Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Michael Parenti explores, "Death And Profits."

Uri Avnery examines, "The State Of Bla-Bla-Bla."

Cynthia McKinney returns with, "Remarks."

Randall Amster finds, "Arizona's Failed Policies Only Getting Worse."

Jim Hightower uncovers, " Wall Street's Connected Lobbyists."

David Sirota considers, "The Imperial Defense Of Pentagon Bloat."

James Donahue reports, "Jailed For Not Reciting The Pledge."

Sheila Samples says we control our future in, "Only If We Let It."

Chris Floyd goes, "All Along The Watchtower."

Paul Craig Roberts with, "Israel Versus The World."

Paul Krugman is on about China, "Rare And Foolish."

Chris Hedges introduces, "Heroes For The Beaten, Foreclosed On, Imprisoned Masses."

David Michael Green with a must read, "The Ricky Ray Rector President."

Mississippi Chancellor Court Judge Talmadge D. Littlejohn wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald discovers, "A Political Culture Free Of Accountability."

Johann Hari concludes, "Obama's Escalating Robot War In Pakistan Is Making A Terror Attack More Likely."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz observes that, "Palin's Evolution Into O'Donnell Proves Darwin Was Wrong" but first Uncle Ernie looks into, "Citizens United And The End Of America."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of John Cole, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Mike Wrathell, Max Papeschi, Rakan, Joe Heller, Mark A. Stahl, MoTown Records and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

Citizens United And The End Of America
By Ernest Stewart

"Before Citizens United, corporations and unions could not spend money to run ads expressly advocating one candidate over another. Now they can. But what is worse, they can anonymously donate millions of dollars to "nonprofit" groups, which buy the ads without having to disclose who truly paid for them. The ruling essentially opened the barn door to anonymous, unlimited corporate donations to sway voters." ~~~ U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill

"China, which has been blocking shipments of crucial minerals to Japan for the last month, has now quietly halted shipments of some of those same materials to the United States and Europe." ~~~ Keith Bradsher

"And remember; John Ashcroft is the one who lost to a dead man in Missouri. You can't forget this, the choices were John Ashcroft, dead man. And people in Missouri are like, "I'm sorry John...the dead man scares me less than you do!" ~~~ Robin Williams

Well my dog died just yesterday and left me all alone.
The finance company dropped by today and repossessed my home.
That's just a drop in the bucket compared to losing you,
And I'm down to seeds and stems again, too.
Got the Down to Seeds and Stems again Blues.
Seeds and Stems ~~~ Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen

We're fast approaching what may well be the beginning of the end for the popular vote in America. It's bad enough that the main stream media is owned and operated by the far right in this country to the point of it's pretty much me and a few others that are the so called "liberal media." Every corpo-rat that owns the networks are run and operated by elitist, rightwing goons as are most all of the major newspaper chains and almost all of the radio stations in the country. Then along comes a rat-wing front group, i.e., Citizen United; don't you just love fascist euphemisms? Citizens United is not a group of citizens, but a lobbying arm of the RNC, pretending to be a grassroots organization representing we the people. Citizens United describes its mission as being "dedicated to restoring the United States government to 'citizens' control' and to "assert American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security."

If you buy that load of BS then you might want to buy this bridge that I own in Brooklyn, it's a real moneymaker! They're all for "citizen control" which is why they filed a suit to allow the corpo-rats that are according to an old Supreme Court clerk people, too, with all the same rights, well, actually a lot more rights that you and I have when it comes to campaign finances! Since the ruling, the coffers of the Rethuglicans have become flooded with both US and non-US corporation's cash although after the Best Buy/Target fiascos, US companies are laundering their money through PACs, "non-profits" and such. You can donate $2000, they can donate $200,000,000 if they so choose---citizen control, my ass! The foreign swag is being funneled through the US Chamber of Commerce to needy Rethuglicans everywhere. Those are the same zany guys that threw all that tea into Boston harbor and then blamed it on the Indians. They still like to dress up funny to this very day, most like to go out dressed up like beautiful ladies, but I digress...

In case you missed it here are the facts...

Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 50 (2010), also at 130 S. Ct. 876 and 175 L. Ed. 2d 753 (the unofficial and lawyers' edition citations), was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court holding that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment. The 5-4 decision, in favor of Citizens United, resulted from a dispute over whether the non-profit corporation Citizens United could air a film critical of Hillary Clinton, and whether the group could advertise the film in broadcast ads featuring Clinton's image, in apparent violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act.[2]

The decision reached the Supreme Court on appeal from a January 2008 decision by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The lower court decision upheld provisions of the McCain-Feingold Act which prevented the film Hillary: The Movie from being shown on television within 30 days of 2008 Democratic primaries.[1][3]

The Court struck down a provision of the McCain-Feingold Act that prohibited all corporations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, and unions from broadcasting "electioneering communications." [2] An "electioneering communication" was defined in McCain-Feingold as a broadcast, cable, or satellite communication that mentioned a candidate within 60 days of a general election or thirty days of a primary. The decision overruled Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990) and partially overruled McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003).[4] McCain-Feingold had previously been weakened, without overruling McConnell, in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. (2007).

Now add to this the fact that the fascist-controlled American Media paints the far right loony toons, i.e., the Teabaggers as middle-of-the-road patriots. Can you say Victory Hail, boys and girls? That's the English for Seig Heil, which is where we'll be in just another "election" or two. Funny how we haven't heard a peep out of Barry about this outrage, a funny thing, eh? We'll know for sure a couple of daze beyond Halloween, which strikes me as somehow apropos!

In Other News

Oh those crazy knuckleheads, the Chinese, are up to our old tricks, again. I see where they've extended to us what they tried out first on the Japanese. However, the Japanese apparently learned their lesson from WWII and didn't go for the bait this time? I wonder if we will?

Like our cutting off Japan's US-supplied oil supply which really left them no way out without loss of face and once we dangled the bait of an old outdated, mothballed fleet, they were hooked. A fleet that Japan mistook for our best war ships instead of the bait that it was. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, which got us into the war and made us number one, just like FDR had planed! The Chinese did a similar thing. It wasn't oil, this time, it was rare earth and not the late 60's Motown band either.

Rare earth as in what's needed to keep building this new, modern society of ours. Rare earths are crucial to the manufacture of everything from clean energy technology such as wind turbines to strategically sensitive military hardware. China made this highly illegal trade move after one of its spy ships rammed two Japanese patrol vessels. Japan returned the sailors and ship but kept the captain for trial to which China immediately put an embargo on all rare earth shipments to Japan. Did I also mention that China controls 95% of the known rare earth minerals on the planet? I thought not!

China has since expanded the embargo to America, as well as the European Union. I wonder what will happen if we respond with some major import taxes, safety inspections and a thousand and one other acts against their trade? Who knows, maybe we'll even sell Taiwan some advanced radars, missiles, and fighter aircraft? Or maybe we'll do like we do for the Israelis? Just bend over and beg the Chinese not to shove it in too far?

And Finally

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, of course, it does. Have you heard what Barry's "Just-us Department" is doing on behalf of the madman John Ashcroft? You may recall that to punish the liberals Bush appointed as Attorney General a man who pours Crisco Oil over his head and body every time he gets a promotion and it's not even done for kinky sex either! The man who lost a race for a US Senate seat to a dead man! I'm going to repeat that again for those of you on drugs....


A man who spent eight grand of taxpayer money on curtains to cover up the breasts of a statue, "The Spirit of Justice" which stands in our Hall Of Justice. We have no problems going to war or with capitol punishment but we're scared of aluminum breasts!

Not only was John a nut case he was also a criminal while holding the highest law enforcement position in the country, a criminal Attorney General! Imagine that, if you can! Oh, you could? Yes, now that I think about it, it really is easy to imagine a crooked AG, huh? What John is charged with is not even the tip of the iceberg; he committed enough crimes to keep the courts busy for decades. But if I were John, I wouldn't worry a bit over it, as once again, the fix is in. This time it's Barry's attorneys arguing before the Extreme Court; a court where the majority was appointed by the same folks that appointed John, i.e., the "Crime Family Bush!"(tm) I wonder in whose favor this ruling will come down on? Don't you? No? Me neither!

Ashcroft has been charged with misuse of his office in terrorism arrests. He knew the Americans being arrested and charged with terrorism crimes were arrested under false pretences but arrested them nonetheless. That seems to me to be just a wee bit Imperial, does it not?

Barry's lawyers filed an appeal on Ashcroft's behalf and asserted that it would "severely damage law enforcement" if the nation's top law enforcement official would be made to follow the law like every one else, not to mention to actually have to pay for his crimes! In other words, politicians are once again found to be above the law! Do you see a trend here, America? The law applies to you and I with a vengeance, but never to them! So much for that song and dance in Nuremberg, huh?

The Extreme Court has intervened in a lawsuit against Ashcroft, agreeing to decide whether the former Attorney General "is entirely shielded from claims that he misused the law to arrest terrorism suspects under false pretenses." As the "Gang of Five"(tm) ruled under Bush, as long it was done in good faith, and done by one of them, it was hunky dory! Try that as a defense the next time you're in court and see what happens!

It's Over: UPDATE!

They say time and distance will make the pain go away until all you can recall are the good times, I guess we'll see if that's true? So far I'm still pretty much "Dazed and Confused!"

Financially, good ole Ernie from Ontario sent in yet another nice check and that puts Canada back in the lead and Ernie at the top of my Holidaze card list. Yes, it's another year of Edward Gorey, folks! I'm sorry, but I just couldn't help myself!


04-11-1931 ~ 10-15-2010
R.I.P. "Boy!"

12-22-1915 ~ 10-16-2010
R.I.P. "June!"

10-01-1927 ~ 10-20-2010
R.I.P. "Mr. C!"

12-17-1930 ~ 10-19-2010
Thanks for Caligula!


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


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

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

Death And Profits
The Utility Protection Racket
By Michael Parenti

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is a multi-billion-dollar privately owned, publicly regulated utility whose main function is to make enormous profits for its shareholders at great cost to ratepayers. I know this to be true; I'm one of the ratepayers.

Better than Bernard

The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) permits PG&E to charge rates that are 30 percent higher than the national average. PG&E's shareholders enjoy a guaranteed 11.35 percent yearly return on equity. That's slightly higher than the 11 percent that swindler Bernard Madoff pretended to offer his investment victims. After Madoff was exposed, his victims were chided for not having realized that no one pulls down an 11 percent return year after year on the stock market. But PG&E investors take in more than that every year. And unlike Madoff, the company's earnings are for real, guaranteed at a fixed return devoid of risk.

PG&E enjoys a captive consumer market of fifteen million customers in northern and central California. The utility is a shining monument to state-supported monopoly capitalism. If costs rise, then so do customer rates (in order to guarantee the 11.35 percent return). PG&E carries a $17 million insurance premium and additional millions in insurance deductibles; these expenses too are picked up by its ratepayers.

If northern and central California's gas and electric services were publicly owned (yes, socialism), there would be no 11.35 percent skim off the top going to rich investors, no fat salaries and bonuses and huge severance packages pocketed by top executives, no billions of dollars in private wealth to be traded on the stock market. Customer rates would probably be one-third to one-half lower than they are today. And gas pipelines would be in better repair.

An Avoidable Catastrophe

Along with all the other expenses they bear, PG&E's ratepayers usually pay for the enormous costs of utility accidents. This may still prove to be the case with the disaster recently visited upon San Bruno. On 9 September 2010, a PG&E pipeline blew apart. Gas explosions and flames ripped through the San Bruno community, taking the lives of at least eight people, injuring over fifty others (some very seriously), and completely destroying or damaging upwards of a hundred homes. An official from the National Transportation Safety Board described it: "My immediate assessment was the amazing destruction, the charred trees, the melted and charred cars, the houses disappeared."

In the weeks before the catastrophe, residents had been reporting gas odors and had voiced fears about a leak. But this brought no action from the company. A state assemblyman from the San Bruno area noted that the torn pipeline was over 60 years old, having been installed in 1948. He criticized PG&E for its poor maintenance and lax response. After the explosion, it took the company almost three hours to shut off the gas supply.

Company officials had known since 2007 that the aged pipeline serving San Bruno needed to be replaced. As reported by The Utility Reform Network (TURN), a public interest group, the PUC had granted PG&E a $5 million rate increase to replace the pipeline in 2009, but the company never got around to doing the work. Instead PG&E overspent its budget on executive bonuses and delayed pipeline replacement until 2013.

Then it had the gall to request another $5 million rate increase to replace the same neglected section of pipeline. The disastrous September 2010 explosion likely would have been averted if the utility had dealt with the pipeline in 2009 as originally slated.

PG&E has a history of dangerous mishaps: improper piping allowed gas to leak from a mechanical coupling in 2006; a leak in Rancho Cordova led to an explosion that killed one resident and injured two others in 2008; over forty other gas pipeline accidents in the past decade. One wonders how many other California communities are at risk from aging and deficient pipelines. So much for the superior performance of a giant private-profit corporation.

Not in the Safety Business

This problem obtains not only in California. Throughout the United States people are at risk from improperly maintained gas lines belonging to private utilities that go largely unsupervised and unpunished. Average fines are less than $30,000 and not easily collected.

PG&E's CEO, Peter Darbee, formerly of Goldman Sachs (how perfect), reassured the public that he was "focused on the tragedy" in San Bruno and on "how best to respond to the authorities involved."

Darbee failed to mention that PG&E is not in the safety business. Like so many big corporations, it does what it can to cut corners on maintenance. The lower the maintenance costs, the higher the profits. The corroding pipelines fit well into the picture, like the corroding infrastructure of the entire society. Safety is not a prime concern for giant corporations, if any concern at all, because safety does not bring in any money. In fact, it costs money.

Like any other multibillion-dollar firm, PG&E is first and foremost in the business of making the highest possible payoffs for its shareholders and its executives. The system works just fine for those whose real job is to skim the cream, those who do not have to pay the costs. That is the alpha and omega of modern corporate capitalism.

Capitalism at Work

Lives were lost in San Bruno; homes were totally obliterated. Darbee and his cohorts should be facing jail sentences instead of golden parachutes. Even the Contra Costa Times (9/27/10)--no radical broadsheet--urged the PUC "not to allow PG&E to raise rates to cover the expense of the San Bruno explosion or the cost of doing more and better pipe inspections. These costs should be borne by PG&E managers, employees, and investors." Certainly managers and investors.

Left out of the whole picture is how corporate malfeasance and corporate generated disasters are a reflection of the capitalist system. If a gas pipeline had exploded in communist Cuba, killing people and destroying homes, the incident would immediately have been treated by US commentators as evidence of the deficiencies of the broader economic system, as proof that socialism cannot do it right.

But disasters in our own society are seen simply as immediate mishaps, at worst, instances of negligence and mismanagement by a particular company, never as the outcome of a broader capitalist system that steadfastly puts profits before people, with immense costs passed along to the public.

The same is true of mining accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, unsafe auto vehicles, unsafe consumer products and foods, toxic spills, offshore-drilling calamities and a host of other noxious things that corporate America foists upon us. Private industries are not in the safety business. All of them are in the business of creating the largest possible profits for their shareholders and their executives.

Pressed on the matter, they might admit as much. Steel magnate David Roderick once said that his company "is not in the business of making steel. We're in the business of making profits." The social uses of the product and its effects upon human well-being and the natural environment win consideration in capitalist production, if at all, only to the extent that they do not violate the profit goals of the corporation.

Better Things To Do

Rather than spend money on replacing aging pipelines, PG&E-just three months before the San Bruno catastrophe-poured $46 million of ratepayer money (ten times the amount needed for repairing the San Bruno pipeline) into the electoral campaign for Proposition 16. This initiative was designed to make it neigh impossible for local governments to purchase energy from alternative sources, impossible to get out from under PG&E's monopoly grip. The proposition was miraculously defeated despite the company's immense campaign outlay.

With thousands of miles of aging pipes to inspect and perhaps replace, PG&E continues to find other things to do. Through most of 2010, it was busy putting "smart meters" into people's homes. The new meters do not need to be read by an employee out in the field. Instead data from residences and businesses are transmitted by a mesh network of radio signals.

Critics argue that the smart meters are too smart. They often inflate electric bills. Worse still, they may be harmful to our health. There is evidence that radio-frequency exposure is linked to cancer and other diseases. A number of ratepayers already complain of being sickened by the heavy doses from smart meters. PG&E gives reassurances that the frequencies pose no great danger but it continues to face community resistance and skeptical questions from independent investigators.

Smart meters cut labor costs. Lower labor costs do not bring lower rates for ratepayers but higher profits for managers and stockholders. Never accuse PG&E of neglect or stupidity. The company knows what it is doing. In keeping with the essence of the corporate capitalist system, PG&E exists not to serve the public but to serve itself.
(c) 2010 Michael Parenti's most recent books are The Culture Struggle (2006), Contrary Notions (2007), God and His Demons (2010), Democracy for the Few (9th ed. 2011), and The Face of Imperialism (forthcoming March 2011). For further information about his work, visit his website.

The State Of Bla-Bla-Bla
By Uri Avnery

WILL GERMANY enact a law that demands that every Turk aspiring to citizenship swear allegiance to the "German Federal Republic, the Nation-State of the German People"? Sounds like a ridiculous idea.

Will the US Senate adopt a law that would compel every candidate for citizenship to swear allegiance to "The United States of America, the Nation State of the..." Of whom? "The American People"? "The Anglo-Saxon People"? "The Christian People"? An absurd idea.

But the Knesset is about to enact a law that demands from every non-Jew who desires Israeli citizenship to swear allegiance to "The State of Israel, the Nation-State of the Jewish people". It seems that our benighted law-makers do not see anything questionable about this.

And there already hovers in the air a bill that demands that all Israeli citizens, or perhaps only the non-Jewish ones, swear allegiance to this Nation-State of the Jewish People, or else.

Binyamin Netanyahu has proposed extending the building freeze in the settlements for two or three months - if the Palestinian leadership recognizes the State of Israel as the Nation-State etc. etc.

And one may well ask: what is the source of this obsession, this demand from near and far, strangers and non-strangers, to declare that Israel is the "Nation-State of the Jewish People"?

The State of Israel has already existed for 62 and a half years. It is a regional military power, a state with nuclear capabilities, with an economy that arouses envy in a world steeped in crisis, it has a dynamic cultural, scientific and social life. So why this obsessive need for confirmation of its existence and its ideological definition?

Why the fanfares accompanying the announcement of every second-rate artist who agrees to appear in Israel?

What do we have here? What is the reason for this gaping lack of self-confidence? This obsessive need for confirmation and for the respect of the entire world? A collective mental disturbance? A matter for political psychologists, or perhaps for political psychiatrists?

I CANNOT abstain from comparing this pathetic need to our mood when I was young.

In the middle of the 1940s, the Hebrew Yishuv (community) was about 600 thousand strong. But our self-confidence was enough for a nation of 60 million.

We had no state. We were still fighting against foreign rule. But a large number of ideological groups were hatching grandiose plans. The "Canaanites" were speaking about "the Hebrew Country" from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates. Groups on the Right advocated the "Kingdom of Israel" from the Nile to the Euphrates. The "Bema'avak" ("In the Struggle") group (to which I belonged) spoke about a united "Semitic Region" that would include Palestine, all the Arab countries and perhaps also Turkey, Iran and Ethiopia. A local water expert published a plan for the rational division of the waters of all the region's rivers - Tigris and Euphrates, Orontes and Litani, Jordan and perhaps also the Nile - for the good of all the region's peoples. Nobody thought that these plans were an expression of megalomania.

And here we are now, 12 times larger. We have a state that most of the world's peoples can only envy. And we are begging to be recognized. We demand that the Palestinian people, which has no state yet, recognize our self-definition. That a bride from Ramallah, who wants to marry her cousin in Haifa, recognize the "Nation-State of the Jewish People". Isn't that ridiculous?

NOW REALLY, cynics will say, why do you take this seriously? After all, it's only one of Binyamin Netanyahu's and/or Avigdor Lieberman's tricks to achieve personal gains.

That's true, of course.

Netanyahu uses this trick to sabotage the peace negotiations that haven't yet started. He wants to prevent negotiation that may, God forbid, lead towards peace - a peace that would compel us to evacuate the settlements and return the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem to the Palestinians.

The peace negotiations are the enemy. Better to kill an enemy while he is still small, preferably even before he sees the light of day. The demand to recognize the State of Bla-Bla-Bla is an instrument of abortion.

If Netanyahu believed that this aim could be achieved by the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Vegetarian State, he would propose that.

So why deal with it seriously and discuss it?

Avigdor Lieberman speaks to his potential voters, headed by one and a quarter million immigrants from the Soviet Union, who have not yet struck roots in this country. They were raised on a totalitarian cult of power, internal terror and the super-power arrogance of their former homeland, before its collapse. Lieberman's political ideas - an ideological oath of allegiance, the transfer of peoples and territories, and in future also gulags for the enemies of the regime - are taken from the mental world of Stalin.

For Lieberman, all this talk about an oath of allegiance to the Jewish Soviet is nothing but a means to gain the leadership of the Israeli Right, and from there to the leadership of all Israel. For this end he is ready to declare war on 20% of Israel's citizens - every fifth Israeli - something without precedent in a democratic country.

That's obvious. So why take it seriously?

For a simple reason: both Netanyahu and Lieberman are convinced that this demand will raise their popularity among Jewish Israelis by leaps and bounds. How come?

Is this public in the grip of a deep inner anxiety? Does it need a daily dose of tranquilizers in the form of recognition of its state, the State of Bla-Bla-Bla?

IF I were asked to swear allegiance to the "Nation-State of the Jewish People", I would have to respectfully decline. Perhaps by then a law will be in force that will cancel the citizenship of Israelis who refuse this demand, and I shall be demoted to the status of permanent resident devoid of civil rights.

I would have to refuse so as to avoid lying.

First of all, I don't know what the "Jewish people", to which the state of Israel supposedly belongs, is. Who is included? A Jew in Brooklyn, a citizen of the Nation-State of the American People, who served in the Marines and votes for the American president? Richard Goldstone, who is denounced by the leaders of Israel as a liar and self-hating traitor? Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, who was told this week by Lieberman to solve the Burka problem in France instead of poking his (Jewish) nose into our affairs?

And how does the ownership of Israel by these Jews express itself? Will they be able to vote for our government (after this right has been taken away from a million and a half Arab citizens)? Will they determine the policy of our government - joining the Jewish billionaires, casino and brothel owners, who own our newspapers and TV stations and buy our politicians wholesale or retail?

No Israeli law has defined what the "Jewish people" is. A religious community? An ethnic group? A race? All these together? Does it include all those professing the Jewish religion? Everybody who has a Jewish mother? Does it include a non-Jew married to someone with one Jewish grandparent, who today enjoys the automatic right to come to Israel and become a citizen? If 100 thousand Arabs were to convert to Judaism tomorrow, would the state belong to them, too?

And what about the confusion between "Nation" and "People"? Does the Nation-State belong to the "Nation" or to the "People"? According to what scientific or juridical definition? Does the German "Nation-State" belong to the German "People" - which, according to some, also includes the Austrians and the German-speaking Swiss?

We have here a knot of concepts, terms and semantic confusions, a knot that cannot be unraveled.

THE FORMER Minister of Justice, the late Yaakov Shimshon Shapira, a Zionist through and through, told me once that, as the Legal Advisor of the government, he had advised David Ben-Gurion not to enact the Law of Return - because he would never find an answer to the question "who is a Jew". It is even more difficult to answer the question "what is a Jewish State".

And indeed, what does it mean? A state in which there is a Jewish majority - something that may well change in time? A state whose language is Hebrew and whose official holidays are Jewish? A state that belongs to the Jews all over the world? A state all of whose citizens are Jews, and Jews only? A state of transfer and ethnic cleansing? And how do the words "Jewish" and "Democratic" go together?

Because of all these questions, Israel has no constitution. In the absence of such, all the confusion will land in the lap of the Supreme Court (after the Arab judge has been removed, of course.)

THIS WEEK I took part in the demonstration of writers, artists and intellectuals in Tel-Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard, in front of the building where Ben-Gurion announced on May 14, 1948, the founding of "a Jewish state in Eretz Israel - to be known as the State of Israel".

Why "a Jewish state"? For Ben-Gurion, this was not an ideological definition. He just quoted the resolution of the UN General Assembly, which partitioned the country between an "Arab state" and a "Jewish state". The framers of the resolution did not have any ideological character in mind. They simply took note of the fact that there were in the country two rival populations - the Jewish and the Arab - and decided pragmatically to divide the country between them.

The demonstration reached its climax when the queen of the Israeli stage, Hanna Meron, who had lost a leg in 1970 in an attack initiated by Issam Sartawi (before he became a peace activist and a close friend of mine) read out the Israeli Declaration of Independence. She reminded us that the declaration included the undertaking that the State of Israel would "foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; and will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations."

It was a sad demonstration indeed.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

By Cynthia McKinney

1. September 21 Remarks Before President Ahmadinejad
United Nations Headquarters, Iran Mission
21 September 2010

President Ahmadinejad:
His Excellency Mr. Ambassador:

All of the peace activists gathered here this evening:

It is an honor and my pleasure to be with you this evening. on the occasion of the International Day of Peace. What we have learned is that it is one thing to have a day; it is quite another to have peace.

But I know that everyone in this room is committed first and foremost to the United Nations' own Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And if it were observed by every Member State of the United Nations, we could truly celebrate a world in peace. In fact, our former President, John F. Kennedy, cited the topic of world peace as the most important topic on earth.

Sadly, not only are we not on the path of peace today, incredibly, we're on the path of global conflagration. John Kennedy's admonition is more relevant today than ever: he asked, "What kind of peace do we seek?" and answered his own question this way:

"Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children -- not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women -- not merely peace in our time but peace for all time."

At no other time in the life of our country were the forces for justice and peace so strong. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us, that "the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice John Kennedy pulled back from war against Castro's Cuba; Malcolm X excited Black America, made Hajj, and broke bread with Dr. King. Bobby Kennedy shocked the conscience of this country and made the impoverished Blacks of the Mississippi Delta and the impoverished Whites of Appalachia a part of the same dream of America. He also shocked the world by speaking against apartheid, not from the comfort of this country, but inside South Africa; and young people inside this country of different races, ethnicities, languages, and incomes, united and pressed for justice for Puerto Rico, Mexico, Native Americans, Black Americans, against apartheid in South Africa, and for peace in Vietnam. We, the popular front, almost won.

But, we know how that chapter ends:

JFK, with his brains blown out; Malcolm X betrayed from within the Nation; MLK surrounded by snipers and U.S. military intelligence on his last day alive while those closest to him were on the FBI payroll; and Bobby Kennedy lying in a pool of his own blood after winning the California primary-on the road to the White House.

The major lesson we must learn and never forget is that those who want to wage war abroad are also willing to wage it at home.

So what are we to do?

Undaunted, we must organize a Peace Lobby. A Peace Lobby grounded in love, and truth, and respect, and human dignity. And we must reach across humanity, setting aside what others have successfully used in the past to divide us.

Do I believe it can be done? Absolutely, I believe it can be done!

But we cannot allow ourselves to be tricked into believing that the ones who got us into war are going to be the ones to lead us out of it.

The peace activists in this room understand all of this and also know that if we fail to act now, who will?

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak.

2. October 6 Remarks Before the Fulton County Commission
Fulton County Commission
October 6, 2010

Chairman Eaves, Commissioner Darnell, Commissioners, Commission staff, and all present today: Thank you for remembering and honoring the life and work of my father, Billy McKinney.

I know that you hold his commitment to justice and fair-play dear as you make very important decisions that affect our quality of life at this time of shrinking budgets.

Thank you for keeping the needs of the people foremost in your deliberations.

Thank you for protecting neighborhoods.

Thank you for health care.

Thank you for the Darnell Center.

My father loved the Darnell Center.

But I cannot let this moment pass without also noting the reason for your shrinking budget. It constitutes the quintessential conundrum: governments cannot take care of both the war machine and the people. Our federal government has chosen to spend trillions of dollars on a war machine that is killing people.

That's why I just spent the last two months on the road with Bike4Peace. I joined with five other individuals who chose to bicycle across our country for peace. We started in Oakland, California at the House of Common Sense and ended at the White House that needs some common sense-especially on its war policy.

On the last day of this massive tour, I rode more than I'd ever ridden before-a total of 60 miles. And I'm not a bicyclist, but my energy came because I desperately want peace.

While on this cross-country quest, I learned to do things I'd never done before, as I had challenged people to do in 2008, so we could have peace like we've never had before. And I knew I needed to start with me.

Along the way, I experienced first-hand the pain people are feeling as our leaders justify war:

One gentleman-a wealthy Republican-just picked up and left everything behind after the loss of his wife due to misdiagnosed cancer. He hiked across our country for three years before embarking on a bicycle-trying to deal with his immeasurable grief.

I was hosted by in magnificent homes on the verge of foreclosure.

Some Americans contemplated leaving the U.S. And one had already decided to relocate to Latin America.

But for those of us who care about this country and who are not about to leave, it is clear that we must persist in our struggle for justice and peace. That's what my father taught me.

I filed Articles of Impeachment against a President who violated his oath of office and the Constitution.

I stood up to a Pentagon chief when he admitted that 2.3 trillion taxpayer dollars had just vanished and gone missing.

I spent 7 days in an Israeli prison because I wanted the children of Gaza to be able to use the crayons and coloring books I was carrying to them.

But in these last 2 months, it's become clear to me that I'm not going to become accustomed to the idea of another day without my leader, mentor, and loving father.

My mother and I thank all of you who are here today, especially the Members of the Commission for helping us live this day to the fullest and face tomorrow in the same way-just as my father did every day of his 83 years of life.

Thank you.


Silence is the deadliest weapon of mass destruction.
(c) 2010 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.

Arizona's Failed Policies Only Getting Worse
By Randall Amster

Arizona is dangerously close to becoming a "failed state," and it's not only because of our immigration policies.

When it comes to the things that matter in people's daily lives, matters of education, healthcare, and economics take center stage. Unfortunately, Arizona ranks near the bottom in these areas, according to most reliable measures.

A new report based on U.S. Census data shows that more than one-fifth of Arizonans live in poverty, with only Mississippi faring worse. Children here are hit particularly hard, with nearly one-third found to be impoverished, tying Arizona for second-worst in the nation with the District of Columbia. A separate report by the Bureau of Economic Analysis found that even among those not living in poverty, Arizonans fare worse than people in other locales.

A 2009 compilation of America's health rankings cited child poverty as a leading challenge in Arizona, which placed 50th among the states in this regard. The report observed a wide racial and ethnic disparity in incidences of obesity, diabetes, and overall mortality. The rankings placed us in the bottom fifth in terms of health insurance coverage, public health funding, and primary care physicians, and ranked Arizona 32nd in overall health status of its residents.

In education, the downward trend has been precipitous. Arizona went from eighth to 39th between 2008 and 2009 in terms of high school graduation rates for incoming ninth graders. A 2008 report by the National Education Association concluded that Arizona "ranks dead last in per pupil expenditure."

The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) ranked Arizona 45th overall in its 2010 report on educational performance, finding three-quarters of fourth graders here "not proficient" in their reading skills.

In this light, consider some of the key items listed in the working definition of a failed state as developed by the U.S.-sponsored Fund for Peace:

* Increasing demographic pressures;

* Massive movement of refugees;

* Legacy of vengeance;

* Uneven economic development along group lines;

* Severe economic decline;

* Delegitimization of the state;

* Deterioration of public services;

* Widespread human rights violations;

* Factionalized elites; and,

* Intervention of external political actors.

Sadly, a case can be made that Arizona meets, or is in the process of meeting, all of these criteria.

Interestingly, one major aspect of being a failed state is the loss of territorial control over one's borders, and in this light we can read recent attempts by certain elements in state government to "seal the border" (literally and symbolically) as part of a strategy to prevent becoming a failed state.

However, if these actions exacerbate the other criteria in the process, then there's no net gain to be found.

All of this forecasts a grim future for the state, affecting everyone regardless of political affiliation. We can disagree about where blame should be placed or what to do about it, but the fact remains that the situation is likely to continue deteriorating while we bicker.

Surely we can at least come together in shared concern for our children's wellbeing and the future of the state we call home.
(c) 2010 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Wall Street's Connected Lobbyists

Old Congress critters never die, they just fade away. Into lobbying firms, that is.

Take former House speaker Dennis Hastert, former House majority leaders Dick Armey and Dick Gephardt, and former Senate leaders Bob Dole and Trent Lott. The names of these one-time legislative powerhouses aren't mentioned in the news anymore, so perhaps you would assume that they've retired back to the old home place, or even passed away. But, no - they're very much alive and still plying the legislative arts. Only they now do it for million-dollar paychecks as lobbyists for Wall Street financial giants and other corporate interests.

Hastert, Armey, Gephardt, Dole, and Lott are among a cadre of 73 former members of congress who've been working in recent months to weaken or kill new regulations to rein in the gouging and reckless gambling of the big financial firms. They are not the only former public servants who're now using their insider knowledge and personal connections in Washington to serve the bankers. For example, at least 66 staffers for the House or Senate banking committees have moved from Capitol Hill to the K-Street lobbying corridor, and another 82 staffers for members of those committees also are now lobbyists for the finance industry. Adding even more firepower to this special-interest army of influence peddlers are 42 former officials from the treasury department.

This is Jim Hightower saying... In an effort to slow down this shameless cashing-in on public service, the watchdog group, Public Citizen, contacted 47 current lawmakers who are retiring this year. The group asked them to pledge not to take a lobbying job for two years with any corporation that had lobbied them. Not a single one took the pledge. To see who the 47 are, and to get behind stricter lobbying rules, contact Public Citizen .
(c) 2010 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

The Imperial Defense Of Pentagon Bloat
By David Sirota

Beware the sophistry of budget talking points -- especially those seeking to deter any criticism of defense spending.

That's the lesson of these last few weeks, as Establishment Republicans desperately try to thwart both progressives and tea party conservatives who are pressuring Congress to reduce Pentagon bloat.

The latest talking point du jour has been around in one form or another for years. It asks us to forget that A) America spends more on defense than every other major nation combined and B) the Pentagon, whose annual budget is now approaching World War II levels in inflation-adjusted terms, has lost track of trillions of taxpayer dollars. In light of those troubling truths, we are nonetheless urged by Beltway Republicans to focus on the fact that defense spending is "4.9 percent of our gross domestic product, significantly below the average of 6.5 percent since World War II," as a recent Wall Street Journal editorial proclaimed.

That widely circulated article, aimed squarely at grassroots conservatives, was jointly written by three of the most influential Republican think tanks in Washington -- the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Foreign Policy Initiative. And like clockwork, the "percentage of GDP" nugget went from their pen to the GOP's well-oiled media machine.

Within days, was bewailing supposedly "historically low (defense) spending" and citing the GDP talking point as a "rallying call." The American Spectator magazine, meanwhile, held up the op-ed as an "important reminder to new Republican congressmen" to refrain from "shortchang(ing) both our troops and American national security." Not surprisingly, that's when the "percentage of GDP" stat began being loyally parroted by Establishment Republican voices on talk radio.

At one level, the GDP line is designed to simply avert attention from the $700 billion annual defense bill being, well, $700 billion. That's not only a massive sum, but also comparatively exorbitant. Yes, the Pentagon budget is so outsized that according to former Reagan Pentagon official Larry Korb, "(E)ven if the United States were to cut its (defense) spending in half it would still be spending more than its current and potential adversaries."

But, then, discussing defense spending in GDP argot is more than just distracting. It's dangerously incoherent, or just plain dangerous, because the language implies that military expenditures must increase as the economy expands.

Think about it: From a strictly defensive, protect-the-nation perspective, that assumption makes no sense.

"Does a more prosperous economy increase the risk that we will be attacked by a foreign power or by a terrorist group?" writes Slate's Tim Noah. "Of course not."

He adds that "a growing GDP may increase the level of defense spending we can afford, but it has no bearing on the level of defense spending we actually need."

This is true, except in one disturbing case: if -- but only if -- we assume the economy should grow primarily as a consequence of military dominance.

Herein lies the truly "dangerous" part of the GDP mantra. If Republicans in Washington believe American economic growth should be based on the United States militarily subjugating and exploiting foreign countries, then those Republicans can logically (if abhorrently) insist that Pentagon spending must remain a constant percentage of GDP.

Most elites in the GOP Establishment, of course, would never openly admit to believing that our economy should be based on hegemonic conquest. We know this because the GOP Establishment expressed unanimous outrage at anyone even vaguely suggesting that America wages war for energy resources.

But maybe that's the unspoken admission in the GDP-themed push for more military expenditures. Perhaps for all of the GOP's outrage at war-for-oil allegations, the Republicans' defense spending rhetoric exposes their truly imperial vision -- one that even the slickest talking points can no longer hide.
(c) 2010 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @davidsirota. David is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Jailed For Not Reciting The Pledge
By James Donahue

It was troublesome to read about a judge in Tupelo, Mississippi, who found a lawyer in his courtroom in contempt for refusing to join in a pledge of allegiance to the United States flag.

Judge Talmadge Littlejohn sent lawyer Danny Lampley to jail for five hours after Lampley, who has a reputation for fighting for free speech rights, refused a judicial order to join everyone else in standing up and reciting the time worn pledge.

Lampley was in court to represent a client in a divorce case.

Most Americans know all of the words to the pledge because we were forced to stand up, face the flag, put our hands over our hearts, and say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning before school started. We also were required to say the Lord's Prayer. That was before the courts ruled that forcing children to say a Christian prayer was unconstitutional. The prayers were stopped. But saying the pledge may still be required.

I know it was still being done at the start of a lot of government meetings that I covered as a news reporter over the years. I stopped saying the pledge years ago after I took the time one day to examine what the words in the pledge were declaring. I discovered that there was a lot of misconception packed in that spoken oath and I could no longer stand up in public and make such a statement.

For example, the pledge declares that we are giving allegiance to "the republic" for which our flag stands. While it is true that our forefathers wanted to establish America as a republic, and they drafted the framework for such a government, we stopped being a real republic a very long time ago. We rarely use the word. Most of the time we call our system of government a democracy, which is something very different. And I am not sure if we are even a democracy.

According to dictionaries, however, the definitions of republic and democracy have become somewhat blurred over the years so they are both described in somewhat similar terms. Originally a republic was "a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives elected by the people to vote on their behalf."

Indeed, we elect representatives from the districts in which we live. These people go to either the nation's capital or to the capital of the state, the county seat or the seat of government in the community in which we live and supposedly act on our behalf on managing the affairs of government. But we all know that once these people get in office and begin taking bribes from the lobbyists representing big business or special interest groups, their allegiance to the folks that elected them falters. This is especially true at state and federal government levels. Thus we no longer are a working republic. The elected people in office mostly represent big business interests.

Since the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations can be considered individuals and legally make financial campaign contributions, the collapse of any resemblance of a republic has become even clearer. Big corporations and big money interests, not only from America, but from all over the world, now influence what is going on in Washington.

A democracy is defined as a government in which the power is shared by the common people. This might, at one time, have been considered a definition of a republic. But it also defines a form of majority or mob rule. Except for the strange influence of the Tea Party movement on this year's political activities, we cannot truly describe our government as operating under mob rule. While it appears to be a dysfunctional pack of radicals, the Tea Party candidates have enjoyed the strong financial backing of power figures from the extreme right.

It would be wrong to describe all of the people elected to government office as corrupted in one broad stroke of a pen. We have known a good number of honest citizens who have gone to Washington and our state capitals and worked very hard to do the jobs they were elected to do. But we also know that they have been largely overwhelmed by the growing level of corruption and big money interests hanging out in the shadows.

Also we have noticed that the closer to home these elected representatives work, like in county, city and township offices, the better the system works. Yet even during my years of attending and covering county board meetings, I have seen good honest people fall victim to the secret exchange of the dollar bill. Greed has been the destroyer of our republic.

What we have in the United States is a lot of people being cleverly controlled by a very powerful and wealthy few. We labor for these people for a mere minimal wage and for a long time, when most of us had jobs, a roof over our heads and a decent car in our driveway, we thought we were doing just fine.

We have been bombarded constantly be carefully prepared propaganda so that we believe that we are free, we have free thought, our destiny remains in our own hands and that our government will take care of us.

Now that the chips are down, however, we are beginning to wake up to the fact that it has all been a big lie. We think we have free elections, but in reality they are controlled. When you think about the strange events surrounding the past presidential elections, and the odd goings on preceding this fall's mid-term elections, anybody with half a brain must suspect something is out of whack.
(c) 2010 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Only If We Let It
By Sheila Samples

"History will repeat itself -- only if we let it" ~~~ Mike Malloy

Hardly a day goes by that we are not inundated with demands to attack Iran. Our media, our Congress -- packs of neoconservatives -- have been howling for war on Iran for years. And years.

This reckless axis has been relentless in its orchestrated effort to manipulate and influence public opinion. And, if we are to believe the myriad of polls, it's working. According to investigative journalist Gareth Porter, who wrote on July 30 that "polling data for 2010 show a majority of Americans have been manipulated into supporting war against Iran -- in large part because more than two-thirds of those polled have gotten the impression that Iran already has nuclear weapons."

Horror Tent Revival

Is it possible that a majority of Americans can be lured again into the tent of horror to support yet another bloody war? Have we learned nothing from history -- the blatant lies that catapaulted us into Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Pakistan? It's amazing how easily our handlers control us; enrage us; shape our beliefs, our opinions. As George Orwell wrote in 1948 about those controlled by Big Brother...

"A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp."

For centuries, those in power have known that fear is the easiest of emotions to work with. As with Iraq, and now Iran, we are paralyzed with fear; fear of "known unknowns" -- of factually unsubstantiated threats about Iran's lust for Israeli blood. Many of us have been ducking and covering for so long that we have lost the ability to reason; even to think beyond the "truth" that is hammered into our national consciousness with blow after blow of an Orwellian sledge hammer -- we must support, and protect, Israel, no matter the cost.

It's tempting to pretend that we believe Iran's refusal to give up its nuclear energy program -- which it has every right to pursue as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty -- is proof that it is an "evil Islamic regime" whose maniacal leaders are feverishly working to wipe Israel off the map. Tempting to take at face value the sinister warnings of those like Reuel Marc Gerecht, a resident fellow at AEI and Weekly Standard contributing editor, who warned in his April 2006 article, "To Bomb, or Not to Bomb -- That is the Iran Question"...

"Given the Islamic Republic's dark history, the burden of proof ought to be on those who favor accommodating a nuclear Iran. Those who are unwilling to accommodate it, however, need to be honest and admit that diplomacy and sanctions and covert operations probably won't succeed, and that we may have to fight a war -- perhaps sooner rather than later -- to stop such evil men from obtaining the worst weapons we know."

Gerecht, a former consular officer for the State Department and CIA Mid-East specialist, is, like most of his neoconservative peers, pathologically obsessed with Iran's destruction, and is as good as it gets when using fear and misinformation to justify that destruction.

Porter also wrote in his July article that "the aim of Gerecht and of the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu is to support an attack by Israel so that the United States can be drawn into direct, full-scale war with Iran." Porter pointed out that Gerecht first revealed his "Israeli-neocon fantasy as early as 2000, before the Iranian nuclear program was even taken seriously, in an essay written for a book published by the Project for a New American Century." Gerecht argued that, if Iran could be caught in a "terrorist act," the U.S. Navy should "retaliate with fury."

Now, a decade later, that appears to still be Gerecht's position. In his ponderous July 26, 2010 Weekly Standard piece, he writes...

"...if nuclear weapons in the hands of Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards are an existential threat to the Jewish state -- and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, like his predecessors, has said that they are -- Jerusalem has little choice. Bombing is the only option that could likely alter the nuclear equation in Iran before Khamenei produces a weapon. The Obama administration might fume, but it is hard to imagine the president, given what he has said about the unacceptability of Iranian nukes, scolding Jerusalem long. [...] The left wing of the Democratic party has been going south on the Jewish state for 30 years, but congressional Democrats, who've been pushing for new sanctions against Iran more aggressively than the White House, are not that far gone. By and large, the Republican party would hold behind the Israelis."

Here, Gerecht is echoing the belief blurted out by Netanyahu in 2001 when talking about a broad attack on Palestine and undermining the Oslo Accords -- "I know what America is," Netanyahu said. "America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won't get in the way."

Sadly, there many more like Gerecht -- Dick Cheney and his efforts to do an "end run" around a balking Bush to force an attack on Iran; Norman Podhoretz with his constant refrain "bomb Iran before Iran bombs us"; National Review's Larry Kudlow who says if Israel furiously attacks Iran, it will be "doing the Lord's work"; the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol and Daniel Pipes with their confident forecast that Bush would attack Iran before leaving office if Obama won the election.

Then, there's the US Congress, whose members can agree on absolutely nothing to ease the suffering of their own citizens, but stand shoulder-to-shoulder in passing resolution after shameful resolution for Israel's right to defend itself and against Iran's right to do the same. If Senator Joe Lieberman's mouth is moving, you can bet he is demanding an attack on Iran -- and he was joined by his cohort Senator Lindsey Graham just last month, who said we must sic our military on Iran, "with the goal of overthrowing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

But by far the the most strident is the wild and woolly former UN ambassador John Bolton. He runs at top speed from one media outlet to another, calling for Iran's destruction -- just as he did for Iraq. I can't help it. This guy is grotesquely fascinating. As I wrote in September 2008 about this issue...

It's no laughing matter, but the sight of this tousle-headed, "got milk?" maniac running in circles, warning of -- demanding -- a nuclear holocaust is good for a grin, albeit a grim one. Even as he was being forced onto the United Nations over national and international objections, Bolton was hot on Iran's trail. He insisted that Iran is the most dangerous critter out there -- harboring terrorists, arming terrorists, training terrorists -- sending bombs, IEDs, weapons to Iraq to kill Americans. If it weren't for Iran, there would have been no 9-11 attack because Iran provided safe haven for the box-cutting killers headed our way. Bolton warned if Iran managed to produce a single nuclear weapon, Israel, the United States -- the world -- was toast. He promised that Iran will come after us. "That's the threat," Bolton barked, "that's the reality whether you like it or not. And it will be just like Sept. 11, only with nuclear weapons this time."

Time Out

Considering the consequences of history repeating itself, perhaps we should call a "time out" and take a closer look at Iran. We didn't bother to check out the accusations made by these same bloodthirsty warmongers against Iraq -- false cries of weapons of mass destruction, lies about Saddam Hussein aiding and harboring Al Qaeda terrorists -- we had but a scant 45 minutes to dive under our duct-taped plastic or we would surely die. Now, after hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings have been destroyed -- millions displaced -- trillions of dollars wasted, far too many of us say we were not to blame. Hey -- we were lied to. Besides, that was years ago. It's all history now.

Iran, as a major civilization, dates back to 4000 BC and, although it has been invaded by Greeks, Arabs, Turks, even Mongols, it has no modern history of attacking or occupying other nations. However, unlike other areas that continue to be devastated by US and Israeli assaults, history shows that Iran is capable of defending itself. Both its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and frisky little president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have promised to do exactly that if attacked.

In August, Khamenei said "the consequences of a US attack would be grave...not merely regional, but will cover a vaster scene." If our warmongering babblers took a closer look at that "scene," they would see the destruction of the 32 US bases in the region as well as the shutdown of the Strait of Hormuz -- the gateway to the world's oil.

Regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions, both Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have said over and over (and over) that Iran seeks nuclear power for generating electricity for medical purposes and for its growing population. In 2005, Khamenei issued a Fatwa that "the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that Iran shall never acquire these weapons." And, in spite of blatant lies and distortions to the contrary, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continues to verify Iran's pursuit of peaceful nuclear energy.

The timeline of Iran's nuclear program from the 1950s shows that Iran has never sought nuclear energy for anything other than peaceful purposes. In 1957, the Shah opened the American Atoms for Peace in Tehran, and signed an agreement with the US for cooperation in research on peaceful uses of nuclear technology. And, in 1968, Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty on the first day it opened for signature.

Before we buy into railings from those like Gerecht about evil Iran's "dark history" in pursuing nuclear weapons, perhaps we should study the dark history of two other nations -- one that obliterated the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in mere moments just 65 years ago...that used napalm, chemical weapons, and deadly toxins against the Vietnamese...that uses deadly depleted uranium to wipe out entire generations and to deform future generations...or perhaps the other one that takes great delight in dropping white phosphorus bombs on a trapped civilian population with nowhere to run...

The Choice is Ours

If our evil axis succeeds in its lust for war on Iran, yet another March 19, 2003 "Shock and Awe" will come roaring through. We can choose to sit, once again transfixed by sounds of explosions, gunfire, sirens, screams -- and once again listen to Mike Malloy say in a dead voice stripped of all emotion...

"This is a dark day.
This is a filthy day.
This is a day for shame..."

Or we can rise up and stand firm. As Malloy also says, over and over (and over) -- "We know the truth. We no longer have an excuse for remaining silent."

History is replete with examples of citizens uniting and changing the course of history. When that happens, empires -- even a shining empire on a hill -- must change...or fall.

History. Round and round it goes. Will the US and Israel attack Iran? Will history repeat itself?

Yes, but only if we let it. The choice is ours.
(c) 2010 Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is an OEN editor, and a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at:

All Along The Watchtower
By Chris Floyd

Double Down, Triple Down, All the Way to Hell

Pentagon brass and their sycophants in mufti are now making the media rounds, laying the groundwork for the next great move by the world-historical military genius David Petraeus, the most-lauded general never to, er, actually win a war: moving ground troops into Pakistan. The Los Angeles Times has the story here. First, of course, there will be the usual push to make the Pakistani military kill massive amounts of their own people. This will, as always, inflame the situation, exacerbate extremism and violent reaction, thus nicely setting the stage for American troops to step in -- oh, as a last resort, of course! -- and take control of the "deteriorating situation."

Obviously, given what happened to Stanley McChrystal when he let his aides wag their tongues a bit too much in Paris bistros, Pentagon staffers are not about to be caught "off message" these days. So the dispatch of anonymous briefers in this case can only be seen as a planned reconnaissance in force to "prepare the battlefield." Not the actual fields in Central Asia where Petraeus is now killing civilians (and throwing away American lives) at a rising clip, of course; no, we mean the battlegrounds of the Beltway, where the Pentagon bureaucrats like Winless Davy do their real fighting.

The move is being sold as a way to "show improvement" in the the war before Obama's re-election, but that's all a sham. Obama surely knows what is painfully obvious to any sentient being: an expansion of the ground war into Pakistan will result in a maelstrom of blood and hate that will extend and deepen the Central Asian quagmire for years, decades.

But of course, that is precisely what our war-profiteering, empire-addicted militarists want. As court stenographer Bob Woodward duly recorded, Petraeus himself told Obama: "You have to recognize also that I don't think you win this war. I think you keep fighting ... You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we're in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives."

This the mindset that rules Washington now. From all the evidence, Obama fully shares this vision. Those who think otherwise must cling to the spin that Obama's aides propagated through the obliging stovepipe of Woodward: that the president is a limp rag who can easily be rolled by the boys in Hell's Bottom. (It is astounding that Obama's people, who have praised the book, think this is some kind of positive image of their boss.) But even in the highly unlikely case that Obama is some kind of "prisoner" of the Pentagon, with his peace-loving hands are tied by military meanies, it doesn't matter. Prisoner or willing participant, the result is the same: the militarists are in charge, and they will not stop, no matter how much death and ruin they wreak around the world -- and at home.

Across the Borderline

Want to cut down on crime? Then open your borders. That's the word from a new report that shows a deep drop in crime rates in California during an 18-year period that saw more than 3.6 million foreigners pouring into the state. Charles Davis has the stats:

If you listened to the professional demagogues on talk radio and, all too often, in public office, you might think the United States is beset by an immigration-induced crime wave, the country's border regions home to nothing but gun battles and sadness. But statistics, those damned things, suggest otherwise, with California actually experiencing a 55 percent drop in violent crime at the same time more than 3.6 million foreigners migrated to the state.

Serious property crime in California -- auto theft, burglary, arson -- also dropped 29 percent between 1991-2008, according to a new paper from the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice (via The Crime Report).

Crime also dropped in the state's border and major metropolitan regions, with San Diego's violent crime rate dropping 58 percent at the same time more than a quarter-million foreign-born persons moved to the county. Los Angeles County likewise experienced a 68 percent decline in violent crime and a 42 percent drop in property crime even as it added more than 1.3 million immigrants to its population.

"Non?citizens are approximately 27 percent of California's population," the paper reports, "however, data that tracks prison inmates who have immigration holds placed on them indicate that this group constitutes approximately 11 percent of the state prison population."

No doubt this is all a clever plan on the part of them damn Mescans to disguise themselves as law-abiding denizens for two decades to facilitate their long-term plan to take over the country and impose Latino Catholic sharia law on good white folk. Better have a pre-emptive deportation right now!

Dark as a Dungeon

While the media make endless hay with the rescue of the Chilean miners, Juan Cole plays Eeyore at the picnic by asking a few pertinent questions on how they came to be stuck down there in the first place. Astute observers of contemporary history will not be surprised to find that the ultimate culprits could well be that dynamic duo of yesteryear: Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.

One Toke Over the Line

Glenn Greenwald has much to say on the sinister Drug War-Terror War symbiosis that has spawned so much death and corruption across the world for decades. This is a theme we've been banging on about for many years here as well. One of my first pieces on the hydra-headed Terror-Drug mutant was written for the Moscow Times back in November 2001 -- a little more than two months after the "Terror War" began. You can see that piece here. You can also see a harrowing illustration of the kind of Drug War-bred corruption that Greenwald describes, in this piece from 2006 which tells a sickening tale of complicity in state murder that went all the way to the top of the "shining city on the hill." A case now completely forgotten, needless to say.

The Hard Truth of Quantitative Easing

It was the work of Arthur Silber that first pointed me to two of the best guides through the economic morass that our betters have made for us: Mike Whitney and Michael Hudson. Writing separately, usually at Counterpunch, they provide a potent one-two punch that demolishes the conventional wisdom and willful ignorance that surrounds the relentless, bipartisan effort to drive the nation and the world into a state of neo-feudalism.

This week, both Whitney and Hudson addressed the scam of "quantitative easing." This stimulus programs are ostensibly designed to pump government money into the national economy during an economic crisis, priming the pump to keep businesses -- and their employees -- afloat in the choppy waters.

But somehow it doesn't work out that way. The low -- practically zero -- interest on the trillions pumped out by government "easing" is snapped up by a few big investors, who then immediately bank it and invest it overseas, where the interest rates are higher. They make huge profits, but the "stimulus" money doesn't stay in the local economy, and the economic problems don't get addressed. By putting no real restrictions on the use and flow of tax money given to banks, quantitative easers only enrich a small number of people immensely, while letting millions of people languish in economic doldrums.

But that's only the half of it. As Hudson points out, these programs are also a form of economic warfare on the rest of the world. Foreign nations are swamped by elite investors funneling American stimulus money into their economies, buying up "foreign resources, real estate, public and privatized instrastructure, bonds and corporate stock ownership." This influx forces up the price of the local currency, wreaking havoc on exchange rates, exports and employment. As Hudson notes:

Such inflows do not provide capital for tangible investment. They are predatory, and cause currency fluctuation that disrupts trade patterns while creating enormous trading profits for large financial institutions and their customers. Yet most discussions of exchange rate treat the balance of payments and exchange rates as if they were determined purely by commodity trade and "purchasing power parity," not by the financial flows and military spending that actually dominate the balance of payments. The reality is that today's financial interregnum - anarchic "free" markets prior to countries hurriedly putting up their own monetary defenses - provides the arbitrage opportunity of the century. This is what bank lobbyists have been pressing for. It has little to do with the welfare of workers.

Obama and the Fed are now gearing up to inject another $1 trillion into this profit funnel. And because they will refuse to take any responsibility for ensuring that the new stimulus is directed at addressing the nation's financial crisis, much if not most of that money will simply end up in the hand of a tiny sliver of elite investors, who will use it to enrich themselves, war economic war abroad -- and leave American workers and homeowners (and the long-forgotten poor) to sink further into the mire.

But then again, for the easers, as with the militarists, quagmire is a feature, not a bug.
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

Israel Versus The World
By Paul Craig Roberts

"For decades the US government has enabled repeated Israeli military aggression against Lebanon and now appears to be getting into gear for another Israeli assault on the former American protectorate of Lebanon. On October 14 the US government expressed its "outrage" that the Lebanese government had permitted a visit by Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who is the focus of Washington's intense demonization efforts. Israel's representatives in the US Congress threatened to stop US military aid to Lebanon, forgetting that US Rep. Howard Berman (D,CA) has had aid to Lebanon blocked since last August to punish Lebanon for a border clash with Israel." ~~~ Paul Craig Roberts

Does anyone remember the "cakewalk war" that would last six weeks, cost $50-$60 billion, and be paid for out of Iraqi oil revenues?

Does anyone remember that White House economist Lawrence Lindsey was fired by Dubya because Lindsey estimated that the Iraq war could cost as much as $200 billion?

Lindsey was fired for over-estimating the cost of a war that, according to Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, has cost 15 times more than Lindsey estimated. And the US still has 50,000 troops in Iraq.

Does anyone remember that just prior to the US invasion of Iraq, the US government declared victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan?

Does anyone remember that the reason Dubya gave for invading Iraq was Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, weapons that the US government knew did not exist?

Are Americans aware that the same neoconservatives who made these fantastic mistakes, or told these fabulous lies, are still in control of the government in Washington?

The "war on terror" is now in its tenth year. What is it really all about?

The bottom line answer is that the "war on terror" is about creating real terrorists. The US government desperately needs real terrorists in order to justify its expansion of its wars against Muslim countries and to keep the American people sufficiently fearful that they continue to accept the police state that provides "security from terrorists," but not from the government that has discarded civil liberties.

The US government creates terrorists by invading Muslim countries, wrecking infrastructure and killing vast numbers of civilians. The US also creates terrorists by installing puppet governments to rule over Muslims and by using the puppet governments to murder and persecute citizens as is occurring on a vast scale in Pakistan today.

Neoconservatives used 9/11 to launch their plan for US world hegemony. Their plan fit with the interests of America's ruling oligarchies. Wars are good for the profits of the military/security complex, about which President Eisenhower warned us in vain a half century ago. American hegemony is good for the oil industry's control over resources and resource flows. The transformation of the Middle East into a vast American puppet state serves well the Israel Lobby's Zionist aspirations for Israeli territorial expansion.

Most Americans cannot see what is happening because of their conditioning. Most Americans believe that their government is the best on earth, that it is morally motivated to help others and to do good, that it rushes aid to countries where there is famine and natural catastrophes. Most believe that their presidents tell the truth, except about their sexual affairs.

The persistence of these delusions is extraordinary in the face of daily headlines that report US government bullying of, and interference with, virtually every country on earth. The US policy is to buy off, overthrow, or make war on leaders of other countries who represent their peoples' interests instead of American interests. A recent victim was the president of Honduras who had the wild idea that the Honduran government should serve the Honduran people.

The American government was able to have the Honduran president discarded, because the Honduran military is trained and supplied by the US military. It is the same case in Pakistan, where the US government has the Pakistani government making war on its own people by invading tribal areas that the Americans consider to be friendly to the Taliban, al Qaeda, "militants" and "terrorists."

Earlier this year a deputy US Treasury secretary ordered Pakistan to raise taxes so that the Pakistani government could more effectively make war on its own citizens for the Americans. On October 14 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered Pakistan to again raise taxes or the US would withhold flood aid. Clinton pressured America's European puppet states to do the same, expressing in the same breath that the US government was worried by British cuts in the military budget. God forbid that the hard-pressed British, still reeling from American financial fraud, don't allocate enough money to fight America's wars.

On Washington's orders, the Pakistani government launched a military offensive against Pakistani citizens in the Swat Valley that killed large numbers of Pakistanis and drove millions of civilians from their homes. Last July the US instructed Pakistan to send its troops against the Pakistani residents of North Waziristan. On July 6 Jason Ditz reported on that "at America's behest, Pakistan has launched offensives against [the Pakistani provinces of] Swat Valley, Bajaur, South Waziristan, Orakzai,and Khyber."

A week later Israel's US Senator Carl Levin (D,MI) called for escalating the Obama Administration's policies of US air strikes against Pakistan's tribal areas. On September 30, the Pakistani newspaper, The Frontier Post, wrote that the American air strikes "are, plain and simple, a naked aggression against Pakistan."

The US claims that its forces in Afghanistan have the right to cross into Pakistan in pursuit of "militants." Recently US helicopter gunships killed three Pakistani soldiers whom they mistook for Taliban. Pakistan closed the main US supply route to Afghanistan until the Americans apologized.

Pakistan warned Washington against future attacks. However, US military officials, under pressure from Obama to show progress in the endless Afghan war, responded to Pakistan's warning by calling for expanding the Afghan war into Pakistan. On October 5 the Canadian journalist Eric Margolis wrote that "the US edges closer to invading Pakistan."

In his book, "Obama's Wars," Bob Woodward reports that America's puppet president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, believes that terrorist bombing attacks inside Pakistan for which the Taliban are blamed are in fact CIA operations designed to destabilize Pakistan and allow Washington to seize Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

To keep Pakistan in line, the US government changed its position that the "Times Square Bombing" was the work of a "lone wolf." Attorney General Eric Holder switched the blame to the "Pakistani Taliban," and Secretary of State Clinton threatened Pakistan with "very serious consequences" for the unsuccessful Times Square bombing, which likely was a false flag operation aimed at Pakistan.

To further heighten tensions, on September 1 the eight members of a high-ranking Pakistani military delegation in route to a meeting in Tampa, Florida, with US Central Command, were rudely treated and detained as terrorist suspects at Washington DC's Dulles Airport.

For decades the US government has enabled repeated Israeli military aggression against Lebanon and now appears to be getting into gear for another Israeli assault on the former American protectorate of Lebanon. On October 14 the US government expressed its "outrage" that the Lebanese government had permitted a visit by Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who is the focus of Washington's intense demonization efforts. Israel's representatives in the US Congress threatened to stop US military aid to Lebanon, forgetting that US Rep. Howard Berman (D,CA) has had aid to Lebanon blocked since last August to punish Lebanon for a border clash with Israel.

Perhaps the most telling headline of all is the October 14 report, "Somalia's New American Prime Minister." An American has been installed as the Prime Minister of Somalia, an American puppet government in Mogadishu backed up by thousands of Ugandan troops paid by Washington.

This barely scratches the surface of Washington's benevolence toward other countries and respect for their rights, borders, and lives of their citizens. Meanwhile, to silence Wikileaks and to prevent any more revelations of American war crimes, the "freedom and democracy" government in DC has closed down Wikileaks' donations by placing the organization on its "watch list" and by having the Australian puppet government blacklist Wikileaks.

Wikileaks is now akin to a terrorist organization. The American government's practice of silencing critics will spread across the Internet.

Remember, they hate us because we have freedom and democracy, First Amendment rights, habeas corpus, respect for human rights, and show justice and mercy to all.
(c) 2010 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.

Rare And Foolish
By Paul Krugman

Last month a Chinese trawler operating in Japanese-controlled waters collided with two vessels of Japan's Coast Guard. Japan detained the trawler's captain; China responded by cutting off Japan's access to crucial raw materials.

And there was nowhere else to turn: China accounts for 97 percent of the world's supply of rare earths, minerals that play an essential role in many high-technology products, including military equipment. Sure enough, Japan soon let the captain go.

I don't know about you, but I find this story deeply disturbing, both for what it says about China and what it says about us. On one side, the affair highlights the fecklessness of U.S. policy makers, who did nothing while an unreliable regime acquired a stranglehold on key materials. On the other side, the incident shows a Chinese government that is dangerously trigger-happy, willing to wage economic warfare on the slightest provocation.

Some background: The rare earths are elements whose unique properties play a crucial role in applications ranging from hybrid motors to fiber optics. Until the mid-1980s the United States dominated production, but then China moved in.

"There is oil in the Middle East; there is rare earth in China," declared Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China's economic transformation, in 1992. Indeed, China has about a third of the world's rare earth deposits. This relative abundance, combined with low extraction and processing costs - reflecting both low wages and weak environmental standards - allowed China's producers to undercut the U.S. industry.

You really have to wonder why nobody raised an alarm while this was happening, if only on national security grounds. But policy makers simply stood by as the U.S. rare earth industry shut down. In at least one case, in 2003 - a time when, if you believed the Bush administration, considerations of national security governed every aspect of U.S. policy - the Chinese literally packed up all the equipment in a U.S. production facility and shipped it to China.

The result was a monopoly position exceeding the wildest dreams of Middle Eastern oil-fueled tyrants. And even before the trawler incident, China showed itself willing to exploit that monopoly to the fullest. The United Steelworkers recently filed a complaint against Chinese trade practices, stepping in where U.S. businesses fear to tread because they fear Chinese retaliation. The union put China's imposition of export restrictions and taxes on rare earths - restrictions that give Chinese production in a number of industries an important competitive advantage - at the top of the list.

Then came the trawler event. Chinese restrictions on rare earth exports were already in violation of agreements China made before joining the World Trade Organization. But the embargo on rare earth exports to Japan was an even more blatant violation of international trade law.

Oh, and Chinese officials have not improved matters by insulting our intelligence, claiming that there was no official embargo. All of China's rare earth exporters, they say - some of them foreign-owned - simultaneously decided to halt shipments because of their personal feelings toward Japan. Right.

So what are the lessons of the rare earth fracas?

First, and most obviously, the world needs to develop non-Chinese sources of these materials. There are extensive rare earth deposits in the United States and elsewhere. However, developing these deposits and the facilities to process the raw materials will take both time and financial support. So will a prominent alternative: "urban mining," a k a recycling of rare earths and other materials from used electronic devices.

Second, China's response to the trawler incident is, I'm sorry to say, further evidence that the world's newest economic superpower isn't prepared to assume the responsibilities that go with that status.

Major economic powers, realizing that they have an important stake in the international system, are normally very hesitant about resorting to economic warfare, even in the face of severe provocation - witness the way U.S. policy makers have agonized and temporized over what to do about China's grossly protectionist exchange-rate policy. China, however, showed no hesitation at all about using its trade muscle to get its way in a political dispute, in clear - if denied - violation of international trade law.

Couple the rare earth story with China's behavior on other fronts - the state subsidies that help firms gain key contracts, the pressure on foreign companies to move production to China and, above all, that exchange-rate policy - and what you have is a portrait of a rogue economic superpower, unwilling to play by the rules. And the question is what the rest of us are going to do about it.
(c) 2010 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe."
~~~ Frederick Douglas

Heroes For The Beaten, Foreclosed On, Imprisoned Masses
By Chris Hedges

Staughton Lynd could have built an enviable career as an academic but for his conscience. His conscience led him as a young undergraduate disgusted by the elitism around him to drop out of Harvard, and tortured him when he returned to finish his degree. It plagued him after he received his doctorate from Columbia and saw him head to the segregated South to join his friend Howard Zinn in teaching history at the historically black Spelman College. It propelled him to become the director of Freedom Schools in the Mississippi Summer Project of 1964. It prodded him a year later to chair the first march against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C., and join Tom Hayden and Herbert Aptheker on a trip to Hanoi.

The administration at Yale University, where Staughton taught after leaving Spelman because of conflicts with the college president over his and Zinn's activism, was not amused. Yale dismissed him as a professor. Five other universities, which had offered Staughton teaching positions, abruptly rescinded their offers. He had become a pariah. No university would hire him, although his book "Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism" had become a minor classic. Staughton, like all incorrigible rebels, found a new route to defy authority. He put himself, with his wife's help, through law school, graduated in 1976 and moved to Youngstown, Ohio, to fight the departing steel companies and defend workers tossed out of jobs.

Staughton faults the labor movement and 1960s civil rights organizers, including Saul Alinsky, for whom he worked in Chicago, for failing to see that moving temporarily into a community, organizing and then departing left the organized vulnerable to reprisal. It eroded the credibility and moral authority of radical activists. The Lynds embrace the idea of "accompaniment," proposed by the assassinated Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. Accompaniment calls on professionally trained people, whether lawyers, doctors or teachers, to move into poor areas and remain there. This led the Lynds to move, once Staughton got his law degree, to Youngstown, where they have remained for 34 years.

Power, for the Lynds, must be fought in all its forms. While working for a law firm that represented unions, Staughton was asked to prepare a Supreme Court brief for a union that had failed to file a meritorious grievance for a member.

"I'd drop dead first," Staughton snapped at the head of the firm.

He then published a book called "Labor Law for the Rank and Filer," and the firm's patience with their new hire ended. He was fired. It was another lesson, for all who seek the moral life, that the world does not reward virtue. Failure, at least as it is defined by the powerful, is the price to pay for moral autonomy and courage. Staughton had become a lawyer to help workers. If union bosses would not further workers' rights, he would fight the unions too.

"The paradigmatic experience of my father, who as a student at Union Theological Seminary had taken a summer preaching assignment, which apparently was the practice between the first and second years, saw him end up at a Rockefeller oil camp in Elk Basin, Wyo.," Staughton said. "When my father arrived in Elk Basin in the early 1920s by stagecoach he became aware on the very first evening at the table that the men who were working six days a week for Mr. Rockefeller were not thrilled to have this handsome young man from the East spending the week talking to their wives. So he got a job as a pick-and-shovel laborer, and preached in the schoolhouse Sunday evenings. It is the single thing about him of which I am most proud. I have made a way of life out of what my father experienced for a summer, to find a way to have a continuing relationship with the poor and the oppressed, with a working-class community quite different from the academic livelihood that both my parents ended up in."

"Throughout my life with one or two exceptions, my closest friends have been persons who, like Howard Zinn, could be described as working-class intellectuals," he said. "What it means for Marxist analysis and how we change the world, I guess I am still trying to figure out. Nowadays, Youngstown having closed all its steel mills and become a prison town, Alice and I have some of our closest relationships with people behind bars."

I met Staughton and Alice, also a lawyer, a few days ago in Youngstown. The Lynds, now in their 80s, have soldiered on as the walls have collapsed around them. They practice what they call "prophetic litigation," meaning that they often know they are likely to lose but believe that constantly battling issues of injustice and abuse, and keeping these issues before the public, is worth the likelihood of defeat.

Youngstown, like many postindustrial pockets in America, is a deserted wreck plagued by crime and the attendant psychological and criminal problems that come when communities physically break down. The city's great steel mills have been leveled and replaced by America's new growth industry-prisons, including a so-called supermax facility.

The Lynds worked for many years for Legal Services in Youngstown, specializing in employment law. Staughton, when the steel mills were shut down in the late 1970s, served as lead counsel to the Ecumenical Coalition of the Mahoning Valley, which sought to reopen the mills under worker-community ownership. The legal impediments, however, conspired to make the worker-community ownership impossible, a stark reminder that law in this country is usually designed to protect privilege.

"The hollowing out of the American economy, the absence of manufacturing jobs, is critical," he said. "It means that this is not an ordinary recession. We are not going to bounce back the way we did in past recessions. Alice and I have had some contact with a school in inner-city Youngstown where they send kids who are thrown out of public school to give them one last chance before they put them behind bars. We have a pretty intense feeling for what it is like to grow up as an African-American in a place like Youngstown. Even if you make it through high school, where do you find a job? I don't mean to say the problem is wholly economic. There is often a lack of love in the home that these kids experience. But if there were decent jobs which a hard-working young person could go on to, we would have a different world. Instead, some of these kids volunteer for the military and take their hatred and trauma overseas."

As the collapse has taken its toll on the residents in and around Youngstown, the Lynds have focused on the plight of inmates, especially those who were involved in a prison uprisingin Lucasville, Ohio, in April 1993. Five of the leaders of the uprising were sentenced to death for their part. They remain on death row.

Three of the five are black and two are white. The two whites were members of the Aryan Brotherhood. The blacks are Muslims. The men have refused to testify against each other. The Lynds, when they read the testimony of Ohio Highway Patrol Sgt. Howard Hudson in the trial of one of the white inmates, George Skatzes, were inspired by the inmates' ability to overcome racial and religious divisions.

Once the prisoners surrendered and the Highway Patrol entered L block, which the prisoners had occupied, the officers found graffiti covering the walls. In the trial Hudson, the state's principal investigator, identified a photograph taken in the L block corridor.

Question: On the wall on the right there appears to be something written?

Answer: Says, "Black and White Together."

Q: Did you find that or similar slogans in many places in L block?

A: Yes, we did, throughout the corridor, in the L block.

The transcript goes on.

Q: [What is the photograph] 260?

A: 260, the words, "Convict Unity," written on the walls of L corridor.

Q: Did you find the message of unity throughout L block?

A: Yes. ...

Q: Next photo?

A: 261 is another photograph in L corridor that depicts the words, "Convict race."

" 'Convict race,' is my favorite," Staughton said. "Evidently the cultural creation of racial identity can work in more than one way. Among the Lucasville rebels, the process didn't separate the races, but overcame racism. Not since the early 1960s in the South have I experienced as much interracial solidarity as I have among convicted prisoners which the state of Ohio considers 'the worst of the worst.' "

"The same solidarity took place among soldiers in Vietnam who protested the war," he said. "This is instructive. People draw on their cultural resources, on their music, traditions and symbols in radical or revolutionary conflicts. It is natural that blacks and whites would initially organize separately. But in Vietnam, or a supermax prison, troops and inmates face a common danger and a common enemy. It is easier to overcome cultural barriers. The danger in the wider society is less defined. It is more diffuse. This is the reason it is harder to bring groups together. But this is what must happen. Too many movements are directed from the top down. They are not rooted in local communities. It is we who should be building local movements to tell those in power what to do, not the other way around."

"My favorite book is Ignazio Silone's novel 'Bread and Wine,' particularly the first edition before he started rewriting all his books." he said. "The religious element in my childhood was very recessive, more in the background than upfront. We never went to church, although it has always been there for me. My parents sent me to schools run by the Ethical Cultural Society. It is a kind of reform, Reformed Judaism institution. What Pietro Spina, the protagonist of 'Bread and Wine,' struggles with is how to bring together the Christianity of his childhood and adolescence with his later Marxism. That has been my effort as well."

The Lynds have requested that their ashes be buried along with those of indigent death row inmates at a cemetery run by the Jubilee Partners community in Georgia.

"We knew at once that this is where we belonged," Staughton said.
(c) 2010 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

The Ricky Ray Rector President
By David Michael Green

Oh my god.

Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.

This is far worse than I thought.

I've been struggling to understand the implosion of the Obama presidency over the last two years, trying to peel back the layers of the theoretical onion, looking for an explanation as to how this could have happened.

How does somebody with managerial and strategic skills brilliant enough to come from out of nowhere and win the presidency, wresting it away from at least two lions of the political establishment, run such a stupid and failing White House?

How does somebody with the guts to go into the consummately ugly ring of presidential campaigning, and the perseverance to stay in there taking shots for two years straight, manage to turn around and become such a coward, especially after he's been handed the most powerful position in the world?

How does somebody with the communications skills of a Lincoln or a Kennedy wind up sitting by silently, while the worst elements of American society define him in the most disgustingly pejorative terms imaginable?

What the hell is going on here?

There are lots of theories.

Obama himself has argued that many people saw the campaign he ran as far more perfect than it was. There is some truth to this, especially since when the Republicans really came out swinging against him, in August and September of 2008, he sat there - like any good Democrat would - paralyzed and unresponsive. The result was that McCain - even with the pathetically unprepared Sarah Palin attached to his hip - drew nearly even with Obama in the polls at that point. That fact becomes all the more amazing considering that McCain was the Republican nominee, and the country was incredibly sick of Republican rule, having barely survived it for eight years running. But that's what happened, and arguably had it not been for the economic implosion on Bush's watch that fall, Obama's miracle campaign would have miraculously managed to sit back and silently snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Still, though, Obama ran a pretty flawless campaign. And he overcame some substantial hurdles, in some cases with a grace that elevated American politics in ways not seen for decades. And he came from near obscurity to win the election (in 2000 - just eight years before he became the party's nominee and was elected president - he couldn't even get admitted to the Democratic convention), and defeat two politicians who were handicapped as far more likely to win, just a year prior. That's pretty amazing talent.

Another theory would suggest that shrinking cowardice is simply endemic to the contemporary Democratic Party. Ever since George McGovern's electoral fiasco of 1972, Democrats seem to have decided that being a pinata is somehow the preferred persona for members of their party to adopt. Or maybe they're just satisfied to govern in between the cycles of Republican catastrophe, when voters give them the keys to the car only because letting the drunken malevolent teenagers of the GOP continue to drive has become just too awful to consider. But that concept never made a lot of sense to me. People like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama invested enormous energy and grit to realize a lifetime ambition of becoming president of the country. Why would such individuals all of a sudden morph into Missy Milquetoasts?

Perhaps a better explanation for the failure of Obama and his ilk to fight hard for the country's welfare and for progressive values is that he is no progressive at all. I've been arguing that for a long time, and he is certainly helping to reaffirm that notion right now by appealing a federal court decision ending Don't Ask Don't Tell, a policy which he claims to oppose. But, in fact, the Obama ideology ship sailed a long time ago. He previously also went to court defending the Defense of Marriage Act. He bailed out Wall Street a hundred pennies on the dollar, and demanded nothing of them in return. He has tripled the US presence in Afghanistan, and is bombing the snot out of Pakistan. He has not closed Guantanamo, and has an even worse record on civil liberties than Bush and Cheney did. His health care bill is a total gift to insurance corporations, and now we've just learned from Tom Daschle that the president had never considered the public option at all, having cut a deal with those corporations in advance promising that there would be no such component in the legislation. And so on, and so on. Stupid voters make the erroneous assumption that politicians like Bill Clinton are liberal because they are Democrats, and because the right and the media keep telling them that these guys are liberals. Most of the country has now done the same for Obama, but of course the opposite is true. So maybe the explanation for his failed presidency is simply that he has adopted the same regressive policies that have been killing the country for three decades now.

Of course, that might just be because his politics happen to be lousy. Or - according to another theory - his presidency might suck because he is beholden to the same oligarchical interests as just about everyone else in Washington. Barack Obama let BP completely run amok, before and after the Gulf disaster. He also has received about $80,000 in campaign contributions from them over the last half-decade, more than any other American politician. Maybe that's a coincidence, but I don't think so. Similarly, Wall Street poured tons of money into his campaign, while he gave them nearly everything they could have dreamed of, and staffed his economic team with all the slimy little Goldman Sachs geckos he could find. Was that an accident? Doesn't seem likely. In other words, maybe Obama's failures are hard to explain because they aren't failures at all. Maybe he is serving his plutocratic masters quite well, thank you very much.

All these are possible explanations for the unexpected meltdown of this presidency. But I have another theory now. An 'Oh my god' theory.

Remember Ricky Ray Rector? He was the poor SOB with an IQ of about 70, who was put to death by the State of Arkansas in 1992. Governor Bill Clinton flew home off the campaign trail to supervise the state's murder, so that he could show the voting public that he was just as capable of ruthless ugliness in the name of serving his own interests as any Republican ever was. Americans like that in a president. We like our president to be just like us - not some elite snob with that whole ethics thing going on, or all that other effete East Coast superiority shit (see, for example: "Bush, George W."). Anyway, poor Ricky Ray was so out of it that, just before they fried him, he asked the prison guards if they would save the pecan pie from his last meal so that he could have it "later". Didn't matter to Wild Bill. He made a public spectacle of flipping the switch on a guy who didn't have a clue of what was about to hit him. (And why not, either? So some dummy on death row had to die for him to get to the White House - so what? What's wrong with that? Heck, in Clinton's second race, he cut millions of people off welfare in order to win. Ricky Ray was small potatoes when it comes to presidential roadkill.)

Anyhow, keep Ricky Ray Rector in mind as you read the following passage from a New York Times article about to be published, based on an interview with one Barack Obama of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.: "In an hour-long interview with the Times's White House correspondent, Peter Baker, Mr. Obama predicted that his political rivals would either be chastened by falling short of their electoral goals or burdened with the new responsibility that comes from achieving them. 'It may be that regardless of what happens after this election, they feel more responsible, either because they didn't do as well as they anticipated, and so the strategy of just saying no to everything and sitting on the sidelines and throwing bombs didn't work for them,' Mr. Obama said. 'Or they did reasonably well, in which case the American people are going to be looking to them to offer serious proposals and work with me in a serious way.'

Say what?!?!

Oh my god.

Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.

Now I have a new theory explaining the failure of the Obama presidency: This is the Ricky Ray Rector of presidents.

This guy managed to get through the last two decades without noticing just what the vicious thugs of the Republican Party are entirely capable of.

This guy lived through the last two years of his own sinking presidency without noticing what these sick freaks have already been doing to him personally at every juncture.

This guy is completely unaware that multiple Republicans poised to take control of the House - some of whom will have gavels in one hand and blank subpoenas in the other - have already come out and made clear that they will run this White House ragged by investigating it over every scandal they can possibly invent.

This guy does not realize that some of them are literally already talking about impeachment.

This guy is the Ricky Ray Rector of presidents. He is about to be subjected to a cosmic-scale buggering of epic proportions, and he's still talking about "working with" Attilla's Army of the GOP, and hoping that the Hitler Youth across the aisle might "feel more responsible" after they have achieved their goal of wrecking him and his party, precisely by means of wanton irresponsibility.

Oh my god.

I know that presidents can famously be trapped inside a bubble of insularity, but this is something altogether frightening. This cat is utterly in denial. This is no longer just a matter of being a slow learner. This is no longer a matter of some kumbaya obsession to offer lovely bipartisanship cookies to a pack of ferocious, starving jungle tigers. If Barack Obama thinks that getting shellacked in November is going to make his life better - never mind ours - this president can no longer be said to be rational. I mean this quite seriously. The above passage suggests to me that our president is fully delusional.

Even Obama's top political advisor seems to be waking up to a glimmer of reality, although he is ridiculously late in doing so. Cynthia Tucker writes that, "In an interview last week in his West Wing office, David Axelrod, one of Obama's closest advisers, acknowledged that the administration had been surprised by the unified Republican resistance to the president's agenda. 'We had the idea that, particularly in a time of national crisis, there would be more of an inclination to work together. Well, I think we miscalculated,' Axelrod said."

Yeah? You think, Dave? Hey, maybe you did miscalculate there just a bit, now that you mention it.

It gets worse: "I think the Republicans have been diabolically clever about how they've portrayed this. They stood on the sidelines and made a decision that 'we're going to let him wrestle with this mess that we created. And then in two years we can try and hang him with it."

I dunno. Maybe it's diabolically clever to wreck an entire country of 300 million people for narrow partisan gain, or maybe it's just diabolical. And pathologically cynical. And stunningly sick.

But I do know two things for sure. One is that these monsters made clear their intentions from the very beginning. First by their voting pattern on every bill the Democrats put forward, despite that Democrats wouldn't know liberalism if it slapped them upside the head, and despite that Republicans voted against many of the very bills that they had previously supported or even co-sponsored in some cases. They also made clear their intentions by means of their rhetoric, trashing the president to the point of questioning his nationality, and literally accusing him of being a granny killer. And they announced themselves as well by overtly stating, as Senator Jim DeMint - among the sickest of the sick - did, early on, that their strategy would be precisely what Axelrod describes.

So, given all those clear indications, just exactly how astonishingly stupid do you have to be, Dave, to be figuring this out only now?

Except that, actually, you guys still are not! Even today. Whatever Axelrod might say, his boss is still talking about working with these animals. Still fantasizing that they'll play ball with him. And worst of all, somehow imagining that, following their crushing defeat of him in November, they will somehow be more inclined to be nice to him than in the past. Or that their rabid tea bagger constituents would allow them to cooperate with a president they see as Satan, Stalin, Hitler and some gay guy all rolled into one, anyhow. Are you freakin' kidding me?!?!

This has to be some sort of wicked twisted curse, some kind of Greek tragedy or something. After eight years of Bush and his party dragging the country over the cliff, now we are shackled to Neville Pollyanna Chamberlain Milquetoast, who is busy laying plans for tea and crumpets with the tea party mob who seek to annihilate him, and - for many of them - not just metaphorically either.

That means that during the next two years of multiple continuing national crises, we will be treated to standing by and watching some sort of insane WWE political wrestling match between two leviathans: One, which is murderously vicious and represents the predatory elite oligarchy ripping off the country at every turn, and the other, which is pathetically feeble and represents the predatory elite oligarchy ripping off the country at every turn.

America is so over. Imagine how they must laugh at us over noodles in Beijing. I just cringe for this country every day, with each worse-yet news report from the front lines of a political system that makes full-blown dysfunctionality seem like a panacea by comparison. There seems to be no bottom to the well of our stupidity and greed and hypocrisy and insistence on committing national suicide.

Yep, America is surely over. But, goddamn it, does it have to be this embarrassing?

I keep trying not to write any more rants about the failings of Barack Obama. I'm sick of hearing myself say it. But every time I vow to avoid the topic, some new development like this interview comes along and just blows me away.

I could not possibly care less about the fate of the Democratic Party, and increasingly I feel that way about the country too, both of which manifestly deserve their fate.

But, that said, Democrats can now no longer avoid recognizing that they have a self-destructive (and self-destructing) fool at the helm of the party, and they will be forced to decide whether they are really dumb enough to run this loser for a second term in 2012.

That's up to them, and one reason that I don't care is that, even if they do dump him, they are highly unlikely to choose anyone who is more than slightly better ideologically than Barack Obama, or anyone who has more than a marginal bit of additional spine. I can't even think of who that could be in the party. But maybe Democrats could have the decency to find someone who can at least recognize the difference between the electric chair, on the one hand, and the electrical parade at Disneyland, on the other.

Would that be asking too much?

Meanwhile, somebody get this idiot his pecan pie.
(c) 2010 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Richter Littlejohn,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and your forcing people to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or be thrown in prison in your court, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

A Political Culture Free Of Accountability
By Glenn Greenwald

Wolf Blitzer, CNN, January 10, 2003:

Last September 8, I interviewed President Bush's National Security Adviser, Dr. Condoleezza Rice. I was pressing her on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's nuclear capabilities. . . .

"We know that he has the infrastructure, nuclear scientists to make a nuclear weapon," she told me. . . .

Dr. Rice then said something that was ominous and made headlines around the world.

"The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

ABC News, April 9, 2008

Sources: Top Bush Advisers Approved 'Enhanced Interrogation'

In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News.

The so-called Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of "combined" interrogation techniques -- using different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time -- on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break, sources said.

Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.

The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

As the national security adviser, Rice chaired the meetings, which took place in the White House Situation Room and were typically attended by most of the principals or their deputies. . . .

Then-Attorney General Ashcroft was troubled by the discussions. He agreed with the general policy decision to allow aggressive tactics and had repeatedly advised that they were legal. But he argued that senior White House advisers should not be involved in the grim details of interrogations, sources said. . . . According to a top official, Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

The Principals also approved interrogations that combined different methods, sources told ABC News.

Then-National Security Advisor Rice, sources said, was decisive. Despite growing policy concerns -- shared by Powell -- that the program was harming the image of the United States abroad, sources say she did not back down, telling the CIA: "This is your baby. Go do it."

Associated Press:

Obama, Rice huddle on arms treaty, other issues

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is meeting with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to talk about a pending arms treaty with Russia and other issues .

A White House official said Rice and Obama have a "cordial relationship," and the president looks forward to Friday's meeting covering "a range of foreign policy topics."

In other words: Prosecute Bush officials who broke the law and instituted a worldwide torture regime? Please. I'm doing the opposite: I'm going to select some of them to occupy the highest positions in my administration and then meet with others in order to drink from the well of their wisdom on a wide range of foreign policy matters.

I realize this is very childish, shrill and unpragmatic of me. All Serious people know that it's critical to let Bygones be Bygones and that Serious National Security officials must meet with one another across partisan lines to share their wisdom and insights. Still, the fact that Obama is not only shielding from all accountability, but meeting in the Oval Office with, the person who presided over the Bush White House's torture-approval-and-choreographing meetings and who was responsible for the single most fear-mongering claim leading to the Iraq War, speaks volumes about the accountability-free nature of Washington culture and this White House.

John Aschroft was probably right that "history will not judge kindly" what these Rice-led officials did. But that's obviously not true of contemporary amoral Washington or its current President.
(c) 2010 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

Obama's Escalating Robot War In Pakistan Is Making A Terror Attack More Likely
By Johann Hari

Imagine if, an hour from now, a robot plane swooped over your house and blasted it to pieces. The plane has no pilot. It is controlled with a joystick from 7,000 miles away, sent by the Pakistani military to kill you. It blows up all the houses on your street, and so barbecues your family and your neighbors until there is nothing left to bury but a few charred slops. Why? They refuse to comment. They don't even admit the robot planes belong to them. But they tell the Pakistani newspapers back home it is because one of you was planning to attack Pakistan. How do they know? Somebody told them. Who? You don't know, and there are no appeals against the robot.

Now imagine it doesn't end there: These attacks are happening every week somewhere in your country. They blow up funerals and family dinners and children. The number of robot planes in the sky is increasing every week. You discover they are named "Predators," or "Reapers" -- after the Grim Reaper. No matter how much you plead, no matter how much you make it clear you are a peaceful civilian getting on with your life, it won't stop. What do you do? If there were a group arguing that Pakistan was an evil nation that deserved to be violently attacked, would you now start to listen?

This sounds like a sketch for the next James Cameron movie -- but it is in fact an accurate description of life in much of Pakistan today, with the sides flipped. The Predators and Reapers are being sent by Barack Obama's CIA, with the support of other Western governments, and they killed more than 700 civilians in 2009 alone -- fourteen times more than the 7/7 attacks in London. Last month there was the l Over the next decade, spending on drones is set to increase by 700 percent.

The US government doesn't even officially admit the program exists: Obama's most detailed public comment on it was when he jokingly told the Jonas Brothers he would unleash the drones on them if they tried to chat up his daughter. But his administration says, behind closed doors, that these robot-plane attacks are "the only show in town" for killing suspected jihadis. They do not risk the lives of US soldiers, who remain in Virginia and control the robot planes using a Playstation-style panel. They kill "with accuracy," they say, and "undermine the threat to the West" by "breaking up training camps, killing many people conspiring against us, and putting the rest on the run."

But is this true? The press releases uncritically repeated by the press after a bombing always brag about "senior al Qaeda commanders" killed -- but some people within the CIA admit how arbitrary their choice of targets is. One of their senior figures told the New Yorker: "Sometimes you're dealing with tribal chiefs. Often they say an enemy of theirs is Al Qaeda because they want to get rid of somebody, or they made crap up because they wanted to prove they were valuable so they could make money."

Indeed, Robert Baer -- a former senior figure in the CIA -- says the agency now prefers to kill a suspect than capture them and assess their guilt or find out what they know:

Targeted killings are easier for the CIA or for the military to deal with than taking someone prisoner. No one really ever questions a killing, but when you take someone prisoner, then you are responsible for the person and then the headaches come. We have a logic which leads to more and more targeted killings.

Think about that sentence: "No one ever really questions a killing." How do we know who they are slaughtering? Just look at how good the CIA was at selecting people to put in Guantanamo: Almost all had to be released after being Kafkaed because they were demonstrably innocent, and included senile old men and children.

True, the program has certainly extrajudicially killed some real jihadis. But the evidence suggests it is creating far more jihadis than it kills -- and is making an attack on you or me more likely with each bomb.

Drone technology is relatively new: It was pioneered in the 1980s by the right-wing American defense contractor James Neal Blue, who wanted to use it against the democratically elected government of Nicaragua. It was then developed by the Israelis. They now routinely use remote-controlled robot aircraft to bomb the Gaza Strip. I've been in Gaza during some of these attacks. The people there were terrified -- and radicalized. A young woman I know who had been averse to political violence and an advocate of peaceful protest saw a drone blow up a car full of people -- and she started supporting Islamic Jihad and crying for the worst possible revenge against Israel. Robot drones have successfully bombed much of Gaza from secular Fatah to Islamist Hamas to fanatical Jihad.

Is the same thing happening in Pakistan? David Kilcullen is a counterinsurgency expert who worked for General Petraeus in Iraq and now advises the State Department. He has shown that two percent of the people killed by the robot-planes in Pakistan are jihadis. The remaining 98 percent are as innocent as the victims of 9/11. He says: "It's not moral." And it gets worse: "Every one of these dead non-combatants represents an alienated family, a new revenge feud, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially as drone strikes have increased."

Professor John Cole puts it more bluntly:

When you bomb people and kill their family, friends and neighbors, it pisses them off. They probably even form lifelong grudges when they find their mother and children in thousands of bloody pieces in their former home. This is not rocket science. If they were not sympathetic to the Taliban and al Qaeda before, after you bomb the shit out of them, they will be.

The polling from Pakistan shows that a desire to strike back against the US increases after every drone attack. (The floods were seen as a great opportunity to ramp up the attacks.) That translates into young men volunteering for the jihad. It's why all the people who have been captured or defected from Osama Bin Laden's circle, from his bodyguard to his son, say the same: He is delighted when Western governments fight back by recklessly killing Muslims. It vindicates his story that the West is evil, and sends waves of recruits his way.

Of course jihadism is not motivated solely by attacks against Muslim countries by the West. Some of it is motivated by a theocratic desire to control and tyrannize other humans in the most depraved ways: to punish women who wish to feel the sun on their hair, or novelists who want to write freely. Yet it is a provable fact that violence against Muslims tips many more people into retaliatory jihadi violence against us. Even the 2004 report commissioned by that notorious lefty Donald Rumsfeld said that "American direct intervention in the Muslim world" was the primary reason for jihadism.

A good example of this is Faisal Shahzad, the 31-year-old Pakistani-American who tried to plant a bomb in Times Square in May. A police survey of his emails over the past ten years found he was obsessed with US attacks on Muslims and insistently asked: "Can you tell me a way to save the oppressed? And a way to fight back when the rockets are fired at us and Muslim blood flows?" The Pakistan drone attacks -- on the part of the world he came from -- were the final spur for him. When he was arrested, he asked the police: "How would you feel if people attacked the United States? You are attacking a sovereign Pakistan." At his trial, he was asked how he could possibly justify planting a bomb that would have killed children. He said: "When the drones hit, they don't see children, they don't see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody... I am part of the answer... I'm avenging the attack."

When I interviewed former jihadis in Britain, they all said the same. One of them, Hadiya Masieh, summarized their view by asking: "What are we meant to do, just stand still and let them cut our throats?"

Yet many people defend the drones by saying: "We have to do something." If your friend suffered terrible third-degree burns, would you urge her to set fire to her hair because "you have to do something"? Would you give a poisoning victim another, worse poison, on the grounds that any action is better than none?

I detest jihadism. Their ideology is everything I oppose distilled: Their ideal society is my Hell. It is precisely because I want to really undermine them -- rather than pose as macho -- that I am against this robot slaughter. It enlarges the threat. It drags us into a terrible feedback loop, where the US launches more drone attacks to deal with jihadism, which makes jihadism worse, which prompts more drone attacks, which makes jihadism worse -- and on and on, in a state with nuclear weapons, and with many people in Europe who are from the terrorized region. It could be poised to get even worse: Bob Woodward's Obama's Wars says the US has an immediate plan to bomb 150 targets in Pakistan if there is a jihadi attack inside America.

The real and necessary fight against jihadism has to have, at its core, a policy of systematically stripping them of their best recruiting tools. Yet Obama and the CIA are doing the opposite -- to an accompanying soundtrack of the screams of innocent civilians, and the low, delighted chuckle of Osama Bin Laden.
(c) 2010 Johann Hari is a columnist for the London Independent. He has reported from Iraq, Israel/Palestine, the Congo, the Central African Republic, Venezuela, Peru and the US, and his journalism has appeared in publications all over the world. The youngest person to be nominated for the Orwell Prize for political writing, in 2003 he won the Press Gazette Young Journalist of the Year Award and in 2007 Amnesty International named him Newspaper Journalist of the Year. He is a contributing editor of Attitude magazine and published his first book, God Save the Queen?, in 2003.

The Cartoon Corner...

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

To End On A Happy Note...

By Eminem

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America
And to the Republic for which it stands
One nation under God
Indivisible with liberty and justice for all...

It feels so good to be back..

I scrutinize every word, memorize every line
I spit it once, refuel, re-energize and rewind
I give sight to the blind, my insight through the mind
I exercise my right to express when I feel it's time
It's just all in your mind, what you interpret it as
I say to fight, you take it as I'mma whip someone's ass
If you don't understand, don't even bother to ask
A father who has grown up with a fatherless past
Who has blown up now to rap phenomenon that has
Or at least shows no difficulty multi-task
And in juggling both perhaps mastered his craft
Slash entrepreneur who has helped launch a few more rap acts
Who's had a few obstacles thrown his way through the last half
Of his career typical manure moving past that
Mr. kisses ass crack, he's a class act
Rubber band man, yea he just snaps back

Come along follow me as I lead through the darkness
As I provide just enough spark that we need to proceed
Carry on, give me hope, give me strength
Come with me and I won't steer you wrong
Put your faith and your trust as I guide us through the fog
To the light at the end of the tunnel
We gonna fight, we gonna charge, we gonna stomp, we gonna march
Through the swamp, we gonna mosh through the marsh
Take us right through the doors (c'mon)

All the people up top on the side and the middle
Come together lets all bomb and swamp just a little
Just let it gradually build from the front to the back
All you can see is a sea of people some white and some black
Don't matter what color, all that matters we gathered together
To celebrate for the same cause don't matter the weather
If it rains let it rain, yea the wetter the better
They ain't gonna stop us they can't, we stronger now more than ever
They tell us no we say yea, they tell us stop we say go
Rebel with a rebel yell, raise hell we gonna let'em know
Stomp, push, shove, mush, Fuck Bush, until they bring our troops home (c'mon)

Come along follow me as I lead through the darkness
As I provide just enough spark that we need to proceed
Carry on, give me hope, give me strength
Come with me and I won't steer you wrong
Put your faith and your trust as I guide us through the fog
To the light at the end of the tunnel
We gonna fight, we gonna charge, we gonna stomp, we gonna march
Through the swamp, we gonna mosh through the marsh
Take us right through the doors (c'mon)

Imagine it pouring, it's raining down on us
Mosh pits outside the oval office
Someone's tryina tell us something,
Maybe this is God just sayin' we're responsible
For this monster, this coward,
That we have empowered
This is Bin Laden, look at his head noddin'
How could we allow something like this without pumping our fists
Now this is our final hour
Let me be the voice in your strength and your choice
Let me simplify the rhyme just to amplify the noise
Try to amplify the times it, and multiply by six...
Teen million people, Are equal at this high pitch
Maybe we can reach alqueda through my speech
Let the president answer a higher anarchy
Strap him with an Ak-47, let him go, fight his own war
Let him impress daddy that way
No more blood for oil, we got our own battles to fight on our own soil
No more psychological warfare, to trick us to thinking that we ain't loyal
If we don't serve our own country, we're patronizing a hero
Look in his eyes its all lies
The stars and stripes, they've been swiped, washed out and wiped
And replaced with his own face, Mosh now or die
If I get sniped tonight you know why,
Cause I told you to fight.

Come along follow me as I lead through the darkness
As I provide just enough spark that we need to proceed
Carry on, give me hope, give me strength
Come with me and I won't steer you wrong
Put your faith and your trust as I guide us through the fog
To the light at the end of the tunnel
We gonna fight, we gonna charge, we gonna stomp, we gonna march
Through the swamp, we gonna mosh through the marsh
Take us right through the doors (c'mon)

And as we proceed,
To Mosh through this desert storm,
In these closing statements, if they should argue
Let us beg to differ
As we set aside our differences
And assemble our own army
To disarm this Weapon of Mass Destruction
That we call our President, for the present
And Mosh for the future of our next generation
To speak and be heard
Mr. President, Mr. Senator
Do you guy's hear us...hear us...[laughing] (Hailie)
(c) 2004/2010 Eminem

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Palin's Evolution Into O'Donnell Proves Darwin Was Wrong
Scientists Propose 'Theory of Devolution'
By Andy Borowitz

OSLO, NORWAY - Two of the theory of evolution's most vociferous doubters, Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell, may be living proof that Darwin was wrong, leading scientists believe.

A conference of the most prominent evolutionary scientists in the world has concluded that the apparent evolution of Ms. Palin into Ms. O'Donnell suggests, in the words of Dr. Hiroshi Kyosuke of the University of Tokyo, "that Darwin got it backwards."

"We still believe that evolution is more than a theory and is, in fact, a very real thing," said Dr. Kyosuke. "However, in the case of Palin and O'Donnell, it seems to be moving in a reverse direction."

Dr. Kyosuke stunned the conference when he presented his scholarly paper, "Tea Party Politicians and the Theory of Devolution," in which he studied the so-called "reverse natural selection" at play in GOP candidates for Governor of New York.

"If we chart the trend line from George Pataki to Carl Paladino, within fifty years New York might be governed by Cro-Magnon Man," he said.

Mr. Paladino did not offer an official response to the scientist's remarks, but said that he had one hundred aides typing on one hundred typewriters simultaneously to craft a statement.

For her part, Ms. O'Donnell today released her official campaign platform, in which she opposes the use of simple tools and the discovery of fire.
(c) 2010 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 42 (c) 10/22/2010

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