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In This Edition

Ginger Strand remembers, "The Crying Indian."

Uri Avnery watches with, "Eyes Wide Shut."

Victoria Stewart with a, "Lament For The Welfare Queen."

Jim Hightower is, "Repairing Bush's Regulatory Wreckage."

William Pfaff asks, "Was There Any Point To The Bloodshed In Mumbai?"

Will Allen totals up, "The Real Cost Of Cheap Food."

Chris Hedges is, "Confronting The Terrorist Within."

Chris Floyd says to, "Keep The Change."

Stuart Archer Cohen screams, "Burn, Baby, Burn."

Mike Folkerth warns of, "Lawyers And Leaders; One Of The Same."

Stephanie Mencimer sees, "MoJo Video: The Ex-Gitmo Detainee Next Door."

Paul Krugman considers, "Deficits And The Future."

Dr. Stephen Sundlof, FDA director of food safety wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald studies, "Nepotistic Succession In The Political Class."

Amy Goodman uncovers, "Chevron In The White House."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department 'The Onion' reports, "American Airlines Now Charging Fees To Non-Passengers" but first Uncle Ernie finds, "Treason And Murder At The FDA."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Bruce Plante with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, The Heretik, Walt Kelly, Peter Nicholson, John Sherffius, Keep America Beautiful, Carol Simpson, Bush Flash.Com, MoBuck.Com, All Hat No Cattle.Com, The Onion, Married To The Sea.Com, Associated Press, Issues & Alibis.Org and Pink & Blue Films.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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









Treason And Murder At The FDA
By Ernest Stewart

"I repeat, sir, that in whatever position you place a woman she is an ornament to society and a treasure to the world. As a sweetheart, she has few equals and no superiors; as a cousin, she is convenient; as a wealthy grandmother with an incurable distemper, she is precious; as a wet-nurse, she has no equal among men. What, sir, would the people of the earth be without woman? They would be scarce, sir, almighty scarce." ~~~ Mark Twain

"There are not enough Senate votes at this time to bail out the carmakers." ~~~ Harry Reid

"I've got to say everything President-elect Obama has done since election night has been just about perfect." ~~~ Joe Lieberman

After hearing of the melamine poisoning of American infant formula and other foods my better half and I got to discussing it and she said the next big thing for our illegal immigrant population would be to give the women estrogen so that they would constantly lactate and then hire them out as wet nurses. If one wanted to make a bundle now would be the time to set up such an agency. While we said this in jest, it's only a matter of time before some capitalist does just that!

After China discovered melamine in infant formula and other foods, the FDA said there would be zero tolerance for melamine in American food. Of course, a couple of months later the federal food regulators said they were unable to set a safety threshold for the industrial chemical melamine in baby formula. However, after careful consultation with Nestle and other formula manufacturers, they announced a standard that allows for higher levels than those found in U.S. made batches of baby formula. Funny thing that, eh? No, not really. Not funny on many levels!

To understand how we got to this position with an agency charged with protecting us from various forms of poisonings by the corpo-rats one must look back at their history.

The FDA grew from a single chemist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1862 to a staff of approximately 9.100 comprised of, among others, chemists, pharmacologists, physicians, microbiologists, veterinarians, pharmacists, lawyers and a budget of $1.294 billion in 2001. About one-third of the agency's employees are stationed outside of the Washington, D. C. area, staffing over 150 field offices and laboratories, including 5 regional offices and 20 district offices.

The agency stayed in the shadows of Agriculture until 1870 when arsenic was being added to fertilizers! I'm going to repeat that again for those of you on drugs...

They put poison in the fertilizers and people began to drop like flies!


The FDA came out in support of the fertilizer companies saying that their product was perfectly safe for human consumption and we've been dropping like flies ever since!

The FDA was called the Division of Chemistry until July 1901 when it became the Bureau of Chemistry. The modern era of the FDA dates to 1906 with the passage of the Federal Food and Drugs Act; this added regulatory functions to the agency's scientific mission. The Bureau of Chemistry's name changed to the Food, Drug, and Insecticide Administration in July 1927. In July 1930, the name was shortened to the present version. FDA remained under the Department of Agriculture until June 1940, when the agency was moved to the new Federal Security Agency. In April 1953, the agency again was transferred, this time to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). Fifteen years later FDA became part of the Public Health Service within HEW, and in May 1980, the education function was removed from HEW to create the Department of Health and Human Services, FDA's current home.

All along the way they sold us out for the corpo-rats and beyond that, have gone out of their way to keep things that are beneficial off the market in order to see us all to an early grave so as to keep all of the money we've paid into a retirement to themselves. Melamine poisonings is just the latest example of this policy. Instead of telling mothers that the best ting they could do was to breast feed their infants, even if the baby formula was pure as could be, they tell the mothers to not worry about the formula or the poisonous bottles the formula is going into. It just boggles the mind!

In Other News

Then there was a teary-eyed Harry Reid telling GM, Ford and Chrysler that there are not enough votes to save them. I know a lot of you are probably cheering that info but I'm not and here's the reason why!

When we gave trillions away to Wall Street both Houses of Congress and both parties couldn't sign up and sign on fast enough. Why? Because, for the most part, it was going to the rich. Yes, I know they said it was for more loans to the middle-class but we all knew that was BS. It went to CEOs, board member, and of course, to banks to buy up other banks, not to loans to buy cars and houses.

The reason why they're turning their backs on Detroit is that money would actually end up in the pockets of the workers and would be spent in the community, on cars, houses and food for the families. Ergo they haven't any money, even though the unions, which they've been out to destroy since Ray Guns with the auto workers' unions being about the last unions left, have bent over backwards to give the auto companies concessions. Of course, if there was any justice, the oil companies would be giving Detroit the money!

The object of this exercise is to ramp up our recession into a full-blown depression. Obama, you may recall, said that he was about taking the money from the rich and giving it back to the poor as the poor and middle-class have had that money stolen by the Junta for the last eight years. However, like many other Obama promises made during the election, just the opposite is being done. They're taking money from the middle-class and the poor and giving it away to Wall Street Billionaires!

I hope you're not surprised by these developments. You didn't for a minute buy that new "change" shuck and jive did you, America? As we've seen by the cabinet and other picks, it's business as usual with the end game being to turn America into a third world country. With a huge military to conquer the world, these United Snakes are just another piece of the New World Order's puzzle, no different than any other country. Down at the bottom of the magazine you'll notice a new count down widget; this one is counting down to the end of the Mayan calendar and whatever comes with it. I'm guessing it won't be full employment in a carefree world!

And Finally

I've been getting a lot of mail lately telling me that I should stop saying all those mean and truthful things about Barry. I should forget all those past "mistakes" he's made and even overlook his choices for high positions in the new Junta and judge him solely on what he does after he's sworn in, as I'm beginning to ruffle some "liberal" feathers.

In case you haven't been paying attention for these last eight years, that's exactly what I do. I tell you the truth and therefore I piss a lot of people off. That's what I do folks. I make some people mad. By all means, ya'll stop me if I should tell you a lie!

I piss people off in trying to get them to face reality, something that most people won't look at until it's too late to do anything about it. While it's true that I waited until February 1, 2001 to start my "crusade" against Bush, I can assure you I waited because we weren't ready to publish until that date.

If pointing out Barry and his Junta's previous faults rallies the troops to make him actually keep a few of the promises he's made to the Sheeple, well good for me. Consider this, dear reader, not only has Joe Lieberman endorsed Obama's picks, now Rush Limbaugh has endorsed Obama's cabinet, too! Doesn't that send a chill down your spine, America? It does mine!

*****

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

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

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

Ernest & Victoria Stewart



*****


12-24-1958 ~ 11-30-2008
Keep on rockin' my brother!



12-31-1930 ~ 12-02-2008
Tell Woody I said hi!


*****

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

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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2008 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 7 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. In his spare time he is an actor, writer and an associate producer for the new motion picture "W The Movie."














The Crying Indian
How an environmental icon helped sell cans -- and sell out environmentalism
By Ginger Strand

IF YOU WATCHED television at any point in the seventies, you saw him: America's most famous Indian. Star of perhaps the best-known public service announcement ever, he was a black-braided, buckskinned, cigar-store native come to life, complete with single feather and stoic frown. In the spot's original version, launched by Keep America Beautiful on Earth Day 1971, he paddles his canoe down a pristine river to booming drumbeats. He glides past flotsam and jetsam. The music grows bombastic, wailing up a movie-soundtrack build. He rows into a city harbor: ship, crane, a scrim of smog. The Indian pulls his boat onto a bank strewn with litter and gazes upon a freeway.

"Some people have a deep, abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country," intones a basso profundo voice, "and some people don't." On those words, someone flings a bag of trash from a passing car. It scatters at the Indian's feet. He looks into the camera for the money shot. A single tear rolls down his cheek.

"People start pollution. People can stop it," declares the narrator.

Rewind. Replay. Thanks to YouTube, you can watch this ad over and over, framed by excited viewer comments: "A classic!!" "Very powerful." "Best PSA ever made." Most YouTubers agree with the trade journal Ad Age, which included the campaign in the century's top hundred. Some netizens even claim the ad motivated them to pick up trash or chide litterers. The Advertising Educational Foundation declares the spot "synonymous with environmental concern." Wikipedia says it "has been widely credited with inspiring America's fledgling environmental movement." The crying Indian wept for our sins, and from his tears sprang forth a new Green Age.

This is remarkable, since the ad was a fraud. It's no big secret that the crying Indian was neither crying nor Indian. Even some YouTubers point out that he was played by character actor Iron Eyes Cody, whose specialty was playing Indians in Hollywood westerns. The Italian-American Cody-his real name was Espera Oscar DeCorti-"passed" as a Cherokee-Cree Indian on and off camera. His long black braids were a wig, his dark complexion deepened with makeup. His fraud was not ill-willed: he also supported Indian rights, married an Indian, and adopted Indian children.

The fraudulence of Keep America Beautiful is less well known. In a recent survey, respondents were given a list of "environmental groups" and asked "Which organization do you believe is most believable?" Thirty-six percent chose Keep America Beautiful-it beat out the Nature Conservancy (29 percent), the Sierra Club (17 percent), Greenpeace (15 percent), and the Environmental Defense Fund (3 percent). Over two million Americans acted on that belief in 2006, volunteering for Keep America Beautiful activities: picking up litter, removing graffiti, painting buildings, and planting greenery. Many may not have realized they were handing their free time to a front group for the beer bottlers, can companies, and soda makers who crank out the containers that constitute half of America's litter. Or that this front group opposes the reuse and recycling legislation that might better address the problem. The information is not hard to find. Ted Williams wrote about it in 1990 for Audubon. Online, you can find many more narratives of KAB's real motives, including a summary by the Container Recycling Institute.

And yet, even with Cody outed as Italian and KAB unmasked as a trade group, the crying Indian remains a beloved environmental icon. Why did he touch such a chord? One day in June, while visiting family in Michigan, I decide to find out.

TO GET TO Illinois from western Michigan, you ease round the bottom of what Michiganians call "the Lake," then drop down into Indiana. Almost immediately, the landscape becomes classic heartland: seemingly endless, flat cornfields like the one where Cary Grant flees a crop-dusting plane in North by Northwest. Each small town pivots on a grain elevator, the horizon's only transect. I stick to blue highways, remarkably free of generic sprawl, and head west. I think, Indiana.

As a child, I had a puzzle of the United States, each state a separate wooden piece. I liked stacking them in two piles: Indian names, European names. I was always fascinated by place names, especially Indian ones. Even as a kid, I found it odd that pioneers should name their homes after the people they had displaced to build them.

But that's frequently the role Native Americans are given by American culture: marker of loss. Early American landscape paintings often included a token Indian: America was the new Eden, complete with mournful, expelled Adam. In the early nineteenth century, as "Indian removal" became federal policy, artists like George Catlin traveled the West, painting Plains Indians in war paint or ceremonial dress. Their still, solemn faces have a funerary tone. At the same time, hugely popular "Indian dramas" swept stages, almost always ending with an Indian character's noble death. Yet even as these stage natives reassured audiences with their disappearing act, they embodied the young nation's ideals: sacrifice, nobility, and honor. Depicting Indians as a "vanishing race," these works registered an odd anxiety about their vanishing. What if in building our new world, they asked, we actually destroy its founding values?

At nine a.m. I arrive at my destination, the Advertising Council Archives at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The UIUC library is classic land-grant college architecture, monumental yet homespun: huge hallways with soaring ceilings, wide staircases with thick wooden railings. The Advertising Council Archives are in the basement, down a long, tunnel-like hallway. Before going in, I stop to examine a glass display case outside the door. It celebrates "the Advertising Council's commitment to the environment." Typical is an ad from a 1994 "Clean Water" campaign. "There are toxic chemicals in our water," it declares. "Such as oil. And pesticides. You might think industry is to blame. But they're only part of the problem. You and I, in our everyday lives, are also responsible for a tremendous amount of water pollution." _People start pollution. People can stop it.

KEEP AMERICA BEAUTIFUL first came to the Advertising Council for support in 1960. An advertising trade group, the Ad Council recruits and oversees ad agencies as they create pro-bono public service ads for nonprofits and government. The Council then coordinates donations of media for the ads. They are famously successful. Working with the Council, volunteer agencies have churned out loads of catchy taglines for righteous causes: "Buckle up for safety"; "A mind is a terrible thing to waste"; "Friends don't let friends drive drunk." They created Smokey the Bear, McGruff the Crime Dog, and Vince and Larry, the Crash Test Dummies.

Perhaps even more famous are the Council's World War II campaigns: "Loose lips sink ships" and Rosie the Riveter's "We can do it!" Formed in 1941, the Council was originally intended to mitigate the antibusiness, collectivist side of the New Deal. Its founding mission was defined as "reteaching a belief in a dynamic economy." But after Pearl Harbor, the ad men teamed up with the Office of War Information to crank out propaganda, encouraging Americans to buy war bonds, enlist, work in factories, and save tin cans, scrap rubber, and waste fats. At war's end, however, the Ad Council happily returned to its true role: prophet of endless growth.

Looking back from America's current position as global missionary of free-market gospel, it's easy to forget that enterprise American-style-dedicated to the proposition that consuming equals happiness-once needed the hard sell here, too. But the ad men knew it. In 1945, the Council issued a pamphlet outlining its new purpose. The war was over, but a new battle was on: the "battle for markets." Europe, they declared, was in ruins. State socialism was creeping through the Old World. America, too, would move left, unless advertising could "resume its star role as a profitable seller of goods." This meant recasting the American Dream as the endless pursuit of plenty.

"Only if we have large demands can we expect large production," wrote economist Robert Nathan in 1944. "Therefore, it is important that in planning for the postwar period, we give adequate consideration to the need for ever-increasing consumption on the part of our people as one of the prime requisites for prosperity." This was more than economics: it was politics. An ongoing cycle of "mass employment, mass production, mass advertising, mass distribution and mass ownership of the products of industry," wrote the Saturday Evening Post, would make the U.S. "the last bulwark" of democracy. Consuming became national policy: the 1946 Employment Act named "purchasing power" as one of the things government was meant to promote.

Thus prompted, Americans of the late 1940s got down to the business of buying things. In the first five years of peace, consumer spending increased by 60 percent. People bought cars and boats and clothing. They bought furniture and appliances. They bought Tupperware. Most of all, they bought houses. Housing starts went from 142,000 in 1944 to 2 million in 1950. The Ad Council cheered them on, casting consumption as what distinguished happy capitalists from those poor benighted souls living under the communist boot.

A 1948 Ad Council pamphlet, "The Miracle of America," is typical. In it, Uncle Sam-shown striding across the cover with a toolkit and rolled-up sleeves-explains American free enterprise to an average family. The key, Uncle says, is ever-more-efficient production: "The mainspring of the American standard of living is High and Increasing Productivity!" America's high rate of consumption-"We take abundance for granted"-is a sign of superiority. The U.S. has only one-fifteenth of the world's population, the booklet explains, but consumes "more than half of the world's coffee and rubber, almost half of the steel, a quarter of the coal and nearly two-thirds of the crude oil." This, the Ad Council assured the nation, was Success.

"I HAVE OBSERVED that they will not be troubled with superfluous commodities," wrote Thomas Morton about New England's Indians in 1637. Arriving in the Plymouth colony in 1623, Morton, a freethinking Anglican who'd hung out with a group of libertines (including William Shakespeare) in law school, quickly grew tired of Pilgrim prissiness. He set up a rival trading post called Mare Mount, where he commenced retail and revelry with the natives. His paganish Mayday beer bash particularly outraged the Pilgrims; they chopped down his maypole-twice. (The episode became a famous Nathaniel Hawthorne story.) Finally, Miles Standish-"Captain Shrimp," the reprobate Morton called him-was sent to arrest him. Standish cleverly arrived when Morton and his band were drunk, and the New World's first frat party summarily ended. Back in England, Morton wrote a book about his experiences, New English Canaan. In it, he gives an atypically glowing early account of native ways. "According to human reason, guided only by the light of nature," he declares, "these people lead the more happy and freer life, being void of care, which torments so many minds of so many Christians: they are not delighted in baubles, but in useful things."

Morton kicked off an American stereotype, one all the more powerful for having some basis in truth: the ideal of the "noble savage" who rejects European commodity culture. The reality is more complicated: the natives, of course, were savvy traders. But Morton highlights an essential contrast between Native American markets and those of the colonists: Indians valued acquisition for use, not for its own sake. "They love not to be cumbered with many utensils," as Morton puts it. They knew the word "enough." Their markets weren't based on an ideology of infinite expansion.

Markets tend to get saturated. Even with planned obsolescence-another postwar innovation-people's needs eventually level off. After the initial postwar exuberance, American consumption slowed. That fact alarmed the captains of industry. In 1953, economist and Lehman Brothers banker Paul Mazur fretted that "it is absolutely necessary that the products that roll from the assembly lines of mass production be consumed at an equally rapid rate." Throughout the fifties, the Ad Council tried to jump-start consumption with ad campaigns like 1954's "The Future of America" and 1956's "People's Capitalism," all of which equated American freedom with mass consumption. Nevertheless, in 1958, people bought even less stuff. The Council launched "Confidence in a Growing America," designed to "encourage consumer spending." Supported by forty-one companies, it was nicknamed the "Buy Campaign."

But how do you get people to buy if their demands are sated? That's where the folks of Keep America Beautiful-rejecters of reusability-come in. Things that last forever you only buy once. But something you use once and throw away: that's the perfect product.

"THEIR NATURAL DRINK is of the crystal fountain," Morton wrote of the natives, "and this they take up in their hands, by joining them close together." He was fibbing a bit-he himself sold the Indians spirits-but he was making a point. Hydration, too, has its politics.

After the hand-cupping came the pewter mug, the canteen, and then eureka! the glass bottle. Before the 1950s, most beverage bottles were refillable. As late as 1960, refillables still delivered 95 percent of the nation's soft drinks. But the beer industry, shifting from local small brewers to large, centrally located corporate producers, was finding transporting all those empties increasingly expensive. They began turning to new "one-way" or disposable bottles. By the end of the 1950s, half the nation's beer would be in throwaway containers. Many of them were ending up as roadside trash.

In 1953, Vermont's state legislature had a brain wave: beer companies start pollution, legislation can stop it. They passed a statute banning the sale of beer and ale in one-way bottles. It wasn't a deposit law-it declared that beer could only be sold in returnable, reusable bottles. Anchor-Hocking, a glass manufacturer, immediately filed suit, calling the law unconstitutional. The Vermont Supreme Court disagreed in May 1954, and the law took effect. That October, Keep America Beautiful was born, declaring its intention to "break Americans of the habit of tossing litter into streets and out of car windows." The New York Times noted that the group's leaders included "executives of concerns manufacturing beer, beer cans, bottles, soft drinks, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes and other products." These disciples of disposability, led by William C. Stolk, president of the American Can Company, set about changing the terms in the conversation about litter.

The packaging industry justifies disposables as a response to consumer demand: buyers wanted convenience; packagers simply provided it. But that's not exactly true. Consumers had to be trained to be wasteful. Part of this re-education involved forestalling any debate over the wisdom of creating disposables in the first place, replacing it with an emphasis on "proper" disposal. Keep America Beautiful led this refocusing on the symptoms rather than the system. The trouble was not their industry's promulgation of throwaway stuff; the trouble was those oafs who threw it away.

At the same time, the container industry lobbied hard behind the scenes. In 1957, with little fanfare, Vermont's senate caved to the pressure and declined to renew its reusable bottle law.

In 1960, the year Keep America Beautiful teamed up with the Ad Council, disposables delivered just 3 percent of the soft-drink market. By 1966, it was 12 percent, and growing fast. As was the Ad Council. By then it was the world's biggest advertiser.

WHEN ASKED if their family tree contains any Indian branches, most Americans will say yes. In my own family, the putative native progenitor was said to be a great-grandfather some times removed. Cherokee is what we were told as kids. Given the family's deep Michigan roots this doesn't seem likely, unless someone took a serious wrong turn on the Trail of Tears. As an adult I learned that this family mythology was common-though its most common manifestation is a mythic Cherokee matriarch. Considering this syndrome-you might call it delusions of Pocahontas-only fuels my obsession with the crying Indian. Keep America Beautiful tapped into something very deep in the American psyche. But it took them a decade to figure out how to do it.

In 1962, Michigan considered a ban on no-return bottles. Keep America Beautiful openly opposed it. Throughout the sixties, Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council battled a growing demand for legislation with an increasing vilification of the individual. They spawned the slogan "Every litter bit hurts" and popularized the term "litterbug." In 1967, meeting at the Yale Club, they decided to go negative. "There seemed to be mutual agreement," wrote campaign coordinator David Hart, "that our 'soft sell' used in previous years could now be replaced by a more emphatic approach to the problem by saying that those who litter are 'slobs.'" The next year, planners upped the ante, calling litterers "pigs." The South Texas Pork Producers Council wrote in to complain.

At the same time, KAB's corporate sponsors made sure their own glass containers and cans never appeared as litter in the ads. This hypocrisy did not go entirely unnoticed. In the late 1960s, a noncorporate faction within the Ad Council, led by Dartmouth president John Sloan Dickey, began to call for Keep America Beautiful to move from litter to the larger problem of environmental pollution. They threatened to scuttle Ad Council support for further antilitter campaigns. Backed into a corner, KAB directors agreed to expand their work to address "the serious menace of all pollutants to the nation's health and welfare."

Clearly a more subtle approach was necessary. The Ad Council's volunteer coordinator for the Keep America Beautiful campaign was an executive from the American Can Company. With him at the helm, a new ad agency was brought in-Marsteller, who happened to be American Can's own ad agency. The visual arm of Burson-Marsteller, the global public relations firm famous for its list of clients with environment-related publicity problems,* Marsteller crafted the new approach. The crying Indian campaign, premiering on Earth Day 1971, had it all: a heart-wrenching central figure, an appeal to mythic America, and a catchy slogan. There was a pro forma gesture in the direction of ecology-the Indian paddles by some belching smokestacks, after all-and the language had shifted from "littering" to "pollution." But the message was the same: quit tossing coffee cups out of the window of your Chevy Chevelle, you pig, and America's environmental problems will end.

IN 1970, as Marsteller hatched the ad that would seal his fame, Iron Eyes Cody was busy making film westerns. He played a medicine man in A Man Called Horse, Apache chief Santana in El Condor, and a character named Crazy Foot in a comedy called Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County. As in the earlier Indian plays, Indians in westerns are usually allied with nature, wilderness, old codes of vengeance and honor-the vanishing past that civilization must replace.

But in the questioning sixties, the inevitable march of manifest destiny began to be examined for its dark side. As social unrest accelerated, the counterculture began taking up Indian-ness to express a rejection of the status quo. In 1969, Native American Vine Deloria published Custer Died for Your Sins, a scathingly hilarious manifesto diagnosing the epidemic of bad faith in Indian-white relations, and advocating a new "tribalism" bent on "rejection of the consumer mania which plagues society as a whole." In 1970, Dee Brown published his influential Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a history of U.S. government treachery toward natives that questioned the inevitability of empire. The same year, the tragicomic epic Little Big Man played Custer's last stand as an analogue for the moral morass unfolding in Vietnam. Anti-war protesters adopted fringed jackets, beads, and braids. The Indian was still a symbol of America's lost principles. But, in a Mortonesque revival, he was also becoming a living alternative to the postwar culture of consumption.

In adopting the Indian as a symbol but turning his rejection of consumerism into a rebuke to individual laziness, Marsteller and Keep America Beautiful-underwritten by the Ad Council-struck greenwash gold. Their Indian evoked the deep discontents afoot in the culture. But they co-opted the icon of resistance and made him support the interests of the very consumer culture he appeared to protest. There he stood, stoic and sad, a rebuke to individuals rather than a rejection of the ideology of waste. But then, that was the very ideology the Ad Council had promoted all along.

It was an elegantly closed circle. The titans of packaging pushed throwaways into production. The Ad Council preached the creed of consumption, assuring Americans that the road to prosperity was paved with trash. The people bought; the people threw away. Then, the same industries and advertisers turned around and called them pigs. The people shamefacedly cleaned up the trash. And the packagers, pointing to the cleaned-up landscape, just went on making more of it.

ON MY WAY HOME from central Illinois, I stop to get a sandwich at the only place I can find: Subway. It's just off a highway exit, and I can hear the gears shifting on trucks as they accelerate up the on-ramp next door. I stand in front of the fridge staring at my options. Soda, water, energy drinks, juice. Plastic, aluminum, plastic. At Subway even apples-one of nature's most perfectly packaged fruits-come presliced in plastic bags. I ask the clerk for a paper cup of tap water. She eyes me as if suspecting I'm the Unabomber's unknown accomplice. I feel like the Unabomber's unknown accomplice, because this small act, I know, is ridiculous. It's not enough.

Symbolic protest rarely is. In 1976, after KAB testified against a proposed California bottle deposit law, the EPA and seven environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society, resigned from its advisory board. Activists declared KAB a "front group." But by then, being outed didn't matter. The group's work was largely done. In 1976, two-thirds of America's soft drinks and nearly four-fifths of its beer came in disposables. Today, every American throws away about three hundred pounds of solid waste a year, about one-third of it packaging. Sixty percent of that comes from food and beverages.

Eleven states have succeeded in passing bottle bills. Beverage container recycling rates in those states are roughly double rates in nondeposit states. But in shifting the debate to bottle deposit legislation-which it opposed-KAB still won, because it shut down debate over whether disposable beverage containers were a good idea in the first place. Vermont's original 1953 law would have required manufacturers to accept and refill their empties. No one's talking about that now.

ENVIRONMENTALISM URGES us to consider the consequences of our actions. But what if by focusing on our individual actions-what we can do-we lose sight of the larger issue of what we can't do-what has been made impossible by the way the world now works? I leave Illinois with a nagging feeling that I'm missing a piece of the puzzle. I find it in an unexpected place: about sixty miles east of Portland, Oregon, on the banks of the Columbia River.

The Dalles, Oregon, is the site of one of the Pacific Northwest's most longstanding and cherished Native American trading sites: Celilo Falls. Once a waterfall with a peak flow about ten times that of Niagara, today Celilo has vanished. It lies at the bottom of the reservoir behind The Dalles Dam, a mile-and-a-half-long concrete mouth, gates lined up like teeth, that has swallowed this stretch of the Columbia. At a Citgo station near the dam, a few Indians are parked in lawn chairs by a cooler with a hand-lettered sign: SALMON. The red plastic box sweats in the sun, entombing the sorry remnants of Celilo's once-famous salmon runs. At the dam visitors center, on the Oregon side, talk quickly turns to Google. The sachems of search have built a giant data center about five miles downstream, in The Dalles industrial park. "I hear they're running an extension cord over there from here," jokes the Army Corps of Engineers docent. Outside, the reservoir glints flinty blue in the sun.

I drive to the data center and park in order to circumnavigate it on foot. The facility sprawls across the riverfront, the size of a shopping mall. Its chillers, humming like a Dreamliner on takeoff, cast waves of heat across the Columbia in an effort to keep the thousands of servers inside from melting. Across the street, a silent, cold blast furnace looms in stark contrast. It's an idled aluminum smelter. Both industries-aluminum and information-came to this spot for the same reason: cheap electricity from the government-built dam. The smelter used about 85 megawatts. Based on projected square footage, the Google data center can be expected to use about 100-enough to power a small city. I scramble onto a dirt hill and gaze at the data center's private substation-two 100-megawatt transformers-until a guard dog chases me away.

The federal government began damming the Columbia in the 1930s, but things really got going in the forties. With the advent of World War II, Uncle Sam needed aluminum-more than Alcoa, a near-monopoly up until then-could make. The War Production Board hired Alcoa to help Uncle Sam build twenty new aluminum plants between 1941 and 1943. Many were sited near government-built dams, especially on the Columbia River. In fact, beefing up aluminum production was used as a reason to build new electricity-producing dams.

The result-especially after the war, when the government sold off its wartime plants to Alcoa competitors-was a glut of aluminum. Even as Cold War fears were used to justify building more dams, the aluminum industry scrambled to find new, peacetime uses for its product. The tail of production began to wag the dog of demand: Alcoa and their new competitors began inventing scads of new uses for aluminum: toys, boats, appliances, golf clubs, cookware. But the real breakthrough was the aluminum can. John D. Harper, Alcoa's young and innovative president, boldly led the company into the production of rigid container sheet for can companies, gambling that the disposable market could use up his excess aluminum. The first aluminum beverage can was introduced in 1958. The aluminum industry never looked back.

In 1960, the year Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council joined forces, containers and packaging composed just over 7 percent of the U.S. aluminum market. But Harper's gamble paid off. Within twenty years, aluminum containers would produce more revenue for Alcoa than its second-, third-, and fourth-largest markets combined. John D. Harper spent much of that time as a member of the Ad Council's Industry Advisory Committee.

WE'VE COME a long way from our crying Indian. Or have we? The day the waters rose at Celilo Falls, the town's tribal elders looked on in tears. It wasn't the first such event. In June of 1940, Colville, Tulalip, Blackfoot, Nez Perce, Yakima, Flathead, and Coeur d'Alene Indians gathered at Kettle Falls, another beloved trading and fishing spot that was soon to be ninety feet beneath the reservoir of Grand Coulee Dam. For three days, elders spoke, fishermen recalled fantastic salmon runs, children played games, and the community mourned the end of an ancient way of life. It was called the "ceremony of tears." When the reservoir was filled, more than two thousand Indians were displaced from their homes.

The federal government built thirteen more Columbia River basin dams in the 1950s, another seven in the 1960s, and six in the 1970s. Many destroyed Native American towns and fishing sites. But this didn't just happen in the Pacific Northwest. It went on all across America. After World War II, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers built scores of dams, a shocking number of them on tribal land. The result was always misery for Native Americans. Kinzua Dam on Seneca land in Pennsylvania. The Moses-Saunders Power Dam on Mohawk land in New York. Tellico Dam, drowning Cherokee towns in Tennessee. Oahe, Fort Randall, and Big Bend Dams inundating Sioux land in South Dakota. The larger, hydroelectric dams quickly attracted power-intensive industries, often aluminum plants.

In 1948, a deal was reached for the Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara) in North Dakota to sell thousands of acres-at thirty-three dollars each-to the federal government for its new Garrison Dam. Three Tribes' Council Chairman George Gillette reluctantly went to Washington to sign the contract. In a widely published picture of the event, the secretary of the interior signs the document, his face impassive. Flanking him, several suited bureaucrats look anywhere but at George Gillette, rakishly handsome in his double-breasted, pinstriped suit. Gillette has taken off his glasses, put his face in one hand, and begun to weep.

Ironically, perhaps unwittingly, the Ad Council and Keep America Beautiful got it right. The crying Indian hints at the root cause of the problem he mourns: it's not just roadside trash. It's the culture of consumption that created that trash-with government subsidized power-and sold it to the public as the American Dream, when in fact it was that very dream's death. Iron Eyes Cody may have wept on cue, but George Gillette wept for the land.

IS THE CRYING INDIAN the root of environmentalism, as Wikipedia would have it? Or is he its sole mourner, weeping its silent dirge? In the thirty years following his debut, Americans landfilled or incinerated more than a trillion aluminum cans-enough to encircle the Earth 3,048 times.

I watch the crying Indian again on YouTube. Here's the genius of it: the ad appeals to a vague feeling of national guilt that-following in a long iconic tradition-is associated with Native Americans. What we've done to this land is not right, and the Indians know it, because we did it to them, too. As the Indian contemplates the trashed landscape and car-choked freeway, a dark possibility opens up: our way of life is destructive. The cars, the pollution, the factories: it's not, despite what we've been told, the best of all possible worlds. Something must change. And then that bag of trash arcs out the window and explodes like a revelation at his feet. Oh, we think, relaxing, so that's it. That's what we've done wrong. We can stop doing that. It's the same move by which we're told to buy local food-that buying local will make things change-as if the government were not providing farm subsidies to agribusiness and highway subsidies to the trucking industry and zoning incentives to chain stores, thus shifting the costs of bad environmental choices invisibly to the taxpayer and making "buy local"-the best choice-often the most difficult and expensive one. How can we expect individual choice to right the wrongs of collective decisions?

Tracing the crying Indian to his real-life counterpart reminds us to focus not just on symptoms, but on the system. Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council planted the seeds of a feel-good "shop for change" form of environmentalism that urges us to forgo regulation in favor of personal choice. We can do it! But in a world where federal funds continue to subsidize energy squandering, individual action is important, but it's not enough. In today's disposable market, aluminum is being edged out by resource-intensive plastics that are even harder to recycle. The aluminum industry has gone abroad in search of cheaper power, and their subsidized hydropower is being taken over by energy-guzzling data centers. Microsoft, Ask.com, and Yahoo have all joined Google on the harnessed Columbia's banks.

It's another elegant circle: Whenever you want to see "the best PSA ever made," you can go to YouTube and search for "crying Indian." Bytes will stream to your computer from a shiny digital factory, perhaps one sitting on the Columbia. The ancestral fishing grounds mourned by crying Indians will thus generate the electricity that activates Iron Eyes Cody's tear, falling once more for a trashed world.

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* In more recent years, Burson-Marsteller performed crisis management for Union Carbide after the Bhopal disaster, for reactor builders Babcock & Wilcox after Three Mile Island, for British Petroleum after their Torrey Canyon oil spill, for Dow-Corning after silicone-breast-implant lawsuits, and for the government of Saudi Arabia after thirteen of its citizens helped carry out the attacks of September 11. One of Burson-Marsteller's key accomplishments was helping to invent the concept of astroturf. Corporate-sponsored groups designed to look grassroots, astroturf organizations are able to reach the media, and in many cases, the hearts of the public, in ways that corporate flaks never could. Their particular specialty was astroturf environmental groups: they helped spawn the Coalition for Clean and Renewable Energy, bankrolled by Hydro Quebec; the Foundation for Clean Air Progress, a consortium of energy, industry, and agricultural companies formed to fight clean air legislation; and the American Energy Alliance, which lobbied to defeat President Bill Clinton's proposed Btu tax. Until his April 2008 ouster, Burson-Marsteller CEO Mark Penn was also a chief strategist for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.
(c) 2008 Ginger Strand is the author of Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power, and Lies and a novel, Flight. She lives in New York City.





Eyes Wide Shut
By Uri Avnery

THE DAY before yesterday, two documents appeared side by side in Haaretz: a giant advertisement from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the results of a public opinion poll.

The proximity was accidental, but to the point. The PLO ad sets out the details of the 2002 Saudi peace offer, decorated with the colorful flags of the 22 Arab and the 35 other Muslim countries which have endorsed the offer.

The public opinion poll predicts a landslide victory for Likud, which opposes every single word of the Saudi proposal.

THE PLO ad is a first of its kind. At long last, the PLO leaders have decided to address the Israeli people directly.

The ad discloses to the Israeli population the exact terms of the all-Arab peace offer: full recognition of the State of Israel by all Arab and Muslim countries, full normalization of relations - in return for Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders and the establishment of the Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The refugee problem would be solved by mutual agreement - meaning that Israel could veto any solution it considered unacceptable.

I have said it before: if this offer had been made on June 4, 1967, the day before the Six Day War, Israelis would have felt as if the Messiah had arrived. But when it was published in 2002, many Israelis saw it as a cunning Arab ploy to rob Israel of the fruits of its 1967 victory.

The Israeli government has never officially reacted to this historic offer. Public opinion and the media ignored it almost completely, walled in by the national consensus that there is no chance for peace.

Recently, the old offer woke up to new life. Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak discovered it suddenly, as if they had found a treasure in a hidden cave. Tzipi Livni discovered that it has some interesting points. That is the background to the blessed initiative of Saeb Erekat's "PLO Negotiation Department" to publish the ad.

Israeli public reaction: nil.

THE PUBLIC opinion poll, on the other hand, made a deep impression. It cast its shadow over the entire political arena.

True, there are still 80 days to go before election day, and in Israel 80 days is a very, very long time. Moreover, unlike American polls, Israeli polls conducted for the media are notoriously unreliable. Nonetheless, the poll caused a shock.

It says that if the elections were held this week, the Likud would have 34 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, three times more than it has now, and become the largest faction. Kadima would get only 28 seats, one less than in the present Knesset. (Explanation: Kadima would lose many voters, who would return to Likud, but gain almost the same number from Labor.) The Labor party would come down to 10 seats, half of their present miserable number. Shas would get the same number, as would the ultra-right Liberman. Meretz would rise from 5 to 7. (In Yediot Aharonot's competing poll, Likud got 32, Kadima 26 and Labor 8.)

THE DAZZLING ascent of Likud is an ominous phenomenon by itself, but even more important is the general picture: the bloc of all the parties that support peace, whether by paying lip service or sincerely (called "the Left") will have, according to the polls, 56 seats at most, as against the 64 seats of all the anti-peace parties combined (called "the Right").

Meaning: if the election had taken place this week, the outcome would have been a Knesset devoted to the continuation of the occupation, the settlements and the annexation. Binyamin Netanyahu would be Prime Minister and would be able to choose freely between a dozen possible compositions of the next government coalition.

How did Netanyahu achieve such a status? After all, 10 years ago he was shamefully thrown out of the Prime Minister's office by a public that had decided that they could not stand him for one more day. No other previous prime minister has attracted so much opposition, disgust and even loathing.

For several months now Netanyahu has been behaving like a model pupil. He kept silent when it was right to keep silent. He acted in a statesman-like manner. And then, like a magician at a children's birthday party, he pulled one rabbit after another from his top hat. Every few days another personality joined Likud with much fanfare, in a well controlled selection and dosage: Binyamin Begin, a man of the extreme right and Dan Meridor, of the moderate right, Assaf Hefetz, former police chief and Moshe ("Bogi") Yaalon, former army chief, and more and more. Big and small stars, who gave the impression that Likud is now regarded by everybody as the coming governing party. A multicolored party, a party of renewal, headed by an experienced and responsible leader. A party in which there are many shades of opinion, but which is united by a platform that says no to withdrawal, no to a Palestinian state, no to any compromise on Jerusalem, no to any meaningful peace negotiation. And, of course: no to the Arab peace offer.

Is there a yes? I almost forgot: Netanyahu proposes an "economic peace" - to ameliorate the situation of the Palestinians in the West Bank, so that some day in the future, before or after the coming of the Messiah, Israel could perhaps reach an accommodation - and perhaps not. But economic amelioration under an occupation regime is, of course, an oxymoron. Occupation arouses resistance, resistance arouses repression, repression means economic punishment. Nobody is going to invest money in an occupied territory.

If Netanyahu is elected, we must expect four years in which we shall not only not advance toward peace by one single inch, but, on the contrary, the ongoing thrust of the settlement enterprise will push peace ever further away.

THE FLIGHT of Tzipi Livni, on the other hand, is not gaining any height. That is another clear conclusion of the polls.

She has had a few months of grace. When the whole country was mesmerized by the corruption affairs of Ehud Olmert, Livni looked, in comparison, like a shining white dove. An ideal candidate: also a woman, also honest, also speaking the language of ordinary human beings, also one who believes what she says.

But after Olmert's resignation, corruption disappeared as a central theme of the elections. So what does Tzipi have to offer?

She has no overpowering charisma. She is no orator (and that is perhaps to the good). She does not excite. She does not appeal to the emotions. She does not touch the heart of people. She is compelled to rely on rational arguments.

But what is her rationale? She is a great believer in "peace negotiations." But "peace negotiations," like the "political process," can easily become a substitute for peace itself.

Livni does not offer an exciting peace message. She does not draw up a peace proposal of her own. She is "diplomatic" and keeps her cards close to her chest. No clear solution for Jerusalem (Don't even mention it! It may provide ammunition for Bibi!), nor for the refugee problem (God forbid!). She has promised the No. 2 spot on her list to Shaul Mofaz, who could easily find his place between Bibi, Begin and Bogi. This is not the way to change the hearts of the hundreds of thousands of indifferent and/or tired citizens, who believe that "there is no partner for peace.".Neither are there any new acquisitions: no new personalities are joining Kadima. There is no sense of an approaching victory. The chances don't look good.

THE SITUATION of the Labor party is even worse. Much worse. The polls give Labor 10 seats at most, perhaps only 8. The party that in its former incarnations kept absolute control over the Yishuv and the new state for 44 consecutive years may shrivel in the next Knesset to the status of fifth largest faction (after Likud, Kadima, Shas and Liberman.)

No wonder. Like an aging strip-teaser, the party has dropped all its garments. It has embraced "swinish capitalism" (a Peres coinage) like the other parties. As far as peace is concerned, it limps behind Kadima, and sometimes even tries to outflank Likud on the right. It seems that its real platform is down to one single clause: Ehud Barak must remain Minister of Defense under whoever will be the next Prime Minister, Netanyahu or Livni.

It is not an attractive sight: not only the rats are leaving the sinking ship, but also the admiral himself: Ami Ayalon, former commander of the Israeli navy, announced this week that he is leaving the party. The incumbent 19 Knesset members are squaring up for a fight to the death over the few remaining "real" seats, competing with each other and with the handful of new joiners (including the director of "Peace Now," Yariv Oppenheimer, and the journalist Daniel Ben-Simon).

Ehud Barak is a walking disaster. But he cannot be removed from the leadership of Labor before the elections. The party is crawling towards its rout with eyes wide shut.

SEVERAL MEN OF LETTERS, professors and political consultants, some of them refugees from Labor, have done something: they got together and announced that they would ally themselves to Meretz, in order to create a kind of super-Meretz.

They did raise an echo, but the recent polls still give the reinforced Meretz no more than 7 seats (compared to the present 5). Not quite a revolution.

Why? The initiators are well known. They are members of the Ashkenazi elite, like all of Meretz. The public got the impression that instead of the past and far-past leaders who have left the Meretz leadership one after another (Shulamit Aloni, Yossi Sarid, Yossi Beilin, Ran Cohen, all of them with positive credentials), other people are coming in, good people but not really different, with the same good but failed slogans. They have no new message for the new generation, for the Oriental Jews, for the Arab citizens, for Russian immigrants, for the secular people who want to fight against religious encroachment.

The active peace groups, with their young and enthusiastic members, were not invited, so as not to give the party a "radical" look. In the best case, the renewed party might take a few seats from Labor. As far as the general picture is concerned, that would be quite unimportant, since only changes in the balance between the two large blocs have any real effect. Many new voters must be mobilized.

There is a place for a new Left party, with a new name, a new spirit and a message of hope, that will do an Obama: arouse the masses of the young generation, infect them with enthusiasm, promise real change.

Such an experiment was conducted just now in the Tel-Aviv municipal elections with astonishing results. A new election list appeared out of nowhere, the young generation of Tel-Avivians joined it with gusto. It attracted the new voters, as well as voters who are disgusted with all politicians, people with a green agenda, people with a social conscience, gays and lesbians, and many others. Hundreds volunteered for it, their candidate attracted a third of the votes against a popular incumbent mayor.

Meaning: yes, it is possible. But it will not happen this time.

BARACK OBAMA will enter the Oval Office twenty days before the Israeli elections. He has still got a chance to have a decisive impact on the outcome. Nobody in Israel wants to quarrel with the United States.

If the new President announces immediately after taking office that he is determined to achieve peace between Israel and the Arabs in the spirit of the Saudi peace initiative, before the end of 2009, this will influence many voters.

If Netanyahu is elected, President Obama will be faced with a dilemma: either to enter into a serious conflict with the Government of Israel, with all the American domestic implications, or to leave peace in the freezer, like his predecessors.

The American elections were important for Israel. The Israeli elections will be important for America, too.
(c) 2008 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom






Lament For The Welfare Queen
Riding in That Welfare Cadillac
By Victoria Stewart

"She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran's benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She's got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names." ~~~ Ronald Reagan

"Today, we are taking an historic chance to make welfare what it was meant to be, a second chance, not a way of life." ~~~ Bill Clinton

"Fueled by rising unemployment and food prices, the number of Americans on food stamps is poised to exceed 30 million for the first time this month..." ~~~ Jane Black, Washington Post, November 26, 2008.

I caught a snatch of conversation recently. Some very sincere people were discussing a family who had lost jobs and medical insurance. Struggling to survive, they sought aid from several groups, including the U.S. government's food stamp program, recently renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) a term as linguistically dexterous as "enhanced interrogation." It was a shock to the family and their friends that the SNAP allotment was not enough to feed them for a month.

Here, according to the USDA website, is how SNAP judgments are made:

"The amount of benefits the household gets is called an allotment. The net monthly income of the household is multiplied by .3, and the result is subtracted from the maximum allotment for the household size to find the household's allotment. This is because SNAP households are expected to spend about 30 percent of their resources on food. "

In addition to the 30% requirement, the government places restrictions on things like bank balances, number and value of vehicles and income and the website explains in some detail the screening process and benefits calculation formulae. The maximum allotment for the government's fiscal year (10/01/08-9/30/09) for two people is $323.00 per month. It is $588.00 for a family of four. SNAP benefits cannot be used for non-food items like toilet paper, toothpaste or laundry detergent nor can they be used to purchase tobacco or alcoholic beverages.

The USDA, ever helpful and informative, also publishes a chart detailing four levels of food costs. The lowest cost plan, "Thrifty Plan," allows $606.20 for a family of four. The "Moderate Cost Plan" jumps that number up to $975.60.

Obviously the participants in the conversation I overheard had not visited this website and they certainly had not known anyone who had received food stamps. They were puzzled and outraged and somehow convinced that their friends were not getting the same consideration as "others."

Richard Nixon wasn't big on helping poor people as is evidenced by his request that Johnny Cash sing Guy Drake's derisive "Welfare Cadillac" at a White House performance in 1972 but it was the iconic Republican, Ronald Reagan, who molded the worst aspects of bigotry and stinginess into the myth of the welfare queen. With that ugly and hateful depiction Reagan helped set the stage for decades of self-righteous political posturing and a most un-Christian attitude toward poverty. In an act calculated to play upon racial fear and gender bias Reagan solidified an image that has damaged untold numbers of the poor in this country. This man (whom, I remind you, Barack Obama quotes and apparently admires) perpetrated a lie that furthered victimized the least among us.

As our economy moves inexorably toward collapse even main stream commentators have broached comparisons with the Great Depression. And as 10% of our population receives SNAP allotments, it is appropriate and timely to remember that the food stamp program came out of the economic disaster of the 1930s. After America entered WWII, the food stamp program was abandoned (1943) and was not reinstated until 1961. It was another 13 years before the program was extended nationwide and only under President Jimmy Carter that a structure was implemented with the goal of "alleviating hunger and malnutrition."

It is also important to remember that the Food Stamp Program came under attack in the early 1980's and suffered cutbacks and additional restrictions on benefits. Hunger, however, doesn't care about political agendas and by the late 1980s even the first Bush administration had to admit hunger was a problem and there was a gradual increase in benefits. Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress changed all of that, however, and gave us "The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act of 1996," a perfect partner for the nightmare of NAFTA.

Too much history? Perhaps but it seems that a lot of people are suddenly expecting help from their government and are surprised when what they get is less than they need. Is, in fact, not nearly enough to support a welfare queen or buy that new Cadillac. But it is, unfortunately and shamefully, what our middle and upper classes have expected the poor and working poor to get by on and gratefully.

The myths about the easy living provided by "welfare," the stigma attached to poverty and the race, ethnic and class hatred promoted by our politicians and clergy have contributed to an appalling ignorance about services available to the poor. And not only are the majority of Americans ignorant about the programs, they have also been grossly uncharitable in their perceptions about people who need assistance. Few voices have been raised in defense of the poor. It is better to fund war than feed our people and, make no mistake, that is the choice Americans have made.

So what happens now?

The USDA has a handy guide to help figure out how to eat on the budget they give you. It's interesting reading, revealing much about the government's attitude toward nutrition for the poor. (If you think food assistance might be in your future it would be wise to look over these pages. Get an idea of what is in store.) Congress is considering increasing SNAP allotments by 10-20% to help the "newly poor" cope with their reduced circumstances. As anyone who is currently using this allotment to buy food knows, 10-20% is not going to be enough so we will soon face yet another crisis-how to pay for food for tens of millions of un- and under-employed citizens.

The history of the food stamp program and the swelling ranks of those who need assistance create an opportunity. For the first time in decades, Americans have a chance to reevaluate what is truly important and force our government to respond to human need rather than corporate greed. We can insist that priority be given to addressing hunger, health care, sustainable agriculture, adequate housing, education, the environment. We can take the enlightenment that comes from upheaval and change and decide what is best for life rather than profit. These are not impossible dreams or unrealistic goals.

Family tradition and life experience, however, have taught me to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. With that in mind, work for social change and justice but buy some seeds, learn how to grow your own food, become as self-sufficient as possible, stay informed and make plans. We can change the world but the world can also change us. Know where your boundaries lie.

And don't count on the government to feed you!
(c) 2008 Victoria Stewart is the editor of Issues & Alibis magazine.







Repairing Bush's Regulatory Wreckage

You don't hear it outside the Beltway, but there's a constant roar inside Washington these days.

With time running out on the Bush presidency, wrecking balls are swinging and bulldozers are growling at full throttle as George W and crew rip through federal agencies to knock down as many regulations as they can. At the behest of their corporate cronies, the Bushites have targeted more than 90 regulations that protect consumers, workers, and our environment from corporate greed and carelessness.

One example is a last-minute change in the Clean Air Act to benefit pollution-spewing utilities, allowing utilities to pump an additional 74-million tons of CO2 into our atmosphere. That's the equivalent amount of pollutants that 14 additional coal-fired power plants would emit.

To help rush through such industry-friendly changes, agency heads are arbitrarily curtailing public participation in the process and trying to circumvent requirements for scientific review. For example, in rigging the Clean Air Act for utilities, the scientific analysis justifying the change was so weak that the analysis was simply not put out for public comment.

But, wait - what's that other sound coming out of Washington? Why it's the welcome hum of presidential transition!

While the Bushites have been frantically wrecking the regulatory structure to enhance corporate interests, President-elect Barack Obama has quietly been laying plans to restore the regulatory balance to enhance the public interest. He has pulled together a transition team of four dozen experts, and they've been studying the regulatory favors that Bush has done for his political backers. Already, the team has identified some 200 of these overtly-political regs that Obama can quickly reverse after his inauguration.

It looks like Obama and his team are going to come into office wearing tool belts and ready to get right to work repairing the wreckage.
(c) 2008 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.








Was There Any Point To The Bloodshed In Mumbai?
By William Pfaff

What is the message of a terrorist attack that fails to deliver a message? Threats and warnings are being exchanged by India and Pakistan about the attack on Mumbai, carried out by presumed Muslim extremists. But acting to what purpose, and under whose instructions?

The attacks are presumed by the Indians to have to do with the Kashmiri Muslims fighting to force India to withdraw from their part of the disputed region in the north of the Indian subcontinent, bordering the two countries and also Tibet and China. Its Hindu ruler chose in 1947 to deliver its Muslim population to India during the frantic days of British India's partition. The U.N. ordered a referendum among the Muslims (believed today to favor independence). India has never accepted.

If Kashmir was the motive for the Mumbai attacks, why were the targets hotels and restaurants frequented by Western tourists, but also by residents of Mumbai and other prosperous Indians, and a Lubavitch Hasidic Jewish center-an outpost of mainly American and Israeli Jews? None of them have anything to do with Kashmir.

This makes the message seem a Middle Eastern message, having to do with Iraq and Palestine. But the terrorist who was captured said he was a Pakistani, and the evidence thus far is that the terrorist party embarked in Pakistan.

Could Samuel Huntington be right after all, and it is now indiscriminate war between civilizations? But we know as a fact that the modern conflict between Muslims and the Europeans and Americans began with the Europeans' post-1918 partition and colonization of the Ottoman Empire's Arab possessions, and a quarter-century later, by Israel's European-supported installation in Palestine.

After that, there was the Suez attack, a fiasco for Britain and France, when Washington supported Egypt. A quarter-century after that, the Americans and the Muslim Pakistanis, together with the Saudi Arabians, organized the successful Muslim Mujahideen resistance to the Russian invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.

In 1980, there was a terrible war between Muslim Iraqis and Muslim Iranians. Desert Storm followed that, caused by the invasion of Muslim Kuwait by Muslim Iraq, resisted by Muslim as well as European armies under American leadership. After that came the American refusal to remove the military bases it had built in Saudi Arabia, which was the grievance that inspired Osama bin Laden's 9/11 attack on New York and Washington.

The Asian Muslim countries, including Indonesia, where more Muslims live than anywhere else, had nothing to do with any of this. So what actually is it all about? Certainly not Huntington's fantasy of a war of civilizations, despite the American political and journalistic habit of forgetting the past and pinning everything that happens today on the Muslims, plus the well-publicized and self-serving obsession of Osama bin Laden and his acolytes that they are leading a mighty jihad that soon will conquer Spain, France, Britain and Germany, and besiege the United States-which is still more dangerous nonsense.

There is wide concern today that India will retaliate against Pakistan for the Mumbai attacks, even though there is no conclusive proof of official Pakistani responsibility. That the attack was by a militant offshoot of the Kashmir clash is more plausible.

It would be deeply illogical for the new Pakistani civilian government to be involved with an action that embroiled it in further conflict with India, when it simultaneously has extremely difficult relations with the United States over American attacks on supposed Taliban and al-Qaida centers inside the Pakistani frontier tribal zones, and while intense American and NATO pressure is on Pakistan to do more against the Taliban.

Der Spiegel Online carried an article on Nov. 27 entitled "Terror in India-Obama's First Test." Why a test for Obama? Even if he were already president of the U.S., what would he be expected to do about it? It would be closer to the truth to suggest that this might have been influenced by conflicts in which the United States has directly or indirectly taken an irresponsible hand in the past, without positive results for the United States and with tragic results for others. But the U.S. has never had anything to do with Kashmir.

The mind-set expressed in the Spiegel headline, that anything unpleasant that happens in the world is either the result of American actions or something for which the United States must take responsibility, is widespread, and the result of an American policy of global interventionism that Barack Obama and his new national security team seem ready to continue. If they do so, they are likely to regret it.
(c) 2008 William Pfaff







The Real Cost Of Cheap Food
By Will Allen

The question about the real price of food should be rephrased: Is it worth sending cheap, poisonous food to the starving masses?

Sometimes shoppers are confused by the differences in price between food grown organically and food grown conventionally. Usually organic loses the price war argument in comparison to what is called "conventional" food. Of course, we are all mostly aware that organic means grown and processed without chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, toxic pesticides, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic manipulation.

But, what does "conventional" mean? Is food called "conventional" grown and processed with chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, toxic pesticides, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic manipulation? Yes it is. And, this is one reason why the price war argument should be reframed. Instead of comparing the price of organic food with "conventional" foods (which sounds so normal and safe), let's compare organic food prices to the food price of toxic or poisonous food, which is what "conventional" food is.

The vegetables, fruits and grains that grocers and agribusiness giants label "conventional" are actually loaded with systemic chemicals, which you cannot wash off. The meat is laced with hormones, antibiotics, prions and multiple resistant bacteria that are difficult or impossible to cook out of beef, lamb, chicken or pork.

Clearly, something in our food system has gone terribly amiss since a majority of the food is loaded with poisonous pesticides, laced with antibiotics and hormones and infused with genetically modified growth hormones or genes from rats, bacteria, viruses and antibiotics and then -- through some bizarre logic -- labeled "conventional." Once one realizes how toxic "conventional" food is, it doesn't look that cheap.

Once one realizes how toxic "conventional" food is, it doesn't look that inexpensive.

Besides the food safety dangers, there are three additional costs that consumers pay for "conventional" food. Estimates are that about half of all the food that U.S. citizens eat is processed. This includes breakfast cereals, breads, flour, tofu, cheese, chicken pot pies, Lean Cuisine and thousands of other products. Most of the ingredients that make up the processed foods come from soy, cotton, corn, rice, canola and wheat. More than 75 percent of these processed foods have genetically modified ingredients. Soy (96 percent), corn (74 percent), cotton (95 percent) and canola (98 percent) are the most genetically manipulated crops.

Soy, cotton, corn, rice and wheat are also the most subsidized crops in the U.S. Those five crops receive more than 80% of all the taxpayer subsidies. In addition, many other "conventional" crops also receive government support from the taxpayers, including milk.

Consumers make cheap food cheap when they pay their taxes. "Conventional" food would be impossible without the farm subsidies -- which means that consumers pay at least two times for most "conventional" foods they buy. They don't seem so cheap anymore -- and that does not include the expenses associated with health issues that occur as the result of eating toxic "conventional" foods.

Unfortunately, everyone pays the second subsidy bill, even the buyer of organic foods, because the subsidy is a tax imposed on all of us by the Farm Bill, which is written by congress and the White House. The current version was just passed by both houses of congress on the 14th and 15th of May, 2008, and most of the current bill is business as usual: billions more for the richest farmers growing the five most subsidized crops.

The third payment for "conventional" food will also be made by the taxpayers, who will pay to clean up chemical spills, cancer-cases, injured farmworkers, injured citizens, polluted groundwater, trashed rivers, oceanic dead zones, contaminated wells, and toxified land that result from the toxins used to produce "conventional" food. The environmental clean up record for the chemical corporations is not good, so don't look for help when the time comes to repair the damage.

When faced with judgments against them, the chemical giants always find a loophole, stall the procedure with whatever tactic that works, and spend enormous sums on legal defense teams. More often than not they escape with no punishment or merely a slap on the wrist for the most egregious crimes, including willful groundwater and soil pollution, poisoned food, widespread illnesses, and death. Unfortunately, both "conventional" and organic consumers will foot this bill.

One of the worst examples of chemical corporation irresponsibility occurred in Bhopal, India in 1984. A chemical plant that produced cotton pesticides leaked a nerve gas; more than 28,000 people were killed and 250,000 blinded and seriously injured. That plant was owned by the chemical and battery giant Union Carbide. When its CEO offered to pay reparations to families of the deceased and to the injured, the corporation decided that such a move, though laudable and charitable, was not in the best interests of the stockholders, so no compensation was paid by the corporation.

The fourth payment for "conventional" food is often made at the doctor's office to treat obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, cancer, birth defects, Parkinson's and a hundred other ailments related to pesticides or poisoned food.

Pundits and scientific hacks will say anything to protect big chemical and factory farming, refusing to discuss these "irrelevant" external costs of our modern food system, including subsidies, environmental cleanup, and skyrocketing medical bills. Instead, they argue that we need cheap food to feed starving people around the world. We have had a long history of public resistance against dangerously toxic food in this country. We have also had a long history of chemical corporation smokescreens that hide just how dangerous and deadly cheap food is.

As early as the 1870s, farmers and householders got sick from using arsenic and ingesting arsenic in their food and beer, and they began to protest aggressively. However, the FDA continued to protect the large-scale farmers and the chemical corporations from attacks by small farmers, food safety advocates, consumer protection proponents, and environmental groups through the teens, the 1920s and the 1930s.

From 1933 to 1937, the founders of Consumer Reports and Consumer Research warned the U.S. public that they were being poisoned by a steady diet of arsenic, lead, cyanide, fluorine and sulfuric acid. Those organizations continued their efforts to protect the consumers from toxic food through the 1940s and 1950s, and they continue their efforts still.

In 1962, Rachel Carson advised that we must stop damaging and degrading our natural landscape. She warned us to stop eating food poisoned with DDT, lead arsenic pesticides and other chemical sprays. Such "buyer beware" and nature protection advisories from earlier days are even more urgently needed today. Things have gotten much worse. Everything is toxic now. Back then it was just the food. Today it is almost every surface and tool around us.

Our current food supply is more toxic than ever before and our environment more damaged. Many pesticides no longer work because the pests have become tolerant of the poison. So, only the most toxic chemicals kill the bugs, which have developed a resistance to the less poisonous chemicals. Consequently, today the most toxic chemicals are the most used pesticides and fertilizers.

Beyond the external costs of "conventional" cheap food, an important aspect of the real price of organic food is the care and commitment to balanced soil health that is a major requirement when transitioning to organic farm management. In organic, the goal is to restore and feed soil life. That requires applying composted manures or vegetables to inoculate the soil with microorganisms. It also means providing organic (vegetable) matter so that the soil microorganisms have plenty to eat. To effect this balancing act, organic farmers add lime, compost, fertilizer crops, gypsum, a bit of phosphorous and some potash.

The fertilizer crops are the hardest element for new organic growers to include because they must take land out of production to grow the fertilizer crops. This is good for the next crop but hard for the farmer to adjust to growing a crop that he or she plows in. Instead of using pesticides, organic farmers closely monitor their crops and release beneficial insects, plant trap or companion crops to confuse the pests, or plant when pests are not such a scourge.

While "conventional" food is usually cheaper in the supermarket, and is easier to manage on the farm, it comes with a dangerous load of pesticide and fertilizer residues that are causing cancers, illness and death. When we analyzed pesticide and fertilizer data for the book "The War on Bugs," we concluded that the corporations call chemical food "conventional" to conceal the fact that the food they produce is grown with the most toxic chemicals on the planet.

If the question about the real price of food was rephrased to ask what is the difference between the price of toxic and organic foods, we would not be marveling about the high cost of organic food, nor advocating to send toxic "conventional" surplus food to the starving millions. Instead, we should be asking "How cheap would poisonous food have to be to be a good deal?"
(c) 2008 Will Allen







Confronting The Terrorist Within
By Chris Hedges

The Hindu-Muslim communal violence that led to the attacks in Mumbai, as well as the warnings that the New York City transit system may have been targeted by al-Qaida, are one form of terrorism. There are other forms.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when viewed from the receiving end, are state-sponsored acts of terrorism. These wars defy every ethical and legal code that seek to determine when a nation can wage war, from Just War Theory to the statutes of international law largely put into place by the United States after World War II. These wars are criminal wars of aggression. They have left hundreds of thousands of people, who never took up arms against us, dead and seen millions driven from their homes. We have no right as a nation to debate the terms of these occupations. And an Afghan villager, burying members of his family's wedding party after an American airstrike, understands in a way we often do not that terrorist attacks can also be unleashed from the arsenals of an imperial power.

Barack Obama's decision to increase troop levels in Afghanistan and leave behind tens of thousands of soldiers and Marines in Iraq-he promises only to withdraw combat brigades-is a failure to rescue us from the status of a rogue nation. It codifies Bush's "war on terror." And the continuation of these wars will corrupt and degrade our nation just as the long and brutal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank has corrupted and degraded Israel. George W. Bush has handed Barack Obama a poisoned apple. Obama has bitten it.

The invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq were our response to feelings of vulnerability and collective humiliation after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. They were a way to exorcise through reciprocal violence what had been done to us.

Collective humiliation is also the driving force behind al-Qaida and most terrorist groups. Osama bin Laden cites the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which led to the carving up of the Ottoman Empire, as the beginning of Arab humiliation. He attacks the agreement for dividing the Muslim world into "fragments." He rails against the presence of American troops on the soil of his native Saudi Arabia. The dark motivations of Islamic extremists mirror our own.

Robert Pape in "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism," found that most suicide bombers are members of communities that feel humiliated by genuine or perceived occupation. Almost every major suicide-terrorist campaign-over 95 percent-carried out attacks to drive out an occupying power. This was true in Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Chechnya and Kashmir, as well as Israel and the Palestinian territories. The large number of Saudis among the 9/11 hijackers appears to support this finding.

A militant who phoned an Indian TV station from the Jewish center in Mumbai during the recent siege offered to talk with the government for the release of hostages. He complained about army abuses in Kashmir, where ruthless violence has been used to crush a Muslim insurgency. "Ask the government to talk to us and we will release the hostages," he said, speaking in Urdu with what sounded like a Kashmiri accent.

"Are you aware how many people have been killed in Kashmir? Are you aware how your army has killed Muslims? Are you aware how many of them have been killed in Kashmir this week?" he asked.

Terrorists, many of whom come from the middle class, support acts of indiscriminate violence not because of direct, personal affronts to their dignity, but more often for lofty, abstract ideas of national, ethnic or religious pride and the establishment of a utopian, harmonious world purged of evil. The longer the United States occupies Afghanistan and Iraq, the more these feelings of collective humiliation are aggravated and the greater the number of jihadists willing to attack American targets.

We have had tens of thousands of troops stationed in the Middle East since 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The presence of these troops is the main appeal, along with the abuse meted out to the Palestinians by Israel, of bin Laden and al-Qaida. Terrorism, as Pape wrote, "is not a supply-limited phenomenon where there are just a few hundred around the world willing to do it because they are religious fanatics. It is a demand-driven phenomenon. That is, it is driven by the presence of foreign forces on the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. The operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorism and has given suicide terrorism a new lease on life."

The decision by the incoming Obama administration to embrace an undefined, amorphous "war on terror" will keep us locked in a war without end. This war has no clear definition of victory, unless victory means the death or capture of every terrorist on earth-an impossibility. It is a frightening death spiral. It feeds on itself. The concept of a "war on terror" is no less apocalyptic or world-purifying than the dreams and fantasies of terrorist groups like al-Qaida.

The vain effort to purify the world through force is always self-defeating. Those who insist that the world can be molded into their vision are the most susceptible to violence as antidote. The more uncertainty, fear and reality impinge on this utopian vision, the more strident, absolutist and aggressive are those who call for the eradication of "the enemy." Immanuel Kant called absolute moral imperatives that are used to carry out immoral acts "a radical evil." He wrote that this kind of evil was always a form of unadulterated self-love. It was the worst type of self-deception. It provided a moral fašade for terror and murder. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a "radical evil."

The tactic of suicide bombing, equated by many in the United States with Islam, did not arise from the Muslim world. It had its roots in radical Western ideologies, especially Leninism, not religion. And it was the Tamil Tigers, a Marxist group that draws its support from the Hindu families of the Tamil regions of Sri Lanka, who invented the suicide vest for their May 1991 suicide assassination of Rajiv Ghandi.

Suicide bombing is what you do when you do not have artillery or planes or missiles and you want to create maximum terror for an occupying power. It was used by secular anarchists in the 19th and early 20th centuries, who bequeathed to us the first version of the car bomb-a horse-drawn wagon laden with explosives that was ignited on Sept. 16, 1920, on Wall Street. The attack was carried out by an Italian immigrant named Mario Buda in protest over the arrest of the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti. It left 40 people dead and wounded more than 200.

Suicide bombing was adopted later by Hezbollah, al-Qaida and Hamas. But even in the Middle East, suicide bombing is not restricted to Muslims. In Lebanon, during the attacks in the 1980s against French, American and Israeli targets, only eight suicide bombings were carried out by Islamic fundamentalists. Twenty-seven were the work of communists and socialists. Christians were responsible for three.

The dehumanization of Muslims and the willful ignorance of the traditions and culture of the Islamic world reflect our nation's disdain for self-reflection and self-examination. It allows us to exalt in the illusion of our own moral and cultural superiority. The world is far more complex than our childish vision of good and evil. We as a nation and a culture have no monopoly on virtue. We carry within us the same propensities for terror as those we oppose.

The Muslim Indian Emperor Akbar at the end of the 16th century filled his court with philosophers, mystics and religious scholars, including Sunni, Sufi and Shiite Muslims, Hindu followers of Shiva and Vishnu, as well as atheists, Christians, Jains, Jews, Buddhists and Zoroastrians. They debated ethics and belief. Akbar was one of the great champions of religious dialogue and tolerance. He forbade any person to be discriminated against on the basis of belief. He declared that everyone was free to follow any religion. His enlightened rule took place as the Inquisition was at its height in Spain and Portugal, and in Rome the philosopher Giordano Bruno was being burnt at the stake in Campo de' Fiori for heresy.

Tolerance, as well as religious and political plurality, is not exclusive to Western culture. The Judeo-Christian tradition was born and came to life in the Middle East. Its intellectual and religious beliefs were cultivated and formed in cities such as Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople. Many of the greatest tenets of Western civilization, as is true with Islam and Buddhism, are Eastern in origin. Our concept of the rule of law and freedom of expression, the invention of printing, paper, the book, as well as the translation and dissemination of the classical Greek philosophers, algebra, geometry and universities were given to us by the Islamic world. The first law code was invented by the ancient Iraqi ruler Hammurabi. One of the first known legal protections of basic freedoms and equality was promulgated in the third century B.C. by the Buddhist Indian Emperor Ashoka. And, unlike Aristotle, he insisted on equal rights for women and slaves.

The East and the West do not have separate, competing value systems. We do not treat life with greater sanctity than those we belittle. There are aged survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki who can tell us something about our high moral values and passionate concern for innocent human life, about our own acts of terrorism. Eastern and Western traditions have within them varied ethical systems, some of which are repugnant and some of which are worth emulating. To hold up the highest ideals of our own culture and to deny that these great ideals exist in other cultures, especially Eastern cultures, is made possible only by historical and cultural illiteracy.

The civilization we champion and promote as superior is, in fact, a product of the fusion of traditions and beliefs of the Orient and the Occident. We advance morally and intellectually when we cross these cultural lines, when we use the lens of other cultures to examine our own. The remains of villages destroyed by our bombs, the dead killed from our munitions, leave us too with bloody hands. We can build a new ethic only when we face our complicity in the cycle of violence and terror.

The fantasy of an enlightened West that spreads civilization to a savage world of religious fanatics is not supported by history. The worst genocides and slaughters of the last century were perpetrated by highly industrialized nations. Muslims, including Saddam Hussein's brutal regime, have a long way to go before they reach the body count of the secular regimes of the Nazis, the Soviet Union or the Chinese communists. It was, in fact, the Muslim-led government in Bosnia that protected minorities during the war while the Serbian Orthodox Christians carried out mass executions, campaigns of genocide and ethnic cleansing that left 250,000 dead.

Those who externalize evil and seek to eradicate that evil through violence lose touch with their own humanity and the humanity of others. They cannot make moral distinctions. They are blind to their own moral corruption. In the name of civilization and high ideals, in the name of reason and science, they become monsters. We will never free ourselves from the self-delusion of the "war on terror" until we first vanquish the terrorist within.
(c) 2008 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.







Keep the Change
The Empire Beat Goes On
By Chris Floyd

Here are a few short takes on an overwhelmed day. All of the pieces below deserve much more attention -- especially the first one -- but these brief mentions will have to do for the moment.__Arthur Silber is back, with a vengeance, laying bare the true cost of the "unity" which Barack Obama has brought to previously dissident quarters: Kiss, Kiss, Kill, Kill. To pluck just one gem from the piece, Silber reminds all those "realist progressives" who believe we should be "realistic" about the blatantly pro-fatcat, pro-empire Obama team because, realistically speaking, it's as good as we are going to get, of this truth:_

"Two percent less shitty than Pure Evil" is still evil. Many people expend untold energy to avoid that very simple, indisputable fact.

It is, as usual, a must-read; so go read it. While you are there, drop some coinage in The Cyrano Fund, to help one of Arthur's beloved cats get some much-needed medical care.__In his piece, Silber also points to a post by Michael J. Smith which clearly outlines the dynamic of perpetual betrayal which drives the Democratic Party. Alluding to a decision by the New York state Democratic Party to renege on a pre-election promise to advance legislation that would treat people with same-sex partners as fully human beings, Smith notes:_

Readers older than, oh, say, twelve, may have noticed a pattern with the Democrats. They campaign on some issue -- in the previous Most Important Elections Of Our Lifetime, the 2006 midterms, it was the Iraq war, for example. Then once safely in office, the find a reason why they can't actually do anything about the issue until they get something else on the next election cycle -- the White House, or the state senate, or a second term for the Governor (why? This one seems especially arbitrary).

Justin Raimondo takes up this same theme with this cold-eyed look at Obama's new "National Security" team: "The End of the Affair." And Matthew Rothschild is on the case as well, stating the obvious (always a novel approach in the fantasyland of our national discourse: "With Gates, Obama Opts for Empire." As Rothschild notes:

Let's remember: Gates was head of the CIA during Bush I. As such, he was involved in the invasion of Panama, the funding of a genocidal regime in Guatemala, the support of Suharto's brutal government in Indonesia, and the overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti.

With Bush I, he pushed the first war against Saddam Hussein, even when it seemed that Saddam was preparing to withdraw from Iraq. And now with Bush II, he's been running the Iraq War, which Obama vowed to end.

And Gates has come out with modernizing our nuclear weapons arsenal-that means making new nukes-even though Obama talked about nuclear disarmament during the campaign...

Obama doesn't really want a change in foreign and military policy. He said as much during the campaign when he praised Bush Sr. and said he wanted to return to the bipartisan consensus of the last forty years.

In those forty years, the United States waged war against Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. It helped overthrow the Allende government in Chile. It supported Suharto's invasion of East Timor. It financed and trained death squads in Central America. And on and on.

With the Gates choice, Obama proves he's not about ending the U.S. empire. He's about running the U.S. empire-with less bravado than Bush-Cheney, but perhaps more efficiently. And he's perfectly willing to use the old hands like Gates, bloody as they are, to get that job done.

This completely non-controversial, indisputable statement of plain facts should be running in every newspaper in the country -- in place of all the feel-good hogwash about "steady hands" and "serious pragmatists"/I> and "continuity in wartime."

Speaking of wartime, and Obama's pledge to expand the Terror War front in Central Asia, Robert Fisk sees the writing on the wall in Afghanistan:

The collapse of Afghanistan is closer than the world believes. Kandahar is in Taliban hands - all but a square mile at the centre of the city - and the first Taliban checkpoints are scarcely 15 miles from Kabul. Hamid Karzai's deeply corrupted government is almost as powerless as the Iraqi cabinet in Baghdad's "Green Zone"; lorry drivers in the country now carry business permits issued by the Taliban which operate their own courts in remote areas of the country...

"Nobody I know wants to see the Taliban back in power," a Kabul business executive says - anonymity is now as much demanded as it was before 2001 - "but people hate the government and the parliament which doesn't care about their security. The government is useless. With so many internally displaced refugees pouring into Kabul from the countryside, there's mass unemployment - but of course, there are no statistics.

"The 'open market' led many of us into financial disaster. Afghanistan is just a battlefield of ideology, opium and political corruption. Now you've got all these commercial outfits receiving contracts from people like USAID. First they skim off 30 to 50 per cent for their own profits - then they contract out and sub-contract to other companies and there's only 10 per cent of the original amount left for the Afghans themselves."

...The Afghan Minister of Defence has 65,000 troops under his dubious command but says he needs 500,000 to control Afghanistan. The Soviets failed to contain the country even when they had 100,000 troops here with 150,000 Afghan soldiers in support. And as Barack Obama prepares to send another 7,000 US soldiers into the pit of Afghanistan, the Spanish and Italians are talking of leaving while the Norwegians may pull their 500 troops out of the area north of Heart. Repeatedly, Western leaders talk of the "key" - of training more and more Afghans to fight in the army. But that was the same "key" which the Russians tried - and it did not fit the lock.

But hey, if the Afghan adventure goes up in smoke, there is always another prime target for the Bush-Obama-Gates "War on Terror": the American people. As the Washington Post reports, with astonishing sang-froid, the Terror Warriors plan to deploy 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States, to "help" local authorities with "domestic emergencies." And as many others have noted earlier, the definition of a "domestic emergency" requiring the use of combat troops against the American people is entirely up to the discretion of our old friend, the Unitary Executive -- soon to be appearing in a brand-new sepia-toned edition, but still packing the same authoritarian punch we've come to know and love so well.

Now don't you feel safer already? Aren't you proud to be an American again? Isn't it great to see how things are changing?
(c) 2008 Chris Floyd







Burn, Baby, Burn
By Stuart Archer Cohen

I never thought I'd see the day when white middle-class America got angry enough to hurl a brick through the windows of their own neighborhoods, but the last few days have brought them close to the next best thing. America at large realized last week that their bank accounts and pension funds had been worked over as thoroughly as Rodney King ever was, and by experts. Told that the financial system was about to burst into flames, a lot of sober, sane middle-class taxpayers took a good hard look at Hank Paulson and said "Burn, Baby, Burn!"

It says a lot about the Bush Administration that they have managed to so destroy Americans' trust in Government that people would rather go eyeball to eyeball with a global recession than put themselves on the receiving end of yet another high-class heist. This bailout has all the classic elements we've come to expect from George W. Bush: the foxy Hank Paulson guarding the henhouse of our economy, the threats of dire consequences if we don't immediately comply, the Democrats rolling over yet again. To add insult to injury, a lot of the sanctimonious politicians bleating about saving Main Street, not Wall Street, were the same Big Business-friendly blockheads that had given people like Paulson the latitude to work their Ponzi schemes in the first place. Is it any wonder that the more the politicians begged for a bailout, the more enraged Americans became?

Of course, it wasn't Wall Street titans that bought McMansions they couldn't afford or signed mortgages that exploded in their faces. The difference is that Paulson and his pals have already stashed their millions in the bank, while the folks at the bottom of the formerly-profitable debt pyramid are looking at eviction notices. The blame goes far and wide, and if the economy crumbles, there'll be enough pox for everybody's house. It's what comes afterwards that worries me.

People often ask me if I think the United States could descend into the world of death squads and urban guerrillas portrayed in The Army of the Republic. All I can say is, given a severe economic downturn, all the ingredients are present: An embittered populace whose hopes have been dashed, a powerful elite with access to heavily-armed private security firms like Blackwater, a propaganda apparatus that relentlessly preaches contempt for Liberals and Government. Since Newt Gingrich proclaimed the culture wars in the mid-90's, the metaphors of war and treason have been pumped into the mainstream by Right Wing media and some clergy. The Left, also, alludes to an internal enemy of Neo-Cons and Republican saboteurs, moving, on its extreme fringes, to shadowy murmurings of a world Jewish conspiracy (the polite word is now "Zionist"). If this economy comes tumbling down, don't expect Rush Limbaugh to suddenly start telling the truth, or for Right Wing deregulators to come forward and apologize for helping Bush and his cronies loot the country. Look for more lies, deeper anger, and, perhaps in some quarters, a call for direct action against the Other Side, the ones that stabbed us in the back.

At that point, the phrase Burn, Baby Burn might seem almost quaint.
(c) 2008 Stuart Archer Cohen







Lawyers And Leaders; One Of The Same
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning Middle America, your King of Simple News is on the air.

Way back in March of 2008, the brain trusts that steer our government proposed a tax rebate. And, according to Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, that tax rebate would result in the creation of 600,000 additional jobs.

Apparently Mr. Paulson was just joking around and what he meant to say was that the rebate would create 600,000 additional jobless. You don't suppose he is kidding about the bank and insurance company bailouts eventually making big money for us do you?

The cost of the original stimulus plan to the good taxpayers was $168 Billion and created a huge windfall of nearly $600 for each qualified person. I can see where investing that kind of money would set a person up for life. I can hear it now, "Honey, you have $600 and I have $600, why don't we get out there and hire some help and provide them with medical benefits? Or, we could make part of this months house payment."

The $168 Billion was a clever diversion; sort of like giving a kid an ice cream cone while you steal his bike. How could you give the banks and insurance companies TRILLIONS without giving a little something to the people who you borrowed the money from? Did I tell you that the government doesn't have any money? But you do.

Most people have already forgotten what Paulson said, because he also said at the same time that the U.S. was not going into recession. The majority of American's are now listening to Barrack Obama announce that "Help is on the way," and talking about his plan to create or retain 2.5 million jobs. It's the "retain" part that scares me.

Mr. Obama says that he can salvage the auto industry and save those people from being laid off by providing the Big-3 with loans. Once the economy turns around and the auto industry is flush with cash again, they will pay all of the money back plus interest.

Mr. Obama should start introducing his economic plans by first saying, "Once upon a time..." After all, fairy tales should have a proper beginning.

In other news, the legions of shoppers are out spending their last dollars in an attempt to revive the Chinese economy. My new laptop that my brave wife bought for me at the opening of the Black Friday sale at Office Depot, is a Hewlett Packard. The outside of the box says, "A product of China."

There are more reasons than wages for American companies to move their operations to China, Korea, India, and other emerging industrial and technical countries. In the U.S. we have more than 1,143,000 lawyers, the highest per capita number in the world. Nuff said.

The turn of the century English writer and humorist, Jerome Jerome, said, "If a man stopped me in the street, and demanded of me my watch," observed Jerome, "I should refuse to give it to him. If he threatened to take it by force, I feel I should, though not a fighting man, do my best to protect it."

"If, on the other hand, he should assert his intention of trying to obtain it by means of an action in any court of law, I should take it out of my pocket and hand it to him, and think I had got off cheaply." Nothing has changed in this respect, except to have gotten worse.

Our litigious society has a cost to all of us. Our products bear the cost of excessive litigation. Our million plus lawyers represent a tax of sorts that must be incurred by everyone in America. It is a barrier to free enterprise and certainly to the poor and Middle Class who find that the cost of justice in this country is often equal to personal and emotional bankruptcy.

As our economic crises deepens and our domestic markets shrink, Americans are ill equipped to export our expensive U.S. made products to the emerging nations where the new world economies are developing. After all, we represent only 4.8% of the global population.

Moving our U.S. companies to these emerging nations, where goods can be produced at costs that are acceptable to the remaining 95.2% of world consumers, seems to be the only answer under our current leadership. After all, nearly all of our leaders are lawyers.

I want to continue to make my special holiday book offer to all of you. Please see the last paragraph in Friday's article for details...

"Speaking of the "Biggest Lie Ever Believed," I want to make a Christmas offer to any who have not read my book and to those of you who would like to give someone that you care about a book as a gift.

I did not set out to make a profit on my book. I wrote it because I had to. I clearly saw the coming issues that are unveiling themselves today and felt compelled to warn as many people as possible and also to provide solutions.

We all need to understand what is happening and WHY it is happening in order to prepare, which is what the book accomplishes in a very humorous fashion.

The cover price is $13.95 and first class postage is around $3.00 (depending on where you live) or a total of $16.95. E-mail me your postal address and I will send you signed copies for $9.50 including postage. I will e-mail back with my address and you can drop a check or money order in the mail to me.

I'll send the books out as soon as I get the addresses, before I receive payment. I'm a trusting soul.
(c) 2008 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

Editors Note:Both Victoria and I have read the book and we can both highly recommend it too you!





The Quotable Quote...



"Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives."
~~~ John Lennon









MoJo Video: The Ex-Gitmo Detainee Next Door
If freed by a federal court, 17 Uighurs imprisoned at Gitmo may find new homes in northern Virginia. What will the neighbors think?
By Stephanie Mencimer

On a recent Saturday night, 200 or so members of Washington, DC's Uighur community gathered at the Northern Virginia Community College cultural center to celebrate Nation's Day. The event commemorated the Central Asian ethnic group's creation of the Republic of East Turkistan and declaration of independence from China-twice (once in 1933 and again in 1944). The Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurz) spent the evening listening to traditional poetry recited by an elderly man in a sequined hat who occasionally burst into patriotic a cappella song, calling on people to throw off the yoke of oppression. Dark-suited men and women in elegant shiny head wraps clapped along with accordion music and consumed traditional Uighur party food: a whole lamb kebob, which was quickly stripped to the bone by hungry guests and their gaggle of children. The attendees represented a large chunk of the nation's tiny Uighur community. Yet the festive event was most notable for who wasn't there: 17 Uighur men who have been wrongly detained at Guantanamo Bay for nearly seven years.

The suburban Virginia Uighurs had hoped the men would attend the festivities after a federal judge in DC ordered the detainees released into the US in October. The 17 men would have been the first Guantanamo detainees who are not US citizens allowed into the United States. The Uighur community was ecstatic with the ruling, but the excitement was short-lived. A day after US District Judge Ricardo Urbina ordered the detainees released, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals granted the Justice Department's emergency request to stay his decision. Relying on McCarthy-era legal precedent, Justice Department lawyers argued that even though the men are no longer considered enemy combatants-they've been cleared many times over of that status-detaining them indefinitely at Guantanamo is still legal. The court will hear oral arguments Monday morning over whether or not Urbina's order to bring the men to the US should be enforced.

The long-running Uighur saga is one of the most heart-wrenching and complex stories to arise out of the global fight against terrorism since the September 11 attacks. The fate of the 17 detainees holds great symbolic value for both the Bush administration and human rights activists who believe that the Uighurs represent all that has gone wrong with the administration's war on terror.

A Turkic-speaking Muslim ethnic group, Uighurs hail from a region along the old Silk Road in western China. Their Republic of East Turkistan was an independent country from 1864 until 1876, when the Manchu empire reinvaded and, after a bloody eight-year war, renamed it Xinjiang (meaning "new frontier"). In 1949, Chinese communists annexed the area. The Uighurs have long faced political and religious repression at the hands of the Chinese that has included everything from forced abortions and death penalties for dissent to the relocation of educated Uighurs to remote parts of the country.

In response, there have been outbursts of violence credited to Uighur nationalist groups, but those have been rare. Uighur exiles in the US say that the Chinese government has inflated the threat of terrorism from Uighurs as an excuse to crack down on the religious minority. Nonetheless, in 2002, the Bush administration officially designated the Uighurs' East Turkistan Islamic Movement a terrorist group as it attempted to win Chinese support for its invasion of Iraq. Uighur exile groups and other human rights experts criticized the designation at the time, saying that it was based on thin charges from the Chinese and that its main result would be more Chinese oppression of the Uighurs. As it turned out, the designation set the stage for the indefinite detention of 17 men from Xinjiang who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Next page: In 2001, about two dozen Uighurs who had left China were living in a camp in Afghanistan...

In 2001, about two dozen Uighurs who had left China were living in a camp in Afghanistan, where some were waiting for visas that would allow them to travel to Turkey, a country they had heard would grant them political asylum. Some of the men would later acknowledge they had indeed gone for military training to help their countrymen fight the Chinese, though the extent of their training proved to be minimal at best. When the US government invaded, the Uighur camp was bombed and the men fled to Pakistan, where bounty hunters turned them over to the US military for $5,000 a person.

The military transferred the men to Guantanamo Bay in 2002, where they've been ever since. To justify the Uighurs' detention, the Pentagon has accused them of being members of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, which it alleged was connected to Al Qaeda. The military also claimed that the Uighurs had received military training sponsored by the Taliban or Al Qaeda while in Afghanistan. US military officials allowed Chinese officials to interrogate the Uighurs after they had been "softened up" with sleep deprivation techniques decried as a form of torture. Later, in 2004, the Pentagon officially designated the Uighurs enemy combatants, even though there had already been talk about releasing them.

By 2005, the Pentagon had concluded that the Uighurs were not terrorists and should be released. But if the US sent the Uighurs back to China, they were likely to be persecuted. So the State Department set to work trying to find them a home elsewhere. But after all the publicity about the Guantanamo detainees and their alleged threat to humanity, no country would take them. The Uighurs continued to languish at Guantanamo, where the military has denied most of them contact with their families back home.

Meanwhile, lawyers had begun to challenge the Uighurs' detention in federal court. In 2006, three days before oral arguments in their case, the US released five Uighur detainees and sent them to a refugee camp in Albania, where they languished for nearly two years. (One has since been able to move to Sweden, where he had family; the other four now live in apartments and work in a pizza parlor, according to their lawyer, Sabin Willett.) The move prompted a diplomatic crisis between Albania and China, which had been demanding that the US send the Uighurs back to China. Albania refused to take anymore Uighurs, and the Chinese government started to make veiled threats of trade sanctions to other countries, including Germany, that the US had approached to take the rest of the Uighurs. So the remaining 17 Uighurs have been stuck at Guantanamo, still in prison, waiting for the State Department to find them a home.

In the end, it could be the great American melting pot that comes through for the Uighurs. Members of northern Virginia's Uighur community have volunteered to take in the detainees if they are released into the US. When the 17 remaining Uighur detainees petitioned the court for their release, they included a US resettlement plan as part of their argument that the US could no longer justify their indefinite detention now that there was somewhere they could safely go. The proposal apparently played a significant role in Urbina's decision in October to order the detainees freed. The Justice Department, however, has vigorously resisted releasing the Uighurs into the US. As Willett, the lawyer representing the Uighur detainees says, "It's all a desperate rearguard action to make sure the Uighurs never show up on 60 Minutes."

Depending on how the DC Appellate Court responds to Monday's arguments, Ilshat Hassan could soon have a new roommate. A member of the Uyghur American Association (the UAA uses an alternative spelling of Uighur), Hassan had been a teacher for 15 years in China before he came to the United States and received political asylum. The Booz-Allen "administrative professional" lives in an apartment in McLean, Virginia, where he has volunteered to take in one of the detainees, teach him English, and help him get a job, the same way other Uighurs helped him when he arrived here as a refugee.

At the cultural center, I asked him whether he thought his neighbors might be concerned that a former "enemy combatant" would be living among them. He didn't think they'd mind, mostly because the detainees "are innocent and everyone knows that." Besides, he said, most of his neighbors are single guys from Iran. They know a little about guilt by association when it comes to terrorism allegations. Hassan said his biggest job will be teaching his new charge about American culture and how to respect other people's opinions. After living in communist China, with one-sided media and propaganda, "We like to argue a lot," he said, laughing.

Turdi Ghoja, one of the founders of the UAA, said the families who have volunteered to take in the detainees don't believe they present any risk to the community. "Uighurs, no matter where they live, we assume we know them," he said, noting that people have volunteered because they recognize that "It could be me. It could be my brother."

At the same time, the Uighurs acknowledge that after seven years in detention, some of it solitary confinement, the detainees may have issues that go beyond those of other refugees. "I'm sure they've been exposed to a lot of things and they've suffered a lot," Ghoja said. But none of them expect the detainees to turn their anger on the US once they are here. "Any problems with the men being released can be prevented with two things: an apology and appropriate counseling," said Nury Turkel, an American-trained lawyer and past president of the UAA.

Indeed, if the American Uighur community is harboring any resentment over the detainee issue, they weren't showing it at the cultural center. Looking around the room at the folks gathered for music and lamb, Turkel said with a sweep of the hand, "The vast majority of people you see here are grateful for political asylum. Uighurs are still pro-America, believe it or not." Like them, he expects that the detainees will appreciate the fact that while the US may have illegally imprisoned them, the country also did not return them to China, as the Chinese demanded. "From the detainees' perspective, it would be a big defeat for China if they are released here," Ghoja said.

In a strange way, the detainee case has helped publicize the Uighurs' larger human rights cause in China, too. "The funny thing about the Uighurs is that they are the Tibetans you've never heard of," says Willett. The Uighurs even have their own version of the Dali Lama in Rebiya Kadeer, a Uighur business owner who was once one of the most wealthy women in China. She spent five years in a Chinese prison for sending newspaper clippings on human rights abuses to her husband in Oklahoma. Kadeer had been on her way to meet with an American congressional delegation when she was arrested.

Kadeer is a sprightly older woman with long, black braids who now lives in suburban Virginia. She was at the Nation's Day celebration, in a room decorated with photos of her with George and Laura Bush, Nelson Mandela, Madeline Albright, and even the Dalai Lama. She is one of the reasons that the Uighurs don't harbor more anger toward the US government over the detainees' treatment. "President Bush helped rescue me from Chinese prison," she explained through a translator. (The Chinese released Kadeer a few days before Condolezza Rice visited China in 2005 to discuss human rights and other issues.)

Kadeer and the other members of the Uighur community seem more upset about the Chinese role in the detainee debacle than the US's. They believe the Uighurs landed at Guantanamo because China fabricated stories about Uighur terrorist groups. "They call me personally, and the World Uighur Congress, a terrorist organization," Kadeer said. "But we are firmly united against terrorism. We understand what terror means because we are the victims." She said that while it's tragic that the Uighurs were imprisoned at Guantanamo, what's important to her is that they eventually got their day in an unbiased court.

"In the 60 years of my life, that was the first time I saw a Uighur able to defend himself in a court of law," she said, noting that tens of thousands of innocent Uighurs are in prison in China, where they can't get lawyers even though they are facing the death penalty. "I'm an example. I was one of them. I was innocent." Two of Kadeer's eleven children are still in prison because of her involvement in human rights work. "Compared to that situation, the young men in Guantanamo, they got a just court. They had their voices heard through lawyers. I greatly appreciate the fact that they had the opportunity to have a court trial. They will appreciate that."
(c) 2008 Stephanie Mencimer is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington, DC, bureau and the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue (Free Press, 2006).







Deficits And The Future
By Paul Krugman

Right now there's intense debate about how aggressive the United States government should be in its attempts to turn the economy around. Many economists, myself included, are calling for a very large fiscal expansion to keep the economy from going into free fall. Others, however, worry about the burden that large budget deficits will place on future generations.

But the deficit worriers have it all wrong. Under current conditions, there's no trade-off between what's good in the short run and what's good for the long run; strong fiscal expansion would actually enhance the economy's long-run prospects.

The claim that budget deficits make the economy poorer in the long run is based on the belief that government borrowing "crowds out" private investment - that the government, by issuing lots of debt, drives up interest rates, which makes businesses unwilling to spend on new plant and equipment, and that this in turn reduces the economy's long-run rate of growth. Under normal circumstances there's a lot to this argument.

But circumstances right now are anything but normal. Consider what would happen next year if the Obama administration gave in to the deficit hawks and scaled back its fiscal plans.

Would this lead to lower interest rates? It certainly wouldn't lead to a reduction in short-term interest rates, which are more or less controlled by the Federal Reserve. The Fed is already keeping those rates as low as it can - virtually at zero - and won't change that policy unless it sees signs that the economy is threatening to overheat. And that doesn't seem like a realistic prospect any time soon.

What about longer-term rates? These rates, which are already at a half-century low, mainly reflect expected future short-term rates. Fiscal austerity could push them even lower - but only by creating expectations that the economy would remain deeply depressed for a long time, which would reduce, not increase, private investment.

The idea that tight fiscal policy when the economy is depressed actually reduces private investment isn't just a hypothetical argument: it's exactly what happened in two important episodes in history.

The first took place in 1937, when Franklin Roosevelt mistakenly heeded the advice of his own era's deficit worriers. He sharply reduced government spending, among other things cutting the Works Progress Administration in half, and also raised taxes. The result was a severe recession, and a steep fall in private investment.

The second episode took place 60 years later, in Japan. In 1996-97 the Japanese government tried to balance its budget, cutting spending and raising taxes. And again the recession that followed led to a steep fall in private investment.

Just to be clear, I'm not arguing that trying to reduce the budget deficit is always bad for private investment. You can make a reasonable case that Bill Clinton's fiscal restraint in the 1990s helped fuel the great U.S. investment boom of that decade, which in turn helped cause a resurgence in productivity growth.

What made fiscal austerity such a bad idea both in Roosevelt's America and in 1990s Japan were special circumstances: in both cases the government pulled back in the face of a liquidity trap, a situation in which the monetary authority had cut interest rates as far as it could, yet the economy was still operating far below capacity.

And we're in the same kind of trap today - which is why deficit worries are misplaced.

One more thing: Fiscal expansion will be even better for America's future if a large part of the expansion takes the form of public investment - of building roads, repairing bridges and developing new technologies, all of which make the nation richer in the long run.

Should the government have a permanent policy of running large budget deficits? Of course not. Although public debt isn't as bad a thing as many people believe - it's basically money we owe to ourselves - in the long run the government, like private individuals, has to match its spending to its income.

But right now we have a fundamental shortfall in private spending: consumers are rediscovering the virtues of saving at the same moment that businesses, burned by past excesses and hamstrung by the troubles of the financial system, are cutting back on investment. That gap will eventually close, but until it does, government spending must take up the slack. Otherwise, private investment, and the economy as a whole, will plunge even more.

The bottom line, then, is that people who think that fiscal expansion today is bad for future generations have got it exactly wrong. The best course of action, both for today's workers and for their children, is to do whatever it takes to get this economy on the road to recovery.
(c) 2008 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times





The Dead Letter Office...



Dr. Sundlof shows how much he can take up the ass for the corpo-rats.

Heil Bush,

Dear FDA Direktor Sundlof,

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

Without your lock-step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, your support of our two coup d'etats, your constant shilling for the baby formula manufacturers, telling parents to keep feeding their babies poisons so our corpo-rat pals can make a buck, Iraq and these many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class with diamond clusters presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Bush at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally "The White House," on 12-27-2008. We salute you Herr Sundlof, Sieg Heil!

Signed,
Vice Fuhrer Cheney

Heil Bush






Nepotistic Succession In The Political Class
By Glenn Greenwald

Bill Clinton yesterday was forced to deny speculation that he would be appointed to replace his wife in the U.S. Senate. Leading candidates for that seat still include John F. Kennedy's daughter (Caroline), Robert Kennedy's son (RFK, Jr.), and Mario Cuomo's son (Andrew). In Illinois, a leading contender to replace Barack Obama in the Senate is Jesse Jackson's son (Jesse, Jr.). In Delaware, it was widely speculated that Joe Biden would be replaced by his son, Beau, and after Beau took his name out of the running because he's now serving in Iraq, the naming of the actual replacement -- lone-time (Joe) Biden aide Ted Kaufmann -- "upset local Democrats who believe the move was a ham-handed attempt to engineer the election of Biden's son, Beau, to the Senate in 2010."

Meanwhile, in Alaska, Lisa Murkowski, who was appointed by her father to take his seat in the U.S. Senate when he became Governor, yesterday warned Sarah Palin not to challenge her in a 2010 primary, a by-product of tension between those two as a result of Palin's defeat of Lisa's dad for Governor. In Florida, Mel Martinez's announcement that he won't seek re-election in 2010 immediately led to reports that the current President's brother, Jeb, might run for that seat. And all of that's just from the last couple of weeks.

The Senate alone -- to say nothing of the House -- is literally filled with people whose fathers or other close relatives previously held their seat or similar high office (those links identify at least 15 current U.S. Senators -- 15 -- with immediate family members who previously occupied high elected office). And, of course, the current President on his way out was the son of a former President and grandson of a former U.S. Senator.

Isn't this all a bit much? It's true that our political/media class in general is intensely incestuous and nepotistic. Virtually the entire neoconservative "intelligentsia" (using that term as loosely as it can possibly be used) is one big paean to nepotistic succession -- the Kristols, the Kagans, the Podhoretzes, Lucinanne Goldberg and her boy. Upon Tim Russert's death, NBC News excitedly hired his son, Luke. Mike Wallace's son hosts Fox's Sunday show. The most influential political opinion space in the country, The New York Times Op-Ed page, is, like the Times itself, teeming with family successions and connections. Inter-marriages between and among media stars and political figures -- and lobbyists, operatives and powerful political officials -- are now more common than arranged royal marriages were among 16th Century European monarchs.

But this fixation on parent-child, sibling and spousal succession for elected office is particularly problematic. It's certainly true that one can find, in individual cases, instances of self-sufficiency and merit even among those benefiting from nepotism and family names. But the fact that it is now so commonplace -- almost presumptively expected -- for political power to be passed along to close family members is quite anti-democratic. The number of families possessing some sort of aristocratic-like claim to elected office is clearly increasing. By definition, that diminishes the role of merit and the need for democratic persuasion in how elected leaders are chosen. And this dynamic, in turn, fuels how insular, incestuous, unaccountable and bloated with entitlement the Beltway culture is.

There are numerous factors that account for this artistocratization of our politics. Viewing political officials through the combined prism of royalty and celebrity naturally generates interest in, and affection for, their family members. The same deeply sad mentality that makes it worthwhile for celebrity magazines to pay many millions of dollars for celebrities' baby photos is part of what makes so many people eager to vote for the sons, wives, and brothers of their favorite political star. Independently, a rapid worsening of America's rich-poor gap stratifies the society in terms of opportunities and access and breeds a merit-deprived aristocratic culture.

Beyond that, the massive structural advantages of incumbency easily allow resources and other favors to be heaped on chosen family members for succession, and for loyalties and affections to be transferred for no reason other than family connection. Then there is the large number of uninformed voters -- working in tandem with our vapid, gossip-obsessed political media -- that place a huge premium on family name recognition and even generates some voter confusion that further aids family succession (how many voters who cast a ballot for Bob Casey and John Sununu in their Senate races -- or elected Harold Ford, Dan Boren, Connie Mack and Bill Schuster to the House -- mistakenly thought they were voting for their elected-official dads who had the same or very similar names?).

Family succession is hardly unheard of in U.S. political history, but what was once quite rare has now become pervasive. As The Washington Post's Dana Milbank, put it in 2005:

With at least 18 senators, dozens of House members and several administration officials boosted by family legacies, modern-day Washington sometimes resembles the court of Louis XIV without the powdered wigs.

Illustrating that radical change, here's a revealing 1929 article from Time Magazine expressing some mild disapproval for what was, back then, the rare occurrence of a son who was elected to succeed his father in a Minnesota Congressional seat after the father was killed in a tragic fire (the new son-Congressman, the article noted, was "an engaging young man, thoroughly Nordic in appearance"). About this single familial succession, Time sternly intoned: "Primogeniture and hereditary public office have no place in U. S. tradition."

That is clearly no longer true. One of the most encouraging aspects of Barack Obama's success -- and, for that matter, the ascension of someone like Sarah Palin or Bill Clinton -- is the pure self-sufficiency and lack of family connection behind it. But even pointing that out demonstrates how meritocratic self-sufficiency has almost become the exception rather than the rule. That we now treat Presidents like Kings and expect them to exercise similar powers is consistent with the broader trend whereby we are ruled by a Versailles on the Potomac, with all the bloated, decadent insularity that implies.
(c) 2008 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy", examines the Bush legacy.








Chevron In The White House
By Amy Goodman

President-elect Barack Obama introduced his principal national-security Cabinet selections to the world Monday and left no doubt that he intends to start his administration on a war footing. Perhaps the least well known among them is retired Marine Gen. James Jones, Obama's pick for national security adviser. The position is crucial-think of the power that Henry Kissinger wielded in Richard Nixon's White House. A look into who James Jones is sheds a little light on the Obama campaign's promise of "Change We Can Believe In."

Jones is the former supreme allied commander of NATO. He is president and chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy. The institute has been criticized by environmental groups for, among other things, calling for the immediate expansion of domestic oil and gas production and issuing reports that challenged the use of the Clean Air Act to combat global warming.

Recently retired from the military, Jones has parlayed his 40-year military career into several corporate directorships. Among them is Cross Match Technologies, which makes biometric identification equipment. More germane to Jones' forthcoming role in Obama's inner circle, though, might be Jones' seat as a director of Boeing, a weapons manufacturer, and as a director of Chevron, an oil giant.

Chevron has already sent one of its directors to the White House: Condoleezza Rice. As a member of that California-based oil giant's board, she actually had a Chevron oil tanker named after her, the Condoleezza Rice. The tanker's name was changed, after some embarrassment, when Rice joined the Bush administration as national security adviser. So now Chevron has a new person at the highest level of the executive branch. With Robert Gates also keeping his job as secretary of defense, maybe Obama should change his slogan to "Continuity We Can Believe In."

But what of a Chevron director high up in the West Wing? Obama's attacks on John McCain during the campaign included a daily refrain about the massive profits of ExxonMobil, as if that was the only oil company out there. Chevron, too, has posted mammoth profits. Chevron was also a defendant in a federal court case in San Francisco related to the murder, 10 years ago, of two unarmed, peaceful activists in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria. On May 28, 1998, three Chevron helicopters ferried Nigerian military and police to the remote section of the Delta known as Ilajeland, where protesters had occupied a Chevron offshore drilling platform to protest Chevron's role in the destruction of the local environment. The troops opened fired on the protesters. Two were killed, others were injured. (Rice was in charge of the Chevron board's public policy committee when it fought off shareholder resolutions demanding that Chevron improve its human rights and environmental record in Nigeria.)

One of those shot was Larry Bowoto, who, along with the family members of those killed, filed suit in California against Chevron for its role in the attack. Just after Jones was named Obama's national security adviser Monday, a jury acquitted Chevron. Bowoto told me: "I was disappointed in the judgment by the jury. I believe personally the struggle continues. I believe the attorney representing us will not stay put. He will take the initiative in going to the court of appeals." I met Bowoto in 1998, just months after he was shot. He showed me his bullet wounds when I interviewed him in the Niger Delta. I also met Omoyele Sowore, who has since come to the U.S. and started the news Web site SaharaReporters.com.

Sowore has followed the case closely. Though disappointed, he said: "We have achieved one major victory: Chevron's underbelly was exposed in this town. ... Also there is Nigeria: Protesters won't give up. ... This will not discourage anybody who wants to make sure Chevron gives up violence as a way of doing business. American citizens are increasingly protective of their economy. ... Chevron played into fears of ... the jurors, saying these are people [the Nigerian protesters] who made oil prices go through the roof. This was a pyrrhic victory for Chevron. If I was in their shoes, I wouldn't be popping champagne."

Nigerians know well the power of the military-industrial complex in their own country. While Obama was swept into office promising change, his choice of Marine Gen. James Jones as national security adviser probably has U.S. corporate titans breathing easy, leaving the poor of the Niger Delta with the acrid air and oil-slicked water that lie behind Chevron's profits.
2008 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 700 stations in North America. She has been awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the "Alternative Nobel" prize, and will receive the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.



The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Bruce Plante ~~~







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To End On A Happy Note...



Happy Christmas ~ War Is Over
By John Lennon

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong

And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun

Ans so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
War is over over
If you want it
War is over
Now...
(c) 1971/2008 John Lennon



Have You Seen This...



The Cult Of Personality ~ Living Colour


Parting Shots...



American Airlines has promised never to raise its fees for not printing a boarding pass.


American Airlines Now Charging Fees To Non-Passengers

FORT WORTH, TX-Cash-strapped American Airlines announced a new series of fees this week that will apply to all customers not currently flying, scheduled to fly, or even thinking about flying aboard the commercial carrier.

The fees, the latest introduced by American Airlines in a continuing effort to combat its financial woes, will take effect on Monday. According to company officials, these charges will include a $25 tax on citizens traveling with any other airline, as well as a mandatory $30 surcharge for passengers who decide to just stay home for the holidays instead.

"Tough times unfortunately mean tough measures," American Airlines president Gerard Arpey said. "It's never an easy decision to ask our loyal customers, as well as thousands of people chosen at random out of a telephone book, to pay a little extra, but that's just the reality of today's economic climate. We hope all Americans will understand this when receiving one of our new bills in the mail."

Arpey said that non-passengers of American Airlines should expect to pay a small fee when making Greyhound bus reservations, choosing to drive to their final destination, or simply being a citizen of the United States with a valid Social Security number.

Arpey went on to note that some additional charges would also apply, including a $15 fee for every piece of luggage customers have inside their bedroom closet, and a one-time payment of $40 for any American whose name is Greg.

"We are confident that these new measures will not discourage customers from flying with American Airlines," vice president Margaret Wilkinson said. "However, we'd like to remind our customers that there is a 'discouraged-from-flying-with-American-Airlines' charge if they do in fact choose not to fly with us."

American Airlines, which posted a $1.45 billion loss in the second quarter of 2008 alone, claimed that the new fees-including the Taking A Shower Fee, the Knowing What An Airplane Looks Like Fee, and the Eating E.L. Fudge Cookies While Watching A Rerun Of House Fee-will help the company rebound. According to internal projections, the airline will recoup $500 million in the next three months alone, with nearly 80 percent of that revenue coming from citizens asleep at home.

"Watching television last night cost me $250," said Baltimore resident Michael Peterson, one of many Americans now forced to pay high airline costs for folding their laundry and going to the ophthalmologist. "It's ridiculous, but what can you do? I guess that's just the price of not flying these days."

"American Airlines charged me for cleaning out my attic," said 74-year-old Samantha Pratt, a New Jersey resident who has not left the state since 2005. "Sure, I didn't have to wait in any long lines, or go through invasive security searches, and I got to clean out my attic, which is something I've been wanting to do for weeks, but come on now."

In response to American's move, other airlines have begun offering more competitive rates. United this week unveiled a new $99 "spend the weekend quietly reading indoors" offer, while Southwest is introducing a $125 round-trip fare for those walking to their corner store for some groceries.

JetBlue, a commercial carrier known for its thrifty rates, has come out ahead of the pack, however, and is being lauded for its decision not to charge non-passengers not to fly.

Despite reduced offers such as these, many remain concerned over the new fees. Some have even expressed doubt about whether they'll be able to afford to see family members they currently live with during Christmas.

"It's just not worth it anymore," said Caroline Huza, an Ohio native and mother of two. "Plus, every time I stay at home, I always get trapped next to some kid who won't stop crying."
(c) 2008 The Onion



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Zeitgeist The Movie...









Issues & Alibis Vol 8 # 47 (c) 12/05/2008


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