin Moskowitz. After winning a resounding victory in shaving Jebel Abu-Ghneim ("Har Homa") and building a fortress-like settlement there, they are now establishing Jewish neighborhoods in the heart of Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Ras al-Amud and Abu Dis, not to mention the Muslim Quarter of the Old City itself. At the same time, they are trying to fill up the E1 area between Jerusalem and the giant settlement Ma'aleh Adumim.

Seemingly, these are all sporadic actions, initiated by respect-hungry billionaires and power-drunk settlers. But that is an illusion: behind all this feverish activity there lurks a government plan with a well defined strategic goal. It is enough to look at a map in order to understand its purpose: to encircle the Arab quarters and cut them off from the West Bank. And beyond: to enlarge Jerusalem to the East up to the approaches of Jericho, thus cutting the West Bank into two, with the Northern part (Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarm) cut off from the Southern part (Hebron, Bethlehem).

And, of course: to make the life of the Arab inhabitants of Jerusalem impossible, until they "voluntarily" leave the "United City, Israel's Capital in all Eternity".

IN THIS strategy, a central role is played by the thing called "archeology".

For a hundred years, Jewish archeology has sought, in vain, to prove the existence of David's kingdom, in order to establish once and for all our historic right to the city. Not a shred of evidence has been found to prove that King David ever existed, not to mention his huge empire stretching from Egypt to Hamath in Syria. There is no evidence for the Exodus from Egypt, the Conquest of Canaan, David and his son Solomon. On the contrary, there is no little evidence, especially in ancient Egyptian records, that seem to show that all this never happened.

For this desperate search, archeological diggings took off the strata pertaining to the last 2000 years in the country's life - the periods of the Byzantine empire, the Islamic conquest, the Mamelukes and the Ottomans. The search has a manifest political purpose, and most Israeli archeologists consider themselves soldiers in the service of the national struggle.

The scandal that is taking place now at the foot of al-Aqsa is a part of this story. Something unprecedented is happening there: the digging in "David's Town" (clearly a propaganda appellation) has been turned over to the same ultra-nationalist religious association, Ateret Cohanim, that is building the provocative Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem and around it. The Israeli government, quite officially, has entrusted this scientific task to a political group. Not just any political group, but an ultra-radical one. The digging itself is being conducted by archeologists who accept their authority.

Israeli archeologists who care for the integrity of their profession (there still are some) protested this week that the digging is proceeding in a thoroughly unprofessional way: the work is done in an unscientific hurry, artifacts found are not examined properly and systematically, the sole aim is to uncover evidence as quickly as possible to support the Jewish claim to the Temple Mount.

Many Arabs believe that the aim is even more sinister: to dig under the al-Aqsa mosque in order to bring about its collapse. These fears were reinforced by the disclosure in Haaretz this week, that the digging is undermining Arab houses and threatens to bring them down.

Israeli spokesmen are upset. What vile slanders! Who can even imagine such things?! But it is no secret that in the eyes of many nationalist-religious fanatics, the very existence of the two mosques there - al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock - is an abomination. Years ago, members of a Jewish underground organization planned to blow up the Dome of the Rock, but were caught in time and sent to prison. Recently, a religious website wrote: "Today there stands there an evil thing, a great witch that must be taken off. The Temple will stand in place of this pustule topped with yellow pus, and everybody knows what to do about a pustule, one has to empty it of the pus. That is our aim, and with God's help we shall do it." Already, sheep are being raised for sacrificial purposes in the Temple.

One can ridicule these outpourings and assert, as always, that they come from the lunatic fringe. That is what they said about the murder of Yitzhak Rabin. But for Arabs, who see with their own eyes the daily effort to "Judaize" the Eastern city and to push them out, this is no joke. Their fear is genuine.

Since the millions of inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have no access to the Temple Mount - contrary to all the talk about "religious freedom" - the Islamic Movement in Israel proper has assumed the role of guardian of the two shrines. This week, the call went up to outlaw the movement and to put its leader, Sheikh Ra'ed Salah, in prison.

Sheikh Ra'ed is a charismatic leader. I met him 16 years ago, when we both lived for 45 days and nights in a protest tent opposite the prime minister's office, after Rabin had deported 415 Islamic activists to the Lebanese border. The sheikh was, at the time, a friendly person, pleasant to be with, full of humor, who treated Rachel, too, with utmost friendliness (but without taking her hand, much like our own Orthodox rabbis). I learned from him a lot about Islam, and answered as well as I could his questions about Judaism. Nowadays he is much more tough and uncompromising.

THERE IS something symbolic about the proximity in time of the awarding of the Nobel Prize and the Temple Mount happenings. The two events represent the two options facing Israel.

We have to decide what we are: the Israel of Ada Yonath or the Israel of Ateret Cohanim. An Israel that cherishes its culture, science, high-tech, literature, medicine and agriculture, which marches in the first row of progressive human society towards a better future, or an Israel of wars, occupation and settlements, a fundamentalist state that looks to the past.

Contrary to the prophets of doom, I believe that this battle is not yet decided. Israel is far from being the monolithic body that appears in the caricatures. It is a varied, multifaceted society with many possibilities, one of which leads to war and the other towards peace and reconciliation.

The winner of the Nobel peace prize, Barack Obama, can have a lot of influence on the choice. After all, wasn't the prize awarded to him as a down payment for deeds to come?
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Phone Made Out of Corn
By Peter Z. Scheer

The Samsung Reclaim is an odd little device that raises the question: Why isn't everything made out of corn?

The Reclaim is a new green phone (literally) from Samsung and Sprint that hopes you're more interested in the environment than in apps. To that end, it's built out of corn. That's overstating it a little: Forty percent of the phone is made from a corn-based bio-plastic, which is blended with traditional plastic for durability. But the green credentials don't end there.

Samsung also ditched some of the harmful toxins typically found in consumer electronics. The company claims 80 percent recyclability. The charger is designed to consume less power, and the phone itself suggests ways to use less energy. When you disconnect the Reclaim from its charger, for example, a message appears on the screen to let you know that leaving the cord plugged into the wall wastes electricity. The phone is packaged in recycled materials, imprinted with soy-based ink. The box even includes a little preaddressed pouch in case you want to send your old phone off to be recycled. Sprint, the phone's carrier, is donating $2 from every purchase to the Nature Conservancy. And in case you didn't get the point, the device includes a "Best of Green" menu with green tips, guides and glossaries.

Beyond all the greenery, the Reclaim has a convenient slide-out QWERTY keyboard for messaging, a refreshingly loud speakerphone, a 2-megapixel camera with video capability, and Facebook, MySpace and E-mail apps.

Sprint's network doesn't have the best reputation, but I found coverage in the Los Angeles area to be very good. Although the phone's data connection was spotty, I had no problems with voice calls. I managed to have uninterrupted conversations in a particular L.A. canyon that has caused AT&T users no end of grief, and I had no problem with dropped calls or reception.

That doesn't mean I had such a great time taking and placing calls. Call audio quality was OK, not great, and dialing was a real pain. The phone's slide-out keyboard is useful for firing off text messages, but poor key definition on the combo alphanumeric pad makes dialing a number not stored in your address book a trial-and-error affair.

The phone's user interface could be better, too. There's a sort of mini-menu carousel that's meant to give easy access to popular items, but it made for more confusion than convenience. On the plus side, the 2.4-inch QVGA screen was crisp and bright and the phone has the potential for plenty of storage thanks to a microSD card slot.

The Reclaim comes preloaded with social networking portals and offers more apps and music via download, but the lousy data connection makes actually using those features a tedious chore. Setting up and using e-mail was easy enough. However, disabling the phone's obnoxious key-press noises is a must.

The Reclaim is difficult to recommend despite its green virtues, and not because of these relatively minor complaints. The phone is available now from Sprint for $49.99 with a two-year contract and a $50 mail-in rebate. That's only $50 cheaper than the cheapest iPhone, with its thousands of apps, unrivaled Web browsing, iPod features, music store and more. On Sprint's own network, you can use the Palm Pre, which rivals the iPhone in many ways, including price. A slew of new Google Android phones will be released later this year, with similarly advanced Internet, media and productivity features. In short, there has never been a better time in gadget history to buy a smart phone (as long as it's not running Windows Mobile). As of this writing, Amazon has dropped the Reclaim price to just 1 cent. It's still hard to walk away from the unprecedentedly cheap and functional smart phones out there, but that price point is a lot more appropriate given the competition.

The Reclaim is a statement phone-a quick and easy way to demonstrate a commitment to a better world. Holding the sturdy little thing, it's an absolute mystery why all phones aren't made from the same materials and with the same environmental standards. Samsung says that "creating an eco-centric phone takes more time, money and research to develop than other mobile phones." The company could charge a premium, and people would pay it. Right now, this is the only phone in the U.S. marketed primarily on the basis of its green cred. If that's more important to you than watching videos, checking out Web sites and downloading ever more useful and innovative apps, snatch one up. It's a shame you have to choose.
(c) 2009 Peter Z. Scheer is the managing editor of Truthdig magazine.

Goofing Up Health Care Reform

America's shouting match over health care reform has turned completely goofy- and I'm not talking about confused seniors at teabag rallies getting red-faced with anger after being told by the right-wing scare machine that "government is trying to take over Medicare." No, I'm talking about our United States Senators.

Take Max Baucus. Please! He's the lightweight Montana Democrat to whom President Obama entrusted the heavy job of shepherding health care reform through the upper chamber. It was like asking Tweety Bird to lift a bowling ball.

Baucus, backed by unanimous and enthusiastic support from every Republican on his committee, has merrily jettisoned reform after reform that the industry opposed. For example, an amendment to require drug-price discounts for low-income seniors with multiple chronic illnesses: Killed. The provision to include a not-for-profit, public insurance option to increase competition, provide consumer choice, and keep insurance corporations honest: Gone.

Why? Baucus said his goal was to produce a bill that could win the industry's support and get the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.

That's it? That's his goal? If the meek ever inherit the earth, Baucus will be a land baron! Why isn't it his goal to produce the best health care there is for all of the American people? Why has he let Republicans (who were voted out of office last year in part because of their failure to deal with people's health care needs) control the terms of the debate and the content of the Democrat's bill? Why doesn't he take a couple of testosterone shots and reach out to the 65% of Americans (including 47% of Republicans and 63% of doctors) who support the public insurance option. Why doesn't he rally them to kick the selfish health insurance lobbyists right in the butt-and do what needs to be done for America.
(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.

Nobel Prize For Promises?
By Howard Zinn

I was dismayed when I heard Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize. A shock, really, to think that a president carrying on wars in two countries and launching military action in a third country (Pakistan), would be given a peace prize. But then I recalled that Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Kissinger had all received Nobel Peace Prizes. The Nobel Committee is famous for its superficial estimates and for its susceptibility to rhetoric and empty gestures, while ignoring blatant violations of world peace.

Yes, Wilson gets credit for the League of Nations - that ineffectual body which did nothing to prevent war. But he also bombarded the Mexican coast, sent troops to occupy Haiti and the Dominican Republic and brought the US into the slaughterhouse of Europe in the first World War - surely, among stupid and deadly wars, at the top of the list.

Sure, Theodore Roosevelt brokered a peace between Japan and Russia. But he was a lover of war, who participated in the US conquest of Cuba, pretending to liberate it from Spain while fastening US chains around that tiny island. And as president he presided over the bloody war to subjugate the Filipinos, even congratulating a US general who had just massacred 600 helpless villagers in the Phillipines. The Committee did not give the Nobel Prize to Mark Twain, who denounced Roosevelt and criticized the war, nor to William James, leader of the anti-imperialist league.

Oh yes, the Committee saw fit to give a peace prize to Henry Kissinger, because he signed the final agreement ending the war in Vietnam, of which he had been one of the architects. Kissinger, who obsequiously went along with Nixon's expansion of the war with the bombing of peasant villages in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Kissinger, who matches the definition of a war criminal very accurately, was given a peace prize!

People should not be given a peace prize on the basis of promises they have made (as with Obama, an eloquent maker of promises) but on the basis of actual accomplishments towards ending war. Obama has continued deadly, inhuman military action in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Nobel Peace Committee should retire, and turn over its huge funds to some international peace organization which is not awed by stardom and rhetoric, and which has some understanding of history.
(c) 2009 Howard Zinn is the author of, "A People's History of the United States," "Voices of a People's History" (with Anthony Arnove), and "A Power Governments Cannot Suppress." His newest book is A People's History of American Empire, the story of America in the world, told in comics form, with Mike Konopacki and Paul Buhle in the American Empire Project book series. An animated video adapted from this essay with visuals from the comic book and voiceover by Viggo Mortensen, as well as a section of the book on Zinn's early life, can be viewed by clicking here.

By John Nichols

The Obama administration really needs to get over itself.

First, the president and his aides go to war with Fox News because the network maintains a generally anti-Obama slant.

Then, an anonymous administration aide attacks bloggers for failing to maintain a sufficiently pro-Obama slant.

These are not disconnected developments.

An administration that won the White House with an almost always on-message campaign and generally friendly coverage from old and new media is now frustrated by its inability to control the debate and get the coverage it wants. But before the president and his inner circle go all Spiro Agnew on us, they might want to consider three fundamental facts regarding relations between the executive branch and the fourth estate:

1. Since the founding of the republic, media outlets (the founders dismissed them as "damnable periodicals") have been partisan.

White House communications director Anita Dunn was not exactly breaking news when she told CNN's "Reliable Sources" that Fox was neither fair nor balanced. "What I think is fair to say about Fox -- and certainly it's the way we view it -- is that it really is more a wing of the Republican Party," grumbled Dunn. "They take their talking points, put them on the air; take their opposition research, put them on the air. And that's fine. But let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is."

Fox hosts do go overboard in their savaging of Obama and the Democrats -- sometimes ridiculously so. But their assaults on the president are gentle when compared with the battering that Benjamin Franklin Bache's Philadelphia Aurora administered to John Adams (appropriately) or the trashing that Colonel McCormick's Chicago Tribune gave Franklin Roosevelt (inappropriately). To suggest that Fox is not a news network simply because Sean Hannity echoes RNC talking points would be like suggesting that the Aurora was not a newspaper because it took cues from Tom Jefferson or that the Tribune was not a legitimate member of the fourth estate because it was sweet on Alf Landon.

2. Presidents are supposed to rise above their own partisanship and engage with a wide range of media -- even outlets that are hard on their administrations.

In fact, presidents should go out of their way to accept invites from media that can be expected to poke, prod and pester them. The willingness to take the hits suggests that a commander-in-chief is not afraid to engage with his critics. It also reminds presidents, who tend to be cloistered, that there are a lot of Americans who get their information from sources that do not buy what the White House press office is selling.

When Dick Cheney kept giving "exclusive" interviews to Fox "personalities," there were those of us who ridiculed both the personalities and the former vice president for going through the ridiculous exercise of lobbing softballs and swinging at them.

Obama should be better than Cheney. But aides are not helping the president prevail in what ought to be an easy competition.

Cheney saw newspapers such as The New York Times and news channels such as CNN as little more than branches of his Democratic opposition.

When Dunn was asked whether the president refused to accept interview requests from Fox because the White House sees the network as "a wing of the Republican party," the communications director responded: "Is this why he did not appear? The answer is yes."

That is such a radically wrong response that it calls into question the whole communications strategy of an administration that has somehow managed to take a man who was elected with a mandate and lodge him in a corner where there are now serious questions about whether a Democratic president and an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress can enact basic elements of the Democratic agenda.

Obama should sit down with Fox reporters and anchors and do interviews. That does not mean that the president has to put up with the emotional wreckage that is Glenn Beck. But there is no reason why he shouldn't go another round with Bill O'Reilly (as Obama did during the 2008 campaign) or sit down with Chris Wallace (as Bill Clinton did).

If the Fox interviewers are absurdly unfair, the American people will respond with appropriate consternation. On the other hand, if they are aggressive and pointed in their challenges, Obama will rise or fall on the quality of his responses. His aides, if they have any faith in their man's abilities, should bend over backwards to accept some Fox interviews. They should also accept an invite from PBS's Bill Moyers, who would pose tougher - and, yes, more informed -- questions than the Foxbots.

3. The worst mistake a president or his administration can make is to try and "whip" relatively like-minded writers and reporters into line.

Yet, that appears to be what the Obama team was trying to do with the silly "policing action" of having a White House "adviser," speaking on condition of anonymity, encourage liberal bloggers to "take off their pajamas" and get serious about politics. On Sunday, when gay rights marchers challenged the Obama administration to make real the equality rhetoric of the president, NBC White House correspondent John Harwood:

For a sign of how seriously the White House does or doesn't take this opposition, one adviser told me today those bloggers need to take off their pajamas, get dressed and realize that governing a closely-divided country is complicated and difficult.

Harwood told Huffington Post:

My comments quoting an Obama adviser about liberal bloggers/pajamas weren't about the LGBT community or the marchers. They referred more broadly to those grumbling on the left about an array of issues in addition to gay rights, including the war in Afghanistan and health care and Guantanamo -- and whether all that added up to trouble with Obama's liberal base...

The bloggers took offense. The White House tried to "disassociate" itself from the comment. But that's standard operating procedure: toss the bomb and then avoid the fallout.

The bloggers shouldn't be worried.

They should take the criticism as a compliment -- as Fox's ratings show, White House griping harms the White House more than it does the target of the complaint.

The bloggers should also take the criticism as confirmation that they are right when they suggest that this administration is increasingly out of touch with the progressive base that secured Obama the Democratic nomination and ultimately propelled him to the White House.

The fact is that the results of the 2008 election did not reveal "a closely-divided country." Obama arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with the most muscular mandate accorded any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson's 1964 landslide.

The bloggers are right when they argue that the Obama administration can and should be doing more with that mandate.

As for the Obama administration, whether the grumbling is about Republicans on Fox or bloggers in pajamas, there's a word for what the president and his aides are doing. That word is "whining." And nothing -- no attack by Glenn Beck, no blogger busting about Guantanamo -- does more damage to Obama's credibility or authority than the sense that a popular president is becoming the whiner-in-chief.
(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.

Misguided Monetary Mentalities
By Paul Krugman

One lesson from the Great Depression is that you should never underestimate the destructive power of bad ideas. And some of the bad ideas that helped cause the Depression have, alas, proved all too durable: in modified form, they continue to influence economic debate today.

What ideas am I talking about? The economic historian Peter Temin has argued that a key cause of the Depression was what he calls the "gold-standard mentality." By this he means not just belief in the sacred importance of maintaining the gold value of one's currency, but a set of associated attitudes: obsessive fear of inflation even in the face of deflation; opposition to easy credit, even when the economy desperately needs it, on the grounds that it would be somehow corrupting; assertions that even if the government can create jobs it shouldn't, because this would only be an "artificial" recovery.

In the early 1930s this mentality led governments to raise interest rates and slash spending, despite mass unemployment, in an attempt to defend their gold reserves. And even when countries went off gold, the prevailing mentality made them reluctant to cut rates and create jobs.

But we're past all that now. Or are we?

America isn't about to go back on the gold standard. But a modern version of the gold standard mentality is nonetheless exerting a growing influence on our economic discourse. And this new version of a bad old idea could undermine our chances for full recovery.

Consider first the current uproar over the declining international value of the dollar.

The truth is that the falling dollar is good news. For one thing, it's mainly the result of rising confidence: the dollar rose at the height of the financial crisis as panicked investors sought safe haven in America, and it's falling again now that the fear is subsiding. And a lower dollar is good for U.S. exporters, helping us make the transition away from huge trade deficits to a more sustainable international position.

But if you get your opinions from, say, The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, you're told that the falling dollar is a terrible thing, a sign that the world is losing faith in America (and especially, of course, in President Obama). Something, you believe, must be done to stop the dollar's slide. And in practice the dollar's decline has become a stick with which conservative members of Congress beat the Federal Reserve, pressuring the Fed to scale back its efforts to support the economy.

We can only hope that the Fed stands up to this pressure. But there are worrying signs of a misguided monetary mentality within the Federal Reserve System itself.

In recent weeks there have been a number of statements from Fed officials, mainly but not only presidents of regional Federal Reserve banks, calling for an early return to tighter money, including higher interest rates. Now, people in the Federal Reserve system are normally extremely circumspect when making statements about future monetary policy, so as not to step on the efforts of the Fed's Open Market Committee, which actually sets those rates, to shape expectations. So it's extraordinary to see all these officials suddenly breaking the implicit rules, in effect lecturing the Open Market Committee about what it should do.

What's even more extraordinary, however, is the idea that raising rates would make sense any time soon. After all, the unemployment rate is a horrifying 9.8 percent and still rising, while inflation is running well below the Fed's long-term target. This suggests that the Fed should be in no hurry to tighten - in fact, standard policy rules of thumb suggest that interest rates should be left on hold for the next two years or more, or until the unemployment rate has fallen to around 7 percent.

Yet some Fed officials want to pull the trigger on rates much sooner. To avoid a "Great Inflation," says Charles Plosser of the Philadelphia Fed, "we will need to act well before unemployment rates and other measures of resource utilization have returned to acceptable levels." Jeffrey Lacker of the Richmond Fed says that rates may need to rise even if "the unemployment rate hasn't started falling yet."

I don't know what analysis lies behind these itchy trigger fingers. But it probably isn't about analysis, anyway - it's about mentality, the sense that central banks are supposed to act tough, not provide easy credit.

And it's crucial that we don't let this mentality guide policy. We do seem to have avoided a second Great Depression. But giving in to a modern version of our grandfathers' prejudices would be a very good way to ensure the next worst thing: a prolonged era of sluggish growth and very high unemployment.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Well, Nobel Was the Inventor Of Dynamite, After All
By Chris Floyd

Sometimes you run across a story that defies all comment, rational analysis -- even parody. This is one of those times:

In Surprise, Nobel Peace Prize to Obama for Diplomacy (NYT). To give a peace prize to the commander-in-chief of a war machine now churning its way through the populations of three countries (Iraq/Af-Pak), with innumerable black ops, lightning raids and drone shots on the side .... to a man who even as we speak is deciding just how he wants to kill even more civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan ... a man who has enthusiastically embraced as "an extraordinary achievement" one of the most heinous and barbaric acts of military aggression since Hitler rolled across the border into Poland ... a man who blusters about leaving "all options on the table," including the use of mass-murdering nuclear weapons, to bully other nations into compliance with American wishes ... to give a peace prize to such a man, while all over the world, there are men and women who have devoted their entire lives to non-violence and reconciliation, many of them suffering imprisonment, torture and ruin for their efforts ... well, like I said, it's beyond words. But it's good to see that the spirit of arms merchant Alfred Nobel -- purveyor and profiteer of death and destruction -- is being honored so perfectly with today's award. UPDATE: Arthur Silber has some choice thoughts on the great honour, with a title that says it all: "Depraved, Obscene Absurdities." Here's an excerpt:

Almost no one will acknowledge the single, fundamental truth about Barack Obama, the truth of greatest and most terrifying consequence:

Barack Obama is a war criminal.

Many facts overwhelmingly and conclusively compel this judgment, and no other. Not because I say so, but because an honest application of the relevant language of international law, as well as of the Nuremberg Principles, necessitates the conclusion.

Silber then points us to some excellent chapter and verse backing up that statement of truth. Later on:

History, facts, unimaginable brutality, torture, widescale murder, bodies ripped apart, guts spilling out of blood-drenched bodies, arms, legs and heads sundered and tossed aside to be gnawed on by starving animals, souls destroyed, never again to experience joy or happiness for even a moment -- all of this is minimized, ignored, denied, even mocked as the perpetrators of this immense evil and those who enable and support them (which is most people) claim that those who identify the truth are "exaggerating." "Oh, don't be such a doomsayer. Don't be so gloomy and dire. It's not that bad!"

These denials are easily known to be lies: an honest observer need only open his eyes, look and see. This is precisely what the great majority of people will never do.

He concludes:

Large-scale denial and avoidance impose terrifying costs. Today's story may simply be absurd, and it undeniably is. The man or woman, or child, whose life and mind are seared beyond recognition in the next minute, and hour, and day, and year, in all the nightmare years to come, is condemned to torment and death by the lies upon which we insist, the lies we refuse to give up or even question.

But read the whole thing, and follow the links. Words may have failed me in this instance; but they have most assuredly not failed Silber.

UPDATE II: The Guardian gives a view from Kabul on Obama's peace prize:

"I don't know how he can get this prize," said Najeeb, a 30-year-old shopkeeper attending a friend's wedding party. "Maybe it's been awarded for all the houses they are bombing, or perhaps it's for all his soldiers that are dying in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Next to him a local staff member of a western NGO called Elyas wondered whether Obama will ever be able to bring peace to Afghanistan. "Obama and his favourite president [Karzai] haven't been able to do anything here. We used to be able to drive to Kunduz and Mazar-i-Sharif [two northern cities considered safe until recently] but now we can't because fighters are coming to the roads and looting people."
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

Marketing Docility
By Case Wagenvoord

The great leader is he who can sing the praises of that which he is destroying, thus maintaining a deniable distance between him and his victims. For example, to function at peak efficiency, the market state must dehumanize the populace by elevating the ego to a glory so bright the soul is lost in its glare. Thus, individualism is praised even as it is being destroyed.

The genius of American marketing was to convince the neutered and the dehumanized that the road to individuality was consumption. Through the ascendancy of the logo, individuality is expressed as brand loyalty, a loyalty that demands one's humanity in exchange. The malignant is marketed as the divine.

The market state has convinced the public to act as a willing host for the parasitic market. The masses glory in their role as victim, which they believe is their elevation and glorification by their masters. Our marketers sell servitude as rebellion, conformity as individuation and docility as assertiveness.

By making them complicit in their enslavement, the masses go peacefully. Only in the market state is burnout a badge of honor, just as stress is a status symbol. They come to believe that if they are not on meds they are failures, because self-destruction is draped in the purple robe of success.

The role of the eloquent leader is to comfort them with the certainty of lies treated as absolutes even as he bleeds them dry, for they want reassurance more than they want truth.
(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

Growth At All Costs; Even the Death Of America!
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning to all of you free thinkers out there; your King of Simple News is on the air.

The title of my book is, "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed." That lie is that the American economy can grow forever without consequences. Each of our budding politicians promises growth; growth that is mathematically impossible.

So why do most Americans believe the lie? Well, to begin with, the lie supports the basis of the American Dream and we want badly to believe that the dream is possible. So badly in fact, that most Americans simply don't question the lie for fear that they may learn the truth.

But, back to the basis of the lie. If we are to grow exponentially (larger every year), then we must grow population exponentially to encourage the necessary consumption that supports that growth. Is it possible to grow our population base by a greater number each and every year without any sort of blowback?

The above video is the most persuasive evidence to the contrary of my question that I have ever viewed. No smoke and mirrors are used, but rather the naked truth and the exact science of mathematics paint a very different picture than that of our social science leadership.

While watching this riveting video, we need to remember that the United States reached the envious position of zero population growth in 1964. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson, championed by Ted Kennedy, signed the Hart-Cellar Act. This act is at the foundation of our nearly unchecked immigration and the act that changed the course of America forever. Did the Republicans embrace the same idiotic growth? Sure they did, how else do you advance the world's largest pyramid scheme?

To put our plight into perspective; is it possible to move more people into your home each and every year without affecting your lifestyle? What if the growing number of people living in your home didn't speak your language or share your culture, religion, or social values? What if they formed sub-cultures within your own home and had no intention of adopting the American language and culture?

I'd like to hear your opinion. This is not about being uncaring for the people of the world who have overpopulated their own country. This is about America.
(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...

"Freedom is actually a bigger game than power. Power is about what you can control. Freedom is about what you can unleash."
~~~ Harriet Rubin

Who's In Big Brother's Database?
By James Bamford

The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency by Matthew M. Aid Bloomsbury, 423 pp., $30.00

On a remote edge of Utah's dry and arid high desert, where temperatures often zoom past 100 degrees, hard-hatted construction workers with top-secret clearances are preparing to build what may become America's equivalent of Jorge Luis Borges's "Library of Babel," a place where the collection of information is both infinite and at the same time monstrous, where the entire world's knowledge is stored, but not a single word is understood. At a million square feet, the mammoth $2 billion structure will be one-third larger than the US Capitol and will use the same amount of energy as every house in Salt Lake City combined.

Unlike Borges's "labyrinth of letters," this library expects few visitors. It's being built by the ultra-secret National Security Agency-which is primarily responsible for "signals intelligence," the collection and analysis of various forms of communication-to house trillions of phone calls, e-mail messages, and data trails: Web searches, parking receipts, bookstore visits, and other digital "pocket litter." Lacking adequate space and power at its city-sized Fort Meade, Maryland, headquarters, the NSA is also completing work on another data archive, this one in San Antonio, Texas, which will be nearly the size of the Alamodome.

Just how much information will be stored in these windowless cybertemples? A clue comes from a recent report prepared by the MITRE Corporation, a Pentagon think tank. "As the sensors associated with the various surveillance missions improve," says the report, referring to a variety of technical collection methods, "the data volumes are increasing with a projection that sensor data volume could potentially increase to the level of Yottabytes (1024 Bytes) by 2015."[1] Roughly equal to about a septillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text, numbers beyond Yottabytes haven't yet been named. Once vacuumed up and stored in these near-infinite "libraries," the data are then analyzed by powerful infoweapons, supercomputers running complex algorithmic programs, to determine who among us may be-or may one day become-a terrorist. In the NSA's world of automated surveillance on steroids, every bit has a history and every keystroke tells a story.

In the near decade since September 11, the tectonic plates beneath the American intelligence community have undergone a seismic shift, knocking the director of the CIA from the top of the organizational chart and replacing him with the new director of national intelligence, a desk-bound espiocrat with a large staff but little else. Not only surviving the earthquake but emerging as the most powerful chief the spy world has ever known was the director of the NSA. He is in charge of an organization three times the size of the CIA and empowered in 2008 by Congress to spy on Americans to an unprecedented degree, despite public criticism of the Bush administration's use of the agency to conduct warrantless domestic surveillance as part of the "war on terror." The legislation also largely freed him of the nettlesome Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). And in another significant move, he was recently named to head the new Cyber Command, which also places him in charge of the nation's growing force of cyber warriors.

Wasting no time, the agency has launched a building boom, doubling the size of its headquarters, expanding its listening posts, and constructing enormous data factories. One clue to the possible purpose of the highly secret megacenters comes from the agency's British partner, Government Communications Headquarters. Last year, the British government proposed the creation of an enormous government-run central database to store details on every phone call, e-mail, and Internet search made in the United Kingdom. Click a "send" key or push an "answer" button and the details of the communication end up, perhaps forever, in the government's data warehouse to be scrutinized and analyzed.

But when the plans were released by the UK government, there was an immediate outcry from both the press and the public, leading to the scrapping of the "big brother database," as it was called. In its place, however, the government came up with a new plan. Instead of one vast, centralized database, the telecom companies and Internet service providers would be required to maintain records of all details about people's phone, e-mail, and Web-browsing habits for a year and to permit the government access to them when asked. That has led again to public anger and to a protest by the London Internet Exchange, which represents more than 330 telecommunications firms. "We view...the volume of data the government now proposes [we] should collect and retain will be unprecedented, as is the overall level of intrusion into the privacy of citizenry," the group said in August.[2]

Unlike the British government, which, to its great credit, allowed public debate on the idea of a central data bank, the NSA obtained the full cooperation of much of the American telecom industry in utmost secrecy after September 11. For example, the agency built secret rooms in AT&T's major switching facilities where duplicate copies of all data are diverted, screened for key names and words by computers, and then transmitted on to the agency for analysis. Thus, these new centers in Utah, Texas, and possibly elsewhere will likely become the centralized repositories for the data intercepted by the NSA in America's version of the "big brother database" rejected by the British.

Matthew M. Aid has been after the NSA's secrets for a very long time. As a sergeant and Russian linguist in the NSA's Air Force branch, he was arrested and convicted in a court-martial, thrown into prison, and slapped with a bad conduct discharge for impersonating an officer and making off with a stash of NSA documents stamped Top Secret Codeword. He now prefers to obtain the NSA's secrets legally, through the front door of the National Archives. The result is The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency, a footnote-heavy history told largely through declassified but heavily redacted NSA reports that have been slowly trickling out of the agency over the years. They are most informative in the World War II period but quickly taper off in substance during the cold war.

Aid begins his study on the eve of Pearl Harbor, a time when the entire American cryptologic force could fit into a small, half-empty community theater. But by war's end, it would take a football stadium to seat the 37,000 military and civilian "crippies." On August 14, 1945, as the ink dried on Japan's instruments of surrender, the linguists and codebreakers manning the thirty-seven key listening posts around the world were reading more than three hundred diplomatic code and cipher systems belonging to sixty countries. "The American signals intelligence empire stood at the zenith of its power and prestige," notes Aid. But within days, the cryptanalysts put away their well-sharpened pencils and the intercept operators hung up their earphones. By the end of December 1945, America's crypto world had shrunk to 7,500 men and women.

Despite the drastic layoffs, the small cadre of US and British codebreakers excelled against the new "main enemy," as Russia became known. The joint US-British effort deciphered tens of thousands of Russian army and navy messages during the mid-to-late 1940s. But on October 29, 1948, as President Truman was about to deliver a campaign speech in New York, the party was over. In what became known within the crypto world as "Black Friday," the Russian government and military flipped a switch and instantly converted to new, virtually unbreakable encryption systems and from vulnerable radio signals to buried cables. In the war between spies and machines, the spies won. The Soviets had managed to recruit William Weisband, a forty-year-old Russian linguist working for the US Army, who informed them of key cryptologic weaknesses the Americans were successfully exploiting. It was a blow from which the codebreakers would never recover. NSA historians called it "perhaps the most significant intelligence loss in US history."

In the 1970s, when some modest gains were made in penetrating the Russian systems, history would repeat itself and another American turncoat, this time Ronald Pelton, would again give away the US secrets. Since then, it has largely been a codemaker's market not only with regard to high-level Russian ciphers, but also those of other key countries, such as China and North Korea. On the other hand, the NSA has made significant progress against less cryptologically sophisticated countries and, from them, gained insight into plans and intentions of countries about which the US has greater concerns. Thus, when a Chinese diplomat at the United Nations discusses some new African venture with a colleague from Sudan, the eavesdroppers at the NSA may be deaf to the Chinese communications links but they may be able to get that same information by exploiting weaknesses in Sudan's communications and cipher systems when the diplomat reports the meeting to Khartoum. But even third-world cryptography can be daunting. During the entire war in Vietnam, writes Aid, the agency was never able to break the high-level encryption systems of either the North Vietnamese or the Vietcong. It is a revelation that leads him to conclude "that everything we thought we knew about the role of NSA in the Vietnam War needs to be reconsidered."

Because the book is structured chronologically, it is somewhat difficult to decipher the agency's overall record. But one sees troubling trends. One weakness that seems to recur is that the agency, set up in the wake of World War II to prevent another surprise attack, is itself frequently surprised by attacks and other serious threats. In the 1950s, as over 100,000 heavily armed North Korean troops surged across the 38th parallel into South Korea, the codebreakers were among the last to know. "The North Korean target was ignored," says a declassified NSA report quoted by Aid. "North Korea got lost in the shuffle and nobody told us that they were interested in what was going on north of the 38th parallel," exclaimed one intelligence officer. At the time, astonishingly, the Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA), the NSA's predecessor, didn't even have a Korean-language dictionary.

Unfortunately for General Douglas MacArthur, the codebreakers were able to read the communications of Spain's ambassador to Tokyo and other diplomats, who noted that in their discussions with the general, he made clear his secret hope for all-out war with China and Russia, including the use of nuclear weapons if necessary. In a rare instance of secret NSA intercepts playing a major part in US politics, once the messages were shown to President Truman, MacArthur's career abruptly ended.

Another major surprise came in the 1960s when the Soviet Union was able to move large numbers of personnel, large amounts of equipment, and many ballistic missiles to Cuba without the NSA hearing a peep. Still unable to break into the high-level Soviet cipher systems, the agency was unaware that the 51st Rocket Division had packed up and was encamped in Cuba. Nor did it detect the move of five complete medium-range and intermediate-range missile regiments from their Russian bases to Cuba. And it had no knowledge that Russian ballistic missiles were on Cuban soil, being positioned in launchers. "Soviet communications security was almost perfect," according to an NSA historian.

The first clues that something unusual was happening had come in mid-July 1962, when NSA analysts noticed record numbers of Soviet cargo and passenger ships heading for Cuba. Analysis of their unencrypted shipping manifests led the NSA to suspect that the ships were delivering weapons. But the nuclear-armed ballistic missiles were not detected until mid-October, a month after their arrival, and not by the NSA; it was the CIA, acting on information from its sources in Cuba and Florida, that ordered the U-2 reconnaisance flight that photographed them at launch sites on the island. "The crisis," Aid concludes, "was in fact anything but an intelligence success story." This is a view shared by the agency itself in a candid internal history, which noted that the harrowing events "marked the most significant failure of SIGINT [signals intelligence] to warn national leaders since World War II."

More recently, the NSA was unaware of India's impending nuclear test in 1998, the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, and the 1998 bombing of two of America's East African embassies. The agency first learned of the September 11 attacks on $300 television sets tuned to CNN, not its billion-dollar eavesdropping satellites tuned to al-Qaeda.

Then there is the pattern by which the NSA was actually right about a warning, but those in power chose to ignore it. During the Korean War, the AFSA picked up numerous indications from low-level unencrypted Chinese intercepts that the Chinese were shifting hundreds of thousands of combat troops to Manchuria by rail, an obvious signal that China might enter the war. But those in charge of Army intelligence simply refused to believe it; it didn't fit in with their plans.

Then, by reading the dispatches between India's well-connected ambassador to Beijing and his Foreign Office, it became clear that China would intervene if UN forces crossed the 38th parallel into North Korea. But again, says Aid, the warning "was either discounted or ignored completely by policymakers in Washington," and as the UN troops began crossing the divide, Chinese troops crossed the Yalu River into North Korea. Even when intercepts indicated that the Chinese were well entrenched in the North, officials in Washington and Seoul remained in a state of disbelief, until both South Korean and US forces there were attacked by the Chinese forces.

The pattern was repeated in Vietnam when NSA reporting warned on January 25, 1968, that a major coordinated attack would occur "in the near future in several areas of South Vietnam." But neither the White House, the CIA, nor General William Westmoreland at US military headquarters in Saigon believed it, until over 100,000 North Vietnamese and Vietcong troops launched their Tet offensive in the South five days later on January 30. "The [NSA] reports failed to shake the commands in Washington and Saigon from their perception," says an NSA history. Tragically, Aid notes, at the end of the war, all of the heroic Vietnamese cryptologic personnel who greatly helped the NSA were left behind. "Many," the NSA report reveals, "undoubtedly perished." It added, "Their story is yet untold." Then again in 1973, as in Korea and Vietnam, the NSA warned that Egypt and Syria were planning "a major offensive" against Israel. But, as Aid quotes an official NSA history, the CIA refused to believe that an attack was imminent "because [they thought] the Arabs wouldn't be 'stupid enough' to attack Israel." They were, they did, and they won.

Everything seemed to go right for the NSA during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which the agency had accurately forecast. "NSA predicted on December 22 [1979], three full days before the first Soviet troops crossed the Soviet-Afghan border, that the Russians would invade Afghanistan within the next seventy-two hours," writes Aid, adding, "Afghanistan may have been the 'high water mark' for NSA."

The agency also recorded the words of the Russian fighter pilot and his ground controllers as he shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007 in 1983. Although the agency knew that the Russians had accidently mistaken the plane for a potentially hostile US military aircraft, the Reagan administration nevertheless deliberately spun the intercepts to make it seem that the fighter pilot knew all along that it was a passenger jet, infuriating NSA officials. "The White House's selective release of the most salacious of the NSA material concerning the shootdown set off a firestorm of criticism inside NSA," writes Aid. It was not the first time, nor would it be the last, that the NSA's product was used for political purposes.

The most troubling pattern, however, is that the NSA, through gross incompetence, bad intelligence, or deliberate deception through the selective release of information, has helped to push the US into tragic wars. A prime example took place in 1964 when the Johnson administration claimed that two US Navy destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin, one on an eavesdropping mission for the NSA, were twice attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. Those attacks were then used to justify the escalation of American involvement in the Vietnam War. But Aid cites a top-secret NSA analysis of the incident, completed in 2000, which concluded that the second attack, the one used to justify the war, never took place. Instead, NSA officials deliberately withheld 90 percent of the intelligence on the attacks and told the White House only what it wanted to hear. According to the analysis, only intelligence "that supported the claim that the communists had attacked the two destroyers was given to administration officials."

Not having learned its lesson, in the lead-up to the war in Iraq the NSA again told the administration only what it wanted to hear, despite the clearly ambiguous nature of the evidence. For years beforehand, the agency's coverage of Iraq was disastrous. In the late 1990s, the Iraqis began shifting much of their high-level military communications from radio to buried fiber optic networks, and at the same time, Saddam Hussein banned the use of cell phones. That left only occasional low-level troop communications. According to a later review, Aid writes, NSA had "virtually no useful signals intelligence on a target that was one of the United States' top intelligence priorities." And the little intelligence it did have pointed away from Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction. "We looked long and hard for any signs," said one retired NSA official. "We just never found a 'smoking gun' that Saddam was trying to build nukes or anything else." That, however, did not prevent the NSA director, Lieutenant Gen. Michael V. Hayden, from stamping his approval on the CIA's 2002 National Intelligence Estimate arguing that Iraq's WMDs posed a grave danger, which helped prepare the way for the devastating war.

While much of the terrain Aid covers has been explored before, the most original areas in The Secret Sentry deal with the ground wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the NSA was forced to marry, largely unsuccessfully, its super-high-tech strategic capabilities in space with its tactical forces on the ground. Before the September 11 attacks, the agency's coverage of Afghanistan was even worse than that of Iraq. At the start of the war, the NSA's principal listening post for the region did not have a single linguist proficient in Pashto or Dari, Afghanistan's two principal languages. Agency recruiters descended on Fremont, California, home of the country's largest population of Afghan expatriates, to build up a cadre of translators-only to have most candidates rejected by the agency's overparanoid security experts. On the plus side, because of the collapse of the Taliban regime's rudimentary communications system, its leaders were forced to communicate only by satellite phones, which were very susceptible to NSA monitoring.

Other NSA tactical teams, Aid explains, collaborated on the ground with Special Forces units, including in the mountains of Tora Bora. But it was a new type of war, one the NSA was not prepared for, and both Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar easily slipped through its electronic net. Eight years later, despite billions of dollars spent by the agency and dozens of tapes released by bin Laden, the NSA is no closer to capturing him or Mullah Omar than it was at Tora Bora in 2001.

Disappointingly, the weakest section of the book, mostly summaries of old news clips, deals with what may be the most important subject: the NSA's warrantless eavesdropping and its targeting of American communications. There is no discussion, for example, of the agency's huge data-mining centers, mentioned above, currently being built in Utah and Texas, or to what extent the agency, which has long been confined to foreign and international communications, is now engaged in domestic eavesdropping.

It is a key question and we have no precise answer. By installing its intercept rooms in such locations as AT&T's main switching station in downtown San Francisco, the agency has physical access to domestic as well as international communications. Thus it is possible that the agency scans all the e-mail of both and it may also eavesdrop on the telephone calls of both for targets on its ever-growing watch lists. According to a recent Justice Department report, "As of December 31, 2008, the consolidated terrorist watchlist contained more than 1.1 million known or suspected terrorist identities."[3]

Aid's history becomes thin as it gets closer to the present day and the archival documents dwindle, especially since he has no substantial first-person, on-the-record interviews. Beyond a brief mention, he also leaves other important aspects of the NSA's history unaddressed, including the tumultuous years in the mid-1970s when it was investigated by the Senate's Church Committee for decades of illegal spying; Trailblazer, the nearly decade-long failure to modernize the agency; and the NSA's increasingly important role in cyberwarfare and its implications in future wars.

Where does all this leave us? Aid concludes that the biggest problem facing the agency is not the fact that it's drowning in untranslated, indecipherable, and mostly unusable data, problems that the troubled new modernization plan, Turbulence, is supposed to eventually fix. "These problems may, in fact, be the tip of the iceberg," he writes. Instead, what the agency needs most, Aid says, is more power. But the type of power to which he is referring is the kind that comes from electrical substations, not statutes. "As strange as it may sound," he writes, "one of the most urgent problems facing NSA is a severe shortage of electrical power." With supercomputers measured by the acre and estimated $70 million annual electricity bills for its headquarters, the agency has begun browning out, which is the reason for locating its new data centers in Utah and Texas. And as it pleads for more money to construct newer and bigger power generators, Aid notes, Congress is balking.

The issue is critical because at the NSA, electrical power is political power. In its top-secret world, the coin of the realm is the kilowatt. More electrical power ensures bigger data centers. Bigger data centers, in turn, generate a need for more access to phone calls and e-mail and, conversely, less privacy. The more data that comes in, the more reports flow out. And the more reports that flow out, the more political power for the agency.

Rather than give the NSA more money for more power-electrical and political-some have instead suggested just pulling the plug. "NSA can point to things they have obtained that have been useful," Aid quotes former senior State Department official Herbert Levin, a longtime customer of the agency, "but whether they're worth the billions that are spent, is a genuine question in my mind."

Based on the NSA's history of often being on the wrong end of a surprise and a tendency to mistakenly get the country into, rather than out of, wars, it seems to have a rather disastrous cost-benefit ratio. Were it a corporation, it would likely have gone belly-up years ago. The September 11 attacks are a case in point. For more than a year and a half the NSA was eavesdropping on two of the lead hijackers, knowing they had been sent by bin Laden, while they were in the US preparing for the attacks. The terrorists even chose as their command center a motel in Laurel, Maryland, almost within eyesight of the director's office. Yet the agency never once sought an easy-to-obtain FISA warrant to pinpoint their locations, or even informed the CIA or FBI of their presence.

But pulling the plug, or even allowing the lights to dim, seems unlikely given President Obama's hawkish policies in Afghanistan. However, if the war there turns out to be the train wreck many predict, then Obama may decide to take a much closer look at the spy world's most lavish spender. It is a prospect that has some in the Library of Babel very nervous. "It was a great ride while it lasted," said one.


[1] The MITRE Corporation, "Data Analysis Challenges" (December 2008), p. 13.

[2] David Leppard, "Internet Firms Resist Ministers' Plan to Spy on Every E-mail," The Sunday Times , August 2, 2009.

[3] "The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Terrorist Watchlist Nomination Practices," US Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, Audit Division, Audit Report 09-25, May 2009.
James Bamford writes frequently on intelligence and his books include three on the National Security Agency. His most recent book, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, won the 2009 book award from Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Are We The Martians Of The Twenty-First Century?
War of the worlds hits Kabul.
By Tom Engelhardt

An unremarkable paragraph in a piece in my hometown paper recently caught my eye. It was headlined "White House Believes Karzai Will Be Re-elected," but in mid-report Helene Cooper and Mark Landler of the New York Times turned to Afghan War commander General Stanley McChrystal's "redeployment option." Here's the humdrum paragraph in question: "The redeployment option calls for moving troops from sparsely populated and lawless areas of the countryside to urban areas, including Kandahar and Kabul. Many rural areas 'would be better left to Predators,' said an administration official, referring to drone aircraft."

In other words, the United States may now be represented in the Afghan countryside, as it already is in the tribal areas on the Pakistani side of the border, mainly by Predators and their even more powerful cousins, Reapers, unmanned aerial vehicles with names straight out of a sci-fi film about implacable aliens. If you happen to be an Afghan villager in some underpopulated part of that country where the U.S. has set up small bases-two of which were almost overrun recently-they will be gone and "America" will instead be soaring overhead. We're talking about planes without human beings in them tirelessly scanning the ground with their cameras for up to 22 hours at a stretch. Launched from Afghanistan but flown by pilots thousands of miles away in the American West, they are armed with two to four Hellfire missiles or the equivalent in 500-pound bombs.

To see Earth from the heavens, that's the classic viewpoint of the superior being or god with the ultimate power of life and death. Zeus, that Greek god of gods, used lightning bolts to strike down humans who offended him. We use missiles and bombs. Zeus had the knowledge of a god. We have "intelligence," often fallible (or score-settling). His weapon of choice destroyed one individual. Ours take out anyone in the vicinity.

He made his decisions from Mount Olympus; we make ours from places like Creech Air Force Base outside Las Vegas, and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. Those about whom we make life-and-death decisions, as they scurry below or carry on as best they can, have-like any beings faced with the gods-no recourse or appeal. Seen on screens, they are, to us, distant, grainy figures, hardly larger than ants. This is what implacable means.

Soothing the Children

And none of this strikes us as strange. Quite the opposite, it represents reasonable policy. Comments like the one quoted above are now commonplace. In the Washington Post, for instance, Rajiv Chandrasekaran recently recorded the thoughts of an anonymous U.S. officer in Afghanistan: "If more forces are not forthcoming to mount counterinsurgency operations in those parts of the province, he concluded, the overall U.S. effort to stabilize Kandahar-and by extension, the rest of Afghanistan-will fail. 'We might as well pack our bags and go home... and just keep a few Predators flying overhead to whack the al-Qaeda guys who return.'"

We know as well that, in the Washington debate over what to do next in the Afghan War, Vice President Joe Biden has come down on the side of "counterterrorism." He wants to put more emphasis on those drones and on special operations forces, while focusing more on Pakistan (though without dropping U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan). At the same time, the Pentagon has just created an Afghan Hands program and a Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell, two units focused on improving military performance in the Af-Pak theater of operations over the next three to five years. All of this represents the norm for military and civilian leaders who, whatever their differences, believe wars that go on for endless years thousands of miles from home are the sine qua non of American safety.

And none of this seems less than reasonable to us, especially given the much publicized "success" of the drone assassination program in taking out Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership figures. What does strike us as strange, though, is that the locals, whether in Pakistan or Afghanistan, find all this upsetting. A recent U.S. poll in Pakistan typically reported "that 76 percent of the respondents were opposed to Pakistan partnering with the United States on missile attacks against extremists by American drone aircraft."

Then again, we take it for granted that the people of such backward lands are strange, touchy types. Not like us. In George Packer's recent New Yorker profile of Richard Holbrooke, the president's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, there were some classic lines reflecting this.

Packer describes Holbrooke on a flying visit to Afghanistan this way: "He seemed less like a visiting emissary than like a proconsul inspecting a vast operation over which he commanded much of the authority." When that same proconsul makes it out of impoverished, shattered Afghanistan (where the U.S. Embassy, at one point, had to deny he had engaged in a "shouting match" with Afghan President Hamid Karzai) and into Pakistan, a fractious, disturbed, unnerved country of genuine significance, he packs the proconsul away and, according to Packer, becomes Washington's cajoler-in-chief. As Packer writes, "In moments when I overheard him talking to Pakistani leaders, he took the solicitous tone of someone reassuring an unstable friend. 'It's like dealing with psychologically abused children,' a member of his staff said. 'You don't focus on the screaming and the violence-you just hug them tighter.'"

So, if Afghan and Pakistani peasants in the mountainous tribal borderlands are so many ants or rabbits, Pakistani leaders are "children." It matters little that Holbrooke has a reputation himself as an egotist and a screamer who demands his way. (Among diplomats back in the 1990s when he was negotiating in the former Yugoslavia, one joke went: What's the most dangerous place in the Balkans? The answer: Between Dick Holbrooke and a camera.)

Packard reports Holbrooke's disappointment over the amount of aid Congress is ponying up for Pakistan ($7.5 billion) and, to add to his set of frustrations, there's this: "Because of Pakistan's sensitivity about its sovereignty, he had been unable to persuade its military to allow American helicopters to bring aid to the refugees," who had been driven from the Swat Valley by the Taliban and a Pakistani military offensive.

Let's think about that for a moment, especially since it's a commonplace of American reporting from the region and so reflects official thinking on the subject. Karen DeYoung and Pamela Constable, for instance, write in a Washington Post piece: "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." In fact, let's reverse the situation.

Imagine that, after the next Katrina, Pakistani military helicopters based on a Pakistani aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Mexico are preparing to deliver supplies to New Orleans. Of course, you also have to imagine, minimally, that the Pakistanis are in the process of building a three-quarters of a billion dollar fortress of an embassy in Washington D.C. (to be guarded by armed Pakistani private contractors), that Pakistani drones are regularly cruising the Sierra Nevada mountains, launching missiles at residences in small towns below, that the Pakistanis are offering billions of dollars in desperately needed aid to a hamstrung American government and military in return for not complaining too much about whatever they might want to do in the United States, that top Pakistani military and civilian officials are constantly shuttling through Washington demanding "cooperation," and finally that Pakistani reporters covering all this regularly point to an "extreme American sensitivity about national sovereignty," as illustrated by a bizarre unwillingness to accept Pakistani aid delivered in Pakistani military helicopters. Then again, you know those Americans: combustible as spoiled kids.

Such reversals are, of course, inconceivable and so, nearly impossible to imagine. Today, were a Pakistani military helicopter to approach the U.S. coast with anything on board and refuse to turn back, it would undoubtedly be shot down. So much for American touchiness.

But here's a question that comes to mind: Why is it that Americans like Holbrooke seem to feel so at home so far away from home? Why, for instance, do U.S. military spokespeople so regularly refer to our indigenous enemies in Iraq as "anti-Iraqi forces," and in Afghanistan as "anti-Afghan forces"? Why does our military in Iraq speak of the neighboring Iranians as "foreign forces" without ever including our own military in that category?

Resistant as Washington may be to the thought, the obvious has recently been crossing some influential minds. Amid the debate over war options-more troops, more training of the Afghan military and police, more drone attacks in Pakistan, or some mix-and-match version of all of the above, but certainly not a withdrawal from the country-it has become more common to express concern that deploying up to 40,000 more U.S. troops might create too big an American "footprint." As Peter Baker and Thom Shanker of the New York Times wrote in a profile of Robert Gates, the secretary of defense "has repeatedly declared his concern that more troops would make Americans look increasingly like occupiers."

After almost eight years of war, only now does the danger that we might "look increasingly like occupiers" rise to the surface. Since "occupier" is a role Americans just can't imagine occupying, let's consider a fantasy alternative instead, one perhaps easier to imagine: What if it turns out that we are the Martians?
(c) 2009 Tom Engelhardt

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer Baucus,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, your striping the health care bill of anything that helps the people and filling it up with a trillion dollar payoff for our friends in the Insurance industry, 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 Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 10-31-2009. We salute you Herr Baucus, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

War Criminals Are Becoming The Arbiters Of Law
By Paul Craig Roberts

The double standard under which the Israeli government operates is too much for everyone except the brainwashed Americans. Even a columnist in the very Israeli Jerusalem Post can see the double standard displayed by "all of Israel now speaking in one voice against the Goldstone report":

"This is the Israeli notion of a fair deal: We're entitled to do whatever the hell we want to the Palestinians because, by definition, whatever we do to them is self-defence. They, however, are not entitled to lift a finger against us because, by definition, whatever they do to us is terrorism.

"That's the way it's always been, that's the way it was in Operation Cast Lead.

"And there are no limits on our right to self-defense. There is no such thing as 'disproportionate.'

"We can deliberately destroy thousands of Gazan homes, the Gazan parliament, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, courthouses, the only Gazan flour plant, the main poultry farm, a sewage treatment plant, water wells and God knows what else.


"Why? Because we're better than them. Because we're a democracy and they're a bunch of Islamo-fascists. Because ours is a culture of life and theirs is a culture of death. Because they're out to destroy us and all we are saying is give peace a chance.

"The Goldstones of the world call this hypocrisy, a double standard. How dare they! Around here, we call it moral clarity." Rattling the Cage: Our exclusive right to self-defense, by Larry Derfner, Oct. 8, 2009.

A person would never read such as this in the New York Times or Washington Post or hear it from any US news source. Unlike Israeli newspapers, the US media is a complete mouthpiece for the Israel Lobby. Never a critical word is heard.

This will be even more the case now that the Israel Lobby, after years of effort, has succeeded in repealing the First Amendment by having the Hate Crime Bill attached to the recently passed military appropriations bill. This is the way the syllogism works:

It is anti-Semitic to criticize Israel. Anti-Semitism is a hate crime. Therefore, to criticize Israel is a hate crime.

As the Jerusalem Post notes, this syllogism has "moral clarity."

Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, John Sawers, stepped into the hate crime arena when he told Israel Army radio that the Goldstone report on Israel's military assault on Gaza contains "some very serious details which need to be investigated."

A year from now when the Anti-Defamation League has its phalanx of US Department of Justice (sic) prosecutors in place, Sawers would be seized and placed on trial. Diplomatic immunity means nothing to the US, which routinely invades other countries, executes their leaders or sends them to The Hague for trial as war criminals.

In the meantime, however, the Israeli government put Sawers and the UK government on notice that British support for the Goldstone Report would result in the destruction of the double standard that protects the West and Israel and create a precedent that would place the British in the dock for war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"London," declared the Israeli government, "could find itself in handcuffs if it supports the document [the Goldstone report]."

Once the DOJ's hate crime unit is up and running, "self-hating Jews," such as leaders of the Israeli peace movement and Haaretz and Jerusalem Post journalists, can expect to be indicted for anti-Semitic hate crimes in US courts.
(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.

Charge Of The Beckerheads...
By Sheila Samples

I didn't know Van Jones. I didn't know Van Jones was a friend of mine -- at least not until the stench billowing from the Fox Hate Channel became so foul I was forced to take a closer look at this terrifying creature. No -- not Jones, whom President Obama wisely had hired as Special Advisor for Green Jobs at the Council on Environmental Quality -- but the sobbing, lying, deliriously insane Glenn Beck.

According to Beck, who began his assault on Jones in a July 23 disjointed rant, wherein he claimed Jones is not only "a communist-anarchist radical," but a former black nationalist, avowed communist-anarchist radical. Or something. Anyway, according to Beck, Jones is really really dangerous -- a racist just like Obama, who has a "deep-seated hatred for white folks" and whose entire agenda is restructuring America into a land of reparations, social justice and jobs for minorities.

The appalling thing about the intellectually challenged Beck, like the Limbaugh-loon he so desperately struggles to impersonate, is that he is given a podium from which to spew his hate. Even more appalling is that he is allowed -- encouraged -- to do so with no reservation, no regulation, and no repercussion. Unless, of course, you consider the multi-million-dollar salary he receives for telling lies and for whipping paranoid masses of gun-toting racists into glassy eyed fury, then it's easy to see Beck is hitting the repercussion jackpot -- over and over again.

As Alexander Zaitchik points out in his three-part Salon series on Beck's background, Beck has always been desperate for two things -- attention and ratings. And he learned early in his career that nothing works as quickly nor as well with the media as personal insults, public humiliation and character assassination. With few exceptions, the mainstream media fawn over him, laugh at his blatant lies, his death threats and his fake tears. Beck has long been obsessed with destruction -- even murder. In March 2001, he fantasized about killing Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) with a shovel as well as lining up several others and shooting them in the head. On his May 17, 2005 Glenn Beck Program, he chortled...

"Hang on, let me just tell you what I'm thinking. I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out -- is this wrong? I stopped wearing my What Would Jesus -- band -- Do, and I've lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, "Yeah, I'd kill Michael Moore," and then I'd see the little band: What Would Jesus Do? And then I'd realize, "Oh, you wouldn't kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn't choke him to death." And you know, well, I'm not sure."

And more recently, on his Aug 6 Fox program, Beck regaled at least himself by giggling about putting poison in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's wine....

Not a pretty picture. No -- not Beck, who should have the FBI nipping at his heels like other "homegrown terrorists" for threatening the lives of legislators and sowing dissent within the government -- but the media, going all Hunter Thompson on us, curled up at Beck's feet like so many chimps in a zoo cage, feverishly pumping out masturbatory praise for the low-class dirty trickster. When Jones, rather than sink to Beck's level, resigned his position over the Labor Day weekend, some in the media were ecstatic. NBC Deputy Political Director Mark Murray whooped it up in his 8 Sep "First Read"...

"Van Jones resigns: Speaking of distractions, Glenn Beck got his man -- Van Jones, who resigned from the administration over the weekend. And judging by how Beck responded to the news of the resignation of the mid-level staffer, he won't be satisfied with this scalp. Beck made it sound like he might even have a list of "Who's next," which will embolden defenders of the administration to start focusing on Beck and others. [...] As for Jones, clearly, that 9/11 stuff made him indefensible and does call into question the White House's vetting process. The irony in all of this: Beck never lost his job for calling Obama a racist, but Jones did..."

Time Magazine, a partner of CNN, has led the charge to cover Beck's every move, every word, every teardrop in a desperate effort to get a piece of Beck's attention-and-ratings action. See here and here.

Then, of course, there's Time's "photo gallery" and the much-heralded Sep 17 cover story wherein author David Von Drehle takes 3,598 words to debunk his own headline, "Mad Man: Is Glenn Beck Bad for America?" and to paint Beck as nothing more than a feisty, lovable -- albeit controversial -- little whippersnapper...

"Glenn Beck: the pudgy, buzz-cut, weeping phenomenon of radio, TV and books . . . The old American mind-set that Richard Hofstadter famously called "the paranoid style" - the sense that Masons or the railroads or the Pope or the guys in black helicopters are in league to destroy the country - is aflame again, fanned from both right and left. [...] No one has a better feeling for this mood, and no one exploits it as well, as Beck. He is the hottest thing in the political-rant racket, left or right. A gifted entrepreneur of angst in a white-hot market.


Beck is 45, tireless, funny, self-deprecating, a recovering alcoholic, a convert to Mormonism, a libertarian and living with ADHD. He is a gifted storyteller with a knack for stitching seemingly unrelated data points into possible conspiracies - if he believed in conspiracies, which he doesn't, necessarily; he's just asking questions. He's just sayin'. In cheerful days of yore, he was a terrific host of a morning-zoo show on an FM Top 40 station. But these aren't cheerful times. For conservatives, these are times of economic uncertainty and political weakness, and Beck has emerged as a virtuoso on the strings of their discontent."

Not to be outfoxed by her peers, on Sep 22, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric premiered her new one-on-one high-profile online interview show "@katiecouric" with Beck, whom she introduced as a "one-man cottage industry." Beck fielded Couric's painfully shallow questions, such as, "Do you feel that you''re kind of being divisive?" with sly grins and winks. "Let me see, here," Beck said, giggling and rolling his eyes while tapping his forehead, "how can I answer that? You're just trying to make some news -- you just want me to give you a sound byte..."

But the most interesting -- and entertaining -- take on Beck comes from Fox News' Chief Beckerhead Chris Wallace, who boasts that he "is on the Glenn Beck bandwagon," and insists that "Beck is a meteor here at Fox News." Wallace was taking the irrepressible Shepard Smith to task for not giving Beck the proper respect; even accused Smith of being jealous of Beck's fame. "Oh no," Smith proclaimed, fighting back fake tears -- "We are here to celebrate, worship and adore..." You gotta watch this.

Most mainstream media -- if they acknowledge Beck's attacks -- present them as news, such as the czars fiasco, the fake Fox ACORN videos, etc. However, there are some, even on the right, who are concerned enough about the damage being done to sound the alarm. The New York Times' David Brooks writes, not only about Beck, but Limbaugh, Hannity and others whose lust for power (attention and ratings) knows no bounds...

"For no matter how often their hollowness is exposed, the jocks still reweave the myth of their own power. They still ride the airwaves claiming to speak for millions. They still confuse listeners with voters. And they are aided in this endeavor by their enablers. They are enabled by cynical Democrats, who love to claim that Rush Limbaugh controls the G.O.P. They are enabled by lazy pundits who find it easier to argue with showmen than with people whose opinions are based on knowledge. They are enabled by the slightly educated snobs who believe that Glenn Beck really is the voice of Middle America.

So the myth returns. Just months after the election and the humiliation, everyone is again convinced that Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and the rest possess real power. And the saddest thing is that even Republican politicians come to believe it. They mistake media for reality. They pre-emptively surrender to armies that don't exist.

They pay more attention to Rush's imaginary millions than to the real voters down the street. The Republican Party is unpopular because it's more interested in pleasing Rush's ghosts than actual people. The party is leaderless right now because nobody has the guts to step outside the rigid parameters enforced by the radio jocks and create a new party identity. The party is losing because it has adopted a radio entertainer's niche-building strategy, while abandoning the politician's coalition-building strategy.

The rise of Beck, Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and the rest has correlated almost perfectly with the decline of the G.O.P. But it's not because the talk jocks have real power. It's because they have illusory power, because Republicans hear the media mythology and fall for it every time."

Like Chris Wallace says, they are all just meteors exploding across this nation's sky. Perhaps someone should remind Wallace and others in the media that the shining streak they're hanging onto is nothing but a trail of gas, and when it enters Truth's atmosphere, it will disintegrate -- taking the Beckerhead Bandwagon with it.
(c) 2009 Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at:

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Jeff Darcy ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

20 Tons Of TNT
By Flanders and Swann

I have seen it estimated:
Somewhere between death and birth
There are now three thousand million
People living on this earth
And the stock-piled mass destruction
Of the Nuclear Powers-That-Be
Equals--for each man or woman--
Twenty tons of TNT.

Every man of every nation
(Twenty tons of TNT)
Shall receive this allocation
Twenty tons of TNT.
Texan, Bantu, Slav or Maori,
Argentine or Singhalee,
Every maiden brings this dowry
Twenty tons of TNT.

Not for thirty silver shilling
Twenty tons of TNT
Twenty thousand pounds a killing--
Twenty tons of TNT.
Twenty hundred years of teaching,
Give to each his legacy,
Plato, Buddha, Christ or Lenin,
Twenty tons of TNT

Father, Mother, Son and Daughter,
Twenty tons of TNT
Give us land and seed and water,
Twenty tons of TNT.
Children have no need of sharing;
At each new nativity
Come the ghostly Magi bearing
Twenty tons of TNT

Ends the tale that has no sequel
Twenty tons of TNT.
Now in death are all men equal
Twenty tons of TNT.
Teach me how to love my neighbour,
Do to him as he to me;
Share the fruits of all our labour
Twenty tons of TNT.
(c) 1967/2009 Michael Flanders

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

How Not To Get The Swine Flu
By Will Durst

Well, look at the time. Aren't we expecting the Return of the Bride of the Son of the Swine Flu pretty soon? That's right. It's Baaaaack and this time, its personal. Scientists predict the virus will be worse this swing through Northern Hemisphere, but come on, no matter how bad it gets, it's still not going to be 1919. After all, our public water supply systems have undergone a bit of an upgrade over the last 90 years. "Now, With Less Dysentery!" Of course, with the return of the H1N1 virus, (don't want to disparage our proud American pork producers) we are mere nanoseconds away from being inundated with literally three tons of articles on how not to contract it. So, let me assist by being the first to throw out a quick purview.

Top Ten Tips On How Not To Get The Swine Flu: A Public Service From Durstco

* #1. Wash your hands. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based rub. Single Malt Scotch should do the trick. Keep that larynx clean as well.

* #2. Wear a mask. If you can't find one of those scrub masks, use a Halloween mask. What's a pandemic without a little fun? A Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner mask might prove effective enough to frighten the swine flu away.

* #3. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it, or collect them and construct a sort of swine shrine. Or wipe the doorknob and garage door handle of that annoying radical neighbor of yours.

* #4. Drink plenty of fluids. Preferably domestic beer. Or Single Malt Scotch. Didn't we just talk about how alcohol inhibits bacteria growth?

* #5. Throw everything out. No, everything. Clutter causes confusion. And as any medical expert will tell you, confusion leads to the flu.

* #6. Sleep is good. Try to find a way to sleep at work. A rested employee is not a communicable employee.

* #7. The CDC recommends a seasonal flu vaccine. As a matter of fact, try to stockpile as many drugs as you can. Flush your body with drugs and environmentally friendly antimicrobials. And Single Malt Scotch. Safe and easy and practical to use.

* #8. Wear light colors. No, wait, that's for heat advisories. But still applies to the flu, because that way we can see all the various effluviums accumulating on peoples' clothing and know whom to avoid.

* #9. Stay away from sick people. In other words, don't watch Glen Beck.

* #10. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. And arms and feet and hair. And shoes and surfaces and fabrics. Get nude. Repeat after me, "Naked is safe. Naked in the bathroom is safer. Naked in the tub curled into a fetal position covered with a hypoallergenic salve is safest."
(c) 2009 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based political comic who writes sometimes. This is one of those times. Please catch his new one man show "The Lieutenant Governor from the State of Confusion," when it appears near you.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 39 (c) 10/16/2009

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