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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky examines, "Outrage, Misguided."

Uri Avnery tells the one about, "The Nobleman And The Horse."

Dean Baker finds, "The Wall Street TARP Gang Wants To Take Away Your Social Security."

David Dayen reports, "Cat Food Commission Releases Draft Version Of 'Shock Doctrine'."

Jim Hightower looks at, "Hard Times, Soft Heads."

Joel S. Hirschhorn warns of a, "Cell Phone Trap."

James Donahue wonders, "Is Corruption In Washington Beyond Repair?"

Paul Craig Roberts sees, "Phantom Jobs."

Chris Floyd says it's, "Show Time."

Matthew Rothschild investigates, "Rand Paul's Lack Of Class."

Paul Krugman is, "Doing It Again."

Chris Hedges discovers, "A Recipe For Fascism."

David Michael Green considers, "Of Irony And Implosion."

Wall Street mogul Peter Peterson wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald studies, "The Self-Absorption Of America's Ruling Class."

Ray McGovern catches Bush in an act of treason in, "Damn Right."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Last Remaining Politician Must Rebuild Entire Government Following Bloodiest Midterm Election In American History" but first Uncle Ernie is, "Sooths Incorporated."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of John Darkow, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Rubin Bolling, Derf City, Dees Illustration.Com, Hetemeel.Com, Patrick Chappatte, Bull Dog 23, Nate Beeler, Keith Tucker, Eugene Delacroix 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."

Sooths Incorporated
By Ernest Stewart

Caesar: What say'st thou to me now? Speak once again.
Sooth Sayer: Beware the ides of March.
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene 2 ~~~ William Shakespeare

"I want every Indian citizen to know: The United States of America will not simply be cheering you on from the sidelines. We will be right there with you, shoulder to shoulder, because we believe in the promise of India." ~~~ President Obama

"Damn Right!" ~~~ George W. Bush ~ on approving torture.

"Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat?
What forbids a laughing man from telling the truth?" ~~~ Horace

People often ask me what do I do? I often reply that my job is to piss people off! I am very good at my job; in fact, some daze I might be the best that's ever been!

How do I go about pissing people off? I insist on telling them the truth about things that they desperately don't want to know the truth about. I tell the truth about things that I have been told that one shouldn't say the sooth about, things like politics and religion. Things that are to me, the best things to say the sooth about! I know, my bad!

The trouble with the Sheeple is they come by this ability honestly. Because they and their parents and their parents and their parents, in fact, for the last 300 years, have been brainwashed by the powers that be to buy into this Disneyesque fairytale about America. To brainwash America, it used to be as simple as what they were taught in grade school as most never went to college. So grade school was about teaching the children not how to think for themselves, which is exactly what we should be teaching our children, but how to get along and fit in. How to be a good, little, loyal, plastic, robot for a world that doesn't care! Learning sanitized bits of the history that they wanted us to know as a lesson. We learned, and I know I'm repeating myself that, "in fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue!" No mention about the 12 million souls that would be dead because of Columbus and the King and Queen of Spain's greed. All three were good Catholics who somehow missed the morals of, "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt no covet thy neighbors gold!" Just as today's Christian leaders like Bush and Obama have trouble with, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's oil patch!"

The message we take away from slaughtering the Indians in the USA is Magnalia Christi Americana, Manifest Destiny, it's god's will that we steal the Indian's land and slaughter them. The slave owners could quote you chapter and verse about all the holy men and women who owned others; ergo, if god didn't want us to have slaves, he would have said so! Nothing at all about, "Thou shalt not own slaves" but only "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's slaves!" In fact, the only real concern for the slaves were that their owners convert them to Christianity. This is where one of my favorite lines from "Fritz The Cat" comes from. Two black radicals are sitting in a bar and one says, "Whitey blinds us with religion!" Ain't it the truth!

For most of the last eight thousand years of recorded history there was a tiny elite at the top with the rest of humanity at the bottom being their slaves, servants and the mob. A mob from which the elite could extract armies to make the elite even richer, which is what we are on the brink of returning to. Those exciting daze of yesteryear, which is exactly where the Tea Party and their puppet masters want to take us. Except that this time America: "Nobodies gonna have to be a slave all de time, no more. Dis time we gonna take turns, and guess whose turn it is now," America?!

Like the sooth sayers of old, I'll continue to say the sooth until the Sheeple wise up or until they come and take me off to a Happy Camp for a little re-grooving!

In Other News

Barry and Michelle hit the road last Friday to get out of the endless snickering in Foggy Bottom over Barry's costing the Demoncrats the House and flew off to piss off some of our allies overseas!

First off, they flew to India where Barry proceeded to piss off everyone from Pakistan to China by making much of the fascist regime in New Delhi and proposing that India be allowed to join the United Nations Security Council. I think it's only fair, although it is highly unlikely that the other members will allow it to happen.

I mean, if China is a member of the Security Council shouldn't India be one, too? Like China, India has a billion people. Like China, India has nuclear weapons. Like China, India hates the British. Like China, India attacks its press for daring to tell the truth and like China, India likes slaughtering Muslims within and without of its borders as well as their "untouchable" classes. The downside is, of course, that if China and India realize they're two peas in a pod, they may decide to team up to rule the world!

Then Barry and Michelle were off to Indonesia where much ado was made about Michelle touching information minister Tifatul Sembiring. It may be that Tifatul hates women as his mother gave him the name Tifatul which I believe means "tiny penis" in the local verbiage? By what was originally reported on the news, it sounded as if Michelle had given him a "hand-job" but, in reality, all she had done was to shake his hand! Gotta stop listening to Fox News! Still, Michelle should learn Muslim customs when traveling abroad. For example, it is considered good manners that when a women meets a strange man she drops to her knees and kisses the man's feet!

Next it was off to the G-20 summit in Seoul, Korea where the G20 wasn't buying Barry's bullshit and we have what looks to be the beginning of a trade war in our future. On Friday it's off to Japan and The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum. Doesn't that sound a lot like "The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere?" Then after some sightseeing and bowing before Buddha, it's back home to Foggy Bottom, where hopefully by then, the snickering will have died down a bit!

And Finally

Our national embarrassment is back, once again on the scene. George W. crawled out from under his rock to fool the Sheeple once again and promote his new book of lies, Decision Points. It's the same old song and dance about how he can get away with treason and nothing will be done about it.

That is precisely what made him so scary to begin with. He really didn't do much that others hadn't done before; however, they all did it behind closed doors, as they feared the righteous wrath of the people. He always committed his treason, sedition and crimes against humanity out in the open and dared us to do anything about it! He knew that the fix was in and would remain in long after he left office. Sure enough, some of the first words out of Barry's mouth was about looking ahead instead of obeying the Constitution, which Barry swore to uphold and protect, and bringing the Crime Family Bush to trial as is required by law.

So off Bush goes to openly brag about ordering torture and the murder of innocents. Innocents? Well, let's see, of all the "worst of the worst" that were kidnapped, tortured, then brought to Gitmo and tortured some more 95% were found to be the teachers, clerks and cab drivers they said they were, and not the terrorists the war lords sold them to us as. They were released after many years to go back to try and repair their shattered lives without so much as an, oops we bad! A policy that is to this day still being enforced all over the world in our many black ops concentration camps. Your tax dollars at work, America! No money for America, for things that we desperately need, but plenty for the torture of innocents!

Then to top it off, here comes this traitorous war criminal to make a fortune on a book tour with a passel of armed goons from the Secret Service and US Marshals Service to insure he gets away with his crimes and doesn't suffer as much as a cross look or a single protest of his thousands of crimes. Oh, and did I mention you'll pick up the tab for this, too!

Keepin' On

In case you missed it, last Friday I did an interview with the fabluous Diane Gee on her radio show, "The Wild, Wild, Left! I found the conversation stimulating, not to mention, what a joy it is to talk to someone that actually gets it for a change!

I forewarned Diane that she'd have no problem getting me to talk; it is getting me to shut up that is the trick! I thank Diane for putting up with this old reprobate and having me on the show! Thanks Diane!

If you'd like to hear what you missed out on or to hear it all again, just, "Push the button Max!

Oh and one more thing before I forget again. For those of you nice enough to send in a donation from around the world, could you in future just send cash? The corpo-rat goons who control America came up with yet another way to keep us in check. Now, if someone sends me a check from outside America I must wait 45 days and pay $25 to cash it so they can send it off to Fatherland Security to make sure that the same corpo-rats that are buying our elections from China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, etc aren't paying me to follow their bribes! So if you are so inclined, just wrap the bills in a piece of paper and send it in. It will for one thing keep your names off their lists and help us keep fighting their treason in a timely manner! It's always somethin', huh? Thanks Ya'll!


04-30-1944 ~ 11-05-2010
Thanks for the films!

05-03-1949 ~ 11-08-2010
Thanks for the read!

08-08-1919 ~ 11-11-2010
Thanks for the films!


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


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

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

Outrage, Misguided
By Noam Chomsky

The U.S. midterm elections register a level of anger, fear and disillusionment in the country like nothing I can recall in my lifetime. Since the Democrats are in power, they bear the brunt of the revulsion over our current socioeconomic and political situation.

More than half the "mainstream Americans" in a Rasmussen poll last month said they view the Tea Party movement favorably, a reflection of the spirit of disenchantment.

The grievances are legitimate. For more than 30 years, real incomes for the majority of the population have stagnated or declined while work hours and insecurity have increased, along with debt. Wealth has accumulated, but in very few pockets, leading to unprecedented inequality.

These consequences mainly spring from the financialization of the economy since the 1970s and the corresponding hollowing-out of domestic production. Spurring the process is the deregulation mania favored by Wall Street and supported by economists mesmerized by efficient-market myths.

People see that the bankers who were largely responsible for the financial crisis and who were saved from bankruptcy by the public are now reveling in record profits and huge bonuses. Meanwhile official unemployment stays at about 10 percent. Manufacturing is at Depression levels: one in six out of work, with good jobs unlikely to return.

People rightly want answers, and they are not getting them except from voices that tell tales that have some internal coherence, if you suspend disbelief and enter into their world of irrationality and deceit.

Ridiculing Tea Party shenanigans is a serious error, however. It is far more appropriate to understand what lies behind the movement's popular appeal, and to ask ourselves why justly angry people are being mobilized by the extreme right and not by the kind of constructive activism that rose during the Depression, like the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations).

Now Tea Party sympathizers are hearing that every institution, government, corporations and the professions is rotten, and that nothing works.

Amid the joblessness and foreclosures, the Democrats can't complain about the policies that led to the disaster. President Ronald Reagan and his Republican successors may have been the worst culprits, but the policies began with President Jimmy Carter and accelerated under President Bill Clinton. During the presidential election, Barack Obama's primary constituency was financial institutions, which have gained remarkable dominance over the economy in the past generation.

That incorrigible 18th century radical Adam Smith, speaking of England, observed that the principal architects of power were the owners of the society in his day the merchants and manufacturers and they made sure that government policy would attend scrupulously to their interests, however "grievous" the impact on the people of England; and worse, on the victims of "the savage injustice of the Europeans" abroad.

A modern and more sophisticated version of Smith's maxim is political economist Thomas Ferguson's "investment theory of politics," which sees elections as occasions when groups of investors coalesce in order to control the state by selecting the architects of policies who will serve their interests.

Ferguson's theory turns out to be a very good predictor of policy over long periods. That should hardly be surprising. Concentrations of economic power will naturally seek to extend their sway over any political process. The dynamic happens to be extreme in the U.S.

Yet it can be said that the corporate high rollers have a valid defense against charges of "greed" and disregard for the health of the society. Their task is to maximize profit and market share; in fact, that's their legal obligation. If they don't fulfill that mandate, they'll be replaced by someone who will. They also ignore systemic risk: the likelihood that their transactions will harm the economy generally. Such "externalities" are not their concern, not because they are bad people, but for institutional reasons.

When the bubble bursts, the risk-takers can flee to the shelter of the nanny state. Bailouts, a kind of government insurance policy are among many perverse incentives that magnify market inefficiencies.

"There is growing recognition that our financial system is running a doomsday cycle," economists Peter Boone and Simon Johnson wrote in the Financial Times in January. "Whenever it fails, we rely on lax money and fiscal policies to bail it out. This response teaches the financial sector: Take large gambles to get paid handsomely, and don't worry about the costs, they will be paid by taxpayers" through bailouts and other devices, and the financial system "is thus resurrected to gamble again and to fail again."

The doomsday metaphor also applies outside the financial world. The American Petroleum Institute, backed by the Chamber of Commerce and the other business lobbies, has intensified its efforts to persuade the public to dismiss concerns about anthropogenic global warming with considerable success, as polls indicate. Among Republican congressional candidates in the 2010 election, virtually all reject global warming.

The executives behind the propaganda know that global warming is real, and our prospects grim. But the fate of the species is an externality that the executives must ignore, to the extent that market systems prevail. And the public won't be able to ride to the rescue when the worst case scenario unfolds.

I am just old enough to remember those chilling and ominous days of Germany's descent from decency to Nazi barbarism, to borrow the words of Fritz Stern, the distinguished scholar of German history. In a 2005 article, Stern indicates that he has the future of the United States in mind when he reviews "a historic process in which resentment against a disenchanted secular world found deliverance in the ecstatic escape of unreason."

The world is too complex for history to repeat, but there are nevertheless lessons to keep in mind as we register the consequences of another election cycle. No shortage of tasks waits for those who seek to present an alternative to misguided rage and indignation, helping to organize the countless disaffected and to lead the way to a better future.
(c) 2010 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Hegemony or Survival Americas Quest for Global Dominance. His writings on linguistics and politics have just been collected in The Essential Noam Chomsky, edited by Anthony Arnove, from the New Press.

The Nobleman And The Horse
By Uri Avnery

"HALF AND HALF," the late Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol, is said to have answered, when asked whether he wanted tea or coffee.

This joke was intended to parody his hesitation on the eve of the Six-day War. (Though secret documents published this week show Eshkol in a very different light.)

The American public now resembles the man in the joke. They sent to Washington a large group of Tea Party types, but the coffee drinkers in the White house are still in control.

The Israeli leadership did not know how to treat the results of this election. Are they good for the Jews or bad for the Jews?

THE BIG winner of the American election is none other than Binyamin Netanyahu.

His policy is similar to that of his political mentor, Yitzhak Shamir. It is based on the Jew who had to teach the Polish nobleman's horse to read and to write within a year - otherwise the whole shtetel would be massacred. "A year is a long time," he tried to soothe his weeping wife, "Within a year the horse or the nobleman will be dead."

Shamir's game was to postpone everything, miss every opportunity to bring peace closer, gain time.

When the pressure on Israel gets stronger, one has to evade, obstruct, cheat. Sooner or later the nobleman or the horse will die - and with some luck, both of them. The situation will change, the pressure will lessen, those who exert the pressure will disappear. A crisis somewhere else in the world will take people's minds off us. We shall win another year or two, and then we shall see.

This is Netanyahu's strategy, too. To prevent any advance towards peace, since peace means the evacuation of settlements and the setting up of a Palestinian state.

For two years now he has succeeded in thwarting every effort by Barack Obama to compel him to start a real peace process. He has defeated him at every turn, time after time. Now Obama has suffered a stinging setback at home, and a new chapter has begun.

But the nobleman has not died, and neither has the horse. How will Obama treat Netanyahu now?

In Jerusalem, there are two contradictory answers to this question.

The first assessment is that there is nothing to fear anymore from Obama. True, the horse has not died, but it is limping badly.

A big question mark is now hanging over Obama's future. He is in danger of becoming a one-term president. From now on, he will be compelled to devote all his time and energy to his effort to get reelected. In such a situation, he cannot afford to provoke AIPAC and run the risk of losing the votes - and the money - of the Jews.

According to this assessment, when the House of Representatives is in the hands of his opponents, Obama must be very careful. In domestic matters, which decide elections, he will not be able to achieve anything without a compromise with the reinvigorated Republicans. These are led by politicians who are abject lackeys of Israel.

In short: there is nothing to fear anymore. Obama can make gestures towards the Palestinians and even flex his muscles, but in any real test with Netanyahu and AIPAC he will be the first to blink.

That assures Netanyahu two years of quiet. Everything will remain frozen, except the settlements. They will grow. And in two years, with a new President in the White House, we shall see what we shall see. A new noblemen, a new horse.

THE CONTRARY assessment is much less rosy for Netanyahu.

No doubt, Obama is full of fury against Netanyahu, and this fury may by now have turned into real loathing. In the last days before this election, Netanyahu refused Obama the little victory that could have improved his image at the last moment. Obama asked - nay, begged - for nothing more than a freeze of the settlements for another two months, just to make it possible to stage a grand spectacle of the resumption of the ceremony of the Peace Process. Netanyahu turned down the request disdainfully, even though it was accompanied by the offer of a huge political bribe.

Obama is a man who does not show negative emotions. He will continue to smile at Netanyahu, perhaps even to slap him on the back. But an enemy in the White house is a dangerous enemy, and a wounded enemy is even more dangerous. Wounded or not, an American president is still the most powerful person in the world.

True, the coming presidential election is already casting a long shadow over Washington. But the beginning of the serious election campaign is still a year off, and this year may be an opportunity for a determined American peace initiative. The President may want to show his voters an impressive achievement in the international arena, and a historic peace agreement between Israel and Palestine would certainly constitute such an achievement.

And even if this does not come about, a more serious danger for Netanyahu may be lurking after November 2012. Obama may be reelected. Some of his predecessors - Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton - suffered stinging setbacks in their first mid-term elections and still had no problem getting reelected.

If Obama is elected for a second term, he may become a very dangerous adversary indeed. Since he will not be allowed to stand again, he will be immune to the pressure of the Israel lobby. He will be thinking about his place in history. And undoubtedly, making peace between Israel and Palestine would be a historic achievement.

Moreover, the Tea Party may disappear as quickly as it appeared. This happens in the US every few decades: a wave of madness sweeps over the country like a tsunami and disappears as if it had never been. Remember Joe McCarthy. If the wave continues until 2012, and Obama then faces somebody like Sarah Palin, he could ask for nothing better.

As to the Congress: as far as Israel is concerned, there is no change. The senators and congressmen dance to the tune of the Israel lobby, and in this respect there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans. It "crosses party lines," as one of the leaders of the lobby recently boasted.

In short, according to this assessment the clash between Obama and Netanyahu is inevitable. It will come to a head within two or three years, maximum. The nobleman will not die, nor will the horse. The question is whether the Jew will survive.

THIS PERSONAL clash hides a far deeper, far more fundamental one. There is a lot of blabber about the partnership of the two countries. About the joint myths of pioneers, fight against the natives, conquest of a new homeland, a nation of immigrants. About "joint values."

It all reminds me of Shimon Peres' blabbering in the 1950s about the "joint values" that bound France to Israel. The joint values evaporated the moment France made peace with the Algerian rebels. The French stance changed overnight. As Charles de Gaulle said: "France has no friends, France has only interests."

The United States of America, too, has interests, and their friendships, too, are temporary. Both in the State Department and in the Pentagon, the experts know that the present Israeli policy is contrary to the American national interest. This knowledge finds expression in a growing number of books by former senior officials and academics, as well as in the speeches of high-ranking military officers. Lately, it also underlay an extremely unusual editorial in the New York Times, after the editors visited this country. And this in a paper anti-Semites call the Jew York Times!

The US is involved in two expensive wars in Muslim countries - Iraq and Afghanistan - and in a severe crisis with a third Muslim country - Iran. All over the "extended Middle East." its allies are declining, while its opponents are in the ascendency.

The opponents are a mixed lot: Iran is a religious Shiite country, Turkey is a Sunni secular republic (with a moderately religious party in power), Syria is a Sunni country ruled by the small Alawite sect, whose Islamic credentials are doubted by both Sunnis and Shiites. Hezbollah is fanatically Shiite, Hamas is fanatically Sunni. There is not much all these have in common, except their opposition to the status quo in the region.

Almost all the experts believe that the unlimited American support for Israel is the main cause for the Islamic anti-American wave. Most of them do not speak about this openly, because fear of the Israeli lobby pervades the entire American political establishment. But even the most terrifying lobby cannot withstand, in the long run, the inexorable logic of national interests.

THERE IS something crazy in this situation: our government is rushing light-heartedly towards a clash with the only remaining ally we have in the world. No realistic alternative can be detected on the horizon.

This is, by itself, an ominous fact, because the American Empire is in a slow but continuing decline in all areas - economic, political, military and cultural. This is a protracted process that will take many years, but Israel should be positioning itself to accommodate the rise of new centers of power. The Netanyahu government is doing the exact opposite: it is challenging the entire world and acting consistently to isolate Israel.

Unlike the story about the Jew, the nobleman and the horse - this is not a joke.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Wall Street TARP Gang Wants To Take Away Your Social Security
By Dean Baker

Just over two years ago, the Wall Streeters were running around Congress and the media saying that if they don't immediately get $700 billion the world will end. Since they own large chunks of both, they quickly got their money.

Even more important than the hundreds of billions of loans issued through the TARP was the trillions of dollars of loans and guarantees from the Fed and the FDIC. This money came with virtually no strings attached. It kept Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America and many others from collapsing. As a result, folks like Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein are again pocketing tens of millions a year in wages and bonuses, instead of walking the unemployment lines. Instead, 15 million ordinary workers are being told to just get used to being unemployed; it's the "new normal."

But wait, it gets worse. The thing about Wall Streeters is that no matter how much money you give them, they always want more. Now they are using their political power and control over the media to attack Social Security.

This effort is being led by billionaire investment banker Peter Peterson. Mr. Peterson has personally profited to the tune of tens of millions of dollars from the "fund managers' tax subsidy," an obscure provision of the tax code that allows billionaires to pay a lower tax rate than schoolteachers and firefighters. However, Peterson believes in giving back. He has committed $1 billion to an effort that is intended to take away the Social Security benefits that people have worked and paid for.

As part of this effort, Peterson set up a whole new foundation, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. He and/or his foundation created a "news service," the Fiscal Times, which is intended to promote the view that we have no choice but to cut Social Security. The Fiscal Times has entered into agreements with the Washington Post and other credible newspapers to provide material.

Peterson is also funding the creation of a high school curriculum which is intended to tell our children that in the future the country will be too poor to finance Social Security. He funded a silly exercise called "America Speaks," which was supposed to convince an assembly of selected participants that we must cut Social Security after a daylong immersion in Peterson-style propaganda. (The people didn't buy it.) And now his crew is spending $20 million on an ad campaign to convince people the world will end if we don't cut Social Security.

Attacks on Social Security have been fended off in the past and it is possible that this one will be too. It is an incredibly popular and successful program. It does exactly what it was supposed to do. It provides a modest income to the retired and disabled, and their families, to ensure that people who have spent their lives working will not fall into poverty. It is also extremely efficient, with administrative costs that are less than 1/20th as large as the costs of private insurers.

It also has very little fraud. We know this because earlier this year the Washington Post made a big point of hyping mistaken payments to federal employees than involved less than 0.01 percent of Social Security spending. If substantial fraud did exist, the Washington Post wouldn't have to hype small change to try to discredit the program.

The really incredible part of this story is that we should be talking about increasing Social Security benefits. Benefits are quite low by international standards. The portion of wage income replaced by Social Security is considerably lower than the retirement benefit provided by the systems in Australia, Canada, Germany and most other wealthy countries.

As a result, many of the retirees who are dependent almost entirely on Social Security have incomes that are only slightly above the poverty line. A modest increase in benefits could make a big difference in these people's standard of living.

In addition, the near retirees, the people directly in the gun sights of the Wall Street TARPers, have just seen most of their wealth destroyed by the collapse of the housing bubble. The Wall Streeters now want to kick them yet again, by taking away Social Security benefits that they have already paid for.

If Congress and the media worked for the public, we would be debating Wall Street speculation taxes right now. Insofar as we need to do something about the deficit in the longer term, taxing Wall Street speculation is a far more economic desirable route than taking away the Social Security benefits that ordinary workers have already paid for. We could easily raise more than $1.5 trillion over the next decade with a broadly based speculation tax than would have almost no impact on anyone except the Wall Street crew.

Even the IMF is now pushing higher taxes on the Wall Street types, recognizing the enormous waste and rents in the financial sector. But the media and Congress do not respond to economic reality, they respond to money. And Peter Peterson and the Wall Street crew are not paying for an honest discussion of the country's fiscal and economic problems. They are financing a rigged debate that is intended to result to even more money flowing to Wall Street and less to those who work for a living.
© 2010 Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer and the more recently published Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of The Bubble Economy. He also has a blog, "Beat the Press," where he discusses the media's coverage of economic issues.

Cat Food Commission Releases Draft Version Of 'Shock Doctrine'
Fiscal Commission Recommendations: VA Co-Pays, Top Tax Rate 23%
By David Dayen

OK, here's the draft document for the cat food commission co-chair's mark. In addition, there’s a page with specific "illustrative cuts," $100 billion in domestic spending and $100 billion in military spending. Between the two, you can get a sense of what Bowles and Simpson have planned. Keep in mind that this is more of a shock doctrine document than a blueprint; they have no support on the commission for all this, and they're trying to gather it with this early release.

So let's bullet point some highlights:

They're nice enough to wait a whole year to implement the cuts; they wouldn't start until FY 2012 - in other words, the next budget.

* Their goal is to put revenue and spending at 21-22% of GDP. Their plan would reduce the deficit below the recommended 3% of GDP by 2015, down to about 2.2%.

* They put in spending caps, maybe the worst idea known to man, the kind of program that has turned Colorado so sharply negative that the business community begged the state to lift them. These caps, which are unenforceable, as a current Congress cannot be bound by a previous Congress, would bush spending 18% below the baseline by 2020, a drastic bit of austerity.

* 75% of the solutions in the co-chair mark are spending reductions, 25% are tax increases.

* They want to add co-pays to the Veterans' Administration and TRICARE, as well as pushing individuals covered by TRICARE into an employer policy. They also want to freeze noncombat military pay for three years. And, they want to end schools for families on military bases, instead reintegrating soldier's kids into the public school system (because that's so easy for a military family that moves every other year).

* They would cut the federal workforce by 10%, freeze all salary increases and bonuses for three years, and reduce Congressional and White House budgets by 15%. Surely this is the way to a better and more efficient federal workforce.

* They would eliminate all funding for commercial space flight, as well as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and increase fees at national parks and the Smithsonian museums.

* Increase co-pays in Medicaid and cost sharing in Medicare. In addition, the plan would cap Medicaid/Medicare growth, so that the government would have to either increase premiums and co-pays or raise the Medicare eligibility age if the cost grows above the baseline.

* Massively overhaul the tax code. They have a couple different options on this. In the first, there would only be three brackets: at 8%, 14% and 23% for the top bracket. All tax expenditures – $1.1 trillion, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and the child tax credit, would be eliminated. The corporate tax rate would go down from 35% to 26% as well. Option 2 borrows from the Wyden-Gregg tax reform, establishing rates at 15%, 25% and 35%, increasing the standard deduction, capping the mortgage interest deduction (and eliminating it for second homes), limiting the charitable deduction, eliminating other tax expenditures, and capping the employer deduction for health care. Corporate rates would also go down, with loopholes removed.

* They would increase the gas tax by 15 cents a gallon beginning in 2013, to pay for transportation projects.

* They would pay for the "doctor's fix" by cutting other reimbursements to hospitals and drug companies, as well as through tort reform (yeah, that'll do it). They would also speed up a lot of the cost controls in the health care law. They also ask, if health care costs are still rising after the implementation of the exchanges, for Congress to consider a variety of options, including this:

Add a robust public option and/or all-payer system in the exchange.

* Reduce farm subsidies by $3 billion per year.

* On Social Security, gradually increase the retirement age to 69 by 2075. They would also institute progressive price indexing to cut scheduled benefits for middle and high-income earners. They would index cost of living increases to inflation and not wages. They would also increase the payroll tax to capture 90% of wages, rather than the current 86%. Social Security savings would stay inside the program to keep it solvent, not be used for deficit reduction.

There's a lot more in there, but those are the highlights. It's a very aggressive plan.
© 2010 David Dayen is a writer for FireDogLake.

Hard Times, Soft Heads

A recent New York Times headline used the word "soft" to describe today's economy. On what planet does that wordsmith live? Soft implies cushions and comfort, while the economic reality that most Americans are experiencing is one of unrelenting hard times.

Indeed, the content of the Times' article defied its own headline, reporting that national economic growth this summer was pathetically weak. Tens of millions of people remain unemployed or underemployed, with millions of them having been mired in joblessness for nearly two years. Even those with jobs have seen their hours cut or wages slashed, so the nation's income growth was an abysmal 0.5 percent - and the bulk of that went to the richest Americans, who enjoyed a nice rise in their stock portfolios.

The way out of this, say a flock of economic gurus roosting on their lofty theoretical perches, is for consumers to spend more. Yoo-hoo, wise ones - spend what? The Times conceded that, with incomes of the masses plummeting, consumer demand remains "flaccid" (yet another word for soft). As noted by James K. Galbraith, a down-to-earth economist grounded in reality, "The problematic factor is that consumers remain fundamentally insolvent."

Still, reaching for a silver lining in a dark and stormy cloud, the Times noted that American families are at least shedding some of their consumer debt. Good! Except that much of this is the result of millions of hard-hit families having to default on their credit card bills, student loans, mortgages, and other debts they can no longer pay.

The only thing "soft" in today's economy are the heads of economists who keep blaming consumers, rather than fingering the big bankers and corporate CEOs who continue to knock down America's wages, the middle class... and America itself.
(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.

Cell Phone Trap
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

It is now inconceivable that our world could function without the 5 billion cell phones used globally. The new book by Devra Davis "Disconnect" deserves your attention. Indeed, if you use a cell phone a lot it should be mandatory reading.

It also seems inconceivable that the trillion dollar cell phone industry and governments worldwide could have pushed this technology without ever having solid research results proving the safety of cell phones. If true that would be deadly frightening. But that is exactly the reality.

Is this a bizarre slip up or an intentional conspiracy between corporate and government interests? The more you learn the more you fear. Nightmarishly, cell phone technology has become too big to fail, no matter its deadly risks. Government won't protect you, so you have to protect yourself.

Let me note that I rarely use my cell phone. Very few people have my number and I rarely turn it on, except when I need to make a call. As a former professor of engineering I have always seen technology as offering risks, not just heavily commercialized benefits. The risks are often dismissed, poorly studied or just plain ignored.

And by now everyone should be concerned that neither government regulations nor corporate responsibility protect us very well from harmful foods, prescription drugs and manufactured products.

Facing the truth is often painful, but if you care about protecting your health and the health of people you love, then this is a book you definitely want to read and get others to read. Make no mistake, what you learn will upset you, but beyond getting angry at companies and the government for not adequately protecting against a man made public health disaster, you will be motivated to change your behavior. The subtitle sums up the theme: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family.

Here are some of the eye-popping facts and insights I picked up from reading this book.

Tests show young men who keep their phones in a pants pocket have reduced sperm counts.

Some scientists have, for decades, known about the adverse effects that radiofrequency causes in the brain. For example, radiofrequency allows chemicals and toxins from the blood, which are normally kept away from the nervous system, to enter the brain and cause disease.

The work of Dr. Lennart Hardell in Sweden should make cell phone users reconsider their practices. Swedes who have used cell phones the most and for the longest times have more malignant brain tumors than others. After a decade of use the risk of brain tumors is doubled. Similar results were found by scientists in Israel, Finland, Russia and England. Hardell has also found that teenagers using cell phones end up after a decade with four times more brain cancers.

The book highlights what the distinguished research scientist Dariusz Leszczynski said: "we clearly showed that radiation from a phone had a biological impact. After this work, which in fact repeated that of many othe... the world could no longer pretend that the only problems with cell phones occurred after you could measure a change in temperature. This view was always mistaken, of course, and our work showed that." In other words, much lower power than in microwave ovens does not mean the absence of effects on our bodies.

Davis makes the inescapable point at the end of the book that "we need to invest in cell phones’ safety as we do with other modern technologies." But it is not clear whether that is proceeding as it should. Do you think industry and government will do the right thing and risk getting research results that could devastate cell phone usage? With corporate interests corrupting Congress it is highly unlikely that what is needed in terms of research and regulation will happen.

What should cell phone users do? They and children in particular should not be using cell phones without "ear buds." They should not keep cell phones that are turned on in their clothing next to their body. Use the speaker option. Recognize that texting and other phone functions can be less dangerous than holding a phone next to your head to hear. Remember that cordless phones also pose similar radiation hazards, so minimize their use at home.

I wonder whether the richest and most powerful people in society, like President Obama (and his children), have been strongly advised to not hold cell phones next to the head.

Bottom line: Your addiction to cell phone use just might be your downfall. How much risk do you want to take? Smart phones are the rage. Now we need a lot more smart people. Disconnect. The more you use your cell phone, the more trapped you are.
(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.

Is Corruption In Washington Beyond Repair?
By James Donahue

Today we offer a lesson in political science for those who may have forgotten what they should have learned in high school. Our nation’s founders established three branches of government. They are Administrative, Legislative and Judicial. Written within the Constitution was a system of checks and balances within these three governmental branches designed to assure fairness and equality for everybody.

It is no secret that something has gone seriously wrong.

The way the Legislative Branch was supposed to work was that people divided the territory in which they lived into voting districts. They elected someone from each district to go to Washington and represent their interests. This way, everybody had an interest in the way an article of legislation was written before it became law. Just to keep everything on an even keel, there were two parts to the legislative branch; the House of Representatives and the Senate. Both the House and Senate had to agree on the language of every bill before it went to the President’s desk, or the Executive Branch, for final approval.

The President has the power to either sign the bill into law or veto it. If the President vetoes the bill, it isn’t necessarily lost. The document can be sent back to the Congress for reconsideration and possible change. Congress can also override a veto if members can muster a two-thirds majority vote.

A lot of that original framework remains in place. But over the years, new rules of operating have been added by legislators that have removed the simplicity of the way thing are done. They have created committees and sub-committees where proposed bills sometimes become buried, never to see the light of day. Rule changes are designed to give members of one party an advantage over another so that constituents at home are no longer getting fair representation. Senate rules give individual members the power to block action on important legislation without having to explain why.

The invention of the filibuster . . . the monopoly of the floor of the house by a single member that can continue for days . . .just for the purpose of stalling action on a proposed bill, is among the many tricks used in internal battles.

Then there are the lobbyists. These are slick professional salesmen representing big corporations, big banking interests, and powerful political groups like the American Medical Association and the American Rifle Association. Lobbyists are constantly active in the halls of the Capital. Their original job was to try to persuade elected legislators to vote on behalf of their employer. More recently they have resorted to paying elected legislators to vote in ways that favor their interests and not necessarily in the interests of the constituents.

The advent of cash payoffs or expensive gifts that include paid vacation trips and other favors that sometimes go to the extreme have helped corrupt the way our system of government works. The workings of the Executive Branch appear to remain mostly intact, except for the fact that the President's appointed staff of advisers appears to be getting so large and cumbersome that some of the departments are falling over themselves. New presidents spend most of their first year in office just filling all of the appointments to the many agencies that have been created over the years. Also we notice that many of the President's top advisors are former lobbyists or former top executives with some of the most powerful corporations and banking systems operating in the nation.

The top tier of the Judicial Branch is the Supreme Court. It consists of the Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. All are appointed by the President and confirmed by the majority vote of the Senate. Once seated, these Justices have life tenure. Their terms terminate upon death, resignation, retirement or impeachment.

It has always been impossible to keep politics out of this high court, since members are appointed by presidents and approved by senators with political viewpoints. Yet the court's position as the final legal authority in the nation gives this judicial panel a significant amount of power. The court's purpose has always been to examine and interpret the laws as drafted by the Legislative and Executive Branches of government. The court also examines the constitutionality of each law that comes before it.

Most legal cases are handled by Federal District Courts or the Federal Court of Appeals before they ever reach the U. S. Supreme Court. The high court must agree to hear a case before it goes before the bench. Decisions made by this court are final, and based on interpretation of law. The only way to change a Supreme Court decision is to get legislators to agree to rewrite the law.

If we go by the textbooks, all of this was the way the high court was supposed to operate. In recent years, however, something troublesome has been happening. The court has been handing down opinions that have had a dramatic impact on the way governments and police function all over the country. Under Chief Justice William Rehnquist the court by a 5-4 vote intervened in the close vote count between presidential candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore, interrupted a Florida vote count, and gave the presidency to Bush. That one ruling had an impact on America that changed the nation forever.

Bush's appointment of conservatives John Roberts to the office of Chief Justice and Samuel Alito to a position of Associate Justice helped sway the court in a 5-4 landmark decision earlier this year that appears to have opened the door for private corporations to finance political campaigns. This had a major impact on the mid-term elections. Millions of dollars in secret money (some believe it came from foreign sources and moved through the Chamber of Commerce) were used to promote many of the candidates for legislative and even state gubernatorial campaigns.

Because of that Supreme Court decision people in local legislative districts no longer have true representation in Washington. To win office, candidates must be heavily backed by major corporations with big money if they have any chance of getting elected. This means their loyalty is to the corporations and big money interests, not the electorate.

It is clear that something has gone terribly wrong with the government system now operating in the United States. Many of the people we once trusted to go to Washington and our state capitals to make important decisions on our behalf have become victims of a need to gain heavy financial support to pay for the high cost of running a successful campaign. They have consequently been bought by a shadow government that exists behind the walls of the Federal Reserve, big world banking systems and corporate interests.

When we stand back and look at the slow progression of change that has occurred since America was founded over 200 years ago, and the way the Constitution and Bill of Rights has been distorted by the courts and legislative action, we find ourselves looking at a system of greed and corruption that runs so deep we wonder if it can ever be repaired.
(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.

Phantom Jobs
By Paul Craig Roberts

If we cannot trust what the government tells us about weapons of mass destruction, terrorist events, and the reasons for its wars and bailouts, can we trust the government's statement last Friday that the US economy gained 151,000 payroll jobs during October?

Apparently not. After examining the government's report, statistician John Williams ( reported that the jobs were "phantom jobs" created by "concurrent seasonal factor adjustments." In other words, the 151,000 jobs cannot be found in the unadjusted underlying data. The jobs were the product of seasonal adjustments concocted by the BLS.

As usual, the financial press did no investigation and simply reported the number handed to the media by the government.

The relevant information, the information that you need to know, is that the level of payroll employment today is below the level of 10 years ago. A smaller number of Americans are employed right now than were employed a decade ago.

Think about what that means. We have had a decade of work force growth from youngsters reaching working age and from immigration, legal and illegal, but there are fewer jobs available to accommodate a decade of work force entrants than before the decade began.

During two years from December 2007 - December 2009, the US economy lost 8,363,000 jobs, according to the payroll jobs data. As of October 2010, payroll jobs purportedly have increased by 874,000, an insufficient amount to keep up with labor force growth. However, John Williams reports that 874,000 is an overestimate of jobs as a result of the faulty "birth-death model," which overestimates new business start-ups during recessions and underestimates business failures. Williams says that the next benchmark revision due out next February will show a reduction in current employment by almost 600,000 jobs. This assumes, of course, that the BLS does not gimmick the benchmark revision. If Williams is correct, it is more evidence that the hyped recovery is non-existent.

Discounting the war production shutdown at the end of World War II, which was not a recession in the usual sense, Williams reports that "the current annual decline [in employment] remains the worst since the Great Depression, and should deepen further."

In short, there is no employment data, and none in the works, unless gimmicked, that supports the recovery myth. The US rate of unemployment, if measured according to the methodology used in 1980, is 22.5%. Even the government's broader measure of unemployment stands at 17%. The 9.6% reported rate is a concocted measure that does not include discouraged workers who have been unable to find a job after 6 months and workers who who want full time jobs but can only find part-time work.

Another fact that is seldom, if ever, reported, is that the payroll jobs data reports the number of jobs, not the number of people with jobs. Some people hold two jobs; thus, the payroll report does not give the number of employed people.

The BLS household survey measures the number of people with jobs. The same October that reported 151,000 new payroll jobs reported, according to the household survey, a loss of 330,000 jobs.

The American working class has been destroyed. The American middle class is in its final stages of destruction. Soon the bottom rungs of the rich themselves will be destroyed.

The entire way through this process the government will lie and the media will lie. The United States of America has become the country of the Big Lie. Those who facilitate government and corporate lies are well rewarded, but anyone who tells any truth or expresses an impermissible opinion is excoriated and driven away.

But we "have freedom and democracy." We are the virtuous, indispensable nation, the salt of the earth, the light unto the world.
(c) 2010 Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and is coauthor of "The Tyranny of Good Intentions," co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law, was published by Random House.

Show Time
Kangaroo Courts and the Crimes of Continuity

By Chris Floyd

"Somewhere in hell, Joseph Stalin is smiling."

So says Tony Keller, quite aptly, in his report on one of the great travesties of justice in our time (and that is a long, long list): the outrageous show trial of Omar Khadr, a young Canadian who recently pleaded guilty to various spurious "terrorism" charges after spending eight years in the maw of the American gulag, since his capture in Afghanistan at the age of 15.

While America's attention was diverted by the witless (and war-avoiding) blather of the recent election campaign, the Pentagon prosecutors of the Peace Laureate in the White House were finishing their persecution of the child soldier. Having wrung a false confession to a non-existent charge from him in the early days of his captivity, when he was seriously wounded, they finally hammered a guilty plea out of him in a kangaroo court in which even an acquittal could have seen him incarcerated for the rest of his life. Such is the justice of the Laureate.

As Keller reports:

On the main charge, "murder in violation of the laws of war" (a crime that doesn't appear to even exist in international law, given that combatants who kill other soldiers in combat are not violating the laws of war), the chief evidence against the then-15-year-old child soldier was his own confession. And that confession, made years ago and long since recanted, was obtained under conditions that any normal human being would describe as torture.

Omar Khadr was captured in 2002 in Afghanistan. He was the only survivor after a firefight and an air strike on an al-Qaeda position. He had been wounded in his shoulder and in both eyes, shot twice in the back and was near death. It was alleged that, just before he was shot, he had thrown a grenade at attacking American troops, killing one of them. As already noted, he was 15 years old.

He then spent several months in the hellhole that was Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, where he claims -- credibly, given all that we know about what went on at Bagram -- that he was subjected to sleep deprivation, the chaining of his hands above his head for hours, that he was hooded and threatened by dogs, and sometimes forced to urinate on himself because he was not unshackled to go to the bathroom. His chief interrogator at Bagram admitted to telling the teenage boy that unless he co-operated, he would be sent to a U.S. prison, where a group of black men would gang rape him to death.

And who this interrogator? A thug so egregious that even the Gulag Gang was forced to punish him -- albeit lightly -- for his involvement in beating a prisoner to death at around the same time he was "strenuously interrogating" Khadr:

He was interviewed about 25 times by this interrogator, Joshua Claus. Claus was also the interrogator for an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar who was chained to the ceiling and beaten to death in Bagram in 2002; Claus pled guilty to his involvement in the affair and received a five month sentence. In a lovely Orwellian touch, the U.S. government insisted that reporters covering Khadr's trial not name Claus, but instead refer to him as "Interrogator 1."

In Bagram, Khadr confessed that he had thrown the grenade that killed an American soldier. No one saw him do this, so his confession is really the only evidence of the act. Last summer, U.S. military judge Colonel Patrick Parrish ruled that the confession, despite the obviously coercive circumstances under which it was made, had been freely given, and could be used against Khadr in court.

Once that decision was rendered, the fix was definitely in. Keller lays it out:
This week, Omar Khadr was offered the following choice: plead guilty, or face two different routes to life in prison. He could go to trial, and thanks to a confession that would be laughed out of any real court of law, he'd probably be convicted. But even if the court somehow found him not guilty, the U.S. reserved the right to detain him indefinitely as an enemy combatant. The only sure way to get out of jail early was to tell his interrogators what they wanted to hear.

On Monday, Khadr was even forced to cop to other crimes, including the killing of two Afghan soldiers, something he wasn't even charged with, and for which the prosecution appears to have had no evidence. And, in a nice touch that Stalin would have appreciated, Khadr appears to have also been forced to sign away his right to sue his jailors for the various forms of deprivation and abuse that he was subject to…. They could have told him to confess that he had simultaneously piloted all four hijacked planes on 9/11, and he would have done it.

…The original communist torture techniques, which for a time inspired the standard operating procedures at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo and the secret black sites, were not designed to elicit truth. They were designed to produce false confessions: That was the whole point. They were designed to force people to say what interrogators wanted to hear -- yes, I am a capitalist stooge, yes I am a Trostkyite, yes I am a terrorist.

And now Guantanamo's very first military tribunal has its first guilty verdict, thanks to those methods of coercion first perfected for the Soviet Bloc show trial. My God, what have we done? Somewhere in hell, Joseph Stalin is smiling.

And here on earth, of course, that blood-bloated moral cretin, George W. Bush, is grinning like a pig in shit, raking in millions of dollars for an "autobiography" in which he brags -- swearing like the tough guy this little quaking frat boy has always wished he was -- that he personally ordered waterboarding: a clear, flagrant violation of the laws of the United States -- and a high crime for which the United States has prosecuted many other people, including its own soldiers, for more than a century. But "damn right," Bush ordered this torture; and "damn right," his successor, the Continuer-in-Chief -- who is busy ginning up even more wars, killing more civilians, engendering more hatred and entrenching Bush's travesties of justice and tyrannical perversion -- will not do a damn thing about it.
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

Rand Paul's Lack Of Class
By Matthew Rothschild

Kentucky's newly minted Senator is not ready to play nice.

Appearing on "This Week" with Christiane Amanpour on Sunday, Paul boasted that the tea partiers have will not be coopted by the Republican Party but vice versa. "The tea party is coopting Washington," he said. "We're proud, we're strong, we're loud, and we're going to coopt. And in fact, I think we're already shaping the debate."

He's shaping it in such an ugly way, too.

Paul says he favors cutting the number of federal employees by 10 percent, and then slashing the salaries of those who remain by 10 percent.

This is economic folly. We're facing a huge gap of purchasing power in the country right now, and he intends to widen that gap by decimating the purchasing power of almost three million people.

He also said he'd raise the retirement age for Social Security for everyone 55 and under.

Hey, I'm 52. What are you doing to me and my friends and the more than 200 million other Americans who will now have to work into our dotage?

Paul and the tea partiers are intent on destroying the very idea of government for the people. They want to throw everyone to the barking dogs of the free market.

And they don't want people to see who will benefit from this.

As Rand Paul said on CNN last week, "There are no rich. There are no middle class. There are no poor."

What a cover, to say there are no classes when everything he proposes would help the rich, and not the middle class, and not the poor.

What a convenient slight of hand to say there are no classes when income inequality has widened to obscene levels. As Timothy Noah notes on Slate.

In 1915, "the richest 1 percent accounted for 18 percent of the nation's income. Today, the richest 1 percent account for 24 percent of the nation's income."

Or as Holly Sklar, the astute progressive economic analyst, put it recently.

"According to the latest IRS data, the 400 richest taxpayers increased their average income by 399 percent, adjusted for inflation, between 1992 and 2007." By contrast, she pointed out, "Average wages are 7 percent lower today, adjusted for inflation, than they were back in 1973." To top it all off, she noted, "The richest 1 percent has more wealth than the bottom 95 percent combined."

Rand Paul can pretend that classes don't exist in America, and he can propose policies that will help the richest and punish everyone else, but all he proves by doing so is that he's the one who's got no class.
(c)2010 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

Doing It Again
By Paul Krugman

Eight years ago Ben Bernanke, already a governor at the Federal Reserve although not yet chairman, spoke at a conference honoring Milton Friedman. He closed his talk by addressing Friedman's famous claim that the Fed was responsible for the Great Depression, because it failed to do what was necessary to save the economy.

"You're right," said Mr. Bernanke, "we did it. We're very sorry. But thanks to you, we won't do it again."

Famous last words. For we are, in fact, doing it again.

It's true that things aren't as bad as they were during the worst of the Depression. But that's not saying much. And as in the 1930s, every proposal to do something to improve the situation is met with a firestorm of opposition and criticism. As a result, by the time the actual policy emerges, it's watered down to such an extent that it's almost guaranteed to fail.

We've already seen this happen with fiscal policy: fearing opposition in Congress, the Obama administration offered an inadequate plan, only to see the plan weakened further in the Senate. In the end, the small rise in federal spending was effectively offset by cuts at the state and local level, so that there was no real stimulus to the economy.

Now the same thing is happening to monetary policy.

The case for a more expansionary policy by the Fed is overwhelming. Unemployment is disastrously high, while U.S. inflation data over the past few years almost perfectly match the early stages of Japan's relentless slide into corrosive deflation.

Unfortunately, conventional monetary policy is no longer available: the short-term interest rates the Fed normally targets are already close to zero. So the Fed is shifting from its usual policy of buying only short-term debt, and is now buying long-term debt - a policy generally referred to as "quantitative easing." (Why? Don't ask.)

There's nothing outlandish about this action. As Mr. Bernanke tried to explain Saturday, "This is just monetary policy," adding, "It will work or not work in much the same way that ordinary, more conventional, familiar monetary policy works."

Yet the Pain Caucus - my term for those who have opposed every effort to break out of our economic trap - is going wild.

This time, much of the noise is coming from foreign governments, many of which are complaining vociferously that the Fed's actions have weakened the dollar. All I can say about this line of criticism is that the hypocrisy is so thick you could cut it with a knife.

After all, you have China, which is engaged in currency manipulation on a scale unprecedented in world history - and hurting the rest of the world by doing so - attacking America for trying to put its own house in order. You have Germany, whose economy is kept afloat by a huge trade surplus, criticizing America for running trade deficits - then lashing out at a policy that might, by weakening the dollar, actually do something to reduce those deficits.

As a practical matter, however, this foreign criticism doesn't matter much. The real damage is being done by our domestic inflationistas - the people who have spent every step of our march toward Japan-style deflation warning about runaway inflation just around the corner. They're doing it again - and they may already have succeeded in emasculating the Fed's new policy.

For the big concern about quantitative easing isn't that it will do too much; it is that it will accomplish too little. Reasonable estimates suggest that the Fed's new policy is unlikely to reduce interest rates enough to make more than a modest dent in unemployment. The only way the Fed might accomplish more is by changing expectations - specifically, by leading people to believe that we will have somewhat above-normal inflation over the next few years, which would reduce the incentive to sit on cash.

The idea that higher inflation might help isn't outlandish; it has been raised by many economists, some regional Fed presidents and the International Monetary Fund. But in the same remarks in which he defended his new policy, Mr. Bernanke - clearly trying to appease the inflationistas - vowed not to change the Fed's price target: "I have rejected any notion that we are going to try to raise inflation to a super-normal level in order to have effects on the economy."

And there goes the best hope that the Fed's plan might actually work.

Think of it this way: Mr. Bernanke is getting the Obama treatment, and making the Obama response. He's facing intense, knee-jerk opposition to his efforts to rescue the economy. In an effort to mute that criticism, he's scaling back his plans in such a way as to guarantee that they'll fail.

And the almost 15 million unemployed American workers, half of whom have been jobless for 21 weeks or more, will pay the price, as the slump goes on and on. -
(c) 2010 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas.
I'm frightened of the old ones."
~~~ John Cage

A Recipe For Fascism
By Chris Hedges

American politics, as the midterm elections demonstrated, have descended into the irrational. On one side stands a corrupt liberal class, bereft of ideas and unable to respond coherently to the collapse of the global economy, the dismantling of our manufacturing sector and the deadly assault on the ecosystem. On the other side stands a mass of increasingly bitter people whose alienation, desperation and rage fuel emotionally driven and incoherent political agendas. It is a recipe for fascism.

More than half of those identified in a poll by the Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports as “mainstream Americans” now view the tea party favorably. The other half, still grounded in a reality-based world, is passive and apathetic. The liberal class wastes its energy imploring Barack Obama and the Democrats to promote sane measures including job creation programs, regulation as well as criminal proceedings against the financial industry, and an end to our permanent war economy. Those who view the tea party favorably want to tear the governmental edifice down, with the odd exception of the military and the security state, accelerating our plunge into a nation of masters and serfs. The corporate state, unchallenged, continues to turn everything, including human beings and the natural world, into commodities to exploit until exhaustion or collapse.

All sides of the political equation are lackeys for Wall Street. They sanction, through continued deregulation, massive corporate profits and the obscene compensation and bonuses for corporate managers. Most of that money—hundreds of billions of dollars—is funneled upward from the U.S. Treasury. The Sarah Palins and the Glenn Becks use hatred as a mobilizing passion to get the masses, fearful and angry, to call for their own enslavement as well as to deny uncomfortable truths, including global warming. Our dispossessed working class and beleaguered middle class are vulnerable to this manipulation because they can no longer bear the chaos and uncertainty that come with impoverishment, hopelessness and loss of control. They have retreated into a world of illusion, one peddled by right-wing demagogues, which offers a reassuring emotional consistency. This consistency appears to protect them from the turmoil in which they have been forced to live. The propaganda of a Palin or a Beck may insult common sense, but, for a growing number of Americans, common sense has lost its validity.

The liberal class, which remains rooted in a world of fact, rationalizes placating corporate power as the only practical response. It understands the systems of corporate power. It knows the limitations and parameters. And it works within them. The result, however, is the same. The entire spectrum of the political landscape collaborates in the strangulation of our disenfranchised working class, the eroding of state power, the criminal activity of the financial class and the paralysis of our political process.

Commerce cannot be the sole guide of human behavior. This utopian fantasy, embraced by the tea party as well as the liberal elite, defies 3,000 years of economic history. It is a chimera. This ideology has been used to justify the disempowerment of the working class, destroy our manufacturing capacity, and ruthlessly gut social programs that once protected and educated the working and middle class. It has obliterated the traditional liberal notion that societies should be configured around the common good. All social and cultural values are now sacrificed before the altar of the marketplace.

The failure to question the utopian assumptions of globalization has left us in an intellectual vacuum. Regulations, which we have dismantled, were the bulwarks that prevented unobstructed brutality and pillaging by the powerful and protected democracy. It was a heavily regulated economy, as well as labor unions and robust liberal institutions, which made the American working class the envy of the industrialized world. And it was the loss of those unions, along with a failure to protect our manufacturing, which transformed this working class into a permanent underclass clinging to part-time or poorly paid jobs without protection or benefits.

The “inevitability” of globalization has permitted huge pockets of the country to be abandoned economically. It has left tens of millions of Americans in economic ruin. Private charity is now supposed to feed and house the newly minted poor, a job that once, the old liberal class argued, belonged to the government. As John Ralston Saul in “The Collapse of Globalization” points out, “the role of charity should be to fill the cracks of society, the imaginative edges, to go where the public good hasn’t yet focused or can’t. Dealing with poverty is the basic responsibility of the state.” But the state no longer has the interest or the resources to protect us. And the next target slated for elimination is Social Security.

That human society has an ethical foundation that must be maintained by citizens and the state is an anathema to utopian ideologues of all shades. They always demand that we sacrifice human beings for a distant goal. The propagandists of globalization—from Lawrence Summers to Francis Fukuyama to Thomas Friedman—do for globalization and the free market what Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky did for Marxism. They sell us a dream. These elite interpreters of globalism are the vanguard, the elect, the prophets, who alone grasp a great absolute truth and have the right to impose this truth on a captive people no matter what the cost. Human suffering is dismissed as the price to be paid for the coming paradise. The response of these propagandists to the death rattles around them is to continue to speak in globalization’s empty rhetoric and use state resources to service a dead system. They lack the vision to offer any alternative. They can function only as systems managers. They will hollow out the state to sustain a casino capitalism that is doomed to fail. And what they offer as a solution is as irrational as the visions of a Christian America harbored by many within the tea party.

We are ruled by huge corporate monopolies that replicate the political and economic power, on a vastly expanded scale, of the old trading companies of the 17th and 18th centuries. Wal-Mart’s gross annual revenues of $250 billion are greater than those of most small nation-states. The political theater funded by the corporate state is composed of hypocritical and impotent liberals, the traditional moneyed elite, and a disenfranchised and angry underclass that is being encouraged to lash out at the bankrupt liberal institutions and the government that once protected them. The tea party rabble, to placate their anger, will also be encouraged by their puppet masters to attack helpless minorities, from immigrants to Muslims to homosexuals. All these political courtiers, however, serve the interests of the corporate state and the utopian ideology of globalism. Our social and political ethic can be summed up in the mantra let the market decide. Greed is good.

The old left—the Wobblies, the Congress of Industrial Workers (CIO), the Socialist and Communist parties, the fiercely independent publications such as Appeal to Reason and The Masses—would have known what to do with the rage of our dispossessed. It used anger at injustice, corporate greed and state repression to mobilize Americans to terrify the power elite on the eve of World War I. This was the time when socialism was not a dirty word in America but a promise embraced by millions who hoped to create a world where everyone would have a chance. The steady destruction of the movements of the left was carefully orchestrated. They fell victim to a mixture of sophisticated forms of government and corporate propaganda, especially during the witch hunts for communists, and overt repression. Their disappearance means we lack the vocabulary of class warfare and the militant organizations, including an independent press, with which to fight back.

We believe, like the Spaniards in the 16th century who pillaged Latin America for gold and silver, that money, usually the product of making and trading goods, is real. The Spanish empire, once the money ran out and it no longer produced anything worth buying, went up in smoke. Today’s use in the United States of some $12 trillion in government funds to refinance our class of speculators is a similar form of self-deception. Money markets are still treated, despite the collapse of the global economy, as a legitimate source of trade and wealth creation. The destructive power of financial bubbles, as well as the danger of an unchecked elite, was discovered in ancient Athens and detailed more than a century ago in Emile Zola’s novel “Money.” But we seem determined to find out this self-destructive force for ourselves. And when the second collapse comes, as come it must, we will revisit wrenching economic and political tragedies forgotten in the mists of history.
(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."

Of Irony And Implosion
By David Michael Green

I guess if you're gonna go down, you might as well do it with style.

And I guess if you can't do it with style, you might as well do it with irony.

Even if it is of the comedic sort. And even if the joke's on you.

This country is imploding. It has been for thirty years, if not fifty. What happened Tuesday was egregious in every respect, but at the end of the day represents little more than just another data point on a secular trend line. Putting the tea party freaks in control of the world's only superpower is hardly distinguishable, really, from giving those same governmental car keys to Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, or George W. Bush. For that matter, it bears all too uncomfortable resemblance to having Lyndon Johnson or Bill Clinton or Barack Obama president (though at least in those latter cases, we mostly didn't know beforehand what they'd turn out to be).

I want to say, before wallowing too much deeper into the despairing swamps of comedic irony, that there is some hope out there, at least in the longer term. Put bluntly, this country's main problem is old white guys. If we can find a way to neutralize their destructive impact, there is a new generation of un-crazy people waiting to take control of the country, stop it from digging deeper down in the hole its in, and begin the repair process. The next generation is liberal, and will become even more liberal when it realizes the degree to which the state is necessary to solve problems and protect citizens from predatory actors (most of which are far more likely to be dressed in shiny business suits than Taliban get-ups). It is a generation that finds prejudice based on race, sex and sexual orientation not only stupid and repugnant, but something far better - just plain dismissively irrelevant. It is a generation willing to take the outrageous step of protecting the only planet we happen to have (what a concept!). It's a generation that is largely unmoved by the institutionalized societal idiocy of organized religion. It is a generation that will be a lot more diverse than the regressive good ol' white boy dinosaurs from the 1930s and 1940s still lumbering about the country, waiting for "Father Knows Best" to stage a resurgence.

So, in the long term, we may be okay. Nature and demographics are pulling for the home team here. If we can last long enough, it's just possible that the suicidal empire will find a way to rescue itself from its self-imposed death spiral of inanity we've locked into these last decades.

But it's the getting there that will be tricky. And it's the question of what will be left of the country when we arrive that is crucial.

In the meantime, we are a country that continues to manifest remarkable levels of foolishness in our politics, for which Tuesday's election represents merely an italicized exclamation point on a very long sentence. Some days I wonder if I missed something along the way. Did somebody challenge the US to a Stupidity Smackdown contest thirty years ago, and we in our vanity, arrogance and pride accepted the dare? Did we agree to enter our country into an international demolition derby, and then marshal all our prodigious resources toward winning? Are we locked in some sort of perennial James Dean movie, where our jacket sleeve keeps getting caught on the door handle as the Chevy hurtles toward the cliff?

I dunno. But what I do know is that the ironies of Election 2010 are enough to knock me to the floor.

Start with the fact that this is by far the richest country in the world. That doesn't mean, of course, that we shouldn't identify our problems and try to solve them. We definitely should. But I can't help being struck at the sheer whininess of it all. I mean, here we sit, in our opulence and abundance and decadent materialism, and we're just absolutely beside ourselves. We are the richest people ever to exist on the planet, and we five percent swim in our thick lumpy gravy while 25 percent of humanity - close to two billion people - live in conditions of extreme poverty. Rather ironic, I have to say.

So is the fact that, amongst us, the angriest folks are the very most privileged. They are the white, male seniors who came out in droves for the freak show calling itself the tea party. We know empirically from polling data that these folks are the very definition of demographic privilege. They're wealthier than the rest of us. They're in the majority and dominant race. They are the dominant, catered to and most privileged sex. They have been benefitting from all the goodies that liberalism has provided them for all their lives, most especially now as they bask in their Social Security and Medicare payouts. Oh, and one other thing. They're furious. Furious at the injustices of the world, furious at the idea of sharing the fat bonanza they lucked into in the lottery of life, furious at a society that might have the audacity of compassion for this or that group that it has spent centuries, if not millennia, pummeling. That fury. The ironic fury of the hurl-inducing uber-selfish.

And what they do with that fury is equally ironic. Imagine how puzzled a visiting alien would be if you were forced to explain the election of 2010 to him. See in your mind's eye his antennae twisting themselves into slimy little pretzels as he attempts to apply logic - alien, Martian, human, twisted, any kind - to your explanation of what happened. "You see, little green dude, we were extremely unhappy with the state of our country, so what we did was to grab as many of the people as we could find who had just put us in that condition, and we put them back in power. Get it?" "No", he's thinking, "I don't". "But you're about to, as we vaporize your pathetic planet into a gazillion sub-atomic particles. Oh, and don't think the Universe will care, either, Mr. Supremely Illogical Humanoid Life Form. Everyone knows that you biped wankers are the least developed, most arrogant, and most buffoonish species in the entire Quadrant. You barely-down-from-the-trees hominids make the dwarf methane sloths of the Ursa Major Cluster seem like Galactic Wisdom Prize laureates by comparison!"

I mean, really. Is this supposed to be some sort of joke? Not even two years after they crashed the country economically, diplomatically, environmentally, fiscally, politically and morally, we've now turned to an even crazier lot of Republicans and put those monsters in charge? People (allegedly, anyhow) who think that unmarried women who are sexually active should not be allowed to teach in public schools? People who think that we should have weaker anti-pedophilia laws so that we don't impinge on business profitability? People who think it's okay to put "Whites Only" signs back in the windows of restaurants and hotels? People who think that 12 year-old girls impregnated by their uncles should have to bring the fetus to term? People who want to close down all public schools? People who dress up as Nazi SS officers? People who think George W. Bush was a pretty great president, after all, and got a raw deal from the American public? Those are the folks to whom we've handed the keys to the government now? I don't think the word irony is sufficient to touch that one.

But while we're at it, let's add in the fact that these same people who brought us disaster in every form have also pledged to bring us once again precisely the same policies that created that outcome. Without question what the country needs right now is more tax cuts for the wealthy, more deregulation of Wall Street and other corporate predators like BP, more use of fossil fuels to wreck the environment, more troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, more religion in government, more Constitution-slashing destruction of the Bill of Rights, more intrusion into people's personal and sexual lives, more gay and Hispanic and Muslim bashing, and more destruction of the meager social safety net that we have, just at the time it is needed most. Right? How's that for ironic?

Here's a another one for you. What the public really wants right now are solutions to the problems that beset them. And rightly so. The goons of the right (you know, the ones always talking about ‘personal responsibility' - OMG, the ironies are starting to reproduce!) have made a right proper hash of things. They've wrecked just about everything, and the rest they just didn't get to yet. But what the American public just voted for was something very different indeed from rule by the GOP. We just voted for divided government. We just created the precise prescription for gridlock. We just picked the very people who - even apart from the fact that their entire platform consists of undoing existing policies - will make sure that the government fails to act in response to any of the crises facing us. Brilliant.

And just as brilliant as throwing in the bad folks was the throwing out of the good. Admittedly, there are damn few of the latter, which offers a silver lining of sorts by mitigating the potential damage. But I will say that losing the likes of Alan Grayson and, especially, Russ Feingold really hurts, and it really hurts the people who are the most furious, even if they're far to stupid and fearful (which are more or less the same thing these days) to realize it. I was really pained in particular to see Feingold go down, especially because it was for no remotely sensible reason, and especially because he lost to a creep like Ron Johnson. In a city just brimming over with whores, Feingold was one of the true stand-up characters still remaining. Whatever one might say about his politics, which were generally liberal but ultimately quite iconoclastic, he was a senator with that rarest of attributes: integrity. Shame on Wisconsin and shame on America for rejecting him in favor of an army of corporate corporals. Shame on us, especially, for taking out the cleanest clean government guy in the whole city, in the name of attacking waste in Washington. The size of the drunken bacchanal they're throwing on K Street to celebrate Feingold's political demise is precisely the measure of his lonely public interest spirit. But since we're talking ironies here, maybe we'll get lucky and there'll be one other. Maybe Feingold will stand for president in 2012, running unabashedly against the plutocratic prostitution of both Obama and the Republicans. That's a message that could actually win for once.

Another astonishing irony of this election was the sight of Democrats running against themselves. I guess we finally have an answer to the question of what happens when you take cowardly fecklessness to its absolute logical extreme. I know of no Democrats who were running in this cycle on what appear on the surface to have been substantial, even monumental, legislative achievements. Many even ran against those, foolishly thinking that voters might separate them from their party identification on the ballot. And several even ran explicitly against their own leadership, trashing Obama and Pelosi like any tea bag lunatics might have. Unreal. These days you sometimes have to lean your head over sideways and shake it a few times to check for any loose parts rattling around. That's how absurdly unimaginable it is that one of the two actually electable parties in the world's sole superpower might have come to the conclusion that running against their own record could be a winning strategy.

But, of course, Democrats will top themselves yet again by going with the exact same leadership for another round. How about those inspirational leaders, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, eh? Don't they just deserve plaudits for how they led their party successfully into battle this week? Shouldn't we reward them with more terms at the party helm over the next two, four and six years? That would be a real masterstroke. Not.

Speaking of whom, my personal nominee for the most outrageous performance in the category of American irony has to go to Barack Obama for the jaw-dropping performance he gave at his post-"shellacking" press conference this week. I recently compared this president to Ricky Ray Rector, the mentally impaired condemned man who asked to have his pecan pie saved for "later" as he was about to be executed by the State of Arkansas. Before that I described the president as the pass-around rag doll for the fellas of Cell Block D. I can now see that in both cases I was far too generous.

After two years of the rabid right saying anything imaginable about him - down to questioning his citizenship and religion - and after a series of Republican leaders publicly announcing that they would not be compromising with the president and that their goal was to remove him from office - after all this, there was Mr. Happy Face once more talking about how he was hopeful that the two sides could come together in the spirit of public service and reach agreements with each other in the name of the public's demand for bipartisan efforts to solve pressing problems. They are running scorched earth white phosphorous bombing raids on this guy, and he continues to respond with "Thank you sir, may I have another?".

This behavior started out as mystifying, became anger-inducing, transcended into the pathological, and now has become truly, eye-avertingly, just embarrassing and sad. I don't think we can avoid saying this anymore: Our president is mentally unwell. In the same way that we don't let our children walk the streets on their own until they know that moving cars are a threat to their safety when crossing the road, this man who cannot properly identify a vicious enemy of his (and ours), even when it announces itself on national television, should not be anywhere near government, let alone in the Oval Office. It may be safe for him to go back to being a law professor, but he should no more be allowed to deal with Republicans and CEOs than drunken frat boys should be permitted to drive a Caterpillar earthmover through a suburban neighborhood at two o'clock in the morning.

Undoubtedly the greatest irony of the lot, however, is that this country's problems are of its own making, and that the solutions to these threats are so transparent - chiefly because they used to be public policy. We had most of this stuff figured out once, but then we got greedy and stupid and pissed it all away. We knew after the experience of 1929 that Wall Street had to be regulated, and so we did. And it worked, until we decided to try the old way again, with the same consequences. We learned after Vietnam not to follow lying presidents into destructive wars that suited their personal ambitions. And it worked, until we forgot the lesson and were doomed to repeat the consequences. We learned from Reagan that tax cuts unmatched by spending cuts would drive a Mack truck through the budget, but then Cheney said "Reagan proved deficits don't matter", so we did it again, and now we're doing it a third time. And so on, and so on. I tell ya, I'd feel a lot better about our predicament if someone else was the cause of it. Some evil, external, bad guy. But surely, Shirley, the dumbest people on Earth are the ones who shoot themselves in the foot. Dumbest, that is, except for the ones who reload and do it again to the other foot.

Things may get better in this country, but not before they get worse, I can tell you that. And possibly not before they get really worse. The next two years are going to bring loads more nightmare our way. The scary moment comes when the doubling-down on regressivism produces the predictable outcome of more national disaster. Think of the present moment, cranked out on irradiated steroids. Just as has been the case lately, many will argue that we need to double down on these malignant ideas, and that anyone saying otherwise is a threat to society who should be treated accordingly. That's called fascism.

And that's the beauty of conservatism. Each time it fails, there are plenty among us for whom that failure represents a reason to do even more of the same.

If you're not depressed enough this week already, consider this: Next time around we might just quadruple-down on stupidity.

Oh boy.
(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...

Peter relaxes with his gun.

Heil Obama,

Dear Vorsitzende Peterson,

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 calling for the end of Social Security and Medicare thus freeing trillions for more wars, 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 "Corpo-rat 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 Peterson, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Self-Absorption Of America's Ruling Class
By Glenn Greenwald

This morning we have a living, breathing embodiment of America's political culture and its ruling class: prototypical featured article in Politico by Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei which "reports" on the widespread anger at President Obama from -- as they put it -- "virtually every group that matters in American politics." Who, to Politico, are the only groups that matter in American politics? "Congressional Democrats. . . Democratic state party leaders . . . . Democratic lobbyists . . . business leaders . . . Republicans." And of what does this "reporting" consist? A bunch of petulant, cowardly royal court functionaries -- hiding as always behind "journalistic" anonymity -- whining in Politico about a series of petty ceremonial slights. That's what makes this article such a perfect exhibit of our self-absorbed political culture, and this article will undoubtedly shape much cable news chatter for today at least.

With a massive unemployment crisis, millions of foreclosures, rampant elite lawlessness and plundering, and pervasive, severe anxiety over America's decline, this is what the "groups that matter in American politics" are anonymously complaining about:

In July, Obama was visiting GM and Chrysler plans in the Detroit area and invited the local House member - but other Democratic lawmakers who stood to benefit from the exposure were left in the cold.

When Obama was giving the commencement address in the University of Michigan's "Big House" stadium last May, he mingled in the home-team locker room with university deans and regents. Across the tunnel, in the visitor’s locker room, several members of Michigan’s Democratic congressional delegation -- including Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin and House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr. -- waited patiently.

Some had brought grandchildren so they could get their picture taken with the president. But they never got to see him. Obama didn't cross the tunnel to see the lawmakers.

In June, during an East Room reception for top supporters at Ford's Theatre, several of the attendees were disappointed that they didn’t get to shake the president's hand and take a photo, as they had in the past. Instead, Obama greeted a few people down front, reaching over a rope line.

"People thought they were going to a reception with the president, not a campaign event," one attendee recalled.

One veteran Democrat recalled a group of Obama donors who were chatting at last December’s State Department holiday party, hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "Half of them were upset because they had not been invited to a White House party," this Democrat recalled. "The (other) half was upset because they had been invited to the White House, and were kept behind a rope line instead of getting to greet the president."

The president invited Senate chairs and ranking members over for dinner in March 2009, but came in after they were seated and went back to the residence without shaking hands or visiting each table. . . .

Other executives complained that Obama did not do enough outreach, even after the friction became clear. And executives who did get an audience complain that he is too often behind a podium, not doing the off-the-record question-and-answer sessions that would make them feel more involved and maybe promote understanding between the two sides.

There, ladies and gentlemen, is the mentality of the "groups that matter in American politics." That's what these people are worried about and focused on. Some of the anti-Obama grievances cited by Politico are marginally less trivial though still on the level of political process complaints (rhetorical and communication failures on the part of the White House). But almost all of them are voiced anonymously. That Wall Street and other financial executives have spent the last year petulantly complaining about how unfairly they are treated -- as their wealth continues to boom while the rest of the population suffers -- was, in my view, one of the year's most vivid expressions of the degradation of America's political culture. That "the groups that matter" are preoccupied with these sorts of prerogative-denying slights -- while Politico gives them front-page anonymity to whine about those grievances -- is definitely another. We have the country we have because of the character of the people who run it.

* * * * *

This is my absolute last week to finish my book and posting will therefore be light and erratic -- though not non-existent -- until next Monday.

For now, one other event worth noting: Lindsey Graham became the latest leading American official to prove that Iran is ruled by extremist, crazed and bellicose leaders who threaten other nations with aggression when he suggested that the U.S. would and should attack Iran "not to just neutralize their nuclear program, but to sink their navy, destroy their air force and deliver a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard, in other words neuter that regime." Aren't those mullahs totally unstable and radical? Interestingly, though, while Graham "predicted Republican support for more aggressive U.S. involvement in the world," he also "acknowledged that some new members of Congress, particularly those elected under the tea party banner, are likely to have different foreign policy views. . . . The Republican Party is going to have two wings . . . .The isolationist wing, and the wing led by [Sen. John] McCain [Ariz.], Graham and [Sen. Jeff] Sessions [Ala.] that says you'd better stay involved in the world because if you do disengage, you'll regret it."

I'm not convinced at all that these Tea Party candidates will remotely impede American aggression: not a single successful one of those candidates questioned, let alone opposed, the attack on Iraq, advocated for withdrawal from Afghanistan, or opposed any of the Bush/Obama executive power abuses, and more important, much of the Tea Party movement is driven by the type of crazed anti-Muslim bigotry which drives those policies. But, interestingly, Senator-elect Rand Paul this weekend told ABC News that controlling the deficit requires real cuts to America's military spending -- a view which only a minority of Democrats are willing to express -- and also told Sam Husseini that we've been going to war too lightly and without the declarations of war and Congressional involvement which the Constitution requires. With reports this weekend that the U.S. is operating drones in Yemen -- yet another country in which we're now waging war under the direction of the Nobel Peace laureate -- it is clear that neither the Republican nor Democratic leadership is even close to impeding American imperial adventurism. If it is to be challenged, it will be from a combination of more severe economic distress and an ad hoc alliance from the more marginalized factions in both parties.
(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.

Damn Right
Bush Boasts about Waterboarding
By Ray McGovern

Former President George W. Bush continues to be beyond shame. Those favored with an advance copy of his memoir, Decision Points, say it paints a picture of a totally unapologetic Bush bragging, for example, about authorizing the CIA to waterboard 9/11 "mastermind," Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

According to newspaper accounts of the memoir, Bush says he was asked by the CIA for permission to subject KSM to the technique that creates the sensation of imminent drowning. His response was: "Damn right."

For such a frank admission of high-level criminality, we can say, with ample justification, Shame on Bush. But that shame also sticks like Saran wrap to the rest of us - and especially to the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM), which has soft-pedaled the significance of Bush's confession, and to his make-nice successor, Barack Obama, who has refused to demand any accountability.

However, if we are still a democracy, we are all complicit.

I don't much care if this sounds judgmental. You see, I was alive during World War II when there was torture galore; then it was considered a grave offense. The Nuremberg Tribunals tried and convicted Germany's leaders for torture and other war crimes. In the war's aftermath, there were a very few serious people arguing that the world should simply look forward, not backwards. The vast majority knew there had to be a reckoning, even amid the many serious crises that were facing a war-ravaged world.

The chief U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg, Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, insisted that the civilized world had no choice but to demand justice. He looked the Nazi leaders straight in the eye and told the court:

No charity can disguise the fact that the forces which these defendants represent - are the darkest and most sinister force in society, Jackson said. By their fruits we best know them. Their acts have bathed the world in blood and set civilization back a century. They have subjected their European neighbors to every outrage and torture.

The real complaining party at your bar is civilization. Civilization asks whether law is so laggard as to be utterly helpless to deal with crimes of this magnitude by criminals of this order of importance.

The prescient Jackson foresaw a time when not just the vanquished Nazis, but also America's own leaders might deserve to be put in the dock:

But the ultimate step in avoiding periodic wars is to make statesmen responsible to law. And let me make clear that while this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law includes, and if it is to serve any useful purpose it must condemn, aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment.

Beyond Nuremberg

Sadly, it is now clear that U.S. officials do not believe they should be held to that universal standard, and that the Nuremberg principles and other international laws need not apply to decisions emanating from the White House.

Rather than facing a stern judgment for his criminal actions, including approving torture and authorizing aggressive war against Iraq, George Bush is about to be lionized in Dallas over his presidential library, in bookstores for his memoir, and in the FCM. Two articles in the New York Times' "Week in Review" section on Sunday cited Bush's memoir as a possible turning point for Americans viewing the ex-President more favorably. Neither article made any mention of Bush's "Damn right" admission of ordering torture.

Reporter Peter Baker wrote, "Perhaps it is time to think about whether America has begun to reconsider its 43rd president." Columnist Maureen Dowd faulted "W's decision-making" but said "his story-telling is good."

In his memoir, Bush exudes confidence that he can achieve the resurrection of his popularity even as he boasts about his role on torture. It was a mark of almost inconceivable hubris that he would callously admit, this time in writing, his authorization of waterboarding.

But he did make that admission, which lobs the ball into our court as American citizens. It is indeed time for the kind of judgment Justice Jackson envisioned, not a celebratory book tour. Nor is it time for breaking ground on a new presidential library to further cover up crimes and falsehoods under a veneer of neo-con "scholarship." (Progressives in Dallas have taken to calling Bush's new structure a "lie-bury.")

Bush's confidence - or arrogance - can be traced, in part, to the power and tenacity of his acolytes, especially the neocons who remain very influential in Washington.

But blame also must fall on cynical politicians, especially in the House of Representatives, who thought they could maximize Democratic gains in 2006 and 2008 by ignoring their solemn oath to honor the Constitution of the United States. Forget the Founders, who took great pains to incorporate in the Constitution an orderly process for impeaching and removing senior officials guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, foreseeing a time when that might be required.

The timid, calculating Democratic leadership wimped out when it had the chance - actually, when it had a Constitutional as well as moral obligation - to investigate, to build public support for action, and to hold Bush accountable.

Misguided Appeasement

Now, with the Republicans "shellacking" the Democrats on Nov. 2 and returning to power in the House, here's a question for the outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her main malleable man, Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers: How's all that appeasement workin' for ya?

Shame, as well, on the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) for joining Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in stoking the hysteria that set the stage for the torture and then for caving in to White House pressure to avoid calling torture torture.

Last but hardly least, shame on Bush's timid successor. Every time I hear that Obama is a former professor of Constitutional law I find myself muttering, "And that would be the constitution of which country?" The President's soaring rhetoric falls flat fast the moment you stop to ponder how he has betrayed his oath to see to it that the laws are faithfully executed - in this case, by holding self-confessed torturers accountable.

Shame, too, on those of us who decide to remain silent as Bush openly brags about how he personally approved the use of controlled-drowning for interrogation. The Spanish Inquisitors who applied for the first patent on waterboarding had no qualms calling it what it is - tortura de agua.

"Unequivocally torture" is how U.S. Brigadier General David Irvine described waterboarding, after teaching POW interrogation and military law for 18 years.

Signs of the Times

Before some of the revelations of the Bush book hit the media last week, I had been wondering how much light, if any, the memoir would shed on what Bush euphemistically labeled an "alternative set of procedures for interrogation."

Call me naive, but I had found it too much of a stretch to visualize a former president of the United States admitting in writing to having ordered waterboarding, the same technique for which Japanese and American soldiers have been tried, convicted and punished.

I am now trying to come to grips with the notion that I have been living in the past, the kind of past that Bush lawyer Alberto Gonzales would call "quaint" and "obsolete" (adjectives he applied to the Geneva Conventions), a past inspired by the Nuremberg principles, where there was at least a modicum of respect for the law and such a thing a shame.

For over five months now, I have been unable to get out of my head the photo of a relaxed, tuxedo-clad George W. Bush in an arm-chair being interviewed after a speech in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on June 2. He says nonchalantly:

Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I'd do it again to save lives. [But waterboarding doesn't save lives, just the opposite; see below.]

Cavalier Torturer

Since I had not been able to shake that insipid image of the cavalier torturer in the armchair, there is little excuse for my being surprised at what Bush writes in his memoir about his role in ordering torture and the pride he takes in having done so.

I should have been fully prepared for Decision Points, in which the counterfeit cowboy assumes the very same posture of in-your-face-and-what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it-when-even-the-wimps-sworn-to-enforce-the-law-are-too-timid-to-do-so.

I have seen much change in the body politic since I arrived in Washington, DC, almost 48 years ago. There is one change, however, that dwarfs all others in significance. It is that the country no longer has, in any real sense, a free media. Read Jefferson and Madison on the importance of a free media to preserving a democracy and you will be reminded of how very BIG this change really is.

Don't believe me? This coming week, watch how the media gives George W. Bush a stay-out-of-jail pass as he starts to peddle his lie-infested memoir on TV and in bookstores. Watch how the moneyed interests he served lionize him at the groundbreaking for Bush's "Presidential Center" in Dallas on Nov. 16.

The accomplices of the FCM can be counted on to suppress the truth about Bush and about their own complicity in cheerleading for war, torture and the rest. As is well known, cheerleading is a team effort demanding equal enthusiasm by all.

Maybe this is the real reason why NBC chose this particular time to put Keith Olbermann on leave without pay. Olbermann would never quite "get with the program."

Unlike most of his pundit colleagues, he was uncomfortable buying into the wisdom of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, who famously said:

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

How does the Big Lie technique translate to today? Simple. We will be getting a steady diet of this kind of punditry: waterboarding is merely something that a bunch of liberals associate with torture. And, besides, we waterboarded some of our own servicemen to show them what it was like (as if no one has the mental capacity to distinguish between a demonstration and the real thing). And, Bush's confidence was bolstered by the results of his painstaking efforts to acquire guidance from both the legal and the medical profession. Right?

And most of the lawyers and doctors of this great country will keep silent - even in the face of that kind of provocation.

Media Attention

With the book not yet formally released, it has been easier for the FCM to give Bush's bragging on waterboarding relatively little attention.

Last Thursday, after Bush's comment on torture hit the news, the Washington Post, to its credit, ran on page two a report by staff writer R. Jeffrey Smith titled "Bush says in memoir he approved waterboarding." Smith even noted in his first paragraph that "simulated drownings [are] a practice that many international legal experts say was illicit torture." Smith highlights Bush's admission that he answered, "Damn right," when CIA thugs asked permission to waterboard "9/11 mastermind" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for the first of 183 times, and indicates that Bush repeated the mantra that he would decide the same way again “to save lives.”

That was Thursday. On Sunday the Post hastened to inject the customary "balance" with a long panegyric defending George W. Bush from "Five Myths" spread by "liberals" and other recalcitrants unwilling to give him his due.

Did you know, for example, that Bush was "personally invested in compassionate conservatism?" And that his "experience as a born-again Christian led him to empathize with individuals' personal struggles and to respect the role of religion in civic life?" So writes Professor Julian Zelizer of Princeton, whom the Post apparently paid bucks for "balance."

The Post must have given Zelizer an advance copy of Decision Points, since his 1,250-word essay dominating page three of Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section was occasioned by the soon-to-be-unveiled memoir and shows he has read it carefully. Zelizer does not mention Bush's comments on authorizing waterboarding - presumably because that can no longer be dismissed as a "myth."

As for the bit about Bush being a born-again Christian, this reminded me of another Bush admirer, his father, telling the media shortly after 9/11 that his son George had read straight through the Bible - twice!

Yep; two times! But did he miss, twice, "Thou Shalt Not Kill?" Or Jesus's instructions to his followers to love your enemy and to treat others as you yourself would want to be treated? Does he need an exegete to unpack those pronouncements?

Favorite Bumper Sticker

To assist with his continuing theological education and help him keep in mind a key passage, I shall try to give the former president my favorite bumper sticker when I see him at the groundbreaking in Dallas. It reads:

"When Jesus said Love Your Enemies I think he probably meant not to kill them."

Or torture them.

Meanwhile, the New York Times continues to steer well clear of any such suggestion that waterboarding might be torture. That it had had ample opportunity to read and digest an advance copy of the book was clear on Nov. 4 when it published a 1,700-word article by star reviewer, Michiko Kakutani.

Kakutani was super-careful. Her only allusion to what Bush wrote on waterboarding is buried in one sentence sandwiched into dead center between the revelation that detainees at Guantanamo Bay had access to "an Arabic translation of 'Harry Potter'" and vapid comments on the economic meltdown. There she inserted Bush's claim that there would have been "a greater risk that the country would be attacked," had he not authorized waterboarding.

As for George W. Bush's faith, Kakutani gives pride of place to Bush's agonizing choice between religion and alcohol, quoting from the memoir: "Could I continue to grow closer to the Almighty or was alcohol becoming my god?"

(With all due respect, had I known earlier what direct instructions Bush would later claim he got from being close to the "Almighty," I would have sent him a monthly carton of whatever whiskey they drink down there in Texas.)

In Sunday's Times, Peter Baker's article offers a generally flattering portrayal of Bush and his book; Baker also neglects to mention Bush's "Damn Right" approval of waterboarding. Instead, he notes plaintively that "a good portion" of Americans "still revile him for invading Iraq, waterboarding terror suspects and presiding over the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression."

Picky, picky, that portion of Americans!

"And yet" are the familiar words Baker, and Professor Zelizer, use to start their various exculpatory paragraphs. No one should be surprised to see the "and yet's" dominate media coverage this week, when major promotion of the book gets under way. (That's assuming anyone is so impolite as to ask about waterboarding/torture.)

Baker finishes his article with a familiar sentiment from Bush: "Whatever the verdict on my presidency, I'm comfortable with the fact that I won't be around to hear it." At least the man is consistent. Interviewing Bush for his panegyric, Bush at War, Bob Woodward asked then-President Bush what he anticipated with respect to his place in history. "History, we'll all be dead," was Bush's reaction.

Caring Less

I'd like to ask Peter Baker why he decided to tuck that particular quote onto the end of his Times article on Sunday. Does he perhaps think it cute to have had a President who couldn't care less? Or what?

As for Bush himself, I suppose he does not feel there is much danger from the possibility that some writer might prepare an objective, truthful portrayal of his tenure in office any time soon. No doubt he takes reassurance from the virtual certainty that the FCM would drown any such author in decibels. And should someone suggest Bush be prosecuted for war crimes, as he should be, that person would likely be sent off to do penance with Keith Olbermann. (So glad I do not have to depend on the FCM to earn a living.)

...and Making Stuff Up

As for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, according to Reuters, Bush claims KSM was "difficult to break" but that waterboarding did the trick. "He disclosed plans to attack American targets with anthrax among other breakthroughs," writes Bush.

There he goes again, making stuff up. There is nothing to support that claim, and lots to refute it. For example, David Rose, a serious investigative journalist writing two years ago for Vanity Fair, conveyed the appraisal of a former senior CIA officer who read all the reports on Mohammed's interrogation.

His verdict? "Ninety percent of it was total "bullshit." In addition, a former Pentagon analyst told Rose that the interrogation of Mohammed produced no actionable intelligence.

KSM himself has boasted derisively about sending CIA and FBI agents scurrying around the world on wild-goose chases, following up on the "leads" he gave them. I imagine that, by his 183rd waterboarding session, KSM may have identified terrorists he claimed were responsible for global warming.

Other of the Bush's claims are demonstrably false - contradicted by the FBI, for example. Bush repeats the old saw about KSM yielding information leading to the capture of one of his top aides, Ramzi bin al-Shibh. But that information came from a different terrorist operative who was interviewed using traditional, legal methods.

The So-What Yawns

By and large, the "so-what" yawns that have greeted the initial reporting on torture is further testimony to the sorry fact that raw fear can lead to the forfeiture of the ability of Americans to distinguish between right and wrong - even regarding heinous offenses like torture. Sadly, this is made all the easier by the craven silence of the institutional churches and synagogues which, with very few exceptions, cannot find their voice - just as the Catholic and Lutheran churches could not find theirs during the Thirties in Germany.

Behind the stained glass, the end can now be subtly seen to justify the means, if that's what it takes to head off contentiousness in the church community and keep pews and collection plates full. Anything goes; whatever is necessary to "keep us safe" is the mantra.

If a rare (prophetic) voice does enter the dialogue with a reminder that many of the prophets, including Jesus of Nazareth, were tortured to death, that voice is quickly silenced. Can't you see? This is different; the terrorists hate us and are out to kill the lot of us.

What rankles most is the success Bush and Cheney have had, with the corporate media support on which they depend, in stoking Americans' fear to the point where waterboarding and other forms of torture have become widely accepted as necessary to "keep us safe."

Hidden is the supreme irony that torture has been doing just the opposite. In fact, it has proven the most powerful fillip to violence against us. Now who should find that surprising? Bush's policy on interrogation has been directly linked by U.S. interrogators to the killing of American troops - in Iraq, for example.

The senior U.S. Air Force interrogation specialist who uses the name Matthew Alexander and who conducted more than 300 interrogations in Iraq and supervised over 1,000 more lamented those additional killings, "It's a hard pill to swallow, but true." Alexander, a Bronze Star awardee, says that as many as 90 percent of the foreign fighters captured in Iraq said they joined the fight against the U.S. because of the torture conducted at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

Former General Counsel to the Navy Alberto Mora made the same point in testimony before Congress:

There are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq - as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat - are, respectively, the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

It is a given, then, that the Bush torture policy made Americans less - not more — safe.

Getting Desired Answers

Are waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques "highly effective," as Bush reportedly claims in his memoir? The short answer is No.

On Sept. 6, 2006, the very day Bush first bragged publicly about his "alternative set of procedures for interrogation" and appealed for legislation allowing the CIA to continue using them, the then head of Army intelligence, Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, took a very different tack.

Conducting a Pentagon briefing shortly before the President gave his own speech on the other side of the Potomac, Kimmons underscored the fact that the revised Army manual for interrogation is in sync with the Geneva treaties.

Then, conceding past "transgressions and mistakes," Kimmons updated something I learned 48 years ago as a second lieutenant in Army infantry/intelligence:

No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tells us that.

Grabbing the headlines the following day was Bush’s admission that the CIA has taken "high-value" captives to prisons abroad for interrogation using "tough" techniques prohibited by the revised Army field manual - and by Geneva, for that matter. Gen. Kimmons displayed uncommon courage in facing into that wind. Too bad our political leaders are afraid to follow his example.

Question: If Bush's "alternative set of procedures for interrogation" adds to the queuing in front of terrorist centers, so to speak, and if they don't yield good intelligence, why use them? Former FBI Special Agent/Attorney Coleen Rowley and I have co-authored articles for, which address this very understandable question. Let me refer you especially to "'Justifying' Torture: Two Big Lies."

Briefly, if your aim is to extract untruthful information (like "intelligence" on those non-existent but close ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq, remember?), nothing works better than torture. If you want to intimidate real or imagined troublemakers, torture is a natural for proving that what Lord Acton said about absolute power is horribly real.

And, if you have a streak of sadism, harsh interrogation techniques can give grand release.

You are not likely to have seen much in the FCM about Bush's bent toward sadism. Justin Frank, MD, psychiatrist and professor at George Washington University, who authored Bush on the Couch, has helped us veteran intelligence officers explore the implications. Dr Frank explains:

Bush's certitude that he is right gives him carte blanche for destructive behavior. He has always had a sadistic streak: from blowing up frogs, to shooting his siblings with a b-b-gun, to branding fraternity pledges with white-hot coat hangers.

His comfort with cruelty is one reason he can be so jocular with reporters when talking about American casualties in Iraq. Instead of seeing a president in anguish, we watch him publicly joking about the absence of 'weapons of mass destruction' in Iraq, in the vain search for which so many young Americans died.

Patchwork Of False Beliefs

The following excerpt is from a Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity memorandum of July 27, 2007, which included some additional observations with regard to how Bush looks at truth, as suggested by Dr. Frank: "Dangers of a Cornered Bush":

His pathology is a patchwork of false beliefs and incomplete information woven into what he asserts is the whole truth... he lies not just to us, but to himself as well...What makes lying so easy for Bush is his contempt for language, for law, and for anybody who dares question him.... So his words mean nothing. That is very important for people to understand.

A useful reminder as Bush comes back into public view in the coming weeks.

Torture is not wrong just because there are laws against it. There are laws against it because it is wrong. Intrinsically wrong; always wrong - like genocide, rape, slavery. And as one scholar put it, "to acknowledge that waterboarding is torture is like conceding that the sun rises in the east."

President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have each said that waterboarding is torture. But, sadly, neither has the guts to look in the rear-view mirror and do what the Constitution and common decency require.

In the wake of World War II, civilized nations came to a general consensus on all this, and the ensuing laws and international conventions reflected that consensus. George Bush is simply the most visible leader to employ lawyers and doctors - and even a stray theologian here and there - to help him carve out exceptions to that consensus.

True, on occasion a moral theologian will summon the courage to speak out. Professor William Schweiker of the Chicago Divinity School, for example, has heaped scorn on the familiar scenario of the lone knower of the facts whose torture is thought to be able to save millions of lives. He notes that such is "the stuff of bad spy movies and bad exam questions in ethics courses."

With specific reference to waterboarding, Schweiker admonishes Christians, in particular:

Not to fall prey to fear and questionable reasoning and thus continue to support an unjust and vile practice that demeans the nation’s highest political and moral ideals, even as it desecrates one of the most important practices and symbols (Baptism) of the Christian faith.

From the Professional Military

Interrogator Matthew Alexander reports, "I have been contacted by World War II veterans who were outraged that the Bush administration so easily dismissed the American principles that millions of veterans gave their lives to defend. They pointed out what I have said all along: we cannot become our enemy in trying to defeat him."

World War II General George C. Marshall warned, "Once an Army is involved in war, there is a beast in every fighting man which begins tugging at its chains. ... A good officer must learn early on how to keep the beast under control both in his men and in himself."

And in 1775, as the birth of America hung in the balance, General George Washington said, "Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any prisoner... by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country." With George W. Bush's "Damn right" permission to waterboard - and the FCM's flaccid response - America has certainly come a long way. Again, I believe we are all complicit and that would be doubly so, if we emulate the passive stance of the "good Germans" of the Thirties.

Bush has brought the issue of torture to a head. Shame on us all, if we allow the recent history of waterboarding and other torture techniques to go unchallenged and to end up defining us.
(c) 2010 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years -- from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one-on-one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

The Cartoon Corner...

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

To End On A Happy Note...

Fall Of The Peacemakers
By Molly Hatchet

A King without a sword
A land without a King
The truth without a voice
One song left to sing
One song to sing

A wise man told me there's something you should know
"The way you judge a man is you look into his soul
And you'll soon see everything".

A voice from the past cried "Give Peace A Chance"
He paid our price now he's free at last
And "Imagine" we called him a dreamer.

How many times must good men die?
How many tears will the children cry?
Till we suffer no more sadness
Stop the madness,
Oh stop the madness.

If ashes are ashes and dust is dust
And our journey's end and then we turn we must
To the sands of the shore

White doves then fly
Peace to all
Tell me why the peacemakers fall
Must we bury anymore

A hush in the crowd as the horse rode by
Black lace veil hid the tears from her eyes
And we all wept in silence

How many times must good men die?
How many times will the children cry?
Till we suffer no more sadness
Oh stop the madness
Oh stop all the madness.
© 1983/2010 Molly Hatchet

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

DeFazio claims the new government will get to work as soon as the
remaining bodies of our nation's former elected officials can be cleared.

Last Remaining Politician Must Rebuild Entire Government Following Bloodiest Midterm Election In American History

WASHINGTON-In the wake of what is being called the deadliest midterm election in the nation's history, Washington's sole surviving politician, Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon's 4th Congressional District, emerged from the rubble of the Capitol building Wednesday to announce his intention to rebuild the fallen U.S. government.

The events of Tuesday night-which included live televised images of Sen. Harry Reid taking a gavel to the head of Sen. Mitch McConnell while Rep. Barney Frank repeatedly smashed the face of Undersecretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen against a marble column-left most Americans believing their entire government had perished in the post-election bloodbath. But the miraculous survival of DeFazio points to a possible way forward.

After fashioning a splint for his broken leg and treating himself for superficial head wounds, a shaken DeFazio addressed the nation Wednesday.

The nation's only surviving politician, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), crawls
out from what is left of Washington D.C. following Tuesday's election.

"If anybody can hear me, my name is Peter DeFazio, and I'm a member of the U.S. Congress," he called out from a makeshift podium atop the ruins of the Lincoln Memorial. "I-I'm not sure exactly what happened here, but I want to assure the American people that we, or rather I, will get to all of your concerns as soon as humanly possible. I promise."

"I will find my old office, or build a new one if necessary, and Christ, whose is this?" DeFazio added as he pulled a severed ear from his coat pocket. "Is this... this [South Carolina Sen. Lindsey] Graham's ear? Jesus God, what happened here? What have we done?"

DeFazio claimed to have awoken Wednesday morning beneath the burnt and gutted body of the late Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), remembering little of the previous day's election, or the ensuing melee in which all three branches of government fought each other to the death across Washington.

The United States' last living federal official then spent the morning and afternoon making his way through the still-smoldering debris of the White House and the Capitol, sifting through heaps of corpses, and calling out for survivors without response.

In a first step toward reassembling the American system of government, DeFazio has begun collecting any undamaged bills, Supreme Court decisions, or treaties he can find—documents he hopes to put to use as soon as some sort of executive branch can be cobbled together.

"At one point, I remember pulling at Chuck Rangel's arm as he was strangling Saxby Chambliss and screaming, 'Chuck, stop, you're killing him!'" DeFazio said. "But he wouldn't listen. And then—oh, God—Justice Scalia. He came speeding down K Street in his truck, laughing, mowing down everyone in sight. Women, children—everyone."

"But we all did horrible things," added Defazio, shaking his head as he gazed into the distance. "Horrible, horrible things."

The 12-term Oregon congressman and de facto leader of the free world acknowledged that although many challenges lie ahead including explaining his situation to foreign nations, figuring out how to print money, and combating the marauding bands of Tea Party activists now violently patrolling the streets of Washington—he remains confident that he will soon be able to get the U.S. government back in working order.

In the meantime, DeFazio is broadcasting a tape loop across all remaining D.C.area radio bands in which he declares: "This is Peter DeFazio of Oregon's 4th Congressional District. If there are any elected officials out there who can hear this, know that you are not alone. Come to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. as soon as you can. It's time to start again."

"Everything is just so quiet now," DeFazio said later as he fished press secretary Robert Gibbs' corpse from the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall. "Quieter than it's ever been before. Something about it is almost…peaceful."

Sources confirmed that while searching for a fertile female politician with whom to repopulate Congress, DeFazio discovered the body of a still-breathing Christine O'Donnell and crushed her neck with the heel of his shoe.
© 2010 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 45 (c) 11/12/2010

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