Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

David Michael Green asks Obama, "Can You Hear Us Now?"

Uri Avnery draws, "A Line In The Sand."

Victoria Stewart is, "Dying For Change."

Jim Hightower isn't, "Dying For Karzai."

Christopher Cooper says, " Stare Into Their Fierce Yellow Eyes."

Greg Palast wonders does, "Taliban = 9/11?"

Paul Krugman finds, "Paranoia Strikes Deep."

Chris Floyd looks through a, "Dark Glass."

Case Wagenvoord studies, "Toxic Idealism."

Mike Folkerth hears, "Right Questions; Wrong Answers."

Chris Hedges uncovers, "Afghanistan's Sham Army."

Denis Kucinich explains, "Why I Voted NO."

US Con-gressman (D-OK) Dan Boren wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald explores, "The Universality Of Extremists."

Paul Craig Roberts examines, "The Evil Empire."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst sees Obama, "Poking The Cobra" but first Uncle Ernie dares to enter, "The Obama Zone."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of David Fitzsimmons, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea, Bill Day, John Trever, Derf City, Pavlovian Obeisance.Com, Republican Elephant.Com, Khalil Bendib, Left Wing Conspiracy.Com, Warner Brothers 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."

The Obama Zone
By Ernest Stewart

"And who's that standing by the signpost up ahead? Why it's... Rod Serling! Uh oh!"
Uncle Ernie's Hollywood Daze ~~~ On The Road To Los Angeles

"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."
1984 ~~~ George Orwell

"I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody." ~~~ President B.H. Obama
"I have not said that I was a single payer supporter...." ~~~ President B.H. Obama

As Alice exclaimed after falling down the rabbit hole, "Curiouser and curiouser!" I know what little Alice was feeling after I fell down into the Obama Zone. It's a strange land full of sound bites and rhetoric signifying nothing!

Many see Obama's presidency as one misstep after another but to anyone paying attention it's never been a misstep. Every step has been carefully calculated. Obama's latest step ought to remove any remaining doubt about what Barry is up to but I'm sure his supporters are even now denying reality with carefully chosen rhetoric about how he's sending in more troops to create peace. This latest influx will bring peace and democracy to Afghanistan even if they have to kill everybody to do it! I'll bet those dimwits in Oslo are beginning to have second thoughts about giving their peace prize to a war criminal!

Barry has failed the Truman test and has bowed down to pressure from the Pentagoons and, as rumor has it, is preparing to send 40,000 more of our children into the meat-grinding morass of a money pit that is Afghanistan. You can almost hear the clinks from glasses full of Stolichnaya held high at the Kremlin as they watch us make the very same empire ending mistakes that they, the English, and the Persians made in Afghanistan. Dasvidaniya, tovarich!

Meanwhile the Chinese and Indians are licking their lips anticipating the power vacuum that will be created by our fall and how they can best take advantage of it. Goodbye Taiwan, goodbye Kashmir! While all over Europe and in Tel Aviv politicians are fast learning Mandarin and Hindi! And suddenly doesn't the 12-21-2012 date seem a whole lot less fantastic than it did before? You betcha!

In Other News

Isn't it funny how there is no money for Medicare type healthcare for the masses but there's plenty of money for oppression at home and our many illegal wars throughout the world? Funny thing that, huh? Barry recently signed a bill allotting $724 billion for the Pentagoons and Security for next year, while less than 10% of that would assure Americans have the same chance at seeing a doctor that the rest of the industrial world gets without going bankrupt.

Of course, the measly $130 billion slice of the pie for Afghanistan and Iraq isn't enough according to Field Marshal Mullen, who would beg another $50 billion just to make sure we can kill everyone in Afghanistan ten times over, thus assuring democracy comes to Kabul!

On the home front Frau Napolitano of Homeland Security has $44 billion to keep track of you and yours just as she kept track of all those pesky Mexican Americans when she was governor of Arizona. Money to track your every move in cyber space, on your telephone, your cell phone (Did you know that they can listen in and track your every move even when your cell phone is turned off?). Your every move on Twitter, your every keystroke when you text. Not to mention all those cameras on every street corner in every city, all for your own safety and for no other reason. (If you buy that then you might want to buy this bridge that I own in Brooklyn? It's a real money maker!) All Hail Big Brother... or else!

And Finally

Seems old Barry can't do a thing without my approval, not only my approval but my money as well. Here's his latest ploy and my reply...

From: President Barack Obama
To: Ernest Stewart
Sent: Sun, Nov 8, 2009 1:42 am
Subject: Making history

"Ernest --

This evening, at 11:15 p.m., the House of Representatives voted to pass their health insurance reform bill. Despite countless attempts over nearly a century, no chamber of Congress has ever before passed comprehensive health reform. This is history.

But you and millions of your fellow Organizing for America supporters didn't just witness history tonight -- you helped make it. Each "yes" vote was a brave stand, backed up by countless hours of knocking on doors, outreach in town halls and town squares, millions of signatures, and hundreds of thousands of calls. You stood up. You spoke up. And you were heard.

So this is a night to celebrate -- but not to rest. Those who voted for reform deserve our thanks, and the next phase of this fight has already begun.

The final Senate bill hasn't even been released yet, but the insurance companies are already pressing hard for a filibuster to bury it. OFA has built a massive neighborhood-by-neighborhood operation to bring people's voices to Congress, and tonight we saw the results. But the coming days will put our efforts to the ultimate test. Winning will require each of us to give everything we can, starting right now.

Please donate $5 or whatever you can afford so we can finish this fight.

Tonight's vote brought every American closer to the secure, affordable care we need. But it was also a watershed moment in how change is made.

Even after last year's election, many insider lobbyists and partisan operatives really thought that the old formula of scare tactics, D.C. back-scratching and special-interest money would still be enough to block any idea they didn't like. Now, they're desperate. Because, tonight, you made it crystal clear: the old rules are changing -- and the people will not be ignored.

In the final phases of last year's election, I often reminded folks, "Don't think for a minute that power concedes without a fight," and it's especially true today. But that's okay -- we're not afraid of a fight. And as you continue to prove, when all of us work together, we have what it takes to win.

Please donate to OFA's campaign to win this fight and ensure that real health reform reaches my desk by the end of this year:

Let's keep making history,
President Barack Obama

Yo Barry,

Oh yippee, so we passed the "Health Insurance Company Protection Act of 2009" and you want me to send you money? No, you send me money to pay for this act of treason because we're going to need it lest we be sent to a "Happy Camp" by some insurance company death panel for not buying enough of their product. Who needs food and shelter when you have worthless insurance? Thanks Barry, thanks for selling us out.

Let's examine sections 7203 and 7201 of this outrage.

Section 7203: - misdemeanor willful failure to pay is punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.

Section 7201: - felony willful evasion is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to five years.

Minimum cost is about $6,000 a year for a single person and $15,000 a year for a family. If this is your idea of affordable Heath Care then the Republicans were right, we don't need any Health Care changes. All this will do is send 48,000,000 Americans to the Happy Camps and drain what little is left in the treasury into the pockets of the Insurance Goons. This seems to me to be an act of war against the poorest American citizens. Those 48,000,000 Americans didn't have insurance not because they didn't want it but because they couldn't afford it and we both know with this Act the insurance prices are only going to sky rocket making even more Americans without insurance and thanks to your bill criminals!


As always, I'll post any reply! Meanwhile, I'm keeping a sharp lookout for any silent, black helicopters in my neighborhood!

Oh And One More Thing

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


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

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

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

Ernest & Victoria Stewart


12-31-1974 ~ 11-08-2009
Rock On Brother!

12-31-1960 ~ 11-10-2009
Burn Baby Burn!


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


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


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

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

Can You Hear Us Now?
By David Michael Green

So, let me see if I have this straight.

One year ago, the Democrats won commanding victories resulting in control of the presidency and lopsided majorities in the House and Senate.

One year ago, the Republican brand was so weak that the party was on death watch, literally capable of sliding into the history books alongside the Whigs and the Federalists.

One year ago the country was enthralled with the notion of a new president who seemed committed to solving a host of problems and, above all, offering change from a hated predecessor and his disastrously failed politics.

But now, today, that promised change seems a lot more like chump change instead.

Now, today, the Big Hope president has virtually nothing of import to show for nearly a year in office.

Now, today, that president continues to follow the policies of his horrid predecessor on everything from civil liberties to civil rights to economics and foreign policy.

And now, today, he and his comrades in Congress have squandered whatever goodwill they once had and face an angry public turning back to the right, desperately seeking solutions to their problems.

Better still, this is likely only the beginning. Does anyone think the job situation is going to get better in the next year? How about Afghanistan? Does anyone believe that the public will be enthusiastic about Obama's healthcare plans, assuming anyone can locate them, and assuming that a bill can actually get through Congress? Who out there thinks that his position on global warming will please anyone in America, even as it does next to nothing serious about addressing the problem, and even as it remains - like his healthcare ideas - playing hide-and-seek with the American public?

I am not surprised that Barack Obama - like the last two Democratic presidents - has turned out to be a conservative, corporate creature whose interest in the public interest is scarce and superficial. What does surprise me, though, is just how bad he is at playing politics, especially where his own self-interest is overwhelmingly at stake. Can this really be the same person who ran such a remarkable campaign last year, stealing the presidency from two of the great figureheads of American politics?

Obama is one of the most articulate politicians in American history. And yet, his communications strategy is the absolute worst I've seen since Carter. In fact, what's most stunning about it is that his team seems to have dismissed all the lessons learned over the last three decades - especially from masterful Republican administrations - about how to market presidents and policies from the White House. This is no longer rocket science, if it ever was. How can a guy this sharp be so clueless and, thus, adrift?

Obama is also one of the smartest people ever to sit in the Oval Office, but he has demonstrated astonishing levels of cluelessness about what the public wants, about the nature of his opposition, and about what makes a presidency successful. He doesn't understand that the public will follow you if you lead them, especially if you do so with passion. He doesn't get that the conservative movement is a lethal cancer seeking to commodify, monetize and profitize every aspect of America, and therefore is committed to the destruction of all else, including this administration, despite even that it is essentially staffed by Goldman Sachs. He doesn't understand that the most successful American presidents were the ones who brought a vision to the table, and fought for it.

Fundamentally, Obama is an anachronism. He is essentially a nineteenth century president operating in a crisis era, as the early twenty-first grapples with cleaning up after the late twentieth.

Historians sometimes debate over whether history makes the man or the man makes history. Leaving aside the sexist construction of the question, I think, manifestly, it has to be both. Almost all the great presidents served during time of great crisis, usually war. But that doesn't guarantee their place in the historical pantheon. You have to also meet those challenges of your time. Lincoln is widely considered America's greatest president. His predecessor, James Buchanan, is generally thought to be the country's worst. Both faced the same crisis of Southern secession, but they responded to it very differently, earning their respective places in history. On the other hand, had the civil war come twenty years earlier or later, we'd hardly even know their names, except as the answer to trivia questions. "Who was the first president from Illinois?!" "Who was our tallest president?" And so on.

Obama could be Lincoln - or better still, FDR - if he wanted to be. He has chosen instead to be Buchanan. Faced with crisis scenario after crisis scenario, the candidate of 'change' repeatedly and instinctively homes in on the weakest, most centrist, most useless response possible. His stimulus bill probably stopped the economy from continuing its free fall, but it leaves the country stuck in months or even years of unyielding recession at worst, and jobless recovery at best. His healthcare bill helps in some important ways, but does nothing to hold down costs in a society that utterly wastes one dollar out of every three it spends in this area, and it does nothing to make healthcare more affordable for most Americans. He seems to have some interest in a global warming bill and a banking regulation bill and maybe even doing something about civil rights for gays. But in none of these areas is there any sense that he will do what is morally necessary. Likewise, with Afghanistan, all the indicators seem to suggest that he will opt for some numbingly anodyne middle ground.

The guy is a leaky bucket at a time when the boat has been swamped. He's an pressureless fire hose when the house is in flames. A tattered parachute when the ground is coming up fast. A rusty musket as the Huns come over the ridge. At a time when America needs a bold, powerful and wise leader in the White House - principally to undo the damage of the bold, powerful and sociopathic guy who was just in there - we have instead Mr. Rogers' pet gerbil. Complete with cardigan sweater and barbiturate-laced water supply. Obama seems to want nothing more than to be liked. In the neighborhood called Earth.

The great irony, of course, is that he is accomplishing just the opposite. Gallup recorded his job approval ratings right after his inauguration at 69 percent. Today they are down to 50. That's not 35 percent, like his predecessor, to be sure. But since when did being better than George W. Bush become the standard? A backed-up toilet was more popular than Bush a year ago today. Hell, even gonorrhea was more beloved. But the point is that dropping fifteen to twenty percent in job approval in what is likely to be the best year of his presidency, at a time when the public is likely to be most generous, is a spectacular failure of the first order. Even according to Obama's own pathetic standards. If all he wants is to be liked, he's still blowing it. This is the equivalent of having every fourth friend or family member drop you on Facebook. Not a good sign, especially if you live for popularity.

It didn't have to be this way. He could have been both a great president, a popular president, and a heroic president. All he had to do was be willing to treat the people who already hate his guts as political enemies. All he had to do was be willing to treat the people who live to fleece the country as treasonous thieves. All he had to do was to speak clearly, act boldly, and lead a broken country down the bright shining path toward repair that is obvious to anyone who is willing to look. But since that group excludes most Americans right now, this notion of bold leadership is especially essential.

In fairness to Obama, the public doesn't really know what it wants these days, and best of luck to the two new Republican governors trying to cut taxes without deficit spending. If they can do it, they will only do it by slashing government services. Idiotic voters love tax cuts in the abstract. They will most likely feel a bit less enamored of closed schools, pothole proliferation, massive prisoner releases and state parks that cost as much to get in to as professional sports stadiums now do. For the last several decades, these selfish citizens have been all to willing to be trained by one of the sickest regressive mantras of them all - that government is just some bloated pig wasting tax dollars, and therefore that they could have their tax cuts without any cost to service, or without deficit spending. Apart from occasional lip service to Jesus, there is nothing closer to the core of the regressive/Republican canon than this tax-cutting chant.

It's a complete lie, of course, and it took about five minutes into the Reagan administration to show that. Reagan slashed taxes so much that he tripled the national debt in eight years time. That problem wasn't helped by the fact that Republicans actually blow through cash faster when they control the government than do supposed "tax-and-spend Democrats."

But now the day of reckoning has arrived, especially for the states, which generally do not have the federal government's capacity to tell gigantic lies through borrowing. People in New Jersey and Virginia have been stupid, and all they had to do to see how stupid they were being is to look at what that "economic girly-man" Arnold Schwarzenegger has been doing to Caleefornya. The state government is essentially conducting a going-out-of-business fire sale, and its creditworthiness is now about as good as Bernie Madoff's. Government services are being tossed overboard as if they were lead cannonballs in a leaky rowboat.

This is the denouement of regressive fiscal policy these last decades. Lotteries won't save our state and local and federal governments anymore. Selling off land and highways and other assets no longer works, 'cause they done all been sold. Privatization of every service from prisons to the military not only doesn't save money, it only gives you less quality at greater cost. And whodathunk that? Who could imagine that converting a not-for-profit government program into a profit-making private one would cost more? Profits don't cost anything, do they? And you know how much more efficient(!) business is than the government, right? Like health insurance, for example, where overhead is a mere thirty-five percent, compared to the outrageous two percent of Medicare.

So, yeah, in fairness to Obama, the public doesn't know what it wants, except that it wants it all. Since that can no longer be provided, it will happily pull the lever for any politician offering the sweet song of "change" from the status quo, the more vague the promise and the more aggrandizing to the voter, the better.

But that doesn't mean Obama isn't both a fool and a disaster to his country for his relentless pursuit of mediocrity in governance and tepidness in policy. He's a fool because he doesn't realize that he and his party have become the anti-change incumbent targets of the very same tool they rode to power. In 2010 and then again in 2012, they will be smashed by angry voters demanding that something be done, just as they were in elections held this week.

And he's both a fool and an American disaster because he could have written a much different story for the history books. Americans want their leaders to lead, oddly enough. Voters are incredibly lazy about understanding politics, in between their bouts of rage at the lousy politicians selected by those darned... lazy voters. That laziness means that they will follow you if you lead. They'll even follow you, for a while anyhow, if you're ideas are insane. George W. Bush is the paradigmatic case. Americans didn't want the war in Iraq. They didn't really even want the massive tax cuts. But he hammered those policies home, using every technique of the bully pulpit to masterful effect, and he got what he wanted, even when he lacked a majority in Congress. He might have gotten his Social Security theft bill through Congress as well, had he not already established himself to the electorate as a liar and a disaster-inducing idiot. (Bush should get on his knees and thank Darwin that he failed on that front. Seniors would likely be lynching him now if his bill had passed.)

Obama could have been a bold, decisive and game-changing leader, but he has chosen instead to be Bill Clinton in the time of Franklin Roosevelt. He wants to do something about the Great Depression. But not too much! He want to respond to Pearl Harbor and the Nazi threat to plunge the world into a thousand years of darkness. But only if no one would get hurt! He want to make sure Americans aren't ill-fed, ill-clad and ill-housed. But only if the Republicans literally seeking to destroy his presidency will go along for the ride!

Brilliant. He doesn't get that people want leadership from the president, that they absolutely demand that in a time of crisis, and that they will drop you like so much depleted uranium if you don't bring it during a time of big, multiple crises. Like now. This guy is fast wearing out his welcome.

The mood of the public today is anti-incumbent, and the president and his party are the incumbents du jour to be anti against. They have exacerbated their problem by failing to take the steps sufficient to really solve problems, and by focusing on problems other than the one absolutely at the top of the public's list right now - jobs and more jobs.

Most of all, though, this president has almost completely lost control of the communications high ground. For a president in the American system of distributed power - especially one who, unlike George W. Bush, is unwilling the toss the Constitution and its separation of powers into the garbage can - communications mastery is everything. You can only win by skilled use of the bully pulpit. Obama, on the other hand, has allowed himself to be defined by others, not least of which including a now revived and revanchist Republican Party, blood dripping from its fangs, a very hungry look gleaming in its eye.

So, for example, most Americans now think Obama is a liberal, despite the fact that he is actually quite conservative (except if you count as liberal spending a ton of money to clean up the regressive right's multifarious messes).

And most Americans do not consider themselves liberal.

Neither of these outcomes was necessary. A skilled and gutsy and bold President Obama would have staked out an agenda clearly in the public interest, identified just as clearly the opponents to that agenda and their motives, hammered home his relentless sales pitch to the public, twisted arms right out of their sockets in Congress, and forged a new progressive majority in America over sensible policies, leaving the minority of old white male crackers out there foaming at the mouth, forming the core of the Republican Party. Tony Blair was the model here. He aggressively painted - quite accurately - the British Conservative Party of Thatcher and Major as the source of the country's woes, and he never stopped reminding people of their disastrous reign. Meanwhile, Blair did nothing much in office, signed up for the Iraq war - totally in opposition of public sentiment, lying all the way - and helped to bring on a vicious recession. And he still bought the Labour Party more than a dozen years in office, just by reminding the public of how bad the Tories had been.

Obama is, instead, taking himself down and - in as cruel a twist as history can muster - the progressive values he long ago walked away from, along with him.

Where we go from here could be very, very ugly. The GOP right now is in the process of alienating and crushing every last scrap of moderately sensible politics from within its ranks. That means that American voters will very likely have the following choice in 2010 and 2012: On the one hand, a discredited do-nothing Democratic Party that promised change and didn't deliver; and on the other, a rabid, ultra-regressive GOP that is itself promising change from the failed former would-be change-providers.

Before you guess who would win that contest, bear in mind that this is likely to be happening under still dire economic conditions and a shrinking national standard of living.

You may be forgiven for thinking that that scenario is all too reminiscent of a certain European country in the 1930s.
(c) 2009 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,

A Line In The Sand
By Uri Avnery

MAHMOUD ABBAS is fed up. The day before yesterday he withdrew his candidacy for the coming presidential election in the Palestinian Authority.

I understand him.

He feels betrayed. And the traitor is Barack Obama.

A YEAR ago, when Obama was elected, he aroused high hopes in the Muslim world, among the Palestinian people as well as in the Israeli peace camp.

At long last an American president who understood that he had to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not only for the sake of the two peoples, but mainly for the US national interests. This conflict is largely responsible for the tidal waves of anti-American hatred that sweep the Muslim masses from ocean to ocean.

Everybody believed that a new era had begun. Instead of the Clash of Civilizations, the Axis of Evil and all the other idiotic but fateful slogans of the Bush era, a new approach of understanding and reconciliation, mutual respect and practical solutions.

Nobody expected Obama to exchange the unconditional pro-Israeli line for a one-sided pro-Palestinian attitude. But everybody thought that the US would henceforth adopt a more even-handed approach and push the two sides towards the Two-State Solution. And, no less important, that the continuous stream of hypocritical and sanctimonious blabbering would be displaced by a determined, vigorous, non-provocative but purposeful policy.

As high as the hopes were then, so deep is the disappointment now. Nothing of all these has come about. Worse: the Obama administration has shown by its actions and omissions that it is not really different from the administration of George W. Bush.

FROM THE first moment it was clear that the decisive test would come in the battle of the settlements.

It may seem that this is a marginal matter. If peace is to be achieved within two years, as Obama's people assure us, why worry about another few houses in the settlements that will be dismantled anyway? So there will be a few thousand settlers more to resettle. Big deal.

But the freezing of the settlements has an importance far beyond its practical effect. To return to the metaphor of the Palestinian lawyer: "We are negotiating the division of a pizza, and in the meantime, Israel is eating the pizza."

The American insistence on freezing the settlements in the entire West Bank and East Jerusalem was the flag of Obama's new policy. As in a Western movie, Obama drew a line in the sand and declared: up to here and no further! A real cowboy cannot withdraw from such a line without being seen as yellow.

That is precisely what has now happened. Obama has erased the line he himself drew in the sand. He has given up the clear demand for a total freeze. Binyamin Netanyahu and his people announced proudly - and loudly - that a compromise had been reached, not, God forbid, with the Palestinians (who are they?) but with the Americans. They have allowed Netanyahu to build here and build there, for the sake of "Normal Life", "Natural Increase", "Completing Unfinished Projects" and other transparent pretexts of this kind. There will not be, of course, any restrictions in Jerusalem, the Undivided Eternal Capital of Israel. In short, the settlement activity will continue in full swing.

To add insult to injury, Hillary Clinton troubled herself to come to Jerusalem in person in order to shower Netanyahu with unctuous flattery. There is no precedent to the sacrifices he is making for peace, she fawned.

That was too much even for Abbas, whose patience and self-restraint are legendary. He has drawn the consequences.

"TO UNDERSTAND all is to forgive all," the French say. But in this case, some things are hard to forgive.

Certainly, one can understand Obama. He is engaged in a fight for his political life on the social front, the battle for health insurance. Unemployment continues to rise. The news from Iraq is bad, Afghanistan is quickly turning into a second Vietnam. Even before the award ceremony, the Nobel Peace Prize looks like a joke.

Perhaps he feels that the time is not ripe for provoking the almighty pro-Israel lobby. He is a politician, and politics is the art of the possible. It would be possible to forgive him for this, if he admitted frankly that he is unable to realize his good intentions in this area for the time being.

But it is impossible to forgive what is actually happening. Not the scandalous American treatment of the Goldstone report. Not the loathsome behavior of Hillary in Jerusalem. Not the mendacious talk about the "restraint" of the settlement activities. The more so as all this goes on with total disregard of the Palestinians, as if they were merely extras in a musical.

Not only has Obama given up his claim to a complete change in US policy, but he is actually continuing the policy of Bush. And since Obama pretends to be the opposite of Bush, this is double treachery.

Abbas reacted with the only weapon he has at his command: the announcement that he will leave public life.

THE AMERICAN policy in the "Wider Middle East" can be compared to a recipe in a cookbook: "Take five eggs, mix with flour and sugar...

In real life: Take a local notable, give him the paraphernalia of government, conduct "free elections", train his security forces, turn him into a subcontractor.

This is not an original recipe. Many colonial and occupation regimes have used it in the past. What is so special about its use by the Americans is the "democratic" props for the play. Even if a cynical world does not believe a word of it, there is the audience back home to think about.

That is how it was done in the past in Vietnam. How Hamid Karzai was chosen in Afghanistan and Nouri Maliki in Iraq. How Fouad Siniora has been kept in Lebanon. How Muhammad Dahlan was to be installed in the Gaza Strip (but was at the decisive moment forestalled by Hamas.) In most of the Arab countries, there is no need for this recipe, since the established regimes already satisfy the requirements.

Abbas was supposed to fill this role. He bears the title of President, he was elected fairly, an American general is training his security forces. True, in the following parliamentary elections his party was soundly beaten, but the Americans just ignored the results and the Israelis imprisoned the undesirable Parliamentarians. The show must go on.

BUT ABBAS is not satisfied with being the egg in the American recipe. MO< I first met him 26 years ago. After the first Lebanon War, when we (Matti Peled, Ya'acov Arnon and I) went to Tunis to meet Yasser Arafat, we saw Abbas first. That was the case every time we came to Tunis after that. Peace with Israel was the "desk" of Abbas.

Conversations with him were always to the point. We did not become friends, as with Arafat. The two were of very different temperament. Arafat was an extrovert, a warm person who liked personal gestures and physical contact with the people he talked with. Abbas is a self-contained introvert who prefers to keep people at a distance.

From the political point of view, there is no real difference. Abbas is continuing the line laid down by Arafat in 1974: a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The difference is in the method. Arafat believed in his ability to influence Israeli public opinion. Abbas limits himself to dealings with rulers. Arafat believed that he had to keep in his arsenal all possible means of struggle: negotiations, diplomatic activity, armed struggle, public relations, devious maneuvers. Abbas puts everything in one basket: peace negotiations.

Abbas does not want to become a Palestinian Marshal Petain. He does not want to head a local Vichy regime. He knows that he is on a slippery slope and has decided to stop before it is too late.

I think, therefore, that his intention to leave the stage is serious. I believe his assertion that it is not just a bargaining ploy. He may change his decision, but only if he is convinced that the rules of the game have changed.

OBAMA WAS completely surprised. That has never happened before: an American client, totally dependent on Washington, suddenly rebels and poses conditions. That is exactly what Abbas has done now, when he recognized that Obama is unwilling to fulfill the most basic condition: to freeze the settlements.

From the American point of view, there is no replacement. There are certainly some capable people in the Palestinian leadership, as well as corrupt ones and collaborators. But there is no one who is capable of rallying around him all the West Bank population. The first name that comes up is always Marwan Barghouti, but he is in prison and the Israeli government has already announced that he will not be released even if elected. Also, it is not clear whether he is willing to play that role in the present conditions. Without Abbas, the entire American recipe comes apart.

Netanyahu, too, was utterly surprised. He wants phony negotiations, devoid of substance, as a camouflage for the deepening of the occupation and enlarging of the settlements. A "Peace process" as a substitute for peace. Without a recognized Palestinian leader, with whom can he "negotiate"?

In Jerusalem, there is still hope that Abbas' announcement is merely a ploy, that it would be enough to throw him some crumbs in order to change his mind. It seems that they do not really know the man. His self-respect will not allow him to go back, unless Obama awards him a serious political achievement.

From Abbas' point of view, the announcement of his retirement is the doomsday weapon.
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Dying For Change
By Victoria Stewart

When I began this article I was spitting mad. And while the piece I wrote didn't come close to the 1990 page pdf file of H.R. 3962, it was just a trifle wordy and more than a little bitter. Our nation's health care crisis expands exponentially every day. And when I see health care CEO's visiting the White House and Catholic bishops posing for photo ops with politicians, I know that regardless of the spin put on the bill passed by Congress, those of us who sit below the salt are going to*cked. So I have spent a lot of time reading, researching, and pondering the reform bill that is now winding its way through the Senate.

In a few days I will be 57. And I have spent most of my life without health insurance so one would think that I would welcome any reform as better than none but like countless-and uncounted-women, my beliefs, opinions, and passions are based in the reality of experience. Theoretical arguments and philosophical one-upsmanship are simply irrelevant in a world where children suffer, go hungry, die; the pedantic thrill of debate pales beside the soul-piercing pain of sons and daughters, parents and friends ground up by the machinations of greed and privilege. Those who struggle to feed their families, care for the children, tend the sick, and shepherd the dying have little tolerance for codified inequity and self-righteous meanness. And after many generations of exposure to snake oil peddlers, we recognize the stench of mendacity.

Surely we all know the numbers. Nearly 47 million uninsured in 2008 according to the Census Bureau. 62.1% of all bankruptcies have a medical cause. 45,000 deaths annually can be attributed to lack of health care coverage.

But there are other, less publicized numbers.

The Federal government doesn't keep statistics on the underinsured but according to the Commonwealth Fund another 25 million were underinsured in 2007, a 60% increase from 2003. The Census Bureau also reports that 87.4 million people (29% of the population) receive government insurance-Medicaid, Medicare or SCHIP. Add in the uninsured and we are looking at, conservatively, 159.4 million people. And since the population of the US-again from the Census Bureau--is 308 million, it seems the much repeated statement that the majority of Americans have good, private insurance is...not quite accurate.

The clinical research study, Medical Bankruptcies in the United States, 2007, published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2009 not only reported the percentage of medical related bankruptcies but also revealed these disturbing statistics. Most medical debtors were well-educated and middle class; three quarters had health insurance. The share of bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by 50% between 2001 and 2007.

And the Harvard study published this year, which gave us the figure of 45,000 deaths noted that number was about 2.5 times more than estimates seven years ago. And, researchers say, working-age Americans without health insurance have a 40% higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts. Someone dies every 12 minutes from lack of health insurance.

People who do have insurance are at risk, too. Increased premiums, denied claims, higher deductibles, restrictive provider lists, and cancelled policies are just a few of the problems all too familiar to anyone who has had to use their insurance.

There are a whole lot of people unhappy with health care. The un and under insured. The millions of people on Medicare and Medicaid who are going to see reductions in service. The bankrupt. The fearful insured. And the dead..well..they probably left some pissed off family members.

Health care reform, which has been rattling around in this country's political closet since FDR (earlier if you include social reform efforts by women), is supposed to help the uninsured. And the underinsured. In it's latest incarnation, it's supposed to provide protection and relief from the reprehensible and rapacious practices of the for-profit health care industry. It is supposed to make things better.

H.R. 3962 was written by the insurance industry, the hard right, and prescription drug cartels. No poor people, no uninsured people, no underinsured people, no coalition or representatives of those most in need were included in the writing of this bill. Union representatives, seniors on fixed incomes, the disabled and chronically ill who fill the Medicaid rolls, those people weren't having lunch with Barack Obama or sitting down with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. They certainly weren't granted audiences with Max Baucus. They were, in fact, ignored and dismissed. People who cannot afford insurance are poor and so, without lobbyists, without PACs, without huge coffers to empty into political campaigns, they have no place in the political process.

Arguments about the access to abortion and reduced care for women are intended to radicalize the right, create dissension among progressives, and obscure the backroom negotiations between congress and the health care industry. Linking reduced care and coverage for women with abortion funding-and that is how this is playing out-guarantees the reduced care and coverage will stay in the bill, saving insurance companies billions.

Even more disturbing is the main focus of the AHCAA: everyone in this country is required to buy insurance from the for-profit insurance industry. The government, with tax dollars, will pay those companies for people who can't afford insurance. Coverage under Medicaid will be expanded but services will be cut. (An ancillary problem that is not addressed is that more and more doctors are refusing new Medicaid and Medicare patients.) People who don't buy insurance and don't or can't pay the fine levied for non-compliance face criminal charges, fines, and possibly jail.

Help for the already insured, as most other substantive provisions of this act, are delayed until 2013. Some relief is provided for pre-existing conditions starting in January of 2010 and rescissions (that nasty practice of canceling a policy when the insured get sick) may be prohibited. The language is vague in that it prohibits "abusive practices" but does not clarify who determines what is abusive. I suspect it isn't the policy holder.

Oh, and that much vaunted assistance with rising premiums? Higher rates are discouraged. Dis-f*cking-couraged. I don't even know how to process that.

The other provisions of the bill are spread out over the next 8-yes 8-years.

Some very impressive and erudite people are recommending that we all rally behind this bill, work to make it better but, all-in-all, accept that for-profit insurance companies will be the ultimate providers of coverage. Even the so-called "not-for-profit" options would buy their coverage from for-profit companies. They say it is better than nothing. It is a beginning.

Health insurance was a rarity in the remote coves and hollows of Western North Carolina when I was growing up. Illness and injury that required a doctor or hospital visit were disasters and meant months or years of payments. People suffered. People died rather than burden their families with the cost of medical care. I remember vividly the terror that hung in the air when a family member was hospitalized. I understood even as a small child the fear in the mute exchanges of the adults, "How will we pay for this?"

And when my children were little and we lost our health insurance, I faced that same fear. Long before the movie John Q. was made, I reached my decision about what I would do if my kids needed care I couldn't afford. Always thorough, I had a detailed plan and a mother's resolve. I didn't ever have to use that plan but the making of it changed me. I will not accept crumbs from the rapists at the high table.-not for myself and not for the people like me-or you. The insurance companies and religious organizations, lobbyists and PACs must be excluded from writing health care reform. The 159.4 million majority deserve better. Everyone deserves better than we're getting. We can demand better. We need a plan. And resolve.

It's only the lives of our parents and children at stake.
(c) 2009 Victoria Stewart is the editor of Issues & Alibis magazine.

Dying For Karzai

Good grief. Just when you think America's prospects in Afghanistan couldn't get any bleaker, the Obamacans get hammered by Hamid.

Hamid Karzai is president of that fractious, impoverished country, and his government is infamously corrupt, incompetent, and despised by the people. So, naturally, our political and military leaders have been backing him.

Indeed, Karzai has come to be the key factor in deciding whether to spend still more American treasure and blood in the Afghanistan war. To "succeed" in stabilizing this inherently unstable land, we're told we must first establish a legitimate national government that's competent enough to manage an army and end corruption. A "reformed" Karzai was said to be our best hope for this, and the U.S. supported him for a second term in August's presidential election.

Some reformer. In the election, he openly used government money to bribe tribal war lords to back him, his vice presidential choice was widely known to be a drug trafficker, and his ballot-stuffing crew was so blatant that nearly a million of his votes were tossed out by his own handpicked election commission, forcing him into a runoff.

But the runoff election was so rigged that his opponent withdrew, refusing to sanction the charade. Yet, our leaders continue to dance with Hamid, reconizing him as the election winner and bizarrely insisting that his "victory" - achieved only by massive corruption - is legitimate under the Afghan constitution.

Karzai-the-Reformed now asserts that he will clean up the corruption. How? No comment. Would some of the corrupt officials in his government be ousted? "These problems," he responded, "cannot be solved by changing high-ranking officials."

How can Obama and the generals even think of sending more Americans to die under the pretense that this guy's "government" is worth saving?
(c) 2009 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Stare Into Their Fierce Yellow Eyes
By Christopher Cooper

It is not my job to tell you what you should do. And what is my job, we might wonder, in the absence of any contract, job description, instructions, guidelines or proper degree of editorial control for most of these eleven years you and I have been at this desk, in the howling wilderness of my inadequately mediated journey through the struggle and strife? Try this: It shall be the duty of the essayist to entertain, delight, instruct, to vex and provoke. Let's, then, get directly to it. Here's what you should do.

Go to a movie house and see Where The Wild Things Are. You know the book, Maurice Sendak's 1963 story of Max, the misbehaving boy in his wolf suit and his apparent dream of a jungle full of great toothy creatures who make him, briefly, their king until he returns home to his own quiet room and the safety and comfort and hot food of home. You have read it to your children and grandchildren if you are my age; you grew up with it if you are a generation younger.

I know persons who name this their favorite among all books, all literature, better than War And Peace, Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn. Yet it consists, as almost all reviewers remind us, of only a few pages of drawings and 338 words in ten sentences. But there is about it something so compelling that its words and pictures connect us to something at the core of human experience, that take us instantly and effortlessly deeper into ourselves than most of us ever journey unaided and further down and in than many would acknowledge they need to or want to go. I am here to tell you today that the movie is better than the book. I have never written such a sentence before.

Last summer The New Yorker published a short story called Max At Sea, written by Dave Eggers, which was clearly an expansion of the Wild Things story. In it, Max lives with his mom, is disturbed and angered by the presence of her new boyfriend and the absence of his dad. He has a sister, Claire, he goes to school, he is a boy as we know boys to be, as we remember we once were. And in this story he does not find a jungle growing in his room in an obvious dream sequence; he runs from his home after a terrible fight with his mom, unties a small sailboat and sails away over a cold and rough sea to an apparently very real island populated by fierce and troubled wild things.

This story, the editors informed, was taken from the forthcoming novel, The Wild Things. And, they further noted, Mr. Eggers had collaborated with moviemaker Spike Jonze on a screenplay for a movie based on the novel based on the Maurice Sendak story. A very likely scenario for the ruination of a classic, you might imagine. But what a wonder it is. The wild things survive the transition; they gain dimension; they become more truly terrifying and more undeniable. Max becomes fully human without losing any of his ragged, wolfish charm, and we are drawn into a world we have lived in or parallel to all our lives, without needing to suspend our disbelief. We know these wild things. We are married to them, descended from them, we have given birth to and raised and struggled with them and loved them and they look back at us with their wounded and sad and confused expressions from our mirrors.

I will not tell you what happens in this movie, on the island where Max crawls up a cliff, soggy in his wolf suit after an interminable time at sea and discovers wild thing Carol smashing houses in the light of a great bonfire while Ira and Judith and Douglas and Alexander and all the others except the missing K.W. watch and advise and complain. You will be better for discovering than by being informed in advance. It is enough that you know that K.W. has left and that Carol does not understand why.

The New Yorker, having brought Eggers and Jonze to our attention by presenting the new story, found the movie technically wonderful but unsatisfying and not suitable for children: "Children will be relieved when Max gets away from this anxious crew." Indeed, I remember an argument I had thirty-seven years ago with a retired professor of early childhood education who worried that the original Maurice Sendak story was "too dark" and "too confusing" for children. He was, obviously, wrong. So is the magazine.

I took an adult to WTWTA on its first night of release, an employee of the Maine Department of Transportation who has undoubtedly seen her allotment of wild rumpusses both personally and professionally. We agreed that, while some parental guidance would be required, I should take my four year old, and the next night I did.

He'd prefer I tell you he is "four and a half". He is, in fact, within six weeks of becoming five. He was, at several instances during the movie, a little nervous, and said so: "I don't like this part, Daddy." "Wait," I said, "you'll like it a whole lot soon." The wild things are big. Eight feet tall. Big heads. Odd, widely-spaced, peg-like teeth. Horns and tails and fur and feathers. They make Max king, but they have a history of eating their kings. They rage and they threaten and they destroy. But they build, too, a structure marvelous and intricate. And they know great, inexplicable longings. And they suffer and they cry and they find and lose love and they want desperately but are not certain what they want, perhaps, or how it might be found. But they try. And they try again.

Have you been there? Do you know these wild things? When they make young Max their king they ask him, "Will you keep out all the sadness?" He does not, of course; he cannot. No one and nothing can. Almost-five year olds know this. We should not try to convince ourselves they don't or that we don't.

About a week after we walked out of the theater Karter said to me, "I want to see the wild things movie again. Can we do that? Can we go tonight?" "Was it scary?" I asked. "Did you like it?" It was. He did.

Sally from day care had seen the movie, he said, but in her capacity as a molder of young minds she'd felt compelled to say she hadn't cared for the dirt-clod fight. I suspect she might tell me otherwise, for in this attempt to make the hurt and the doubt go away by the exercise of violent physical action, people do get hurt (Wild Things are people and people are undoubtedly Wild Things, if I have not made this understanding plain enough to you). But it is a glorious battle and dirt clods are not bullets or bombs and nobody dies and no ball of dirt can hurt as much as a well-aimed word or the hole left by absence. Max knows this, Karter knows it, the Wild Things live it.

Too strong for children? Only if life is too strong for them. Too much for some of the adults you'll know, for sure. Old Maurice Sendak, asked what he would say to adults who think this movie too dark for the young, has said he'd suggest they "Go to Hell." I like a writer who stands by his stuff.

The day my boy and I watched this marvelous movie I turned sixty years old. I have suffered my share of direct and incidental dirt-clod hits in my life. K.W. has left the group, no king will come to divert me or raise me up or make the sadness go away. I, like bewildered Ira, "make the holes in the trees." Like sniffling, snotty Carol, I wreck the nests. Like Douglas, I try to make everything right. And so do you, no doubt.

Don't worry about your preschoolers; fear for yourselves. If you have not spent your own long hours and nights at sea, if you come to this unprepared, you may need to hold that child close to help you through.

The voice of Douglas, the chicken-form creature who is Carol's enabler, apologist and counselor of a sort (and who loses a limb to no apparent great consequence and replaces it with a found object) is provided by one of our finer actors, a gentlemen named Chris Cooper (Lonestar, Adaptation), which might not seem as noteworthy to some of you as it necessarily does to me.

I am saving my money to buy myself a wolf suit.
(c) 2009 Chris Cooper works hard and gets by. But he does not have health insurance. He cannot afford it. Therefore he does not often seek doctoring. Mandating his purchase of the deficient, dishonest products of the industry will not induce him to do so; it will likely just further piss him off and cause him to generate more unwholesome, unhelpful essays such as this. Persons wishing to contact him for whatever reason (no insurance agents, please) may write to Before he leaves this author wishes to tell you that he is one resident of the state of Maine who is not impressed with the work of Senator Olympia Snowe, political bed-partner of Senator Max Baucus. Just so you know.

Taliban = 9/11?
Afghanistan by Hypnosis
by Greg Palast

On September 11, 2001, my office building, the World Trade Center, was attacked by al Qaeda, a murder cult of Saudi Arabians, funded by Saudi Arabians. And so, in response to the Saudis' attack, America invaded ... Afghanistan. Like, HUH?

And here we go again. New York Times headline last Friday: "Pakistani Army, In Its Campaign In Taliban Stronghold, Finds A Hint Of 9/11."

Google it and you'll find the Times report repeated and amplified 5,785 times more.

Taliban = 9/11. Taliban = 9/11. Taliban = 9/11.

Your eyelids are getting heavy. Taliban = 9/11. Taliban = 9/11.

It's the latest hit from the same crew that brought you Saddam = 9/11 and its twin chant, Saddam = WMD, Dick Cheney's chimerical tropes which the New York Times' Judith Miller happily channeled to the paper's front page.

And they're at it again.

Every war begins with a lie. In addition to Saddam = WMD, I'm old enough to remember the Gulf of Tonkin resolution authorizing the war in Vietnam, based on a fictional Vietnamese gunboat attack on our Navy. (White House recordings have Lyndon Johnson gloating privately, "Hell, those damn stupid [US] sailors were just shooting at flying fish.")

In the Glorious War against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the lie is thus: al Qaeda is "based" in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. If we don't fight the wily Taliban, as the British once fought the wily Pathan, al Qaeda will attack America again from Talibanistan.

The latest Taliban=9/11 fantasy is a yarn spun wildly outward from the finding of a passport of an al Qaeda flunky who worked with suicide pilot Mohammed Atta in the same mountain area where, years later, a Taliban group operated. It's a stretch, but when you want to sell a war, it will do.

But selling the re-invasion of Afghanistan requires a repetition of Lie #1: that the original attack on the World Trade towers and the Pentagon were planned from Afghanistan's and Pakistan's mountains with the connivance of the Taliban.

It's not true, of course. The September 11 attack was neither organized nor directed from Afghanistan by the Taliban. In fact, as our BBC Report found, it was clear that the attack on my friends and co-workers was planned and carried out by al Qaeda operations in Falls Church, Virginia; Paris, France; Sarasota, Florida; Hamburg, Germany;- and, I repeat, funded and manned from Saudi Arabia. Neither the Sunshine State nor the Aryan namesake of the original beef patty sandwich were, nor are they now, convenient targets for a revenge attack by the 101st Airborne.

And revenge was what it was and remains: on September 11 the skunks hit us and we, goddamnit, were going to HIT BACK. ANYONE. SOMEONE. So we hit the odious, and conveniently weak, Taliban, who'd, undeniably, given refuge to killer Osama bin Laden. Though let us not forget that Osama's safe passage from the Sudan to Afghanistan was initially encouraged by the US government.

Today, we continue to throw our soldiers' bodies into Afghanistan, and our drones' rockets into Pakistan, to deny al Qaeda the supposed base from which to strike us again.

The media is eating it up and swallowing it whole. For example, CNN quotes a Pakistani from the Afghan border area, "Probably your next 9/11 is going to be from Swat."

That's not true either, of course: In the extraordinarily unlikely event Osama remains in the "caves of Tora Bora" (not where multi-millionaires with kidney disease tend to linger), any conceivable attack will be planned, funded and organized from comfy hotel rooms in Paris, Germany and Dubai as is the habit of these well-heeled hellions.

The truth is, we're not in Afghanistan to stop al Qaeda's US attackers, because they weren't "based" there in the first place, and their leaders are not there now.

So, why are we now re-invading Afghanistan? Beats me. I just hope our President will give us a hint that doesn't involve some cockamamie fairytale about 9/11 and al Qaeda.

Now, please don't get me wrong: the Taliban are monsters. If you have any doubt, I suggest you read progressive journalist Michael Griffin's masterful history of the Taliban, Reaping the Whirlwind. (Published in early 2001, Griffin presciently warned against the US policy of placating the Taliban.)

Undeniably, the Taliban gave sanctuary to the killer, but that does not make the Taliban guilty of planning and participating in the 9/11 attack. However, the Taliban's innocence in the 9/11 massacre does not wash their hands of the blood of Afghans, particularly Shia and Sufi Muslims, whom the Taliban have tortured, raped and murdered.

I can't say I shed tears for the Taliban when, after my office towers fell, US troops ended their sharia dictatorship. And, honestly, there's a case to be made that rocketing more Taliban, really nasty cutthroats that they are, is a laudable exercise. But let's not pretend it has anything to do with preventing another 9/11.

And that's the danger. As the poet T.S. Eliot warned,

"The last temptation is the greatest treason
To do the right thing for the wrong reason."

Taliban = 9/11? Innocents, by the thousands and thousands, have paid and will pay in blood for this treasonous falsehood.
(c) 2009 Forensic economist Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." His investigations for BBC TV and Democracy Now! can be seen by subscribing to Palast's reports at.

Paranoia Strikes Deep
By Paul Krugman

The key thing to understand about that rally is that it wasn't a fringe event. It was sponsored by the House Republican leadership - in fact, it was officially billed as a G.O.P. press conference. Senior lawmakers were in attendance, and apparently had no problem with the tone of the proceedings.

True, Eric Cantor, the second-ranking House Republican, offered some mild criticism after the fact. But the operative word is "mild." The signs were "inappropriate," said his spokesman, and the use of Hitler comparisons by such people as Rush Limbaugh, said Mr. Cantor, "conjures up images that frankly are not, I think, very helpful."

What all this shows is that the G.O.P. has been taken over by the people it used to exploit.

The state of mind visible at recent right-wing demonstrations is nothing new. Back in 1964 the historian Richard Hofstadter published an essay titled, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," which reads as if it were based on today's headlines: Americans on the far right, he wrote, feel that "America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion." Sound familiar?

But while the paranoid style isn't new, its role within the G.O.P. is.

When Hofstadter wrote, the right wing felt dispossessed because it was rejected by both major parties. That changed with the rise of Ronald Reagan: Republican politicians began to win elections in part by catering to the passions of the angry right.

Until recently, however, that catering mostly took the form of empty symbolism. Once elections were won, the issues that fired up the base almost always took a back seat to the economic concerns of the elite. Thus in 2004 George W. Bush ran on antiterrorism and "values," only to announce, as soon as the election was behind him, that his first priority was changing Social Security.

But something snapped last year. Conservatives had long believed that history was on their side, so the G.O.P. establishment could, in effect, urge hard-right activists to wait just a little longer: once the party consolidated its hold on power, they'd get what they wanted. After the Democratic sweep, however, extremists could no longer be fobbed off with promises of future glory.

Furthermore, the loss of both Congress and the White House left a power vacuum in a party accustomed to top-down management. At this point Newt Gingrich is what passes for a sober, reasonable elder statesman of the G.O.P. And he has no authority: Republican voters ignored his call to support a relatively moderate, electable candidate in New York's special Congressional election.

Real power in the party rests, instead, with the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin (who at this point is more a media figure than a conventional politician). Because these people aren't interested in actually governing, they feed the base's frenzy instead of trying to curb or channel it. So all the old restraints are gone.

In the short run, this may help Democrats, as it did in that New York race. But maybe not: elections aren't necessarily won by the candidate with the most rational argument. They're often determined, instead, by events and economic conditions.

In fact, the party of Limbaugh and Beck could well make major gains in the midterm elections. The Obama administration's job-creation efforts have fallen short, so that unemployment is likely to stay disastrously high through next year and beyond. The banker-friendly bailout of Wall Street has angered voters, and might even let Republicans claim the mantle of economic populism. Conservatives may not have better ideas, but voters might support them out of sheer frustration.

And if Tea Party Republicans do win big next year, what has already happened in California could happen at the national level. In California, the G.O.P. has essentially shrunk down to a rump party with no interest in actually governing - but that rump remains big enough to prevent anyone else from dealing with the state's fiscal crisis. If this happens to America as a whole, as it all too easily could, the country could become effectively ungovernable in the midst of an ongoing economic disaster.

The point is that the takeover of the Republican Party by the irrational right is no laughing matter. Something unprecedented is happening here - and it's very bad for America.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Dark Glass
Hateful Echoes and Hidden Costs
By Chris Floyd


Seventy-one years ago, almost to the very day, a member of a religious minority fatally shot a government official - an act by a troubled individual that was seized upon by hateful minds to set off an orgy of blood and destruction against his co-religionists.

While the Ft. Hood shootings will not spark a rerun of Kristallnacht - the anti-semitic pogrom launched by the Nazis after 17-year-old Herschel Grynszpan shot German diplomat Ernst Vom Rath in Paris on Nov. 7, 1938, in retaliation for Nazi depradations against the Jews - the upswelling of racial, ethnic and religious hatred against Muslims and Arabs we will now see in many quarters will ring with ugly echoes.

The entire lexicon of Islamophobia is already filled to bursting with Nazi tropes - "the enemy within," the dark, monolithic mass of "prodigious breeders" threatening to overwhelm Western Civilization, the "maniacal extremists" who will not rest until they destroy the sacred Homeland, the sinister, secret worldwide conspiracy which bribes and suborns Western leaders into doing its bidding, etc. etc. This sinister discourse is accepted, and used, among the highest circles of power - senators, representatives, "serious" commentators, academics, think-tank apparatchiks. And all of this is being constantly regurgitated even while the armed forces and covert operators of the United States are in the midst of an apparently endless campaign of death and violence that has killed, so far, well in excess of a million innocent people - the vast majority of them Muslims, or of Muslim heritage - while planting great, bristling fortresses of domination and excess in the midst of wretchedly poor lands.

In this too, our modern Islamophobes mimic their German forbears. It was the Nazis who held - and exercised - violent, overwhelming sway over the Jews within their reach, even as they bleated constantly about the "Jewish threat" to "destroy the German people." Perhaps many of them, at some level, believed this fantastical projection of their own murderous desires and unquenchable anxieties; certainly, we know that top Nazis like Hitler and Himmler "justified" their extermination programs as "pre-emptive defense" against an existential threat from the "Judeo-Bolshevik" conspiracy. (For in this disordered mindset, every Jew was considered a Bolshevik -- and even rich, capitalist Jews were seen as part of the same overarching conspiracy -- just as our Islamophobes consider every Muslim a terrorist or an extremist.) In a similar manner, all of our Terror Warriors - not just the strident Islamophobes, but the entire bipartisan political establishment, including the "progressive" president - paint the "Long War" as a strictly defensive measure against dark forces who irrationally "hate us for our freedoms" and seek to "destroy our way of life."

Comparisons are not equivalencies, and history does not repeat itself -- but it often rings with disturbing assonances.


At this stage, with so much about the Ft. Hood case still unknown, there is little point in commenting on the substance of the case. But all kinds of rumors and conjectures and second-hand reports about the alleged shooter are richoceting around the media echo chamber.

For example, the New York Times, the nation's most "serious" newspaper, filled some of its early reports with pro-terrorist comments culled from the internet, left there by people who have the same or similar names as the accused. (This just days after the media had been burned by numerous "false positives" in the White House guest list.) The fact that it is unlikely that an Army officer on active duty would post such comments in his own name was obviously no bar to getting the most the most inflammatory factoids into circulation as soon as possible.

This might be considered irresponsible, if it didn't come from a paper that has been instrumental in selling the Terror War, with its ever-mounting toll of civilians deaths (three more children, and other civilians working in a field, were killed by a NATO missile on the same day of the Ft. Hood shooting), and all the despair and suffering and hatred it is engendering. In any case, at this point, I think the only relevant thing one can say about this particular case appeared on the website of the Iraq Veterans Against the War on Thursday: "The shootings that happened today are a tragic reminder of the hidden costs of war."


UPDATE: Playwright Wajahat Ali has some pertinent observations in the Guardian:

...Sadly, although yesterday's violent outburst against fellow soldiers was the most deadly in US history, it was not the first of its kind. In May this year, five soldiers were shot dead at Camp Liberty in Baghdad by Sergeant John Russell. In February 2008, an Air Force sergeant diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) upon returning from Iraq fatally shot his son and daughter after a domestic argument with his ex-wife. Religion was not the common link between these soldiers; it was mental instability. Even if such individuals purported to be religious, their wanton acts of barbarism reflect rather their tenuous grasp on sanity.

A cousin of Hasan, interviewed by reporters, has suggested an alternative motivation, not necessarily influenced by religious conviction. "He was mortified by the idea of having to deploy," said Nader Hasan. "He had people telling him on a daily basis the horrors they saw over there [in Iraq and Afghanistan]."... Hasan's aunt told the Washington Post that her nephew had consulted an attorney to see if he could leave the army before his contract expired due to harassment he had received from colleagues because he was Muslim.

Whatever the FBI investigation and any subsequent prosecution following the terrible shootings at Fort Hood may finally reveal, incidents such as these warrant a re-examination of how to treat and discharge or excuse those soldiers who are troubled or conflicted psychologically, politically or religiously over our foreign policy and, in particular, the current war in Afghanistan and occupation of Iraq.

No mere factual, evidential explanation could ever justify or excuse in any way Hasan's alleged actions. But it ought to broaden the horizon of those in the media who seem infatuated with the need to pin the blame for this perverse tragedy solely on a man's religious faith and Arabic last name, rather than exploring the possibility of a more complicated truth involving some combination of mental state, divided loyalty or conscientious objection.
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

Toxic Idealism
By Case Wagonvoord

Noble ideals produce a fatal paradox. We all buy into them; who doesn't believe in freedom, democracy, liberation and civil liberties? These are ideals that have taken centuries to evolve in the West and are currently under siege as the United States continues to evolve into a corporatized military state, which could be why we're so hell-bent on spreading them to the Middle East.

And that is where the paradox turns fatal. Ideals have the habit of coalescing into absolutes, and absolutes have a habit of shedding blood when one nation attempts to impose them on another. Missionary zeal has a long and deadly history in the West that dates back to the days when the missionaries accompanied Spanish conquistadors as they savaged Latin America.

We now see this same missionary zeal at work in Afghanistan where we are told that ours is an effort to liberate Afghan women from the yoke of oppression that has been placed on their shoulders by a misogynist regime. It has appeal because in truth, women in that country are treated as if they're chattel.

The paradox, here, is that women's rights will never ride into Afghanistan astride a drone. In Vietnam we destroyed villages to save them; in Afghanistan, we destroy wedding parties to free them.

Two years ago, Malalai Joya was expelled from the Afghan parliament for denouncing corruption and the occupation. She sums up the paradox beautifully when she say, "The United States and NATO eight years ago occupied my country under the banner of woman's rights and democracy. But they have only pushed us from the frying pan into the fire. They put into power men who are photocopies of the Taliban."

Nothing corrupts a noble ideal like ignoble means. Yet, attempts to spread the ideal always become toxic because the ideal is seen as an absolute, and when implementing an absolute one must destroy all who oppose it. And in doing so, the ideal loses its nobility.

Missionary zeal is a product of western hubris. All too often it is assumed that the western worldview sits atop the Great Chain of Being as if we represent the end product of social evolution. After all, don't we have more "stuff" that the rest of the world?

Because God has so blessed us, the thinking goes, we have a moral obligation to spread this lifestyle to the ignorant savages of the world and turn them all into middleclass consumers, whether they want to or not.

Progressives have been sucked into this argument. They are reluctant to oppose the slaughter in Afghanistan because they see it as a fight for women's rights, even though our efforts are having the opposite effect.

The treatment of women in Afghanistan is abysmal. Both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance are little more than narco-thugs. However, the brutal truth is that our military occupation of the country is only making these conditions worse. An equally brutal truth is that change will only come to Afghanistan when all foreign troops leave and courageous Afghan women like Malalai Joya bring change to the country from the inside out.

Of course, the above argument has one fatal flaw: noble ideals are simply marketing gimmicks to sell a war that has an ulterior motive, be it expanding markets or securing a supply of natural resources. It is an unfortunate blind spot in the progressive vision that it doesn't see this.
(c) 2009 Case Wagenvoord. Some years ago, Case Wagenvoord turned off the tube and picked up a book. He's been trouble ever since. His articles have been posted at The Smirking Chimp, Countercurrents and Issues & Alibis. When he's not writing or brooding, he is carving hardwood bowls that have been displayed in galleries and shows across the country. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two cats. His book, Open Letters to George W. Bush is available at

Right Questions; Wrong Answers
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning all of you great minds out there in the world of the semi-sane; your King of Simple News is on the air.

I just returned from 24 hours of driving to Phoenix and back, which gave me a lot time to think.

As I made the 100 mile and nearly 6,000 foot descent off the mountain from Flagstaff to Phoenix...all I could think of was; why? The temperature in Flagstaff was a pleasant 65 degrees and when I reached the bottom of the grade it had risen to a sweltering 96; on November 5th! Smog was hanging over the entire Valley of the Sun, and the traffic was untenable.

Road construction that is being financed by the Great American Bailout was evident everywhere, as the continual arterial expansion necessary to support the ever greater growth of Phoenix goes on 24-7.

The new housing stretched for miles and were so close in proximity to one another, that their matching tile roofs appeared as a continual sea of humanity. Why do 3,000,000 people want to live under these conditions?

As I left Phoenix at 2PM, pulling a trailer loaded with a tractor in bumper to bumper, stop light to stop light, three lanes wide consisting of crazed wannabe NASCAR drivers, I felt like, rather than driving, I was escaping. But perhaps that's just me.

Phoenix has no natural water to support this growth, growth in an area where glamorous swimming pools, man-made waterfalls, and fountains are as common as golf carts on the streets of Sun City. In other words, Phoenix is dependent on taking water from other regions in order to propel the necessary growth.

This is not "pick on Phoenix" day, as many other cities are in the same boat. I was listening to a San Antonio radio program the same morning and the subject was water shortage. The plan is to create a massive desalinization plant on the coast to desalinate sea water and ship it via a pipeline to support growth in that region of Texas.

Is this propensity toward endless growth a natural thing? M. King Hubbert challenged this premise mathematically and concluded that the exponential growth of the last two centuries is the opposite of the normal situation. Hubbert went on to state, "There can be no possible solutions to the world's problems that do not involve stabilization of the world's population."

Listing to the radio as I drove, the solution for our current unemployment debacle was continually stated as massive growth. We need to put everyone back to work and to do so we need to grow, grow, grow...just like Phoenix needs to grow to stay alive. And therein, my friends, lies the problem.

We need to grow to stay alive under our current system of economics. As the common adage goes, "If you're not growing, you're dying." We have created a system that is so rank, that it requires the impossible. Impossible over the long term that is. But, by borrowing against our children's futures, we can postpone the inevitable and we are more than willing to do just that. In fact, the most powerful words that any politician can utter are, "Elect me for growth."

I want to give a hat tip to "Hotrod" who posted the following in yesterdays comments:

"Just got back from a construction industry trade association meeting. The keynote speaker was a well known economist. The question was - when will things get back to normal? The long term answer - increased birth and immigration rates. Population MUST grow to 425-450 million by 2120 in order to assure GROWTH and return to normalcy. This idiot received a standing ovation!"

Well Hotrod, lightening really does strike twice in the same place. I was watching TV in the motel (Gallup NM) and heard the exact same thing from a religious leader being interview about the problems with Social Security, Healthcare, etc. His solution, "We need a higher birth rate and it would solve all of our problems."

So why do these people suggest an impossible solution? I'd say it is because they are attempting to answer an impossible problem, while at the same time failing to accept that our system is fatally flawed. However, Albert Einstein, beat me to this reasoning many years ago "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."

We already have some 40 Million American's unemployed and underemployed. And the solution is to add more people? Our natural resource reserves are going the way of the American Bison and we promote greater usage, more population and less pollution. The first word that pops in my mind is, insanity.
(c) 2009 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

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

Afghanistan's Sham Army
By Chris Hedges

Success in Afghanistan is measured in Washington by the ability to create an indigenous army that will battle the Taliban, provide security and stability for Afghan civilians and remain loyal to the puppet government of Hamid Karzai. A similar task eluded the Red Army, although the Soviets spent a decade attempting to pacify the country. It eluded the British a century earlier. And the United States, too, will fail.

American military advisers who work with the Afghan National Army, or ANA, speak of poorly trained and unmotivated Afghan soldiers who have little stomach for military discipline and even less for fighting. They describe many ANA units as being filled with brigands who terrorize local populations, exacting payments and engaging in intimidation, rape and theft. They contend that the ANA is riddled with Taliban sympathizers. And when there are combined American and Afghan operations against the Taliban insurgents, ANA soldiers are fickle and unreliable combatants, the U.S. advisers say.

American military commanders in Afghanistan, rather than pump out statistics about enemy body counts, measure progress by the swelling size of the ANA. The bigger the ANA, the better we are supposedly doing. The pressure on trainers to increase the numbers of the ANA means that training and vetting of incoming Afghan recruits is nearly nonexistent.

The process of induction for Afghan soldiers begins at the Kabul Military Training Center. American instructors at the Kabul center routinely complain of shortages of school supplies such as whiteboards, markers and paper. They often have to go to markets and pay for these supplies on their own or do without them. Instructors are pressured to pass all recruits and graduate many who have been absent for a third to half the training time. Most are inducted into the ANA without having mastered rudimentary military skills.

"I served the first half of my tour at the Kabul Military Training Center, where I was part of a small team working closely with the ANA to set up the country's first officer basic course for newly commissioned Afghan lieutenants," a U.S. Army first lieutenant who was deployed last year and who asked not to be identified by name told me. "During the second half of my tour, I left Kabul's military schoolhouse and was reassigned to an embedded tactical training team, or ETT team, to help stand up a new Afghan logistics battalion in Herat."

"Afghan soldiers leave the KMTC grossly unqualified," this lieutenant, who remains on active duty, said. "American mentors do what they can to try and fix these problems, but their efforts are blocked by pressure from higher, both in Afghan and American chains of command, to pump out as many soldiers as fast as possible."

Afghan soldiers are sent from the Kabul Military Training Center directly to active-duty ANA units. The units always have American trainers, know as a "mentoring team," attached to them. The rapid increase in ANA soldiers has outstripped the ability of the American military to provide trained mentoring teams. The teams, normally comprised of members of the Army Special Forces, are now formed by plucking American soldiers, more or less at random, from units all over Afghanistan.

"This is how my entire team was selected during the middle of my tour: a random group of people from all over Kabul-Air Force, Navy, Army, active-duty and National Guard-pulled from their previous assignments, thrown together and expected to do a job that none of us were trained in any meaningful way to do," the officer said. "We are expected, by virtue of time-in-grade and membership in the U.S. military, to be able to train a foreign force in military operations, an extremely irresponsible policy that is ethnocentric at its core and which assumes some sort of natural superiority in which an untrained American soldier has everything to teach the Afghans, but nothing to learn."

"You're lucky enough if you had any mentorship training at all, something the Army provides in a limited capacity at pre-mobilization training at Fort Riley, but having none is the norm," he said. "Soldiers who receive their pre-mobilization training at Fort Bragg learn absolutely nothing about mentoring foreign forces aside from being given a booklet on the subject, and yet soldiers who go through Bragg before being shipped to Afghanistan are just as likely to be assigned to mentoring teams as anyone else."

The differences between the Afghan military structure and the American military structure are substantial. The ANA handles logistics differently. Its rank structure is not the same. Its administration uses different military terms. It rarely works with the aid of computers or basic technology. The cultural divide leaves most trainers, who do not speak Dari, struggling to figure out how things work in the ANA.

"The majority of my time spent as a mentor involved trying to understand what the Afghans were doing and how they were expected to do it, and only then could I even begin to advise anyone on the problems they were facing," this officer said. "In other words, American military advisers aren't immediately helpful to Afghans. There is a major learning curve involved that is sometimes never overcome. Some advisers play a pivotal role, but many have little or no effect as mentors."

The real purpose of American advisers assigned to ANA units, however, is not ultimately to train Afghans but to function as a liaison between Afghan units and American firepower and logistics. The ANA is unable to integrate ground units with artillery and air support. It has no functioning supply system. It depends on the American military to do basic tasks. The United States even pays the bulk of ANA salaries.

"In the unit I was helping to mentor, orders for mission-essential equipment such as five-ton trucks went unfilled for months, and winter clothes came late due to national shortages," the officer told me. "Many soldiers in the unit had to make do for the first few weeks of Afghanistan's winter without jackets or other cold-weather items."

But what disturbs advisers most is the widespread corruption within the ANA which has enraged and alienated local Afghans and proved to be a potent recruiting tool for the Taliban.

"In the Afghan logistics battalion I was embedded with, the commander himself was extorting a local shopkeeper, and his staff routinely stole from the local store," the adviser said. "In Kabul, on one humanitarian aid mission I was on, we handed out school supplies to children, and in an attempt to lend validity to the ANA we had them [ANA members] distribute the supplies. As it turns out, we received intelligence reports that that very same group of ANA had been extorting money from the villagers under threat of violence. In essence, we teamed up with well-known criminals and local thugs to distribute aid in the very village they had been terrorizing, and that was the face of American charity."

We have pumped billions of dollars into Afghanistan and occupied the country for eight years. We currently spend some $4 billion a month on Afghanistan. But we are unable to pay for whiteboards and markers for instructors at the Kabul Military Training Center. Afghan soldiers lack winter jackets. Kabul is still in ruins. Unemployment is estimated at about 40 percent. And Afghanistan is one of the most food-insecure countries on the planet.

What are we doing? Where is this money going?

Look to the civilian contractors. These contractors dominate the lucrative jobs in Afghanistan. The American military, along with the ANA, is considered a poor relation.

"When I arrived in theater, one of the things I was shocked to see was how many civilians were there," the U.S. officer said. "Americans and foreign nationals from Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia were holding jobs in great numbers in Kabul. There are a ton of corporations in Afghanistan performing labor that was once exclusively in the realm of the military. If you're a [military] cook, someone from Kellogg Brown & Root has taken your spot. If you're a logistician or military adviser, someone from MPRI, Military Professional Resources Inc., will probably take over your job soon. If you're a technician or a mechanic, there are civilians from Harris Corp. and other companies there who are taking over more and more of your responsibilities." "I deployed with a small unit of about 100 or so military advisers and mentors," he went on. "When we arrived in Afghanistan, nearly half our unit had to be reassigned because their jobs had been taken over by civilians from MPRI. It seems that even in a war zone, soldiers are at risk of losing their jobs to outsourcing. And if you're a reservist, the situation is even more unfortunate. You are torn from your life to serve a yearlong tour of duty away from your civilian job, your friends and family only to end up in Afghanistan with nothing to do because your military duty was passed on to a civilian contractor. Eventually you are thrown onto a mentoring team somewhere, or some [other] responsibility is created for you. It becomes evident that the corporate presence in Afghanistan has a direct effect on combat operations."

The American military has been largely privatized, although Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, has still recommended a 40,000-troop increase. The Army's basic functions have been outsourced to no-bid contractors. What was once done by the military with concern for tactical and strategic advancement is done by war profiteers concerned solely about profit. The aims of the military and the contractors are in conflict. A scaling down of the war or a withdrawal is viewed by these corporations as bad for business. But expansion of the war, as many veterans will attest, is only making the situation more precarious.

"American and Afghan soldiers are putting their lives at risk, Afghan civilians are dying, and yet there's this underlying system in place that gains more from keeping all of them in harm's way rather than taking them out of it," the officer complained. "If we bring peace and stability to Afghanistan, we may profit morally, we might make gains for humanity, but moral profits and human gains do not contribute to the bottom line. Peace and profit are ultimately contradictory forces at work in Afghanistan."

The wells that are dug, the schools that are built, the roads that are paved and the food distributed in Afghan villages by the occupation forces are used to obscure the huge profits made by contractors. Only an estimated 10 percent of the money poured into Afghanistan is used to ameliorate the suffering of Afghan civilians. The remainder is swallowed by contractors who siphon the money out of Afghanistan and into foreign bank accounts. This misguided allocation of funds is compounded in Afghanistan because the highest-paying jobs for Afghans go to those who can act as interpreters for the American military and foreign contractors. The best-educated Afghans are enticed away from Afghan institutions that desperately need their skills and education.

"It is this system that has broken the logistics of Afghanistan," the officer said. "It is this system of waste and private profit from public funds that keeps Kabul in ruins. It is this system that manages to feed Westerners all across the country steak and lobster once a week while an estimated 8.4 million Afghans-the entire population of New York City, the five boroughs-suffer from chronic food insecurity and starvation every day. When you go to Bagram Air Base, or Camp Phoenix, or Camp Eggers, it's clear to see that the problem does not lie in getting supplies into the country. The question becomes who gets them. And we wonder why there's an insurgency."

The problem in Afghanistan is not ultimately a military problem. It is a political and social problem. The real threat to stability in Afghanistan is not the Taliban, but widespread hunger and food shortages, crippling poverty, rape, corruption and a staggering rate of unemployment that mounts as foreign companies take jobs away from the local workers and businesses. The corruption and abuse by the Karzai government and the ANA, along with the presence of foreign contractors, are the central impediments to peace. The more we empower these forces, the worse the war will become. The plan to escalate the number of American soldiers and Marines, and to swell the ranks of the Afghan National Army, will not or defeat or pacify the Taliban.

"What good are a quarter-million well-trained Afghan troops to a nation slipping into famine?" the officer asked. "What purpose does a strong military serve with a corrupt and inept government in place? What hope do we have for peace if the best jobs for the Afghans involve working for the military? What is the point of getting rid of the Taliban if it means killing civilians with airstrikes and supporting a government of misogynist warlords and criminals?

"We as Americans do not help the Afghans by sending in more troops, by increasing military spending, by adding chaos to disorder," he said. "What little help we do provide is only useful in the short term and is clearly unsustainable in the face of our own economic crisis. In the end, no one benefits from this war, not America, not Afghans. Only the CEOs and executive officers of war-profiteering corporations find satisfactory returns on their investments."
(c) 2009 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

Why I Voted NO
By Dennis Kucinich

We have been led to believe that we must make our health care choices only within the current structure of a predatory, for-profit insurance system which makes money not providing health care. We cannot fault the insurance companies for being what they are. But we can fault legislation in which the government incentivizes the perpetuation, indeed the strengthening, of the for-profit health insurance industry, the very source of the problem. When health insurance companies deny care or raise premiums, co-pays and deductibles they are simply trying to make a profit. That is our system.

Clearly, the insurance companies are the problem, not the solution. They are driving up the cost of health care. Because their massive bureaucracy avoids paying bills so effectively, they force hospitals and doctors to hire their own bureaucracy to fight the insurance companies to avoid getting stuck with an unfair share of the bills. The result is that since 1970, the number of physicians has increased by less than 200% while the number of administrators has increased by 3000%. It is no wonder that 31 cents of every health care dollar goes to administrative costs, not toward providing care. Even those with insurance are at risk. The single biggest cause of bankruptcies in the U.S. is health insurance policies that do not cover you when you get sick.

But instead of working toward the elimination of for-profit insurance, H.R. 3962 would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatization of health care. In H.R. 3962, the government is requiring at least 21 million Americans to buy private health insurance from the very industry that causes costs to be so high, which will result in at least $70 billion in new annual revenue, much of which is coming from taxpayers. This inevitably will lead to even more costs, more subsidies, and higher profits for insurance companies - a bailout under a blue cross.

By incurring only a new requirement to cover pre-existing conditions, a weakened public option, and a few other important but limited concessions, the health insurance companies are getting quite a deal. The Center for American Progress' blog, Think Progress, states "since the President signaled that he is backing away from the public option, health insurance stocks have been on the rise." Similarly, healthcare stocks rallied when Senator Max Baucus introduced a bill without a public option. Bloomberg reports that Curtis Lane, a prominent health industry investor, predicted a few weeks ago that "money will start flowing in again" to health insurance stocks after passage of the legislation. last month reported that pharmacy benefit managers share prices are hitting all-time highs, with the only industry worry that the Administration would reverse its decision not to negotiate Medicare Part D drug prices, leaving in place a Bush Administration policy.

During the debate, when the interests of insurance companies would have been effectively challenged, that challenge was turned back. The "robust public option" which would have offered a modicum of competition to a monopolistic industry was whittled down from an initial potential enrollment of 129 million Americans to 6 million. An amendment which would have protected the rights of states to pursue single-payer health care was stripped from the bill at the request of the Administration. Looking ahead, we cringe at the prospect of even greater favors for insurance companies.

Recent rises in unemployment indicate a widening separation between the finance economy and the real economy. The finance economy considers the health of Wall Street, rising corporate profits, and banks' hoarding of cash, much of it from taxpayers, as sign of an economic recovery. However in the real economy -- in which most Americans live -- the recession is not over. Rising unemployment, business failures, bankruptcies and foreclosures are still hammering Main Street.

This health care bill continues the redistribution of wealth to Wall Street at the expense of America's manufacturing and service economies which suffer from costs other countries do not have to bear, especially the cost of health care. America continues to stand out among all industrialized nations for its privatized health care system. As a result, we are less competitive in steel, automotive, aerospace and shipping while other countries subsidize their exports in these areas through socializing the cost of health care.

Notwithstanding the fate of H.R. 3962, America will someday come to recognize the broad social and economic benefits of a not-for-profit, single-payer health care system, which is good for the American people and good for America's businesses, with of course the notable exceptions being insurance and pharmaceuticals.
(c) 2009 Dennis Kucinich is a congressman from Ohio and a 2008 presidential primary candidate. Blocked by the corporate media, and, most egregiously, by his own party, which regarded him as an embarrassing radical (radical he is, dangerous, no), his message failed to reach and mobilize the masses. Meanwhile the media-and the inevitable centrist dunces-were busy inflating and falling for the messianic promise of one Barack Obama.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Boren,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, your sell out to the insurance companies allowing us to look innocent, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Democratic 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 diamonds clusters, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 11-28-2009. We salute you Herr Boren, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Universality Of Extremists
Iranian "hard-liners" sound just like America's neocons when opposing negotiations.
By Glenn Greenwald

The Washington Post's David Ignatius today notes the irony that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is being criticized by his country's "hard-liners" for supporting a deal with the U.S. over nuclear issues:

The prospect of a deal with the Great Satan produced a political frisson in Tehran. . . . Critics chided Ahmadinejad for giving away the nuclear store. . . . Khamenei joined in the attacks last week, warning that negotiating with America would be "naive and perverted." The leader was implicitly criticizing Ahmadinejad, who had characterized the Geneva deal as an Iranian victory. . . .

But reading the Iranian press, you get the sense that for Iran's ruling elite, engagement with America remains a bridge too far. "America is still the Great Satan. Negotiations are meaningless," thundered the hard-line weekly Ya-Lesarat.

That, of course, is exactly what American neocons have long been screaming about negotiations with Iran -- that they're crazed, untrustworthy Persian Hitlers who shouldn't be negotiated with and that Obama is being "naive" or worse by trying. It's so striking how identical is the mentality of America's "hard-line" right-wing extremists and those in Iran.

Ignatius also claims, correctly, that the Iranian regime relies on anti-Americanism to sustain its legitimacy because the constant demonization of a foreign enemy unites the population behind the government. Of course, the continuous demonization of foreign enemies has also long been the favorite tool of America's political leaders for the same reasons. That's because exploiting foreign threats for domestic political gain is a virtually universal tool of governments. That, of course, is exactly why the belligerence and threats towards Iran long advocated by America's Right has as its prime beneficiary the very Iranian mullahs they claim to oppose.
(c) 2009 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

The Evil Empire
By Paul Craig Roberts

The US government is now so totally under the thumbs of organized interest groups that "our" government can no longer respond to the concerns of the American people who elect the president and the members of the House and Senate. Voters will vent their frustrations over their impotence on the president, which implies a future of one-term presidents. Soon our presidents will be as ineffective as Roman emperors in the final days of that empire.

Obama is already set on the course to a one-term presidency. He promised change, but has delivered none. His health care bill is held hostage by the private insurance companies seeking greater profits. The most likely outcome will be cuts in Medicare and Medicaid in order to help fund wars that enrich the military/security complex and the many companies created by privatizing services that the military once provided for itself at far lower costs. It would be interesting to know the percentage of the $700+ billion "defense" spending that goes to private companies. In American "capitalism," an amazing amount of taxpayers' earnings go to private firms via the government. Yet, Republicans scream about "socializing" health care.

Republicans and Democrats saw opportunities to create new sources of campaign contributions by privatizing as many military functions as possible. There are now a large number of private companies that have never made a dollar in the market, feeding instead at the public trough that drains taxpayers of dollars while loading Americans with debt service obligations.

Obama inherited an excellent opportunity to bring US soldiers home from the Bush regime's illegal wars of aggression. In its final days, the Bush regime realized that it could "win" in Iraq by putting the Sunni insurgents on the US military payroll. Once Bush had 80,000 insurgents collecting US military pay, violence, although still high, dropped in half. All Obama had to do was to declare victory and bring our boys home, thanking Bush for winning the war. It would have shut up the Republicans.

But this sensible course would have impaired the profits and share prices of those firms that comprise the military/security complex. So instead of doing what Obama said he would do and what the voters elected him to do, Obama restarted the war in Afghanistan and launched a new one in Pakistan. Soon Obama was echoing Bush and Cheney's threats to attack Iran.

In place of health care for Americans, there will be more profits for private insurance companies.

In place of peace there will be more war.

Voters are already recognizing the writing on the wall and are falling away from Obama and the Democrats. Independents who gave Obama his comfortable victory have now swung against him, recently electing Republican governors in New Jersey and Virginia to succeed Democrats. This is a protest vote, not a confidence vote in Republicans.

Obama's credibility is shot. And so is Congress's, assuming it ever had any. The US House of Representatives has just voted to show the entire world that the US House of Representatives is nothing but the servile, venal, puppet of the Israel Lobby. The House of Representatives of the American "superpower" did the bidding of its master, AIPAC, and voted 344 to 36 to condemn the Goldstone Report.

In case you don't know, the Goldstone Report is the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. The "Gaza Conflict" is the Israeli military attack on the Gaza ghetto, where 1.5 million dispossessed Palestinians, whose lands, villages, and homes were stolen by Israel, are housed. The attack was on civilians and civilian infrastructure. It was without any doubt a war crime under the Nuremberg standard that the US established in order to execute Nazis.

Goldstone is not only a very distinguished Jewish jurist who has given his life to bringing people to accountability for their crimes against humanity, but also a Zionist. However, the Israelis have demonized him as a "self-hating Jew" because he wrote the truth instead of Israeli propaganda.

US Representative Dennis Kucinich, who is now without a doubt a marked man on AIPAC's political extermination list, asked the House if the members had any realization of the shame that the vote condemning Goldstone would bring on the House and the US government. The entire rest of the world accepts the Goldstone report.

The House answered with its lopsided vote that the rest of the world doesn't count as it doesn't give campaign contributions to members of Congress.

This shameful, servile act of "the world's greatest democracy" occurred the very week that a court in Italy convicted 23 US CIA officers for kidnapping a person in Italy. The CIA agents are now considered "fugitives from justice" in Italy, and indeed they are.

The kidnapped person was renditioned to the American puppet state of Egypt, where the victim was held for years and repeatedly tortured. The case against him was so absurd that even an Egyptian judge ordered his release.

One of the convicted CIA operatives, Sabrina deSousa, an attractive young woman, says that the US broke the law by kidnapping a person and sending him to another country to be tortured in order to manufacture another "terrorist" in order to keep the terrorist hoax going at home. Without the terrorist hoax, America's wars for special interest reasons would become transparent even to Fox "News" junkies.

Ms. deSousa says that "everything I did was approved back in Washington," yet the government, which continually berates us to "support the troops," did nothing to protect her when she carried out the Bush regime's illegal orders.

Clearly, this means that the crime that Bush, Cheney, the Pentagon, and the CIA ordered is too heinous and beyond the pale to be justified, even by memos from the despicable John Yoo and the Republican Federalist Society.

Ms. deSousa is clearly worried about herself. But where is her concern for the innocent person that she sent into an Egyptian hell to be tortured until death or admission of being a terrorist? The remorse deSousa expresses is only for herself. She did her evil government's bidding and her evil government that she so faithfully served turned its back on her. She has no remorse for the evil she committed against an innocent person.

Perhaps deSousa and her 22 colleagues grew up on video games. It was great fun to plot to kidnap a real person and fly him on a CIA plane to Egypt. Was it like a fisherman catching a fish or a deer hunter killing a beautiful 8-point buck? Clearly, they got their jollies at the expense of their renditioned victim.

The finding of the Italian court, and keep in mind that Italy is a bought-and-paid-for US puppet state, indicates that even our bought puppets are finding the US too much to stomach.

Moving from the tip of the iceberg down, we have Ambassador Craig Murray, rector of the University of Dundee and until 2004 the UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, which he describes as a Stalinist totalitarian state courted and supported by the Americans.

As ambassador, Murray saw the MI5 intelligence reports from the CIA that described the most horrible torture procedures. "People were raped with broken bottles, children were tortured in front of their parents until they [the parents] signed a confession, people were boiled alive."

"Intelligence" from these torture sessions was passed on by the CIA to MI5 and to Washington as proof of the vast al Qaeda conspiracy.

Amb. Murray reports that the people delivered by CIA flights to Uzbekistan's torture prisons "were told to confess to membership in Al Qaeda. They were told to confess they'd been in training camps in Afghanistan. They were told to confess they had met Osama bin Laden in person. And the CIA intelligence constantly echoed these themes."

"I was absolutely stunned," says the British ambassador, who thought that he served a moral country that, along with its American ally, had moral integrity. The great Anglo-American bastion of democracy and human rights, the homes of the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights, the great moral democracies that defeated Nazism and stood up to Stalin's gulags, were prepared to commit any crime in order to maximize profits.

Amb. Murray learned too much and was fired when he vomited it all up. He saw the documents that proved that the motivation for US and UK military aggression in Afghanistan had to do with the natural gas deposits in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The Americans wanted a pipeline that bypassed Russia and Iran and went through Afghanistan. To insure this, an invasion was necessary. The idiot American public could be told that the invasion was necessary because of 9/11 and to save them from "terrorism," and the utter fools would believe the lie.

"If you look at the deployment of US forces in Afghanistan, as against other NATO country forces in Afghanistan, you'll see that undoubtedly the US forces are positioned to guard the pipeline route. It's what it's about. It's about money, its about energy, it's not about democracy."

Guess who the consultant was who arranged with then Texas governor George W. Bush the agreements that would give to Enron the rights to Uzbekistan's and Turkmenistan's natural gas deposits and to Unocal to develop the trans-Afghanistan pipeline. It was Karzai, the US-imposed "president" of Afghanistan, who has no support in the country except for American bayonets.

Amb. Murray was dismissed from the UK Foreign Service for his revelations. No doubt on orders from Washington to our British puppet.
(c) 2009 Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and is coauthor of "The Tyranny of Good Intentions," co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law, was published by Random House.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ David Fitzsimmons ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Death Walks Behind You
By Atomic Rooster

Death Walks Behind You,
Death Walks Behind You,
Death Walks Behind You.

Lock The Door, Switch The Light.
You'll Be So Afraid Tonight.
Hide Away From The Bad,
Count The Nine Lives That You Had.

Start To Scream, Shout For Help,
There Is No One By Your Side.
To Forget What Is Done,
Seems So Hard To Carry On.

Luck Is False, That It's Near,
Bring Yourself To Understand,
It's Your Fate, Or What's Cast,
Point a Finger At Yourself.

(Death Walks Behind You,)
(Death Walks Behind You.)

Death Walks Behind You,
Death Walks Behind You,
Death Walks Behind You.

(Death Walks Behind You,)
(Death Walks Behind You.)

Lock Your Door, Switch The Light,
You'll Be so Afraid Tonight.
Hide Away From The Bad,
Count The Nine Lives That You Had.

Start To Scream, Shout For Help,
There Is No One By Your Side.
To Forget What Is Done,
Seems So Hard To Carry On.

(Death Walks Behind You.)
Seems So Hard To Carry On.

(Death Walks Behind You.)
Carry On.

(Death Walks Behind You.)

Death Walks Behind You.
Death Walks Behind You.
Death Walks Behind You.
Death Walks Behind You...
(c) 1970/2009 Atomic Rooster

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Poking The Cobra
By Will Durst

Now is the time for all good men to put their hands together, pull them apart and rapidly put them back together again, and repeat, to give props to the President for not curling up into a fetal position with a "Kick Me" sign taped to his butt. You know. Like a Democrat.

He's taking it straight to his perceived enemy, calling both Fox News and Rush Limbaugh radical and out of the mainstream, making the two crazier than a preacher at a whorehouse with a parishioner working the door. Because that is exactly what they say about him. Methinks there may be a bad case of "can dish it out but not take it" going around.

Conservative commentators are retaliating by lobbing charges of extreme partisanship at the President. Claiming he totally ignored his campaign promise to be "a uniter, not a divider." Oh wait, that wasn't him. That was the other guy. Sorry. You remember the last guy. Now there was someone who reeked of non- partisanship. At least I think that's what it was.

No idea what the right- wing radio dudes expected Barack to do in response to their incessant taunting and baiting: clap his hands over his ears and make la- la- la noises until the bad people stop talking nasty about him? Lie down on a fire resistant humanely braided Persian rug and whimper himself to sleep? Or pull a John Kerry, who while being swift boated in August 04, spent the entire month on his back waiting for a big old tummy rub. You know. Like a Democrat.

Though he lacks military service, Barack Obama seems to grasp the concept of "target acquired." Obviously, this sustained adversarial offensive is all part of a choreographed campaign to marginalize critics. An effort to paint the GOP as a wee bit of a sliver of a party, chock full of pro- rape, white, Southern ditto- heads and fringe licking extremists. Following the script perfected by that fabled wartime tactician: Karl Rove. If you're going to steal, take from the best.

It must be said that refusing to appear on Fox News does seem to fly in the face of the President's official policy to open a dialogue with all evil- doers. Which normally, he does. Iran. Hamas. North Korea. Syria. Everyone it seems, except Rupert Murdoch. "If we want fair & balanced, we'll get our fair and balanced from MSNBC thank you very much." Not very Peace Prize- ish if you ask me.

Its a tricky game this riling the rabble that Obama is playing. You got to be awfully careful when you poke the cobra. Fortunately he's got the extra long pointy sticks that are David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel to do the dirty work. Another problem is both sides know that as the rhetoric ratchets up, so do the ratings. But studies prove helping Limbaugh hurts Republicans with Independents, so it's a calculated gamble. On the order of picking the Raiders to cover, on the road.

A final concern is all this fresh flummery could cause Rush to bloat up to dirigible size and then explode, which some experts say may force the evacuation of the entire Eastern Seaboard due to fears of Oxycontin contamination. But most importantly, Obama needs to keep in mind the advice my father regularly spouted after his third six pack: never get in a fight with an ugly person, he's got nothing to lose. You know. Like a Republican.
(c) 2009 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based political comic who writes sometimes. This is one of those times. Please catch his new one man show "The Lieutenant Governor from the State of Confusion," when it appears near you.

The Gross National Debt

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Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 42 (c) 11/13/2009

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