Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky recalls, "The Legacy of 1989, In Two Hemispheres."

Uri Avnery explores, "The Height of Kitsch."

Victoria Stewart calls for, "Shape Shifters."

Chris Cooper with some good advice, "Everything Passes, Everything Changes; Just Do What You Think You Should Do."

Jim Hightower considers, "Obama's War."

Ted Rall with some real bad news, "Give a Hoot, But We're Still Doomed."

Greg Palast is, "Confronting The Globalcrat."

Paul Krugman tells, "An Affordable Truth."

Chris Floyd with a must read, "Savvy To A Fault."

Case Wagenvoord wonders, "Whence Freedom?"

Mike Folkerth finds, "Creating Jobs; Yet One More Fantasy."

Chris Hedges concludes, "Liberals Are Useless."

David Michael Green is "Present At The Destruction."

Sin-ator Ben Nelson (F/Neb) wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald discovers, "A New Report Questions "Suicides" At Guantanamo."

Barbara Ehrenreich on Con-gress and breast exams, "Not So Pretty In Pink."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Landover Baptist Church returns with the "War On Christmas Casualty Report " but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Abandon The Search For Truth; Settle For A Good Fantasy."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Steve Greenberg, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Ted Rall, Khalil Bendib, Ed Stein, Tony Auth, I Can Has Cheezeburger.Com, Marvel Enterprises, Pink & Blue Films, Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

Abandon The Search For Truth; Settle For A Good Fantasy
By Ernest Stewart

"I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize!" ~~~ Steven Wright

"I'm not saying that Cecil Bothwell is not a good man, but if he's an atheist, he's not eligible to serve in public office, according to the state constitution." ~~~ H.K. Edgerton

"Today, Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) put the policy priorities of the U.S. Catholic bishops before the needs of women nationwide. Originally, Senator Nelson maintained that the abortion language in the healthcare bill was not a make-or-break factor in his vote. This week, however, he hardened his stance on the abortion language, stating that he would not vote for a healthcare bill unless the restrictions on insurance coverage for abortions are tightened. This shift can be attributed, at least in part, to the lobbying efforts of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Last Friday, Nelson said that he would not present his amendment to the healthcare bill until the bishops had more time to review the language severely restricting the access for abortion coverage." ~~~ Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice

Our "fearless leader" has once again left the building and is off to Europe for a little shucking and jiving in Copenhagen at COP15 a.k.a. 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference. In between back room deals to screw we the people, he'll take a quick break to fly across the Baltic to Oslo where he and Michelle are expected to have an audience at the Royal Palace with King Harald V and Queen Sonja before Obama accepts his "prize." Before it's all done there will no doubt be a lot of bowing and scraping to Harry and Sonja and plenty of photo ops, too!

Then Obama will visit the Norwegian Nobel Institute where he'll make a speech on why the biggest mass murderer currently holding power deserves such an honor, then conduct a news conference at his hotel for even more shucking and jiving, attend a banquet in his honor, and stand on balcony of his hotel room to receive greetings from the traditional torch light parade as it passes the hotel. All this while being surrounded by thousands of police, troops, snipers, guard dogs and such, things any man of peace desperately needs!

Then it back to Copenhagen, (child porn capital of the world) to talk of polar bears and U.S. homeowner tax penalties for causing all that pollution and global warming! Not to mention all those tax breaks for the corpo-rats and cap and trade scams that will shift the burden in higher costs to you and me from the real polluters. In other words same ole, same ole!

All this followed by a new song and dance shifting reality to some world of fantasy that the Sheeple can swallow as we sink deeper and deeper into this third world abyss that used to be America!

In Other News

H.K. Edgerton yearns for those good old daze!

As you no doubt know I've moved my digs from suburban Detroit to the Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Asheville, North Carolina. Now while Asheville is without a doubt the hippest place in the south, it is still in the south and therefore susceptible to certain southern faux pas'.

One of which popped up the other day and I found it rather bizarre on many levels and hence, I thought I would share it with you.

It seems back in November Cecil Bothwell was duly elected to the Asheville City Council. Bothwell is a well-known builder and author and man about town. However certain citizens and outside agitators demand that Cecil not obtain his councilhood because Cecil is a card caring gulp, Atheist! I know, you're aghast at such a low life wanting to serve his community!

Now these agitators are being led by the former president (he was asked to leave) of the Asheville NAACP, one H.K. Edgerton, who now apparently resides in Georgia so this doesn't affect him in the slightest.

As an aside let me say that H.K. is a proud son of the south who likes to dress up in a confederate uniform and wave the old Stars and Bars at any occasion. A black man in favor of the ante-bellum south. I'll let that sink in... Go ahead and wrap your brain around that thought for a minute, I dare you!

H.K. says that it is illegal for Cecil to take his elected position on the council and if he does the council will certainly face lawsuits because of North Carolina law, i.e., Article 6, section 8 of the state constitution, which says in no uncertain terms:

"The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God."

And since Cecil has not only mentioned in his book "The Prince Of War," that he is an Atheist but has 'bad things' to say about that old hypocrite Billy Graham (who blesses the state with his very presence) for pushing what Bothwell calls a "theocratic agenda," ergo off with Bothwell's head at the very least, huh?

As old Willie Shakespeare once said of stuff like this, "Much Ado About Nothing." Can anyone tell me why that is? If you answered because it's in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights then you may stay after class and clean the erasers!

You may recall that in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution it plainly states:

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

This, of course, trumps state laws, which are in reality illegal and probably treasonous to boot! This country was founded by people trying to escape from a state religion and the founding fathers made that very point in Article VI!

You may also recall that in 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Maryland's requirement "for officials to declare belief in God" saying it violated the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. So that's a double no-no H.K.!

My America, the home of the strange and the kooky. As strange in Asheville as it is in Hollywood or even New York City! Imagine that!

Update: Cecil Bothwell was sworn in!

And Finally

The war on the poor continues in the Senate as it has in the House. Blue Dog Demoncrat Ben Nelson fascist/Nebraska introduced a new amendment to the current healthcare fiasco at the bidding of the Catholic Church designed to force poor women to have their unwanted children even if it kills them to do so! Ben was inspired to do this by a bunch of men who wear dresses and like to fondle and molest little boys and, on rare occasions, little girls, too. Something which Ben apparently agrees with or he would have told these old reprobates to f*ck themselves!

Ben's bright idea was backed by Sin-ators Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Robert Casey, D-Penn., Sam Brownback, R-Kan., John Thune, R-S.D., Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Mike Johanns, R-Neb., David Vitter, R-La., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo. A Kafkaesque "who's who" list of enemies of the people! This little gem is H. R. 3590 a.k.a. the Nelson/Hatch Coat Hanger Bill of 2009 and is guaranteed to bring death and destruction the likes of which has not existed since the Supreme Court overturned similar nonsense in Roe v. Wade.

I sent Ben this letter...

Congratulations Ben,

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

Your brilliant amendment to the health care bill singling out poor women to use coat hangers on themselves instead of seeing a doctor will soon get them off the streets and out of the slums and into a grave where they belong, huh Ben?

We at Issues & Alibis would like to help you out by sending you not only this award for treason but 5,000 coat hangers that you can give out to the poor!

The question is Ben, where should we deliver them. To your house or your Senate offices?

Whichever would make a bigger media splash is fine!

Sincerely yours,
Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis magazine

As always if I get a reply I'll share it with you!

Update: H. R. 3590 went down to a flaming defeat!

Oh And One More Thing

Do you have people in you life who inspire extreme emotion? You know, the ones you love to hate or hate to love? Give them the perfect gift this holiday season. "W The Movie" is now available for discerning and disconcerting minds. If you couldn't get to its very limited run in the theatres or film festivals, here's your chance. "W The Movie" is now available on DVD through If you are so inclined, please use the link/portal for the film, which maybe found towards the bottom of this page. That way Amazon will send me a few pennies for each purchase and brighten my holidays a bit, too.


And if you don't want the movie (it's not for everyone), remember us in your holiday giving. It's been a hard year for leftist publications, just as it has been difficult for charities, poor people, and champions of truth and justice. And we understand how tight money is. As my great-grandfather-in-law said, "If steamboats were a nickel, I couldn't buy the echo of a whistle." But we keep on. 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. We don't want Issues and Alibis join that list.

Everyone seems to be on the "Give $5.00" bandwagon. We know $5.00 can be a lot. So we're asking for pennies, a dollar, coupons, stamps. We're trying to hang on and we know you are, too. Whatever you can spare will be greatly appreciated by us. Every penny makes a difference.

Ernest & Victoria Stewart


06-24-1958 ~ 12-08-2009
Burn baby burn!


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


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


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

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

The Legacy of 1989, In Two Hemispheres
By Noam Chomsky

November marked the anniversary of major events in 1989: "the biggest year in world history since 1945," as British historian Timothy Garton Ash describes it.

That year "changed everything," Garton Ash writes. Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms within Russia and his "breathtaking renunciation of the use of force" led to the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9--and to the liberation of Eastern Europe from Russian tyranny.

The accolades are deserved; the events, memorable. But alternative perspectives may be revealing.

German chancellor Angela Merkel provided such a perspective--unintentionally--when she called on all of us to "use this invaluable gift of freedom to overcome the walls of our time."

One way to follow her good advice would be to dismantle the massive wall, dwarfing the Berlin wall in scale and length, now snaking through Palestinian territory in violation of international law.

The "annexation wall," as it should be called, is justified in terms of "security"--the default rationalization for so many state actions. If security were the concern, the wall would be built along the border and made impregnable.

The purpose of this monstrosity, constructed with U.S. support and European complicity, is to allow Israel to take over valuable Palestinian land and the main water resources of the region, thus denying any viable national existence for the indigenous population of the former Palestine.

Another perspective on 1989 comes from Thomas Carothers, a scholar who served in "democracy enhancement" programs in the administration of former President Ronald Reagan.

After reviewing the record, Carothers concludes that all U.S. leaders have been "schizophrenic"--supporting democracy if it conforms to U.S. strategic and economic objectives, as in Soviet satellites but not in U.S. client states.

This perspective is dramatically confirmed by the recent commemoration of the events of November 1989. The fall of the Berlin wall was rightly celebrated, but there was little notice of what happened one week later: on Nov. 16, in El Salvador, the assassination of six leading Latin American intellectuals, Jesuit priests, along with their cook and her daughter, by the elite, U.S.-armed Atlacatl battalion, fresh from renewed training at the JFK Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, N.C.

The battalion and its cohorts had already compiled a bloody record through the grisly decade in El Salvador that began in 1980 with the assassination, by much the same hands, of Archbishop Oscar Romero, known as "the voice of the voiceless."

During the decade of the "war on terror" declared by the Reagan administration, the horror was similar throughout Central America. The reign of torture, murder and destruction in the region left hundreds of thousands dead.

The contrast between the liberation of Soviet satellites and the crushing of hope in U.S. client states is striking and instructive--even more so when we broaden the perspective.

The assassination of the Jesuit intellectuals brought a virtual end to "liberation theology," the revival of Christianity that had its modern roots in the initiatives of Pope John XXIII and Vatican II, which he opened in 1962.

Vatican II "ushered in a new era in the history of the Catholic Church," theologian Hans Kung wrote. Latin American bishops adopted "the preferential option for the poor."

Thus the bishops renewed the radical pacifism of the Gospels that had been put to rest when the Emperor Constantine established Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire--"a revolution" that in less than a century converted "the persecuted church" to a "persecuting church," according to Kung.

In the post-Vatican II revival, Latin American priests, nuns and laypersons took the message of the Gospels to the poor and the persecuted, brought them together in communities, and encouraged them to take their fate into their own hands.

Reaction to this heresy was violent repression. In the course of the terror and slaughter, the practitioners of liberation theology were a prime target.

Among them are the six martyrs of the church whose execution 20 years ago is now commemorated with a resounding silence, barely broken.

Last month in Berlin, the three presidents most involved in the fall of the Wall--George H. W. Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl--discussed who deserves credit.

"I know now how heaven helped us," Kohl said. George H.W. Bush praised the East German people, who "for too long had been deprived of their God-given rights." Gorbachev suggested that the United States needs its own perestroika.

No doubts exist about responsibility for demolishing the attempt to revive the church of the Gospels in Latin America during the 1980s.

The School of the Americas (since renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) in Fort Benning, Ga., which trains Latin American officers, proudly announces that the U.S. Army helped to "defeat liberation theology"--assisted, to be sure, by the Vatican, using the gentler hand of expulsion and suppression.

The grim campaign to reverse the heresy set in motion by Vatican II received an incomparable literary expression in Dostoyevsky's parable of the Grand Inquisitor in "The Brothers Karamazov."

In this tale, set in Seville at "the most terrible time of the Inquisition," Jesus Christ suddenly appears on the streets, "softly, unobserved, and yet, strange to say, everyone recognized him" and was "irresistibly drawn to him."

The Grand Inquisitor "bids the guards take Him and lead Him away" to prison. There he accuses Christ of coming to "hinder us" in the great work of destroying the subversive ideas of freedom and community. We follow not Thee, the Inquisitor admonishes Jesus, but rather Rome and "the sword of Caesar." We seek to be sole rulers of the earth so that we can teach the "weak and vile" multitude that "they will only become free when they renounce their freedom to us and submit to us." Then they will be timid and frightened and happy. So tomorrow, the Inquisitor says, "I must burn Thee."

Finally, however, the Inquisitor relents and releases "Him into the dark alleys of the town."

The pupils of the U.S.-run School of the Americas practiced no such mercy.
(c) 2009 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Hegemony or Survival Americas Quest for Global Dominance. His writings on linguistics and politics have just been collected in The Essential Noam Chomsky, edited by Anthony Arnove, from the New Press.

The Height of Kitsch
By Uri Avnery

IT WOULD have been the epitome of political kitsch.

Binyamin Netanyahu and ten of his ministers were to hold a joint meeting with Angela Merkel and ten members of the German cabinet.

What for? To demonstrate Germany's love for Israel.

At the last moment, Netanyahu announced that he was sick, and the meeting was canceled. I imagine that Netanyahu was not very sorry about this. What did he need it for? In any case the Israeli government is already getting from Germany anything it wants.

A German journalist asked me about the reaction in Israel to the visit of the new German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle. I had to disappoint him: most Israelis did not even hear about it. Another dignitary laying flowers in Yad Vashem. Another traffic jam in Jerusalem.

As so often happens, there is no equality in this marriage. The German bride loves the Israeli groom much more than he loves her.

FROM TIME to time, the relationship between Germany and Israel needs a review.

The Germans do not forget the Holocaust. They are steeped in this subject all the time. It appears on TV programs, cultural discourse and art.

That is as it should be. This monstrous crime must not be allowed to slip from memory. Young Germans must ask themselves again and again how it came about that their grandfathers and grandmothers were accessories to this enormous deed - those who took part in it, those who agreed silently and those who were silent out of fear or indifference.

The German government - the present one like all its predecessors - draws from the Holocaust an unequivocal conclusion: Israel, the "state of the victims", must be pampered. All its actions must be supported without reservation. Not a single word of criticism must be allowed.

When the new German republic was founded, this was a calculated policy. The terrible war, which had been imposed on humanity by Adolf Hitler, had just come to an end. The Nazi crimes were fresh in the memory of mankind.

Germany was a pariah nation. Konrad Adenauer decided that massive support for Israel (in addition to the indemnities paid to the individual victims) would open the doors to the world.

He found a loyal partner in his Israeli colleague. David Ben-Gurion believed that the consolidation of the State of Israel was more important than the memories of the past. He provided the "Other Germany" with an Israeli kosher certificate, in return for massive German aid to Israel.

Since then, much water has flown down the Rhine and the Jordan. The time has come to ask some questions.

QUESTION 1: While the German friendship with us is a moral imperative, does it have to include support for immoral actions?

I have heard more than once the argument: "After the terrible things done by the German people to the Jews, we Germans have no right to criticize the Jewish State. The descendents of the perpetrators cannot criticize the descendents of the victims!"

I have said it before: there is something in these sentences that disturbs me very much. Somehow they remind me of the German word Sonderbehandlung ("special treatment"), which has terrible associations. In the concentration camps, it was the code-word for execution.

The attitude of the German government towards Israel is a Sonderbehandlung. It, too, says: the Jews are something special. The "Jewish State" must be treated differently than all other states. That is to say, the Jews are different from all other peoples, their state is different from all other states, their morals are different from those of others.

A German audience was very amused when I recently told them about a demonstration of communists in New York. The police came and started to beat them up. Somebody shouted: "Don't hit me! I am an anti-Communist!" To which the policeman replied: "I don't care what kind of a communist you are!" Extreme philo-Semites remind me of extreme anti-Semites. One wonders whether somebody who is capable of one sort of special treatment is also capable of the other sort.

Special treatment? Thanks, but no thanks. That was not our intention when we founded this state. We wanted to be a state like all other states, a nation like all other nations.

QUESTION 2: What does friendship really mean?

When your friend is drunk and insists on driving his car - should he be encouraged? Is that the expression of true friendship? Or does friendship oblige you to tell him: Listen, you are smashed, lie down until you sober up?

Intelligent Germans know that our present policy is disastrous for Israel and the entire world. It leads towards permanent war, the empowering of radical fundamentalist Islam throughout the region, the isolation of Israel in the world and an occupation-state in which the Jews will become an oppressing minority.

When your drunken friend is driving straight towards a cliff - what does friendship tell you to do?

QUESTION 3: Friendship towards Israel - but which Israel?

Israel is a far from monolithic society. It is a vibrant, fermenting mix, with many tendencies, from the extreme Right to the extreme Left. At present we have a government of the extreme right, but there is also a peace camp. There are soldiers who refuse to remove settlements, but there are also soldiers who refuse to guard settlements. Quite a number of people devote their time and energy to the struggle against the occupation, sometimes exposing themselves to physical danger in the process.

Of course, a government has to deal with governments. The German government has to deal with the Israeli government. But from there to kitschy gestures, like a joint session of the two cabinets, the distance is great.

The Netanyahu government has paid lip-service to the Two-State principle and is violating it every day. It has rejected a full freeze of settlement activity in the territories, the very territories which all governments - including the German one - agree should become the State of Palestine. It is building at a crazy pace in East Jerusalem which - even according to the German government - must become the capital of Palestine. It is carrying out in Jerusalem something which comes very close to ethnic cleansing. Should Ms. Merkel hug this government and smother its face with kisses?

There are many ways for the German government to show its friendship to the Other Israel, the Israel that seeks peace and human rights for all. Pity that it does not do so.

THERE IS another German way. Two weeks ago, I saw it.

An audience of hundreds gathered in Berlin for a ceremony in which I was awarded the "Blue Planet Prize". The name reflects the fact that from outer space the Earth looks like a blue globe.

The prize was awarded by the Ethecon foundation, which believes that the ideals of peace, human rights, the preservation of the planet and an ethical economy should be joined together into one whole. This is my view, too.

The award of this year's prize to an Israeli peace-activist expressed, I believe, real friendship for Israel - the friendship of the Other Germany for the Other Israel. Revulsion at the Nazi crimes has led these Germans to engage themselves in the struggle for a better world, a more moral world, in which there is no place for the racism that is rearing its head in many places in Europe.

THAT LEADS us, of course, to what has happened just now in the land of Wilhelm Tell.

The Swiss have decided in a referendum to forbid the building of minarets. That is bad. It is abominable.

Anti-Semitism, it appears, has moved from one Semitic people to another. In post-Holocaust Europe it is difficult to be anti-Jewish, so the anti-Semites have become anti-Muslims. As we say in Hebrew: the same lady in a different robe.

From an aesthetic point of view, that is a stupid decision. In all anthologies of the most beautiful buildings in the world, Islamic architecture occupies a place of honor. From the Alhambra in Granada to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, not to mention the Taj Mahal, hundreds of Islamic architectural creations arouse admiration. A minaret or two would do wonders for the urban landscape of Bern.

But this is not a matter of architecture, rather of primitive, brutal racism, the one the Germans are escaping from. The Swiss, too, have much to atone for. Their grandfathers and grandmothers, too, behaved abominably during the Holocaust, when they declared that "The Boat Is Full" and returned the Jews who managed to reach the Swiss border to the Nazi executioners.

(This memory should induce us Israelis to protest against the behavior of our own government towards the desperate Sudanese refugees who manage to reach our borders from Egypt. It is returning them to the Egyptians, who, on more than one occasion, have shot them.)

By the way, the Swiss referendum should give pause to those who have been tempted to think that the system of referendums is preferable to the Parliamentary system. A referendum opens the gates to the vilest demagogues, the pupils of Joseph Goebbels, who once wrote: "We must appeal again to the most primitive instincts of the masses."

Jean-Paul Sartre once said that we are all racists. The difference, he declared, is between those who recognize this and struggle against their racism, and those who surrender to it. The majority of the Swiss, I am sorry to say, have just failed this test. What about us?
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Shape Shifters
By Victoria Stewart

It has been a difficult week. People I love, people I know have already suffered horribly from abuse and illness and poverty, are feeling the ripping teeth of this corrupt government ever more acutely. Cuts in disability benefits, increases in Medicare and Medicaid co-pays, looming foreclosure. And as our corporate government, with cold brutality, begins its attack on my family, I am reminded that the people I love are not the first to suffer nor will they be the last. Millions in this country alone have lost jobs, homes and health care. I look at the fear and panic in the eyes of my family and I imagine how much worse it must be for people who have young children. I listen when my brother touches on the possibility of suicide and wonder what the true cost of this "recession" has been. I think about the unspeakable poverty of people in truly poor countries, the violence visited on the most helpless and vulnerable of the world. I think about what is coming for us from the future.

The magnitude of the pain swirling around this planet is every bit as destructive as greenhouse gas emissions.

And, of course, troops are off to Afghanistan, President Obama accepted his Nobel with a call for more war and in Copenhagen, leaders of the rich have told the inhabitants of island nations to learn to swim. Then there is the unsurprising but nonetheless disturbing news that, quite possibly-even probably-it's too late to do anything to stop cataclysmic environmental change, anyway. Death. Destruction. Mayhem. Suffering. The rationalist's End Times.

Yes, a difficult week.

It has been apparent for some time (some very long time) that humans are a species out of control. We have become so disconnected from our environment, our true know, the backyard an animal doesn't soil, that basic little survival technique the other inhabitants of the planet understand...that a severe reduction in our numbers or our extinction is not only imminent but desirable. That doesn't bother me. It's the getting there, the ones who have to take that actual trip to the brink I worry about.

It is really and truly time to start planning how to survive. I don't mean cutting CO2 emissions or changing governments. We are way beyond that. The leaders of the rich and powerful countries, including Barack Obama, belong to...why, the rich and powerful. And the rich and powerful don't care about you and me. We are on our own.

I recently watched (on the internet) a presentation on climate change by Johan Rockstrom. He spoke about carbon emissions, melting ice, drought and famine. He also talked about the intersection of climate change, government, and population. He spoke of the interconnectedness-his word-of the resilience of the planet and human activity. He spoke to scientists and environmentalists but his words reminded me of other and older teachers. As we make our way through these daunting times, it would behoove us to return to the ancient lessons of legend and myth.

Even as science has validated the most basic tenets of old and earth based systems, our society has dismissed the wisdom of those cultures as superstitious and primitive. We have forgotten or chosen to ignore, the use of metaphor to impart significant and complex concepts. Power-based religions have appropriated and perverted information about what it means to be human on this planet and with that appropriation, removed our ability to see ourselves as part of a whole. We have lost the knowledge to make the transitions necessary to remain in sync with the planet as it rebalances itself.

Just as my family will get through these hard times by drawing on the strength of our forebears, those men and women who fled oppression and servitude more than 200 years ago and came to a new and unknown world, humanity can also get through these days. It is time, for those who are willing, to see ourselves as members of a species, to understand that there was a time when humans accepted they were one among many living creatures on this planet. Those people strove to pass the knowledge of how to live to coming generations. Studying the seasons, the tides, the winds, and the sky was not ignorant and unenlightened nonsense. It was an ongoing endeavor to understand the science of survival. The words, the stories, the legends were meant to convey knowledge, to provide warnings, to encourage intelligent research.

The world we have known is ending. That is an enormous and frightening truth. It is hard to grasp and integrate. And we too often feel powerless to do anything but pretend it isn't happening. We can do more, however. We can begin to find a way back from this brink, to plot a new way for our children and grandchildren. The species may end with the next two generations. Maybe sooner. But we can work to make it as painless as possible. That is noble work. And if our species does survive, then the journey to our future will take us back to our past, back to the knowledge our ancestors stored for us, and into that different world.

The stories of shape shifters, of werewolves and vampires, of skin walkers, and powerful women and men who could become other than human offer a lesson. We must learn to change, to adapt, to become more than we are, different than we were, to see with open eyes and uncluttered brains. We do not need wings and fangs and superhuman strength. We need only the will to help others and the love to make it so.
(c) 2009 Victoria Stewart is the editor of Issues & Alibis magazine.

Everything Passes, Everything Changes; Just Do What You Think You Should Do
By Chris Cooper

Well, now! That was something, wasn't it? It was good for me; was it good for you too? One never knows if this sort of thing will work out or if it will go bad somewhere through the doing of it, no matter how good an idea it probably seemed to be in anticipation or inception. I suppose the biggest surprise may be that I lasted as long as I did.

On the second day of July, 1998, I introduced myself on this page under this heading. I have the original, typewritten copy before me as I write tonight. Here is what I promised I would give anybody who would meet me here fortnightly. I said I would be funny. In support of my ability to do so I related a brief anecdote of a vicious dog I convinced to pee on my customer's couch rather than to bite me. I promised to keep connected to the wild world and to inform my work with what I learned by living in the woods and associating with residents of other species I meet there. "I surely shall dwell often and at length on the wonder that is self-government in the Sate of Maine," I declared. It was not a great column, but it served its purpose. I put alliteration and simile and metaphor to the service of my message and I find just a trace of poetry even in a few of the phrases set down then by a much younger man.

It has been eleven years; I have passed from my late forties to a month beyond sixty. My children have gone into the world to suffer or succeed or both. I have inherited a grandson who is now my own new son and who will someday read all three-hundred-scant of these little essays (nearly half a million words filling six fat notebooks) and who can judge whether I have fulfilled the commitment I laid out in my first paragraphs.

But nothing lasts forever. "Everything dies, baby, that's a fact." (You may Google this and myriad other quotations from greater artists that I have used so often to illuminate my presentations.) I have run out my string, run afoul of my own natural ability to annoy and to offend. Left alone I likely would have delivered my unwieldy, overlong pieces on schedule until that day when a new young editor could report old Cooper croaked and would be briefly missed and soon forgotten. It happens that management has decided instead to return this space to its original purpose (I replaced the weekly school lunch menus) or offer it up for newer, brighter, better writing. So I go.

At twenty-five dollars a column, it seems I have grossed over seven thousand dollars at this venture. Ah, would that I had put it to some great purpose. I bought trees and books and record albums. And I bought the newspaper and read what I had written each week, to feel how it would look and sound and resonate when I was removed from the heat and immediacy of its composition.

It is a disservice to oneself to profess no care for the opinions of others, though as a young man I deluded myself that I felt so. If there is no good opinion of my writing to be had then I shall have moved no one, encouraged, delighted, excited, inspired or taught no one anything worth knowing. If there has not been the occasional bad reaction, then I have failed to use what talent I may have to pry at the foundations of deceit and greed and cruelty that sustain so much of the society in which we are all enmeshed. I did not consciously set out to offer hope and counsel to the lost and lonely and heartsick who felt no voice spoke for them, or to aggrieve or injure or call out for their sins those who hold and abuse power, but it evolved that both actions were fundamental to my works and persons at both extremes often told me I had hit my intended mark.

I have had scores of letters, a handful of long telephone calls, a reasonable number of letters-to-the-editor responses (including a few "cancel my subscription"s) and thousands of E-mail messages. I have corresponded with writers and musicians and mathematicians and politicians, doctors of body and mind, theologians, historians, biologists, at least one astrologist, and one lesbian nun. More than one woman has begged to bear my babies. Admittedly none of them had seen my photograph and no one followed up her initial suggestion, so a sober second thought appears to have calmed that passion in every case.

These are the phrases, or variants thereof, that have encouraged me: Mr. Cooper, you made me cry. You made me laugh. You said perfectly what I have felt but could not articulate. In reading your words I no longer feel alone. I mean, Jesus, people, do you have any idea what those communications mean to a writer? It means that over and over again I've flung my heart and mind out into the old, cold universe and it's come crackling back through the ether white hot and shocking every time, no matter how often it' happens-I've crossed the gulf, closed the gap, made a rare and solid connection! These things don't happen often and when they do neither party is quite as he or she was before.

The twenty-five dollars? I pissed it all away. But the great collisions of human heart and spirit and intellect? Well, "it stoned me. It stoned me to my soul. Stoned me just like jelly roll. Stoned me just like goin' home. Yeah, it stoned me." The essays will end, the revenue stream will dry up, I'll pack away the copies and clippings in a box. But almost every week I learned that I was a voice for someone else somewhere and that I sang somebody's song better than he or she could or dared to or was allowed to.

And all I had to give in exchange for all that was "another little piece o' my heart." And I gave it gladly and gratefully. I never lied, I never concealed, I never held back the awful truths or covered up the ugly pictures. And enough of you told me enough times that that was what you wanted and we all needed that I stayed up all night every other Monday so Mrs. Gibbs would find it on her desk Tuesday morning and you could hold it in your hands Wednesday evening. For eleven years I did this. I stand amazed.

I was seldom edited by the afore-mentioned Editor Gibbs. Every proper citizen, every businessman and believer who has ever flung away this newspaper in dismay or disgust at my wrong-headed thinking or my vulgar witticisms or outright blasphemies may hold her accountable for my attacks on convention or common sense. I thank her for granting me the space to lay out my twisted visions, the latitude to say what I thought and felt in my peculiar form and language and the time to earn the trust and respect of those of you who have stayed with me for this long and improbable ride.

For those things I said about God I may someday and perhaps forever pay. I think you will now agree I was right about Dick Cheney. You are beginning to think I was also right in not believing we would find our new regime offering any real change from the old. I wish I had been wrong about that. I do not find that our nation has grown wiser or our culture more sane or mature or honest or humane or literate over the years I have labored to understand and interpret our common passage.

I wish the young people had found me to their liking. My audience has consistently been made from persons my own age or older, men and women who know why Hank Williams and Leonard Cohen are essential artists and who do not have interest in or time for video games, but who will worry their way through a sentence with a couple of semicolons or dependent clauses, and for whom the unraveling of a long paragraph or the combining of several disparate strains into a coherent thought and the discovery of some small obscured truths have brought satisfaction.

So what can I tell you? Go with God? Eat a balanced diet? Always wear a helmet and eye protection? I can tell you that it is indeed "a world of steel-eyed death and men who struggle to be warm." I will tell you that the easy answers are usually the wrong answers. I am certain that the important questions go often unasked so whatever course we follow will be skewed or doomed from its start. There is no use in petitioning your government, writing to your Senator, expecting the oligarchy to do right by you or me. That fight is over and we have lost.

You will do your best work at town meeting. Join your fire department. Feed your hungry neighbor; give him firewood. You can be a better husband or wife than you have been; you are not as good a parent as you should be. Your mother forgave you for your insensitivity and selfishness before she died. If she is not dead go to her now and tell her you'll be a better person tomorrow than you have been today.

We are engaged at endless wars. These have not, do not and will not make us safe, but not enough of our young people are dying to rouse the rest of us to demand their cessation. Your insurance costs will rise and your health care deteriorate not despite but because of whatever bill Congress passes and the President signs. "Everybody knows the deal is rotten." I cannot change it, but I cannot ignore it and I have not, I hope, failed to state the truth boldly and directly and often. That is the duty of those who dare to deal out words for others to consider.

"Teach your children well." "Love is all you need" (it isn't, but it helps a lot and it's damned grim without it.) "On the other side it didn't say nothin'; that side was made for you and me." Frustra laborat qui omnibus placere studet.

I have tried to give you the best I had in me each time I came before you. If what I have built has at any time served you I am well paid for my work. Should any of it prove memorable or enduring I am humbled and honored. If anybody is moved by my stories to fearlessly use the great gift of our complex and expressive language to further their own good ideas then my hours here will have been to a very great purpose indeed.
(c) 2009 Chris Cooper works hard and gets by. But he does not have health insurance. He cannot afford it. Therefore he does not often seek doctoring. Mandating his purchase of the deficient, dishonest products of the industry will not induce him to do so; it will likely just further piss him off and cause him to generate more unwholesome, unhelpful essays such as this. Persons wishing to contact him for whatever reason (no insurance agents, please) may write to Before he leaves this author wishes to tell you that he is one resident of the state of Maine who is not impressed with the work of Senator Olympia Snowe, political bed-partner of Senator Max Baucus. Just so you know.

Obama's War
Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to war we go! Pound the drums loudly, stand with your country proudly!

Wait, wait, wait - hold it right there. Cut the music, slow the rush, and let's all ponder what Obama, Gates, McChrystal & company are getting us into ... and whether we really want to go there. After all, just because the White House and the Pentagon are waving the flag and insisting that a major escalation of America's military mission in Afghanistan is a "necessity" doesn't mean it is ... or that We The People must accept it.

Remember the wisdom of Mark Twain about war whooping generals and politicians: "Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it."

How many more hundreds of dead American solders (and thousands more who'll be mangled and shattered) does the government's "new" Afghan policy deserve? How many more tens of billions of dollars should we let them siphon from our public treasury to fuel their war policy? We've been lied to for nearly a decade about "success" in Iraq and Afghanistan - why do the hawks deserve our trust that this time will be different?

I had hoped Obama might be a more forceful leader who would reject the same old interventionist mindset of those who profit from permanent war. But his newly announced Afghan policy shows he is not that leader.

So we must look elsewhere, starting with ourselves. The first job of a citizen is to keep your mouth open. Obama is wrong on this - deadly wrong - and those who see how wrong he is have both a moral and patriotic duty to reach out to others to inform, organize and mobilize our grassroots objections.

This is no time to be deferential to executive authority. It's our country, not theirs. Stand up. Speak out. We are America - and ultimately, we have the power and responsibility.
(c) 2009 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Give a Hoot, But We're Still Doomed
The Empty Gesture of Copenhagen
By Ted Rall

Our parents and grandparents fell down on the job.

"The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history's judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it." A concise summary of how the world sees this week's U.N. climate change conference, courtesy of the editorial board of the U.K. newspaper The Guardian.

The paper continued: "In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage," wrote the Guardian's editors. The implication is that time is short. And that there's still time.

Only two sides of the climate debate get covered by the media: corporate-backed pseudo-scientists who deny the greenhouse effect or claim that it's inconsequential, and liberal environmentalists pushing for the United States and other major air polluters to act to reduce carbon emissions.

Both sides of the "debate" are liars.

The energy company-financed stooges are barely worthy of contempt, much less serious rebuttal. Their claims have been addressed and thoroughly debunked, over and over, for decades. Cut from the same toxic cloth as those who collected paychecks from tobacco companies to testify that smoking was safe, they are to be pitied, reviled and, with a little luck, imprisoned after the revolution.

More problematic-and embodied by the Guardian quote above-is the Big Lie of climate change: the implication that there's still time to stave off environmental disaster.

"The clock has ticked down to zero," said Yvo de Boer, the United Nations climate chief. No. That happened years ago.

One interested party has been left out of the news from Copenhagen: scientists. "Quietly in public, loudly in private, climate scientists everywhere are saying the same thing: it's over," reported George Monblot in the Guardian from Copenhagen. "The years in which more than 2°C [above average temperatures at the start of the Industrial Revolution] of global warming could have been prevented have passed, the opportunities squandered by denial and delay. On current trajectories we'll be lucky to get away with 4°C. Mitigation (limiting greenhouse gas pollution) has failed; now we must adapt to what nature sends our way. If we can."

Leading scientists like James Hansen say the maximum safe upper level for the concentration of CO2 particles in air is 350 parts per million. We're currently at 387. According to a study recently cited in Time magazine, we could ban automobiles and the internal combustion engine and abolish all industrial production, worldwide, and it would still take at least 900 years for CO2 levels to drop back below the 350 ppm tipping point.

Ocean levels will rise an average of at least six to 16 feet by 2100. Goodbye, lower Manhattan. Ciao, south Florida. The northern half of Antarctica's giant Wilkins ice shelf has begun breaking off; it will be gone within a few years. In the highest mountains in and around the Himalayas, millennia-old glaciers have vanished in the last decade, causing water shortages for hundreds of millions of people in the cities of China, Central and South Asia.

The greenhouse effect is a simple model. The math is straightforward and devastating: so much particulate has been pumped into the air since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution two centuries ago, so much energy has built up in the closed system that is our atmosphere, that the damage is irreversible. Human-built technology has billowed more than 200 billion metric tons of carbon waste into the atmosphere; we continue to add another six or seven billion annually.

"People have imagined that if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide that the climate would go back to normal in 100 years or 200 years," said Susan Solomon, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "What we're showing here is that's not right. It's essentially an irreversible change that will last for more than a thousand years."

The idyllic global climate that has prevailed for the last 10,000 years is going to change, is changing, and we won't be around long enough to know whether it will ever come back. "Human activities have reached a level that could damage the systems that keep Earth in the desirable Holocene state," wrote Johan Rockstrom of the Stockholm Environmental Institute in an article in the magazine Nature.

Catastrophe no longer looms. Catastrophe is upon us. For example, the polar ice cap is doomed. Summer ice will vanish entirely within 20 years; winter ice will be gone by 2085. Nothing can be done to stop it. It doesn't matter whether the U.S. and other countries reduce CO2 gas production by 30, 50 or 80 percent. The Amazon rainforest feeds the Amazon River, which by some accounts produces 20 percent of the world's fresh water; it has begin its death spiral. South Asian monsoons are shorter and arriving later. The American southwest will become a Dust Bowl.

The Greenland and northern Antarctic ice sheets are going, going, gone. Seas will rise between four and six meters above the levels cited above. It's been nice knowing you, Boston and San Francisco. Thousands of animal species, including polar bears, will live in zoos or not at all. After a certain point, plants themselves will become a net source of CO2-all part of the feedback loop that occurs when you mess things up as badly as we have. Giant storms will rage, famine will spread, drought will be ubiquitous. Or maybe we'll just choke to death. Whatever, at 6°C plus, the human race is outta here.

It is almost certainly too late to save ourselves. Like recycling and not littering, reducing CO2 output amounts to mere politeness. It's a nice gesture. But it won't make any difference.

Of course, the only sane action is to pretend otherwise and enact radical change that might/might have saved the earth. The human race is probably destined for extinction. But we might as well be courteous on the way out...and stop BSing about our chances.
(c) 2009 Ted Rall is the author, with Pablo G. Callejo, of the new graphic memoir "The Year of Loving Dangerously." He is also the author of the Gen X manifesto "Revenge of the Latchkey Kids."

Confronting The Globalcrat
By Greg Palast

You could call him the Generalissimo of Globalization. The World Trade Organization's director general, Pascal Lamy, was a bit defensive, wanting to assure us that the WTO "wasn't created as a dark club of multinationals secretly cooking plots against the people. We do things in the open. Look at our website."

It's been a year since globalized finance brought the planet to its knees, yet here in Geneva, where in late November the WTO opened its grand "seventh ministerial," the diplomats are in denial. One confidential document from the files of WTO members--definitely not on the WTO website--tells us that despite financial and environmental crises, the globalizers still want to party like it's 1999.

In that year, just eight months before the Battle of Seattle, the WTO's Financial Services Agreement (FSA) became global law, breaking down old rules against cross-border trade in currency and financial derivatives. Financial goods spread rapidly. So did financial bads. The result: the collapse of US mortgage-backed securities slammed holders worldwide. When California home prices swooned, Iceland's banks melted.

But Lamy, throughout our lengthy one-on-one chat, insisted we see the WTO not as a corporate enforcer of deregulation but rather as the promoter of "interdependence," a kind of Oxfam or ACLU for trade. "This interdependence has a lot of good sides," he told me, "about freedom, about human rights, about technology, about media, about political civil liberties."

I suggested that, outside the WTO's gated compound below the Alps, few people associate derivatives and mortgage securitization with human rights and freedom. "They should!" Lamy said. "They should!"

I attempted to steer the director general back to the devilish details of this document, marked "ensure this text is not made publicly available": the demand of the European Union, echoed by the United States, that Brazil open its borders to derivatives trading and the sale of other exotic products of foreign banking giants. The EU nations were none too happy, it seems, that "Brazil has not yet accepted the Fifth protocol," that is, stood alone among major nations in flat-out rejecting the FSA.

Brazil's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, resisted hopping into the financial free-trade free-for-all, which saved his nation from most of the pain of the Great Recession, allowing its GDP to rocket upward at a 9 percent rate over the past three months. Wasn't it just a bit nuts to demand that Brazil now join the derivatives casino? Lamy replied, not unreasonably, "Trade is not the problem. The problem is whether what you trade is regulated or not."

The solution, then, to the problem of bankers gone wild is to regulate them, as they were just ten years ago. But there's a catch. As Lamy acknowledged, "In the WTO you can always claw back." Go ahead and re-regulate, but "there's a price to pay to claw back." Quite a price. Under the FSA, once a nation has stripped itself bare of banking regulations it cannot, despite the crisis, reimpose protective rules that get in the way of newly established foreign bank operations. For example, were Ecuador to follow former Federal Reserve chair Paul Volcker's advice to reinstate regulations that prevent commercial banks from gambling in derivatives, the US government, by WTO rule, would probably be able to slap a stiff tariff on every banana from Ecuador to make up for US banks' lost trading profits. In other words, it could cost a pretty penny to a treaty signer to rein in the local JP Morgan trading desk.

How did governments get tied hand and foot by the Financial Services Agreement?

When the WTO financial treaty took hold in 1999, ours was a very different planet. A month before the protest against the WTO, Robert Rubin had joined Citigroup, a megabank effectively created by the deregulation pushed by... Rubin, when he was Bill Clinton's treasury secretary. At that time Rubin was Merlin, and except for the protesters in Seattle ("ridiculous...yuppies looking for their 1960's fix," wrote the New York Times's Thomas Friedman), few doubted Rubin's magic.

In 1999 the international trade in equity derivatives and credit default swaps was too rare to track. But thanks to WTO treaty terms negotiated by Timothy Geithner, then assistant treasury secretary for international affairs, cross-border trade in swaps and derivatives would grow to a $115 trillion business by 2008, the year of Citigroup's near collapse and government bailout.

A decade ago, during the Battle of Seattle, Lamy himself wore the epaulets of the financial shock force of globalization as director general of the French banking giant Crédit Lyonnais, whose privatization he engineered. On leaving, I asked him if the protesters hadn't been proven right by the crisis--that breaking down financial borders was fraught with danger.

The banker turned globalcrat insisted that the WTO's woes are not a matter of policy but of public relations. "We've realized that there was a part of our activities which needed more transparency, more explanation. We've done a lot of that, I think."

Martin Khor thinks not. As executive director of the South Centre, and as former director of the NGO Third World Network, Khor is the closest thing the anti-globalization insurgency has to a leader--and a quite successful one at that. The South Centre, based in Geneva, provides Brazil and many other developing nations with the technical firepower to defend themselves against the diktats of the United States and Europe.

Khor says the WTO's bad rep stems from its chutzpah in pressuring developing nations to replicate, in the guise of trade rules, the deregulatory frenzy that put the United States and Europe "into the soup." And he finds it rich indeed that banks that would have gone bust if not for massive government bailouts are still preaching to emerging nations the gospel of deregulating financial markets. "If there had not been those bailouts, these financial institutions would no longer exist. But having been bailed out, they now continue to think they're going to go back to business as usual."

Apparently they haven't heard that the party's over.
(c) 2009 Forensic economist Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." His investigations for BBC TV and Democracy Now! can be seen by subscribing to Palast's reports at.

An Affordable Truth
By Paul Krugman

Maybe I'm naive, but I'm feeling optimistic about the climate talks starting in Copenhagen on Monday. President Obama now plans to address the conference on its last day, which suggests that the White House expects real progress. It's also encouraging to see developing countries - including China, the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide - agreeing, at least in principle, that they need to be part of the solution.

Of course, if things go well in Copenhagen, the usual suspects will go wild. We'll hear cries that the whole notion of global warming is a hoax perpetrated by a vast scientific conspiracy, as demonstrated by stolen e-mail messages that show - well, actually all they show is that scientists are human, but never mind. We'll also, however, hear cries that climate-change policies will destroy jobs and growth.

The truth, however, is that cutting greenhouse gas emissions is affordable as well as essential. Serious studies say that we can achieve sharp reductions in emissions with only a small impact on the economy's growth. And the depressed economy is no reason to wait - on the contrary, an agreement in Copenhagen would probably help the economy recover.

Why should you believe that cutting emissions is affordable? First, because financial incentives work.

Action on climate, if it happens, will take the form of "cap and trade": businesses won't be told what to produce or how, but they will have to buy permits to cover their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. So they'll be able to increase their profits if they can burn less carbon - and there's every reason to believe that they'll be clever and creative about finding ways to do just that.

As a recent study by McKinsey & Company showed, there are many ways to reduce emissions at relatively low cost: improved insulation; more efficient appliances; more fuel-efficient cars and trucks; greater use of solar, wind and nuclear power; and much, much more. And you can be sure that given the right incentives, people would find many tricks the study missed.

The truth is that conservatives who predict economic doom if we try to fight climate change are betraying their own principles. They claim to believe that capitalism is infinitely adaptable, that the magic of the marketplace can deal with any problem. But for some reason they insist that cap and trade - a system specifically designed to bring the power of market incentives to bear on environmental problems - can't work.

Well, they're wrong - again. For we've been here before.

The acid rain controversy of the 1980s was in many respects a dress rehearsal for today's fight over climate change. Then as now, right-wing ideologues denied the science. Then as now, industry groups claimed that any attempt to limit emissions would inflict grievous economic harm.

But in 1990 the United States went ahead anyway with a cap-and-trade system for sulfur dioxide. And guess what. It worked, delivering a sharp reduction in pollution at lower-than-predicted cost.

Curbing greenhouse gases will be a much bigger and more complex task - but we're likely to be surprised at how easy it is once we get started.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that by 2050 the emissions limits in recent proposed legislation would reduce real G.D.P. by between 1 percent and 3.5 percent from what it would otherwise have been. If we split the difference, that says that emissions limits would slow the economy's annual growth over the next 40 years by around one-twentieth of a percentage point - from 2.37 percent to 2.32 percent.

That's not much. Yet if the acid rain experience is any guide, the true cost is likely to be even lower.

Still, should we be starting a project like this when the economy is depressed? Yes, we should - in fact, this is an especially good time to act, because the prospect of climate-change legislation could spur more investment spending.

Consider, for example, the case of investment in office buildings. Right now, with vacancy rates soaring and rents plunging, there's not much reason to start new buildings. But suppose that a corporation that already owns buildings learns that over the next few years there will be growing incentives to make those buildings more energy-efficient. Then it might well decide to start the retrofitting now, when construction workers are easy to find and material prices are low.

The same logic would apply to many parts of the economy, so that climate change legislation would probably mean more investment over all. And more investment spending is exactly what the economy needs.

So let's hope my optimism about Copenhagen is justified. A deal there would save the planet at a price we can easily afford - and it would actually help us in our current economic predicament.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Savvy To A Fault
Coming to Terms With Imperial Power
By Chris Floyd

"How does it become a man to behave toward this American government to-day? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it." ~~~ Henry David Thoreau

To me, this quote from Thoreau expresses the only rational, moral and humane stance that a citizen can take toward the vast and brutal machinery of the American imperial state in our time. The crimes of this state are monstrous, and mounting. But what is worse is that these crimes are not aberrations; they are the very essence of the system -- they are its goal, its product, its lifeblood.

And what is this crimeful essence? Matt Taibbi described it well in a recent article:

Our Western society quite openly embraces war as a means of solving problems, and for quite some time now has fashioned its entire social and economic structure around the preparation for war.

I believe this is an indisputable fact. Decades of historical evidence give it proof. The last three decades especially have seen the relentless acceleration of this systemic evolution. The quality of life for ordinary Americans, those outside the golden circle of the elite and their retainers, has decayed immeasurably - and measurably. Stagnant wages. Degraded infrastructure. A poisoned food chain. Whole communities -- with all their social, political, cultural and family networks -- gutted by the heedless flight of capital to cheap labor (and slave labor) markets abroad, and by the dissolution of an embodied economic life into the shadow-play of high finance, the ghostly manipulation of numbers that produces nothing of value except gargantuan profits for a very few. A bonfire of public amenities, making daily life harder, harsher, constricted, diminished. Ever-growing social and economic disparity, shrinking the circle of opportunity. Two million citizens behind bars, in prisons overflowing with non-violent drug cases - nightmarish institutions given over to gangs, neglect, punitive regimens and private profit.

Yet this long, grinding process of diminishment and degradation has been accompanied by a never-ending expansion of the war machine into a dominant position over almost every aspect of American life. Not even the ending of the Cold War slowed this excrescence; defense budgets grew, new enemies were found, there were new missions, new commands, new wars. The ruling elite of American society were - and are - obviously willing to let the welfare, prosperity, opportunities and liberties of the common people sink deeper and deeper into the mire, in order to finance a system structured around war, with all the attendant corruption, brutalization and accrual of authoritarian power that war brings.

This is the system we have. It's right out in the open. There is a deep-rooted expectation - and not, alas, just among the elite -- that the world should jump to America's tune, by force if necessary. And when, for whatever reason, some part of the world does not jump - or bump and grind - to the Potomac beat, then it becomes a "problem" that must be "solved," by one means or another, with, of course, "all options on the table," all the time. And whether these "problems" are approached with blunt, bullying talk or a degree of cajolery and pious rhetoric, the chosen stance is always backed up with the ever-present threat of military action, up to and including the last of those "options" that always decorate the table: utter annihilation.

This is not even questioned, must less debated or challenged. America's right to intervene in the affairs other nations by violent force (along with a constant series of illegal covert activities) - and to impose an empire of military plantations across the length and breadth of the entire planet - is the basic assumption, the underlying principle, the fervently held faith shared by both national parties, and the entire elite Establishment. And if you want to have the necessary instruments to maintain such a state of hegemony, then you must indeed structure your society and economy around war.

Many nations - all vanished now - have done this. The Roman Empire was one. Nazi Germany was another. At great cost to the economic, social and political life of ordinary Germans, Adolf Hitler geared the state to produce the war machine necessary to assert the dominance in world affairs which he felt was Germany's natural right. One of his chief aims was to procure enough "living space" and natural resources in Eastern Europe to compete with America's growing economic might. The Holocaust of European Jews was, for all its horror, just a preliminary to the greater "ethnic cleansing" to come. As historian Adam Tooze reminds us in The Wages of Destruction, the Nazis had drawn up detailed plans for the extermination - by active mass murder and deliberate starvation - of up to 40 million East Europeans.

Today, we all recognize the inhuman madness behind this hegemonic ambition. We shake our heads and say, "Whatever evils we may be accused of, we have never and would never do such a thing." Perhaps. But leaving aside for a moment the millions - millions - of African slaves and Native Americans who died in order to procure the living space and natural resources of North and South America for European peoples, it is clear that most Americans - the elite above all - can easily countenance the deaths of, say, more than one million innocent Iraqis, or upwards of three million Southeast Asians, without any disturbance in their sense of national righteousness, their bedrock belief that the United States has the natural right, even the duty, to assert its hegemony over world affairs.

The mass murder in Iraq, the horrible slaughter in Vietnam and Cambodia, the direct involvement in the massacre of hundreds of thousands of people in Indonesia, Latin America, and the Iran-Iraq War - to name just a few such operations carried out within the last generation - are regarded as actions which, however "mistaken" some might feel them to have been, were undertaken in good faith, to "preserve our way of life" from this or that imminent, overwhelming threat to our very national existence. [Which was, of course, the same reasoning Hitler used to justify his militarism: the urgent need to protect the German people from maniacal, irrational, bloodsworn enemies bent on their total destruction.]

And let us not forget that American war planners also drew up detailed plans involving the extermination of tens of millions of East Europeans in "first strike" nuclear attacks - plans which they often urged national leaders to put into practice. And even today, the constantly asserted vow to keep the nuclear option "on the table" at all times means that every single action or policy toward a "problem" nation carries with it the explicit threat to kill millions of people - to outdo the Holocaust in a matter of minutes.

Can one really look at such plans and attitudes, and at the towering, Everest-like mountain of corpses produced by American polices - just in the last generation - and say that there is not also a form of inhuman madness behind this hegemonic ambition as well? Is this really a system that one can be associated with honorably in any way? What should we think about a person who wants to lead such a system, who wants to take hold of the driving wheel of the war machine, to use it, to expand it, to accept all of its premises, to keep all of its horrific "options" forever on the table, to feed it and gorge it and coddle it and appease it at every turn, while millions of their own people sink further into degradation and diminishment?

Shouldn't someone who knowingly, willingly, eagerly bent all of their energies toward taking power in such a system instantly and irretrievably forfeit our regard and support? Should we really give such a "leader" the benefit of the doubt, cut him some slack, be ready to praise him when he or his government momentarily behaves in a normal, rational or legal manner? Should we grimly insist that he is the only choice we have, that his heart is probably in the right place, and that all we can do is try and cajole him into being "better"?


In the light of these considerations, it is astonishing to see what has been the main reaction of many leading progressive writers to Barack Obama's murderous escalation of the imperial war in Afghanistan and the dirty war in Pakistan. While voicing their "disappointment" with the decision, they have reserved most of their scorn not for the man who has ordered this new tranche of mass death and inhuman suffering, but for those who have accused Obama of "betrayal."

No, that's not a joke. The new progressive line on the escalation seems to be this: "We knew all along he was going to do it, so what's the big deal?"

That has been the chief response from such high-profile progressives as Digby and Joan Walsh. They seem far more worked up about the fact that some people (such as Tom Hayden, Gary Wills, and others) are accusing Obama of "betrayal" than they are about the thousands of innocent people who will die from Obama's decision, and the long-reverberating evil, at home and abroad, this escalation will engender.

Both Digby and Walsh are at great pains to establish how savvy they have been about Obama from the very beginning. For example, Digby writes: "I never had any illusions about where he and most of the other Democrats were headed with the "Good War" narrative. It always ends up the same way." She ridicules Hayden for declaring, during the campaign, that "all American progressives should unite for Barack Obama," and for now being disappointed that the president is not "the second coming of Ghandi, Houdini and Jesus Christ," as Digby scornfully describes Hayden's earlier belief.

Fair enough. It's true that Obama made no secret of his intent to escalate the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and anyone who didn't expect him to do so was being wilfully blind, or naive. On the other hand, what these savvy commentators fail to note is that Obama has already escalated the Af-Pak war, earlier in his term -- an escalation as large as Bush's "surge" in Iraq. And obviously, this effort didn't work; hence the latest "strategic review" that led to Obama's fateful West Point speech. So although Obama did promise to escalate the Af-Pak conflict during the campaign, he did not promise to keep doing it, over and over, even in the face of obvious failure. Thus it is not inherently "silly" or irrational for an Obama supporter like Hayden or Wills to feel betrayed by this second escalation, and by the transparently specious rationales that Obama offered for it.

But let's leave that aside. For the main issue regarding the escalation is not whether Tom Hayden is silly or if he was too gushing or naive in his earlier support of Obama; the main issue is the actual reality of this murderous course. And here, we come to the matter of the progressives' self-proclaimed savviness.

Digby and Walsh and other savvy progressives say they knew all along that Obama was going to embark on a horrific policy which would inevitably result in the needless death of innocent people, the further war-profiteering corruption of our own political system, and the exacerbation of extremism, hatred, strife and destabilization around the world. Yet they still stretched every nerve and sinew exhorting people to vote for him in the presidential election. Indeed, the entire campaign thrust of these savvy, realistic, pragmatic progressives could be summed up in one oddly familiar line: "All American progressives should unite for Barack Obama."

And even as she denigrates Tom Hayden - who at least put his actual body and liberty on the line to oppose an unjust war in Vietnam, taking to the streets in direct action against the state, which then put him on trial as part of the "Chicago Seven" - Digby herself wrings her hands and says we all had no choice but to vote for Obama. There was only him and Hillary, then only him and McCain; what else could we do? Even if we knew - as Digby and Walsh say they knew - that Obama was going to murder people, destabilize the world and continue the Empire's monstrous Terror War, we had no other choice but to vote for him.

No other choice. What else could we do? Aside from the third parties offering alternatives to what Digby calls "a moderate [Democrat] and a doddering right wing fool with his ignoramus running mate," one wonders if our progressives have ever heard of Thoreau -- who, like Hayden, put his actual body and liberty on the line to disassociate himself from a system he regarded as deeply immoral?

In any case, according to our progressives, not only was there no choice but voting for Obama, there is no justification now for criticizing him for doing what we savvy people knew he was going to do. Anyone who, like Hayden and Wills, is now breaking ranks with Obama over Afghanistan is just "having a fit," and being "silly" and "puerile."

No, it seems that the only thing that responsible, savvy progressives can do now is keep faith with the president - keep up our contacts with the Administration, keep our feet "inside the tent," keep our savvy listservs going -- and "push [Obama] to better solutions," as Walsh tells us.

I find all of this remarkable. Again, it's not that Digby, Walsh and others are uncritical of Obama's decision. Walsh declares herself "deeply disappointed, saddened even" by the escalation, and Digby thunders, or rather, sighs, that she wishes "Obama had changed his mind on Afghanistan, and argued for him to do it." She will even "continue to do so" - that is, argue for Obama to change his imperial mind. To argue, appeal, petition, and encourage the leader to better solutions. But obviously there will be none of that civil disobedience stuff that silly-billy Tom Hayden and his ilk pulled in their time.

In fact, Digby seems to slam Hayden directly for the "silliness" of his "behavior" in "his heyday" - that is, when he was taking direct action to try to stop an immoral war. She says of his denunciation of Obama's betrayal: "It's this kind of behavior that has given liberals a bad name since Hayden was in his heyday."

Well, we all need to mind our behavior, of course, just as our parents sternly admonished us. So by all means, let us not be indecorous in our opposition to murder and corruption. Let us not be intemperate in our resistance to evil. And for god's sake, let us not be silly or "have fits" in our dissent against atrocity, deceit and destruction.

I hold no special brief for Tom Hayden, who over the years turned into a standard hack politician, nor do I endorse every point of his new dissent. But if he is using what is left of his notoriety to speak out against this monstrous war and its escalation - for whatever reason, even a baseless sense of "betrayal" - then I say more power to him. What on God's green earth does it matter if someone says they feel "betrayed" by Obama's decision or not? In the light of the death and destruction to come, how could that possibly be important? And how could defending Obama against this charge of betrayal be such a major concern - for people who say they oppose the decision and decry its consequences?

But this is the kind of schizophrenic reaction -- "the president is a murderer/we must vote for the president" -- that is bred by the acceptance of an inhuman system. Thus we see these strange diversions among our leading dissidents ("Silly old Hayden!"), these partisan splittings of infinitesimal hairs ("our guy is 2% less evil than their guy, so we have no choice but to vote for him").

We also see the strange phenomenon, among almost all leading progressives, of leavening criticism of the system with praise for any "constructive" actions or decisions its leaders might produce. For example, Glenn Greenwald recently set out some recommendations on how rational citizens can avoid "the behaviors that turned the Right into a dissent-stifling cult of personality erected around George W. Bush."

Greenwald noted several ways in which right-wing activists muted any ideological or philosophical objections they might have had to a specific Bush policy - his vast expansion of the federal government, for example, which should have been anathema to movement conservatives - and instead rallied blindly around the Leader, no matter what. He then detailed - and rightly condemned - some of the many, many instances when progressive activists have done the same with Obama, and makes the unassailable argument that the justice of a particular cause (public health care, gay rights, torture, civil liberties, etc.) should far outweigh any partisan worries about Obama's political standing.

Most of his recommendations were common sense; their general thrust is somewhat along the lines of an approach examined here on the day after the 2008 election: "WIBDI (What If Bush Did It?): A Prism for the New Paradigm." Or you can even boil it down further, as Bob Dylan did more than 40 years ago in a single memorable phrase: "Don't follow leaders, watch the parking meters."

But at the head of these suggestions, Greenwald puts this:

If Obama takes action or makes a decision that you think is good and constructive, say so and give him credit.

One looks at this and thinks: Why? Why would you want to do that? Why would you want to make a special effort to commend the leaders of the kind of system described above, one which has "fashioned its entire social and economic structure around the preparation for [and ceaseless practice of] war"?

Of course, there is an immediate logic to it. You would do it to establish your credibility, your objectivity, to say, "I'm neither a reflexive Obama-basher nor a swooning cheerleader; I call them as I see them." This in turn would lend more weight to your criticisms of the Administration; when you "hold Obama's feet to the fire" or "push him to better solutions" on this or that issue, your principled dissent can't be dismissed out of hand by the leadership as mere partisan opposition.

And if we were dealing with a different political reality - on a smaller, more human scale, say, with a more equitable distribution of power in society, and a vastly reduced scope (and appetite) for violence, corruption and domination on the part of an unassailable, lawless elite - then perhaps such an approach might do well. But that, alas, is not our reality. We wrestle with a militarized regime whose powers are, as I said in an earlier piece on Thoreau, "so much greater, far more pervasive, more invasive and much more implacable, more inhuman" than the fledgling state our Walden forbear confronted all those years ago. We are dealing with a government that is committing, at every moment - with every breath we take - horrendous crimes against life and liberty, with its murderous wars of aggression and domination, and its ever-spreading authoritarian encroachments.

Again, should we give credit to such a regime, single it out for praise, whenever it happens to behave in a rational manner on one issue or another? After all, functioning governments of every kind do a multitude of worthy things for their people every day. They build roads, lay electric lines and sewer pipes, maintain the food supply, sponsor medical research, facilitate technological developments, adjudicate civil disputes, provide disaster relief, maintain parks and recreation areas, etc., etc. - the list is virtually endless. And this was equally true of, say, Nazi Germany or Stalin's Soviet Union, and other regimes imbued with a crimeful essence. Would you have told a dissident opposing the depredations of Hitler or Stalin or Franco or Tojo or the apartheid regime in South Africa that he or she must always be sure to point out any constructive thing these governments do, and give them credit for it?

This is not a call to ignore reality. The constructive things that governments do are part of their record. But it's important to note two points here. First, we're not talking about making a casual observation when you glance at the paper - "Glad they're not going to prosecute Grandma for that medical marijuana now" - and factoring that into your general knowledge base. Instead, we're talking about the specific context of Greenwald's recommendations, which deal with those who are trying to make active political and moral judgments about government policy, with the ultimate aim of bringing about a reality that is more just, more humane.

Second, and more importantly, we must emphasize again that we are not dealing with an ordinary situation here, with a system whose good and bad elements are roughly equal (or confined to the historical past), allowing one to sit down and weigh this policy against that one, and, then, upon careful reflection, coming to some judicious assessment. No; we are now - and have been for decades - dealing with a situation of the most frantic and dire moral urgency, the "all-day permanent red" of a system whose purpose, structure, meaning and method have become war, with all the hatred, corruption, degeneration and devolution that war brings.

In such an extreme system, all balance is gone; a constructive act here or there cannot offset those mountains of corpses. And its seems a terrible waste of time and energy to divert one's attention from these horrors - and the urgent need to stop them - just to give a few props for a stray good deed or reasonable move here or there.

The latter approach also involves, consciously or unconsciously, to one degree or another, an association with it, in Thoreau's sense. You have, in effect, accepted power on its own terms. You engage deeply with the system in order to "hold Obama's feet to the fire" (while being careful to acknowledge his "constructive" measures) because you believe this will make the system better. But if the system itself is structured to produce the boundless evils of war and domination and injustice, you cannot make it better. You can only, at the very most, mitigate a few of its pernicious effects, for a time, and only at the margins.

This is by no means an unworthy goal; extreme systems force that kind of triage upon us. Raoul Wallenberg could not end the Holocaust; he could only save what was in relative terms a very small number of people at the margins. But who would deny his heroism, and wish that he had not sought such small but deeply meaningful mitigations? Conversely, who among us would have suggested that Wallenberg, in the dire moral urgency of his mission, take time out to give credit to the Nazis for, say, their "Strength Through Joy" recreational programs for ordinary workers, or their remarkable highway system? Or in our time, do we require Shirin Ebadi to praise the Tehran regime for its social housing programs, or Aung San Suu Kyi to give credit to the Burmese generals for building roads or installing storm drains?

Everyone has to make their own accommodations with reality, of course. And to quote the old song-and-dance man once again: "Life is sad, life is a bust;/All you can do is do what you must." I'm not laying down commandments or prescriptions for anybody. But I will say that Thoreau's stance seems more and more to be the only honorable course for an American to take, in whatever way and to whatever degree he or she finds possible.

And I will also say that those who profess their adherence to "progressive" values such as peace, justice, liberty, equality and truth would serve their cause better by focusing on the essential nature of a system that eviscerates those values, and on the actual operations of power, the crimes and atrocities being committed by the actual wielders and servants of power, instead of mocking people for "throwing fits" and being "puerile" when they denounce the system's leaders for leading the nation deeper and deeper into evil.
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

Whence Freedom?
By Case Wagenvoord

It's an interesting question. Why is it that Euroamericans remain so passive as their freedoms are eroded? There is no single answer. Paranoia and anxiety are factors. Our leaders are constantly coming up with new threats, both real and imagined, to keep us on edge. And there is no doubt we are distracted by our toys. As long as you plastic isn't maxed out, you're living the good life, because we all know that freedom is the freedom to chose from cornucopia of consumer goods.

All of the above play a role, but there is one other factor that is rarely considered. Freedom is messy, inefficient, contradictory, disorderly, sometimes brutish and violent, smelly, chaotic, unpredictable and raucous. This is why the corporate state cannot abide it.

Freedom fosters instability, and instability cuts into productivity. Look at how much was lost during the civil rights movement as cities were burned and sit-ins disrupted respectable businesses. Then there was the sex and drugs of the hippies and the disruptions caused by the peace movement.

The sixties taught our oligarchs a valuable lesson-freedom is counterproductive.

This is why freedom has been reduced to an artifact kept locked away, one that is only trotted out when there is a war to be justified.

The erosion of freedom is aided and abetted by the fact that we are raised to accept fastidiousness as the norm. The slightest disruption unnerves us. A dust mote on a dung pile is unnoticed; the same dust mote on the polished lens of a telescope screams for attention.

Freedom often dirties the fingernails, and we prefer to keep ours clean and manicured.

So it is that we dutifully remove our shoes at airport checkpoints and wipe down the handles of our shopping carts with the sanitary wipes our supermarkets supply us with.

Our philosophy is that it's better to be neat than free.
(c) 2009 Case Wagenvoord. Some years ago, Case Wagenvoord turned off the tube and picked up a book. He's been trouble ever since. His articles have been posted at The Smirking Chimp, Countercurrents and Issues & Alibis. When he's not writing or brooding, he is carving hardwood bowls that have been displayed in galleries and shows across the country. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two cats. His book, Open Letters to George W. Bush is available at

Creating Jobs; Yet One More Fantasy
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning America; how are you? You'll be better after a healthy dose of the King of Simple News.

As I was driving down to my shop yesterday, I tuned my radio to a debate on job creation. President Obama just had a little summit with some of his people and instructed them to get hiring fired-up and running like Danica Patrick.

Obama said it's time for banks to start lending and companies to start hiring (I had no idea that this sort of activity was on a time schedule). He faulted American companies for raising productivity with fewer workers. In other words, our President may have a current address of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but his permanent address is 103 Tooth Fairy Lane, Fantasyland, U.S.A.

If the dumber one is regarding basic global capitalism, the further they live down Tooth Fairy Lane, our President lives in the last house.

The fact that productivity is the only thing that keeps Americans in the same ball park with the rest of our so called "world community," apparently represents yet one more subject not taught at Harvard. But then, Mr. Obama has never run a business that wasn't supported by tax dollars, so perhaps we can excuse the delusion. Not.

In the end, whatever hallucination that "Obama and the Fab-535" suffer from; is pretty much irrelevant.

As far as I know, I'm the only person who points out that real jobs can't be created. It's a misnomer. You can't go down to Wal-Mart and buy a box that says, "Jobs, add water and get the heck back." It doesn't work that way. That being said, the government did add 8,000 jobs last month, just like they do every month. So then I hear you say, "That proves jobs really can be created." Remember, I said real jobs.

So if jobs can't be created, where do they come from? In a sane society, jobs materialize to fill real needs. Need a shirt, a pair of pants, some shoes? Jobs materialize to make those items for us. Need some food, water, natural gas? Same scenario. Need an investment banker who makes $100 Million a year or a CEO who makes $200 Million? I didn't think so.

Of course, I did say in a sane society, real jobs materialize to fill real needs. However, since we live in America rather than a sane society, that conclusion would prove to be false. (There are no sane societies because humans are mad as hatters).

Back to the shoes and blouses and things that we need; do they create jobs? Sure they China. No one in America can sit around and make shirts and blouses; they would cost $200 each due to our standard of living and strict government regulations.

To digress for just a moment, there is this thing called balance. If you weigh 125 pounds and you grasp the end of a rope that goes up through a pulley on the 4th floor and your partner then attaches a piano to the other end of the rope and pushes it off the fourth floor while shouting, "Hang on," ..."hang-on" as you may, you're going to the second floor at warp speed at which time you will meet the piano coming down.

Should you manage to weather the collision while still hanging on, you will continue at terminal velocity to the fourth floor. When the piano hits the sidewalk, it will break apart and come off the rope reversing the former balance problem that had propelled you upward, and you will proceed back to the side walk unhampered by a counterbalance (often referred to as gravity). At this point you would land in the debris that was formerly a working piano.

Your condition at this juncture could best be described as "the American Middle Class worker," terribly battered and barely alive. So balance then is an important item in our lives.

To further digress and make a point, I was working for RCA Alaska Communications years ago when one of my co-workers, Ron Odell, said, "They've settled our union contract agreement and I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that we just got a $5.00 per hour raise. The bad news is that we are making so much money now that the company can't afford to have us do anything."

Everyone got a roaring laugh out of Ron's joke, but was it a joke? Can Americans no longer afford to make the things that we need? Does the imbalance between wages and real goods represent the piano and the 125 pound person?

If so, how then is the president going to create jobs? What sort of jobs could be created that would employ the millions of laid off workers and the millions of new workers produced by immigration and positive birth replacement rates?

I leave you with this, "Viable jobs cannot be created by the whims of mortal man to support the fantasy of an exponential growth economy. Real jobs materialize to fill real needs and are limited by resource constraints." ~~~ Mike Folkerth
(c) 2009 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"Veni, Vidi, Visa"
I came, I saw, I shopped
Uncle Ernie after the battle of the Mall 2004 CE

Liberals Are Useless
By Chris Hedges

Liberals are a useless lot. They talk about peace and do nothing to challenge our permanent war economy. They claim to support the working class, and vote for candidates that glibly defend the North American Free Trade Agreement. They insist they believe in welfare, the right to organize, universal health care and a host of other socially progressive causes, and will not risk stepping out of the mainstream to fight for them. The only talent they seem to possess is the ability to write abject, cloying letters to Barack Obama-as if he reads them-asking the president to come back to his "true" self. This sterile moral posturing, which is not only useless but humiliating, has made America's liberal class an object of public derision.

I am not disappointed in Obama. I don't feel betrayed. I don't wonder when he is going to be Obama. I did not vote for the man. I vote socialist, which in my case meant Ralph Nader, but could have meant Cynthia McKinney. How can an organization with the oxymoronic title Progressives for Obama even exist? Liberal groups like these make political satire obsolete. Obama was and is a brand. He is a product of the Chicago political machine. He has been skillfully packaged as the new face of the corporate state. I don't dislike Obama-I would much rather listen to him than his smug and venal predecessor-though I expected nothing but a continuation of the corporate rape of the country. And that is what he has delivered.

"You have a tug of war with one side pulling," Ralph Nader told me when we met Saturday afternoon. "The corporate interests pull on the Democratic Party the way they pull on the Republican Party. If you are a 'least-worst' voter you don't want to disturb John Kerry on the war, so you call off the anti-war demonstrations in 2004. You don't want to disturb Obama because McCain is worse. And every four years both parties get worse. There is no pull. That is the dilemma of The Nation and The Progressive and other similar publications. There is no breaking point. What is the breaking point? The criminal war of aggression in Iraq? The escalation of the war in Afghanistan? Forty-five thousand people dying a year because they can't afford health insurance? The hollowing out of communities and sending the jobs to fascist and communist regimes overseas that know how to put the workers in their place? There is no breaking point. And when there is no breaking point you do not have a moral compass."

I save my anger for our bankrupt liberal intelligentsia of which, sadly, I guess I am a member. Liberals are the defeated, self-absorbed Mouse Man in Dostoevsky's "Notes From Underground." They embrace cynicism, a cloak for their cowardice and impotence. They, like Dostoevsky's depraved character, have come to believe that the "conscious inertia" of the underground surpasses all other forms of existence. They too use inaction and empty moral posturing, not to affect change but to engage in an orgy of self-adulation and self-pity. They too refuse to act or engage with anyone not cowering in the underground. This choice does not satisfy the Mouse Man, as it does not satisfy our liberal class, but neither has the strength to change. The gravest danger we face as a nation is not from the far right, although it may well inherit power, but from a bankrupt liberal class that has lost the will to fight and the moral courage to stand up for what it espouses.

Anyone who says he or she cares about the working class in this country should have walked out on the Democratic Party in 1994 with the passage of NAFTA. And it has only been downhill since. If welfare reform, the 1999 Financial Services Modernization Act, which gutted the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act-designed to prevent the kind of banking crisis we are now undergoing-and the craven decision by the Democratic Congress to continue to fund and expand our imperial wars were not enough to make you revolt, how about the refusal to restore habeas corpus, end torture in our offshore penal colonies, abolish George W. Bush's secrecy laws or halt the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of American citizens? The imperial projects and the corporate state have not altered under Obama. The state kills as ruthlessly and indiscriminately in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as it did under Bush. It steals from the U.S. treasury as rapaciously to enrich the corporate elite. It, too, bows before the conservative Israel lobby, refuses to enact serious environmental or health care reform, regulate Wall Street, end our relationship with private mercenary contractors or stop handing obscene sums of money, some $1 trillion a year, to the military and arms industry. At what point do we stop being a doormat? At what point do we fight back? We may lose if we step outside the mainstream, but at least we will salvage our self-esteem and integrity.

I learned to dislike liberals when I lived in Roxbury, the inner-city in Boston, as a seminary student at Harvard Divinity School. I commuted into Cambridge to hear professors and students talk about empowering people they never met. It was the time of the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Spending two weeks picking coffee in that country and then coming back and talking about it for the rest of the semester was the best way to "credentialize" yourself as a revolutionary. But few of these "revolutionaries" found the time to spend 20 minutes on the Green Line to see where human beings in their own city were being warehoused little better than animals. They liked the poor, but they did not like the smell of the poor. It was a lesson I never forgot.

I was also at the time a member of the Greater Boston YMCA boxing team. We fought on Saturday nights for $25 in arenas in working-class neighborhoods like Charlestown. My closest friends were construction workers and pot washers. They worked hard. They believed in unions. They wanted a better life, which few of them ever got. We used to run five miles after our nightly training, passing through the Mission Main and Mission Extension Housing Projects, and they would joke, "I hope we get mugged." They knew precisely what to do with people who abused them. They may not have been liberal, they may not have finished high school, but they were far more grounded than most of those I studied with across the Charles River. They would have felt awkward, and would have been made to feel awkward, at the little gatherings of progressive and liberal intellectuals at Harvard, but you could trust and rely on them.

I went on to spend two decades as a war correspondent. The qualities inherent in good soldiers or Marines, like the qualities I found among those boxers, are qualities I admire-self-sacrifice, courage, the ability to make decisions under stress, the capacity to endure physical discomfort, and a fierce loyalty to those around you, even if it puts you in greater danger. If liberals had even a bit of their fortitude we could have avoided this mess. But they don't. So here we are again, begging Obama to be Obama. He is Obama. Obama is not the problem. We are.
(c) 2009 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

Present At The Destruction
By David Michael Green

Everybody has a different role to play at a funeral, I guess.

There's the sobby, hysterical, "He's not really dead, everything's just like it used to be!", kinda guy. Think of Reagan or Lil' Bush, desperately trying to resurrect the America of 1955.

There's the chummy, cavalier, "Hey, no worries - I bet they'll be serving some great booze at the wake!", sorta dude. Think of Wild Bill Clinton, with his shades and sax, playing Arsenio.

There's the little kid, more or less completely baffled by the whole life and death thing. Think every Republican voter in America.

And then there's the undertaker. All he's worried about is making sure that the corpse gets removed from the building before it stinks up the joint so bad somebody shuts him down and he loses his job. Think of Barack Obama.

I certainly was the other night, as he gave his Afghanistan speech.

So this is what it feels like to watch an empire fall, eh? This is what it looks like when Goliath goes boom? Ouch. I guess if there's a silver lining, at least we can all say we saw it first hand. We were present at the destruction.

It shows up in economic policy, where a country that was once a dynamo is now an ossified feeding trough, unable to dislodge the gorging pigs from the table, even as they've been gnawing like termites on the wood itself for two or three decades now, and the whole thing is getting ready to splinter into rubble.

It shows up in environmental policy, where the superpower that once pioneered big ideas like democracy, human rights and civil liberties now leads the way toward planetary suicide - lest, alternatively, anyone should lose a nickel or two off their standard of living in the short term.

It shows up in everything from education to prisons to the military to mortgages, where we've become expert at producing nothing, while commodifying and exploiting everything.

It shows up in the national spirit, where no one will sacrifice anything for anyone, where politics has become war for personal spoils, and where we socialize our children to aspire to no higher value than raw aggrandizement and reality TV (an oxymoron if ever there was).

And it was all over Obama's speech on Afghanistan this week, the central theme of which was marketing as a plan for victory what was really a superpower withdrawal in the face of defeat.

Or so it would seem. To be fair, I must admit that I find the Afghanistan question vexing.

I loathe the Taliban, for instance, and they will pretty clearly rule the country again once the US is gone, as they substantially do already. And yet there are many governments in this world I loathe (including, all too often, my own), and it is neither appropriate nor possible for the United States military to be running around replacing those. Nor would I likely be enamored of the replacements, anyhow, which is exactly what the Karzai government is in Afghanistan.

I also don't think it's wise to return al Qaeda to having a free run in Afghanistan. But then I recognize that they essentially have that in Pakistan, and that they're also located in dozens of other countries.

I think more soldiers are necessary to have a chance at establishing non-Taliban security in Afghanistan. But I also suspect that, in another way, every added pair of boots on the ground makes it harder, not easier, to achieve that same goal.

And so on. I could go on, but the short version is that finding the right course for US policy on Afghanistan is a lot harder than for, say, healthcare policy or Wall Street regulation or stem cell research.

If we take Obama at face value (a level of trust which may no longer be at all appropriate given the ugly first year of his presidency), he is adopting a strategy for Afghanistan which rejects three highly unpalatable alternatives. He does not want to maintain the rapidly deteriorating status quo. He does not want to go all-in for a multi-decade, narrowly-focused, military commitment that would further wreck America's national security condition in exchange for also further wrecking our fiscal condition. And he does not want to simply walk away from Afghanistan tomorrow, giving the keys to the country to the Taliban and al Qaeda.

I find it hard to disagree with any of those positions. And I even find his alternative solution - an attempt to hand over the Afghan war to the Afghans - to be an almost compelling choice, but only as the least worst option of all that are on the table, and only potentially so. If this choice actually has no hope of working, and if it only means postponing the inevitable, then of course it would be better to withdraw now. That may well be the case.

Obama is essentially trying to replicate in Afghanistan the Iraqi model, which is essentially trying to replicate in Iraq the model of Vietnamization of the Vietnam War. Let's give credit where credit is due: His West Point speech was the most honest (which is not the same as saying fully honest) and mature rendering of American foreign policy history and challenges uttered in the United States in a very long time. But what he didn't mention is that Vietnamization never worked, and that the essential step of the equivalent program in Iraq has yet to be implemented and yet to be tested.

Here's what he said about Iraq: "Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end. We will remove our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next summer, and all of our troops by the end of 2011. That we are doing so is a testament to the character of our men and women in uniform. Thanks to their courage, grit and perseverance, we have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people."

Notice the emphasis on extraordinary costs. Notice the emphasis on ending the war 'responsibly', but also clearly on ending it. Notice the de rigeur political cover taken by a president wrapping himself in the bravery of the military. And notice, especially, the redefinition of success in Iraq down to a mere giving of a chance to Iraqis to shape their future (leaving aside the enormous costs the Iraqis have had to pay for that chance, and the many ways in which American actions have actually diminished the probability of succeeding as we go forward). We may be "successfully leaving Iraq", but that isn't necessarily the same as leaving Iraq successfully.

We should also notice, as well, that the probability for success in Iraq is a lot higher - which is not to say high - than in Afghanistan, an impoverished tribal landscape ('country' is probably too strong a word) right out of the thirteenth century, if not the third, and now ruled by an incompetent, corrupt, much loathed and much distrusted dictator (for what other word is there to describe a ruler who steals power through rigged elections?).

The fundamental two problems with the Obama strategy for Afghanistan may well show themselves earlier in Iraq, perhaps even next year. First, imagine you are a nationalist fighter whose goal is to seize power from the occupying power. Why fight today to eject the Americans, when they've already announced they're leaving tomorrow? And you can bet they won't be coming back, either, no matter what happens.

And second, imagine instead you're the leader of a faction bent on crushing another faction within your country. Again, why engage in fighting today when the Americans will get in your way, if you can simply wait another year or two for them to leave?

The first scenario presumes a fairly unified national resistance to an occupying power. That's likely to be Afghanistan, with the Taliban seizing control of the country again. The second scenario envisions a deeply divided country kept from civil war only by the power of a dictator or an occupying army. That may well be Iraq.

Either way, the operative principle is that an America that cannot afford to stay forever in these places merely postpones the denouement of the conflict by its continued presence in the short term.

Addressing critics of his policy in his West Point speech, the president noted that, "there are those who oppose identifying a time-frame for our transition to Afghan responsibility. Indeed, some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort - one that would commit us to a nation building-project of up to a decade. I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what we can achieve at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests."

But, of course, the scenario unmentioned in his speech, and yet probably the most likely, is the one where his arguments about necessity and affordability clash. What happens when we can no longer afford, per Obama, the necessity to guarantee American security from a (potentially even nuclear) attack, also per Obama?

My guess is the very tangible affordability imperative defeats the potential danger consideration, and the US simply leaves. That's when we join other former hegemons on the sad road headed south, including those who died in that "graveyard of empires", Afghanistan.

I'd be pretty surprised if that's not America's destiny. It's still possible that we can pull it out, but all the trend lines are going the wrong way. Our fiscal health is hemorrhaging badly. Our relations with others are violently adolescent. Our environmental condition is suicidal. Worst of all, our political sophistication is rapidly moving from diminished to deprived to deluded. We can no longer identify the worst of our enemies. Indeed, we've gotten in the habit of electing them president. And the only sense in which our so-called opposition party to the nastiest predators in our midst remotely justifies the moniker is in its complete opposition to anything that smacks of boldness.

And there we go. Maybe someone's been messing with all my clocks, but the American Century sure did seem short, as centuries go. It was more like a third-of-a-century, and American influence wasn't even uncontested during that time. Not only was America's much vaunted power during this era a lot more vaunted than it was much, it is now headed toward being neither.

Pity. It didn't have to be this way. This was suicide by stupidity. Death by a thousand nuts.

Or maybe it isn't such a pity. The American empire truly made some contributions to the world, but it's also truly a legitimate question as to whether those outweigh the destruction wrought.

It's fair to say that ours was a more benevolent empire than those of the past, but that is not necessarily to say that it was benevolent.

It may even be the case that we've been better at it that the Chinese will be.

But something tells me that we still won't be missed a lot.
(c) 2009 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Corpo-rat clown Ben Nelson

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer Nelson,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, your amendment forcing poor women to use coat hangers on themselves to end an unwanted pregnancy, which will soon get the poor off the street and out of slums and into their graves where they belong. This will provide us with much needed cash to keep our endless wars going on in, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan not to mention those many other profitable oil wars to come! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Demoncratic Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross first class with diamonds clusters, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 12-31-2009. We salute you Herr Nelson, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

A New Report Questions "Suicides" At Guantanamo
By Glenn Greenwald

On the night of June 10, 2006, three Guantanamo detainees were found dead in their individual cells. Without any autopsy or investigation, U.S. military officials proclaimed "suicide by hanging" as the cause of each death, and immediately sought to exploit the episode as proof of the evil of the detainees. Admiral Harry Harris, the camp's commander, said it showed "they have no regard for life" and that the suicides were "not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetric warfare aimed at us here at Guantanamo"; another official anonymously said that the suicides showed the victims were "committed jihadists [who] will do anything they can to advance their cause," while another sneered that "it was a good PR move to draw attention."

Questions immediately arose about how it could be possible that three detainees kept in isolation and under constant and intense monitoring could have coordinated and then carried out group suicide without detection, particularly since the military claimed their bodies were not found for over two hours after their deaths. But from the beginning, there was a clear attempt on the part of Guantanamo officials to prevent any outside investigation of this incident. To allay the questions that quickly emerged, the military announced it would conduct a sweeping investigation and publicly release its finding, but it did not do so until more than two years later when -- in August, 2008 -- it released a heavily redacted reported purporting to confirm suicide by hanging as the cause. Two of the three dead detainees were Saudis and one was Yemeni; they had been detained for years without charges; one of them was 17 years old at the time he was detained and 22 when he died; and they had participated in several of the hunger strikes at the camp to protest the brutality, torture and abuse to which they were routinely subjected. Perversely, one of the three victims had been cleared for release earlier that month.

A major new report from Seton Hall University School of Law released this morning raises serious doubts about both the military's version of events and the reliability of its investigation. The Report details that the three men "died under questionable circumstances"; that "the investigation into their deaths resulted in more questions than answers"; and that "without a proper investigation, it is impossible to determine the circumstances of the three detainees' deaths." The 54-page, heavily-documented Report raises numerous troubling questions, as illustrated by these:

There is one way that a meaningful investigation could be conducted into what happened to these three detainees: a lawsuit filed in federal court by the parents of two of the detainees against various Bush officials for the torture and deaths of their sons -- who had never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any wrongdoing (indeed, one had been cleared for release). By itself, discovery in that lawsuit would shed critical light on what was done to these detainees and what caused their deaths.

The problem, however, is that the Obama DOJ has been using every Bush tactic -- and inventing whole new ones -- to block the lawsuit from proceeding. As The Washington Independent's Daphne Eviatar detailed in October, "the Obama administration has surprisingly endorsed the same legal positions as its predecessor, insisting that there is no constitutional right to humane treatment by U.S. authorities outside the United States, and that victims of torture and abuse and their survivors have no right to compensation or even an acknowledgment of what occurred." As Eviatar wrote about the Obama position, which -- among other things -- invokes the Military Commissions Act to argue that Congress stripped federal courts of jurisdiction to hear even Constitutional claims from Gitmo detainees:

The Obama administration is insisting, however, that Congress had the power to eliminate judicial review of these claims. It also argues that the Defense Department officials are immune from suit, because, as the Bush Justice Department argued in previous cases, it wasn't clear at the time that detainees had a right not to be tortured by U.S. officials at Guantanamo. They therefore have "qualified immunity" from suit.

But the Justice Department goes further than that. Under President Obama, the government is arguing not only that it wasn't clear what rights detainees were entitled to back in 2006, but that even today the prisoners have no right to such basic constitutional protections as due process of law or the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The "Fifth and Eighth Amendments do not extend to Guantánamo Bay detainees," writes the Justice Department in its brief.

And, the government argues, the courts should not imply a right to sue under the Constitution, in part because that could lead to "embarrassment of our government abroad."

Ultimately, the Obama administration is arguing, victims of torture at a U.S.-run detention center abroad have no right to redress from the federal government. Only the military can take action in such cases, by disciplining military officers for abuse of prisoners.

In fact, the Brief filed by the Obama DOJ demanding dismissal of the case explicitly argues -- in classic Bush/Cheney fashion -- that merely allowing discovery in this case to determine what was done to these detainees would help the Terrorists kill us all:

All of this is depressingly consistent with multiple other cases in which the Obama DOJ is attempting aggressively to shield even the most illegal and allegedly discontinued Bush programs from judicial review. Time and again, the most radical Bush claims of executive power, immunity and secrecy (ones Democrats and even Obama frequently condemned) are invoked to insist that federal courts have no right to adjudicate claims that the Government violated the Constitution and the law. As Harper's Scott Horton documented over the weekend, a new filing by the Obama DOJ in defense of John Yoo is "seeking to make absolute the immunity granted Justice Department lawyers who counsel torture, disappearings, and other crimes against humanity." In other words, as we lecture the world about the need for them to apply the rule of law and hold war criminals accountable, we simultaneously proclaim about ourselves:

We can kidnap your sons from anywhere in the world, far away from any "battlefield," ship them thousands of miles away to an island-prison, abuse and torture them mercilessly, and when we either drive them to suicide or kill them, you have no right to any legal remedy or even any recourse to find out what happened.

As Horton writes, the claim that government officials enjoy a virtually impenetrable shield of immunity even in the commission of war crimes "has emerged as a sort of ignoble mantra for the Justice Department, uniting both the Bush and Obama administrations." Indeed, that is the common strain of virtually every act undertaken by the Obama DOJ with regard to our government's war crimes and other felonies, from torture to renditions to illegal eavesdropping.

With revelations of serious, recent abuse at an ongoing "black site" prison in Afghanistan, serious questions have been raised about the extent to which detainee abuse has actually been curbed under Obama. But there's no question that the single greatest impediment to disclosure and accountability for past abuses is the Obama Justice Department, which has repeatedly gone far beyond the call of duty in its attempt to protect Bush war crimes and other illegal acts. This new Seton Hall Report regarding these three detainees deaths illustrates not only how perverse and unjust, but also how futile, such efforts are. War crimes never stay hidden, and the only question from the start was whether the Obama DOJ would be complicit in the attempt to shield them from disclosure. That question has now been answered rather decisively.

UPDATE: Scott Horton has an interview with Law Professor Mark Denbeaux, the primary author of the report, in which he elaborates on why the military's claims and "investigation" are so suspect.
(c) 2009 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

Not So Pretty In Pink
The Uproar Over New Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines
By Barbara Ehrenreich

Has feminism been replaced by the pink-ribbon breast cancer cult? When the House of Representatives passed the Stupak amendment, which would take abortion rights away even from women who have private insurance, the female response ranged from muted to inaudible.

A few weeks later, when the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommended that regular screening mammography not start until age 50, all hell broke loose. Sheryl Crow, Whoopi Goldberg, and Olivia Newton-John raised their voices in protest; a few dozen non-boldface women picketed the Department of Health and Human Services. If you didn't look too closely, it almost seemed as if the women's health movement of the 1970s and 1980s had returned in full force.

Never mind that Dr. Susan Love, author of what the New York Times dubbed "the bible for women with breast cancer," endorses the new guidelines along with leading women's health groups like Breast Cancer Action, the National Breast Cancer Coalition, and the National Women's Health Network (NWHN). For years, these groups have been warning about the excessive use of screening mammography in the U.S., which carries its own dangers and leads to no detectible lowering of breast cancer mortality relative to less mammogram-happy nations.

Nonetheless, on CNN last week, we had the unsettling spectacle of NWHN director and noted women's health advocate Cindy Pearson speaking out for the new guidelines, while ordinary women lined up to attribute their survival from the disease to mammography. Once upon a time, grassroots women challenged the establishment by figuratively burning their bras. Now, in some masochistic perversion of feminism, they are raising their voices to yell, "Squeeze our tits!"

When the Stupak anti-choice amendment passed, and so entered the health reform bill, no congressional representative stood up on the floor of the House to recount how access to abortion had saved her life or her family's well-being. And where were the tea-baggers when we needed them? If anything represents the true danger of "government involvement" in health care, it's a health reform bill that - if the Senate enacts something similar -- will snatch away all but the wealthiest women's right to choose.

It's not just that abortion is deemed a morally trickier issue than mammography. To some extent, pink-ribbon culture has replaced feminism as a focus of female identity and solidarity. When a corporation wants to signal that it's "woman friendly," what does it do? It stamps a pink ribbon on its widget and proclaims that some miniscule portion of the profits will go to breast cancer research. I've even seen a bottle of Shiraz called "Hope" with a pink ribbon on its label, but no information, alas, on how much you have to drink to achieve the promised effect. When Laura Bush traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2007, what grave issue did she take up with the locals? Not women's rights (to drive, to go outside without a man, etc.), but "breast cancer awareness." In the post-feminist United States, issues like rape, domestic violence, and unwanted pregnancy seem to be too edgy for much public discussion, but breast cancer is all apple pie.

So welcome to the Women's Movement 2.0: Instead of the proud female symbol -- a circle on top of a cross -- we have a droopy ribbon. Instead of embracing the full spectrum of human colors -- black, brown, red, yellow, and white -- we stick to princess pink. While we used to march in protest against sexist laws and practices, now we race or walk "for the cure." And while we once sought full "consciousness" of all that oppresses us, now we're content to achieve "awareness," which has come to mean one thing -- dutifully baring our breasts for the annual mammogram.

Look, the issue here isn't health-care costs. If the current levels of screening mammography demonstrably saved lives, I would say go for it, and damn the expense. But the numbers are increasingly insistent: Routine mammographic screening of women under 50 does not reduce breast cancer mortality in that group, nor do older women necessarily need an annual mammogram. In fact, the whole dogma about "early detection" is shaky, as Susan Love reminds us: the idea has been to catch cancers early, when they're still small, but some tiny cancers are viciously aggressive, and some large ones aren't going anywhere.

One response to the new guidelines has been that numbers don't matter -- only individuals do -- and if just one life is saved, that's good enough. So OK, let me cite my own individual experience. In 2000, at the age of 59, I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer on the basis of one dubious mammogram followed by a really bad one, followed by a biopsy. Maybe I should be grateful that the cancer was detected in time, but the truth is, I'm not sure whether these mammograms detected the tumor or, along with many earlier ones, contributed to it: One known environmental cause of breast cancer is radiation, in amounts easily accumulated through regular mammography.

And why was I bothering with this mammogram in the first place? I had long ago made the decision not to spend my golden years undergoing cancer surveillance, but I wanted to get my Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) prescription renewed, and the nurse practitioner wouldn't do that without a fresh mammogram.

As for the HRT, I was taking it because I had been convinced, by the prevailing medical propaganda, that HRT helps prevent heart disease and Alzheimer's. In 2002, we found out that HRT is itself a risk factor for breast cancer (as well as being ineffective at warding off heart disease and Alzheimer's), but we didn't know that in 2000. So did I get breast cancer because of the HRT -- and possibly because of the mammograms themselves -- or did HRT lead to the detection of a cancer I would have gotten anyway?

I don't know, but I do know that that biopsy was followed by the worst six months of my life, spent bald and barfing my way through chemotherapy. This is what's at stake here: Not only the possibility that some women may die because their cancers go undetected, but that many others will lose months or years of their lives to debilitating and possibly unnecessary treatments.

You don't have to be suffering from "chemobrain" (chemotherapy-induced cognitive decline) to discern evil, iatrogenic, profit-driven forces at work here. In a recent column on the new guidelines, patient-advocate Naomi Freundlich raises the possibility that "entrenched interests -- in screening, surgery, chemotherapy and other treatments associated with diagnosing more and more cancers -- are impeding scientific evidence." I am particularly suspicious of the oncologists, who saw their incomes soar starting in the late 80s when they began administering and selling chemotherapy drugs themselves in their ghastly, pink-themed, "chemotherapy suites." Mammograms recruit women into chemotherapy, and of course, the pink-ribbon cult recruits women into mammography.

What we really need is a new women's health movement, one that's sharp and skeptical enough to ask all the hard questions: What are the environmental (or possibly life-style) causes of the breast cancer epidemic? Why are existing treatments like chemotherapy so toxic and heavy-handed? And, if the old narrative of cancer's progression from "early" to "late" stages no longer holds, what is the course of this disease (or diseases)? What we don't need, no matter how pretty and pink, is a ladies' auxiliary to the cancer-industrial complex.
(c) 2009 Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of seventeen books, including the New York Times bestseller
Nickel and Dimed. Her seventeenth book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America (Metropolitan Books), has just been published.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Steve Greenberg ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer
By Elmo & Patsy

Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walkin' home from our house Christmas eve.
You can say there's no such thing as Santa.
But as for me and Grandpa, we believe.

She'd been drinkin' too much egg nog.
And we'd begged her not to go.
But she'd forgot her medication,
And she staggered out the door into the snow.

When we found her Christmas mornin,'
At the scene of the attack.
She had hoof prints on her forehead,
And incriminatin' Claus marks on her back.

Grandma got run over by a reindeer,
Walkin' home from our house Christmas eve.
You can say there's no such thing as Santa,
But as for me and Grandpa, we believe.

Now were all so proud of Grandpa.
He's been takin' this so well.
See him in there watchin' football,
Drinkin' beer and playin' cards with cousin Belle.

It's not Christmas without Grandma.
All the family dressed in black.
And we just can't help but wonder:
Should we open up her gifts or send them back?
(Send them back!)

Grandma got run over by a reindeer,
Walkin' home from our house Christmas eve.
You can say there's no such thing as Santa,
But as for me and Grandpa, we believe.

Now the goose is on the table.
And the pudding made of fig.
And a blue and silver candle,
That would just have matched the hair in Grandma's wig.

I've warned all my friends and neighbors.
"Better watch out for yourselves."
They should never give a license,
To a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves.

Grandma got run over by a reindeer,
Walkin' home from our house, Christmas eve.
You can say there's no such thing as Santa,
But as for me and Grandpa, we believe.
(Sing it Grandpa)

Grandma got run over by a reindeer,
Walkin' home from our house, Christmas eve.
You can say there's no such thing as Santa,
But as for me and Grandpa, we believe.

Merry Christmas
(c) 1978/2009 Randy Brooks

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

The War On Christmas!

War On Christmas Casualty Report:
Angry Mob of Baptist Children Attack Santa Claus Outside Local Mall!

Keeping the Christ in Christmas!

Freehold Iowa - Dick Dawkins, an unrepentant Atheist and local troublemaker is hospitalized and remains in not-critical-enough condition at the Landover Baptist Memorial Hospital for the Saved. Earlier this week, Dawkins thought he'd have a little fun at the expense of Christian sensitivity by dressing up as a pagan pedophile ("Santa Claus") and undermining the Jesusness of the cutthroat sale-searching going on at the Landover Baptist Shopping Mall.

"Santa ended up with a red butt full of lead before he made it halfway through the parking lot," Pastor Deacon Fred told reporters. "He also got himself two black eyes that made him look more like Frosty the Snowman than Lucifer's gift-giving ambassador here on Earth!" As an annual precaution, Baptist Security officers and deputized Deacons are armed with shotguns, pepper spray and bullwhips, and stationed at each mall entranceway during the Christmas season. As usual, they all had orders to shoot Santa Claus on sight. Because of the 4-minute spray of bullets that downed the entire shoe department at JC Penny's last year, Pastor and Kay Jewelry salesmen Harold Pinkler had instructed mall security, 'Don't fire until you see the whites of his furry cuffs!' But thanks to the Godly efforts of our Baptist Junior High School students and and three young members of our Tots-4-Jesus Prayer Squad who were out putting, Jesus is the Reason for the Season flyers on car windows in the mall parking lot, Santa Claus' feeble attempt to spoil Christmas for True Christians(tm) ended on the tarmac outside the east wing of the Freehold, Iowa Baptist Mall. Praise God, who knows how many happy, Christian sweater shoppers' lives were saved by trying to kill Santa out in the parking lot this year!"

Dozens of Christian children from a Junior High Sunday School class were awarded the Landover Baptist Medal of Convenient Christian Service during last weekend's morning worship after risking their lives and a game of hockey to save the true meaning of Christmas. "Each of these children tell me they acted instinctively out of Godly concern as soon as they saw that fat red demon squeeze out of his VW Bug which was plastered with vile 'Obama '08' and 'Peace on Earth' bumper stickers," Pastor told parishioners on Sunday. "One boy tells me heard the voice of Jesus inside his heart whispering, 'There he is, Billy! There be the demon, Santa... My Nemesis. Creep softly My son... and make not a sound as you do My bidding. I live within you and My strength will guide you... NOW, GET THAT DANG FAT OLD DEMON! and Kill! Kill! KILL!'"

"Our precious Christian children snuck up behind Santa Claus and beat him unconscious," said Pastor Deacon Fred. "Then they held him down while Billy pumped a few rounds into his enormous behind. When ambulances arrived almost two hours later, a crowd of cheering church members along with the entire Landover Baptist Junior High Youth Group had already shown up. I'm told that each of them had a Godly opportunity to kick and spit on that old devil."

Billy Henshaw recalls, "When we had Santa down, I called everyone I knew on my cell phone and told them all, 'Get down here as fast as you can if you want to get a punch in on this pagan troll before the ambulance shows up! I then used my phone to take photos of his wiener with that devil cap of his on it. You can see a bunch more photos of that sack of Jesus hating crap all half dead and stuff posted on my Facebook page! Just send me a tell and I'll send you the link." There were also several unsaved children, still angry about being tricked into good behavior who were happy for the opportunity to take a few spirited whacks at the man who had falsely promised them iPods and Playstations last year.

Santa Claus remains in critical condition on a gurney outside the loading dock at Landover Baptist Memorial Hospital for the Saved. "We don't have him on life support or anything, he's just got some bruised ribs, a bloody rear end, two black eyes, and it sounds like he's having a real rough time breathing that invigorating 18-degree air out there," says Creation Scientist, Dr. Jonathan Edwards. "We're just gonna hold him here for a week or two till someone from the ACLU gets here to pick him up or the sanitation people cart him off in one of their smelly trucks."

The Landover Baptist Church teaches Tots-4-Jesus that Santa's belly is fat because it is filled with the bodies of the little Christian boys and girls he kidnaps through their chimneys and feasts upon with his demonic elves in his hellish lair in the North Pole. "Thanks to True Christian(tm) learnings, a set of Republican values are instilled into the hearts and minds of our Christian children at a very early age," says Pastor Deacon Fred. "That is, the message of Jesus' love is what this month is all about -- and we are willing to crack some skulls to keep it that way! A-men?These kiddies' spontaneous show of Christmas spirit is a demonstration that our conservative teachings and values work! Praise God! And let this be a lesson to all you parents out there who are tempted to forget the Christmas story by writing 'From Santa' and not 'From Jesus' on presents: A smelly manger in Bethlehem would seem like the Ritz-Carlton compared to a rat-infested, Iowa hospital loading dock in the dead of winter, my friends!"
(c) 2009 The Landover Baptist Church

The Gross National Debt

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Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 46(c) 12/11/2009

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