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In This Edition

Arundhati Roy reminds us that, "9 Is Not 11."

Uri Avnery explores, "Tzipi's Nation-State."

Paul Krugman studies, "European Crass Warfare."

Jim Hightower says, "Good Wages Are Good For America."

Greg Palast wonders about, "Obama's 'Way-To-Go, Brownie!' Moment?"

Will Allen explains, "Vermicompost."

Chris Hedges reports on, "Israel's 'Crimes Against Humanity.'"

Chris Floyd says Bush was, "Brought To Heel."

Eric Alterman laughs, "'Center-Right'? Not Quite...."

Mike Folkerth considers, "The Wisdom Of James Allen."

Stephanie Mencimer wonders, "Will The Obama Administration Defend Karl Rove?"

Robert Scheer tells the tale of, "President Bush And The Flying Shoes."

Sin-ator Bob Corker wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald finds while, "Senate Report Links Bush To Detainee Homicides; Media Yawns."

Frank Scott asks, "Season's Greetings?"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' 'The Landover Baptist Church' presents, "Christmas 2008: Lucifer's Toy Chest" but first Uncle Ernie reminds us that, "Symbols Are For The Symbol Minded."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Michael Ramirez with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Clay Bennett, All Hat No Cattle.Com, Married To The Sea.Com, John Sherffius, Paul from Chicago, Larry Wright, The Simpsons, Mike Luckovich, Issues & Alibis.Org and Pink & Blue Films.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

Symbols Are For The Symbol Minded
By Ernest Stewart

"I dont get all choked up over american flags and yellow ribbons. I consider them to be symbols, and I leave symbols to symbol minded." ~~~ George Carlin

"I must say, I think it's a pretty good team." ~~~ Dick Cheney (on Obama's national security choices)

Knocking on your door
Will you let it come?
Will you let it run your life?
1984 ~~~ Spirit

If America is one thing, it's symbolic. From "Old Gory" on down, it's all symbolism! Think of the number of symbols thrown back and forth in the last eight years. The most outstanding symbol, of course, was the twin towers burning under a clear summer sky. Most of the trouble in which we find ourselves today can be connected to that one symbol. As was said in the "P.N.A.C.," all that was necessary for the New World Order was another "Pearl Harbor" incident, i.e., false flag attack!

Even that iconic act, however, wasn't enough to get us into a never-ending war against reality. For that we needed Kinda Sleazy and her symbolic "Mushroom Clouds" springing up above American cities. Then neocons gave us a neo-Hitler in Saddam Hussein, a man who had nothing to do with 911 but did have all that lovely oil we wanted. And the CIA front man, er, 911 "mastermind," Osama, was still a good symbol for all Muslims. One was totally overwhelmed by symbolism pouring from the "foggy bottom" spin-masters.

Speaking of which, we were also overwhelmed with 1984 symbolism from Ari's "they're reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do" threat to our glorious Fuhrer's line in the sand for our great "Crusade," "You're either with us, or against us!" Bush went from the poncy, elitist, brain-dead, prairie monkey to Marshall Matt Dillon, muy macho, screaming, "Bring them ON!" And boy did they ever.

Life is short so I'll stop with one more symbolic act. I refer, of course, to the Iraqi newsman Muntader al-Zaidi who lobbed his shoes at Bush in protest of the rape, murder, war crimes and crimes against humanity that Bush brought against Iraq. Pity is that he missed! I, however, flashed back 19 years to a lone man, Wang Weilin, standing in front of and stopping a column of Chinese tanks in Tiananmen Square. Wang and Muntader are both real heroes for standing up for what is righteous! My only regret is that Muntader wasn't a chimpanzee. You know what he would have thrown at Bush and how symbolic is that!

In Other News

Yes, I can hear your pleas, your cries in the wilderness to give Obama his 100 daze of non-criticism before I question his motives. I'd like to, but I'd be less than honest if I did.

Folks, I'm not a Demoncrat. I was one for 30 years until Slick Willie came along and drove us leftists from the party. I'm a radical, just like ole "Ben Jamin'" Franklin and that revolutionary crowd. Obama is over on the far right, no matter what Fox News and CNN say. Of course, they say Barry's a liberal but ask yourself this, when was the last time that Fox or CNN ever told the truth about anything? If they loudly proclaim he's a leftist, you can bet your bottom dollar that he ain't!

Have any doubts about where Barry will take us? Consider, then, this weeks' announcement from old "Dead Eye Dick" Cheney who came out from under his rock in praise of Barry's picks for National Security! That should send chills down your spine! Dick said, "I must say, I think it's a pretty good team." Cheney went on to say, "the idea of keeping (Bob) Gates at defense is excellent. I think (retired Gen.) Jim Jones will be very, very effective as the national security adviser." And Cheney added that while "I would not have hired" Hillary Rodham Clinton to be secretary of state, "I think she's tough. She's smart, she works very hard and she may turn out to be just what President Obama needs." Danger, Will Robinson!

Is Cheney's praise not enough for you? Then consider Time magazine has just named Obama as its person of the year. That should give you goose bumps! You might recall that they also named folks like Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Putin, both George W. Bush and daddy dearest George H.W. Bush as person of the year. Not to mention; but I will anyway, Ayatollah Khomeini, Hailie Selassie, Nikita Khrushchev, Deng Xiaoping, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Rudolph Giuliani, Ronald RayGuns and Newt Gingrich! Are you still glad that you didn't vote Green?

And Finally

Here's a little mind blower, Mr. & Ms. America. In direct violation of the US Constitution, the US Marine Corp is now working with the California Highway Patrol, operating checkpoints and stopping motorists to look for drunk drivers and other criminal types.

In direct violation of Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, 8 U.S.C. § 1385., the military police from MCAGCC or Marine Corps Air and Ground Combat Center Provost Marshal, are working hand-in-hand with California Highway Patrol, Morongo office, along highway 62. Apparently, they've been at it since last Friday and plan to continue to do so through the holidays, regardless of the law.

You may recall that by "the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, 20 Stat. 152, 18 U.S.C. § 1385, it was provided that it shall not be lawful to employ any part of the Army of the United States, as a posse comitatus, or otherwise, for the purpose of executing the laws, except in such cases and under such circumstances as such employment of said force may be expressly authorized by the Constitution or by act of Congress... ." The effect of this prohibition, however, was largely nullified by a ruling of the Attorney General "that by Revised Statutes 5298 and 5300 [10 U.S.C. §§ 332, 334] the military forces, under the direction of the President, could be used to assist a marshal. 16 Ops. Atty. Gen. 162." B. RICH, THE PRESIDENTS AND CIVIL DISORDER 196 n.21 (1941)."

As far as I know, Bush hasn't given anyone permission, ergo the Marines and the police are in direct violation of federal law no matter how good a cause it might be. If you find yourself driving into a police trap on Highway 62 and the road block manned by some Chips and sea-going Bell Hops, do make a citizen's arrest and call 911 for back up!


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

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

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

Ernest & Victoria Stewart


04022-1923 ~ 12-11-2008
R.I.P. Sweetie

08-25-1916 ~ 12-12-2008
Oh we have 'em. We pronounce it differently.

02-23-1932 ~ 12-18-2008
Tell "Bones" I said High!


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


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


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

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

9 Is Not 11
And November Isn't September
By Arundhati Roy

We've forfeited the rights to our own tragedies. As the carnage in Mumbai raged on, day after horrible day, our 24-hour news channels informed us that we were watching "India's 9/11." And like actors in a Bollywood rip-off of an old Hollywood film, we're expected to play our parts and say our lines, even though we know it's all been said and done before.

As tension in the region builds, U.S. Senator John McCain has warned Pakistan that, if it didn't act fast to arrest the "bad guys," he had personal information that India would launch air strikes on "terrorist camps" in Pakistan and that Washington could do nothing because Mumbai was India's 9/11.

But November isn't September, 2008 isn't 2001, Pakistan isn't Afghanistan, and India isn't America. So perhaps we should reclaim our tragedy and pick through the debris with our own brains and our own broken hearts so that we can arrive at our own conclusions.

It's odd how, in the last week of November, thousands of people in Kashmir supervised by thousands of Indian troops lined up to cast their vote, while the richest quarters of India's richest city ended up looking like war-torn Kupwara -- one of Kashmir's most ravaged districts.

The Mumbai attacks are only the most recent of a spate of terrorist attacks on Indian towns and cities this year. Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Guwahati, Jaipur, and Malegaon have all seen serial bomb blasts in which hundreds of ordinary people have been killed and wounded. If the police are right about the people they have arrested as suspects in these previous attacks, both Hindu and Muslim, all Indian nationals, it obviously indicates that something's going very badly wrong in this country.

If you were watching television you might not have heard that ordinary people, too, died in Mumbai. They were mowed down in a busy railway station and a public hospital. The terrorists did not distinguish between poor and rich. They killed both with equal cold-bloodedness.

The Indian media, however, was transfixed by the rising tide of horror that breached the glittering barricades of "India shining" and spread its stench in the marbled lobbies and crystal ballrooms of two incredibly luxurious hotels and a small Jewish center.

We're told that one of these hotels is an icon of the city of Mumbai. That's absolutely true. It's an icon of the easy, obscene injustice that ordinary Indians endure every day. On a day when the newspapers were full of moving obituaries by beautiful people about the hotel rooms they had stayed in, the gourmet restaurants they loved (ironically one was called Kandahar), and the staff who served them, a small box on the top left-hand corner in the inner pages of a national newspaper (sponsored by a pizza company, I think) said, "Hungry, kya?" ("Hungry eh?"). It, then, with the best of intentions I'm sure, informed its readers that, on the international hunger index, India ranked below Sudan and Somalia.

But of course this isn't that war. That one's still being fought in the Dalit bastis (settlements) of our villages; on the banks of the Narmada and the Koel Karo rivers; in the rubber estate in Chengara; in the villages of Nandigram, Singur, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Lalgarh in West Bengal; and the slums and shantytowns of our gigantic cities.

That war isn't on TV. Yet.

So maybe, like everyone else, we should deal with the one that is.

Terrorism and the Need for Context

There is a fierce, unforgiving fault line that runs through the contemporary discourse on terrorism. On one side (let's call it Side A) are those who see terrorism, especially "Islamist" terrorism, as a hateful, insane scourge that spins on its own axis, in its own orbit, and has nothing to do with the world around it, nothing to do with history, geography, or economics. Therefore, Side A says, to try to place it in a political context, or even to try to understand it, amounts to justifying it and is a crime in itself.

Side B believes that, though nothing can ever excuse or justify it, terrorism exists in a particular time, place, and political context, and to refuse to see that will only aggravate the problem and put more and more people in harm's way. Which is a crime in itself.

The sayings of Hafiz Saeed who founded the Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure) in 1990 and who belongs to the hard-line Salafi tradition of Islam, certainly bolsters the case of Side A. Hafiz Saeed approves of suicide bombing, hates Jews, Shias, and Democracy, and believes that jihad should be waged until Islam, his Islam, rules the world.

Among the things he said are:

"There cannot be any peace while India remains intact. Cut them, cut them so much that they kneel before you and ask for mercy."

And: "India has shown us this path. We would like to give India a tit-for-tat response and reciprocate in the same way by killing the Hindus, just like it is killing the Muslims in Kashmir."

But where would Side A accommodate the sayings of Babu Bajrangi of Ahmedabad, India, who sees himself as a democrat, not a terrorist? He was one of the major lynchpins of the 2002 Gujarat genocide and has said (on camera):

"We didn't spare a single Muslim shop, we set everything on fire... we hacked, burned, set on fire... we believe in setting them on fire because these bastards don't want to be cremated, they're afraid of it... I have just one last wish... let me be sentenced to death... I don't care if I'm hanged... just give me two days before my hanging and I will go and have a field day in Juhapura where seven or eight lakhs [seven or eight hundred thousand] of these people stay... I will finish them off... let a few more of them die... at least twenty-five thousand to fifty thousand should die."

And where in Side A's scheme of things would we place the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh bible, We, or, Our Nationhood Defined by M. S. Golwalkar , who became head of the RSS in 1944. (The RSS is the ideological heart, the holding company of the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, and its militias. The RSS was founded in 1925. By the 1930s, its founder, Dr. K. B. Hedgewar, a fan of Benito Mussolini's, had begun to model it overtly along the lines of Italian fascism.)

It says:

"Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to take on these despoilers. The Race Spirit has been awakening."


"To keep up the purity of its race and culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races -- the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here... a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by."

Of course Muslims are not the only people in the gun sights of the Hindu Right. Dalits have been consistently targeted. Recently, in Kandhamal in Orissa, Christians were the target of two and a half months of violence that left more than 40 dead. Forty thousand people have been driven from their homes, half of whom now live in refugee camps.

All these years Hafiz Saeed has lived the life of a respectable man in Lahore as the head of the Jamaat-ud Daawa, which many believe is a front organization for the Lashkar-e-Taiba. He continues to recruit young boys for his own bigoted jihad with his twisted, fiery sermons. On December 11, the United Nations imposed sanctions on the Jamaat-ud-Daawa. The Pakistani government succumbed to international pressure and put Hafiz Saeed under house arrest.

Babu Bajrangi, however, is out on bail and lives the life of a respectable man in Gujarat. A couple of years after the genocide, he left the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, a militia of the RSS) to join the Shiv Sena (another rightwing nationalist party). Narendra Modi, Bajrangi's former mentor, is still the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

So the man who presided over the Gujarat genocide was reelected twice, and is deeply respected by India's biggest corporate houses, Reliance and Tata. Suhel Seth, a TV impresario and corporate spokesperson, recently said, "Modi is God." The policemen who supervised and sometimes even assisted the rampaging Hindu mobs in Gujarat have been rewarded and promoted.

The RSS has 45,000 branches and seven million volunteers preaching its doctrine of hate across India. They include Narendra Modi, but also former Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee, current leader of the opposition L. K. Advani, and a host of other senior politicians, bureaucrats, and police and intelligence officers.

And if that's not enough to complicate our picture of secular democracy, we should place on record that there are plenty of Muslim organizations within India preaching their own narrow bigotry.

So, on balance, if I had to choose between Side A and Side B, I'd pick Side B. We need context. Always.

A Close Embrace of Hatred, Terrifying Familiarity, and Love

On this nuclear subcontinent, that context is Partition. The Radcliffe Line, which separated India and Pakistan and tore through states, districts, villages, fields, communities, water systems, homes, and families, was drawn virtually overnight. It was Britain's final, parting kick to us.

Partition triggered the massacre of more than a million people and the largest migration of a human population in contemporary history. Eight million people, Hindus fleeing the new Pakistan, Muslims fleeing the new kind of India, left their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Each of those people carries, and passes down, a story of unimaginable pain, hate, horror, but yearning too. That wound, those torn but still unsevered muscles, that blood and those splintered bones still lock us together in a close embrace of hatred, terrifying familiarity, but also love. It has left Kashmir trapped in a nightmare from which it can't seem to emerge, a nightmare that has claimed more than 60,000 lives.

Pakistan, the Land of the Pure, became an Islamic Republic, and then very quickly a corrupt, violent military state, openly intolerant of other faiths.

India on the other hand declared herself an inclusive, secular democracy. It was a magnificent undertaking, but Babu Bajrangi's predecessors had been hard at work since the 1920s, dripping poison into India's bloodstream, undermining that idea of India even before it was born.

By 1990, they were ready to make a bid for power. In 1992 Hindu mobs exhorted by L. K. Advani stormed the Babri Masjid and demolished it.

By 1998, the BJP was in power at the center. The U.S. War on Terror put the wind in their sails. It allowed them to do exactly as they pleased, even to commit genocide and then present their fascism as a legitimate form of chaotic democracy.

This happened at a time when India had opened its huge market to international finance and it was in the interests of international corporations and the media houses they owned to project it as a country that could do no wrong. That gave Hindu nationalists all the impetus and the impunity they needed.

This, then, is the larger historical context of terrorism on the subcontinent -- and of the Mumbai attacks. It shouldn't surprise us that Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Taiba is from Shimla (India) and L. K. Advani of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is from Sindh (Pakistan).

In much the same way as it did after the 2001 Parliament attack, the 2002 burning of the Sabarmati Express, and the 2007 bombing of the Samjhauta Express, the government of India announced that it has "incontrovertible" evidence that the Lashkar-e-Taiba, backed by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was behind the Mumbai strikes.

The Lashkar has denied involvement, but remains the prime accused. According to the police and intelligence agencies, the Lashkar operates in India through an organization called the "Indian Mujahideen." Two Indian nationals, Sheikh Mukhtar Ahmed, a Special Police Officer working for the Jammu and Kashmir Police, and Tausif Rehman, a resident of Kolkata in West Bengal, have been arrested in connection with the Mumbai attacks.

So already the neat accusation against Pakistan is getting a little messy.

Almost always, when these stories unspool, they reveal a complicated global network of foot soldiers, trainers, recruiters, middlemen, and undercover intelligence and counter-intelligence operatives working not just on both sides of the India-Pakistan border, but in several countries simultaneously.

In today's world, trying to pin down the provenance of a terrorist strike and isolate it within the borders of a single nation state, is very much like trying to pin down the provenance of corporate money. It's almost impossible.

In circumstances like these, air strikes to "take out" terrorist camps may take out the camps, but certainly will not "take out" the terrorists. And neither will war.

Also, in our bid for the moral high ground, let's try not to forget that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the LTTE of neighboring Sri Lanka, one of the world's most deadly terrorist groups, were trained by the Indian Army.

Releasing Frankensteins

Thanks largely to the part it was forced to play as America's ally, first in its war in support of the Afghan Islamists and then in its war against them, Pakistan, whose territory is reeling under these contradictions, is careening toward civil war.

As recruiting agents for America's jihad against the Soviet Union, it was the job of the Pakistani Army and the ISI to nurture and channel funds to Islamic fundamentalist organizations. Having wired up these Frankensteins and released them into the world, the U.S. expected it could rein them in like pet mastiffs whenever it wanted to. Certainly it did not expect them to come calling in the heart of the homeland on September 11. So once again, Afghanistan had to be violently remade.

Now the debris of a re-ravaged Afghanistan has washed up on Pakistan's borders.

Nobody, least of all the Pakistani government, denies that it is presiding over a country that is threatening to implode. The terrorist training camps, the fire-breathing mullahs, and the maniacs who believe that Islam will, or should, rule the world are mostly the detritus of two Afghan wars. Their ire rains down on the Pakistani government and Pakistani civilians as much, if not more, than it does on India.

If, at this point, India decides to go to war, perhaps the descent of the whole region into chaos will be complete. The debris of a bankrupt, destroyed Pakistan will wash up on India's shores, endangering us as never before.

If Pakistan collapses, we can look forward to having millions of "non-state actors" with an arsenal of nuclear weapons at their disposal as neighbors.

It's hard to understand why those who steer India's ship are so keen to replicate Pakistan's mistakes and call damnation upon this country by inviting the United States to further meddle clumsily and dangerously in our extremely complicated affairs. A superpower never has allies. It only has agents.

On the plus side, the advantage of going to war is that it's the best way for India to avoid facing up to the serious trouble building on our home front.

The Mumbai attacks were broadcast live (and exclusive!) on all or most of our 67 24-hour news channels and god knows how many international ones. TV anchors in their studios and journalists at "ground zero" kept up an endless stream of excited commentary.

Over three days and three nights we watched in disbelief as a small group of very young men, armed with guns and gadgets, exposed the powerlessness of the police, the elite National Security Guard, and the marine commandos of this supposedly mighty, nuclear-powered nation.

While they did this, they indiscriminately massacred unarmed people, in railway stations, hospitals, and luxury hotels, unmindful of their class, caste, religion, or nationality.

(Part of the helplessness of the security forces had to do with having to worry about hostages. In other situations, in Kashmir for example, their tactics are not so sensitive. Whole buildings are blown up. Human shields are used. The U.S. and Israeli armies don't hesitate to send cruise missiles into buildings and drop daisy cutters on wedding parties in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan.)

But this was different. And it was on TV.

The boy-terrorists' nonchalant willingness to kill -- and be killed -- mesmerized their international audience. They delivered something different from the usual diet of suicide bombings and missile attacks that people have grown inured to on the news.

Here was something new. Die Hard 25. The gruesome performance went on and on. TV ratings soared. Ask any television magnate or corporate advertiser who measures broadcast time in seconds, not minutes, what that's worth.

Eventually the killers died and died hard, all but one. (Perhaps, in the chaos, some escaped. We may never know.)

Throughout the standoff the terrorists made no demands and expressed no desire to negotiate. Their purpose was to kill people, and inflict as much damage as they could, before they were killed themselves. They left us completely bewildered.

Collateral Damage

When we say, "Nothing can justify terrorism," what most of us mean is that nothing can justify the taking of human life. We say this because we respect life, because we think it's precious.

So what are we to make of those who care nothing for life, not even their own? The truth is that we have no idea what to make of them, because we can sense that even before they've died, they've journeyed to another world where we cannot reach them.

One TV channel (India TV) broadcast a phone conversation with one of the attackers, who called himself "Imran Babar." I cannot vouch for the veracity of the conversation, but the things he talked about were the things contained in the "terror emails" that were sent out before several other bomb attacks in India. Things we don't want to talk about any more: the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the genocidal slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, the brutal repression in Kashmir.

"You're surrounded," the anchor told him. "You are definitely going to die. Why don't you surrender?" "We die every day," he replied in a strange, mechanical way. "It's better to live one day as a lion and then die this way." He didn't seem to want to change the world. He just seemed to want to take it down with him.

If the men were indeed members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, why didn't it matter to them that a large number of their victims were Muslim, or that their action was likely to result in a severe backlash against the Muslim community in India whose rights they claim to be fighting for?

Terrorism is a heartless ideology, and like most ideologies that have their eye on the Big Picture, individuals don't figure in their calculations except as collateral damage.

It has always been a part of, and often even the aim of, terrorist strategy to exacerbate a bad situation in order to expose hidden fault lines. The blood of "martyrs" irrigates terrorism. Hindu terrorists need dead Hindus, Communist terrorists need dead proletarians, Islamist terrorists need dead Muslims. The dead become the demonstration, the proof of victimhood, which is central to the project.

A single act of terrorism is not in itself meant to achieve military victory; at best it is meant to be a catalyst that triggers something else, something much larger than itself, a tectonic shift, a realignment. The act itself is theater, spectacle, and symbolism, and today the stage on which it pirouettes and performs its acts of bestiality is Live TV. Even as the Mumbai attacks were being condemned by TV anchors, the effectiveness of the terror strikes was being magnified a thousand-fold by the TV broadcasts.

Through the endless hours of analysis and the endless op-ed essays, in India at least, there has been very little mention of the elephants in the room: Kashmir, Gujarat, and the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

Instead, we had retired diplomats and strategic experts debate the pros and cons of a war against Pakistan. We had the rich threatening not to pay their taxes unless their security was guaranteed. (Is it alright for the poor to remain unprotected?) We had people suggest that the government step down and each state in India be handed over to a separate corporation.

We had the death of former Prime Minster V. P. Singh, the hero of Dalits and lower castes, and the villain of upper caste Hindus pass without a mention.

We had Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City and co-writer of the Bollywood film Mission Kashmir give us his version of George Bush's famous "Why They Hate Us" speech. His analysis of why religious bigots, both Hindu and Muslim, hate Mumbai: "Perhaps because Mumbai stands for lucre, profane dreams and an indiscriminate openness."

His prescription: "The best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever."

Didn't George Bush ask Americans to go out and shop after 9/11? Ah yes. 9/11, the day we can't seem to get away from.

A Shadowy History of Suspicious Terror Attacks

Though one chapter of horror in Mumbai has ended, another might have just begun. Day after day, a powerful, vociferous section of the Indian elite, goaded by marauding TV anchors who make Fox News look almost radical and left-wing, have taken to mindlessly attacking politicians, all politicians, glorifying the police and the army, and virtually asking for a police state.

It isn't surprising that those who have grown plump on the pickings of democracy (such as it is) should now be calling for a police state. The era of "pickings" is long gone. We're now in the era of Grabbing by Force, and democracy has a terrible habit of getting in the way.

Dangerous, stupid oversimplifications like the Police are Good/Politicians are Bad, Chief Executives are Good/Chief Ministers are Bad, Army is Good/Government is Bad, India is Good/Pakistan is Bad are being bandied about by TV channels that have already whipped their viewers into a state of almost uncontrollable hysteria.

Tragically this regression into intellectual infancy comes at a time when people in India were beginning to see that, in the business of terrorism, victims and perpetrators sometimes exchange roles.

It's an understanding that the people of Kashmir, given their dreadful experiences of the last 20 years, have honed to an exquisite art. On the mainland we're still learning. (If Kashmir won't willingly integrate into India, it's beginning to look as though India will integrate/disintegrate into Kashmir.)

It was after the 2001 Parliament attack that the first serious questions began to be raised. A campaign by a group of lawyers and activists exposed how innocent people had been framed by the police and the press, how evidence was fabricated, how witnesses lied, how due process had been criminally violated at every stage of the investigation.

Eventually, the courts acquitted two out of the four accused, including S. A. R. Geelani, the man whom the police claimed was the mastermind of the operation. A third, Showkat Guru, was acquitted of all the charges brought against him, but was then convicted for a fresh, comparatively minor offense. The Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of another of the accused, Mohammad Afzal. In its judgment the court acknowledged that there was no proof that Mohammed Afzal belonged to any terrorist group, but went on to say, quite shockingly, "The collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender."

Even today we don't really know who the terrorists that attacked the Indian Parliament were and who they worked for.

More recently, on September 19th of this year, we had the controversial "encounter" at Batla House in Jamia Nagar, Delhi, where the Special Cell of the Delhi police gunned down two Muslim students in their rented flat under seriously questionable circumstances, claiming that they were responsible for serial bombings in Delhi, Jaipur, and Ahmedabad in 2008. An assistant commissioner of police, Mohan Chand Sharma, who played a key role in the Parliament attack investigation, lost his life as well. He was one of India's many "encounter specialists," known and rewarded for having summarily executed several "terrorists."

There was an outcry against the Special Cell from a spectrum of people, ranging from eyewitnesses in the local community to senior Congress Party leaders, students, journalists, lawyers, academics, and activists, all of whom demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident.

In response, the BJP and L. K. Advani lauded Mohan Chand Sharma as a "Braveheart" and launched a concerted campaign in which they targeted those who had dared to question the integrity of the police, saying to do so was "suicidal" and calling them "anti-national." Of course, there has been no enquiry.

Only days after the Batla House event, another story about "terrorists" surfaced in the news. In a report submitted to a Sessions Court, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said that a team from Delhi's Special Cell (the same team that led the Batla House encounter, including Mohan Chand Sharma) had abducted two innocent men, Irshad Ali and Moarif Qamar, in December 2005, planted two kilograms of RDX (explosives) and two pistols on them, and then arrested them as "terrorists" who belonged to Al Badr (which operates out of Kashmir).

Ali and Qamar, who have spent years in jail, are only two examples out of hundreds of Muslims who have been similarly jailed, tortured, and even killed on false charges.

This pattern changed in October 2008 when Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), which was investigating the September 2008 Malegaon blasts, arrested a Hindu preacher Sadhvi Pragya, a self-styled God man, Swami Dayanand Pande, and Lt. Col. Purohit, a serving officer of the Indian Army. All the arrested belong to Hindu nationalist organizations, including a Hindu supremacist group called Abhinav Bharat.

The Shiv Sena, the BJP, and the RSS condemned the Maharashtra ATS, and vilified its chief, Hemant Karkare, claiming he was part of a political conspiracy and declaring that "Hindus could not be terrorists." L. K. Advani changed his mind about his policy on the police and made rabble rousing speeches to huge gatherings in which he denounced the ATS for daring to cast aspersions on holy men and women.

On November 25th, newspapers reported that the ATS was investigating the high profile VHP chief Pravin Togadia's possible role in the blasts in Malegaon (a predominantly Muslim town). The next day, in an extraordinary twist of fate, Hemant Karkare was killed in the Mumbai attacks. The chances are that the new chief, whoever he is, will find it hard to withstand the political pressure that is bound to be brought on him over the Malegaon investigation.

While the Sangh Parivar does not seem to have come to a final decision over whether or not it is anti-national and suicidal to question the police, Arnab Goswami, anchorperson of Times Now television, has stepped up to the plate. He has taken to naming, demonizing, and openly heckling people who have dared to question the integrity of the police and armed forces.

My name and the name of the well-known lawyer Prashant Bhushan have come up several times. At one point, while interviewing a former police officer, Arnab Goswami turned to the camera: "Arundhati Roy and Prashant Bhushan," he said. "I hope you are watching this. We think you are disgusting."

For a TV anchor to do this in an atmosphere as charged and as frenzied as the one that prevails today amounts to incitement, as well as threat, and would probably in different circumstances have cost a journalist his or her job.

So, according to a man aspiring to be the next prime minister of India, and another who is the public face of a mainstream TV channel, citizens have no right to raise questions about the police.

This in a country with a shadowy history of suspicious terror attacks, murky investigations, and fake "encounters." This in a country that boasts of the highest number of custodial deaths in the world, and yet refuses to ratify the international covenant on torture. A country where the ones who make it to torture chambers are the lucky ones because at least they've escaped being "encountered" by our Encounter Specialists. A country where the line between the underworld and the Encounter Specialists virtually does not exist.

The Monster in the Mirror

How should those of us whose hearts have been sickened by the knowledge of all of this view the Mumbai attacks, and what are we to do about them?

There are those who point out that U.S. strategy has been successful inasmuch as the United States has not suffered a major attack on its home ground since 9/11. However, some would say that what America is suffering now is far worse.

If the idea behind the 9/11 terror attacks was to goad America into showing its true colors, what greater success could the terrorists have asked for? The U.S. military is bogged down in two unwinnable wars, which have made the United States the most hated country in the world. Those wars have contributed greatly to the unraveling of the American economy and who knows, perhaps eventually the American empire.

(Could it be that battered, bombed Afghanistan, the graveyard of the Soviet Union, will be the undoing of this one too?)

Hundreds of thousands of people, including thousands of American soldiers, have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. The frequency of terrorist strikes on U.S. allies/agents (including India) and U.S. interests in the rest of the world has increased dramatically since 9/11.

George W. Bush, the man who led the U.S. response to 9/11, is a despised figure not just internationally, but also by his own people.

Who can possibly claim that the United States is winning the War on Terror?

Homeland Security has cost the U.S. government billions of dollars. Few countries, certainly not India, can afford that sort of price tag. But even if we could, the fact is that this vast homeland of ours cannot be secured or policed in the way the United States has been. It's not that kind of homeland.

We have a hostile nuclear-weapons state that is slowly spinning out of control as a neighbor; we have a military occupation in Kashmir and a shamefully persecuted, impoverished minority of more than 150 million Muslims who are being targeted as a community and pushed to the wall, whose young see no justice on the horizon, and who, were they to totally lose hope and radicalize, will end up as a threat not just to India, but to the whole world.

If 10 men can hold off the NSG commandos and the police for three days, and if it takes half a million soldiers to hold down the Kashmir valley, do the math. What kind of Homeland Security can secure India?

Nor for that matter will any other quick fix.

Anti-terrorism laws are not meant for terrorists; they're for people that governments don't like. That's why they have a conviction rate of less than 2%. They're just a means of putting inconvenient people away without bail for a long time and eventually letting them go.

Terrorists like those who attacked Mumbai are hardly likely to be deterred by the prospect of being refused bail or being sentenced to death. It's what they want.

What we're experiencing now is blowback, the cumulative result of decades of quick fixes and dirty deeds. The carpet's squelching under our feet.

The only way to contain -- it would be naďve to say end -- terrorism is to look at the monster in the mirror. We're standing at a fork in the road. One sign says "Justice," the other "Civil War." There's no third sign and there's no going back. Choose.
(c) 2008 Arundhati Roy was born in 1959 in Shillong, India. She studied architecture in New Delhi, where she now lives, and has worked as a film designer, actor, and screenplay writer in India. A tenth anniversary edition of her novel, The God of Small Things (Random House), for which she received the 1997 Booker Prize, will be officially published within days. She is also the author of numerous nonfiction titles, including An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire.

Tzipi's Nation-State
By Uri Avnery

IT SOUNDS like an invented story. And indeed it is.

In this tale, an American politician gets up and declares: The United States was founded by British Protestants who were persecuted in Europe for their Puritan beliefs. Therefore, the United States is an Anglo-Saxon Protestant state.

And he goes on: the United States is also a democratic state. Therefore, people with another background - such as Native Americans, Africans, Latinos, Asians and Jews - enjoy full equality. But they must know that the United States is an Anglo-Saxon nation-state, while they belong to other nation-states.

Sounds far-fetched? Indeed it is. No American politician would dream of uttering such a statement, even if he might feel it in his heart.

Here in Israel one can say such a thing, and nobody gets excited.

THIS WEEK Tzipi Livni did just that. She was speaking to high-school pupils - the audience preferred by our politicians, who know that the great majority of them are conformists who will listen to anything without protest. Standing in front of these pupils, boys and girls, who will be called up by the army in a year or two, Tzipi disclosed her inner convictions.

Israel, she said, is a Jewish and democratic state. The Arab citizens enjoy full civil rights. But they must know that this is the Jewish nation-state, while they belong to another nation, and their nation-state will be the putative Palestinian state. This statement did not arouse a storm, not on the spot and not in the media. It does not contradict the convictions of most Israelis. The public accepts the view that Israel is a Jewish state, and that its Arab citizens are, at most, a tolerated minority.

What is special about Tzipi Livni is her emphasis on the two words "nation state." She has made them into her trademark and repeats them at every opportunity. They give her statements a certain respectability, the halo of a thought-out world-view, which makes her sound different from Ehud Olmert, Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, who, of course, think exactly the same.

NO ONE denies that the world is divided into nation-states. The nearest thing we have to a world parliament is called the "United Nations," meaning "United Nation-States." The question is only: what is a nation-state?

In historical terms, the nation-state is a relatively recent phenomenon. Only a hundred years ago, large parts of Europe belonged to multi-national empires. It was the dynasty that united the empire, not the national identity of the subjects. The Austrian Empire included people of more than a dozen nationalities, and so did the empire of the Russian Czar.

Actually, the national idea crystallized only in the 18th century. More and more thinkers adopted the view that a society with a common origin, a common cultural identity, a common language (mostly), a common territory and (usually) a common religion should be united in a state of its own, which should belong to them alone, and enjoy national independence.

The timing was not accidental. All over Europe, mass education systems sprang up and all the peoples developed a national consciousness. Slovaks and Slovenes began to wonder why they should be subject to the Austrian crown, Lithuanians and Latvians no longer found it natural that they should be oppressed by the Russian Czar. At the same time, economic and technological advances demanded states big enough to sustain a modern economy and a large enough army to defend its citizens (and perhaps to attack neighboring countries).

The classic nation-state was France. It developed a French nation with a nationalist world-view and a national pride, and that imposed its language and culture on the peoples that became part of France either by agreement or by force - Alsatians in the East, Corsicans in the South, Basques in the West, Bretons in the North. British nationalism absorbed the Scots, the Welsh and some of the Irish. The people that were swallowed up by the big nations generally accepted this and developed a pride in their new nations. The Corsican Napoleon Bonaparte was the Frenchman par excellence, and the Jew Benjamin Disraeli created the British Empire.

That was the heyday of the classical nation-state: a national state, homogenous as far as possible, which at most tolerated its minorities or persecuted them outright, that demanded national conformism within and made little pretense of morality in its dealing with other nation-states.

It seems that Tzipi Livni takes such a nation-state as her ideal. But developments have long since left that stage behind.

The nation-state has not died, but it has changed almost beyond recognition.

THE UNITED STATES, too, is a nation-state. But that nation is very different from the one Tzipi Livni is dreaming about.

The American nation is composed of all the citizens of the United States. Lithuanians, Argentinians and Vietnamese become members of the American nation the moment they receive their citizenship. The heritage of Washington and Lincoln is conferred on them together with their passport. They are not required to change their religion or skin-color.

The ultimate confirmation of the success of this system has been given by the election of Barack Obama, the grandson of a Muslim from Kenya. Throughout the stormy election campaign, no one seriously claimed that he was not a complete American.

The American flag and the American constitution unite this modern nation. The President does not swear loyalty to the Fatherland, but to the constitution. Not the skin-color is important, not the ethnic origin, nor religion or language. Only citizenship. Even the requirement that the citizen should know at least basic English is not enforced as strictly as it once was.

The term WASP - White Anglo-Saxon Protestant - has long since been reduced to a half-jocular appellation. Demographic experts predict that in not so many years, the Whites of European origin will be a minority in the American nation-state. But it seems that this piece of news did not arouse a storm of alarm and anger.

Everybody understands that the future and robustness of the US-American nation do not depend on the religion and race of the American people. Therefore, there is no "demographic problem" in America. Neurotic demographers like our Arnon Sofer would be considered cranks over there.

AS IN several other areas, the United States is a model for the rest of the world in this respect, too.

In Europe, the old nation-states persist. Even after World War II, when the Europeans woke up from their fatal nationalist intoxication and came to the conclusion that they had to create a united Europe, they rejected the idea of a unified European nation on the American model. They did not establish the "United States of Europe," but rather a "European Union," which is composed of a large number of nation-states. Yet a German or a Frenchman of 200 years ago would not believe their eyes if they were to walk down Unter den Linden or the Champs Elisee today.

The European nations are changing. They are opening up to the world. The idea of a homogenous nation, based on a common origin, is fading. Slowly, perhaps too slowly, tolerance towards "the stranger in our midst" is growing, and citizenship is granted to inhabitants with a different ethnic origin and religion, like Turks in Germany and Africans in France. It is a difficult process that does not always advance smoothly, but that is the direction.

It is also necessary for the very survival of the European nations. Their birth-rate is decreasing, there are fewer and fewer local workers to sustain the economy and pay the taxes to cover the pensions of an aging population. Europe needs a steady stream of new immigrants, and these will join the European nations.

Angela Merkel will not tell her Turkish citizens: "You can enjoy equality here, but you belong to the Turkish nation-state.".One can hardly imagine Gordon Brown telling the British citizens of Pakistani extraction: "Your nation-state is Pakistan."

The Arab citizens of Israel can be compared to the Swedish citizens of Finland. These constitute about 6% of the population, but they play an important role in the economy and other spheres of life. All signs in Finland are bilingual. Finland belongs to all its citizens. Ariel Sharon's advisor, Dov Weisglas, once said that "peace will come only when the Palestinians become Finns." Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that peace will come only when we ourselves "become Finns."

The Israeli Arab citizens in Kafr Kassem and Um-al-Fahm, near the Green Line, can be compared to the Alsatians in France, who have been living there for untold generations. Several times in history they have belonged to Germany. The last time was when Adolf Hitler annexed them to the Third Reich. Nowadays, the Alsatians are as French as any, with equal rights and obligations, and other aspects do not interest anybody. Would the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, the son of a Hungarian nobleman, declare that "the nation-state of the Alsatians is Germany?"

I KNOW, I know, all these examples do not apply to us. We Jews are special. Fact is, God chose us.

But with all due respect to God and Tzipi Livni, I must tell the Kadima candidate: "Madam, what you are saying is already a little obsolete." Since Vladimir Jabotinsky was born 128 years ago into the Jewish minority in Odessa, much water has flown down the Dniester river, and I am not sure that even he would have signed Tzipi's statement. When he wrote that in our future state "the son of the Arab, the son of Nazareth and my son" would live happily together, did he mean that the Jewish state he was dreaming about would not be the state of its Arab citizens, too?

I believe that nation-states will continue to exist for a long time to come. It seems that this is the social structure contemporary people prefer for the time being. A person feels a need for national identity.

But it will not be a narrow, closed nation-state, compulsively homogenous, based on nationalist-religious-linguistic conformity, hostile to its neighbors. The new nation-state will be open and cosmopolitan, respectful of minorities, a state of all its citizens, integrated in a regional partnership, a part of the global economy, a partner in the joint struggle for the preservation of this little planet.

That may be the future. And when does the future begins if not today?
(c) 2008 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

European Crass Warfare
By Paul Krugman

So here's the situation: the economy is facing its worst slump in decades. The usual response to an economic downturn, cutting interest rates, isn't working. Large-scale government aid looks like the only way to end the economic nosedive.

But there's a problem: conservative politicians, clinging to an out-of-date ideology - and, perhaps, betting (wrongly) that their constituents are relatively well positioned to ride out the storm - are standing in the way of action.

No, I'm not talking about Bob Corker, the Senator from Nissan - I mean Tennessee - and his fellow Republicans, who torpedoed last week's attempt to buy some time for the U.S. auto industry. (Why was the plan blocked? An e-mail message circulated among Senate Republicans declared that denying the auto industry a loan was an opportunity for Republicans to "take their first shot against organized labor.")

I am, instead, talking about Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and her economic officials, who have become the biggest obstacles to a much-needed European rescue plan.

The European economic mess isn't getting very much attention here, because we're understandably focused on our own problems. But the world's other economic superpower - America and the European Union have roughly the same G.D.P. - is arguably in as much trouble as we are.

The most acute problems are on Europe's periphery, where many smaller economies are experiencing crises strongly reminiscent of past crises in Latin America and Asia: Latvia is the new Argentina; Ukraine is the new Indonesia. But the pain has also reached the big economies of Western Europe: Britain, France, Italy and, the biggest of all, Germany.

As in the United States, monetary policy - cutting interest rates in an effort to perk up the economy - is rapidly reaching its limit. That leaves, as the only way to avert the worst slump since the Great Depression, the aggressive use of fiscal policy: increasing spending or cutting taxes to boost demand. Right now everyone sees the need for a large, pan-European fiscal stimulus.

Everyone, that is, except the Germans. Mrs. Merkel has become Frau Nein: if there is to be a rescue of the European economy, she wants no part of it, telling a party meeting that "we're not going to participate in this senseless race for billions."

Last week Peer Steinbrück, Mrs. Merkel's finance minister, went even further. Not content with refusing to develop a serious stimulus plan for his own country, he denounced the plans of other European nations. He accused Britain, in particular, of engaging in "crass Keynesianism."

Germany's leaders seem to believe that their own economy is in good shape, and in no need of major help. They're almost certainly wrong about that. The really bad thing, however, isn't their misjudgment of their own situation; it's the way Germany's opposition is preventing a common European approach to the economic crisis.

To understand the problem, think of what would happen if, say, New Jersey were to attempt to boost its economy through tax cuts or public works, without this state-level stimulus being part of a nationwide program. Clearly, much of the stimulus would "leak" away to neighboring states, so that New Jersey would end up with all of the debt while other states got many if not most of the jobs.

Individual European countries are in much the same situation. Any one government acting unilaterally faces the strong possibility that it will run up a lot of debt without creating much domestic employment.

For the European economy as a whole, however, this kind of leakage is much less of a problem: two-thirds of the average European Union member's imports come from other European nations, so that the continent as a whole is no more import-dependent than the United States. This means that a coordinated stimulus effort, in which each country counts on its neighbors to match its own efforts, would offer much more bang for the euro than individual, uncoordinated efforts.

But you can't have a coordinated European effort if Europe's biggest economy not only refuses to go along, but heaps scorn on its neighbors' attempts to contain the crisis.

Germany's big Nein won't last forever. Last week Ifo, a highly respected research institute, warned that Germany will soon be facing its worst economic crisis since the 1940s. If and when this happens, Mrs. Merkel and her ministers will surely reconsider their position.

But in Europe, as in the United States, the issue is time. Across the world, economies are sinking fast, while we wait for someone, anyone, to offer an effective policy response. How much damage will be done before that response finally comes?
(c) 2008 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Good Wages Are Good For America

Some U.S. Senators are real corkers. Take Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee. Please.

He's on the committee overseeing the bailout of America's auto companies and he recently popped his cork over the pay that unionized auto workers earn. He demanded that their wages be slashed as a price of the industry getting a $14 billion bailout. "We need to put in place specific and rigorous measures," he cried.

Odd that he was acting so tough toward those blue-collar folks, when he and his colleagues so meekly threw a $700-billion bailout at Wall Street bankers. Just one of those banks, Citigroup, was given $45 billion by the senators - with no questions asked. Indeed, Citigroup's CEO is being paid $216 million this year, yet Corker made no demand that he take a whack in pay.

Those who are bashing workers want you to believe that union wages are exorbitant, topping $80,000 a year for a highly-skilled, experienced line worker. But, wait - total wages and benefits add up to less than 10 percent of a car's price tag. Even if the union members worked for free, that wouldn't save the corporations. Detroit's problems aren't on the factory floor, but up in the executive suites, where $10,000-an-hour CEOs have proven to be incompetent, unimaginative managers.

Yes, autoworkers make a good living - but isn't that what we want for the families of our country? These workers define America's middle-class ideal. They can afford to buy homes (and cars), send their kids to college, and even pay the taxes that cover Corker's salary. By the way, the senator is paid double what auto workers get, and he doesn't have to have any productive skills, do any heavy lifting, or deliver a product.

Someone should send a Henry Ford bobblehead to Corker to remind him of the auto pioneer's wisdom: Good wages are the lifeblood of the industry - and of our economy.
(c) 2008 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Obama's "Way-To-Go, Brownie!" Moment?
By Greg Palast

Has Barack Obama forgotten, "Way-to-go, Brownie"? Michael Brown was that guy from the Arabian Horse Association appointed by George Bush to run the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Brownie, not knowing the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain from the south end of a horse, let New Orleans drown. Bush's response was to give his buddy Brownie a "way to go!" thumbs up.

We thought Obama would go a very different way. You'd think the studious Senator from Illinois would avoid repeating the Bush regime's horror show of unqualified appointments, of picking politicos over professionals.

But here we go again. Trial balloons lofted in the Washington Post suggest President-elect Obama is about to select Joel Klein as Secretary of Education. If not Klein, then draft-choice number two is Arne Duncan, Obama's backyard basketball buddy in Chicago.

Say it ain't so, President O.

Let's begin with Joel Klein. Klein is a top notch anti-trust lawyer. What he isn't is an educator. Klein is as qualified to run the Department of Education as Dick Cheney is to dance in Swan Lake. While I've never seen Cheney in a tutu, I have seen Klein fumble about the stage as Chancellor of the New York City school system.

Klein, who lacks even six minutes experience in the field, was handed management of New York's schools by that political Jack-in-the-Box, Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The billionaire mayor is one of those businessmen-turned-politicians who think lawyers and speculators can make school districts operate like businesses.

Klein has indeed run city schools like a business - if the business is General Motors. Klein has flopped. Half the city's kids don't graduate.

Klein is out of control. Not knowing a damn thing about education, rather than rely on those who actually work in the field (only two of his two dozen deputies have degrees in education), Klein pays high-priced consultants to tell him what to do. He's blown a third of a billion dollars on consultant "accountability" projects plus $80 million for an IBM computer data storage system that doesn't work.

What the heck was the $80 million junk computer software for? Testing. Klein is test crazy. He has swallowed hook, line and sinker George Bush's idea that testing students can replace teaching them. The madly expensive testing program and consultant-fee spree are paid for by yanking teachers from the classroom.

Ironically, though not surprisingly, test scores under Klein have flat-lined. Scores would have fallen lower, notes author Jane Hirschmann, but Klein "moved the cut line," that is, lowered the level required to pass. In other words, Klein cheats on the tests.

Nevertheless, media poobahs have fallen in love with Klein, especially Republican pundits. The New York Times' David Brooks is championing Klein, hoping that media hype for Klein will push Obama to keep Bush schools policies in place, trumping the electorate's choice for change.

Brooks and other Republicans (hey, didn't those guys lose?) are pushing Klein as a way for Obama to prove he can reach across the aisle to Republicans like Bloomberg. (Oh yes, Bloomberg's no longer in the GOP, having jumped from the party this year when the brand name went sour.)

Choosing Klein, says Brooks, would display Obama's independence from the teacher's union. But after years of Bush kicking teachers in the teeth, appointing a Bush acolyte like Klein would not indicate independence from teachers but their betrayal.

Hoops versus Hope

The anti-union establishment has a second stringer on the bench waiting in case Klein is nixed: Arne Duncan. Duncan, another lawyer playing at education, was appointed by Chicago's Boss Daley to head that city's train-wreck of a school system. Think of Duncan as "Klein Lite."

What's Duncan's connection to the President-elect? Duncan was once captain of Harvard's basketball team and still plays backyard round-ball with his Hyde Park neighbor Obama.

But Michelle has put a limit on their friendship: Obama was one of the only state senators from Chicago to refuse to send his children into Duncan's public schools. My information is that the Obamas sent their daughters to the elite Laboratory School where Klein-Duncan teach-to-the-test pedagogy is dismissed as damaging and nutty.

Mr. Obama, if you can't trust your kids to Arne Duncan, why hand him ours?

Lawyer Duncan is proud to have raised test scores by firing every teacher in low-scoring schools. Which schools? There's Collins High in the Lawndale ghetto with children from homeless shelters and drug-poisoned 'hoods. They don't do well on tests. So Chicago fired all the teachers. They brought in new ones - then fired all of them too: the teachers' reward for volunteering to work in a poor neighborhood.

It's no coincidence that the nation's worst school systems are run by non-experts like Klein and Duncan.

Obama certainly knows this. I know he knows because he's chosen, as head of his Education Department transition team, one of the most highly respected educators in the United States: Professor Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University.

So here we have the ludicrous scene of the President-elect asking this recognized authority, Dr. Darling-Hammond, to vet the qualifications of amateurs Klein and Duncan. It's as if Obama were to ask Michael Jordan, "Say, you wouldn't happen to know anyone who can play basketball, would you?"

Classroom Class War

It's not just Klein's and Duncan's empty credentials which scare me: it's the ill philosophy behind the Bush-brand education theories they promote. "Teach-to-the-test" (which goes under such pre-packaged teaching brands as "Success for All") forces teachers to limit classroom time to pounding in rote low-end skills, easily measured on standardized tests. The transparent purpose is to create the future class of worker-drones. Add in some computer training and - voila! - millions trained on the cheap to function, not think. Analytical thinking skills, creative skills, questioning skills will be left to the privileged at the Laboratory School and Phillips Andover Academy.

We hope for better from the daddy of Sasha and Malia.

Educationally, the world is swamping us. The economic and social levees are bursting. We cannot afford another Way-to-go Brownie in charge of rescuing our children.



Hey, you Liberal Democrats. You may have won the election, but you're getting CREAMED in the transition.

Today, President-elect Barack Obama stuck it to you. He's chosen Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education.

Who? Duncan is most decidedly NOT an educator. He's a lawyer. But Duncan has this extraordinary qualification: He's Obama's pick-up basketball buddy from Hyde Park.

I can't make this up.

Not that Duncan hasn't mucked about in the educational system. Chicago Boss Richie Daley put this guy in charge of the horror show called Chicago Public Schools where Duncan turned a bad system into a REALLY bad system.

And Obama knows it. Indeed, although he plays roundball with Duncan (who was captain of the Harvard basketball team), State Senator Obama was one of the only local Chicago officials who refused to send his kids to Duncan's public schools. (The Obamas sent Sasha and Malia to the Laboratory School, where Duncan's methods are derided as dangerously ludicrous.)

So, if The One won't trust his kids to Duncan, why is he handing Duncan ours?

The answer: Duncan is supported by a coterie of teacher-union hating Republicans. The vocal cheerleader for the Duncan appointment was David Brooks, the New York Times columnist; the REPUBLICAN columnist.

Hey, didn't those guys LOSE?

The problem with Duncan is not party affiliation. The problem is education philosophy. And Duncan is a Bush baby through and through, a card-carrying supporter of the program best called, "No Child's Behind Left."

At the heart of the program is testing. And more testing. Testing instead of teaching. When tests go badly, the solution is to push the low-test-score kids to drop out of school. If triage isn't enough, then attack their teachers.

Here's how Duncan operates this Bush program in Chicago at Collins High in the Lawndale ghetto. Teachers there work with kids from homeless shelters from an economically devastated neighborhood. Believe it or not, the kids don't get high test scores. So Chicago fired the teachers, every one of them. Then they brought in new teachers and fired THEM too when, surprise!, test scores still didn't rise.

The reward for a teacher volunteering for a tough neighborhood is to get harassed, blamed and fired. Now THAT'S a brilliant program, Mr. Duncan. But Duncan's own failures have not gotten HIM fired. As long as his 20-foot jumpshot holds, he's Mr. Secretary.

In no other cabinet department is the lack of expertise, lack of accomplishment, lack of a degree in the field found acceptable but in Education.

But what horrifies me more than Duncan's lack of credentials is Obama's kowtowing to the right-wing clique crusading against the teachers' union and progressive education. The ill philosophy behind the Bush-brand education theories Duncan promotes, "Teach-to-the-Test," forces teachers to limit classroom time to pounding in rote low-end skills, easily measured on standardized tests. The transparent purpose is to create a future class of worker-drones. Add in some computer training and - voila! - millions of lower-income kids are trained on the cheap to function, not think.

Analytical thinking skills, creative skills, questioning skills are left exclusively to privileged little Bushes at Phillips Andover Academy or privileged little Obamas at the Laboratory School.

For the rest of America's children, instead of hope, we'll have hoops.
(c) 2008 Greg Palast is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow for Investigative Reporting at the Nation Institute, New York. He is the father of school-aged twins and the author of, "No Child's Behind Left," included in his New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse Join Palast's Network on MySpace, on FaceBook or on YouTube.

By Will Allen

Vermicompost, or worm compost, is the final product of the breakdown of organic material by worms. At Growing Power, we use worms to create a nutrient-rich, organic fertilizer and soil conditioner that we use on all of our growing beds and as a value-added product that we sell at our store and at farmers' markets.

There are many varieties of worms, but for worm bin composting, we use a few specific earthworm species called Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida) or Red Earthworms (Lumbricus rubellus). Red worms are often found in soils rich with organic materials in Europe and North America. These species prefer living in compost piles and crawl horizontally throughout the pile to consume rotting food waste.

Together with bacteria, red earthworms are the major catalyst for decomposition in a healthy vermicomposting system.

At Growing Power, we utilize two methods for raising red worms and for vermicomposting.

The first method is a raised bed or worm bin system. In these bins, we layer red worms and partially decomposed compost. Typically it takes our worms 12-weeks to process the partially decomposed compost into nutrient-rich worm castings. Each of our over 50 bins is checked daily to ensure that food waste is still available to the worms and that each bin is moist. At the end of the 12-week time period, we place a screen over the top of the bin and feed the worms new compost. Because red worms are surface dwellers, they will migrate through the screen to consume the new compost. Using this method, we recover approximately 80 percent of the worms from the worm castings. These worms are then used to create the next worm bin.

Our second method for vermicomposting is the use of a static pile called a windrow. Windrows consists of bedding materials for the earthworms to live in and acts as a large bin without walls. Although the windrow has no physical barriers to prevent worms from escaping, the worms stay put because there is a plethora of food for them to feast on.

Vermicompost has a higher nutrient ratio than any other composting method. Additionally, worm castings are also rich with microbial life which aids in breaking down nutrients already in the soil into a form that plant roots can absorb. Worm castings also contain worm mucus which helps soil hold moisture better and keeps nutrients from washing away with the first watering. The following are some of the benefits of vermicomposting:

* Improving soil's physical structure;
* Improving water holding capacity;
* Enriching soil in micro-organisms, adding plant hormones such as auxins and gibberellic acid, and adding enzymes such as phosphatase and cellulase;
* Attracting deep-burrowing earthworms already present in the soil;
* Enhancing germination, plant growth, and crop yield; and
* Improving root growth and structure.

Vermicompost can be used to make compost or worm tea, by mixing some vermicompost in water and steeping for a number of hours or days. The resulting liquid is used as a fertilizer. The dark brown waste liquid that drains into the bottom of some vermicomposting systems, as water-rich foods break down, is also excellent as fertilizer.
(c) 2008 Will Allen

Israel's 'Crimes Against Humanity'
By Chris Hedges

Israel's siege of Gaza, largely unseen by the outside world because of Jerusalem's refusal to allow humanitarian aid workers, reporters and photographers access to Gaza, rivals the most egregious crimes carried out at the height of apartheid by the South African regime. It comes close to the horrors visited on Sarajevo by the Bosnian Serbs. It has disturbing echoes of the Nazi ghettos of Lodz and Warsaw.

"This is a stain on what is left of Israeli morality," I was told by Richard N. Veits, the former U.S. ambassador to Jordan who led a delegation from the Council on Foreign Relations to Gaza to meet Hamas leaders this past summer. "I am almost breathless discussing this subject. It is so myopic. Washington, of course, is a handmaiden to all this. The Israeli manipulation of a population in this manner is comparable to some of the crimes that took place against civilian populations fifty years ago."

The U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, former Princeton University law professor Richard Falk, calls what Israel is doing to the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza "a crime against humanity." Falk, who is Jewish, has condemned the collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza as "a flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention." He has asked for "the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation, and determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law."

Falk, while condemning the rocket attacks by the militant group Hamas, which he points out are also criminal violations of international law, goes on to say that "such Palestinian behavior does not legalize Israel's imposition of a collective punishment of a life- and health-threatening character on the people of Gaza, and should not distract the U.N. or international society from discharging their fundamental moral and legal duty to render protection to the Palestinian people."

"It is an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe that each day poses the entire 1.5 million Gazans to an unspeakable ordeal, to a struggle to survive in terms of their health," Falk said when I reached him by phone in California shortly before he left for Israel. "This is an increasingly precarious condition. A recent study reports that 46 percent of all Gazan children suffer from acute anemia. There are reports that the sonic booms associated with Israeli overflights have caused widespread deafness, especially among children. Gazan children need thousands of hearing aids. Malnutrition is extremely high in a number of different dimensions and affects 75 percent of Gazans. There are widespread mental disorders, especially among young people without the will to live. Over 50 percent of Gazan children under the age of 12 have been found to have no will to live."

Gaza now spends 12 hours a day without power, which can be a death sentence to the severely ill in hospitals. There are few drugs and little medicine, including no cancer or cystic fibrosis medication. Hospitals have generators but often lack fuel. Medical equipment, including one of Gaza's three CT scanners, has been destroyed by power surges and fluctuations. Medical staff cannot control the temperature of incubators for newborns. And Israel has revoked most exit visas, meaning some of those who need specialized care, including cancer patients and those in need of kidney dialysis, have died. Of the 230 Gazans estimated to have died last year because they were denied proper medical care, several spent their final hours at Israeli crossing points where they were refused entry into Israel. The statistics gathered on children-half of Gaza's population is under the age of 17-are increasingly grim. About 45 percent of children in Gaza have iron deficiency from a lack of fruit and vegetables, and 18 percent have stunted growth.

"It is macabre," Falk said. "I don't know of anything that exactly fits this situation. People have been referring to the Warsaw ghetto as the nearest analog in modern times."

"There is no structure of an occupation that endured for decades and involved this kind of oppressive circumstances," the rapporteur added. "The magnitude, the deliberateness, the violations of international humanitarian law, the impact on the health, lives and survival and the overall conditions warrant the characterization of a crime against humanity. This occupation is the direct intention by the Israeli military and civilian authorities. They are responsible and should be held accountable."

The point of this Israeli siege, ostensibly, is to break Hamas, the radical Islamic group that was elected to power in 2007. But Hamas has repeatedly proposed long-term truces with Israel and offered to negotiate a permanent truce. During the last cease-fire, established through Egyptian intermediaries in July, Hamas upheld the truce although Israel refused to ease the blockade. It was Israel that, on Nov. 4, initiated an armed attack that violated the truce and killed six Palestinians. It was only then that Hamas resumed firing rockets at Israel. Palestinians have launched more than 200 rockets on Israel since the latest round of violence began. There have been no Israeli casualties.

"This is a crime of survival," Falk said of the rocket attacks. "Israel has put the Gazans in a set of circumstances where they either have to accept whatever is imposed on them or resist in any way available to them. That is a horrible dilemma to impose upon a people. This does not alleviate the Palestinians, and Gazans in particular, for accountability for doing these acts involving rocket fire, but it also imposes some responsibility on Israel for creating these circumstances."

Israel seeks to break the will of the Palestinians to resist. The Israeli government has demonstrated little interest in diplomacy or a peaceful solution. The rapid expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank is an effort to thwart the possibility of a two-state solution by gobbling up vast tracts of Palestinian real estate. Israel also appears to want to thrust the impoverished Gaza Strip onto Egypt. There are now dozens of tunnels, the principal means for food and goods, connecting Gaza to Egypt. Israel permits the tunnels to operate, most likely as part of an effort to further cut Gaza off from Israel.

"Israel, all along, has not been prepared to enter into diplomatic process that gives the Palestinians a viable state," Falk said. "They [the Israelis] feel time is on their side. They feel they can create enough facts on the ground so people will come to the conclusion a viable state cannot emerge."

The use of terror and hunger to break a hostile population is one of the oldest forms of warfare. I watched the Bosnian Serbs employ the same tactic in Sarajevo. Those who orchestrate such sieges do not grasp the terrible rage born of long humiliation, indiscriminate violence and abuse. A father or a mother whose child dies because of a lack of vaccines or proper medical care does not forget. A boy whose ill grandmother dies while detained at an Israel checkpoint does not forget. All who endure humiliation, abuse and the murder of family members do not forget. This rage becomes a virus within those who, eventually, stumble out into the daylight. Is it any wonder that 71 percent of children interviewed at a school in Gaza recently said they wanted to be a "martyr"?

The Israelis in Gaza, like the American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, are foolishly breeding the next generation of militants and Islamic radicals. Jihadists, enraged by the injustices done by Israel and the United States, seek to carry out reciprocal acts of savagery, even at the cost of their own lives. The violence unleashed on Palestinian children will, one day, be the violence unleashed on Israeli children. This is the tragedy of Gaza. This is the tragedy of Israel.
(c) 2008 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.

Brought To Heel
The Grim Realities Behind Bush's Humiliation in Baghdad
By Chris Floyd

We all had good fun with the image of George W. Bush dodging the shoes flung at him by an angry Iraqi journalist this weekend - who rightly denounced the Crawford Caligula as a "dog" and a killer of Iraqi innocents - but now, as As'ad AbuKhalil notes, a more serious question arises: what will happen to Muntathar al Zaidi, the correspondent for Baghdadiyah Television, who, alone of all the journalists Bush has seen in the past eight years, had the courage to call him the murderer that he is?

After flinging the shoes at Bush - who ducked behind the protective hand of his puppet, Iraqi PM Nouri al Maliki - Zaidi was set upon by Iraqi security forces, who dragged him into a nearby room, where his cries could be heard for several minutes, as McClatchy reports. Later, a reporter for a television station run by Maliki's party said that Zaidi had been kicked and beaten until "he was crying like a woman," the New York Times reports. He's now being held in one of the Green Zone government's notorious prisons where the local goon squads, having learned from two stern masters - the Bush Family's old protégé Saddam Hussein and Bush's very own handcrafted torture program - subject detainees to horrible abuses. Zaidi's employers, who are based in Cairo, have called for his release, and up to 100 lawyers from across the Arab world have offered to defend him.

The incident has been played down in most of the corporate American press - especially Zaidi's motivation. The New York Times noted only that he had "bad feelings about the coalition forces," but of course gave no reasons why he might have such feelings. It's the same old "motiveless malignancy" that we are told drives every critic of American power - they are just "evil," or "extreme" or "unhinged," etc.; their reactions never have the slightest thing to do with U.S. policy. Yet McClatchy, as usual, digs deeper and reports that Zaidi had been especially affected by the American bombing of the thickly populated civilian areas of Baghdad's Sadr City during one of the brutal pacification operations of the "surge" earlier this year. As Juan Cole notes:

"The frequent US bombing of civilian Iraqi cities that are already under US military occupation has been one of the most under-reported stories of the Iraq War."

It has indeed. It is virtually an un-reported story in the mainstream press. This savage air campaign (a flagrant war crime, by the way; but of course in these days of "continuity," no one cares about that) was a key component of what Barack Obama has called the "success beyond our wildest dreams" of Bush's "surge" - along with the U.S. death squad operations that Establishment court scribe Bob Woodward was allowed to reveal earlier this year. Meanwhile, that "wild success" - which engendered a sense of "triumphalism" among Bush's entourage on the trip to Baghdad, the NY Times reports - has produced such a peaceful, stable situation that Bush had to sneak into Iraq's capital city (having sneaked out of America's capital city), where he was humiliated before the entire world.... more than five full years after he proclaimed "Mission accomplished." (If this is the type of "wild success" Obama envisions for his own promised Bush-like surge in Afghanistan, then the prez-elect better prepare himself for a taste of shoe leather on one of his future visits to Kabul, as one of our commenters here astutely noted yesterday.)

As for Zaidi, AbuKhalil asks another pertinent question: "Will those fancy Western journalistic associations now demand that he be released? Will they speak on his own behalf? Or will they now say that shoe throwing is a brand of terrorism and that the man should be shipped to Guantanamo?" No points for guessing the answer to that one.

AbuKhalil also notes that Zaidi is a leftist, although he will doubtless be portrayed as a typical "Muslim extremist" in the corporate press. Or rather, they will say nothing at all about his background and motivation, leaving their well-trained readers and viewers to assume that he is one of them dark and dastardly Islamofascist devils.

But he is not. Whatever else Zaidi may or may not be, in his action on Sunday he was simply a human being driven beyond all endurance by the sight of the man who was directly responsible for the scenes of carnage, suffering and despair that Zaidi has witnessed among his own people, year after year after year. He has also experienced it directly, having been kidnapped by unnamed forces in 2007 and beaten for two days while they questioned him about his journalistic work - the same kind of treatment he is doubtless receiving at the moment from the "sovereign" government of "liberated" Iraq.

It may be that the wide acclaim his insult of Bush has drawn across Iraq - where demonstrations for his release were held today - will protect Zaidi from the worst depredations of Bush's proxy torturers. We can only hope so - just as we hope that there will be many more who will follow his courageous example in the years to come, whenever and wherever Bush ventures out on a public platform.

UPDATE: The New York Times has some vox pop from around Iraq on local reactions to Zaidi's action. Although the corporate press in the West is still downplaying the incident, the symbolic significance of the gesture will be highly resonant around the world: an image of defiance on a par with the lone protestor standing before the tanks at Tiananmen Square.
(c) 2008 Chris Floyd

'Center-Right'? Not Quite...
By Eric Alterman

As the Bush era reaches its sordid finale, pundits and politicians are attempting to float any number of specious notions in order to try to put lipstick on this metaphorical pig of a presidency, as well as to constrict President-elect Obama's room for maneuver. The most transparent of these was the laughable claim by New York Times pundit William Kristol that "We've won the [Iraq] war." As Matt Duss of the Center for American Progress's Wonk Room has sagely noted, Kristol's statement makes sense only if one redefines "win" to mean "completely failed to produce any of the positive effects I previously insisted would be forthcoming, but avoided the very worst imaginable outcome." The war, as Peter Galbraith demonstrates in his recent book Unintended Consequences, has increased the terrorist threat to the United States; strengthened our enemy, Iran, further endangering Israel; weakened friendly Arab regimes like Jordan; reduced American prestige everywhere; and failed in its fundamental aim to create a functioning democratic state in Iraq. It has done so, moreover, at a cost, according to the extremely conservative calculations of a recent Brookings Institution report, of roughly 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians, 5 million displaced Iraqi refugees, 4,000 dead American soldiers, more than 30,000 wounded soldiers and more than $500 billion (though Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz more credibly puts the cost at $3 trillion).

The absurdity of Kristol's campaign is self-evident. A more complicated dynamic, however, is at work in the insistent claim we hear from almost everywhere in the MSM that President Obama had better be careful about veering too far leftward because, after all, we live in a "center-right nation."

The most eloquent and influential of these salvos came in the form of a pre-election cover story by Newsweek's editor, Jon Meacham, the author of a number of bestselling and well-respected biographical studies. Unfortunately, in this case, Meacham concocted a historical house of cards.

Meacham puts great stock in the fact that barely one in five Americans embraces the label "liberal" to describe themselves. But this is easily explained by the mountains of opprobrium that conservatives--working hand in glove with a cowed MSM--have heaped on "liberals" during the past three decades and the negative associations that have resulted. If you examine the actual policy positions of those Americans who eschew the liberal label, you'll see that the vast majority of Americans, whatever they may call themselves, embrace the "liberal" position on virtually every significant issue. (Replace the word "liberal" with "progressive," and you will nearly double the number of respondents who claim it.) And these numbers are growing as more and more young people demonstrate even greater liberal tendencies than their parents and grandparents in opinion surveys across the board.

Meacham points to a pattern of Democratic presidents tripped up by their liberal leanings, but his assessment of the putative causes of these failures is highly debatable, to say the least. While it is true that FDR's party lost significant ground in the 1938 and 1942 midterm elections, these were short setbacks on the way to winning five straight presidential elections and nine of ten Congressional contests. (If this is Meacham's idea of "overreach," well, I think Obama would be willing to sign on the dotted line.) Moreover, FDR suffered politically from his misbegotten desire to return to a balanced budget. And he was never so successful, and never so unapologetically liberal, as in his 1936 re-election effort, when he spoke for the party of "militant liberalism"--one he later described as believing "in the duty of Government" to solve society's problems, in opposition to those who placed faith in "individual initiative and private philanthropy" to "take care of all situations."

Sure, as Meacham points out, "LBJ had only two years of great success before Vietnam." But it's rather a stretch to argue, following George W. Bush's Vietnam-like Iraq misadventure, that Obama is likely to reprise either man's catastrophic combination of arrogance and incompetence. (Besides, Vietnam was as much a conservative cause as a liberal one in Johnson's early years.)

Similarly, Carter and Clinton had their early missteps, but to blame these on liberal overreach is to misread (and oversimplify) the complex causes and effects of historical contingency. Did the oil embargo, stagflation and exploding interest rates have something to do with Carter's failure? And was Clinton's anti-NRA crime bill--the proximate cause of the 1994 midterm election debacle--really so "liberal"? Massive majorities of Americans supported exactly those elements to which the gun fanatics objected: the outlawing of cop-killing bullets and semiautomatic machine guns.

Later on in his essay, Meacham switches the topic to argue that America is less liberal than most of Europe. This is undeniably true when comparing the electoral results of our political systems. But save for the fact of Americans' far deeper attachment to their churches and mistrust of their government, many of the differences can be attributed to significant dysfunction in the practice of American democracy. Western Europe is filled with governments that do a far better job than ours when it comes to services and social and environmental security broadly defined. But these same countries also enjoy more responsive political systems that are at least partially based on proportional representation, ideologically coherent political parties and far less legal corruption resulting from private funding of public office.

John McCain's alter ego, Mark Salter, predicted, "Over 60 percent of Americans considered Barack Obama to be a 'liberal.' Typically, a candidate is not going to win the presidency with those figures."

I guess these labels aren't what they used to be.
(c) 2008 Eric Alterman is a Distinguished Professor of English, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and Professor of Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. He is also "The Liberal Media" columnist for The Nation, a senior fellow and "Altercation" weblogger for Media Matters for America, (formerly at MSNBC.com) in Washington, DC, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC, where he writes and edits the "Think Again" column, a senior fellow (since 1985) at the World Policy Institute at The New School in New York, and a history consultant to HBO Films. His seventh book, Why We're Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America, was recently published by Viking.

The Wisdom Of James Allen
By Mike Folkerth

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

In light of the current political and financial corruption, I drug out a volume of old wisdom that I keep near for just such occasions.

The twentieth century English philosopher, James Allen 1864 - 1912, in his short and now famous writing, "As A Man Thinketh," made the case that there is no such thing as a good person gone bad. They were instead, simply bad people who had yet to have the opportunity to reveal their true inner-self.

In Allen's own words, "A man does not come to destitution or prison through the tyranny or fate of circumstances, but by the pathway of groveling thoughts and base desires. Nor does a pure minded man fall suddenly into crime by stress or any mere external force. The criminal thought had long been secretly fostered in the heart, and the hour of opportunity revealed its gathered power."

James Allen continued, "Man therefore, as the lord and master of thought, is the maker of himself, the shaper and author of environment." Which brings me to Bernard L. Madoff, chairman of Madoff Investment Securities. Most of you have already heard the stories that broke last week of Bernie Madoff's $50 Billion Ponzi scheme. Investors around the world are taking a haircut, but that's not the story that I'm reporting.

Many of Madoff's long term investors knew that his returns were too good to be true. Many have admitted that they thought he was operating with insider trading information, which is more than a little illegal. After all, Mr. Madoff had connections from his former job as the chairman of the NASDAQ.

My point is that not only was Madoff a bad guy, but so were many of his high profile investors who thought that their returns were being generated by illegal means, but hey, keep those checks coming in.

So going back to the wisdom of James Allen, Madoff and all of the distinguished folks who were investing in what they suspicioned to be criminal gains, all possessed criminal thoughts. Thus, James Allen's statement, "A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all of his thoughts." I have often offered that a majority of people today, approached properly and given the opportunity, would be interested in a little ill gotten gain. If I were to say to the average person, "I know where there is dandy 1957 Corvette sitting in a barn and owned by a little old lady who doesn't know its true value," most of them would lean forward to get the details. Is Madoff the only bad guy or girl on Wall Street? Ya gotta be kidding. The place is crawling with criminals who have yet to be caught and many more criminals practicing legal crime through laws that were passed by our illustrious politicians. Think derivatives and fractional reserve banking here.

Speaking of crooked politicians, do you suppose that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich who is being accused of attempting to sell Obama's senate seat, is the only bad apple in the barrel? Finding a good apple would far more difficult. We live in a world that is controlled by the rich and powerful and who fit nicely into a description given in a verse of a James Allen poem, "He thinks in secret and it comes to pass; Environment is but his looking glass."

So then, how could a system that enjoys so much corruption function properly? We know that the answer is . . .,"it didn't."

I have great hope that our current economic situation will offer the opportunity to unmask all the bad guys and girls that make up current leadership. I also have hope that it will pull neighbors and friends and family closer together and we will make a stand against the insanity of exponential growth.

Life has more to offer than profits.
(c) 2008 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"For those looking for security, be forewarned that there's nothing more insecure than a political promise."
~~~ Harry Browne

Will The Obama Administration Defend Karl Rove?
The president-elect may soon have to decide whether to back Bush officials who flouted congressional subpoenas
By Stephanie Mencimer

When the new Congress returns to Washington next month, one of the first items of business for Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee may be to subpoena Karl Rove. The move will put the new Obama administration in an unexpectedly dicey situation, as the next attorney general will have to decide whether or not to defend President Bush's longtime political adviser should he tell the committee to bug off.

That's what Rove did over the summer after the committee asked him to come up to the Hill to answer questions about any role he might have played in pushing the prosecution of Alabama's former Democratic governor Don Siegelman. Critics had charged that the prosecution, which resulted in Siegelman's conviction on bribery charges, had been politically motivated and orchestrated by the White House itself. Rather than answer the committee's questions, Rove left the country. His lawyer argued that President Bush's exercise of executive privilege gave Rove "absolute immunity" from ever testifying before Congress.

Unpersuaded, the committee voted to hold Rove in contempt of Congress. But so far, Rove has managed to get away with it. The full House dropped the contempt issue, largely because a federal appellate court had blocked the enforcement of subpoenas of two other White House staffers, former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff Josh Bolten. The pair had relied on the same imperial declarations of executive privilege that Rove did. And now, all of those subpoenas, including the one issued to Rove, will expire with the end of this Congress, making the issue moot.

That doesn't mean, however, that Rove and the others are home free. House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) has said that he has every intention of reissuing the subpoenas in the new Congress, but this time, President Bush will not be around to defend his loyal aides. The new Democratic president may not have much sympathy for his predecessor's expansive view of executive privilege. But while the incoming Obama administration may have a vested interest in facilitating a public airing of what really went down in the Bush Justice Department, getting Rove and the others up to the Hill isn't a simple task. "Obama doesn't have the authority to just waive the privilege," explains Neil Kinkopf, a Georgia State law professor and a former Justice Department official in the Clinton administration, noting that President Bush will continue to have a say in the matter, however diminished. "The privilege belongs to the president who asserts it," he says, meaning that Bush can continue to assert executive privilege in an attempt to prevent Rove and Miers from testifying.

The subpoenas will put Obama in an awkward position. While he may have opposed Bush's view of presidential power as a candidate, it's not hard to envision a time when Obama himself may see some advantages to shielding Rahm Emmanuel and other of his close advisers from the inquiring minds of Congress. Not only that, but he may fear that refusing to back President Bush could set an unhealthy precedent that he might not want to leave for his successor.

But Obama won't be able to duck this one. On January 20, his administration will become the de facto defense counsel for Miers and Bolten. The Justice Department has been defending the White House's executive privilege claims in the lawsuit brought by the House Judiciary Committee against Miers (though Miers and Rove also have retained private attorneys) and Bolten to enforce the subpoenas. The committee had sought Miers' testimony about the dismissal of US attorneys in 2006 and had asked Bolten to turn over a log explaining which documents the White House was denying the committee as part of that request.

After negotiations with the White House broke down, the committee sued President Bush in federal court to enforce the subpoenas against Miers and Bolten. The commitee argued that Bush's assertion that anyone who'd ever worked for him was immune from answering questions from Congress, ever, was unprecedented and not supported by any existing case law. In August, the court agreed and ruled that the pair did indeed have to comply with the subpoenas. (The order was stayed on appeal, so the committee never bothered going to court over the newer Rove subpoena.)

The lawsuit against Miers and Bolten would force the courts to eventually decide whether President Bush, or any other president, has the power to keep former staffers like Rove from participating in congressional oversight hearings and for how long. It's a doozy of an issue, on which the DC Circuit Court of Appeals has thus far decided to punt. The court has been sitting on the case since October. It hasn't even scheduled arguments, presumably because the subpoenas at the heart of the case will expire on January 3, when a new Congress convenes.

Should Conyers and the Judiciary Committee reissue the subpoenas as threatened, Eric Holder, if confirmed as attorney general, will have to decide whether the new administration wants to defend the old one. Emily Berman, a lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice who helped draft an amicus brief in the Miers litigation supporting the Judiciary Committee, says that there may be an argument for Obama continuing to defend Miers and Bolten (and by extension Rove). The Obama administration could take the side of the Bush officials because of "some sort of moral position that these people are only in this predicament because of their public service and that they shouldn't have to incur legal fees as a result." But she doubts the Obama Justice Department would take that position, especially because at the time of the subpoena, Miers didn't even work in the White House. Berman says the courts will probably take a dim view of the position that executive privilege has such a broad reach (as they have already), and also notes that the courts have found that the privilege diminishes with time. The longer Bush is out of office, the more likely it becomes that the courts would force Rove to testify. Berman says that Rove and company have simply been trying to run out the clock on the subpoenas to avoid enduring the congressional hot seat. "To win the battle merely by delay doesn't seem like the way our constitutional system should operate," she says.
(c) 2008 Stephanie Mencimer is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington, DC, bureau and the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue (Free Press, 2006).

President Bush And The Flying Shoes
A Cautionary Tale
By Robert Scheer

They hate us for our shoes. Somewhere in what passes for the deeper regions of President Bush's mind might come that reassuring giggle of a thought as he once again rationalizes away Iraqi ingratitude for the benevolence he has bestowed upon them. Ever at peace with himself, despite many obvious reasons not to be, Bush quipped, "I didn't know what the guy said but I saw his sole." But the lame jokes no longer work.

The shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist is now a venerated celebrity throughout the Mideast, and his words to the president-"this is the farewell kiss, you dog"-will stand as the enduring epitaph in the region on Bush's folly, which is the reality of his claimed legacy of success in the war on terror. That and the Iraqi's devastating follow-up as he threw his second shoe, "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq," a reminder that we have used much deadlier force than a shoe in the shock-and-awe invasion once celebrated in the American media as a means of building respect for democracy.

This was more than a presidential photo op gone wildly awry. One might suspect that the weekend event was designed originally to draw attention from the Friday release of the long-awaited Senate Armed Services Committee's report on Bush's torture policy. A report that unanimously concluded that it was the White House and not a few bad apples that "damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority." The report, endorsed by all Republican senators on the committee, including ranking minority member Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., cited former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora's testimony that "the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq-as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat-are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo." Not only has the Bush administration subverted the image of the United States' commitment to the rule of law and justice, but it has done similar damage to our reputation for economic efficiency. On Sunday, The New York Times reported on an unpublished 513-page federal history of the Iraq reconstruction, which the article termed "a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure."

This invasion, according to then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, was supposed to be financed by Iraqi oil money, but instead has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1 trillion. The results, as the Times' account of the report put it, are abysmal: "The hard figures on basic services and industrial production compiled for the report reveal that for all the money spent and promises made, the rebuilding effort never did much more than restore what was destroyed during the invasion and the convulsive looting that followed."

No wonder then that we are perceived as blundering bullies by so many in the region that we claimed to be interested in modernizing. That an Iraqi journalist, whose family had been victimized by Saddam Hussein and who was kidnapped by insurgents while attempting to work as a TV reporter, came to so loathe the American president, as does much of the world, should serve as the final grade on the Bush administration. It should also serve as a caution to President-elect Barack Obama as he seeks to triangulate withdrawal from Iraq with an escalation of the far more treacherous attempt to conquer Afghanistan.

In the end, it does not matter that our claimed intentions appear noble if our practice on the ground adds up to a mélange of brutal incompetence. It is significant that increased troop deployment to Afghanistan was recently announced by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who will hold that same post in the new administration. This is the same Gates who in his 1996 memoir details how, as a member of the Carter administration, he was involved in supporting the mujahedeen Islamic fighters against the secular government in Kabul six months before the Soviet invasion.

These foreign adventures always start out so wonderfully: We will be greeted as liberators, democracy will flourish, the West will be safer, and instead we end up ever more scorned. The media traveling with Bush reported it as a victory of sorts that no reporters in Kabul threw shoes at our president during his press conference there. So much for lowered expectations.
(c) 2008 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

The Dead Letter Office...

Bob gives Cheney the Republican salute

Heil Bush,

Dear Uber Fuhrer Corker,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, your support of our two coup d'etats, your attempts at union busting to get rid of a black middle class, your vote for the FISA bill and for keeping that darkie Ford out of the Sinate, Iraq and these many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Democratic Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Vice Fuhrer Cheney

Heil Bush

Senate Report Links Bush To Detainee Homicides; Media Yawns
By Glenn Greenwald

The bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee report issued on Thursday -- which documents that "former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior U.S. officials share much of the blame for detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba" and "that Rumsfeld's actions were 'a direct cause of detainee abuse' at Guantanamo and 'influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques ... in Afghanistan and Iraq'" -- raises an obvious and glaring question: how can it possibly be justified that the low-level Army personnel carrying out these policies at Abu Ghraib have been charged, convicted and imprisoned, while the high-level political officials and lawyers who directed and authorized these same policies remain free of any risk of prosecution? The culpability which the Report assigns for these war crimes is vast in scope and unambiguous:

The executive summary also traces the erosion of detainee treatment standards to a Feb,. 7, 2002, memorandum signed by President George W. Bush stating that the Geneva Convention did not apply to the U.S. war with al Qaeda and that Taliban detainees were not entitled to prisoner of war status or legal protections.

"The president's order closed off application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment," the summary said.

Members of Bush's Cabinet and other senior officials participated in meetings inside the White House in 2002 and 2003 where specific interrogation techniques were discussed, according to the report. The policies which the Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously concludes were authorized by Bush, Rumsfeld and several other top Bush officials did not merely lead to "abuse" and humiliating treatment, but are directly -- and unquestionably -- responsible for numerous detainee murders. Many of those deaths caused by abusive treatment have been formally characterized as "homicides" by autopsies performed in Iraq and Afghanistan (see these chilling compilations of autopsy findings on detainees in U.S. custody, obtained by the ACLU, which reads like a classic and compelling exhibit in a war crimes trial).

While the bulk of the attention over detainee abuse has been directed to Guantanamo, the U.S., to this day, continues to imprison -- with no charges -- thousands of Iraqi citizens. In Iraq an Afghanistan, detainee deaths were rampant and, to this day, detainees continue to die under extremely suspicious circumstances. Just yesterday, there was yet another death of a very young Iraqi detainee whose death was attributed to quite unlikely natural causes.

The U.S. military says a detainee has died of an apparent heart attack while in custody at a U.S. detention facility in Baghdad.

Monday's statement says the 25-year-old man was pronounced dead by doctors at a combat hospital after losing consciousness at Camp Cropper. . . .

The U.S. military is holding thousands of prisoners at Camp Cropper near the Baghdad airport and Camp Bucca in the southern desert.

For years, it has been common to attribute detainee deaths to "heart attacks" where the evidence makes clear that abusive interrogation techniques and other inhumane treatment -- the very policies authorized at the highest levels of the U.S. government -- were the actual proximate cause of the deaths. This deceptive practice was documented in this fact-intensive report -- entitled: "Medical Investigations of Homicides of Prisoners of War in Iraq and Afghanistan" -- by Steven H. Miles, Professor of Medicine and Bioethics at the University of Minnesota:

It is probably inevitable that some prisoners who reportedly die of "natural causes" in truth died of homicide. However, the nature of Armed Forces' medical investigations made this kind of error more likely. The AFME reported homicide as the cause of death in 10 of the 23 death certificates released in May 2004. The death of Mohamed Taiq Zaid was initially attributed to "heat"; it is currently and belatedly being investigated as a possible homicide due to abusive exposure to the hot Iraqi climate and deprivation of water.

Eight prisoners suffered "natural" deaths from heart attacks or atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Threats, beatings, fear, police interrogation, and arrests are known to cause "homicide by heart attack" or life-threatening heart failure. People with preexisting heart disease, dehydration, hyperthermia, or exhaustion are especially susceptible.[11-15] No forensic investigation of lethal "heart attacks" explores the possibility that these men died of stress-induced heart attacks. There are a number of reports of "heart attack" following harsh procedures in rounding up noncombatants in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A typically sketchy US Army report says, "Detainee Death during weekend combat .... Army led raid this past weekend of a house in Iraq ... an Iraqi who was detained and zip-locked (flexi-cuffed with plastic bands tying his wrists together) died while in custody. Preliminary information is that the detainee died from an apparent heart attack.[16]" Sher Mohammad Khan was picked up in Afghanistan in September 2004. Shortly thereafter, his bruised body was given to his family. Military officials told journalists that he had died of a heart attack within hours of being taken into custody. No investigation, autopsy, or death certificate is available.[17]

Or consider this:

Adbul Kareen Abdura Lafta (also known as Abu Malik Kenami) was admitted to Mosul prison on December 5, 2003 and died 4 days later.[20,21] The short, stocky, 44-year-old man weighed 175 pounds. He was never given a medical examination, and there is no medical record. After interrogation, a sandbag was put over his head. When he tried to remove it, guards made him jump up and down for 20 minutes with his wrists tied in front of him and then 20 minutes more with his wrists bound behind his back with a plastic binder. The bound and head-bagged man was put to bed. He was restless and "jibbering in Arabic." The guards told him to be quiet.

The next morning, he was found dead. The body had "bloodshot" eyes, lacerations on his wrists from the plastic ties, unexplained bruises on his abdomen, and a fresh, bruised laceration on the back of his head. US Army investigators noted that the body did not have defensive bruises on his arms, an odd notation given that a man cannot raise bound arms in defense. No autopsy was performed. The death certificate lists the cause of death as unknown. It seems likely that Mr. Kenami died of positional asphyxia because of how he was restrained, hooded, and positioned. Positional asphyxia looks just like death by a natural heart attack except for those telltale conjunctival hemorrhages in his eyes.

There are countless other episodes like this of human beings in American custody dying because of the mistreatment -- authorized by Bush, Rumsfeld and others -- to which we subjected them. These are murders and war crimes in every sense of the word. That the highest level Bush officials and the President himself are responsible for the policies that spawned these crimes against humanity have been long known to anyone paying minimal attention, but now we have a bipartisan Senate Report -- signed by the presidential nominee of Bush's own political party -- that directly assigns culpability for these war crimes to the President and his policies. It's nothing less than a formal declaration from the Senate that the President and his top aides are war criminals.

* * * * *

This Report was issued on Thursday. Not a single mention was made of it on any of the Sunday news talk shows, with the sole exception being when John McCain told George Stephanopoulos that it was "not his job" to opine on whether criminal prosecutions were warranted for the Bush officials whose policies led to these crimes. What really matters, explained McCain, was not that we get caught up in the past, but instead, that we ensure this never happens again -- yet, like everyone else who makes this argument, he offered no explanation as to how we could possibly ensure that "it never happens again" if we simultaneously announce that our political leaders will be immunized, not prosecuted, when they commit war crimes. Doesn't that mindset, rather obviously, substantially increase the likelihood -- if not render inevitable -- that such behavior will occur again? Other than that brief exchange, this Senate Report was a non-entity on the Sunday shows.

Instead, TV pundits were consumed with righteous anger over the petty, titillating, sleazy Rod Blagojevich scandal, competing with one another over who could spew the most derision and scorn for this pitiful, lowly, broken individual and his brazen though relatively inconsequential crimes. Every exciting detail was vouyeristically and meticulously dissected by political pundits -- many, if not most, of whom have never bothered to acquaint themselves with any of the basic facts surrounding the monumental Bush lawbreaking and war crimes scandals. TV "journalists" who have never even heard of the Taguba report -- the incredible indictment issued by a former U.S. General, who subsequently observed: "there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account" -- spent the weekend opining on the intricacies of Blogojevich's hair and terribly upsetting propensity to use curse words.

The auction conducted by Blagojevich was just a slightly more flamboyant, vulgar and reckless expression of how our national political class conducts itself generally (are there really any fundamental differences between Blagojevich's conduct and Chuck Schumer's systematic, transparent influence-peddling and vote-selling to Wall Street donors, as documented by this excellent and highly incriminating New York Times piece from Sunday -- "A Champion of Wall St. Reaps the Benefits")? But Blagojevich is an impotent figure, stripped of all power, a national joke. And attacking and condemning him is thus cheap and easy. It threatens nobody in power. To the contrary, his downfall is deceptively and usefully held up as an extreme aberration -- proof that government officials are held accountable when they break the law.

The media fixation on the ultimately irrelevant Blagojevich scandal, juxtaposed with their steadfast ignoring of the Senate report documenting systematic U.S. war crimes, is perfectly reflective of how our political establishment thinks. Blagojevich's laughable scheme is transformed into a national fixation and made into the target of collective hate sessions, while the systematic, ongoing sale of the legislative process to corporations and their lobbyists are overlooked as the normal course of business. Lynndie England is uniformly scorned and imprisoned while George Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld are headed off to lives of luxury, great wealth, respect, and immunity from the consequences for their far more serious crimes. And the courageous and principled career Justice Department lawyer who blew the whistle on Bush's illegal spying programs -- Thomas Tamm -- continues to have his life destroyed, while the countless high-level government officials, lawyers and judges who also knew about it and did nothing about it are rewarded and honored, and those who committed the actual crimes are protected and immunized.

Just ponder the uproar if, in any other country, the political parties joined together and issued a report documenting that the country's President and highest aides were directly responsible for war crimes and widespread detainee abuse and death. Compare the inevitable reaction to such an event if it happened in another country to what happens in the U.S. when such an event occurs -- a virtual media blackout, ongoing fixations by political journalists with petty scandals, and an undisturbed consensus that, no matter what else is true, high-level American political figures (as opposed to powerless low-level functionaries) must never be held accountable for their crimes.
(c) 2008 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy", examines the Bush legacy.

Season's Greetings?
By Frank Scott

We approach a new year with the problems of the old one looming larger, even as the dark age of the Bush era is ending. Reality is causing more pain and anguish as we try to celebrate the holidays and begin a more positive chapter in our history.

The season of massive consumption has not been what the commercial community needs, with many dependent on the annual shopping frenzy to show a profit for the year. The frenzy revealed itself in a tragedy that saw a mob stampede a corporate employee to death in the rush for bargains that have made shopping possible for many who face a survival crisis more than one of gift giving. But what's needed for the real economy in which people produce material goods and services - not the financial fiasco that produces immaterial gambling and theft - hasn't been there and may not be for some time, if ever again.

We've heard the present problems compared with the past Great Depression and Roosevelt's New Deal solution, but we may be facing a combination of those terms. For all the rhetoric about change and notions that an African American president will automatically bring about something radically different, we face a crisis that could produce a New Depression.

We're deeply immersed in the same old political economy, with new people appointed supposedly for change, but really dedicated to maintaining that system. Despite high flown rhetoric to the contrary, that means it, the system of private profit, comes before us, the public who create that profit.

In a form of relatively polite national socialism, public funds are being shoveled by the trillions into the coffers of private financial corporations, with the rationale that these entities are too big to be allowed to fail. But are taxpayers too small to be allowed to succeed? With almost no questions asked, finance capital gets hundreds of billions, but when industry asks for a fraction of that aid, controversy and congressional hearings decide whether we might be better off if millions of jobs should simply be allowed to vanish.

Capital is being placed under government control, but this "friendly fascism" without any nationalization is at the expense of a public which, so far, is exercising no control at all. And we face total public failure if we do not act to transform the system that profits a minority by inflicting ever greater loss on the majority. If such economics are the result of a political democracy, then terminal cancer is the result of a healthy immune system.

The incredible debt we are incurring to bail out finance capital could make us all wealthy, if we used those trillions to create employment, education and health care for the entire population, and to achieve social peace and environmental balance. We will see some new policies of public spending to rebuild infrastructure and stimulate consumption, but what we really need and can well afford is full security guaranteed to all our people. That's the way a rich society like our own should conduct itself, but it must first be removed from minority control and placed under the rule of a democratic majority.

The thought that such a situation prevailed with the last election is a dream worthy of a nation in deep slumber. Given our dreadful history of slavery and racism, there is genuine pleasure to be found in the election of Obama, but carrying that symbolic joy too far indicates a society still not facing a harsh reality. And it will get worse, until we demand that the economy works for the greater good of all the people, and not simply for the benefit of a chosen few.

Continued dedication to preserving capitalism and America's world domination spells future disaster. And if you think Obama is a socialist or mankind's salvation because he's indicated a willingness to talk to our alleged enemies, I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you. That might seem like progress after the Bush experience, but masters always talked to their slaves, and that did nothing to change the relationship. We have to not only talk but act as if we understand a reality in which we don't own or control the world, and our power and wealth do not make us chosen people of the planet. Obama's foreign policy appointments have shown no relationship to such thinking, which is what we must have to reach a future that gets us out of the present dilemma by transforming our society and its role in the world.

Real democracy in the USA could help achieve real democracy in other places, especially by not interfering in their political economies. Ending our foreign meddling will help bring international peace and a stop to what is called global terrorism. That is simply the bloody action taken by native amateur killers to defend their nations and cultures from the bloody action of foreign professional killers, and when those foreigners back off, terrorism will end. Then and only then will there be a chance for real peace in places like the middle east, where apartheid Israel can become democratic Palestine, with immigrants and natives living as equals and not as colonial superiors and colonized inferiors.

None of that can happen without an active population that is ready to agitate, educate and organize its citizenry to pressure the new president to do its bidding, and not continue the old order under the cover of new rhetoric. And so:

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, but please don't just wish or pray for a better future. Demand it as well, take action to get it, and make the future a newer and better reality, rather than a newer and more deadly depression.
(c) 2008 Frank Scott writes political commentary which appears in the Coastal Post, a monthly publication from Marin County, California, on numerous web sites and his shared blog.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Michael Ramirez ~~~

Jesus and her Gospel of Yes

To End On A Happy Note...

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer
By Elmo & Patsy

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

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

When we found her Christmas morning,
at the scene of the attack.
She had hoof prints on her forehead,
And incriminating Claus marks on her back.

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

Now were all so proud of Grandpa.
He's been taking this so well.
See him in there watching football,
drinkin' beer and playing cards with cousin Belle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas
(c) 1983/2008 Elmo & Patsy

Have You Seen This...

[Updated] Bush Shoe Incident in Iraq {CNN}

Parting Shots...

Christmas 2008: Lucifer's Toy Chest

This Year's Annual List of Banned Christmas Toys

It is no laughing matter, but this holiday season, Satan's shopping list of Christmas gifts will have Jesus pitching millions of screaming selfish children into the Lake of Fire! The following Christmas toys are banned from purchase. Be warned: If one of these items is found in your home or on your person, then you'll have to find yourself another place to worship, for you are no longer welcome at this Godly church.

Note: Read disgusting secular lies about each of these items at Amazon.com by clicking the links. And if the Lord leads you, glorify His Holy name by purchasing one and burning it after your child opens it on Christmas morning to teach the little sissy what it means to be a True Christian(tm)!

Little Big Planet of Sissy Boys - It took a pack of prancing English homosexual game designers over 2 years to find a way to make a tiny demon appealing to children. And in the end, they simply put a burlap sack over his hellish head! Now poor Christian children can run amuck in a make-believe world without adult supervision where Satan's most deceptive tools: "creativity and teamwork" are utilized to brainwash your innocent child into becoming an unproductive, hopping little hell-bound Nancy boy whose sole purpose in life is to paste lewd stickers that point the way to Hell onto everything they see.

Guitar Hero: Satan's World Tour - Creation Science teaches us that any music faster than 4x4 time in rhythm belongs to Satan. Baptists learn as early as kindergarten that Lucifer was God's favorite angel because he used to be the maestro up in Heaven. Lucifer's gift was music. It is the dark master's specialty. Many Christian parents will be tempted to purchase this video game for their children because they will plead: "it's cool," or "all my friends have it!" Stand firm! The music plays so fast on this video game, Satan's head would cackle and spin with delight! What's worse is that this new gaming craze has kiddies utilizing their fingers and developing muscles in places the good Lord never intended - like on their sweet, innocent little knuckles! Creation Scientists have informed us that the twisted, lumpy, bulge-like muscles your child will develop on his knuckles while playing Guitar Hero is a tell-tale sign that he is ready to entertain himself with the real talent Guitar Hero was actually developed for. It's called, "speed jacking." And it is a dangerous form of self abuse we are well aware of. When accompanied by a can of Red Bull, "speed-jacking" can lead to elongation, flushed purpling, rosy tip, and permanent hardening of the human tallywhacker! Full Details of Speed Jacking Research for Concerned Christian Parents Here!

Hyper Dash For Up to Five Hoochies - Lucifer loves bright colors because he knows little children swarm to them like moths to an expensive fluorescent deck light. But unlike moths, children who play "Hyper Dash" will pitched directly into the deepest pits of Hell by our loving Lord, Jesus Christ, where they will pop and burst into flames repeatedly for all eternity! To God be the Glory! "Hyper Dash," is a deceptive game that liberal Montessori school teachers say is designed to improve listening, coordination and math skills - all of which have no business in a Republican Christian home! If you look at this game through the eyes of our sweet savior, Jesus Christ, it becomes quite clear that it is indoctrinating children at a very early age (especially boys) that it is "A-OK" for them to seek up to 5 hooch holes! They might not realize it while they are playing the game as a child, but the analogy will stick with them to adulthood. Do you want your son to have 5 wives? This game sounds like it was designed for Mormon boys. Well, we're having none of it here in this Baptist church! In addition, the alarming number of colors on the hooch shaped objects are a subtle way of seducing innocent Christian children to seek partners outside of their own race, which any person with a cursory knowledge of the Bible knows is absolutely displeasing to the Lord Jesus Christ. For those of you Bible illiterate nin-com-poops who rarely crack open the word of God, read: Deuteronomy 7:1-6.

The Gay Try-Out Chair - Parents beware! This is the latest college trend! Sweet Christian boys who are off to school and joining a fraternity or football team will be asked to sit in one of these rocking chairs within the first week of school! The devices were designed because college football players found wooden benches uncomfortable. Their naked rear ends would shuffle so fast while their [Un-Christian words] were getting massaged by teammates' lips after a game, they'd end up with hind sides chock-full of splinters! Yes! It's true! Now conservative fraternity boys at every major University in America are using these "game chairs" to play Lucifer's most dangerous game! And that game is called: "Spin the bottle on your sexual orientation! " We understand that frat boys and jocks start "gay try outs" by inviting a manly friend over to play the video game, "Madden 2008." While the unsuspecting guest is seated in the chair, the "Cock-Jock" (as they call themselves) enters a secret cheat code into the game console. This code opens up a hidden locker room in Madden 2008 for step-by-step instructions on how to use the Gay Try-Out Chair. What happens next is too perverse to put into words! Needless to say, if the "gay try-out" is successful, the Cock Jock will then teach the new gay boy how to view any player in the NFL completely nude with a 360 degree camera rotation and a "zoom" feature called, "Extreme Tight End." We never thought it would come to this, but parents must understand that if your Christian boy is into sports, working out, Madden video games, fraternities, and even the most manliest of activities - be aware that these are all gateways that could very well have your child deciding to take up the pastime of being a damned homo! Just because of peer pressure and wanting to be "cool." Do not let your boy sit in one of these chairs! Even if you're Christmas shopping together at Sears! Spank his back-side firmly, grab him by the right ear, and move along!

Colored Love Interest Doll for Barbie! - Liberals have no shame. Since Americans accidentally elected a half-black as their next President, the folks at Hasbro thought it would be cute to create a so-called, "African American" Ken Doll to date our beloved, lily-white Barbie. In doing so, the toy company, Hasbro, has committed a VICSIOUS HATE CRIME against True Bible Believing Christians(tm)! God commands his followers in 2 Corinthians 6: 14 - to "Be Not Unequally Yoked!" This means white folks are NOT to marry unequal races. The disgusting product of such a union is the abomination of desolation! An Anti-Christ! Your child doesn't need a colored Ken Doll to remind you that America just voted for the Devil's son as their next President! Liberals will try anything! And making "the last days" fashionable and appealing to children is just absolutely hateful!

Don't Tickle Elmo There! - No matter how hard we pray, the demon Elmo won't go away. We can never stress enough that this seemingly innocent toy - if invited into your Christian home, will open up the very gates of Hell, tearing your family apart, destroying relationships, and leaving you with nothing but a few pieces of red felt. If you or anyone in your immediate family possesses this toy - heed this warning at least: Do not let your child's little fingers find their way between the hairy nape betwixt the legs of this hellish beast! The tiny red testicles and fuzzy little rump on the demon, Elmo will twitch and spasm! Instead of letting out a giggle to quell the curiosity of an innocent Christian child, the hairy creature goes into convulsions and moans in a suggestive and lewd manner, squirting warm yogurt (not included) into your sweet child's face. Read the Findings of our $2.5 M Tax Deductible Decade Long Study Investigating the Perverted Secret Areas Where Christian Children Should NOT Tickle ELMO!

Wii: The Video Sex Game System - It is awfully convenient for unsaved mommies and daddies to purchase the Wii system for their children based on it's popularity, all the while knowing the console doubles as the most deviant sex toy to grace society since the Silver Coated, Triple-Jointed, Silicone Self-Lubricating Anal Interrupter(tm). We've been informed that after using your well invested U.S. tax dollars to conduct years of Baptist research, involving young Japanese females - captured, constrained and cared for by Christ in the Landover Baptist Cloistered Center for the Study of Eastern Sexual Deviance that the phrase, "Wii" is is a short way of saying, "My Got, o bay bee me like E you beg dink 2 much, make a me fee so goot." The translation of which is still not understood completely. Full Details of Research Findings Here

Special Notice to Church Members Regarding this List Although we would love to see production halted on literally thousands of secular Christmas gifts, that time has not yet come. God willing, our True Christian(tm) President, George W. Bush will usher in that perfect world during his last few days in office. Until then, we are providing you with the above list of the most dangerous and demonic Christmas gifts ever conceived by man.

Pending lawsuits exist between Landover Baptist and the manufacturing agency of each of the gifts listed above. These objects have harmed one or more members of our church in the last year and have caused a great division within the body of Christ. We ask for your patience until we see the toy makers thrown in jail.

Anyone caught using any of the products listed above is subject to the fines and termination guidelines found on pages 874-900 of the Landover Baptist Rules and Regulations Manual for the Freehold, Iowa True Christian(tm) Community.

Please note: If you click on a graphic or link to any of the items above, you will be taken to the Jew-run, Amazon.com where you can laugh till the cows come home, while reading deceptive lies by so-called, "experts," about each item. We ask that you then put on the full armor of Christ and purchase and burn one of these items on Christmas morning as sign of your commitment to our precious savior, Jesus Christ. Also, at your convenience please pray for people to who actually purchase and use these items to find Jesus and get saved

Read Last Year's List of Banned Toys by Clicking Here
(c) 2008 The Landover Baptist Church


The Gross National Debt

Zeitgeist The Movie...

Issues & Alibis Vol 8 # 49 (c) 12/19/2008

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