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In This Edition

Ann Wright goes, "From Three Decades As A Colonel And Diplomat To Six Years As A Peace Activist."

Uri Avnery uncovers, "A Judicial Document."

Naomi Wolf asks, "Do The Secret Bush Memos Amount To Treason?"

Jim Hightower finds that, "The Milkman Delivers."

Bill McKibben reveals, "The Fierce Urgency Of Now."

Barbara Peterson gives "A Call To Boycott Monsanto - Seminis Seeds."

Paul Krugman sees, "Financial Policy Despair."

Chris Floyd reports, "Shell Oil To Planet Earth: Drop Dead."

Case Wagenvoord watches, "The Resurrection Of The Zombies."

Mike Folkerth wonders, "Problem Resolved? We Wish!"

Chris Hedges says, "America Is In Need Of A Moral Bailout."

Greg Palast exclaims, "Stick Your Damn Hand In It!"

Chuck Norris wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald considers, "Various Matters."

Ted Rall tells, "Why We Hate Them."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst returns with, "Bye American" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "The More Things Change."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Kirk Walters with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Married To The Sea.Com, King Crimson, The Heretik, Mike Lester, Larry Wright, David Horsey, John Darkow, Farm Wars, Universal Pictures, Issues & Alibis.Org and Pink & Blue Films.

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

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

The More Things Change
By Ernest Stewart

The more things change, the more they stay the same. ~~~ Old Proverb

"No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session." ~~~ Gideon J. Tucker

"You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem." ~~~ Joey Ratz

The Changeling is at it again; trouble is there isn't any change. While Barry talks of change, so far it's been pretty much same ole, same ole! Sure there have been a few cosmetic changes but when it comes down to it, it's Bush I & II, Clinton & Reagan all over again. The major difference is that it's packaged differently.

On the war front, our wars keep going on with one rapidly expanding and the new one in Pakistan ramping ever upwards. Our anti-war candidate may be turning down the war in Iraq but he isn't ending it. Even though we're supposed to be totally out of there by 2011, we'll be staying on to the tune of 50,000 or 60,000 soldiers as a "residual force." Can you imagine what would have happened if General Cornwallis announced in 1783 that he was staying on as the "British Provisional Authority" with a residual force of 50,000 Redcoats to provide protection and training for Washington's government? Can you? Well that's Barry's plan for Iraq. Well actually, it was Smirky's, but Barry adopted it!

In Afghanistan our puppet governor appointed by Bush, Hamid Karzai, is beginning to make too many demands, i.e., that we stop slaughtering innocent citizens. Ergo Barry and NATO are going to appoint another puppet of their own as a Prime Minister to usurp Karzai's power since it looks as if Karzai is a shoe-in to remain president after September's election. Hence, just as in the Gaza ghetto when the Palestinians democratically elected someone that wouldn't do Israel's and our bidding, we'll make an end run around the problem and appoint someone who will do our bidding, no matter what Karzai says!

Meanwhile the printing presses are running 24/7 printing out trillions more worthless dollars for "Barry's Banking Buddies." China, Russia and most of the world are demanding a new financial system that isn't based on our worthless money so it's only a matter of time before hyper-inflation makes the dollar worth less than the German mark during the Weimar Republic. You may recall that then people were paid twice a day and went shopping at lunch because by the time they got off work the prices would have doubled or tripled. It took a wheel barrow of money to buy a loaf of bread. Sure the $800,000,000,000.00 for reconstruction of our crumbling infrastructure, school system, green power, etc. is a good and a needed thing but the rest of the bailout is just throwing good money after bad and will make this "moving paper fantasy" of ours come crashing to the ground, taking most of us with it!

Consider the following quotations if you will...

For those of you on the right remember what George Wallace said:

"There's not a dime's worth of difference between the Democrat and Republican Parties."

For those of you on the left remember the words of Gore Vidal:

"It makes no difference who you vote for - the two parties are really one party representing four percent of the people."

And for everybody else, remember the words of your dear old Uncle Ernie:

"The word Politics comes from the Latin, 'Poli' meaning 'Many' and from the English 'Tics' meaning 'Blood Sucking Creatures,' Poli-Tics."

Finally I should note that there has been a new change in the status quo. The Washington Post reports, that in a memo e-mailed this week to Pentagon staff members, the Defense Department's office of security review noted that:

"This administration prefers to avoid using the term 'Long War' or 'Global War on Terror' [GWOT.] Please use 'Overseas Contingency Operation.'"

There will be no real change, America, a change that we desperately need, unless we the people make it so. The poli-tic-ians never will!

In Other News

I've wasted a lot of my time writing my Con-gressmen, Sin-ators and the like, asking them to explain their actions. Since we moved down here to Trinity, South Carolina I've spent more time than usual with the likes of Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint in the Sin-ate and Governor Mark Sanford residing in the state shack! I could write several tomes on each and their peculiar ways of screwing the people but I'll leave that for another time. Today's rant concerns my Con-gressman John Spratt.

John proudly tells anyone who will listen to his rambling about his support for the "State Children's Health Insurance Program" (SCHIP) Reauthorization Act. No doubt a worthy cause but ask John about his support for NAIS HR 1105, a bill to run the small farmer, and especially organic farmers, out of business and leave us to the tender mercies of Monsanto, Cargill and Tyson and the like. All you'll hear is the "Sound Of Silence!" John not only supported HR 1105 but was a co-sponsor, too. Needless to say, I wrote John a letter asking him to explain his actions. And surprise, surprise, I've yet to receive an answer. Here's the letter:

I see that you are a co-sponsor of NAIS HR 1105. Why would you do such a thing to America, John? I'm sure you know very well what will happen if this act of treason passes the Senate. It will, without a doubt, destroy the family farm, which, in turn, will end up poisoning us all, i.e.,

NAIS was designed by NIAA (the National Institute of Animal Agriculture), a corporate consortium consisting of Monsanto, industrial meat producers such as Cargill and Tyson and surveillance companies such Viatrace, AgInfoLink, and Digital Angel. The NAIS scheme fits agribusiness, biotech, and surveillance companies to a T:

1) They are already computerized, and they engineered a corporate loophole: If an entity owns a vertically integrated, birth-to-death factory system with thousands of animals (as the Cargills and Tysons do), it does not have to tag and track each one but instead a herd is given a single lot number.

2) NAIS will only be burdensome and costly (fees, tags, computer equipment, time) to small farmers and that helps push them out of business thus leaving more market to giant agribusiness.

3) Agribusiness wants to reassure export customers that the US meat industry is finally cleaning up its widespread contamination. NAIS would give that appearance ... without incurring the cost of a real cleanup.

4) NAIS will allow total control over the competition: Owners of even a single chicken would be required to register private information, the Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates of their 'premise' and if any animal leaves its 'premise', the owner will be required to obtain an ID number for it and have the animal micro-chipped. All information, including 24 hour GPS surveillance would be fed into a vast corporate data bank, allowing for ease of false slaughter to hide true problems or to substitute biotech's genetically engineered animals.

5) NAIS may allow plundering of farmers through required DNA samples: DNA samples would be invaluable to Monsanto and biotech corporations genetically engineering animals. Farmers who raise heritage breeds would have no say in how their distinct DNA would be used and to the sole profit of biotech companies.

6) The advantage for the surveillance companies is obvious: Compulsory tagging of 6 million sheep, 7 million horses, 63 million hogs, 97 million cows, 260 million turkeys, 300 million laying hens, 9 billion chickens, and untold numbers of bison, alpaca, quail, and other animals -- and new animals being born creates a massive self-perpetuating market.

What would possess you, John, to do such a thing? Monsanto, one of the evilest corpo-rats in the world will be happy to destroy us all with their manufactured poisons. You are supposed to be working for the people, not be a puppet for them! Now we're left to the tender "mercies" of the corpo-rats and the FDA, an agency that was bought and paid for decades ago by the corpo-rats. Thanks!

Explain yourself!

I'll let you know if I ever get a reply.

And Finally

I see where der Panzer Pope has escaped once again from the Vatican and is off to Africa to do what he can to increase AID's amongst the native population. Joey Ratz thinks that upholding dogma is more important than accepting the reality that condoms are a proven and inexpensive method of preventing the spread of AIDs and over-population. Joey says that far from preventing AIDs, "it increases the problem." More importantly, it doesn't matter that it dooms millions of his followers to slow, horrible, agonizing deaths. Just so long as the laws of his mythology aren't broken. It's good to be king!

Finding himself on a roll, he said of African mythology versus papal mythology:

"So many of them are living in fear of spirits, of malign and threatening powers. In their bewilderment they even end up condemning street children and the elderly as alleged sorcerers."

Listen up, people, here's something Joey knows about. If you don't believe me then just ask those Jewish wizards that suffered under the righteous Torquemada or ask Galileo how this works. Of course, I've always thought that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones but then again, what do I know? Am I saying that Joey Ratz is a hypocrite? Why, yes I am! How many women were burned at the stake for being witches or the "devil's handmaidens" over Catholic dogma? How many died a similar death as heretics? Do you know the number of midwives who were slaughtered for the crime of being women with knowledge?

You say the church has changed and I say somewhat, but official disregard of reality goes ever onward. Joey wants to revive a Church for the ultraconservatives, those earnest souls who yearn for a simpler, stricter, stronger Church, led by an omniscient, omnipotent father, someone like der Panzer Pope! An imperialist, dogmatic, institution where you abandon reason once you enter its doors to a land of wizards, witches, demons and devils. Yes, hypocrite and liar pretty much sums up Joey, don't you think?


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Ernest & Victoria Stewart


12-11-1923 ~ 03-13-2009
R.I.P. Sweetie!

10-07-1939 ~ 03-20-2009
Rock on!

02-08-1948 ~ 03-25-2009
Rock on!


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


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


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

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

From Three Decades As A Colonel And Diplomat To Six Years As A Peace Activist
By Ann Wright

It was six years ago that I resigned from the Bush administration and the US diplomatic corps in opposition to the war on Iraq. I remember the day so well. I woke up about 2 in the morning.

Like so many mornings in the past months, I could not sleep through the night. I was very worried and upset hearing the comments out of Washington, that we, the US government, were being forced into taking military action against Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi government.

I, like so many US diplomats and US citizens, was wondering, why must the United States attack Iraq right now? Should we not wait and hear the results of the United Nations weapons inspectors on whether there was a weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq? How could we take military action without the agreement of the member states of the United Nations Security Council?

When President Bush launched "shock and awe" on Baghdad on the morning of March 19 (Mongolia time) and March 18 in the US, I decided I was not going to continue working in the Department of State.

Upon arriving at the Embassy, I asked our communications officer to send my letter of resignation from the United States government to my boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell. I expected to join quickly the two other federal employees who had resigned (both were also US diplomats.)

Several minutes later, the communications officer came back to my office and said "Ms. Wright, I read your telegram to the secretary of state and I wish that you would reconsider your resignation. I don't agree either with the Bush administration's decision to attack Iraq, but I'm not going to resign. I haven't yet sent your telegram to Washington and wish you would not resign!"

I told the communications officer that I appreciated very much what she felt, but I needed her to send my resignation telegram. She went back to her office visibly disturbed. Fifteen minutes later, I called her and asked: "Have you sent my telegram?" She answered, "No, I was hoping you would reconsider."

I told her of my appreciation of her concerns about my resignation, and repeated my request/order that she send the resignation telegram to Washington. A few minutes later, she brought me my copy of the telegram that she sent to Washington announcing my resignation from the federal government.

As the telegram went to Washington, I forwarded emails to friends in US diplomatic missions around the world, explaining why I felt I must resign in opposition to the Bush administration's war on Iraq. Within hours, I received over 400 emails in support and not one email in opposition to my decision.

One week later, I left Mongolia. It took that long for packing materials to be brought from China into Mongolia, as there were no household packing/moving companies in Mongolia.

Now, six years later, many have asked whether I have had any regrets about resignation from the US government.

I must stay that, honestly, my only regret has been that so many people who felt the same way that I did, did not resign too. For me, my resignation freed me to speak freely about my concerns over the Bush administration's war on Iraq, the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and the unnecessary curtailment of civil liberties under the Patriot Act.

I cannot imagine working the past six years in the Bush administration, and I fully intend to hold the Bush administration accountable for what it has done.

Since that fateful day, March 19, 2003, I have worked for peace in Iraq and have traveled for peace in other parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran and Gaza.

After six years of no longer working for the United States government, I have no regrets. I have met and become a part of a strong movement within the United States that works for peace in the United States and in countries throughout the world - Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran and Gaza.

As I was honored to serve my country by working within our government for over 35 years, I am now honored to be serving my country by actively and visibly confronting our government, demanding peace and justice and accountability for actions of government officials. Challenging government policies that are harmful, much less illegal, is a responsibility for us as citizens.

There are many ways to serve one's country. I fully believe challenging policies that one feels are harmful to our nation is service, not treason.

So, six years after my resignation, I am proud to have resigned and value so much the new friends I have made, as well as the old friends from the past.

I will continue working for peace and justice every day.

(c) 2009 Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army veteran who retired as a Colonel, and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003, in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001, she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of "Dissent: Voices Of Conscience." Her March 19, 2003, letter of resignation can be read here.

A Judicial Document
By Uri Avnery

THE MOST important sentence written in Israel this week was lost in the general tumult of exciting events.

Really exciting: In a final act of villainy, typical of his whole tenure as Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert abandoned the captive soldier, Gilad Shalit.

Ehud Barak decided that the Labor Party must join the ultra-right government, which includes outright fascists.

And this, too: the former President of Israel was officially indicted for rape.

In this cacophony, who would pay any attention to a sentence written by lawyers in a document submitted to the Supreme Court?

THE JUDICIAL debate concerns one of the most revolting laws ever enacted in Israel.

It says that the wife of an Israeli citizen is not allowed to join him in Israel if she is living in the occupied Palestinian territories or in a "hostile" Arab country.

The Arab citizens of Israel belong to Hamulas (clans) which extend beyond the borders of the state. Arabs generally marry within the Hamula. This is an ancient custom, deeply rooted in their culture, probably originating in the desire to keep the family property together. In the Bible, Isaac married his cousin, Rebecca.

The "Green Line," which was fixed arbitrarily by the events of the 1948 war, divides families. One village found itself in Israel, the next remained outside the new state, the Hamula lives in both. The Nakba also created a large Palestinian Diaspora.

A male Arab citizen in Israel who desires to marry a woman of his Hamula will often find her in the West Bank or in a refugee camp in Lebanon or Syria. The woman will generally join her husband and be taken in by his family. In theory, her husband could join her in Ramallah, but the standard of living there is much lower, and all his life - family, work, studies - is centered in Israel. Because of the large difference in the standard of living, a man in the occupied territories who marries a woman in Israel will also usually join her and receive Israeli citizenship, leaving behind his former life.

It is hard to know how many Palestinians, male and female, have come to Israel during the 41 years of occupation and become Israeli citizens this way. One government office speaks of twenty thousand, another of more than a hundred thousand. Whatever the number, the Knesset has enacted an (officially "temporary") law to put an end to this movement.

As usual with us, the pretext was security. After all, the Arabs who are naturalized in Israel could be "terrorists." True, no statistics have ever been published about such cases - if there are any - but since when did a "security" assertion need evidence to prove it?

Behind the security argument there lurks, of course, a demographic demon. The Arabs now constitute about 20% of Israel's citizens. If the country were to be swamped by a flood of Arab brides and bridegrooms, this percentage might rise to - God forbid! - 22%. How would the "Jewish State" look then?

The matter came before the Supreme Court, The petitioners, Jews and Arabs, argued that this measure contradicts our Basic Laws (our substitute for a nonexistent constitution) which guarantee the equality of all citizens. The answer of the Ministry of Justice lawyers let the cat out of the bag. It asserts, for the first time, in unequivocal language, that:

"The State of Israel is at war with the Palestinian people, people against people, collective against collective."

ONE SHOULD read this sentence several times to appreciate its full impact. This is not a phrase escaping from the mouth of a campaigning politician and disappearing with his breath, but a sentence written by cautious lawyers carefully weighing every letter.

If we are at war with "the Palestinian people," this means that every Palestinian, wherever he or she may be, is an enemy. That includes the inhabitants of the occupied territories, the refugees scattered throughout the world as well as the Arab citizens of Israel proper. A mason in Taibeh, Israel, a farmer near Nablus in the West Bank, a policeman of the Palestinian Authority in Jenin, a Hamas fighter in Gaza, a girl in a school in the Mia Mia refugee camp near Sidon, Lebanon, a naturalized American shopkeeper in New York - "collective against collective."

Of course, the lawyers did not invent this principle. It has been accepted for a long time in daily life, and all arms of the government act accordingly. The army averts its eyes when an "illegal" outpost is established in the West Bank on the land of Palestinians, and sends soldiers to protect the invaders. Israeli courts customarily impose harsher sentences on Arab defendants than on Jews guilty of the same offense. The soldiers of an army unit order T-shirts showing a pregnant Arab woman with a rifle trained on her belly and the words "1 shot, 2 kills" (as exposed in Haaretz this week).

THESE ANONYMOUS lawyers should perhaps be thanked for daring to formulate in a judicial document the reality that had previously been hidden in a thousand different ways.

The simple reality is that 127 years after the beginning of the first Jewish wave of immigration, 112 years after the founding of the Zionist movement, 61 years after the establishment of the State of Israel, 41 years after the beginning of the occupation, the Israeli-Palestinian war continues along all the front lines with undiminished vigor.

The inherent aim of the Zionist enterprise was and is to turn the country - at least up to the Jordan River - into a homogeneous Jewish state. Throughout the course of Zionist-Israeli history, this aim has not been forsaken for a moment. Every cell of the Israeli organism contains this genetic code and therefore acts accordingly, without the need for a specific directive.

In my mind I see this process as the urge of a river to reach the sea. A river yearning for the sea does not recognize any law, except for the law of gravity. If the terrain allows it, it will flow in a straight course, if not - it will cut a new riverbed, twist like a snake, turn right and left, go around obstacles. If necessary, it will split into rivulets. From time to time, new brooks will join it. And every minute it will strive to reach the sea.

The Palestinian people, of course, oppose this process. They refuse to budge, set up dams, try to push the stream back. True, for more than a hundred years they have been on the retreat, but they have never surrendered. They continue to resist with the same persistence as the advancing river.

ALL THIS has been associated, on the Israeli side, with an obstinate denial, using a thousand and one guises, pretexts, self-serving slogans and sanctimonious untruths. But from time to time an unexpected flash of light shows what is really going on.

That happened this week, when one of the pre-military preparatory schools, set up to educate future officers, convened a meeting of alumni, most of them on active service or in the reserves, and encouraged them to speak freely about their experiences. Since many of them had just returned from the Gaza War, and the things were burning in their bones (as the Hebrew expression goes), shocking details were disclosed. These quickly found their way to the media and were published at length in newspapers and on television.

To the readers of this column they would not come as a surprise. I have written about them before, e.g. in my article "Black Flag" (January 31, 2009). Amira Hass and Gideon Levy have collected eye-witness reports from Gaza inhabitants, telling much the same stories. But there is a difference: this time the facts are disclosed by the soldiers themselves, those who took part in the events or saw them with their own eyes.

The army was Shocked. Surprised. Revolted. The official Army Liar, who bears the title of Army Spokesperson, had previously denied anything of the kind. Now he promises that the army will investigate every incident "as the case may require." The Military Advocate General ordered the investigative arm of the military police to open an inquiry. Since the same Advocate General bragged in the past that his officers had been embedded throughout the war in every front-line command post, one would have to be more than naive to take his statement seriously.

One can rely on the army to ensure that nothing tangible emerges from the investigation. An army investigating itself - like any institution investigating itself - is a farce. In this case it is even more than farcical, since the soldiers must testify under the eyes of their commanders, while their comrades are listening. In the alumni meeting, they spoke freely, believing that only those present would hear. Even so, they needed a lot of courage to speak out. And since each of them could speak only about what had happened in his immediate vicinity, only a few cases were brought up. The army intends to investigate only those.

But the picture is far wider. We have heard about many cases of the same kind, and they clearly were a widespread phenomenon. A woman and her children were evicted by soldiers from their home in the middle of the fighting and immediately afterwards shot dead at close range by other soldiers who had orders to shoot everything that moved. Old people and children walking on open ground were shot in cold blood by snipers who saw them clearly through their telescopic sights, who had orders that everybody moving should be considered a "terrorist." Homes were destroyed for no reason, simply because they were there. Belongings inside apartments were vandalized just for fun, "because they belong to Arabs." Soldiers slit open sacks of food intended by UNO agencies for the hungry population, because they "go to Arabs."

I know that such things happen in every war. A year after the 1948 war I wrote a book about them called "The Other Side of the Coin." Every fighting army has its share of psychopaths, misfits and sadists, side by side with decent soldiers. But even some of the normal soldiers may go berserk in battle, lose their sense of right and wrong and conform to the "spirit of the unit," if it is such.

Something has happened to our army. Its commanders never tire of calling it "the Most Moral Army in the World" and this has become a slogan like "Guinness is Good For You." But what happened during the Gaza operation testifies to a massive deterioration.

This deterioration is a natural result of the definition of the war as used in the document submitted to the Supreme Court. This document must arouse shock and condemnation and serve as a wake-up call for every person to whom the future of Israel is dear.

This war must be ended. The river must be channeled into a different bed, so that its waters will make the earth fertile - before we become irreversibly bestialized in our own eyes, and in the eyes of the world.
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Do The Secret Bush Memos Amount To Treason?
Top Constitutional Scholar Says Yes
By Naomi Wolf

Legal expert Michael Ratner calls the legal arguments made in the infamous Yoo memos, "Fuhrer's law."

In early March, more shocking details emerged about George W. Bush legal counsel John Yoo's memos outlining the destruction of the republic.

The memos lay the legal groundwork for the president to send the military to wage war against U.S. citizens; take them from their homes to Navy brigs without trial and keep them forever; close down the First Amendment; and invade whatever country he chooses without regard to any treaty or objection by Congress.

It was as if Milton's Satan had a law degree and was establishing within the borders of the United States the architecture of hell.

I thought this was -- and is -- certainly one of the biggest stories of our lifetime, making the petty burglary of Watergate -- which scandalized the nation -- seem like playground antics. It is newsworthy too with the groundswell of support for prosecutions of Bush/Cheney crimes and recent actions such as Canadian attorneys mobilizing to arrest Bush if he visits their country.

The memos are a confession. The memos could not be clearer: This was the legal groundwork of an attempted coup. I expected massive front page headlines from the revelation that these memos exited. Almost nothing. I was shocked.

As a non-lawyer, was I completely off base in my reading of what this meant, I wondered? Was I hallucinating?

Astonished, I sought a reality check -- and a formal legal read -- from one of the nation's top constitutional scholars (and most steadfast patriots), Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has been at the forefront of defending the detainees and our own liberties.

Here is our conversation:

Naomi Wolf: Michael, can you explain to a layperson what the Yoo memos actually mean?

Michael Ratner: What they mean is that your book looks moderate in respect to those issues now. This -- what is in the memos -- is law by fiat.

I call it "Fuhrer's law." What those memos lay out means the end of the system of checks and balances in this country. It means the end of the system in which the courts, legislature and executive each had a function and they could check each other.

What the memos set out is a system in which the president's word is law, and Yoo is very clear about that: the president's word is not only law according to these memos, but no law or constitutional right or treaty can restrict the president's authority.

What Yoo says is that the president's authority as commander in chief in the so-called war on terror is not bound by any law passed by Congress, any treaty, or the protections of free speech, due process and the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The First, Fourth and Fifth amendments -- gone.

What this actually means is that the president can order the military to operate in the U.S. and to operate without constitutional restrictions. They -- the military -- can pick you or me up in the U.S. for any reason and without any legal process. They would not have any restrictions on entering your house to search it, or to seize you. They can put you into a brig without any due process or going to court. (That's the Fourth and Fifth amendments.)

The military can disregard the Posse Comitatus law, which restricts the military from acting as police in the the United States. And the president can, in the name of wartime restrictions, limit free speech. There it is in black and white: we are looking at one-person rule without any checks and balances -- a lawless state. Law by fiat.

Who has suspended the law this way in the past? It is like a Caesar's law in Rome; a Mussolini's law in Italy; a Fuhrer's law in Germany; a Stalin's law in the Soviet Union. It is right down the line. It is enforcing the will of the dictator through the military.

NW: The mainstream media have virtually ignored these revelations, though it seems to me this is the biggest news since Pearl Harbor.

MR: I think that's right. We had a glimmering of the blueprint for some of this -- when they picked up Jose Padilla, the military went to a prison and snatched an American citizen as if they had a perfect right to do so.

Now we can see that these memos laid the legal groundwork for such actions. We knew the military could do this to an individual. We did not know the plan was to eliminate First Amendment constitutional rights for the entire population.

P NW: If Bush only wanted these powers in order to prosecute a war on terror, why does he need to suspend the First Amendment? Isn't that the smoking gun of a larger intention toward the general population?

MR: Part of this plan was actually implemented: for instance, they tried to keep people like Padilla from getting to a magistrate. They engaged in the wiretapping, because according to these memos there was no Fourth Amendment.

They had to be planning some kind of a takeover of the United States to be saying they could simply abolish the First Amendment if the president believed it was necessary in the name of national security. It lays the groundwork for what could have been a massive military takeover of the United States.

Here they crept right up and actually implemented part of the plan, with Padilla, with the warrantless wiretapping. Yet they are saying in the White House and in Congress that it is looking backward to investigate the authors of these memos and those who instructed Yoo and others to write them.

But investigation and prosecutions are really looking forward -- to say we need the deterrence of prosecution so this does not happen again.

NW: What about the deployment of three brigades in the U.S.? How should we read that?'

MR: With terrorism as less of a concern to many, but now with the economy in tatters there is a lot more militant activism in U.S. -- the New School and NYU student takeovers, protests around the country and strikes are just the beginning. I think governments are now concerned over people's activism, and people's anger at their economic situation. I don't think those brigades can be detached from the idea that there might well be a huge amount of direct-action protest in the U.S.

There could have also been a closer election that could have been stolen easily and then a huge protest. Those troops would have been used to enforce the will of the cabal stealing the election.

NW: As a layperson, I don't fully understand what powers the memos actually manifest. Are they theoretical or not just theoretical? What power did the memos actually give Bush?

MR: They were probably, in fact almost for sure, written in cahoots with the administration -- [Karl] Rove, [Dick] Cheney -- to give them legal backing for what they planned or wanted to carry out.

What I assume happened here is people like Cheney or his aides go to the Office of Legal Counsel and say, "We are going to need legal backing, to give a face of legality to what we are doing and what we are planning." When the president then signs a piece of paper that says, "OK, military, go get Jose Padilla," these memos give that order a veneer of legality.

If you are familiar with the history of dictators, coups and fascism (as I know you are), they (the planners) prefer a veneer of legality. Hitler killed 6 million Jews with a veneer of legality -- getting his dictatorial powers through the Reichstag and the courts.

These memos gave the Bush administration's [lawless] practices the veneer of legality.

NW: So are you saying that these memos actually created a police state that we did not know about?

MR: If you look at police state as various strands of lawlessness, we knew about some of this lawlessness even before this latest set of memos.

But the memos revealed how massive the takeover of our democracy was to be -- that this wasn't just going to be a few individuals here or there who suffered the arrows of a police state.

These memos lay the groundwork for a massive military takeover of the United States in cahoots with the president. And if that's not a coup d'etat then, nothing is.

NW: Can I ask something? I keep thinking about the notion of treason. In America now, people tend to read the definition of treason in the Constitution as if they are thinking of a Tokyo Rose or an American citizen acting as an agent for an enemy state -- very much a World War II experience of the traitor to one's country.

But I've been reading a lot of 16th and 17th century history, and it seems to me that the founders were thinking more along the lines of English treason of that era -- small groups of Englishmen, usually nobility, who formed cabals and conspired with one another to buy or recruit militias to overthrow the crown or Parliament.

The notion that a group might conspire in secret to overthrow the government is not a wild, marginal concept, it is a substantial part of European, and especially British, Renaissance and Reformation-era history and would have been very much alive in the minds of the Enlightenment-era founders. (I just visited the Tower of London where this was so frequent a charge against groups of English subjects that there is a designated Traitor's Gate.)

So clearly you don't have to act on behalf of another state to commit treason. The Constitution defines it as levying war against the United States or giving aid and comfort to its enemies. It says nothing about the enemy having to be another state.

When the Constitution was drafted, the phrase "United States" barely referred to a singular country; it referred to a new federation of many united states. They imagined militias rising up against various states; it was not necessarily nation against nation.

Surely, when we have evidence Bush prepared the way to allow the military to imprison or shoot civilians in the various states and created law to put his own troops over the authority of the governors and the national guard of the various states, and when the military were sent to terrorize protesters in St. Paul, [Minn.], Bush was levying war in this sense against the united states?

Hasn't Bush actually levied war against Minnesota? And if our leaders and military are sworn to protect and defend the Constitution, and there is clear evidence now that Bush and his cabal intended to do away with it, are they not our enemies and giving aid and comfort to our enemies? Again, "enemy" does not seem to me to be defined in the Constitution as another sovereign state.

MR: You are right. Treason need not involve another state. Aaron Burr was tried for treason. I do think that a plan to control the military, use it in the United States contrary to law and the Constitution and employ it to levy a war or takeover that eliminates the democratic institutions of the country constitutes treason, even if done under the president of the United States.

The authority given by these memos that could be used to raid every congressional office, raid and search every home, detain tens of thousands, would certainly fit a definition of treason.

This would be the president making war against the institutions of the United States.
(c) 2009 Naomi Wolf is the author of "Give Me Liberty" (Simon and Schuster, 2008), the sequel to the New York Times best-seller "The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot" (Chelsea Green, 2007).

Editors Note: Victoria Stewart is on assignment

The Milkman Delivers

The most amazing thing to me about Robert Holding, a milkman in Lancashire, England, is not that he was delivering little packets of marijuana to a few of his elderly customers along his milk route - but that the Brits can actually still get home delivery of milk!

Imagine. Our national postal service says it can't even keep delivering our mail to us six days a week, and here's a 72-year-old milkman still schlepping pints of cow juice door to door each day.

It was his little side business, however, that prompted British authorities to crack down on Holding. It seems that he would also drop off small bits of cannabis to 17 of his clients who requested the extra service. "They were old," he said, "and had aches and pains." The customers, who were pensioners ranging up to 92 years of age, would leave little notes on their stoops alongside their empty bottles, asking, "Can I have an ounce?"

Holding, who sold the stuff on the cheap side and apparently was not raking off much of a profit, felt he was doing a public service for the old folks. "They enjoyed it," he says, "They saved a lot of money while I was doing it, and I only did it for a short time."

Indeed, after only six months as a dealer, our Lancashire milkman was ratted out by someone. British Bobbies raided Holding's home, found six ounces of the dreaded weed, and arrested him. Alas, while England's marijuana laws are not quite as insane as ours, they're still unforgiving, so he was sentenced to 36 weeks in prison and given a stern lecture about the "harm" he had been doing by spreading marijuana to the old folks.

However, after the scolding, the judge noted that Holding's wife has Alzheimer's disease and that he visits her every day in the nursing home, thus the jail time was suspended - provided, of course, that he delivers nothing but milk.

Imagine the disappointment of his customers.
(c) 2009 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

The Fierce Urgency Of Now
Yes, windmills and dams deface the landscape but the climate crisis demands immediate action
By Bill McKibben

Don't be too "Canadian" about the backlash - this is no time for Mr. Nice Guy.

Watching the backlash against clean energy projects build in Canada has moved me to think about what Americans have learned from facing this same problem. I have been thinking and writing for several years about overcoming conflict-avoidance and the importance of standing up for "Big Truths" even at the price of criticizing fellow environmentalists.

It's not that I've developed a mean streak. It's that the environmental movement has reached an important point of division, between those who truly get global warming, and those who don't.

By get, I don't mean understanding the chemistry of carbon dioxide, or the importance of the Kyoto Protocol, or those kinds of things - pretty much everyone who thinks of themselves as an environmentalist has reached that point. By get, I mean understanding that the question is of transcending urgency, that it represents the one overarching global civilizational challenge that humans have ever faced.

In the U.S., there are all manner of fights to stop or delay every imaginable low-carbon technology. Wind, solar, run-of-river hydro - these are precisely the kinds of renewable energy that every Earth Day speech since 1970 has trumpeted. But now they are finally here - now that we're talking about particular projects in particular places - people aren't so keen.

Opponents of renewable energy projects point out (correctly) that they have impacts - there are (overstated) risks to birds from wind turbines, to fish from run-of-river hydro, that the projects mean "development" somewhere there was none and transmission lines where there were none before.

They point out (again correctly) that the developers are private interests, rushing to develop a resource that, in fact, they do not own, and without waiting for the government to come up with a set of rules and processes for siting such installations.

The critics also insist that there's a "better" site somewhere - and again they're probably right. There's almost always a better site for anything. The whole business is messy, imperfect.

If we had decades to burn, then perhaps the opponents would be right that there's a better site, and a nicer developer. There's always a better site and a nicer developer. But in the real world, we have at most 10 years to reverse the fossil fuel economy. Which means we have to do everything quickly - conservation and plug-in cars and solar panels and compact fluorescents and 100-mile food and tree planting. And windmills, windmills everywhere there is wind, just like off the shores of Europe.

Whatever natural endowments a region is blessed to have, these are the basis for your green economy: solar in the deserts, wind where it's windy, hydro where water's falling, geothermal if you've got it. Do it all, and do it quickly.

In the ideal world, we'd do everything slowly and carefully - but this planet is rapidly becoming the worst of all possible worlds, a place that before my daughter dies may well see temperatures exceeding anything since before the dawn of primate evolution. A planet facing hundreds of millions of environmental refugees as a result of rising seas, with heat waves like the one that killed 35,000 in Europe becoming commonplace occurrences.

The evidence gets worse by the day: already whole nations are evacuating, the Arctic is melting and we have begun to release the massive storehouse of carbon trapped under the polar ice. Scientists figure the "safe" level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is about 350 parts per million. This is the most important number in the world. Go beyond it for very long and we will trigger "feedbacks" that will result in runaway warming spiralling out of any human control and resulting in a largely inhospitable planet.

We are already well beyond 350 and accelerating rapidly in the wrong direction.

So when local efforts to delay or stop low-carbon energy projects come into conflict with the imperative to act urgently on global warming, they have to take second place. Because even if we win every other battle, if we lose 350, it won't make any difference at all. You can "keep" every river and bay and lake and mountain and wilderness, but if the temperature goes up 3 degrees globally, it won't matter. The fish that live there won't be able to survive, the trees that anchor the landscape will die, the coral reefs will bleach and crumble. Whatever the particular part of the world that we're each working on, it's still a part of the world. Global warming is the whole thing.

Believe me that I understand how difficult this is. I have spent a lifetime loving and fighting for the Adirondacks and other treasured areas. Perhaps you've spent your life fighting for birds, and I understand how wrenching it must be to acknowledge that "some birds may die from this wind farm." But what 350 forces us to say is: every bird, every fish, and everything else that we know, is fundamentally at risk in the next few decades.

In the name of birds, I want that windmill on my ridge. In the name of rivers, I want run-of-river hydro. In the name of wild beauty, I want that windmill out my window.

350 means it is too late to be arguing for theories or cool ideas. In the real world, the one where CO2 inconveniently traps solar radiation, you don't get to argue for perfection.

You can say, as opponents of clean energy projects have said, that we'd do more to fight global warming by improving gas mileage in our cars. You can say that we should insulate our homes and build better refrigerators. You can say that we should plant more trees and have fewer kids.

And you would be right, just as every Earth Day speech is "right." I've given my share of Earth Day speeches. And if we're to have any chance of heading off catastrophic temperature increase, we have to do everything we can imagine, all at once. Hybrid cars and planting trees, windmills, energy conservation, carbon taxes, emissions caps, closing the coal plants and pressuring our leaders.

I understand the opposition to clean energy projects. And I would have supported the opponents years ago - before climate science became clear. I live in the mountains above Lake Champlain, where the wind blows strong along the ridgelines. I'll battle to keep windmills out of designated wilderness if that ever comes up, but right now I'm joining those who are battling to get them built on the ridgeline nearest our home. And battling to see them not as industrial eyesores, but as part of a new aesthetic. The wind made visible. The slow, steady turning that blows us into a future less hopeless than the future we're steaming toward now.
(c) 2009 Bill McKibben is co-founder of, a global grassroots organizing campaign on climate change.

A Call To Boycott Monsanto - Seminis Seeds
By Barbara H. Peterson

Monsanto is not only overtly taking over the seed market, but covertly also. Did you know that Seminis, "the largest developer, grower and marketer of fruit and vegetable seeds in the world," is owned by Monsanto? Here is a blurb from the company website:

Seminis sells vegetable seeds in more than 155 countries. In addition to the corporate site, we have 10 regional/country-specific Web sites with useful information about local products and contact information....Seminis' parent company, Monsanto, announced plans to acquire Netherlands-based vegetable seeds company, De Ruiter Seeds. LINK

Seminis is a wholesaler, so chances are if you purchase seeds at your local store, or website, the company will have purchased seeds from Seminis/Monsanto.

Seminis offers more than 3,000 seed varieties in 25 fruit and vegetable crops. We do not work with tree fruit, grapes, berries, potatoes and other crops that are plant propagated. (

The company is very proud of their seedless varieties of watermelon and peppers. And why shouldn't it be? No seeds, no seed saving.

Seminis brand names

The Urban Crop Circles Forum is currently doing some research on seed companies that are either owned by Monsanto, or selling Monsanto seeds, or both. The link to the forum is HERE.

The following U.S. dealers stock Seminis/Monsanto seeds for the home gardener:

Burpee, W Atlee
Dege Garden Center
E & R Seed Co.
Earl May Seed
Garden Trends
Gardens Alive
Germania Seed Co.
Johnnys Selected Seeds
J.W. Jung Seed Co.
Lindenberg Seeds
Mountain Valley Seed
Nichols Garden Nursery
Park Seed
Rocky Mountain Seed Co.
T & T Seeds, Ltd.
Tomato Growers Supply
Willhite Seed Co.

This list was taken from the Seminis site. You can find the full contact information on these dealers HERE. To find the home garden dealers for the rest of the world, go HERE.

The following is a list of products for the professional grower:

* Broccoli
* Cabbage
* Carrot
* Cauliflower
* Cucumber
* Dry Beans
* Fresh Market Bean
* Fresh Market Tomatoes
* Hot Pepper
* Lettuce
* Melon
* Onion
* Pea
* Pickle
* Processing Bean
* Processing Tomato
* Pumpkin
* Spinach
* Summer Squash
* Sweet Corn
* Sweet Pepper
* Watermelon
* Winter Squash

Here is a LINK to the network of seed dealers, distributors, and wholesalers that market Seminis/Monsanto seeds to the retail outlets and professional grower. The list is too extensive to print here.

The Seminis patents, located HERE, are mainly for hybrids and cross-breeding to develop certain traits. With Monsanto in the mix however, I expect we can see some changes. Here is a LINK to the 4,336 Monsanto patents.

When you buy seeds, make sure they are heirloom seeds, and not hybrid or genetically modified. Check out the companies, and if they purchase their seeds from Seminis, find another company because you are supporting Monsanto when you buy their products. Save the seeds from your heirloom crops and start your own seed bank, because very soon, clean seeds will be unavailable unless they come from you or your neighbor. It is up to us to do the research, ask the questions, then follow through by action. Boycott Monsanto/Seminis seeds.
(c) 2009 Barbara H. Peterson lives on a small ranch in Oregon with her husband, where they raise geese, chickens, Navajo Churro sheep, Oggie Dog, a variety of cats, and an opinionated Macaw named Rita. She believes that self-sufficiency and localization of food sources is necessary to survive the coming depression. To this end, she hopes that sharing information with others of like mind will lead to a brighter future where people reach out to each other and form small communities in which food is grown locally, and trade is established between neighbors.

Editors Note: We buy only heirloom seeds from J.L. Hudson Seeds

Financial Policy Despair
By Paul Krugman

This is more than disappointing. In fact, it fills me with a sense of despair.

After all, we've just been through the firestorm over the A.I.G. bonuses, during which administration officials claimed that they knew nothing, couldn't do anything, and anyway it was someone else's fault. Meanwhile, the administration has failed to quell the public's doubts about what banks are doing with taxpayer money.

And now Mr. Obama has apparently settled on a financial plan that, in essence, assumes that banks are fundamentally sound and that bankers know what they're doing.

It's as if the president were determined to confirm the growing perception that he and his economic team are out of touch, that their economic vision is clouded by excessively close ties to Wall Street. And by the time Mr. Obama realizes that he needs to change course, his political capital may be gone.

Let's talk for a moment about the economics of the situation.

Right now, our economy is being dragged down by our dysfunctional financial system, which has been crippled by huge losses on mortgage-backed securities and other assets.

As economic historians can tell you, this is an old story, not that different from dozens of similar crises over the centuries. And there's a time-honored procedure for dealing with the aftermath of widespread financial failure. It goes like this: the government secures confidence in the system by guaranteeing many (though not necessarily all) bank debts. At the same time, it takes temporary control of truly insolvent banks, in order to clean up their books.

That's what Sweden did in the early 1990s. It's also what we ourselves did after the savings and loan debacle of the Reagan years. And there's no reason we can't do the same thing now.

But the Obama administration, like the Bush administration, apparently wants an easier way out. The common element to the Paulson and Geithner plans is the insistence that the bad assets on banks' books are really worth much, much more than anyone is currently willing to pay for them. In fact, their true value is so high that if they were properly priced, banks wouldn't be in trouble.

And so the plan is to use taxpayer funds to drive the prices of bad assets up to "fair" levels. Mr. Paulson proposed having the government buy the assets directly. Mr. Geithner instead proposes a complicated scheme in which the government lends money to private investors, who then use the money to buy the stuff. The idea, says Mr. Obama's top economic adviser, is to use "the expertise of the market" to set the value of toxic assets.

But the Geithner scheme would offer a one-way bet: if asset values go up, the investors profit, but if they go down, the investors can walk away from their debt. So this isn't really about letting markets work. It's just an indirect, disguised way to subsidize purchases of bad assets.

The likely cost to taxpayers aside, there's something strange going on here. By my count, this is the third time Obama administration officials have floated a scheme that is essentially a rehash of the Paulson plan, each time adding a new set of bells and whistles and claiming that they're doing something completely different. This is starting to look obsessive.

But the real problem with this plan is that it won't work. Yes, troubled assets may be somewhat undervalued. But the fact is that financial executives literally bet their banks on the belief that there was no housing bubble, and the related belief that unprecedented levels of household debt were no problem. They lost that bet. And no amount of financial hocus-pocus - for that is what the Geithner plan amounts to - will change that fact.

You might say, why not try the plan and see what happens? One answer is that time is wasting: every month that we fail to come to grips with the economic crisis another 600,000 jobs are lost.

Even more important, however, is the way Mr. Obama is squandering his credibility. If this plan fails - as it almost surely will - it's unlikely that he'll be able to persuade Congress to come up with more funds to do what he should have done in the first place.

All is not lost: the public wants Mr. Obama to succeed, which means that he can still rescue his bank rescue plan. But time is running out.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Shell Oil To Planet Earth: Drop Dead
By Chris Floyd

The Guardian reports on some admirable candor from the paladins at Shell Oil, still raking in gargantuan profits despite the global economic cratering. Shell says it is dropping its much-publicized work on alternative energy sources - because the bucks just aren't big enough. Green energy, it seems, just doesn't produce enough long green for the Oil Lords. Instead, they are going to keep scraping out carbon from the guts of the earth - and going in for biofuels, i.e., diverting vast acreages of arable land from food production for the world's poor to energy for the world's rich. From the Guardian:

Shell will no longer invest in renewable technologies such as wind, solar and hydro power because they are not economic, the Anglo-Dutch oil company said today. It plans to invest more in biofuels, which environmental groups blame for driving up food prices and deforestation....

The company said it would concentrate on developing other cleaner ways of using fossil fuels, such as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. It hoped to use CCS to reduce emissions from Shell's controversial and energy-intensive oil sands projects in northern Canada.

The company said that many alternative technologies did not offer attractive investment opportunities. Linda Cook, Shell's executive director of gas and power, said: "If there aren't investment opportunities which compete with other projects we won't put money into it. We are businessmen and women. If there were renewables [which made money] we would put money into it."

You can't put it much plainer than that. And it's true: the business of business is to make money, not to pursue social policy or sustain the common good. The latter is what citizens are supposed to do through their political systems -- which is why they aren't allowed to control those systems. But anyway, given this inherent nature of business, it sort of makes you wonder about all those "green entrepreneurs" who believe that the private sector will save us from global warming -- like this worthy gentleman from over Carthage way, who has teamed up with an ex-Goldman Sachs exec to manage billions of dollars in "sustainability-driven" investments.

Yes, Al Gore, like Bono and other world worthies, is in the high-end investment business, seeking to make big money from the global disaster. (The environmental one, not the economic one.) No doubt "Little Al" (as we used to call him around home when he was our kid senator, and when -- full disclosure -- my cousin used to work for him) really would like to see a more balanced earth and all; who wouldn't? But wouldn't it be refreshing if just one of our world-straddling noble crusaders could crusade for their noble causes without also milking it for millions?
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

The Resurrection Of The Zombies
By Case Wagenvoord

Dear George

Those who criticize who criticize Tim Geithner's Financially Underwritten Collateralized Knowledgeability plan are heathens and deconstructionists.

Tim is pioneering a new approach to economics known as theological finance. He is firmly convinced that if Jesus rose from the dead, the banks can do the same. The only difference is that Jesus didn't need a printing press while the banks do.

First, here's a little background.

The key to our recovery is to plunge the American consumer deeper into debt. Consumption accounts for 70 percent of our GDP. Recovery will only be possible when that is increased to 85 percent. America is a consumptive society, and only by encouraging more of the same that ruined us will we be healed.

Everyone talks about all the toxic paper the banks are holding. They can't sell it, we are told. And this is true, sort of. The banks can't sell the stuff, at least not at the price they want. There are hedge funds out there that are willing to take the toxic paper off their hands for 10 to 25 cents on the dollar. The banks want 60 cents on the dollar, which only a madman would pay.

This is why we need Tim. He is willing to use taxpayers' money to encourage private investors to purchase the sludge. I assume this means that if an investor pays 60 cents on the dollar for a piece of shit, taxpayers will reimburse said investor to the tune of 35 to 50 cents on the dollar. What private investors won't buy, the Fed and the FDIC will.

This will free up the banks to hand out even more credit cards so consumers can go deeper into debt while the banks that issued them the credit cards are foreclosing on their homes. It's what known as trashing the base of the pyramid so the pointy top will remain safe and secure.

Those who call this voodoo economics forget that the voodoo religion not only creates zombies, it can bring them back from the dead. Since the nation is saddled with zombie banks, it follows the only solution is the application of voodoo economics.

Tim understands that economics is basically a superstition, and that what the country needs is not a financial whiz but a shaman. That's what Tim is good at-pounding his drum and shaking his rattles while snorting the dust of dead toads up his nostrils.

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

Problem Resolved? We Wish!
By Mike Folkerth

Good Morning all of you independent thinkers out there; your King of Simple News is on the air.

Thank goodness all of our problems have been solved over the weekend. The government is stepping up their money laundering operation to include buying up all of the bad debt on the banks balance sheets and replacing that toxic debt with brand new pictures of Ben Franklin.

The government is also giving America's entrepreneurs a shot at the future profits by allowing them to enter into a partnership with Big Brother and share in the windfall when these current bad debts (or the underlying collateral) return to future values. Similar to our taxpayer partnership with AIG.

I won't go into the gory details of the criminal action of this current money laundering scheme, with the exception of saying that it does not include Middle America. After all, we don't have any money to invest in the government's bailout scheme. It does however include the hedge funds, mega investors, the Federal Reserve, and the FDIC. Be scared.

I want to throw out one small problem; when all of the toxic assets are bought up by the government and private sector counterparts mentioned above, those people who previously owned that toxic debt will continue to remain toxic. It will also leave government and the mega crooks as the owners of a whole lot more of America's wealth for a really cheap price.

Moving on, I want to quote one of my favorite intellectuals today, "The knowledge essential to competent intellectual leadership in this situation is preeminently geological - a knowledge of the earth's mineral and energy resources. The importance of any science, socially, is its effect on what people think and what they do. It is time earth scientists again become a major force in how people think rather than how they live." _ M. King Hubbert

What the good Dr. was saying is that it's time that people understand what is possible, not what they want to be possible! The social sciences that are ruled by our wants and those who promise to deliver those wants for free, have about run their gamut and the exact sciences are suiting up for the next inning.

We talked last week about compounding interest and the fact that by virtue of that compounding, the money supply continues to grow exponentially. As that supply grows, more loans are necessary to keep the supply that is constantly growing loaned out to someone who compounding interest on the compounding interest.

Let me simplify that last statement somewhat with Mikeronomics. If you put some money in the bank and it draws interest, where does that interest come from? Certainly the bank can't pay you interest unless someone is paying them greater interest; right?

Therefore, the bank must continue to loan out money as your deposits and interest grow or they would reach a point where there was more going out of the bank than coming in. Are you with me so far?

This works great as long as there is something valuable to loan against and more importantly, that the borrower has a decent job and can pay the bank back.

Here is where it gets sticky; all of the money in the United States continues to grow by virtue of compounding interest.

The Fed is doing their part by printing money like mad without any backing whatsoever, but the banks in the meantime have to find a home for all of this daily creation of phantom money. To make matters worse, the banks have to find borrowers willing to pay higher interest than the bank is paying for savings or they go upside down as I outlined above.

So what happens when there is more money to loan than there are people with good jobs and good collateral to loan it to? Easy, loan the money to people with bad jobs and bad credit on inflated values. What happens when those bad credit folks quit paying on their inflated collateral?

Remember, the compounding interest of the money supply didn't quit occurring when these folks quit paying. Welcome to 2009.

"The world's present industrial civilization is handicapped by the coexistence of two universal, overlapping, and incompatible intellectual systems: the accumulated knowledge of the last four centuries of the properties and interrelationships of matter and energy; and the associated monetary culture which has evolved from folkways of prehistoric origins." Marion King Hubbert _ October 1903-October 1989
(c) 2009 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"The voice of protest, of warning, of appeal is never more needed than when the clamor of fife and drum, echoed by the press, and too often by the pulpit, is bidding all men fall in and keep step and obey in silence the tyrannous word of command. Then, more than ever, it is the duty of the good citizen not to be silent."
~~~ Charles Eliot Norton

America Is In Need Of A Moral Bailout
By Chris Hedges

In decaying societies, politics become theater. The elite, who have hollowed out the democratic system to serve the corporate state, rule through image and presentation. They express indignation at AIG bonuses and empathy with a working class they have spent the last few decades disenfranchising, and make promises to desperate families that they know will never be fulfilled. Once the spotlights go on they read their lines with appropriate emotion. Once the lights go off, they make sure Goldman Sachs and a host of other large corporations have the hundreds of billions of dollars in losses they incurred playing casino capitalism repaid with taxpayer money.

We live in an age of moral nihilism. We have trashed our universities, turning them into vocational factories that produce corporate drones and chase after defense-related grants and funding. The humanities, the discipline that forces us to stand back and ask the broad moral questions of meaning and purpose, that challenges the validity of structures, that trains us to be self-reflective and critical of all cultural assumptions, have withered. Our press, which should promote such intellectual and moral questioning, confuses bread and circus with news and refuses to give a voice to critics who challenge not this bonus payment or that bailout but the pernicious superstructure of the corporate state itself. We kneel before a cult of the self, elaborately constructed by the architects of our consumer society, which dismisses compassion, sacrifice for the less fortunate, and honesty. The methods used to attain what we want, we are told by reality television programs, business schools and self-help gurus, are irrelevant. Success, always defined in terms of money and power, is its own justification. The capacity for manipulation is what is most highly prized. And our moral collapse is as terrifying, and as dangerous, as our economic collapse.

Theodor Adorno in 1967 wrote an essay called "Education After Auschwitz." He argued that the moral corruption that made the Holocaust possible remained "largely unchanged." He wrote that "the mechanisms that render people capable of such deeds" must be made visible. Schools had to teach more than skills. They had to teach values. If they did not, another Auschwitz was always possible.

"All political instruction finally should be centered upon the idea that Auschwitz should never happen again," he wrote. "This would be possible only when it devotes itself openly, without fear of offending any authorities, to this most important of problems. To do this, education must transform itself into sociology, that is, it must teach about the societal play of forces that operates beneath the surface of political forms."

Our elites are imploding. Their fraud and corruption are slowly being exposed as the disparity between their words and our reality becomes wider and more apparent. The rage that is bubbling up across the country will have to be countered by the elite with less subtle forms of control. But unless we grasp the "societal play of forces that operates beneath the surface of political forms" we will be cursed with a more ruthless form of corporate power, one that does away with artifice and the seduction of a consumer society and instead wields power through naked repression.

I had lunch a few days ago in Toronto with Henry Giroux, professor of English and cultural studies at McMaster University in Canada and who for many years was the Waterbury Chair Professor at Penn State. Giroux, who has been one of the most prescient and vocal critics of the corporate state and the systematic destruction of American education, was driven to the margins of academia because he kept asking the uncomfortable questions Adorno knew should be asked by university professors. He left the United States in 2004 for Canada.

"The emergence of what Eisenhower had called the military-industrial-academic complex had secured a grip on higher education that may have exceeded even what he had anticipated and most feared," Giroux, who wrote "The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex," told me. "Universities, in general, especially following the events of 9/11, were under assault by Christian nationalists, reactionary neoconservatives and market fundamentalists for allegedly representing the weak link in the war on terrorism. Right-wing students were encouraged to spy on the classes of progressive professors, the corporate grip on the university was tightening as made clear not only in the emergence of business models of governance, but also in the money being pumped into research and programs that blatantly favored corporate interests. And at Penn State, where I was located at the time, the university had joined itself at the hip with corporate and military power. Put differently, corporate and Pentagon money was now funding research projects and increasingly knowledge was being militarized in the service of developing weapons of destruction, surveillance and death. Couple this assault with the fact that faculty were becoming irrelevant as an oppositional force. Many disappeared into discourses that threatened no one, some simply were too scared to raise critical issues in their classrooms for fear of being fired, and many simply no longer had the conviction to uphold the university as a democratic public sphere."

Frank Donoghue, the author of "The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities," details how liberal arts education has been dismantled. Any form of learning that is not strictly vocational has at best been marginalized and in many schools has been abolished. Students are steered away from asking the broad, disturbing questions that challenge the assumptions of the power elite or an economic system that serves the corporate state. This has led many bright graduates into the arms of corporate entities they do not examine morally or ethically. They accept the assumptions of corporate culture because they have never been taught to think.

Only 8 percent of U.S. college graduates now receive degrees in the humanities, about 110,000 students. Between 1970 and 2001, bachelor's degrees in English declined from 7.6 percent to 4 percent, as did degrees in foreign languages (2.4 percent to 1 percent), mathematics (3 percent to 1 percent), social science and history (18.4 percent to 10 percent). Bachelor's degrees in business, which promise the accumulation of wealth, have skyrocketed. Business majors since 1970-1971 have risen from 13.6 percent of the graduation population to 21.7 percent. Business has now replaced education, which has fallen from 21 percent to 8.2 percent, as the most popular major.

The values that sustain an open society have been crushed. A university, as John Ralston Saul writes, now "actively seeks students who suffer from the appropriate imbalance and then sets out to exaggerate it. Imagination, creativity, moral balance, knowledge, common sense, a social view-all these things wither. Competitiveness, having an ever-ready answer, a talent for manipulating situations-all these things are encouraged to grow. As a result amorality also grows; as does extreme aggressivity when they are questioned by outsiders; as does a confusion between the nature of good versus having a ready answer to all questions. Above all, what is encouraged is the growth of an undisciplined form of self-interest, in which winning is what counts."

This moral nihilism would have terrified Adorno. He knew that radical evil was possible only with the collaboration of a timid, cowed and confused population, a system of propaganda and a press that offered little more than spectacle and entertainment and an educational system that did not transmit transcendent values or nurture the capacity for individual conscience. He feared a culture that banished the anxieties and complexities of moral choice and embraced a childish hyper-masculinity, one championed by ruthless capitalists (think of the brutal backstabbing and deception cheered by TV shows like "Survivor") and Hollywood action heroes like the governor of California.

"This educational ideal of hardness, in which many may believe without reflecting about it, is utterly wrong," Adorno wrote. "The idea that virility consists in the maximum degree of endurance long ago became a screen-image for masochism that, as psychology has demonstrated, aligns itself all too easily with sadism."

Sadism is as much a part of popular culture as it is of corporate culture. It dominates pornography, runs like an electric current through reality television and trash-talk programs and is at the core of the compliant, corporate collective. Corporatism is about crushing the capacity for moral choice. And it has its logical fruition in Abu Ghraib, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and our lack of compassion for the homeless, our poor, the mentally ill, the unemployed and the sick.

"The political and economic forces fuelling such crimes against humanity-whether they are unlawful wars, systemic torture, practiced indifference to chronic starvation and disease or genocidal acts-are always mediated by educational forces," Giroux said. "Resistance to such acts cannot take place without a degree of knowledge and self-reflection. We have to name these acts and transform moral outrage into concrete attempts to prevent such human violations from taking place in the first place."

The single most important quality needed to resist evil is moral autonomy. Moral autonomy, as Immanuel Kant wrote, is possible only through reflection, self-determination and the courage not to cooperate.

Moral autonomy is what the corporate state, with all its attacks on liberal institutions and "leftist" professors, has really set out to destroy. The corporate state holds up as our ideal what Adorno called "the manipulative character." The manipulative character has superb organizational skills and the inability to have authentic human experiences. He or she is an emotional cripple and driven by an overvalued realism. The manipulative character is a systems manager. He or she exclusively trained to sustain the corporate structure, which is why our elites are wasting mind-blowing amounts of our money on corporations like Goldman Sachs and AIG. "He makes a cult of action, activity, of so-called efficiency as such which reappears in the advertising image of the active person," Adorno wrote of this personality type. These manipulative characters, people like Lawrence Summers, Henry Paulson, Robert Rubin, Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, AIG's Edward Liddy and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, along with most of our ruling class, have used corporate money and power to determine the narrow parameters of the debate in our classrooms, on the airwaves and in the halls of Congress while they looted the country.

"It is especially difficult to fight against it," warned Adorno, "because those manipulative people, who actually are incapable of true experience, for that very reason manifest an unresponsiveness that associates them with certain mentally ill or psychotic characters, namely schizoids."
(c) 2009 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.

Stick Your Damn Hand In It!
20th Birthday of the Exxon Valdez Lie
By Greg Palast

"Gail, Please! Stick your hand in it!"

The petite Eskimo-Chugach woman gave me that you-dumb-ass-white-boy look.


She stuck it in, under the gravel of the beach at Sleepy Bay, her village's fishing ground. Gail's hand came up dripping with black, sickening goo. It could make you vomit. Oil from the Exxon Valdez.

It was already two years after the spill and Exxon had crowed that Mother Nature had happily cleaned up their stinking oil mess for them. It was a lie. But the media wouldn't question the bald-faced bullshit. And who the hell was going to investigate Exxon's claim way out in some godforsaken Native village in the Prince William Sound?

So I convinced the Natives to fly the lazy-ass reporters out to Sleepy Bay on rented float planes to see the oil that Exxon said wasn't there.

The reporters looked, but didn't see it, because it was three inches under their feet, under the shingle rock of the icy beach. Gail pulled out her hand and now the whole place smelled like a gas station. The network crews wanted to puke.

And now, with their eyes open, they saw the oil, the vile feces-colored smear across the glaciated ridge faces, the poisonous "bathtub ring" that ran for miles and miles at the high tide level. And it's still there. Less for sure. But twenty years later, IT'S STILL THERE, GODDAMNIT. And I want YOU, dear reader, to stick your hand in it. I want YOU, President Obama, to stick your hand in it before you blithely fulfill your Palin-esque campaign promise for a little more offshore drilling.


Tuesday marks the 20th Anniversary of the Exxon Valdez grounding and the smearing of 1,200 miles of Alaska's coastline with its oil.

It also marks the 20th Anniversary of a lie. Lots of lies: catalogued in a four-volume investigation of the disaster; four volumes you'll never see. I wrote that report, with my team of investigators working with the Natives preparing fraud and racketeering charges against Exxon. You'll never see the report because Exxon lawyers threatened the Natives, "Mention the f-word [fraud] and you'll never get a dime" of compensation to clean up the villages. The Natives agreed to drop the fraud charge -- and Exxon stiffed them on the money. You're surprised, right?


Doubtless, for the 20th Anniversary of the Great Spill, the media will schlep out that old story that the tanker ran aground because its captain was drunk at the wheel. Bullshit. Yes, the captain was "three sheets to the wind" -- but sleeping it off below-decks. The ship was in the hands of the third mate who was driving blind. That is, the Exxon Valdez' Raycas radar system was turned off; turned off because it was busted and had been busted since its maiden voyage. Exxon didn't want to spend the cash to fix it. So the Oil still being cleaned up seven years after the at the helm, electronically blindfolded, drove it up onto the reef.

So why the story of the drunken skipper? Because it lets Exxon off the hook: Calling it a case of "drunk driving" turns the disaster into a case of human error, not corporate penny-pinching

Indeed, the "human error" tale was the hook used by the Bush-stacked Supreme Court to slash the punitive damages awarded against Exxon by 90%, from $5 billion, to half a billion for 30,000 Natives and fishermen. Chief Justice John Roberts erased almost all of the payment due with the la-dee-dah comment, "What more can a corporation do?"

Well, here's what they could have done: Besides fix the radar, Exxon could have set out equipment to contain the spill. Containing a spill is actually quite simple. Stick a rubber skirt around the oil slick and suck it back up. The law requires it and Exxon promised it.

So, when the tanker hit, where was the rubber skirt and where was the sucker? Answer: The rubber skirt, called "boom" -- was a fiction. Exxon promised to have it sitting right there near the Native village at Bligh Reef. The oil company fulfilled that promised the cheap way: they lied.

And the lie was engineered at the very top. After the spill, we got our hands on a series of memos describing a secret meeting of chief executives of Exxon and its oil company partners, including ARCO, a unit of British Petroleum. In a meeting of these oil chieftains held in April 1988, ten months before the spill, Exxon rejected a plea from T.L. Polasek, the Vice-President of its Alaska shipping operations, to provide the oil spill containment equipment required by law. Polasek warned the CEOs it was "not possible" to contain a spill in the mid-Sound without the emergency set-up.

Exxon angrily vetoed ARCO's suggestion that the oil companies supply the rubber skirts and other materiel that would have prevented the spill from spreading, virtually eliminating the spill's damage.

Investigator Palast flies over Exxon Valdez spill site.Regulations state that no tanker may leave the Alaska port of Valdez without the "sucker" equipment, called a "containment barge," at the ready. Exxon signed off on the barge's readiness. But, that night twenty years ago, the barge was in dry-dock with its pumps locked up under arctic ice. By the time it arrived at the tanker, half a day after the spill, the oil was well along its thousand-mile killing path.

Natives watched as the now-unstoppable oil overwhelmed their islands. Eyak Native elder Henry Makarka saw an otter rip out its own eyes burning from oil residue. Henry, pointing down a waterside dead-zone, told me, in a mix of Alutiiq and English, "If I had a machine gun, I'd shoot every one of those white sons-of-bitches."


Exxon promised -- promised -- to pay the Natives and other fisherman for all their losses. The Chief of the Natives at Nanwalek lost his boat to bankruptcy. His village, like other villages, Native and non-Native, decayed into alcoholism. The Mayor of fishing port Cordova killed himself, citing Exxon in his suicide note.

On the island village of Chenega, Gail Evanoff's uncle Paul Kompkoff was hungry. Until the spill, he had lived on seal meat, razor clams and salmon Chenegans would catch, and on deer they hunted. The clams and salmon were declared deadly and the deer, not able to read the government warning signs, ate the poisoned vegetation and died.

The President of Exxon, Lee Raymond, helicoptered into Chenega for a photo op. He promised to compensate the Natives and all fishermen for their losses, and would thoroughly clean the beaches.

Uncle Paul told the Exxon chief of his hunger. The oil company, sensing PR disaster, shipped in seal meat to the isolated village. The cans were marked, "NOT FIT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION." Uncle Paul said, "Zoo food."

Paul didn't want a seal in a can. He wanted a boat to go fishing, to bring the village back to life.

Two years after the spill, Otto Harrison, General Manager of Exxon USA, told Evanoff and me to forget about a fishing boat for Uncle Paul. Exxon was immortal and Natives were not. The company would litigate for 20 years.

They did. Only now, two decades on, Exxon has finally begun its payout of the court award -- but only ten cents on the dollar. And Uncle Paul's boat? No matter. Paul's dead. So are a third of the fishermen owed the money.


Lee Raymond, President of Exxon at the time of the spill -- and its President when the company made the secret decision to do without oil spill equipment, retired in April 2006. The company awarded him a $400 million retirement bonus, more than double the bonuses received by all AIG executives combined.

*** Gail's oily hand never made it to national television. The networks were distracted with another oil story.

After sailing back to Chenega from Sleepy Bay, I sat with Uncle Paul, watching the smart bombs explode over Baghdad. Gulf War I had begun.

Uncle Paul was silent a long time. The generals on CNN pointed to the burning oil fields near Basra. Paul said, "I guess were all some kind of Native now."
(c) 2009 Greg Palast is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow for Investigative Reporting at the Nation Institute, New York. Read the rest of this story by picking up his New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse Join Palast's Network on MySpace, on FaceBook or on YouTube.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Filmschauspieler Norris,

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, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Clarence (slappy) Thomas.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, your calling for Texas to secede from the union thus allowing us to declare Martial Law, Iraq and these many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross, first class, with diamond clusters presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 05-23-2009. We salute you Herr Norris, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Various Matters
By Glenn Greenwald

(1) The New York Times Public Editor, Clark Hoyt, has a column today on a topic I've written about more times than I can count: that the NYT routinely grants anonymity without any justification whatsoever and, more notably, does so in flagrant violation of its own policy on anonymous sources. Hoyt compiles numerous recent examples, ranging from the trivial to the consequential, in which anonymity was granted in exactly the ways the paper's own policy prohibits, and concludes: "I think it is time again for a forceful rededication to the newspaper's own standards." But Hoyt notes what has become increasingly obvious:

Getting anything to change there won't be easy. The Obama administration, which promised new transparency in government, has fallen into old Washington ways, sometimes providing officials for comment only if they are not named and holding background briefings for large groups of reporters at which the public cannot be told who did the talking.

The arguments Hoyt advances against these casual uses of anonymity have been frequently covered here, but note the justification for this practice which he includes after speaking with numerous reporters and editors:

Times journalists daily face unpleasant choices: accepting information without being able to name the source, or refusing it at the risk of shortchanging readers and seeing it reported elsewhere.

This excuse is akin to having a policy which prohibits making payments to sources, then violating that policy, then justifying it on the ground that doing so is necessary to ensure that readers aren't "shortchanged" by denying them information that might appear elsewhere. The whole premise of having journalistic guidelines is that it is not true that "more information is better." Some information is unreliable and false. Practices that are likely to produce unreliable and false information -- such as paying sources or casually granting anonymity -- are prohibited for exactly that reason.

Except in those extremely rare cases where it is justified, anonymity allows people -- including powerful government officials -- to spout anything they want without any accountability. The last NYT Public Editor, Byron Calame, also documented the paper's failure to adhere to its own anonymity policies back in 2006 and, when doing so, noted "the cost to The Times's credibility of adding yet another anonymous source to the next day's paper." The fact that Drudge, Politico, and People do it is hardly an excuse for why the NYT should.

What makes the NYT's constant, reckless violation of its own anonymity policy most notable is that the policy was promulgated in 2004 as a response to two NYT scandals: the Judy Miller/Michael Gordon Iraq < I>"reporting" and the Jayson Blair fabrications. The more stringent anonymity policy was ostensibly designed to assure the public that the NYT was committed to avoiding a future repeat of those debacles. o what meassage would a rational person infer from the fact that the NYT now routinely violates and ignores that policy?

One other point to note: complaints to the Public Editor from bloggers and blog readers definitely have the potential to spawn columns such as Hoyt's today. A reader of this blog who has been regularly bombarding the Public Editor over these anonymity issues emailed me this week to say that Hoyt had notified him that he intended to address these issues in his next column. A 2005 column from Calame criticizing the NYT's use of anonymity cited a complaint about anonymity from blog reader (and sometimes blogger) Jay Ackroyd. Blog criticisms about Michael Gordon's ongoing use of baseless anonymity led to a 2007 chiding of Gordon by the Public Editor. None of this seems to have had much of an effect on the NYT's reckless grants of anonymity to political officials, but the more the issue is discussed -- especially in the NYT itself -- the more awareness there will be of how credibility-imparing this practice is.

(2) The Toronto Star's Washington Bureau Chief, Mitch Potter, has an excellent and comprehensive article today examining the changing debate in the U.S. over drug policy. It features, among other things, the report I'll be presenting on April 3 at the Cato Institute in Washington on the effects of drug decriminalization in Portugal (a report I wrote about here, and event details and RSVPs for which are here). As the Star article documents, drug policy is one area where early signs from the Obama administration, though still very preliminary, are, at least in limited ways, encouraging.

(3) The ACLU has been waging a litigation battle for a long time to pry out of the Government's hands the Bush-era OLC memos justifying everything from torture and CIA black sites to warrantless eavesdropping and rendition. Two weeks ago, the Obama DOJ released nine DOJ memos that were so extreme that they caused substantial angst even in establishment circles. But there are still numerous critical documents -- including three specific, particularly egregious torture memos vividly detailing the techniques that were authorized by the DOJ and used by the CIA -- which remain concealed and which the ACLU is now focused on obtaining.

Now, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reports that Eric Holder has decided -- over "furious" objections from Bush CIA Director Michael Hayden -- to release those three memos, which an Obama official (granted anonymity by Isikoff) describes as "ugly" and likely to "embarrass the CIA." Other anonymous officials "predicted they would fuel demands for a 'truth commission' on torture."

There is real pressure from the intelligence community being exerted on Holder to keep these memos concealed. According to Isikoff, they are "arguing that any public release might still compromise 'sources and methods.'" We are clearly nearing a tipping point where these disclosures are so disturbing and embarrassing that even establishment venues can no longer argue against investigations, and disclosure of these specific torture memos can only help that process.

There is much that the Obama DOJ has done to shield Bush-era practices from disclosure and judicial review, and they have deservedly received much intense criticism for that. But Holder deserves credit for releasing those OLC memos two weeks ago, and will deserve even more credit if he brushes aside the CIA's pressure, discloses these three memos, and finally allows the country fully to see and read what its Government has been doing to detainees.

(4) This Haaretz article claims that the U.S. is "furious" at Israel for its latest round of demolishing East Jerusalem homes. It quotes an Israeli government source as saying that "the matter represents a serious disagreement between Israel and the U.S." There are now enough reports of growing U.S./Israel tension on several issues to conclude that, however inadequate it might be, there is at least an increased willingness on the part of the Obama administration to insist upon a distinction between American interests and Israeli interests and to criticize Israel when American interests demand that. It remains to be seen how substantial that change will be, but it's hard not to notice the shift.

Relatedly, Haaretz continues its excellent investigation of the brutality of the IDF in Gaza by reporting on a note instructing Israeli troops to fire on Palestinian civilians and Red Cross rescue workers. That paper reported yesterday that IDF rabbis instructed IDF soldiers that the invasion of Gaza was a "religious war" mandated by God to "expel the gentiles who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land." Perhaps worst of all, Israeli officials in Jerusalem yesterday forcibly shut down various Palestinian cultural events after they had begun, including a children's march at a schoolyard, citing "a ban on Palestinian political activity in Jerusalem."

There's an aspect of these stories that actually reflect well on Israel. Its media outlets are the ones uncovering and criticizing these actions because Israel is, albeit imperfectly (like most countries), a generally open and democratic society. Its undemocratic impulses towards its Arab citizens are often checked by a reasonably well-functioning judiciary. In fact, there is far more dissent and criticism of Israeli actions inside of Israel than is tolerated in the U.S. (and there is more meaningful criticism within Israeli establishment media circles of Israeli wars than there is of American wars and national security policies within the U.S. media). Still, with the advent of a right-wing government dependent upon a faction so extremist and racist that even Marty Peretz and Jeffrey Goldberg are offended, the face that Israel is showing to the world with its actions will inevitably worsen even further how it is perceived, and will increase the pressure on the U.S. to cease its decades-long (and self-destructive) policy of uncritically enabling whatever that country does.

(5) John Cole confesses to what he acknowledges is a "Get off my lawn" sentiment in questioning the purpose, value and appeal of Twitter. At the risk of appearing as crotchety as he does, I share that bewilderment. About Twitter messages, John says "they all read like cell phone text messages between 12 year olds," and indeed, the only purpose I can discern is that it provides a format for expressing thoughts that are too inconsequential to merit a stand-alone article or post. For precisely that reason, it is unsurprising that Twitter has become a huge hit among our media stars, for whom triviality is a guiding principle.

But, pre-Twitter, did we really have a shortage of venues devoted to petty musings? I'd say the opposite is true. In any event, for those interested, I do have a Twitter feed which I've been using sporadically in a thus-far-futile attempt to fine any real purpose to it (though it does seem to work reasonably well for concise derision). Those interested can find and follow my Twitter feed here, though I neither recommend as worthwhile Twitter generally nor (at least thus far) my Twitter observations specifically.
(c) 2009 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

Why We Hate Them
Mistreated Customers Fuel Populist Rage
By Ted Rall

"Populist anger in America is the anger of dispossession," writes Newsweek's Rick Perlstein. "The delinking of effort and reward has become all too manifest. That always makes Americans angry. We do not like to reward those who do not produce."

That's not it. This is about abused customers. After decades of insults, they can't believe they're being made to save companies that treat them like crap.

I'm a calm person. Yet my most recent bank statement featured three items that brought my blood to a fast boil. One was a $10 "income wire transfer fee." A newspaper that publishes this column paid for it by wiring the money to my account. The bank charged me ten bucks--for depositing money! Money that, by the way, they invest in what the banking industry calls "the overnight call float."

The same statement included a $3 fee for using an ATM that belongs to a different bank. Compared to my bank, loan sharks are sweethearts. If I take out $20 every day and pay three dollars each time, that's 15 percent interest a day--or 5,475 percent a year. Did I mention that the fee was a mistake? I never use ATMs at other banks. To straighten out this $3 fee, I'll have to waste my time explaining myself to someone at a call center in India, typing my account number into a keypad so I can repeat it by voice after waiting on hold.

Then there's what my bank calls AN IMPORTANT CHANGE CONCERNING THE PROCESSING OF YOUR CHECKS EFFECTIVE MARCH 20, 2009: "As checks you have written are presented to us for payment during the course of a business day," they explain, "we will place a hold on available funds in your account of those checks, resulting in a reduction in your available account balance throughout that day." This is Bankese for: "You will pay bounce fees even when you have enough money in your account for checks to clear."

I won't even mention the time they hit me with a $120 fine in a single month--twelve separate fees at $10 a pop--for being stupid enough to use the line of credit they once begged me to take.

I hate my bank. My bank is Citibank. Citibank sucks.

If Citibank wasn't an evil, customer-hating band of fee vultures, I might not be quite so annoyed at the fact that its parent company, Citigroup, had just received $20 billion in direct investment plus $306 billion in loan guarantees from the U.S. government (i.e. us), of which I am a subsidiary. That's $1,100 per American citizen, plus compound interest paid to Chinese investors who buy U.S. Treasury obligations. The fact that Citigroup "didn't produce" has nothing to do with it. I would rather set $1,100 on fire than hand it over to Citigroup.

Which brings us to the American International Group. As you know, AIG executives sparked populist anger by paying themselves $165 million in bonuses after accepting a government bailout. "Take away taxpayers' sense of ownership stake in an issue (especially, as with AIG, when taxpayers literally own the company) and their rage will not go away," says Perlstein. "It festers...And that's when the 'bad' kind of populism--the hateful kind; the violent kind; the demagogic kind--can flourish."

Wrong again. Americans' "ownership stake" in AIG isn't why they're in torches-and-pitchforks mode. Those bonuses only amount to 55 cents per person--no biggie. The Iraq War will cost us at least $10,000 each. The reason we're enraged is that AIG is an insurance company.

We hate insurance companies.

Health insurers are the worst. They repeatedly deny claims they know are legitimate because many sick patients will give up fighting and eat the expense. They arbitrarily decide that tests, procedures, and even life-saving operations are "optional." They literally murder their customers! Insurers even "make use of sophisticated data tools dubbed 'denial engines,' which are touted to reduce reimbursements by three to ten percent," says U.S. News & World Report. But homeowner insurance companies aren't better. State Farm's refusal to pay victims of hurricane Katrina because their policies covered wind but not flooding is typical. "They said, 'If a tornado came through and two days later the water came, it's all flood," remembers a Katrina victim in Louisiana.

They were lucky State Farm told them anything. Other storm survivors spent hours on hold, trying in vain to get through to companies that had happily collected their premiums for years.

Banks like Citibank and insurance companies like AIG may well be "too big to fail," as Obama's team at Treasury argues. So don't let them fail. Nationalize them instead. And send their current and former executives to Bagram. Also writing for Newsweek, Robert J. Samuelson calls our contempt for corporate leeches "a dangerous mindset" that "justifies punitive taxes, widespread corporate mandates, selective subsidies and more meddling in companies' everyday operations." Gee, how terrible that would be, what with them doing so well without meddling from the guvmint.

I have a suggestion for Mr. Samuelson and the high-flying captains of industry he champions: If banks and insurance companies want taxpayers to save their steak-fattened butts, let them accept some changes that will make Americans like them better. For banks, no more fees on checking or savings accounts. Period. For credit card companies, reset all interest rates at one percent over prime. Give customers a full month to pay their bills. No more unilateral changes in rates. For insurance companies, the presumption should be that all claims are legitimate unless proven otherwise. If a doctor approves it, pay out without being asked twice.

Oh, and one more thing: Get rid of phone trees. Fire the half-a-world-away call centers. Ban voice recognition systems--"say yes or no--I'm sorry, I didn't get that." Hire actual people to answer the phone. Make them pick it up on the first ring and transfer calls to the proper department.

I'd pay $1,100 for that.
(c) 2009 Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?" an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.)

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Kirk Walters ~~~

Jesus and her Gospel of Yes trailer

To End On A Happy Note...

Free Money In The USA
By Paul Hipp

I can't pay my bills, and my cards are maxxed
But the same old greedy banker hacks
Are taking million dollar bonuses from my tax
Busting laws and breaking backs
AIG you're dumb said the man in the suit
With his bonuses and his sack of loot
The same guys who caused this train to crash
Are the only people making any cash

AIG you're dumb FDIC my thumb
Shoved up your BofA
Free money in the USA
I got no place to stay
Cashed in my 401k
Now it's all gone away
Free money in the USA

Binding legal obligations
In a broke and worthless paper nation
One six five million bonus pay
Free money in the USA
The first banker to press that case
May win in court but will one day face
An angry mob that he will meet
Coming through the gates of easy street

AIG you're dumb FDIC my thumb
Shoved up your BofA
Free money in the USA
I got no place to stay
They stole my 401k
Now it's all gone away
Free money in the USA

Cancel all bonus's and throw them in jail
`Cause we're all to goddamn big to fail

With so many people out of work
I hear some wealthy banker jerk
Say they can't attract the brightest and best
Like the ones who got us in this mess
Without hundreds of millions in retention pay
Free money in the USA
Go down to the unemployment line
There's a lot of people who would do just fine
To right this ship and fix your bank
For a decent wage and a hearty thanks
For some honest pay for an honest day
Fuck AIG fuck BofA-holes

AIG you're dumb FDIC my thumb
Shoved up your BofA
Free money in the USA
I got no place to stay
I lost my 401k
Now it's all gone away
Free money in the USA

AIG you're dumb FDIC my thumb
Shoved up your BofA
Free money in the USA
I got no place to stay
I lost my 401k
Now it's all gone away
Free money in the USA
Free money in the USA
Free money in the USA
Free money in the USA
(c) 2009 Paul Hipp

Have You Seen This...

Boston Dynamics Big Dog

Parting Shots...

Bye American
By Will Durst

Can we stop with the waving of the sharp instruments for a minute and speak rationally to this whole ugly recession mess we find ourselves currently mired in? C'mon. You know what recession mess I'm talking about. You're packing a bag lunch and taking mass transit to visit the public library to use their ancient computer to check out the job classifieds on Craigslist for crum's sake. Yeah, THAT recession mess. Well, you'll be glad to hear we've positively identified the bad guys responsible for this meltdown and they end up having awfully familiar faces.

Go ahead. Guess who's to blame? No, not the subprime mortgage brokers or Bernie Madoff and his ilk or those reverse Robin Hood hedgefund speculators throwing trillions of dollars worth of derivatives around like paper towels at a chili cheese dog eating competition. Nope. The dastardly bums that created the world wide financial crisis is... us. That's right. You and me. And I hope we're happy.

For making former Silicon Valley start up CFOs toil as Indian casino valets.. For driving down the price of 2 year old Porsche Boxters to the level of a 96 Taurus with a blown head gasket. For forcing casseroles and meatloaf onto the menus of 3 star Michelin chefs. It's all our fault. And how are we doing it? By not buying enough stuff. Damn us anyway. How dare we?

Who cares whether we're employed or not? Don't we realize we are the pistons that drive the free market engine? It's our God- given patriotic duty to go out there and buy stuff we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like. We don't do easy. We do compulsory.

Remember how good it felt to buy that brand new DVD we had no intention of ever watching? Aren't you just itching to tear the shrink- wrap off of something with your teeth right now? Anybody can conspicuously consume when things are going well and money geysers from the ground like it did between the Bushes. It takes a true retail soldier to run up credit card bills when banks are raising interest rates so high, it would not be too far off the mark for them to utilize a dorsal fin as a logo.

I wouldn't get this squishy if I wasn't seeing pubescent girls get punched in the gut with our selfish frugality. Girl Scout Cookie sales have sunk to levels not seen since Jimmy Carter was scolding us while wearing cardigans. The Girl Scouts! Okay, that's it. I don't know which of you commie pinko yellow rat cretinous toads managed to hypnotize the rest of us into believing we're so broke we can't afford a couple of measly packages of Thin Mints, but you've gone too far. You fiend. How soon before we take out our parsimonious wrath on the innocent producers of Sham- Wow and Snuggie?

Ladies and gentlemen, I implore you; open your wallets. Ask yourself, "what would Paris Hilton do?" It doesn't matter what you buy. A Jonas Brothers lunch box. A $75 grass fed, hand massaged, Kobe beef porterhouse steak, bathed in boysenberry infused truffle butter. A 96 piece Limited Edition Pewter Napkin Ring Set in the shape of the characters from the Lord of the Rings. Ford. Besides, this isn't about you and me people. This isn't about America. This isn't about Detroit. This is about the Girl Scouts.
(c) 2009 Will Durst, is a political comic who occasionally writes a little. This is one of those times.

The Gross National Debt

Zeitgeist The Movie...

Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 13 (c) 03/27/2009

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