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In This Edition

Amy Goodman considers, "‘The Comeback Kid’ And The Kids Who Won’t."

Uri Avnery exclaims, "The Darkness to Expel!"

Ralph Nader reports on, "Pharmaceutical Industry Fraud."

Randall Amster discovers, "Arizona Bans Ethnic Studies (Also, Reason And Justice)."

Jim Hightower follows, "Offshoring America's Legal Jobs."

James Donahue reveals, "Cold Hearts In High Places."

Paul Craig Roberts warns that, "State Lawlessness On The Rampage."

John Nichols announces, "The Progressive Honor Roll Of 2010."

Chris Floyd with an absolute must read, "Written On The Body."

Matthew Rothschild says it's, "Too Late, Larry Summers, To Burnish Your Record."

Paul Krugman explores, "The Finite World."

Chris Hedges with a must read, "2011: A Brave New Dystopia."

David Michael Green is, "Learning From Lame Ducks."

Arizona Attorney General-elect Tom Horne wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Fascist of the Year Award!"

Bill Quigley examines, "Obama’s Liberty Problem."

Michael Moore uncovers, "Another WikiLeaks Cable From The Bush Administration About My Movies."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst returns with "Will Durst's 2010 Xmas Wish List" but first Uncle Ernie studies, "Obamahood's Latest Fiat."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Dave Granlund, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Mike Keefe, Hermes Press.Com, Chris Weston, Chip Somodevilla, Trevor, Common Dreams.Org, MGM 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."

Obamahood's Latest Fiat
By Ernest Stewart

"The right to liberty is one of the foundation rights of a free people. The idea that any US President can bypass Congress and bypass the Courts by issuing an Executive Order setting up a new legal system for indefinite detention of people should rightfully scare the Hell out of the American people." ~~~ Bill Quigley

"O brave new world! That has such people in it!" ~~~ John the Savage

"The future fair, an affair for all and no fair to anybody!"
I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus ~~~ The Firesign THeatre

Well, well,
Hey lawdy mama,
Can't afford no shoes
Maybe there's a bundle of rags that I could use?
Hey anybody,
Can you spare a dime?
If you're really hurtin', a nickel would be fine.
Hey everybody,
Nothin' we can buy.
Chump Hare Rama, ain't no good to try!
Can't Afford No Shoes ~~~ Frank Zappa and the Mothers

I've been wondering what all this much ado about nothing is about; it's concerning Obamahood's latest "Executive Order" a.k.a. Imperial Fiat. I mean, after that last brouhaha with his claiming the power to kill American citizens without trial, or any oversight by his word alone, I just don't get the fuss this time around?

After all, all he wants to do is lock up people forever, or at least until his term ends in 2012; again, without trial, and oversight, regardless of what the Constitution and Bill of Rights clearly states, and regardless of any oath that he swore to uphold and protect them!

Even the ones who have been ordered to be released by courts, as there wasn't any kind of proof of them committing any crimes, will now be locked up forever.

The cover story for this new act of treason is because they have all these shop keepers, teachers and cab drivers down in Gitmo that they can't bring to trial in a court of law because their "confessions" have been tortured out of them and such confessions can't be used in a court of law. Apparently, our hand-picked Kangaroo Court down in Gitmo won't go that far!

This newest power grab flies in the face of "that god-damn piece of paper" that Dubya railed against, "The US Constitution," as well as many international laws. Ah, Gitmo, the gift that keeps on giving, and will continue to keep making enemies and new terrorists around the world for apparently, if the Rethuglicans have anything to say about it, forever!

As I've said on many occasions, America, if you're not scared and mad as Hell, you haven't been paying attention. Our Harvard-educated lawyer surely knows what the law is regarding this newest insult to American law, but in a power grab that is worthy of Hitler or a Caesar, he doesn't care about them or us. This is just another nail in America's coffin, so just roll over and go back to sleep, America; there's nothing to see here!

In Other News

If you ask most people to tell you where the following quotes come from they wouldn't have a clue, i.e,

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."


"A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories."

However, as I'm sure you know, those are respectively the opening lines from George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World!" Which, is more the pity, because where we are now and where we are soon to be is covered quite well by these books.

Orwell was writing about what was all around him in 1948 and not some future date, he just reversed the last two numbers in that date; to avoid censorship problems. Any person who came under the thumb of the Germans and Japanese during WWII knows all too well the truth to be found in the book! In fact, I'm willing to bet that the Palestinians under Israel and the Iraqis and Afghanis under our thumb know the truth in "1984," too. The American people are about to find out for themselves, and unless you can cross several borders and hide real good, there will be absolutely nothing you can do about it!

Huxley wrote what he saw coming as sci-fi, but the message is the same! Trouble is, we Americans have already been living the Brave New World for most of our lives, and this is just a prelude to the fast approaching 1984 world! I mean, haven't we always been at war with Eurasia?

Most people of my generation read these books in high school, but few of them got the message; for if they had then, they'd be doing something about it! As little Wednesday Addams said, "Be afraid, be very afraid!" Which is why I've been jumping up and down, screaming and shouting to get your attention. Trying to help you unplug yourself from the Matrix, trying to warn you of the madness to come for the last ten years. I didn't start calling my fellows Sheeple to be funny; it's a just and apt description, and like lambs to the slaughter we happily follow the MSM Judas goats!

History keeps repeating itself, not exactly, but close enough, which is how Huxley and Orwell could see our future and perhaps what the Mayans foresaw happening in 2012. While the tea-baggers may be the new Brown Shirts, i.e., the forerunners of America's fascist movement, they, like their old counterparts will be swept away when it hits the fan and after two years of their high jinks, we'll have the 2012 election, which I'm sure has already been decided, and Obamahood will be replaced by a real piece of work, and they'll start to fill up those new billion dollar Happy Camps that Bush and Obamahood have been building for all of us who oppose them. Have no doubt, lists have already been made, and we all may be on those lists! The army troops are ready, willing and waiting; Northern Command is chafing at the bit, and ready to rock! Oh, brave new world, indeed!

And Finally

As 2010 draws to a close, pundits all over America are reaching for their spell checkers and recalling some of 2010's greatest hits and misses, and one could certainly fill up several columns with those horrors--both real and imagined!

I usually do this, but looking back on this year is just a bit too painful for me to do, so I'll look ahead to see what 2011 might bring....

First the tea baggers will take over the House and cause the regular Rethuglicans to follow their lead or be eliminated in 2012. Which means gridlock from the house, and a thousand new committees formed to investigate and impeach Obamahood, which the Senate won't do; so, there will be more of your money wasted in the attempt as they string this out until November 2012.

Also, we can expect an attack by the right, and Obama, but I repeat myself, on programs for the poor, the hungry, the sick and the elderly. After all, we've got to pay for those trillion dollar tax breaks for the insanely wealthy and three needless, useless, war crimes in the Middle East, somehow!

You can also expect the oil companies to raise their rates to new, unheard-of levels, i.e., from LOL to OMG to WTF and for Congress to do nothing about it! Soon only the rich will be driving, which is a good thing, as it might lessen the damage to America's crumbling infrastructure, which won't be repaired as it should. Remember that the tea baggers don't like those socialist roads and bridges!

Cities from New York on down will continue to implode and cut services to the poor, and then for everybody else! New Yorkers found out how this works this week after their snow storm. Electing a billionaire who doesn't give a rat's ass about the regular folk may not have been such a good idea, huh, New York?

Sooner or later, this year will see the economy crash even more than it already has, and perhaps the former middle class will begin to realize their jobs that were shipped off to India and China won't be coming back and that their MBA just might get them a job saying, "Would you like fries with that, Sir?"

What little money's left in the Treasury will be taken out and given to the Pentagoons and other corpo-rat interests, and we'll all be asked to give up our few remaining rights for our own safety. Perhaps strips searches won't just be for the transportation sector, and will branch out into sporting events and music concerts; can't you just see ladies wearing tiaras bending over for a cavity search before Carmen? Perhaps your local mall will begin screening as well as the Walmarts and Kmarts will be frisking you, too! Oh, and don't forget to tip the inspectors if they do a good job and get you off! I always ask if this molestation comes with a dinner and a movie!

As Max Frost and the Troopers once sang, "When tomorrow, is today, the bells may toll for some but nothing can change the shape of things to come!"

Keepin' On

With 2010 being a personal disaster for me, it would have been much worse without your help! Without that help I'd still be stumbling along that "long and winding road" back home. Thanks to a handful of you, that wasn't my fate and I thank ya'll both humbly and sincerely!

I also realize right after the holidaze is no time to beg for alms, especially in this economy with tens of millions out of work and struggling to get by like me, this clarion call falls on many deaf ears. I can dig it, but for those of you still in the middle class and who haven't already helped the magazine out this year, how about a little help now?

While I don't mind being personally poor in order to carry out my work, I still have to pay the bills to keep Issues & Alibis on the Net. About 55% of those bills are currently being paid by advertisers, as I decided long ago there would be no charge, or subscription fee! We do this as the truth is far too important to just be for those who can afford it, while those who really need to know it most are too poor; ergo, we refuse to charge any fee. Therefore, it's up to those who can afford to, to pick up the other 45% of the cost, so we can all understand what's going down and stop our own destruction.

So, it's more important now-a-days for those who can help us to do so! You'll recall that first they came for the trade unionists, don't wait until they come for you! Help us stop it now! Please go to: our Donations page, follow the instructions and do whatever you can to help us continue to fight the good fight! Thank you and Happy New Year!


03-27-1921 ~ 12-22-2010
Thanks for the jams!

03-05-1956 ~ 12-26-2010
Thanks for the Blues!


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


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

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

‘The Comeback Kid’ And The Kids Who Won’t
By Amy Goodman

President Barack Obama signed a slew of bills into law during the lame-duck session of Congress and was dubbed the "Comeback Kid" amid a flurry of fawning press reports. In the hail of this surprise bipartisanship, though, the one issue over which Democrats and Republicans always agree, war, was completely ignored. The war in Afghanistan is now the longest war in U.S. history, and 2010 has seen the highest number of U.S. and NATO soldiers killed.

As of this writing, 497 of the reported 709 coalition fatalities in 2010 were U.S. soldiers. The website has carefully tracked the names of these dead. There is no comprehensive list of the Afghans killed. But one thing that's clear: Those 497 U.S. soldiers, under the command of the "Comeback Kid," won't be coming back.

On Dec. 3, Commander in Chief Obama made a surprise visit to his troops in Afghanistan, greeting them and speaking at Bagram Air Base. Bagram is the air base built by the Soviet Union during that country's failed invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Now run by U.S. forces, it is also the site of a notorious detention facility. On Dec. 10, 2002, almost eight years to the day before Obama spoke there, a young Afghan man named Dilawar was beaten to death at Bagram. The ordeal of his wrongful arrest, torture and murder was documented in the Oscar-winning documentary by Alex Gibney, "Taxi to the Dark Side." Dilawar was not the only one tortured and killed there by the U.S. military.

Obama told the troops: "We said we were going to break the Taliban's momentum, and that's what you're doing. You're going on the offense, tired of playing defense, targeting their leaders, pushing them out of their strongholds. Today we can be proud that there are fewer areas under Taliban control, and more Afghans have a chance to build a more hopeful future."

Facts on the ground contradict his rosy assessment from many different directions. Maps made by the United Nations, showing the risk-level assessments of Afghanistan, were leaked to The Wall Street Journal. The maps described the risk to U.N. operations in every district of Afghanistan, rating them as "very high risk," "high risk," "medium risk" and "low risk." The Journal reported that, between March and October 2010, the U.N. found that southern Afghanistan remained at "very high risk," while 16 districts were upgraded to "high risk." Areas deemed "low risk" shrank considerably.

And then there are the comments of NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Joseph Blotz: "There is no end to the fighting season.... We will see more violence in 2011."

Long before WikiLeaks released the trove of U.S. diplomatic cables, two key documents were leaked to The New York Times. The "Eikenberry cables," as they are known, were two memos from Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging a different approach to the Afghan War, with a focus on providing development aid instead of a troop surge. Eikenberry wrote of the risk that "we will become more deeply engaged here with no way to extricate ourselves, short of allowing the country to descend again into lawlessness and chaos."

A looming problem for the Obama administration, larger than a fraying international coalition, is the increasing opposition to the war among the public here at home. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 60 percent believe the war has not been worth fighting, up from 41 percent in 2007. As Congress reconvenes, with knives sharpened to push for what will surely be controversial budget cuts, the close to $6 billion spent monthly on the war in Afghanistan will increasingly become the subject of debate.

As Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz repeatedly points out, the cost of war extends far beyond the immediate expenditures, with decades of decreased productivity among the many traumatized veterans, the care for the thousands of disabled veterans, and the families destroyed by the death or disability of loved ones. He says the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will ultimately cost between $3 trillion and $5 trillion.

One of the main reasons Barack Obama is president today is that by openly opposing the U.S. war in Iraq, he won first the Democratic nomination and then the general election. If he took the same approach with the war in Afghanistan, by calling on U.S. troops to come back home, then he might truly become the "Comeback President" in 2012 as well.
(c) 2010 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback.

The Darkness to Expel!
By Uri Avnery

IT IS easy to despair before the filthy wave of racism that is engulfing us.

The remedy for this despair: the growing number of young people, sons and daughters of the new Israeli generation, who are joining the fight against racism and occupation.

THIS WEEK, several hundred of them gathered in a hall in Tel Aviv (belonging, ironically, to the Zionist Federation of America) to launch a book published by the group “Breaking the Silence.”

In the hall there were some veterans of the peace camp, but the great majority of those present were youngsters in their twenties, male and female, who have completed their military service.

“The Occupation of the Territories” is a book of 344 pages, consisting of almost 200 testimonies by soldiers about the daily and nightly life of the occupation. The soldiers supplied the eyewitness accounts, and the organization, which is composed of ex-soldiers, verified, compared and sifted them. In the end, 183 of some 700 testimonies were selected for publication.

Not even one of these testimonies was denied by the army spokesman, who generally hastens to contradict honest accounts of what is happening in the occupied territories. Since the editors of the book have themselves served as soldiers in these places, it was easy for them to distinguish between truth and falsehood.

The book makes very depressing reading, and not because it details gruesome atrocities. On the contrary, the editors made it a point not to include incidents of exceptional brutality committed by sadists, which can be found in every army unit in Israel and throughout the world. Rather, they wanted to throw light on the grey routine of the occupation.

There are accounts of nocturnal incursions into quiet Palestinian villages as exercises – breaking into random houses where there were no “suspects”, terrorizing children, women and men, creating mayhem in the village – all this to “train” the soldiers. There are stories about the humiliation of passers-by at the checkpoints (“Clean up the checkpoint and you will get your keys back!”), casual harassment (“He started to complain, so I hit him in the face with the butt of my weapon!”). Every testimony is meticulously documented: time, place, unit.

At the launch of the book, some of the testimonies were shown on film, with the witnesses daring to show their faces and identify themselves by their full name. These were no exceptional people, no fanatics or bleeding hearts. No weepers of the “we shoot and we weep” school. Just ordinary young people, who had time to come to grips with their personal experiences.

There are even occasional flashes of humor. Like the tale of the soldier who had for a long time been manning a roadblock between two Palestinian villages, without understanding its purpose or its security value. One day, a bulldozer suddenly appeared from nowhere, uprooted the concrete blocks and drove off with them, again without any explanation. “They have stolen my roadblock!” the soldier complains, having got used to the place.

The titles of the testimonies speak for themselves: “To produce sleeplessness in the village”, “We used to send neighbors to disarm explosive charges”, “The battalion commander ordered us to shoot anyone trying to remove the bodies”, “The commander of the navy commandos put the muzzle of the rifle into the man’s mouth”, “They told us to shoot at anybody moving in the street”, “You can do whatever you feel like, nobody is going to question it”, “You shoot at the TV set for fun”, “I did not know that there were roads for Jews only”, “A kind of total arbitrariness”, “The [Hebron settler] boys beat up the old woman”, “Arrest the settlers? The army cannot do that.” And so on. Just routine.

The intention of the book is not to uncover atrocities and show the soldiers as monsters. It aims to present a situation: the ruling over another people, with all the high-handed arbitrariness that this necessarily entails, humiliation of the occupied, corruption of the occupier. According to the editors, it is quite impossible for the individual soldier to make a difference. He is just a cog in a machine that is inhuman by its very nature.

GROUPS OF young people who are simply fed up are springing to life in the country. They are signs of an awakening that finds its expression in the daily fight of hundreds of groups devoted to different causes. Only seemingly different – because these causes are essentially bound up with each other. The fight against the occupation, for the refugees who seek shelter in this country, against the demolition of the houses of the Bedouin in the Negev, against the invasion of Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem by settlers, for equal rights for the Arab citizens in Israel, against social injustices, for the preservation of the environment, against government corruption, against religious coercion, etc etc. They have a common denominator: the fight for a different Israel.

Young volunteers for each of these fights - and for all of them together - are needed today more than ever, in face of the racism that is raising its ugly head all over Israel – an open racism, shameless and indeed proud of itself.

The phenomenon by itself is not new. What is new is the loss of any vestige of shame. The racists shout their message on every street corner and earn applause from politicians and rabbis.

It started with the flood of racist bills designed to delegitimize the Arab citizens. “Admission committees”, “loyalty oaths”, and much more. Then came the religious edict of the chief rabbi of Safed, forbidding Jews to let apartments to Arabs. This still caused shock and embarrassment. Since then, however, all the dams have broken. A gang of 14-year old boys ambushed Arabs in the center of Jerusalem, using a 14- year old girl as bait, and beat them unconscious. Hundreds of rabbis all over the country signed a manifesto forbidding the letting of apartments to “foreigners” (meaning Arabs who have lived in the country for centuries). In Bat Yam, a city bordering Tel Aviv, a stormy demonstration called for the expulsion of all Arabs from the town. Next day, a demonstration in Tel Aviv’s squalid Hatikva quarter demanded the expulsion of refugees and foreign workers from the neighborhood.

Ostensibly, the demonstrations in Bat Yam and Hatikva were aimed at different targets: the first against Arabs, the second against foreign workers. But the same well-known fascist activists appeared and spoke at both, carrying the same placards and shouting the same slogans. The most conspicuous of these was the assertion that the Arabs and the foreigners are endangering Jewish women – the Arabs marry them and take them to their villages, the foreign workers flirt with them. “Jewish Women for the Jewish People!” cried the posters – as if women were property.

The connection between racism and sex has always intrigued researchers. White racists in the US spread the rumor that “niggers” have bigger penises. Among German Nazi newspapers, the most sensationalist was Der Stürmer, a pornographic sheet filled with stories about innocent blond girls seduced by the money of crooked-nosed ugly Jews. Its editor, Julius Streicher, was condemned and hanged in Nuremberg.

Some believe that one of the roots of racism is a feeling of sexual inadequacy, the lack of self-confidence of men afraid of sexual impotence and/or competition – the very opposite of the picture of the macho racist he-man. It is enough to look at the racist protesters to draw conclusions.

JEAN-PAUL SARTRE famously said that every person is a racist – the difference being between those who admit it to themselves and try to combat it and those who do not.

That is undoubtedly true. I have a simple test for the power of racism: you are driving and somebody cuts your path. If it is a black driver, you say: “Damn nigger!” If it is a woman, you shout: “Go home to your kitchen!” If he wears a kippah, you cry: “Bloody Dos!” (“Dos” is a derogatory Hebrew term for a religious Jew.) If it is a driver without special features, you just shout: “Idiot! Who gave you a driving license?”

The hatred of strangers, the aversion to everyone who is unlike you, are – so it seems – biological traits, remnants from the time of ancient man, when every stranger was a threat to the limited resources the tribe had to depend on. It exists in many other animal species, too. Nothing to be proud of.

The civilized human being, and even more so the civilized human society, has a duty to fight these traits - not only because they are ugly in themselves, but also because they hinder the modernization of the globalized world, In which cooperation between peoples and between people is imperative. It takes us back to the stone age.

The situation here is now moving in the opposite direction: the country is embracing the racist demon. After millennia as the victims of racism, it seems as if Jews here are happy to be able to do unto others what has been done to them.

IT IS impossible to ignore the central role played by rabbis in this filthy mess. They ride the wave and assert that this is the spirit of Judaism. They quote the holy texts at length.

The truth is that Judaism, like almost every religion, includes racist and anti-racist, humanist and barbarian elements. The Crusaders, who massacred the Jews on their way to the Holy Land and who slaughtered the inhabitants of Jerusalem – Muslims and Jews alike – when they conquered the city, shouted: “God Wills It!” One can find in the New Testament magnificent passages preaching love, side by side with quite different sections. So, too, in the Koran there are Surahs full of love for humankind and calls for justice and equality, as well as others full of intolerance and hatred. So, too, the Hebrew Bible. The racists quote Rabbi Maimonides, who interpreted two biblical words as a commandment not to let non-Jews reside in the country. The whole Book of Joshua is a call to genocide. The Bible commands the Israelites to murder the entire tribe of Amalek (“both man and woman, infant and suckling”) and the Prophet Samuel dethroned King Saul because he spared the lives of Amalekite prisoners (1 Samuel 15). But the Hebrew Bible is also a book of unequalled humanity. It starts with the description of the creation of man and woman, stressing that all human beings are created in the image of God - and therefore equal. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he him.” The Bible repeatedly demands the treatment of “Gerim” (foreigners living among the Israelites) as Israelites, “because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”

As Gershom Schocken, the owner and long-time editor in chief of Haaretz, pointed out in an article republished this week on the 20th anniversary of his death: Ezra did indeed expel the non-Jewish wives from the community, but before that, foreign women played a central role in the Biblical story. Bathsheba was the wife of a Hittite, before she married King David and became the mother of the house from which the Messiah will come in due course (or from which, as Christians believe, Jesus – who was born 2010 years ago today – already came.) David himself was the descendant of Ruth, a Moabite woman. King Ahab, the greatest of Israelite kings, married a Phoenician woman.

When our racists present the ugliest face of Judaism, ignoring its universalist message, they do great damage to the religion of millions of Jews around the world. The most important Jewish rabbis were silent this week in face of the racist fire that was ignited by rabbis, or murmured something about “ways of peace” – referring to the rule forbidding the provocation of Goyim, because they might treat the Jews in their countries as the Jews treat the minorities in their own state. Up to now, no Christian priest has yet called upon his flock not to let apartments to Jews – but it could happen.

The silence of the “Torah sages” is thunderous. Even more so the silence of the country’s political leaders: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shimon Peres did not roar his outrage, and Binyamin Netanyahu has contented himself with calling upon the racists “not to take the law into their own hands.” Not a single word against racism, not a single word about morality and justice.

WHEN I listened to the ex-soldiers at the “Breaking the Silence” meeting, I was filled with hope. This generation understands its duty to heal the state in which they will spend their lives.

In the words of the Hanukkah song, which is rapidly becoming the anthem of the anti-racist demonstrations: “We come the darkness to expel!”
(c) 2010 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Pharmaceutical Industry Fraud
By Ralph Nader

The corporate defrauding of taxpayers (eg. Medicaid and Medicare) and prescription drugs with skyrocketing prices was the subject of a report by Public Citizen's Dr. Sidney Wolfe and his associates (see

Dr. Wolfe's team compiled a total of 165 federal and state settlements since 1991 totaling $19.8 billion in penalties. A key finding is that the drug industry's penalties under the Federal False Claims Act exceed even those assessed against the overcharging defense industry for fraud.

Before we become overly impressed with the cumulative amount of the penalties, specialists in corporate crime law enforcement believe that adding more federal cops on the corporate crime beat, backed by a determined law and order Justice Department with White House backing, would have greatly increased the number of cases and imposition of penalties on these drug industry giants.

Nonetheless, Dr. Wolfe's study shows that the pace of penalties has picked up over the past five years. This is due to "a combination of increased violations by companies and increased law enforcement on the part of federal and state governments," says the report.

Many of these cases were initiated by company whistleblowers, who under the False Claims Act can receive a share of the settlements. Since the corporate bosses of these drug firms are almost never prosecuted, what these executives fear the most are company employees who go public with the evidence of corporate misdeeds.

These violations do more than financial damage to consumers and government health insurance programs. One of the worst violations involves companies promoting unproven, often dangerous uses for their medicines. Last year, Pfizer paid $1.2 billion for illegal off-label promotion -- the largest criminal fine in U.S.history. Other major corporate violators were GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Schering-Plough, Bristol-Myers Squibb, AstraZeneca, TAP Pharmaceutical, Merck, Serono, Purdue, Allergan, Novartis, Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson, Forest Laboratories, Sanofi-aventis, Bayer, Mylan, Teva and King Pharmaceuticals.

The violations by these and other drug companies point to the wide range of impacts, including taking many lives of patients, which stems from these recurrent activities. These criminal or civil illegalities cover (1) overcharging government health programs, (2) unlawful promotion, (3) monopoly practices, (4) kickbacks, (5) concealing study findings, (6) poor manufacturing practices, (7) environmental violations, (8) financial violations and (9) illegal distribution.

Outside the purview of the Public Citizen study are the ravages of counterfeit drugs and poorly inspected ingredients in drugs, now mostly coming from China and India, due to the outsourcing by U.S. and European drug companies in their thirst for even greater profits.

Drug company sales are huge, growing from $40 billion in 1990 to $234 billion in 2008, and far exceeding inflation with their annual price gouging. To make matters worse, in 2003, the Congressional Republicans, with decisive support from some Democrats, passed the drug benefit bill which explicitly prohibited Uncle Sam, the payer, from bargaining for volume discounts with drug companies.

With over 400 full-time drug company lobbyists putting pressure on Congress, and tens of millions of dollars flowing into the legislators' campaign coffers, budgets for federal investigators, prosecutors and inspectors are kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, crime in the suites pays over and over again, despite occasional penalties.

A bright spot is the increasing enforcement action at the state level.

By last year, 32 states had enacted false claims acts, including fourteen states that qualified as strong laws by federal standards.

Still, the Wolfe report concludes that the "current system of enforcement is not working." He gives the examples of the $7.44 billion in financial penalties assessed over the past twenty years on GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, as compared to their combined total of $16.5 billion in global net profits in one year alone.

What would deter these illegal practices and risks to public safety? Dr. Wolfe says "the lack of criminal prosecution that would result in jailing of company executives," is key. Moreover, the report notes that "a felony conviction could result in their companies becoming ineligible for reimbursement from federal and state health programs, a critical source of pharmaceutical company revenues."

A flicker of hope that a little change is on the way came from the Food and Drug Administration's Deputy Chief Counsel for Litigation, Eric Blumberg. He indicated that the government is considering going after drug company executives for violations such as off-label promotions. He stated: "unless the government shows more resolve to criminally charge individuals -- at all levels in the corporate hierarchy -- we can not expect to make progress in deterring off-label promotion."

The problem is that the final operating decision is in the hands of the Justice Department -- historically short-staffed and short-willed to entreaties for prosecution by the FDA and other regulatory agencies.

Furthermore, for over 30 years, the Justice Department has stone-walled requests that it start a corporate crime database as it has done with street crimes. Congress likes it this way, as it continues to cash corporate campaign checks.

Just last week, however, outgoing Judiciary Committee Chairman, Democrat John Conyers introduced a bill (H.R. 6545) to create such a corporate crime data base in the Justice Department. Well, as the saying goes, everything starts with a gesture!
(c) 2010 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

Arizona Bans Ethnic Studies (Also, Reason And Justice)
by Randall Amster

While much condemnation has rightly been expressed toward Arizona's anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, a less-reported and potentially more insidious measure is set to take effect on January 1, 2011. This new law, which was passed by the conservative state legislature at the behest of then-School Superintendent (and now Attorney General-elect) Tom Horne, is designated as HB 2281 and is colloquially referred to as a measure to ban Ethnic Studies programs in the state. As with SB 1070, the implications of this law are problematic, wide-ranging, and decidedly hate-filled.

Whereas SB 1070 focused primarily on the ostensible control of bodies, HB 2281 is predominantly about controlling minds. In this sense, it is the software counterpart of Arizona's race-based politicking, paired with the hardware embodied in SB 1070's "show us your papers" logic of "attrition through enforcement" that has already resulted in tens of thousands of people leaving the state. With HB 2281, the intention is not so much to expel or harass as it is to inculcate a deep-seated second-class status by denying people the right to explore their own histories and cultures. It is, in effect, about the eradication of ethnic identity among young people in the state's already-floundering school system which now ranks near the bottom in the nation.

There's a word for what Arizona is attempting to do here: ethnocide. It is similar to genocide in its scope, but it reflects the notion that it is an ethnic and/or cultural identity under assault more so than physical bodies themselves. By imposing a curriculum that forbids the exploration of divergent cultures while propping up the dominant one, there's another process at work here, what we might call ethnonormativity. This takes the teachings of one culture - the colonizer's - and makes it the standard version of history while literally banning other accounts, turning the master narrative into the "normal" one and further denigrating marginalized perspectives. America's racialized past abounds with such examples of oppressed people being denied their languages, histories, and cultures, including through enforced indoctrination in school systems.

As if to add insult to injury, HB 2281 barely makes a pretense to hide any of this in its language and intended scope. A close reading of the law lays bare some of the more stark and disconcerting aspects of its potential application in a state where Hispanic students fill nearly half the seats in the public schools (the domain to which HB 2281 will apply). In particular, there are three primary aspects of the law that merit further investigation as contributing factors to the ongoing erasure of ethnic identities and the further marginalization of people of color in Arizona.

First, there is the perverse Declaration of Policy preamble, in which the legislature expresses its intention that pupils "should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals" and likewise "not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people." The irony here is palpable, since SB 1070 precisely singles out "races or classes of people" in its coded language requiring police to demand legal papers from anyone who is deemed "reasonably suspicious" of being undocumented - which in the southwest obviously correlates with skin color and ethnic origin. Moreover, HB 2281 itself was aimed specifically at abolishing the Raza Studies program in Tucson (as well as all Ethnic Studies programs statewide), which translates literally to "race" as noted in the working definition adopted by the program at San Francisco State University:

"The term Raza literally means race or colloquially, the people. The term figuratively has reference to the Spanish conquest of the indigenous Indians of Mexico and the resulting mestizaje or the mixed racial and ethnic identity of indigenous, European and African heritage unique to the Americas. In practical usage, the term Raza refers to mestizos or mixed peoples; we have the blood of the conquered and conqueror, indigenous, (i.e., Aztec, Mayan, Olmec, Yaqui, Zapotec and numerous other Native Americans), European, African, and Asian. The term Raza was popularized by Mexican educator, Jose Vasconcellos who wrote about La Raza Cosmica to inclusively refer to a new ‘race' of people born out of the neo-Columbian New World."

In this sense, we come to perceive the aim of banning Ethnic Studies as an attempt to single out the histories and cultures of certain people based expressly on race and class. While the Arizona legislature states its intention to prevent resentment and hatred of others, the new law fosters precisely that, and in denying people their histories further encourages self-hatred as well. Indeed, people kept from knowing where they come from have a difficult time knowing where they are going, creating a self-fulfilling downward spiral that is common where people are categorized and labeled as "other" and/or "lesser" vis-à-vis the dominant norm. As such, we see that HB 2281 actually violates its own provisions by promoting that which it claims to eliminate.

The second critical aspect concerns the law's main prohibitions against any education programs that (1) "promote the overthrow of the United States government," (2) "promote resentment toward a race or class of people," (3) "are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group," and (4) "advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals." The problems here are manifest, starting with the reflexively implicit link to terrorism contained in the first provision - as if to say that ethnic solidarity is somehow akin to attempting to overthrow the government. The third provision is even more problematic in its potential implications, since a plausible argument can be made that the entire mainstream public education curriculum is precisely designed for pupils of a particular ethnic group - namely the dominant, white, Eurocentric group that defines its history and worldview as the "normal" or "standard" ones against which subaltern perspectives are to be judged as deviant and, under HB 2281, banned.

The fourth provision does double duty in prioritizing individualism over group-centric processes, reflecting another deeply-rooted cultural bias and projecting it back as the norm. The libertarian and individualistic foundations of Western culture are viewed as iconic in Arizona, and it is no coincidence that the more communitarian impulses of Raza peoples are denigrated as politically dangerous and pedagogically bereft. Again, the worldview of the oppressor is normalized in its rugged individualism, and attempts to break down any movement toward solidarity and unified action among people of the disfavored class. This also expresses contemptuous judgment toward solidarity-based movements grown in the Western world, including the rise of union organizing, anti-globalization and anti-war activism, and the mobilizations of people against totalitarianism in the Eastern bloc nations. What the Arizona legislature completely fails to grasp is that individual identity arises out of cultural consciousness - in other words, that it is ethnic solidarity in itself that provides people with the grounding necessary to know who they are as individuals.

Finally, HB 2281 contains an exemption for teaching students about episodes such as the Holocaust, genocides, and "the historical oppression of a particular group of people based on ethnicity, race, or class." In essence, combined with the provisions noted above, this means that students of a particular group can be taught about their history of subjugation but not about their spirit of solidarity; they can focus on their decimation but not their emancipation. This sinister portion of the bill strives to reinforce pain at the expense of pride, encouraging young people to internalize the oppression delivered by the dominant culture and make it part of their self-consciousness as "other" in a world whose norms are built on the inherent superiority of the master class. Thus, the law seeks not only to prevent the teaching of histories and values that might empower marginalized people, but further endorses the transmission of destructive episodes and ideologies that can only serve to increase the group's collective disempowerment.

In all of these ways, HB 2281 is a potent example of legislative bigotry and open persecution of people based on factors such as race and class. As with SB 1070, HB 2281 is also self-violating in that it promotes precisely what it claims to prohibit, namely ethnic chauvinism and "resentment toward a race or class of people." Both of these laws - as well as similar ones in the offing being considered by the Arizona legislature - are entirely counterproductive and manifestly unjust. Confronting similar patterns of legislated intolerance and the widespread attempt to reduce a category of people to second-class status based primarily on ethnic origin, Martin Luther King, Jr. famously wrote in his landmark essay Letter from a Birmingham Jail, following the teachings of St. Augustine, that "an unjust law is no law at all." King further reminds us that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," calling upon us to recognize the interlinked nature of destinies and, indeed, the inherent solidarity of our struggles, and further counsels that in this effort "one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."

Carrying the logic further, King articulates a framework for resistance that applies as much in Arizona today as it did in the South during the Jim Crow era:

"Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an ‘I it' relationship for an ‘I thou' relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful.... An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal.... A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that ... had no part in enacting or devising the law.... We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal' and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.'"

By denying marginalized peoples their own stories and understandings, HB 2281 likewise denies the "conquerors" the capacity to come to terms with the full implications of history, thus literally enabling the perpetuation of a state of "denial" that inhibits the development of necessary processes of atonement, accountability, and reconciliation. As with laws associated with segregationist and tyrannical regimes throughout history, HB 2281 and SB 1070 are inherently unjust, and hence are "no laws at all." They must be disobeyed, not out of spite or hatred, but more so to uplift the oppressors and the oppressed alike, as Paulo Freire has suggested. In this sense, solidarity transcends its narrow bounds, and the struggle itself is our finest education.
(c) 2010 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Offshoring America's Legal Jobs

Maybe you're one of the thousands of young lawyers in America working in some low-skill, part-time job because law firms have cut so many of the starting positions you were educated to take. If so, I have good news: Jobs for young lawyers are now mushrooming in companies that provide legal services to U.S. corporations.

Unfortunately, you'll have to move to India to get one. And the pay will be – how shall I put this? – "disappointing."

Lawyering has become the latest category of good jobs disappearing from our Land of the Free as corporate chieftains continue to offshore the American workplace. Wall Street banks, insurance corporations, mining giants, and others are shipping more and more of their law business to Pangea3, CPA Global, UnitedLex, and other rapidly expanding legal outsourcing outfits in India.

In the past five years the number of these upstart firms has more than tripled, with each one offering from a few dozen to hundreds of young Indian law school graduates. These eager legal beagles are hunkered down in corporate cubicles, ready to write contracts, review legal documents, and – increasingly – to handle the more sophisticated chores of case management and regulatory filings that corporations have been entrusting to more experienced American lawyers.

Even though U.S. corporations have amassed record levels of profits and cash reserves, they are offshoring their legal work simply because it puts even more money in their pockets. They can pay Indian lawyers as little as a tenth of what they'd pay young American attorneys – and the 90-percent wage difference goes to the corporation, rather than being spread through our economy as family incomes.

It's another move by the corporate elite to separate their expanding fortunes from the well-being of America's middle class – and indeed, from the well being of America itself.
(c) 2010 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Cold Hearts In High Places
By James Donahue

American voters wanted help and voted for change when they went to the polls in the 2010 elections. Aggressive attack advertising campaigns financed by unknown special interest groups clouded the issues and voters fell victim to a crafty scheme by big power brokers. Consequently voters stacked the deck against themselves.

The Republican Party, which strangely stands opposed to any government program designed to offer assistance to the poor, hungry and homeless in the midst of an economic downturn that has left our nation in the worst financial condition since the Great Depression, has now gained control of the Congress and may continue to freeze any action in the Senate without extreme compromise.

There is a threat that the GOP leadership is plotting to attempt to recover from a multi-trillion dollar deficit, brought on by an over financed military, two unnecessary wars, a costly bailout of the big banks that gambled in an overpriced real estate market, and an extension of income tax cuts for the people who hold most of the wealth of the nation. They want to do this by putting the tax burden on the low and middle class and cutting services like food stamps, unemployment benefits, Medicare and Social Security.

Since the advent of NAFTA and other international trade agreements under the World Trade Organization, Americans have seen most of its industrial might move overseas on a quest for cheap labor. Consequently the middle class has all but disappeared. Thus the Republicans appear to be expecting the poor to carry the burden of paying off the multi-trillion dollar deficit.

That kind of thinking in the midst of these troubled times is not only heartless and cruel, it makes absolutely no sense. That President Obama submitted to demands to expand tax cuts for the rich just to get an extension of unemployment benefits is an example of the kind of game the elected Republican representatives in Washington are playing.

That Mr. Obama submitted and failed to fight for everything he promised during his campaign for office, suggests that everything going on in Washington these days is nothing more than a charade. During the first two years of the Obama Administration, when the Democrats had control of the Congress and nearly enough votes to overpower the Republican filibuster in the Senate, the 111th Congress went down in the records as having accomplished more work and passing more legislation than any preceding congress since the days when President Lyndon B. Johnson rode into power with Democrats in full control of both houses. They accomplished this by constant compromise to get any of the legislation passed. Consequently any bill that offered assistance to the poor and elderly was so watered down it was not much help at all. The wealth has continued to be sucked up by the rich and the poor continue to be left out in the cold. If the Democrats in office were supposed to be representing the interests of the common people, how could this have happened?

When the next congress convenes January 5, things are expected to be worse. The Republicans will have enough votes to control the House and while Democrats still slightly outnumber the Republicans in the Senate, if efforts to eliminate that 60-vote mandate to override the filibuster fail when Senate rules are adopted, we can expect another two years of deadlock. We should all prepare to grit our teeth and bear the continued ravaging of whatever loose change we may still have in our pockets.

The robbery of America’s wealth by the thugs now holding the keys to the kingdom has obviously been a carefully designed plot by big banking and corporate power figures. The question we have is why would they wish to do this?

The end result of all of this is a complete breakdown of the middle class. By forcing millions of people out of what were once good paying jobs and into unemployment lines, and forcing millions out of their foreclosed homes and into the street, they are creating a nation of beggars and desperately poor. By cutting Social Security benefits they will be killing off the elderly. It appears that the plan is to create an army of people so desperate they will submit to any low-paying job just for a chance to bring home a loaf of bread.

In his novels, English author Charles Dickens clearly described the world as we may soon know it again.

I am not a trained economist but there are two things I have learned during my years working as a journalist. The first is that wealth is an illusion. It has no value while locked away in a vault. The only time money has value is when it is in circulation.

The second historical truth is that humanity has been reliving this cycle of kings in control of everything to revolution and a splitting of the wealth for thousands of years. A study of history shows that it happens over and over at a relatively regular basis. Every time the pendulum swings too far to the right, and the kings make slaves of the poor, the people rise up in rebellion, overthrow the kings and create a socialistic system where everything is shared.

Unfortunately, there are always a few people out there who are clever enough to slowly build a monopoly of wealth. Thus the process begins again.
(c) 2010 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

State Lawlessness On The Rampage
By Paul Craig Roberts

The year 2011 will bring Americans a larger and more intrusive police state, more unemployment and home foreclosures, no economic recovery, more disregard by the US government of US law, international law, the Constitution, and truth, more suspicion and distrust from allies, more hostility from the rest of the world, and new heights of media sycophancy.

2011 is shaping up as a brutal year for American democracy. The Republican Party has degenerated into a party of Brownshirts, and voter frustrations with the worsening economic crisis and military occupations gone awry are likely to bring Republicans to power in 2012. With them would come their doctrines of executive primacy over Congress, the judiciary, law, and the Constitution and America’s rightful hegemony over the world.

If not already obvious, 2010 has made clear that the US government does not care a whit for the opinions of citizens. The TSA is unequivocal that it will reach no accommodation with Americans other than the violations of their persons that it imposes by its unaccountable power. As for public opposition to war, the Associated Press reported on December 16 that “Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the U.S. can’t let public opinion sway its commitment to Afghanistan.” Gates stated bluntly what has been known for some time: the idea is passe that government in a democracy serves the will of the people. If this quaint notion is still found in civics books, it will soon be edited out.

In Gag Rule, a masterful account of the suppression of dissent and the stifling of democracy, Lewis H. Lapham writes that candor is a necessary virtue if democracies are to survive their follies and crimes. But where in America today can candor be found? Certainly not in the councils of government. Attorney General John Ashcroft complained of candor-mongers to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Americans who insist on speaking their minds, Ashcroft declared, “scare people with phantoms of lost liberty,” “aid terrorists,” diminish our resolve,” and “give ammunition to America’s enemies.”

As the Department of Justice (sic) sees it, when the ACLU defends habeas corpus it is defending the ability of terrorists to blow up Americans, and when the ACLU defends the First Amendment it is defending exposures of the lies and deceptions that are the necessary scaffolding for the government’s pretense that it is doing God’s will while Satan speaks through the voices of dissent.

Neither is candor a trait in which the American media finds comfort. The neoconservative press functions as propaganda ministry for hegemonic American empire, and the “liberal” New York Times serves the same master. It was the New York Times that gave credence to the Bush regime’s lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and it was the New York Times that guaranteed Bush’s re-election by spiking the story that Bush was committing felonies by spying on Americans without obtaining warrants. Conservatives rant about the “liberal media” as if it were a vast subversive force, but they owe their beloved wars and coverups of the Bush regimes’ crimes to the New York Times.

With truth the declared enemy of the fantasy world in which the government, media, and public reside, the nation has turned on whistleblowers. Bradley Manning, who allegedly provided the media with the video made by US troops of their wanton, fun-filled slaughter of newsmen and civilians, has been abused in solitary confinement for six months. Murdering civilians is a war crime, and as General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the National Press Club on February 17, 2006, “It is the absolute responsibility of everybody in uniform to disobey an order that is either illegal or immoral” and to make such orders known. If Manning is the source of the leak, he has been wrongfully imprisoned for meeting his military responsibility. The media have yet to make the point that the person who reported the crime, not the persons who committed it, is the one who has been imprisoned, and without a trial.

The lawlessness of the US government, which has been creeping up on us for decades, broke into a full gallop in the years of the Bush/Cheney/Obama regimes. Today the government operates above the law, yet maintains that it is a democracy bringing the same to Muslims by force of arms, only briefly being sidetracked by sponsoring a military coup against democracy in Honduras and attempting to overthrow the democratic government in Venezuela.

As 2011 dawns, public discourse in America has the country primed for a fascist dictatorship. The situation will be worse by 2012. The most uncomfortable truth that emerges from the WikiLeaks saga is that American public discourse consists of cries for revenge against those who tell us truths. The vicious mendacity of the US government knows no restraint. Whether or not international law can save Julian Assange from the clutches of the Americans or death by a government black ops unit, both executive and legislative branches are working assiduously to establish the National Security State as the highest value and truth as its greatest enemy.

America’s future is the world of Winston Smith.
(c) 2010 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 Progressive Honor Roll Of 2010
By John Nichols

The year 2010 will not be remembered as a halcyon year for progressives. But in such years the truest believers and battlers stand out all the more clearly, and patterns are set for the victories of the years to come. Here, then, are the Most Valuable Progressives of 2010:


When Vermont's Bernie Sanders waged a nearly nine-hour December filibuster against extending tax breaks for the rich, he capped a year of not just taking the right stands but acting in a bolder—and invariably more effective—manner than any other senator. Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, but this year the emphasis was on independence. He parted with the White House and Congressional leaders to push harder and smarter on issues ranging from media consolidation and the defense of small farmers to healthcare reform and financial regulation. During the healthcare debate Sanders argued mightily for single-payer and a public option. He got neither, but he did secure a provision doubling the number of Federally Qualified Health Centers, which should increase the number of patients receiving primary care at these centers by at least 18 million during the coming decade. Later in the year he amended the final financial services reform bill to require the Federal Reserve to disclose its secret arrangements to aid the nation's largest banks. This "lifting the veil of secrecy at the Fed," as Sanders referred to it, revealed that big banks and multinational corporations collected an estimated $3.3 trillion in "emergency" loans and other assistance even as they refused to restructure mortgages or make loans to small businesses in Vermont and other states.

Principled and populist, yet practical enough to get things done, Sanders points the way for progressives in the next Congress by reminding them they can win if they address the stark reality that "there is a war going on in this country...a war being waged by some of the wealthiest and most powerful...against the working families of the United States of America, against the disappearing and shrinking middle class."


Minnesota's Keith Ellison, a former civil rights lawyer and state legislator, is still identified as "the first Muslim elected to Congress." But the Congressman is making a name for himself as a progressive leader with global reach. Frequently called into action by the State Department (not just by Hillary Clinton but also by Condoleezza Rice), Ellison has a higher international profile than all but a few House members; he uses it to remind the global community—and Americans—that "religious tolerance has a much longer pedigree in America than some of the intolerance we've seen lately." His unprecedented visit to Gaza was followed this year by a call on President Obama to do more to ease the blockade of the Palestinian territory. Evenhanded and diplomatic in his approach, Ellison argued that "fulfilling the needs of civilians in Israel and Gaza are mutually reinforcing goals." Despite his unique role when it comes to foreign policy, Ellison pulls no punches. In July he was one of thirty-eight House members who voted to direct the president to remove US armed forces from Pakistan; he also opposed Obama's Afghanistan surge, arguing that Congress should "reject the idea that our country can continue to spend hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars on a decade of war, rather than investing in jobs, education and infrastructure for America's working families." That savvy balancing of international and domestic concerns will be one of many strengths Ellison brings to his new role as co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.


Its activist roots run four decades deep, but National People's Action came into its own after the financial meltdown, when it emerged as the boldest challenger of abuses by big banks, mortgage lenders, credit card companies and payday loan operations. With its "Showdown in America" campaign, the network of two dozen state and regional activist groups (including Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Grass Roots Organizing in Missouri and Denver's Rights for All People/Derechos Para Todos) has led the fight to prevent foreclosures on working families by banks that collected billions of federal bailout dollars. Committed to direct action, NPA takes victims of predatory lenders into the suites of corporations that prey on the poor. Unsettled by NPA's cries of "Make Wall Street Pay" and "People Before Profits," Glenn Beck decries it as a "dangerous group." Bill Moyers gets it right when he says NPA's "popular insurgency" is a modern manifestation of populism and renews "a grassroots movement for democracy."

MOST VALUABLE ONLINE ACTIVISM: Progressive Change Campaign Committee

"We're trying to teach Democrats how to fight," says Adam Green, co-founder (with Stephanie Taylor) of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which a year after its founding has shaken the Democratic establishment with unblinking demands that President Obama and Congressional leaders stand on principle rather than compromise. That's earned PCCC and its allies condemnation from White House press secretary Robert Gibbs (who gripes about the "professional left") and an expletive-laden dismissal from former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. But on issue after issue—healthcare, banking, the Obama/GOP tax-cut deal—the group has pushed Democrats to throw punches rather than throw in the towel. Bridging the enthusiasm gap, PCCC signed up 650,000 "bold progressives" on its e-mail list and backed its campaigning with TV ads. As with Progressive Democrats of America, PCCC's independence is its strength. At a time when it's clear what Republicans stand for, PCCC holds that Democrats can excite their base and win only if they are equally clear—and uncompromising on core values.


"I saw families broken apart, but yet we kept fighting!" shouts Carlos Saavedra, as the dynamic national coordinator of the United We Dream Network rallies backers of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The bill would have given undocumented students who graduate from US high schools an opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency and a chance to pursue higher education. In a year that saw outrageous anti-immigrant politicking, Saavedra kept hope alive for the DREAM Act, which in December passed the House with a bipartisan majority. (It stalled in the Senate, but even Republicans say a version of the measure should be included in any comprehensive reform.)

Born in Peru, Saavedra immigrated at age 12 and got his start as an organizer with the Student Immigrant Movement in Massachusetts, where he led campaigns to secure in-state tuition for immigrants, prevent deportations and register all ten Massachusetts Representatives as co-sponsors of the DREAM Act. As a national organizer, Saavedra mixes facts and emotion, recounting heartbreaking stories of dreams deferred, with links to civil rights struggles of the past and an unapologetic call to action: "We're undocumented and unafraid!"


One of the most remarkable moments during the healthcare debate came when MSNBC's Ed Schultz interviewed Dennis Kucinich about his decision to vote for legislation the Ohio Democrat had condemned as a handout to big insurers. The give-and-take between Schultz and Kucinich, both backers of the single-payer "Medicare for All" approach rejected by the Obama administration, was electric, filled with emotion yet nuanced in its recognition of the moral and political pressures faced by progressives. Again and again in 2010, Schultz highlighted not just partisan divisions but the frustrations that surfaced as Democratic members of Congress wrestled with questions of when to support a Democratic president and when to object. The most populist of MSNBC's hosts, Schultz shows his anger not just with right-wing "psycho talk" but with Democratic double talk. A proudly independent "lefty," Schultz highlights members of Congress and activists who criticize compromises, especially on bread-and-butter issues. That makes his show energetic, and often newsworthy, as when Sanders raised the prospect of filibustering the tax deal on the program. Yet Schultz keeps things fun; his one-man crusade to hold Dick Cheney to account for political and corporate wrongdoing mocks the former vice president who famously wounded a hunting partner as "Shooter." Schultz does good television, and good politics.


On her Southern California public radio show, Los Angeles Times columnist Patt Morrison takes apart complicated issues—tax policy, the mortgage crisis, net neutrality, food-borne illness—and rearranges them as accessible topics that citizens can debate and address. Morrison's two-hour daily program raises the quality of the discourse with savvy and unexpected guests, from student activists to IMF researchers to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Morrison is not afraid to stick with an issue as it evolves; her coverage of the DREAM Act debate in particular, and immigration issues in general, brought the skills of a beat reporter to radio. Of all the regional radio shows that should go national, this one tops the list.


Wendell Potter, former vice president of corporate communications with insurance giant CIGNA, now a fellow with the spin-busting Center for Media and Democracy, used media appearances and testimony before Congressional committees to expose the dark manipulations of fact that insurance firms use to preserve for-profit healthcare. Then he put it all on paper with a terrific book, Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans. The book revealed how the industry tried to discredit Michael Moore before the release of his film Sicko. One of the year's most powerful television moments came when Moore questioned Potter about it all on MSNBC's Countdown With Keith Olbermann.

MOST VALUABLE MUSIC: Next Stop Is Vietnam: The War on Record, 1961–2008

Great songs are being written about today's wars; just listen to Neil Young's poignant "Love and War" on the album Le Noise, or Dar Williams's rendering of "Empire" on her new collection, Many Great Companions. But the year's boldest musical project was Next Stop Is Vietnam, the stunning thirteen-CD collection of 334 songs and spoken-word tracks (many forgotten or never really known) that chronicles the war and its aftermath. The accompanying book includes a warm and thoughtful introduction by Country Joe McDonald and a moving oral history (by authors Doug Bradley and Craig Werner) with veterans discussing the power of song.

MOST VALUABLE IDEA: Amend the Constitution

Conservatives know the power of proposing constitutional amendments. Even when they don't succeed, amendment campaigns educate people about issues and get them engaged at the local, state and national levels. In recent years progressives have been cautious about the Constitution. But after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision freed corporations to use their immense resources to buy elections, two groups responded with aggressive challenges to the notion that businesses should enjoy the same rights as citizens. Free Speech for People, a campaign sponsored by Public Citizen, US PIRG, Voter Action, the Center for Corporate Policy and American Independent Business Alliance, seeks to counter the Court's move with "a constitutional amendment of our own that puts people ahead of corporations." (Representative Donna Edwards has introduced an amendment, with backing from outgoing Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers.) Another group, Move to Amend (with support from Progressive Democrats of America, the National Lawyers Guild and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, among others), proposes a broader "multi-year movement to amend the Constitution" that would use state legislative resolutions to force Congressional action on "democracy amendments" or schedule a constitutional convention. These campaigns are capturing the imaginations of activists. By year's end, Move to Amend had almost 100,000 signers.


Official Washington is obsessed with deficits. How should progressives respond? Oregon Congressman Pete DeFazio's got a notion: the "Let Wall Street Pay for the Restoration of Main Street Act." Backed by the AFL-CIO, consumer groups and top economists (including the New York Times's Paul Krugman), financial transaction tax proposals are not new. But DeFazio's plan is specific and well drawn; it would apply a small tax to stock transactions; "options" contracts that allow speculators to buy or sell particular assets; and credit default swaps, which bet on the failure of bonds and loans. Even with exemptions to protect average investors and pension funds, DeFazio's tax would generate $150 billion a year—half directed toward job creation, half to deficit reduction. DeFazio has attracted thirty-one House co-sponsors and a key Senate ally, Tom Harkin. That's a start. But when the next Congress takes shape, this measure should not just be reintroduced; it should be positioned as the smart alternative to destructive cuts proposed by new House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan.


There are plenty of outspoken Arizona progressives, but few speak as loudly—or as boldly—as Sinema. In 2006 the openly bisexual legislator chaired Arizona Together, the first successful campaign to beat a state ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage; in 2008 she chaired Protect Arizona's Freedom, the coalition that defeated a ballot initiative to eliminate equal opportunity programs; in 2010 the former social worker in Phoenix immigrant and refugee communities emerged as a thoughtful critic of Arizona's draconian anti-immigrant legislation. Sinema dismissed the push for the state measure as a crude "strategy on the part of the right" and detailed how the law undermined civil liberties, made it harder for police to do their jobs and discouraged battered women from seeking help. The media-savvy Sinema warned national activists: "Be careful...your state could turn into Arizona very quickly." On her home turf, voters elected the term-limited state rep to the Arizona Senate.


Activism to address global warming suffered when November election results gave increased power to climate-change deniers in Congress. But that isn't stopping progressive mayors from acting. Along with fellow members of the Mayors Innovation Project, Eugene, Oregon, Mayor Kitty Piercy has promoted the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, now backed by more than 800 local leaders. One of her first projects after her 2004 election was a Sustainable Business Initiative that encourages the growth of businesses that produce sustainble products while promoting green building, recycling, natural food, alternative fuel and alternative energy development. With purchases of hybrid vehicles and the use of biodiesel fuel, Eugene has decreased its city CO2 emissions by 10 percent, and the community recently developed a broader plan to cut carbon.

In addition to her environmental activism, Piercy champions LGBT rights, women's rights and child-welfare initiatives. Active with US Mayors for Peace and Women's Action for New Directions/Women Legislators' Lobby, she shows up at peace rallies to declare: "Some may scorn our local efforts to change national priorities, but I, like you, believe in the power of our city, the fierce grassroots power of our people to do what needs to be done."

(c) 2010 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

Written On The Body
The Progressive Torture of Bradley Manning
By Chris Floyd

Tonight, in the tenth year of the 21st century, the government of the United States is torturing a young man -- one of its own soldiers -- whom it has incarcerated but not indicted. He has been held in solitary confinement for months on end, subjected to techniques of sleep deprivation taken from the Soviet gulag, denied almost all human contact except from interrogators, constantly harassed by guards to whom he must answer every few minutes -- all in an attempt to break his mind, destroy his will, degrade his humanity and force him to "confess" to a broader "conspiracy" against state power.

His name is Bradley Manning. He is 23 years old. The "crime" he is accused of committing is releasing video evidence of an American atrocity committed years ago in Iraq: the murder of Iraqi civilians by helicopter gunships. Under the American system of jurisprudence, of course, he is considered innocent until proven guilty of this heinous 'crime' of truth-telling. He has not been tried or convicted of this charge, or any other crime.

Yet tonight, in the tenth year of the 21st century, in the United States of America, under the leadership of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama, 23-year-old Bradley Manning is being subjected to same tortures routinely inflicted on other unindicted, untried captives of the militarist state.

Journalist Andy Worthington, who has been one of the most thorough and assiduous chroniclers of the modern American gulag, has noted the parallels between the treatment imposed on Manning and that doled out to earlier prisoners of the bizarre, lawless limbo concocted by the American war machine for those who threaten -- or are perceived to threaten -- its ever-expanding, ever-more corrupt operations around the world. Worthington states that:

The conditions of Manning's imprisonment bear a marked and chilling resemblance to the conditions in which a handful of US citizens and residents were held as “enemy combatants” under the Bush administration. The key elements here are the elements of profound isolation and suffering ... not just the solitary confinement, with no other human being for company, but also the refusal to allow Manning to have a pillow, sheets, or any access to the outside world through the reporting of current affairs.

It is these factors that mark out his conditions of detention as sharing some key elements with the conditions endured by the three “enemy combatants” held on the US mainland under the Bush administration — the US citizens Yasser Hamdi and Jose Padilla, and the US legal resident Ali al-Marri.


al-Marri, along with two American citizens also held as “enemy combatants” — Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla — was subjected to the same “Standard Operating Procedure” that was applied to prisoners at Guantánamo during its most brutal phase, from mid-2002 to mid-2004. This involved the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including prolonged isolation, painful stress positions, exposure to extreme temperature, sleep deprivation, extreme sensory deprivation, and threats of violence and death.


There is, at present, no suggestion that Bradley Manning has been subjected to a wide range of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” but prolonged isolation is confirmed, and depriving him of a pillow, sheets, or any access to the outside world through the reporting of current affairs are all elements of discomfort and further isolation that were key to the program of belittling and punishing “enemy combatants,” and, crucially, “softening them up” or “breaking” them for interrogation. It is, sadly, all too easy to imagine that other techniques designed to disorientate Manning and to further erode his will — involving elements of sleep deprivation, threats and sensory deprivation — could also be applied, or are, perhaps, already being applied, especially if, as has been suggested by the Independent, the authorities are hoping to cut a plea deal with him, reducing a 52-year sentence in exchange for a confession that Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, whom the US is seeking to extradite to the US, was not just a passive recipient of the information leaked by Manning, but was instead a conspirator.

As Glenn Greenwald and others have documented, the known treatment being meted out to Bradley Manning is itself a profound form of torture. Indeed, isolation, sleep deprivation, incessant harassment and constant interrogation were primary methods of the torturers in the Soviet gulag, who in many cases did not resort to more "enhanced" techniques unless the pressure was on from above to produce large numbers of "convictions" and "evidence" of conspiracies in a hurry. These techniques -- the same techniques now used under the command of the Peace Laureate -- were considered highly effective and severely punishing tortures in their own right. They are now at the center of the American gulag's treatment of its captives.And, as Worthington ominously notes, we have no way of knowing at this moment whether "enhanced" techniques are being used on Manning as well.

I am running out of words to describe the depths we are sinking into. I am running out of ways to try to shake people from their stupor and shock them into an awareness of the monstrous evil that is rising all around them. Even those who proclaim themselves the progressive friends of all humankind spend most of their time and energy wringing their hands over the political tea leaves, parsing the strategy and tactics of the partisan squabbles between the two scarcely-distinguishable factions of the militarist establishment. And while they are sometimes bold enough to criticize this or that element of the Peace Laureate's administration, they still fret and fight and pray to keep that administration in power.

But tonight that very administration is torturing a young man -- torturing him -- for telling the truth about the crimes being committed by the machinery of evil that their standard-bearer, the Peace Laureate, now proudly directs. If you support this administration, then you support the torture of Bradley Manning. You are working to guarantee that such tortures, and worse, are inflicted on more and more truth-tellers, more and more people whose consciences have been jolted to the core by the abominations they have witnessed or learned about from others.

The militarist, corporatist, liberty-stripping evil that our earnest lovers of humanity fear will come to pass if those evil Republicans come to power is already here, it is happening before their very eyes. "Oh, that Glenn Beck, how terrible he is!" Yes, he is terrible, but I tell you this: Glenn Beck hasn't tortured anyone. Glenn Beck hasn't killed hundreds of defenseless innocent civilians, men, women and children murdered without any warning by robot drones in an undeclared war on an allied nation. Glenn Beck hasn't "surged" an endless, pointless, murderous, money-making war of domination against a broken land and its terrorized people. Glenn Beck is not going to court to defend torturers. Glenn Beck is not proclaiming he has the arbitrary, unchallengeable power to assassinate anyone on earth whenever he feels like it.

But the Peace Laureate has done all these things. He is doing all these things, and more. No doubt Glenn Beck -- and all the other greasy-pole climbers seeking wealth and domination in our degraded society -- would like to do these things too. But those with their eyes fixed on the potential or fantasized future evil of their partisan opponents are blind to the fact that their own faction is committing gross evils right here and now. Barack Obama is entrenching the machinery of evil deeper and deeper into the structures of government and society; he is strengthening the foundations of evil that others will build upon, just as he is building upon the wars and gulags and corporate whoredom of his predecessor. Progressives who support Obama -- who support this entrenching process -- are in fact guaranteeing that their dystopian nightmares of the future will come true. They are helping Obama clear the path for an even rougher, more merciless beast now slouching toward Washington to be born.

As I said, words are beginning to fail me. And in any case, almost no one is reading the words on this site. [Most of the traffic is drawn by the magnificent -- and shattering -- collection of Iraq War photos compiled by the webmaster, Rich Kastelein.] So let me end with the words of someone else: the incomparable Arthur Silber, whose mighty heart and incisive mind have blazed with light through many dark years:

I repeat once more: these horrors are now what the United States stands for. Thus, for every adult American, the question is not, "Why do you obey?" but:

Why do you support?

Or will you refuse to give your support? Will you say, "No"? These are the paramount questions at this moment in history, and in the life of the United States. We all must answer them. Our honor, our humanity, and our souls lie in the balance.

UPDATE: After putting this post together, I ran across the latest essay by Chris Hedges at Truthdig. Hedges, like Silber, is one of the very few who have the courage to walk the full walk and live fully by their convictions, despite the cost. Hedges was recently arrested outside the White House of the Peace Laureate, one of many protestors hauled off for speaking the truth about the Laureate's wars in a manner deemed unseemly in our great democracy.

His new piece is an eloquent description of how the nightmare dystopia noted above is already coming into being, a horrible mash-up of Huxley's "Brave New World" and Orwell's "1984." You should read the whole thing, but here are a few excerpts, beginning with his mention of the Bradley Manning case:

...The psychological torture of Pvt. Bradley Manning—who has now been imprisoned for seven months without being convicted of any crime—mirrors the breaking of the dissident Winston Smith at the end of “1984.” Manning is being held as a “maximum custody detainee” in the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia. He spends 23 of every 24 hours alone. He is denied exercise. He cannot have a pillow or sheets for his bed. Army doctors have been plying him with antidepressants. The cruder forms of torture of the Gestapo have been replaced with refined Orwellian techniques, largely developed by government psychologists, to turn dissidents like Manning into vegetables. We break souls as well as bodies. It is more effective. Now we can all be taken to Orwell’s dreaded Room 101 to become compliant and harmless. These “special administrative measures” are regularly imposed on our dissidents, including Syed Fahad Hashmi, who was imprisoned under similar conditions for three years before going to trial. The techniques have psychologically maimed thousands of detainees in our black sites around the globe. They are the staple form of control in our maximum security prisons where the corporate state makes war on our most politically astute underclass—African-Americans.

...The public, at some point, will have to face some very unpleasant truths. The good-paying jobs are not coming back. The largest deficits in human history mean that we are trapped in a debt peonage system that will be used by the corporate state to eradicate the last vestiges of social protection for citizens, including Social Security. The state has devolved from a capitalist democracy to neo-feudalism. And when these truths become apparent, anger will replace the corporate-imposed cheerful conformity. The bleakness of our post-industrial pockets, where some 40 million Americans live in a state of poverty and tens of millions in a category called “near poverty,” coupled with the lack of credit to save families from foreclosures, bank repossessions and bankruptcy from medical bills, means that inverted totalitarianism will no longer work.


The noose is tightening. The era of amusement is being replaced by the era of repression. Tens of millions of citizens have had their e-mails and phone records turned over to the government. We are the most monitored and spied-on citizenry in human history. Many of us have our daily routine caught on dozens of security cameras. Our proclivities and habits are recorded on the Internet. Our profiles are electronically generated. Our bodies are patted down at airports and filmed by scanners. And public service announcements, car inspection stickers, and public transportation posters constantly urge us to report suspicious activity. The enemy is everywhere.

Hedges also provides a telling passage from Orwell's novel, where the facts of life are explained to Winston Smith:

"We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. ... The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”

These bedrock truths of our time are now being played out on the body and mind of Bradley Manning. The object of Bradley Manning's torture is not bolstering "national security" or upholding the "rule of law"; the object of his torture is the torture itself: the demonstration of power, the enactment of power, the physical embodiment of power. Power is not a reality until you exercise it -- inflict it -- upon someone else. And that is the essential, the ultimate concern of the militarist empire that rules us today.

*Go here to support Bradley Manning.*
(c) 2010 Chris Floyd

Too Late, Larry Summers, To Burnish Your Record
By Matthew Rothschild

Last week, Larry Summers, Obama’s old chief economic adviser, gave a valedictory address as he was walking out the door.

And he chose to give it at a curious place: the Economic Policy Institute, one of the leading progressive think tanks on issues of labor, wages, and unemployment.

Curious because Summers isn’t known as a champion of labor rights.

Yet there was this Clinton leftover, this Harvard scrap, sounding like John Maynard Keynes himself, or at least John Kenneth Galbraith.

He properly blamed the private sector for not spending enough to get the economy going again.

He properly recognized that “without rapid recovery, all of our other goals will become compromised.”

He properly diagnosed what is “holding our economy back” when he cited sustained high unemployment and low capacity utilization. “There cannot be any question,” he said, “that the constraint on our economy now and for the next several years will be lack of demand.”

He properly argued that “it is right and necessary for government to counteract” the failings of the private sector.

He properly acknowledged that “the tax compromise will help, but it’s not enough.”

He properly called for “renewing and upgrading our nation’s infrastructure,” saying “a substantial, sustained effort to rebuild America should be at the top of Washington’s priority next year.”

And he properly denounced the Republican ideology that “would have workers sacrifice wages, benefits, and bargaining rights…would slash taxes on businesses even as their profits rise…would shred social safety nets in the name self-reliance.”

As he put it, “Such Social Darwinism was bad morality and bad economics in the nineteenth century, and it is no better in the twenty-first.”

All this was nice to hear, I suppose.

But it was Summers himself who helped bring about the collapse of the economy by pushing for the deregulation of Wall Street in the late 1990s when he had Clinton’s ear.

And it was Summers himself who proposed a stimulus package that was at least 50% too small when he had Obama’s ear.

So it’s a little late for Larry Summers to be bemoaning the weak economy—and a little late for him to be burnishing his image.
(c)2010 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

The Finite World
By Paul Krugman

Oil is back above $90 a barrel. Copper and cotton have hit record highs. Wheat and corn prices are way up. Over all, world commodity prices have risen by a quarter in the past six months.

So what’s the meaning of this surge?

Is it speculation run amok? Is it the result of excessive money creation, a harbinger of runaway inflation just around the corner? No and no.

What the commodity markets are telling us is that we’re living in a finite world, in which the rapid growth of emerging economies is placing pressure on limited supplies of raw materials, pushing up their prices. And America is, for the most part, just a bystander in this story.

Some background: The last time the prices of oil and other commodities were this high, two and a half years ago, many commentators dismissed the price spike as an aberration driven by speculators. And they claimed vindication when commodity prices plunged in the second half of 2008.

But that price collapse coincided with a severe global recession, which led to a sharp fall in demand for raw materials. The big test would come when the world economy recovered. Would raw materials once again become expensive?

Well, it still feels like a recession in America. But thanks to growth in developing nations, world industrial production recently passed its previous peak — and, sure enough, commodity prices are surging again.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that speculation played no role in 2007-2008. Nor should we reject the notion that speculation is playing some role in current prices; for example, who is that mystery investor who has bought up much of the world’s copper supply? But the fact that world economic recovery has also brought a recovery in commodity prices strongly suggests that recent price fluctuations mainly reflect fundamental factors.

What about commodity prices as a harbinger of inflation? Many commentators on the right have been predicting for years that the Federal Reserve, by printing lots of money — it’s not actually doing that, but that’s the accusation — is setting us up for severe inflation. Stagflation is coming, declared Representative Paul Ryan in February 2009; Glenn Beck has been warning about imminent hyperinflation since 2008.

Yet inflation has remained low. What’s an inflation worrier to do?

One response has been a proliferation of conspiracy theories, of claims that the government is suppressing the truth about rising prices. But lately many on the right have seized on rising commodity prices as proof that they were right all along, as a sign of high overall inflation just around the corner.

You do have to wonder what these people were thinking two years ago, when raw material prices were plunging. If the commodity-price rise of the past six months heralds runaway inflation, why didn’t the 50 percent decline in the second half of 2008 herald runaway deflation?

Inconsistency aside, however, the big problem with those blaming the Fed for rising commodity prices is that they’re suffering from delusions of U.S. economic grandeur. For commodity prices are set globally, and what America does just isn’t that important a factor.

In particular, today, as in 2007-2008, the primary driving force behind rising commodity prices isn’t demand from the United States. It’s demand from China and other emerging economies. As more and more people in formerly poor nations are entering the global middle class, they’re beginning to drive cars and eat meat, placing growing pressure on world oil and food supplies.

And those supplies aren’t keeping pace. Conventional oil production has been flat for four years; in that sense, at least, peak oil has arrived. True, alternative sources, like oil from Canada’s tar sands, have continued to grow. But these alternative sources come at relatively high cost, both monetary and environmental.

Also, over the past year, extreme weather — especially severe heat and drought in some important agricultural regions — played an important role in driving up food prices. And, yes, there’s every reason to believe that climate change is making such weather episodes more common.

So what are the implications of the recent rise in commodity prices? It is, as I said, a sign that we’re living in a finite world, one in which resource constraints are becoming increasingly binding. This won’t bring an end to economic growth, let alone a descent into Mad Max-style collapse. It will require that we gradually change the way we live, adapting our economy and our lifestyles to the reality of more expensive resources.

But that’s for the future. Right now, rising commodity prices are basically the result of global recovery. They have no bearing, one way or another, on U.S. monetary policy. For this is a global story; at a fundamental level, it’s not about us.
(c) 2010 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"I prefer liberty with danger to peace with slavery!"
~~~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau

2011: A Brave New Dystopia
By Chris Hedges

The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.

We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.” The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled.

Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse.

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake,” Orwell wrote in “1984.” “We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”

The political philosopher Sheldon Wolin uses the term “inverted totalitarianism” in his book “Democracy Incorporated” to describe our political system. It is a term that would make sense to Huxley. In inverted totalitarianism, the sophisticated technologies of corporate control, intimidation and mass manipulation, which far surpass those employed by previous totalitarian states, are effectively masked by the glitter, noise and abundance of a consumer society. Political participation and civil liberties are gradually surrendered. The corporation state, hiding behind the smokescreen of the public relations industry, the entertainment industry and the tawdry materialism of a consumer society, devours us from the inside out. It owes no allegiance to us or the nation. It feasts upon our carcass.

The corporate state does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader. It is defined by the anonymity and facelessness of the corporation. Corporations, who hire attractive spokespeople like Barack Obama, control the uses of science, technology, education and mass communication. They control the messages in movies and television. And, as in “Brave New World,” they use these tools of communication to bolster tyranny. Our systems of mass communication, as Wolin writes, “block out, eliminate whatever might introduce qualification, ambiguity, or dialogue, anything that might weaken or complicate the holistic force of their creation, to its total impression.”

The result is a monochromatic system of information. Celebrity courtiers, masquerading as journalists, experts and specialists, identify our problems and patiently explain the parameters. All those who argue outside the imposed parameters are dismissed as irrelevant cranks, extremists or members of a radical left. Prescient social critics, from Ralph Nader to Noam Chomsky, are banished. Acceptable opinions have a range of A to B. The culture, under the tutelage of these corporate courtiers, becomes, as Huxley noted, a world of cheerful conformity, as well as an endless and finally fatal optimism. We busy ourselves buying products that promise to change our lives, make us more beautiful, confident or successful as we are steadily stripped of rights, money and influence. All messages we receive through these systems of communication, whether on the nightly news or talk shows like “Oprah,” promise a brighter, happier tomorrow. And this, as Wolin points out, is “the same ideology that invites corporate executives to exaggerate profits and conceal losses, but always with a sunny face.” We have been entranced, as Wolin writes, by “continuous technological advances” that “encourage elaborate fantasies of individual prowess, eternal youthfulness, beauty through surgery, actions measured in nanoseconds: a dream-laden culture of ever-expanding control and possibility, whose denizens are prone to fantasies because the vast majority have imagination but little scientific knowledge.”

Our manufacturing base has been dismantled. Speculators and swindlers have looted the U.S. Treasury and stolen billions from small shareholders who had set aside money for retirement or college. Civil liberties, including habeas corpus and protection from warrantless wiretapping, have been taken away. Basic services, including public education and health care, have been handed over to the corporations to exploit for profit. The few who raise voices of dissent, who refuse to engage in the corporate happy talk, are derided by the corporate establishment as freaks.

Attitudes and temperament have been cleverly engineered by the corporate state, as with Huxley’s pliant characters in “Brave New World.” The book’s protagonist, Bernard Marx, turns in frustration to his girlfriend Lenina:

“Don’t you wish you were free, Lenina?” he asks.

“I don’t know that you mean. I am free, free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody’s happy nowadays.”

He laughed, “Yes, ‘Everybody’s happy nowadays.’ We have been giving the children that at five. But wouldn’t you like to be free to be happy in some other way, Lenina? In your own way, for example; not in everybody else’s way.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” she repeated.

The façade is crumbling. And as more and more people realize that they have been used and robbed, we will move swiftly from Huxley’s “Brave New World” to Orwell’s “1984.” The public, at some point, will have to face some very unpleasant truths. The good-paying jobs are not coming back. The largest deficits in human history mean that we are trapped in a debt peonage system that will be used by the corporate state to eradicate the last vestiges of social protection for citizens, including Social Security. The state has devolved from a capitalist democracy to neo-feudalism. And when these truths become apparent, anger will replace the corporate-imposed cheerful conformity. The bleakness of our post-industrial pockets, where some 40 million Americans live in a state of poverty and tens of millions in a category called “near poverty,” coupled with the lack of credit to save families from foreclosures, bank repossessions and bankruptcy from medical bills, means that inverted totalitarianism will no longer work.

We increasingly live in Orwell’s Oceania, not Huxley’s The World State. Osama bin Laden plays the role assumed by Emmanuel Goldstein in “1984.” Goldstein, in the novel, is the public face of terror. His evil machinations and clandestine acts of violence dominate the nightly news. Goldstein’s image appears each day on Oceania’s television screens as part of the nation’s “Two Minutes of Hate” daily ritual. And without the intervention of the state, Goldstein, like bin Laden, will kill you. All excesses are justified in the titanic fight against evil personified.

The psychological torture of Pvt. Bradley Manning—who has now been imprisoned for seven months without being convicted of any crime—mirrors the breaking of the dissident Winston Smith at the end of “1984.” Manning is being held as a “maximum custody detainee” in the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia. He spends 23 of every 24 hours alone. He is denied exercise. He cannot have a pillow or sheets for his bed. Army doctors have been plying him with antidepressants. The cruder forms of torture of the Gestapo have been replaced with refined Orwellian techniques, largely developed by government psychologists, to turn dissidents like Manning into vegetables. We break souls as well as bodies. It is more effective. Now we can all be taken to Orwell’s dreaded Room 101 to become compliant and harmless. These “special administrative measures” are regularly imposed on our dissidents, including Syed Fahad Hashmi, who was imprisoned under similar conditions for three years before going to trial. The techniques have psychologically maimed thousands of detainees in our black sites around the globe. They are the staple form of control in our maximum security prisons where the corporate state makes war on our most politically astute underclass—African-Americans. It all presages the shift from Huxley to Orwell.

“Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling,” Winston Smith’s torturer tells him in “1984.” “Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves.”

The noose is tightening. The era of amusement is being replaced by the era of repression. Tens of millions of citizens have had their e-mails and phone records turned over to the government. We are the most monitored and spied-on citizenry in human history. Many of us have our daily routine caught on dozens of security cameras. Our proclivities and habits are recorded on the Internet. Our profiles are electronically generated. Our bodies are patted down at airports and filmed by scanners. And public service announcements, car inspection stickers, and public transportation posters constantly urge us to report suspicious activity. The enemy is everywhere.

Those who do not comply with the dictates of the war on terror, a war which, as Orwell noted, is endless, are brutally silenced. The draconian security measures used to cripple protests at the G-20 gatherings in Pittsburgh and Toronto were wildly disproportionate for the level of street activity. But they sent a clear message—DO NOT TRY THIS. The FBI’s targeting of antiwar and Palestinian activists, which in late September saw agents raid homes in Minneapolis and Chicago, is a harbinger of what is to come for all who dare defy the state’s official Newspeak. The agents—our Thought Police—seized phones, computers, documents and other personal belongings. Subpoenas to appear before a grand jury have since been served on 26 people. The subpoenas cite federal law prohibiting “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.” Terror, even for those who have nothing to do with terror, becomes the blunt instrument used by Big Brother to protect us from ourselves.

“Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating?” Orwell wrote. “It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself.”
(c) 2010 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

Learning From Lame Ducks
By David Michael Green

So, class, what have we learned from the past week or two of the lame duck Congress and our just plain-old lame president?

A few things, actually. Not – since lameness trumps all else – that they’ll necessarily matter, though.

One thing – which is actually only new to someone who has spent the last several decades not paying attention to American politics (Barack, are you listening?) – is that there is effectively no bottom to the depths to which Republicans will sink in order to serve their plutocratic masters and strip the country bare. I mean none. Zero. Nada. Zip. They are capable of absolutely anything. Learning From Lame Ducks

Again, this is only news if you somehow managed to sleep through McCarthyism. Or even through your high school history lecture on McCarthyism. It’s only news if you’d been on an extended Disneyland holiday for the two years of Watergate. Or maybe you were you were off fishing in Antarctica when the first failed Bush was using racist Willie Horton ads to win the presidency. It’s only novel if you were comatose later when Karl Rove and the Wee Bush, along with their merry band of Vietnam war avoiders, savaged in succession John McCain, Max Cleland and John Kerry for their supposed national security failings, in order to score political points. It’s only news if you somehow slept through the travesty of Bush vs. Gore, when the regressive majority on the Supreme Court did a total 180 on all their previously held, deeply-deeply-felt, values in order to shove the little brat across the finish line and into the Oval Office.

For the rest of us, however, this is not a giant shock. True to form, there were the Republicans these last weeks insisting on the one thing they absolutely had to have in any deal, which of course was massive tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. That was their sine qua non, and that’s just what they got when Mr. Happy in the White House went into the alley once again carrying only flowers, while the other guys brought knives. And aircraft carriers. After he repeats this performance two years from now and makes these boondoggles for the wealthy permanent, the cost to the American treasury will total something like $830 billion over the next ten years. All borrowed, of course. And almost all to be repaid by non-elites when it comes back in the form of loans due, plus interest. When even Ayn Rand disciple Alan Greenspan urges the government not to do this, you know it must be incredibly damaging.

But why not let Wall Street itself speak. These great patriots who demand that the government pile more wealth on top of existing enormous stacks will in fact completely abandon their much-beloved host country as soon as the financials suggest that is the way to go. It may not be long. This plan is so bad that Moody’s is now – for the first time in, what, centuries? Ever? – calling into question the credit-worthiness of the United States government. Their assessment of the deal is that “the negative effects on government finance are likely to outweigh the positive effects of higher economic growth. Unless there are offsetting measures, the package will be credit negative for the U.S. and increase the likelihood of a negative outlook on the U.S. government's Aaa rating during the next two years.”

Golly, you know, I’m not entirely hep on that whole investment-casino-racket-game, but that sounds an awful lot to me like the noise made by dead canaries in coal mines. Doesn’t it?

And yet these same Republicans held unemployment benefits hostage to this give-away to the wealthy. Benefits for people who are suffering because of the Great Recession that Republicans themselves created. And some of them even make the most astonishingly crass comments about the poor slobs out there with no jobs, no prospects, and no hope, thanks to the GOP. Said Orrin Hatch, “We should not be giving cash to people who basically are just gonna blow it on drugs." I’m not gonna say what I really think should be done to someone that heartless, because doing so would probably just buy me a visit from the Secret Service. Are there really people like this? In the highest bodies of government? In the world’s sole superpower?

It’s absolutely amazing. But not even that could top what these same folks did when they refused to pass legislation to pay for medical care for those first-responders who went into the burning maw of the 9/11 World Trade Center pile. They argued that the government couldn’t afford the expense a handful of billions of dollars to take care of these firemen and police officers and emergency crews, even though the expense was actually compensated for in the bill by raised fees. You really have to shake your head in wonder at these guys. First, because it is amazing to contemplate what could have happened to such people in their youth that could have turned them into these complete sociopaths, utterly unfeeling of other people’s grief, and utterly amoral. And secondly, you have to shake your head in amazement that any politician could be so seemingly out of touch with the values of the country that they would dare come out against funding medical care for 9/11 first-responders. But, finally, you have to shake your head in awe that these same people just won resounding victories in the last national election. Which makes you wonder just who is out of touch with national values and who is not? The voting public seems to agree that the wealthy need more and bigger tax cuts, and that they need them even if that means we can’t afford to pay for treating the severe respiratory illnesses of those who answered the call on 9/11 and plunged into a rescue effort. No, in addition to having to live through the horrors of those days and relive them for the rest of their lives, then getting extremely ill and having their quality of life ruined and its quantity cut short because of their sacrifice, they should also have to pay for their own medical treatment. You know, so that billionaires can become multibillionaires.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. Of sorts. After the amount in question was chopped down, twice, the Republicans finally relented and agreed to the bill. But, by all accounts, what really did the trick was Jon Stewart expressing the same moral outrage about their position on this question that inhabits the paragraph above. Which suggests that, yes, in fact, these sick sociopaths can be shamed. Or, at least – since I doubt they actually have any shame at all – that they can be moved to change their votes out of fear of losing their jobs (call it ‘play shame’). And this is the second lesson of the lame duck Congress.

But notice who did the shaming here, and who did not. It sure wasn’t the mainstream media. And, incredibly, it wasn’t the opposition party to the Republicans.

I hope to live long enough to understand American politics in our time. I really ought to, since people pay me money to teach it to college undergrads. But I confess it remains mysterious in certain profound ways. I certainly get that on economic issues there’s hardly any difference any more between Reptilians and Demoncrats. Indeed, on such issues it is nearly a complete misnomer to even speak of them as separate parties. They are merely two cooperative wings of the same plutocracy. Sorta like the Army and the Marines. Sure, those two services of the same Defense Department have lots of disputes and rivalries over mission and funding. But when they United States military invades your country, you’re not gonna be noticing any real difference between which part of the hammer is bonking you over the head. Similarly, when the oligarchs seek to strip the very paint off the USS US, ever since Bill Clinton brought us the New Democrat model they can call upon either party or both to get the job done.

So I get that part. What I don’t get, however, is why self-interested politicians don’t pursue their self-interest, especially when it is handed to them on a silver platter. I don’t believe that Democrats give a shit about the American public, but don’t they care desperately about their own political careers? Wouldn’t they really, really rather win elections than get humiliated in them? And isn’t it logical to assume that they would use every weapon available to achieve that end, especially those that actually come with no skanky baggage attached? What I’ve been puzzling about for decades is why Democrats don’t do the same thing Jon Stewart did?

Clearly, there are some things that Republicans do that are harder than others to criticize. Jingoistic displays of ‘toughness’ against some foreign bogeyman du jour is always going to play well with the hoi polloi, who like their politics bumper-sticker sized, and reducible down to one-act (if not one-sentence) morality plays, in which they inevitably are on the side of Good. And god. Same with taxes. It’s pretty easy to sell people on the idea of getting more money, especially when you pretend that such so-called tax cuts are cost-free.

But there’s also so much else that Republicans say and do that is just absolutely outrageous, and could be just hammered against them if Democrats had the slightest inclination to do so. Remember when George W. Bush said the Iraq war was over before it had really even begun? How utterly lame was that? Remember when that Vietnam era coward told the folks killing American GIs in Iraq by the thousands to “Bring it on!”? Remember when he did a ‘hilarious’ video send-up of himself searching all over his office for those missing WMDs, the whole pretext for the invasion of Iraq and the eight year war which has followed? Remember when he said he didn’t really care that much about catching Osama bin Laden, or when he just shrugged his shoulders in response to indications that the North Koreans were about to explode a nuclear warhead? Remember when Donald Rumsfeld amply demonstrated his indifference to the soldiers under his command after they asked for simple protective armament, and he responded that “You go to war with the army you have, not that one you want?”

I could go on and on here, but the point is obvious. These clowns continually leave themselves wide open for withering attack, just as they did by opposing unemployment extensions for ‘lazy’ laid-off workers, or by opposing the pittance cost to provide health care for 9/11 first-responders, all based on the claim that we can’t afford the spending, even though we absolutely must give massive tax cuts to billionaires.

But the Democrats don’t ever attack, even for their own survival, and least of all does the hapless excuse for a chief executive now in the White House. Like I said, lame I get. Bought-off I get. But this?

Oh well. Nobody in Washington is going to change their stripes tomorrow because I told them to. But if we’re looking for lessons from these last weeks, here’s another – and it’s a powerful one. One of the country’s preeminent comedians showed half the political class what they couldn’t figure out for themselves – namely, how to accept gift-wrapped opportunities from the other half for the latter’s annihilation.

These are not exactly surprising revelations, and they’re not even necessarily newsworthy. But there has been one development lately that is semi-novel and potentially very consequential. Or, at least, it would be, if the Democrats had even the slightest bit of gumption.

What I’m referring to is the splitting of the Republican Party on several of the key votes cast over recent days. On Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, on the New START treaty with the Russians, on the tax bill and on the 9/11 first-responders health care bill, the heretofore highly monolithic Republican Party showed fissures that are really unusual compared to most all of their historical behavior over the last thirty years. It’s not that the GOP never splits, it’s just that it’s so rare. And to have it happen this many times in this short a period presents some intriguing possibilities.

Party discipline has been key to Republican success during these years, especially the last two, when they were in the much repudiated minority, and at a time when every single vote in the Senate was potentially the difference between having the 60 necessary to move forward on legislation that had clear majority support, or seeing it bottled up forever. (There was, of course, always the third alternative, in which Democrats would make Republicans actually do the filibuster over an unpopular cause, thus forcing the GOP to bring a public relations disaster down on their own heads. Or the fourth alternative, in which the Democrats could have used their majority to change the rules of the Senate in order to make it far more democratic in nature. Of course, either of these would have required the Democrats to be interested in genuine public service and to have even a moderate willingness to stand up for themselves, which explains why neither occurred.)

In any case, there are now some preliminary indications that the Republicans are not so disciplined anymore. And, what’s more, while it’s very early to tell, the fissures within the party seem to perhaps be multiple. I see the GOP as having essentially three camps, which can be thought of as being arrayed ideologically, from right to way far right. There is also a chronological ordering these factions as well.

On the left side of the spectrum (though far from being left) are the last gasps of the old center-right, Eastern, Rockefeller Republicans who once in fact dominated the party. They are virtually extinct nowadays, either abandoned by constituents because of their association with the freaks controlling the party, beaten by those freaks in a primary challenge, or reinvented as some sort other creature, as Arlen Specter (who actually fits into all three of these categories) tried to pull off. But there are still a few of them around – Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe from Maine, sometimes along with Richard Lugar, may be the only remaining such dinosaurs – and in close votes they can matter.

To their right are the Establishment Republicans, which is simultaneously both the old insurrectionary class and the current defenders against the new insurrectionary class. These are folks who are the radical-bonkers-predatory-Cro-Magnons of 1990s vintage, who became the mainstream by virtue of the country’s politics moving rightward and by their killing off the Neanderthals mentioned above. These are the children of Gingrich and the grandchildren of Reagan – people (at least in appearance – they could as easily be reptiles instead) like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.

They’ve had the party to themselves for a while, but now the tea party guerillas (or is it gorillas?) have arisen, in part by trashing the old guard as irresponsible big spenders. It’s not at all clear that the party leadership has control over these professed radicals, and not at all clear what happens if they refuse to play ball on, say, spending, or raising the debt ceiling.

All in all, this makes for some interesting opportunities and possibilities. Or, it could, that is. Again, there’s not much use for potential fissures in the opposition if there’s no one around to actually exploit them. There might be some real possibility here for the use of wedge issues to explode the differences in the GOP, or at least to make them pay at the ballot box for what they have to do to paper over those differences. Republicans have been doing this to their opponents for quite some time, to enormous electoral success – for example, using gay-bashing to peel off social conservatives from the Democratic Party and getting them to vote against their own economic interest.

But that would require Democrats to do what has come naturally to Republicans for decades, but is more or less anathema for the helpless, hapless Dems.

It’s called playing hardball. It’s called playing to win.

The lame duck Congress brought some surprises and some notable victories. It’s fair to say, for instance, that repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell may the biggest single civil rights leap forward we’ve seen in half a century. That’s no small thing, of course, but it’s well to remember two caveats there. The first is that what we’re talking about is essentially a negative victory – the undoing of what was a really bad idea to start with, going back to its beginning nearly two decades ago. That may be progress of a sort, but it’s kinda like somebody reaching into your pocket and pulling out a hundred dollar bill, then later handing it back to you. You might feel like you’re that much richer, but you really shouldn’t.

The other missing ingredient here is that the president, who may not have even worked particularly hard behind the scenes for this legislation, surely didn’t get out front on it. That is to say that he – unlike Lyndon Johnson or Jack Kennedy – never used the bully pulpit to make the moral case for why this is the right and essential task for the nation at this time. Civil rights legislation and moral haranguing go hand in hand, each reinforcing and further advancing the other. Barack taking a powder on one of the great moral causes of our day doesn’t exactly help make life in America better and safer for gays and lesbians. Indeed, it’s worse than that. By stating that he still opposes gay marriage, he is absolutely part of the problem, not the solution.

My guess is that we’re going to be seeing more of that. The last two years have been disappointing and arguably quite disastrous for the country. That produced a lovely vicious cycle, which gave us Election 2010, the results of which are now likely to produce even more disastrous politics over the coming two years.

This was all ridiculously unnecessary, but that’s how it works with Obama and his party.

If it weren’t for the degree to which the actions and non-actions of Democrats wind up savaging the American people, you could say they were their own worse enemy.
(c) 2010 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

The Dead Letter Office...

Tom eyes some new victims

Heil Obama,

Dear Generalstaatsanwalt Horne,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and your creations of new laws stripping American citizens of their rights at home and in school, 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 01-15-2011. We salute you Herr Horne, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Obama’s Liberty Problem
Why Indefinite Detention by Executive Order Should Scare the Hell Out of People
By Bill Quigley

The right to liberty is one of the foundation rights of a free people. The idea that any US President can bypass Congress and bypass the Courts by issuing an Executive Order setting up a new legal system for indefinite detention of people should rightfully scare the hell out of the American people.

Advisors in the Obama administration have floated the idea of creating a special new legal system to indefinitely detain people by Executive Order. Why? To do something with the people wrongfully imprisoned in Guantanamo. Why not follow the law and try them? The government knows it will not be able to win prosecutions against them because they were tortured by the US.

Guantanamo is coming up on its ninth anniversary – a horrifying stain on the character of the US commitment to justice. President Obama knows well that Guantanamo is the most powerful recruitment tool for those challenging the US. Unfortunately, this proposal for indefinite detention will prolong the corrosive effects of the illegal and immoral detentions at Guantanamo rightly condemned world-wide.

The practical, logical, constitutional and human rights problems with the proposal are uncountable.

Our system provides a simple answer developed over hundreds of years – try them or release them. Any other stop gap measure like the one proposed merely pushes the problem back down the road and back into the courts again. While it may appear to be a popular political response, the public will soon enough see this for what it is – an unconstitutional usurping of power by the Executive branch and a clear and present danger to all Americans.

The US government has never publicly said who can be prosecuted and who they have decided to hold indefinitely because they think they cannot successfully charge them. Now, after holding people for years and years, they think they can create a new set of laws by Executive Order which will justify their actions?

Recall that dozens of the very same people who would now be subject to indefinite detention have already been cleared for release by the government. How can indefinite detention of people we already cleared to go home possibly be legal?

The government proposes essentially to detain people for being a potential member or friend of the enemy force – a standard that is too open ended and inconsistent with the US and international laws of war.

Our criminal process, requiring charge, conviction and other safeguards, is the primary means by which the government may deprive a person of liberty, with carefully limited exceptions.

“Freedom from bodily restraint has always been at the core of the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause from arbitrary governmental action.” The Supreme Court has “always been careful not to “minimize the importance and fundamental nature of the individual’s right to liberty.” Foucha v Louisiana, 504 US 71 (1992).

The liberty of all persons is protected by the criminal process guarantees, among other rights: the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures; probable cause for arrest; right to counsel, right to indictment by grand jury; right to trial by an impartial jury; the right to a speedy public trial; the presumption of innocence; the right that government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt every fact necessary to make out the charged offense; a privilege against self-incrimination; the right to confront and cross examine witnesses; the right to present witnesses and use compulsory process; the duty on the government to disclose exculpatory evidence; prohibition against double jeopardy; prohibition against bills of attainder and ex post facto laws; and a prohibition against selective prosecution.

For hundreds of years judges and legislatures and advocates for justice have struggled to create protections for our liberty. People who suggest bypassing all of these protections of our liberty in the name of safety or politics do our people and our history a grave disservice.

Some wrongfully suggest that preventive detention by the Executive would be allowed because the law already allows civil confinement. But there are only very narrow circumstances when limited civil confinement is allowed by law. It is clear government cannot use civil detention or anything like it to effect punishment or to escape the comprehensive constraints of the criminal justice system. Kansas v Crane, 534 US 407, 412 (2002) (noting that civil commitment must not “become a mechanism for retribution or general deterrence." Further, preventive detention also violates international law, specifically the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), article 9.

The proposal to create a special new legal system by Executive Order is an end run around Congress and the Judiciary. It will lengthen the illegal detentions in Guantanamo and will force this entire system back into the courts for years. It will further damage US efforts to portray itself as a fair country of laws, and will threaten the liberty of every single US citizen who is not in Guantanamo because it will damage the due process guarantees which have built up over the years to protect each one of us.
(c) 2010 Bill Quigley is a Katrina survivor and is legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He can be contacted at

Another WikiLeaks Cable From The Bush Administration About My Movies
By Michael Moore

Twice within four days, my name has popped up in the Bush-era secret cables uncovered by WikiLeaks. Lucky me. Though nowhere near as earth-shattering as the uncovering of American misdeeds in Iraq and Afghanistan, these classified cables provide a stunning and bizarre peek into the paranoid minds of the Bush White House when it came to the subject of one Michael Francis Moore.

And considering how WikiLeaks has released only 1,826 cables of its planned drop of 251,287 -- and I've already played a starring role twice -- I can only say I await with bemused anticipation how the moi-storyline will play itself out.

The most recent secret cable revelation is in today's Guardian newspaper of London. It's entitled, "US Intervened in Michael Moore NZ Screening." Oh yeah, baby! New Zealand! That's where we'll stop Moore and his band of evildoers!

The date was July 30, 2004. 'Fahrenheit 9/11' was already a huge hit in the United States. Just to give you an idea how huge, it had hit #1 at the box office, the only documentary to have ever accomplished this feat, and had made more on its opening weekend than 'Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.'

But it was no easy path to get there. Disney (which owned Miramax) was apoplectic when they saw the final cut. So they pulled the film from its theatrical schedule. Then they put a permanent block on its release, insuring no one would see it. But then the New York Times, in a front page story, reported that the real reason Disney hated 'Fahrenheit' was they were worried about the tax breaks it got in Jeb Bush's Florida for Disney World. This caused some embarrassment, so Disney then sold 'Fahrenheit' to the Weinstein Bros., who said they'd spend their own money to distribute it.

The release of the film caused concern at the White House, as this was the re-election year. They hired a pollster who told them the film might tip the election. That was enough for them to swing into action. Much of July was a nonstop barrage of attacks on me and the movie. But that just resulted in more tickets being sold.

Which brings us to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. There are few nations on earth further away from us. A local chapter of the ruling Labor Party apparently had decided to do a fundraising screening of 'Fahrenheit 9/11.' It was to be hosted by the Prime Minister's Cabinet Secretary for the Environment.

Well, when the U.S. Embassy in Wellington got word of this, it was like all heck broke loose. America was offended! Phone calls were made to the Prime Minister! Then to the Cabinet Secretary! We ... are ... not ... happy!

Apparently, the Kiwis backed down and the Cabinet Secretary withdrew as the host. A sigh of relief whiffed its way through the American embassy. Moore stopped! The cable back to Washington showed the embassy had no problem taking credit for putting the kabosh on yours truly:

"... it is probable that this potential fiasco may only have been averted because of our phone calls -- it is apparent to us that neither the Minister nor anyone else in the Labour government seems to have thought there was anything wrong with a senior Minister hosting such an event."

So here's my question:


I mean, seriously -- really? This is how the Bush State Department was spending its time -- on a single screening of 'Fahrenheit 9/11' in freakin' New Zealand? Or maybe ... was this kind of interference happening just to New Zealand? Call me crazy, but I gotta feelin' it doesn't stop there. Just as a health insurance executive has now come forward as a whistleblower to reveal the millions spent to smear 'Sicko,' I can't wait for that day when the whistleblower from the Bush White House comes forward to tell the fascinating tale of how the Bush team believed they had to do something -- anything -- to stop 'Fahrenheit.' Or worse (like the "Plan B" the health insurance companies discussed -- to "push Michael Moore off a cliff."). I didn't want to think about what the Bush Plan B would be. Just wasn't worth the crazy-making. So I ignored the things I'd hear, kept my head down and motored on.

But, it does make you wonder. And I ask you, is it fair to pose the question: If they were this focused on some insignificant screening in New Zealand, what else were they up to? And I don't mean in regards to me. I mean anyone who was on their enemies list ...

I can't wait to read more classified cables.

P.S. Of course, given the false claims the State Department made in the other "secret" cable about my movie 'Sicko,' I guess anything was possible.

P.P.S. Don't miss the REAL revelations from just the first batch of WikiLeaks cables. For instance, the Obama administration worked together with Republicans to kill an investigation by Spain into Bush's torture. Pfizer hired a private investigator to dig up dirt on the Attorney General of Nigeria. Bush's ambassador to France planned to "retaliate" against the country for standing up to Monsanto. And we're less than 1% of the way through ...
(c) 2010 Michael Moore is an activist, author, and filmmaker. See more of his work at his website

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Dave Granlund ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

When The Tigers Broke Free
By Pink Floyd

It was just before dawn
One miserable morning in black 'forty four.
When the forward commander
Was told to sit tight
When he asked that his men be withdrawn.
And the Generals gave thanks
As the other ranks held back
The enemy tanks for a while.
And the Anzio bridgehead
Was held for the price
Of a few hundred ordinary lives.

And kind old King George
Sent Mother a note
When he heard that father was gone.
It was, as I recall,
In a form of a scroll,
With gold leaf and all.
And I found it one day
In a drawer of old photographs, hidden away.
And my eyes still grow damp to remember
His Majesty signed
With his own rubber stamp.

It was dark all around.
There was frost in the ground
When the tigers broke free.
And no one survived
From the Royal Fusiliers Company C.
They were all left behind,
Most of them dead,
The rest of them dying.
And that's how the High Command
Took my daddy from me.
© 2001/2010 Pink Floyd

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Will Durst's 2010 Xmas Wish List
By Will Durst

Wishing you all a Very Happy Merry. And no, I’m not falling into that trap. You go out and dance to the beat of whichever winter festival you want to celebrate. Christmas. Hanukah, Kwanza, Saturnalia, Solstice, noon Tuesday, 420, a December date equal to the square root of the number 625. Whatever. And good on ya. As we say in politically correct San Francisco, “May the corpulent bearded one in the scarlet suit smile upon your chosen shrubbery.” Now, inevitably some people are going to find their stockings aren’t quite stuffed with the egregious booty they were expecting or most importantly, believe they deserve. So I’m here to help the under- gifted achieve a certain amount of cathartic closure. As the great philosopher Rodney King once almost said: Can’t we all wear a thong?” So, to insure that certain traditions don’t get washed right out into the ocean like a picnic table on a Malibu hillside, let me offer up my annual scathingly incisive yet curiously refreshing:


For Mel Gibson. A muzzle. Permanent. Steel. Welded with titanium rivets.

For the Economists who insist the recession ended in June of 09. An opportunity to collect 99 weeks of unemployment insurance.

For Charlie Sheen. A date with Lindsay Lohan. Matching ankle bracelets at Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab.

For WikiLeaks Founder Julian Asange. A slip of paper naming whoever leaked details of his sexual assault charges tucked into a dictionary in the fold of the page with the “irony” entry.

For Betty White. 30 more years.

For Ireland. Far fewer reasons to drown their troubles.

For Juan Williams. A prayer rug for his Fox News cubicle.

For the American public. A case of antacid to get through the next two years watching the heartless pummel the spineless cheered on by the clueless.

For Conan O’Brien. Half the on- air excitement he inspired off- air.

For Barack Obama. An electron telescope to focus on jobs. American jobs. Democratic jobs. Obama Administration jobs. His job.

For Mrs. Clarence Thomas. A six pack of Coke.

For Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. A used set of Spanish language cassette tapes.

For the Cast of Jersey Shore. Watches that only measure increments of 15 minutes.

For the Texas Board of Education. A railroad car stuffed full of historical blinders.

For Bill Clinton. A Presidential appointment to the position of Secretary of Secretaries.

For Toyota. A new corporate motto. Because after 4 recalls involving acceleration problems, “Moving Forward” might be a bit too apropos.

For Katy Perry. A bigger bra.

For the Tea Party. Kissable wallets. Because its time to put their money where their mouth is.

For Willie Nelson. A THC patch.

For the TSA. Extensive training to perfect the impromptu prostate exam.

For John Boehner. A deal with Fruit of the Loom to market a line of “Mister Speaker” monogrammed handkerchiefs. And hand towels.

For former BP CEO, Tony Hayward. Now that he has his life back, a reason to live it.

For Medical Science to Study. Dick Cheney’s heart, Joe Biden’s mouth and Rod Blagojevich’s brain.

For New Gingrich, Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republican field taking sidelong glances at 2012. Something on Sarah.
(c) 2010 Will Durst, is a San Francisco based humor columnist who writes sometimes, this being a conventional example. Don't forget his new CD, "Raging Moderate" from Stand-Up Records now available on both iTunes and Amazon. Early next year: “Where the Rogue Things Go!” From Ulysses Press.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 10 # 52 (c) 12/31/2010

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