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In This Edition

Cynthia McKinney returns with, "GM's LBO, Government-Style."

Uri Avnery studies, "The Original Sin."

Ralph Nader points out their flaws in, "Missing The Mark On Deficits."

Robert Scheer discovers, "Hillary Gets Wiki-Served."

Jim Hightower examines, "Gouging Consumers With High-Flying Fees."

James Donahue warns, "Beware The Corporate Theft Of Public Water."

Joel S. Herschhorn reviews, "Truth About Global Economic Crisis."

Bill Quigley explains, "Why Wikileaks Is Good For Democracy."

Chris Floyd considers, "The FIRE Next Time."

Matthew Rothschild is, "Keeping Perspective On North Korea."

Paul Krugman ponders, "The Spanish Prisoner."

Chris Hedges finds that, "Hope, Real Hope, Is About Doing Something."

David Michael Green foretells the future, "In The Year 2025."

Con-gressman Eric Cantor wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald reports, "The FBI Successfully Thwarts Its Own Terrorist Plot."

Tom Engelhardt explores, "The United States Of Fear."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst cries, "Don't Taze My Junk, Bro" but first Uncle Ernie exclaims. "One Down!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jim Day, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Destonio, J.D. Crowe, Tom Tomorrow, Chan Lowe, Patrick Chappatte, Lee Horsey, Tony Auth, Glen Alcalay, Global Research, Matt Wuerker, Associated Press and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
The Dead Letter Office...
The Cartoon Corner...
To End On A Happy Note...
Have You Seen This...
Parting Shots...

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

One Down!
Now the only hammers left are Thor's and Bartcop's!
By Ernest Stewart

Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock
Jailhouse Rock ~~~ Elvis Presley

"The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves, nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe." ~~~ Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816. ME 14:384

"Contrary to the rumors you have heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father Jor-El to save the Planet Earth." ~~~ President Barack Obama

"It's not easy being green!" ~~~ Kermit T. Frog

First he was the "Exterminator." Then he was the "Hammer." Now he's the "Convicted Felon" and soon he'll be "Jailbird #36975304" and folks, it couldn't happen to a more deserving guy! While Tom deserves to be lost in one of our black ops concentration camps for a few decades of waterboarding and broom handle therapy the best we can hope for is life in one our more lenient country club prisons. Trouble is, he could still walk with a year or two of probation!

Tom got popped for passing on a bribe, which is, surprisingly enough, against the law in Texas! It is, of course, the only time it's been applied and will probably be the last time it is applied! Still, for all his various and sundry acts of treason even if he gets life, he'll have beaten the system once again.

Tom seems to have first gotten political when the Environmental Protection Agency banned Mirex, a pesticide that was used in his extermination work on ants, African bees and Mexicans, which led DeLay to oppose government regulation of businesses. Apparently, like William Lee in "The Naked Lunch," Tom had a "jones" for Mirex which might explain his behavior since those trippy daze! This opposition to regulation and his longing for the good old days of "whoppin' slaves and sellin' cotton" he took with him to Foggy Bottom where he rose to the #2 position in the Rethuglican controlled House after he helped put a "Contract on America" in 1994.

Perhaps with Tom's fall, there's hope that the rest of our political traitors, like all of the Bush's, Cheney, Rice, Powell, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Gates, Frist, the Clinton's, Obama and the rest will someday be brought to justice for their war crimes, crimes against humanity, and their acts of treason and sedition. We can but hope, but I wouldn't hold my breath until that happens if I were you, America!

Still, with the "Hammer" convicted and awaiting sentencing, it's a small start, a first step on some rightous payback. We can but hope for more!

In Other News

Well the cat's out of the bag, again. This time Wikileaks exposed, lies, damn lies and Republican anti-truths from US State Department cables and such, sending a lot of people running for cover. Of course, some of the most bald-faced liars like Hillary are sticking their thumbs in their ears and waving their hands back and forth while sticking their tongues out and going, "Nyah Nyah, Nyah, Nyah, Nyah!"

Imagine, our government and Ambassadors have been lying about everything! Well, Duh! Why doesn't Wikileaks tell us something that we didn't know! Sure, our brain dead, brainwashed, brothers and sisters won't be affected as everyone from the White House to Tush er Rush will be spinning this at hyperspeed calling for Assange's head for doing what our own media have failed to do since they all took the money and ran, leaving only political lies and BS in their wakes in their rush to the money trough!

I'm trying to get some information from Wikileaks concerning one of our authors, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney who would really like to know what went down when she was arrested in Israel and thrown in prison for daring to try and feed starving people that the Israelis were and still are slowing murdering in Gaza. Trying to reach folks at Wikileaks to find out is next to impossible at the moment. What with millions of hits to their site and the fact that the site is being blocked from time to time by the US government in an attempt to keep the truth from coming out, and showing the people what a nest of vipers we have in Washington D.C.. And with a second release of cables and such from and about Russia, the whole world is up in arms. I mean, how dare Wikileaks tell the truth about our masters!

In an interview with Forbes magazine, Julian Assange, Wikileaks's founder, said the site would release tens of thousands of documents in early 2011 that he said would be comparable to those from the Enron trial.

It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume.

That's two strikes for freedom this week, with another one on the way. One strike is the truth slowing coming out, not from the US Press, (who da thunk) but from world patriots over seas. Two was the former Hammer of the House about to go sailing up the river for a long, long spell! Ahhhh, sometimes, life is good!

And Finally

I think we may have just dodged a bullet? Barry's deficit commission can't raise a super majority. They need at least 14 of the 18 panel members to approve it before a possible vote in the lame-duck session of Congress and they don't have it! Apparently Barry screwed up and put one token liberal too many on this corpo-rat dream legislation.

Why corpo-rat dream legislation? Well, guess what? The commission recommends we lower taxes on the insanely rich and the corpo-rats right on across the board, while raising taxes on the workers and the poor. Well, that was a surprise, huh?

They also demand we raise the Social Security retirement age to 69. Use a less generous cost-of-living adjustment for the programs and increasing the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes and the early retirement age would increase from 62 to 64.

The plan also includes a 15-cent-a-gallon increase on gasoline, a three-year freeze on federal worker pay and the elimination of 200,000 workers from the federal payroll through attrition.

Some of the specifics include:

* Impose tight "caps" on the agency budgets adopted by Congress each year, including a near-freeze on the Pentagoon's budget," Instead of slashing the Pentagoons budget by at least half, which is what needs to be done. Not to mention closing at least half of our bases overseas, downsizing the military and ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Want to balance the budget? That will do it!

* Eliminate congressional pet spending projects known as "pork barrels."

* "Reduce the corporate income tax rate to 28 percent from 35 percent and stop taxing the overseas profits of U.S.-based multinational corporations." When what needs to be done is collect all corpo-rat taxes due, close the loop holes for headquartering US companies overseas in a post office drop to get out of paying taxes and ending corpo-rat welfare!

* "Overhaul individual income taxes and corporate taxes, giving Congress the choice of reducing the top rate to as low as 23 percent and no higher than 29 percent." Remember the 1950s when the economy was booming and the top brackets wasn't 29% but 90%, just as it should be today!

Under one scenario proposed by Bowles and Simpson, "taxpayers would face three tax brackets of 12 percent, 21 percent and 28 percent. Taxpayers would still be able to claim an earned income tax credit and child tax credit as well as all standard deductions and exemptions. Capital gains and dividends would be taxed at ordinary income tax rates. Taxpayers could claim a mortgage interest deduction up to $500,000, but only on their primary residence." Again a sell out to the rich and a screwing for the poor, Imagine that! How is that change thingey working out for you, America?

Anyone surprised by the commissions outcome? I am, a little, in that with all the crooks, swindlers and corpo-rat goons on the commission they couldn't get their majority so Barry's going to have a lot of trouble passing this Turkey in the House, although the Senate Rethuglicans are licking their lips in anticipation!

Keepin' On

As Kermit T. Frog once sang, "It's not easy being green!"

It's not easy being a leftist in a country where there is no effective left party. Which is why most voters don't vote as they have no candidates, as both main political parties are really just one party serving just the bosses.

It's not easy be an Atheist in a country where the vast majority says they believe in mythological beings and want to teach that mythology as fact in our schools, regardless of what the Constitution says.

It's not easy being poor in America, where the government is set up to suppress you for being poor and all the breaks are given to the elites. Where the law is designed to protect the wealthy and punish and hold down everyone else. Where the elites have all the money and pay none of the taxes. Where the workers have little money and pay all of the taxes.

It's not easy being an American in a country that murders people by the millions in our name and is universally hated by most all of mankind. A country that is being manipulated and a mere puppet for another country by doing it's bidding and paying with the blood of our young, wasting our treasury and destroying our name worldwide.

It's not easy trying to tell the truth in a land where most all of the media is owned and operated by the ruling class not for the benefit of the people but to keep those in power, in power and the rest of us as their willing slaves. An Oligopoly. With an educational system that doesn't teach the students how to think, but how to fit in the system as good little robots. Soon only the wealthy will send their kids for a real education. After all, it makes no sense sending cows and sheeple to Harvard!

No, it's not easy being green but as Kermit sang:

It could make you wonder why, but why wonder, why wonder?
I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful!
And I think it's what I want to be!


04-29-1923 ~ 11-27-2010
Thanks for the films!

02-11-1926 ~ 11-28-2010
Thanks for the films!


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


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

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

GM's LBO, Government-Style
By Cynthia McKinney

Since 2008, both the Bush and Obama Administrations spent hundreds of billions - by some estimates, up to TRILLIONS - of dollars bailing out Wall Street investors, banks and industrial firms. Much was said about the need to provide a stimulus to the economy, with the public understanding that job creation would follow the infusion of cash into these sectors. But thus far, there has been little impact on unemployment, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel for the unemployed.

With the infusion of so much public money into these sectors came the possibility of structural change. The government was in the driver's seat, the public was heavily invested in finance and industry, and policy in those sectors - i.e., policy in such critical areas as transportation - could now be set by the people.

Butt that hasn't happened, as we all know. And this past week, the possibility of real change in the transportation sector faded into the background.

In 2009, President Obama began a takeover of GM that ended in the auto giant filing bankruptcy, its collapse the result of management's long-running failure to adapt to consumers' demand for reliable fuel-efficient cars. Upon taking ownership, government policy-makers had a tremendous - perhaps unprecedented - opportunity to set transportation policy for the 21st century and beyond. This past week's announcement of the sale of a majority stake in GM was essentially an announcement of a failure to take advantage of that opportunity.

The magnitude of this failure cannot be understated, and the reasons for it reveal a lot about this Administration and its priorities.

First, a comparison of the Administration's handling of the GM takeover with the operation of private firms in company takeovers is in order. One common corporate takeover model over the past decades has been the leveraged buy-out ("LBO"), where the buyer uses a very small sum of its own money, leverages it with borrowed funds and other debt, and attains control of the company. These buyers, despite their typically very small stake, are not shy about taking direct control of policy-making and operations at the targeted company from the start.

Here, the government infused some $50 Billion in the first three months alone, laid off workers, reduced pensions and other benefits in the process, and essentially set the company "back on its feet" to be reacquired by the same forces and with the same basic mission that led it to disaster in the first place.

Gordon Gekko couldn't have done a better job - for Wall Street investors. But American workers and taxpayers, as well as those concerned about the health of Planet Earth, didn't fare well at all.

Lost is the chance to turn GM - the company that killed the electric car - into a world-class innovator of non-fossil fuel transportation vehicles; lost also are the jobs that would have followed. And instead of following Michael Moore's suggestion "to build the future: bullet trains, light rail and electric buses," we will again watch a steady stream of gasoline-addicted automobiles issue forth, produced by fewer and fewer union workers.

Interestingly, on the same day that GM stock went back on the market, Japanese automaker Nissan introduced an all-electric vehicle to the US market place. If the prior success of the Toyota Prius is any measure, the Nissan Leaf will likely draw a huge response from American consumers - at the expense, of course, of US automakers and, more importantly, US auto workers.

During my 2008 Presidential campaign, I called for a government takeover of GM, but with the specific purpose of using it as a vehicle to redefine transportation. I specifically called for the development and manufacture of fossil fuel-free cars, trains and buses, which would put the US back in the forefront of the global transportation industry. Instead, President Obama said he hopes to put 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015, a laudable goal compared to the record of the last four administrations, but palpably insufficent as a response to the urgent crises facing our climate, our workers and our competitive industrial position in the world.

We bought and paid for the chance to change the world - and we paid top dollar for it. But instead, we received another shipping container full of more-of-the-same. What a waste...


Silence is the deadliest weapon of mass destruction.
(c) 2010 Cynthia McKinney is a former U.S. Congresswoman, Green Party presidential candidate, and an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice. The first African-American woman to represent the state of Georgia, McKinney served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1993-2003, and from 2005-2007.

The Original Sin
By Uri Avnery

A FRIEND of mine in Warsaw told me about a Polish journalist who visited Israel for the first time. On his return he reported with great excitement: "You know what I've discovered? In Israel, too, there are Jews!"

For this Pole, Jews are people who wear a long black kaftan and a big black hat. In almost every souvenir shop in Poland, little figures like this are exhibited along with other classics like the nobleman, the artisan and the peasant.

This distinction between Israelis and Jews would not have surprised any of us 50 years ago. Before the foundation of the State of Israel, none of us spoke about a "Jewish state." In our demonstrations we chanted: "Free Immigration! Hebrew State!" In almost all media quotations from those days, there appear the two words "Hebrew state," almost never "Jewish state."

IN SCHOOL we acquired an ardent love for the country, the language and the Bible (which we considered the classic book of Hebrew literature.) We learned to regard with disdain - if not worse - Jewish life in the Diaspora. (All this, of course, before the Holocaust.)

In 1933 I lived for half a year in Nahalal, the legendary communal village. Seeing it for the first time, I marveled at the communal hall building, the milk processing plant and the large agricultural school for girls (in which Moshe Dayan was the only male pupil). Out of curiosity I asked about the synagogue and was shown a ramshackle wooden hut. "That's for the old ones," one of the local boys told me pityingly.

One cannot understand what happened since then without knowing that in those days almost everyone believed that the Jewish religion was about to disappear, together with the Yiddish-speaking old people who still stuck to it. Poor geezers. If somebody had predicted that the Jewish religion would dominate the future state, people would have laughed.

ZIONISM WAS, among other things, a rebellion against the Jewish religion. It was born in sin - the sin of secular nationalism, which had swept through Europe after the French revolution.

Zionism rebelled against the Halakha (religious law) which forbade Jews to "ascend" to the holy country en masse. According to the religious myth, God exiled the Jews from the country in retribution for their sins, and only God had the right to bring them back. Because of this, practically all the important rabbis - both the Hassidim and their opponents - cursed the founders of Zionism. (Needless to say, these curses - some of them very juicy ones - do not appear in Israeli schoolbooks.)

Before all the international inquiries preceding the establishment of the state, delegations of Orthodox Jews appeared in order to oppose the Zionist delegations.

But David Ben-Gurion, who refused to wear a kippah even at funerals (where most atheists do wear kippahs as a gesture towards the beliefs of others) thought that it was worthwhile to get the Orthodox to join his government coalition. Therefore he promised them to free a few hundred Yeshiva (religious seminary) students from military duty and to pay for their studies and upkeep, so that they would not be obliged to work for a living.

The consequences were unexpected. That little gesture has grown to monstrous proportions. Today one could man several army divisions with those shirkers from army duty. They now constitute 13% of the entire yearly crop of those liable to the draft. Moreover, 65% of all Orthodox male citizens do not work at all and live on the public purse.

The situation is absurd: the state is paying for the upkeep of a large and growing population of Torah-shielded parasites, who undermine the state. The state pays hundreds of thousands of young religious people in order to keep them from - God forbid - working. It pays them generous subsidies so they can produce more and more children (from 5 to 15 per family) most of whom will also neither work nor serve in the army. One can calculate exactly when the economy will collapse, together with the welfare-state and the "citizens army" based on conscription.

The whole phenomenon is an authentic Israeli invention. All over the world, Orthodox Jews do work like everyone else. During one of our visits to New York, we wanted to buy a camera. Rachel - who is a professional photographer - was told about the biggest photo shop in town. When we went there, we couldn't believe our eyes: all the staff of the huge place were Orthodox Jews - all male, of course - clad in their traditional garb. That was the first time we had ever seen Orthodox men working.

This experience had an amusing side. We were both wearing an emblem with the flags of Israel and Palestine. When Rachel went to the cashier to pay, he looked sideways at Rachelís pin, and without looking at her face asked: "What flag is that?"

"The flag of Israel," Rachel responded.

"No, the other one!" the man insisted.

"The flag of Palestineí" she answered.

The man turned and spat on the floor, exclaiming loudly "Tfoo, tfoo! Tfoo!"

THE ORTHODOX camp in Israel is a hole which swallows anything that comes too near. For example: the Oriental Jews who came from Islamic countries. (They are frequently called "Sephardi" - "Spaniards" - though only a fraction of them are actually descended from the Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492.)

The Sephardi religious tradition has always been far more tolerant that the Ashkenazi one. It includes the teachings of geniuses like Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides), the personal physician of the great Saladin. Maimonides forbade religious students to make a living from their studies and ordered them to go out and work. The Sephardis have their own traditions, garments and symbols.

But lo and behold, upon coming to Israel, they subordinated themselves to the Ashkenazis and adopted their blind fanaticism, together with the kaftan and the hats that originated in cold Eastern Europe, where they were worn by the non-Jewish upper classes in bygone centuries. Their Sephardi party, Shas, is slavishly subservient to the Ashkenazi Orthodox. Their "spiritual" leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, grovels before the East European anti-Hassidic Rabbis (called "Lithuanians").

Last week, a miracle occurred. A Sephardic Rabbi, Haim Amsalem, rebelled against Rabbi Ovadia and his party, demanding a return to the Sephardic traditions of tolerance. He was promptly excommunicated.

IN THE early days of the state, the Orthodox Ashkenazis, though extreme in their religious beliefs, were moderate in national affairs. Not only did they not celebrate the Independence Day of the Zionist state or salute the flag of the Zionist heretics, but they also obstructed the nationalist adventures of David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres. Later they opposed the annexation of the occupied territories - not because of any excessive love for peace or the Palestinians, but because of the Halakhic ruling that forbids the provocation of the Goyim, because it could cause harm to the Jews.

When the Orthodox set up settlements, they did not do so with any ideological fervor, but solely because of the need to find housing for their ever-growing numbers of offspring. The government gave them cheap land only beyond the Green Line. Nowadays, the largest settlements are Orthodox - Beitar Illit, Immanuel and Modiíin Illit - the last of which is located on land stolen from the Arab village of Bilíin.

WHEREAS THE large religious camp opposed the new Zionist movement, a religious splinter group supported it. In the religious camp they were a small minority. Between the two sides, ardent hatred was the rule.

Thanks to the massive support of the Zionist leadership, the ìnational-religiousî camp grew in Israel at a dizzying pace. Ben Gurion set up a special branch of the educational system for them, which grew more extremist by the year, as did the national-religious youth movement, Bnei Akiva. Members of one generation of the national-religious community became the teachers of the next, which guaranteed an inbuilt process of radicalization. With the beginning of the occupation, they created Gush Emunim ("the Bloc of the Faithful"), the ideological core of the settlement movement. Nowadays this camp is directed by Rabbis whose teachings emit a strong odor of Fascism.

This would not be so terrible if the two opposing religious factions neutralized each other, as was indeed the case 50 years ago. But since then, the opposite has happened. The national-religious have become more and more extreme on the religious level, and the Orthodox more and more extreme on the nationalist level. The two factions are very close to each other today and together constitute an Orthodox-national-religious bloc.

The youngsters of the national-religious faction despise the lukewarm religiosity of their fathers and admire the robust religiosity of the Orthodox. The youngsters of the Orthodox faction are seduced by the nationalist melody, unlike their fathers, for whom Israel was just like any goyim-state to be milked.

The union of the two factions is based on the essence of the Jewish religion, as fostered in Israel. It does not resemble the Judaism which existed in the Diaspora - neither the Orthodox nor the Reform model. It must be said: the Jewish religion in Israel is a mutation of Judaism, a tribal, racist, extreme nationalist and anti-democratic creed.

There are now three religious educational systems - the national-religious, the "independent" one of the Orthodox, and "el-Hamaíayan" ("to the source") of Shas. All three are financed by the state at least 100%, if not much more. The differences between them are small, compared to their similarities. All teach their pupils the history of the Jewish people only (based, of course, on the religious myths), nothing about the history of the world, of other peoples, not to mention other religions. The Koran and the New Testament are the kernel of evil and not to be touched.

The typical alumni of these systems know that the Jews are the chosen (and vastly superior) people, that all Goyim are vicious anti-Semites, that God promised us this country and that no one else has a right to one square inch of its land. The natural conclusion is that the "foreigners" (meaning the Arabs, who have been living here for 13 centuries at least) must be expelled - unless this would endanger the Jews.

From this point of view, there is no longer any difference between the Orthodox and the national-religious, between Ashkenazim and Sephardim. Seeing the "youth of the hills", who terrorize Arabs in the occupied territories, on screen, one cannot distinguish among them anymore - not by their dress, not by their body language, not by their slogans.

The source of all this evil is, of course, the original sin of the State of Israel: the non-separation between state and religion, based on the non-separation between nation and religion. Nothing but a complete separation between the two will save Israel from total domination by the religious mutation.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Missing The Mark On Deficits
By Ralph Nader

The recent reports by the two deficit commissions -- one appointed by President Obama and the other from the private Bipartisan Policy Center -- do not lack specifics. In fact, they are so specific that they obscure the need for a more explicit public philosophy that reveals both their value biases and their establishment thinking.

The compositions of the two task forces clearly are designed to achieve a legislative consensus on Capitol Hill. There are self-styled centrists, moderates, conservatives and liberals. There are no paradigm-busters, few challengers of assumptions, no backgrounds from unorganized labor, elderly or youth activists. Even Trade Unions advocates are rare. About the only eyebrow raisers are provided by the relentlessly wise-cracking co-chair of Obama's Commission-former Wyoming Republican Senator, Alan K. Simpson.

It is true that both panels do include very modest cuts in the vast bloated military budget whose empire takes half of the entire federal government's discretionary spending (not including the insurance programs Medicare and Social Security). Already a tentative suggestion by the Commission's Co-Chairs to "save" $100 billion in the Pentagon budget by 2015 was called "catastrophic" by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates. The two reports make no mention of ending the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, or stopping contractor lobbies from bleeding the Pentagon dry, which would be a solid rejoinder to Gates.

That's the problem throughout these reports. They do not come to grips with the need for fundamental changes to expand the economy as if people matter first, to locate new revenues, launch long-overdue public works programs with their jobs throughout communities in America, and reduce the kind of deficits which are empty calories that create no real wealth, such as corporate welfare bailouts and giveaways.

For example, there is much reference to tax reform that rearranges tax rates. The private task force-chaired by Alice Rivlin and former Senator Pete Domenici (R- NM)-would eliminate special tax rates for capital gains and dividends. Fine. But why not also shift the incidence of some taxes from workers to a Wall Street tax or what may be called a tiny sales taxes on purchases of speculative derivatives, as well as stocks and bonds that economists Dean Baker and Robert Pollin say would raise several hundred billion dollars a year?

The Rivlin-Domenici report noted but did not recommend a carbon tax-another major revenue-raiser that would reduce pollution, greenhouse gases and advance solar energy and energy conservation. An added humane and economic benefit is that less coal burning would also save thousands of lives a year from air pollution, according to the EPA. Instead the Task Force proposed a sizable regressive national sales tax.

Under health care, both reports go for what they call medical malpractice reform. What they mean is not doing anything about the 100,000 Americans who die and many more sickened every year from hospital malpractice, not to mention adverse affects from drugs and hospital-clinic infections. No, by reform they mean cutting back on judicially-decided damages now being awarded to far less than the one-out-of-ten victims who even file a claim. Grotesque! A Business Week editorial years ago said the medical malpractice crisis is malpractice. Prevention is the way to save lives and money-a policy entirety ignored by the two commissions.

There is no mention in either report about ending notorious foreign corporate tax havens for U.S. companies that would bring in nearly $100 billion a year. And, remarkably, though some mention is made of tax compliance, they ignore the regular estimate by the Treasury Department of $300 billion a year in uncollected taxes.

Not surprisingly, the two establishment reports did not consider the enormous economic savings from adopting a single payer-full Medicare for all-health insurance system. (See: here)

Three other large areas were ignored. First is cracking down on corporate crime, including at least $250 billion dollars in annual health care billing fraud and abuse. (See: here). Both the fines, the disgorgement back to the defrauded and the deterrence to corporate crime amount to large sums of money.

Second, the commission-co-chairs and the task force avoided recommending the proper pricing of our commonwealth assets that are regularly given away free (eg. the public airwaves and hard rock minerals, such as gold and silver, on federal land) or at bargain basement fees (the national forest timber and other minerals).

Third, although both reports emphasize the need for economic growth (which produces more tax revenues to reduce red ink), there was no reference to revising global trade agreements that have left our country's huge trade deficits and its workers in dire straits. Keeping industries and jobs from moving to repressive regimes like China for reexport to the U.S. should not have been ignored. But then, look at the composition of these Task Forces and you'll see why.
(c) 2010 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

Hillary Gets Wiki-Served
By Robert Scheer

Hillary Clinton should cut out the whining about what the Obama administration derides as “stolen cables” and confront the unpleasant truths they reveal about the contradictions of U.S. foreign policy and her own troubling performance. As with the earlier batch of WikiLeaks, in this latest release the corruption of our partners in Iraq and Afghanistan stands in full relief, and the net effect of nearly a decade of warfare is recognized as a strengthening of Iran’s influence throughout the region.

Do we as voters not have a need to know that our State Department says that Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half brother of the Afghan leader we are backing and himself the head of government in the most contested province, “is widely understood to be corrupt and a narcotics trafficker”? Or that authorities working with our Drug Enforcement Administration discovered Afghanistan’s then-vice president smuggling $52 million in cash out of his country, a nation that U.S. taxpayers are bankrolling?

In the cable discussing Ahmed Wali Karzai, or AWK as he is called, there is a pithy description of the basic folly of our attempt to control the uncontrollable land of Afghanistan: “The meeting with AWK highlights one of our major challenges in Afghanistan: how to fight corruption and connect the people to their government, when the key government officials are themselves corrupt.”

The cables make a hash of claims that our invasion of Iraq—where al-Qaida could not operate when Saddam Hussein was in power—was helpful in the war on terror. Recall that 15 of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Yet the WikiLeaks documents reveal, as The New York Times reported, that “Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda, and the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar, a generous host to the American military for years, was the ‘worst in the region’ in counterterrorism efforts, according to a State Department cable last December.”

While the great threat is now said by Clinton’s State Department to emanate from Iran, the cables make clear that Iranian power was much enhanced by the U.S. overthrow of Saddam, who had fought a long, bloody war against the ayatollahs. The result of our invasion is an Iraqi government run by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, described in the cables as being much under the influence of Iran, which orchestrated his deal with the Iranian-backed Sadrists that kept him in power. The cables report King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia dismissing Maliki as no more than an “Iranian agent.”

This material refutes the stated anti-terrorist purposes of the two wars we are fighting, and that is the prime reason it is classified. If any of the information was so sensitive, why was none of it labeled “top secret” as is the practice with content that would risk our nation’s security? And why was this vast trove placed in computer systems to which low-ranking personnel had access? The real problem with the release of the dispatches, particularly the kind labeled “noforn,” meaning it shouldn’t be shared with foreign governments, is that it is politically embarrassing—which is why we, the public, have a right to view it. That is certainly the case with the revelation that Secretary Clinton destroyed the once-sacred line between the legitimate diplomat deserving of universal protection and the spies that governments could be justified in arresting.

Instead of disparaging the motives of the leakers, Hillary Clinton should offer a forthright explanation of why she continued the practice of Condoleezza Rice, her predecessor as secretary of state, of using American diplomats to spy on their colleagues working at the United Nations. Why did she issue a specific directive ordering U.S. diplomats to collect biometric information on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and many of his colleagues?

As the respected British newspaper The Guardian, which obtained the WikiLeaks cables, said in summarizing the matter:

A classified directive which appears to blur the line between diplomacy and spying was issued to US diplomats under Hillary Clinton’s name in July 2009, demanding forensic technical details about the communications system used by top UN officials, including passwords and personal encryption keys used in private and commercial networks for official communications.”

The Guardian pointed out that the Clinton directive violates the language of the original U.N. convention, which reads: “The premises of the United Nations shall be inviolable.” The spying effort derived from concern that U.N. rapporteurs might unearth embarrassing details about the U.S. treatment of prisoners in Guantánamo as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the directives demanded “biographic and biometric” information on Dr. Margaret Chan, the director of the World Health Organization, as well as details of her personality and management style. Maybe she’s hiding bin Laden in her U.N. office.
(c) 2010 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

Gouging Consumers With High-Flying Fees

Why do airline executives hate their customers? Not so very long ago, airlines boasted about flying "the friendly skies," but that happy slogan has now been perverted into flying "the abusive skies."

For example, what does a ticket cost? The airlines won't come clean even on this basic question. We do know that stated ticket prices have been steadily rising, with double-digit increases in the past year.

But that price is merely the starting point for today's airline hucksters. The real gouging is in the frenzy of fees that airlines have invented, many of which are not even disclosed to us and most of which are simply unwarranted. Last year, airline fees totaled nearly $8 billion – a consumer subsidy siphoned right out of our pockets into the corporate coffers.

Take the "ticket change" fee. If something comes up, forcing you to change a flight from the one you've booked, you're hit with a service fee of $150. Plus, you must pay the difference if your new flight is priced higher (which it will be). What a ripoff! This rebooking "service" is done by computer, costing the airline more like a buck-fifty, rather than a hundred and fifty. Also, notice that airlines themselves routinely cancel or delay our flights, forcing us into inconvenient and thoroughly-unpleasant travel changes – yet they don't pay us $150 for their changes.

American Airlines, however, has generously offered to cut its rebooking fee in half – if you pay a "flexibility" fee of $19 when you book your flight. Then, any changes you need to make later will only cost you $75. Yes, it's a fee to reduce your fee!

These nasty gouges are infuriating and unnecessary. Southwest Airlines, for example, refuses to charge for any service that's historically been free to customers – and Southwest has consistently stayed profitable.
(c) 2010 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Beware The Corporate Theft Of Public Water
By James Donahue

As if big corporations haven't done enough to control our lives and rob our wealth, now they are busy seizing control of world water supplies. Some cities and local governments are fighting back.

Taking the spotlight in this remarkably silent battle has been Stockton, California, where citizen have risen up against a movement launched by former Mayor Gary Podesto to give control of the water system to global water corporations. A Citizens Coalition, the Sierra Club and League of Women Voters joined forces to file a lawsuit to stop not only the privatization of the city's water, but wastewater and storm water utilities. They won the battle in Superior Court but the Stockton City Council has appealed the ruling so the fight goes on.

Alarmingly, similar battles are going on in Lexington, Kentucky, Holyoke, Massachusetts and Mecosta County, Michigan.

There has been a strange coalition between governments and corporations in the promotion of the privatization of a wide range of services that have long been the function of government. This has included the operation of prisons, nursing homes, and even fighting our wars. The concept of water privatization under the guise of efficiency has been quietly creeping into the picture as well.

Beware! There is nothing efficient or cost effective about a corporate takeover of public services, and especially the sale of basic resources like drinking water. Take the example of Felton, California, where the local regional water utility was purchased in 2001 by California American Water. This company is a subsidiary of American Water, which in turn is a subsidiary of Thames Water of London, which in turn is a wing of the German corporation RWE. One resident of Felton saw a monthly water bill jump from $250 to $1,275.

A recent report by Fred Pearce for Alternet noted that something has been going on in the world "that has hardly been mentioned, and that some believe is the great slow-burning, and hopelessly underreported resource crisis of the Twenty-First Century: water. Climate change, overconsumption and the alarmingly inefficient use of this most basic raw material are all to blame."

Pearce warned that major world rivers are being sucked dry to irrigate food crops and provide drinking water for heavily populated areas. "We are also pumping out underground water reserves almost everywhere in the world."

One of the worst examples of wasting precious fresh water resources I have seen was occurring in the high desert of Arizona when my wife and I lived briefly on the Navajo Reservation in 2006. The Peabody Coal Company was heavily involved in strip mining of coal on the Navajo and Hopi Reservation lands, and drawing high volumes of water from a giant fresh water reservoir known to exist several hundred feet below. Instead of trucking the coal, the company was using that precious resource of fresh water to move the coal along large slues to electric generating plants operating sometimes hundreds of miles away. The power plants were generating electricity for big metropolitan areas in California.

The Navajo and Hopi knew that water was there. They used pumps operated by windmills to draw this water into watering troughs for the livestock that grazed on the open range. When driving on the open roads across the miles and miles of high desert, we could see the many windmills standing like sentinels across the landscape. But even when we were there, the natives were expressing concern because their water wells were running dry and the cattle were thirsty.

Now, as the world water crisis grows worse, the move by private corporations to seize control of the last great water resource is gaining steam. Alan Snifow and Deborah Kaufman, in a recent PBS documentary "Thurst," warn that "climate change is a warning that uncontrolled abuse of the earth's natural resources is leading toward planetary catastrophe. Who is to set the necessary limits to the abuse of the environment? Private companies fighting for market share are incapable of doing so."

Adding to the growing water crisis has been the recent economic collapse which in turn is stressing the budgets of states, counties and local cities. Our dinking and wastewater systems, most of them designed a century ago, are in serious need of replacement. Without the money to do this costly work, many communities find themselves on the brink of disaster. Water main leaks and contamination issues are becoming common problems everywhere. In many areas, people are turning to bottles of purchased drinking water rather than trust the water coming out of their taps. The ubiquitous plastic water bottles are so common we see them almost everywhere, including our corporate board rooms, city council meetings and in our cars.

Corporations have not missed an opportunity to seize the financial advantages of getting involved in "helping" solve the water crisis. They are offering public officials an easy way out. They will make the improvements, run the aging water and sewer plants and save the cities millions of dollars. And they will pass the costs on to consumers, along with a demand for corporate profits.

Pearce summed up the water issue when he wrote: "For too long we have seen water as a cheap and unlimited resource. Those days are coming to an end – not only in dry places, but everywhere. For if the current world food crisis shows anything it is that in an era of global trade in 'virtual water' local water shortages can reverberate throughout the world."
(c) 2010 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Truth About Global Economic Crisis
A Book Review
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

You want to read The Global Economic Crisis The Great Depression of the XXI Century, edited by Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall, if you meet these criteria: you welcome information and analysis about critically important issues that come from great thinkers outside the mainstream media and publishing world; you can handle brain pain from detailed and brutally honest revelations; you are willing and able to challenge your own biases and preconceptions to let in new explanations of how the world really functions.

If millions of Americans read this book, we would probably see a far stronger uprising against the political establishment that has refused to severely punish the countless guilty people in the financial, banking and mortgage sectors that brought down the US and global economic system.

This book ties together a large number of factors in twenty chapters that reveal just how corrupt the world has become because of the power of plutocratic, wealthy and corporate interests. From Wall Street corporate boardrooms to the Federal Reserve and other central banks to the US military and NATO, a multitude of threads get woven into a disturbing tapestry of crimes against society that still have not been prosecuted.

This book is truly an instrument of anti-brainwashing. If you are willing to spend serious time reading it, then you surely will become much angrier about the dismal state of the economy that is causing so much pain and suffering to ordinary people worldwide. If you personally have escaped the worst ravages of the economic meltdown, then you will have much more compassion for those severely affected.

In all honesty, if the current global economic crisis has made you angry, pessimistic, fearful, paranoid, despairing and worse, then this book will most likely exacerbate all such feelings. By revealing still more connections, implications and causes, this book will motivate you to do anything you can to fight the corporate, plutocratic forces devastating the lives of ordinary people. If you already have little confidence in government, it will only make things worse. Does all this mean you should avoid reading it? Absolutely not.

Here are a few statements from the book that resonated with me and that you can use to decide whether the general philosophic orientation of it is compatible with your views:

Wall Street’s Ponzi scheme was used to manipulate the market and transfer billions of dollars into the pockets of banksters.

Government rescue packages around the world are corporatist in their very nature, as they save the capitalists at the expense of the people.

The global political economy is being transformed into a global government structure at the crossroads of a major financial crisis.

Just gin up the courage to read it, get out several color markers to highlight passages and expand your knowledge to overcome all the propaganda constantly being hurled at you. We need more citizen unrest to energize more public protests to overthrow the powers that have corrupted and perverted our government. A key voice in the mainstream media that is in sync with the painful messages in this book is Dylan Ratigan who has a terrific daily show on MSNBC. He too should read this timely book.
(c) 2010 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Why Wikileaks Is Good For Democracy
By Bill Quigley

Information is the currency of democracy. ~~~ Thomas Jefferson.

Since 9-11, the US government, through Presidents Bush and Obama, has increasingly told the US public that “state secrets” will not be shared with citizens. Candidate Obama pledged to reduce the use of state secrets, but President Obama continued the Bush tradition. The Courts and Congress and international allies have gone meekly along with the escalating secrecy demands of the US Executive.

By labeling tens of millions of documents secret, the US government has created a huge vacuum of information.

But information is the lifeblood of democracy. Information about government contributes to a healthy democracy. Transparency and accountability are essential elements of good government. Likewise, “a lack of government transparency and accountability undermines democracy and gives rise to cynicism and mistrust,” according to a 2008 Harris survey commissioned by the Association of Government Accountants.

Into the secrecy vacuum stepped Private Bradley Manning, who, according to the Associated Press, was able to defeat “Pentagon security systems using little more than a Lady Gaga CD and a portable computer memory stick.”

Manning apparently sent the information to Wikileaks – a non profit media organization, which specializes in publishing leaked information. Wikileaks in turn shared the documents to other media around the world including the New York Times and published much of it on its website.

Despite criminal investigations by the US and other governments, it is not clear that media organizations like Wikileaks can be prosecuted in the US in light of First Amendment. Recall that the First Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Outraged politicians are claiming that the release of government information is the criminal equivalent of terrorism and puts innocent people’s lives at risk. Many of those same politicians authorized the modern equivalent of carpet bombing of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, the sacrifice of thousands of lives of soldiers and civilians, and drone assaults on civilian areas in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Their anger at a document dump, no matter how extensive, is more than a little suspect.

Everyone, including Wikileaks and the other media reporting the documents, hopes that no lives will be lost because of this. So far, that appears to be the case as McClatchey Newspapers reported November 28, 2010, that "US officials conceded that they have no evidence to date that the [prior] release of documents led to anyone’s death.”

The US has been going in the wrong direction for years by classifying millions of documents as secrets. Wikileaks and other media which report these so called secrets will embarrass people yes. Wikileaks and other media will make leaders uncomfortable yes. But embarrassment and discomfort are small prices to pay for a healthier democracy.

Wikileaks has the potential to make transparency and accountability more robust in the US. That is good for democracy.
(c) 2010 Bill Quigley is a Katrina survivor and is legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He can be contacted at

The FIRE Next Time
End-Game for the Elite’s One-Way Class War
By Chris Floyd

Michael Hudson has consistently been one of the best guides through the labyrinth of lies that surround the monumental act of elite thievery known as the “economic crisis.” Patiently and perceptively, he applies his economic expertise to the realities behind the blather, laying out – in grim, heart-sinking detail – how our great and good are using the crisis they created to move in remorselessly for the final kill on any dreams of a decent life for the rabble – that is, the 99 percent of us who fall outside the golden circle of the rentier class.

So when Hudson speaks, we should pay serious heed. And his latest piece in CounterPunch is heedful – and heart-sinking – indeed. We are, he says, entering the end-game of a decades-long process of wealth transference in which the entire burden of sustaining society – a degraded, hollowed-out, inhumane society – and a bloated, belligerent militarist oligarchy falls entirely on working people and the poor, while the elite reap all the profit.

Hudson sees yet another manufactured crisis hitting the battered system next spring: the “debt” crisis, when Republican legislators and Blue Dog Democrats refuse to raise the federal debt ceiling, “forcing” a most willing (yea, eager) Barack Obama to effect an “historic compromise” to “save” the government from closure and collapse: a flat tax.

You should read Hudson’s entire analysis, which is set up carefully with very pertinent historical background, but here are some disturbing excerpts:

The danger the United States faces today is that the government debt crisis scheduled to hit Congress next spring (when Republicans are threatening to vote against raising the federal debt limit as the government deficit soars) will provide an opportunity for the wealthy to give a coup de grace on what is left of progressive taxation in this country. A flat tax on wage income and consumer sales would “free” the rentiers from taxes on their property.

The flat tax actually would tax wage earners much more steeply than the wealthy, whose income it would largely exempt! … The tax does not fall on “empty” pricing in excess of value – what the classical economists termed “economic rent,” that element of price (and income) that has no counterpart in actual cost of production (ultimately reducible to labor) but is a pure free lunch: land rent, monopoly rent, interest and other financial fees, and insurance premiums. This economic rent is the major return to wealth. It is grounded in the finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector.

The effect of untaxing the FIRE sector is twofold. First, it increases the power of wealth, privilege, monopoly rights and property over living labor – including the power of hereditary wealth over the living. Second, it helps “post-industrialize” the economy, creating a “service” economy. A service economy is mainly a FIRE-sector economy.

And now for the end-game, the kabuki theater in which the FIRE-breathing – or rather, FIRE-bought -- politicians of both parties finally give the One Percenters what they’ve always wanted: everything.

The wealthy want just what bankers want: the entire economic surplus (followed by a foreclosure on property). They want all the disposable income over and above basic subsistence – and then, when this shrinks the economy, they want the government to sell off the public domain in “privatization” giveaways, and they want people to turn over their houses and any other property they have to the creditors. “Your money or your life” is not only what bank robbers demand. It is what banks themselves demand, and the wealthy 10 per cent of the population that owns most of the bank stock.

And of course, the wealthy classes want to free themselves from the share of taxes that they have not already shed. The flat-tax ploy is their godsend.

Here’s how I think the plan is intended to work. Given the fact that voters have already rejected the flat tax in principle, it can only be introduced by fiatunder crisis conditions. Alan Simpson, President Obama’s designated co-chairman of the “Deficit Reduction Commission” (the euphemistic title given to what is in reality a “Shift Taxes Off Wealth Onto Labor” commission) already has suggested that Republicans close down the government by refusing to increase the federal debt limit this spring. This would create a fiscal crisis and threat of government shutdown. It would be a fiscal 9/11, for the Republicans to trot out their “rescue plan” for the emergency breakdown of government.

The result would cap the tax shift off finance and wealth onto wage earners. Supported by Blue Dog Democrats, President Obama would shed crocodile tears and sign off on the most right-wing, oligarchic, anti-labor, anti-black and anti-minority, anti-industrial tax that anyone has yet been able to think up. The notorious Flat Tax would fall only on wage income (paid by employees and employers alike) and on consumer goods (the value-added tax, VAT), while exempting returns that accrue to the wealthy in the form of interest and dividend income, rent and capital gains.

Barack Obama is already one of the most right-wing presidents we’ve ever had, building upon and expanding virtually every pernicious policy of his oligarchic predecessor. But as Hudson warns us, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

Keeping Perspective On North Korea
By Matthew Rothschild

When the current Korean crisis emerged, I immediately contacted the wisest person I know on the subject. His name is Gene Matthews, and he spent decades in South Korea as a missionary who was active in the pro-democracy movement there.

He’s a contributor to a great new book called “More Than Witnesses: How a Small Group of Missionaries Aided Korea’s Democratic Revolution.”

Here’s what he has to say about the current standoff.

“North Korea has always felt threatened by joint military exercises of the U.S. and South Korea, and has always protested against them,” he says. “This time, North Korea stated that the exercises were taking place in North Korean territory and that if shots were fired during the exercise they would retaliate. Shots were fired (not at the North, it should be pointed out but out toward the ocean) and the North retaliated.”

What’s saddest about this standoff, he says, is that it shows how far relations have slid in the last fifteen years.

Let’s go back to 1994 when it was discovered that North Korea might be developing nuclear weapon capability. The right wing in America had a field day. Republicans in Congress began calling for massive bombing raids to wipe out the North Korean nuclear facilities.

Enter Jimmy Carter. Please check out Jimmy’s article in the Washington Post. A strong case could be made for saying that Carter’s visit to the north prevented war from breaking out. As a result of his visit The United States and North Korea finally began talking to each other and reached some remarkable agreements. The North agreed to destroy its small nuclear generator in return for enough oil supplied the United States and Japan to replace the generating capacity. Plans were even under way to open a U.S. Embassy in North Korea. I remember receiving a phone call from a friend in the U.S. Embassy in Seoul asking if I could recommend somebody sufficiently fluent in Korean to work in the Pyongyang Embassy as an interpreter. President Clinton even began to speak of a possible visit to the north.

The situation continued to improve dramatically with the inauguration of Kim Dae Jung as president of South Korea in 1998. He developed his famous “Sunshine” policy with the north. A brief, useful description of the Sunshine Policy can be found at

George W. Bush destroyed all this progress, Matthews says.

Without being totally naive about the situation I cannot help but feel that North and South Korea could be thrashing out the final clauses of some kind of positive détente had George W. Bush not been appointed U.S. president by the Supreme Court. You will recall that shortly after his own inauguration Bush declared North Korea part of the Axis of Evil, the terrible triumvirate of nations including Iraq and Iran which Bush declared were intent on destroying out freedom. When Bush subsequently attacked Iraq for no reasons that made any sense, North Korea would have been foolish not to assume that they were also on the list of nations to be targeted.

In a later public statement Bush labeled North Korean President Kim Jong Il a “moral pigmy.” Very few Americans can understand how insulting and devastating such talk is to a Korean leader. Americans tend to judge the rest of the world by their own cultural thought patterns. For a Korean leader to ignore such slurs would be a sign of grave weakness. I feel this goes a long way toward explaining some of the recent hostility displayed by the north.

Bush was not through, however. Kim Dae Jung in two short years had already begun implementation of his Sunshine Policy. In 2000 he had made a historical visit to North Korea where he was warmly received. He would later receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts at bringing peace to the Korean peninsula. Following Bush’s inauguration, Kim flew to Washington to try to persuade the new American president to continue support of his efforts to engage the north. Instead, Bush used the occasion to lecture Kim about how foolish he was to trust the north. Again, very few Americans realized how harmful this was. Here was the cocky, shallow thinking, fraternity boy lecturing an elderly man whose entire life had been dedicated to achieving democracy in his own land, who was carrying on delicate negotiations with one of the most unstable regimes in the world, fully cognizant of all the pitfalls inherent in such negotiations, willing to risk his entire political future in spite of those pitfalls. The scene defies description.

Kim returned to Korea realizing that not only could he not count on support from Bush but that he now had to expand political energy to overcome Bush’s insulting behavior. Both Kim and his predecessor, Roh Moo-Hyun, moved ahead with the Sunshine Policy not only lacking support from Bush but now faced with Bush’s seeming determination to counter any Korean policies developed under President Clinton.

When I last visited Korea in 2003 I was amazed to find a railroad connection already completed between north and south. A South Korean Industrial complex had been built in Kaesong where North Korean workers were producing goods for sale in South Korea. Family visits were common and South Korean tourists were making regular visits to the beautiful Diamond Mountains of North Korea.

Things took a further turn for the worse with the election due to political changes in the South, Matthews says.

It all began to grind to a halt with the election of Lee Myung Bak as South Korean president in 2007. This highly successful business man and former mayor of Seoul saw himself as a pragmatic, no-nonsense leader who seemed determined to rule with a firm hand, almost reminiscent of the past military dictators. He too, flew off to Washington to sit at the feet of George Bush and came back singing Bush’s praises. Almost overnight the progress made under the two previous presidents was wiped out. The railroads and highways were virtually closed down, tours and family visits ceased and production at the industrial complex in Kaesong declined dramatically. This was all combined with a vigorous renewal of the “defensive” exercises some of which were now taking place in the disputed boundary waters between North and South.

Nor does Matthews spare President Obama.

One final ingredient for the stew pot is President Obama’s abysmal approach to the Korean situation. Whereas in his campaign he promised to deal with situations like Korea through negotiation, as president he has almost wholeheartedly embraced Bush’s policies and has pledged full support to South Korean president Lee Myung Bak’s hard-line stance.

Matthews has no illusions about North Korea, but he urges us to move beyond simplistic portrayals.

The point of this overly long backgrounder is not to paint North Korea as blameless. By almost any measure the North is a basket case. Its leadership is terribly paranoid, and its internal human rights record is abominable. But Americans seem unable to see beyond the hasty conclusions and Hollywood-type approach to any incident such as the shelling of the island and sinking of the ship. America good. South Korea good. North Korea bad. The end.

It’s just not that simple, he says.

American still has 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea 57 years after the cessation of hostilities. North Korea perceives their presence, rightly or wrongly, as a threat. This perception is only reinforced when American and South Korean forces carry out aggressive military exercises within gunshot of North Korea.

Above all, says Matthews, we need to return to the path that was showing so much progress.

“The ways of Jimmy Carter, Kim Tae Jun and No Moo Hyun were working. The current ways are not.”
(c)2010 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

The Spanish Prisoner
By Paul Krugman

The best thing about the Irish right now is that there are so few of them. By itself, Ireland can’t do all that much damage to Europe’s prospects. The same can be said of Greece and of Portugal, which is widely regarded as the next potential domino.

But then there’s Spain. The others are tapas; Spain is the main course.

What’s striking about Spain, from an American perspective, is how much its economic story resembles our own. Like America, Spain experienced a huge property bubble, accompanied by a huge rise in private-sector debt. Like America, Spain fell into recession when that bubble burst, and has experienced a surge in unemployment. And like America, Spain has seen its budget deficit balloon thanks to plunging revenues and recession-related costs.

But unlike America, Spain is on the edge of a debt crisis. The U.S. government is having no trouble financing its deficit, with interest rates on long-term federal debt under 3 percent. Spain, by contrast, has seen its borrowing cost shoot up in recent weeks, reflecting growing fears of a possible future default.

Why is Spain in so much trouble? In a word, it’s the euro.

Spain was among the most enthusiastic adopters of the euro back in 1999, when the currency was introduced. And for a while things seemed to go swimmingly: European funds poured into Spain, powering private-sector spending, and the Spanish economy experienced rapid growth.

Through the good years, by the way, the Spanish government appeared to be a model of both fiscal and financial responsibility: unlike Greece, it ran budget surpluses, and unlike Ireland, it tried hard (though with only partial success) to regulate its banks. At the end of 2007 Spain’s public debt, as a share of the economy, was only about half as high as Germany’s, and even now its banks are in nowhere near as bad shape as Ireland’s.

But problems were developing under the surface. During the boom, prices and wages rose more rapidly in Spain than in the rest of Europe, helping to feed a large trade deficit. And when the bubble burst, Spanish industry was left with costs that made it uncompetitive with other nations.

Now what? If Spain still had its own currency, like the United States — or like Britain, which shares some of the same characteristics — it could have let that currency fall, making its industry competitive again. But with Spain on the euro, that option isn’t available. Instead, Spain must achieve “internal devaluation”: it must cut wages and prices until its costs are back in line with its neighbors.

And internal devaluation is an ugly affair. For one thing, it’s slow: it normally take years of high unemployment to push wages down. Beyond that, falling wages mean falling incomes, while debt stays the same. So internal devaluation worsens the private sector’s debt problems.

What all this means for Spain is very poor economic prospects over the next few years. America’s recovery has been disappointing, especially in terms of jobs — but at least we’ve seen some growth, with real G.D.P. more or less back to its pre-crisis peak, and we can reasonably expect future growth to help bring our deficit under control. Spain, on the other hand, hasn’t recovered at all. And the lack of recovery translates into fears about Spain’s fiscal future.

Should Spain try to break out of this trap by leaving the euro, and re-establishing its own currency? Will it? The answer to both questions is, probably not. Spain would be better off now if it had never adopted the euro — but trying to leave would create a huge banking crisis, as depositors raced to move their money elsewhere. Unless there’s a catastrophic bank crisis anyway — which seems plausible for Greece and increasingly possible in Ireland, but unlikely though not impossible for Spain — it’s hard to see any Spanish government taking the risk of “de-euroizing.”

So Spain is in effect a prisoner of the euro, leaving it with no good options.

The good news about America is that we aren’t in that kind of trap: we still have our own currency, with all the flexibility that implies. By the way, so does Britain, whose deficits and debt are comparable to Spain’s, but which investors don’t see as a default risk.

The bad news about America is that a powerful political faction is trying to shackle the Federal Reserve, in effect removing the one big advantage we have over the suffering Spaniards. Republican attacks on the Fed — demands that it stop trying to promote economic recovery and focus instead on keeping the dollar strong and fighting the imaginary risks of inflation — amount to a demand that we voluntarily put ourselves in the Spanish prison.

Let’s hope that the Fed doesn’t listen. Things in America are bad, but they could be much worse. And if the hard-money faction gets its way, they will be.
(c) 2010 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face, It's just a goddamned piece of paper!"
--- George W. Bush ~~~

Lt. Dan Choi, center, and other demonstrators stand at the White House
fence after handcuffing themselves to it Nov. 15 during a protest for
gay rights. The group demanded that President Barack Obama
keep his promise to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Hope, Real Hope, Is About Doing Something
By Chris Hedges

On Dec. 16 I will join Daniel Ellsberg, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern and several military veteran activists outside the White House to protest the futile and endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of us will, after our rally in Lafayette Park, attempt to chain ourselves to the fence outside the White House. It is a pretty good bet we will all spend a night in jail. Hope, from now on, will look like this.

Hope is not trusting in the ultimate goodness of Barack Obama, who, like Herod of old, sold out his people. It is not having a positive attitude or pretending that happy thoughts and false optimism will make the world better. Hope is not about chanting packaged campaign slogans or trusting in the better nature of the Democratic Party. Hope does not mean that our protests will suddenly awaken the dead consciences, the atrophied souls, of the plutocrats running Halliburton, Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil or the government.

Hope does not mean we will halt the firing in Afghanistan of the next Hellfire missile, whose explosive blast sucks the oxygen out of the air and leaves the dead, including children, scattered like limp rag dolls on the ground. Hope does not mean we will reform Wall Street swindlers and speculators, or halt the pillaging of our economy as we print $600 billion in new money with the desperation of all collapsing states. Hope does not mean that the nation’s ministers and rabbis, who know the words of the great Hebrew prophets, will leave their houses of worship to practice the religious beliefs they preach. Most clerics like fine, abstract words about justice and full collection plates, but know little of real hope.

Hope knows that unless we physically defy government control we are complicit in the violence of the state. All who resist keep hope alive. All who succumb to fear, despair and apathy become enemies of hope. They become, in their passivity, agents of injustice. If the enemies of hope are finally victorious, the poison of violence will become not only the language of power but the language of opposition. And those who resist with nonviolence are in times like these the thin line of defense between a civil society and its disintegration.

Hope has a cost. Hope is not comfortable or easy. Hope requires personal risk. Hope does not come with the right attitude. Hope is not about peace of mind. Hope is an action. Hope is doing something. The more futile, the more useless, the more irrelevant and incomprehensible an act of rebellion is, the vaster and the more potent hope becomes. Hope never makes sense. Hope is weak, unorganized and absurd. Hope, which is always nonviolent, exposes in its powerlessness the lies, fraud and coercion employed by the state. Hope does not believe in force. Hope knows that an injustice visited on our neighbor is an injustice visited on us all. Hope posits that people are drawn to the good by the good. This is the secret of hope’s power and it is why it can never finally be defeated. Hope demands for others what we demand for ourselves. Hope does not separate us from them. Hope sees in our enemy our own face.

Hope is not for the practical and the sophisticated, the cynics and the complacent, the defeated and the fearful. Hope is what the corporate state, which saturates our airwaves with lies, seeks to obliterate. Hope is what our corporate overlords are determined to crush. Be afraid, they tell us. Surrender your liberties to us so we can make the world safe from terror. Don’t resist. Embrace the alienation of our cheerful conformity. Buy our products. Without them you are worthless. Become our brands. Do not look up from your electronic hallucinations to think. No. Above all do not think. Obey.

W.H. Auden wrote:

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The powerful do not understand hope. Hope is not part of their vocabulary. They speak in the cold, dead words of national security, global markets, electoral strategy, staying on message, image and money. The powerful protect their own. They divide the world into the damned and the blessed, the patriots and the enemy, the rich and the poor. They insist that extinguishing lives in foreign wars or in our prison complexes is a form of human progress. They cannot see that the suffering of a child in Gaza or a child in the blighted pockets of Washington, D.C., diminishes and impoverishes us all. They are deaf, dumb and blind to hope. Those addicted to power, blinded by self-exaltation, cannot decipher the words of hope any more than most of us can decipher hieroglyphics. Hope to Wall Street bankers and politicians, to the masters of war and commerce, is not practical. It is gibberish. It means nothing.

I cannot promise you fine weather or an easy time. I cannot assure you that thousands will converge on Lafayette Park in solidarity. I cannot pretend that being handcuffed is pleasant. I cannot say that anyone in Congress or the White House, anyone in the boardrooms of the corporations that cannibalize our nation, will be moved by pity to act for the common good. I cannot tell you these wars will end or the hungry will be fed. I cannot say that justice will roll down like a mighty wave and restore our nation to sanity. But I can say this: If we resist and carry out acts, no matter how small, of open defiance, hope will not be extinguished. If all we accomplish is to assure a grieving mother in Baghdad or Afghanistan, a young man or woman crippled physically and emotionally by the hammer blows of war, that he or she is not alone, our resistance will be successful. Hope cannot be sustained if it cannot be seen.

Any act of rebellion, any physical defiance of those who make war, of those who perpetuate corporate greed and are responsible for state crimes, anything that seeks to draw the good to the good, nourishes our souls and holds out the possibility that we can touch and transform the souls of others. Hope affirms that which we must affirm. And every act that imparts hope is a victory in itself.

Also from Auden:

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
(c) 2010 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

In The Year 2025
By David Michael Green

A Message From Dear Leader Palin

Comrades, your attention please. As we come now to mark a dozen years spent as your Dear Leader, I thought it might be worthwhile to take stock of our achievements. And as Thanksgiving time rolls around once more, I thought it only proper to take stock of our blessings, and give thanks to the Lord Jesus for all he has given us.

We should be thankful, to begin with, for our unity as a nation. Many of us remember well the ugliness of the democracy our parents suffered under, with all its messy dissent and nasty name-calling. That is now over for good. In our last election (which was, truly, our last election), fully one hundred percent of the population of God’s chosen country voted in favor of making me Dear Leader For Life, an astonishing show of unanimity and national will. No more ugliness, no more division, no more worrying "Should I vote for Tweedledee or Tweedledum?"choice. We are one people now, with one Leader, as God always intended.

We must be thankful as well for our freedom from freedoms. I know I speak for all of those from my generation who can remind you younger patriots of how destructive it was to the national peace when anyone could say anything, when people could disrupt our family prayer hour with demonstrations on the street, when sexual deviants could undermine our wholesomeness by getting married or serving in our military, or when Muslims defamed the name of our Lord Jesus by their very presence in America. We are so much freer now without these infernal threats to our well-being and our perfectly rigid belief structure. And we are so much truer to what our blessed Founders had in mind when they wrote our Christian Constitution.

Similarly, now that we have finally cleared our airwaves of all the smut that used to clog them, we are so much happier as a society. Why would anyone require anything other than PaliFox, anyhow? It provides all the entertainment we need, and just enough news to remind you of your civic duties, but not so much as to make you worry anymore. Isn’t that a relief? Let us be thankful for this blessing, and also for how much it has blessed your Dear Leader’s personal Patriot Account.

I am happy to report that all of our wars are going swimmingly. And we don’t even have to worry anymore about catering to wimpy fussbudget allies who were constantly complaining about torture this, and international law that, and all those other effete niceties Eurosissies love so much. We may be fighting clear across the evil Muslim world all by ourselves but, by golly, we don’t have to worry. We are a great and exceptional nation, and our god kicks butt on their silly deity. We should be especially thankful now for all our men in uniform – the straight, the male and the many. They protect us from terrorists every day, and we join in thanks for their service, and for the way the country has rallied around our universal military service policy so necessary to fight all these wars at once.

We are not only more secure in the world now, but we are also more economically secure since our National Patriotic Readjustment Policy went into effect recently. Banning unions, the minimum wage, productivity-choking rules like the forty-hour week, and ruinous red tape from bureaucratic agencies like that old OSHA thingy, we’ve now created the model economy for our great nation. Our human resources are the best in the world, and our rich elites are therefore unsurpassed in their wealth. We have achieved one of the highest degrees of income diversity on the planet! You betcha. We’re America! Everything we do is great.

To be sure, it took some doing to get where we are. The country I inherited was a mess. It got so bad that our last president wasn’t even an American. Plus, he was a Muslim and a socialist, and he wasn’t even white like presidents are supposed to be. But we rolled up our sleeves and got to work, and now it’s morning in America again. Again.

Of course, we had to get rid of the dissenters and the whiners and the bleeding-heart evildoer coddlers, but that tough love is what it takes to have a healthy society. And I think the Liberal Reorientation Camps are working out pretty great, don’t you?

Look at how much better off we are, too, now that we’ve re-learned the great lessons of self-reliance that long-ago generations had understood so well. Our seniors have toughened up since we got rid of those Social Security and Medicare albatrosses that made them so soft in the past. They no longer have to take care of their homes anymore, and every time I visit them in the Patriot Palaces we’ve constructed they all tell me how much nicer life is now. True, they don’t live as long as they used to when they got health care and stuff, but believe-you-me the Ministry of Information is working on correcting those statistics even as we speak. Pretty soon America’s seniors will be living longer than ever!

Same with the youngins. All that public education was making them weak at the same time it was draining our financial resources. Not anymore. I’m so proud of our country when I see our wee little Entrepreneur Scouts working in factories almost as soon as they can walk! Our education system is so much more suited to our needs today. No more Emerson for everyone, no more algebra for all. Now we focus our teaching like a laser beam, and our little worker bees learn just exactly what they need to be super productive at the factory – not a bit less, and definitely no more.

We are also able to produce so much more these days, having stripped away all that socialist environmental regulation. And none too soon, either! Now that Manhattan and most of Florida are nearly underwater, we can’t be worrying about such trivialities as we man-up to build the barricades we need to keep the raging waters at bay. One of our greatest achievements has been to finally tame the powers of the government, so that it can be as good as a great nation like ours deserves. We’ve moved the White House back to Wall Street, where Washington himself took the oath of office. It’s so much better that way, since government officials no longer have that long commute to get to work anymore.

And renaming Congress as the House of Lords was such a great stroke. I want to thank Vice President Palin and Homeland Security Secretary Palin for that great idea, and for restructuring our legislative branch so that it has all the same powers as the British upper house. I hear every day from our great American citizens how much they appreciate the new system, without the messy checking and balancing that used to bog us down. That is, before the Great Crusade Wars that required us to suspend Congress, the courts, the Bill of Rights and the rest of the Constitution. It’s all so much easier now when I just decide. Doncha think?

America is back, my fellow citizens! Our people have assumed their rightful place and have learned once again the great qualities of respect and deference. We know, as we used to, that it is faith in what our superiors tell us – not the Devil’s decadent belief in our own sadly mistaken observations – that brings us the good life. And God has rewarded us for our faith by returning to us, and bringing his gifts of obedience, order and really, really rich rich people, just like the Good Book says.

God bless the Christian Corporate States of America!

And God bless America’s Dear Leader For Life!
(c) 2010 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Eric showing how much he can take!

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Cantor,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and your concern for the budget that won't allow a renewal of unemplyment insurance paymets for the desperately poor unless their is a tax cut for the uber wealthy, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican 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 Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 12-31-2010. We salute you Herr Cantor, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Mohamed Osman Mohamud,
in an image released Nov. 27.

The FBI Successfully Thwarts Its Own Terrorist Plot
By Glenn Greenwald

The FBI is obviously quite pleased with itself over its arrest of a 19-year-old Somali-American, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who -- with months of encouragement, support and money from the FBI's own undercover agents -- allegedly attempted to detonate a bomb at a crowded Christmas event in Portland, Oregon. Media accounts are almost uniformly trumpeting this event exactly as the FBI describes it. Loyalists of both parties are doing the same, with Democratic Party commentators proclaiming that this proves how great and effective Democrats are at stopping The Evil Terrorists, while right-wing polemicists point to this arrest as yet more proof that those menacing Muslims sure are violent and dangerous.

What's missing from all of these celebrations is an iota of questioning or skepticism. All of the information about this episode -- all of it -- comes exclusively from an FBI affidavit filed in connection with a Criminal Complaint against Mohamud. As shocking and upsetting as this may be to some, FBI claims are sometimes one-sided, unreliable and even untrue, especially when such claims -- as here -- are uncorroborated and unexamined. That's why we have what we call "trials" before assuming guilt or even before believing that we know what happened: because the government doesn't always tell the complete truth, because they often skew reality, because things often look much different once the accused is permitted to present his own facts and subject the government's claims to scrutiny. The FBI affidavit -- as well as whatever its agents are whispering into the ears of reporters -- contains only those facts the FBI chose to include, but omits the ones it chose to exclude. And even the "facts" that are included are merely assertions at this point and thus may not be facts at all.

It may very well be that the FBI successfully and within legal limits arrested a dangerous criminal intent on carrying out a serious Terrorist plot that would have killed many innocent people, in which case they deserve praise. Court-approved surveillance and use of undercover agents to infiltrate terrorist plots are legitimate tactics when used in accordance with the law.

But it may also just as easily be the case that the FBI -- as they've done many times in the past -- found some very young, impressionable, disaffected, hapless, aimless, inept loner; created a plot it then persuaded/manipulated/entrapped him to join, essentially turning him into a Terrorist; and then patted itself on the back once it arrested him for having thwarted a "Terrorist plot" which, from start to finish, was entirely the FBI's own concoction. Having stopped a plot which it itself manufactured, the FBI then publicly touts -- and an uncritical media amplifies -- its "success" to the world, thus proving both that domestic Terrorism from Muslims is a serious threat and the Government's vast surveillance powers -- current and future new ones -- are necessary.

There are numerous claims here that merit further scrutiny and questioning.

First, the FBI was monitoring the email communications of this American citizen on U.S. soil for months (at least) with what appears to be the flimsiest basis: namely, that he was in email communication with someone in Northwest Pakistan, "an area known to harbor terrorists" (para. 5 of the FBI Affidavit). Is that enough to obtain court approval to eavesdrop on someone's calls and emails? I'm glad the FBI is only eavesdropping with court approval, if that's true, but certainly more should be required for judicial authorization than that. Communicating with someone in Northwest Pakistan is hardly reasonable grounds for suspicion.

Second, in order not to be found to have entrapped someone into committing a crime, law enforcement agents want to be able to prove that, in the 1992 words of the Supreme Court, the accused was "was independently predisposed to commit the crime for which he was arrested." To prove that, undercover agents are often careful to stress that the accused has multiple choices, and they then induce him into choosing with his own volition to commit the crime. In this case, that was achieved by the undercover FBI agent's allegedly advising Mohamud that there were at least five ways he could serve the cause of Islam (including by praying, studying engineering, raising funds to send overseas, or becoming "operational"), and Mohamud replied he wanted to "be operational" by using exploding a bomb (para. 35-37).

But strangely, while all other conversations with Mohamud which the FBI summarizes were (according to the affidavit) recorded by numerous recording devices, this conversation -- the crucial one for negating Mohamud's entrapment defense -- was not. That's because, according to the FBI, the undercover agent "was equipped with audio equipment to record the meeting. However, due to technical problems, the meeting was not recorded" (para. 37).

Thus, we have only the FBI's word, and only its version, for what was said during this crucial -- potentially dispositive -- conversation. Also strangely: the original New York Times article on this story described this conversation at some length and reported the fact that "that meeting was not recorded due to a technical difficulty," but the final version omitted that, instead simply repeating the FBI's story as though it were fact: "undercover agents in Mr. Mohamud’s case offered him several nonfatal ways to serve his cause, including mere prayer. But he told the agents he wanted to be 'operational,' and perhaps execute a car bombing."

Third, there are ample facts that call into question whether Mohamud's actions were driven by the FBI's manipulation and pressure rather than his own predisposition to commit a crime. In June, he attempted to fly to Alaska in order to work on a fishing job he obtained through a friend, but he was on the Government's no-fly list. That caused the FBI to question him at the airport and then bar him from flying to Alaska, and thus prevented him from earning income with this job (para. 25). Having prevented him from working, the money the FBI then pumped him with -- including almost $3,000 in cash for him to rent his own apartment (para. 61) -- surely helped make him receptive to their suggestions and influence. And every other step taken to perpetrate this plot -- from planning its placement to assembling the materials to constructing the bomb -- was all done at the FBI's behest and with its indispensable support and direction.

It's impossible to conceive of Mohamud having achieved anything on his own. Before being ensnared by the FBI, the only tangible action he had taken was to write three articles on "fitness and jihad" for the online magazine Jihad Recollections. At least based on what is known, he had no history of violence, no apparent criminal record, had never been to a training camp in Afghanistan, Pakistan or anywhere else, and -- before meeting the FBI -- had never taken a single step toward harming anyone. Does that sound like some menacing sleeper Terrorist to you?

Finally, there is, as usual, no discussion whatsoever in media accounts of motive. There are several statements attributed to Mohamud by the Affidavit that should be repellent to any decent person, including complete apathy -- even delight -- at the prospect that this bomb would kill innocent people, including children. What would drive a 19-year-old American citizen -- living in the U.S. since the age of 3 -- to that level of sociopathic indifference? He explained it himself in several passages quoted by the FBI, and -- if it weren't for the virtual media blackout of this issue -- this line of reasoning would be extremely familiar to Americans by now (para. 45):

Undercover FBI Agent: You know there's gonna be a lot of children there?

Mohamud: Yeah, I know, that's what I'm looking for.

Undercover FBI Agent: For kids?

Mohamud: No, just for, in general a huge mass that will, like for them you know to be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays. And then for later to be saying, this was them for you to refrain from killing our children, women . . . . so when they hear all these families were killed in such a city, they'll say you know what your actions, you know they will stop, you know. And it's not fair that they should do that to people and not feeling it.

And here's what he allegedly said in a video he made shortly before he thought he would be detonating the bomb (para. 80):

We hear the same exact thing over and over and over from accused Terrorists -- that they are attempting to carry about plots in retaliation for past and ongoing American violence against Muslim civilians and to deter such future acts. Here we find one of the great mysteries in American political culture: that the U.S. Government dispatches its military all over the world -- invading, occupying, and bombing multiple Muslim countries -- torturing them, imprisoning them without charges, shooting them up at checkpoints, sending remote-controlled drones to explode their homes, imposing sanctions that starve hundreds of thousands of children to death -- and Americans are then baffled when some Muslims -- an amazingly small percentage -- harbor anger and vengeance at them and want to return the violence. And here we also find the greatest myth in American political discourse: that engaging in all of that military aggression somehow constitutes Staying Safe and combating Terrorism -- rather than doing more than any single other cause to provoke, sustain and fuel Terrorism.
(c) 2010 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

The United States Of Fear
The National Security State Cops a Feel Taking Off the Gloves (and Then Everything Else)
By Tom Engelhardt

It's finally coming into focus, and it's not even a difficult equation to grasp. It goes like this: take a country in the grips of an expanding national security state and sooner or later your "safety" will mean your humiliation, your degradation. And by the way, it will mean the degradation of your country, too.

Just ask Rolando Negrin, a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screener who passed through one of those new "whole body image" scanners last May as part of his training for airport security. His co-workers claimed to have gotten a look at his "junk" and mocked him mercilessly, evidently repeatedly asking, "What size are you?" and referring to him as "little angry man." In the end, calling it "psychological torture," he insisted that he snapped, which in his case meant that he went after a co-worker, baton first, demanding an apology.

Consider that a little parable about just how low this country has sunk, how psychologically insecure we've become while supposedly guarding ourselves against global danger. There is no question that, at the height of Cold War hysteria, when superpower nuclear arsenals were out of this world and the planet seemed a hair-trigger from destruction, big and small penises were in play, symbolically speaking. Only now, however, facing a ragtag set of fanatics and terrorists -- not a mighty nation but a puny crew -- are those penises perfectly real and, potentially, completely humiliating.

Failed Bombs Do the Job

We live, it seems, in a national security "homeland" of little angry bureaucrats who couldn't be happier to define what "safety" means for you and big self-satisfied officials who can duck the application of those safety methods. Your government can now come up with any wacky solution to American "security" and you'll pay the price. One guy brings a failed shoe bomb on an airplane, and you're suddenly in your socks. Word has it that bombs can be mixed from liquids in airplane bathrooms, and there go your bottled drinks. A youthful idiot flies toward Detroit with an ill-constructed bomb in his underwear, and suddenly they're taking naked scans of you or threatening to grope your junk.

Two bombs don't go off in the cargo holds of two planes and all of a sudden sending things around the world threatens to become more problematic and expensive. Each time, the price of "safety" rises and some set of lucky corporations, along with the lobbyists and politicians that support them, get a windfall. In each case, the terror tactic (at least in the normal sense) failed; in each case, the already draconian standards for our security were ratcheted up, while yet more money was poured into new technology and human reinforcements, which may, in the end, cause more disruption than any successful terror attack.

Directly or indirectly, you pay for the screeners and scanners and a labyrinthine intelligence bureaucracy that officially wields an $80 billion budget, and all the lobbyists and shysters and pitchmen who accompany our burgeoning homeland-security complex. And by the way, no one's the slightest bit nice about it either, which isn't surprising since it's a national security state we're talking about, which means its mentality is punitive. It wants to lock you down, quietly and with full acquiescence if possible. Offer some trouble, though, or step out of line, and you'll be hit with a $10,000 fine or maybe put in cuffs. It's all for your safety, and fortunately they have a set of the most inept terror plots in history to prove their point.

By now, who hasn't written about the airport "porno-scans," the crotch gropes and breast jobs, the "don't touch my junk" uproar, the growing lines, and the exceedingly modest protests on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, not to speak of the indignity of it all?

Totally been there, completely done that; totally written about, fully read. Shouldn't we move on?

Taking Off the Gloves (and Then Everything Else)

And yet there are a few dots that still need to be connected. After all, since the beginning of George W. Bush's second term, Americans have been remarkably quiet when it comes to the national security disasters being perpetuated in their name. America's wars, its soaring Pentagon budgets, its billion-dollar military bases, its giant new citadels still called embassies but actually regional command centers, its ever-escalating CIA drone war along the Pakistani tribal borderlands, the ever-expanding surveillance at home, and the incessant "night raids" and home razings thousands of miles away in Afghanistan, not to speak of Washington's stimulus-package spending in its war zones have caused no more than the mildest ripple of protest, much less genuine indignation, in this country in years.

American "safety" has, in every case, trumped outrage. Now, for the first time in years, the oppressiveness of a national security state bent on locking down American life has actually gotten to some Americans. No flags are yet flying over mass protests with "Don't Scan on Me" emblazoned on them. Still, the idea that air travel may now mean a choice between a spritz of radiation and a sorta naked snapshot or -- thrilling option B -- having some overworked, overaggressive TSA agent grope you has caused outrage, at least among a minority of Americans, amid administration confusion. (If you want evidence that Hillary Clinton is considering a run for president in 2012, check out what she had to say about her lack of eagerness to be patted down at the airport.)

Local authorities have threatened to bring sexual battery charges against TSA agents who step over the line in pat-downs. Some legislators are denouncing the TSA's new security plans. Ron Paul has introduced the American Travel Dignity Act. And good for them all.

But here's the thing: in our deluded state, Americans don't tend to connect what we're doing to others abroad and what we're doing to ourselves at home. We refuse to see that the trillion or more dollars that continue to go into the Pentagon, the U.S. Intelligence Community, and the national security state yearly, as well as the stalemated or losing wars Washington insists on fighting in distant lands, have anything to do with the near collapse of the American economy, job-devastation at home, or any of the other disasters of our American age.

As a result, those porno-scanners and enhanced pat-downs are indignities without a cause -- except, of course, for those terrorists who keep launching their bizarre plots to take down our planes. And yet whatever inconvenience, embarrassment, or humiliation you suffer in an airport shouldn't be thought of as something the terrorists have done to us. It's what the American national security state that we've quietly accepted demands of its subjects, based on the idea that no degree of danger from a terrorist attack, however infinitesimal, is acceptable. (When it comes to genuine safety, anything close to that principle is absent from other aspects of American life where -- from eating to driving, to drinking, to working -- genuine danger exists and genuine damage is regularly done.)

We now live not just with all the usual fears that life has to offer, but in something like a United States of Fear.

So think of it as an irony that, when George W. Bush and his cronies decided to sally forth and smite the Greater Middle East, they exulted that they were finally "taking the gloves off." And so they were: aggressive war, torture, abuse, secret imprisonment, souped-up surveillance, slaughter, drone wars, there was no end to it. When those gloves came off, other people suffered first. But wasn't it predictable -- since unsuccessful wars have a nasty habit of coming home -- that, in the end, other things would come off, and sooner or later they would be on you: your hat, your shoes, your belt, your clothes, and of course, your job, your world?

And don't for a second think that it's going to end here. What happens when the first terrorist with a suppository bomb is found aboard one of our planes? After all, such weapons already exist. In the meantime, the imposition of more draconian safety and security methods is, of course, being considered for buses, trains, and boats. Can trucks, taxis, cars, and bikes be far behind? After all, once begun, there can, by definition, be no end to the search for perfect security.

You Wanna Be Safer? Really?

You must have a friend who's extremely critical of everyone else but utterly opaque when it comes to himself. Well, that's this country, too.

Here's a singular fact to absorb: we now know that a bunch of Yemeni al-Qaeda adherents have a far better hit on just who we are, psychologically speaking, and what makes us tick than we do. Imagine that. They have a more accurate profile of us than our leading intelligence profilers undoubtedly do of them.

Recently, they released an online magazine laying out just how much the two U.S.-bound cargo-bay bombs that caused panic cost them: a mere $4,200 and the efforts of "less than six brothers" over three months. They even gave their plot a name, Operation Hemorrhage (and what they imagined hemorrhaging, it seems, was not American blood, but treasure).

Now, they're laughing at us for claiming the operation failed because -- thanks reportedly to a tip from Saudi intelligence -- those bombs didn't go off. "This supposedly ‘foiled plot,'" they wrote, "will without a doubt cost America and other Western countries billions of dollars in new security measures. That is what we call leverage."

They are, they claim, planning to use the "security phobia that is sweeping America" not to cause major casualties, but to blow a hole in the U.S. economy. "We knew that cargo planes are staffed by only a pilot and a co-pilot, so our objective was not to cause maximum casualties but to cause maximum losses to the American economy" via the multi-billion-dollar U.S. freight industry.

This is a new definition of asymmetrical warfare. The terrorists never have to strike an actual target. It's not even incumbent upon them to build a bomb that works. Just about anything will do. To be successful, they just have to repeatedly send things in our direction, inciting the expectable Pavlovian reaction from the U.S. national security state, causing it to further tighten its grip (grope?) at yet greater taxpayer expense.

In a sense, both the American national security state and al-Qaeda are building their strength and prestige as our lives grow more constrained and our treasure vanishes.

So you wanna be safer? I mean, actually safer? Here's a simple formula for beginning to improve American safety and security at every level. End our trillion dollar wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; set our military to defending our own borders (and no, projecting power abroad does not normally qualify as a defense of the United States); begin to shut down our global empire of bases; stop building grotesque embassy-citadels abroad (one even has a decorative moat, for god's sake!); end our overseas war stimulus packages and bring some of that money home. In short, stop going out of our way to tick off foreigners and then pouring our treasure into an American war machine intent on pursuing a generational global war against them.

Of course, the U.S. national security state has quite a different formula for engendering safety in America: fight the Afghan War until hell freezes over; keep the odd base or two in Iraq; dig into the Persian Gulf region; send U.S. Special Operations troops into any country where a terrorist might possibly lurk; and make sure the drones aren't far behind. In other words, reinforce our war state by ensuring that we're eternally in a state of war, and then scare the hell out of Americans by repeatedly insisting that we're in imminent danger, that shoe, underwear, and someday butt bombers will destroy our country, our lives, and our civilization. Insist that a single percent of risk is 1% too much when it comes to terror and American lives, and then demand that those who feel otherwise be dealt with punitively, if they won't shut up.

It's a formula for leaving you naked in airports, while increasing the oppressive power of the state. And here's the dirty, little, distinctly Orwellian secret: the national security state can't do without those Yemeni terrorists (and vice versa), as well as our homegrown variety. All of them profit from a world of war. You don't -- and on that score, what happens in an airport line should be the least of your worries.

The national security state is eager to cop a feel. As long as Americans don't grasp the connections between our war state and our "safety," things will only get worse and, in the end, our world will genuinely be in danger.
(c) 2010 Tom Engelhardt is co-founder of the American Empire Project. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Haymarket Books).

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Jim Day ~~~

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.
© 1959/2010 Tom Lehrer

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Don't Taze My Junk, Bro
By Will Durst

One thing you can say about this whole TSA enhanced pat down mess: nobody will ever board Virgin Airlines again without ruefully grimacing. Folks are flipping out like wolverines bouncing off of submarine trampolines over new regulations requiring a prospective flier to submit to having his or her naughty bits exposed for all the world to see, or else agree to a groinal groping that would have our ancestors’ fathers brandishing shotguns outside of rural chapels or contemporary school children showing Federal Marshalls on the doll where the nasty agent put his hands. “Bad touch. BAD TOUCH!”

Most troublesome is not the compelling of passengers to slide into second base with complete strangers but rather the suspicion these decisions are being made on the fly with little forethought. Flight crews are subjected to the same sub rosa muggings. Face it, you and I, we don’t know nothing, but even we can figure out pilots don’t need explosives up their butt to bring down an aircraft when a second double bourbon at the airport bar will suffice.

Equal representation under the glove would also be nice. VIPs are exempt from screening, but nobody will divulge who qualifies as a VIP. That’s classified. Isn’t everything? We’re in the thick of classified creep. How long before it’s illegal for civilians to videotape pat downs due to “national security;” the federal equivalent of “Because I said so, that’s why.” Not to mention arresting so- called comedians for talking trash. “Don’t taze my junk, bro.”

The recent bleating from the front lines of the security wars is an indication the natives are restless. Business travelers have tired of securing our safety through their captive inconvenience. Then again, 50% of the people experiencing the procedure are in favor of it. Must be part of that large segment of society that enjoys having their inner thighs pawed and genitals, butts and breasts felt up. Me, not so much. I’ve had less intimate fifth dates.

The flying experience is in the throes of a death spiral, from the evaporation of our nuts and pillows and checked baggage to shedding shoes and surrendering fluids and providing peeks under our underwear to being frisked like common criminals. Where does it stop? What happens when some flippo-unit tries to blow something up with zipper shaped plastique? Will only the Amish fly? A single button bomb could result in us all wearing robes and then the terrorists do win.

How soon before we add body cavity searches to the casual molestations in our pre flight check-lists? Precipitating few outcries even when the airlines try to make some extra coin by piggy backing prostate exams. In the meantime, we fly the overly friendly skies and do whatever they want of us cattle and sheep: bend and cough and walk a little funny and act like nothing happened. More static and drool.

In the meantime, just direct me to whichever TSA screener didn't volunteer for the job. And no ex- priests if you please. I might even wriggle and giggle and blush and bloom and slip the man attached to the blue rubber glove a card. Hey, they’re intent on creeping us out, why not return the favor? One last question: are we supposed to tip, or only if there’s a happy ending? Least they could do is provide a well- ventilated room for a post encounter cigarette.
(c) 2010 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based humor columnist who frequently tells jokes. Out loud. On stage. In front of people. Ideally. Catch an example at DC’s Funniest Celebrity at the Rancho Nicasio on Sunday, the 5. Don't forget his new CD, "Raging Moderate" from Stand-Up Records now available on both iTunes and Amazon. Early next year: “Where the Rogue Things Go!” From Ulysses Press.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 48 (c) 12/03/2010

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