Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Ray McGovern returns with, "Break The CIA In Two."

Uri Avnery exclaims, "Oybama!"

Victoria Stewart prepares, "To Light A Candle."

Michael Rectenwald picks up the lance in, "Quixote, the Usurper, And The Prophet From Nowhere (A Political Allegory)."

Jim Hightower explores, "The Pentagon's 'Invincible' Drones."

Greg Palast discovers, "Supreme Court's Ruling Would Allow Bin Laden to Donate to Sarah Palin's Presidential Campaign."

Keith Olbermann concludes, "Ruined Senate Bill Unsupportable."

Paul Krugman considers, "A Dangerous Dysfunction."

Chris Floyd announces the, "Dred Scott Redux."

Case Wagenvoord reports on, "Keeping The Golden Goose Hale And Hardy."

Mike Folkerth studies, "Auto Manufacturing; The Second Wave Of Failure."

Chris Hedges interviews Ralph in, "Nader's Utopia."

David Michael Green with an absolute must read, "Now I'm Really Getting Pissed Off."

Sin-ator "tail-gunner Joe" Liebermanwins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Fascist Of The Year Award!"

Glenn Greenwald finds Obama giving, "U.S. Aid To Al Qaeda."

Paul Craig Roberts says, "Americans Are Hell-Bent On Tyranny."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department 'The Landover Baptist Church' reminds us that, "Jesus Will Roast Unsaved Children In Hell For Celebrating Christmas Without His Permission" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "I Have Seen The Future Brother... It Is Murder."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Vic Harville, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Destonio, Bill Day, Darin Bell, Scott Stantis, Louis Schultze, Peter Lavigna, Betty Bowers.Com, Sound From Way Out, Motivated Photos.Com, the US Air Force, Associated Press and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

I Have Seen The Future Brother... It Is Murder
By Ernest Stewart

I'm still alive and well
Still alive and well
Every now and then I know it's kinda hard to tell
But I'm still alive and well!
Still Alive And Well ~~~ Johnny Winter

One of the most lethal patches of ground in North America is located in the backwoods of North Carolina, where Shearon Harris nuclear plant is housed and owned by Progress Energy. ~~~ Jeffrey St. Clair

"What is... disturbing to me is that many of these pro-Israeli lawmakers sit on the House International Relations Committee despite the obvious conflict of interest that their emotional attachments to Israel cause... The Israeli occupation of all territories must end, including Congress." ~~~ Cynthia McKinney

We got a taste of things to come last weekend. For about 72 hours we were out of power and stranded on a mountaintop. As we knew it was coming, we put in enough provisions for at least a month on top of what we already had. We knew that once it hit there was no way short of walking we were going to be able to leave as our drive way is about a quarter mile long and straight down hill to the two lane road, on the other side of which is a 100 foot drop down into a river!

Trouble was we didn't expect to lose power, which we did about six hours into the storm. Fortunately, we had a small supply of wood which we quickly loaded into the fireplace, keeping one room in the house warm while the rest quickly dropped to freezing. Another fortunate thing was our stovetop runs on propane so we could have hot vittles!

We spent most of the next 72 hours fetching wood and melting snow to use in washing up the dishes and us, not to mention filling up the toilets. Forethought had provided us with ample drinking water and such. At night the house resembled a set from the old TV series Kung Fu or perhaps my dorm room from college with candles everywhere.

A 100,000 or so folks up on mountain tops all over North Carolina were in similar straits. The power company, "Progress Energy," would have been out sooner but after cutting almost all the repair crews in a attempt to create more profits, they were late. Not to mention since they, like all other power companies, have a monopoly, we all had to grin, (well curse actually) and bear it until the repair crews could get to us!

We had quickly gone from citizens of the world to a small tribe of kin against the world. I wonder what will happen when the power grid goes down and hundreds of millions instead of thousands face a world without power, food, heat etc. And sooner probably rather than later we'll get to find out. Although we were pretty much prepared, it still was a harrowing experience. Victoria describes the experience as something out of "The Shining!" "Here's Johnny!"

All during this time lines from the old Chevy Chase song "Colorado" kept playing in my mind:

"When blizzards snap the power lines, and all the toilets freeze
It's December in the Colorado Rockies."

"We had time and space and freedom, we had love and peace to spare
Though we ran out of things to smoke, and say and eat and wear."

"Infection hepatitis was all that came to stay
In January in the Colorado Rockies."

"The baby didn't die until we burned off all our wood
Considering that we ate her raw, she tasted pretty good!"

In Other News

After getting stranded this week I did some research on "Progress" Energy who took their sweet time turning the power back on. Formally Carolina Power & Light, or CP&L, which some of my neighbors swear stands for Cheat, Pillage and Loot! During my research I came across an interesting story that hasn't gotten the space it deserves in the news. I'm talking about Progress Energy's Shearon Harris nuclear plant and their constant flirtation with "The China Syndrome!"

The Shearon Harris plant is located down the road from the state capital of Raleigh in New Hill, North Carolina on the banks of the Shearon Harris Reservoir. The plant contains the largest radioactive waste storage pools in the USA. Not only is it a nuclear-power-generating station with a single-unit, 900-MW reactor, but is also a repository for highly radioactive spent fuel rods from two other nuclear plants. The rods are stored in four densely packed pools filled with circulating cold water from the reservoir, which keeps the waste from melting. The Department of Homeland Security has marked Shearon Harris as one of the most vulnerable terrorist targets in the nation!

A cooling system failure could result in a nuclear meltdown similar to 3 mile Island or Chernobyl and would certainly put several million people in the area in grave danger. A best-case scenario incident from the Brookhaven Labs estimates that "a pool fire could cause 140,000 cancers, contaminate thousands of square miles of land, and cause over $500 billion in off-site property damage." The worst-case scenarios estimate that "upwards of 100 million people could be effected by a meltdown."

This plant and Progress Energy's management of it is one long series of almost disasters. Brookhaven says, "In 1999 the plant experienced four emergency shutdowns. A few months later, in April 2000, the plant's safety monitoring system, designed to provide early warning of a serious emergency, failed. And it wasn't the first time. Indeed, the emergency warning system at Shearon Harris has failed fifteen times since the plant opened in 1987." And that folks is just the tip of the iceberg!

Jeffrey St. Clair reports:

"In 2002 the NRC put the plant on notice for nine unresolved safety issues detected during a fire prevention inspection by NRC investigators. When the NRC returned to the plant a few months later for re-inspection, it determined that the corrective actions were "not acceptable." Between January and July of 2002, Harris plant managers were forced to manually shut down the reactors four times. The problems continue with chilling regularity. In the spring of 2003 there were four emergency shutdowns of the plant, including three over a four-day period. One of the incidents occurred when the reactor core failed to cool down during a refueling operation while the reactor dome was off of the plant-a potentially catastrophic series of circumstances.

Between 1999 and 2003, there were twelve major problems requiring the shutdown of the plant. According to the NRC, the national average for commercial reactors is one shutdown per eighteen months.

Congressman David Price of North Carolina sent the NRC a report by scientists at MIT and Princeton that pinpointed the waste pools as the biggest risk at the plant. "Spent fuel recently discharged from a reactor could heat up relatively rapidly and catch fire," wrote Bob Alvarez, a former advisor to the Department of Energy and co-author of the report. "The fire could well spread to older fuel. The long-term land contamination consequences of such an event could be significantly worse than Chernobyl."

Fortunately for yours truly we're a bit over 200 miles to the west and behind half-a-dozen mountain ranges, however if you are to the east, north or south of Shearon Harris you might want to consider buying some lead underwear for the family!

And Finally

Every once in a while I get a little pat on the back from one of our authors and it makes it all seem more worthwhile, especially in these daze when financial support has all but dried up. Here's a little note from Congresswoman and Presidential candidate, Cynthia McKinney:

--- On Sat, 12/19/09, HQ wrote:

From: HQ
Subject: From Cynthia McKinney
Date: Saturday, December 19, 2009, 7:32 AM

Hello Uncle Ernie!!

I am a regular subscriber to your list and receive your rants regularly. Thank you so much for including my speech in your magazine for today.

Unfortunately, there has been a blackout (like the film American Blackout) of my political presence. This is important because I have consistently provided a critique of the Obama candidacy, now Presidency. I have very real ideas about why this is so. At any rate, I am glad to have not faced such a blackout by you, too.

Thank you very much.


Here's my reply:

Dear Cynthia,

I am honored to be allowed to send your speeches and articles to our readers. I've been a supporter of yours since your first term in the Con-gress and did every thing I could to support you and Rosa in 2008. Unlike Obama you've never been bought and sold by the corpo-rats and you were the only candidate of the people. I know we would have gotten our Republic back under your wise council and be without these imperial wars and crushing debt.

Thank you for your kind words and please keep fighting the good fight and please keep raising hell. I would be happy to publish any of your thoughts or speeches that you would be so kind as to send to us or that I can find on the internet. We've been publishing everything we could find of yours since 2001.


Sincerely yours,
Your very wicked old Uncle Ernie

Oh And One More Thing

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

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


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

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

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

Ernest & Victoria Stewart


03-24-1931 ~ 12-18-2009
Tell Ed Uncle says Hay!

11-16-1977 ~ 12-20-2009
Thanks for the memories!

12-22-1939 ~ 12-20-2009
Thanks for the jams!

09-28-1918 ~ 12-20-2009
Thanks for the laughs!


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


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


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

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

Break The CIA In Two
By Ray McGovern

After the CIA-led fiasco at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961, President John Kennedy was quoted as saying he wanted to "splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds." I can understand his anger, but a thousand is probably too many.

Better is a Solomon solution; divide the CIA in two. That way we can throw out the bath water and keep the baby.

Covert action and analysis do not belong together in the same agency - never have, never will. That these two very different tasks were thrown together is an accident of history, one that it is high time to acknowledge and to fix.

The effects of this structural fault became clear to President Harry Truman as he watched the agency at work in its first decade and a half. He was aghast.

Like oil on water, covert action fouls the wellspring of objective analysis - the main task for which Truman and the Congress established the CIA in 1947. The operational tail started wagging the substantive tail almost right away. It has done so ever since - with very unfortunate consequences.

An accident of history? How so?

Covert action practitioners, many of whom showed great courage and imagination in the European and Far Eastern theaters of World War II arrived home wondering whether there was still a call for their expertise.

With the Soviet Union taking over large chunks of Europe and the KGB plying its covert-action wares worldwide, the question answered itself; a counter capability was needed.

The big mistake was shoehorning it into an agency being created to fulfill an entirely different mission. As former CIA analyst Mel Goodman points out in Failure of Intelligence, there was uncertainty and confusion over where to place responsibility for this capability.

The term "covert action" is a euphemism covering the broad genus of dirty tricks, from overthrowing governments (we now blithely call that particular species "regime change") to open but nonattributable broadcasting into denied areas.

Defense Secretary James Forrestal didn't want the Pentagon to be responsible for covert action in peacetime.

And, to their credit, neither did senior leaders of the fledgling CIA. They were no neophytes, and could see that covert operations might easily end up tainting the intelligence product if one Director were responsible for the two incompatible activities.

The experience of the past 62 years has showed, time and time again, that their concern was well founded as the covert action side has not only polluted CIA analyses but also expanded into high-tech warfare.


Trying to overthrow governments via covert action is one thing. Flying Predator drones with Hellfire missiles is quite another. There would be real hellfire on that from Harry Truman, were he still with us.

Even former CIA Director George Tenet of flexible conscience had second thoughts about the CIA assuming responsibility for flying the Predator and firing Hellfires.

In his memoir, At the Center of the Storm, he writes that there was a "legitimate question about whether aircraft firing missiles...should be the function of the military or CIA." Resorting to the all-purpose catch-all (and excuse-all), Tenet adds, "But that was before 9/11."

Of equal importance is the kind of question to which Tenet normally paid little heed; namely, what would flying Predators do to CIA credibility.

Think about it for a minute. You are ordered and given funding to conduct Predator attacks on "suspected al-Qaeda bases" in Pakistan. (U.S. armed forces cannot do it since the Pentagon is not supposed to be striking countries with whom we are not at war.) You salute, find some contractors to help, and conduct those attacks.

The President then asks his CIA morning briefer about the effectiveness of the drone attacks, including the longer-term political as well as military effects. When the briefer checks with the substantive analysts watching Pakistan, he learns that the attacks are very effective - indeed, the very best recruitment tool Osama bin Laden and the Taliban could imagine.

Jihadists are flocking to Pakistan and Afghanistan like moths to a light blub.

Problem. Do you think mealy-mouthed CIA Director Leon Panetta will have the courage to whisper that unwelcome finding to the President? Suppose Gen. David Petraeus or Gen. Stanley McChrystal find out.

No NIE on Af-Pak

The proof is in the pudding. Were not Panetta a self-described "creature of the Congress" (be wise, compromise), he would have long since ordered up a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on prospects for Afghanistan AND - far more important - Pakistan.

Would you believe that at this stage there is still no such NIE?

And the reason Panetta and his managers are keeping their heads way down is the same reason former CIA Director George Tenet for years shied away from doing an NIE on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The findings would smell like skunks at a picnic.

It was only after Sen. Bob Graham, then-Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told the White House in September 2002, "No National Intelligence Estimate, no congressional vote on war with Iraq," that Tenet was ordered by the White House to commission an NIE with pre-ordained conclusions.

That NIE was to be completed in record time (less than three weeks), in order to emerge several weeks before the mid-term elections and it was to reflect the alarmist views expressed by Vice President Dick Cheney in a major speech on Aug. 26, 2002.

In Tenet's memoir he admits that Cheney "went well beyond what our analysis could support." But never mind; Tenet and his lieutenants had become quite accomplished in cooking intelligence to order. And so they did.

Like Cheney's speech, the Estimate was wrong on every major count - deliberately so. At the conclusion of an exhaustive investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Chair from 2007 to 2009, bemoaned the fact that the Bush/Cheney administration "presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent."

Non-existent? You mean fabricated or forged? With the advent of the George W. Bush administration we had learned about "faith-based intelligence," but the mind boggles at the use of "non-existent" intelligence.

What Harry Said

For those of you who may have forgotten, Dec. 22 is the 46th anniversary of the most important op-ed of all the 381,659 written about the CIA since its founding. Do not feel bad if you missed it; the op-ed garnered little attention - either at the time or subsequently. The draft came from Independence, Missouri, and was published in the Washington Post early edition on Dec. 22, 1963. The first and the last two sentences of Harry Truman's unusual contribution bear repeating:

"I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency....

"We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it."

Truman began by describing what he saw as CIA's raison d'etre, emphasizing that a President needs "the most accurate and up-to-the-minute information on what is going on everywhere in the world, and particularly of the trends and developments in all the danger spots."

He stressed that he wanted to create a "special kind of an intelligence facility" charged with the collection of "all intelligence reports from every available source, and to have these reports reach me as President without "treatment or interpretations" by departments that have their own agendas.

A Warning

The "most important thing," he said, "was to guard against the chance of intelligence being used to influence or to lead the President into unwise decisions."

It is a safe bet that Truman had uppermost in mind how senior CIA officials tried to mousetrap President John Kennedy into committing U.S. armed forces to attack Cuba, rather than to sit by and let Fidel Castro's troops kill or capture the rag-tag band of CIA-trained invaders at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961.

The operation was a disaster, pure and simple. Truman was no doubt aware of how Kennedy initially gave the go-ahead to a CIA plan that had been approved by President Dwight Eisenhower; how the new President belatedly saw the trap; and how he had the courage to face down the tricksters and then take responsibility for the consequences that came of having trusted them.

Still, Kennedy did not feel he could follow his instinct to "splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds." Instead, he fired CIA Director Allen Dulles, a quintessential Establishment figure - something one does at one's peril.

Allen Dulles later played a key role in selecting those who were allowed to testify before the Warren Commission on the JFK assassination, and in shaping its highly questionable findings.

In JFK and the Unspeakable, published last year, author James Douglass adduces persuasive evidence that some of Dulles's old buddies were involved in the murder of President Kennedy.

It may be just coincidence that President Truman chose to publish his CIA op-ed exactly one month after Kennedy was killed, but it seems equally possible that he deliberately chose that first monthiversary.

'Disturbed' at CIA Operational Role

In his Dec. 22, 1963, op-ed, Truman addresses the structural fault alluded to above:

"For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment [collection, analysis, and reporting]. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas....

"Some of the complications and embarrassment I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue..."

"The last thing we needed was for the CIA to be seized upon as something akin to a subverting influence in the affairs of other people."

Think Iran. In early 1963 when I began work at the CIA it had been almost a decade since the overthrow of the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammed Mosaddeq in August 1953. The joint CIA and British intelligence "Operation Ajax" was cited proudly as a singularly successful covert action operation.

Just before electing Mosaddeq in 1951, the Iranian Parliament had nationalized Iran's oil industry, which until then had been controlled exclusively by the British government-controlled Anglo-Iranian Oil Company - Britain's largest overseas investment at the time.

Unfortunately for Britain, there were upstarts in Iran ("militants," in today's parlance) who made bold to think that Iranians should be able to profit from the vast oil reserves in Iran.

Winston Churchill asked Truman to order the fledgling CIA to join the British service, MI-6, in arranging a coup. Truman said No. (I can imagine him saying, Hell, No!)

Truman's successor, Dwight Eisenhower, however, said Yes. And the coup that Eisenhower approved goes a long way toward explaining why the Iranians don't much like us.

After throwing out Mosaddeq and bringing in the Shah, the Iranian people suffered untold horrors at the hands of SAVAK, the Shah's notorious secret police.

Every Iranian knew/knows that the CIA and MI-6 did what the British would call a "brilliant" job training SAVAK. Many students of Iran believe that it was SAVAK's widespread and widely known torture, as much as Ayatollah Khomeini's charisma, that brought revolution and dumped the Shah in 1979.

And the Oil?

And who got control of the oil? That seems always to be the question, doesn't it?

The Shah let the U.S. and U.K. split 80 percent of control, with the rest going to French and Dutch interests. The Shah got 50 percent of the revenues.

When the Shah and SAVAK became history, the new Iranian government took control of its oil. Today, there is scant applause among thinking people for the "singularly successful" U.S.-U.K.-sponsored coup in Iran.

The same goes for the CIA-run coup in Guatemala the following year. American media initially sold both operations as victories over leftist leaning governments vulnerable to Communist blandishments.

But it was really about oil in Iran, as it was about land claimed by the United Fruit Company in Guatemala. But the kind of suffering in store for the people of both countries was the same.

Having learned from the British how this kind of thing is done, CIA operatives were ready to try out their newly acquired skills and succeeded in overthrowing the government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, who had been elected President in 1950 with 65 percent of the vote.

His offense was giving land to the peasants - unfarmed land that private corporations earlier had set aside for themselves. The United Fruit Company was allergic to real land reform in Guatemala and lobbied hard for Washington to remove Arbenz.

The Dulles brothers, Allen and John Foster, who happened to be shareholders of the United Fruit Company, took the line that Arbenz' actions smacked of "Communism." Then-CIA Director Allen Dulles stoked fears by describing Guatemala as a "Soviet beachhead in the Western hemisphere."

The overthrow of Arbenz in 1954 made Guatemala safe for United Fruit, but not for democracy. The coup ended a hopeful decade-long experiment with representative democracy known as the "Ten Years of Spring." The outcome's implications for democracy in Central American were immense.

Other examples could be adduced, but let us stop here with the two with which Harry Truman would have been most familiar - from a statecraft point of view. (I doubt that he held stock in either Big Oil or United Fruit.)

At the end of his op-ed, Truman puts his conclusion right out there with characteristic straightforwardness:

"I, therefore, would like to see the CIA be restored to its original assignment as the intelligence arm of the President ... and that its operational duties be terminated or properly used elsewhere."

Media Un-Reaction

A blockbuster op-ed, no?

Well, no. Investigator Raymond Marcus is among those struck by the curious lack of response - one might say embargo - regarding Truman's Washington Post article. Marcus has written:

"According to my information, it was not carried in later editions that day, nor commented on editorially, nor picked up by any other major newspaper, or mentioned in any national radio or TV broadcast."

What are we to make of this? Was/is it the case, as former CIA Director William Colby is quoted as saying in a different connection, that the CIA "owns everyone of any significance in the major media?" Or at least that it did in the Sixties? How much truth lies beneath Colby's hyperbole?

Did the CIA and its White House patrons put out the word to squelch a former President's op-ed already published in an early edition of the Post? Or is there a simpler explanation. Do any of you readers perhaps know?

The tradecraft term of art for a "cooperating" journalist, businessperson, or academic is "agent of influence." Some housebroken journalists actually have previously worked for the CIA. Some take such scrupulous notes that they end up sounding dangerously close to their confidential government sources.

Think back, for example, to those vengeful days in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and the macho approach being modeled by President Bush and aped down the line by CIA operatives and their "agents of influence."

CIA operative Gary Schroen told National Public Radio that, just days after 9/11, Counterterrorist chief Cofer Black sent him to Afghanistan with orders to "Capture bin Laden, kill him, and bring his head back in a box on dry ice." As for other al Qaeda leaders, Black reportedly said, "I want their heads up on pikes."

This quaint tone - and language - reverberated among Bush-friendly pundits.

One consummate insider, Washington Post veteran Jim Hoagland went a bit overboard in publishing a letter to President Bush on Oct. 31, 2001. It was no Halloween prank. Rather, Hoagland strongly endorsed what he termed the "wish" for "Osama bin Laden's head on a pike," which he claimed was the objective of Bush's "generals and diplomats."

At the same time, there are dangers in sharing too much information with pet insider/outsiders. In his open letter to Bush, Hoagland lifted the curtain on the actual neoconservative game plan by giving Bush the following ordering of priorities.

"The need to deal with Iraq's continuing accumulation of biological and chemical weapons and the technology to build a nuclear bomb can in no way be lessened by the demands of the Afghan campaign. You must conduct that campaign so that you can pivot quickly from it to end the threat Saddam Hussein's regime poses."

Hoagland had the "pivot" idea three weeks before Donald Rumsfeld called Gen. Tommy Franks to tell him the President wanted him to shift focus to Iraq. Franks and his senior aides had been working on plans for attacks on Tora Bora where bin Laden was believed hiding but attention, planning, and resources were abruptly diverted toward Iraq.

And Osama bin Laden walked out of Tora Bora through the mountain passes to Pakistan, according to a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee report.

The point here is that some media favorites are extremely well briefed partly because they are careful not to bite the hands that feed them by criticizing the CIA.

Still less are they inclined to point out basic structural faults - not to mention the crimes of recent years. So it is up to those of us who know something of intelligence and how structural faults, above-the-law mentality, and flexible consciences can spell disaster.

Split Up the Agency

So, here's what can be done:

Expunge the one sentence in the National Security Act of 1947 that enables a President to direct the CIA to perform "other such functions and duties related to intelligence."

Make it crystal clear that the sense conveyed by that sentence, whether the sentence itself stays in or is deleted, cannot authorize activities that violate international or U.S. criminal law - crimes like kidnapping and torture.

"Such other functions and duties?"

What was meant by this wording were activities in addition to what President Truman describes in his op-ed as the "original assignment" of the CIA - a central place with access to all intelligence collection that enables analysts to advise the President with candor, without bureaucratic "treatment" or interpretations, and not sparing him "unpleasant facts" so as not to "upset" him.

(Remember, the founding mission of the CIA was to ensure that a future President wasn't blindsided by another Pearl Harbor attack, the way Truman's predecessor Franklin Delano Roosevelt was.)

As Truman himself suggests, terminate "such other functions and duties" or put those operations elsewhere.

And imagine into existence different, effective ways to exercise oversight, not totally dependent on the highly politicized "overlook" committees of the Congress.

That done, there will still be a baby NOT to be thrown out with the bath water. The good news is that there remains a core of analysts willing and able to seek truth and speak truth to power. This was shown in 2007, when Tom Fingar, a senior analyst with integrity and courage, led to conclusion a National Intelligence Estimate that helped prevent the attack that Dick Cheney, the neoconservatives, and Israel were planning on Iran.

That NIE assessed with high confidence that Iran had ceased working on the warhead-related part of its nuclear program in the fall of 2003 - a judgment that holds to this day, however unpopular and unwelcome it may be among those who would have the President give Israel carte blanche to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.

That is the capability Truman wanted - the baby that must be rescued and reared. But the baby is still in danger.

With Tom Fingar now retired, the absence of an NIE on Afghanistan/Pakistan speaks volumes to the timidity that also remains inside the CIA's hierarchy. It boggles the mind that, amid all the assessment and reassessment prior to the President's decision to escalate by sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, no policymaker wanted to know what the 16 agencies of the intelligence community were thinking.

Gloom Avoidance

Gen. Petraeus and Gen. McChrystal are not interested in CIA analysis, just CIA drones (the aircraft). Sources inside the intelligence community tell us that the analysts assess the prospects for success of the generals' "Af-Pak" approach as very low, but that this word does not seem to be getting to the President.

It is not entirely clear whether it is a case of Panetta being reluctant to relay to Obama the kind of "unpleasant facts" or "bad news" that Truman wanted the CIA to give him in a straightforward way, or that Obama himself has discouraged such truth seeking/telling lest the abysmal prognosis of the analysts leak and complicate his Faustian bargain with the top brass - and cause even more political damage with his dissatisfied Democratic "base."

As things get still worse in "Af-Pak," and they will, it will be important for Obama to have a group of analysts able to give him an objective read on the quagmire into which his benighted policies have led, and how he might attempt to pull himself and U.S. troops out. Perhaps then he will ask.

So save that baby. Throw out the other one with the bathwater.
(c) 2009 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years -- from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one-on-one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

By Uri Avnery

THIS WEEK I enjoyed an hour of happiness.

I was on my way home, after collecting William Polk's new book about Iran. I admire the wisdom of this former State Department official.

I was walking on the seaside promenade, when I was seized by a desire to go down to the seashore. I sat down on a chair on the sand, sipped a coffee and smoked an Arab water-pipe, the only smoke I allow myself from time to time. A ray of the mild winter sun painted a golden path on the water, and a lone surfer rode on the white foam of the waves. The shore was almost deserted. A stranger waved at me from afar. Some passing youngsters from abroad asked to try my pipe. From time to time my gaze wandered to far-away Jaffa jutting out into the sea, a beautiful sight.

FOR A moment I was in a world that was all good, far from the depressing items that were prominent in the morning paper. And then I remembered that I had felt the same way many-many years ago.

It was 68 years ago, in exactly the same spot. It was also a pleasant winter day, facing a stormy sea. I was on sick leave, after a severe attack of typhoid fever. I was sitting on a deck chair, warming myself under the gentle winter sun. I felt my strength coming back to me after the debilitating disease, I forgot the far-away World War. I was 18 years old and the world was perfect.

I remember the book I was reading: Oswald Spengler's "Decline of the West", a forbidding tome that painted an entirely new picture of world history. Instead of the then accepted landscape in which a straight line of progress led from ancient times to the Middle Ages, and from there to the modern era, Spengler painted a landscape of mountain chains, in which one civilization follows another, each one being born, growing up, getting old and dying, much like a human being.

I was sitting and reading, actually feeling my horizons widen. Every so often I laid down the volume, in order to absorb the new insights. Then, too, I looked towards Jaffa, at that time still an Arab town.

Spengler asserted that every civilization lives for about a thousand years, creating in the end a world Empire, and that thereafter a new civilization takes its place. In his view, Western civilization was about to create a German world empire (Spengler was German, of course) after which the next civilization would be Russian. He was right and he was wrong: A world empire was about to be born, but it was American, and the next civilization will probably be Chinese.

MEANWHILE AMERICA is ruling the world, and that leads us, naturally, to Barack Obama.

I listened to his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. My first impression was that it was almost impertinent: to come to a peace ceremony and there to justify war. But when I read it for the second and then a third time, I found some undeniable truths. I, too, believe that there are limits to non-violence. No non-violence would have stopped Hitler. The trouble is that this insight serves very often as a pretext for aggression. Everyone who starts a stupid war - a war that is just not going to solve the problem that caused it - or a war for an ignoble aim, pretends that there is no alternative.

Obama tries to stick the "no alternative" label onto the Afghan war - a cruel, superfluous and stupid war if ever there was one, very much like our own last three military adventures.

Obama's observations deserve reflection. They invite, and indeed demand, debate. But it was odd to hear them on the occasion of the award of a peace prize. It would have more proper to voice them at West Point, where he spoke a week earlier.

(A German humorist mentioned that Alfred Nobel, who instituted the prize, had invented dynamite. "That's the right order of things'" he said, "first you blow everything up and then you make peace.")

I WOULD have expected Obama to use his speech to present a real world-wide vision, instead of sad reflections on human nature and the inevitability of war. As the President of the United States, on such a festive occasion, with all of humanity listening, he should have underlined the necessity for the new world order that must come into being in the course of the 21st century.

The swine flu provides an example of how a fatal phenomenon can spread all over the globe within days. Icebergs that melt at the North Pole cause Indian Ocean islands to be submerged. The crash of the housing market in Chicago causes hundreds of thousands of children in Africa to die of hunger. The lines I am writing at this moment will reach Honolulu and Japan within minutes.

The planet has become one entity - from the political, economic, military, environmental, communication and medical points of view. A leader who is also a philosopher should outline ways to create a binding world order, an order that will consign wars as a means of solving problems to the past, abolish tyrannical regimes in every country and pave the road to a world without hunger and epidemics. Not tomorrow, for sure, not in our generation, but as an aim to strive for, directing our endeavors..

Obama must surely be thinking about this. But he represents a country that obstructs so many important aspects of a binding world order. It is natural for a world empire to object to a world order that would limit its powers and transfer them to world institutions. That's why the US opposes the world court and impedes the world-wide effort for saving the planet and the elimination of all nuclear arms. That's why it objects to real world governance to replace the UN, which has almost become an instrument of US policy. That's why he praises NATO, a military arm of the US, and obstructs the arising of a really effective international force.

The Norwegian decision to award Obama the Nobel Peace Prize bordered on the ridiculous. In his Oslo speech, Obama made no effort to provide, post factum, a plausible justification for this decision. After all, it is not a prize designed for philosophers but for activists, not for words but for deeds.

WHEN HE was elected as president, we were ready for some disappointment. We knew that no politician could really be as perfect as Obama the candidate looked and sounded. But the disappointment is much greater and much more painful than anticipated.

It covers practically all possible areas. He has not yet left Iraq, but plunged with both feet deeper into the Afghan quagmire - a war that threatens to be longer and more stupid than even the Vietnam War. Anyone who looks for some sense in this war will search in vain. It cannot be won, indeed it is not clear what would constitute victory in this context. It is being fought against the wrong enemy - the Afghan people, instead of the al-Qaeda organization. Rather like burning a house down to rid it of mice.

He promised to close Guantanamo and the other torture camps -yet they are still in business.

He promised salvation to the masses of the unemployed in his country, but poured money into the pockets of the Fat Cats who are as predatory and gluttonous as ever.

His contribution to the solution of the climate crisis is mainly verbal, as is his commitment to the destruction of weapons of mass destruction.

True, the rhetoric has changed. The sanctimonious arrogance of the Bush days has been replaced by a more reconciliatory style and the appearance of a search for fair agreement. This should be duly appreciated. But not unduly.

AS AN Israeli, I am naturally interested in his attitude to our conflict. When he was elected, he aroused great, even exaggerated hopes. As the Haaretz columnist Aluf Ben put it this week: "He was considered a cross between the prophet Isaiah, Mother Theresa and Uri Avnery." I am flattered to find myself in such exalted company, but I must agree: the disappointment matched the hopes.

In all the long Oslo speech, Obama devoted 16 whole words to us: "We see it in Middle East, as the conflict between Arabs and Jews seems to harden."

Well, first of all, it is not a conflict between Arabs and Jews. It is between Palestinians and Israelis. That is an important difference: when one wants to solve a problem, one must first have a clear picture of it.

More importantly: This is the remark of a bystander. A viewer sitting in his armchair and looking at the TV screen. A theater critic reviewing a performance. Should the President of the United States look at the conflict like this?

If the conflict is indeed hardening, the US, and Obama personally, must carry much of the blame. His folding up on the settlement issue and his total surrender to the pro-Israel lobby in the US has encouraged our government to believe that it can do anything it likes.

At the beginning, Binyamin Netanyahu was worried about the new president. But the fear has dissipated, and now our government is treating Obama and his people with scorn bordering on contempt. The agreements made with the last administration are being broken quite openly. President George W. Bush recognized the "settlement blocs" in return for an undertaking to freeze all the others permanently and to dismantle the outposts set up since March 2001. Not only has not a single outpost been dismantled, but this week the government accorded the status of "preferred area" to dozens of settlements outside the "blocs", including the worst Kahanist nests. From one of these, the thugs went out this week and set fire to a mosque.

The "freeze" is a joke. In this theater of the absurd, the settlers take part in a performance of violent opposition that is both invited and paid for by the government. The police does not employ against them pepper gas, tear gas, rubber bullets and truncheons - as they do every week against Israeli demonstrators who protest against the occupation. Nor do they conduct nightly incursions in the settlements to arrest activists - as they do now in Bilin and other Palestinian villages.

In Jerusalem, of course, the settlement activity is in full swing. Palestinian families are thrown out of their homes to the jubilant cries of the settlers, and the few Israeli protesters against the injustice are sent to hospitals and prisons. The settler groups engaged in these activities receive donations from the US that are tax-deductible - thus Obama is indirectly paying for the very acts he condemns.

FOR A happy hour on the seashore, under the gentle winter sun, I succeeded in pushing the depressing situation away. Before reaching home, a walk of 10 minutes, it came back and landed on me with its full weight. This is not a time for easy chairs. There is still a struggle ahead of us, and to win it we need to mobilize all our strength.

And Obama? Oybama.
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

To Light A Candle
By Victoria Stewart

There is something to be said for knowing the area in which you live. Last week as a storm was forecast for the mountains of Western North Carolina, I was grateful for the couple of centuries of family weather lore that had been passed on to me and my brothers and sister. I had wondered if the changes in the planet's weather systems would impact the weather signs on which generations of Appalachian farmers had relied. I am happy to report that for now at least, those signs hold true.

When the rippled, white clouds started moving in on Thursday, I recognized them, just as my grandparents taught me, to be harbingers of a big and wet storm. By afternoon that edge of clouds had given way to the dark, curdled mass that promised heavy snow. Just like when I was a girl.

And when I was a girl, big wet snows brought downed trees and power outages. But doing without power-which usually only lasted a few hours and almost never more than a day-did not mean doing without water, heat, bathrooms, or a means to cook. The people who lived in the coves and hollows of rural Western North Carolina were still close enough to the reality of the Great Depression to understand the need for self-sufficiency-or sustainability in 21st century parlance. We did not depend solely on electric pumps to deliver our water. Gravity fed systems and hand pumps were the norm. Unpleasant as they were, outhouses and chamber pots still existed to provide a semblance of sanitary waste disposal. And wood cook stoves and heaters were commonplace. Food preserved over the summer was a staple in every pantry and small game hunting was part of daily life. Lights and refrigeration were much appreciated luxuries but electricity was not essential to survival for the majority of my neighbors and family.

But that was a few decades ago.

It has been a lot of years since we had a snow like the one that rolled into the mountains last Friday morning. Weeks earlier I had noticed, in an unconscious sort of way, that the power company right of ways were not as clear as they used to be. I had even had a conversation with a lineman recently who said that Progress Energy found it more cost efficient to repair downed lines than to maintain those right of ways. What I didn't realize, I suspect what most people didn't realize, is that the maintenance had become so lax, the whole power grid for several western counties was vulnerable to disruption and hard to repair.

When we lost power Friday, I thought we were in good shape to survive the outage. We had drinking water for a couple of days, water for flushing toilets, food, and wood for the fireplace. We had candles and flashlights. Because we live in a household with two medically fragile adults, we had cell phones charged and waiting. We were prepared for a day or two of inconvenience.

While we waited the ever-lengthening hours for signs of power crews or lights in the distance, I began to seriously consider what might happen if we went days without electricity. In the Blizzard of '93, some people were without power for 10 days. But there were power crews on the job immediately. There were rescue crews to help the elderly and sick. Law enforcement and National Guard units were available to help. Even though it was the "Storm of the Century," it didn't feel as ominous as those few days last week.

By Sunday when there was no sign of road or power crews, with fallen trees blocking the drive and the roads out, with downed power lines sparking blue in the snow, it was time to shift into survival mode. And as we worked our way through more hours of cold, snow, darkness, and growing unease, I realized that we might be in trouble. Our drinking water was holding out, but we were out of water for flushing toilets. We were shoveling snow and melting it on the cook top, but without any idea of when power would be restored, we needed to conserve fuel. We began to boil our drinking water. (Do you know how long water can stand in jugs before it is unsafe to drink?) We became very careful about what we ate, not wanting to risk illness. We tried to conserve wood.

And then one of us got sick. At the point, the whole situation became medieval.

Obviously, we survived. And we were lucky. Our power came back on Monday night. Some people were still without power on Wednesday. But the whole experience was grueling and unnerving. The lack of computers, phones, and television was merely annoying and inconvenient and if it had stretched on for a week or longer, it still would have been nothing more than an inconvenience. But the lack of water, the inability to get out, the absence of appropriate response from civilian and government authorities, are signs as surely as those clouds were last Thursday afternoon.

It occurred to me as we waited for light, for what was beginning to feel like salvation, that we didn't matter. In the corporate world of Progress Energy, the State of North Carolina, and the United States government, if our little family of working poor died on this mountain, even if hundreds of us died throughout the region, it wouldn't really matter. Our country has become so steeped in the worship of profit that the lives of humans outside their narrow confines not only doesn't matter, it isn't even real. Progress Energy will not begin to maintain those lines. A larger storm, a storm with colder temperatures, or more wind could result in outages for much longer periods. And they wouldn't care-they don't care.

Witness New Orleans. The stark and undeniable truth is that we are all residents of the Ninth Ward when it comes to our leaders.

So as you head in to these last days of 2009, take some time to reflect on your life, how and where you live. Who you can count on. What you know about how to survive when you are kicked off the grid. Because those hours and days are coming.

It isn't enough, as we discovered, to be prepared for an emergency. We must quickly learn how to take care of ourselves, our families, our clans, if you will. The trust we have placed in our government and in our infrastructure is dangerous. There was no outrage, over the days it took to restore electricity, no hue and cry to save the poor people of a few counties in Western North Carolina. My mother and sister, had we not been here, would certainly have been in grave danger. They could have died. And we were cut off from family help.

But, as I have said, we were lucky. This time. If we don't prepare, however, we may not be so lucky the next time.

You might not be so lucky.

Over the next few weeks, we will devote space to provide resources and guides to help you prepare for this new world we're in. The citizens of the United States are no longer the needed as consumers. We have lost the marginal importance we had to the power elite. More and more we will be left on our own. And if we prepare, if we educate our families, and ourselves then being on our own will be the best thing that has happened to us.

The only way through the darkness is with the light of knowledge and awareness.
(c) 2009 Victoria Stewart is the editor of Issues & Alibis magazine.

Quixote, the Usurper, And The Prophet From Nowhere (A Political Allegory)
By Michael D. Rectenwald

In a nation called America, a place which pains us to recall, there lived a gentleman who kept a laptop close at hand, with a bevy of bookmarks connected to an enormous database called the Internet.

Whenever this gentleman had free time from his employ as a technical writer and part-time professor, and later, as a full-time professor of English and Cultural Studies, he spent it writing indignant essays and organizing protests against the Usurper of his land, the Evil One, George W. Bush.

Previously to this excursus into political jousting, this gentleman had not really concerned himself with activism or politics in general. Rather, he had been a writer of another kind-of academic essays in Critical Theory and the history of British science and culture. But having been enraged by the apparent Coup undertaken by the Republican band on behalf of the Usurper, our Quixote organized spectacular protests to defame Bush and his hegemonic tribe. He vowed, along with the organization of Rebels whom he collected, to bring down this Usurper and to restore the Republic to its rightful order. He flew his banner of protest over the Super Bowl, the ultimate gladiator battlefield of the land, in the year 2001 held coincidentally at the very scene of the Criminal Coup.

He had entertained no particular affection for the party whose representative had legitimately won the election. But the principle of restoration was a higher, nobler end. His antipathy for the usurpation had to do with the will of a relative minority imposing itself against that of a majority. He even experienced many betrayals by those whose rightful place he sought to restore. They turned from his cause with apparent diffidence and disdain. They disclaimed the Rebels and sounded the gavel to restore the (however false) order of land.

Then Infiltrators, another enemy, were reported to have attacked the nation, piercing its borders and assaulting its most treasured assets-the war and financial centers.

Most, even those putatively sympathetic with the cause of restoration, turned against all of those, like our Quixote, who continued to protest the Usurper and had misgivings about both the explanation given for the new confidence bestowed on him, and the course of action which he was bent on taking.

Our Quixote had predicted as much soon after the Coup. Nothing surprised him, except, for a short while, the vitriol of erstwhile allies in the fight against the Evil One.

After a four year nightmare to which the nation was only beginning to wake, fraudulence again prevailed. The Rebels kept on, even after national voices from the side of the victims again sounded resignation and acceptance.

Four more years, more war, more torture, more cost of life and lucre-the Rebels continued their fight. Many said that our Quixote warred not only against windmills, but also against reason itself. Nothing seemed to daunt him and his Rebels, however.

After another four years, from Nowhere, a new Prophet came forth, a fresh voice come in from a wilderness of racial discrimination and an extremely unlikely rise to prominence-promising change and restoration through the legitimate processes of election. Given all the experiences of betrayal, having been the objects of ridicule and scorn from the new Prophet's very party, the Rebels were naturally skeptical of this new voice. But against their skepticism they gave him some benefit of doubt.

Promising to overturn the policies and practices of the Usurper's band, the prospects for redressing the evils, if not reversing and declaring illegitimate the means by which they came into being, seemed possible. Although suspicions lingered, the Rebels supported the objectives of the newly risen Prophet from Nowhere. While others seemed more likely connected with sufficient forces to do better in the redress of evils, the Rebels lent some tentative support, in word if not in deed, to the same, the same who promised to be anything but the same.

But another crisis struck just prior to the ultimate contest between the Prophet from Nowhere and the Usurper's successor. This time, the main financial centers suffered an internal collapse during which Value Itself seemed to crumble.

How surprised then were the Rebels when the Prophet from Nowhere chimed in with the Usurper and his successor, recommending the very same solution to the crisis. How surprised to hear the same kinds of warnings from the Usurper as after the Infiltrator's attack-that if nothing was done, the nation was done. But more surprising was the agreement between the new change agent and the Usurper's support for the Financial Oligarchs. The recommended solution was that People bail out Financial Oligarchs in order to save the Economy. The cost to the People would be enormous, but it was a price they would either pay, or face the loss of their jobs, businesses and homes-or so the Usurper claimed. The Prophet from Nowhere concurred.

This sent chills up the spine of our Quixote, who saw in this collaboration ominous forebodings of betrayals to come. Our Quixote once again put his academic and theoretical writing aside, took up his weapons on the Internet, and denounced the support of the Prophet for the plans of the Usurper. He felt vindicated for holding onto his previous doubts about the Prophet from Nowhere in the face of enormous pressure to chant his name without thinking. He battled with kin and kind, and troubled himself to show how collusion was a sign of things to come. He pointed back to previous signs that he had held as pillars of his doubt-earlier signs of conciliation and negation of promises by the Prophet from Nowhere. These doubts were more than we have said before, because we wanted to make our Quixote appear a reasonable figure in our narrative. And as his reasonableness seemed in doubt in many cases, we concealed some of his innermost thoughts from the reader.

But now the battle was seen by our Quixote in new and more sweeping terms. The two parties-the Usurper's and the Prophets, seemed to work hand-in-hand. And they now appeared two hands washing off the stench of foul deeds. The Prophet exonerated the Usurper and continued most if not all of his policies. Those believers and hopers skeptical of our claims may consult the Internet to test their veracity. Our purpose here is to tell the tale of our Quixote and his band of Rebels.

The Rebels now saw the two parties a single Goliath with one eye, an eye to advancing the will of the Financial Oligarchy and their war machine. Nothing could be said to separate the parties in any substantial way.

Not only did the Prophet from Nowhere betray his promise to end the Usurper's war, he extended and intensified the war of his own, calling his war the Good War or the Necessary War, and trying not to mention the Usurper's Bad War even as it continued unheralded. The Prophet from Nowhere sounded the same words for the Good War as the Usurper had for the Bad War. And the two wars, it was suggested, might be joined in the middle against another state which harbored Ultimate Weapons, or so it was claimed.

Nothing had changed by the election but the talk of the Prophet, whose earlier words were now seen as hyperbole and bluster. The nation's Hope began to sink and so did its love for the newfound Prophet from Nowhere. Our Quixote wielded the Internet weapons again. He and his band of Rebels live another day, fighting against the parties and interests of the Financial Oligarchs.
(c) 2009 Michael Rectenwald PhD, is the founder of Citizens for Legitimate Government.

The Pentagon's 'Invincible' Drones

The people our troops are battling in Afghanistan and Pakistan might be diabolical fanatics willing to use such crude terrorist tactics as suicide bombers - but the one thing we've got that they can't match is the world's most sophisticated military technology. Right?

Well, right - our military-industrial complex is a high-tech wonder, and the primitive tribal forces we're now confronting in Afghanistan, for example, have nothing like it. Take, drones. These pilotless, remote-controlled, missile-firing, killing machines have become America's weapon of choice against the Taliban. Mounted with computerized video cameras that guide the long-distance, unmanned flights, drones cost about $12 million each, but they're devastatingly effective. The enemy doesn't even know they're targeted until - surprise! - the missiles explode on them.

At least, that's what the Pentagon assumed. However, we now learn that the enemy has been hacking into our drones' electronic systems, allowing them to intercept the live video feeds. Thus, they learn which houses, camps, roads, or other sites are being targeted, potentially letting them escape before the missiles strike. Adding insult to injury, the enemies are able to monitor our flights of the $12-million sophisticated drones with a bit of simple software called Skygrabber, which is meant for downloading music, photos, and other free materials from the Internet. Skygrabber is readily available on websites for only $24.95.

It turns out that the Pentagon has known since the Bosnian battles in the 1990s that drones have this particular vulnerability - but officials assumed that the people we're fighting wouldn't be sharp enough to figure it out. That's a very dangerous assumption it turns out. And it's an odd assumption, teenagers have been able to hack into the military's own massive and heavily-secured computers inside the Pentagon itself.
(c) 2009 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Supreme Court's Ruling Would Allow Bin Laden to Donate to Sarah Palin's Presidential Campaign
By Greg Palast

I thought that headline would get your attention. And it's true.

I'm biting my nails waiting for the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which could come down as early as Tuesday. At issue: whether corporations, as "unnatural persons," can make contributions to political campaigns.

The outcome is foregone: the five GOP appointees to the court are expected to use the case to junk federal laws that now bar corporations from stuffing campaign coffers.

Technically, there's a narrower matter before the court in this case: whether the McCain-Feingold Act may prohibit corporations from funding "independent" campaign advertisements such as the "Swift Boat" ads that smeared John Kerry. However, campaign finance reformers are steeling themselves for the court's right wing to go much further, knocking down all longstanding rules against donations by corporate treasuries.

Allowing company campaign spending will not, as progressives fear, cause an avalanche of corporate cash into politics. Sadly, that's already happened: we have been snowed under by tens of millions of dollars given through corporate PACs and "bundling" of individual contributions from corporate pay-rollers.

The court's expected decision is far, far more dangerous to U.S. democracy. Think: Manchurian candidates.

I'm losing sleep over the millions -- or billions -- of dollars that could flood into our elections from ARAMCO, the Saudi Oil corporation's U.S. unit; or from the maker of "New Order" fashions, the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Or from Bin Laden Construction corporation. Or Bin Laden Destruction Corporation.

Right now, corporations can give loads of loot through PACs. While this money stinks (Barack Obama took none of it), anyone can go through a PAC's federal disclosure filing and see the name of every individual who put money into it. And every contributor must be a citizen of the USA.

But, if the Supreme Court rules that corporations can support candidates without limit, there is nothing that stops, say, a Delaware-incorporated handmaiden of the Burmese junta from picking a Congressman or two with a cache of loot masked by a corporate alias.

Candidate Barack Obama was one sharp speaker, but he would not have been heard, and certainly would not have won, without the astonishing outpouring of donations from two million Americans. It was an unprecedented uprising-by-PayPal, overwhelming the old fat-cat sources of funding.

Well, kiss that small-donor revolution goodbye. If the Supreme Court votes as expected, progressive list serves won't stand a chance against the resources of new "citizens" such as CNOOC, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation. Maybe UBS (United Bank of Switzerland), which faces U.S. criminal prosecution and a billion-dollar fine for fraud, might be tempted to invest in a few Senate seats. As would XYZ Corporation, whose owners remain hidden by "street names."

George Bush's former Solicitor General Ted Olson argued the case to the court on behalf of Citizens United, a corporate front that funded an attack on Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primary. Olson's wife died on September 11, 2001 on the hijacked airliner that hit the Pentagon. Maybe it was a bit crude of me, but I contacted Olson's office to ask how much "Al Qaeda, Inc." should be allowed to donate to support the election of his local congressman.

Olson has not responded.

The danger of foreign loot loading into U.S. campaigns, not much noted in the media chat about the Citizens case, was the first concern raised by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who asked about opening the door to "mega-corporations" owned by foreign governments. Olson offered Ginsburg a fudge, that Congress might be able to prohibit foreign corporations from making donations, though Olson made clear he thought any such restriction a bad idea.

Tara Malloy, attorney with the Campaign Legal Center of Washington D.C., is biting her nails awaiting the decision. If Olson gets his way, she told me, corporations will have more rights than people. Only United States citizens may donate or influence campaigns, but a foreign government can, veiled behind a corporate treasury, dump money into ballot battles.

Malloy also noted that under the law today, human-people, as opposed to corporate-people, may only give $2,300 to a presidential campaign. But hedge fund billionaires, for example, who typically operate through dozens of corporate vessels, could, should Olson prevail, give unlimited sums through each of these "unnatural" creatures.

And once the Taliban incorporates in Delaware, they could ante up for the best democracy money can buy.

In July, the Chinese government, in preparation for President Obama's visit, held diplomatic discussions in which they skirted issues of human rights and Tibet. Notably, the Chinese, who hold a $2 trillion mortgage on our Treasury, raised concerns about the cost of Obama's health care reform bill. Would our nervous Chinese landlords have an interest in buying the White House for an opponent of government spending such as Gov. Palin? Ya betcha!

The potential for foreign infiltration of what remains of our democracy is an adjunct of the fact that the source and control money from corporate treasuries (unlike registered PACs), is necessarily hidden. Who the heck are the real stockholders? Or as Butch asked Sundance, "Who are these guys?" We'll never know.

Hidden money funding, whether foreign or domestic, is the new venom that the court could inject into the system by an expansive decision in Citizens United.

We've been there. The 1994 election brought Newt Gingrich to power in a GOP takeover of the Congress funded by a very strange source. Congressional investigators found that in crucial swing races, Democrats had fallen victim to a flood of last-minute attack ads funded by a group called, "Coalition for Our Children's Future." The $25 million that paid for those ads came, not from concerned parents, but from a corporation called "Triad Inc."

Evidence suggests Triad Inc. was the front for the ultra-right-wing billionaire Koch Brothers and their private petroleum company, Koch Industries. Had the corporate connection been proven, the Kochs and their corporation could have faced indictment under federal election law. If the Supreme Court now decides in favor of unlimited corporate electioneering, then such money-poisoned politicking would become legit.

So it's not just un-Americans we need to fear but the Polluter-Americans, Pharma-mericans, Bank-Americans and Hedge-Americans that could manipulate campaigns while hidden behind corporate veils.

And if so, our future elections, while nominally a contest between Republicans and Democrats, may in fact come down to a three-way battle between China, Saudi Arabia and Goldman Sachs.
(c) 2009 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." His investigations for BBC TV and Democracy Now! can be seen by subscribing to Palast's reports at.

Ruined Senate Bill Unsupportable
Conservatives Have Destroyed This Version of Health Reform
By Keith Olbermann

Finally, as promised, a Special Comment on the latest version of H-R 35-90, the Senate Health Care Reform bill. To again quote Churchill after Munich, as I did six nights ago on this program: "I will begin by saying the most unpopular and most unwelcome thing: that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat, without a war."

Last night on this program Howard Dean said that with the appeasement of Mr. Lieberman of Connecticut by the abandonment of the Medicare Buy-in, he could no longer support H-R 35-90. Dr. Dean's argument is informed, cogent, heart breaking, and unanswerable.

Seeking the least common denominator, Sen. Reid has found it, especially the "least" part. This is not health, this is not care, this is certainly not reform. I bless the Sherrod Browns and Ron Wydens and Jay Rockefellers and Sheldon Whitehouses and Anthony Weiners and all the others who have fought for real reform and I bleed for the pain inflicted upon them and their hopes. They have done their jobs and served their nation.

But through circumstances beyond their control, they are now seeking to reanimate a corpse killed by the Republicans, and by a political game played in the Senate and in the White House by men and women who have now proved themselves poorly equipped for the fight. The "men" of the current moment, have lost to the "mice" of history.

They must now not make the defeat worse by passing a hollow shell of a bill just for the sake of a big-stage signing ceremony. This bill, slowly bled to death by the political equivalent of the leeches that were once thought state-of-the-art-medicine, is now little more than a series of microscopically minor tweaks of a system which is the real-life, here-and-now version, of the malarkey of the Town Hallers. The American Insurance Cartel is the Death Panel, and this Senate bill does nothing to destroy it. Nor even to satiate it.

It merely decrees that our underprivileged, our sick, our elderly, our middle class, can be fed into it, as human sacrifices to the great maw of corporate voraciousness, at a profit per victim of 10 cents on the dollar instead of the current 20. Even before the support columns of reform were knocked down, one by one, with the kind of passive defense that would embarrass a touch-football player - single-payer, the public option, the Medicare Buy-In - before they vanished, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the part of this bill that would require you to buy insurance unless you could prove you could not afford it, would cost a family of four with a household income of 54-thousand dollars a year, 17 percent of that income. Nine thousand dollars a year. Just for the insurance!

That was with a public option. That was with some kind of check on the insurance companies. That was before - as Howard Dean pointed out - the revelation that the cartel will still be able to charge older people more than others; will - at the least - now be able to charge much more, maybe 50 percent more, for people with pre-existing conditions - pre-existing conditions; you know, like being alive.

You have just agreed to purchase a product. If you do not, you will be breaking the law and subject to a fine. You have no control over how much you will pay for the product. The government will have virtually no control over how much the company will charge for the product. The product is designed like the Monty Python sketch about the insurance company's "Never-Pay" policy ... "which, you know, if you never claim - is very worthwhile. But you had to claim, and, well, there it is."

And who do we have to blame for this? There are enough villains to go around, men and women who, in a just world, would be the next to get sick and have to sell their homes or their memories or their futures - just to keep themselves alive, just to keep their children alive, against the implacable enemy of American society, the insurance cartel. Mr. Grassley of Iowa has lied, and fomented panic and fear. Mr. DeMint of South Carolina has forgotten he represents people, and not just a political party. Mr. Baucus of Montana has operated as a virtual agent for the industry he is charged with regulating. Mr. Nelson of Nebraska has not only derailed reform, he has tried to exploit it to overturn a Supreme Court decision that, in this context, is frankly none of his goddamned business.

They say they have done what they have done for the most important, the most fiscally prudent, the most gloriously phrased, the most inescapable of reasons. But mostly they have done it for the money. Lots and lots of money from the insurance companies and the pharmacological companies and the other health care companies who have slowly taken this country over.

Which brings us to Mr. Lieberman of Connecticut, the one man at the center of this farcical perversion of what a government is supposed to be. Out of pique, out of revenge, out of betrayal of his earlier wiser saner self, he has sold untold hundreds of thousands of us into pain and fear and privation and slavery - for money. He has been bought and sold by the insurance lobby. He has become a Senatorial prostitute. And sadly, the President has not provided the leadership his office demands.

He has badly misjudged the country's mood at all ends of the spectrum. There is no middle to coalesce here, Sir. There are only the uninformed, the bought-off, and the vast suffering majority for whom the urgency of now is a call from a collection agency or a threat of rescission of policy or a warning of expiration of services.

Sir, your hands-off approach, while nobly intended and perhaps yet some day applicable to the reality of an improved version of our nation, enabled the national humiliation that was the Town Halls and the insufferable Neanderthalian stupidity of Congressman Wilson and the street-walking of Mr. Lieberman.

Instead of continuing this snipe-hunt for the endangered and possibly extinct creature "bipartisanship," you need to push the Republicans around or cut them out or both. You need to threaten Democrats like Baucus and the others with the ends of their careers in the party. Instead, those Democrats have threatened you, and the Republicans have pushed you and cut you out.

Mr. President, the line between "compromise" and "compromised" is an incredibly fine one. Any reform bill enrages the right, and provides it with the war cry around which it will rally its mindless legions in the midterms and in '12. But this Republican knee-jerk inflexibility provides an incredible opportunity to you, Sir, and an incredible license.

On April 6th 2003, I was approached by two drunken young men at a baseball game. One of them started to ask for an autograph. The other stopped him by shouting "Screw him, he's a liberal." This program had been on the air for three weeks. It had to that point consisted entirely of brief introductions to correspondents in Iraq or to military analysts. There had been no criticism, no political analysis, no commentary. I had not covered news full-time for more than four years. I could not fathom on what factual basis, I was being called a "liberal," let alone being sworn at for being such.

Only later did it dawn on me that it didn't matter why, and it didn't matter that they were doing it - it only mattered that if I was going to be mindlessly criticized for anything, the reaction would be identical whether I did nothing that engendered it, or stood for something that engendered it.

Mr. President, they are calling you a socialist, a communist, a Marxist. You could be further to the right than Reagan - and this health care bill, as Howard Dean put it here last night, this bailout for the insurance industry, sure invites the comparison. And they will still call you names.

Sir, if they are going to call you a socialist no matter what you do, you have been given full unfettered freedom to do what you know is just. The bill may be the ultimate political manifesto, or it may be the most delicate of compromises. The firestorm will be the same. So why not give the haters, as the cliche goes, something to cry about.

But concomitant with that is the reaction from Democrats and Independents. You have riven them, Sir. Any bill will engender criticism but this bill costs you the left - and anybody who now has to pony up 17 percent of his family's income to buy this equivalent of Medical Mobster Protection Money.

Some speaking for you, Sir, have called the public option a fetish. They may be right. But to stay with this uncomfortable language, this bill is less fetish, more bondage. Nothing short of your re-election and the re-election of dozens of Democrats in the house and senate, hinges in large part on this bill. Make it palatable or make it go away or make yourself ready - not merely for a horrifying campaign in 2012 - but for the distinct possibility also of a primary challenge.

Befitting the season, Sir, these are not the shadows of the things that will be, but the shadows of the things that may be. But at this point, Mr. President, only you can make certain of that. There is only one redemption possible. The mandate in this bill under which we are required to buy insurance must be stripped out.

The bill now is little more than a legally mandated delivery of the middle class (and those whose dreams of joining it slip ever further away) into a kind of Chicago stockyards of insurance. Make enough money to take care of yourself and your family and you must buy insurance - on the insurers terms - or face a fine.

This provision must go. It is, above all else, immoral and a betrayal of the people who elected you, Sir. You must now announce that you will veto any bill lacking an option or buy-in, but containing a mandate.

And Sen. Reid, put the public option back in, or the Medicare Buy-In, or both. Or single-payer. Let Lieberman and Ben Nelson and Baucus and the Republicans vote their lack-of-conscience and preclude 60 "ayes." Let them commit political suicide instead of you.

Let Mr. Lieberman kill the bill - then turn to his Republican friends only to find out they hate him more than the Democrats do. Let him stagger off the public stage, to go work for the insurance industry. As if he is not doing that now.

Then, Mr. Reid, take every worthwhile provision of health care reform you legally can, and pass it via reconciliation, when ever and how ever you can - and by the way, a Medicare Buy-In can be legally passed via reconciliation. The Senate bill with the mandate must be defeated, if not in the Senate, then in the House.

Health care reform that benefits the industry at the cost of the people is intolerable and there are no moral constructs in which it can be supported. And if still the bill and this heinous mandate become law there is yet further reaction required. I call on all those whose conscience urges them to fight, to use the only weapon that will be left to us if this bill becomes law. We must not buy federally mandated insurance if this cheesy counterfeit of reform is all we can buy.

No single payer? No sale. No public option? No sale. No Medicare buy-in? No sale. I am one of the self-insured, albeit by choice. And I hereby pledge that I will not buy this perversion of health care reform. Pass this at your peril, Senators, and sign it at yours, Mr. President. I will not buy this insurance. Brand me a lawbreaker if you choose. Fine me if you will. Jail me if you must.

But if the Medicare Buy-In goes, but the Mandate stays, the people who fought so hard and so sincerely to bring sanity to this system must kill this mutated version of their dream, because those elected by us to act for us have forgotten what must be the golden rule of health care reform. It is the same one to which physicians are bound, by oath: First do no harm.

(c) 2009 Keith Olbermann ~~~ MSNBC Countdown

A Dangerous Dysfunction
By Paul Krugman

Unless some legislator pulls off a last-minute double-cross, health care reform will pass the Senate this week. Count me among those who consider this an awesome achievement. It's a seriously flawed bill, we'll spend years if not decades fixing it, but it's nonetheless a huge step forward.

It was, however, a close-run thing. And the fact that it was such a close thing shows that the Senate - and, therefore, the U.S. government as a whole - has become ominously dysfunctional.

After all, Democrats won big last year, running on a platform that put health reform front and center. In any other advanced democracy this would have given them the mandate and the ability to make major changes. But the need for 60 votes to cut off Senate debate and end a filibuster - a requirement that appears nowhere in the Constitution, but is simply a self-imposed rule - turned what should have been a straightforward piece of legislating into a nail-biter. And it gave a handful of wavering senators extraordinary power to shape the bill.

Now consider what lies ahead. We need fundamental financial reform. We need to deal with climate change. We need to deal with our long-run budget deficit. What are the chances that we can do all that - or, I'm tempted to say, any of it - if doing anything requires 60 votes in a deeply polarized Senate?

Some people will say that it has always been this way, and that we've managed so far. But it wasn't always like this. Yes, there were filibusters in the past - most notably by segregationists trying to block civil rights legislation. But the modern system, in which the minority party uses the threat of a filibuster to block every bill it doesn't like, is a recent creation.

The political scientist Barbara Sinclair has done the math. In the 1960s, she finds, "extended-debate-related problems" - threatened or actual filibusters - affected only 8 percent of major legislation. By the 1980s, that had risen to 27 percent. But after Democrats retook control of Congress in 2006 and Republicans found themselves in the minority, it soared to 70 percent.

Some conservatives argue that the Senate's rules didn't stop former President George W. Bush from getting things done. But this is misleading, on two levels.

First, Bush-era Democrats weren't nearly as determined to frustrate the majority party, at any cost, as Obama-era Republicans. Certainly, Democrats never did anything like what Republicans did last week: G.O.P. senators held up spending for the Defense Department - which was on the verge of running out of money - in an attempt to delay action on health care.

More important, however, Mr. Bush was a buy-now-pay-later president. He pushed through big tax cuts, but never tried to pass spending cuts to make up for the revenue loss. He rushed the nation into war, but never asked Congress to pay for it. He added an expensive drug benefit to Medicare, but left it completely unfunded. Yes, he had legislative victories; but he didn't show that Congress can make hard choices and act responsibly, because he never asked it to.

So now that hard choices must be made, how can we reform the Senate to make such choices possible?

Back in the mid-1990s two senators - Tom Harkin and, believe it or not, Joe Lieberman - introduced a bill to reform Senate procedures. (Management wants me to make it clear that in my last column I wasn't endorsing inappropriate threats against Mr. Lieberman.) Sixty votes would still be needed to end a filibuster at the beginning of debate, but if that vote failed, another vote could be held a couple of days later requiring only 57 senators, then another, and eventually a simple majority could end debate. Mr. Harkin says that he's considering reintroducing that proposal, and he should.

But if such legislation is itself blocked by a filibuster - which it almost surely would be - reformers should turn to other options. Remember, the Constitution sets up the Senate as a body with majority - not supermajority - rule. So the rule of 60 can be changed. A Congressional Research Service report from 2005, when a Republican majority was threatening to abolish the filibuster so it could push through Bush judicial nominees, suggests several ways this could happen - for example, through a majority vote changing Senate rules on the first day of a new session.

Nobody should meddle lightly with long-established parliamentary procedure. But our current situation is unprecedented: America is caught between severe problems that must be addressed and a minority party determined to block action on every front. Doing nothing is not an option - not unless you want the nation to sit motionless, with an effectively paralyzed government, waiting for financial, environmental and fiscal crises to strike.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Dred Scott Redux
Obama and the Supremes Stand Up for Slavery
By Chris Floyd

While we were all out doing our Christmas shopping, the highest court in the land quietly put the kibosh on a few more of the remaining shards of human liberty.

It happened earlier this week, in a discreet ruling that attracted almost no notice and took little time. In fact, our most august defenders of the Constitution did not have to exert themselves in the slightest to eviscerate not merely 220 years of Constitutional jurisprudence but also centuries of agonizing effort to lift civilization a few inches out of the blood-soaked mire that is our common human legacy. They just had to write a single sentence.

Here's how the bad deal went down. After hearing passionate arguments from the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court acquiesced to the president's fervent request and, in a one-line ruling, let stand a lower court decision that declared torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention, while introducing a shocking new precedent for all future courts to follow: anyone who is arbitrarily declared a "suspected enemy combatant" by the president or his designated minions is no longer a "person." They will simply cease to exist as a legal entity. They will have no inherent rights, no human rights, no legal standing whatsoever -- save whatever modicum of process the government arbitrarily deigns to grant them from time to time, with its ever-shifting tribunals and show trials.

This extraordinary ruling occasioned none of those deep-delving "process stories" that glut the pages of the New York Times, where the minutiae of policy-making or political gaming is examined in highly-spun, microscopic detail doled out by self-interested insiders. Obviously, giving government the power to render whole classes of people "unpersons" was not an interesting subject for our media arbiters. It was news that wasn't fit to print. Likewise, the ruling provoked no thundering editorials in the Washington Post, no savvy analysis from the high commentariat -- and needless to say, no outrage whatsoever from all our fierce defenders of individual liberty on the Right.

But William Fisher noticed, and gave this report at

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal Monday to review a lower court's dismissal of a case brought by four British former Guantanamo prisoners against former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the detainees' lawyers charged Tuesday that the country's highest court evidently believes that "torture and religious humiliation are permissible tools for a government to use."

...Channeling their predecessors in the George W. Bush administration, Obama Justice Department lawyers argued in this case that there is no constitutional right not to be tortured or otherwise abused in a U.S. prison abroad.

The Obama administration had asked the court not to hear the case. By agreeing, the court let stand an earlier opinion by the D.C. Circuit Court, which found that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act - a statute that applies by its terms to all "persons" - did not apply to detainees at Guantanamo, effectively ruling that the detainees are not persons at all for purposes of U.S. law.

The lower court also dismissed the detainees' claims under the Alien Tort Statute and the Geneva Conventions, finding defendants immune on the basis that "torture is a foreseeable consequence of the military's detention of suspected enemy combatants."

The Constitution is clear: no person can be held without due process; no person can be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. And the U.S. law on torture of any kind is crystal clear: it is forbidden, categorically, even in time of "national emergency." And the instigation of torture is, under U.S. law, a capital crime. No person can be tortured, at any time, for any reason, and there are no immunities whatsoever for torture offered anywhere in the law.

And yet this is what Barack Obama -- who, we are told incessantly, is a super-brilliant Constitutional lawyer -- has been arguing in case after case since becoming president: Torturers are immune from prosecution; those who ordered torture are immune from prosecution. They can't even been sued for, in the specific case under review, subjecting uncharged, indefinitely detained captives to "beatings, sleep deprivation, forced nakedness, extreme hot and cold temperatures, death threats, interrogations at gunpoint, and threatened with unmuzzled dogs."

Again, let's be absolutely clear: Barack Obama has taken the freely chosen, public, formal stand -- in court -- that there is nothing wrong with any of these activities. Nothing to answer for, nothing meriting punishment or even civil penalties. What's more, in championing the lower court ruling, Barack Obama is now on record as believing -- insisting -- that torture is an ordinary, "foreseeable consequence" of military detention of all those who are arbitrarily declared "suspected enemy combatants."

And still further: Barack Obama has now declared, openly, of his own free will, that he does not consider these captives to be "persons." They are, literally, sub-humans. And what makes them sub-humans? The fact that someone in the U.S. government has declared them to be "suspected enemy combatants." (And note: even the mere suspicion of being an "enemy combatant" can strip you of your personhood.)

This is what President Barack Obama believes -- believes so strongly that he has put the full weight of the government behind a relentless series of court actions to preserve, protect and defend these arbitrary powers. (For a glimpse at just a sliver of such cases, see here and here.)

One co-counsel on the case, Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights, zeroed in on the noxious quintessence of the position taken by the Court, and by our first African-American president: its chilling resemblance to the notorious Dred Scott ruling of 1857, which upheld the principle of slavery. As Fisher notes:

"Another set of claims are dismissed because Guantanamo detainees are not 'persons' within the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act - an argument that was too close to Dred Scott v. Sanford for one of the judges on the court of appeals to swallow," he added.

The Dred Scott case was a decision by the United States Supreme Court in 1857. It ruled that people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves, or their descendants - whether or not they were slaves - were not protected by the Constitution and could never be citizens of the United States.

And now, once again, 144 years after the Civil War, we have established as the law of the land and the policy of the United States government that whole classes of people can be declared "non-persons" and have their liberty stripped away -- and their torturers and tormentors protected and coddled by authority -- at a moment's notice, with no charges, no defense, no redress, on nothing more than the suspicion that they might be an "enemy combatant," according to the arbitrary definition of the state.

Barack Obama has had the audacity to declare himself the heir and embodiment of the lifework of Martin Luther King. Can this declaration of a whole new principle of universal slavery really be what King was dreaming of? Is this the vision he saw on the other side of the mountain? Or is not the nightmarish inversion of the ideal of a better, more just, more humane world that so many have died for, in so many places, down through the centuries?
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

Keeping The Golden Goose Hale And Hardy
By Case Wagonvoord

It's not easy running an unnecessary war. Our leaders really have to be fast on their feet to pull it off. The more unnecessary a war is, the greater the chance that peace will try to break out, especially if the country waging it is bankrupt and a foreclosed public starts wondering why their enlightened leaders are dropping a cool trillion on two wars that won't do squat.

Things are really looking grim in Afghanistan where peace is really trying to raise its ugly head now that the Taliban have offered a pledge that they will not allow the country to be used for an attack on another country if NATO (read the United States) agrees to a pull out and that they would renounce al Qaeda (not a big thing, really, since there are no more than 100 al Qaeda in Afghanistan).

What the Taliban fail to realize is that peace is anathema to our Corporate-Military Establishment. Hell, how would they reap all those profits if they didn't have a war to fight? What would we do with all that military hardware?

There are two requirements for the execution of an unnecessary war. The first is a public whose memory can be measured in nanoseconds. The second is spokeshacks facile in the spinning of creative truths. Both of these have come into play in dealing with the Taliban offer.

Huffed one State Department spokeshack, "This is the same group that refused to give up bin Laden, even though they could have saved their country from war. They wouldn't break with the terrorists then, so why would we take them seriously now?"

Now, that's creativity! The truth is that the Taliban offered three times to surrender bin Laden. The first two times they asked for evidence that he was involved in 9/11, a standard procedure in extradition proceedings. Twice, the U.S. refused, citing "state secrets." The third time, after the invasion began, they waived the evidence requirement. We still said, "Thanks but no thanks."

Then Bobby Gates chimed in by saying that we had to grind them into the ground before they would negotiate on our terms, our terms being our permanent presence there so we could protect the pipeline we want to build.

The first rule of unnecessary warfare is that you don't serve the golden goose for dinner. It is imperative that you keep it fat and healthy no matter what the cost. The priority in such a war is not a healthy army, it's healthy defense contractors, and if you have to hollow out the army to keep the contractors hale and hardy, then you do so. After all, military prowess is simply a form of glorious self destruction.
(c) 2009 Case Wagenvoord. Some years ago, Case Wagenvoord turned off the tube and picked up a book. He's been trouble ever since. His articles have been posted at The Smirking Chimp, Countercurrents and Issues & Alibis. When he's not writing or brooding, he is carving hardwood bowls that have been displayed in galleries and shows across the country. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two cats. His book, Open Letters to George W. Bush is available at

Auto Manufacturing; The Second Wave Of Failure
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning all of you brilliant minds out there in sanity land (not Santy Land); your King of Simple News is on the air.

I'm off to get my truck rescued from the repair shop this morning. The computer went haywire and a new one is only $1300, not including labor (I found a new one on e-bay for $200). A $20.00 gasket in the front of my engine (Cummins diesel) was also leaking, but the labor to replace it requires removing the front of the truck and pulling the camshaft out of the engine in order to get to the gasket. Total cost, about $700 bucks (you can't buy labor on e-bay).

On the new Ford diesels, to replace the fuel injectors requires 40 hours of labor. The entire cab must be removed from the truck! (You can't make these things up). To replace the little radiator that provides the source of your cab heat (heater core) on the Fords requires removing the seat, steering column, and the entire dash, same goes for the air conditioning evaporator. The cost is around $700 to replace $50 items.

The Chevy Duramax diesel is horrible to work on and the parts are also horrendous in price. What do all of these trucks have in common? A new decked out diesel pickup will list at around $52,000. What we have here is American engineering at work. But soon American engineers won't be working.

The idea was twofold, make a pickup that can do the work and make it pretty. The pretty part overruled any sensible engineering. The complexity of the electronics to meet pollution standards also drives the cost to manufacture and affects the repair bills that follow.

My mechanic noted that with the complexity of the engines and the difficulty of working on these modern trucks, that the entire hood should tilt forward for access to the engine and the electronic components, just exactly like they do on semi trucks. But then, that wouldn't be all that stylish and pretty. Nope, that won't do at all; style must trump function.

Cars are no exception. The repair bills and the repair parts continue to skyrocket. My friend John recently went in to get his third brake light (the one above the back window) replaced. He was told that it would cost more than $300. He determined that two brake lights are enough.

I see a terrible downturn coming in many areas of the auto industry and I'm not talking about the current freefall. GM has just determined that they will allow Saab to die the same death as Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Saturn.

Here is what I wrote on the subject of autos in early 2003. "Auto manufacturers and dealers are in serious trouble with no answer in sight. 0 down and 0 interest for 5 years with a $3000 rebate and tickets to the ice capades is not a viable answer. It is my opinion that the American auto industry will have to be completely restructured to survive."

But they didn't restructure and they didn't survive. GM is now Government Motors and Chrysler is owned by the federal government and the foreign maker Fiat. Ford says they are doing okay, but don't hold your breath.

What I have described above is yet another example of imbalance. The cost of autos and auto repair is severely out of balance with average incomes. No auto loan should extend beyond 36 months, yet seven years (84 months) is available. Nothing down, zero interest, and seven long years of payments; just don't do it.

Regardless of how loony our society becomes, we all have to live here. When I wrote my book I was more than aware of that fact and therefore chapter 11 is titled, "Living in the System." We may be forced to listen to the music, but we don't have to dance to their tune.

Make the shift, live simple, live free, and live well.
(c) 2009 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason."
~~~ Benjamin Franklin ~ Poor Richard's Almanack, 1758 ~~~

Nader's Utopia
The World According to Ralph
By Chris Hedges

Ralph Nader's new novel, "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us," is a window into the world the consumer advocate and independent presidential candidate wishes he could create. It is a world where the corporate state is dismantled, citizens are restored to power and the inequities and injustices meted out to the poor and the working classes are reversed. Nader describes his book as a "practical utopia." "Basically this book was written out of frustration," Nader tells me when we meet on a Saturday afternoon in Princeton, N.J. "Increasingly over the last 30 years the doors have shut on a lot of citizen groups in Washington, D.C. And every year, you put in your mental imagination, at least I did, 'What did we need to have kept those doors open?' Did we need more organizers? Did we need more media? Did we need more money? Did we need better strategies? Did we need ways to motivate millions of people who haven't figured it out yet? And that's why this book was so easy to write."

The engines of reform in the bulky novel are 17 mega-billionaires or millionaires. It is an odd decision for a man who has spent his life making war on the power elite, but, as Nader notes, popular movements, along with labor and the press, are largely ineffectual or dead. The super-rich, he laments, "are probably all we have left." His main characters include figures such as Warren Buffett, George Soros, Ted Turner, Yoko Ono and Phil Donahue. The names of the villains, also often real-life characters, are mangled. Grover Norquist, for example, becomes Brovar Dortwist. The evil Dortwist owns a Doberman named Get'Em.

The super-rich ignite a progressive revolution using their enormous wealth. They recruit and fund citizen movements to challenge corporate power and its political puppets in Washington. The rich bring to the citizen movement what in reality it desperately lacks-billions in funding. The money, some $15 billion, makes it possible to sustain grass-roots movements to topple the oil industry, the insurance industry, arms manufacturers, the corporate media and Wall Street.

The book is Nader's quixotic answer to Ayn Rand's 1957 novel "Atlas Shrugged," a celebration of raw capitalism and one of Alan Greenspan's favorite works. Rand's book is more than 1,000 pages long, so Nader, coming in at just above 730 pages, has at least beaten his nemesis in economy of style. By the end of the book, everything Nader has fought to achieve for decades is accomplished. Popular democracy triumphs. There is an ascendancy of independent third parties. An independent press challenges the status quo. There is universal not-for-profit health care for all Americans. Vibrant labor unions defend the working class. Flourishing public schools educate the rich and poor alike, and pot is legal. There is something endearing and even touching about Nader's faith in the good.

"It's probably the most important book I've ever written," he says. "There is a magnitude and critical mass to the money necessary to facilitate the political and civic energies of the people, to put a lot of them on the ground full time."

"Do liberals and progressives think that by putting out great documentaries, great books, great exposes-and we're in the golden age of muckraking-something is going to change with the two-party tyranny, oligarchic and corporate control of Washington?" he asks. "If they think they're going to change anything, year after year, they are living a dystopia. And between a dystopia on the ground, one that's at least 30 years old, and this proposal, I think this one has a higher probability."

The trigger to the popular revolt occurs when Buffett is watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on television. The fictional Buffett reacts to the disarray and human suffering by taking truckloads of supplies to the embattled residents of New Orleans. An elderly woman encounters him delivering relief supplies, grabs his hands and tells him, "Only the super-rich can save us!" This call to arms haunts Buffett on his way back to his home in Omaha. He decides to convene a gathering of the wealthy, or at least wealthy people with a conscience, in Maui in January 2006 to retake America.

The fantasy of the rich going to the rescue of ordinary Americans is born out of Nader's deep despair over the decline of our democratic mass movements. It will take angels-and this is what the super-rich become in the book-to descend from the heights to save the country from corporate neofeudalism.

"I think something's happened-50 years of looking at screens," Nader reflects. "The young generation is spending 50 hours a week at least in front of the Internet, television and video games. Two-to-5-year-olds, in a survey [published in October], ... watched 32 hours of television and DVDs a week. Two-to-5-year-olds! We don't tend to weigh the consequences. When you're in virtual reality-it's not like they're watching a re-creation of the Federalist discussion-then something happens. They don't know what a town meeting is like. They don't know what the words civic engagement mean."

"The other thing is the massive entrenchment of corporate power," he says. "The corporations have weakened the labor movement. The two parties, under the influence of corporate power, are converging. These corporations game the electoral process. Money and politics is cleverly distributed. They have deregulated the regulatory state. They are beginning to block the courtroom door. All the countervailing forces, which were built up in the late 19th century and the early 20th century to curb corporate power, are powerless."

In the book, set in 2006, the handful of wealthy renegades work in secret for the first six months. They form alternative sources of power such as a People's Chamber of Commerce to organize tens of thousands of small businesses. They buy time to saturate the airwaves with populist messages and distract right-wing talk show hosts, who have names like Bush Bimbo and Pawn Vanity, with the kind of faux controversies that are the staple of trash-talk television and radio. The movement, for example, proposes changing the national anthem from "The Star-Spangled Banner" to "America the Beautiful." The talk show hosts swallow the bait.

"The dialogue is rather good on that," Nader says.

The movement also persuades hundreds of inner-city schoolteachers to instruct pupils, when they pledge allegiance to the flag, to end with the phrase "liberty and justice for some," instead of "for all."

"Pawn Vanity and Bush Bimbo, they went nuts on that one for weeks," Nader laughs. "And there's even a congressional hearing on that. I put a lot of my frustrated experiences in this book. All the things you couldn't really do, because the money wasn't there. Can you imagine the sense of freedom? I didn't have to use one footnote either. See, there's utopian fiction in all of us, all of us who have struggled to improve their community or nation or world. And when we haven't won, we do consciously or subconsciously say 'If we only had this,' or 'If we only had that.' If we don't continue to elevate our imaginations we cannot envision possibilities."

No progressive vision of heaven would be complete without the destruction of Wal-Mart, which occupies many pages, as well as electoral reform.

"There's a section of the book on how they [those in the new movement] organize the most redneck, right-wing district in southwest Oklahoma against the chairman of the House Rules Committee," Nader says. "I put a lot of my frustration in that too. There's a lot of conversation about how conservative people started gravitating towards this movement, and why, and on what issues. As I said, they didn't write anybody off. It's a way to show that when you go down the abstraction ladder, to the daily lives of people, the so-called labels of conservative and liberals are not indelible. A conservative worker in Wal-Mart who wants a living wage will not say 'I want to be paid $7.50 an hour because it helps Wal-Mart's bottom line.' When Toyota recalls cars because the throttle is sticking to the floor mat, is your reaction to the recall different if you're a liberal or a Republican? Are you going to say 'I still want the freedom to go onto a highway'? The discussions on cable and radio are about abstract, ideological conflicts. They are empirically stark. I wanted to show what would happen if you brought it down to people's daily lives to appeal to their value system and sense of fair play. If I wrote this as nonfiction nobody would believe me. You have to write it as fiction. It gives you that imaginative elbowroom."

"I went to Princeton and Harvard Law School," Nader says. "We never talked about the commonwealth that the people owned. One-third of America's public lands, plus what is offshore, belongs to the people. We own them. But the oil, gas, uranium and the gold and silver industries control them. They take our resources for nothing or five bucks an acre. A Canadian gold company discovered $9 billion worth of our gold in Nevada in public lands over a decade ago. They got ownership of it for $30,000 under the 1872 Mining Act. The Department of the Interior had to sell them the projected acreage over the mine for five bucks an acre. We grow up corporate, even in the Ivy League universities. The public owns the airwaves, along with trillions of dollars of government research and development, along with the pension funds that the corporations control. The corporations don't care who owns anything, as long as they control it. All this money that Wall Street played around with, they didn't own most of it. It was other people's money. It was pension funds, mutual funds, but they controlled it. So what they [the new movement] did in this book was they educated people. They got hundreds of people around TV station buildings, two, three hours before the early evening news, and they had signs saying 'PAY RENT,' because the television stations use our airwaves free and have since radio started. We're the landlords. They are the tenants, but they decide who says what and who doesn't on radio and TV, and they don't pay rent to the Federal Communications Commission."

"What would the framers of the Constitution say about the state of our country today?" Nader asks. "Well, they would say that the important parts of the Constitution are a dead letter. They are being ignored. Look at the equal protections clause between corporations as entities and real human beings. The declaration-of-war clause is dead. The one thing the framers never anticipated was that a branch of government-judicial, executive or legislative-would ever give up its power willingly to another branch. They didn't anticipate Congress abdicating its power to the executive branch. And it's getting worse and worse."

"Appropriation power is supposed to start in the House," Nader says. "Who's kidding who? It starts in the Office of Management and Budget. So as a result they didn't give us any revenue. No American can challenge this in a court of law, because they would not have any standing to sue. The case would be thrown out. And members of Congress don't have standing to sue over this violation of the Constitution, of their own authority. The only one who may have standing to sue is the attorney general, and the attorney general is not going to sue the president. So that's a very serious situation. We're getting a de facto destruction of the separation of powers. Madison and others did not want anybody but Congress to deliberate and take our country to war. They were adamant about this. In The New York Times, after Obama's [Dec. 1] speech, they had on the jump page a little paragraph that said President Obama will expand the war into Pakistan, if he can work with a weak and dysfunctional Pakistan government. Hello? Who gave him authority to do that? Is he going to the Air Force Academy in a year to talk about the war in Pakistan? We have accepted, as a people, that the president can go anywhere in the world, with any troops, at any time, under any pretext. Period."

"There are a lot of good people in this country who may not agree on some things, but they agree a lot on things that the mass media never emphasizes," Nader says. "But they've persuaded themselves they're powerless. Why didn't you show up? It doesn't make any difference. I was busy. Busy, doing what? Well, I had to take the kids to soccer practice. Half of democracy's showing up. There is demoralization. How do these super-rich people turn the motivation to action? How do they turn a demoralized, powerless population to action? You start with imagination. William Blake said his residence was his imagination. That's what's been squeezed out of us and out of our children. And children are the most imaginative human beings, but they have their imagination squeezed out of them with standardized testing and rote learning, etc., etc. We've got to make real-life discussions like this exciting so they happen again and again."
(c) 2009 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

Now I'm Really Getting Pissed Off
By David Michael Green

Hey did you hear about the iconic African-American guy who plays golf, and whose relationship with the public is in a free-fall lately?

No, as a matter of fact - I'm not talking about Tiger Woods.

You know, I've really been trying not to write an article every other week about all the things I don't like about Barack Obama.

But the little prick is making it very hard.

Like any good progressive, I've gone from admiration to hope to disappointment to anger when it comes to this president. Now I'm fast getting to rage.

How much rage? I find myself thinking that the thing I want most from the 2010 elections is for his party to get absolutely clobbered, even if that means a repeat of 1994. And that what I most want from 2012 is for him to be utterly humiliated, even if that means President Palin at the helm. That much rage.

Did this clown really say on national television that? "I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of you know, fat cat bankers on Wall Street"?!?!

Really, Barack? So, like, my question is: Then why the hell did you help out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street?!?! Why the hell did you surround yourself with nothing but Robert Rubin proteges in all the key economic positions in your government? Why did you allow them to open a Washington branch of Goldman Sachs in the West Wing? Why have your policies been tailored to helping Wall Street bankers, rather than the other 300 million of us, who just happen to be suffering badly right now?

Are you freakin' kidding me??? What's up with the passive president routine, anyhow, Fool? You hold the most powerful position in the world. Or maybe Rahm forgot to mention that to you. Or maybe the fat cat bankers don't actually let do that whole decision-making thing often enough that it would actually matter...

But, really, are you going to spend the next three interminable years perfecting your whiney victim persona? I don't really think I could bear that. Hearing you complain about how rough it all is, when you have vastly more power than any of us to fix it? Please. Not that.

Are you going to tell us that "I did not run for office to be shovel-feeding the military-industrial complex?" But what - they're just so darned pushy?

"...I did not run for office to continue George Bush's valiant effort at shredding the Bill of Rights. It's just that those government-limiting rules are so darned pesky."

"...I did not run for office to dump a ton of taxpayer money into the coffers of health insurance companies. It's just that they asked so nicely."

"...I did not run for office to block equality for gay Americans. I just never got around to doing anything about it."

"...I did not run for office to turn Afghanistan into Vietnam. I just didn't want to say no to all the nice generals asking for more troops."

Here's a guy who was supposed to actually do something with his presidency, and he's turned into the skinny little geek on Cell Block D who gets passed around like a rag doll for the pleasure of all the fellas with the tattoos there. He's being punked by John Boehner, for chrisakes. He's being rolled by the likes of Joe Lieberman. He calls a come-to-Jesus meeting with Wall Street bank CEOs, and half of them literally phone it in. Everyone from Bibi Netanyahu to the Japanese prime minister to sundry Iranian mullahs is stomping all over Mr. Happy.

And he doesn't even seem to realize it.

Did you see him tell Oprah that he gave himself "a good solid B+" for his first year in office? And that it will be an A, if he gets his healthcare legislation passed?

Somebody please pick me up and set me back on my chair, would ya?

I am seriously beginning to worry that this cat is delusional. He has lopped off twenty full points from his job approval rating in less than a year's time, falling now below fifty percent. His party, once dominant in generic congressional election poll questions, is today almost even with hated Republicans in the public mind. Last month, Obama's inverted coattails (don't even ask where those go) got two Democrats clobbered running for governor in New Jersey and Virginia. The otherwise obnoxious George F. Will (very) rightly points out that in Kentucky, "a Republican candidate succeeded in nationalizing a state Senate race. Hugely outspent in a district in which Democrats have a lopsided registration advantage, the Republican won by 12 points a seat in Frankfort by running against Washington." Wow. Obama is now wrecking state senate races! What's next? Will local Republican candidates for sheriff win office just by opposing the embarrassment in the White House who chooses abysmal policies and then refuses to fight for them, lest he should ruffle any feathers?

"For Democrats, the red flags are flying at full mast," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart in a recent AP article. "What we don't know for certain is: Have we reached a bottoming-out point?"

Au contraire, Peter. Au contraire. I think anyone more sentient than a newborn amoeba can answer that question. The first thing to note is that the economy is not coming back anytime soon, if it comes back at all. Unless, of course, you're a fat cat Wall Street banker. Then you're just fine, because the Bush-Obama administration took care of you quite nicely, thanks very much. The rest of us poor slobs out here in real-world land, on the other hand, got a "jobs summit."

I can't even begin to describe how insulting Obama conducting a "jobs summit" is to me, or what an unbelievably ham-fisted piece of public relations that was for the White House, which is increasingly showing itself not just to be sickeningly regressive, but also fully inept. I think I speak for a whole lot of Americans when I say that, one year into his stewardship over a destroyed economy that was actually atomizing for at least six months before inauguration day, I don't want my president sitting around a table, running a dog-and-pony show, pretending to kick around ideas on how to generate jobs. I wanted him to have those ideas, himself, before he was inaugurated. I wanted those to be real ideas, that produce real jobs for real Americans who are really hurting. I wanted that to be, and still be, the be-all and end-all of his presidency, not some distant fourth-place priority, behind healthcare and the White House dog selection process. And, especially not some fourth-place priority behind jive healthcare reform.

Which brings us to the second answer to Mr. Hart's question. If Democrats think they'll be screwed next November because of unemployment, wait till Congress passes this healthcare monstrosity. Or doesn't. At this point, either way they're gonna get slammed for it, and rightly so.

If they don't pass anything, they will be seen as unable to govern. This perception will be quite true because they will have failed to pass a major piece of legislation, despite having 60-40 majorities in both houses of Congress and control of the presidency. It doesn't get much better than that for a governing party in the American system. But it will be true in an even more profound sense, because the whole priority structure of the Democratic agenda is wrong. Sure, people want healthcare reform right now (especially if it were to miraculously also have the virtue of being authentic healthcare reform), but what they really want, overwhelmingly, is jobs. This choice of priorities is the equivalent of, say, invading Iraq when you've been attacked by people in Afghanistan. Surely no president would be that stupid, right? Surely any political party would realize the costs of having priorities so divorced from those of the voters, right?

On the other hand, the Democrats and their hapless president are probably in worse shape if they actually pass this legislation. Especially now that it's been stripped of nearly every real progressive reform imaginable, it has become an incredibly stupid bill, from the political perspective. It will force people who can't afford it to spend a giant amount of money on lousy insurance, without any real choice to hold down costs, and it will fund this by hacking away at the Medicare budget. No wonder an insurance industry lobbyist broadcast an email last week declaring: "We WIN. Administered by private insurance companies. No government funding. No government insurance competitor."

But here's a little riddle that any sixth-grader can easily figure out, although it seems to have eluded the brain trust at the White House: If insurance companies are winning big-time, then who is doing the losing? Something tells me that if Democrats are dumb enough to pass their own legislation, voters will provide them the answer to that puzzle in November of 2010, and then again two years later. What could be stupider than saddling thirty-five million Americans with a new monthly bill that will probably represent the second or third biggest item in their budget, in exchange for crappy private sector health insurance that is unlikely to pay out when needed, and wastes a third of the dollars paid in premiums on bureaucracy and profits anyhow? Slapping big fines on them if they don't pony up for the insurance, perhaps? Yep, that's in there too.

This bill alone could mobilize legions of people to go to the polls and vote for whichever party didn't do it, and I'm pretty sure the GOP won't be shy about reminding Americans who that is. I mean, if Democrats were searching for legislation less likely to win them votes, why didn't they just bring back slavery or the debtor's prison? Why not come out for pedophilia? It would have been so much more efficient. At least they wouldn't have spent the last year looking like idiotic bunglers who, in addition to sponsoring really unpopular ideas, also inadvertently left their testicles at the coat check and have spent the last thirty years trying to find their way back to the gala.

Ah, but wait! If you order now, there's more!

As I understand it, the bill doesn't even actually force insurance companies to cover people, at least in the sense that they can charge prohibitive amounts to those with whatever they define as pre-existing conditions. You know, like the young woman who had a policy but died when she was denied cancer treatment because she had a bad case of acne as a teenager.

This will be a total train wreck for the Democratic Party. Already, the public opposes the plan by a ratio of 47 to 32 percent. And they haven't even been handed the bill for it yet. And they haven't even had their premiums skyrocket yet. And they haven't even seen insurance corporation executives buy small countries for use as second homes with the increased compensation they will be floating in. And they haven't even found out what this does to their Medicare yet. And they haven't even seen the impact on the national debt yet. And they haven't even realized that the 'good' parts of the bill don't go into effect until FOUR YEARS from now.

You know, elite Republicans may be sociopaths, and they may be lower on the moral totem pole than your basic cannibal, but they're not stupid. I bet they're salivating at the idea that this thing passes. I bet they'd even have Olympia Snowe vote for it if necessary, just to put it over the top. They must be laughing their asses off at this gift. All they have to do is oppose it right down the line, then say "Told ya so!" at the next election, squashing the pathetic Demognats, one after the next. Hey, even if worse comes to worse and the thing eventually becomes popular, they can always wait a decade or two and become champions of the new publically beloved healthcare system - just like they did for Medicare, Social Security, civil rights, etc.

This is President Nothingburger's great gift to America, along with doing nothing about jobs, doing nothing about the Middle East, nothing about civil liberties, nothing about civil rights, and now doing nothing at Copenhagen. Regarding the latter, the world is literally on fire, and he jets in, gives a speech haranguing the delegates that "Now is not the time for talk, now is the time for action", then splits even before the vote in order to beat the snowstorm headed to the east coast that might delay him getting home to his comfy bed. I'm not kidding. You can't make this shit up, man.

This guy is killing me, though at the same time I still can't quite figure him out.

Here's what I get: This president is a corporate hack. Like Bush or Clinton, he has constituents, alright - but you and I are not on that particular list.

Here's what I don't get: He is radically tanking, at a moment when people no longer have patience for those kind of politics anymore.

Here's what I get: This president has his fingers in many pies, as he needs to, ranging from global warming to economic implosion to two wars abroad to massive federal debt.

Here's what I don't get: Why does he bother to do these things in a way that pleases no one, and only dramatically undercuts his own political standing? Why does he refuse to make anyone his enemy, thus making everyone his enemy?

Is he just massively deluded? I wouldn't have thought so, but watching the guy give himself a very good grade for 2009 - straight face and all - during the same year he's lost twenty points off his job approval rating, and at a moment when even blacks and gays are deserting him, you know, you have to wonder.

Is he happy just to be a one-term president - just to say he's been there and done that, and then sell some more books - even if he is reviled as one of the worst in history?

Maybe. But what about the rest of us?

The rest of us, indeed. It's been quite some time since anyone in the White House ever cared about that sorry pack of rabble.

Obama looked like he could've been something different. He ain't.

So this is it, folks.

Change you can believe in?

More like bullshit you can take a bath in, if you ask me.
(c) 2009 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer Lieberman,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, your constant arrogance, your single-handed ability to take the single payer option off the table and turn this insurance bill into the one that our corpo-rat masters desire, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 12-31-2009. We salute you Herr Lieberman, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

U.S. Aid To Al Qaeda
By Glenn Greenwald

Following up on what I wrote yesterday about our missile attacks in Southern Yemen strengthening Al Qaeda, there is an unusually informative article in Time -- written by Abigail Hauslohner and based on her interview with Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen of Princeton University -- that provides substantial elaboration on this point. Noting that the U.S.-aided attack "appears to have resulted in a number of civilian casualties," the Time article details Johnsen's view that "last week's attacks would ultimately prove counterproductive":

[R]egardless of who did what, a primary target in the attacks -- Qasim al-Raymi, the al-Qaeda leader who is believed to be behind a 2007 bombing in central Yemen that killed seven Spanish tourists and two Yemenis -- is still at large. And reports of a U.S. role, and mass civilian casualties at the sites of the attacks, have sparked a public outcry and added to anti-American sentiments across the country. "They missed that individual," says Johnsen of the targeted al-Qaeda chief. "And at the same time, they ended up killing a number of women and children in the strike on Abyan. So now you have something where there are all these pictures of dead infants and mangled children that are underlined with the caption 'Made in the USA' on all the jihadi forums. Something like this does much more to extend al-Qaeda."

Indeed through the backlash that followed, the attacks have started to look like more of a boon than a bust for Yemen's al-Qaeda revival, as well as for other opponents of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime. Iran -- which Yemen accuses of backing the Shi'ite Houthi rebellion in the north -- headlined the attacks on its state-sponsored Press TV with: "Obama ordered deadly blitz on Yemen."

"The al-Qaeda threat in Yemen is real, but now after this operation, it will be greater," says Mohammed Quhtan, a member of Yemen's opposition Islamist al-Islah party. "Al-Qaeda will be able to recruit a lot more young people, at least from the tribes that were hit. And it will have reasonable grounds to attract more people from Abyan governorate, and from the Yemeni population in general. . . . "If you're going to carry out [an attack] like this, you have to have done a great deal of field work, where you've sort of undermined al-Qaeda through development and aid so that when something like this happens, al-Qaeda can't easily replace the individuals that it has lost," says Johnsen. "But if you don't take those steps then the pool of recruits just starts to multiply exponentially."

So with this missile strike, we find yet again the most pervasive and destructive myth of American "counter-terrorism" efforts: that there's this finite worldwide club called "The Terrorists" (also known as "al Qaeda"), and our solemn mission is to hunt down its members and kill them all, and once we do, there will be no more "Terrorists" and we will have won. Even at the peak of America's warmongering hysteria in mid-2003, even Donald Rumsfeld knew enough to worry that more terrorists were being recruited and created than we were killing. The Pentagon's 2004 independent Task Force emphatically concluded that our acts of violence in the Muslim world were fueling -- not undermining -- Islamic radicalism. Mountains of other evidence demonstrate the same conclusion.

What's particularly confounding about our continuing on this path is that Obama is well aware of this causal relationship. He's repeatedly acknowledged it, and taken numerous steps -- from outreach efforts to the Muslim world to changing the tone of our foreign policy to trying to close Guantanamo -- that are all grounded in his accurate belief that decreasing anti-American sentiment is a prerequisite for improving American national security and combating Islamic extremism. Yet as we actively wage war in more and more predominantly Muslim countries -- even as some of these strikes kill real, actual Al Qaeda fighters -- all of those symbolic efforts will be swamped by the far more potent images of innocent Muslims we are killing. The threat of Terrorism is what fuels everything from civil liberties erosions to extreme government secrecy to endless war. Yet (or "therefore") the very policies we pursue in the name of stemming its tide so plainly have the opposite effect.
(c) 2009 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

Americans Are Hell-Bent On Tyranny
By Paul Craig Roberts

Obama's dwindling band of true believers has taken heart that their man has finally delivered on one of his many promises -- the closing of the Guantanamo prison. But the prison is not being closed.It is being moved to Illinois, if the Republicans permit.

In truth, Obama has handed his supporters another defeat. Closing Guantanamo meant ceasing to hold people in violation of our legal principles of habeas corpus and due process and ceasing to torture them in violation of US and international laws.

All Obama would be doing would be moving 100 people, against whom the US government is unable to bring a case, from the prison in Guantanamo to a prison in Thomson, Illinois.

Are the residents of Thomson despondent that the US government has chosen their town as the site on which to continue its blatant violation of US legal principles? No, the residents are happy. It means jobs.

The hapless prisoners had a better chance of obtaining release from Guantanamo. Now the prisoners are up against two US senators, a US representative, a mayor, and a state governor who have a vested interest in the prisoners' permanent detention in order to protect the new prison jobs in the hamlet devastated by unemployment.

Neither the public nor the media have ever shown any interest in how the detainees came to be incarcerated. Most of the detainees were unprotected people who were captured by Afghan warlords and sold to the Americans as "terrorists" in order to collect a proffered bounty. It was enough for the public and the media that the Defense Secretary at the time, Donald Rumsfeld, declared the Guantanamo detainees to be the "780 most dangerous people on earth."

The vast majority have been released after years of abuse. The 100 who are slated to be removed to Illinois have apparently been so badly abused that the US government is afraid to release them because of the testimony the prisoners could give to human rights organizations and foreign media about their mistreatment.

Our British allies are showing more moral conscience than Americans are able to muster. Former PM Tony Blair, who provided cover for President Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq, is being damned for his crimes by UK officialdom testifying before the Chilcot Inquiry.

The London Times on December 14 summed up the case against Blair in a headline: "Intoxicated by Power, Blair Tricked Us Into War." Two days later the British First Post declared: "War Crime Case Against Tony Blair Now Rock-solid." In an unguarded moment Blair let it slip that he favored a conspiracy for war regardless of the validity of the excuse [weapons of mass destruction] used to justify the invasion.

The movement to bring Blair to trial as a war criminal is gathering steam. Writing in the First Post, Neil Clark reported: "There is widespread contempt for a man [Blair] who has made millions [his reward from the Bush regime] while Iraqis die in their hundreds of thousands due to the havoc unleashed by the illegal invasion, and who, with breathtaking arrogance, seems to regard himself as above the rules of international law." Clark notes that the West's practice of shipping Serbian and African leaders off to the War Crimes Tribunal, while exempting itself, is wearing thin.

In the US, of course, there is no such attempt to hold to account Bush, Cheney, Condi Rice, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and the large number of war criminals that comprised the Bush Regime. Indeed, Obama, whom Republicans love to hate, has gone out of his way to protect the Bush cohorts from being held accountable.

Here in Great Moral America we only hold accountable celebrities and politicians for their sexual indiscretions. Tiger Woods is paying a bigger price for his girlfriends than Bush or Cheney will ever pay for the deaths and ruined lives of millions of people. The consulting company, Accenture Plc, which based its marketing program on Tiger Woods, has removed Woods from its Web site. Gillette announced that the company is dropping Woods from its print and broadcast ads. AT&T says it is re-evaluating the company's relationship with Woods.

Apparently, Americans regard sexual infidelity as far more serious than invading countries on the basis of false charges and deception, invasions that have caused the deaths and displacement of millions of innocent people. Remember, the House impeached President Clinton not for his war crimes in Serbia, but for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Americans are more upset by Tiger Woods' sexual affairs than they are by the Bush and Obama administrations' destruction of US civil liberty. Americans don't seem to mind that "their" government for the last eight years has resorted to the detention practices of 1,000 years ago -- simply grab a person and throw him into a dungeon forever without bringing charges and obtaining a conviction.

According to polls, Americans support torture, a violation of both US and international law, and Americans don't mind that their government violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and spies on them without obtaining warrants from a court. Apparently, the brave citizens of the "sole remaining superpower" are so afraid of terrorists that they are content to give up liberty for safety, an impossible feat.

With stunning insouciance, Americans have given up the rule of law that protected their liberty. The silence of law schools and bar associations indicates that the age of liberty has passed. In short, the American people support tyranny. And that's where they are headed.
(c) 2009 Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and is coauthor of "The Tyranny of Good Intentions," co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law, was published by Random House.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Vic Harville ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Happy Christmas (War Is Over)
By John and Yoko

(Happy Christmas, Kyoko
Happy Christmas, Julian)

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young

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

And so this is Christmas
(War is Over)
For weak and for strong
(If you want it)
The rich and the poor ones
(War is over now)
The road is so long
So happy Christmas
(War is Over)
For black and for white
(If you want it)
For yellow and red ones
(War is over now)
Let's stop all the fight

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

And so this is Christmas
(War is over)
And what have we done
(If you want it)
Another year over
(War is over now)
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
(War is over)
And we hope you have fun
(If you want it)
The near and the dear ones
(War is over now)
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
War is over,
If you want it
War is over now!

Happy Christmas
(c) 1971/2009 John Lennon/Yoko Ono

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Jesus Will Roast Unsaved Children In Hell For Celebrating Christmas Without His Permission!

Click Here to Listen to Pastor's Annual Christmas Message (Mp3)


I'm sure all you Godly folks sitting in this church today know how I feel about unsaved people celebrating Christmas! But do you know how God feels about it? Well, I'm just about to tell you. It drives Him into a blood vessel popping, demon stomping rage! Ever wonder why so many folks die horrible, painful deaths in November and December each year? Well, now you know. The Lord kills them. You see, when an unsaved child sits around the tree on Christmas morning - the same tree the baby Jesus played in front of when Mary and Joseph celebrated Christmas -- opening gifts - with each peel of the wrapper that little child is taking a whip to the Lord's back. And it pains Him so! And the Lord doesn't just get angry, my friends! - He gets even!

Because unsaved children don't deserve any gifts, much less gifts that celebrate a Savior their parents have denounced! It's like the little tykes are going to a birthday party they weren't invited to and stealing all of the birthday boy's presents! Now, some of you yellow-bellied New Age Christians who don't go to Landover and are listening to me on your fancy satellite might be thinking, "Oh, but Jesus loves the little children." Well, I have news for you: just because a silly little song says something, don't make it so! Jesus hates children who don't flatter Him and give Him His due. In fact, the Lord gets so jealous when people don't pay enough attention to Him that He even punishes little children for things their daddies might have done! (Exodus 20:5)

So my friends, if a 4-year-old's parents are unsaved, it is just like that little child himself spit in Jesus' eye. It don't make a lick of difference to the Lord. You doubt me? Did the Lord go around asking little babies if they wanted to "opt out" of the Great Flood? No sir! He just went right ahead and drown them little kids! God knows that sin is in the blood, and the only way to get rid of it, it to snuff out entire bloodlines. He taught us that with the Great Flood, and people still snub their noses and refuse to learn that lesson!

As True Christians, we know from the Holy Bible that unsaved folks who celebrate Christmas are committing an unforgivable sin. That's the sin of Blasphemy of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 12:31). Jesus teaches us that people who celebrate His birthday without getting His permission, are doomed to spend eternity in Hell. Even if someone who is rude enough crash Jesus' birthday party chooses to accept Him as their personal Savior later in life, they still don't get to go to Heaven. They are condemned to Hell and Jesus tells us that there is nothing He, nor His Daddy, nor anyone else can ever do about it. That's a whole lot of folks on fire, ain't it? Oh Glory to God! You'd better believe that Hell is gonna be 1,000 times the size of Heaven! Friends, God is still working on Hell. He's got lots of people to roast, and they are waiting in line! Jesus promises us that He is going to pitch unsaved people into a "furnace of fire." (Matthew 13:41-42). You think the Nazis were the first ones to think of burning folks with furnaces? No, my friend - the Lord is always one step ahead of the feeble efforts of mankind.

It might not make sense when we hear that God is going to interrupt little unsaved children from unwrapping gifts under the Christmas tree and hurl them into a pit of fire, but it's not for us to question how the Lord gets his kicks!

Since we know what God has in store for strangers who go around celebrating His birthday, it might be a good idea to show some Christian charity and do something to help them out before their fate is sealed. We already have True Christians who are lobbying Congress to put laws into effect that will prevent non-Christians from destroying their lives by celebrating Christmas. With new computer-credit-card domestic activity surveillance techniques put in place by our Bush administration, it has become a whole lot easier to track the purchase of gifts by nonbelievers. They should put these sorts of people in Jail, or fine them. Anything to deter them from making a mockery of God. It's for their own good!

I'd like to end here, my Godly friends - by calling on the Lord's privileged Christian children in this congregation, who hold this holiday so dear, to stand up and do something wonderful for Jesus! I will offer as a Christmas reward present, this brand new 12-guage Remington Shotgun, to the Junior High youth who reports to the Landover Baptist Police Department, the names and addresses of the most unsaved school chums they hear talking about getting Christmas presents, but have not accepted Jesus Christ as their personal playmate. I'm going to keep this shotgun right here, on the edge of the baptismal pool until next week, when we get the final tally from Deacon Chief O'Neil. The gun will then be given to the mother of the child who will wrap it, and place it with other gifts around the tree on Sunday Morning with a little note that says, "Merry Christmas, And Fine Shooting, From Your Best Friend, Jesus Christ."
(c) 2009 The Landover Baptist Church

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Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 48 (c) 12/25/2009

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