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In This Edition

Cynthia McKinney says, "A Funny Thing Happened To Me On My Way To The Damascus Conference."

Uri Avnery remembers, "Yesterday's Traitors."

Victoria Stewart appreciates, "The Little Things."

Jim Hightower watches the, "Group Of 20's Global Finance Show."

James Roberts with, "Emergency Supplies - Be Prepared To Survive."

Robert Scheer concludes, "Obama Chooses Wall Street Over Main Street."

Chris Hedges finds America, "Starving For Change."

Chris Floyd reports, "Plus ça change: "Progressive" Leaders Ride War Machine Deeper Into Darkness."

Stuart Archer Cohen teaches, "An Assassin's Lessons About The Financial Crisis."

Mike Folkerth visits, "Campaign Promises And Stark Reality."

Stephanie Mencimer asks, "Why Is Mitch McConnell Being Nice To Obama?"

William Pfaff declares, "To Each His Own Nuke."

EPA Administrator Steve Johnson wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald sees, "Progressive Complaints About Obama's Appointments."

Frank Scott exclaims, "New Deal? We Need A New Deck!"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department the fabulous Mrs. Betty Bowers returns with, "Propositioning Debbie" but first Uncle Ernie warns of, "The Usual Suspects."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of R.P. Overmyer with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Gary Varvel, Justin DeFreitas, The Heretik, Scott Stantis, New Deal 75.Org, Word Press.Com, U.S. Air Force, Associated Press, Sean Cremen, Betty Bowers.Com, Issues & Alibis.Org and Pink & Blue Films.

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...
Zeitgeist The Movie...

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

The Usual Suspects
By Ernest Stewart

"Round up the usual suspects."
Casablanca ~~~ Captain Renault

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." ~~~ Albert Einstein

"I may be vile and pernicious
But you can't look away.
I make you think I'm delicious
With the stuff that I say.
I am the best you can get.
Have you guessed me yet?
I am the slime oozin' out
From your TV set.

You will obey me while I lead you.
And eat the garbage that I feed you.
Until the day that we don't need you.
Don't go for help...no one will heed. you
Your mind is totally controlled.
It has been stuffed into my mold.
And you will do as you are told .
Until the rights to you are sold!"
I'm The Slime ~~~ Frank Zappa

Apparently Barry likes my favorite film, Casablanca, and has taken Claude Rains' advice to "Round up the usual suspects." Obama has filled his cabinet and advisers with former Clinton administration retreads from Hillary to Rahm Emanuel and he's chosen Bush retreads as well. So much for change, eh? These selections do not bode well for the economy, world peace or the Palestinians. You may recall that his picks have genuflected to their Zionazi puppet masters in Tel Aviv and all will continue to look the other way as Israel carries out it's "final solution of the Palestinian Question" and then turns it's eyes toward Syria for some more "Lebensraum." Palestine just won't be enough room! Gangsters never have enough!

With Hillary as head of the State Department, the same Hillary who said, "...what is vital is that we stand by our friend and our ally and we stand by our own values. Israel is a beacon of what's right in a neighborhood overshadowed by the wrongs of radicalism, extremism, despotism and terrorism." Also, "And Israel is not only our ally; it is a beacon of what democracy can and should mean. If the people of the Middle East are not sure what democracy means, let them look to Israel." Oh really? And that ghetto wall is just a joke too, eh?

Oh course, Barry made it clear where he stands about Israel when he said to his Zionazi puppet masters, "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." He went on to say that America will defend Israel regardless of the cost! So Barry stands ready to sacrifice us all so the Zionazis can hold on to and expand their borders and f*ck the Palestinians, they are, after all, the Zionazis' version of the American Indians. Funny. Barry's forgotten about Israel supporting, among other atrocities, apartheid in South Africa!

I got an email from Norm Solomon the other day with a piece entitled, "The Ideology of No Ideology." Norm, like many other "liberal pundits," is beginning to have second thoughts about their support of Barry as he turns out to be Bush lite! Well Duh! I wrote Norm a short note...


So Barry has surrounded himself with fellow travelers, no sh*t? So the central far rightist brought in more central far rightists, no kidding? When you were supporting him for being sort of black didn't you bother to look at his voting record in the Sin-ate? I'm not surprised, why are you, Norm? Demoncrats, Rethuglicans, exactly what is the difference?

Your radical pal,

So the course is set, "same ole, same ole." We're going to continue into the endless war until we are all destroyed. Until the economy totally collapses and we've brought W.W. III to the world. I guess that's what he meant by change? So far, the only change is that our new Boss, unlike Smirky, can string together whole sentences!

And lastly, here's something that ought to send the alarm bells ringing. Old "Tail gunner Joe" Lieberman said of Barry's picks, ""Everything that President-elect Obama has done since election night has been just about perfect, both in terms of a tone and also in terms of the strength of the names that have either been announced or are being discussed to fill his administration." "Danger, Will Robinson," indeed!

In Other News

Is Henry Paulson the Treasure Secretary or is it Pat Paulson who's in charge? If it's Pat then this is all a joke, a bit surreal I'll grant you, but a joke none-theless. If it's Henry, then this is being done on purpose and someone should toss Henry in a rubber room for a spell.

As Albert said about insanity, Henry just keeps throwing your money (another $800 billion) down a rat hole and expecting different results. Is anybody really that crazy? Methinks it's more likely he's just finishing up the job that the Junta began eight years ago, i.e., making the strongest country that the world has ever seen into a pauper nation! What actually began in 1913 when the government gave away our treasury to a group of European bankers has finally come to fruition.

Just in my lifetime I've seen a tremendous change in the power of the dollar. When I got my drivers license gasoline sold for 28¢ a gallon. Good cigarettes were 35¢ a pack and you could buy a week's worth of groceries for $15. Ford was paying $2.75 an hour to its workers and that was good money. A new VW beetle was $1400, a new loaded Cadillac was $5,000 and Bill Cosby bought a new Rolls Royce for $18,000! Oh, and did I mention that $35 would buy you an ounce of gold! An ounce from Ft. Knox or an ounce from Acapulco!

Then along came Viet Nam which turned out to be so expensive that by the time that "Tricky Dick" came along he had to take us off the gold standard as we couldn't cover our debts with the gold on hand at Ft Knox. It's been a rapid down hill ride ever since.

Prices haven't really gone up since then; it's just that the money now is worthless. That $500,000 dollar house that you bought two years ago is now worth $150,000 but your mortgage cost is $1,500.000! They're throwing a couple trillion dollars into a hole in the ground, which won't solve any of our problems but will only sink us faster into a major depression. Throwing gasoline on a fire won't put it out. Doing the same thing financially and expecting a different result is truly insane!

And Finally

The reason that I still watch TV is gone. Except for two cartoon shows and the "Weather Channel" it looks like my TV time will be spent with DVDs and video games. With the final episode of "The Shield" there is little left in TV's great "Wasteland" that holds any interest for me. No folks, I don't watch TV news, not even at gun point!

I use to be a big fan of HBO but they got into a habit of canceling some excellent shows long before their time was due, shows like "Carnivale," "Rome" and "Deadwood" so when Tony Soprano was gone, I was, too. Tony, like Vic Mackey, was a bad guy with few redeeming features. Even though he was a murdering thief, I could forgive his Mafia ways and still like him. The one thing I didn't like and couldn't forgive was that Tony was a whore and a hypocrite. Tony talked all the time about importance of "family" but would screw around on Carmela at the drop of a hat. Vic was just as bad but held his family, especially his kids as sacred.

Both "The Sopranos" and "The Shield" gave honest portrayals of their environments. The Mafioso's that I've known over the years were a lot like Tony and the cops I've known were a lot like Vic, more so than most people would imagine. Ergo, both series were interesting to me and both were extremely well written and acted. Their characters had a lot of depth and honesty and were real people, something that is missing in 99% of the "slime oozin' out of your TV set!"

Vic ended up trapped in Limbo for three years but Vic, being Vic, will no doubt overcome his situation, find his family and forgive Corrine for her betrayal and, like Tony Soprano, will someday hit the big screen in a series of films. We can but hope!


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


11-19-1969 ~ 11-25-2008
Tell Buddy and Keith I said Hi!


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: http://wthemovie.com. Both trailers are on site and may be downloaded; the new trailer can be seen with Flash on site. You can download in either PC or Mac formats. I'm in the new trailer as myself but don't blink or you'll miss me! The trailers are also available on YouTube along with a short scene from the film.


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


So how do you like the 2nd coup d'etat so far?
And more importantly, what are you planning on doing about it?

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2008 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 7 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."

A Funny Thing Happened To Me On My Way To The Damascus Conference
By Cynthia McKinney

Today, November 23rd, I was slated to give remarks in Damascus, Syria at a Conference being held to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, sadly, the 60th year that the Palestinian people have been denied their Right of Return enshrined in that Universal Declaration. But a funny thing happened to me while at the Atlanta airport on my way to the Conference: I was not allowed to exit the country.

I do believe that it was just a misunderstanding. But the insecurity experienced on a daily basis by innocent Palestinians is not. Innocent Palestinians are trapped in a violent, stateless twilight zone imposed on them by an international order that favors a country reported to have completed its nuclear triad as many as eight years ago, although Israel has remained ambiguous on the subject. President Jimmy Carter informed us that Israel had as many as 150 nuclear weapons, and Israel's allies are among the most militarily sophisticated on the planet. Military engagement, then, is untenable. Therefore the exigency of diplomacy and international law.

The Palestinians should at least be able to count on the protections of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What is happening to Palestinians in Gaza right now, subjected to an Israeli-imposed blockade, has drawn the attention of the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, who noted that over half of the civilians in Gaza are children. Even The Los Angeles Times criticized Israel's lockdown of Gaza that is keeping food, fuel, and medicine from civilians. Even so, Israel stood fast by its decision to seal Gaza's openings. But where are the voices of concern coming from the corridors of power inside the United States? Is the subject of Palestinian human rights taboo inside the United States Government and its government-to-be? I hope not. Following is the speech I would have given today had I been able to attend the Damascus Conference.

Cynthia McKinney
Right of Return Congregation
Damascus, Syria
November 23, 2008

Thank you to our hosts for inviting me to participate in this most important and timely First Arab-International Congregation for the Right of Return. Words are an insufficient _expression of my appreciation for being remembered as one willing to stand for justice in Washington, D.C., even in the face of tremendously difficult pressures.

Former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir, thank you for including me in the Malaysian Peace Organisation's monumental effort to criminalize war, to show the horrors of the treatment of innocent individuals during the war against and occupation of Iraq by the militaries and their corporate contractors of Britain, Israel, and the United States. Thank you for standing up to huge international economic forces trying to dominate your country and showing an impressionable woman like me that it is possible to stand up to "the big boys" and win. And thank you for your efforts to bring war criminal, torturer, decimator of the United States Constitution, the George W. Bush Administration, to justice in international litigation.

Delegates and participants, I must declare that at a time when scientists agree that the climate of the earth is changing in unpredictable and possibly calamitous ways, such that the future of humankind hangs in the balance, it is unconscionable that we have to dedicate this time to and focus our energies on policies that represent a blatant and utter disregard for human rights and self-determination and that represent in many respects, a denial of human life, itself.

In the same year as Palestinians endured a series of massacres and expulsions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights became international law. And while the United Nations is proud that the Declaration was flown into Outer Space just a few days ago on the Space Shuttle, if one were to read it and then land in the Middle East, I think it would be clear that Palestine is the place that the Universal Declaration forgot.

Sadly, both the spirit of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and the noblest ideals of the United Nations are broken. This has occurred in large measure due to policies that emanate from Washington, D.C. If we want to change those policies, and I do believe that we can, then we have to change the underlying values of those who become Washington's policy makers. In other words, we must launch the necessary movement that puts people in office who share our values.

We need to do this now more than ever because, sadly, Palestine is not Washington's only victim. Enshrined in the Universal Declaration is the dignity of humankind and the responsibility of states to protect that dignity. Yet, the underlying contradictions between its words and what has become standard international practice lay exposed to the world this year when then-United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour proclaimed:

"In the course of this year, unprecedented efforts must be made to ensure that every person in the world can rely on just laws for his or her protection. In advancing all human rights for all, we will move towards the greatest fulfillment of human potential, a promise which is at the heart of the Universal Declaration."

How insulting it was to hear those words coming from her, for those of us who know, because it was she who, as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, willfully participated in the cover-up of an act of terror that resulted in the assassination of two democratically-elected Presidents and that unleashed a torrent of murder and bloodletting in which one million souls were vanquished. That sad episode in human history has become known as the Rwanda Genocide. And shockingly, after the cover-up, Louise Arbour was rewarded with the highest position on the planet, in charge of Human Rights.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that justice delayed is justice denied. And 60 years is too long to wait for justice.

The Palestinian people deserve respected self-determination, protected human rights, justice, and above all, peace.

On the night before his murder, Dr. King announced that he was happy to be living at the end of the 20th Century where, all over the world, men and women were struggling to be free.

Today, we can touch and feel the results of those cries, on the African Continent where apartheid no longer exists as a fact of law. A concerted, uncompromising domestic and international effort led to its demise.

And in Latin America, the shackles of U.S. domination have been broken. In a series of unprecedented peaceful, people-powered revolutions, voters in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and most recently Paraguay used the power of the political process to materially change their countries' leadership and policy orientation toward the United States. Americans, accustomed to the Monroe Doctrine which proclaimed U.S. suzerainty over all politics in the Western Hemisphere, must now think the unthinkable given what has occurred in the last decade.

Voters in Cote d'Ivoire, Haiti, Spain, and India also took matters clearly in their hands to make "a clean break" from policies that were an affront to the interests of the majority of the people in those countries.

In country after country, against tremendous odds, people stood up and took their fates in their hands. They did what Mario Savio, in the 1960s, asked people in the United States to do. These people-powered, peaceful revolutions saw individuals put their bodies against the levers and the gears and the wheels of the U.S. imperial machine and they said to the owners if you don't stop it, we will. And I know that people of conscience inside my country can do it, too: especially now that the engines of imperial oppression are running out of gas.

Even though the Democratic Party, at the Convention that nominated Barack Obama, denied its microphone to Former President Jimmy Carter because of his views on Palestine, let me make it clear that Former President Carter is not the only person inside the United States who believes that peace with justice is possible in Palestine.

Inside the United States, millions who are not of Arab descent, disagree vehemently with the policy of our government to provide the military and civilian hardware that snuffs out innocent human life that is also Arab.

Millions of Americans do not pray to Allah, but recognize that it is an inalienable right of those who do to live and pray in peace wherever they are--including inside the United States.

Even though their opportunities are severely limited, there are millions of people inside the United States struggling to express themselves on all of these issues, but whose efforts are stymied by a political process that robs them of any opportunity to be heard.

And then there are the former elected officials who spoke out for what was right, for universal application of the Universal Declaration, and who were roundly condemned and put out of office as a result. My father is one such politician, punished-kicked out of office--because of the views of his daughter.

In my case, I dared to raise my voice in support of the World Conference Against Racism and against the sieges of Ramallah, Jenin, and the Church of the Nativity. I raised my voice against the religious profiling in my country that targets innocent Muslims and Arabs for harassment, imprisonment, financial ruin, or worse. Yes, I have felt the sting of the special interests since my entry onto the national stage when, in my very first Congressional campaign, I refused to sign a pledge committing that I would vote to maintain the military superiority of Israel over its neighbors, and that Jerusalem should be its capital city.

Other commitments were on that pledge as well, like continued financial assistance to Israel at agreed upon levels.

As a result of my refusal to make such a commitment, and just like the old slave woman, Sojourner Truth, who bared her back and showed the scars from the lashes meted out to her by her slave master, I too, bear scars from the lashes of public humiliation meted out to me by the special interests in Washington, D.C. because of my refusal to tow the line on Israel policy. This "line" is the policy accepted by both the Democratic and Republican Party leadership and why they could cooperate so well to coordinate my ouster from Congress. But I have survived because I come from the strongest stock of Africans, stolen then enslaved, and yet my people survived. I know how to never give up, give in, or give out. And I also know how to learn a good political lesson. And one lesson I've learned is that the treatment accorded to me pales in comparison to what Palestinian victims still living in refugee camps face every day of their lives.

The treatment accorded to me pales in comparison to the fact that human life is at stake if the just-released International Atomic Energy Agency report is true when it writes that

"The only explanation for the presence of these modified uranium particles is that they were contained in the missiles dropped from the Israeli planes." What are the health effects of these weapons, what role did the U.S. military play in providing them or the technology that underlies them, why is there such silence on this, and most fundamentally, what is going on in this part of the world that international law has forgotten?

Clearly, not only the faces of U.S. politicians must change; we must change their values, too. We, in the United States, must utilize our votes to effect the same kind of people-powered change in the United States as has been done in all those other countries. And now, with more people than ever inside the United States actually paying attention to politics, this is our moment; we must seize this time. We must become the leaders we are looking for and get people who share our values elected to Congress and the White House.

Now, I hope you believe me when I say to you that this is not rocket science. I have learned politics from its best players. And I say to you that even with the failabilities of the U.S. system, it is possible for us to do more than vote for a slogan of change, we can actually have it. But if we fail to seize this moment, we will continue to get what we've always been given: handpicked leaders who don't truly represent us.

With the kind of U.S. weapons that are being used in this part of the world, from white phosphorus to depleted uranium, from cluster bombs to bunker busting bombs, nothing less than the soul of my country is at stake. But for the world, it is the fate of humankind that is at stake.

The people in my country just invested their hopes for a better world and a better government in their votes for President-elect Obama. However, during an unprecedented two year Presidential campaign, the exact kind of change we are to get was never fully defined. Therefore, we the people of the United States must act now with boldness and confidence. We can set the stage for the kind of change that reflects our values.

Now is not the time for timidity. The U.S. economy is in shambles, unemployment and health insecurity are soaring, half of our young people do not even graduate from high school; college is unaffordable. The middle class that was invested in the stock market is seeing their life savings stripped from them by the hour. What we are witnessing is the pauperization of a country, in much the same way that Russia was pauperized after the fall of the Soviet Union. There are clear winners and the losers all know who they are. The attentive public in the United States is growing because of these conditions. Now is the time for our values to rise because people in the United States are now willing to listen.

So the question really is, "Which way, America?"

Today we uplift the humanity of the Palestinian people. And what I am recommending is the creation of a political movement inside my country that will constitute a surgical strike for global justice. This gathering is the equivalent of us stepping to the microphone to be heard.

We don't have to lose because we have commitment to the people.

And we don't have to lose because we refuse to compromise our core values.

We don't have to lose because we seek peace with justice and diplomacy over war.

We don't have to lose.

By committing to do some things we've never done before I'm certain that we can also have some things we've never had before.

I return to the U.S. committed to do my part to make our dream come true.

Thank you.
(c) 2008 Cynthia McKinney

Yesterday's Traitors
By Uri Avnery

Editors Note: On the anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, Haaretz asked nine Israelis to comment on the state of the Israeli left. Their contributions were published on November 14, 2008. Here's Uri Avnery's contribution.

In the crucial battle over the national consciousness, we are experiencing great success.

Let us pause to recall: In the aftermath of the 1948 war, when we said there is a Palestinian people and that peace should be made with it, there were not 100 people in Israel and the entire world who agreed.

When we said a Palestinian state should be established alongside Israel, we were deemed national enemies.

When we insisted that dialogue with the PLO was vital, we were called traitors. Four cabinet ministers demanded that I be prosecuted for treason after I met Yasser Arafat in 1982 in besieged Beirut.

We were subjected to endless denunciation when we made it clear that East Jerusalem had to be the capital of Palestine.

When we said that the settlements are a cancer in the nation's body and that we need to talk to Hamas, we received death threats.

Yet these positions have by now come to be accepted by most of the Israeli public. The "two-state solution" is a matter of worldwide consensus, and even politicians who oppose it must pretend to endorse it.

So if things are so good, why are they so bad?

The victory in the battle for national awareness does not come hand in hand with a political victory. On the contrary: The settlements are growing at an alarming rate, even though their residents are isolated within the Israeli public. The occupation is becoming entrenched. The settlers are infiltrating the military's high command. The large political parties pay lip service to making peace and do the opposite. The upcoming elections will include three large, outdated, tired parties, which have already been in charge of the country and demonstrated their inability or unwillingness to bring about change. There is no chance that Israel will have a new government that is willing to take on the settlers in the West Bank and the Golan Heights, or to play a leading role in genuine peace talks.

Many factors can be blamed for this. The recent presidents of the United States supported the proponents of settlement and annexation. Ehud Barak pulled the rug out from under the Israeli peace camp when he returned from Camp David to spread the mendacious mantra that "I have left no stone unturned on the road to peace / I have offered them unprecedented generous terms / They have turned everything down / We have is no partner for peace."

Politics is about power. The Labor Movement, in the days before the establishment of the State of Israel, knew this well and created its power structures in all areas of life. That is why it dominated the Jewish community here for two generations. Its power had negative side effects, but it also enabled it to direct the establishment of the state.

Since then, the Israeli left has moved from one extreme to the other, reaching the point of utter political collapse. It seemed to believe that if the right message were only voiced, everything would then happen on its own.

The left has divested itself of all its political assets and of almost all its media assets. It has lost touch with Israel's peripheral areas, as well as with the Jewish Oriental and Russian communities. It emasculated itself when it agreed to exclude the Arab public from the coalition arena. It has failed to convince Israelis that peace is possible, that there is a partner for peace.

Without access to the media, the voice of the active, dedicated and resolute part of the peace camp rings weak.

The appearance of Barack Obama, the man who came from nowhere and led a historic revolution, proves that anything is possible. People with an exciting vision, creative thinking, courage, determination and a clear message can work miracles. Two years ago no one believed it was possible. Now it has happened. Obama has mobilized an entire new generation, which understands that change must be political and that political mobilization is the duty of anyone who wants to fix the world.

On Saturday, two weeks ago, the proponents of peace gathered at Rabin Square and listened politely to sad songs and to the cliches of failed politicians. The word "Palestinians" was not mentioned once during the entire evening. An air of quiet despondency floated above everything. But perhaps there was in that crowd an Obama of our own, waiting for his day.

I believe that the Israeli Obama will find fertile ground for peace. I would like to be present at his victory rally at Rabin Square.
(c) 2008 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Little Things
By Victoria Stewart

"To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common--this is my symphony." _~~~ William Henry Channing

"It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important." _~~~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

"Even a timely warning may be seen as a gift." ~~~ Ralph Blum

A few weeks ago, I stood in line in a bank and as I watched the interaction between a teller and the person in front of me, I was swept with deep sadness. It wasn't the dissipation of our country's financial fantasy. It wasn't even the brave, if bizarre, calm with which we have swaddled our fear. It was, rather, the tragic recognition of how much knowledge we have lost as a species.

Through our oldest, most revered legends and best scientific research, we learn that from our beginning, humans have lived in clans. Since we began to walk upon the earth, whether you believe we fell from grace or left the azure safety of the seas, our fragile survival has depended upon the group. The species, however, due to spiritual or biological nature, is prone to violence, narcissism and self-destruction so we learned to create a tapestry of shared history and beliefs to hold us together. We were family, clan, tribe, nation and it was in the closely woven group identity we drew our lessons and experience for survival. In the metaphors of myth and religion lay the information necessary to sustain life and protect the species. Reverence for the connection to the physical world, to the plants and animals, air, light, earth and water was, if nothing else, a means to insure survival. "Civilization" has brought us far from our roots.

As I stood in the bank that October afternoon, I knew, with a bone-deep knowing, that in the building of empire our rulers have stripped us of our strongest defense against disaster. We have been robbed of our communities, our modern-day clans and the foundations of security. We no longer know our elders. We no longer plan for the next seven generations. We have nowhere to turn for wisdom and guidance. We do not listen to instinct.

I know the revelations I had in those short few minutes are neither unique nor original. What has stayed with me is the tiny flutter of family I felt, the deep, warm understanding of the pain and fear I felt all around me, the immense compassion for these strangers who wanted, as I want, safety and a sense of belonging. What has stayed with me is the memory of the way my heart broke open and I glimpsed a new world on the horizon.

Every day since then, I have had a sense of wonder and dread. I try to see the future in the cold, frost-filled mornings that bring record breaking cold. I leave breadcrumbs in the cemetery for the crows who call from the limbs of ancient trees. I search for the small rituals that will light the way forward.

In these dire times, it seems we must use the hard languages of oppression and fear. The world of politics and corporate power demands opposition and anger. We stand in the streets and shake our fists at the flat eyes of death. We are powerless in our isolation.

The coming years will bring the disintegration of our social systems. We do not have and our government will not provide the structures necessary to hold our society together. We face gravely dangerous threats to our water and food supplies. Our health care industry will not meet the needs of an increasingly impoverished population and the newly emerging diseases. Our planet shudders under the weight of our numbers.

And yet it is in our great decline that our hope lies. The planet cannot support the billions we have become. Our governments do not have the resources to address the problems we're facing now. They will be less able to do so in the future. In order to survive the cataclysms that are upon us, we will be forced to not only rely upon group for survival but also to redefine our purpose within the context of local and global community. With thoughtfulness and care, we can establish communities that meet not only the physical needs of humans but the emotional and intellectual needs as well.

Look to what gives you true joy. Identify what is essential. Listen to the inner voice that speaks from ancestral memory. Follow the road that calls you home.

It is no shame to know you live at the changing of the world.
(c) 2008 Victoria Stewart is the editor of Issues & Alibis magazine.

Group Of 20's Global Finance Show

Were you as impressed with George W's Glorious Global Finance Gala as I was? What a show!

The leaders of the world's 20 most powerful economies recently gathered in Washington to consider what to do about the spreading economic collapse. To get in the mood for addressing the topic, they started their one-day talkfest with a lavish White House dinner featuring Thyme-roasted rack of lamb. Hey - you can burn up a lot of calories grappling with economic Armageddon, so the Group of 20 needed to bulk up!

The actual grappling consisted mostly of blathering and posturing. Then they grabbed lunch, took a group picture, and left town. And what, exactly, was accomplished? Much, according to a Bush spinmeister, who insisted that average Americans should "Take comfort from what happened today." Well, okay, but what did happen? The leaders, he said, showed that they understand "the depth of the economic problems."

Oh, good. Wow, I feel much better now, don't you?

In fairness, I should note that the Groupees didn't leave us totally empty handed, for they adopted a set of principles for all nations to ponder:

o Reinforce cooperation.
_o Improve regulations.
_o Promote market integrity.
_o Reform international financial institutions.
_o Strengthen transparency.

Oh, double-wow! A high school football coach couldn't have come up with a better list of motivational platitudes to post on the locker room walls: Reinforce! Improve! Promote! Reform! Strengthen!

Meanwhile, corporations are shedding jobs, home foreclosures are rampant, and the economy is so poor that even Nevada brothels say they're losing customers. And what is the Group of 20 leaders going to do about it? They say they'll meet again in next April. Great - I hear lamb is good that time of year.
(c) 2008 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.

Emergency Supplies - Be Prepared To Survive
By James Roberts

What you have on hand for 'emergency supplies' can and will most likely save your life when a major disaster hits. As you go through each day knowing that something terrible could happen, why not have them on hand?

Nowadays, the chance of an emergency coming your way is unfortunately pretty good. And that leads to the following.

Emergency items to keep on hand in case of a disaster

Well, there are unfortunately a ton of different emergencies that could happen, as was noted earlier. Further, these specific emergencies could call for slightly different things. That said, here are some things that everyone should have on hand in case of an emergency.

Emergency food and storage containers

Just as important to the process of having emergency food on hand is to have appropriate emergency storage containers for it. Thus, here are some things you should have. #10 cans

Oxygen absorption packets - These are used to reduce moisture in food items, thus keeping the food viable for much longer (check the directions and utilize the experts when it comes to using these).

PETE bottles - These bottles, made of polyethylene terephthalate, are used for long term storage.

Foil pouches - These are made of multilayer laminated plastic and aluminum.

Full size plastic garbage cans - These could be used for bathing or washing dishes/ clothes.

Freezer - Okay, if the electric goes out this won't help. But if it doesn't, a freezer and refrigerator in the area you plan on setting down is prudent (remember that if we're talking about a fallout shelter of sorts, it will have to be in an accessible place).

Now, the food

Here's the short answer: Have enough food and water on hand for at least a month which will involve stocking up on things. Particularly, you'll want to look into dry foods because they last well. Dry beans, rice, milk, and anything else you can find will be beneficial. Further, stock up on water in a big way. Along with this, once you get a significant amount of it H2O, buy a new jug every now and then to so as to keep your supplies fresh (and replace the old with the new).

Other must haves in any emergency supply kit

From gathering food, to hunting for it, to keeping abreast of an emergency situation, to caring for those you love, here are some other things to have on hand.

1. Firearms - You may not believe in guns, but in an emergency situation there may be nothing better to have. Remember that if you have supplies and other starving families don't, well, what wouldn't you do to keep your family alive?

2. Fishing pole - If you don't have food, maybe you can gather it.

3. Bait.

4. Crabbing gear - Only if you live in an area where crabbing is an option.

5. Camouflage clothing - If you're going to hunt, do it right.

6. Hunting knife - This and a good buck knife for cutting rope, etc. may be prudent.

7. Radio- Keep extra batteries around as well.

8. Cutlery, plates, tin openers, bowls, etc.

9. Extra bedding.

10. Extra warm clothing.

11. Extra bathroom supplies - Beyond this, you may want to know where you will toilet in advance when thinking about a fallout shelter. A fallout shelter is only needed for one kind of emergency (nuclear). Still, it's unfortunately looking like nuclear problems are more and more of a possibility these days.

12. Soap

13. First Aid Supply Kit.

14. Tarps and tents - In case you need to build a shelter. Also, tarps can be used to trap water if you run out.

15. Flashlights, candles, and matches- If there's no electricity, what else will you use? The flashlight is another reason to have extra batteries on hand.

16. Portable stove- A propane BBQ may be the way to go if electricity dies. Along with this, you'll want spare propane tanks. Keep them away from your home while waiting, however, as they could go up with an explosion.

17. Towels, brushes, brooms, even mops for cleaning.

18. Stationary - There's no telling how long you may be in a predicament. Thus, books, paper, and pens/ pencils may be needed to fill time and communicate with others.

19. Building supplies - What if your house or property needs fixing? A hammer, nails, axe, and saw could be as important to you as clothes themselves.

20. Alternative transportation - If cars won't work because of gas or oil shortages, bicycles, scooters, and anything and everything else that moves and isn't motor powered may be what the doctor ordered.

21. Backpacks and hiking boots - These could come in handy if you need to get going in a hurry. Also remember that if you're going for a hike, pack that tent of yours along with some food.

In sum, having an appropriate and versatile set of emergency supplies at your home and/ or workplace could mean the difference between living and dying in the coming years. We've all seen the potential for devastation out there (unfortunately, some of us have seen more than potential devastation). Now is the time to get ready for it.

Oh yeah, and don't forget to have enough emergency supplies for everyone in your home (not just one or two of you if you have five people living with you).

The last thing you want to have to do is make choices about who lives or dies.
(c) 2008 James Roberts

Obama Chooses Wall Street Over Main Street
By Robert Scheer

Maybe Ralph Nader was right in predicting that the same Wall Street hustlers would have a lock on our government no matter which major party won the election. I hate to admit it, since it wasn't that long ago that I heatedly challenged Nader in a debate on this very point.

But how else is one to respond to Barack Obama's picking the very folks who helped get us into this financial mess to now lead us out of it? Watching the president-elect's Monday introduction of his economic team, my brother-in-law Pete said, "You can see the feathers coming out of their mouths" as the foxes were once again put in charge of the henhouse. He didn't have time to expound on his point, having to get ready to go sort mail in his job at the post office. But he showed me a statement from Citigroup showing that the interest rate on Pete the Postal Worker's credit card was 28.9 percent, an amount that all major religions would justly condemn as usurious.

Moments earlier, Obama had put his seal of approval on the Citigroup bailout, which his new economic team, led by protégés of Citigroup Executive Committee Chairman Robert Rubin, enthusiastically endorsed. A bailout that brings to $45 billion the taxpayer money thrown at Citigroup and the guarantee of $306 billion for the bank's "toxic securities" that would have been illegal if not for changes in the law that Citigroup secured with the decisive help of Rubin and Lawrence Summers, the man who replaced him as Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration.

As Summers stayed on to ensure passage of deregulatory laws that enabled enormous banking greed, Rubin was rewarded with a $15 million-a-year executive position at Citigroup, a job that only got more lucrative as the bank went from one disaster, beginning with its involvement with Enron in which Rubin played an active role, to its huge role in the mortgage debacle. It is widely acknowledged that Citigroup fell victim to a merger mania, which Rubin and Summers made legal during their tenure at Treasury.

Yet despite that dismal record of dismantling sound regulation, Summers has been picked by Obama to be the top White House economic adviser and another Rubin disciple, Timothy Geithner, is the new Treasury secretary. Geithner, thanks in part to the strong recommendation of Rubin, had been appointed chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank after working for Rubin and Summers during the Clinton years. Once at the New York Fed, he was the main government official charged with regulating Citigroup, a task at which he obviously failed. Yet over the weekend, it was Geithner who hammered out the Citigroup bailout deal with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and a very actively involved Rubin.

As The Washington Post reported, Paulson had indicated last week that no further bailouts were planned before the new administration took office until "Rubin, an old colleague from Goldman Sachs, told Paulson in phone calls that the government had to act." Rubin conceded in an interview with the Post that he had played a key role in the politics of the bailout.

This outrageous conflict of interest in which Rubin gets to exploit his ties to both the outgoing and incoming administrations was best described by Washington Post writer Steven Pearlstein:"The ultimate irony, of course, is that just as Rubin and Co. at Citi were being bailed out by the Bush administration, President-elect Barack Obama was getting set to announce a new economic team drawn almost entirely from Rubin acolytes."

As opposed to the far tougher deal negotiated on the bailout of AIG, the arrangement with Citigroup leaves the executives, including Rubin, who brought Citigroup to the brink of ruin, still in charge. Nor is there any guarantee of the value of the mortgage bundles that taxpayers will be guaranteeing. That is because, as candidate Obama clearly stated in his major economics address back in March, the deregulation pushed though during the Clinton years ended transparency in banking.

Why then has he appointed the very people responsible for this disaster to now make it all better? Why not ask him? Heck, yes, it is time for the many of us who responded to his e-mails during the campaign to now challenge our e-mail buddy as to why he suddenly acts as if the interests of Wall Street and Main Street are one and the same.
(c) 2008 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.

Leah Poare visits a food pantry in Columbus,
Ohio. Even with the help of free groceries,
Poare and her husband limit themselves to
one full meal a day, usually in the evening,
so that their three children, ages 6, 7 and
17, can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Starving For Change
By Chris Hedges

Elba Figueroa worked as a nurse's aide until she got Parkinson's disease. She lost her job. She lost her health care. She receives $703 a month in government assistance. Her rent alone costs $750. And so she borrows money from friends and neighbors every month to stay in her apartment. She laboriously negotiates her wheelchair up and down steps and along the frigid sidewalks of Trenton, N.J., to get to soup kitchens and food pantries to eat.

"Food prices have gone up," the 47-year-old Figueroa said, waiting to get inside the food pantry run by the Crisis Ministry of Princeton and Trenton. "I don't have any money. I run out of things to eat. I worked until I physically could not work anymore. Now I live like this."

The pantry, which occupies a dilapidated three-story art deco building in Old Trenton, one of the poorest sections of the city, is one of about two dozen charities that struggle to provide shelter and food to the poor. Those who quality for assistance are permitted to come once a month and push a shopping cart in a U shape around the first floor where, clutching a piece of paper with allotted points, they can stock up on items using the pantry's point system according to the number of people in a household. The shelves of the pantry hold bags of rice, jars of peanut butter, macaroni and cheese and cans of beets, corn and peas. Two refrigerated cases hold eggs, chickens, fresh carrots and beef hot dogs. "All Fresh Produce 2 pounds = 1 point," a sign on the glass door of the refrigerated unit reads. Another reads: "1 Dozen EGGS equal 3 protein points. Limit of 1 dozen per household."

The swelling numbers waiting outside homeless shelters and food pantries around the country, many of them elderly or single women with children, have grown by at least 30 percent since the summer. General welfare recipients receive $140 a month in cash and another $140 in food stamps. This is all many in Trenton and other impoverished areas have to live on.

Trenton, a former manufacturing center that has a 20 percent unemployment rate and a median income of $33,000, is a window into our current unraveling. The financial meltdown is plunging the working class and the poor into levels of destitution unseen since the Depression. And as the government squanders taxpayer money in fruitless schemes to prop up insolvent banks and investment houses, citizens are callously thrown onto the street without work, a place to live or enough food.

The statistics are already grim. Our banking and investment system, holding perhaps $2 trillion in worthless assets, cannot be saved, even with the $700 billion of taxpayer money recklessly thrown into its financial black hole. Our decline is irrevocable. The number of private sector jobs has dropped for the past 10 months and at least a quarter of all businesses say they plan to cut more jobs over the next year. The nation's largest banks, including Citigroup, face collapse. Retail sales fell in October by the largest monthly drop on record. Auto companies are on the edge of bankruptcy. The official unemployment figures, which duplicitously mask real unemployment that is probably now at least 10 percent nationwide, are up to 6.1 percent and headed higher. We have lost 1.2 million jobs since January. Young men of color have 50 percent unemployment rates in cities such as Trenton. Twelve million houses are worth less than their mortgages and a million people will lose their homes this year in foreclosures. The current trends, if not swiftly reversed, mean that one in 33 home owners will face foreclosure.

There are now 36.2 million Americans who cope daily with hunger, up by more than 3 million since 2000, according to the Food Research and Action Center in Washington, D.C. The number of people in the worst-off category-the hungriest-rose by 40 percent since 2000, to nearly 12 million people.

"We are seeing people we have not seen for a long time," said the Rev. Jarret Kerbel, director of the Crisis Ministry's food pantry, which supplies food to 1,400 households in Trenton each month. "We are seeing people who haven't crossed that threshold for five, six or seven years coming back. We are seeing people whose unemployment has run out and they are struggling in that gap while they reapply and, of course, we are seeing the usual unemployed. This will be the first real test of [Bill] Clinton's so-called welfare reform."

The Crisis Ministry, like many hard-pressed charities, is over budget and food stocks are precariously low. Donations are on the decline. There are days when soup kitchens in Trenton are shut down because they have no food.

"We collected 170 bags of groceries from a church in Princeton and it was gone in two days," Kerbel said. "We collected 288 bags from a Jewish center in Princeton and it was gone in three days. What you see on the shelves is pretty much what we have."

The largess of Congress to Wall Street bankers and investors does not extend to the growing ranks of the poor. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Emergency Food Assistance Program donated $240 million in surplus food in 2003 to food banks and other programs. Those donations fell last year to $59 million.

States, facing dramatic budget shortfalls, are slashing social assistance programs, including Medicaid, social services and education. New Jersey's shortfall has tripled to $1.2 billion and could soar to $5 billion for the next fiscal year. Tax revenue has fallen to $211 million less than projected. States are imposing hiring freezes, canceling raises and cutting back on services big and small, from salting and plowing streets in winter to heating assistance programs. Unemployment insurance funds, especially with the proposed extension of benefits, are running out of money. Governors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger in California and David A. Paterson in New York have called special legislative sessions to deal with the crisis.

If Barack Obama continues to turn to the elites who created the mess, if he does not radically redirect the nation's resources to assist the working class and the poor, we will become a third-world country. We will waste gargantuan amounts of money we cannot afford on our military, our national security state and bloated corporations while we damn the middle and working class to the whims, idiocy and greed of an entrenched, corporate oligarchy. Obama's appointments of Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers as director of the National Economic Council are ominous signals that these elites remain entrenched. Dolores Williams, 57, sat in the cramped waiting room at the Crisis Ministry clutching a numbered card, waiting for it to be called. She has lived in a low-income apartment block known as The Kingsbury for a year. Two residents, she said, recently jumped to their deaths from the 19th floor. She had a job at Sam's Club but lost it. No one, she says, is hiring. She is desperate.

She handed me a copy of The Trentonian, a local paper. The headline on the front page read: "Gangster Slammed for Bicycle Drive-By." It was the story of the conviction of a man for a fatal drive-by shooting from a bicycle. The paper, as I flipped through it, was filled with stories like these, the result of social, economic and moral collapse. Poverty breeds more than hunger. It destroys communities. There was a report about a 56-year-old woman who was robbed and pistol-whipped in the middle of the afternoon. There was an article about the plight of four children whose two parents had been shot and seriously wounded. "Libraries OK Now, but Future Is Murky" a headline read. Another announced: "Still No Arrests in Hooker Slayings."

"It is like this every day," Williams said.

So while our nation crumbles, physically and morally, while our empire implodes, while our economy tanks, the bankrupt elites who got us here play the merry-go-round game of power in Washington. They will continue to oversee our demise, including the obscene drain of our military and security budget, which now accounts for half of all discretionary spending. Pentagon officials have reportedly asked the Obama transition team for $581 billion, an increase of $67 billion. This increase does not, of course, include the $3 trillion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We will pay these loans later.

Banks, automotive companies and investment firms, all sinking under the weight of their own incompetence and greed, head to Washington, usually in private jets, to engage in the largest looting of the treasury in American history. And Congress doles out our money without oversight in the greatest transference of wealth upwards in modern times.

As this pitiful march of folly rolls forward, children in Trenton and across America go to bed hungry.
(c) 2008 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.

Plus ça change: "Progressive" Leaders Ride War Machine Deeper Into Darkness
By Chris Floyd

Armed with the same invincible ignorance and arrogance that have for generations led their imperial forbears to bitter defeat in Afghanistan, Barack Obama and Gordon Brown have both pledged themselves to a substantial escalation of the Anglo-American adventure in Central Asia. Thus these two self-proclaimed "progressive" champions of benevolent change are guaranteeing more of the same bitter fruit already produced by this misbegotten enterprise: more death, more ruin, more suffering, more corruption - and more violent extremism.

The latter, of course, is where we came in, with the Carter-Reagan marshalling of extremist jihadis -- known as "freedom fighters" in those days of yore -- to hotfoot the Soviets and their secular Afghan clients. Indeed, the entire arc of America's bipartisan policies in the region over the past 40 years can be seen as the elaborate construction of a gargantuan, self-propelled blowback machine, producing an endless effluent of violence, threat, chaos and crime that is now sluicing through the entire world. But blowback, as we all know, is not a design flaw of imperial policy, at least not for the most part; it is a design feature. No War Machine without perpetual war and rumors of war; no war profits - and no war powers - without the War Machine.

So perhaps we do wrong to criticize Obama and Brown, on policy grounds, for their intention to kill more civilians and kindle more hatred and sorrow in Afghanistan. After all, we are told over and over how very intelligent these two leaders are, how well-read, how penetrating, far-seeing and deep-delving they are, especially in comparison to their fatuous predecessors. The glaringly obvious folly - in human terms, and on the moral plane - of escalating the war in Afghanistan, and possibly expanding it into Pakistan, cannot have escaped such perceptive men. Therefore, we can only conclude that their policies, like those of their predecessors, are based on altogether different considerations, ones in which the lives of the Afghan people, and the genuine security of their own people, are of little concern.

For this is the hard truth - the blood-and-iron truth - that our age has taught us so well: war is always a win-win proposition for the corporate-militarist state that has devoured the American Republic. Even if the particular conflict itself ends badly or inconclusively, it always engenders vast profits and increased power and privilege for the corporate-militarist elite -- and the temporary managers they graciously allow the American people to "choose" from a rigorously sifted, highly circumscribed menu of "viable" candidates. So it doesn't matter if this war or that war is "ill-conceived" or "badly managed" or a "serious mistake" or "the wrong war at the wrong time," or if its public justifications are based on lies or ignorance or arrogance, or if it bankrupts the treasury, beggars the citizenry, and destabilizes the world. The small, golden, coddled circle still reaps dividends of profit and dominance.

Naturally, this kind of thing can't go on forever; history is replete with examples of imperial elites who eventually bled their nations dry and saw them fall into ruin or curdle into a fearful insignificance. But I think that those who believe - either hopefully or in despair - that the American empire will shrivel away anytime soon are badly mistaken. The war machine and the security apparatus are not shrinking; they are growing by leaps and bounds, and Obama has promised to make them even larger. The economic disaster doesn't threaten the position of the imperial elites at all. On the contrary, as we have seen in the last few weeks, the Obama-backed "bailout" plan has enriched the already rich and powerful to a staggering degree. As CNBC reports, the government has spent more on saving the rich from the consequences of their greed than it spent in winning World War II: more than $4 trillion so far, with much more to come. This astonishing theft - the largest gobbling of public loot by a rapacious elite in the history of the world - will only further cement the powerful in their entrenchments on the commanding heights of society. The nation may rot beneath them, may be roiled by storms of blowback; but that is not their concern, it is no defeat for them. You can lose; they do not.

This is not to say that our elites don't tell themselves any number of flattering, self-justifying fairy tales about the boundless nobility and righteousness of their intentions. They can do this because they identify the interests of the system of elite rule (and the comfort, power and privilege they personally receive from the system) with the common good of the nation, or the world, as a whole. This allows them to pursue truly monstrous policies without regarding themselves as monsters. This allows them to order actions, such as the escalation of the destructive, destabilizing conflict in Afghanistan, which they know, with absolute certainty, will needlessly murder innocent women, children and men -- and still talk earnestly and sincerely about their hopes for peace, their concern for humanity, their deep, abiding faith in a loving God. But again, as we have said over and over here, what matters are not the rhetorical justifications of power or the stated intentions of power -- or the charisma, likeability or compelling story of the wielders of power; what matters are the operations of power, its actual effects on the human beings on the receiving end of its machinations. Like love, power is what it does, not what it says.

Any discourse that omits this perspective seems to me to be lacking in rigor and realism, and leaves one highly vulnerable to delusion and manipulation -- and complicity in evil.
(c) 2008 Chris Floyd

An Assassin's Lesson About The Financial Crisis
By Stuart Archer Cohen

A friend of mine spent many years in the security business doing contract work for the CIA, some of which involved killing people. My friend had a long history in the hard side of human interactions, much of it in the murky moral regions inhabited typically by soldiers, spies and public defenders with guilty clients. This was not a man who could afford to spend too much energy on moral issues: there was a job to do, and once he embarked on it, the elements of right and wrong only got in the way. However, he was a wise student in human motivation. One of the things he told me was, "A guy will do almost anything if he thinks it's for the good of other people."

You could write an encyclopedia about that statement. It was an inspiration to me when I was trying to depict the Regime cronies who end up hiring death squads in The Army of the Republic. I take my friend's comment in three ways. The first is the fact that men in combat will go to heroic lengths for the sake of their friends or what they see as the good of their country. Looking deeper I caught a much darker truth: that men and women convinced of the altruism of their actions will go to great lengths in the pursuit of evil. And on a third, profounder level, it goes from dark to weird, turns inside out: that people acting in their own self-interest are likely to convince themselves that whatever evil they're doing is for everyone else's benefit.

Which brings me to the engineers of our present financial catastrophe. The blame for this goes all the way down the line to every poor sap that lied about his income to get a mortgage, but at the top of the pyramid, the rules were set by those who benefited most. These people, staunch opponents of the financial oversight that would have reined them in, became apostles of a self-serving religion of the "Free Market" and all it could do for the common good.

The central tenet of this faith was that "Free" Markets, had the ability to magically solve our problems. This was said to have been proven infallibly by two 18th century prophets named David Ricardo and Adam Smith, after which all history stopped. In the 1890's it was Social Darwinism that had justified shooting down union organizers and sending children to factories rather than schools. Now, the divine Free Market gave an altruistic stamp to anything that suited the interests of Corporate capital. Taxes, trade barriers, unions: all of these were now Evil because they interfered with the "Free" Market. Financial oversight was Evil because it interfered with the Freedom of Corporate Capitalism's great practitioners, and somehow their Freedom was our Freedom.

It was remarkably like the old Scientific Socialism of the Communists, where economic law trumped all our petty ideas of justice or injustice. As with Communism, any evidence that the system didn't work was ignored. Savings and Loan Scandal? Not relevant. Jobs going overseas? All for the greater good. Working class becoming Working Poor? Nothing a new credit card or a 2nd mortgage can't solve. All the way to the present collapse, and, incredibly, the insistence that we don't let a bunch of Socialists go crazy and start regulating financiers.

Now we've been reminded what Free Markets really do: they boom, they bust, they become monopolies, they collapse. They implode and impoverish people in ways that are gut level, not theoretical and abstract, and the people at the middle and bottom of the pile pay a much bigger price than the guys at the top.

Don't get me wrong: I've been doing business with South America since 1984 and I know far better than most Republican talking heads what an over-regulated economy and trade regime really looks like. (You think America is bad? Try Bolivia.) But I've also seen how ugly it gets when elites are successful at relentlessly expanding their privileges, and I've never met or heard of anyone in that position-people who managed vast tracts of land with peasant labor, or privatized a government entity, or used connections to make a fortune on a government contract-who didn't think what they were doing was morally right.

For one brief moment they wavered: the mighty Alan Greenspan expressed his surprise at discovering, at the age of 80, that a certain percentage of rich white men, given complete license, will steal the shirt off your back then grab your wristwatch when you extend your hand to save them.

But we won't see any apologies from Hank Paulson, from Robert Rubin, from the American Enterprise Institute and all the other cheerleaders for deregulation who set us up to take the fall. These men are convinced that they are acting for the common good, even as their colleagues manipulate the bailout to protect their bonuses and their fortune. Their personal interests just happen to align with what's good for the rest of us. Even their trillion dollar deficits provide a silver lining by giving us the opportunity to streamline the cash-strapped government, especially the Social Security part.

Some might call this tendency to ignore reality when it whacks you in the face psychotic. But for the smart guys like Hank Paulson, as well as the followers who blindly mutter the words "Free Market" with reverence and awe, they are the ones who truly understand, who keep the faith, who know the Truth. The rest of us? Well, we'll just have to learn the hard way.
(c) 2008 Stuart Archer Cohen

Campaign Promises And Stark Reality:
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning Middle America, your King of Simple News is limping into Monday.

Sorry that I didn't produce a weekend addition, but I have a good excuse. While on the way to the airport to pick up our Indianapolis son and his wife I was hit head on and our car was totaled!

To make matters worse, the guy who hit me and his male passenger fled the scene on foot never to be seen again leaving two girls trapped in the back of the car that couldn't get out. They were extracted through the back glass and for the most part were unharmed. The two 20 something girls later told police that they had no idea who the guys were.

If you have never seen airbags deploy, I recommend keeping it that way. The seat belts and airbags did work exactly as designed and I'm here writing the news again this morning with little more than a few aches and pains, but nothing permanent.

There is nothing short of not being in the vicinity that could have kept me out of that accident. The guy came across an undivided four lane and hit me so fast that I never had time to brake. So please...wear your seat belts and drive as carefully as possible or I'll tell you the story about my airplane wreck a few years back.

Barrack Obama is in the news and I didn't have to wait for my long standing prediction of his announcing a New, New Deal if elected, to come to fruition. Yep, he trotted out his 2.5 million worker job creation program to rebuild infrastructure and create new environmental technology.

Mr. Obama has no idea why the highways and bridges are in bad shape to begin with, or for that matter, who is going to use those highways and bridges once they are rebuilt, or who is going to pay for the work. What he knows is that Franklin Roosevelt did much the same thing and became an American icon just like Mr. Obama wants to be remembered.

Obama is also waffling on his campaign promise to immediately tax the wealthy. One of his staffers clued him in that the wealthy arranged for him to be elected and they are also the people who he will be working with in Congress. Not to mention that the wealthy employ the few remaining workers that haven't' been laid off.

Mr. Obama's new plans to revive the American economy are going to cost far more than he stated while campaigning, hundreds of billions more in fact. But then, he's not campaigning any longer; he won and we lost.

As far as Obama's promise of being an agent of change and bringing America closer together. . . he has surrounded himself with a cast of seasoned political operatives and Clinton administration veterans including Hillary Clinton who will appear as herself. Ah yes, the campaign and reality. Beltway savvy and centrist policy have, so far, trumped partisanship. But then, what did you expect?

In the meantime, our current government in a bold weekend move is bailing out Citigroup as can be seen by the following headlines:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Rushing to rescue Citigroup, the government agreed to shoulder hundreds of billions of dollars in possible losses at the stricken bank and to plow a fresh $20 billion into the company.

Yesiree, we have some dandy's running this country and even more dandy's chaffing at the bit to take over the reins. Would any other country in the world do something this stupid? I'm glad you asked, because China just did.

BEIJING (AP) - Trying to dispel doubts about the true size and effectiveness of a giant economic stimulus package, Beijing rolled out an eye-popping figure to show its determination to spend its way out of trouble: a $1.4 trillion shopping list of possible investments.

Interestingly enough, the fact that population increases and resource decreases are on course for a spectacular head-on collision without the benefit of seatbelts or airbags, is not something that the U.S. or China wish to consider, not publicly anyway.

I'm not much of a bumper sticker guy, but I may make one up that says, "Don't look at me. I didn't vote for either one of them."
(c) 2008 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...

"And now the liberals want to stop President Reagan from selling chemical warfare agents and military equipment to Saddam Hussein, and why? Because Saddam allegedly gassed a few Kurds in his own country. Mark my words. All of this talk of Saddam Hussein being a war criminal or committing crimes against humanity is the same old thing - liberal hate speech. And speaking of poison gas, I say we round up all the drug addicts and gas them."
~~~ Rush Limbaugh ~ November 3, 1988

Why Is Mitch McConnell Being Nice To Obama?
Addressing the Federalist Society, the top Senate Republican went light on the red meat-except when it came to judges.
By Stephanie Mencimer

Having narrowly survived his reelection campaign, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was in an expansive mood Thursday morning. Back to work in Washington, he spoke at the annual convention of the Federalist Society, the powerful conservative legal organization. Acknowledging his recent close shave, McConnell elicited some laughs from the friendly crowd by noting that in campaign ads, Democrats had called him the biggest impediment to progress since Antonin Scalia, who also happens to be one of the group's legendary heroes. "They elected me anyway," he deadpanned.

Far from being demoralized by the brutal campaign, McConnell declared that he was "refreshed and energized by the battle. Churchill said the most exhilarating thing in life is to be shot at and missed." Yet McConnell still seemed somewhat chastened by his near loss. In fact, during his speech, the man who had almost singlehandedly obstructed campaign finance reform for decades and who led GOP efforts in recent years to block increases in the minimum wage and health coverage for children sounded downright moderate. Indeed, far from coming out guns a-blazing, which would have played well with the sympathetic crowd, McConnell spent the bulk of his time saying surprisingly nice things about President-elect Barack Obama.

McConnell offered some advice to his former Senate colleague, whom he said has "the potential to be an impressive president...He seems serious and competent and, most importantly, he convinced the voters that he would help them in a time of economic crisis." McConnell spoke approvingly of Obama's plan to cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans and his promise to tackle entitlement reform and energy security.

Echoing a new GOP talking point, McConnell said he hoped that Obama would govern as he had campaigned-from the middle, which is not, he observed, what new presidents usually do, a veiled reference to Bill Clinton's gays-in-the-military debacle. "My challenge to him is to do big things while he has the maximum amount of political capital, on a bipartisan basis," he said. McConnell noted that back in 2004, Obama had observed that one of the biggest mistakes President Bush had made in his first year in office was to push an aggressive agenda that was not what he campaigned on. At the time, Obama had said he would advise John Kerry, if elected, to stick to his campaign pledges.

McConnell recommended that Obama take his own advice and "put the partisan laundry list aside." He warned that if Obama took on the other issues, such as the unions' desire to provide workers with an option other than secret ballot voting on union membership, Obama would be in for a big fight that would cost him an enormous amount of good will in Congress. (The Federalists practically leapt from their seats when McConnell mentioned the union issue.) He acknowledged that the Democrats controlled Congress, but reminded Obama that if he failed to win bipartisan support for his initiatives, the blowback would be substantial and the Democratic majority could easily evaporate in two years. "My preference is that we address big things," McConnell said, mentioning the looming effects of the baby boomers' retirement on Social Security (an issue that during the campaign, Obama ranked well below the current economic crisis, health care, education, energy independence, and ending the war in Iraq).

Lest any of the true believers in the room start to suspect that McConnell had switched parties, he did throw the crowd some red meat on one of their favorite subjects: judicial nominations. McConnell argued that Senate Democrats had completely distorted the confirmation process. He recalled that in 2001, two of Obama's legal advisers, the Harvard law professors Cass Sunstein and Laurence Tribe, suggested changing the judicial nomination hearing process to take into account political as well as legal philosophy. Much to his chagrin, he said, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) held hearings on the idea, including one titled, "Should ideology matter?"

At those hearings, McConnell claimed Schumer and other democrats said it would be important to have "ideologically moderate" judges on the bench, which McConnell took to mean judges who sympathized with certain groups rather than sticking to the law in front of them. He bashed Senate Democrats for holding up Bush's judicial nominees when Bush was doing nothing but sticking with the ancient criteria of ensuring that his nominees were competent and intelligent jurists. With a look of horror, McConnell quoted Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), who said during the nomination hearings for Chief Justice John Roberts, "Whose side is he on?" (Of course, the Federalists and their Republican allies also ask that question of GOP judicial nominees, particularly on the issue of Roe v. Wade, but that, apparently, is not an ideological question but simply a legal one in this crowd.)

McConnell observed that Obama has said one quality he would seek in a judicial nominee is empathy, a view that McConnell derided as "unorthodox." He warned that Republicans would not sit quietly if Obama nominated judges based on ideology-i.e., which side they're on-as opposed to fealty to the law (at least the law as McConnell sees it). "We can't countenance a process where judges would favor one side in litigation," he roared. The Federalists rose in unison to give the Senate minority leader a standing ovation, a reception he's not likely to get on the Senate floor anytime soon.
(c) 2008 Stephanie Mencimer is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington, DC, bureau and the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue (Free Press, 2006).

To Each His Own Nuke
By William Pfaff

The cynical view of national sovereignty holds that it belongs only to those who can defend it. This was said recently at the Pentagon concerning American manned and unmanned attacks inside Pakistan, in violation of Pakistan's sovereignty.

Terrorism also ignores sovereignty. There is a reciprocal relationship between international terrorism and American and NATO international counterterrorism, or supposed pre-emption of terrorism, in that both ignore sovereignty-whose legal definition is a nation's undivided and exclusive jurisdiction over its affairs, and absolute right to defend itself.

The closest to an absolute means for defense of sovereignty is the possession of nuclear weapons. This is why such countries as Iran and North Korea have nuclear programs meant-or so it is assumed-to provide them with nuclear weapons.

The motive for nuclear weapons proliferation is defense of national sovereignty. Proliferation does not itself imply aggressive intent: such weapons are literally useless in an aggressive role.

The only exception to this rule is regional, between nuclear and non-nuclear states. However, India and Pakistan have gone to great expense to re-create for themselves the same MAD (mutual assured destruction) relationship that prevailed between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (and China) during the Cold War.

Given that one will never allow the other to gain a nuclear advantage, India and Pakistan would have been better off to leave things as they were before. Pakistan may now think itself safer from India's much larger army, but both countries are actually worse off, in mindless rivalry over the status of Kashmir, a matter of infinitesimal importance compared with a nuclear war.

A nuclear defense of national sovereignty is meaningful-if it is ever meaningful-only in extreme circumstances, and if the threat comes from another nuclear power would probably prove suicidal; hence unlikely to be employed. Nevertheless, possession of nuclear weapons makes the other side think twice.

The propaganda argument usually made about Iran is that nuclear weapons would allow that country to threaten the United States, Israel and Europe. The missile defense that the Bush administration has wanted to build in Poland and Czechoslovakia is not meant to defend anything. It was designed to have a political effect by dividing "old" Europeans from the "new" ones who support the American proposal. Above all, it is meant to intimidate Russia. It is not directed at Iran, for whom a nuclear missile attack on the West would be nonsensical, as Teheran and Washington both know.

The purpose of U.S. pressure on the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency to provide further justification for Security Council sanctions on Iran is to prevent that country from obtaining the only feasible deterrence it could present to a future American or Israeli intervention in that country.

Israel has pressed hard for a U.S. attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, not because it fears nuclear aggression by Iran, which is inconceivable and would be suicidal folly. Israel's concern is that if Iran acquires one or several nuclear weapons, it would deter conventional attack by its enemies, notably the United States.

The existence of a nuclear Iran, despite the strategic military insignificance of its nuclear force, would also deprive Israel of the political power it derives from being the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East.

Pakistan's nuclear weapons obviously do not deter the United States' repeated violations of its sovereignty with bombing and raids into the country, nor does it dissuade the American president-elect from promising to continue (or enlarge) those sovereignty violations if Pakistan fails to capture and deliver al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden to the United States. The weapons were not intended to do so. They relate exclusively to India.

However, there is another and much more practical penalty for American disregard of Pakistani sovereignty (even when it may be secretly authorized by the new government in Islamabad). This policy exacts a heavy political cost among the Pakistani population, and in the long run could turn Pakistan into another Afghanistan, even more dangerous to the United States than the war in Afghanistan is now.

The most recent American missile launched from Afghanistan into Pakistan struck a village some 30 miles inside the country, well beyond the tribal region where the Taliban are. U.S. officials make the usual claim that the victims were Taliban or foreign militants. Villagers and a local official made the usual response that the victims were civilians and included no militants.

A large Islamist political party announced that in retaliation it would block the major routes used by the U.S and NATO to supply their forces in Afghanistan.

The Wall Street Journal reports that one important supply route running from Peshawar through the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan was reopened only last Monday after a week's shutdown because of previous Taliban attacks, and now is again blocked for security reasons. Some 75 percent of supplies for Afghanistan pass through Pakistan. According to officials on the scene, the latest attacks on supply convoys are of unprecedented sophistication.

The maxim that sovereignty depends on the military ability to defend it can be reversed. The systematic military violation of sovereignty can eventually generate the defeat the policy is intended to prevent.
(c) 2008 William Pfaff

The Dead Letter Office...

Steve gives the Republican salute.

Heil Bush,

Dear EPA Direktor Johnson,

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, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Anthony (Fat Tony) Kennedy.

Without your lock-step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, your support of our two coup d'etats, your constant stalling and wondering if the EPA should regulate carbon dioxide pollution, Iraq and these 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 1st class with diamond clusters presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Bush at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally "The White House," on 11-29-2008. We salute you Herr Johnson, Sieg Heil!

Vice Fuhrer Cheney

Heil Bush

Progressive Complaints About Obama's Appointments
By Glenn Greenwald

I've been genuinely mystified by the disappointment and surprise being expressed by many liberals over the fact that Obama's most significant appointments thus far are composed of pure Beltway establishment figures drawn from the center-right of the Democratic Party and, probably once he names his Defense Secretary and CIA Director, even from the Bush administration -- but not from the Left. In an email yesterday, Digby explained perfectly why this reaction is so mystifying (re-printed with her consent):

The villagers and the right made it very clear what they required of Obama --- bipartisanship, technocratic competence and center-right orthodoxy. Liberals took cultural signifiers as a sign of solidarity and didn't ask for anything. So, we have the great symbolic victory of the first black president (and that's not nothing, by the way) who is also a bipartisan, centrist technocrat. Surprise.

There are things to applaud about the cabinet picks -- Clinton is a global superstar who, along with Barack himself, signals to the world that the US is no longer being run by incompetent, extremist, political fringe dwellers. Holder seems to be genuinely against torture and hostile to the concept of the imperial presidency. Gaithner is a smart guy who has the trust of the Big Money Boyz, which may end up being useful considering the enormous and risky economic challenges ahead. Emmanuel is someone who is not afraid to wield a knife and if we're lucky he might just wield it from time to time against a Republican or a right wing Democrat. Napolitano seems to have a deft political touch with difficult issues like immigration which is going to be a battleground at DHS. And on and on.

None of them are liberals, but then Obama said repeatedly that he wasn't ideological, that he cared about "what works." I don't know why people didn't believe that. He's a technocrat who wants to "solve problems" and "change politics." The first may actually end up producing the kind of ideological shift liberals desire simply because of the dire set of circumstances greeting the new administration. (Hooray for the new depression!) The second was always an empty fantasy --- politics is just another word for human nature, and that hasn't changed since we were dancing around the fire outside our caves.

If you want to press for a cabinet appointment at this late date who might bring some ideological ballast, I would guess that labor and energy are where the action is. It would be really helpful to have somebody from the left in the room when the wonks start dryly parceling out the compromises on the economy and climate change. But basically, we are going to be dealing with an administration whose raison d'etre is to make government "work." That's essentially a progressive goal and one that nobody can really argue with. But he never said he would make government "work" for a liberal agenda. Liberals just assumed that.

So many progressives were misled about what Obama is and what he believes. But it wasn't Obama who misled them. It was their own desires, their eagerness to see what they wanted to see rather than what reality offered.

Early on in the primary cycle, Markos Moultisas -- in a post I recall vividly though can't find -- wisely urged that progressives refrain from endorsing or supporting any of the Democratic candidates unless they work for that support, make promises and concessions important to the progressive agenda, etc., lest progressives' support end up being taken for granted. But that advice was largely ignored. For whatever reasons, highly influential progressive factions committed themselves early, loyally and enthusiastically to Obama even though he never even courted that support, let alone made commitments to secure it.

That may have been perfectly justified -- by pragmatic calculations regarding electability, by excitement over his personality and charisma, by the belief that he was comparatively superior to the alternatives. Still, the fact remains that progressives, throughout the year, largely lent Obama their loyal support in exchange for very little. He never pretended that he wanted to implement or advance a progressive agenda. And he certainly never did anything to suggest he would oppose or undermine the Democratic establishment that has exerted power in the party over the last two decades.

It's difficult to understand what basis progressives think they have for demanding greater inclusion in his cabinet and other high-level appointments, and it's even more difficult to understand the basis for the disappointment and surprise being expressed over the fact that center-right Democrats and Republicans are welcomed in his inner circle, but -- as The Nation's Chris Hayes put it -- "not a single, solitary, actual dyed-in-the-wool progressive has, as far as I can tell, even been mentioned for a position in the new administration."

It goes without saying that there will be Obama policies, both in the foreign policy and domestic realms, that are vastly superior to what we've seen the last eight years and to what we would have seen had McCain/Palin won. And as the second-tier positions begin to fill out, there will probably be a handful of appointees who progressives consider to be one of their own. And as Digby points out, the magnitude of the financial crisis may compel him to embrace policies that are deemed to be quite progressive (from massive stimulus packages and government intervention in the economy to a diminution of our foreign adventurism).

But Barack Obama is a centrist, establishment politician. That is what he has been since he's been in the Senate, and more importantly, it's what he made clear -- both explicitly and through his actions -- that he intended to be as President. Even in the primary, he paid no price whatsoever for that in terms of progressive support. As is true for the national Democratic Party generally, he has no good reason to believe he needs to accommodate liberal objections to what he is doing. The Joe Lieberman fiasco should have made that as conclusively clear as it gets.

The point isn't that this reality should just be passively accepted and nothing done about it. The point is that for anything to be done about it, the reality needs to be accepted. The campaign we began earlier this year with Accountability Now and are now vigorously developing and pursuing -- to devote all resources and energies to defeating incumbents in primary challenges -- is grounded in the premise that one's political beliefs and principles will be ignored until there is a price to pay for ignoring them. Democrats don't perceive there is a price to pay for ignoring progressives, and so they do. That isn't surprising. What would be surprising is if, under those circumstances, anything else happened.

UPDATE: David Sirota offers one explanation as to why Obama feels more compelled to embrace center-right figures and even Republicans than those perceived to be "on the Left":

[T]he answer to the question, in my opinion, is because Obama effectively ate a huge chunk of the left. And really, Obama didn't eat a huge chunk of the left, celebrity did. What I mean to say is that we live in a culture that now organizes around celebri ty - and Obama knew it, and knew that lots of left organizations aren't really ideological - they are, if anything, organized around the Democratic Party and Bush hatred. So he basically figured out that if he could become a celebrity - and a Democratic Bush-hating one - he could swallow up a huge part of the "progressive infrastructure" and organize it around him (and all the hateful "if you question Obama, you hate Obama" comments that will inevitably be at the bottom of this diary actually 'confirm this!). . . .

So now, because of this, you have a large majority (though not the whole) of his 10 million-person email list overarchingly organized around the celebrity Barack Obama - not really around issues (though certainly people can like Obama and support specific issues). That means he feels no real obligation to appointing "movement progressives" because he has his own movement - one that's about helping, aiding and defending Barack Obama. Again, I say that not derisively or in anger at Barack Obama - I say it just to note an important fact.

It's important not to generalize. It's impossible to quantify, but I think the vast majority of Obama supporters were perfectly clear-eyed about what he is and voted for him for the standard unremarkable reasons -- that they perceived him as better than the alternatives. But there is no question that Obama has inspired among many Democrats a type of deep and intense loyalty that is personal to Obama rather than grounded in policy issues, that many see him as much more than a politician who will make good political decisions. That gives him far more latitude to do what he wants -- far more power -- than the average politician has.

Add to that the fact that the one thing that Republicans, establishment Democrats and Beltway pundits all share more than anything else is a contempt for what they perceive as "the Left" and a belief that it should be scorned -- see here and here -- and none of this should be the least bit surprising. Obama pays no price, and garners many benefits, by embracing the center-right and scorning "the Left." It's this dynamic that needs to change in order for the outcomes to change. [In this post generally, by "Left" I really mean those who are dissatisfied with the bipartisan Beltway establishment and Democratic Party leadership -- prevailing Beltway orthodoxies -- rather than merely opposed to Republicans and supportive of anyone with a "D" after their name].
(c) 2008 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.

New Deal? We Need A New Deck!
By Frank Scott

We enter the season of frenzied consumption with our economy in its worst condition in more than a generation. This means we won't be able to celebrate Jesus, Chanukah or the Solstice by recklessly spending money we never really had. Private sector credit and employment are declining as fast as the public sector burdens of a bankrupt system are soaring. What was deified as globalization - humanity's forced worship at the market church of the profit - has revealed itself as the faster deterioration of nature and people, reduced to commodities by the plunder, waste and devastation of capitalism.

The least popular president in history will soon be replaced by an at least momentarily most popular realization of symbolic hope. Our ugly history of slavery and racism justify some genuine celebration for the election of Obama. Symbols are important for what they represent, but you can't eat a symbol of a meal, or live in the symbol of a house. A symbol won't do much for solving the problem of a system that both the outgoing dim bulb and the incoming bright light believe is god's gift to the world. The new CEO is smarter than the old one, but the company is still in the same business, and our problem is the business, not simply the boss.

So maybe without maximum credit and with only minimal cash, we will reach out to one another with love instead of commodities and make this an actual season of peace, joy, caring and sharing? Hope for the best, but always be prepared for the worst. This economy depends on us spending money we don't have, on things we don't need, often for people we don't even like. While such contradictions are the core of the system, without that seasonal madness we will see even more unemployment, debt and hardship. What's a nation to do?

Creating change we can believe in would be nice, but when we really need change in substance, what we're likely to get is change in style.

We're apt to see a return of primitive social democratic policies which existed before the regression to uncontrolled free marketeering. There will be money for infrastructure repair, perhaps another rebate to send us out shopping, and help for states and municipalities faced with severe cuts in support of those who need the most and always get the least. But what we require is a massive program for public works that creates full employment, environmental sensibility, and guarantees health care and education for all by spending trillions more than we have already squandered on finance capital and its imperial wars. In other words, spending to benefit the people and the country, not the people's leaders and the country's owners.

According to grade school civics, we are all the democratic leaders and owners of the nation, but it's time to stop mouthing childishly empty words as though rote repetition was reality, and begin acting as adults in a real democracy by physically creating that reality.

Where would we get those trillions of dollars? From the same place we get them now, except that instead of spending them on waste, war and welfare for the wealthy, they'd be spent on saving America, and helping save the world . The last time we faced a Great Depression, as it was called, programs were introduced that made life better for many who were suffering, but they were a "New Deal" primarily created to save the political economy for capitalism. We have reached a point at which it is necessary to create programs to save the nation , humanity and the planet from capitalism. That means transforming our nation into something it has never been : a society that banishes inequality by practicing political economics that serve all of its citizens, not just some of them. We can invent a label for that democratic solution when we have it, but right now it's important to understand that our problem is the global corporation of capitalism, and not the sex, race or religion of its CEO.

We're likely to see domestic policy changes that will be helpful in the short term, as reactionary economics is replaced by a less fanatic tendency that doesn't rely on totally uncontrolled market forces. But however secular it may seem by comparison to the previous holy war conducted against commoners on behalf of the rich, foreign policy will be handled by the same people who have been working to perpetuate America's imperial domain. That global order is as near collapse as the domestic financial system, but attempts will be made to maintain America's rule, which is plainly failing though our leadership still doesn't seem to understand. Rather than wait for them to find out, it is for us to intervene, in truly democratic fashion, and demand action to turn this system around before it destroys not only our society, but a good part of nature and the rest of the world as well.

Obama has been praised for expressing a desire to speak with our supposed adversaries, in contrast to the belligerent idiocy of the previous CEO. But masters spoke to their slaves, all the time, and that did not change their relationship one bit. We need to not only talk, but act to end our false notion of superiority over others, the ridiculous idea that we are a chosen people by virtue of national wealth and military power, and that the world must bow to our superiority. It will take a social movement larger and more focused than the one that got him elected to affect such a change in American policy towards the more than six billion people of the planet. And we will need such a movement to transform our political economy at home to one of real equality, in order to help create that just and peaceful world.
(c) 2008 Frank Scott writes political commentary which appears in the Coastal Post, a monthly publication from Marin County, California, on numerous web sites and his shared blog.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ R.P. Overmyer ~~~

W The Movie_teaser1

To End On A Happy Note...

A Christmas Carol
By Tom Lehrer

One very familiar type of song is the Christmas carol. Although it is perhaps a bit out of season at this time. However, I'm informed by my "disk jockey" friends - of whom I have none, that in order to get a song popular by Christmas time, you have to start plugging it well in advance. So here goes. It has always seemed to me after all. That Christmas, with its spirit of giving, offers us all a wonderful opportunity each year to reflect on what we all most sincerely and deeply believe in.

I refer of course, to money. And yet none of the Christmas carols that you hear on the radio or in the street, even attempt to capture the true spirit of Christmas as we celebrate it in the United States. That is to say the commercial spirit. So I should like to offer the following Christmas carol for next year, as being perhaps a bit more appropriate.

Christmas time is here, by golly,
Disapproval would be folly,
Deck the halls with hunks of holly,
Fill the cup and don't say "when."

Kill the turkeys, ducks and chickens,
Mix the punch, drag out the Dickens,
Even though the prospect sickens,
Brother, here we go again.

On Christmas Day you can't get sore,
Your fellow man you must adore,
There's time to rob him all the more
The other three hundred and sixty-four.

Relations, sparing no expense'll
Send some useless old utensil,
Or a matching pen and pencil.
"Just the thing I need! How nice!"

It doesn't matter how sincere it
Is, nor how heartfelt the spirit,
Sentiment will not endear it,
What's important is the price.

Hark the Herald Tribune sings,
Advertising wondrous things.
God rest ye merry, merchants,
May you make the Yuletide pay.
Angels we have heard on high
Tell us to go out and buy!

So let the raucous sleigh bells jingle,
Hail our dear old friend Kris Kringle,
Driving his reindeer across the sky.
Don't stand underneath when they fly by.

Actually I did rather well myself, this last Christmas. The nicest present I received was a gift certificate "good at any hospital for a lobotomy." Rather thoughtful.
(c) 1959/2008 Tom Lehrer

Have You Seen This...

Alex Jones - 500,000 Plastic Coffins

Parting Shots...

Propositioning Debbie

A NOTE FROM BETTY: Allow me to introduce Prophetess Debbie, who goes to my church, Landover Baptist. Frankly, I became so utterly vexed with my Savior (and that dreadful hick from Alaska) pestering me while I shopped at Neiman-Marcus (it was nothing short of salvation stalking!), I hired Prophetess Debbie to act as a go-between, at least until I've finished my holiday shopping. In this way, I will treat my Debbie as the Catholics treat their Mary, as a glorified gofer to take messages to the Lord.

A word of warning: Prophetess Debbie tends to speak with unseemly candor. She fails to couch her Republican thoughts in the politically correct, focus-group tested phrases that more sophisticated, savvy right-wing Christians - me! - instinctively employ. In other words, she says thing publicly that are best left behind thick church doors. But please bear with me: There really isn't a wide selection when it comes to Baptist prophetesses this late in the season!

Hey, you all! Now, darling, I know, in the wake of that sad little election we just had us, this is a time when our country is rightfully resentful of the usurpation of godly-ordained Republican power by Satan's stooge, the Anti-Christ Barrack Hussein Muhammad Ali Baba Obama. In such a stressful (end) time, it is easy to concentrate on all the bad things dark people do. I would join you, but I simply don't have that kind of time. But, good gravy, I'm not trying to stop you all from that very healthy, cathartic, truly Republican undertaking. Instead, what I would like to do is to provide a little balance. You see, the Lord Jesus came to me while I was in the powder room at The Olive Garden (which, I assume, he confused for the Garden of Olives), and He reminded me that people "of color" are not always off color and are surprisingly capable of moments of Christian righteousness. My stars, He made them sound almost like real, actual Christians! LOL!!!!!

For example, Proposition 8, banning so-called "gay marriage" in California only passed thanks to the overwhelming support of colored Californians. The sad truth is that, if left to white people, homos in that state would still be free to pretend to be joined in their disgusting "marriages," the very thought of which make me want to vomit up countless garlicky breadsticks.

To be honest, I was worried that, due to their supposed struggles (dear Lord, when will ever hear the end of that?), Negroes would be more susceptible to choosing so-called "civil rights" over Jewish law. (And, between us chickens, I was also a tish concerned that they would realize that scrupulously enforcing the rules of the Old Testament would open the door to going back to giving the Lord's helpful hints on beating your slaves in Exodus another go!) Fortunately, I found that most Blacks (or whatever it is they like to be called this week! LOL!) are apt to only fuss over their own so-called "civil rights" and were happy to squash the so-called civil rights of homos, as Jesus would have commanded, had He gotten around to remembering how much He loathes them and everything!

So join me and Jesus in saying, "Thank you, you darling, precious people of colors for giving the homos what for! But, just so we are clear: This still doesn't make us even on the whole black president thing. OK?"
(c) 2008 Mrs. Betty Bowers


The Gross National Debt

Zeitgeist The Movie...

Issues & Alibis Vol 8 # 46 (c) 11/28/2008

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