Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Naomi Klein had a deja vu, "Revisiting No Logo, Ten Years Later."

Uri Avnery smokes a bowl and asks, "Federation? Why Not?"

Victoria Stewart is, "Giving Thanks."

Amy Goodman with, "Books, Not Bombs."

Jim Hightower hears, "Pakistan Is Calling."

Robert Scheer watches Geithner, "Still Doing God's Work On Wall Street."

Cynthia McKinney shares, "My Letter To The President And A Note About Lynne Stewart."

Paul Krugman explains, "The Phantom Menace."

Chris Floyd follows, "Systemic Success: Blood Money And Black Gold In Iraq."

Case Wagenvoord studies, "Media America."

Mike Folkerth examines, "Facade; A False Front."

Chris Hedges demands we, "Refuse Allegiance To Coal."

David Michael Green reviews, "A Show About Nothing."

U.S. Sin-ator Tom Coburn (F/OK) wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald explores, "The Extreme Secrecy Of The Federal Courts."

Sheila Samples announces, "God Has Left The Building...."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz finds, "Lieberman Exploring New Ways To Be A Dick" but first Uncle Ernie warns of, "Death From Above."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Bob Gorrell, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Dees Illustration.Com, Ted Rall, David Horsey, U Nell, Spencer Anderson, Chan Lowe, Flickr/Epioles, Lucasfilm 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."

Death From Above
By Ernest Stewart

"Just go out for a breath of air, and you'll be ready for Medicare. ~~~ Tom Lehrer

"Let us extract ourselves from this den of deja vu!"
Tired Of The Green Menace? ~~~ The Falcon of Fong

"Blogger users have to adhere to the site's terms of service, including a ban on hate speech, which the agreement defines as 'content that promotes hate or violence towards groups based on race, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status or sexual orientation/gender identity.'" ~~~ Google Inc. spokesman Scott Rubin.

Our Junior Birdmen have been very busy of late poisoning the people of Western North Carolina with various and sundry poisons flowing from their aircraft in chemtrails. Huge miles long X's fill the skies over Asheville and the surrounding areas, hanging for almost an hour, unlike contrails which last just seconds or minutes. Often Barium, at 10 times the limit of .05 ppb, drifts down on the unsuspecting populace with similar effects as the same amount of arsenic! Your tax dollars at work, America!

Of course this is just pretty much par-for-the-course when considering what our government has done over the years to us, their lab rats. Various government or corpo-rat groups with the government permission have been torturing and killing Americans for science and profit for well over 100 years.

From giving unknowing populations various forms of the flu from 1919 forward to giving unsuspecting black men syphilis and watching them go through all the stages until they died. Let's not forget the various "germ bombs" that they let loose in subways across the country! They also have "spayed and neutered" thousands of people for their eugenics programs.

The Nazi's studied our eugenics programs as they did our concentration camps to come up with their own. For example, Henry Ford and Adolph Hitler were pen pals and best buds because of Ford's promotion of eugenics (Not to mention Ford's private newspaper "The Dearborn Independent" that warned on a weekly basis about "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" and other Jewish "questions") which Hitler adopted. He also awarded Hank the "Grand Cross of the German Eagle," the highest Nazi decoration for foreigners, and Dolph kept a portrait of Hank in his personal residence!

Hank gets his Cross

Still, I think my favorite torture, which certainly killed almost every American who was subjected to it, was the scheme of air bursting atomic weapons out in Utah and Nevada and then having the entire populace of the towns in the surrounding areas come out and stand amongst the fallout. Factories were shut down so mom and dad could come. Schools were let out so the kids could play in the lovely "pink snow" that fell on them. Whole populations were wiped out with horrible tumors and hardly any of the kids reaching their 30th birthday.

So, I ask you, considering all of that, what's a little Barium falling from the sky?

In Other News

I see where Barry is going to announce his next war crime and crimes against humanity Tuesday night. He'll do it with those dulcimer tones of his and promise if we just spend a few more trillion dollars and send a few tens of thousands more of our children we'll have the ability to kill everyone in Asia and hence win the war with honor and bring democracy to the few remaining goats and chickens, or some such nonsense.

I'm having one of those Yogi Berra moments, how about you? You know, "It's deja vu all over again." Ya'll may recall the last time we went through this, it was called Vietnam and it directly led to our current financial disaster. Then we had LBJ's war being taken over by "the Trick" who kept it going until he was reelected. This resulted in another million and a half innocents destroyed throughout Southeastern Asia, tens of thousands of our kids killed, hundreds of thousands of our kids wounded. The dollar lost all value while the military/industrial complex made billions and billions, which begat a steadily falling dollar until it was practically worthless.

This is what's in store for America. Keep that in mind while Obama shucks and jives about his new ideas for Afghanistan.

Here's that deja vu thing again...

The British under Prime Minister William Lamb, aka The Viscount Melbourne was the first westerner to stumble into Afghanistan since Alexander the Great who had the sense to get out after a couple of years. It was the first Afghan war 1839-1842 where he got the British Army wiped out, save one single man and caused the Irish Potato famine and other financial disasters back home. Needless to say Billie lost his gig as Prime Minister.

Not satisfied with that England's only Jewish Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, aka The Earl of Beaconsfield, started the second Afghan war 1878-80, got beaten again which caused the Great Depression throughout Europe that lasted well past the turn of the century and like Billie, Benny was toast as PM.

Finally the 3rd Afghan war fought from May till August in 1919 and won for the Afghans their final independence from Britain. Although the British claimed victory, they lost twice as many troops as the Afghans did, even with their bomber and fighter aircraft. The end result was that they lost India and Prime Minister David Lloyd George was a one-termer!

Of course, Russia's ten year disaster cost them their empire and their first world status not to mention the PM jobs of Kosygin, Tikhonov, Ryzhkov, Pavlov and Silayev. Which is why they're so happy to help Obama remain in the Afghan quagmire.

Which means we can expect a Palin/Beck win in 2012. Thanks Barry, thanks a lot! Oh, and if a Palin Presidency isn't a sign of the Apocalypse I don't know what is!

And Finally

I'm sure you're hip to this by now but if you're not from what I can tell Google's search engine is trying it's best to commit suicide. If you googled Michelle Obama's image for the last week or so you got this image of the first lady first...

As you can imagine most folks went a little berserk including yours truly. Not only did they allow it but also they defended it with the following little song and dance...

An explanation of our search results.

Sometimes Google search results from the Internet can include disturbing content, even from innocuous queries. We assure you that the views expressed by such sites are not in any way endorsed by Google.

Search engines are a reflection of the content and information that is available on the Internet. A site's ranking in Google's search results relies heavily on computer algorithms using thousands of factors to calculate a page's relevance to a given query.

The beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google, as well as the opinions of the general public, do not determine or impact our search results. Individual citizens and public interest groups do periodically urge us to remove particular links or otherwise adjust search results. Although Google reserves the right to address such requests individually, Google views the integrity of our search results as an extremely important priority. Accordingly, we do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it. We will, however, remove pages from our results if we believe the page (or its site) violates our Webmaster Guidelines, if we believe we are required to do so by law, or at the request of the webmaster who is responsible for the page.

We apologize if you've had an upsetting experience using Google. We hope you understand our position regarding offensive results.

The Google Team

The image was linked to the site Hot Girls a Google Blog spot, which they also defended. So I like thousands of others responded to the question...

"Why is the first image result of First Lady Michelle Obama in a Google image search a horribly racist caricature?"

By saying...

"Because Google is a bunch of fascist, racist, swine would be my guess?"

Then I wrote Google this note...

"Who is responsible for allowing that racist picture of Mrs. Obama on your pages and in your Blog site? Is he/she trying to start a race war? What do you think will happen when they run that bozo down and someone will find them out! While no one will shed a tear for his blood, you'll be responsible for it. Are you all bigots? Are you all racists? I wonder how your advertisers will feel about it when it comes out? My readers would like to know why you allow such a thing. I bet your all rethuglicans, huh? I wonder if Bing allows that kind of bigotry in their search engine? They don't I just checked! I have a personal solution for this, it's called Bing! Oh and thanks for writing this weeks editorial for me!"

Don't get me wrong I have no love for the Obama's but that is because of Barry's politics not his skin color. I have and will continue to make fun of him as I did George W. Bush because, as you know, the worst thing you can do to the powerful is laugh at them. That corpo-rat Google would allow such trash and defend it by cowering under free speech isn't really surprising after their escapades in China and elsewhere. I'm sure Bing isn't much better but they did have the class not to run that garbage so until they do things of that nature I'll use them as my primary search engine, shouldn't you too?

Oh they took the photo down but they did that before and then put it back up! I wonder if someone told the White House?

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


04-23-1952 ~ 11-22-2009
Burn Billy Joe 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."

Revisiting No Logo, Ten Years Later
By Naomi Klein

Almost ten years ago, on November 30, 1999, tens of thousands of protestors shut down a meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. The activists were not against trade or globalization, despite the many misleading claims in the mainstream media. They were against a system of deregulated capitalism that was spreading around the world.

At the time of the Seattle protests, my first book, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, was at the printer. The book looked at the war being waged on public space by a new breed of corporate "superbrands," as well as the first signs of a fight back against corporate power. It was good timing for an author-activist: I had the rare privilege of watching my book become useful to a movement I believed could change the world.

On the ten-year anniversary of the Seattle protests, with anger mounting at the open collusion between corporations and governments, I am re-releasing No Logo with an extended new introduction. Among other developments, the new essay looks at the unprecedented bailout of Wall Street, as well as the rise of the Obama Brand (the most powerful brand in the world) and examines the troubling gaps between its marketing and reality.

As the new edition comes out, it feels like a 'movement moment' once again. A new wave of exciting climate justice activism is underway in the lead up to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen, one that builds on many of the networks born in Seattle. As I wrote in a recent article in Rolling Stone, now that a serious deal is off the table, many activists see Copenhagen as "a chance to seize the political terrain back from business-friendly half-measures, such as carbon offsets and emissions trading, and introduce some effective, common-sense proposals -- ideas that have less to do with creating complex new markets for pollution and more to do with keeping coal and oil in the ground."

One of our movement's challenges back in 1999 was that, in the midst of the euphoria of the dot-com boom, few were interested in hearing about the downside of capitalism. Ten years later, perhaps our movement's time has come.

With that in mind, here's a blast from the past: an op-ed I wrote for the New York Times when Seattle was still overrun with activists and choking on tear gas. It seems positively timid by today's standards.

Rebels in Search of Rules
By Naomi Klein, New York Times, December 2, 1999

It is all too easy to dismiss the protesters at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle as radicals with 60's envy. A seemingly more trenchant criticism is that they are simply behind the curve, fighting against a tide of globalization that has already swamped them. Mike Moore, the director of the W.T.O., describes his opponents as nothing more than protectionists launching an assault on internationalism.

The truth, however, is that the protesters in Seattle have been bitten by the globalization bug as surely as the trade lawyers inside the Seattle hotels -- though by globalization of a different sort -- and they know it. The confusion about the protesters' political goals is understandable: this is the first movement born of the anarchic pathways of the Internet. There is no top-down hierarchy, no universally recognized leaders, and nobody knows what is going to happen next.

This protest movement is really anti-corporate rather than anti-globalist, and its roots are in the anti-sweatshop campaigns taking aim at Nike, the human rights campaign focusing on Royal Dutch/Shell in Nigeria and the backlash against Monsanto's genetically engineered foods in Europe.

At any time, one huge multinational company may be involved in several disputes -- on labor, human rights and environmental issues, for example. Activists learn of one another as they aim at the same corporate target. Inadvertently, individual corporations have become symbols of the global economy in miniature, ultimately providing activists with name-brand entry points to the arcane world of the W.T.O.

This is the most internationally minded, globally linked movement the world has ever seen. There are no more faceless Mexicans or Chinese workers stealing our jobs, in part because those workers' representatives are now on the same e-mail lists and at the same conferences as the Western activists. When protesters shout about the evils of globalization, most are not calling for a return to narrow nationalism, but for the borders of globalization to be expanded, for trade to be linked to democratic reform, higher wages, labor rights and environmental protections.

This is what sets the young protesters in Seattle apart from their 60's predecessors. In the age of Woodstock, refusing to play by state and school rules was regarded as a political act in itself. Now, opponents of the W.T.O. -- even those who call themselves anarchists -- are outraged about a lack of rules and authority. They are demanding that national governments be free to exercise their authority without interference from the W.T.O. and asking for stricter international rules governing labor standards, environmental protection and scientific research.

Everyone, of course, claims to be all for rules, from President Clinton to Microsoft's chairman, Bill Gates. In an odd turn of events, the need for "rules-based trade" has become the mantra of the era of deregulation. But deregulation is by definition about the removal of rules. The W.T.O., charged with defining and enforcing deregulation, is only concerned with rules that regulate the removal of rules.

The W.T.O. has consistently sought to sever trade, quite unnaturally, from everything and everyone affected by it: workers, the environment, culture. This is why President Clinton's suggestion yesterday that the rift between the protesters and the delegates can be smoothed over with small compromises and consultation is so misguided.

The face-off is not between globalizers and protectionists, but between two radically different visions of globalization. One has had a monopoly for the last 10 years. The other just had its coming-out party.

The 10th Anniversary edition of No Logo will be available in the US and Canada in mid-November and in the UK in January. You can pre-order your copy here. Hook into N30 activities through:

Federation? Why Not?
By Uri Avnery

THESE DAYS mark the 5th anniversary of the murder of Yasser Arafat, and bring back to me our last conversation in his Ramallah compound, a few weeks before his death. It was he who brought up the idea of a threefold federation - Israel, Palestine and Jordan. "And perhaps Lebanon, too. Why not?" - the same as he did at our very first meeting, in Beirut, July 1982, in the middle of the battle. He mentioned the term Benelux - the pact between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg that predated the European Union.

Lately, the term "federation" has come into fashion again. Some people believe that it can serve as a kind of compromise between the "Two-State Solution", now a world-wide consensus, and the "One-State Solution" that is popular in some radical circles. "Federation" sounds like a miracle: there will be both "two states for two peoples" and a single entity. Two in one, one in two.

THE WORD "federation" does not frighten me. On the contrary, I was already using it in this context 52 years ago.

On June 2, 1957, my magazine, Haolam Hazeh, published the first detailed plan for an independent Palestinian state that would come into being next to Israel. The West Bank was then under Jordanian and the Gaza Strip under Egyptian occupation. I proposed helping the Palestinians to get rid of the occupiers. According to the plan, the two states, the Israeli and the Palestinian, would then establish a federation. I thought that its proper name should be "the Jordan Union".

A year later, on September 1, 1958, there appeared a document called "the Hebrew Manifesto". I am proud of my part in its composition. It was a comprehensive plan for a fundamental change of the State of Israel in all its aspects - a kind of complete overhaul. In its readiness to re-examine the fundamentals of the state and in the depth of the thinking involved, it has no parallel from the founding of Israel to this very day. Among its authors were Nathan Yellin-Mor, the ex-chief of the Stern Group, Boaz Evron, Amos Kenan and several others.

I was responsible for the chapter on Israeli-Arab peace. It proposed that a sovereign Palestinian state would be set up next to Israel, and that the two states would establish a federation, which would gradually assume more and more jurisdiction. I had to invent a Hebrew word to replace the foreign term "federation": "Ugda" (grouping) and suggested that it should be called "the Jordan Federation" - "Ugdat ha-Yarden" in Hebrew and "Ittihad al-Urdun" in Arabic. (To my sorrow, this use the term "Ugda" did not take root. Instead, the army adopted it for a division, which is a grouping of regiments or brigades.)

On the morrow of the Six-Day War, after which the entire country between the Mediterranean and the Jordan was under the control of the Israeli army, a new political movement called "Israel-Palestine Federation" called for the immediate creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel. The founders were, more or less, the same people who had composed the "Hebrew Manifesto".

When this historic opportunity was missed and with the occupation becoming gradually more and more oppressive, I abandoned the use of the term federation. I sensed that it frightened both parties. Israelis were afraid that the word covered a plot to establish a bi-national state - an idea that is rejected by the overwhelming majority of Jewish Israelis. Palestinians were afraid that it would serve as a disguise for a permanent Israeli occupation.

It should be remembered that the original partition plan adopted by the UN General Assembly on November 29, 1947, did envision a kind of federation, without using the term. It provided for the establishment of a Jewish state and an Arab state, and a separate entity of Jerusalem, administered by the UN. All these entities were to be parts of an economic union that would cover customs, the currency, railways, post, ports, airports and more. This would have, in practice, amounted to a federation.

THE MAIN problem with the word "federation" is that it has no agreed and binding definition. In different parts of the world, it describes wildly different regimes. The same is true for "confederacy."

No two countries in the world resemble each other completely, and no two federations are the same. Every state and every federation has been shaped by its particular historical development and specific circumstances, and reflects the people that created it.

The word "federation" is derived from the Latin "foedus", treaty. Basically, a federation is a pact between different states which decide to unite on agreed terms. The USA is a federation, and so is Russia. What do the two have in common?

The United States is, theoretically, a voluntary association of states. The states have many rights, but the federation is headed by a single president with immense powers. In practice, this is one state. When in 1860 the Southern states tried to secede and set up a "confederacy" of their own, the North crushed the "rebellion" in a brutal civil war. Every morning, millions of pupils in the United States swear allegiance to the flag and to "One Nation Under God".

Russia, too, is officially a federation, but their use of the term has a very different content. Moscow appoints the governors of the provinces, and Vladimir Putin rules the country as a personal fief. When Chechnya tried to secede from the "Russian Federation", it was crushed even more brutally than the confederacy in the American civil war. (This does not hinder Putin from supporting two seceding provinces of neighboring Georgia.)

Germany defines itself as a "federal republic ("Bundesrepublik"). It is composed of "Lander" that enjoy a large measure of autonomy. Switzerland calls itself a confederation in French and Italian ("Eidgenossenschaft" or "Oath Association" in German) and its cantons enjoy their autonomy. But it is also a very unified country.

It is generally supposd that a "federation" is a tighter association, while a "confederacy" is a looser one. But in reality, these differences are very blurred. It seems that Americans and Russians, Germans and Swiss, identify themselves first of all with their united state, not with their own particular province. (Except for the Bavarians, of course.)

The new Europe is for all practical purposes a confederacy, but its founders did not name it thus. They chose the less definite "European Union". Why? Perhaps they thought that terms like "federation" and "confederacy" were outdated. Perhaps they considered such terms too binding. The term "union" does not commit its members to anything specific, and they can fill it with whatever content they all agree on and change it from time to time. If the "Lisbon agreement" is finally ratified, the union will change again.

IT MAKES no sense, therefore, to discuss the idea of an Israeli-Palestinian "federation" in general terms, without defining right from the beginning what is meant by this. The same word, used by different people, can express completely different and even contradictory intentions.

For example: I recently saw a plan for a federation here in which every person would have the right to settle anywhere in either state while holding the citizenship of one of them. I can hardly imagine that many Israelis or Palestinians would embrace that. The Israelis would be afraid that the Arabs would soon constitute the majority within Israel, and the Palestinians would worry that Israeli settlers would take possession of every hilltop between the sea and the Jordan.

In any discussion of federation, the matter of immigration looms large as an ominous bone of contention. Would millions of Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to Israeli territory? Would millions of Jewish immigrants be allowed to submerge the State of Palestine?

The same is true for the matter of residence. Could a citizen of Palestine settle in Haifa, and an Israeli citizen in Nablus, as a Pole can now settle in France, a New Yorker in Miami, an inhabitant of canton Zurich in canton Uri?

EACH ONE of us who considers the idea of federation must decide what he or she wants. To draw up a beautiful plan on paper, which has no chance at all of being realized because it ignores the aspirations of both "partners" - or to think in practical terms about real options?

In practice, a federation can come about only on the basis of a free agreement between the two parties. This means that it can be realized only if both - Israelis and Palestinians - consider it as advantageous to themselves and compatible with their national aspirations.

In my opinion, a practical way to realize the idea could look like this:

Stage 1: A sovereign Palestinian state must come into being. This must precede everything else. The occupation must end and Israel must withdraw to the Green Line (with possible mutually agreed swaps of territory.) That goes for Jerusalem, too.

Stage 2: The two states establish a pattern of fair relations between them and get used to living side by side. There will be a need for real steps towards reconciliation and the healing of the wounds of the past. (For example: the creation of a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" on the South African model.) On the practical level, fair arrangements of matters like movement between the two states, the division of water resources etc. are put into place.

Stage 3: The two states start negotiations for the establishment of joint institutions. For example: the opening of the border between them for the free movement of people and goods, an economic union, a joint currency, a customs envelope, the use of ports and airports, coordination of foreign relations, and so on. There will be no automatic right for citizens of one state to settle in the other. Each state will decide for itself on its immigration policy.

The two parties can jointly decide whether to invite Jordan as a third partner to the proposed treaty.

Such a negotiation can succeed only if the population in each of the partner states is convinced that the partnership will bring it positive benefits. Since Israel is the stronger economically and technologically, it must be ready to make generous proposals.

Stage 4: The more trust between the parties develops, the easier it will be to deepen the partnership and to widen the powers of the joint institutions.

Perhaps, at this stage, conditions may be ripe for the founding of a wider association of the entire region, on the lines of the European Union. Such an association may include the Arab states, Israel, Turkey and Iran. The name I suggested for it in the past was "Semitic Union". (Turks and Iranians are not linguistically "Semitic" nations, but Islam is a Semitic religion and plays a major role in their culture.)

This is a vision for the future, and it can be realized. To paraphrase Barack Obama's slogan, even if it has lost some of its luster: Yes, we can!
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Giving Thanks
By Victoria Stewart

Thanksgiving is, as a friend says, a problematic holiday. Unlike religious holidays whose origins are shrouded in the long distant past, Thanksgiving is national holiday based on a story so blatantly false school children have a hard time finding it believable. Still, a day devoted to reflection on blessings and the importance of gratitude cannot be a bad thing. And because now, as war, oppression, tragedy, and injustice, roil across the world, we need to remember the good things, to give thanks, and spend a few moments in joy, which may just be the meaning of life.

Many bad things can be said about our country and about our government and most of them are true but it is important that we not lose sight of the other things, the positive things we fight to preserve and the things we want to bring into being.

I am thankful that I came of age in a time when women were able to demand and receive some measure of autonomy. My mother, my aunts, my grandmothers and all the greats that came before in this country did not enjoy the opportunities I have had. They had to bear forced pregnancies, violent marriages, economic dependence and codified discrimination. Sexual assault and rape were considered a woman's fault, marital rape wasn't even a recognized concept, and beating one's wife wasn't just ignored, it was legal. Today, as we fight to hold on to the progress we have made, it is good to remember what those bad old days-which lasted well into the second half of the twentieth century-were like. And it is also good to keep in mind that even if we lose some of the upcoming battles-and we will-the gains made in the past few decades can't be swept away. That young women take for granted so many things their mothers and grandmothers fought to create for them is success. Unaware and unwitting as those daughters and granddaughters may seem, they have grown up with a great deal of freedom and they will stand together when they realize that freedom is under assault.

I am grateful that as the forces of darkness-and that is what they seem to me-draw their circles tighter and brandish their terrible weapons rebellions spring up all around. I give thanks that the ragtag, eclectic cadres which hold the line against that dark, are so independent, stubborn, talkative, creative, and just plain weird, that they will not ever become that which they oppose. We become the oppressor if we fight on his terms and with his weapons so we are fortunate and blessed to be the fragmented other. And I am filled with gratitude to finally understand it is the very multitude of causes, movements, and philosophies that give us strength. I give thanks to whatever complex cosmic alignment and/or elegant galactic equation allowed me to be a member of the great, clamouring unwashed. We will be heard and we will not go away.

I give thanks for music, which has filled my life, eased my spirit, and moved my soul.

I give thanks that I grew up in poor family, in one of America's poorest of regions. I understand the blessedness of a warm house, clean clothes, a full belly, and indoor plumbing. Clean running water is a wonderful, marvelous, glorious event and should never be taken for granted.

I give thanks to live in an age when time and distance are permeable and I can reach out to distant friends and family instantly.

I am on-my-knees grateful to have known love so powerful it broke me apart and allowed me to find my own strength.

I give thanks to wake to a world full of color and sound, to have a body able to experience the luscious sensations of touch and taste and feel. I revel in the fierce rush of light as it bathes rock and leaf and sky.

I give thanks that I am neither slave nor master. Whatever bondage I endure is chosen and that is a freedom to defend.

I give thanks that I can think and read and write, that I was not denied education, that I had access to books and ideas.

I give thanks for the wildly implausible machines that make my life easier and possible and fun.

I give thanks that I am a woman in a time when and in a country where women can help other women be safe.

I give thanks for all of those who care for the children.

I give thanks that I hold no blind allegiance to any cause or god.

I give thanks that I am not afraid to die and so can live more fully.

I give thanks for the shine that lives in my children, the goodness that has touched me, the steady love of an honest man.

Tonight I laughed with family and friends, ate too much food and danced to Hank Williams with my brother. I was held safe in family that has come to know healing and I give thanks for all that has been.
(c) 2009 Victoria Stewart is the editor of Issues & Alibis magazine.

Books, Not Bombs
By Amy Goodman

California campuses have been rocked by protests this past week, provoked by massive student fee increases voted on by the University of California Board of Regents. After a year of sequential budget cuts, faculty and staff dismissals and furloughs, and the elimination of entire academic departments, the 32 percent fee increase proved to be the trigger for statewide actions of an unprecedented scale. With President Barack Obama's Afghanistan war strategy-which, according to one leak, will include a surge of 35,000 troops-soon to be announced, the juxtaposition of education cuts and military increases is incensing many, and helping to build a movement.

As I traveled throughout California this past week on a book tour, I was, coincidentally, in the midst of the regents' vote and the campus protests. At UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, Cal State Fresno, UC Davis and Cal State Chico, students approached me with stories of how the fee increases were going to price them out of school. Students were occupying buildings, marching and holding teach-ins. At UC Davis, several young women, among the 52 arrested, described to me how they had been attacked by campus police, shot with Tasers. Students there also protested the Saturday closure of the libraries, showing up at the president's university-provided house to study there, since the library was closed. He let them in to study rather than spark a confrontation that probably would have ended with police action and arrests.

Blanca Misse, a UC Berkeley graduate student and organizer with the Student Worker Action Team, was among those who've been organizing. She told me, "We are striking because we care a lot about public education, and we care about another kind of public education, maybe, than the one they offer, a real public education out of the corporate model."

Laura Nader (Ralph Nader's sister) is a professor of social cultural anthropology at UC Berkeley, where she has taught for nearly 50 years. Earlier this year she co-authored a measure approved by the UC Berkeley Academic Senate calling on the school's athletics program to become self-sufficient and stop receiving subsidies from student fees. She is a critic of the increasing power that corporations such as BP and Novartis have over the universities, and she has a long personal history fighting for public education. She teaches general-education classes that attract hundreds of students-noting that students these days, taught to take tests, "are great at choosing answers on a multiple-choice test, but have never heard of Hiroshima and Nagasaki." Her focus on the basics reflects her concern of the attack on public education in this country: "It isn't something that just happened, and it isn't something that was unplanned," she told me. "People really do adhere to the model that this shouldn't be a public good. And if we continue in this direction, there's going to be a two-class system: those who go to college are going to be those who can afford it, and those who don't are going to be the middle class."

The movement's centerpiece is a strong coalition that includes students, workers and faculty. Bob Samuels is president of the University Council-American Federation of Teachers, the union representing non-senate faculty and librarians of the University of California. Although California is facing a serious budget crisis, Samuels told me the UC system has more than sufficient funds: "It doesn't have to raise student fees. It doesn't have to fire faculty. It doesn't have to cut courses. They're talking about eliminating minors and majors. They're talking about moving classes online. They're doing these drastic things. And what we're seeing is just basically undergraduate students are subsidizing research, they're subsidizing administrators, they're subsidizing things that have nothing to do with undergraduate instruction."

During the Bush administration, military recruiting faced an all-time low. Now, after the economic collapse of late 2008, recruiters are having no problems. President Obama seems committed to increasing the size, and thus necessarily the duration, of the war and occupation in Afghanistan. One of the most popular university professors in California, Anaya Roy of UC Berkeley, offers a summary that Obama should heed: "In this context of inequality, one doesn't need radical instruments of redistribution. One only needs a few things, like decent public education or access to health care or some sort of reasonable approach that says enough of this massive spending on war."
(c) 2009 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback.

Pakistan Is Calling

Maybe you're one of millions of Americans who're down on their luck - lost their jobs, had their homes foreclosed by the bank, and are facing sizeable debt.

That's rough enough, but it's often made more painful by the harassment of bill collectors constantly calling and making threats. Recently, however, an additional irritant has been thrown at these struggling families: the harassing calls are coming from Pakistan.

Yes - corporations are even offshoring America's debt collectors.

The LA Times reports on a call to a hard-pressed woman in Fort Worth. "Hello, Ma'am, how ya doin' today?" asks the caller in down-home American accent. "My name is James Harold," he says, "and you owe us $11,000."

James' name and accent are fakes. His real name is Sharoon Hermoon, and he's sitting in a cubical 9,000 miles away in Islamabad. He's part of a Pakistani crew of a dozen twenty-somethings working on what's called the "deadbeat beat" for Touchstone, a call center owned by a U.S. corporation.

These long-distance arm twisters don't merely have accents, they have something else, too: a wealth of personal information on the American people they're dunning. Working for U.S. finance firms, they not only have details of the person's debt, but also things like the person's income and how much they spend. And when debtors don't respond to their calls, the Islamabad center use tracking software to contact the person's co-workers, neighbors, and relatives to apply even more pressure - and embarrassment.

"It suites my personality," says one 20-year-old on the deadbeat beat. Another, who is 22, adds that, "Mother Teresa couldn't do this work."

Offshoring of American jobs is one reason so many people are in bad financial shape. What bitter irony that even the job of dunning them for debt has been offshored.
(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.

Still Doing God's Work On Wall Street
By Robert Scheer

Jail, anyone? Perhaps that's too harsh, and at any rate premature, but is anyone ever going to be held accountable for the behind-the-scenes sweetheart deals that passed tens of billions of taxpayer dollars through the AIG shell game to the very banks that caused the financial meltdown? Or for the many other acts of double-dealing that left one out of three American homeowners owing much more than their houses were worth while the folks who swindled them were rewarded with hundreds of billions in public money?

Undoubtedly not, since the same folks who are most culpable wrote the laws that made this, and the other scams at the heart of the banking collapse, perfectly legal. And guess what? They're back at work in the government, writing the new laws that will, they claim, prevent us from being had once again. As a telling example of that process at work, check the official response of the Department of Treasury to the devastating report by the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), Neil M. Barofsky, titled "Factors Affecting Efforts to Limit Payments to AIG Counterparties." The main factor was that Timothy Geithner followed the lead of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd "I'm Doing God's Work" Blankfein in crowding the lifeboats with bankers.

Geithner, now treasury secretary, was previously the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY), where he negotiated the deal to pay Goldman Sachs and the other top banks in full to cover their bad bets on securitized mortgages. Barofsky's report concluded that Geithner's scheme represented a "backdoor bailout" for the financial hustlers at the center of the market fiasco. Noting that Geithner denies that was his intention, the report states, "Irrespective of their stated intent, however, there is no question that the effect of FRBNY's decisions-indeed, the very design of the federal assistance to AIG-was that tens of billions of dollars of Government money was funneled inexorably and directly to AIG's counterparties."

Not surprisingly, the Treasury Department that Geithner now heads defended his actions in not forcing "haircuts" on the full dollar-for-dollar payoff by AIG to the banks while he was at the New York Fed: "The government could not unilaterally impose haircuts on creditors, and it would not have been appropriate for the government to pressure counterparties to accept haircuts by threatening to retaliate in some way through its regulatory power."

Nonsense, argues Eliot Spitzer, who as New York attorney general was way ahead of the curve in challenging Wall Street arrogance. Writing in Slate on Monday, Spitzer points out: "Pressuring Goldman and the other counterparties to offer concessions would have forced them to absorb the consequences of making suspect deals with an insurance company that was essentially a Ponzi scheme."

The Ponzi scheme was based on the collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) in which the bankers traded and which AIG had insured with the credit default swaps (CDSs) that they sold but failed to back with adequate funding. Now Geithner's Treasury concedes that AIG "should never have been allowed to escape tough, consolidated supervision." But none of AIG's scams were regulated, nor were any of the others at the center of the larger financial debacle, because of laws pushed through Congress by Geithner's boss, Lawrence Summers, when they both were in the Clinton administration. Specifically, they prevented regulation of those opaque CDOs and CDSs that would come to derail the world's economy.

As the inspector general's report stated: "In 2000, the [Clinton administration-backed] Commodity Futures Modernization Act (CFMA) ... barred the regulation of credit default swaps and other derivatives." Why did the financial geniuses of the Clinton administration seek to prevent that obviously needed regulation? Because the Clintonistas believed the Wall Street guys knew what they were doing and that what was good for them was good for us lesser folk. As Summers, who is the top economic adviser in the Obama White House, put it in congressional testimony back then: "The parties to these kinds of contracts are largely sophisticated financial institutions that would appear to be eminently capable of protecting themselves from fraud and counterparty insolvencies."

Sounds nonsensical today: The inspector general's report notes that AIG, because of the deregulatory law that Summers and Geithner pushed through, was "able to sell swaps on $72 billion worth of CDOs to counterparties without holding reserves that a regulated insurance company would be required to maintain." But why, then, is Summers once again running the show with Geithner when both have made careers of exhibiting total contempt for the public interest? Because there is no accountability for the high rollers of finance, no matter who happens to be president.
(c) 2009 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

My Letter To The President And A Note About Lynne Stewart
By Cynthia McKinney

This morning, I sent this letter to President Obama:

"Mr. President:

I are writing to urge you to announce an immediate cease-fire followed by a withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan in the fastest way consistent with the safety of our forces.

I urge you to end the use of Predator drones that kill civilians.

I call upon you to cease all covert operations in Africa, Asia, and North and South America.

Too many of your military advisors are implicated in torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against the peace. Your Justice Department operates at the zenith of injustice, defending Bush Administration criminality in U.S. Courtrooms.

I wrote to you earlier suggesting that if you did not investigate the crimes of the Bush Administration, you would be viewed as their accessory. Sadly, war crimes and torture are now committed with your name on them.

Please bring our troops home now.

Cynthia McKinney"

A peace demonstration is being organized for December 12, 2009 in Washington, D.C. The Emergency Anti-Escalation Rally, also known as the End US Wars Rally, is scheduled for 11am at Lafayette Park at the White House. I wholly endorse this rally and encourage all who can to participate in Washington, DC or to help a local peace organization committed to ending U.S. wars on that date.

For more information about the Washington, D.C. December 12, 2009 demonstration, please visit, currently under construction.

P.S. President Obama's Department of Justice, unlike President Clinton's that refused to even prosecute, just took Lynne Stewart to prison and is trying to extend her sentence from 28 months to 3O years. Please take a moment and write a letter of encouragement to Lynne Stewart, the people's attorney, who is now Prisoner #53504-054 at MCC-NY. Her address is:

Lynne Stewart
150 Park Row
New York, NY 10007


(c) 2009 Cynthia McKinney is a former U.S. Congresswoman, Green Party presidential candidate, and an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice. The first African-American woman to represent the state of Georgia, McKinney served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1993-2003, and from 2005-2007.

The Phantom Menace
By Paul Krugman

A funny thing happened on the way to a new New Deal. A year ago, the only thing we had to fear was fear itself; today, the reigning doctrine in Washington appears to be "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

What happened? To be sure, "centrists" in the Senate have hobbled efforts to rescue the economy. But the evidence suggests that in addition to facing political opposition, President Obama and his inner circle have been intimidated by scare stories from Wall Street.

Consider the contrast between what Mr. Obama's advisers were saying on the eve of his inauguration, and what he himself is saying now.

In December 2008 Lawrence Summers, soon to become the administration's highest-ranking economist, called for decisive action. "Many experts," he warned, "believe that unemployment could reach 10 percent by the end of next year." In the face of that prospect, he continued, "doing too little poses a greater threat than doing too much."

Ten months later unemployment reached 10.2 percent, suggesting that despite his warning the administration hadn't done enough to create jobs. You might have expected, then, a determination to do more.

But in a recent interview with Fox News, the president sounded diffident and nervous about his economic policy. He spoke vaguely about possible tax incentives for job creation. But "it is important though to recognize," he went on, "that if we keep on adding to the debt, even in the midst of this recovery, that at some point, people could lose confidence in the U.S. economy in a way that could actually lead to a double-dip recession."

What? Huh?

Most economists I talk to believe that the big risk to recovery comes from the inadequacy of government efforts: the stimulus was too small, and it will fade out next year, while high unemployment is undermining both consumer and business confidence.

Now, it's politically difficult for the Obama administration to enact a full-scale second stimulus. Still, he should be trying to push through as much aid to the economy as possible. And remember, Mr. Obama has the bully pulpit; it's his job to persuade America to do what needs to be done.

Instead, however, Mr. Obama is lending his voice to those who say that we can't create more jobs. And a report on suggests that deficit reduction, not job creation, will be the centerpiece of his first State of the Union address. What happened?

It took me a while to puzzle this out. But the concerns Mr. Obama expressed become comprehensible if you suppose that he's getting his views, directly or indirectly, from Wall Street.

Ever since the Great Recession began economic analysts at some (not all) major Wall Street firms have warned that efforts to fight the slump will produce even worse economic evils. In particular, they say, never mind the current ability of the U.S. government to borrow long term at remarkably low interest rates - any day now, budget deficits will lead to a collapse in investor confidence, and rates will soar.

And it's this latter claim that Mr. Obama echoed in that Fox News interview. Is he right to be worried?

Well, spikes in long-term interest rates have happened in the past, most famously in 1994. But in 1994 the U.S. economy was adding 300,000 jobs a month, and the Fed was steadily raising short-term rates. It's hard to see why anything similar should happen now, with the economy still bleeding jobs and the Fed showing no desire to raise rates anytime soon.

A better model, I'd argue, is Japan in the 1990s, which ran persistent large budget deficits, but also had a persistently depressed economy - and saw long-term interest rates fall almost steadily. There's a good chance that officials are being terrorized by a phantom menace - a threat that exists only in their minds.

And shouldn't we consider the source? As far as I can tell, the analysts now warning about soaring interest rates tend to be the same people who insisted, months after the Great Recession began, that the biggest threat facing the economy was inflation. And let's not forget that Wall Street - which somehow failed to recognize the biggest housing bubble in history - has a less than stellar record at predicting market behavior.

Still, let's grant that there is some risk that doing more about double-digit unemployment would undermine confidence in the bond markets. This risk must be set against the certainty of mass suffering if we don't do more - and the possibility, as I said, of a collapse of confidence among ordinary workers and businesses.

And Mr. Summers was right the first time: in the face of the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression, it's much riskier to do too little than it is to do too much. It's sad, and unfortunate, that the administration appears to have lost sight of that truth.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Systemic Success: Blood Money And Black Gold In Iraq
By Chris Floyd

The New York Times is shocked -- shocked! -- to find personal enrichment of American elites at the heart of the rape and gutting of Iraq. Who could possibly have ever foreseen such a scenario as the Times revealed on Thursday, describing how "influential American adviser" Peter Galbraith helped "ram through" highly controversial provisions in the constitution that the occupying force and its collaborators imposed - provisions that could put more than $100 million in Galbraith's pocket.

Of course, Galbraith's war-profiteering machinations are hardly unique; the roll call of "advisers" and officials and other insiders feasting on Iraqi corpseflesh is longer than the Mississippi, and considerably more muddy. Just this week, the Financial Times noted that another gaggle of occupation geese, "including Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador to Baghdad, and Jay Garner," the first appointed satrap of the conquered land, are now cashing in on their blood-soaked connections in Iraq.

Given the fact of the rampant corruption among the murder-mongering elite, one might darkly suspect that this sudden spotlight on Galbraith could be related to the embarrassment he recently caused to the Obama administration, which ordered the UN to fire him from his special envoy post after he insisted on a full investigation of the massive fraud in the Afghan elections. (Although one can't but wonder now if Galbraith took this principled stand only after failing to cut some juicy sweetheart deal with Hamid Karzai.)

However, although the Afghan imbroglio might have played some part in the prominence accorded the revelations by the Times (A call from Rahm to the editorial offices, perhaps: "Galbraith's fair game now; let him have it"), the story itself was initially unearthed by journalists in Norway, investigating Galbraith's ties to the Norwegian oil giant, DNO. And what a sordid little saga it is. As the Times notes:

Galbraith, an influential former American ambassador, is a powerful voice on Iraq who helped shape the views of policy makers like Joseph R. Biden Jr. and John Kerry. In the summer of 2005, he was also an adviser to the Kurdish regional government as Iraq wrote its Constitution - tough and sensitive talks not least because of issues like how Iraq would divide its vast oil wealth.

Now Mr. Galbraith, 58, son of the renowned economist John Kenneth Galbraith, stands to earn perhaps a hundred million or more dollars as a result of his closeness to the Kurds, his relations with a Norwegian oil company and constitutional provisions he helped the Kurds extract.

In the constitutional negotiations, he helped the Kurds ram through provisions that gave their region - rather than the central Baghdad government - sole authority over many of their internal affairs, including clauses that he maintains will give the Kurds virtually complete control over all new oil finds on their territory....

[The investigations] reveal in considerable detail that he received rights to an enormous stake in at least one of Kurdistan's oil fields in the spring of 2004. As it turns out, Mr. Galbraith received the rights after he helped negotiate a potentially lucrative contract that allowed the Norwegian oil company DNO to drill for oil in the promising Dohuk region of Kurdistan, the interviews and documents show...

When drillers struck oil in a rich new field called Tawke in December 2005, no one but a handful of government and business officials and members of Mr. Galbraith's inner circle knew that the constitutional provisions he had pushed through only months earlier could enrich him so handsomely.

As the scope of Mr. Galbraith's financial interests in Kurdistan become clear, they have the potential to inflame some of Iraqis' deepest fears, including conspiracy theories that the true reason for the American invasion of their country was to take its oil. It may not help that outside Kurdistan, Mr. Galbraith's influential view that Iraq should be broken up along ethnic lines is considered offensive to many Iraqis' nationalism.

Oh, our good Gray Lady! She just can't help herself, can she? Even as the Times publishes an actually excellent story outlining vile corruption in high places, it is still fretfully anxious to assure its readers that America's intentions are always pure, always good, despite any "mistakes" or the inevitable "bad apples." Hence the reference to Iraqi "conspiracy theories" that the American invasion was about taking their oil.

Poor little primitives. Of course it wasn't just about taking their oil. As the Times' own Thomas Friedman tells us (via Arthur Silber), it was also about America's need "to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world" to assert its dominance. It was also about "the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf [which] transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein," as the elitist faction PNAC told us back in September 2000 (along with their open yearning for a "new Pearl Harbor" to "catalyze" the American people into support the militarist agenda). It was also about the hundreds of billions of dollars in government pork and outright graft that the invasion and occupation have provided to a select and powerful few. It was about our elites' profound psychological and sexual anxieties that evidently cannot be quelled without resort to violence, destruction, repression and mass death inflicted on innocent people. No, the American invasion of Iraq was about a lot of other things besides "taking their oil."

But by God, taking their oil was sure enough a great big part of it. The recent Jay Garner story has that black gold at its corroded heart as well, as the FT reports:

Mr Garner, the de-facto US governor of Iraq after the war, sat on the board of Vast Exploration when it bought 37 per cent of a Kurdistan oil block two years ago and remains an adviser to the Canadian company. "Jay is very well known in Kurdistan and Iraq and it was useful to the company," said a spokesman for Vast.

This kind of war profiteering goes back to the very beginnings of the illegal war of aggression -- and it goes up to the very top. For example, here's a piece I wrote way back in December 2003, about the Bush family's direct involvement in blood money. In detailing the cornucopia of dodgy, dirty dealing that is Neil Bush, I noted this:

Now comes the sweetest deal of all - enriched by the blood sugar seeping out from the bodies of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. Yes, Neil has dipped his silver spoon into the reconstruction gravy being ladled out by his brother George, the White House warlord. Neil is now being paid a fat annual fee to "help companies secure contracts in Iraq," the Financial Times reports.

Bush is co-chairman of a pork funnel called Crest Investment Corporation. His partner, Jamal Daniel, is wired into the chief private conduit of war profits, New Bridge Strategies, a lobbying firm packed with Bush family retainers, many of whom left government service this spring to leap into the Iraq money pit. And what does Neil do to earn his crust of bloodsoaked bread? He told the divorce court that he "answers the phone when Jamal Daniel calls to ask for advice."

And what does Jamal Daniel get out of this unusual arrangement? Why, he gets to say, "I was just talking to my partner, the president's brother" when he's negotiating with Bush administration officials to win "reconstruction" contracts for his clients. As long as Brother George keeps tossing cannon fodder into the Iraqi cauldron, Brother Neil will keep padding his fat Bush wallet.

[For an update on Bush's exemplary life of elitist money-grubbing, see "The Anguish of the Overlords."]

Like Bush, Galbraith is a paradigm of how the system really works -- and how it is meant to work. Public service, private enrichment, principled stands, backroom dealing -- it's all one thing to our great and good. And behind it all is a willingness (when it is not an eagerness) to have many thousands upon thousands of people die, and many millions more suffer torment, ruin and grief, to keep the system's beneficiaries in their wonted, wadded place of power and privilege.
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

Media America
By Case Wagonvoord

Some readers of this blog may get the impression that I hate America. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love this country in all of it flawed and contradictory complexity. The America I have issues with is what I call Media America, which consist of three thorns our mainstream media would have us believe is the True America.

In the eyes of the media, America consists of three components: Wall Street, the Pentagon and the Beltway. My argument is that not only do the three fail to represent America, but they constitute a real threat to our democratic republic.

If we picture them as three moving circles in a Venn diagram, we see that they are slowly converging and will continue to do so until the three are one in a Holy Trinity of the damned. (Granted, there is a celebrity circle, but that stands off by itself as a generator of the Bread and Circuses that keep the masses distracted.)

Whenever pundits wax eloquently about the "American character," they are usually speaking of the one-percent that clawed their ways to the top of their respective circles. This overlooks the fact that the majority of the country is made up of decent people who simply want to get on with their lives under increasingly difficult circumstances.

Given the diverse complexity of our country, it is impossible to speak of an "American" anything. We are not a melting pot, we are a hodgepodge of nonlinear contradictions, currents and countercurrents and diverse opinions and beliefs. Unlike Media America, it is real.

Media America is bent on self destruction. It rolls on; driven by a malignant energy that is slowly moving it towards the abyss. It cares little about the destruction and destitution created by its movement over earth's landscape. And as it moves, the media sings its praises loudly enough to drown out the moans of its victims.

It is all an exercise in perception management. Pancake makeup is slathered on the beast's face, the gore is wiped from its lips and its foul breath is sweetened with PR mouthwash. The beast smiles and speaks in measured and soothing tones as it calms and reassures. Its rhetoric soars as the disenfranchised are crushed beneath its wingtips. Bright lights hide the toxic shadow it casts.

The American Way is the product of madmen and bears no relationship to the real America that struggles to make it from one day to the next while its masters party on. This is the America that never reaches the surface of our media swamp.
(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

Facade; A False Front
By Mike Folkerth

Hold your nose and close your eyes; here's another dose of stark reality from the King of Simple News.

How important are esthetics? You know, what role does window dressing play in our culture? Well, apparently the energy savings and the green appeal of hanging clothes outside to dry are overshadowed by esthetics. The outcry against clothes lines has reached the level of lawmaking against the practice.

The main complaint is that hanging clothes outside to dry is synonymous with trailer trash. And here some of my best years were spent in a trailer. "No one wants to see underwear hanging in the breeze," said one dissenter of the practice. Well, not so much as you can tell it, Victoria's Secrets runs prime time TV ads showing underwear on live models about every night. Michael Jordon and Joe Montana have a made a small fortune hawking Hanes underwear on TV. I guess that's just not the same.

A new truck repair shop today is required to plant trees and put a brick facade on the front of their buildings so that the sensitive public doesn't have to suffer the visual pain that truck repair is a dirty job.

Facade is defined as; "A superficial appearance or illusion of something."

Superficial is defined as; "presenting only an appearance without substance or significance."

That's just the way we are, appearance is more important than substance and always has been. In the old west towns and mining camps, those constructing saloons, restaurants, hotels, etc. would build a wooden facade in front of a ragged tent! The facade fooled the patrons long enough to get them inside and that's all it took to separate them from their money which was the principal idea to begin with.

Clothing companies put their samples on gorgeous women and hunks of men as a facade of sorts. Once you get the merchandise home, you realize that you look nothing like the commercial. But the ploy works over and over and over.

Much of our former mind game strategies are about to run their course. It takes money to build illusions. The cost of repair in the truck shop must be elevated to compensate for the cost and maintenance of the facade. That is why there are few facades in poverty stricken nations with the exception of government headquarters.

As Americans suffer declining real wages, governments at all levels continue to build marble laden monuments to themselves...they always have; Rome, Athens, Egypt, England, China, Washington D.C.. We are taught that these monuments extend to our individual pride of country and community. In reality, they are facades. Although, I suppose we should be proud of something that we paid for.

Inside these marble monuments, the inhabitants exist at the same elevated level as the architecture. We also pay for that privilege. Government never has and never will suffer the same ills of their constituents. We must keep up the facade that our leadership is special...kings and queens, democratically and duly elected to serve.

The extension of government royalty soon seeped over into our corporate elite. People with one brain and two legs reside in high-rise monoliths where the expectation of multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses is a given. This is also a facade without substance. No person with one brain and two legs can earn millions of dollars per year; however, they can steal it behind the facade.

Human psychology is truly stranger than fiction. Over the past years, we have suffered some of the worst government officials of all time, but rarely do we question their right to live well beyond the means of those who pay their salaries.

As millions of Americans lose their jobs, homes and autos, we don't question the right for our leadership to drive new government provided vehicles, live in quality government quarters, and to continue the good life in perpetuity; unabated by the economic collapse that their very own policies created.

In fact, go to nearly any political rally and watch the people crowd forward just to shake hands or lick the boots of the next (or current) politician that is going to change their fate for the better.

I'm convinced that the path that we have taken could not have been altered so long as humans were in charge. We flourished and expanded in our wonderful unpopulated country due to our vast natural resources; right up to the point of overpopulation and using up those resources.

In the meanwhile, politicians and big business tycoons took false credit for our elevated way of life, that in stark reality, they may well have stifled rather than assisted, but...we believed them. It was nothing more than a facade with a ragged tent standing behind it, and constituted, "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."
(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...

"As the Catholic Church continues its march toward antiquity, I won't be shedding any tears. In addition to preying on the fears and prejudices of the unenlightened masses, I have no tolerance for tax-exempt pyramid schemes that take money from poor people to build golden houses in Italy for a decrepit former Nazi youth, who now wears a funny hat and occasionally blathers in a dead language about hating gay people, suppressing women, and always -- always -- refusing to wear condoms."
~~~ Allison Kilkenny

Refuse Allegiance To Coal
By Chris Hedges

There are some 614 coal-fired power plants in the United States, and it is up to us to shut them down. No one in the White House will do it. No one in Congress will do it. And no one at the coming U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen will do it. We will build local movements to carry out acts of nonviolent civil disobedience to halt the burning of coal, or the polar ice caps will continue to dissolve, the Greenland ice sheet will disappear, the glaciers in the Alps, the Himalayas and Tibet will melt, and widespread droughts, rising sea levels and temperatures, acute food shortages, disease and gigantic mass migrations will envelop the globe. We are killing the ecosystem on which human life depends. One of the major polluters is coal, which supplies about half of the country's electricity. NASA's James Hansen has demonstrated that our only hope of getting our atmosphere back to a safe level-below 350 parts per million CO2-lies in stopping the use of coal to generate electricity. We are currently at 390 parts per million carbon dioxide.

"The world political system is not about to keel over and give us a treaty that will get us to 350 parts per million anytime soon, or in fact do anything of great note," the writer and environmental activist Bill McKibben told me when I met him in New York City. The author of "The End of Nature" and "Deep Economy" said: "The news that the Obama administration had punted on the Copenhagen talks is discouraging. The good news, to the extent that there is any, is that we finally have the beginning of a real global movement about climate change."

McKibben and his group,, this year organized perhaps the most widespread day of political action in the planet's history: On Oct. 24, people in 181 countries joined in calling for environmental reform. But such popular calls for change have largely been ignored by the leaders of industrialized nations. The climate crisis will be solved by widespread and sustained civil disobedience or not at all.

"There were no celebrities, no rock stars, no movie stars," McKibben said of the October protest. "People were rallying around a fairly obscure scientific data point, and the 25,000 pictures or so that have come into the Flickr site from the 5,200 events in 181 countries make it clear that the canard that environmentalism is something for rich white people is crazy. It is mostly something for black, brown and yellow people and mostly something for poor people. We are all going to bear the consequences before very long, but Bangladesh and places like Bangladesh get it first. This is why it was so great to see them heavily involved. We have about half the countries in the world that have endorsed the 350 [parts per million] target. Unfortunately they are the poorest countries on Earth. They will not carry the day at Copenhagen or anywhere else, but they have begun to challenge the right of the rich countries of the world to submerge them, burn them up or whatever else."

There are five countries that are responsible for over half of fossil-fuel-related CO2 emissions. The United States and China alone account for more than a third. We in the U.S. have been the world's largest emitters for more than a century, although we have now been overtaken by China, where growth in emissions has been driven by a rapid increase in coal consumption. China is currently opening an average of two coal-fired power plants a week. Emissions there have more than doubled since 1990. The burden to act rests on us, our major trading partner and a handful of other highly industrialized nations.

"The average American family uses more energy between the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve and dinner on Jan. 2 than the average Tanzanian family uses all year," McKibben said.

The projected rise of sea levels, as much as six feet this century and 23 feet if the Greenland ice sheet disappears, will submerge coastal nations such as Bangladesh, a country of 160 million people, as well as places such as the Mekong Delta, the Maldives and the Marshall Islands. The disappearance of glaciers in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan plateau-glaciers that feed the Indus, Ganges, Yangtze and Yellow rivers-will create catastrophic water shortages and devastate the rice and wheat harvests in China and India, where about four of every 10 people live. World food prices will rise dramatically. If we can't save countries such as the Maldives and Bangladesh we will also be unable to save Venice, Hawaii, the Netherlands, New Zealand, London, Hong Kong and Manhattan. But don't expect much from Barack Obama and other leaders in the industrialized world. Their loyalty is not to the planet, or to us, but to the oil and gas industry, the coal industry and the huge corporate polluters who own them.

"Even the inadequate bill before the Congress has been postponed until the spring," McKibben said, "which in my political calendar is a little too close to the election to be very comfortable. We are getting no leadership from the president, rhetorical or otherwise. All the problems are obvious. The only good news is that there is finally something that looks like the glimmer of a movement."

It is incumbent on all of us to find out where the nearest coal-powered plant is located-the one closest to me is in Hamilton, N.J.-and begin to organize to shut it down nonviolently. Princeton, where I live, is also home to NRG Energy, the ninth-biggest coal energy producer in the United States. A map of the nation's coal-fired plants can be found here.

"Coal is the key commodity," McKibben said. "The ability to cease the combustion of coal will be the thing that decides whether or not we go over the precipice meteorologically in the decades ahead."

"It is unlikely that the environmental movement, or any other movement, will come up with as much cash as those industries," McKibben said of the corporations he opposes. "ExxonMobil made more money last year than any company in the history of money. We better not compete in that currency. We better find something else to compete in. The only thing I can think of is bodies, creativity and passion. These are the sort of things, with all their strengths, the Exxons of the world tend to lack."

McKibben, along with the writer and activist Wendell Berry, organized a mass act of civil disobedience conducted last March against a coal-fired power plant in Washington, D.C., near the White House. Thousands of demonstrators from around the country arrived to see that in anticipation of the protest a promise had been made to convert the plant from coal to natural gas. But there are over 600 more coal plants to close. And McKibben said that local and regional leaders need to rise up to organize against coal.

McKibben and Berry embrace civility and nonviolence. Protesters in Washington last March were enjoined to arrive "in their Sunday best."

"If we are going to use civil disobedience we need to reclaim it from people who enjoy taunting the police and showing off," McKibben said.

"I spent last Sunday night out on Boston Common with hundreds and hundreds of young people from across Massachusetts who were willing to very, very peacefully and unaggressively risk arrest, and in fact we were all cited [by the police] before the evening was done," he went on. "They were sleeping in Boston Common and refusing to sleep in their dorms for the rest of the fall because [the dormitories] are powered by dirt energy. They have been lobbying for a bill in the Massachusetts Statehouse to close down all the coal-fired power plants within the next 10 years. There were students from every campus. The biggest contingent came from Clark in Worcester. The prize was whoever brought the most students got to have me sleep in their tent."

McKibben and Berry are right. Nonviolent civil disobedience is the only tool that might work. If we mirror the violence employed by the instruments of state security we will become corrupt, as they are, and obliterate the moral high ground that attracts followers to any movement and sustains the long night of resistance. Violence is a poison that infects all those who use it, even in what can be defined as a just cause. And nothing could make ExxonMobil or the coal industry happier than to see shop windows broken, cars set afire and police lines rushed. The moment we resort to violence the corporate state wins. It will gleefully crush us like flies in the name of law and order and national security. The temptation to violence, especially given the passivity of most of us and the hypocrisy of our ruling elite, including Obama, will mount as climate change begins to create social and political unrest. But it must be resisted. This will be a long, long struggle. The coal companies will only be the start. The other corporations that have disempowered the citizenry, created a state of neo-feudalism and turned our democracy into a sham will be next.

"We are past the point where we are going to stop global warming," McKibben said. "It is happening already, and more of it is coming no matter what we do. One of our jobs is to start figuring out how to cope with it. We need to build the kind of communities that can deal with that. The key question is scale. Communities need to be smaller. Our way of thinking about the world has to shrink. At the same time we need a global movement to continue this fight to bring carbon emissions under some kind of control. If we don't, the kind of change we are talking about over the next decades is so big there is no way to adapt ... no matter what we do, no matter how wonderfully organic your community has become. Communities still require water. People don't quite understand what three or four or five degrees increase in the temperature of the planet will mean. One degree was enough to melt the Arctic. This was a bad sign."

"Nothing important is going to come out of Copenhagen," McKibben warned, "just a lot of spin. ... [Obama's] vast spin machine will be in full gear. There is no obvious route out of all this. We have started exploring mainly popular movements, and hopefully we have introduced a wild card into this game. Our plans are not even plans at this point. It is easier said than done. We shut down one coal-fired power plant and not a very big one. There are 600 left in the country. I don't fancy myself up to the task of figuring out how to shut them all down. Hopefully some people will begin to do it."
(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."

A Show About Nothing
The Placeholder Presidency of Barack Obama
By David Michael Green

Hey, remember Seinfeld? Remember how it billed itself as a "show about nothing", and how, in fact, that's what it was?

I think we're at the point now where it's become inescapable that the Obama presidency is also a show about nothing.

It's the same as Seinfeld. Except for two things.

First, unlike Seinfeld, it bills itself as a show about something, if not everything (remember Mr. Bigtime Change from just last year?).

And, second, the nothingness of the Obama administration is not very goddam funny, thanks just the same.

Consider the following crop of headlines, all from the New York Times, and all published in just the last week alone:

"49 Million Americans Report a Lack of Food"

"N.A.A.C.P. Prods Obama on Job Losses"

"The Drug Industry Cashes In"

"3 Democrats Could Block Health Bill In Senate"

"Another Standoff May Be Looming On Abortion Issue"

"Obama Hobbled in Fight Against Climate Change"

"Leaders Will Delay Agreement On Climate"

"Obama Backers Fear Opportunities to Reshape Judiciary Are Slipping Away"

"Guantanamo Won't Close by January, Obama Says"

"China Holds Firm On Major Issues In Obama's Visit"

"As Weight of a Relationship Tilts East, Obama Opts for Nuance and Deference"

"Israel Moves Ahead on Plans to Expand Settlement in Disputed Part of Jerusalem"

"Kurdish Legislators Threaten Boycott of Iraq Election"

"High Costs Weigh On Troop Debate For Afghan War"

If you get a sense from this list that the man holding the most powerful position on the planet is bound and determined to be an object of action, rather than a proactive force on the historical stage, there's a good reason for that feeling. That appears to be precisely his intention.

At a time of significant peril to the country and the world, this president will not act.

And he certainly will not act in any way that is remotely controversial. In normal times, that list would cover just about everything. In our era, however, where rabid regressives have entirely lost even a remote satellite uplink to reality, and have devoted themselves to destroying Obama's presidency at any cost, there is nothing that a president who is worried about ruffling feathers could actually do about anything. If he salutes the fallen returning to Dover Air Force Base, they excoriate him. If he shows a scrap of politeness bowing to the Japanese emperor, they eviscerate him. If he claims he was born in America, they call him a liar for it.

That seems to be fine with Obama. He seems quite content to be a placeholder president, just as Bill Clinton was before him. And, you know what? Placeholder presidents can be just fine. If you're living in the nineteenth century, that is. They've even been survivable recently, though the scale of blown opportunity can be jaw-dropping. Just the same, every time I find myself cringing at the thought of Bill Clinton's eight year self-reverential celebration of all things Bill Clinton, I can always rescue myself by remembering how much worse things there are than indifference in the White House. At last, I have finally discovered a reason, however slim, to be grateful to Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. Thanks for the perspective, fellas.

This president, however, doesn't have the luxury he seems so intent on taking. He came to office at a time of multiple crises. 2009 sure as hell isn't 1997. It isn't even 1993. It's a lot worse, and on multiple fronts.

In fairness to Obama (a sentiment which I'm finding increasingly difficult to muster up as the first year of his presidency segues into the second), many of the problems represented in the headlines catalogued above are America's problems, not necessarily his, per se. They would, that is, have greeted any new president inaugurated last January, and lots of them are going to take years or decades to go away under the best of circumstances, assuming they ever do. But that's also the point - he is the president, and he is supposed to be fighting to improve his country's situation. In case after case, however, he appears instead to be sitting aloof on top of his mountain, evidently admiring his admiration. The problems aren't necessarily of his making, but the absence of credible solutions to those problems very much is.

To be even more generous to this president, these aren't, generally, just any random national problems that he inherited, either. They are chiefly the product of America's insane and disastrous experiment with regressivism these last three decades. They are, in short, Reagan's and Bush's gift to Barack. But again, while he's not responsible for his inheritance, he is responsible for what he does with it. And what this fool has done with it is to turn it into a Seinfeld sitcom. That is to say, nothing. He not only doesn't identify the paternity of this bastard child for all to see, he won't even speak up as the very same people who left him this plate of swill have the gall to blame him for it and seek the destruction of his presidency at every turn.

There is, of course, a certain profound richness to the notion of these regresso-bots critiquing Obama from the day he walked in the door. "He's spending outrageous amounts of money!", they fervently decry. What, you mean like the last guy did, the one who doubled the national debt from $5.5 trillion to $11 trillion? What, you mean because spending huge sums is the only possible way to clean up the economic meltdown and myriad other disasters bequeathed to him? What, because it ain't cheap to pay for two sprawling unfinished wars, banking system rescues, a car industry gone off the cliff, unemployment insurance for millions and a drowned city?

But enough with the fairness doctrine already. These caveats don't begin to mitigate the epic disaster of the Obama sclerosis. This guy isn't just a deer caught in headlights, he's Bambi on the 50 yard-line, under the klieg lights of a national stadium. He's Mr. Bill. No, strike that. He's Mr. Bill's nerdy little nephew, Kirby Herbert Pollywog Bill. He's a beetle walking across a school yard, where a hundred bored sixth-graders are standing and staring at their feet during an outdoor assembly. He's a tenth inning hanging tired arm curve ball with an angry Babe Ruth at the plate. He's Neville Chamberlain and Spongebob SquarePants' love-child. Suffering from an anemic blood disorder. Republicans just live for this sort of Democrat - which is to say, nowadays, practically every Democrat. They eat them for breakfast. And, as much as I loathe Republicans - rather like I feel about, say, botulism - I mostly don't blame them.

And, as much as it pains me ever to find myself agreeing with a regressoid, Edward Whelan, president of the right-wing Ethics and Public Policy Center, was right when, expressing his surprise that the Obama administration has made so few nominations to fill open positions in the federal judiciary, he noted: "On judges as on so much else, this administration seems to be much less competent than both its supporters and critics expected". Hear, hear.

Count me in on that one. I didn't know what kind of politics these guys would have, but I felt real confident that they'd be damn good at those politics, whatever they were. And not without good reason did I come to that conclusion. Obama is obviously smart, and he ran a near-perfect campaign, just as he had to, in order to win the presidency against long odds.

And, you know, it may even be the case that these guys would be good at their politics. But, apparently, we're never going to find out, since they don't seem capable of trying. When they're not busy, as they are so much of the time, aping the regressive policies of Bush and Cheney, they're working hard at hardly working. Folding cards, blowing opportunities, missing deadlines, breaking promises. It's hard work putting on a show about nothing, lemme tell ya! Think of all the liberal judges they failed to appoint just today alone! Think of all the prisoners they haven't transferred from Guantanamo! Think of all the egg they have to wipe off their faces as they get spanked by Israeli prime ministers, Big Pharma CEOs and punky members of their own party alike! Think of all the women whose reproductive rights they have to sell out in order to get their Aid To Corporations With Dependent Billions legislation through Congress! Imagine the number of American children and grandchildren who must be saddled with a load of debt and a climate like Venus, just so Obama can receive his Daily Minimum Allowance of ass-whuppin' every day!

Nah, man. It can't be easy takin' it easy. I thought George W. Bush's act would be a hard one to follow. That little puke took 1020 days of vacation during his eight years serving as Cheney's marionette. That was more than one-third of his presidency, and it far exceeded the time taken by any other president. Who could top that?!

Obama's smarter than Bush, though (and how tough is that?). He's figured out how to take vacation while on the job. And so he has. All around him serious crises for the country and the world rage across the landscape, demanding attention. But Barack remains in comfortable contemplation, never breaking a sweat. On a good day he might share with us some of his famously stirring oratory, filled with broad platitudes about niceness and bipartisanship. On a really good day we'll get half-measures, poorly communicated, to deal with full problems. But on most days, alas, we just get an undiluted shot of Goldman Sachs, Big Pharma and every other corporate plutocrat working directly out of the Oval Office.

Why is Obama such a do-nothing dud? Does he feel for financially strapped Americans to the point of doing his own permanent staycation in the White House, the better to model his empathy for them? Does his personality simply prevent him from doing anything that some person or another might object to? Is he yet another tool of Wall Street, whose only difference from George Bush is stylistic? Did some guy in a black suit and sunglasses pull him aside after the election, and say, "Okay, so you're the president now. You'll be following our instructions from here on out, in exchange for which we're gonna let you live."

I don't know what his deal is. But I do know that this presidency is catastrophic for progressive ideas, and likely as well for the remaining shards of American democracy itself.

As to the former, our values and solutions are being ridiculously associated with this fundamentally conservative administration, and ironically repudiated right along with its mounting failures. This is yet another marketing masterstroke by the regressive right, a group of folks whose politics are so obscene that they've been forced to become geniuses at slinging bullshit. They remind me of nothing so much as the poor fat kid in junior high who had to learn to use humor to keep from getting pummeled every day after school, and grew up to become a famous comedian as an adult. But, whatever. The upshot is that Obama is going down in flames (or would be, except that his muted implosion is careful even to lack that much cinematic drama), and progressivism will be tarred for years and decades because of that. Our politics will be blamed for committing a crime, when they were actually in another country (literally) at the time.

As for American democracy, I think it likely that the elections of 2010 and 2012 will mark continuations and indeed extensions of the pattern from 2006 and 2008. The condition of the country sucks. People want change. But, unless something dramatic happens, they continue to only have two choices - the party in power, or the other party. In 2010 and 2012 the incumbents will be the pathetic Democrats, and the only real alternative will be the just recently comatose Republicans, newly revived courtesy of Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

Since we can expect the GOP monsters to win those elections handily under such conditions, the question becomes, what will that party stand for, and who will represent it? Here, the signs are especially bad. From New York to Florida to Alaska to all across the radio dial, the GOP is doing the impossible these days. It is actually becoming more regressive, more repressive, more narrow, more stupid, more greedy and more vicious. It's hard to imagine they could surpass their current personal bests in the pathology decathlon, but indeed they are.

Meanwhile, my guess is that the winner of the GOP nomination in 2012 will be the winner of the presidency that fall, just as the real contest in 2008 was to win the Democratic nomination.

My guess is that that person is now running around the country plugging her book.

And my guess is that the next go-round of Reaganism/Bushism will make the last one look like a friendly game of gin rummy by comparison.

They will almost certainly have to pull the plug on any remaining vestige of democracy at that point, since their policies will be utterly useless in addressing people's mounting concerns and their growing impatience.

Get your passport renewed.

Mexico might be a good alternative. The weather is nice and warm.

And, evidently, the money is good. At least compared to what the very sick Uncle Sam's got going on his hospital ward.

Here's one more indicative (and quite real) headline to add to the list above. No offense to my amigos south of the border, but you can file this puppy under "Y", for "You Know The Show Is Over When..."

"Money Starts to Trickle North as Mexicans Help Out Relatives"
(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,

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer Coburn,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, your holdup of the bill to help severely wounded veterans and their families took the focus off us for a few weeks, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican 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 Coburn, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Extreme Secrecy Of The Federal Courts
By Glenn Greenwald

Once conservatives became embarrassed by their cowardly warnings that we would all be killed if we held a 9/11 trial in New York, they switched to a new argument: trials in a real court would lead to the disclosure of classified information that would help the Terrorists. In advancing this claim, they relied on the always-unhinged rantings of National Review's Andy McCarthy -- who has also suggested that Bill Ayers was the real author of Barack Obama's "Dreams from my Father"; attacked his own editors for pointing out the falsehoods of Sarah Palin's "death panel" claims, which McCarthy insisted were true; defended the Birther movement and dissented from NR's editorial rejection of it; and was excoriated by Rich Lowry for claiming that Obama "rather likes tyrants and dislikes America." This person -- someone who is often too fringe, hysterical and delusional even for National Review -- is the "legal expert" on which the Right is relying to claim that real trials will jeopardize classified information.

To see how false this claim is, all anyone ever had to was look at the Classified Information Procedures Act, a short and crystal clear 1980 law that not only permits, but requires, federal courts to undertake extreme measures to ensure the concealment of classified information, even including concealment from the defendant himself. Section 3 provides: "Upon motion of the United States, the court shall issue an order to protect against the disclosure of any classified information disclosed by the United States to any defendant in any criminal case in a district court of the United States." Section 9 required the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to consult with the Attorney General and Defense Secretary to develop rules to carry out the Act's requirements, and the resulting guidelines provide for draconian measures so extreme that it's hard to believe they can exist in a judicial system that it supposed to be open and transparent.

To see how severe these secrecy measures are, consider what is currently being done in the criminal case of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first accused Terrorists sent by the Obama administration to New York to stand trial after being interrogated and tortured for years in CIA black sites and at Guantanamo with no charges:

To ensure that secrets do not leak, Judge Kaplan has imposed a protective order on all classified information, which may be reviewed by the defense lawyers only in a special "secure area," a room whose location has not been disclosed.

The order covers all materials that might "reveal the foreign countries in which" Mr. Ghailani was held from 2004 to 2006 -- the period when he was in the secret jails -- and the names and even physical descriptions of any officer responsible for his detention or interrogation, the order says.

It also covers information about "enhanced interrogation techniques that were applied" to Mr. Ghailani, "including descriptions of the techniques as applied, the duration, frequency, sequencing, and limitations of those techniques."

The defense lawyers, who had to obtain security clearance, cannot disclose the information to Mr. Ghailani without permission of the court or the government. Any motions they write based on the material must be prepared in the special room, and nothing may be filed publicly until it is reviewed by the government.

So, last Monday, when Mr. Ghailani's lawyers filed a motion seeking dismissal of the charges because of "the unnecessary delay in bringing the defendant to trial," they included only a few mostly blank cover sheets.

The rest of the motion, which presumably offers rich details about Mr. Ghailani's time in detention, remains secret, and a censored version will be made public only after it is cleared by the government.

Does that sound like a judicial process incapable of concealing secrets, or does it sound more like a Star Chamber where the justice system operates in the dark, even to sheild government torture and illegal prisons from disclsoure? Many federal judges -- particularly in criminal cases -- are notorious for being highly sympathetic to the government. That's even more true in a case involving one of the most hated criminal defendants ever to be tried in an American court, sitting a very short distance from the site where he is alleged to have killed 3,000 people in a terrorist attack. And note that the law permits the judge no discretion: if the Government claims something is classified, then "the court shall issue an order to protect against the disclosure of any classified information." With some exceptions, ever since the "War on Terror" began, nobody has safeguarded government secrets as dutifully and subserviently as federal judges -- even when those secrets involve allegations of war crimes and other serious felonies. That's what DOJ officials mean when they keep praising Southern District of New York judges for their supreme competence and expertise in handling terrorism cases. Federal courts in general love to keep what is supposed to be their open proceedings a secret, but that instinct is magnified exponentionally in national security and terrorism cases.

Even during the Bush years, numerous defendants accused of terrorist acts were tried and convicted in federal courts -- John Walker Lindh, Richard Reid, Zacarias Moussaoui, Ali al-Marri, Jose Padilla. Those spewing the latest right-wing scare tactic (Osama bin Laden will learn everything if we have trials!) cannot point to a single piece of classified information that was disclosed as a result of any of these trials. If that were a legitimate fear, wouldn't they be able to? Like most American institutions, our federal court system is empowered to shield from public disclosure anything the government claims is secret. Just look at the extreme measures invoked in the Ghailani case to see how true that is.
(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.

God Has Left The Building...
By Sheila Samples

If you talk to God, you are praying; If God talks to you,
you have schizophrenia. ~~~ Thomas S. Szasz, The Second Sin

Several months ago, CNN published the results of a couple of disturbing polls about Americans and their religious beliefs. The first found that more Americans are rejecting religion and thus, according to CNN, America is becoming "less Christian." The second, a Pew survey of only 742 mostly white evangelical Protestants, revealed that more than six in 10 of them believe that torture is often or sometimes justified.

More than six in 10? What this says about those claiming to be God's own is that perhaps they should use their Bibles for more than "thumping." Because not one in 10 -- not one in 10 thousand -- not one in 10 million -- Christians believes that torture can ever be justified. Ever.

Anyone who has paid attention to the growing number of evangelical zealots over the past couple of decades must be aware that there is a growing chasm between Religion and Christianity. Today, the term, "religious Christians" is nothing if not oxymoronic. It seems when folks become apocalyptic frothing-at-the-mouth religious, they ultimately stray from the light and life of Christianity, while descending deeper into the darkness and death of Religion.

Because, all religion is politics. CNN quoted Mark Silk of Trinity College, who said, "In the 1990s, it really sunk in on the American public generally that there was a long-lasting 'religious right' connected to a political party, and that turned a lot of people the other way." Silk cited the obvious link between the Republican Party and groups such as the Moral Majority and Focus on the Family.

Tony Perkins, the right-wing evangelical president of the Family Research Council, told CNN not to worry. He said people will return to their faith in droves; that soon, the decline will ease and religion will be an even greater part of people's lives. The good news, according to Perkins, is, "As the economy goes downward, I think people are going to be driven to religion." (emphasis added)

Yes, as more Americans lose their jobs, their homes, their very reasons for living, those like Perkins see them as Manchurian congregations -- flocks driven to religion like cattle -- bawling, shuffling, pushing, milling around with tags in their ears, looking for a leader. Even now, they can be seen in mammoth mega-churches, some with arms raised -- fists clutching at dead air -- others writhing in the aisles, moaning, begging for some "sign" from their rigidly religious God. Perhaps their panic stems from the instinctive knowledge that God, unable to get a word in edgewise, has left the building.

The conservative religious right is a frightening political force driven in its efforts to divide and conquer by greed, an insatiable lust for power, and an ideology of hate. Its members, unable to drag God down to their level, have no qualms about elevating themselves to what they perceive as His level. They succeed in controlling the flock because fear -- especially fear of God -- is a great motivator. They use God not only as a weapon against millions who stand between them and their goals of replacing democracy with theocracy and of controlling the worlds resources and its people -- but as a divine justification for the destruction they leave in their wake.

No one was more adept at giving God credit for his killing fields than former president George W. Bush, who openly bragged that God had hired him to remove evil from the face of the earth. "I trust God speaks through me," Bush said in 2004. "Without that, I couldn't do my job." And, even before that, in 2003, Bush tried to round up a "coalition of the willing" for his Iraq slaughter on God's behalf. According to Charleston Gazette editor James A. Haught, Bush told then French President Jacques Chirac that "Iraq must be invaded to thwart Gog and Magog, the Bible's satanic agents of the Apocalypse." Haught wrote...

"Chirac recounts that the American leader appealed to their "common faith" (Christianity) and told him: "Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East...The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled...This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people's enemies before a New Age begins."

But some presidents, such as Lyndon Johnson, were not so magnanimous. God got the blame, not the credit, for the Vietman atrocity. Ronnie Dugger, in his book, "The Politician: The Life and Times of Lyndon Johnson," writes that Johnson told Austrian ambassador Ernst Lemberter in 1966 that the Holy Ghost regularly visited him..."He comes to me about 2 o'clock in the morning," Johnson said, "--when I have to give word to the boys, and I get the word from God whether to bomb or not."

Now, you don't have to be a Christian to reject the right-wing bull hockey that the God who appeared in a blinding flash of light and spoke to Paul on the road to Damascus has sunk to the evangelical depths where He emits not even a glimmer as He bends our presidents' ears on who to slaughter, urges televangelist Pat Robertson to ask a woman about her sex life, and is still deciding if He wants Michelle Bachman or Sarah Palin to be president.

Christians should be lauded for rejecting modern-day Religion. When the God they are taught to love is either credited -- or blamed -- for all hell on earth; when they search in vain for Jesus, and finally find Him, hanging out in a secretive townhouse on Washington's C Street with the greedy, war-mongering gang who refer to themselves as "The Family," it's time to take a second look at the direction in which this nation is hurtling.

For years, conservative right-wingers have hidden out in the C Street "church," where they are free to conduct all manner of fraud and to carry on adulterous affairs. People who have sold their souls; who have no sense of morality, and who use God as a Trojan Horse to hide their political manipulations to replace both Democrats and Democracy are quite mad, you know. Right-wing evangelicals and neocon operatives are consumed with religious hate, not Christian love. Their modus operandi is, as Weekly Standard operative William Kristol said, "go for the kill."

And, those who are familiar with Kristol know he wasn't referring just to health care. Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition protege, the now disgraced Ralph Reed, dubbed in 1995 by Time magazine as "the right hand of God," was a master at evangelical politics, which he said was like Viet Cong-style guerrilla warfare. Reed said, "I want to be invisible. I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag. You don't know until election night."

Anyone doubting the viciousness with which Reed would "go for the kill" should have a talk with Vietnam War hero and amputee Max Cleland, who not only found himself crammed into a body bag on election night 2002, thanks to Ralph Reed, but was in there with Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

But Reed and others are tyros when it comes to those most likely to cause Christians to reject religion -- those whom CNN failed to mention who incite violence by preaching sermons laced with politics, religion, racism -- and hate. Those like Tempe, Arizona's Steven Anderson, who has no college degree nor formal Bible training, but is qualified to preach because he "has memorized almost half of the New Testament." Anderson started his own church -- Faithful Word Baptist -- in 2005 on Christmas Day. A firey right-wing preacher, he's against homosexuality, liberalism -- and President Barack Obama.

In August, Anderson gave a breathtakingly vile speech entitled, "Why I Hate Obama," in which he said about President Obama, among many other things...

"Obama is a madman in control of this country."
"Obama is NOT my president."
"Obama mocks the Bible."
"Obama is a socialist devil murderer."
"I hope he dies and goes to hell."
"God looks down and says, 'Man -- I HATE that guy!'"

Anderson, and those like him, epitomize the breach between Religion and Christianity. The religious believe that God belongs to them. Christians know that they belong to God. It's that simple. Thus, CNN polls notwithstanding, America cannot become "less Christian" as a result of members of the flock jerking the tags from their ears -- and rejecting modern-day religion.
(c) 2009 Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at:

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Bob Gorrell ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

By The Kingston Trio

These are the times that try men's souls. In the course of our nation's history, the people of Boston have rallied bravely whenever the rights of men have been threatened. Today, a new crisis has arisen. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, better known as the M. T. A., is attempting to levy a burdensome tax on the population in the form of a subway fare increase. Citizens, hear me out! This could happen to you!

Well, let me tell you of the story of a man named Charley
on that tragic and fateful day.
He put ten cents in his pocket, kissed his wife and family,
went to ride on the M. T. A.

But, did he ever return?
No, he never returned and his fate is still unlearned.
(What a pity!) He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston.
He's the man who never returned.

Charlie handed in his dime at the Kendall Square Station
and he changed for Jamaica Plain.
When he got there the conductor told him, "One more nickel."
Charlie couldn't get off of that train.

Well, did he ever return? No, he never returned
and his fate is still unlearned.
(Poor ole Charlie.) He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston.
He's the man who never returned.

Now, all night long Charlie rides through the station, crying,
"What will become of me?!!
How can I afford to see my sister in Chelsea
or my cousin in Roxbury?"

Well, did he ever return? No, he never returned
and his fate is still unlearned.
(Shame and scandel.) He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston.
He's the man who never returned.

Charlie's wife goes down to the Sculley Square Station
every day at quarter past two,
And through the open window she hands Charlie a sandwich
as the train comes rumblin' through.

Well, did he ever return?
No, he never returned and his fate is still unlearned.
(Just like Paul Revere.) He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston.
He's the man who never returned.

Now, you citizens of Boston,
don't you think it's a scandal
how the people have to pay and pay?
Fight the fare increase! Vote for George O'Brien!
Get poor Charlie off the M. T. A.

Well, did he ever return?
No, he never returned and his fate is still unlearned.
(He may ride forever) He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston.
He's the man who never returned.

He's the man who never returned.
He's the man who never returned.
Ain't you Charlie?
(c) 1960/2009 Jacqueline Steiner/Bess Hawes

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Lieberman Exploring New Ways To Be A Dick
Sets Bar High for Assholic-ness
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) - As the healthcare reform bill makes its way through the U.S. Senate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) said today that he was "actively exploring" new ways to be as big a dick as humanly possible.

For Sen. Lieberman, whose reputation for assholic behavior is legendary, striving to be an even bigger douche than usual represents a formidable challenge, Senate insiders say.

But if the Connecticut senator found the burden of being the most egregious asshat in the Senate daunting in the least he did not show it in a brief meeting with reporters in the Capitol rotunda.

"I promised the people of Connecticut that I was going to be the biggest shitheel I could be, and as God is my witness, that's what I'm going to do," he said.

Elsewhere, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said that her audiobook would be read by Barney the Dinosaur.
(c) 2009 Andy Borowitz

The Gross National Debt

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Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 44(c) 11/27/2009

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