Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Viggo Mortensen wonders about the, "'Great Man' Theory?"

Uri Avnery with a short quiz, can you, "Spot The Difference."

Victoria Stewart has, "Some Coffee With That Donut Hole."

Michael Rectenwald studies, "The Obama Effect."

Jim Hightower reports, "Obama Is Miring Us In Absurdistan."

Naomi Klein writes a, "Memo To Danes."

Ralph Nader says, "'Just War' Is Just Words."

Paul Krugman explains, "Disaster And Denial."

Chris Floyd has reached the, "Boiling Point."

Case Wagenvoord is, "Framing The Rising Sun Controversy."

Mike Folkerth declares, "'We' Can Be A Big Word."

Chris Hedges considers, "Gravel's Lament."

David Michael Green explores, "America's Race To The Bottom."

Con-gressman Henry E. Brown wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald finds a, "Major Victory For ACORN And The Constitution."

Cynthia McKinney speaks at the, "Emergency Anti-Afghanistan Escalation Rally ~ December 12, 2009."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department 'The Onion' with a history update, "Sumerians Look On In Confusion As Christian God Creates World" but first Uncle Ernie sez it's, "Too Little To Late!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Cal Grondahl, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, J.R. Matson, Jim Morin, Bill Day, Jesse Springer, Jeff Parker, ACORN, Associated Press and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

Too Little To Late
By Ernest Stewart

Their children kneel in Jesus till
They learn the price of nails;
Whilst all around our mother Earth
Waits balanced on the scales.
In The Wake Of Poseidon ~~~ King Crimson

"Justice is cash flow my son." ~~~ Blank Reg to Edison Carter

"The fact that an openly gay candidate wins for mayor in the nation's fourth-largest city, in the South, in Texas, shows that when Americans get to know gay people as people, not as stereotypes, their resistance to treating gay people equally reduces." ~~~ Evan Wolfson

Seldom have we been treated a song and dance on the scale such as went down in Copenhagen. Normally the UN is a great little talker about righteousness while being nothing but a puppet for the Security Council. They're happy to starve Arab children to death in Iraq and currently the Israelis' are happy to do the same to the Palestinians with the United Nation's approval!

In Copenhagen it was out in the open for all to see, as Ian Fry said, "Madam President, the world is watching us. The time for procrastination is over, this is a matter of survival." Fry is the delegate of the mid-Pacific state of Tuvalu, one of the world's tiniest nations. Speaking for imperiled islands everywhere, he took on global industrial and oil powers at the U.N. climate conference and surprise, surprise, lost! Tuvalu will long since have gone under water by the time the oceans rise by 18 feet in 2100 CE. Fry said a week later:

"We are extremely disappointed. I have the feeling of dread we are on the Titanic and sinking fast. It's time to launch the lifeboats."

The rejection illustrates the rich-poor divide that overshadows the conference, a reality that has already led some islands to prepare for evacuation when international actions on climate ultimately fall incredibly short.

Specifically, Tuvalu asked to amend the 1992 U.N. climate treaty to require sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, far deeper than major powers are considering.

That is to "keep global warming - the rise in temperatures accompanied by rising seas - to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. That's just 0.75 degrees C (1.35 degrees F) higher than the increase to this point. Rich countries are aiming for emissions cuts that would limit warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F)."

It also would have made controls on fossil-fuel use legally binding for the U.S., China, India and other nations that until now have not faced such obligations.

Tuvalu's survival attempt, which was seconded by Grenada, the Solomon's and other island states one by one on the floor of the cavernous Bella Center, quickly ran into stiff opposition from oil giant Saudi Arabia, which would be hurt by sharp rollbacks in fuel use, and from China and India. I wonder if the Saudi's will drown if forced to sell less oil? Probably not, huh? The U.S. delegation remained silent as they pulled the puppet strings of others, since through back rooms dealings prior to the conference it had already been settled that for capitalisms sake those people would become collateral damage!

Connie Hedegaard, Danish president of the conference, said her decision on the motion would be "very difficult and yet also very easy," since action to advance the proposal would have required consensus approval. She refused to refer it to a "contact group," the next step in the process.

What she didn't say but meant was, "How long can you islanders tread water?"

Perhaps when Denmark is half under water she'll see the foolishness of her ways, if she doesn't drown first.

There is little doubt that there will be no treaty this year. Maybe next year, maybe not? Trouble is, even if they would have gone along with everything the islanders wanted, it's already too late to do anything about the approaching disasters. We've long since passed the 350 parts per million of CO2 particles that was the tipping point to disaster. If we all left the planet tomorrow it would still take 900 years for the planet to revert back to a safe CO2 level below 350 ppm. If this moving paper fantasy isn't brought down by war or a massive depression then Mother Nature certainly will bring it to it's knees. As Iron Maiden once warned:

"Run to the hills, run for your life!"

In Other News

Its billion-dollar bonus time in bank and mortgage companies all over America. Many are the very same companies that last year were going belly up before they got a trillion dollar bailout from you and me. Do you even ever remember them thanking us for it? Instead of saying thanks they rob us blind as they are doing now with your credit cards rate increases. But they'll never do a day in jail for what we used to send the Mafia up the river for. Except, of course, the Mafia only charged 20% unlike B.O.A. and Wells Fargo, which are charging some poor smucks 30%. Have you ever heard of one of our elites going to jail for swindling us? The only elitist I recall ever going to jail was Bernie Madoff and he went up the river not for stealing billions of the working man's money, but for robbing from the ultra rich. He should have gotten a medal for that, not jail time!

In Europe they're all over humongous bonuses. In England and France they've passed or are passing laws that will put a 50% tax on all bonuses over $40,000 and all excess bank profits. In America we get rhetoric. Obama, who was raised by a banker for most of his life, was full of sound and fury and signified absolutely nothing! The best he could muster for a sound bite was to call them, "Fat Cat bankers, who still don't get it." No percentages, no fines, absolutely no penalties for our licensed bandits. Who gave Obama the most money during the last election? If you said those very same bankers you win a cookie! Probably the same tracking cookie that the FBI places on your computer for visiting this radical site? Meanwhile, millions of Americans are left homeless, many put in that position by those same billionaire bankers. Funny thing that, eh?

Are you getting a billion dollar bonus? Are you getting a million dollar bonus? Are you getting a thousand dollar bonus, or even a hundred dollar bonus? Do you still have a job with no bonus? If you do you're one of the lucky ones! If we the people actually run this joint then why do we always fare so badly? Is it because we've never run the country and have always been used by our corpo-rat masters since before "the revolution?" What do you think, America?

And Finally

Here's another sign of the approaching Apocalypse. Would you believe voters in Houston, Texas elected Annise Parker as Mayor? What's so strange about that, I hear you cry? Well, besides being an activist and leftist, Annise is also a proud gay woman. Say what? That's right, the citizens of Houston elected a Lesbian to the mayor's office in the fourth largest city in the country! Imagine that!

This comes from a state that in some respects is barely out of the "Middle Ages." A state where four years ago they overwhelmingly voted to outlaw gay marriage and in a city where voters have rejected offering benefits to the same-sex partners of government employees.

Coming on the heels of New York and Maine's liberal voters making gay folks second class citizens this breath of fresh air from the red-stated south comes as welcomed news if not just a wee bit shocking!

From a state that still has old "Good Hair Perry" occupying the state shack in Austin and has sent Con-gressmen and Sin-ators to Washington who are all to the very far right of Darth Vader is to say Mayor Parker's election is a searchlight in the total darkness. We wish Mayor Parker the very best and hope she'll remember to wear her body armor!

Oh And One More Thing

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

News Alert: It's now available for rent ($2.99 for 7 days) as a "Video on Demand" as well as being for sale ($14.99) as a down loadable!


And if you don't want the movie (it's not for everyone), remember us in your holiday giving. It's been a hard year for leftist publications, just as it has been difficult for charities, poor people, and champions of truth and justice. And we understand how tight money is. As my great-grandfather-in-law said, "If steamboats were a nickel, I couldn't buy the echo of a whistle." But we keep on. We don't advocate consumerism nor do we offer facile solutions to serious problems. We do, however, bring together every week writers and activists who are not afraid to speak the truth about our country and our world. The articles we print are not for the faint of heart.

As access to accurate information becomes more difficult and free speech and the exchange of ideas becomes more restricted and controlled, small publications and alternative presses disappear. We don't want Issues and Alibis join that list.

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

Ernest & Victoria Stewart


06-14-1919 ~ 12-09-2009
Thanks for the memories!

01-24-1918 ~ 12-15-2009
Burn baby Burn!


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


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


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

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

'Great Man' Theory?
History Is Driven by the Little Guy
By Viggo Mortensen

Actors have the privilege of exploring fictional characters, to see the world from the perspective of another person's imagined life. Sometimes, usually less often, we have the opportunity to speak the words of historical figures, to say the words they themselves spoke. This presents a different kind of challenge, in many ways, something I have been thinking about personally since becoming involved with a performance project and now documentary film called The People Speak, which is airing on History Channel, Sunday, December 13, at 8 pm (7 pm Central). (A soundtrack of music from the film is available from the Verve label December 9.)

The project is inspired by Howard Zinn's books A People's History of the United States and, with Anthony Arnove, Voices of a People's History of the United States, two books that have had a deep influence on how I understand this country. Howard's books provide a history of the United States from below, from the standpoint of ordinary people often overlooked in our textbooks and in our culture.

In 2005, I had the chance to be part of reading in Los Angeles with a remarkable lineup of actors, including Sandra Oh and Josh Brolin, which we called Voices of a People's History of the United States. The enthusiastic reaction of the audience to hearing the words of people in our country's history who have spoken out, fought injustice, and made a change, demonstrated how empowering it can be for people to reclaim this history and to make it their own. And how enlightening it is to shine the light of history on the issues and concerns of the present.

The success of these performances throughout the country -- some in high schools and some in theaters, some with professional actors and musicians, some with high school students -- led a few of us to think that we should make a film that could highlight and preserve these stories. The stories of people like Plough Jogger, a farmer in Shay's Rebellion, who asserted "We've come to relieve the distresses of the people."

Or an anonymous member of the Industrial Workers of the World who was arrested for denouncing World War One, saying, "This war is a businessman's war and we don't see why we should go out and get shot in order to save the lovely state of affairs which we now enjoy."

Or Orlando and Phyllis Rodriguez, who lost their son on 9/11, and issued this heartfelt statement a few days after: "Our son died a victim of an inhuman ideology. Our actions should not serve the same purpose. Let us grieve. Let us reflect and pray. Let us think about a rational response that brings real peace and justice to our world. But let us not as a nation add to the inhumanity of our times."

What we have found in making this film over the past two years is that people respond to these voices is profoundly personal and emotional ways. They take inspiration from seeing how people struggled in the past, often against far greater odds than we face today, to make their voices heard and to right historic wrongs. They find insight from these expressions of the past into how they feel and live in the present. And they also find hope for a different future.

As Howard Zinn has often pointed out, history told from above -- from the standpoint of generals and kings and presidents -- encourages passivity, a sense of helplessness. In this version of history, "great men" make history, not ordinary people. But looked at from below, history has another lesson. Whenever change as happened, it has been through protest, dissent, struggle, social movements, ordinary people picketing, striking, boycotting, sitting down, sitting in. All this mans that we make history, history is effected by our everyday decisions. And we have a responsibility to speak out when we see injustice. We can't wait on others to "lead" us or solve our problems for us. We have to participate, to engage, every day and not just once every four years.

Howard Zinn's work also reminds us that we always need to ask: what stories am I not hearing? Whose voices am I not hearing? And that if no one is telling our stories, we need to find ways -- creative, dynamic -- ways of telling them ourselves.
(c) 2009 Viggo Mortensen

Spot The Difference
By Uri Avnery

A SHORT historical quiz: Which state:

(1) Arose after a holocaust in which a third of its people were destroyed?

(2) Drew from that holocaust the conclusion that only superior military forces could ensure its survival?

(3) Accorded the army a central role in its life, making it "an army that had a state, rather than a state that had an army"?

(4) Began by buying the land it took, and continued to expand by conquest and annexation?

(5) Endeavored by all possible means to attract new immigrants?

(6) Conducted a systematic policy of settlement in the occupied territories?

(7) Strove to push out the national minority by creeping ethnic cleansing?

For anyone who has not yet found the answer: it's the state of Prussia.

But if some readers were tempted to believe that it all applies to the State of Israel - well, they are right, too. This description fits our state. The similarity between the two states is remarkable. True, the countries are geographically very different, and so are the historical periods, but the points of similarity can hardly be denied.

THE STATE that was respected and feared for 350 years as Prussia started with another name: Mark Brandenburg. (Mark: march, border area). This territory in the North-East of Germany was wrested from its Slavic inhabitants and was initially outside the boundaries of the German Reich. To this day, many of its place names (including Berlin neighborhoods, like Pankow) are clearly Slavic. It can be said: Prussia arose on the ruins of another people (some of whose descendants are still living there).

A historical curiosity: the land was first paid for in cash. The house of Hohenzollern, a noble family from South Germany, bought the territory of Brandenburg from the German Emperor for 400,000 Hungarian Gulden. I don't know how that compares with the money paid by the Jewish National Fund for parts of Palestine before 1948.

The event that largely determined the entire history of Prussia up to World War II was a holocaust: the 30-years war. Throughout these years - 1618-1648 - practically all the armies of Europe fought each other on German soil, destroying everything in the process. The soldiers, many of them mercenaries, the scum of the earth, murdered and raped, pillaged and robbed, burnt entire towns and drove the pitiful survivors from their lands. In this war, a third of the German population was killed and two thirds of their villages destroyed. (Bertolt Brecht immortalized this holocaust in his play, "Mother Courage".)

North Germany is a wide open plain. Its borders are unprotected by any ocean, mountain range or desert. The Prussian answer to the ravages of the holocaust was to erect an iron wall: a powerful regular army that would make up for the lack of seas and mountains and be ready to defend the state against all possible combinations of potential enemies.

At the beginning, the army was an essential instrument for the defense of the state's very existence. In the course of time, it became the center of national life. What started out as the Prussian defense forces became an aggressive army of conquest that terrified all its neighbors. For some of the Prussian kings, the army was the main interest in life. For a time, the soldiers and their families constituted about a quarter of the Berlin population. An old Prussian saying goes: "Der Soldate / ist der beste Mann im Staate" - the soldier is the best man in the state. Adulation of the army became a cult, almost a religion.

PRUSSIA WAS never a "normal" state of a homogenous population living together throughout the centuries. By a sophisticated combination of military conquest, diplomacy and judicious marriages, its masters succeeded in annexing more and more territories to their core domain. These territories were not even contiguous, and some of them were very far from each other.

One of those was the area that came to give the state its name: Prussia. The original Prussia was located on the shores of the Baltic Sea, in areas that now belong to Poland and Russia. At first they were conquered by the Order of Teutonic Knights, a German religious-military order founded during the Crusades in Acre - the ruins of its main castle, Montfort (Starkenberg), still stand in Galilee. The German crusaders decided that instead of fighting the heathens in a faraway country, it made more sense to fight the neighboring pagans and rob them of their lands. In the course of time, the princes of Brandenburg succeeded in acquiring this territory and adopted its name for all their dominions. They also succeeded in upgrading their status and crowned themselves as kings.

The lack of homogeneity of the Prussian lands, composed as they were of diverse and unconnected areas, gave birth to the main Prussian creation: the "State". This was the factor that was to unite all the different populations, each of which stuck to its local patriotism and traditions. The "State" - Der Staat - became a sacred being, transcending all other loyalties. Prussian philosophers saw the "State" as the incarnation of all the social virtues, the final triumph of human reason.

The Prussian state became proverbial. Demonized by its enemies, it was, however, exemplary in many ways - a well organized, orderly and law-abiding structure, its bureaucracy untainted by corruption. The Prussian official received a paltry salary, lived modestly and was intensely proud of his status. He detested ostentation. A hundred years ago Prussia already had a system of social insurance - long before other major countries dreamed of it. It was also exemplary in its religious tolerance. Frederick "the Great" declared that everyone should "find happiness in his own way". Once he said that if Turks were to come and settle in Prussia, he would build mosques for them. Last week, 250 years later, the Swiss passed a referendum forbidding the building of minarets in their country.

PRUSSIA WAS a very poor country, lacking natural resources, minerals and good agricultural soil. It used its army to procure richer territories.

Because of the poverty, the population was thinly spread. The Prussian kings expended much effort in recruiting new immigrants. In 1731, when tens of thousands of Protestants in the Salzburg area (now part of Austria) were persecuted by their Catholic ruler, the King of Prussia invited them to his land. They came with their families and possessions in a mass foot march to East Prussia, traversing the full length of Germany. When the French Huguenots (Protestants) were slaughtered by their Catholic kings, the survivors were invited to Prussia and settled in Berlin, where they contributed greatly to the development of the country. Jews, too, were allowed to settle in Prussia in order to contribute to its prosperity, and the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn became one of the leading lights of the Prussian intelligentsia.

When Poland was divided in 1771 between Russia, Austria and Prussia, the Prussian state acquired a national minority problem. In the new territory there lived a large Polish population that stuck to its national identity and language. The Prussian response was a massive settlement campaign in these areas. This was a highly organized effort, planned right down to the minutest detail. The German settlers got a plot of land and many financial benefits. The Polish minority was oppressed and discriminated against in every possible way. The Prussian kings wanted to "Germanize" their acquired areas, much as the Israeli government wants to "Judaize" their occupied territories.

This Prussian effort had a direct impact on the Jewish colonization of Palestine. It served as an example for the father of Zionist settlement, Arthur Ruppin, and not by accident - he was born and grew up in the Polish area of Prussia.

IT IS impossible to exaggerate the influence of the Prussian model on the Zionist movement in almost all spheres of life.

Theodor Herzl, the founder of the movement, was born in Budapest and lived most of his life in Vienna. He admired the new German Reich that was founded in 1871, when he was 11 years old. The King of Prussia - which constituted about half of the area of the Reich - was crowned as German emperor, and Prussia formed the new empire in its image. Herzl's diaries are full of admiration for the German state. He courted Wilhelm II, King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany, who obliged by receiving him in a tent before the gate of Jerusalem. He wanted the Kaiser to become the patron of the Zionist enterprise, but Wilhelm remarked that, while Zionism itself was an excellent idea, it "could not be realized with Jews".

Herzl was not the only one to imprint a Prussian-German pattern on the Zionist enterprise. In this he was overshadowed by Ruppin, who is known today to Israeli children mainly as a street name. But Ruppin had an immense impact on the Zionist enterprise, more than any other single person. He was the real leader of the Zionist immigrants in Palestine in their formative period, the years of the second and third Aliyah (immigration wave) in the first quarter of the 20th century. He was the spiritual father of Berl Katznelson, David Ben-Gurion and their generation, the founders of the Zionist Labor movement that became dominant in the Jewish society in Palestine, and later in Israel. It was he who practically invented the Kibbutz and the Moshav (cooperative settlement).

If so, why has he been almost eradicated from official memory? Because some sides of Ruppin are best forgotten. Before becoming a Zionist, he was an extreme Prussian-German nationalist. He was one of the fathers of the "scientific" racist creed and believed in the superiority of the Aryan race. Up to the end he occupied himself with measuring skulls and noses in order to provide support for assorted racist ideas. His partners and friends created the "science" that inspired Adolf Hitler and his disciples.

The Zionist movement would have been impossible were it not for the work of Heinrich Graetz, the historian who created the historical image of the Jews which we all learned at school. Graetz, who was also born in the Polish area of Prussia, was a pupil of the Prussian-German historians who "invented" the German nation, much as he "invented" the Jewish nation.

Perhaps the most important thing we inherited from Prussia was the sacred notion of the "State" (Medina in Hebrew) - an idea that dominates our entire life. Most countries are officially a "Republic" (France, for example), a "Kingdom" (Britain) or a "Federation" (Russia). The official name "State of Israel" is essentially Prussian.

WHEN I first brought up the similarity between Prussia and Israel (in a chapter dedicated to this theme in the Hebrew and German editions of my 1967 book, "Israel Without Zionists") it might have looked like a baseless comparison. Today, the picture is clearer. Not only does the senior officers corps occupy a central place in all the spheres of our life, and not only is the huge military budget beyond any discussion, but our daily news is full of typically "Prussian" items. For example: it transpires that the salary of the Army Chief of Staff is double that of the Prime Minister. The Minister of Education has announced that henceforth schools will be assessed by the number of their pupils who volunteer for army combat units. That sounds familiar - in German.

After the fall of the Third Reich, the four occupying powers decided to break up Prussia and divide its territories between several German federal states, Poland and the USSR. That happened in February 1947 - only 15 months before the founding of the State of Israel.

Those who believe in the transmigration of souls can draw their own conclusions. It is certainly food for thought.
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Some Coffee With That Donut Hole
By Victoria Stewart

Until a little over a year ago my mother had been in fairly good health. She had smoked her share of cigarettes and enjoyed that favorite southern beverage, bourbon and branch, but she was blessed with good genes and a lifetime of farm work. When she got sick my mother, who hates taking medicines, was relieved to discover her illness would not require a lot of medication. We were also relieved because, as it turns out, many of the medicines needed by the elderly are not available in generic brands and so the Medicare co-pay is pricey. Thirty-five dollars until just recently when it went up to forty-five-a nice little price hike especially for people on fixed incomes. The one prescription my mother had a year ago has grown to three-all at forty-five dollars a pop. More than 10% of her Social Security check goes to pay for these three medicines.

But she was getting by and feeling better and we all try to help.

Last week when she called the pharmacy to have one of her life-sustaining prescriptions refilled, the pharmacist informed her it would be two-hundred and forty-four dollars-money she didn't have, especially the week before she received her Social Security check. She was frantic, of course, and panicky. She said the pharmacist said something about her being in a "donut hole." You know, I have always disliked donuts. I don't like the texture. I don't like the way the sugar crumbles off all over the place. I don't like the way they kind of squish when you bite them. The cake kinds are equally bad, dry and invariably stale-tasting even when I've watched them made and know they are fresh. And donut holes, well, they're just too damned cute to exist. But personal preference aside, donuts are pretty innocuous. They don't conjure images of torture, death, and destruction. No one hears the word "donut" and is afraid. So how dangerous could it be for my mom to have "fallen in the donut hole," whatever that meant?

After I talked to the pharmacist and called her insurance company, I though the problem stemmed from the forced change in insurance carriers for Medicare, Part D, taking place on January 1. (That's another story, annoying but not life threatening.) I was wrong. As it turns out this benign sounding euphemism (and I want to meet the marketing genius who coined that phrase) represents a life threatening situation brought about by the obscene greed of insurance and prescription drug companies.* Unlike Medicaid, a program with which I had some familiarity due to a friend's terminal illness, Medicare has a gap in prescription drug coverage. The insurance company providing drug coverage-and this is a private insurer, contracted by the federal government and paid out of Social Security funds, a premium deducted monthly from all those generous Social Security checks-only pays out twenty-seven hundred dollars. When an elderly person reaches that magic number, they are then responsible for until they reach another cap-around forty-five hundred dollars. That's the donut hole. A big, whopping, eighteen-hundred dollar hole. And before you say that doesn't sound like too much consider the cost of medicines. Think about how far a Social Security check would go to cover those costs. Think about the cost of food and housing. Think about heat and electricity. Think about what it would be like to be old, sick, poor, and unable to afford the medicines that protect you from a world of hurt.

My mother is not alone. She has advocates. Her doctor provided her with samples for the rest of the year. His office will help her sign up for prescription assistance plans for next year. She was lucky.

She would have died without this medication. There's a death squad for you. Death by donut hole.

When I listen to the self-serving political blathering going on in Washington over "health care reform," when I see the corrupt, contemptible shills for the insurance industry posing for the cameras, I am filled with rage. Pure and simple rage.

Who are these people and why are they running the country?

Medicare, that once strong safeguard for our nation's elders, has become just one more government feeding trough for corporate America. A government which systematically terrorizes the most helpless in order to guarantee profits for the wealthiest, that government is not only corrupt, it is evil. And that is what our government is doing to our parents and grandparents.

And that's what it is doing to you and your children with this obscenity masquerading as health care reform. Don't let it happen. Don't settle. This is our country. Take it back.

Start with health care. Make our government give us what we deserve. And it's more than donuts and their voracious black holes.

* I have long referred to insurance and prescription drug companies as cartels. And this week, Keith Olbermann began using the same phrase... so alas, reverse snob that I am, I am relinquishing the phrase to the main stream media-where it probably belongs.
(c) 2009 Victoria Stewart is the editor of Issues & Alibis magazine.

Obama in Oslo. One of the most ill-advised Nobels in history.
The choice served to bare the class nature of these Nobel committees.

The Obama Effect
The demise of the Democratic Party and a gift to the country
By Michael Rectenwald

The "Bubble" of false consciousness afflicting the American nation may be at last on the verge of deflating.

The decision to escalate the Afghanistan War should put the final nail in the coffin of "change" and "hope" that Democrats and others crawled into when they supported Obama. The evidence that Obama is every bit the representative of the corporate oligarchy and no less a corporate shill than the rest has been mounting for nearly a year-or well before the election for the cognoscenti. Only fanatics could have heard Obama's speech on Afghanistan and failed to hear the resonances of Bush. But the writing was on the wall over a year ago when Obama supported the bailouts of the banks and brokerage firms that leveraged their destruction of the economy on the foreclosures of homes. Few could miss the fact that the health care reform bill, should it ever pass, will be another unwarranted and gratuitous bailout-this one of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Obama diverted the legitimate anger and energy for real change and scuttled it under the fraudulent tent of the Democratic Party. He led millions to the cliff; they are now falling off in droves. Those who've not quite gotten to the edge screech and yell: "Wait! Give him time!" Those who gave warning from the outset are not busy casting nets. We welcome the demise of the Democratic Party.

And that is exactly the Obama Effect. Every last tissue of belief in the Democrats should by now be shred and cast aside. The Democrats are no less the corporate bailers and militarists than the Republicans. They hand trillions to the banks and brokerage firms; they dissolve union contracts and send the workers to the dogs; their unmanned drones bomb Pakistan, killing and maiming innocents and displacing tens of thousands; they sell the same lies about the wars-that they have to do with terrorism or democracy rather than oil and other resources-as their predecessors; they fund the very enemy that they claim to fight; they keep up the same contracts with Blackwater and its successors; they vote for the same war funding; they carry out the same secret renditions; they sanction and continue the same spying on US citizens; they exonerate torturers and war criminals from the previous administration; they are war criminals in complicity with other war criminals.

For those who hadn't quite gotten the point before, thanks to Obama's euphemistic and high-flown rhetorical excesses, no one can now believe that another Democrat, even an apparently more "left" one, will ever deliver a thing that he or she promises. Obama has filled the Democratic hot air balloon to the limit and it has burst. It falls like a failing parachute along with those who trusted it.

Despite all of this, or rather because of it, Obama has given, albeit unwittingly, a great gift to the majority. He has shown those who still have brainwaves that nevermore should anyone other than a corporate shill believe in a Democrat for any positive change in terms of the vast majority. The one thing that Obama has changed: the credulity accorded Democratic demagoguery.

Am I merely opening the door for the Republicans to fill the vast void of credibility left by the Democrats, you ask? To answer requires some clarification. The Democrats are one of two levers by which the ruling oligarchy controls the political process to their nearly exclusive advantage. This isn't a new development-it has merely become too obvious to ignore. The Democrats have left this void. It is not my doing. I recommend that it be filled by a working-class party movement-not a green party, not a libertarian party, not an "independent" party, but a party that is aligned with the vast majority-a party of the workers- workers of farms, of factories, of schools, of construction sites, of the auto industry, of the retail industry, of the research firms, of the institutions of higher education, of banks, of city and other governmental offices-of those who make their livings not from profit but from wages. Every other party in every other country has ended up being just another lever of the ruling oligarchy.

Only a working-class majority can overcome the power elite and end the wars. Only a working-class party can change the socio-political and economic conditions. Only a majority party can deliver to itself health care coverage. Only a majority party can save the environment. Only a majority party and order can put production on a rational basis for their own benefit and not the benefit of a tiny minority.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to Obama. He has finally dashed and destroyed the false hopes in the Democratic Party and the political system as it stands. Obama was the false prophet of change. Now let the real change begin.
(c) 2009 Michael Rectenwald PhD, is the founder of Citizens for Legitimate Government.

Obama Is Miring Us In Absurdistan

The bad news is that Obama has thrust more Americans ever deeper into the vortex of his Afghanistan war. But the good news is that he flatly promised to "begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011." So, it's a short term commitment, right?

Uh... not exactly. No sooner had he spoken than a covey of top officials rushed forth with a flurry of statements to "explain" what the President really meant. "We're going to be in the region for a long time," said Obama's national security advisor, Gen. James Jones. "There isn't a deadline," deadpanned Pentagon Chief Robert Gates, who elaborated by saying that Obama's pledge of a July 2011 withdrawal would merely involve "some handful" of troops, "some small number," or as he eloquently concluded, "whatever."

Got that? Whatever.

In case you still don't grasp that our 100,000 soldiers and untold billions of our dollars are going to be stuck in Afghan Hell for many many years (not months), heed the candid comments of Hamid Karzai, the corrupt Afghanistan president whom our troops have been sent to prop up. His estimate is that it will take a minimum of five years to recruit and train enough Afghan security forces to allow American troops to begin any substantial withdrawal. The cost to U.S. taxpayers for those five years of training: $50 billion.

But even that's not the end of it. Afghanistan is impoverished, so we'll have to keep financing their military. For how long? At least until 2024, says Karzai.

Afghanistan has become Absurdistan. Obama has tumbled into a Shakespearean level of folly - but Congress doesn't have to let him take us there. Bring our troops home. Now. To help, call United for Peace and Justice (212) 868-5545 or visit their website at
(c) 2009 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Memo To Danes
Even You Cannot Control This Summit
By Naomi Klein

On Saturday night, after a week of living off of conference center snack bars, a group of us were invited to a delicious home-cooked meal with a real live Danish family. After spending the evening gawking at their stylish furnishings, a few of us had a question: Why are Danes so good at design?

"We're control freaks," our hostess replied instantly. "It comes from being a small country with not much power. We have to control what we can." When it comes to producing absurdly appealing light fixtures and shockingly comfortable desk chairs, that Danish form of displacement is clearly a very good thing. When it comes to hosting a world-changing summit, the Danish need for control is proving to be a serious problem.

The Danes have invested a huge amount of money co-branding their capitol city (now "Hopenhagen") with a summit that will supposedly save the world. That would be fine if this summit actually were on track to save the world. But since it isn't, the Danes are frantically trying to redesign us.

Take the weekend's protests. By the end, around 1,100 people had been arrested. That's just nuts. Saturday's march of roughly 100,000 people came at a crucial juncture in the climate negotiations, when all signs pointed either to break down or a dangerously weak deal. The march was festive and peaceful but also tough. "The Climate Doesn't Negotiate" was the message, and western negotiators need to head it.

When a handful of people starting throwing stones and setting off sound grenades (no, they weren't "gunshots" as the Huffington Post breathlessly reported, the marchers handled it themselves, instructing the people responsible to leave the protest, which they promptly did. I was in that part of the march, and it barely interrupted my conversation. Calling this a "riot," as the British Telegraph absurdly did, really isn't fair to serious rioters, of which there are plenty in Europe.

Never mind. The Copenhagen cops used a little shattered glass as the pretext for detaining almost a thousand people, picking up another hundred the next day. Hundreds of those arrested were corralled together, forced to sit on the freezing pavement for hours, with wrists cuffed (and some ankles too). According to organizer Tadzio Müller, these were not the people who threw rocks but "the treatment was humiliating," with some of the detainees urinating on themselves because they were not allowed to move.

The arrests, part of a pattern all week, felt like a warning: deviations from the "Hopenhagen" message will not be tolerated.

Inside the official summit, delegates apparently gathered around flat screen TVs and watched the police push protestors against walls and break up the march. For some it must have felt familiar. After all, that's pretty much what the Danish government and other Western powers have been doing here all week: trying to break up the G77 bloc of developing countries by using classic divide and conquer tactics, including pushing especially vulnerable states up against the wall with special offers.

Having learned nothing from the "leaked Danish text," this evening featured a meeting of 40 states invited to hash out a deal; the rest of the ministers from the 192 states represented have no idea what they decided--hardly the democracy promised by the UN.

The real test of Danish control issues will come on Wednesday, at the Reclaim Power action. In the morning demonstrators are going to march to the Bella Center to demand real solutions to the climate crisis, not the fuzzy math and carbon trading on offer inside. The delegates on the inside who feel the same way--and there are thousands--are being invited to join the demonstrators.

If all goes well, somewhere in the vicinity of the Bella Center will be a "people's assembly," a chance to highlight some of the many common sense solutions that have been shut out of the official negotiations, including keeping Alberta's tar sands in the ground and paying climate "reparations."

The organizers of Reclaim Power have stated clearly that they are committed to non-violent civil disobedience. Even if attacked by police, they will not respond with violence. Still, the specter of unscripted dissent upstaging the official conference on Wednesday no doubt has our Danish hosts deeply freaked out.

Let's hope they don't deal with their control issues by trying to hoard everyone into pens: the protestors kept far from the Bella Center; the delegates locked inside. Because this action--more than anything that has happened so far--has the potential to send a clear and much-needed message to the world: only a deal that is dictated by both science and justice will do.

So memo to our Danish hosts: sure, Copenhagen is your city, and we love you for your bicycles and windmills. But it's everyone's planet. Stop trying to design us out of the picture.
(c) 2009 Naomi Klein is the author of, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism."

'Just War' Is Just Words
By Ralph Nader

President Obama, the Afghan war escalator, received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, and proceeded to deliver his acceptance speech outlining the three criteria for a "just war" which he himself is violating.

The criteria are in this words: "If it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence."

After 9/11, warmonger George W. Bush could have used the international law doctrine of hot pursuit with a multilateral force of commandoes, linguists and bribers to pursue the backers of the attackers. Instead, he blew the country of Afghanistan apart and started occupying it, joined forces with a rump regime and launched a divide-and-rule tribal strategy that set the stage for a low-tiered civil war.

Eight years later, Obama is expanding the war within a graft-ridden government in Kabul, fraudulent elections, an Afghan army of northern tribesmen loathed by the southern and south-eastern tribes of 40 million Pashtuns, an impoverished economy whose largest crop by far is a narcotic, and a devastated population embittered by foreign occupiers and non-existent government services.

President Obama's national security adviser, former Marine General James Jones, said two months ago: "The al-Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases, no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies."

Since Mr. Obama repeats George W. Bush's reason for going into Afghanistan-to destroy al-Qaeda-why is he sending 30,000 soldiers plus an even greater number of corporate contractors there in the near future at a cost stated by the White House of one million dollars per solider per year? Is this "proportional force"?

Always small in number, al-Qaeda has moved over the border into Pakistan and anywhere its supporters can in the world-east Africa, north Africa, Indonesia. The gang is a migrant traveler.

Is Obama pouring soldiers into Afghanistan so that they and our inaccurate, civilian-destroying drones can start fighting across the border in Pakistan, as indicated by The New York Times? Beyond the violations of international law and absence of constitutional authorization involved, this could so roil Pakistanis as to make the U.S. experience next door look like a modest struggle.

Obama has emphasized weakening the Taliban as the other objective of our military buildup with its horrible consequence in casualties and other costs. Who are the Taliban? They include people with different causes, such as protecting their valleys, drug trafficking to live on, fighters against foreign occupiers or, being mostly Pashtuns, protecting their tribal turf against the northern Tajiks and Uzbecks.

How many Taliban fighters are there? The Pentagon estimates around 25,000. Their methods make them unpopular with the villagers. They have no air force, navy, artillery, tanks, missiles, no bases, no central command. They have rifles, grenade launchers, bombs and suiciders. Unlike al-Qaeda, they have only domestic ambitions counteracted by their adversarial tribesmen who make up most of the Afghan army.

Robert Baer, former CIA officer with experience in that part of Asia, asserted:

"The people that want their country liberated from the West have nothing to do with al-Qaeda. They simply want us gone because we're foreigners, and they're rallying behind the Taliban because the Taliban are experienced, effective fighters."

To say as Obama inferred in his Oslo speech that the greater plunge into Afghanistan is self-defense, with proportional force and sparing civilians from violence is a scale of self-delusion or political cowardliness that is dejecting his liberal base.

For as President Eisenhower stated so eloquently in his 1953 "cross of iron" speech, every dollar spent on munitions and saber-rattling takes away from building schools, clinics, roads and other necessities of the American people.

The Afghan War and the Iraq war-occupation-already directly costing a trillion dollars-are costing the American people every time Washington says there is not enough money for neonatal care, occupational disease prevention, cleaner drinking water systems, safer hospitals, prosecution of corporate criminals, cleaner air or upgrading and repairing key public facilities.

Even the hardiest and earliest supporters of his presidential campaign in 2008 are speaking out. Senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus, such as John Conyers (D-MI) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) have recently criticized the President for not doing enough to help African-Americans weather the hard times.

In a stinging ironic rebuke to the first African-American President, Rep. Waters declared "We can no longer afford for our public policy to be defined by the worldview of Wall Street."

According to Congressman Conyers, an upset Barack Obama called to ask why the Michigan lawmaker was "demeaning" him. Conyers has been increasingly turned off by the President's policies-among them health care reform, the war in Afghanistan, slippage on Guantanamo and the extension of the Patriot Act's invasive provisions.

The 80-year old Congressman spent most weekends in 2007 and 2008 tirelessly on the campaign trail trying to get Obama elected.

White House aides are not troubled by the rumblings from the moderate Left. They said they have all of 2010 to bring them back into the fold by the November Congressional elections. Besides, where else are they going to go?

Well, they could stay home. Remember 1994 and the Gingrich takeover.
(c) 2009 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

Disaster And Denial
By Paul Krugman

When I first began writing for The Times, I was naïve about many things. But my biggest misconception was this: I actually believed that influential people could be moved by evidence, that they would change their views if events completely refuted their beliefs.

And to be fair, it does happen now and then. I've been highly critical of Alan Greenspan over the years (since long before it was fashionable), but give the former Fed chairman credit: he has admitted that he was wrong about the ability of financial markets to police themselves.

But he's a rare case. Just how rare was demonstrated by what happened last Friday in the House of Representatives, when - with the meltdown caused by a runaway financial system still fresh in our minds, and the mass unemployment that meltdown caused still very much in evidence - every single Republican and 27 Democrats voted against a quite modest effort to rein in Wall Street excesses.

Let's recall how we got into our current mess.

America emerged from the Great Depression with a tightly regulated banking system. The regulations worked: the nation was spared major financial crises for almost four decades after World War II. But as the memory of the Depression faded, bankers began to chafe at the restrictions they faced. And politicians, increasingly under the influence of free-market ideology, showed a growing willingness to give bankers what they wanted.

The first big wave of deregulation took place under Ronald Reagan - and quickly led to disaster, in the form of the savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s. Taxpayers ended up paying more than 2 percent of G.D.P., the equivalent of around $300 billion today, to clean up the mess.

But the proponents of deregulation were undaunted, and in the decade leading up to the current crisis politicians in both parties bought into the notion that New Deal-era restrictions on bankers were nothing but pointless red tape. In a memorable 2003 incident, top bank regulators staged a photo-op in which they used garden shears and a chainsaw to cut up stacks of paper representing regulations.

And the bankers - liberated both by legislation that removed traditional restrictions and by the hands-off attitude of regulators who didn't believe in regulation - responded by dramatically loosening lending standards. The result was a credit boom and a monstrous real estate bubble, followed by the worst economic slump since the Great Depression. Ironically, the effort to contain the crisis required government intervention on a much larger scale than would have been needed to prevent the crisis in the first place: government rescues of troubled institutions, large-scale lending by the Federal Reserve to the private sector, and so on.

Given this history, you might have expected the emergence of a national consensus in favor of restoring more-effective financial regulation, so as to avoid a repeat performance. But you would have been wrong.

Talk to conservatives about the financial crisis and you enter an alternative, bizarro universe in which government bureaucrats, not greedy bankers, caused the meltdown. It's a universe in which government-sponsored lending agencies triggered the crisis, even though private lenders actually made the vast majority of subprime loans. It's a universe in which regulators coerced bankers into making loans to unqualified borrowers, even though only one of the top 25 subprime lenders was subject to the regulations in question.

Oh, and conservatives simply ignore the catastrophe in commercial real estate: in their universe the only bad loans were those made to poor people and members of minority groups, because bad loans to developers of shopping malls and office towers don't fit the narrative.

In part, the prevalence of this narrative reflects the principle enunciated by Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." As Democrats have pointed out, three days before the House vote on banking reform Republican leaders met with more than 100 financial-industry lobbyists to coordinate strategies. But it also reflects the extent to which the modern Republican Party is committed to a bankrupt ideology, one that won't let it face up to the reality of what happened to the U.S. economy.

So it's up to the Democrats - and more specifically, since the House has passed its bill, it's up to "centrist" Democrats in the Senate. Are they willing to learn something from the disaster that has overtaken the U.S. economy, and get behind financial reform?

Let's hope so. For one thing is clear: if politicians refuse to learn from the history of the recent financial crisis, they will condemn all of us to repeat it.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Boiling Point
Hijacking the Planet for Power and Privilege
By Chris Floyd

The mind boggles. Who ever would have thought, even in their darkest, most paranoid dreams, that the Copenhagen climate change talks would be hijacked by a handful of rich nations seeking to give themselves more power and riches while imposing new burdens and new injustices on the rest of the world? And that amongst this avaricious, duplicitous elite one would find the government of a man who now bears the Nobel laurel for his unstinting dedication to the welfare of all humanity?

Yet as unlikely as it may seem - the rich screwing the poor? What next? - that's exactly what has happened at the great international conference that opened this week in Denmark with the avowed intent of pulling the planet back from the brink of a potentially fatal disequilibrium. America, Britain, and, er, Denmark are among the handful of rich nations who have drawn up a secret draft agreement that they hope to impose on the conference in its closing days, when the elite's heavy hitters like Barack Obama and Gordon Brown swan in to take a bow.

The plan would let rich nations emit twice as much per capita pollution as developing countries, while the latter will be subject to stiff new dictates from the rich in order to receive technical assistance for climate change programs. The elite plan also calls for completely bypassing the UN - the only international forum in which poor nations feel they stand on a slightly more equal footing with the elite - and turning over climate change funding and future negotiations to an "independent" board ... most likely run by that reliable appendage of empire, the World Bank. As the Guardian reports:

The UN Copenhagen climate talks are in disarray today after developing countries reacted furiously to leaked documents that show world leaders will next week be asked to sign an agreement that hands more power to rich countries and sidelines the UN's role in all future climate change negotiations.

The document is also being interpreted by developing countries as setting unequal limits on per capita carbon emissions for developed and developing countries in 2050; meaning that people in rich countries would be permitted to emit nearly twice as much under the proposals....

The draft hands effective control of climate change finance to the World Bank; would abandon the Kyoto protocol - the only legally binding treaty that the world has on emissions reductions; and would make any money to help poor countries adapt to climate change dependent on them taking a range of actions.

The so-called Danish text, a secret draft agreement worked on by a group of individuals known as "the circle of commitment" - but understood to include the UK, US and Denmark - has only been shown to a handful of countries since it was finalised this week.

..."It is being done in secret. Clearly the intention is to get [Barack] Obama and the leaders of other rich countries to muscle it through when they arrive next week. It effectively is the end of the UN process," said one diplomat, who asked to remain nameless.

And as noted in a follow-up story by the Guardian:

A spokesman for Cafod, a development charity with close links to some of the poorest countries in the world, said: "This draft document reveals the backstage machinations of a biased host who, instead of acting as nonpartisan broker, is taking sides with the developed countries.

"The document should not even exist. There is a UN legal process which is the official negotiating text. The Danish text disrespects the solid, steady approach of the UN process."

Another shock! Elites clubbing together in secret, seeking to circumvent legal processes for their own corrupt advantage? And, and, and....Americans being involved in such dirty business?! Say it ain't so, O!

The Copenhagen talks have become captive of what we might call the "Reform Syndrome"; i.e., the absolute, urgent imperative to put together a crappy deal that gorges the rich and hobbles the poor in egregious ways -- but which can be palmed off on a compliant media and a diverted public as some kind of "reform." The important thing is that an illusion of positive action be created -- while the same-old same-old keeps grinding on behind the scenes.

This scenario has been playing out in the most crude and brazen fashion during the "debate" over health care "reform" in the United States, which has seen a "progressive" administration literally sell its "reform" agenda to the very corporate interests that are the ostensible target of the reforms, allowing them, again literally, to write most of the "reform" legislation themselves.

And this has been the modus operandi of most of the international climate change efforts, which have seen no appreciable reduction in the pollution that is driving the destabilization of the planet -- but has seen the creation of vast new "carbon trading" markets an other speculative ventures for the rich and powerful to feast upon.

Genuine climate change experts like Sir David King of the UK have been saying that no deal would be far better than the kind of bad deals that are brewing in Copenhagen. And that was before the secret agenda of the "circle of commitment" was revealed. (The same dynamic applies to health care reform, of course: better no bill at all than the monstrosity now wending its way through Congressional intestines. Back off, buckle down, and start again.)

The details of the elite's Copenhagen agenda will now doubtless now be modified -- or plastered over with a new coat of PR paint -- in the light of the firestorm the revelations have provoked. But the true intention of the rich nations in these negotiations -- as in all others -- is clearer than a shining stream pouring down from a melting ice cap: the weakest go to the wall.


But as Arthur Silber pointed out last month in his articles on global warming, this is what our "complex, intricate... corporatist system," with its "dizzyingly numerous interconnections between "private" business and government," does. This is what it's for. And, as he notes, this is the system that we are trusting to resolve the globe-wrenching problems of climate change.

Silber also makes the pertinent point that while this system goes on its merry way, profiting both from its unceasing pollution of the planet -- which may have already reached the point of no return -- and from the fitful and co-opted attempts to mitigate its effects, millions of people are absorbed by their anxiety over these potential dangers ... even as they ignore, or in some cases, celebrate, vast, man-made catastrophes that could be dealt with today, right now -- and with a bare minimum of cost.

For example, Victoria Brittain details a vast, man-made environmental disaster that could be resolved this afternoon with a single phone call. From the Guardian:

Among all the complex and long-term solutions being sought in Copenhagen for averting environmental catastrophe across the world, there is one place where the catastrophe has already happened, but could be immediately ameliorated with one simple political act.

In Gaza there is now no uncontaminated water; of the 40,000 or so newborn babies, at least half are at immediate risk of nitrate poisoning - incidence of "blue baby syndrome", methaemoglobinaemia, is exceptionally high; an unprecedented number of people have been exposed to nitrate poisoning over 10 years; in some places the nitrate content in water is 300 times World Health Organisation standards; the agricultural economy is dying from the contamination and salinated water; the underground aquifer is stressed to the point of collapse; and sewage and waste water flows into public spaces and the aquifer.

The blockade of Gaza has gone on for nearly four years, and the vital water and sanitation infrastructure went past creaking to virtual collapse during the three-week assault on the territory almost a year ago.

What would it take to start the two UN sewerage repair projects approved by Israel; a UN water and sanitation project, not yet approved; and two more UN internal sewage networks, not yet approved? Right now just one corner of the blockade could be lifted for these building materials and equipment to enter Gaza, to let water works begin and to give infant lives a chance. Just one telephone call from the Israeli defence ministry could do it - an early Christmas present to the UN staff on the ground who have been ready to act for months and have grown desperate on this front, as on so many others.

As Brittain notes, the Israelis have already lifted another part of their strangulating blockade, after a bold intervention by U.S. Senator John Kerry, who in March of this year demanded that the Israelis lift their prohibitions on ... pasta.

But apparently, no American politician can be bothered to pick up a phone to stem the poisoning of the Gaza Ghetto:

Gaza's huge pale sandy beaches used to be society's playground and reassurance of happiness and normality, with families picnicking, horses exercising, fishermen mending their nets, children swimming and boys exercising in the early morning, but these days they are mainly empty, and not just because it is winter. Between 50m and 60m litres of untreated sewage have flowed into the Mediterranean every day this year since the end of the Israeli invasion in January, the sea smells bad and few fish are available in the three nautical mile area Palestinians are allowed in. This resource seems as ruined as the rubble of Gaza's parliament and ministries.

...."We have run out of words to describe how bad it is here," says John Ging, director of operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza. Ging heads a team of 10,000 mainly Palestinian workers who run the aid supplies that are all that stand between the vast majority of Gazans and destitution. "We have 80% unemployment, an economy at subsistence level, infrastructure destroyed, etc, but even worse than the humanitarian plight is the destruction of civil society."

Ging's great preoccupation is "the 750,000 children susceptible to an environment where things are moving rapidly in the wrong direction, where the injustice is bewildering, and every day worse":

There is a big problem of insecurity and violence here, and it is getting worse. Most adults display stoic resilience, and cling to a belief in traditional values, but there is a compelling narrative by extremists which becomes ever more difficult to combat. Only lifting the siege would change the dynamic.


Or what about the vast, spreading, man-made disaster that is Afghanistan? As Silber notes, many people who decry the potential disasters of climate change actively support the catastrophic intervention in Afghanistan -- which, as we pointed out here, produces the very ills that is ostensibly designed to reduce (just as Israel's choking of Gaza does). Yet here too, the vast suffering and degradation of millions of people could be addressed more effectively at a modicum of the cost it now takes to kill and plunder them.

Jeffrey Sachs (via the Angry Arab) takes up this theme at the Huffington Post, while noting the aforementioned inherent disabilities of our present system to address the problems it ostensibly seeks to resolve:

The framing of Afghanistan's governance problems with the simplistic gloss of "corruption" is yet another trivialization of reality, exceeded only by the idea that Afghan President Hamid Karzai can and will turn off corruption at will, and notably in response to US pressure. Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski was on the mark when he questioned the ability of Washington, itself in an era of rampant corruption, to clean up corruption elsewhere. A worthy role for Richard Holbrooke, now the special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, would be to root out flagrant financial mismanagement at the staff of AIG, where Holbrooke had served on the Board during the buildup of the recent financial bubble. The war industry itself, replete with powerful corporations like Fluor and DynCorp that receive billions of dollars in no-bid Pentagon contracts, are also a likely part of the Washington political momentum.

The fact of the matter is that Afghanistan is in urgent need of the basics for survival in one of the poorest countries on Earth -- seeds, fertilizer, roads, power, schools, and clinics -- much more than it is in the need of another 30,000 troops or added military contractors. Development aid directed to Afghanistan's communities, through the UN, could stabilize Afghanistan far more effectively at one-fifth to one-tenth the cost of the coming $100 billion or so per year that will be spent on this military debacle. Yet such support is not forthcoming. ... As Friedman reports, Obama has disdained "nation-building" as "mission creep," thereby disappointingly echoing the Bush administration.

In fact, the US Government's long-standing disdain is for the Afghan people themselves, since there has been not the slightest effort for decades to think through their real needs and wants. As in Vietnam, this mission is all about us. And as in Vietnam, the US escalation has the possibility of causing much broader destabilization in Central and South Asia and the Middle East.

Yes, who could possibly have foreseen that the avatars of such a system would seek to exploit the growing anxiety over climate change to augment their own dominance? Whatever happens to the planet -- or to the Iraqis, or to the Afghans, or to the millions of people going down in the flood of financial flim-flam and health care "reform" scams -- the elites will remain as they are now: well-wadded, well-protected, and well-connected in their fortified enclaves of privilege and power.

To paraphrase John Ging: We are running out of words to describe how bad it is around here.
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

Framing The Rising Sun Controversy
By Case Wagonvoord

It is something of a miracle that the Republicans still manage to keep the Democrats on the defensive even though the Democrats control both the White House and Congress. Bombarded by a constant barrage of buzz words and faux issues, the Democrats have barely been able to keep their balance and go on the offensive. The rightwing noise machine has them so cowed they self-censor their every thought less it unleashes a barrage of polemic.

It all gets down to the right's superb ability to frame any given issue in such a way that the Democrats can only react, and in their reaction come across as weak and uncertain.

The key to framing an issue to make a blatantly false statement with such confidence and certainty that the public believes it must be true. The statement is repeated and repeated until the public accepts it as fact. This entire process is abetted by a supine press that parrots every turd tossed out by the right without questioning it.

For example, a Wingnut could express moral outrage over the Democratic Party's belief that the sun rises in the East. Such a belief is eating away at the country's moral fiber because studies have shown that people who support gay marriage and abortion also believe in an East-rising sun. And there the right has its buzz word, the East-rising sun conspiracy, because we all know that in the corporatist state east is west, west is east, north is south and south is north.

Immediately, the rightwing noise machine screams its abhorrence of the East-rising sun conspiracy and demands that the Democratic Party repudiate this subversive heresy.

The Democrats are in disarray. The attack on the East-rising sun conspiracy is so virulent they are too scared to point out that the sun actually does rise in the East. To do so would leave them open to attack.

At first, they try to ignore the issue. But the right refuses to let them off the hook. Why, the right demands to know, are the Democrats silent? Is it possible that they believe the sun rises in the East. Finally, the Democrats issue a statement that calls for further study of the rising sun issue.

The media, of course, laps this all up as they repeat every charge and every futile attempt by the Democrats to defuse the issue. Editorials accuse the Democrats of being weak on the rising-sun controversy. Pundits expound that there are two sides to every issue and that the Democrats are hurting themselves by their failure to take a strong position on the issue.

Pressure builds at the local level for schools to teach both sides of the question. The whole concept of an easterly direction comes under attack. Democrats start losing elections because of it. The party is reeling from the onslaught of the anti East-rising sun movement. Cable news rating soar as the controversy grows. Evangelicals join the fray and condemn the East-rising sun doctrine as another attack on Christianity.

The whole issue is nearly as absurd as death panels. But then, political trivia is just another manifestation of the bread and circuses that keep the public distracted.

It is amazing that after all these years the Democratic Party still hasn't figured out that it is being gamed. The party has spent so many years on the defensive that it has forgotten how to mount an effective attack.

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

'We' Can Be A Big Word
By Mike Folkerth

Good Snowy Morning from the majestic Rocky Mountains; your King of Simple News is sliding down the hill right at you.

I'm as guilty as anyone for improperly using the word "we." I have tried in recent years to avoid saying such things as "we pass all of these dumb laws," because there is no "we" to it. I have nothing to do with passing laws.

The word "we," is constantly misused and the insinuation of we in sports is no exception. "We beat you guys," is a phrase that would indicate the speaker was involved in the win at a level above that of operating the remote on the TV or sitting in the stands. But that's not the case.

In school, "We won the state band competition," or "We won the football championship," is misused by every school kid in the country along with their parents. It's hard to say, "Yeh, we beat the crap out of 'em," when you were sitting in the 20th row eating popcorn.

Why do we say 'we'? For many different reasons actually, but primarily for beneficial association. It makes us feel good to take credit for another's actions in sports, band, debate, politics and so on. It's a sort of borrowed inclusion thing.

Most people also talk about war as if they were there and taking place in the shooting and maiming end of things rather than watching it on CNN. "We need to stay over there and kick those terrorist's butts no matter how long it takes."

As the old joke goes, when the Lone Ranger and his faithful Indian companion Tonto were surrounded by impossible hostile Indian odds, the Lone Ranger said, "It looks like we are finished Tonto." To which Tonto answered, "What do you mean we, white man."

And that is my point. When we speak to our governments' actions as "we," it's only we if you agree with those actions. As individuals we could be more like Tonto and save ourselves from guilt by association.

Do you agree with the soaring National Debt? One can only condemn that debt if you have your personal financial liabilities in order. One can only complain about the housing crash if you saw the wisdom of not enjoining those festivities. We, then, is also useful as a cop-out for taking the focus off I.

" We can take credit for our favorite football team winning with no ill effects. But when it comes to our own personal lives and the manner in which we chose to live that life, reality sets in and the focus is on me, myself, and I; but it's sooooo much easier to say we in order not to shoulder the personal blame.

What I'm saying is that the greatest freedom that remains in America is that of personal choice. Don't cop-out and say, "We are in a heck of fix." That type of association would indicate that you have no choice in the matter. Nothing could be further from the truth. Live simple, live free, and live well.
(c) 2009 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"Man is surely mad; he cannot make a worm, yet he makes gods by the dozens."

~~~ Michel Eyquem de Montaigne ~~~

Gravel's Lament
Fighting Another Dumb War
By Chris Hedges

I have spent enough time inside the American military to have tasted its dark brutality, frequent incompetence and profligate ability to waste human lives and taxpayer dollars. The deviousness and stupidity of generals, the absurdity of most war plans and the pathological addiction to violence-which is the only language most who command our armed forces are able to understand-make the American military the gravest threat to our anemic democracy, especially as we head toward economic collapse.

Barack Obama, who is as mesmerized by the red, white and blue bunting draped around our vast killing machine as the press, the two main political parties and our entertainment industry, will not halt our doomed imperial projects or renege on the $1 trillion in defense-related spending that is hollowing out the country from the inside. A plague of unchecked militarism has seeped outward from the Pentagon since the end of World War II and is now sucking our marrow dry. It is a familiar disease in imperial empires. We are in the terminal stage. We spend more on our military-half of all discretionary spending-than all of the other countries on Earth combined, although we face no explicit threat.

Mike Gravel, the former two-term senator from Alaska and 2008 presidential candidate, sat Saturday on a park bench in Lafayette Park facing the White House. Gravel and I were in the park, along with Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney and other anti-war activists, to denounce the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at a sparsely attended rally. Few voices in American politics have been as consistent, as reasoned and as moral as his, which is why Gravel, on a chilly December morning, is in front of the White House, not inside it.

"I suspect that from the get-go he had an inferiority complex with respect to the military," Gravel, who was a first lieutenant in the Army, said of the president. "It is the same problem [Bill] Clinton had by not serving in the military, by not having an actual experience. You don't have to go into combat, you just have to get into the military and recognize at the lower reaches how incompetent the military can be. So not having that experience, and only dealing with generals, who of course learn to be charming-it's the sergeants who inflict the pain-he has this aura about the military. We have acculturated the nation to a military culture. This is the sadness of it all because that sustains the military-industrial complex."

"Obama comes on the scene," he added. "He is endorsed in the course of the campaign by some 19 generals and admirals. These people had no confidence in [George W.] Bush. They recognized that Bush's unilateralism and cavalier approach to torture was injurious to the American military. They gravitated towards Obama. It turned his head. He thought he could be commander in chief and he could, he has the intelligence, but he does not have fortitude. He lacks courage."

Time is rapidly running out. The massive bailouts, stimulus packages, giveaways and short-term debt, along with imperial wars we can no longer afford, will leave the country struggling to finance nearly $5 trillion in debt by 2010. This will require the United States to auction off about $96 billion in debt a week. Once China and the oil-rich states walk away from our debt, which is inevitable, the Federal Reserve will become the buyer of last resort. The Fed has printed perhaps as much as 2 trillion new dollars in the last two years, and buying this much new debt will see it print trillions more. This is when inflation, and most likely hyperinflation, will turn the dollar into junk. A backlash by a betrayed and angry populace, one unprepared intellectually and psychologically for collapse, will tear apart the social fabric, unleash chaos and violence, and strengthen the calls for more draconian measures by our security apparatus and military.

Obama uses the veneer of intellectualism to promote the dirty politics of Bush. The president spoke in Oslo, when he accepted the Nobel Prize, of "just war" theory, although the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan do not meet the criteria laid down by Thomas Aquinas or traditional Catholic just-war doctrine. He spoke of battling evil, dividing human reality into binary poles of black and white as Bush did, without examining the evil of pre-emptive war, sustained military occupation and imperialism. He compared al-Qaida to Hitler, ignoring the difference between a protean group of terrorists and a nation-state with the capacity to overwhelm its neighbors with conventional military force. "The instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace," Obama insisted in Oslo. The U.S., he said, has the right to "act unilaterally if necessary" and to launch wars whose purpose "extends beyond self-defense or the defense of one nation against an aggressor." Obama's policies, despite the high-blown rhetoric, are as morally bankrupt as those of his predecessor.

"The first time I met him I felt there was arrogance with a touch of cynicism," Gravel said of the president. "Now the cynicism and the arrogance have overwhelmed his intelligence. Like Clinton, he is into power."

Gravel's shining moment as a politician occurred in 1971 when Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst, handed the secret Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. The newspaper published portions of the document, which painted a picture of a failing war at odds with official pronouncements. The Justice Department swiftly blocked further publication and moved to punish newspaper publishers who revealed its contents. Gravel responded by reading large portions of the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record. His courageous public release of the papers made it possible for the publication to resume. Gravel also launched in 1971 a one-man five-month filibuster to end the peacetime military draft, forcing the Nixon administration to cut a deal that allowed the draft to expire in 1973. He was a feisty and blunt candidate in 2008 who lambasted the Democratic Party and its major candidates for being in the service of corporations, especially the arms industry. His outspokenness saw him banned by the Democratic leadership from later primary debates.

"Obama has wasted an opportunity to be a great president," Gravel lamented. "More than 50 percent of the American people do not buy into this war. He could have stood up and said 'we are getting out.' Forget the Congress. Forget the Republicans. Forget the hawks. Forget mainstream media, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, which are hawks. He would have weathered that storm because he would have had the American people on his side. And what did he do? He caved in to the leadership of [David] Petraeus and [Stanley A.] McChrystal and adopted a scenario that is a total loser."

"When he hugs his children at night, when he puts them to bed, he has got to begin to think there are little girls like this in Afghanistan who are being killed and maimed," Gravel told me. "If he can't have that kind of a thought then his arrogance knows no boundaries. I saw this in the Senate during the Vietnam War. People detach themselves from the immediacy of the crime. They vote for the money. They vote for the policy. The picture of people dying is distant. My God, if you are sitting next to me and a bomb explodes and your arm is ripped off that is not distant. It is immediate. I saw the film by Robert Greenwald, "Rethink Afghanistan." It rips your heart out. And America under the leadership of Obama is a party to this crime. Close your eyes. Listen to the media. Listen to the pundits. Listen to the rhetoric. It is Vietnam all over again. What is the difference between our vital interests and the domino theory? We could leave Afghanistan and it would be as significant as when we left Vietnam."

"Don't be hoodwinked by Obama going to Dover [Air Force Base] to watch the caskets or going to Arlington to salute the graves, with his snappy salute," Gravel says. "Adolf Hitler lionized soldiers dying. This is the old idea that it is honorable to die. It is not honorable to die in vain. People died in vain in Vietnam. They are dying in vain in Iraq and Afghanistan. And more people will die in vain because of the leadership of Barack Obama."

"They don't hate us because we are free," Gravel said of the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. "They hate us because we are killing them."
(c) 2009 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

America's Race To The Bottom
By David Michael Green

I sure hope that there is a full and speedy recovery to the massive recession we are all now suffering under.

But, I'll be honest. I doubt that there will be. Most of the upticks following our latest national downturns have been dismal enough that economists have had to invent a new term for them. The phrase is "jobless recovery", and the implications are as ugly as they sound.

What it means is that GDP rises, but life remains crappy for real people with real jobs. If they're lucky enough to have one, that is.

Where does the money from rising GDP go, then? Funny you should ask. It goes exactly where it's been going for the last three decades. Not to the public, and not to raising the living standards of ordinary folks. But, rather, to the über-class.

My guess is that "The Great Recession" - as some are calling the current disaster (presumably to avoid using the "D" word) - will be followed by what history will record as the "The Tepid and Rather Jobless, Thank You Very Much, Recovery". If that.

And, more importantly, my guess is that this will be the latest and greatest click yet of what is the most massive ratcheting project of the last three decades, perhaps the most wholesale redistribution of wealth in human history.

Consider the numbers...

The ratio of executive salary to the average paycheck during the mid-twentieth century was about thirty to one. In the last decade it has ranged from three hundred to over five hundred to one.

The richest four hundred Americans were worth an average of about $13 million each in the middle of the century, using today's dollars. Now they average over $260 million each.

The top taxpayers in America now pay the same proportion of their income in taxes as those earning less than $75,000 per year. Those taxes on the wealthy went from being more than half of their income fifty years ago to about a sixth today.

In the past three decades, the income of the richest Americans quadrupled, while the income of the lowest ninety percent actually fell. Today, the median wage is lower than it was in the 1970s, even though productivity has grown by nearly fifty percent.

All told, from the 1930s through the 1970s, America produced the biggest and richest middle class in human history. But then many of us made the mistake - as I did - of assuming that this had become, based on a solid society compact, the default status quo for the foreseeable future.

In fact, it was instead an aberration. And it was contingent.

It was an aberration because we are now speedily returning (if we haven't already arrived) to the days prior to the New Deal, when the rich had everything and the middle class was small and insecure. And it was contingent because the good old days depended on a combination of elite satiation and/or a strong progressive defense of an equitable economic order.

But both have disappeared in the Age of Reagan. Today, there are seemingly no bounds conceivable to what the already astonishingly wealthy will do in order to further magnify their holdings. No suffering of the struggling middle class - let alone impoverished brown people inconveniently sitting on top of desirable resources somewhere abroad - represents the slightest impediment to a greed which long ago ceased to have any passing relationship with utility. We are simply talking here about sociopaths - people who cannot fathom a reason to alter their predatory behavior under any circumstances, even when the lives of millions are at stake, and even when another pile of millions of dollars in their investment portfolio does nothing to improve their condition because they are already so rich to begin with.

Okay, well, that's not exactly a new thing. Unless, say, you're a geologist and you happen to think that human beings are a new thing. But what is new is that the other possible protection against the gutting of the middle and working classes - that is, the existence of a progressive bulwark against greed - has all but disappeared. At the level of elites, this has transpired because the Democratic Party has simply joined the GOP in becoming a corporate tool, serving the interests of Goldman Sachs and a few others, with near complete disregard for the public interest. At the mass level, Americans have embraced their own petite bourgeois form of greed, and have become stupider and Republicaner with each passing year.

The result is that the aberration is ending, albeit slowly and somewhat fitfully, and the country is returning to its natural state, where outrageous disparities of wealth are common. So common, in fact, that no serious political movement exists to redress ths injustice. So common that the wealthy go to churches where Jesus the proto-socialist who talked about camels and needles has been morphed instead into the First Coming of Ayn Rand. So common that a guy can run for president incessantly repeating the word "change", invoking the greatest moral struggles of history, and come to office during a time of multiple crises for a deeply stressed American public, only to turn out to be just another Wall Street hack, busy diverting the remaining chunks of the commonwealth to the plutocracy.

It's not exactly a mystery how we ended up here, although there's more obfuscation on this question than there are hypocritical sinners at a GOP family values convention. And that's a lot. Every American government since Reagan has essentially been consumed with the task of denuding the middle and working classes of their paltry share of the national pie, in order to deliver those dollars into the hands of wealthy political benefactors. This includes Democrats as well as Precambrians. Indeed, probably the president least tenacious in pursuing this project, of the five we've been blessed with these last three decades, was George H. W. Bush. That really tells you something, right there, doesn't it?

Yes, it's true that even a mixed economy system practicing both Keynesianist and monetarist countercyclical macro-economic strategies will experience oscillations in growth. (Although, remember when, a decade ago, people were speculating about whether the business cycle had forever been tamed? Remember when people thought Alan Greenspan walked on water? Seems like a lot longer than ten years ago now...) But at the same time, government policies on economic and political issues really do matter, especially when it comes to cutting up the pie.

If you adopt policies that decimates unions, you're gonna wind up decimating unions. Never particularly high in America, and peaking historically at about thirty-five percent, the share of workers who are organized in this country is now down to about seven percent. Guess what sort of effect that is going to have on worker negotiating power over wages, benefits, safety, general treatment and respect?

If you adopt trade policies that undermine labor at every turn, you're gonna wind up with a lot of unemployed Americans competing against low-wage Mexican, Chinese and Indian workers overseas. This wasn't exactly hard to see coming as NAFTA and the WTO were being negotiated, two of the biggest priorities of the Clinton administration. It was even less hard to see when Republicans created tax incentives for companies to ship jobs outside America, and when John Kerry was either too stupid or too fully coopted to turn that slam-dunk issue into the Willie Horton of the 2004 presidential campaign.

If you adopt policies that slash taxes on the already wealthy, guess what that's going to do to the distribution of wealth in the country? Guess what impact it will have on the federal government's revenues and debt? Guess who will be stuck, in the future, paying for the loans to finance the share of revenue that the wealthy are excused from today? Plus interest, of course.

And guess what that will mean for social needs spending as the government grows so deeply indebted that its creditors force it to make cuts in outlays, like some banana republic getting the whip hand from the IMF? Will those cuts be on the military, or on healthcare? Wars or food stamps? We know they won't be on service to the debt. That interest we now pay on the $12 trillion or so we've already borrowed is currently one of the biggest single items in the federal budget, and cannot be defaulted upon without producing disaster. We already know from the Clinton administration the answer to these questions about spending priorities. Even in the flushest of times, this supposed Democratic president slashed welfare spending.

So how shocking is it, when you add it all together, to find that anti-American labor, trade, tax and spending policies turn out to hurt the middle and working classes?!?! The only thing really shocking about the entire affair is that voters have been swallowing whole that baited hook for thirty years now. And that they will likely do so again, in 2010 and 2012, as they perceive the failure of Democratic Party 'liberalism', and knee-jerk their way into a reign of repeated GOP pillaging, after just rejecting it in deserved disgust only a year or two ago.

Of course, new Republican governments won't be any more successful at generating public prosperity than Democrats, not least because neither has much interest in doing so, except perhaps incidentally. What the Grand Old Pricks might be able to pull off, however, is some more raghead slaughtering, fag bashing, or terror traumatizing in order to keep the hoi polloi focused on anything and everything but the emptying of their wallets.

Ultimately, the game will end, and we'll wind up looking like the British following the Second World War - a great empire bled dry, all its people running around with bad teeth. Right now, Republicans and Democrats are essentially competing, as in a game of musical chairs, to avoid being the party in charge when the fictions of our economic condition can absolutely no longer be sustained. Kinda like what you see in California, the once great state. Looks to me like the Democrats lost. Now there's a shocker, huh? - the party of Obambi getting reamed by the party of Tom "The Hammer" DeLay.

Politicians continue to play the same old cards about resurrecting the same old prosperity. No one will say the truth about how the US standard of living will probably never be restored for the bottom ninety-eight percent, while elites now have the kind of wealth that European kings once had to conquer entire continents in order to acquire. In fact, none of our courageous politicians will even tell you that you can't afford to have tax cuts and full governmental services at the same time. They're too busy borrowing it all from their kids and ours. Well, really just ours. Anyhow, isn't responsibility kinda boring? Isn't that whole honesty thing so twentieth century?

The simple and sad fact is that greedy elites will always use their power to acquire unseemly quantities of wealth, unless one or both of two conditions obtain. The first is that they are socialized to be slightly less greedy, slightly more patriotic, and remotely compassionate about those who have nothing. They may also recognize, as Henry Ford did, that their long-term prospects are rather heavily tied to those of all the rest of us.

The other option is that we, acting through genuinely progressive politics, distribute the cash more fairly. Even if we do this, the wealthy will still have ridiculous amounts of absolute wealth, of course, and truly sickening amounts of relative wealth. It's just that the rest of us will be a bit less impoverished. Perhaps all full-time workers would be guaranteed a living wage, for example. What a concept, eh? Perhaps if we throw all-in with our subversive little Bolshevist revolution, we'll go so far as to even join the rest of the world's developed countries in supplying our people with healthcare. Radical, man.

We got part of the way to a more just society during the middle chunk of the twentieth century, though it was a minor miracle that we did. And it probably really required the Great Depression to do it, along with the twin legislative forces of nature more commonly known as Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.

We may actually get there again.

Though if I had to guess, I suspect instead that the next stop is Palinism.

Whether we'd have the brains subsequently to ever transcend that disaster for a moderately equitable American economic order is a real question.

Whether we even could at that point is quite another.
(c) 2009 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Henry accepts "Fascist of the year Award!"

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Brown,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, your attempt to make America a Christian nation, distracting attention from the surge, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Major Victory For ACORN And The Constitution
By Glenn Greenwald

In September, I interviewed Rep. Alan Grayson about the unconstitutionality of Congress' attempt to de-fund ACORN, and a couple of weeks later, examined Supreme Court precedent -- principally the 1946 case of U.S. v. Lovett -- that left little doubt that the Congressional war on ACORN violated the Constitutional ban on "bills of attainder." Yesterday, in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Federal District Judge Nina Gershon of the Eastern District of New York found Congress' de-funding of ACORN unconstitutional and enjoined its enforcement. This is a major victory not only for ACORN, but also for the Constitution.

Judge Gershon's opinion is a model of careful and dispassionate judicial reasoning. Rejecting the DOJ's claim that Congress had merely exercised its funding discretion rather than "punished" ACORN, the court wrote: "Wholly apart from the vociferous comments by various members of Congress as to ACORN's criminality and fraud . . . no reasonable observer could suppose that such severe action would have been taken in the absence of a conclusion that misconduct occurred." The court pointed to numerous statements made by Senators, including the bill's primary sponsor (Sen. Johanns), in which they anointed themselves judge and jury to declare ACORN guilty of crimes with which they had not even been charged, let alone convicted. Relying on Lovett -- which held unconstitutional a Congressional act banning specified individuals from government employment based on the unadjudicated finding that they had "subversive beliefs" and "subversive associations" -- Judge Gershon explained that under clear Supreme Court law: "the discretionary nature of government funding does not foreclose a finding that Congress has impermissibly singled out plaintiffs for punishment."

Events like this provide an important reminder about how crucial and well-crafted the Constitution is. Though rarely invoked, the ban on "bills of attainder" is no technical or legalistic right; it's vital. Allowing Congress -- rather than courts -- to pass judgment on parties' guilt and then punish them for it is to circumvent all of the due process rights guaranteed in a judicial proceeding. It virtually ensures that, as happened here, guilt will be imposed due to political passions and a lynch mob mentality rather than a careful and fair examination of evidence. It also leaves weak and unpopular parties far more vulnerable to punishment. The fact that groups far more powerful than ACORN have actually been found guilty of serious wrongdoing yet have never been de-funded by Congress -- particularly defense contractors -- illustrates that danger.

The reasons the Founders barred such bills of attainder are perfectly highlighted by the ACORN case. During the reign of abusive Kings, it was a favorite instrument for enabling unpopular parties to be convicted, punished and deprived without benefit of a trial. Under the Constitution, parties aren't supposed to be found guilty of wrongdoing as a result of a Fox-News-led witch hunt joined by cowardly members of Congress. The recent finding of the Massachusetts Attorney General that ACORN had not committed crimes in connection with the notorious prostitution videos underscores the danger of the state's assuming someone's guilt outside of the judicial process. Congress is especially ill-suited to pass judgment on whether a particular party has violated the law, as they are far more likely to protect the powerful and popular and punish the weak and unpopular (which is one reason, incidentally, why it was wrong for Congress to retroactively immunize rich and powerful telecoms based on the consummately judicial finding that they acted in "good faith" when violating eavesdropping laws).

Yesterday's ACORN decision also highlights how crucial is the Constitution's separation of powers. Unlike members of Congress, whose need to be re-elected renders them unwilling to resist irrational majoritarian mobs, Judge Gershon is a federal judge with life tenure who can much more easily ignore those considerations. Even so, when a federal judge vindicates the Constitutional rights of a highly unpopular party, it is still courageous; a ruling like this can affect the judge's prospects for appointment to a higher court and can subject her to intense attacks, as is certainly going to happen here. But being constitutionally immunized from the whims of the political process enables a federal judge to safeguard the core liberties of even vulnerable and unpopular parties in a way that the political branches simply will not do. As the cowards in Congress rushed without a trial to unconstitutionally punish ACORN on a very bipartisan basis, Judge Gershon was able to ignore the lynch mob and dispassionately apply well-settled legal principles to safeguard core liberties.

There is an endless list of radical flaws in our political system, including our judicial branch. But in those rare cases when things actually work the way they're designed to, it's worth reminding ourselves of why the Constitution is such a vital document and why it's so crucial that it be adhered to and defended.

UPDATE: As always happens whenever there is a judicial decision that undermines the Right's political interests, there are going to be hordes of right-wing polemicists marching forth to denounce this ruling as "judicial activism." They're already starting. These are people won't bother to read a single word or case about "bills of attainder," but overnight, they're self-proclaimed legal scholars on this Constitutional prohibition and are in a position to criticize the Judge's ruling as legally erroneous. Of course, the only thing they really know is that they hate ACORN and therefore dislike the outcome of this case. In other words, they're denouncing the decision for reasons having nothing to do with law and everything to do with their own political beliefs and outcome preferences -- i.e., they're advocating, as usual, for the consummate act of outcome-based "judicial activism" which they endlessly claim to oppose.
(c) 2009 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

Emergency Anti-Afghanistan Escalation Rally ~ December 12, 2009
By Cynthia McKinney

My fellow Americans,

Millions of us are drinking dirty and contaminated water; 4 million of us will get foreclosure notices by the end of this year; 25 million of us are un- or underemployed.

47 million of us have no health insurance and millions more are under-insured. My aunt was killed by the health care system in this country, not because she didn't have insurance-she did. What she didn't get was quality care. And amid all the talk about health care, no one is talking about quality care.

My cousin, who is no more than 24 years old, is now $100,000 in debt because she wanted to get an undergraduate college education.

But the trials of my family are not our story alone:

Millions of us are in the same boat. And no matter how hard we wish for a better world, and a kinder country, our policy makers are not delivering on our hopes and dreams.

In fact, the dreams of our country stand deferred and drowned in debt.

Sadly, in the face of growing income inequality, our President chose to transfer over 23 trillion of our hard-earned dollars to the bankers and financial elite-who didn't have to work hard for it at all, just tank our economy.

So huddled in fear, we pray together that the flu, a hurricane, the Great Depression, or the next terrorist attack doesn't hit us.

Now, given all these problems what do our leaders do?

Bomb, maim, and kill people on the other side of the planet whose resources certain powerful people in this country want to steal and whose territory occupies the land needed for global conquest.

Instead of investigating war criminals in the Bush Administration, President Obama has chosen to become one.

Our President is now complicit in torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against the peace.

So what are we to do?

We will not give up and we will not go away.

We are not so demoralized that we can't see the truth; we know that lies are not truth; ignorance is not strength, and war is not peace.

We see the power of the ballot in Latin America where voters in unrigged elections are choosing freedom. Our freedom is under siege-as much right here as it is in Haiti or Honduras.

If U.S. politics was truly democratic, we would not have war. That's why I support Senator Gravel's national initiative project.

Who has $100 million of their own money to spend to get elected, like New York's Mayor did?

We are ready to act on our dreams-to create the kind of change that graduates students from college--free of charge.

That treats medical ailments--free of charge.

That reflects our interests, not the special interests.

That gets peace candidates for Congress elected all over this country. And that elects a peace President!

While our fellow Americans are afraid to get sick; struggle to keep a job, educate their children, stave off foreclosure, and make ends meet, we will not rest.

As long as bombs drop and civilians die, we will not rest.

While the oligarchs and the war machine get our money, we will not rest.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lamented that both political parties failed to take a stand for what was right; he said that our scientific power had outstripped our spiritual power; that we possessed guided missiles and misguided men.

Well, President Obama: Don't be misguided!!

Stop shielding war criminals from justice in our courts;

Stop supporting the Patriot Act and spying against us environmentalists and peace activists;

Stop granting power to the Federal Reserve;

Close Guantanamo! Stop torture and rendition, secret prisons, and building military bases all over the planet.

President Obama: Stop the saber-rattling at Iran!

Stop the drones and depleted uranium; Stop bombing Somalia. Stop using war as an energy policy!

Stop bankrupting our nation!

We will not rest; we will not stop; and our peace candidates will win!


(c) 2009 Cynthia McKinney is a former U.S. Congresswoman, Green Party presidential candidate, and an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice. The first African-American woman to represent the state of Georgia, McKinney served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1993-2003, and from 2005-2007.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Cal Grondahl ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus
By Kip Addotta

I saw Daddy kissing Santa Claus
Underneath the mistletoe last night.
He didn't see me creep
Down the stairs to have a peep.
He thought that I was tucked up in my bedroom fast asleep.

Then I saw Daddy tickle Santa Claus
Underneath his beard so snowy white.
There must be some mistake.
Was I really awake?
I rubbed my eyes and moved in close, a better look to take.

Then, I saw Daddy hugging Santa Claus.
He took his hand and pulled him to the couch.
It must have been just fine.
Santa didn't seem to mind.
Then Daddy moved across the room to pour them both some wine.

Then, I saw Daddy fondle Santa Claus,
And on his ear he nibbled now and then.
I crawled across the floor.
I hid behind the door.
I left it open just a crack so I could watch some more.

Then I saw Daddy undress Santa Claus.
They quickly threw their clothes on our big chair.
Well, much to my surprise,
I couldn't believe my eyes!
It wasn't Santa after all but Mommy in disguise,

But I saw Daddy kissing Santa Claus
Underneath the mistletoe last night.
Oh what I laugh it would have been,
If I had really seen,
Daddy kissing Santa Claus last night!
(c) 1987/2009 Kip Addotta

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Lord God, Creator of All, caught thousands of Sumerian farmers and mathematicians somewhat off guard.

Sumerians Look On In Confusion As Christian God Creates World

Members of the earth's earliest known civilization, the Sumerians, looked on in shock and confusion some 6,000 years ago as God, the Lord Almighty, created Heaven and Earth.

According to recently excavated clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform script, thousands of Sumerians-the first humans to establish systems of writing, agriculture, and government-were working on their sophisticated irrigation systems when the Father of All Creation reached down from the ether and blew the divine spirit of life into their thriving civilization.

"I do not understand," reads an ancient line of pictographs depicting the sun, the moon, water, and a Sumerian who appears to be scratching his head. "A booming voice is saying, 'Let there be light,' but there is already light. It is saying, 'Let the earth bring forth grass,' but I am already standing on grass."

"Everything is here already," the pictograph continues. "We do not need more stars."

Historians believe that, immediately following the biblical event, Sumerian witnesses returned to the city of Eridu, a bustling metropolis built 1,500 years before God called for the appearance of dry land, to discuss the new development. According to records, Sumerian farmers, priests, and civic administrators were not only befuddled, but also took issue with the face of God moving across the water, saying that He scared away those who were traveling to Mesopotamia to participate in their vast and intricate trade system.

Moreover, the Sumerians were taken aback by the creation of the same animals and herb-yielding seeds that they had been domesticating and cultivating for hundreds of generations.

"The Sumerian people must have found God's making of heaven and earth in the middle of their well-established society to be more of an annoyance than anything else," said Paul Helund, ancient history professor at Cornell University. "If what the pictographs indicate are true, His loud voice interrupted their ancient prayer rituals for an entire week."

According to the cuneiform tablets, Sumerians found God's most puzzling act to be the creation from dust of the first two human beings.

"These two people made in his image do not know how to communicate, lack skills in both mathematics and farming, and have the intellectual capacity of an infant," one Sumerian philosopher wrote. "They must be the creation of a complete idiot."
(c) 2009 The Onion

The Gross National Debt

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Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 47(c) 12/18/2009

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