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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky explores, "The Charade Of Israeli-Palestinian Talks."

Uri Avnery looks forward to, "A General Overhaul."

Phil Rockstroh with a must read and a must see, "A Zoo Of Our Own Making."

Randall Amster reads, "The Blog Of War."

Jim Hightower unclovers, "Concerned And Conscientious Wall Street Bankers."

James Donahue says, "Cut The Deficit – Stop The Big Business Of Running America’s Prisons."

Joel S. Herschhorn considers, "Hacktivism For Cyber Democracy."

Andrew Cohen finds, "Federal Judge Strikes Down Mandated Health Coverage."

Chris Floyd sees, "Spooky Action At A Distance."

Matthew Rothschild report's, "Judge’s Decision On Health Insurance Shows Why Medicare For All Is The Solution."

Paul Krugman demands we, "Block Those Metaphors."

Chris Hedges reminds us that, "No Act Of Rebellion Is Wasted."

David Michael Green examines, "The Assassination Of America By The Coward Barack Obama."

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Anthony Nutter wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

William Rivers Pitt goes, "Back To Basics."

Sheila Samples exclaims, "Hey, American People!"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion discovers, "New Evidence Proves First Flag Made By Betsy Ross Actually Shirt For Gay Friend" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "The Cave Man Caves Again."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of David Fitzsimmons, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, John Sherffius, Destonio.Net, Angela Tyler-Rockstroh, Signe Wilkinson, Mr. Fish, Peter Dejong, Paul Fell, Khalil Bendib.Com, The Onion, Warner Brothers and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

The Cave Man Caves Again
By Ernest Stewart

"I hope to elicit ideas from these business leaders that will help us not only climb out of recession, but seize the promise of this moment." ~~~ President Barack Obama

"Brains, you know, are suspect in the Republican Party." ~~~ Walter Lippmann

"While this case raises a host of complex constitutional issues, all seem to distill to the single question of whether or not Congress has the power to regulate and tax a citizen's decisions not to participate in interstate commerce." ~~~ (Men.op. 2, Aug 2, 2010, ECF No. 84.)

It's always something, there's always something going wrong
That's the only guarantee, that's what this is all about!
Life Is A Lemon ~~~ Meat Loaf

Well it's about time. The Cave Man has finally come out of the closet and dropped his guise as a mild mannered liberal to proclaim himself the corpo-rat tool that we knew he always was! It was obvious to me back in 2007 when the Cave Man crossed my radar that he was just another corpo-rat tool. It was easy to see with his voting record in the Senate alone that he was no man of the people and the more one dug into his life, the clearer that fact became.

With Grandma, Grandpa, Mom and Dad all being CIA operatives and Grandma a CIA banker, it's not surprising he turned out the way he did and it's interesting to note that with the CIA's help three out of four of the last presidents were CIA/Corpo-rat stooges. You may recall that the CIA was set up after WWII to look out after business interests, not the people's interests, but American business interests around the world and haven't they done a splendid job of that?

Perhaps Cave Man is the wrong sobriquet for the President? After all, in order to Cave one must have some opposition to one's final stance. As far as I can tell, Obama has never really caved; he has only pretended to take a stand on something, while all along he worked behind the scenes to do just the opposite. For example, on his stand on the telecoms' treason, he railed against it, until the vote when he totally changed his position and muttered something about this was the best deal he could get, which, of course, was total BS! Just like Dennis Kucinich or Alan Grayson did for Obama Care.

Now, in addition to giving the rich the trilion dollar tax cuts his pals on the right want, he has thrown away any pretense of working for us and now publicly embraces big business. If you were wondering who was going to pick up the tab for this trillion dollar boondoggle, he spoke of making a firmer stand in Washington about "fiscal discipline, an area where Congress and White House have long made promises but had trouble keeping them." In other words by stealing from the poor, the old and the sick. So much for that third rail theory of touching Medicare or Social Security! The President's move to the far, far right pretty much spells doom for us all and even bigger profits for our corpo-rat masters. To give you some idea of where this is at, consider these quotes:

"The president himself, after the elections, has come out and said, 'Perhaps I have not been as friendly to business as I should have been,'" said PepsiCo chair and CEO Indra Nooyi.

Wednesday's meeting comes as the business sector has tempered its past criticism. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donahue has said his "organization wants to cooperate with the administration, as it did on the recent South Korea trade agreement."

And perhaps most telling:

"The president's shown a willingness to learn," Verizon Communications CEO Ivan Seidenberg, the chairman of the Business Roundtable.

Ivan, who, by the law in place before he got the Senate's pardon for his various acts of TREASON and hence, should be awaiting execution, is finally acknowledging the President's final transformation! As I warned back on January 20, 2009. "We are so fucked, America!"

In Other News

Well, it won't be long now, until a new crop of lunatics takes over the House and we all become terrorist suspects. You can already hear the drumming and the call for assassinations of everyone connected in any way to WikiLeaks from Julian Assange to, who knows, anyone who has ever read anything from them. The cost of telling the truth is now punishable by death! So much for that 1st amendment garbage! Old tail-gunner Joe Lieberman, well-known traitor and Israeli 5th columnist, is calling for the New York Times to be charged under the Espionage Act of 1917 for publishing the WikiLeaks material. You'll recall that old Woody Wilson came up with this turkey to shut up that pesky anti-war crowd and keep them from publishing the truth. Be careful, Joe, it just might be you that hangs for violating that law! What a happy thought!

We are all now guilty until proven innocent. In fact, there doesn't need to be any charges filed at all, regardless of what the 4th Amendment says. Sure it's treason, but so what? If you have any doubt about that tell the TSA man or woman to go and fuck themselves when they want to take child porn of your 5 year old or molest her before she can board the plane, train or Greyhound bus. Go ahead and make their day, I dare ya! I just read where NASCAR is a terrorist plot! You laugh now, but it won't be so funny when they start rounding them up, huh? I hear my nephew Tony Stewart is at the top of the list!

And if you think it's bad now--and it is--just you wait until those tea-baggers take over the House next month. You ain't seen nothing yet! They've been planning this since 2006 and they're going to pick up where they left off. Of course, America deserves nothing less, if it's stupid enough to elect these morons, it deserves what's coming next. Trouble is, the vast majority of Americans didn't vote them in. In fact, the majority didn't vote at all. When the choice is between Hitler or Himmler, why bother voting? You can only vote for the lesser of two evils so many times, then it doesn't matter! Try as I might, I don't see a "dimes worth of difference" between the Cave Man and Smirky, do you?

Of course, their main target will be the Cave Man himself, no matter that he's caved-in to all of their demands during these last two years. He will no doubt continue to bend over and take it up the ass, but that won't appease the Rethuglicans at all. And since, believe it or not, they can both walk and chew bubble gum at the same time they'll be spending the rest of their time taking away our last few freedoms and destroying what's left of the middle class and getting rid of all those nasty social programs for the elderly, the poor and the sick. It's time to take those losers on a ride to a nearby Happy Camp! Any one up for a few verses of America Uber Alles? Keep your lamps trimmed and you powder dry, America; it's going to be a bumpy flight!

And Finally

There was some good news for a change. Obama Care was struck down by Virginia federal Judge Henry E. Hudson who correctly ruled that forcing someone to buy insurance was illegal. No sh*t!!??!!

That it was a Bush 2002 appointee that ruled in favor of our freedom is a bit of a puzzler as you would have thought such a judge would be in favor of the insurance goons over us, but I'll take it where I can get it.

Nor is it likely to be overturned on appeal, as its next stop would be the 4th District Court of Appeals, which is a little to right of Judge Hudson, and if appealed further to the Extreme Court, there is absolutely no chance of them ruling in favor of our beloved Cave Man.

It was clearly unconstitutional to begin with, so as Con-gress is made up mostly of lawyers, they had to know to begin with that it would never stand. So why waste the people's time and money? Then again, why not, as it is, after all, what they do the best!

This was a ruling only on that part of the law so the rest is still in force for the time being. This part of the bill wouldn't kick in until 2014 and Judge Hudson ruled that he wouldn't hold up the rest. Also there are 20 states who have signed on to overthrow the bill via a Florida federal court which will soon convene, so it's unlikely even if the Obama "Just-Us Department" took it directly to the Extreme Court there wouldn't be a ruling until after the Florida court reaches its decision.

Keepin' On

I don't know about ya'll, but I've been keeping a low profile and near the heating vent. It's been colder than a Narc's heart around here with temps for the most part in the single digits with wind chills around minus 20 below zero. This ole Damn Yankee wishes he was back south, although it's freezing in Key West!

I just managed to buy a couple of holidaze presents for the family and blew my last few bucks on stamps for my card list that went out to all the magazine's supporters. I can hardly wait for January and my first, and hopefully not last, social security check, which is better than nothing but only just barely. With a little luck I'll get a couple more before the tea-baggers get rid of it along with the rest of the social programs that for the first time in my life I find that I desperately need. I'm beginning to feel like John Derek who said to Humphrey Bogart in "Knock On Any Door," "Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse." Oh well, it's a little too late for that!

So as Humphrey said, "Here's looking at you kid," next week, same Bat time, same Bat channel!


03-30-2010 ~ 12-13-2010

04-24-1941 ~ 12-13-2010
Burn Baby Burn!

07-26-1922 ~ 12-15-2010
Thanks for the films


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


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

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

The Charade Of Israeli-Palestinian Talks
By Noam Chomsky

Washington's pathetic capitulation to Israel while pleading for a meaningless three-month freeze on settlement expansion -- excluding Arab East Jerusalem -- should go down as one of the most humiliating moments in U.S. diplomatic history.

In September the last settlement freeze ended, leading the Palestinians to cease direct talks with Israel. Now the Obama administration, desperate to lure Israel into a new freeze and thus revive the talks, is grasping at invisible straws -- and lavishing gifts on a far-right Israeli government.

The gifts include $3 billion for fighter jets. The largesse also happens to be another taxpayer grant to the U.S. arms industry, which gains doubly from programs to expand the militarization of the Middle East.

U.S. arms manufacturers are subsidized not only to develop and produce advanced equipment for a state that is virtually part of the U.S. military-intelligence establishment but also to provide second-rate military equipment to the Gulf states -- currently a precedent-breaking $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, which is a transaction that also recycles petrodollars to an ailing U.S. economy.

Israeli and U.S. high-tech civilian industries are closely integrated. It is small wonder that the most fervent support for Israeli actions comes from the business press and the Republican Party, the more extreme of the two business-oriented political parties. The pretext for the huge arms sales to Saudi Arabia is defense against the "Iranian threat."

However, the Iranian threat is not military, as the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence have emphasized. Were Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capacity, the purpose would be deterrent -- presumably to ward off a U.S.-Israeli attack.

The real threat, in Washington's view, is that Iran is seeking to expand its influence in neighboring countries "stabilized" by U.S. invasion and occupation.

The official line is that the Arab states are pleading for U.S. military aid to defend themselves against Iran. True or false, the claim provides interesting insight into the reigning concept of democracy. Whatever the ruling dictatorships may prefer, Arabs in a recent Brookings poll rank the major threats to the region as Israel (88 percent), the United States (77 percent) and Iran (10 percent).

It is interesting that U.S. officials, as revealed in the just-released WikiLeaks cables, totally ignored Arab public opinion, keeping to the views of the reigning dictators.

The U.S. gifts to Israel also include diplomatic support, according to current reports. Washington pledges to veto any U.N. Security Council actions that might annoy Israel's leaders and to drop any call for further extension of a settlement freeze.

Hence, by agreeing to the three-month pause, Israel will no longer be disturbed by the paymaster as it expands its criminal actions in the occupied territories.

That these actions are criminal has not been in doubt since late 1967, when Israel's leading legal authority, international jurist Theodor Meron, advised the government that its plans to initiate settlements in the occupied territories violated the Fourth Geneva Convention, a core principle of international humanitarian law, established in 1949 to criminalize the horrors of the Nazi regime.

Meron's conclusion was endorsed by Justice Minister Ya'akov Shimson Shapira, and shortly after by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, writes historian Gershom Gorenberg in "The Accidental Empire."

Dayan informed his fellow ministers, "We must consolidate our hold so that over time we will succeed in 'digesting' Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and merging them with 'little' Israel," meanwhile "dismember(ing) the territorial contiguity" of the West Bank, all under the usual pretense "that the step is necessary for military purposes."

Dayan had no doubts, or qualms, about what he was recommending: "Settling Israelis in occupied territory contravenes, as is known, international conventions," he observed. "But there is nothing essentially new in that."

Dayan's correct assumption was that the boss in Washington might object formally, but with a wink, and would continue to provide the decisive military, economic and diplomatic support for the criminal endeavors.

The criminality has been underscored by repeated Security Council resolutions, more recently by the International Court of Justice, with the basic agreement of U.S. Justice Thomas Buergenthal in a separate declaration. Israel's actions also violate U.N. Security Council resolutions concerning Jerusalem. But everything is fine as long as Washington winks.

Back in Washington, the Republican super-hawks are even more fervent in their support for Israeli crimes. Eric Cantor, the new majority leader in the House of Representatives, "has floated a novel solution to protect aid for Israel from the current foreign aid backlash," Glenn Kessler reports in The Washington Post: "giving the Jewish state its own funding account, thus removing it from funds for the rest of the world."

The issue of settlement expansion is simply a diversion. The real issue is the existence of the settlements and related infrastructure developments. These have been carefully designed so that Israel has already taken over more than 40 percent of the occupied West Bank, including suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv; the arable land; and the primary water sources of the region, all on the Israeli side of the Separation Wall -- in reality an annexation wall.

Since 1967, Israel has vastly expanded the borders of Jerusalem in violation of Security Council orders and despite universal international objection (including the U.S., at least formally).

The focus on settlement expansion, and Washington's groveling, are not the only farcical elements of the current negotiations. The very structure is a charade. The U.S. is portrayed as an "honest broker" seeking to mediate between two recalcitrant adversaries. But serious negotiations would be conducted by some neutral party, with the U.S. and Israel on one side, and the world on the other.

It is hardly a secret that for 35 years the U.S. and Israel have stood virtually alone in opposition to a consensus on a political settlement that is close to universal, including the Arab states, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (including Iran), and all other relevant parties.

With brief and rare departures, the two rejectionist states have preferred illegal expansion to security. Unless Washington's stand changes, political settlement is effectively barred. And expansion, with its reverberations throughout the region and the world, continues.
(c) 2010 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.

A General Overhaul
By Uri Avnery

THE JUDGE: "You are accused of murdering your wife and two children. How do you plead: Guilty or not guilty?"

The accused: "Your honor, I do not deal with the past. I think about the future!"

No, not a scene from a comedy. Something very similar really happened. That is how Eli Yishai, the Minister of the Interior, Binyamin Netanyahu and the other nincompoops responded this week to the accusations of gross negligence which resulted in the unprecedented giant firestorm that ravaged large parts of Mount Carmel and caused the deaths of 42 people.

THE EPITOME of chutzpah was reached by Eli Yishai (Shas). In bygone days, a Japanese minister would have committed harakiri on the very first day of the conflagration. But Yishai addressed the public on the last day and claimed that he was the victim of a lynching because he is "Orthodox and Sephardi."

But even if he had been a blue-eyed secular Ashkenazi, he should have been thrown down the government stairs. And not only because of his "ministerial responsibility," as the State Comptroller politely phrased it.

If Yishai had faced the judge mentioned above, he would have answered: "Your honor, all my predecessors also murdered their wives and children. So why do you single me out? Only because I am Orthodox and Sephardi?"

One shocking piece of evidence suffices to attach personal blame to this individual. When the fire broke out, Haifa airport, where the fire-fighting planes were stationed, did not stock a single kilo of fire-retardant material. The stock in the entire country was enough for the first 20 minutes only. Israel had to send SOS messages to all the countries throughout the world, including some smaller and poorer than us, to beg for the material.

Was that the responsibility of his predecessors in the 50s or the 90s?

Lately, Yishai has stood out as the compulsive persecutor of refugee children, in order to save the "Jewish" state. If he had invested in the fire-fighting services a fraction of the energy and enthusiasm which he invested in promoting the man-hunters of the "Oz" immigration unit, the fire would have been conquered within an hour, instead of blazing in unabated fury for three days. Not to mention his threats to break up the government coalition if the subsidies of the Orthodox were reduced.

In Yishai, some of the main traits that caused the disaster are concentrated: a blown-up ego, total devotion to the interests of his party, and complete indifference for the government tasks entrusted to him.

But, he asserted, he "warned." All of the politicians "warned." Every one of them keeps in the back pocket of his trousers a bunch of letters he has written in the last few years to cover his ass. But the duty of a minister is not to "warn." His duty is to act, and if he can't - to resign.

THE MAIN responsibility, however, does not rest with Eli Yishai, but with Binyamin Netanyahu. It is he who appointed this good-for-nothing to this job, just as he appointed Avigdor Lieberman as Foreign Minister and Limor Livnat as Minister for Culture. And all the other ministers, almost all whom are quite unsuited for their tasks.

Netanyahuís own conduct during the crisis, in which the entire country was glued to the TV screens for days, every hour of each day, bordered on farce. While the fire-fighters were busy trying to extinguish the fire, he was equally busy trying to extinguish the growing criticism of himself. He hurried from place to place, surrounded not only by a ring of bodyguards but by an even larger ring of photographers. He immortalized himself in every possible pose, each one expertly staged, following the example of the President of Chile during the rescue of the miners. He talked and talked, and from every word arose a strong smell of phoniness.

Nothing was spontaneous, nothing came from the heart. Everything a pose, everything unserious. One moment he entrusted Interior Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch with the responsibility for the entire operation, the next moment he forgot all about him, as if he had never existed. The height of comedy was attained when he appointed the mayor of Netanya, appropriately named Miriam Feirberg ("Mountain of Fire") as special commissioner for compensation. It was a momentís flash of inspiration, without consulting anyone, without any staff work (there was no staff, anyhow). Even his closest advisers were surprised. Two days later he accepted her resignation.

Netanyahu also invented a substitute for a Commission of Inquiry: a press conference.

But it appears that Netanyahu knows his people. The polls show that a large part of the public has been profoundly impressed by his dynamic leadership.

BUT BEYOND the failings of individual politicians who pose as leaders, a frightening picture of the entire ruling establishment has been revealed.

For a moment, the curtain of the media flatterers, PR experts and assorted ass-lickers, who create an artificial reality, has been raised. The picture that has emerged is of total chaos. The flames shed light on only one accidental part ñ the fire-fighting services - but there is no doubt that a similar situation exists in almost all other departments of the government, from the defense ministry to the education system.

Until now, we surmised. Now we know for sure.

What was revealed this week for all to see was a shocking landscape of incompetence and inability, irresponsibility and ass-covering, lack of planning and lack of foresight, lack of "staff work" and lack of coordination between the various government offices. Many years of party corruption have led to a situation where at every crucial point the wrong person occupies the wrong position. The crime of "political appointments" has crippled the civil service.

The lack of an efficient fire-fighting service, as described this week by the State Comptroller, is only a symptom of the disease. It was not discovered this week, and not this year. Already 42 years ago, on June 10, 1968, I warned the Knesset about this situation and demanded the setting up of a national fire-fighting force, like the national police force, with a single commander and a standing general staff. The establishment ignored the proposal. So did the media. Nothing was burning - until Mount Carmel turned into a flaming inferno.

We know already that the same situation prevails in the education system, which is producing a generation of ignoramuses, as was revealed this week by PISA, an authoritative international study. The pupils of the "Jewish State," the sons and daughters of the People of the Book which always prided itself on its superior intellectual level, are now well below the average of the developed countries.

We do not know what is really happening in the army, whose officers are protected by a defensive ring of army spokesmen and army liars, censors and fawning journalists called "military correspondents." Lebanon War II revealed a picture of a military not much better than the fire-fighting service this week. It is known that the present Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, "has rehabilitated the army." Everybody knows. How do they know? Anyone from the outside checked?

In order to turn Israel into a modern state, we need a thorough change in the entire establishment. Instead of busying ourselves with empty slogans, like ìa Jewish and democratic stateî, we should see to it that Israel becomes, first of all, a state capable of safeguarding the security and well-being of its citizens - all of them.

THAT BRINGS us straight to the overturned hubble-bubble (Nargileh in Palestinian Arabic).

From the first moment on, I was worried that the fire would ignite a huge conflagration of racist flames. After all, the fire did break out near an Arab locality (Yes, the Druze are Arabs, too). I asked myself: how long will it take until the racists are falling over themselves fighting to exploit this opportunity?

At first I was pleasantly surprised. In many ways, the disaster brought out the most positive sides of Israeli society, which are hidden in normal times. In this area, too, an unusual self-restraint prevailed this time. Common sense said that even the wildest terrorist would not start a fire next to his own home.

But the police - who are deeply stained by anti-Arab discrimination - could not restrain themselves for two whole days. Thus, at the height of the disaster, when the public was glued to the TV screen and emotions were running as high as the flames in the forest, the police released a sensational piece of news: they had caught two Arab boys, aged 14 and 16, who were guilty of starting the whole thing.

Even if this news had any foundation, it could have quietly waited for two or three days, until the flames were put out. But the police were all aflame.

They announced at the top of their voices that the two brothers were having a picnic and their nargileh had overturned. That is a doubtful story to start with. But even if the boys had inadvertently caused the fire by their negligence, was there a need to treat them like hardened criminals, drag them brutally from their home in the middle of their family lunch, interrogate them harshly and try to get them to incriminate each other? In the end they were released and the police grabbed another boy of 16. All this was very different from the behavior of the police some time ago, when a group of Yeshiva students inadvertently started a large fire on the Golan Heights.

THE EVENT did actually have a racist face, but from a quite different perspective. Racism played a major role in it.

The fire started near Ussafiyeh. In this Druze locality, with its 10,000 inhabitants, there was no fire station. Nor was there any is the neighboring Druze locality of Daliyat al-Carmel, which has 15,000 inhabitants. The Arab local councils, which are discriminated against in most spheres, are disadvantaged in this sphere, too.

This week, racism revenged itself. If there had been fire stations in the Druze localities, the fire could have been put out in short order, even with the East wind and the dry trees, before it could develop into a disaster. The Ussafiyeh station could have safeguarded the whole Carmel area, which is always liable to burn. Look at the episode of the prophet Eliah and the prophets of Baal on the Carmel (1 Kings 18:38): "then the fire of the Lord fell." But perhaps Eli Yishai and his folks don't read the Bible as frequently as this atheist.

The neglect of the Druze localities had a dramatic effect on our ability to extinguish a fire on the Carmel. The 42 victims paid with their lives for this racism.

THE FIRE was a kind of dress rehearsal. In Israel, people don't say "If a war breaks out" but rather "When the next war breaks out." It is quite certain that if another war breaks out, it will dwarf the Carmel fire. Thousands of missiles will fall on all parts of Israel, causing many fires simultaneously.

No one is ready for that. The same government that is sabotaging all peace efforts and is leading us towards war - is not ready for war on any level.

Even without this danger, it is clear that the political establishment is in need of a general overhaul, nothing less. That is impossible with types like Eli Yishai and his master, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who proclaimed this week that the courageous female police officer, Ahuva Tomer, and the 41 cadets who were killed by the fire died because they broke the sabbath. Neither with types like Binyamin Netanyahu and his cabinet, nor with the so-called "opposition."

What is needed now is nothing less than an awakening of the "silent majority." They must understand that by their indifference, they are no less guilty than the politicians who were, after all, elected by them. Nothing will move unless the passive public becomes active. Mass protests, big demonstrations, joint action by intellectuals and others. Only thus can civil society assert itself and bring about the total overhaul that has become a burning necessity.
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

A Zoo Of Our Own Making
We will kill for empire and a parking space
By Phil Rockstroh

In an age, when nature is besieged and the political landscape blighted, and one stands, stoop shouldered and wincing into the howling wasteland of epic-scale idiocy extant in the era, a solitary person can feel lost ... marooned inside an increasingly isolated sense of self. Whether urban, suburban, or rural dwelling, the sense of alienation, for an individual, is profound ... as discernible to the eye as the constellations of foreclosure signs stippling overgrown front lawns across the land ... as hidden as the abandoned dreams within.

The fraying ligature of the landscape of the United States reveals an inner geography of alienation and anomie. Living on the island of Manhattan, I daily negotiate an urban layout of practical, but identity-decimating grids -- a cityscape of harsh, inhuman right angles ... a geography that renders street encounters abrupt, curt and intrusive.

After a time, one begins, by reflex, to buffer oneself against such intrusions, withdrawing inward ... becoming a self-enclosed, walking fortress, shielding oneself from the degradations of these impersonal affronts (that feel altogether personal) -- with I- Pods, Blackberries, and other vestments attendant to the muttered prayers of the self-absorbed.

While above the street -- corporate towers -- that are steel and concrete kingdoms of blind, willful ascension -- blot the skyline ... these structures flee upward, as if to escape the implications of life lived at street level and sharing in the consequences of decisions made within their sterile, insular sanctums of power and cupidity.

This is architecture as blind hubris: creations made by the hands of mortal men ... yet failing to have any connection to the ground, these buildings crowd out the real estate of the sacred. Moreover, their manic skyward thrust leaves them, and those imprisoned within, bereft of roots that reach down into the renewing loam of the earth, to where mortal vanity is delivered to dust and desperate hopes rot and transubstantiate into the compost that nourishes new life.

And blooms of renewal, I suspect, will not be found online as well. The electronic sheen of social media sites is no substitute for communal fabric. There is no animal musk nor angelic apprehensions to en-soul the flesh and tease wisdom out of obdurate will ... No matter how many restless shades want to friend you on FaceBook nor ghostly texts descend upon you in an unholy Pentecost of Tweets, online exchanges will continue to leave you restless, hollow, and yearning for the colors and cacophony of an authentic agora.

The adolescent purgatory of FaceBook -- with its castings into the Eternal Now of instant praise, acceptance, and rejection -- reflects, magnifies, and acerbates the perpetual adolescence of the contemporary culture of the United States, intensifying its shallow longings and displaced panics, its narcissistic rage and obsession with the superficial. It devours libido, by providing a pixilated facsimile of the primal dance of human endeavor, leaving one's heart churning in thwarted yearning, locked an evanescent embrace with electronic phantoms, as one, paradoxically, attempts to live out unfulfilled desires by means of hollow communion with the soul-negating source of his alienation.

One can never get enough of what one doesn't need. Ergo, the compulsions and panic of millions of hungry ghosts will hold an ongoing, hollow mass online, in a futile campaign to regain form, gain direction, and walk in meaning and beauty among the things of the world, but instead will remain imprisoned within the very system that condemned them to this fate.

And this is the place, we, as a culture, will remain, for a time. This electronic inferno will be our vale and mountaintop, our sanctuary and leviathan. We will stare baffled into its vastness, stupefied and lost within its proliferate array of depersonalizing distractions and seductions. The more we try to lose ourselves in it, by surrendering to its shimmering surface attractions, the more tightly we will become bound in the bondage of self.

Naturally, living in the grinding maw of such monsters of alienation will engulf one with ennui and angst. Moreover, the judgment of anyone claiming not to be afflicted should be regarded as suspect.

Possessed by this mode of being: we languish in a zoo of our own making where we gaze, without comprehension, at the confines of our enclosure, chew our paws, pace the cage, and are restless for mealtime. Like an animal in a cage, we are no longer what we were meant to be ... we have forgotten what it is to be alive. With the exception of superficial form, we begin to lose our affinity to what makes us recognizable as a human being and as an animal -- for we have become simply a sad thing that waits for lunch. And I defy any caged clock-watcher in a cubicle to defy that point.

Restless and agitated in our confinement, we sink further into anomie ... into the benumbing embrace of comfort zones (over- eating, anti-depressants, consumerism as emotional distraction, addiction to electronic media) where we chose safety over the truth of our being. In these cages of inauthenticity, our heart's longings and human needs are held in stasis by the perfunctory persona we cultivated for approval and acceptance; there, consigned to a barren region of mind where one is rewarded for docility and duplicity, one languishes, bereft of eros and pothos ... unconsciously self-convicted and sentenced for the crime of being a serial betrayer of one's essential self.

So much of the criteria of the modern condition has atomized us, stripped us, collectively, of ritual, purpose and meaning, and placed us in the midst of what T.S. Eliot expressed in prosody as a "heap of broken images."

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, You cannot say, or guess, for you know only A heap of broken images, where the sun beats, And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief.

And the dry stone no sound of water. Only There is shadow under this red rock, (Come in under the shadow of this red rock), And I will show you something different from either Your shadow at morning striding behind you

Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you; I will show you fear in a handful of dust. ~~~ From: The Waste Land

There is danger, of course, in such places -- but there is also the possibility of renewal.

Personal and historical traumas leave a legacy of bewilderment. And being bewildered i.e., being in a psychic wilderness, lost, having wandered or been cast past the known horizon of experience ... is to be in position to engage the novel, be in the thrall of unfolding mystery, and wander in a soul- suffused landscape of the sublime.

A state of alienation is right where we should be: To be able to adapt to a culture dedicated to little more than finding efficient means of exploiting the hours of the greater public's lives for the benefit of a greedy few ... would be a tragedy. Living within this culture should bring on despair ... It is a leviathan that has devoured your existence. Do you think you can renovate the belly of the beast ... set up a time-share with Jonah and Pinocchio there ... and live in comfort?

Should not one stagger and stammer in mortification when shown a handful of dust?

Moreover, the solution we are offered -- making ourselves a dwelling within a prison of consumer kitsch -- should and does only bring on more anomie. Eliot wrote the following regarding a psyche attempting to adapt to a dying culture:

[...] Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death, But had thought they were different; this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death. We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, With an alien people clutching their gods. I should be glad of another death. ~~~ From: The Journey of the Magi.

One of the notions, as Rilke might put it, that is "brooding like a seed" in my psyche has been the distinction James Hillman makes between civilization and culture. Hillman avers that, and I agree, civilization is a dead thing -- an edifice of crumbling marble enshrined in an eros-devoid museum of the mind where we do little more than give empty, obligatory homage to a fossilized tableaux ... our forced reverence is but a perfunctory prayer muttered before the iconography of a dead religion; in contrast, culture is a living, breathing phenomenon of the collective mind, heart, and soul of the people within it. Its logos inhabits the very air of existence, permeating it like the sound of birdsong, and cricket and cicada stridulation throughout a high summer night.

Moreover, he avers that culture is akin to a madhouse; in fact, the solution lies in the back ward of the asylum, the area where are housed the hopeless cases. In other words, like Dante ... proceed to the place you most fear looking upon, embrace it, and hear its awful keening and heart-opening agonies. There is the location of rebirth, the last circle of hell ... retreating to a comfort zone will simply leave the situation is stasis.

So the question arises: How does one enter the soul-making shabbiness of the human condition, even though, as always, we are powerless against the trajectory of history and lost within the mad proliferation of culture -- and, as Bob Dylan limned in lyric regarding the alienation this situation evokes, "[one has] no direction home?"

Try this: embrace the bracing pain of your alienation: make a home in being lost. Gaze with wonder of upon the sacred scenery of your bewilderment ... Wandering in the wilderness is a holy state.

Wendell Berry believes such ventures to be one of the true vocations of the soul:

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings. ~~~ Wendell Berry

In other words, in times such as ours, when we embrace our alienation then we will be welcomed home ... to share a common shelter with the multitudes who are also lost.
(c) 2010 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

The Blog Of War
WikiLeaks Exposes Business-as-Usual, and a New Battle Ensues
By Randall Amster

In an ideal world, the WikiLeaks revelations would have ended two wars. Documenting patterns of cavalier abuse and untold brutality in Iraq and Afghanistan might have sparked public outrage sufficient to undermine the capacity to continue these campaigns. Instead we’ve seen the war machine dig in even deeper, extending drawdown deadlines and expanding fronts to adjacent locales. Rather than being in retreat over the WikiLeaks data dump, the Pentagon seems to have become emboldened by the simple fact that a significant portion of its dirty laundry has been aired publicly, and the neighbors have barely uttered a murmur of discontent at the sight.

Even more perversely, WikiLeaks seems to have exacerbated two additional wars rather than ending the ones most clearly in its sights. The first is simply the “war at home,” in which the technologies of scanning and surveilling utilized in combat theaters are emplaced domestically under the guise of fighting terrorists. Under the same paltry logic that keeps us indefinitely embroiled in Afghanistan, periodic attempts at impracticable mayhem by disaffected pawns become the basis for a quantum leap in backscatter hardware, security screeds in public places, and the state’s increasing interpenetration of our privacy and dignity. By chronicling the perverse lengths to which the U.S. will go in the “war on terror,” WikiLeaks has ironically helped to legitimize those actions by adding to their endorsement the imprimatur of public acceptance.

Not only has this led to the tacit approval and domestic deployment of the war machine, but in a feat of suspicious synergy the WikiLeaks controversy has actually spawned a third war. Media outlets everywhere have caught the wave of “cyberterrorists” and a burgeoning “cyberwar” as part of an “Operation Payback” that is ostensibly designed to avenge the mistreatment of Julian Assange and militantly defend the murky concept of “internet freedom.” Business Week, for instance, characterized this as an effort “to wage a cyberwar in WikiLeaks’ defense,” launched by a terrorist-sounding “shadowy group” with “axis of evil” overtones that is “starting to look like the onset of a global struggle by Web anarchists against the mighty Empire.” The socio-cultural import and dramatic nature of such war imagery was not lost on Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow, who unabashedly tweeted in support: “The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops.”

Interestingly, this purported cyberwar comes at a time when the debate over internet access and regulation is reaching a tipping point. Some politicians and pundits have openly called for listing WikiLeaks as a “terrorist organization,” invoking the standard Trojan Horse phrase that is repeatedly used to curtail liberty, justify incursions, and foster interminable conflicts. For their part, the self-described “Anonymous” hacktivists and avengers of Assange have in many ways fed into this narrative, simultaneously exalting the power of the technological web and throwing down the gauntlet over its privatization and/or regulation:

“The internet is the last bastion of freedom in this evolving technical world. The internet is capable of connecting us all. When we are connected we are strong. When we are strong we have power…. This is why the government is moving on WikiLeaks. This is what they fear. They fear our power when we unite.”

The Economist has documented some of the inner workings of the group, referring to the campaign as more of a “propaganda coup” than a cyberwar – and yet with talk of deploying software tactics such as a “low-orbit ion cannon” and launching missions aimed at “vulnerable targets,” the warlike sensibilities at work here are unmistakable. Another “inside look” at the hacktivists’ “hidden world of Internet sabotage” reveals an obsession with “revenge attacks” and vigilante propaganda, and concludes that “the group has declared war against ‘corrupt governments of the world’ and anyone who tries to censor and copyright online information.” In lauding the potentially revolutionary cyber-anarchism of WikiLeaks and the campaign to avenge it (for the record, Assange has described himself as a proponent of “free market libertarianism” and not as an anarchist), Mother Jones pithily invokes the war ethos in its call to “bring it on.” The totality of these sentiments and activities has led Secure Computing Magazine to proclaim a nascent “total cyberwar,” with the Anonymous hacktivists following suit by asserting that “we will fire at anyone or anything that tries to censor WikiLeaks.... The major shitstorm has begun.”

While the ostensible motivations of the WikiLeaks hacktivists may be intended to stand at cross-purposes to the mega-militarism of the war machine, the invocation of similar phrases and motifs raises some troubling issues about the nature of this resistance. More to the point, it engenders concerns over how the response to it will be constructed and deployed. By launching and/or threatening cyberattacks on central financial enterprises such as VISA and MasterCard, on retail pillars like Amazon (which apparently never quite fully developed as initially planned), and on governmental entities including Swedish prosecutors and various U.S. Senators’ sites, Operation Payback has triangulated its nonlinear efforts on what may be the virtual equivalent of the World Trade Center, at least in terms of symbolic stature. Unfortunately, the post-9/11 era has taught us that any perceived threat to business as usual is going to be met with overwhelming force, and moreover that human rights and civil liberties are likely to be among the myriad casualties.

Such are the ironies of the era in which we live: even antiwar actions and intentions can be fed back into the loop of justifying more war in the process. The military machine appears monolithic on some levels, but it is a good deal more agile and adaptable than is often perceived. On some level, we might plausibly conclude that if entities such as WikiLeaks and its shadowy avengers didn’t exist, the Pentagon would probably have to invent them. To wit: the data contained in the voluminous war logs – and the attendant cables detailing the behind-the-scenes machinations that undergird perpetual warfare – indicate a widespread pattern of official overreaching and international illegality. These sordid details should have been sufficient to erode the ability to wage war, but instead we’ve seen an expansion that now includes cyber-fronts and potential retrenchments on virtual liberties in addition the physical ones already under assault. In this sense, WikiLeaks has perhaps unwittingly provided a base of tacit support for such abuses and an impetus to expand the range of battlefields in the age of perpetual warfare.

In a bygone day, analysts referred to the “fog of war” to encapsulate the moral murkiness and battlefield blurriness attendant to combat zones. Today, however, with the advent of high-tech warfare and the relative transparency of information vis-à-vis WikiLeaks, we can see much more clearly what war does and how it impacts all spheres of our lives. And yet, this potential sense of greater clarity has not brought with it an end to war, but rather a proliferation of it. Whereas the “fog of war” metaphor might cast doubt on the ethics and integrity of the enterprise, today we are experiencing a “blog of war” in which more information sharpens our gaze and thus inculpates us further as accomplices who still choose to suborn the ongoing operations. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we now know exactly what it is that we are blithely dismissing and conveniently ignoring in the collective “pursuit of happiness” that informs the business of our modern lives.
(c) 2010 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Concerned And Conscientious Wall Street Bankers

In an all out effort to help people, top Wall Street bankers have spent the last few months in deep planning sessions, working feverishly with the cleverest consultants to develop innovative models and intricate flow charts that will make money move as it should. They're pushing themselves relentlessly to finish this task before the deadline.

Who are the people these conscientious bankers are so determined to help in these tough times of economic stress? Themselves.

What? You thought maybe they give a damn about you? Hello, These are Wall Street bankers, the inscrutable gods of finance. If you're not one of them, you don't exist. Forget the needs of millions of Americans crushed by Wall Street's greed-fueled financial recklessness, these lords of Goldman Sachs, Chase and every other giant bank have been plotting behind closed doors to ensure greater wealth for themselves.

They were in a stew because Obama (that heartless fiend) was going to let their millionaire's tax break expire at the end of this year. This meant that the multimillion-dollar bonuses they're set to grab in January would be taxed at a rate nearly five points higher than they've been enjoying.

Thus, they've been conniving to manipulate the rules so their bonus loot would come to them this month, rather than next, allowing them to dodge any reforms that would make them pay taxes like mere mortals do. Indeed, they even devised a new label for the extravagant, unmerited, and infuriating windfalls they pay to themselves. Their bonus payments are henceforth to be called "long-term incentives."

Luckily, though, their crisis has passed, for their lobbyists and Republican lackeys in congress got Obama to cave in to their greed and extend millionaire's tax break for another two years. Such unsurpassed avarice is why most people reflexively feel the need to barf anytime they hear the phrase, Wall Street banker.
(c) 2010 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Cut The Deficit – Stop The Big Business Of Running America’s Prisons
By James Donahue

The last lines in the National Anthem proclaims the United States to be “the land of the free . . .” Folks that stand up at sports and other public events and proudly sing these words may be shocked to know that the statement is not true.

Largely because of the nation’s failed drug war and national “get tough on crime” policies initiated into state and federal law in the 1980s, there are more Americans currently under incarceration per capita in the U. S. than in any other nation in the world. Long prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders are shown to be the single greatest multiplying factor behind the problem of prison overcrowding.

The other ugly side of this coin is that the operation of the nation’s drug war, expanding police and court systems to accommodate it, and the resulting overcrowding of our jails and prisons have become a big business empire that quietly sucks at state, local and federal coffers, and plays a major role in raising the national debt.

As of 2008, there were 2,304,115 Americans being held in our municipal and county jails and state and federal prisons. This calculates that one out of every 136 persons in the nation were either behind bars or being monitored in that year alone. Even more Americans were enduring some form of correctional control such as parole or probation.

Sadly, even though the United States has only about five percent of the world’s population, it claims one quarter of the world’s prisoners.

In 2001 the average cost of housing a person in a state prison was $62.05 per day. Federal prisons were doing slightly better showing an average cost of $62.01 per day per inmate. These statistics are nearly ten years old. Obviously the cost of housing inmates has increased significantly since that time.

Statistics released by the Washington State Institute of Public Policy show that running the nation’s criminal justice budget cost individual taxpayers about $200 in 1975. By 2000 the cost rose to $1,200.

Statistics show that an estimated one million jail inmates are being held on petty, nonviolent offenses . . . mostly for marijuana possession or marijuana sales. Other narcotic possession and distribution offenses, including drunken driving are included in the count. Yet another sad statistic: the money being spent for construction and operation of jails and prisons of public buildings in the United States totaled $68,747,203 in 2006. By comparison, about $100 billion was spent on education.

Jail overcrowding has been a major problem all over the United States, yet many states are still adopting tougher crime laws the force courts to order even longer jail and prison terms for such offenses as drunk driving and narcotics possession.

This problem has become so critical that many states and counties have turned to private contractors to provide and operate detention facilities. Thus big business interests have become involved in running America’s prisons.

Three primary companies, Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group, Inc., and Community Education Centers, currently operate 264 correctional facilities that house nearly 100,000 adult offenders. Corrections Corporation is the largest operator with a jail capacity for more than 80,000.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons and the States of Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Tennessee, California, Mississippi, Colorado and the District of Columbia are the primary contractors for privately operated prisons.

In spite of the nation’s current economic crisis, with so many people out of work and many even left homeless and in the streets, the big business of operating the nation’s lock-ups and incarcerating citizens for everything from parking violations to narcotics trafficking is not missing a beat. It appears that the fines and court costs are on the rise as governments struggle to find new sources of revenue.

How are unemployed or people on part-time, low-income jobs supposed to deal with $200 traffic tickets and $50 parking fines when they don’t have enough revenue to pay the rent or feed their families? Even more ominous; many state and county jail systems are charging inmates “user fees” or room and board for the time they are forced to serve. Because of the stigma attached to serving jail time, many former inmates cannot find employment after they are released and cannot pay these additional charges. The path for them is often additional time spent behind bars. They become caught in a malicious circle.

The operations of our prisons has become a multi-billion dollar industry that feeds on a police and court system geared to handle the national war on drugs. Special police units appear to still be financed by state and federal tax dollars to stage narcotics raids, cut down acres of growing marijuana plants, and bring handcuffed offenders before judges who routinely send them off to serve time in our already overcrowded jails.

If our legislators are serious about balancing our federal budget and reducing the nation’s multi-trillion dollar deficit, a good place to start would be shutting down the War on Drugs, releasing all of the people serving time for marijuana or other non-dangerous drug related offenses, and allowing local judges to be more discretionary in sentencing.

We also can shut down all of the special drug task force offices, close down the jails and prisons no longer needed, and accomplish some serious budget trimming to relieve all levels of government and especially the waste occurring in Washington.
(c) 2010 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Hacktivism For Cyber Democracy
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Because of the attacks on WikiLeaks and its founder there has been considerable media attention to the hacktivism practiced by supporters of WikiLeaks. That has been manifested as cyber attacks on mainstream commercial websites that acted against WikiLeaks. Hacktivism as retribution and strategy to gain political objectives is bound to become much more common. And considering how voting, especially from the perspective of younger people, has been enormously disappointing as a means of reforming government and political systems worldwide, that seems appropriate.

Naturally, there is a fine discussion of hacktivism at Wikipedia. There we learn that it has been around far longer than the current attention to the WikiLeaks situation.

Hacking has come to mostly mean illegal breaking into computer systems, while activism has always been either violent or nonviolent. Hacktivism is clearly now seen as an alternative to convention activism, civil disobedience and, increasingly, participation in democratic, electoral processes.

The combination of computer programming skills, critical thinking, anger and disgust with prevailing corporate and government institutions can and probably should drive better focused hacktivism. It could become an effective strategy for achieving major political reforms.

Cyberterrorism along with cyber crime, Internet fraud and everyday spamming are to be feared and fought, while hacktivism merits considerable respect and public support as a philosophic and political tactic responding to contemporary political and social issues and needs. At least, as long as it does not do harm to individuals.

Those with the expertise to implement hacktivism are a new breed of radicals, revolutionaries, and power brokers that is unsurprisingly an inevitable consequence of the whole computer, networking and Internet world that has been overly embraced. As with all technologies, there are always generally unseen and unintended negative impacts that catch people, governments, companies and just about everyone else by surprise. If there is any real surprise it is that the world has not seen far more widespread hacktivism.

In a fine 2004 article Hacktivism and How It Got Here, Michelle Delio pointed out: Hacktivism, as defined by the Cult of the Dead Cow, the group of hackers and artists who coined the phrase, was intended to refer to the development and use of technology to foster human rights and the open exchange of information.

We should see hacktivism as a dimension to cyber or digital democracy. It may first appear as more deadly than violent street protests against government actions that are seen frequently, particularly in Europe, but should it not be seen as just a more technological form of protest appropriate for our time? Indeed, just as WikiLeaks is seen as a more potent, technological form of whistle blowing, is not hacktivism its logical complement?

There is a wonderful, detailed history of hacktivism on the Wikipedia site, including a citation to a 2006 published paper by the now infamous Julian Assange titled The Curious Origins of Political Hacktivism.

Listen to the thinking of a 22-year-old London software engineer known only as Coldblood, who controls the servers the group Anonymous uses to implement its hacktivist actions. “I decided to speak as I'm passionate about how government shouldn't censor the internet. We suggest sites to attack, and if enough people think it's good, it will generally happen. It's a community thing. By making it harder for these companies to operate online we show them a message that it's not just governments they need to keep happy, it's the users as well. If their website is offline, then people can't use their services and it affects them. It's like an idealistic democracy. But everyone is aware that the attacks are illegal. Nobody is pressured into taking part. A lot just watch. But if they arrest one person, the attacks won't stop.”

To see hacktivism positively today may require having a positive attitude towards WikiLeaks as the defender and protector of the public’s right to know what governments, corporations and international organizations are really doing, even when secrecy is used to thwart transparency. In so many respects, WikiLeaks is more trustworthy than the groups it exposes. It is performing a duty that newspapers could once be counted on to do, but with corporate ownership and censorship of media WikiLeaks offers more independence. However, the relationship between WikiLeaks and several mainstream newspapers in its release of US State Department documents has been seriously questioned by Michel Chossudovsky: “how can this battle against media disinformation be waged with the participation and collaboration of the corporate architects of media disinformation? Wikileaks has enlisted the architects of media disinformation to fight media disinformation: An incongruous and self-defeating procedure.” Still, working with corporate media may have been a tactic to protect WikiLeaks.

This much seems certain about the future: The more that electoral politics in western democracies appears increasingly ineffective in fighting political and corporate corruption, economic inequality, restraints on the Internet, environmental problems, suffering in developing countries, and unnecessary wars, the more we can expect to witness hacktivism. The most interesting question is whether the American and global plutocracy that has so successfully advanced the greedy interests of the rich and powerful will learn to live with hacktivism or whether it mounts a far more aggressive attack on it, including severe criminal penalties. Hacktivism is not so much the problem as a symptom of a far more serious, deeper set of problems.
(c) 2010 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Judge Hudson

Federal Judge Strikes Down Mandated Health Coverage
By Andrew Cohen

Using language that echoes the lingering political debate over health care reform, and presaging a novel legal debate that now is virtually certain to end at the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal judge in Virginia Monday struck down as unconstitutional the controversial "individual mandate" provision of the nation's new law. "At its core," U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson wrote, "this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance -- or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage -- it's about an individual's right to choose to participate."

Hudson, a 2002 appointee of George W. Bush, thus became the first federal judge in the nation to endorse the merits of a legal challenge to the mandate provision -- which requires individuals to purchase health insurance, some for the first time, to help reduce the overall costs of health care. The Virginia lawsuit which generated the ruling is one of dozens around the country (another challenge, out of Florida, will move forward with a hearing later this week). Earlier this year, a federal trial judge in Michigan, and another federal trial judge in Virginia, dismissed similar constitutional challenges to the new law.

In his 42-page order, Judge Hudson declared there was no legal precedent under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to allow the Congress through federal legislation "to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market." The judge also ruled that the mandate could not be validated under the General Welfare Clause of the Constitution, which permits broad federal power to tax, because it is "in form and substance, a penalty as opposed to a tax."

"A thorough survey of pertinent constitutional case law," Judge Hudson wrote, "has yielded no reported decisions from any federal appellate courts extending the Commerce Clause or General Welfare Clause to encompass regulation of a person's decision not to purchase a product." And he rejected each of the federal government's arguments supporting the new measure as necessary to save billions of dollars in state, local and national health care costs. The feds "posit," the judge wrote:

"that every individual in the United States will require health care at some point in their lifetime, if not today, perhaps next week or even next year. [Their] theory further postulates that because near universal participation is critical to the underwriting process, the collective effort of refusal to purchase health insurance affects the national market. Therefore... requiring advance purchases of insurance based upon a future contingency is an activity that will inevitably affect interstate commerce. Of course, the same reasoning could apply to transportation, housing or nutritional decisions. This broad definition of the economic activity subject to congressional regulation lacks logical limitation."

The Justice Department, which anticipated the adverse result based upon Judge Hudson's previous comments about the validity of the new law in a court hearing early this year, will almost certainly appeal his ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A DOJ spokesman said Monday in the immediate wake of Judge Hudson's order: "We are disappointed in today's ruling but continue to believe – as other federal courts in Virginia and Michigan have found – that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. There is clear and well-established legal precedent that Congress acted within its constitutional authority in passing this law and we are confident that we will ultimately prevail."

It is also conceivable, but far less likely, that the federal government will seek an expedited review of the matter by the Supreme Court. And it is far less likely still that the justices would welcome such a request before more lower court judges, and perhaps two or more federal appeals courts, chime in on the constitutional questions raised by the new measure. In any event, neither of their appellate options must look appetizing now to federal lawyers. The 4th Circuit is one of the most conservative federal appeals courts in the nation. And the Supreme Court itself has a clear conservative majority, which includes Justices Clarence Thomas, whose wife, Virginia Thomas, is a member of a Virginia political group that has actively opposed the new health care laws.

Those groups Monday were quick to praise Judge Hudson's ruling. And Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a key member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, "Today is a great day for liberty. Congress must obey the Constitution rather than make it up as we go along. Liberty requires limits on government, and today those limits have been upheld." The White House, meanwhile, responded the ruling with a statement from presidential advisor Stephanie Cutter. "Opponents of reform claim that the individual responsibility requirement-- the requirement that all Americans carry a minimum level of insurance by 2014-- exceeds Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce because it penalizes economic 'inactivity.' Make no mistake-- individuals who choose to go without health insurance are actively engaged in economic decision making-- the decision to pay for health care out-of-pocket or to seek uncompensated care."
© 2010 Andrew Cohen

Spooky Action At A Distance
The Strangulators of Truth Strike Again
By Chris Floyd

At 3:25 p.m. on Tuesday, a UK judge reverses an earlier court decision and granted bail to Julian Assange, who is being held in a British prison on a warrant for "sexual misconduct" charges in Sweden. The bail is attached with heavy conditions, including the demand for a large wad of cash upfront, a daily curfew (which will keep Assange off the prime-time news), and the requirement of wearing an electric tag.

The ruling does not free Assange, however; he is sent back to jail pending the gathering of the cash, and pending a decision by Swedish authorities to appeal the bail ruling.

At 4:18 p.m., outside the courtroom, film director Ken Loach, one of the many people putting up money for Assange's case, makes this comment:

Clearly, if the Swedish government opposes bail it will show there is some vindictiveness beyond this case. It will show there is some political element that goes beyond the case.

Indeed. At this writing, it is not believed that Sweden has never pursued anyone so zealously (if at all) through the international criminal justice system on a charge of 'sexual misconduct' (not rape).

At 5:26 p.m., it is announced that Swedish authorities are indeed challenging the decision. Assange, although granted bail, will remain in prison until the appeal is heard -- at some point in the next 48 hours.

The Guardian's legal affairs editor, Afua Hirsch, explains the draconian laws -- enacted post-9/11, natch -- that allow government authorities across Europe to amplify their reach across several borders:

Followers of the WikiLeaks story wonder how Assange could be extradited with so few questions asked. Why, for example, can our prisons detain someone (Assange is currently on remand in Wandsworth prison) for an offence under Swedish law that does not exist in British law? And how can a judge agree to an extradition without having seen enough evidence to make out a prima facie case?

The 2003 Extradition Act originated in an EU decision agreed just one week after 9/11. It was sold to voters as a way of ensuring cross-border cohesion in prosecuting suspects wanted across Europe for terrorism and serious crime. ... It's been downhill from there. Around three people per day are now extradited from the UK, and there is little to suggest that the majority are terrorists or serious criminals. In fact those involved in the process agree that many of the cases are "trivial".

This month I watched proceedings in Westminster magistrates' court as Jacek Jaskolski, a disabled 58-year-old science teacher, fought an EAW issued against him by his native Poland. Jaskolski – also the primary carer for his disabled wife – has been in the UK since 2004. His crime? Ten years ago, when he still lived in Poland, Jaskolski went over his bank overdraft limit. There are instances when unauthorised bank borrowing can have criminal elements, but this is not one of them. The bank recovered the money, and there is no allegation of dishonesty. A similar case in Britain would be a civil, not a criminal, matter.

But it is a criminal offence in Poland, where every criminal offence has to be investigated and prosecuted, no matter how trivial. As a result Poland requested 5,000 extraditions last year alone, accounting for 40% of all those dealt with by Britain. By contrast the UK made just 220 requests.

In 2008 a Polish man was extradited for theft of a dessert from a restaurant, using a European arrest warrant containing a list of the ingredients. People are being flown to Poland in specially chartered planes to answer charges that would not be thought worthy of an arrest in the UK, while we pick up the tab for police, court, experts' and lawyers' time to process a thousand cases a year.

That's right; they'll track you down and jail you for an old, repaid overdraft; they'll track you down and jail you for a dessert you didn't pay for. They'll track down across the face of the earth and jail you for things that aren't a crime in the country where they've jailed you -- if you happen to have put powerful people in a bad light; i.e., shown them as they really are.

But if you start a war; or if you get another country to start a war for you; or if you continue and expand a war; or if you actually assassinate, murder, hundreds of innocent people in cold blood far outside a war zone, then you will not only not be jailed, you will be honored, celebrated, enriched and obeyed. Hell, you can even murder people and harvest their organs for sale, and you will be feted and supported as a great ally of the defenders of civilization, as long as you play ball with their agenda of domination.

But tell the truth about power? Or just try to live your ordinary life, care for your loved ones, go to work, harm no one, pose no threat, make no provocation -- other than being an attractive, and defenseless, piece of fodder for petty power to glut itself upon? Oh then, my friend, you can be stitched up, put in the frame anytime they damn well please.

What kind of world do you think you're living in? Well, the Old Man said it years ago:

"Democracy don't rule the world;
Better get that through your head.
This world is ruled by violence:
But that's better left unsaid."

And if the strangulators of truth who are pulling the strings against Assange and WikiLeaks have their way, it's going to remain unsaid.
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

Judge’s Decision On Health Insurance Shows Why Medicare For All Is The Solution
By Matthew Rothschild

A Virginia judge’s decision to throw out a central plank of the health insurance reform law underscores how ill considered was the Obama plan.

Forcing people to buy coverage from costly, unreliable and often unscrupulous private insurance companies was, in fact, a coercive approach, as Judge Henry Hudson ruled. And it was one that the insurance companies loved, because they were guaranteed tens of millions of new customers whom they could gouge.

By ruling this approach unconstitutional, Hudson has set up a showdown at the Supreme Court, since other judges have ruled the mandate constitutional. It’s unclear how the Supremes will referee this one, but I wouldn’t bet the hospital that the conservative majority will uphold that part of the Obama law.

And if Roberts, Scalia, et. al., reject it, the Obama hope to limit health care costs would be dashed.

“Without the requirement that everyone be included, the risk pools are subject to adverse selection (only those with greater health care needs enroll),” says Dr. Don McCanne, senior health policy fellow at Physicians for a National Health Program. As a result, he says, premiums would “skyrocket.”

Rather than coercing everyone into the private insurance market, Obama should have proposed universal, comprehensive, and affordable health care, which is provided, as a right, to all citizens.

This Medicare For All program—or, at a minimum, Medicare For All Who Want It—would not have been the boondoggle to the private insurance companies that the current law is.

And it would have been impervious to court challenges.

“After almost half a century of success, only a fool would challenge the constitutionality of Medicare,” says Dr. McCanne.

There may be a couple of fools on the Supreme Court who would try. But it’s unlikely there would be five.

Obama chose, however, to maintain the system of private insurance. He imposed no federal limits on what insurance companies can charge, so they are already able to raise rates exorbitantly. And if “everybody in” is ruled unconstitutional, you can expect your rates to become totally unaffordable very soon, if they aren’t already.

At which point, the American public will have to rise up and demand what Obama should have given us already, and what other advanced countries already have: Medicare for All
(c)2010 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

Block Those Metaphors
By Paul Krugman

Like it or not — and I don’t — the Obama-McConnell tax-cut deal, with its mixture of very bad stuff and sort-of-kind-of good stuff, is likely to pass Congress. Then what?

The deal will, without question, give the economy a short-term boost. The prevailing view, as far as I can tell — and that includes within the Obama administration — is that this short-term boost is all we need. The deal, we’re told, will jump-start the economy; it will give a fragile recovery time to strengthen.

I say, block those metaphors. America’s economy isn’t a stalled car, nor is it an invalid who will soon return to health if he gets a bit more rest. Our problems are longer-term than either metaphor implies.

And bad metaphors make for bad policy. The idea that the economic engine is going to catch or the patient rise from his sickbed any day now encourages policy makers to settle for sloppy, short-term measures when the economy really needs well-designed, sustained support.

The root of our current troubles lies in the debt American families ran up during the Bush-era housing bubble. Twenty years ago, the average American household’s debt was 83 percent of its income; by a decade ago, that had crept up to 92 percent; but by late 2007, debts were 130 percent of income.

All this borrowing took place both because banks had abandoned any notion of sound lending and because everyone assumed that house prices would never fall. And then the bubble burst.

What we’ve been dealing with ever since is a painful process of “deleveraging”: highly indebted Americans not only can’t spend the way they used to, they’re having to pay down the debts they ran up in the bubble years. This would be fine if someone else were taking up the slack. But what’s actually happening is that some people are spending much less while nobody is spending more — and this translates into a depressed economy and high unemployment.

What the government should be doing in this situation is spending more while the private sector is spending less, supporting employment while those debts are paid down. And this government spending needs to be sustained: we’re not talking about a brief burst of aid; we’re talking about spending that lasts long enough for households to get their debts back under control. The original Obama stimulus wasn’t just too small; it was also much too short-lived, with much of the positive effect already gone.

It’s true that we’re making progress on deleveraging. Household debt is down to 118 percent of income, and a strong recovery would bring that number down further. But we’re still at least several years from the point at which households will be in good enough shape that the economy no longer needs government support.

But wouldn’t it be expensive to have the government support the economy for years to come? Yes, it would — which is why the stimulus should be done well, getting as much bang for the buck as possible.

Which brings me back to the Obama-McConnell deal. I’m often asked how I can oppose that deal given my consistent position in favor of more stimulus. The answer is that yes, I believe that stimulus can have major benefits in our current situation — but these benefits have to be weighed against the costs. And the tax-cut deal is likely to deliver relatively small benefits in return for very large costs.

The point is that while the deal will cost a lot — adding more to federal debt than the original Obama stimulus — it’s likely to get very little bang for the buck. Tax cuts for the wealthy will barely be spent at all; even middle-class tax cuts won’t add much to spending. And the business tax break will, I believe, do hardly anything to spur investment given the excess capacity businesses already have.

The actual stimulus in the plan comes from the other measures, mainly unemployment benefits and the payroll tax break. And these measures (a) won’t make more than a modest dent in unemployment and (b) will fade out quickly, with the good stuff going away at the end of 2011.

The question, then, is whether a year of modestly better performance is worth $850 billion in additional debt, plus a significantly raised probability that those tax cuts for the rich will become permanent. And I say no.

The Obama team obviously disagrees. As I understand it, the administration believes that all it needs is a little more time and money, that any day now the economic engine will catch and we’ll be on the road back to prosperity. I hope it’s right, but I don’t think it is.

What I expect, instead, is that we’ll be having this same conversation all over again in 2012, with unemployment still high and the economy suffering as the good parts of the current deal go away. The White House may think it has struck a good bargain, but I believe it’s in for a rude shock.
(c) 2010 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

“Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms.“
~~~ Groucho Marx

In this Nov. 21, 1989 file photo about 200,000 people
gather in Wenceslas Square, Prague, Czechoslovakia
during the so-called Velvet Revolution that bought to
an end the decades of repressive communist rule.

No Act Of Rebellion Is Wasted
By Chris Hedges

I stood with hundreds of thousands of rebellious Czechoslovakians in 1989 on a cold winter night in Prague’s Wenceslas Square as the singer Marta Kubišová approached the balcony of the Melantrich building. Kubišová had been banished from the airwaves in 1968 after the Soviet invasion for her anthem of defiance, “Prayer for Marta.” Her entire catalog, including more than 200 singles, had been confiscated and destroyed by the state. She had disappeared from public view. Her voice that night suddenly flooded the square. Pressing around me were throngs of students, most of whom had not been born when she vanished. They began to sing the words of the anthem. There were tears running down their faces. It was then that I understood the power of rebellion. It was then that I knew that no act of rebellion, however futile it appears in the moment, is wasted. It was then that I knew that the Communist regime was finished.

“The people will once again decide their own fate,” the crowd sang in unison with Kubišová.

I had reported on the fall of East Germany before I arrived in Prague. I would leave Czechoslovakia to cover the bloody overthrow of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauescu. The collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe was a lesson about the long, hard road of peaceful defiance that makes profound social change possible. The rebellion in Prague, as in East Germany, was not led by the mandarins in the political class but by marginalized artists, writers, clerics, activists and intellectuals such as Vaclav Havel, whom we met with most nights during the upheavals in Prague in the Magic Lantern Theater. These activists, no matter how bleak things appeared, had kept alive the possibility of justice and freedom. Their stances and protests, which took place over 40 years of Communist rule, turned them into figures of ridicule, or saw the state seek to erase them from national consciousness. They were dismissed by the pundits who controlled the airwaves as cranks, agents of foreign powers, fascists or misguided and irrelevant dreamers.

I spent a day during the Velvet Revolution with several elderly professors who had been expelled from the Romance language department at Charles University for denouncing the Soviet invasion. Their careers, like the careers of thousands of professors, teachers, artists, social workers, government employees and journalists in our own universities during the Communist witch hunts, were destroyed. After the Soviet invasion, the professors had been shipped to a remote part of Bohemia where they were forced to work on a road construction crew. They shoveled tar and graded roadbeds. And as they worked they dedicated each day to one of the languages in which they all were fluent—Latin, Greek, Italian, French, Spanish or German. They argued and fought over their interpretations of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Goethe, Proust and Cervantes. They remained intellectually and morally alive. Kubišova, who had been the most popular recording star in the country, was by then reduced to working for a factory that assembled toys. The playwright Havel was in and out of jail.

The long, long road of sacrifice, tears and suffering that led to the collapse of these regimes stretched back decades. Those who made change possible were those who had discarded all notions of the practical. They did not try to reform the Communist Party. They did not attempt to work within the system. They did not even know what, if anything, their protests would accomplish. But through it all they held fast to moral imperatives. They did so because these values were right and just. They expected no reward for their virtue; indeed they got none. They were marginalized and persecuted. And yet these poets, playwrights, actors, singers and writers finally triumphed over state and military power. They drew the good to the good. They triumphed because, however cowed and broken the masses around them appeared, their message of defiance did not go unheard. It did not go unseen. The steady drumbeat of rebellion constantly exposed the dead hand of authority and the rot and corruption of the state.

The walls of Prague were covered that chilly winter with posters depicting Jan Palach. Palach, a university student, set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square on Jan. 16, 1969, in the middle of the day to protest the crushing of the country’s democracy movement. He died of his burns three days later. The state swiftly attempted to erase his act from national memory. There was no mention of it on state media. A funeral march by university students was broken up by police. Palach’s gravesite, which became a shrine, saw the Communist authorities exhume his body, cremate his remains and ship them to his mother with the provision that his ashes could not be placed in a cemetery. But it did not work. His defiance remained a rallying cry. His sacrifice spurred the students in the winter of 1989 to act. Prague’s Red Army Square, shortly after I left for Bucharest, was renamed Palach Square. Ten thousand people went to the dedication.

We, like those who opposed the long night of communism, no longer have any mechanisms within the formal structures of power that will protect or advance our rights. We too have undergone a coup d’état carried out not by the stone-faced leaders of a monolithic Communist Party but by the corporate state. We too have our designated pariahs, whether Ralph Nader or Noam Chomksy, and huge black holes of state-sponsored historical amnesia to make us ignore the militant movements, rebels and radical ideas that advanced our democracy. We opened up our society to ordinary people not because we deified the wisdom of the Founding Fathers or the sanctity of the Constitution. We opened it up because of communist, socialist and anarchist leaders like Big Bill Haywood and his militant unionists in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

We may feel, in the face of the ruthless corporate destruction of our nation, our culture, and our ecosystem, powerless and weak. But we are not. We have a power that terrifies the corporate state. Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up or how heavily it is censored by a media that caters to the needs and profits of corporations, chips away at corporate power. Any act of rebellion keeps alive the embers for larger movements that follow us. It passes on another narrative. It will, as the rot of the state consumes itself, attract wider and wider numbers. Perhaps this will not happen in our lifetimes. But if we persist we will keep this possibility alive. If we do not, it will die.

All energy directed toward reforming political and state structures is useless. All efforts to push through a “progressive” agenda within the corridors of power are naive. Trust in the reformation of our corporate state reflects a failure to recognize that those who govern, including Barack Obama, are as deaf to public demands and suffering as those in the old Communist regimes. We cannot rely on any systems of power, including the pillars of the liberal establishment—the press, liberal religious institutions, universities, labor, culture and the Democratic Party. They have been weakened to the point of anemia or work directly for the corporations that dominate our existence. We can rely now on only ourselves, on each other.

Go to Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, at 10 a.m. Dec. 16. Join dozens of military veterans, myself, Daniel Ellsberg, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern, Dr. Margaret Flowers and many others who will make visible a hope the corporate state does not want you to see, hear or participate in. Don’t be discouraged if it is not a large crowd. Don’t let your friends or colleagues talk you into believing it is useless. Don’t be seduced by the sophisticated public relations campaigns disseminated by the mass media, the state or the Democratic Party. Don’t, if you decide to carry out civil disobedience, be cowed by the police. Hope and justice live when people, even in tiny numbers, stand up and fight for them.

There is in our sorrow—for who cannot be profoundly sorrowful?—finally a balm that leads to wisdom and, if not joy, then a strange, transcendent happiness. To stand in a park on a cold December morning, to defy that which we must defy, to do this with others, brings us solace, and perhaps even peace. We will not find this if we allow ourselves to be disabled. We will not find this alone. As long as a few of us rebel it will always remain possible to defeat a system of centralized, corporate power that is as criminal and heartless as those I watched tumble into the ash bin of history in Eastern Europe. You can find out more about the Washington protest at
(c) 2010 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

The Assassination Of America By The Coward Barack Obama
By David Michael Green

Wow! What got into Barack Obama?!?!

This week we saw two behaviors out of him that have been completely absent for his entire presidency. Two attitudinal displays that many of us have been longing to witness for a couple of years now.

First, he’s showing some real passion, campaigning hard for a big item on his policy agenda.

And, second, he’s using some tough talk against the people who are in his way.

It’s great to see. And many of us have long wondered why he never did this before, back when his health care bill was getting savaged, or when we needed someone pounding the bully pulpit to stand up for working people or the unemployed.

Yeah, it’s great to see.

Except for one small caveat.

The passion he’s finally showing is for a horrific piece of legislation, and the people he’s dumping on are his own base.

How great is that, eh? The right can do anything they want to this president, say anything about him they want, personally or politically, and he can’t be bothered to hold them remotely accountable for their monstrous excesses. But if the people who actually made him president get angry at being crapped on by their own guy for the umpteenth time, if they finally stand-up and just say no to another sell-out, if they shake their heads in wonder at the dude who once talked about “the fierce urgency of now,” well then, by gosh, that right there unleashes his unbridled rage and contempt.

Truth be told, I think his mocking anger – on full display at his press conference this week – is driven by shame. Pardon the armchair psychology, but I think he’s hiding from his own embarrassment. I think he knows that his mother would not approve of the sell-out he has become. I think he knows that the Barack Obama of just two years ago would not himself approve of the loser occupying his body today. I think he has to transmogrify his shame into rage, and then direct it at those who point out his failings in order to live with his sorry self.

I think, in short, that Obama knows that he is an astonishingly complete coward, a wimp of epic proportions. I think he knows that the product of his cowardice is the wreckage of millions of lives and his own presidency. And I think that is finally just too much to bear, so he has attacked those who, after two years of remarkable forbearance, have finally had enough out of him, and have finally said so.

Obama’s actually worse than a coward. Most cowards can at least identify their tormentors. Not President Bendback Overa. How many times will Republicans unanimously oppose his legislation before he figures out that they’re not his friends? How many times do they need to literally say out loud that they’re committed to his political destruction before he believes that they’re committed to his political destruction? How many times does he need to get his butt kicked by them before he stops further empowering these thugs?

And how many times does he need to completely fold and yield to their agenda before he realizes that he’s a loser and a joke?

Can you imagine what the last two years have been like within the top echelons of the Republican Party? At first, they must have thought they were toast. They must have figured that they were fighting against the very extinction of the party. They must have known that Bush and Cheney and Rove had driven them to the edge of a cliff. And now here was this new guy, with a new politics, and a hungry and mobilized public rallying behind him. They must have known that if he wanted to, he could give them the final and fatal push over the edge. And he could do so just by telling a few basic truths, so long absent from American politics.

Then, imagine their shock and their stunned glee as they came to realize over time that what they had on their hands was just the opposite of everything they had feared. That Obama was an even weaker pansy than Carter or Clinton or Kerry or Reid. That he was even wimpier than that still, that he was hopelessly predisposed to bargaining with his enemies just for the sake of giving his legislation some sort of jive kumbaya, bipartisan, transcendent, hopey-changey bullshit patina. That you could string the guy along forever. That you could get anything out of him. That you could say anything about him. That he ultimately stood for nothing. That he liked you better than the legions of liberal dupes whom he had fooled into making him president, and for whom he had only sneering, supercilious contempt. Imagine Republican surprise and joy when the guy who looked potentially like the slayer to their former giant turned out instead to be their savior, the naval-gazing punk who snatched resuscitation and historic victory from the jaws of crushing defeat and near annihilation. Imagine their shock and awe when it turned out that the greatest gift the Republican Party ever got was a Democratic president, and not even because of some White House intern sex scandal.

This tax deal that Oweenie just agreed to is an abomination, and it never needed to happen. If you have any doubt about how bad it is, consider solely the fact that the Republicans are in favor of it. Look at Mitch McConnell and John Boehner and the rest of them. These are not your grandfather’s Republicans. These are predatory thugs. They have come to Washington to serve the interests of their oligarchic puppet-masters, and nowadays they are capable of taking any action, telling any lie, and savaging any opponent to fulfill that singular agenda. If these folks are for it – and especially if it involves taxes – you can safely bet any several of your bodily appendages that the legislation in question is purely evil. Don’t worry, you’ll emerge fully intact.

If GOP support is not a sufficient barometer of the true nature of this sick dog of a deal, consider that it was bad enough even to wake the somnolent Democrats in Congress out of their slumberous thirty year coma, causing them to rise up and flip a fat bird in the direction of their own Dear Leader. No doubt this new-found independence has something to do with the fact that he just led them over a cliff in last month’s election debacle, his ‘leadership’ bequeathing them a gift-wrapped defeat of proportions unseen for nearly a century. But I think there’s more than that. Indicators suggest that Democratic members of Congress are actually genuinely furious with the president for the piece of crap he delivered to them, both because if its content and because of the arrogance with which he took them for granted, negotiating with the Yanomami cannibal warriors of the GOP instead, and assuming that members of his own party would have no choice but to go along for the ride. When one member of Congress was defending the president in a speech to his fellow Democrats this week, out of nowhere another actually blurted out, “Fuck the president." I don’t think they’re just posturing this time.

Nor should they be. This deal is sickening in every respect. And I’m sickened, too, when I hear nice, buttoned-down, safe little liberal sanitary napkin defenders of Obummer defend him by saying, “What did you want him to do? He didn’t have the votes.” Arrrrggggghhhhh!!!! As if the only two choices a president has are to take a lousy deal or take no deal. As if the president doesn’t have the world’s biggest bully pulpit with which to sway public sentiment and votes in Congress. As if the public didn’t already overwhelmingly support ending tax cuts for the wealthy. As if Obama doesn’t have, and hasn’t had for two years, giant majorities in both houses of Congress. As if the visage of Republicans kicking the unemployed to the street in order to cater to billionaires couldn’t be portrayed as exactly the plutocratic heartless greed that it actually is, if only the president were willing to say so, rather than legitimating these thieves instead through negotiations. As if caving into “hostage-takers” (Neville Quisling Obama’s own term) doesn’t just encourage them to come back for more. As if, worst case scenario, it isn’t better lose on principle sometimes than it is to win in shame. As if thinking you’re winning when you’re actually badly losing isn’t the worst case scenario of all. As if Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush would have just neatly folded their hands together, pursed their lips, noted their regret, and explained that, golly gosh, they just couldn’t get what they wanted because the darned votes weren’t there.

Barack Obama is an utter failure as a president. In part, that is because his policies are almost entirely as regressive as any and all of George W. Bush’s, and regressive policies have been ruining America for thirty years now. Now that the right has brought a once great country to its knees, more of the same is the absolute last thing we need, but that message somehow hasn’t gotten to this supposedly Democratic president, who won election precisely on that principle.

But Obama is also a failure because he is a total coward. He fights for nothing. His view of the presidency as some sort of passive, dormant institution that does what it’s told to by Congress and otherwise lays low, buffeted this way and that by the winds of circumstance, would have been an excellent fit for any of the benevolent, politically quiet, decades of the nineteenth century. It’s a disaster for our time, however, when so much more is expected of presidents, and when the country is now faced with multiple crises. His cowardice will almost assuredly make him a one-term president. That breaks my heart, I assure you. What’s really disastrous, however, is what having such a punk at the helm of the country in this historical moment means for the 98 percent of us who aren’t rich and connected. If the election of last month didn’t make the point emphatically enough, far worse times are likely ahead of us in the coming years, and my guess is that there’ll then be even worse times after that.

The extent of President Milquetoast’s capitulations are now becoming the stuff of legend. In the last week alone, he gave us a remarkable record of multiple and thorough assume-the-position-full-on-presidential-reamings, one directly following the next, as his adversaries passed around his rag doll self between them. No wonder regressive New York Times columnist David Brooks declared it had been a good week for Obama.

He stood on the sidelines silently watching as the repeal of the noxious Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy went down to destruction. Previously claiming that he opposed the policy and that it would be ended on his watch (despite his administration having gone to court in support of both DADT and the Defense of Marriage Act), it seemingly never occurred to him to get out and fight for its repeal. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that that’s what you’re supposed to do with the presidency.

Similarly, his embarrassing efforts to placate the Israelis sufficiently to get them to simply halt their colonialist project for a mere ninety days also blew-up in his face. He had promised to sell them a whole slew of fighter jets, but that was not enough. Then he promised to give them a whole bunch more for free, on top of the original ones. All in exchange for a whopping ninety days worth of a construction halt on an illegal project! This great ally of ours proceeded to laugh in the face of a president whom they fear about as much as Father Christmas. This week it was announced that the Obama administration (or, more accurately, the Obama administered) is now giving up its effort, and along with that goes their much-vaunted peace initiative. It seems never to have occurred to Obambi to actually turn the screws a little bit on the Israelis. Its not like he even needed to use sticks to get his way (god forbid a president should twist arms!). We give so much money and existential security protection to the arrogant Israelis that the president could have even gotten substantial leverage by simply denying them a few of the carrots already in the pipeline. But, gosh, that would be so, so... proactive.

Of course, the worst of it was the deal on taxes, which is so wrong in so many ways it defies words. But I’ll try anyhow.

It is wrong, to start with, because this is no tax cut at all. None of them have been, since Reagan started doing this in the 1980s. In fact, if you borrow money in order to fund a tax ‘cut’ – and what the Republicans got from the president will require massive borrowing to finance it – what you’re really doing is a tax increase. You’re still going to have to pay every penny back in taxes, but now you’re also going to have to pay back a lot more pennies – compounding annually – as well, in the form of interest on those loans. Add it up and it’s easy to see that net taxes go way up, not down. So why do the oligarchs want this so badly? Because what it really is is a tax transfer, from them to the rest of us, because it comes back at lower percentage rates for elites then it went out at in the form of tax-avoidance loans. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the president to be concerned about what this means for those of us who are not economic elites. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to him to be concerned about what this means for our mountain of national debt that is approaching dangerous levels now. It doesn’t even seem to have occurred to him to have publically offered the Republicans his acceptance of their beloved tax ‘cuts’, contingent on them merely showing what expenditures from the federal budget they would cut to pay for them. Not only would this expose the GOP thugs as either deficit frauds or entitlement destroyers, but it would have had the huge political advantage of driving a wedge between the tea party and establishment camps within the GOP. But that would mean that the president might have actually won the battle, so we can’t have that now, can we? And, of course, we didn’t.

His stupid deal was wrong, secondly, because he held nearly all the cards. He had control of both houses of Congress. He had public opinion solidly behind ending tax rip-offs for millionaires and billionaires. He had the powerful deficit argument against these cuts, and the inability of his opponents to argue against it. He had solid public support for extending unemployment benefits, both on moral grounds and because of their excellent stimulative effect. And he had the default position in his favor. That is, if nothing happened, if they couldn’t agree to a deal, if he refused to give in, Republicans lose, when the tax rates expire at the end of this year. With his veto pen, he could prevent them from getting the single thing they most crave in the entire universe for the next two years. He had everything, and all he had to do was show some spine. Oops – I forgot. It’s Barack Obama we’re talking about here.

This thing was also wrong because the politics favored the president, and still he folded. On taxes, the only difference between his position and theirs was over tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. On unemployment, they are on record as saying that these meager payments to people suffering badly under George Bush’s Great Recession just encourage laziness among recipients. He could have easily prevailed on these fights had he shown the courage to turn them into public relations battles. He could have done long-term damage to the GOP by showing them to be exactly what they are – a destructive disease willing to do anything to the rest of us in order to better the already rich. Republicans have won politically over and over again by telling enormous lies, simply because nobody stands up to them and speaks the truth. Some political situations are more conducive to that than others (because, my god, they’re such good liars), but few as much as this one. Allowing the GOP to paint itself as being precisely as heartless, greedy, deceitful and hypocritical as it actually is would have been a public relations bonanza far exceeding the one Newt Gingrich put on in his display of petulance that undid the party in the 1990s, if only Oworthless would have merely called their bluff. You know you’re a sorry thing indeed when the likes of Bill Clinton makes you look weak and regressive by comparison.

Finally, this whole thing is tragically wrong because it is yet another major swing of the wrecking ball in the multi-decade effort to destroy the American welfare state. The fabulously wealthy just absolutely can’t stand it that the rest of us should have some moderately decent quality of life instead of all that money getting crammed into their already overstuffed pockets. That’s why these sociopaths have been trying for thirty years to unravel the New Deal and more. That means breaking unions, that means trade deals shipping decent jobs overseas, that means changing the tax structure in their favor, that means deregulation, and that means privatization. And what it also means is killing popular entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare the only way that seems possible: by creating a debt crisis that would give politicians plausible political cover for slashing these otherwise untouchable third-rail (you touch it, you die) benefits. It’s bad enough to have Republicans work so hard toward that end. Now, in the age of Clinton and Obama, Democrats are every bit as culpable.

Barack Obama is the biggest political wimp to walk the global stage since Neville Chamberlain donned lederhosen and hoisted a beer with the Führer in Munich. Even Chamberlain had an excuse, though. Had the Nazis devoted their full attention to gobbling up Britain, it seemed reasonable at the time to imagine that they could well have succeeded. After all, France would later fall in a mere seven weeks. And, indeed, Chamberlain was canonized at the time for saving his country by means of what looked then like a politically adroit, if highly cynical, deal with the devil.

Obama has no such excuse. He’s just a freaking coward, and his cowardice is killing this country. It must be stopped.

If we progressives have learned anything these last two dismal years, it is that an over-reliance on electoral solutions to our problems is a failed strategy, especially when you live in a country with a one-party two-party system. Now, more than ever, we must think of solutions outside the realm of conventional practice.

That said, there’s no reason to ignore electoral politics at the same time we are acting elsewhere. The actions – and, especially, the non-actions – of this president have made a primary challenger to him coming from the left more than merely something to be contemplated in the face of incontrovertible evidence of his worthless nature.

It is now an absolute necessity.

Russ Feingold, are you listening? Your country is calling.
(c) 2010 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Burgermeister Nutter,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and your policy of having police stop and frisk anyone they want with no cause to expect any wrong doing helps us destroy the last remnants of the 4th Amendment, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "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 Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 12-31-2010. We salute you Herr Nutter, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Back To Basics
By William Rivers Pitt

In the first few shaky, panicky days after the attacks of September 11, I found myself driving through downtown Keene, New Hampshire. There on the green of a large traffic circled stood two people, not speaking, not moving, just holding signs. One said "Peace," and the other said "No War." When I returned a couple of months later, more people were there. Not many, not enough to start a basketball team, really, but there they were holding signs and making their quiet, vital point.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan accelerated toward becoming the bloodbaths so many of us knew they would be, these kinds of small protests began popping up in big cities and small towns all over the country. I traveled some 800,000 miles in the first half of the George W. Bush administration, hitting just about every one of the continental 48 states while speaking out against the war, and everywhere I went, I was invited to participate in these kinds of protests. Not large, not enough to make the news, but people would stand in the same spot in some town or city every single day, visible only to a small sliver of the society but making their point nonetheless.

Every so often, of course, these small dots of protesting humanity would swell into an ocean of outrage that broke in waves over Washington DC and the other great cities of this nation. February 15th, 2003 was one example, without doubt the most tremendous day of mass protest in the history of the planet. In every major city on Earth, people by the tens of millions poured into the streets to protest the onrushing invasion of Iraq. It was so vast in breadth and scope that it could not be ignored, even by a "mainstream" media that had been cheerleading for combat ever since the first hint of invasion was put forth by the Bush administrations. "Navy SEALS rock," remember?

Did it stop the war? Of course not. It took another three years - along with eloquent individual protests by people like Cindy Sheehan - for the tide of frightened, media-deceived, post-9/11 opinion to turn against the war in Iraq. But it did turn, and it turned hard, and a lot of politicians who had stapled themselves to that war and the president who created it found themselves reaping the electoral whirlwind in 2006 and 2008.

In my mind, it all begins and ends with those two people in Keene a few days after 9/11. Those two became four, and then six, and streetcorners in so many American cities began growing their own colonies of protest, and sometimes they would march, but mostly they would stand their ground and hold their sings and say "No," with body and soul and presence, to what was happening to their country and their world.

It is a rare thing to see these kinds of protests anymore. They are happening, but not often...which is strange, because we are still at war in Iraq, and are more at war in Afghanistan than we have been since the initial invasion. We have a president who goes out of his way to defend and protect the war criminals who populated the previous administration. We have a president who goes back on his word and allows tax cuts for rich people to survive, despite the rank hypocrisy of the supporters for such tax breaks, supporters who refuse to fund health care for 9/11 responders and unemployment benefits for people who have been long out of work, all out of a concern for the deficit, supporters who then turn on a dime and explode that deficit with irresponsible giveaways to people who absolutely, positively do not need the money.

The Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal has fallen to dust. The DREAM Act has collapsed. The president is speaking perfect Republican with his talk of simplifying the tax code, freezing federal wages, and best of all, his feral attacks on his own supporters for having the gall to try and hold him to his word. Mr. Obama lavishes praise and apologies all over his opponents, even as they try to annihilate him, while attacking viciously the people who wore out shoe leather and gave money they couldn't afford to give in order to see him into the office he has thus far not graced at all. Perhaps worst of all, the same insanely right-bent Republican Party Mr. Obama has been playing footsie with will take control of the House of Representatives after the New Year. As bad as things are now, they are about to get a whole lot worse.

I'd like to start seeing people on the streetcorners again. It won't be many at first; it never is. Two will become four, which will become more, each holding a sign and making a point and saying "No." No more screaming at the television or venting your spleens on internet forums. Go out, stand firm, and make the point. Be visible. Begin again what was done so well before. Create that tide to wash over the country, inspire others who feel as you do to join you. Be heard. Be seen.

Big storms gather around small particles.
(c) 2010 William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is now available from PoliPointPress.

Tony (light-fingers) Scalia

Hey, American People!
By Sheila Samples

"The time is always right to do what is right" ~~~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Whew. Nasty. That was one hell of a campaign season; one hell of an election. Democrats emerged, bruised and broken, yet their mindset seems to be -- hey, we survived Bush, how bad can it be? Sadly, the grim truth they refuse to face is -- we didn't survive Bush...

The reactionary right-wing, neo-conservative, religious-based, hate-empowered GOP once again owes the half-crazed ideologues in the Supreme Court a hearty thanks for plunging yet another dagger into the heart of democracy with its Citizens United corporate giveaway. And no Justice on that venerable body is more ideologically rigid than Dick Cheney's hunting buddy Antonin Scalia, who ramrodded the Court's 2000 Presidential "Selection" for George W. Bush, and is now out there taking aim at the century-old 17th Amendment to the US Constitution, which is literally the last barrier to a corporate-owned nation.

The 17th Amendment allows U.S. Senators to be elected by the people, rather than by individual state legislatures. Recently, referring to the Constitution, Scalia said the 17th Amendment "has changed things enormously. We changed that in a burst of progressivism in 1913, and you can trace the decline of so-called states’ rights throughout the rest of the 20th century..."

We need another "burst of progressivism" -- and soon. We are in the throes of a political convulsion, an intellectual and moral battle that we are increasingly in danger of losing. It's time to stop, take a deep national breath, and then...take a deep national bath. This nation has been in a spiraling nose dive for a decade...We need to make a genuine effort to actually see what we've only been looking at -- actually listen to what we've only been hearing.

Neither party spent much time talking about the issues; the real problems facing this country. Perhaps that's because the Republican party is a greedy force, too corrupt and venal to change -- and the Democratic Party is a shameless enabler, too timid and flabby to make a difference. Throw the corporate media in there, where it's all politics all the time because that's where the money is, and it's easy to see -- if you're really looking -- why we're caught up in the patriotic spirit of waving the flag for more tax cuts, trading freedoms for safety and following our presidential Pied Piper into the quagmire of endless war.

Republicans are dangerous. Like Bush, they are morally depraved, in that they feel no guilt or remorse for anything they say or do, regardless of the outcome. It's far too easy in this Tea Party sodden society to rationalize that murdering, wounding, displacing millions of innocent human beings was, and continues to be, necessary in order to protect the American people.

They say they are against big government, and justify their destruction of the social network by repeating "the american people...the american people...the american people" in mind-numbing repetition, much as Bush justified his bloodlust with a constant "september the 11th...september the 11th...september the 11th."

The only things Republicans have ever given to the American people is depression, poverty and despair. And their foot-stomping threats to shut down the government until their billionaire donors get a tax cut is a clear warning that more is on the way.

Having a Black man within a country mile of the Oval Office has driven a majority of Republicans, and some Democrats -- as liberal radio commentator Mike Malloy says -- "bat-shit crazy," and they are determined to destroy President Obama. Just days before the mid-term election, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared, “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Really? With the barrage of critical issues swirling throughout this nation -- more than 15-million "american people" unemployed and, every day, more losing jobs, homes, unemployment insurance, health insurance, their very lives -- yet nothing is more important than destroying the President?

Lest anyone think the old Kentuckian was racist, just days after the election, he chucked his hood and went into safe, regressive "american people" spin, saying for all practical purposes -- the american people reminded us this week that we work for the american people and we owe it to the american people and to future generations of the american people to work together to find solutions to present troubles of the american people and to help guide our nation of american people to better days...

“The formula is simple, really," McConnell said. "When the administration agrees with the American people, we will agree with the administration. When it disagrees with the American people, we won’t … If the administration wants cooperation, it will have to begin to move in our direction.”

Simple translation -- what all Republicans are saying if you listen -- Our way, or the highway -- and to hell with the American people.

Neither party can escape its history. American people struggling to prevent the American Flag from becoming their funeral shroud should remember that the Great Depression did not come about by accident. While Americans were standing in soup lines, the Republican administration was carrying Big Business through the crisis. Banks, insurance companies and corporate donors all got bailed out; big business got tax cuts -- but there was no relief for "the american people."

Sound familiar? Yes, because President Obama, in his cowering attempt at bipartisanship, is taking us "forward to the past" so rapidly that our knees are hitting our chins for nothing less than endless war, a recession caused by a permanent rich-man's tax cut and the final shredding of our social safety net. It is likely that our veterans, our children, our elderly will be forgotten or cast aside simply for the enrichment of lobbyists who paid for Republican campaigns and are now swarming all over the Capital.

Time is running out. Like Jon Stewart said when explaining the reason for his Oct. 30 Rally to Restore Sanity on the National Mall, the American people -- regardless of their political affiliation -- "Know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together."

So let's do it! The time is right. Let's give Scalia another badly needed "burst of progressivism." After all -- like McConnell says -- we're the american people...
(c) 2010 Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is an OEN editor, and a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at:

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ David Fitzsimmons ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer
By Elmo and Patsy

Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walking 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 drinking 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 morning,
At the scene of the attack.
She had hoof prints on her forehead,
And incriminating Claus marks on her back.

Grandma got run over by a reindeer,
Walking 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 taking this so well.
See him in there watching football,
Drinking beer and playing 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,
Walking 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 the blue and silver candles,
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,
Walking 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,
Walking 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
© 1979/2010 Elmo and Patsy

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Nathaniel, whose bold sartorial choice became the enduring symbol of America.

New Evidence Proves First Flag Made By Betsy Ross Actually Shirt For Gay Friend

PHILADELPHIA—Historians at the University of Pennsylvania announced the discovery this week of a personal diary from the late 18th century that reveals the first U.S. flag sewed by Betsy Ross was originally intended as a shirt for her flamboyant gay friend Nathaniel.

"This has completely upended the accepted narrative behind the first American flag," said historian Kenneth Atwood, who led the team of scholars analyzing the long-forgotten journal of prominent Philadelphia homosexual Nathaniel Linsley. "Now we can say with certainty that our nation's most enduring symbol of freedom, strength, and prosperity is actually just the result of Nathaniel's desire for a sassy, tight-fitting top."

"We've all been taught that the 13 stars and stripes of the first U.S. flag represented the original 13 colonies, but this is simply not the case," Atwood added. "In fact, Nathaniel thought that stripes were slimming, and he just really, really liked stars."

Millions of schoolchildren across the nation proudly salute Nathaniel's flamboyant garment every day.

As his diary attests, Linsley was a collector and dealer of footstools and divans, and was often seen about town in all manner of colorful attire. In the 1770s, he forged a close professional and personal friendship with the noted upholsterer Betsy Ross, the two of them meeting weekly over tea to exchange gossip and to complain about work, men, and the Intolerable Acts.

"It's amazing to think that Nathaniel unknowingly designed the most iconic flag in world history," said Historical Society of Pennsylvania researcher Maxwell Derosiers, who found the journal in the pocket of a period cheetah-print waistcoat in the organization's basement. "From the American flags that flew over Fort McHenry and Iwo Jima, to the one planted on the surface of the moon, every incarnation of the Stars and Stripes traces its roots to this one very gay article of clothing"

"And I mean really gay," Derosiers added. "This was a sleeveless crop top."

By April 1776, the weather had grown too warm for the full-body leather outfits that Nathaniel favored in wintertime, and the British naval blockade prevented him from purchasing the imported European silks he typically wore in the summer, Derosiers explained. So he asked Betsy Ross to sew him what Nathaniel described as a "lightweight and super glitzy garment of fine cotton."

"I seek to make a bold fashion proclamation and to stand apart from the drab gentlemen of today with their pedestrian wigs, facial powders, and lip rouges," wrote Linsley on April 19, 1776. "Thusly, I met with my darling friend Miss Betsy this forenoon to discuss the design of a new shirt to match my vibrant sensibilities. O! how I look forward to donning the garment anon and jaunting about the town square!"

Over the next several days, Linsley consulted with Ross regularly, making several significant alterations to the design, which included adding a blue field on the back side of the shirt for "a little splash of color," demanding ever more spangles, and selecting plain white fabric for the alternate stripes instead of see-through mesh, as he had originally envisioned.

By his own account, Linsley wore the shirt everywhere, from his daily trips candle shopping, to attending theater performances, to simply relaxing on the city green where he often watched the athletic young militiamen practice their drills.

According to a contemporary clipping from the Philadelphia General Advertiser that Linsley pasted in his journal, Gen. George Washington became mesmerized by the striking garment on July 7, 1776, when he caught sight of the colorfully clad Linsley playing his fife and "dancing a merry cotillion" outside what is now known as Independence Hall.

"This resplendently bedecked man, with his pet bald eagle perched on his shoulder, strutted about with unabashed confidence and pride, like America itself," Washington is quoted as saying in the article. "At once, I knew I must make this radiant son of liberty's shirt into a glorious flag o'er our nation!"

Historians claimed Washington's appreciation for the flamboyant garment was shared by the whole of the Continental Congress, which soon proudly adopted the shirt as the official standard of the newly established United States.

"Thanks to the chance discovery of this diary, we now know that Nathaniel Linsley, a homosexual man, is the true father of the American flag," Atwood said. "And from now on, when we look up at Old Glory flying proudly above, we'll see the very same red, white, and blue that he wore tightly across his chest more than two centuries ago."

"Though, lamentably," Atwood added, "without the pricey sequin overlay he so desperately wanted."
© 2010 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 50 (c) 12/17/2010

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