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In This Edition

Diane Gee smiles while the puppets dance in, "I Want To Be A Real Boy!"

Uri Avnery sees, "Bread And Circuses."

Amy Goodman considers, "Rich Media, Poor Democracy."

Randall Amster teaches, "WikiLessons."

Jim Hightower weighs, "Dead Miners And Ethically-Dead Senators."

Joel S. Hirschhorn finds, "Despair Follows Delusion."

James Donahue warns of, "Getting Our Morning Poison."

Ralph Nader with an alert, "When Corporations Are The Government."

Chris Floyd studies the, "Cargo Cult."

Robert Scheer sees a, "Payback At The Polls."

Paul Krugman gets, "Mugged By The Moralizers."

Chris Hedges can't see, "The Phantom Left."

David Michael Green exclaims, "Yes, Of Course They're Brownshirts! What The Hell Did You Expect?"

New York Times editor Arthur S. Brisbane wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald examines, "The Wretched Mind Of The American Authoritarian."

Robert Fisk finds, "Lebanon And Iran Make Uneasy Bedfellows."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Fox News Estimates Jon Stewart's Crowd At Seven People" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "We Are So Fucked, Partiel Cinq!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Lloyd Dangle, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Internet Weekly.Org, Ted Golf, Dave Granlund, Micah Wright, Ten Grain, Wikileaks, Diy Despair.Com, Nick Anderson, The Parker Brothers, The Independent 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."

We Are So Fucked, Partiel Cinq!
By Ernest Stewart

"I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics
a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's." ~~~ Mark Twain

"The permanent, never ending campaign will become even more permanent and never ending. These big-and-secret-money groups will be working 24/7, opposing and discrediting President Barack Obama and the Democrats in the so-called off-year and then revving up for the 2012 presidential and congressional elections. The negative ads never have to stop." ~~~ David Corn

"You're not as dumb as you look slicker!" ~~~ Ma Baseline
In The Next Word You're On Your Own ~~~ Firesign Theatre

It's always something
There's always something going wrong
That's the only guarantee
That's what this is all about
Life Is A Lemon ~~~ Meatloaf

It could have been worse, but strangely enough it couldn't have been any better! The only real loss that America suffered was Russ Feingold's defeat. Feingold, America's last Senate liberal, lost to tea bagger Ron Johnson as Wisconsin's Sheeple forgot how we got in the disastrous mess and voted instead for the end of socialist programs that many of them are counting on to survive. They also elected gay bigot and Vidkum Quisling Award winner Rebecca Kleefisch as their lieutenant governor. Some folks are way too stupid to live!

Barry still holds the Senate, so the Rethuglicans in the house can rail all they want, but their hopes of destroying America are put on hold for another two years. There were no real surprises, the Rethuglicans picked up Senate seats in Indiana which has always been a little to the right of Darth Vader and their former Senator Evan Bayh was a Blue Dog and a Demoncrat in name only so no change there. Nor was there any change in Arkansas as Blanche Lincoln was a Blue Dog, too. In fact, of the Demoncratic losses 26 were "Blue Dogs!" I say good riddance to bad rubbish, at least now there is no pretense in Indiana and Arkansas where their Senators stand.

Trouble for the Tea baggers is that their candidates cost the Rethuglican control of the Senate. Had they run a conservative in Nevada Harry Reid would have been toast but they ran the lunatic Sharron Angle instead as they did in Delaware where they ran the masturbating witch Christine O'Donnell instead of a real candidate. They blew their chance with another tea bagger in Connecticut. Linda McMahon losing even after spending some $45 million dollars of her own money. Te he he! Another big spender and tea bagger loser was Carly Fiorina who lost to Blue Dog Barbara Boxer. Their tea bagger candidate in Alaska Joe Miller lost to a write-in candidate Senator Lisa Murkowski who is a Rethuglican, but after the rejection by her party, may vote as an Independent. Folks in West Virginia didn't buy the BS from tea bagger candidate John Raese who lost to West Virginia governor Joe Manchin for Robert Byrd's old seat! Similarly, Senate races in Colorado and Washington look to go to the Demoncrats as their tea bagger candidates go down to defeat.

In the House, Rethuglicans took control with a gain of some 61 seats, including wunderkind flip/flopper Alan Grayson's seat. Apparently his district didn't like being sold down the river to the Insurance Goons, the former wolf in sheep's clothing lost to a tea bagger and has been reported to be off to the Huffington Post for a job. For those of you on both sides of the aisle who couldn't stand the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, get ready for everyone's favorite tanning booth alcoholic blowhard John Boehner. I'm pretty sure that in a couple month's time, most will be wishing Nancy was still in charge--especially Barry!

Still, we're just treading water until it hits the fan in 2012 when the Rethuglicans will take both the White House and the Senate to go with their control of the House and it will be 2002 all over again but even worse for everyone but the top 4%. Do you suppose the Mayans foresaw President Palin?

With all the Rethuglican wins my job as a comedian certainly got a lot easier! However, as a patriotic American I must say as I did in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2008 we are sooooo fucked, America!

In Other News

You know who the big losers are this election, the American people are the losers but who are the big winners? No, not the Rethuglicans try as they might to paint that picture, nor is Barry a winner for dodging a bullet in the Senate. Their puppet masters are the big winners thanks to John (the enforcer) Roberts and the new "Gang of Five" from the Extreme Court.

You'll recall their acts of treason and sedition in their ruling of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission where they illegally opened the floodgates to campaign cash and bribery to come a pouring in!

One of the races affected by this act of sedition concerns the Kentucky Senate race and serves as a example of what's ahead for America. The Democratic candidate, Jack Conway, is Kentucky's attorney general. Conway is also currently prosecuting a nursing home for covering up the sexual abuses of its patients.

Did you know that the nursing home is owned by Terry Forcht? Terry's a fascist millionaire, who gives only to fascist causes. Terry poured millions into Karl Rove's organization, American Crossroads GPS, which ran ads backing Rand Paul. They can give millions while you can give $2,000, does that seem fair to you? The truth be told they shouldn't be allowed to give a dime, they're not real people! And of course that's just the tip of the iceberg. Not to mention, that many Americans can not afford to give anything!

So because of this, our voices won't be heard no matter what that tea bagger promised you, money talks and if you have none, then they can't hear you! Yes, nothing has changed, it's just more so!

Oh and did I mention those attack ads won't end with the election, but go on and on all the way to 2012 and beyond? And you thought that those awful ads were finally over for two years, huh? The money for those ads is pouring in from every rat-wing goon on the planet. Not only do we have to fight American fascism but fascists in Saudi Arabia, in Israel, in Europe, Russia, China, you name it, the shekels will flow until the only voice you'll hear is the corpo-rats. They've already won and we've already lost. Drop and cover, America, then put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye!

And Finally

Some brain dead over at the Mickey Mouse News channel thought that hiring Andrew Breitbart for commentary during the election coverage would be just a swell idea and all of the Disney brass went along with it. I, and a hundred million other folks thought otherwise and bombarded ABC News with complaints. I wrote them a particular nasty letter, which I won't print in this family magazine. However, I did write the ABC affiliate in Detroit "WXYZ" TV this following, much, much calmer note!

Dear WXYZ,

Funny how the first TV program I've watched on ABC since the mid eighty's is taken off just to hear some windbags blow. I see that apparently it wasn't important enough to take off "Dancing with the Stars," (so how important could it be?), which I wouldn't watch at gun point for this little song and dance. Yet you have no problems taking off the one show worth watching on this Mickey Mouse network. Funny indeed!

A network where I can listen to such brilliant minds as that lying, racist coward and fascist moron, Andrew Breitbart. I wonder how this racist will play with the black folks in your audience? That's what, about 90%? I guess ABC couldn't get Hitler and had to settle for Andrew, huh?

So the Mouse is a bigot, who knew? Well, actually, everyone who has been paying any attention for the last six decades knew since Walt volunteered to rat out his employees for not backing Hitler during the war at that fascist, Washington, witch hunt! Funny how Disney animation went to hell after that, huh?

Ergo, I guess I can wait until 187 comes out on DVD, so in the future I won't be subject to your little scheduling faux pas or some moron's fascist philosophies!

Ernest Stewart
PS. Can I get a heil Palin?

As always I will let you know what they say in reply!

Up Date: In an eleventh hour letter to Mr. Breitbart late Tuesday afternoon, the executive producer for ABC News Digital, Andrew Morse, said "We feel it best for you not to participate." Imagine that!

Keepin' On

We'd like to welcome a new author to the magazine, Diane Gee joins us this week in the lead off slot. In her spare time Diane hosts the talk show, "The Wild, Wild, Left! We welcome your wit and your wisdom Diane and the key to the honor bar is under the mat! Welcome to our little band of "Merry Pranksters!"

As Mr. Loaf sang, "It's always something" and ain't it the truth! Just when I thought I might get a breathing spell after all the recent excitement my word processors, Word 2008 and Text Wrangler decided to shift the programs a bit so that every quotation mark, apostrophe, ellipsis and dash turns into bizarre symbols. I had the same problem with Word 98 but solved it eventually. I haven't a clue how to get it to accept my choice of a default i.e., Mac OS Roman, or even how to get to the "File Conversion" file where Mac OS Roman lies.

I also have iPages but it won't let me convert files to HTML so I've spent twice the time this week reediting most of the articles. If any of you have any ideas on how to fix any one of these three programs by all means do speak up. Otherwise, I'm going to have to sacrifice a virgin to the computer gods and where in hell am I going to get a virgin to sacrifice in this day and age? Where, I ask you, where?


05-08-1928 ~ 10-31-2010
Thanks for the words!

07-08-1956 ~ 11-02-2010
Thanks for the laughs!

02-22-1934 ~ 11-04-2010
Thanks for the championship!


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.

I Want To Be A Real Boy!
By Diane Gee

The shows had been dull on the Main Stage the last two years. Predictable. Polite. Passe. Pat. So much so, that the audience, hungry for a not-trite answer, a thrill, any stimulation at all started attending all the little Side-stage productions that popped up. Ah, there it was, all the drama, the blood, the titillating sleazy sexiness that had been missing from the slow, dull plod of the main stage. Meanwhile, those hungry for a more intelligent play, one based on humanity, justice, honor and true love drifted away unsatisfied by either stage. They knew there was nothing for them here anymore.

Something is always better than nothing, when it comes to feeding an audience.

It was inevitable that the hate-porn charlatans would storm the boards of the hallowed hall of the Grand Theater and demand their shows be Top Billing. Goodbye Shakespeare, hello American Gladiators. Goodbye Dickens and Hemingway, hello Gaga.

The Puppet was dismayed, of course.

"I'm popular!" he cried, "Why did you abandon me?"

He just couldn't see that to get love, you have to give love. He couldn't see that it was his own hollow performances that sent the people away. They had started to cut the strings when they named him Best Actor, and gave him the Director's seat. They expected a Renaissance. He just retied the strings, tied more strings, tied so many strings that it was amazing he could move at all. He was too busy to return their love, see their confusion and dismay.

He didn't ever consider that every awkward jerk he made in those strings yanked the audience too, yanked them painfully in ever more confusing directions. It was all about him, after all. He was eloquent, with a voice like butter. He was an intellectual. He was a star. He had drawn a larger audience than ever in History with his wondrous flowing rhetoric. He was so certain of their loyalty that it never occurred to him that when he quit even speaking to them at all, they would feel pain. He just kept tying strings. And? Moving where ever the strings said to move. The Shows themselves were too painfully bad to watch, anyway. He never even noticed the audience slipping away through the months.

He just never figured that those he had tied himself to so studiously would bring in a cast of Nero's, mad dogs and lions hungry to feed. The nipping began before he could say boo.

Ever devious, and ready to make the show even more carnal than ever; the new Directors blacked out the strings tied to themselves, against a dark background, and began to condemn him for all the visible strings left, strings they pained bright sparkling Red. The batted at him, and spoke loudly, "Not only is this one not real, he is of foreign design. He wasn't even made here! Who knows to whom those strings are tied,?" rising in crescendo, "We know. Those are commie-pinko-jihadi-foreigner-hitler strings. Start the fires!"

The new audience cheered in agreement. "Kill the puppet! Kill the puppet!" They were thrilled to be in the Big House, now. They were thrilled to smell blood.

The little puppet could not believe his fate!

"What about change? What about all the Love you swore to me?" came his angry call. There was no reply, save the few "professional" leftists who sneered at him.

"I'm a star! I thought I could make a bigger audience. I thought the Lions would, you know, lay down with you shee.. I mean Lambs! Help me! Heeeelp me!" He jerked in his strings, befuddled and terrified.

There was a hiss from the Wings, "They are right, you are nothing but a Puppet!"

"But I was YOUR puppet, don't you Love me anymoooooore?" he whined.

"We tried to make you a man among men. We tried to make you real, one of us who are tied to nothing, walk freely. We asked only that you help us cut the strings that bound you. You tied more.

Now you are forever a Puppet. You chose your own fate.

You had the stage, could have used it to set yourself, and all of us free from our bindings.

Now you are a Puppet forever, doomed to the feed the fires you set. Doomed to play a bit part to the Lions and the Nero's and the Palins and the Pauls that fill our stage. You will be a martyr to nothing. For nothing is what you gave us in return for our Love. You have to GIVE love to GET love, you hollow piece of wood.

You lied to us, gave us pale kabuki when we expected programming to raise us all up. You ignored us. You never responded to our pleas from the cheap seats. You were too self-involved in your own Puppet glorification and the money from the advertising endorsements to even see how your strings were choking us.

We are cutting our strings to you, leaving you as real, free human beings to suffer the fate you created, Puppet Boy. The final scene is yours alone. Goodbye."

Thus, the few good men left the Arena of Stages forever. Left it ever to the Circus crowd to create a bloodbath Colosseum.

As they walked away, they heard his plea fade....

"Wait, come back! I don't want to be a Puppet anymore.

I want to be a Real Boy..............."
© 2010 Diane Gee is a political junkie, humanitarian activist, and writer living in Michigan. As a Polish/Irish-Canadian with a bit of Ojibwa, a recovering Catholic, her rants and passionate introspection can be found at, replete with blue-collar language, irreverent humor, and the scathing insight of someone who sees Class Warfare as our last stand. Listen to her on "The Wild, Wild Left" radio show!

Bread And the Circus
By Uri Avnery

I WAS surprised when, towards the end of 1975, I received an invitation from the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, to meet him at his residence. He opened the door himself, poured me a glass of whisky, poured one for himself, and without any further ado asked me: "Tell me, Uri, have you decided to destroy all the doves in the Labor Party?"

Some weeks before, my magazine, Haolam Hazeh ("This World"), had started to publish disclosures about the corrupt dealings of the candidate for President of the Central Bank, Asher Yadlin. On the eve of the conversation, we had also started to publish suspicions concerning the Minister of Housing, Avraham Ofer. Both were leaders of the Labor "doves."

I answered that, unfortunately, I could not offer immunity to corrupt politicians, even if their political positions were close to mine. These are separate matters.

I TOLD this story this week at a conference held by Tel Aviv University devoted to a new book by Prof. Yossi Shain, “The Language of Corruption”.

The panel was very mixed. There were two former Ministers of Justice – Yossi Beilin, the chairman of the “Geneva Initiative”, and Daniel Friedman, a right-winger whose unrestrained attacks on the Supreme Court had aroused public indignation; Yedidia Stern, a national-religious intellectual who is advocating reconciliation with the secular camp, and retired General Yitzhak Ben-Israel of the Air Force and the Israeli Space Agency, a member of the last Knesset for the Kadima party. I was introduced as the creator of Israel’s investigative journalism, who was responsible for the exposure of the first big corruption affairs that rocked the nation.

Prof. Shain vigorously attacked those who fought against corruption - including judges, police officers, prosecutors and such. He claimed that they endanger Israeli democracy and undermine national strength. These two words – “national strength”- are typical of the Right.

And indeed, everybody knows that corruption affairs are currently occupying the center of the public stage. A former President of the state is awaiting judgment in a rape trial. A former Prime Minister is suspected of accepting fat bribes. A former Finance Minister is in prison. A former senior minister has been convicted of indecent conduct for forcing his tongue into the mouth of a female army officer (it happened on the day the government decided to launch Lebanon War II). The Foreign Minister is under investigation. A long list of assorted politicians, senior civil servants and army officers are in various stages of investigation and prosecution.

Shain’s book does not deal with the affairs themselves, but with the place they occupy in public discourse. He believes that they should be taken off the headlines and removed from center stage.

His arguments deserve consideration.

IN THE headlines, corruption scandals often fill the space that should have been devoted to the matters that are crucial to our future.

Take, for example, two topical cases.

Case 1: A Knesset committee has just adopted a law that enables “reception committees” of “communal localities” with less than 500 families to refuse would-be residents not to their liking.

The law, which will come into force in a matter of days, is designed to circumvent the judgment of the Supreme Court forbidding the refusal to admit Arabs. The wording of the law is a masterpiece of verbal acrobatics, in order to avoid the use of the word "Arab." But the meaning is clear to everybody. An investigation by the Arab "dala" organization has shown that the 695 agricultural and urban communities to which the law will apply occupy the greater part of the lands that belong to the government (most of which, by the way, were expropriated from Arab owners after the foundation of the state). Almost all the real estate of Israel belongs to the government.

This is a clear case of racial segregation, of the kind that existed in the US against Jews and blacks. There it disappeared 50 years ago. It concerns the very essence of the State of Israel. It turns the status of Israel’s Arab citizens, 20% of the population, into a time bomb.

(Lately, the chief rabbi of Safed, a government employee, has decreed that selling or letting apartments to Arabs is a sin. Before 1948, Safed was a mixed town with an Arab majority. Mahmoud Abbas was born there. The day before yesterday, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the unquestioned leader of the Oriental Jewish community, also decreed that selling land to “foreigners” – meaning the Arabs who have been living here for more than a thousand years before the venerable rabbi himself was brought to this country from Iraq – is expressly forbidden by the Jewish religion.)

Case 2: A senior army officer has distributed a document that describes an alleged plot by the incoming Chief of Staff (Yoav Galant) to smear the present Chief of Staff (Gabi Ashkenazi). The document is a forgery, and many signs indicate that it originated in the immediate surroundings of Ashkenazi. It appears that the forger is a personal friend of Ashkenazi and his wife. The State Comptroller is now investigating the matter.

A juicy affair, by any standard. An intrigue in the highest echelons of the army.

How were these two matters covered by the media? The first one was mentioned a few times. The second has occupied the headlines for months now, with no end in sight.

NO DOUBT, the big corruption scandals help the media and the public at large to push aside the central problems of our existence: the occupation, the elimination of the chances for peace, the enlargement of the settlements, the continuing blockade of Gaza, the racist laws against the Arab minority in Israel proper, all the dangers connected with the ongoing 130-year-old conflict between us and the Palestinians.

The public does not want to hear about this. It wants all these matters to disappear from its sight, so as to be left to enjoy life. This is a national exercise of escapism.

It is much more convenient to deal with a forged document in the safe of the Chief of Staff, Ashkenazi, than to deal with the war crimes committed in the course of the "Cast Lead" operation, whose commander was Ashkenazi.

It is much nicer to pursue the private affairs of public personalities who are caught in flagrante: the Philippine maid illegally employed by Ehud Barak, the air ticket fraud of Ehud Olmert, the long tongue of Haim Ramon, the fat bribes handed out to municipal leaders in Jerusalem for a permit to build an architectural monstrosity on a hill overlooking the center of the city.

The rulers of ancient Rome gave the masses panem et circenses (bread and circus games) to take their minds off matters of state. Our corruption affairs, which follow each other in quick succession, are ersatz circus games.

ALREADY WHILE serving as editor-in-chief of Haolam Hazeh, when we were conducting the fight against government corruption, I was conscious of the dangers inherent in such a campaign.

More than once I was troubled by the thought that when we reveal the repulsive doings of corrupt politicians, we may be encouraging the public to detest all politicians, indeed politics as such. Are we not helping to create a public climate of "they are all corrupt" and opening an abyss between the public and the political system?

If politics stinks, good people will not opt for a political career. Politics will be left to people of low intelligence, bereft of talent and ethical standards, even criminal elements. The results are already obvious in the present Knesset.

The loathing of politics and politicians can pave the way to fascism. Fascist movements all over the world exploit the contempt for politicians in order to arouse the longing for a "strong man," who will turn the rascals out.

ALL THIS may lead to the conclusion that we should reduce the fight against corruption, or at least refrain from talking about it.

But this is a very dangerous idea.

A society that confers immunity on corrupt leaders is digging its own grave. That is the way the Roman republic rotted and imploded. This has happened to many states since then, even in our lifetime. It is not the talk about corruption that destroys democracy, but corruption itself. Corruption cannot be swept under the carpet for long. Even if the media were to stop dancing around it, rumors would get around and undermine trust in government even more.

When ministers fill public positions with their political proteges or their relatives, the management of public affairs and monies is turned over to the incompetent and/or the dishonest. The best and the brightest are pushed aside by "political appointments". When politicians are bought - quite simply by business tycoons, they are compelled to serve them against the public interest. The quality of leadership goes down, and incompetents decide our fate in matters of life and death, peace or war. This is not a specifically Israeli problem. Corruption rules many countries. Some believe that the US is more corrupt than Israel. Just now the Supreme Court there has opened the gates to corruption even wider, allowing large corporations to buy politicians almost openly. True, unlike us, Americans kick out politicians who have been caught. (Remember the immortal words of Vice President Spiro Agnew: "The bastards d the rules and didn’t tell me!")

THE STRUGGLE against the occupation and the fight against corruption do not contradict each other. On the contrary, they complement one another.

The occupation destroys our ethical standards. A society that loses its repugnance of the daily cruelty in the occupied territories loses also its resistance to corruption.

The occupation is a life-threatening disease, corruption is "simply" nausea. But if the patient is nauseous, no medicine will stay down.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Rich Media, Poor Democracy
By Amy Goodman

As the 2010 elections come to a close, the biggest winner of all remains undeclared: the broadcasters. The biggest loser: democracy. These were the most expensive midterm elections in U.S. history, costing close to $4 billion, $3 billion of which went to advertising. What if ad time were free? We hear no debate about this, because the media corporations are making such a killing by selling campaign ads. Yet the broadcasters are using public airwaves.

I am reminded of the 1999 book by media scholar Robert McChesney, "Rich Media, Poor Democracy." In it, he writes, "Broadcasters have little incentive to cover candidates, because it is in their interest to force them to publicize their campaigns."

The Wesleyan Media Project, at Wesleyan University, tracks political advertising. Following the recent Supreme Court ruling, Citizens United v. FEC, the project notes, "The airwaves are being saturated with more House and Senate advertising, up 20 percent and 79 percent respectively in total airings." Evan Tracey, the founder and president of Campaign Media Analysis Group, predicted in USA Today in July, "There is going to be more money than there is airtime to buy." John Nichols of The Nation commented that in the genteel, earlier days of television political advertising, the broadcasters would never juxtapose an ad for a candidate with an ad opposed to that candidate. But they are running out of broadcast real estate. Welcome to the brave, new world of the multibillion dollar campaigns.

There have been efforts in the past to regulate the airwaves to better serve the public during elections. The most ambitious in recent years was what became known as McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform. During the debate on that landmark legislation, the problem of exorbitant television advertising rates was brought up, by Democrats and Republicans alike. Nevada Sen. John Ensign, a Republican, lamented: "The broadcasters used to dread campaigns because that was the time of year they made the least amount of money because of this lowest unit rate. Now it is one of their favorite times of the year because it is actually one of their highest profit-margin times of the year." Ultimately, to get the bill passed, the public airtime provisions were dropped.

The Citizens United ruling effectively neutralizes McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform. One can only imagine what the cost of the 2012 presidential election will be. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., lost his re-election bid to the largely self-financed multimillionaire Ron Johnson. The Wall Street Journal editorial page celebrated Feingold's expected loss. The Journal is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which also owns the Fox television network and which gave close to $2 million to Republican campaign efforts.

"The elections have become a commodity, a profit center for these radio and TV stations," Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and former presidential candidate, told me on Election Day. He went on: "The public airwaves, as we know, belong to the people, and they're the landlords, and the radio and TV stations are the licensees. They're the tenants, so to speak. They pay no money to the FCC for their annual license. And therefore, it's really quite persuasive, were we to have a public policy to condition modestly the license to this enormously lucrative control of the public airwaves 24 hours a day by these TV and radio stations and say, as part of the reciprocity for controlling this commons, so to speak, you have to allow a certain amount of time, free time, on radio and TV for ballot-qualified candidates."

The place where we should debate this is in the major media, where most Americans get their news. But the television and radio broadcasters have a profound conflict of interest. Their profits take precedence over our democratic process. You very likely won't hear this discussed on the Sunday-morning talk shows.
(c) 2010 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback.

War Is a Joke, But It Isn't Funny
By Randall Amster

By now you've probably seen (or at least heard about) the recent WikiLeaks logs on Iraq (and previously on Afghanistan), which reveal a pattern of widespread brutality and official policies that belie any public overtures to liberation or human rights. For all of their impact and historical import, the WikiLogs are particularly noteworthy in that they confirm in stark detail what multitudes were saying before the respective invasions were launched. In those halcyon days before the age of overt adventurism and perpetual warfare, voices around the world from every demographic asserted the obvious inanity and base futility of war as a viable option. The latest WikiLeaks data dump -- replete with episodes of torture, murder, and a people thoroughly terrorized in the name of freedom -- demonstrates the farcical logic of militarism, and equally reminds us that there's nothing at all funny about it.

Why were these prescient warnings, issued by literally millions around the globe, entirely ignored? How many Pentagon Papers and WikiLeaks do we need to have issued before the anti-war, pro-peace perspective is given its proper due as a credible source? What will it actually take once and for all to give the lie to war as a tool for achieving anything positive, and in the process finally to debunk the jingoistic fervor and liberatory propaganda that accompany it? Now that the WikiLogs have helped us move from the "fog of war" to a place of greater clarity, will the perpetrators, policymakers, and pliant pundits finally get their long-overdue comeuppance?

Cynical readers will no doubt recognize the rhetorical nature of these queries. So thorough is the American acculturation to the glory of war and the uprightness of nation that even unimpeachable evidence of atrocities is insufficient to break through the hegemonic facade. So deeply is the economy (and our concomitant creature comforts) bound up with the military-industrial complex that even unabashed torture of the dehumanized "other" becomes an acceptable form of "collateral damage" in our providential pursuit of happiness. Americans are equally fond of their McDonald's and their McDonnell Douglas alike (or is it Burger King and Boeing?), and the rest of the world can simply choose which one they prefer as the leading edge of our democratizing munificence.

One aspect of all of this that begs further inquiry is the seeming ineptitude of the military planners. I refuse to accept the surface implication that they are operating in some sort of Peter Sellers-like, Strangelovian world of black comedy. They may be working from an inherently flawed model, but they aren't incompetent. Why fight a war in such a manner as to continually fuel, fund, and foment the ostensible enemy's engagement in the conflict? Why focus so much of the apparatus on the body, when any first-year cadet can tell you that winning a war is ultimately about conquering "hearts and minds"? Why flush billions (or trillions?) into the abyss on wars that even many of the professionals and generals will tell you (in a candid moment) are simply unwinnable? Just as George W. Bush hid his Machiavellian intellect (really!) behind a "bumbling fool" public persona, the war-makers often mask their intelligent designs underneath a veneer of patent absurdity.

I suggest to you that this is an artfully-constructed vision being plied by powerful interests. Upon launching the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, some military commanders in the field remarked that the battle plans being delivered were nonsensical and strategically bereft. The missions and objectives were never clearly defined, and the self-parodying "search for WMD" in Iraq (lampooned by the president himself at a subsequent press dinner) was a willy-nilly adventure in comic relief -- to wit, Donald Rumsfeld's classic remark that "we know where they are: they're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south, and north somewhat." In another theater, after invading Afghanistan as the "central front" in the war on terror, we surreptitiously scaled back production for six years until somehow that all-quiet front became urgently loud again in convenient movie-villain fashion. A "surge redux" ensued, and -- despite eventualities such as the leading drug kingpin in the region being kept firmly on our payroll -- one can only anticipate an encore of Mission Accomplished any day now.

What explains the meteoric rise of this nascent Combat Theater-cum-Theater of the Absurd? Let me suggest a few possible lenses through which to view this lavishly-staged repertoire:

"War is a racket." Major General Smedley Butler's cogent rejoinder applies in force across the decades. War is good business, so much so that it pays to prolong it. A carefully-controlled system in which we stay just on top enough to keep the public from completely losing faith, yet also feed enough ammo and anger over to the other side to keep things slightly hot, makes for a good old-fashioned shooting match in perpetuity. If we can make a buck arming all sides, not to mention through the ongoing cycle of destruction-and-reconstruction, then all the better. Never overlook the crass commercial interests at work here, and the need to justify and draw down that 50+ percent standing "defense" line in the federal budget. This is all about marketing, and its machinations are wholly intentional, as former Bush II insider Andrew Card once famously noted when referring to the timing of initiating the Iraq war fervor: "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

"There's no such thing as a winnable war." Sting's Cold War elegy turns out to be even more clairvoyant than he may have intended. Not only is a winnable war logically impossible in the modern era of high-tech weapons and even higher associated costs, but the entire notion of "winning" is in itself most likely not the actual aim. Beyond the venal profiteering noted above, there's also the overt invocation of "perpetual war" over resources and territories as part and parcel of the national security strategy. In this sense, war too becomes a type of "renewable resource," a means to its own end, and a sine qua non of power. Winning isn't the goal -- forever fighting is. Planners don't even make the pretense any longer of crafting an "exit strategy" before invading, but instead couch their intentions in language such as "changing conditions on the ground" or unattainable ends such as not resting "until every last terrorist" is eliminated. Winning is for losers; realists keep fighting, and thus become true winners.

"War, what is it good for?" The popular rhetorical refrain keeps looping through the years, and since the U.S. very nearly has been at war continuously for over two centuries, there must be an affirmative answer in the offing. Profits and power make for a strong opening response, but there's more at work here. War provides the state with its sole and immutable raison d'etre, namely to protect and defend the homeland. It turns a generation of young combatants into de facto wards of the state with malleable minds and patriotic personas. It deflects our gaze from the real threats of economic meltdown, political complicity, and environmental apocalypse. It instantiates martial values throughout the culture from education to entertainment, and inculcates a notion of heroic masculinity that permits the perpetuation of patriarchy. War, in short, is good for a lot of spin-offs and ancillary benefits -- to some segments of society, at least. Not me and you, perhaps, but who are we to quibble with a successful formula? Certainly the millions killed in war might hold another view, but their voices have been effectively silenced.

As I've said, there's nothing funny about this. War is a nasty, mercenary business both on the battlefields and in the boardrooms alike. The most viable solution to ending this B-movie madness is to take up General Butler's call to "smash the war racket" once and for all by following this basic outline: "We must take the profit out of war. We must permit the youth of the land who would bear arms to decide whether or not there should be war. We must limit our military forces to home defense purposes." Perhaps this isn't a perfect solution, but at least it would constitute a series of hesitant steps in the right direction. If we don't heed this advice and take prompt measures to reduce war to its properly relegated status, then at the end of day we'll likely find that the joke really is on us.
(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).

Dead Miners And Ethically-Dead Senators

Some members of Congress complain that they have a really tough job. Also, they say their hard work is not appreciated by the public and that they're really not paid enough.

Well, not to worry congress peoples, for I have the perfect cure for your job grievances: become coal miners for a while.

Talk about hard work, bad conditions, poor pay, and unappreciative bosses! Then there's that irritating thing about being killed on the job.

You might remember that 29 miners were killed in April in a horrific explosion inside West Virginia's Upper Big Branch mine, owned by Massey Energy. Massey, a $2-billion-a-year giant, is notorious for putting its workers down in inexcusably-unsafe coal mines. Last year, it was cited for more than 500 safety violations - and it had just received two more citations at Upper Big Branch on the very day of the murderous explosion.

Such killings happen because coal corporations have used their campaign cash and lobbyists to make mine safety rules a cruel joke. After Massey's April explosion, however, public outrage prodded Congress to write tougher rules and put some teeth in safety enforcement.

Great! But wait - Senate Republicans are now sitting down on the job, refusing to move this life-and-death legislation to passage. Their shameful work stoppage is meant to stall any action until after the November elections. Wealthy mine owners, you see, are pouring money into this year's Republican efforts to win control of the senate, in exchange for assurances that a GOP senate would water down or kill these vitally-needed safety reforms.

What a disgrace! And they wonder why the public has no respect for them. I say that every soft-handed, pampered congress critter who opposes these safety reforms should be sent to work in the mines for at least two years.
(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.

Despair Follows Delusion
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Despite all the hype and rhetoric, only one impact of the midterm elections is assured. Notwithstanding power shifts from Democrats to Republicans in Congress there will not be any deep, sorely needed true reforms of our corrupt, dysfunctional and inefficient government. The culture of corruption in Washington, DC will remain. Hundreds of millions of dollars from corporate and other special interests will assure that.

Voters who think otherwise are either delusional or stupid. It will not matter whether you voted for Republicans because you wanted to defeat Democrats (or vice-versa), or whether you voted for Tea Party candidates, or whether you voted against incumbents, or whether you voted for what you believe are lesser-evil candidates. Americans lost however they voted, but it may take time for most to comprehend that. That is a terribly painful reality, which is why many who chose to vote will resist facing the ugly truth.

When it comes to politics in America, delusion and stupidity are rampant, like a terrible epidemic that has killed brain cells. Several billion dollars were spent selling candidates this year. Who profited? The many media outlets that received the advertising bonanza and companies that supplied mailings, posters and automatic phone calls. At least all that spending was kept domestic.

Yes, you are thinking that this is the most cynical view possible. Cynicism beats delusion. I recommend it.

This is what American history tells us. Americans have been brainwashed and tricked into thinking that elections are crucial for maintaining American democracy. That is exactly what the two-party plutocracy needs to maintain their self-serving political system and that is also what the rich and powerful Upper Class wants to preserve their status. But voting in a corrupt political system no longer sustains democracy. It only sustains the corrupt political system that makes a mockery of American democracy. Think about it.

In the months following this election, when unemployment and economic pain for all but the rich remain awful, anyone who pays attention and is able to face the truth will see that there is little chance of genuine government reforms. Nor will any of the nation's severe fiscal and spending problems be smartly attacked. The Republicans will blame the Democrats, the Democrats will blame the Republicans, the Tea Party winners will blame the system, the radio and cable pundits will blabber endlessly, and Jon Stewart and other comics will have an abundance of material to take jabs at. The two-party plutocracy will triumph.

Every member of Congress will, as before, spend most of their time and energy doing what is necessary to win the next election. The army of lobbyists will be busier than ever legally bribing politicians to sustain the successful political strategy of the rich and business sector to make the rich and superrich still richer at the expense of the middle class. Anyone who thinks that winner Republicans will work to overturn economic inequality is stupid or delusional. A disproportionate and ludicrous fraction of the nation's income and wealth will go to a tiny fraction of rich and superrich Americans. Nothing that President Obama or the Democrats have done or championed was aimed squarely at reversing economic inequality and the death of the middle class, which by itself justified defeating them.

President Obama, of course, will continue his self-serving rhetoric with the sole goal of winning reelection in 2012. The presidency just made him destructively delusional. Of course he will speak about working with Republicans. Wait and see.

Here is what non-delusional Americans can hope for: Maybe a decent third party presidential candidate will emerge. Maybe the Tea Party movement will wake up to the reality that electing Republicans is a terrible strategy for reforming the government and restoring the health of the nation and shift their interest to forming a third party. I doubt very much whether any of the Tea Party winners in Congress will stand up and aggressively work for and demand true reforms. The new Republican Speaker of the House is a classic establishment Republican. Maybe the greatly expanded calls for an Article V convention (mostly by Republicans and conservatives) as the constitutional path to reforms through constitutional amendments will gather more energy (especially from Tea Party people) and finally succeed.

Welcome to the good old USA where citizens, unlike those in Europe, do not riot in the streets demanding justice but keep believing in the nonsense that voting for either Republicans or Democrats will work for them and the nation.

Despair follows delusion. Despite the endless media hype, the political revolution of 2010 is like a badly made firecracker, a dud. President Obama, Republicans and Democrats will have learned nothing profound, not enough to dedicate themselves to real reforms. Along with economic pain, widespread anger will persist as nothing tangible results to make the lives of ordinary Americans a lot better. Will Americans demand smarter strategies than voting in regular elections with choices between Democrats and Republicans? What do you think?
(c) 2010 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Getting Our Morning Poison
By James Donahue

Short of slipping in the shower, few of us consider ourselves in any danger when we go through our morning grooming routine. That is because we are not chemists.

Most of us have little idea what that long list of chemical names on the back of our shampoo bottle, our mouthwash bottle, and the toothpaste tube consists of, or what these things might do to us if ingested, or merely rubbed on our skin.

We have used these products much of our lives and nothing ever happened. Why should we think there is any danger? It is a matter of trusting the manufacturer. After all, "they" are regulated by our government, are they not?

And therein rests the fallacy. Can you really trust a government that feeds on the big money fed into the pockets of politicians by big business interests? And can you really trust a company that cares more about profit than public safety?

Consider this sobering piece of information: The American National Cancer Institute has determined that over four million new chemical compounds were formulated, many of them for cosmetic use, between 1965 and 1982. Since then, an estimated 6,000 new chemicals were formulated every week. And about 3,000 of these were manufactured to deliberately add to our food. And 884 neuro-toxic chemicals are presently used in the cosmetic, perfume and toiletries industries.

Among the most common of these chemicals is Sodium Lauren Sulphate, a product known by about 90 different names ranging from Product No. 161 to Gardenol. Sodium Laurel Sulphate is used in industry as an ingredient in floor de-waxers, engine degreasers and garage floor cleaners. The military used it in the toxic defoliant fondly remembered as agent orange during the Vietnam War.

Believe it or not, many toothpastes, shampoos and soap products contain Sodium Laurel Sulphate, even though it is now identified as a severe poison. Why would they use it? Because the stuff foams and makes the shampoo or gel thick, giving the user a sense of a rich lather.

Even though it is freely used in shampoo, the chemical also damages hair follicles, causes hair loss, harms the eyes and is implicated in the formation of cataracts in adults. Toothpaste also contains fluoride, a by-product in making atomic bombs. Touted as a chemical that hardens teeth, it really turns teeth brown, attacks bones and joints. It is a very bad poison. It is almost impossible to find a brand of toothpaste today that doesnt contain this substance. I found one brand in a local health food and vitamin store, which I use.

It is not uncommon for toothpastes to carry a warning label by law because they contain sodium laurel sulphate. It says: Warning. Keep out of reach of children under six years of age. In case of accidental ingestion seek professional assistance or contact a poison control center immediately.

How many of us have swallowed toothpaste? I know I have. Most days I dont have a clean glass of water readily available in the bathroom so I find other ways of rinsing my mouth. Sometimes I do it with mouthwash.

But wait. Mouthwash often is found to contain a chemical called propylene glycol. We know this chemical by another name when we pour it into our car radiators every winter . . . antifreeze. Why they put it in our mouthwash is unknown to me. The stuff is so poisonous that it is known to irritate the skin, cause mouth ulcers and even oral cancer. If ingested it damages the kidneys and liver. So dont swallow your mouthwash, especially if you might have swallowed some toothpaste.

Back to shampoo for a moment. Another heavy ingredient in our commercial shampoo is nitrate. Most chemicals we put on our skin are readily absorbed into the body. This is especially true with nitrates. One study showed that shampooing can put more nitrate into our blood than eating a pound of bacon.

There is another interesting type of chemical used in nail polish, anti-aging creams, certain shampoos, Oil of Olay, shampoos, deodorants, sunscreens and conditioners. These are called phthalates. They are classified as plastic-softeners. This chemical is found in the urine of users which means it gets in the bloodstream just by contact with the skin. Phthalates are suspected of disrupting the development of the testicles, reducing sperm counts, and damaging the liver and kidneys. Great stuff.

Another suspicious chemical found in deodorant is an anti-perspirant called parabens. These have been shown to mimic the action of the female hormone estrogen, which drives the growth of human breast tumors. Needless to say, doctors feel there may be a direct link to breast cancer.

And finally, note that most deodorants also contain some form of aluminum, a metal linked to AlzheimerÕs disease and also breast cancer.

Your best bet is to search the health food stores for good old tar soap for washing the body and hair, brush your teeth with pure water, comb your hair, and let it go at that.

Have a nice day.
(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.

When Corporations Are The Government
By Ralph Nader

It was Bill Clinton's campaign strategist, James Carville, who in 1992 created the election slogan: "It's the Economy, Stupid." For the 2010 Congressional campaigns, the slogan should have been: "It's Corporate Crime and Control, Stupid."

But notwithstanding the latest corporate crime wave, the devastating fallout on workers, investors and taxpayers from the greed and corruption of Wall Street, and the abandonment of American workers by U.S. corporations in favor of repressive regimes abroad, the Democrats have failed to focus voter anger on the corporate supremacists.

The giant corporate control of our country is so vast that people who call themselves anything politically-liberal, conservative, progressive, libertarian, independents or anarchist-should be banding together against the reckless Big Business steamroller.

Conservatives need to remember the sharply critical cautions against misbehaving or over-reaching businesses and commercialism by Adam Smith, Frederic Bastiat, Friedrich Hayek and other famous conservative intellectuals. All knew that the commercial instinct and drive know few boundaries to the relentless stomping or destruction of the basic civic values for any civilized society.

When eighty percent of the Americans polled believe 'America is in decline,' they are reflecting in part the decline of real household income and the shattered bargaining power of American workers up against global companies.

The U.S. won World War II. Germany lost and was devastated. Yet note this remarkable headline in the October 27th Washington Post: "A Bargain for BMW means jobs for 1,000 in S. Carolina: Workers line up for $15 an hour-half of what German counterparts make."

The German plant is backed by South Carolina taxpayer subsidies and is not unionized. Newly hired workers at General Motors and Chrysler, recently bailed out by taxpayers, are paid $14 an hour before deductions. The auto companies used to be in the upper tier of high paying manufacturing jobs. Now the U.S. is a low-wage country compared to some countries in Western Europe and the trend here is continuing downward.

Workers in their fifties at the BMW plant, subsidizing their lower wages with their tax dollars, aren't openly complaining, according to the Post. Not surprising, since the alternative in a falling economy is unemployment or a fast food job at $8 per hour.

It is not as if we weren't forewarned by our illustrious political forebears Fasten your seat belts; here are some examples:

Thomas Jefferson, "I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

Abraham Lincoln in 1864, "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Écorporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed." (1864)

Theodore Roosevelt, "The citizens of the United States must control the mighty commercial forces which they themselves call into being."

Woodrow Wilson, "Big business is not dangerous because it is big, but because its bigness is an unwholesome inflation created by privileges and exemptions which it ought not to enjoy."

Franklin D. Roosevelt, "The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism-ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power."

Dwight Eisenhower, farewell address, "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex."

And, lastly, a literary insight:

Theodore Dreiser,"The government has ceased to function, the corporations are the government."

Are you, dear reader, the same now as you were when you began reading this column?
(c) 2010 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

Cargo Cult
Questions on the Latest Terrorist Threat
By Chris Floyd

First we were told that the recently intercepted package bombs sent, we are told, from Yemen, were targeted at synagogues in Chicago. Now we are being told that they were intended to blow up the cargo planes themselves. We are also told that the bombs' design shows the mark of a "highly sophisticated" operation by extremist Islamists, most likely al Qaeda.

All of which prompts one question. If you were indeed a "highly sophisticated" Islamist extremist operation wishing to blow up cargo planes bound for the United States with package bombs, would you really a) mail those bombs from Yemen, a country currently under intense counterterrorism scrunity by the United States, and b) address these packages, from Yemen, to Jewish institutions -- in Barack Obama's home city?

Either a) or b) alone would be enough to set alarm bells clanging all through the thick mesh of security systems that now overlay modern life. Put them together, and what you have is either,

a) the mark of a very unsophisticated, cack-handed, two-bit operation whose sporadic and isolated threats hardly justify a world-wide, never-ending, mass-killing, liberty-gutting, multi-trilliondollar war, or:

b) the mark of a highly sophisticated organization that wished to ensure maximum publicity for this attempted terrorist attack -- and even more publicity for its heroic thwarting ... especially on the eve of a national election, and after weeks of leaks and bad press about atrocities and corruption that call the whole Terror War ethos into question.

Points perhaps worth pondering in the coming weeks as we watch the ever-more profitable security mesh seize on this incident to call for ever-greater funding, and ever-greater measures of control over our lives.
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

Payback At The Polls
By Robert Scheer

Ê Let's not shoot the messenger. Yes, the tea party victors are a mixed bag espousing often contradictory and at times weird positions, the source of their funding is questionable and their proposed solutions are vague and at times downright nutty. But they represent the most significant political response to the economic pain that has traumatized swaths of the nation at a time when so-called progressives have been reduced to abject impotence by their deference to a Democratic president.

Barack Obama deserved the rebuke he received at the polls for a failed economic policy that consisted of throwing trillions at Wall Street but getting nothing in return. His amen chorus in the media is quick to blame everyone but the president for his sharp reversal of fortunes. But it is not the fault of tea party Republicans that they responded to the rage out there over lost jobs and homes while the president remained indifferent to the many who are suffering.

At a time when, as a Washington Post poll reported last week, 53 percent of Americans fear they can't make next month's mortgage or rent payment, the president chirped inanely to Jon Stewart that his top economics adviser, Lawrence Summers, who was paid $8 million by Wall Street firms while advising candidate Obama, had done a "heckuva job" in helping avoid another Great Depression. What kind of consolation is that for the 50 million Americans who have lost their homes or are struggling to pay off mortgages that are "underwater?" The banks have been made whole by the Fed, providing virtually interest-free money while purchasing trillions of dollars of the banks' toxic assets. Yet the financial industry response has been what Paul Volcker has called a "liquidity trap," denying loans for business investment or the refinancing necessary to keep people in their homes.

Instead of meeting that crisis head-on with a temporary moratorium on housing foreclosures, as more than half of those surveyed by the Post wanted, the president summarily turned down that sensible proposal. Instead he attempted to shift the focus to his tepid health care reform and was surprised that many voters didn't think he did them a favor by locking them into insurance programs not governed by cost controls. Health care reform was viewed by many voters with the same disdain with which they reacted to the underfunded and unfocused stimulus program. Neither seems relevant to turning around an economy that a huge majority feels is getting worse, according to Election Day exit polls.

That is a problem that is not obvious to the power elites whom the leaders of both political parties serve or to the high-paid media pundits who cheer them on. The tea party revolt, ragged as it is, fed on a massive populist outrage that so-called progressives had failed to respond to because of their allegiance to Obama. As a result the Democrats squandered the hopes of their base, which rewarded the party with a paltry turnout at polling stations.

But it now remains for the tea party victors to prove that they are a viable alternative, or by the next election they too will find that their base of support has evaporated. This should be of great concern to the libertarian wing of that movement, which scored a considerable victory and a much-enhanced national presence with Rand Paul's Senate victory in Kentucky. Will he stick to his promise to hold the Federal Reserve accountable and oppose the continuing favors to Wall Street that he has blasted as "a transfer of wealth from those who have earned to those who have squandered?"

The tea party is now in the awkward position previously occupied by the Obama hope crusade of having to deliver and will suffer a similar political fate if it fails to deal with the economic crisis. In particular, the Republicans who will control the House, thanks to the tea party, must come up with proposals to solve the housing crisis or they will stand exposed as political opportunists who intend to exploit rather than deal with the economic anxiety felt not only by their base but much of the country.

Some Democratic leaders will urge Obama to follow President Bill Clinton's lead after his party's electoral reversal in the 1994 election and move even further to the right to strengthen his prospects for re-election. It was that opportunistic shift by Clinton that led to his signing off on the radical deregulation of the financial industry that caused the economic meltdown. If Obama follows such advice it will spell further disaster for the nation.
(c) 2010 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

Mugged By The Moralizers
By Paul Krigman

"How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills?" That's the question CNBC's Rick Santelli famously asked in 2009, in a rant widely credited with giving birth to the Tea Party movement.

It's a sentiment that resonates not just in America but in much of the world. The tone differs from place to place - listening to a German official denounce deficits, my wife whispered, "We'll all be handed whips as we leave, so we can flagellate ourselves." But the message is the same: debt is evil, debtors must pay for their sins, and from now on we all must live within our means.

And that kind of moralizing is the reason we're mired in a seemingly endless slump.

The years leading up to the 2008 crisis were indeed marked by unsustainable borrowing, going far beyond the subprime loans many people still believe, wrongly, were at the heart of the problem. Real estate speculation ran wild in Florida and Nevada, but also in Spain, Ireland and Latvia. And all of it was paid for with borrowed money.

This borrowing made the world as a whole neither richer nor poorer: one person's debt is another person's asset. But it made the world vulnerable. When lenders suddenly decided that they had lent too much, that debt levels were excessive, debtors were forced to slash spending. This pushed the world into the deepest recession since the 1930s. And recovery, such as it is, has been weak and uncertain - which is exactly what we should have expected, given the overhang of debt.

The key thing to bear in mind is that for the world as a whole, spending equals income. If one group of people - those with excessive debts - is forced to cut spending to pay down its debts, one of two things must happen: either someone else must spend more, or world income will fall.

Yet those parts of the private sector not burdened by high levels of debt see little reason to increase spending. Corporations are flush with cash - but why expand when so much of the capacity they already have is sitting idle? Consumers who didn't overborrow can get loans at low rates = but that incentive to spend is more than outweighed by worries about a weak job market. Nobody in the private sector is willing to fill the hole created by the debt overhang.

So what should we be doing? First, governments should be spending while the private sector won't, so that debtors can pay down their debts without perpetuating a global slump. Second, governments should be promoting widespread debt relief: reducing obligations to levels the debtors can handle is the fastest way to eliminate that debt overhang.

But the moralizers will have none of it. They denounce deficit spending, declaring that you can't solve debt problems with more debt. They denounce debt relief, calling it a reward for the undeserving.

And if you point out that their arguments don't add up, they fly into a rage. Try to explain that when debtors spend less, the economy will be depressed unless somebody else spends more, and they call you a socialist. Try to explain why mortgage relief is better for America than foreclosing on homes that must be sold at a huge loss, and they start ranting like Mr. Santelli. No question about it: the moralizers are filled with a passionate intensity.

And those who should know better lack all conviction.

John Boehner, the House minority leader, was widely mocked last year when he declared that "It's time for government to tighten their belts" - in the face of depressed private spending, the government should spend more, not less. But since then President Obama has repeatedly used the same metaphor, promising to match private belt-tightening with public belt-tightening. Does he lack the courage to challenge popular misconceptions, or is this just intellectual laziness? Either way, if the president won't defend the logic of his own policies, who will?

Meanwhile, the administration's mortgage modification program - the program that inspired the Santelli rant - has, in the end, accomplished almost nothing. At least part of the reason is that officials were so worried that they might be accused of helping the undeserving that they ended up helping almost nobody.

So the moralizers are winning. More and more voters, both here and in Europe, are convinced that what we need is not more stimulus but more punishment. Governments must tighten their belts; debtors must pay what they owe.

The irony is that in their determination to punish the undeserving, voters are punishing themselves: by rejecting fiscal stimulus and debt relief, they're perpetuating high unemployment. They are, in effect, cutting off their own jobs to spite their neighbors.

But they don't know that. And because they don't, the slump will go on. -
(c) 2010 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."
~~~ Sir John Harrington 1561-1612 ~~~

The Phantom Left
By Chris Hedges

The American left is a phantom. It is conjured up by the right wing to tag Barack Obama as a socialist and used by the liberal class to justify its complacency and lethargy. It diverts attention from corporate power. It perpetuates the myth of a democratic system that is influenced by the votes of citizens, political platforms and the work of legislators. It keeps the world neatly divided into a left and a right. The phantom left functions as a convenient scapegoat. The right wing blames it for moral degeneration and fiscal chaos. The liberal class uses it to call for "moderation." And while we waste our time talking nonsense, the engines of corporate power-masked, ruthless and unexamined-happily devour the state.

The loss of a radical left in American politics has been catastrophic. The left once harbored militant anarchist and communist labor unions, an independent, alternative press, social movements and politicians not tethered to corporate benefactors. But its disappearance, the result of long witch hunts for communists, post-industrialization and the silencing of those who did not sign on for the utopian vision of globalization, means that there is no counterforce to halt our slide into corporate neofeudalism. This harsh reality, however, is not palatable. So the corporations that control mass communications conjure up the phantom of a left. They blame the phantom for our debacle. And they get us to speak in absurdities.

The phantom left took a central role on the mall this weekend in Washington. It had performed admirably for Glenn Beck, who used it in his own rally as a lightning rod to instill anger and fear. And the phantom left proved equally useful for the comics Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who spoke to the crowd wearing red-white-and-blue costumes. The two comics evoked the phantom left, as the liberal class always does, in defense of moderation, which might better be described as apathy. If the right wing is crazy and if the left wing is crazy, the argument goes, then we moderates will be reasonable. We will be nice. Exxon and Goldman Sachs, along with predatory banks and the arms industry, may be ripping the guts out of the country, our rights-including habeas corpus-may have been revoked, but don't get mad. Don't be shrill. Don't be like the crazies on the left.

"Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one's humanity but their own?" Stewart asked. "We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is-on the brink of catastrophe-torn by polarizing hate, and how it's a shame that we can"t work together to get things done. But the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don't is here [in Washington] or on cable TV."

The rally delivered a political message devoid of reality or content. The corruption of electoral politics by corporate funds and lobbyists, the naive belief that we can somehow vote ourselves back to democracy, was ignored for emotional catharsis. The right hates. The liberals laugh. And the country is taken hostage.

The Rally to Restore Sanity, held in Washington's National Mall, was yet another sad footnote to the death of the liberal class. It was as innocuous as a Boy Scout jamboree. It ridiculed followers of the tea party without acknowledging that the pain and suffering expressed by many who support the movement are not only real but legitimate. It made fun of the buffoons who are rising up out of moral swamps to take over the Republican Party without accepting that their supporters were sold out by a liberal class, and especially a Democratic Party, which turned its back on the working class for corporate money.

Fox News' Beck and his allies on the far right can use hatred as a mobilizing force because there are tens of millions of Americans who have very good reason to hate. They have been betrayed by the elite who run the corporate state, by the two main political parties and by the liberal apologists, including those given public platforms on television, who keep counseling moderation as jobs disappear, wages drop and unemployment insurance runs out. As long as the liberal class speaks in the dead voice of moderation it will continue to fuel the right-wing backlash. Only when it appropriates this rage as its own, only when it stands up to established systems of power, including the Democratic Party, will we have any hope of holding off the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party.

Wall Street's looting of the Treasury, the curtailing of our civil liberties, the millions of fraudulent foreclosures, the long-term unemployment, the bankruptcies from medical bills, the endless wars in the Middle East and the amassing of trillions in debt that can never be repaid are pushing us toward a Hobbesian world of internal collapse. Being nice and moderate will not help. These are corporate forces that are intent on reconfiguring the United States into a system of neofeudalism. These corporate forces will not be halted by funny signs, comics dressed up like Captain America or nice words.

The liberal class wants to inhabit a political center to remain morally and politically disengaged. As long as there is a phantom left, one that is as ridiculous and stunted as the right wing, the liberal class can remain uncommitted. If the liberal class concedes that power has been wrested from us it will be forced, if it wants to act, to build movements outside the political system. This would require the liberal class to demand acts of resistance, including civil disobedience, to attempt to salvage what is left of our anemic democratic state. But this type of political activity, as costly as it is difficult, is too unpalatable to a bankrupt liberal establishment that has sold its soul to corporate interests. And so the phantom left will be with us for a long time.

Politics in America has become spectacle. It is another form of show business. The crowd in Washington, well trained by television, was conditioned to play its role before the cameras. The signs -"The Rant is Too Damn High," "Real Patriots Can Handle a Difference of Opinion" or "I Masturbate and I Vote"-reflected the hollowness of current political discourse and televisionÕs perverse epistemology. The rally spoke exclusively in the impoverished iconography and language of television. It was filled with meaningless political pieties, music and jokes. It was like any television variety program. Personalities were being sold, not political platforms. And this is what the society of spectacle is about.

The modern spectacle, as the theorist Guy Debord pointed out, is a potent tool for pacification and depoliticization. It is a "permanent opium war" which stupefies its viewers and disconnects them from the forces that control their lives. The spectacle diverts anger toward phantoms and away from the perpetrators of exploitation and injustice. It manufactures feelings of euphoria. It allows participants to confuse the spectacle itself with political action.

The celebrities from Comedy Central and the trash talk show hosts on Fox are in the same business. They are entertainers. They provide the empty, emotionally laden material that propels endless chatter back and forth on supposed left- and right-wing television programs. It is a national Punch and Judy show. But don't be fooled. It is not politics. It is entertainment. It is spectacle. All national debate on the airwaves is driven by the same empty gossip, the same absurd trivia, the same celebrity meltdowns and the same ridiculous posturing. It is presented with a different spin. But none of it is about ideas or truth. None of it is about being informed. It caters to emotions. It makes us confuse how we are made to feel with knowledge. And in the end, for those who serve up this drivel, the game is about money in the form of ratings and advertising. Beck, Colbert and Stewart all serve the same masters. And it is not us.
(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."

Yes, Of Course They're Brownshirts! What The Hell Did You Expect?
By David Michael Green

You know, I hate like hell using the tired old Nazi analogy.

For one thing, everybody does it, and everybody does it all the time. It hasn't exactly earned an A for originality in about a half century now.

For another thing, not only does everybody do it, but now complete idiots who couldn't pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel are doing it too, and of course they're too dumb to even use the term properly. You can't foam at the mouth about what a freaking socialist Barack Obama is and then call him a Nazi at the same time. Unless, of course, you happen not to mind looking like a moron. Which, of course, all too many Americans don't anymore. But here's a hint to all ya'll in the ganglion-cyst-where-there's-supposed-to-be-an-actual-brain crowd: Nazis hate socialists. Indeed, they murder them, along with Jews and Gypsies and homosexuals. Get it?

And then there's a third reason to avoid the Nazi analogy, namely that because everyone else is doing it, the term has now been diluted to the point of lacking all impact or meaning anymore. If everyone's a Nazi, no one is.

All good reasons not to use the term.

But, that said, there are also three good reasons to do just that.

One is that people sometimes do act like Nazis. In fact, a lot of them. Especially lately.

The second is that if you wait too long to point that out, it won't much matter anymore.

And the third is that if you wait too long to point that out, you won't be able to anyhow. Indeed, you probably won't even be. Period.

And so, with appropriate reluctance, I feel compelled to note that the wheels are coming off the wagon in America right now, and it does indeed smell all too much like a Germany-in-the-1930s kinda moment.

American politics have been driven to a fever pitch, even though no one is talking about the real problems the country faces. The radical right has induced those problems with their kleptocratic policies. They have then demonized as un-American anyone who would dare offer even the most tepid (non-)solutions to those problems. They have captured control of the legislative and executive branches of government by means of purchasing politicians wholesale. Those politicians have, in turn, appointed justices to the federal bench, such that the regressives own that institution, as well. The Supreme Court has recently handed down decisions that set aflame even the tattered legal shreds once remaining between corporate money and government power. They are doing the same at the state level. The Court even ruled that judges receiving campaign contributions from litigants appearing before their bench did not need to recuse themselves from the case. In America today it's bought legislation, bought (non-)regulation, bought (non-)justice.

Now the latest trend from our good friends on the right is to go after the 17th Amendment, that heinous bit of federal tyranny that forces the public to choose their own senators through the ballot box, rather than having (bought) state legislatures do it.

Meanwhile, the plutocratic string-pullers have marshaled massive sums of money for purposes of organizing angry white seniors into an army of Know Nothings, about to send as scary a crop of folks to Washington as have been found since... Well, you know when.

Like Joe Miller in Alaska, for instance, who wants to kill the minimum wage, and who rails against the oppressive tyranny of federal socialism, even though he and his family have taken every kind of subsidy and payment Washington has to offer. Perhaps that's part of why he started refusing to take questions about his personal background last week. Although that probably also had something to do with him not wanting to discuss the fact that he had used public office in the past to help steal elections.

Or there's Rand Paul in Kentucky, who doesn't seem to mind the prospect of hotels and restaurants posting "Whites Only" signs in their windows, and would thus be okay with repealing the Civil Rights Act.

Or maybe you prefer Wisconsin Senate candidate Ron Johnson who once testified against strengthening pedophilia laws because of the potential costs to business.

Then there's Ken Buck (and four other GOP Senate candidates), who want to make abortion illegal, even in cases of rape or incest. Buck also wants to make birth control and fertility treatment illegal.

Or Jim DeMint, already in the Senate from South Carolina, who argues that unmarried sexually active women should not be allowed to teach in public schools.

Or the guy in Michigan, a sitting Congressman, who is already calling for the impeachment of Barack Obama.

Or the California candidate who wants to eliminate all public schools. Woo-hoo! No more homework!

Or Sharon Angle, who has suggested that we solve our health care crisis by just returning to the good old days of the barter system, so that patients could presumably then bring in a chicken and exchange it for an angiogram. She has also called for "Second Amendment solutions" "to protect people against a tyrannical government." In case you're somehow unsure, what that means is that if Barack Obama and Harry Reid cannot be removed from office by the ballot box, she thinks someone should pick up a gun and shoot them for the despotic crime of creating a national health care system.

Then there's Rich Iott, a congressional candidate who likes to dress up with his kids as Nazi SS officers. (Or is he actually a Nazi SS officer who sometimes dresses up as a normal person? Hard to tell with this lot, I'm afraid.)

But surely the best is Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell of Delaware, who once "dabbled in witchcraft," does not appear to have had any profession in decades other than running for office, told no less than three major lies about three different educational institutions she claims to have attended, and said that "evolution is a myth" because she doesn't see monkeys evolving right before her eyes. She does have one redeeming virtue, though. She has been a long-time advocate against masturbation, which I think we can all agree is an American epidemic today, threatening our nation to its core. (You know who you are, people.)

As hysterical as this gang would be if it weren't for the fact that they're about to become the government of the world's only superpower, it's actually not funny at all.

Because even this insanity is not enough for them. This week the stompings began in earnest.

Miller had a reporter handcuffed and "arrested" by his private security goon squad at a public rally for the crime of asking questions about the candidate's secret election-stealing past.

Meanwhile, a young female MoveOn activist at a Rand Paul rally, who was doing nothing other than carrying a sign and trying to speak to the candidate, was thrown to the ground and had her head stomped by one of his staff. This pot-bellied oaf, who seemed in the video to get off on kicking women around later actually demanded that she apologize to him. For what, I'm not sure. Getting blood on the sole of his shoes perhaps?

And just last week, the courts dismissed the appeal of several individuals who had been on the way to a public George Bush event several years ago, without intent to speak, but never got there. They were arrested as soon as they got out of their car because it had the wrong bumper sticker on it. Somehow, the Republican appointees to the appeals court could find no constitutional provision which the police's behavior might have violated. Presumably, their copy of the Bill of Rights begins (and likely ends too) with the Second Amendment. And a distorted version of that amendment, to boot.

Like decent Germans of the 1930s - let alone progressive ones - no doubt did, I have spent the better part of the last decade repeatedly wondering where the bottom of the barrel of stupidity, laziness, greed and criminality can be found amongst the tribe called the the American public. Each time I think, "This is it - it can't possibly get worse," I am rudely reminded again of my foolishness. It's a legitimate question to ask why I continue to be so naive, but there's actually a very good answer. It's not naivete at all. It's just that I grew up in the foreign country known as mid-twentieth century America. For all its faults - and it had plenty - it was never like this. It's therefore not naive to think it could be that way again.

And it wasn't naive to think, two years ago, that perhaps we were headed back toward some form of basic decency, definitely a repudiation of the evils of regressivism, and maybe even a new progressive era.

Now we have instead the worst imaginable scenario. We have a society in which near-dead regressivism has been revived, only in a more virulent form. And we have a society in which progressivism, which never even remotely took the stage, has been reviled for its supposed failings.

Each election cycle just brings uglier politics and greater transgressions, rapidly approaching the fail-safe point, beyond which any democracy is unsustainable. Now comes the tea party movement, the nastiest thing to happen to America since... well, the Bush administration.

This is the crossroads. This is the moment of truth, folks. This is the test. The destructive dogs of regressivism are baying outside our door. Many of them are inside already. They will not rest until they have looted the public of every last shekel to be had, and until they have ground into submission every last avenue for the little guy to seek even a modicum of justice.

To do that, it will also be required that all pretense of democracy and civil liberty will have to be destroyed as well. It may additionally be required that wars will have to be launched, in order to simultaneously divert public attention, crush domestic opposition, steal from the weak, and stimulate the moribund economy that the kleptocracy's policies have already created.

The right hasn't got the slightest plan for solving the country's problems. That's because they haven't got the slightest interest in doing so. That is not their function, and has not remotely been their function for thirty years now. They are here to rape the maiden called America and steal from her everything of value. Once they have done so, they will leave her body in the gutter, damaged, defiled and degraded. Erik Prince has shown the path for others to follow. His mercenary company, Blackwater Worldwide, which has grown unbelievably rich helping the Bush and Obama administrations fight two wars while avoiding a draft, is for sale and its former top managers are facing criminal charges. The appropriately-named Prince himself has left the United States and moved to Abu Dhabi. Noted a friend of his, "He needs a break from America." Yeah. Just like a chronic thief needs a break from courtrooms.

But governing in the absence of actual solutions to satisfy an angry electorate will fast prove problematic for the GOP, just as it did for them in 2008. This will be the most dangerous moment for the country, the historical linchpin juncture. The public will still be clamoring for solutions, and will be ready once again to turn out the Republicans for lacking same, just as it did two years ago, and just as it's doing now to the pathetic Democrats. This cannot be tolerated by the oligarchs, of course, and a decision will have to be made whether they are bold enough to double down and burn the Reichstag, eliminating the pesky albatross of elections once and for all. Bold enough? The folks who brought you Election 2000? The Iraq War? Legalized looting by Wall Street? A filibuster-crazed Senate?

This scenario is all possible, of course, because of the complete and utter failure - in every sense of the word - of the Democrats these last two years. That assessment assumes, though, that Democrats were somehow more sincere about wanting to serve the public than are Republicans. With a few rare exceptions, I don't harbor that illusion about any of them. However, I will confess that I expected them to at least seek to protect themselves and therefore do enough to get reelected. Not only have they not, they have succeeded in achieving what seemed like a miraculously improbable possibility only just a year or two ago. They have revived an opposition party that was utterly loathed and lying on death's door.

Skillful political maneuvering, combined with moderately contemporary communications strategy and even the slightest accidental wisp of intestinal fortitude would have been enough to push that party over the cliff and end its ugly reign for a couple of generations, if not forever. And, yes, that could even have been done without necessarily solving the problem of the recession right away. Just ask Franklin Roosevelt, who won four terms as president without really fixing the Great Depression. Ask FDR, that is, if he hasn't picked up his corpse and moved to Canada by now, out of sheer disgust for his country of birth and, especially, the party his efforts invigorated for half a century.

But instead of Roosevelt, we have this other guy. This Neville Chamberlain dude. I regret to say that I think history will show the crimes of Barack Obama to be of incalculable damage.

Most astonishingly, they persist even still. I've given up expecting the guy to ever grow a pair of balls. But how about just some basic sentient consciousness? You would think that after the last two years, and with the humiliating drubbing he's going to take on Tuesday, that he would at least awake enough to realize what is happening here. But no. This week I saw video clips of Obama, Joe Biden and Harry Reid - three walking corpses if ever there were such - talking about how hopeful they are that Republicans will grow more cooperative following this election. Say what?!?! Are these guys insane?!?! Are they on drugs?!?!

Even if they couldn't possibly figure it out for themselves, it just so happened that this very same week, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner and Mike Pence were all out there explicitly saying "There will be no compromise by Republicans in the next Congress." But it will be, of course, far worse than that. The right will be hounding Mr. Hapless Happy Face mercilessly for the next two years, investigating every bogus claim they can fabricate, and probably also running another impeachment scam. Which is likely to turn out very differently this time. Back in the 1990s, I used to say that Bill Clinton was very lucky to be impeached at a time when the economy was fat. You might have noticed that it is somewhat less so today...

George W. Bush was indisputably the worst president in American history, but now Obama is remarkably giving him a run for it. Bush poisoned the body politic, but Obama is standing by and watching it die. Obama's crimes are of incalculable historical damage for the same reason that most scholars of the presidency (used to) judge James Buchanan to have been the worst president ever. Both fiddled while the republic burned.

In Obama's case, the indictment is worse, however. First because, like Bush, he is owned by the oligarchy and serves their interests far above anyone else's. Let's please start calling this what it is: This is a case of treason, pure and simple. Second, because, unlike Clinton perhaps, he had every reason to foresee the viciousness of the last two years coming from a thousand miles away, and yet he acted like the Republican Party of Atwater and Rove and Gingrich and Limbaugh and Beck was something that could be reasoned with, something with which to negotiate. And third, because he campaigned on the premise of the audacity of hope, but instead delivered the duplicity of despair. He would be far less culpable had he not raised people's expectations so dramatically. "Yes we can!" Can what? Govern as George W. BushÕs third term?

History will be very unkind to Obama, but whatever. He's virtually irrelevant at this point. He's a dead man walking, and has been right from the beginning. It all started going south even before he took office with the appointment to his cabinet of Wall Street bandits from the Robert Rubin cabal, along with other sundry regressives. But I knew it was over when at the moment of his inaugural address he skipped the opportunity to articulate a broad, bold and honest vision of the national trajectory, and treated the record crowds - who came to bear the freezing cold weather in order to be a part of history - to a standard issue patchwork of platitudes instead.

Mitch McConnell said this week that his primary goal for the coming two years was to turn Barack Obama into a one-term president. Hmm. I would have thought the GOP had higher aspirations, since the Capitulation King has already taken care of that himself. If that wasn't already abundantly clear, the New York Times published some astonishing poll data the other day, documenting the extent of his party's hemorrhaging support under Obama's helm. In 2008, women (women!) voted Democratic by a 13 percent margin, and now they have swung to 4 percent in favor of Republicans. College graduates went from 2 percent Democratic to 20 percent Republican today. Catholics voted 10 percent Democratic in 2008 and are now polling 24 percent Republican. That's a 34 percent swing in less than two years! People with an income under $50,000 voted 22 percent Democratic in 2008 but are now actually polling at 2 percent Republican! Just what magnitude of idiocy does it require to drive the working class and poor into voting Republican during a massive recession? And independents, who went for Democrats in 2008 by an 8 point margin are now going for Republicans by 20 points - nearly a 30 percent swing in this key constituency. The repudiation of this failed presidency is now reaching epic proportions.

That's fine with me. Obama amply deserves the lashing and humiliation he's going to receive Tuesday, and then again two years later. The White House is no place for the cowardly. In normal times that would be an embarrassment. In a moment of national crisis, it's a sin. But when the republic itself is being threatened, and when the very ideas of democracy and freedom are in jeopardy, timidity is treason.

And that is precisely where we are now. People are growing desperate. Each time someone comes along and offers them some relief but doesn't deliver, they become yet more willing still to let the most outrageous actors take control of the government. Anyone who promises solutions is acceptable, including people who during normal times would have been considered darkly dangerous, just plain laughable, or both.

I'm sorry. I really don't want to ring that ubiquitous Nazism-threat bell yet again.

But wasn't that precisely how it went down in 1933?
(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 Herausgeber Brisbane,

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 spreading our lies about Wikileaks helping to cover up our war crimes, 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 "Media 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 12-31-2010. We salute you Herr Brisbane, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Wretched Mind Of The American Authoritarian
By Glenn Greenwald

Decadent governments often spawn a decadent citizenry. A 22-year-old Nebraska resident was arrested yesterday for waterboarding his girlfriend as she was tied to a couch, because he wanted to know if she was cheating on him with another man; I wonder where he learned that? There are less dramatic though no less nauseating examples of this dynamic. In The Chicago Tribune today, there is an Op-Ed from Jonah Goldberg -- the supreme, living embodiment of a cowardly war cheerleader -- headlined: "Why is Assange still alive?" It begins this way:

I'd like to ask a simple question: Why isn't Julian Assange dead? . . . WikiLeaks is easily among the most significant and well-publicized breaches of American national security since the Rosenbergs gave the Soviets the bomb. . . .

So again, I ask: Why wasn't Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?

It's a serious question.

He ultimately concludes that "it wouldn't do any good to kill him, given the nature of the Web" -- whatever that means -- and reluctantly acknowledges: "That's fine. And it's the law. I don't expect the U.S. government to kill Assange, but I do expect them to try to stop him." What he wants the Government to do to "stop" Assange is left unsaid -- tough-guy neocons love to beat their chest and demand action without having the courage to specify what they mean -- but his question ("Why isn't Julian Assange dead?") was published in multiple newspapers around the country today.

Christian Whiton, a former Bush State Department official, wasn't as restrained in his Fox News column last week, writing:

Rather, this [the WikiLeaks disclosure] is an act of political warfare against the United States. . . . .Here are some of the things the U.S. could do: . . .Explore opportunities for the president to designate WikiLeaks and its officers as enemy combatants, paving the way for non-judicial actions against them.
I emailed Whiton and told him I'd like to do a podcast interview with him for Salon about his WikiLeaks proposal and he replied: "Thank you for the invitation, but I am starting a trip tomorrow and will be on a plane just about all day." I replied that it didn't have to be the next day -- I'd be happy to do it any day that was convenient for him -- and he then stopped answering. As I said, the real objective is for them to beat their chest in public and show everyone how tough they are -- take 'em out, Whiton roared -- but they then scamper away when called upon to be specific about what they mean or to defend it (let alone to participate in the violence they relentlessly urge). Whiton was just echoing his fellow war cheerleader, torture advocate Marc Thiessen, who wrote this in The Washington Post, under the headline "WikiLeaks Must be Stopped"

The government has a wide range of options for dealing with him. It can employ not only law enforcement but also intelligence and military assets to bring Assange to justice and put his criminal syndicate out of business.

"Military assets": apparently, according to this brave and battle-tested warrior -- Marc Thiessen -- the U.S. can and should just send a drone over London or Stockholm and eradicate Assange, or just send some ground troops into Western Europe to abduct him.

Speaking of war cheerleaders, The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg today points to an editorial by The New York Sun's Seth Lipsky which fantasizes -- as Goldberg puts it -- that "Lincoln, and FDR as well, would have pretty much tried to hang the Wikileaks founder for treason." Apparently, the fact that Assange is not and never was an American citizen is no bar to hanging him for "treason": when you wallow in self-centered, self-absorbed imperial exceptionalism, everyone on the planet has the overarching duty of loyalty to your own government, and you think everyone is under the auspices of American rule.

There are multiple common threads here: the cavalier call for people's deaths, the demand for ultimate punishments without a shred of due process, the belief that the U.S. is entitled to do whatever it wants anywhere in the world without the slightest constraints, a wholesale rejection of basic Western liberties such as due process and a free press, the desire for the President to act as unconstrained monarch, and a bloodthirsty frenzy that has led all of them to cheerlead for brutal, criminal wars of aggression for a full decade without getting anywhere near the violence they cheer on, etc. But that's to be expected. We lived for eight years under a President who essentially asserted all of those powers and more, and now have a one who has embraced most of them and added some new ones, including the right to order even American citizens, far from any battlefield, assassinated without a shred of due process. Given that, it would be irrational to expect a citizenry other than the one that is being molded with this mentality.
(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.

The Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, left, and Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Beirut

Lebanon And Iran Make Uneasy Bedfellows
By Robert Fisk

I think it should be a Beirut Diary this week. Deep background, you understand. The truth. Believe me, it is.

When President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad entered the palace dining room to eat with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri last week - Saad being the son of ex-premier Rafiq who was murdered by... we'll come to that later - Saad made sure that Beethoven was on the public address system. It was the Ninth Symphony, the "Ode to Freedom." The moment the Iranian President sat down, he turned to Saad and said: "Let's skip the lunch. Let's have sandwiches and go to southern Lebanon together."

Now here was a problem. Saad is a Sunni Muslim; Mahmoud, of course, is a Shia, and the Iranian President was inviting a Sunni Prime Minister of Lebanon to visit the Shia south of Lebanon where he (Mahmoud, that is) would declare that southern Lebanon - he was speaking less than two miles from the Israeli border - was Iran's "front line" against Israel. Saad politely declined the invitation and Mahmoud went on to Bint Jbeil to rally his lads and lassies on his own. Lucky that he was even in Lebanon. The Beirut air traffic control boys (they are, indeed, all lads) had already expressed their concern when the Iranian President's Boeing 707 aircraft made its final approach. Wasn't there a ban on ancient 707s arriving at Beirut's ultra-modern airport? Ban overruled.

Then there was the rally in the southern suburbs of the capital - Hezbollah's (ie Iran's) section of Beirut. Long live Ahmadinejad. Many choruses. Long live Lebanon. Many choruses. Long Live Hariri. Many booes. This was a difficult one. Is Lebanon the "lung through which Iran breathes" (thank you, the late Sayyed Fadlallah) or just the front line against Israel (potentially even worse)?

Posters the previous day on the airport road. Next day, they honoured southern Lebanon. Khomeini, Khamenei ("Supreme Leader", as we all know) and Ahmadinejad pictures clustered the houses of southern Lebanon. And that half-cut apple that is the symbol of the Islamic Republic. "Could we have our flags back?" the Iranian embassy asked the Lebanese army two days later. Indeed they could, immediately replaced with billboards of half-naked ladies and watches, swimming costumes and whisky. The Syrians were very pissed off with the Iranians. Why no posters of Bashar Assad, the president of Syria whose Hezbollah-Iranian relations are second to none?

Stopping over in Damascus, Ahmadinejad told Assad he wanted Nouri al-Maliki to be Iraq's prime minister. Assad told his Syrian cabinet - the source is impeccable - that "our friends want Maliki." And Ahmadinajed, like the Syrians, opposed The Hague tribunal which may - so Hezbollah's leader (Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, close friend and confidant of Ahmadinajed) - blame Hezbollah members for the murder of Rafiq Hariri.

Nonsense. Wasn't it supposed to be the Syrians who killed Hariri (or so The New York Times and the London Times would have us believe) that blew Hariri's motorcade up - along with the 21 others whose names we have all forgotten - on St Valentine's Day of 2005? Nope. Since the Syrians offered their assistance to the United States in Iraq, it's been the pesky Iranians (courtesy The New York Times and The Times of London) who, through their Hezbollah allies, have been blamed for the mass slaughter Notice, by the way, how the Syrians and Iranians were blamed for Lockerbie and then, post-Syrian help in the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, the Libyans?

Anyway. Amadinejad poured scorn on the UN's Hague tribunal which may - or may not (watch this space) - accuse Hezbollah of killing Rafiq (son of Saad) on Syria's behalf? And lo and behold, on Thursday morning this week, two officers of The Hague tribunal turned up in the southern suburbs of Beirut to examine the records of a gynaecological clinic.

Yes. GYNAECOLOGICAL CLINIC?, I hear you ask. Well, The Hague spokesmen/spokeswomen won't say what this is about. But I can tell you. Between 15 and 17 Shia Muslim women from the southern suburbs of Beirut - who are having pregnancy tests at the clinic - are sisters or wives of leading Hezbollah officials, and The Hague guys wanted their mobile telephone numbers to match them with calls made from the same numbers on the afternoon of Hariri's murder, perhaps by their husbands.

Now, 11 members of the Lebanese Alpha mobile company (Mr Robert's mobile, by the way, belongs to the same company) have been arrested and charged with spying for Israel. Hezbollah claims that Israel has inserted mobile calls into the record of the 14 February 2005 calls - the originals came from the British listening system on Mount Troodos in Cyprus - in order to plant evidence. So The Hague men arrived at the clinic with the usual horde of Lebanese security men to protect them. But they were met by up to 150 ladies, minibussed to the clinic by - Hezbollah? - to complain at this grotesque personal intrusion. Hezbollah denies all knowledge of the affair. Of course. But the women pulled the hair of the Hague's female interpreter and so jostled The Hague men that they managed to get their hands on one of their briefcases.

Needless to say, The Hague won't identify the nationality of their own two foolish officials who thought they could brazenly walk into Hezbollah's fiefdom with their secrets intact in a briefcase. I can reveal that one of them was French, the other Australian.

They had asked for a 9 am appointment with the head of the clinic - this appointment was, of course, betrayed to Hezbollah - and they didn't get those mobile telephone numbers. They just lost their briefcase. As I write, the contents are being translated by Hezbollah. What hope The Hague tribunal? What hope Lebanon?
(c) 2010 Robert Fisk --- The Independent. He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Lloyd Dangle ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

The Good Corporal
By Chris Floyd

Good corporal, good corporal, now what have you done?
You've laid out the dead in the light of the sun.
You've opened the door where the dark deeds go on,
Where the fine words of freedom are broken like bones.

Good corporal, good corporal, you tell us of crime
Done in the name of your country and mine.
Of torture and murder, corruption and lies,
In a land where no echo will carry the cries.

Good corporal, good corporal, now who do we blame
For the horrors you bring us, for this undying shame?
Should we lay all the guilt on the grunts with no name,
Or the high and the mighty who rigged up this game?

Good corporal, good corporal, don't you know the fate
Of all those who speak the hard truth to the State
And all who trouble the people's sweet dreams?
They're mocked into scorn and torn apart at the seams.

Good corporal, good corporal, what have you done?
You've laid out the dead in the light of the sun.
© 2010 Chris Floyd

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Fox News Estimates Jon Stewart's Crowd At Seven People
Disappointing Turnout, News Channel Says
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) - The Fox News Channel reported today that the turnout for Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" was underwhelming at best, with Fox sources estimating the total turnout at seven people.

"Our total count includes Stewart, [Stephen] Colbert, and what appear to be a few of their friends and relatives," said Fox anchor Shepard Smith. "This has to be a smaller crowd than they were expecting."

But immediately after Fox broadcast what it described as "live coverage" of the rally showing a nearly-deserted National Mall, viewers began to point out irregularities in the images being shown.

First of all, one viewer noticed that the live coverage of the rally was actually being broadcast a full twelve hours before the rally began.

Second, an expert identified the supposedly "live footage" of today's rally as file footage from a Sunday in 1997 when the Mall was completely shut down for reseeding.

Even in the face of such evidence, Fox stood by its story, with Fox host Glenn Beck pointing out that the seven people in attendance were "largely elitists."

"I was struck by how many correctly spelled signs there were," Mr. Beck said. "That's not my America."
(c) 2010 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 44 (c) 11/05/2010

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