Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky questions a, "Turning Point?"

Uri Avnery hasn't a clue in, "Obama Won't Wink Back."

Mike Wrathell returns with, "Sotomayor: A Newyorkrican With An Ax To Grind."

Farmer Pete with some tips on, "Starting Asparagus."

Jim Hightower asks, "Should Charity Hospitals Be Charitable?"

Greg Palast finds that, "Oil And Indians Don't Mix."

Phil Rockstroh goes, "Beyond The Soaring Rhetoric Of Obama's Cairo Speech."

Paul Krugman wonders, if we should, "Stay The Course."

Chris Floyd considers, "Apt Pupils: Assassinating The Truth About Atrocities In Iraq."

Case Wagenvoord remembers, "...Again And Again."

Mike Folkerth presents us with, "A Perfect Plan For Failure."

Chris Hedges concludes, "The American Empire Is Bankrupt."

Mary Pitt warns, "Don't Look Now, Mr. President."

South Carolina Republican activist Rusty DePass wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Frank Scott returns with, "The Devil's In The Retails."

Dan Shapley discovers, "Poetic Injustice On The Hudson."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Terry Jones says, "Free The Torturers - And The Rapists Too!" but first Uncle Ernie reviews, "The Doctor Jekyll Presidency."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Rex Babin, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Married-To-The-Sea.Com, Mr. Fish, Andy Singer, Vic Harville, Moonbattery.Com, The White House, Bettman Archives, The New York Times, ABC TV, Issues & Alibis.Org and Pink & Blue Films.

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

The Doctor Jekyll Presidency
By Ernest Stewart

"All human beings... are commingled out of good and evil." ~~~ Dr. Henry Jekyll

"A group of medical opportunists have taken upon themselves the dictatorial authority to declare the threat of a sweeping epidemic of SWINE FLU which they said was similar to or related to the 1918 epidemic of Spanish influenza which wiped out 20,000,000 people world-wide. This declaration was supposed to scare all the people into their vaccination centers to be shot full of experimental vaccine poisons, while they, the promoters, raked in the profits." ~~~ Eleanora I. McBean, Ph.D., N.D. ~ 1976

Watching the full moon crossing the range.
Riding The Storm Out ~~~ REO Speedwagon

Just like that master of the English language, Yogi Berra, who once said, "This is like deja vu all over again," I'm having similar thoughts about the Changeling! Haven't I seen this all somewhere once before?

Doesn't Barry's ability to promise one thing, then turn right around and do the very opposite ring a few bells, America? I've been having "flash backs" on the 19th century Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson who published his most famous novella way back in 1886. You'll remember it was, "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." You may recall that it was the story of a very intelligent man, a doctor, in fact, who, when he took a drink of his "special formula" changed into a monster. I know a lot about this as my ex-wife Georgia had a similar problem with alcohol too! She could take a single sip and go from a caring, intelligent, wonderful person to a raving, maniacal monster right before your eyes! Stevenson disguised the booze as a potion the doctor made but I think it was probably just a Harvey Wallbanger that Dr. Jekyll mixed up!

Which brings us to Barry.

Barry, like the good doctor, is an intelligent man with similar degrees, i.e., B.A., LL.B, J.D., LS.D, and seems by all outward appearances to be the people's candidate when nothing could be farther from the truth! Barry, you may recall, was swept into office promising change and has delivered pretty much, same ole, same ole! He decried all of Bush's various acts of treason and yet has defended most of them with all the vigor that he posses. So much for change!

Of course, it was obvious to anybody who took the time to investigate Barry's actions as a Sin-ator that he was just shucking and jiving and was already bought and paid for by the bankers, telephone companies and other corpo-rat goons! While some call him "Bush Lite," I'm not so sure that he is even that. He's more fanatical about the Zionazi's in Tel Aviv than was the "Crime Family Bush." At least Papa Smirk kept Israel on a leash but under Barry, it's the other way around. Every day I keep hearing Yogi's words echo in my mind and every day we keep getting deeper and deeper and deeper into the doo doo. You may recall that Stevenson's doctor met an unhappy fate and I'm afraid so will we, America!

In Other News

I see where they're getting ready to inoculate school children with some designer poison to protect them from Mexican swine flu. You'll recall that this flu is now a pandemic and is without a doubt the least deadly flu in the history of mankind. Which makes me wonder did it come from an American owned pig farm outside of Mexico City or from a beaker in some lab in Langley?

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Cerberus er Sebelius (I get those two confused, don't you?) wants all American schools to schedule inoculations for all of our children with something that isn't even ready yet or perhaps is waiting just for an excuse much like the "Patriot" Act was.

What's wrong with this you might ask? Well, for one thing, normal yearly flu, in the time that this flu has been here, i.e., six months, would have killed around 18,000 to 20,000 Americans. This flu has killed a couple of dozen, so why the hurry to give the children shots that they obviously don't need? What's really behind this? Why has the media which seldom reports the regular flu gone bonkers over this? What are their corpo-rat masters up to? Why is the hair on the back of my neck standing up?

Some think this round of flu is just the first step for a killer flu that's waiting in some CIA beaker for phase two. I think even if these new inoculations are being done out of the goodness of the government's heart (yeah I know) that more kids will die from the inoculation than have died from the flu and that's the upside. With the elite wanting to get rid of about 6 billion of us what better way to start than this? Along with the economy, which is heading for a place that will make the 30's depression look like a "Swiss Picnic" by comparison, several new wars to fight until the funds run out, and the North American Union etc. etc. etc. I think I'd keep the kids out of school that day, just to be on the safe side!

One last thought, you may recall the last time we had one of these flu scares it was the "Bird Flu" which was going to kill us all. That time "Crime Family Bush" member deputy fuhrer Donald Von Rumsfeld made over $5 million dollars profit on "Tamiflu!" I wonder who will cash in on this scare, don't you?

And Finally

I'm feeling much better now! After a ten-day vacation, high in the Blue Ridge Mountains (yes there is more than one meaning for this statement) I've returned to Trinity, refreshed, relieved and ready to rock!

While the lad and his better half flew off to Costa Rica for their honeymoon, I sat upon the front deck of "Spider Cottage" observing nature as the sun, moon, stars and red tailed hawks circled lazily overhead and lulled me into a peaceful, restful, mind clearing, laze! Just the thing I needed to reface the political horrors of these here United Snakes!

While the magazine lay dormant for the last two months, saving us about a grand, we managed to take in just enough to start it up again. With one bill paid, we still have two bills to go before we can settle in and just publish the facts, Ma'am, just the facts!

Whether we can afford to do this is totally up to you as we can no longer afford to publish out of our own poor pockets. We can barely afford to keep hearth and home together and some porridge in the pot!

With bills coming due in July and September this maybe a very short run unless we can get your help. So send us what you can as soon as you can and we'll keep on sending you the truth, the important facts that you need to know to survive in this "Brave New World!"


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

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

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

Ernest & Victoria Stewart


01-15-1934 ~ 06-14-2009
Thanks for all the jams!

12-08-1936 ~ 06-03-2009
Ta Ta Grasshopper!

09-28-1928 ~ 06-03-2009
...Long Live The Queen!


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.


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

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

Turning Point?
By Noam Chomsky

The Obama-Netanyahu-Abbas meetings in May, followed by Obama's speech in Cairo, have been widely interpreted as a turning point in US Middle East policy, leading to consternation in some quarters, exuberance in others. Fairly typical is Middle East analyst Dan Fromkin of the Washington Post, who sees "signs Obama will promote a new regional peace initiative for the Middle East, much like the one championed by Jordan's King Abdullah... [and also] the first distinct signs that Obama is willing to play hardball with Israel." (WP, May 29). A closer look, however, suggests considerable caution.

King Abdullah insists that "There is no change to the Arab Peace Initiative, and there is no need to amend it. Any talk about amending it, is baseless" (AFP, May 16). Abbas, regularly described as the president of the Palestinian Authority (his term expired in January), firmly agrees. The Arab Peace Initiative reiterates the long-standing international consensus that Israel must withdraw to the international border, perhaps with "minor and mutual adjustments," to adopt official US terminology before it departed sharply from world opinion in 1971, endorsing Israel's rejection of peace with Egypt in favor of settlement expansion (in the northeast Sinai). Furthermore, the consensus calls for a Palestinian state to be established in Gaza and the West Bank after Israel's withdrawal. The Arab Initiative adds that the Arab states should then normalize relations with Israel.

The Initiative was later adopted by the Organization of Islamic States, including Iran (Akiva Eldar, Ha'aretz, June 1).

Obama has praised the Initiative and called on the Arab states to proceed to normalize relations with Israel. But he has so far scrupulously evaded the core of the proposal, thus implicitly maintaining the US rejectionist stand that has blocked a diplomatic settlement since the 1970s along with its Israeli client, in virtual isolation. There are no signs that Obama is willing even to consider the Arab Initiative, let alone "promote" it. That was underscored in Obama's much heralded address to the Muslim world in Cairo on June 4, to which I will return.

The US-Israel confrontation -- with Abbas on the sidelines -- turns on two phrases: "Palestinian state" and "natural growth of settlements." Let's consider these in turn.

Obama has indeed pronounced the words "Palestinian state," echoing Bush. In contrast, the (unrevised) 1999 platform of Israel's governing party, Netanyahu's Likud, "flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river." Nevertheless, it was Netanyahu's 1996 government that was the first to use the phrase. It agreed that Palestinians can call whatever fragments of Palestine are left to them "a state" if they like -- or they can call them "fried chicken" (David Bar- Illan, director of Communications and Policy Planning in the office of the Prime Minister; Interview, Palestine-Israel Journal, Summer/Autumn 1996).

The 1996 Netanyahu government's contemptuous reference to Palestinian aspirations was a shift towards accommodation in US-Israeli policy. As he left office shortly before, Shimon Peres forcefully declared that there will never be a Palestinian state (Amnon Barzilai, Ha'aretz, Oct 24, 1995). Peres was reaffirming the official 1989 position of the US (Bush-Baker) and the Israeli coalition government (Shamir-Peres) that there can be no "additional Palestinian state" between Israel and Jordan -- the latter declared to be a Palestinian state by US-Israeli fiat. In the Peres-Shamir-Baker plan, barely reported (if at all) in the US, the fate of the occupied territories was to be settled in terms of the guidelines established by the government of Israel, and Palestinians were permitted to take part in negotiations only if they accepted these guidelines, which rule out Palestinian national rights.

Contrary to much misunderstanding, the Oslo agreements of September 1993 -- the "Day of Awe," as the press described it -- changed little in this regard. The Declaration of Principles accepted by all participants established that the end point of the process would be realization of the goals of UN 242, which accords no rights to Palestinians. And by then, the US had withdrawn its earlier interpretation of 242 as requiring Israeli withdrawal from the territories conquered in 1967, leaving the matter open.

The Peres-Shamir-Baker declarations of 1989 were in response to the official Palestinian acceptance of the international consensus on a two-state solution in 1988. That proposal was first formally enunciated in 1976 in a Security Council resolution introduced by the major Arab states with the tacit support of the PLO, vetoed by the US (again in 1980). Since then US-Israeli rejectionism has persisted unchanged, with one brief but significant exception, in President Clinton's final month in office.

Clinton recognized that the terms he had offered at the failed 2000 Camp David meetings were not acceptable to any Palestinians, and in December, proposed his "parameters," inexplicit but more forthcoming. He then announced that both sides had accepted the parameters, though both had reservations. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in Taba Egypt to iron out the differences, and made considerable progress. A full resolution could have been reached in a few more days, they announced in their final joint press conference. But Israel called off the negotiations prematurely, and they have not been formally resumed.

The single exception suggests that if an American president were willing to tolerate a meaningful diplomatic settlement, it might very well be reached. The facts are well documented in Hebrew and English sources (for review, see Chomsky, Failed States). But like much of the relevant history, they are regularly reshaped to suit doctrinal needs; for example by Jeffrey Goldberg, who writes that

"By December of 2000, Israel had accepted President Bill Clinton's `parameters,' offering the Palestinians all of the Gaza Strip, 94 percent to 96 percent of the West Bank and sovereignty over Arab areas of East Jerusalem. Arafat again rejected the deal" (NYT, May 24). That is a convenient tale, false or seriously misleading in all particulars, and another useful contribution to US-Israeli rejectionism.

Returning to the phrase "Palestinian state," the crucial question on the US side is whether Obama means the international consensus or "fried chicken." So far that remains unanswered, except by studious omission, and -- crucially -- by Washington's steady funding of Israel's programs of settlement and development in the West Bank. All of these programs violate international law, as Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan conceded in 1967 and as has been reaffirmed by the Security Council and the World Court. Probably Netanyahu would still accept his 1996 position.

The contours of "fried chicken" are being carved into the landscape daily by US-backed Israeli programs. The general goals were outlined by Prime Minister Olmert in May 2006 in his "Convergence program," later expanded to "Convergence plus." Under "Convergence," Israel was to take over the territory within the illegal "separation wall" along with the Jordan Valley, thus imprisoning what is left, which is broken into cantons by several salients extending to the East. Israel also takes over Greater Jerusalem, the site of most of its current construction projects, driving out many Arabs. These Jerusalem projects not only violate international law, as do all the others, but also Security Council resolutions (at the time, still backed by the US).

The plans being executed right now are designed to leave Israel in control of the most valuable land in the West Bank, with Palestinians confined to unviable fragments, all separated from Jerusalem, the traditional center of Palestinian life. The "separation wall" also establishes Israeli control of the West Bank aquifer. Hence Israel will be able to continue to ensure that Palestinians receive one-fourth as much water as Israelis, as the World Bank reported in April, in some cases below minimum recommended levels. In the other part of Palestine, Gaza, regular Israeli bombardment and the cruel siege reduce consumption far below.

Obama continues to support all of these programs, and has even called for substantially increasing military aid to Israel for an unprecedented ten years (Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy in Focus, March 4). It appears, then, that Palestinians may be offered fried chicken, but nothing more. Israel's forced separation of Gaza from the West Bank since 1991, intensified with US support after a free election in January 2006 came out "the wrong way," has also been studiously ignored in Obama's "new initiative," thus further undermining prospects for any viable Palestinian state.

Gaza's forced separation from Palestine, and its miserable condition, have been almost entirely consigned to oblivion, an atrocity to which we should not contribute by tacit consent. Israeli journalist Amira Hass, one of the leading specialists on Gaza writes that "The restrictions on Palestinian movement that Israel introduced in January 1991 reversed a process that had been initiated in June 1967. Back then, and for the first time since 1948, a large portion of the Palestinian people again lived in the open territory of a single country--to be sure, one that was occupied, but was nevertheless whole... The total separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank is one of the greatest achievements of Israeli politics, whose overarching objective is to prevent a solution based on international decisions and understandings and instead dictate an arrangement based on Israel's military superiority... Since January 1991, Israel has bureaucratically and logistically merely perfected the split and the separation: not only between Palestinians in the occupied territories and their brothers in Israel, but also between the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and those in the rest of the territories and between Gazans and West Bankers/Jerusalemites. Jews live in this same piece of land within a superior and separate system of privileges, laws, services, physical infrastructure and freedom of movement" (April 24,

The leading academic specialist on Gaza, Sara Roy, adds that "Gaza is an example of a society that has been deliberately reduced to a state of abject destitution, its once productive population transformed into one of aid-dependent paupers...Gaza's subjection began long before Israel's recent war against it. The Israeli occupation--now largely forgotten or denied by the international community--has devastated Gaza's economy and people, especially since 2006... After Israel's December [2008] assault, Gaza's already compromised conditions have become virtually unlivable. Livelihoods, homes, and public infrastructure have been damaged or destroyed on a scale that even the Israel Defense Forces admitted was indefensible. In Gaza today, there is no private sector to speak of and no industry. 80 percent of Gaza's agricultural crops were destroyed and Israel continues to snipe at farmers attempting to plant and tend fields near the well-fenced and patrolled border. Most productive activity has been extinguished... Today, 96 percent of Gaza's population of 1.4 million is dependent on humanitarian aid for basic needs. According to the World Food Programme, the Gaza Strip requires a minimum of 400 trucks of food every day just to meet the basic nutritional needs of the population. Yet, despite a 22 March decision by the Israeli cabinet to lift all restrictions on foodstuffs entering Gaza, only 653 trucks of food and other supplies were allowed entry during the week of May 10, at best meeting 23 percent of required need.. Israel now allows only 30 to 40 commercial items to enter Gaza compared to 4,000 approved products prior to June 2006." (Harvard Crimson, June 2, 2009).

It cannot be too often stressed that Israel had no credible pretext for its December attack on Gaza, with full US support and illegally using US weapons. Near-universal opinion asserts the contrary, claiming that that Israel was acting in self-defense. That is utterly unsustainable, in light of Israel's flat rejection of peaceful means that were readily available (see Chomsky, "Exterminate all the Brutes," updated footnoted version at That aside, Israel's siege of Gaza is itself an act of war, as Israel of all countries certainly recognizes, having repeatedly justified launching major wars on grounds of partial restrictions on its access to the outside world.

One crucial element of Israel's siege, little reported, is the naval blockade. Peter Beaumont reports from Gaza that "On its coastal littoral, Gaza's limitations are marked by a different fence where the bars are Israeli gunboats with their huge wakes, scurrying beyond the Palestinian fishing boats and preventing them from going outside a zone imposed by the warships." (Guardian, 27 May). According to reports from the scene, the naval siege has been tightened steadily since 2000. Fishing boats have been driven steadily out of Gaza's territorial waters and towards the shore by Israeli gunboats, often violently without warning and with many casualties. As a result of these naval actions, Gaza's fishing industry has virtually collapsed; fishing is impossible near shore because of the contamination caused by Israel's regular attacks, including the destruction of power plants and sewage facilities.

These Israeli naval attacks began shortly after the discovery by the British Gas group of what appear to be quite sizeable natural gas fields in Gaza's territorial waters. Industry journals report that Israel is already appropriating these Gazan resources for its own use, part of its commitment to shift its economy to natural gas. The standard source, Platt's Commodity News, reports (Feb. 3, 16) that "Israel's finance ministry has given the Israel Electric Corp. approval to purchase larger quantities of natural gas from BG than originally agreed upon, according to Israeli government sources [which] said the state-owned utility would be able to negotiate for as much as 1.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas from the Marine field located off the Mediterranean coast of the Palestinian controlled Gaza Strip. Last year the Israeli government approved the purchase of 800 million cubic meters of gas from the field by the IEC.... Recently the Israeli government changed its policy and decided the state-owned utility could buy the entire quantity of gas from the Gaza Marine field. Previously the government had said the IEC could buy half the total amount and the remainder would be bought by private power producers."

The pillage of what could become a major source of income for Palestine is surely known to US authorities. It is only reasonable to suppose that the intention to steal Palestine's limited resources is the motive for preventing Gaza fishing boats to enter Gaza's territorial waters. It would also not be a great surprise if we were to discover some day that the same intention was in the background of the criminal US-Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008.

The restrictions on movement used to destroy Gaza have long been in force in the West Bank as well, with grim effects on life and the economy. The World Bank has just reported that Israel has established "a complex closure regime that restricts Palestinian access to large areas of the West Bank... The Palestinian economy has remained stagnant, largely because of the sharp downturn in Gaza and Israel's continued restrictions on Palestinian trade and movement in the West Bank." The Bank "cited Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints hindering trade and travel, as well as restrictions on Palestinian building in the West Bank, where the Western-backed government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas holds sway" (AP; Avi Issacharoff, Ha'aretz; May 6).

All of this constitutes what Israeli activist Jeff Halper calls a "matrix of control" to subdue the colonized population, in pursuit of Defense Minister Moshe Dayan's recommendation to his colleagues shortly after the 1967 conquests that we must tell the Palestinians in the territories that "we have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads" (Yossi Beilin, Mehiro shel Ihud, 42).

Turning to the second bone of contention, settlements, there is indeed a confrontation, but it may again be less dramatic than portrayed. Washington's position was presented most strongly in Hilary Clinton's much-quoted statement rejecting "natural growth exceptions" to the policy opposing new settlements. Netanyahu, along with President Peres and in fact virtually the whole Israeli political spectrum, insists on permitting "natural growth" within the areas that Israel intends to annex, complaining that the US is backing down on Bush's authorization of such expansion within his "vision" of a Palestinian state.

Senior Netanyahu cabinet members have gone further. Minister Yisrael Katz announced that "the current Israeli government will not accept in any way the freezing of legal settlement activity in Judea and Samaria." (Ha'aretz, May 31). The term "legal" in US-Israeli parlance means "illegal, but authorized by the government of Israel." In this usage, unauthorized outposts are termed "illegal," though apart from the dictates of the powerful, they are no more illegal than the settlements granted to Israel under Bush's "vision."

The harsh Obama-Clinton formulation is not new. It repeats the wording of the 2003 Road Map, which stipulates that in Phase I, "Israel freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements)." All sides formally accept the Road Map -- consistently overlooking the fact that Israel, with US support, at once added 14 "reservations"that render it inoperable.

If Obama were serious about opposing settlement expansion, he could easily proceed with concrete measures, for example, by reducing US aid by the amount devoted to this purpose. That would hardly be a radical or courageous move. The Bush I administration did so (reducing loan guarantees), but after the Oslo accord in 1993, President Clinton left calculations to the government of Israel. Unsurprisingly,, there was "no change in the expenditures flowing to the settlements," the Israeli press reported: "[Prime Minister] Rabin will continue not to dry out the settlements," the report concludes. "And the Americans? They will understand" (Hadashot, Oct. 8; Yair Fidel, Hadashot Supplement, Oct. 29, 1993).

Obama administration officials informed the press that the Bush I measures are "not under discussion," and that pressures will be "largely symbolic" (Helene Cooper, NYT, June 1). In short, Obama "understands."

The US press reports that "A partial freeze has been in place for several years, but settlers have found ways around the strictures... construction in the settlements has slowed but never stopped, continuing at an annual rate of about 1,500 to 2,000 units over the past three years. If building continues at the 2008 rate, the 46,500 units already approved will be completed in about 20 years... If Israel built all the housing units already approved in the nation's overall master plan for settlements, it would almost double the number of settler homes in the West Bank" (Isabel Kirshner, NYT, June 2). The probable source, Peace Now, which monitors settlement activities, estimates further that the two largest settlements would double in size: Ariel and Ma'aleh Adumim, built mainly during the Oslo years in the salients that subdivide the West Bank into cantons.

"Natural population growth" is largely a myth, Israel's leading diplomatic correspondent, Akiva Eldar, points out, citing demographic studies by Col (res.) Shaul Arieli, deputy military secretary to former prime minister and incumbent defense minister Ehud Barak. Settlement growth consists largely of Israeli immigrants in violation of the Geneva Conventions, assisted with generous subsidies. Much of it is in direct violation of formal Government decisions, but carried out with the authorization of the Government, specifically Barak, considered a dove in the Israeli spectrum (Eldar, Ha'aretz, June 2).

Some deride the "long-dormant Palestinian fantasy," revived by Abbas, "that the United States will simply force Israel to make critical concessions, whether or not its democratic government agrees" (Jackson Diehl, WP, May 29). He does not explain whether refusal to participate in Israel's illegal expansion -- which, if serious, would "force Israel to make critical concessions" -- would be improper interference in Israel's democracy.

Diehl also refers to a recent Olmert peace plan of unprecedented generosity offered to Abbas, which he turned down, though it yielded just about everything to which Palestinians might reasonably aspire. Others have also confidently referred to this mysterious plan and its rejection by Abbas. Efforts to unearth the plan have so far been unavailing. The only sources detected in an assiduous search by David Peterson are comments by Palestinians in the Arab media that appear to be part of internal conflict about power sharing, not the usual source for Western commentators. Eliot Abrams dates the plan to January 2009 (WP, April 8, citing unspecified press reports, while also falsifying earlier plans for which records exist; June 3 response to query about his sources).

If there were any truth to this tale, one can be confident that it would be trumpeted by Israeli propaganda and its enthusiasts here, as a welcome demonstration that Palestinians simply will not accept peace, even the most moderate of them. It is highly dubious on other grounds. For one thing, Olmert was in no position to offer any credible proposal, having announced his resignation as he was facing indictment for serious corruption charges. The alleged plan is also hard to reconcile with the steady ongoing expansion of settlement under Olmert, vitiating even far less forthcoming offers.

Returning to reality, all of these discussions about settlement expansion evade the most crucial issue about settlements: what Israel has already established in the West Bank. The evasion tacitly concedes that the illegal settlement programs already in place are somehow acceptable (putting aside the Golan heights, annexed in violation of Security Council orders) -- though the Bush "vision," apparently accepted by Obama, moves from tacit to explicit. What is in place already suffices to ensure that there can be no viable Palestinian self-determination. Hence there is every indication that even on the unlikely assumption that "natural growth" will be ended, US-Israeli rejectionism will persist, blocking the international consensus as before.

It might be different if a legitimate "land swap" were under consideration, a solution approached at Taba and spelled out more fully in the Geneva Accord reached in informal high-level Israel-Palestine negotiations. The Accord was presented in Geneva in October 2003, welcomed by much of the world, rejected by Israel, and ignored by the US.

There is a "land swap" under consideration, but a radically different one. The ultra-right Israeli leader Avigdor Lieberman, now Foreign Minister, proposed to reduce the non-Jewish population of Israel by transferring concentrations of Israeli Arabs (specifically, Wadi Ara in the Galilee) to a derisory "Palestinian state" -- over the overwhelming opposition of the victims, to be sure. When first advanced, these ideas were denounced as virtually neo-Nazi -- which is a little odd; they were first proposed by Democratic Socialist political philosopher Michael Walzer, who wrote 30 years before Lieberman that those who are "marginal to the nation" (Palestinians) should be "helped to leave" in the interests of peace and justice. These ideas have now shifted to the political center in Israel, and are praised by New York Times Israel correspondent Ethan Bronner, who writes that the left likes Lieberman's "willingness to create two states, one Jewish, one Palestinian, which would involve yielding areas that are now part of Israel" in a land swap (NYT, Feb. 12) -- a polite way of saying that Israeli citizens of the wrong ethnicity will be transferred by force from a rich first world country to "fried chicken."

Obama's June 4 Cairo address to the Muslim world kept pretty much to his well-honed "blank slate" style -- saying very little of substance, but in a personable manner that allows listeners to write on the slate what they want to hear. CNN captured its spirit in headlining a report "Obama looks to reach the soul of the Muslim world." Obama had announced the goals of his address in an interview with NYT columnistThomas Friedman (June 3): "`We have a joke around the White House,' the president said. ÔWe're just going to keep on telling the truth until it stops working -- and nowhere is truth-telling more important than the Middle East'." The White House commitment is most welcome, but it is useful to see how it translates into practice.

Obama admonished his audience that it is easy to "point fingers... But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security."

Turning to truth, there is a third side, with a decisive role throughout: the US. But that participant in the conflict is unmentioned. The omission is understood to be normal and appropriate, hence unmentioned: Friedman's column is headlined "Obama speech aimed at both Arabs and Israelis"; the front-page Wall St. Journal report on Obama's speech appears under the heading "Obama Chides Israel, Arabs In His Overture to Muslims." Other reports are the same. The convention is understandable on the doctrinal principle that though the US government sometimes makes "mistakes," its intentions are by definition benign. Washington has always sought desperately to be an honest broker, only yearning to advance peace and justice. The doctrine trumps truth, of which there is no hint in the speech or the mainstream coverage.

Obama once again echoed Bush's advocacy of two states, without saying what he means by the phrase "Palestinian state." His intentions are clarified not only by crucial omission, but also by his one explicit criticism of Israel: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop" (my emphasis). That is, Israel should live up to Phase I of the 2003 Road Map, though the truth is that Obama has ruled out even steps of the Bush I variety to withdraw from participation in these crimes.

The operative words are "legitimacy" and "continued." By omission, Obama indicates that he accepts Bush's "vision:" the vast existing settlement project and infrastructure is "legitimate," thus ensuring that the phrase "Palestinian state" means "fried chicken."

Even-handed, Obama also had an admonition for the Arab States: they "must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities." Plainly, it cannot be a meaningful "beginning" if Obama continues to reject its core principles: implementation of the international consensus. But to do so is evidently not Washington's "responsibility" in Obama's vision, presumably because the US has no responsibilities other than to persist in its traditional vocation of doing good.

On democracy, Obama said that "we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election" -- as in January 2006, when Washington turned at once to severe punishment of the Palestinians because it did not like the outcome of the peaceful election. Obama politely refrained from comment about his host, President Mubarak, one of the most brutal dictators in the region, though elsewhere he has had some illuminating words about him. As he was about to board the plane to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the two "moderate" Arab states, "Mr. Obama signaled that while he would mention American concerns about human rights in Egypt, he would not challenge Mr. Mubarak too sharply, calling him a `force for stability and good' in the Middle East... Mr. Obama said he did not regard Mr. Mubarak as an authoritarian leader. `No, I tend not to use labels for folks,' Mr. Obama said. The president noted that there had been criticism `of the manner in which politics operates in Egypt,' but he also said that Mr. Mubarak had been `a stalwart ally, in many respects, to the United States'" (Jeff Zeleyna and Michael Slackman, NYT, June 4).

Obama also had observations on nuclear weapons, a matter of no slight significance in the light of his focus on Iran. Obama repeated his hope for their general abolition and called on all signers of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to abide by the responsibilities it imposes. His comments pointedly excluded Israel, which is not a signer of the NPT, along with India and Pakistan, all of them supported by the US in their development of nuclear weapons -- Pakistan particularly under Reagan, India under Bush II. India and Pakistan are now escalating their nuclear weapons programs to a level that is highly threatening (see, e.g., Jeffrey Smith and Joby Warrick, "Nuclear Aims By Pakistan, India Prompt U.S. Concern," WP, May 28, 2009). But our significant role in this confrontation confers no "responsibility."

Some who are placing their hopes in Obama have cited remarks of Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller: "Universal adherence to the NPT itself - including by India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea - also remains a fundamental objective of the United States." But the threat that her comment might mean something was quickly allayed by the report of a senior Israeli diplomat that Israel had received assurances that Obama "will not force Israel to state publicly whether it has nuclear weapons,... [but will] stick to a decades-old U.S. policy of `don't ask, don't tell'." And as the Institute for Public Accuracy was quick to remind us, the Bush administration had also adopted Gottemoeller's stand, calling for "universal adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty."(Julian Borger, Guardian, May 6. Reuters, May 21,

It appears, then, that "universality" applies to Iran's alleged programs, but not to the actual ones of US allies and clients -- not to speak of Washington's own obligations under the NPT.

With regard to Iran's nuclear programs, Obama chose his words carefully. He said that "any nation -- including Iran -- should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty." His words again reiterate the Bush administration's position: it too held that Iran could "access peaceful nuclear power." But the contentious issue has been whether Iran has the rights guaranteed to signers of the NPT under Article IV: "Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty," which refer to nuclear weapons. There is a considerable difference between research and production, as Article IV permits, and "access," which Bush and Obama are willing to permit, meaning access from the outside. That has been the heart of the dispute, and remains so. The Non-aligned Movement, most of the world's states, has forcefully affirmed Iran's position (which is also supported by the majority of Americans). The "international community" -- a technical term referring to Washington and whoever happens to agree with it -- opposes allowing Iran the rights guaranteed to NPT signers, and Obama, by careful choice of misleading words, indicates his continued adherence to this stand.

There is a sensible approach to the threat of nuclear weapons in the region: to join in the overwhelming international support (including a large majority of Americans) for a nuclear-weapons-free zone including Iran, Israel, and US forces deployed there. Adequate verification is by no means impossible. That should mitigate, if not terminate, the regional nuclear weapons threat. But it is not on the agenda.

It is too easily forgotten that the US is officially committed to establishing a NWFZ in the region, in accord with Security Council Resolution 687 in 1991. This Resolution assumes special significance for the US and UK, because they appealed to it in their half-hearted attempt to provide at least some thin legal basis for their invasion of Iraq. The resolution calls for elimination of Iraqi WMD and delivery systems, as a step towards "the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons" (Article 14). Since that includes Israel, it was never intended seriously by the US and UK, and it was quickly dispatched to the memory hole along with other inconvenient truths that escape the commitment to "keep on telling the truth until it stops working."

It should perhaps be added that despite much fevered rhetoric, rational souls understand that the Iranian threat is not the threat of attack -- which would be suicidal. Wayne White, former deputy director of the Near East and South Asia office of State Department intelligence (INR), quite plausibly estimates the likelihood that the Iranian leaders would carry out "some quixotic attack against Israel with a nuclear weapon" thus instantly destroying Iran and themselves, as "down there with that 1 percent possibility." Also timely is his confirmation, from direct knowledge as the INR Iraq intelligence analyst at the time, that Israel's 1981 attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor did not end Saddam's nuclear weapons program, but initiated it.

No one wants Iran -- or anyone -- to develop nuclear weapons, but it should be recognized that the perceived threat is not that they will be used in a suicide mission, but rather the threat of deterrence of US-Israeli actions to extend their domination of the region. And to repeat, if the concern were Iranian nuclear weapons, there would be sensible ways to proceed -- to which, furthermore, the US is officially committed.

Obama's "new initiative" is spelled out more fully by John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, now chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in an important speech at the Brookings Institute on March 9. ( In interpreting Kerry's words, we have to suspend normal rationality, and agree that the actual facts of history are completely irrelevant. What is important is not the contrived picture of past and present, but the plans outlined.

Kerry urges that we acknowledge that our honorable efforts to bring about a political settlement have failed, primarily because of the unwillingness of the Arab states to make peace. Furthermore, all of our efforts to "to give the Israelis a legitimate partner for peace" have foundered on Palestinian intransigence. Now, however, there is a welcome change. With the Arab Initiative of 2006, the Arab states have finally signaled their willingness to accept Israel's presence in the region. Even more promising is the "unprecedented willingness among moderate Arab nations to work with Israel" against our common enemy Iran. "Moderate" here is used in its technical meaning: "willing to conform to US demands," irrespective of the nature of the regime. "This re-alignment can help to lay the groundwork for progress towards peace," Kerry said, as we "re-conceptualize" the problem, focusing on the Iranian threat.

Kerry goes on to explain that there is also at last some hope that a "legitimate partner" can be found for our peace-loving Israeli ally: Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. How then do we proceed to support Israel's new legitimate Palestinian partner? "Most importantly, this means strengthening General [Keith] Dayton's efforts to train Palestinian security forces that can keep order and fight terror... Recent developments have been extremely encouraging: During the invasion of Gaza, Palestinian Security Forces largely succeeded in maintaining calm in the West Bank amidst widespread expectations of civil unrest. Obviously, more remains to be done, but we can help do it."

Routinely, Kerry describes the attack on Gaza as entirely right and just: by definition, since the US crucially participated in it. It doesn't matter, then, that the pretext lacks any credibility, under principles that we all accept -- with regard to others.

General Dayton's forces, armed and trained in Jordan with Israeli participation and supervision, are the soft side of population control. The tougher and more brutal forces are those trained by the CIA: General Intelligence and Preventive Security.

Kerry is right that we can do more to ensure that West Bank Palestinians are so effectively controlled that they cannot even protest the slaughter in Gaza -- let alone move towards meaningful self-determination. For this task, the US can draw on a long history of colonial practice, developed in exquisite detail during the US occupation of the Philippines after the murderous conquest a century ago, then widely applied elsewhere. This sophisticated refinement of traditional imperial practice has been highly successful in US dependencies, while also providing means of population control at home. These matters are spelled out in groundbreaking work by historian Alfred McCoy (Policing America's Empire, forthcoming). Kerry should be familiar with these techniques from his service in South Vietnam. Applying these measures to Palestine, collaborationist paramilitary forces can be employed to subdue the domestic population with the cooperation of privileged elites, granting the US and Israel free rein to carry forward Bush's "vision" and Olmert's Convergence-plus. Gaza can meanwhile be kept under a strangling siege as a prison and occasional shooting gallery.

Washington's new initiative for Middle East peace, so it is hoped, will integrate Israel among the "moderate" Arab states as a bulwark for US domination of the vital energy-producing regions. It fits well into Obama's broader programs for Afghanistan and Pakistan, where military operations are escalating and huge "embassies" are being constructed on the model of the city-within-a-city in Baghdad, clearly signaling Obama's intentions (Saeed Shah and Warren Strobel, McClatchy Newspapers, May 27).

The "re-conceptualization" is evidently satisfactory to US high tech industry, which continues to enhance its intimate relations with Israel. One striking illustration as a gigantic installation that Intel is constructing in Israel to implement a revolutionary reduction in size of chips, expecting to set a new industry standard and to supply much of the world with parts from its Kiryat Gat facility. Relations between US and Israeli military industry remain particularly close. Israel continues to provide the US with a strategically located overseas military base for prepositioning weapons and other functions. Intelligence cooperation goes back half a century.

These are among the unparalleled services that Israel provides for US militarism and global dominance. They afford Israel a certain leeway to defy Washington's orders -- though it is skating on thin ice if it tries to push its luck too far, as history has repeatedly shown. So far the jingoist extremism of the current government has been constrained by more sober elements: for example, the shelving of the proposals to require a loyalty oath and to prevent citizens from commemorating the Nakba -- the disaster for Palestinians in 1948. But if Israel goes too far, there might indeed erupt a confrontation of the kind that many commentators perceive today, so far, with little basis.
(c) 2009 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Hegemony or Survival Americas Quest for Global Dominance. His writings on linguistics and politics have just been collected in The Essential Noam Chomsky, edited by Anthony Arnove, from the New Press.

Obama Won't Wink Back
By Uri Avnery

REMEMBER DOV WEISGLASS? The one who said that peace must wait until the Palestinians become Finns? Who talked about preserving the peace process in formaldehyde?

However, Weisglass will mainly be remembered less for his mouth than his eyes. Weisglass is the King of the Wink.

This week, Binyamin Netanyahu called him in for urgent consultations. He needed a lesson in "working with the eyes" (as cheating is called in modern Hebrew slang).

Winking is the main instrument of the settlement enterprise. The wink is the real father of the settlements. The settlers wink. The government winks. Officials don't issue a permit, but wink. They say no, and wink. Wink and build. Wink and connect to electricity and water. Wink and send soldiers to protect the outposts, and also remove the Palestinians from adjoining fields and olive groves.

The wink is also the main instrument of Israeli diplomacy. Everything is done by winking. The Americans demand a freeze of the settlements - and wink. The Israelis agree to the freeze - and wink back.

Trouble is that there is no printed sign for a wink. The computer has no standard symbol for it. So Hillary Clinton could honestly assert this week that no wink is documented in any agreement signed by the US and Israel. Not in any memorandum of oral exchanges. So there are no understandings. No mention at all of a wink in any file or document.

Worse: it seems that in Afro-American culture the wink is unknown. When Netanyahu came to the White House and winked - Barack Obama did not respond. Winked again, and again Obama did not understand. Winked and winked and winked until his face ached - nothing. Obama thought, perhaps, that Netanyahu had a nervous tic. Really embarrassing.

What can you do with someone who is no winkee? How, for God's sake, does one get him to wink back?

THAT IS the main problem confronting the Prime Minister of Israel.

Tomorrow he is going to deliver a Great Speech. Not just great, Historic. His resounding response to Obama's speech in Egypt. Everything has been done to put the two events on the same level. Obama spoke at Cairo University? Netanyahu will speak at Bar-Ilan University, the religious right-wing institution that nurtured the murderer of Yitzhak Rabin.

But that is the only similarity. Obama outlined the contours of a New Middle East? Netanyahu will outline the contours of the Old Middle East. Obama spoke about a future of peace, cooperation and mutual respect? Netanyahu will speak about a past of Holocaust, violence, hatred and fears.

Netanyahu's biggest problem is to make believe that the old is new. To make yesterday's tired old clichés sound like the rallying call for tomorrow. But how to do that without using winks, facing a person who does not understand winks?

How to speak about the "natural increase" of the settlers without winking? How to speak about a Palestinian state without winking? How to speak about speeding up peace negotiations with the Palestinians without winking?

The most expert tailors have been called for advice about the emperor's new clothes. Ministers and Knesset members and professors and magicians and, of course, Shimon Peres.

All of them rallied to the call: to tailor a beautiful robe, fashionable trousers and a colorful tie - such as only the very wisest of people will see.

ONCE WE could rely on the Holocaust. We said Holocaust, and the room fell silent. We could oppress the Palestinians, steal their lands, set up settlements, scatter checkpoints everywhere like the droppings of flies, blockade Gaza and so on. When the Goyim opened their mouths to protest, we cried "Holocaust" - and the words froze on their lips.

So what to do with someone who himself speaks incessantly about the Holocaust and denounces its deniers? A person who actually bothers to visit a concentration camp and drags with him "Mr. Holocaust," Elie Wiesel, in person?

No wonder that our Prime Minister tosses and turns in his bed and finds no rest for his soul. Netanyahu without the Holocaust is like the Pope without the cross. Netanyahu without a "second Holocaust" - how can he speak about Iran? What can he say about the Existential Danger, which prevents us from dismantling cabins in Judea and sheds in Samaria?

(Thank God for small mercies: at least Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, our main asset in the region, has been reelected.)

SO HOW will Netanyahu pitch his Historic Speech?

He will have to try and hammer a square peg into a round hole. To say Yes when he means No. That is what his predecessors did. Ehud Barak did it. Ariel Sharon did it. Ehud Olmert did it. With one big difference: they did it with a sly wink. Netanyahu will have to do it with a straight face.

He must speak about Two States without mentioning two states. To speak about freezing the settlements while building work there is proceeding at full speed.

In the past, there were many ways of going on with the settlement. "The Jewish brain produces patents," as a popular Hebrew song goes. New neighborhoods were built under the pretense that they were simply an extension of existing ones - at a distance of ten meters, or a hundred, or a thousand or two, as long as they were in the range of visibility. Or it was said that the building activity was taking place within the boundaries of existing settlements - helped by the fact that the municipal area of Maaleh Adumin settlement, for example, is officially as big as all of Tel-Aviv.

One can also brandish George W. Bush's famous letter, in which he expressed his opinion that in any future peace agreement "existing Israeli population centers" should be joined to Israel. But Bush did not define the "population centers" nor outline their borders. And he certainly did not say that we are allowed to build there before the signing of a final agreement, including possible swaps of territory. Not that he had any authority to decide such matters in the first place.

One can also talk about "natural increase." No problem: women can be turned into factories for children, preferable twins and triplets. Also, one can adopt children from the age of 1 to 101. After all, if there is a new child in the family, one needs to build another room, another house, another neighborhood.

(By the way, "natural increase" is, of course, a strictly Jewish matter. Arabs have no natural increase. Their increase is unnatural.)

AND WHAT about the State of Palestine, as projected by Obama?

Israeli TV did a beautiful job this week, when it reminded us what Netanyahu said only six years ago: "A Palestinian state - NO!" because "Yes to a Palestinian state means No to the Jewish state."

Netanyahu seems to think that it is only a matter of presentation. He can mention that in the past we already accepted the Road Map, which contains something about a Palestinian state. True, we made the acceptance conditional on 14 "reservations" which castrated it and turned it into a meaningless scrap of paper. But perhaps Obama will be content with that.

To sum up: no need to talk about Two States when they have already been mentioned in the Road Map (its name be cursed), which we declared dead a long time ago, but which we now consider alive again, and where something like two states is mentioned, so there is no need to repeat it - enough to allude to it in an oblique way.

But what to do if, in spite of everything, the Americans insist that Netanyahu emit the two words "Palestinian state" from his own mouth? If there is no way out, Netanyahu may mutter them somehow, silently adding phooey-phooey-phooey and loudly adding qualifications that empty them of all content. That is what Barak did, then Sharon, then Olmert.

The declarations of Tzipi Livni and her people produce the impression that they are stuck at the same point. They, too, seem to believe that we can go on speaking about two states and doing the very opposite, about freezing the settlements and go on building there. No new message is coming from this camp, but only criticism of Netanyahu for not changing his style to please Obama.

BUT WHAT Obama is asking for is not a new formulation of old slogans. He demands the acceptance of the principle of Two States as a basis for concrete and rigorous action: achieving an agreement on the establishment of a state called Palestine, with its capital in East Jerusalem, without settlements and all the other paraphernalia of the occupation.

He demands the start of negotiations forthwith, so that within two or three years - before the end of his current term - real peace will be established, a peace that will ensure the existence and security of "the Jewish state of Israel" (as George Mitchell put it this week) and the Arab state of Palestine, side by side.

All this as part of a new Greater Middle Eastern order, from Pakistan to Morocco, and as a part of a world-wide vision.

Against this demand, no winking a la Weisglass or verbal gimmicks a la Peres will be of any avail. In tomorrow's speech, Netanyahu will have to choose between three alternatives: a head-on collision with the United States, a total change in his policy, or resignation.

The era of winks is over.
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Sotomayor: A Newyorkrican With An Ax To Grind
By Mike Wrathell

In her now-famous "A Latina judge's voice" speech at the UC Berkeley School of Law in 2001, Sonia Sotomayor issued a warning: "I warn Latinos in this room: Latinas are making a lot of progress in the old-boy network." I wonder what sort of warning she has for America at large now that her fast track to the Supreme Court has only a brief stop at the Senate before its final destination. Dare I believe a Senator might ask?

I must note that the use of the term "La Raza" at the UC Berkeley School of Law for its La Raza Law Journal and its La Raza Law Students Association, who co-hosted the symposium she addressed, is rather disturbing. The National Council of La Raza has been accused by former U.S. Congressman Charlie Norwood of Georgia as standing behind this statement: "For the race everything, outside the race nothing." The National Council of La Raza says it does not believe that, but not all commentators are buying their spin. At any rate, "La Raza" does mean "The Race." The Council is one of the largest organizations for Hispanics in the nation and is also widely suspected of seeking the return of the Southwest USA to Mexico. Sorry, we won that war. Get over it! Remember the Alamo? We do!

Judge Sotomayor laments during her address that "too many of us educated here, barely speaks [Spanish]...." Most Americans are happy with the American dialect of English and have assimilated. And who does she mean by "us"? Clearly, she does not see herself as an American, but of some other group. She is not like us Americans, nor does she like us Americans, perhaps. I wonder what she thinks about Columbus Day. In Berkeley, Calif. where she spoke, Columbus Day was eliminated because Christopher Columbus was such a bad man. Instead of making a new holiday of Indigenous Peoples' Day, they simply replaced Columbus Day with it, to kill any joy Americans there might wish to express for the founding of a new nation with laws that Judge Sotomayor is supposed to respect, not replace.

If any language is to become America's second language should it not be the language of some of my ancestors, the French? The French helped us Americans defeat the British in the Revolutionary War. The Spanish were busy colonizing south of the colonies and offered neither party any support. But you don't see me whining about how I can't watch Jean-Luc Godard's "Alphaville" without English subtitles. I grew up in an English-only home, in English-only public schools in Detroit and Macomb County, and I am fine with that. Sonia would probably love to see English downgraded from our official language. A Senator should ask her about that, too. It won't be Carl Levin.

Judge Sotomayor, who refuses to pronounce her name without a Latin flair, unlike many non-English surnames of French, Japanese, German, Norwegian, Italian, Irish, Polish, and other extractions, told the largely Hispanic crowd assembled at the UC Berkeley School of Law that her "Latina identity" includes eating "pig intestines," "pig's feet," and "pig's tongues." Wow, I think I will stick to my snails. She also waxes narcissistically about her "Latina soul" being "nourished" as she watched her grandmother playing Bingo. I wonder if my "American soul" was nourished when I regularly tipped over the Monopoly board when I got too far behind my older sister and older brother when I was a 9-year-old brat....or can a little gringo's soul be nourished at all?

Moving on through her ethnocentric call-to-action, she muses that, "America has a deeply confused image of itself that is in perpetual tension." Speak for yourself, Your Honor. I am an American and have conversed with a lot of fellow Americans in my 48 years and have never heard of anyone but you having a deeply-confused image of our nation. I guess we move in different circles. One of her circles is the female-only, invitation-only Belizean Grove woman's social club in the Upper East Side of New York City. I wonder if the whole club is confused, or just her.

Sotomayor revisits the metaphor of America as a "melting pot," and says maybe we should call America "the salad bowl," instead--many cultures that do not truly assimilate except that they are doused with some raspberry vinaigrette or blue cheese dressing in the form of Roseanne Barr screeching the national anthem. (Come to think of it: are they twins?) Gee, I wonder if Thomas Jefferson was a cherry tomato and Benjamin Franklin a chickpea. I think The Founders would toss in their graves if they heard Sonia making mincemeat of their vision of America. She calls herself in this address a "Newyorkrican," a "Puerto Riqueña," a "Latina," and an "American-born child," but never, simply, an American.

"....maybe we should call America 'the salad bowl,' instead--many cultures that do not truly assimilate except that they are doused with some raspberry vinaigrette or blue cheese dressing in the form of Roseanne Barr screeching the national anthem."

It gets better. Sonia reminisces on conversations with Judge Miriam Cedarbaum, a former colleague when she was a judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Cedarbaum believes "that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law." Sound good? Not good enough for Sonia! Obama's oh-so-wise (but apparently not interested in being "transcendentally wise") Latina cuts down Cedarbaum's noble aspiration saying, "I wonder whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases." Well, not for you, obviously. Ask Frank Ricci, the dyslexic white fireman who spent a thousand dollars, studied intensively, and quit a second job for a test to be promoted to lieutenant and placed 6th of 77 takers, only to have his results tossed into Sonia's salad bowl of pig's feet and prejudice.

Judge José Cabranes, who was born in Sotomayor's beloved Puerto Rico, where her parents were born, said of her ruling in Ricci vs. DeStefano that it "contains no reference whatsoever to the constitutional claims at the core of this case" and its "perfunctory disposition rests uneasily with the weighty issues presented by this appeal." The United States Supreme Court, at the urging of Judge Cabranes and Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs of the Second Circuit, granted certiori and will likely send the matter back to district court to proceed to trial before Sonia is a Supreme, herself. The promotions of 16 whites and one Hispanic are at stake in the case. The city of New Haven, CT denied the promotions out of fear of violating Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Congress should really step up to the plate and say that promotion tests are not tantamount to Mein Kampf and are okay to use. How are we supposed to promote people? Nepotism? Skin color? Bribes? Besides, I remember Connie Chung on the CBS News in 1987 saying whites would be in the minority in the USA in 40 years. So that is less than 18 years from now. Will Sotomayor still be for affirmative action, then? A Senator should ask her that one, too, as she could still be a Supreme on that fateful day, and it could happen even sooner.

Ironically, her own words from that infamous Berkeley speech condemn her decision in Ricci: " understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Others simply do not care." Yes, Sonia, we have noticed your lack of empathy for Mr. Ricci. And we think we know why. Perhaps a Senator can ask her why that was, too.

Oh, there's more, much more. Sonia suggests "inherent physiological" and "cultural" differences between whites and Latinos could be why Latinos (and Latinas) make better judges. Is there something in the waters of San Juan and Mexico City? Go ahead and read her speech if you don't believe me, but have some Pepto-Bismol handy....

Now we get to "The Quote." The quote that supposedly, if read in the context of her entire speech is actually quite innocuous, just some aberration that she would have worded differently if she knew Obama was going to nominate her to the highest court of our land. Well, if you don't read the speech and will yourself to believe it is just a Latina version of "My Pet Goat," I suppose you could say that. But the context is a content rife with ethnocentric fervor. She is obsessed with her Latina-ness, and when she says, "....a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male..." she shows her true colors and her teeth. She thinks she is better, more fly, than a white guy.

One last noteworthy item from her Berkeley Address is the term "relative morality," something she says is a choice she is "forced to make." Unlike Judge Cedarbaum, Sotomayor will never attain a transcendent morality.

Cedarbaum would have been a much better choice. So would have Judge Cabranes. But President Obama, in his great wisdom, chose racial and gender politics over the best judge for the highest court in our land.

Sotomayor made a good call when she for all intents and purposes ended the MLB strike in 1995, but has made other bad calls, too. In United States v. Quattrone, she ruled that the press has the right to publish the names of jurors, citing The First Amendment. I am a big fan of The First Amendment, and there must be a compelling reason to restrict it. In this case, there is one. Jurors have been killed by rich and ruthless defendants, and there is no overwhelming reason to publish their names. I just saw that someone in the press wanted to know the condition of the bodies found in the Atlantic from the crash of Flight 447 off the coast of Brazil. It was cool that the press was told an answer to that question was not in "good taste," and to spare the families. I wish Sotomayor would think about the ramifications of her rulings before she jerks her knee. Just because the press wants something, doesn't mean you give it to them. What if they ask you what kind of underwear you wear?

One last case must be addressed here.

Sotomayor affirmed Maloney v. Cuomo, a case that said the 2nd Amendment does not apply to the States and local municipalities, like Chicago. Now, a case involving banning guns in Chicago might be heading to the Supreme Court. So it looks like the Supreme Court decision in favor of The 2nd Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller might not be the last word on the right to keep and bear arms. A Senator should ask her why she does not think The U.S. Constitution applies to the States, counties, cities, and townships as The Supremacy Clause of The U.S. Constitution says it does. Are you game, Debbie?

In closing, I just got back from Meijer and bought a box of Cracker Jack. I am half thinking that when I open it and look at the prize, I am going to find Sotomayor's law degree. I know I earned mine, but given her wild pronouncements and shaky decisions as a judge, she certainly does not belong anywhere near the Supreme Court. Please call your Senators and tell them to vote "No" to Sotomayor! The only way she could be worse is if she wanted to impose sharia law. But Obama is saving that for next time. Tell them Mike made you do it!
(c) 2009 Mike Wrathell. is an artist, attorney and a reporter for Issues & Alibis Magazine and America Jr. He is also an actor in the new motion picture "W." Write Mike @.

Starting Asparagus
By Farmer Pete

Starting Asparagus from seed is a bit sticky, even my County Extension Agent had a hard time. Yet I Beelieve I have stumbled upon a Right to a Remedy-the trick seems to be keeping them damp enought, long enought w/o them rotting or getting mouldy. What I found is using deep style containers & keeping them damp & warm-+80 degrees. These are the cooked chicken baskets from grocery Stores, they had the holes there. There is just 4 breather holes on 4 corners to let steam escape whole cooking-caveat, these are white plastic so ask Sheryl Crow aboot the CANcer dangers

Asparagus seeds are very slow to germination-these sat for a month are better in a deep dish contianer that drains, I kept em moist & some 30 days they started POPin. Patience is an acquired Virtue-All things are supposed to come to those that wait. Also Asparagus now comes in a purple variety that is a bit sweeter. Once you plant, you can harvest spears for 15 yrs or more. Each plant for commercial pruposes will produce aboot $1.00 worth of spears per day for 6 weeks, 600 plants = $600 per day for 6 weeks is $25,200.00
(c) 2009 Farmer Pete farms in North Dakota and is seeking a "business partner/Grrl." As Unka Ernie stated in last issue-I am looking for my Grrl, a woman of intelligence, beauty-full of grace n laced with charm. One with a smile as bright as the sun with eyes that twinkle like the stars above. A lovely good natured Grrl that would greet me with a kind word & a dazzling smile, a soft kiss & a warm embrace- a woman I can trust to walk this world with me & most of all, to the one I could trust the most-my Heart. If interested inquire at (

Should Charity Hospitals Be Charitable?

As Lily Tomlin says, "No matter how cynical you get, it's almost impossible to keep up."

The truth of Tomlin's observation struck me when I read that lobbyists for America's charity hospitals are campaigning to kill reform legislation that would require charity-care hospitals to provide - get this - charity care. I sat there blinking for a while, thinking: you mean they don't?

As it turns out, no. Although they're called "charity hospitals," and although they are tax-exempt and they get some six-billon dollars a year worth of special tax breaks on the grounds that they provide free health care for low-income folks - they either don't, or provide very-little. In fact, it's hard today to tell the difference between these non-profits entities and your run-of-the-mill for-profit hospital chains. The charitable outfits often turn away the poor from the hospital doors, and when they do provide treatment, they're likely to use nasty, bullying tactics to try to collect money from the poor.

They've gotten away with this by claiming that they meet the charitable standard by holding some health fairs, offering occasional screening days for cholesterol, and doing medical research. A bipartisan proposal in Congress, however, says that tax-exempt hospitals could no longer refuse service to charity cases, and the bill also would rein in the hospital roughhouse bill collectors. In other words, this reform provision would require the non-profits to put the "charity" back in charity care - or lose their tax exemption.

Hospital lobbyists are squealing like stuck pigs. They recently sent an astonishingly-cynical call for charity hospital executives to "oppose charity care." To help battle this greed, join the email campaign by Community Catalyst. Contact the group by email at - or call 617-275-2896.
(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.

Oil And Indians Don't Mix
By Greg Palast

There's an easy way to find oil. Go to some remote and gorgeous natural sanctuary, say Alaska or the Amazon, find some Indians, then drill down under them.

If the indigenous folk complain, well, just shoo-them away. Shoo-ing methods include: bulldozers, bullets, crooked politicians and fake land sales.

But be aware. Lately the Natives are shoo-ing back. Last week, indigenous Peruvians seized an oil pumping station, grabbed the nine policemen guarding it and, say reports, executed them. This followed the government's murder of more than a dozen rainforest residents who had protested the seizure of their property for oil drilling.

Again and again I see it in my line of work of investigating fraud. Here are a few pit-stops on the oily trail of tears:

In the 1980s, Charles Koch was found to have pilfered about $3 worth of crude from Stanlee Ann Mattingly's oil tank in Oklahoma. Here's the weird part. Koch was (and remains) the 14th richest man on the planet, worth about $14 billion. Stanlee Ann was a dirt-poor Osage Indian.

Stanlee Ann wasn't Koch's only victim. According to secret tape recordings of a former top executive of his company, Koch Industries, the billionaire demanded that oil tanker drivers secretly siphon a few bucks worth of oil from every tank attached to a stripper well on the Osage Reservation where Koch had a contract to retrieve crude.

Koch, according to the tape, would, "giggle" with joy over the records of the theft. Koch's own younger brother Bill ratted him out, complaining that, in effect, brothers Charles and David cheated him out of his fair share of the looting which totaled over three-quarters of a billion dollars from the Native lands.

The FBI filmed the siphoning with hidden cameras, but criminal charges were quashed after quiet objections from Republican senators.

Then there are the Chugach Natives of Alaska. The Port of Valdez, Alaska, is arguably one of the most valuable pieces of real estate on Earth, the only earthquake-safe ice-free port in Alaska that could load oil from the giant North Slope field. In 1969, Exxon and British Petroleum companies took the land from the Chugach and paid them one dollar. I kid you not.

Wally Hickel, the former Governor of Alaska, dismissed my suggestion that the Chugach deserved a bit more respect (and cash) for their property. "Land ownership comes in two ways, Mr. Palast." explained the governor and pipeline magnate, "Purchase or conquest. The fact that your granddaddy chased a caribou across the land doesn't make it yours." The Chugach had lived there for 3,000 years.

No oil company would dream of digging on the Bush family properties in Midland, Texas, without paying a royalty. Or drilling near Malibu without the latest in environmental protections. But when Natives are on top of Exxon's or BP's glory hole, suddenly, the great defenders of private property rights turn quite Bolshevik: lands can be seized for The Public's Need for Oil.

Some Natives are "re-located" through legal flim-flam, some at gunpoint. The less lucky are left to wallow, literally, in the gunk left by the drilling process.

Take a look at this photo here, taken in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador. It's from an investigation that I conducted for BBC TV, now in the film "Palast Investigates." I'm holding up a stinking, black glop of crude oil residue pulled from an abandoned Chevron-Texaco waste pit. A pipe runs from the toxic pit right into the water supply of Cofan Indians.

Chief Emergildo Criollo told me how oil company executives helicoptered into his remote village and, speaking in Spanish - which the Cofan didn't understand - "purchased" drilling rights with trinkets and cheese. The Natives had never seen cheese. ("The cheese smelled funny, so we threw it in the jungle.")

After drilling began, Criollo's son went swimming in his usual watering hole, came up vomiting blood, and died.

I asked Chevron about the wave of poisonings and deaths. According to an independent report, 1,401 deaths, mostly of children, mostly from cancers, can be traced to Chevron's toxic dumping.

Chevron's lawyer told me, "And it's the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States? ... They have to prove that it is our crude," which, he noted with glee, "is absolutely impossible."

Big Oil treats indigenous blood like a cheap gasoline additive. That's why the Peruvians are up in arms. The Cofan of Ecuador, more sophisticated, and less violent, than their brothers in Peru, have taken no hostages. Rather, they have heavily armed themselves with lawyers.

But Chevron and its Big Oil brethren remain dismissive of the law. This week, Shell Oil, to get rid of a nasty PR problem paid $15 million to the Ogoni people and the family of Ken Saro-Wiwa for the oil giant's alleged role in the killing of Wiwa and his associates, activists who had defended these Niger Delta people against drilling contamination. Shell pocketed $31 billion last year in profits and hopes the payoff will clear the way for a drilling partnership with Nigeria's government.

Congratulations, Shell. $15 million: For a license to kill and drill, that's quite a bargain.
(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.

Beyond The Soaring Rhetoric Of Obama's Cairo Speech
A Toxic Innocence At Home
By Phil Rockstroh

Even as President Barrack Obama waxed eloquent in Cairo, Egypt, on the moral imperatives of the community of nations, public opinion polls released in the United States revealed that, by a substantial percentage, its citizens believe torture is an acceptable option for interrogation of suspects deemed terrorists by various US governmental agencies. In addition, other polls show a majority of the American public hold the opinion that the all American theme park of state torture, located at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, should remain open for business and continue to welcome guests from around the globe, taking them for the ride of their lives through the dark id of the American psyche.

These revelations should not come as a shock. Torture, official secrecy, and other sundry apparatus and accouterments of the national security state are about the only viable enterprises remaining in this declining nation. Moreover, one of the defining traits of the insecure (both among men and nations) is to stand, bristling in a paranoid posture, with feet planted in stubborn defiance of changing circumstances, snarling at invisible threats and imagined affronts, as life moves on with indifferent grace.

Recently, in the latest in a series of setbacks and self-inflicted wounds, the national identity of the United States sustained another humiliating blow when General Motors was driven into a ditch, declared totaled, and then stripped and sold for spare parts. This event throws a rod into the smoking engine block of the nation's dream machine: The automobiles manufactured in Detroit were once symbols of American power, freedom of mobility, even sexual allure. But the world has sped ahead, leaving the US wheezing dust in its wake: The era of high horsepower and American ascendancy, with its glinting chrome conceit and reenforced steel illusions of unassailable power, now sits upon concrete blocks rusting in the automobile graveyard of history.

At present, and for many years now, the American automobile culture has meant little more than feckless commuters stalled in traffic, alternatively sullen and seething in their powerlessness. Yet, this is not the time to throw a populist pity party: The people of the nation face a future circumscribed by their own lack of self-awareness and their refusal of civic engagement. Year after year, they have displayed avidity for little more than the rigged, roadside attractions of the corporate carnival; hence, traffic is heavy on this lost highway, all lanes are jammed on the superhighway to Clowntown, U.S.A.

Seemingly, the nation's hopes are only being kept flickering by caffeine, antidepressants, and the naive belief that they -- accepting, as Americans have, since birth, the narcissistic mythos of the consumer state -- are a special breed whose God-kissed destiny would forever fall outside the failures and contretemps of earthly life. Therefore, Americans cling to the core conviction that there should not be any consequences for their own oceanic apathy, child-like credulity, and small time cupidity in regard to their relationship to the elitist power brokers whose financial chicanery and political scheming determined their hapless fate.

Both prole and plutocrat set the wheel in motion, and both wait for some kind of deux ex machina, whereby Fortuna will smile once again on the hobbled nation, and restore it and all its special children to their rightful place -- up above the world of regret, reflection, and amends -- back upon their highchairs of infantile entitlement. And while the populace waits in vain for the Goddess of Luck to rise from the wreckage of their vanity, they still have a glut of junk food, guns, and porn (some of the last remaining goods produced by the nation) to act as palliatives ... miserable substitutes -- that they are -- for sustenance, feelings of empowerment, and eros.

At present, the citizens of the US moan "poor us" as they stagger through this "time of crisis." The American people seem as helpless as pitiful puppies whimpering before the multiple and multiplying perils of the present. Yet, they are not wronged innocents, made blameless victims because of their hapless but well-meaning credulity. Nonsense. US consumers have been the beneficiaries of the mad dog policies of the American corporate/national security state nexus. Greedily, they devoured the scraps dropped from the tables of the oligarchs. This PitifulPup/Mad Dog Syndrome defines the era, and is the collective mode of being of citizens of the American Empire (regardless of the public relations makeover the Obama Administration is attempting to pull off worldwide).

For meaningful change to occur, Americans must look deeper into themselves and into the collective soul of the nation. Not far beneath the bristling ego structure of the torturer (and his enablers in the general population) is a quaking pup possessed of a monstrous need for absolute control. Incongruously, the torturer is terrified by his victim. The torturer, like the empire itself, cannot control the vastness of life (he sees the world's uncontrollability as a ticking time bomb somewhere near him he cannot locate) -- but his victim, the human fragment of the world quivering before him, can be (must be!) totally dominated. Or so it seems within the fear frothing mind of the Mad Dog torturer. But this does not suffice: The absolute domination of one solitary human being cannot bridle the uncertainty inherent in life. The torturer's dread cannot be assuaged. In the same manner an alcoholic cannot dominate a bottle of booze by will power, a power drunk nation cannot subdue its terror by practicing torture. And what is it that invokes such fear in the people of America? Deep down, Americans are stricken with abject fear by the fact that it is impossible to continue being the dominate power on the planet and being indulged, like spoiled children, with all the benefits and privileges such a position affords. The United States tortures to maintain the global status quo. Remember: "Our way of life is non-negotiable." We'll torture or kill anyone (even ecologically, the planet) for a tank of gas and a bag of Cheetos (or any of an assortment of tasty, salt-rich snack foods).

If this preposterous way of life was a classic, Madison Avenue ad campaign, its catchphrase might be: "Bet you can't torture just one." Or: "Go for it!" Or the latest offering of glistening snake oil that has been marketed to the nation: "Yes, we can."

But, as far as investigating US governmental policies of torture and then prosecuting its architects and operatives goes, the Obama administration's mantra has degenerated from, "yes, we can," to "no, can-do." Unless President Obama reverses course, he will prove himself not to be an agent of change, but another water-board carrier for the psychopaths of the status quo.

Such a high level of denial only increases the intensity of the murderous libido that flows beneath the surface of American life -- that chthonic river of repressed rage surging within the psyches of the besieged laboring class, who, despite being burdened by debt slavery and chafed by ever diminishing prospects, still clutch the kitschy iconography of the god of the consumer state. Although that god has fallen, it will not go solemnly to the boneyard of dead myths.

In the contemporary US, debt slavery, a lack of future prospects, the constant threat of bankruptcy and homelessness, and the danger of gun violence are all very real; yet, day and night, alluring media mirages beckon Americans into a blinding wasteland of false hope. Daily existence feels unreal -- a constant, hollow communion with electronic phantoms. A chasm of alienation opens between the polarity of unreal expectations and degraded real life situations. Toxic shlock syndrome sets in.

The sense of alienation is so profound that many citizens on the political right believe that President Obama cannot in reality be a citizen of this country; his name is too foreign, his skin possesses a hue too different from their own. His birth certificate must be as bogus as an IOU from Bernie Madoff. He can't be a real American; he seems no more real, nor connected with the concerns of their lives, than any other ghost in the media hologram.

But guns feel real to these troubled folks. The weapon's weight in their hands wards off an unfocused sense of dread; its heft, momentarily, mitigates feelings of being helplessly adrift ... Looking down the precise beauty of its barrel distills down hazy hatreds into identifiable targets. Within their fog-shrouded minds, the very presence of that "slick-ass usurper" in the White House causes the ground to feel less than solid beneath their feet. Ergo, guns must be stockpiled; massive amounts of ammunition stored for ballast. These treacherous days, that are so muffled by the white noise of uncertainty, must yield to something as clear and decisive as the crack of a rifle shot.

A collective tantrum rages on the right, as their ranks hold their breath and hoard bullets. In the enveloping darkness of political powerlessness, they are sleeping with their Sarah Palin night-light on, then tossing fitfully awake attempting to mollify themselves by gazing mindlessly at Fox News crib mobiles, then scanning the heavens craving a Happy Meal apocalypse.

"I won't share my toys; they're mine! I want my tax cut lolly! Now!" Their sippy cups runneth over with rage. Overweight, evincing a junk food engendered, toddler-like waddle, and blubbering in their snit fit of thwarted id, they resemble heavily armed Teletubbies in the throes of an angel dust-induced psychosis.

The nation seethes with cranky, overgrown babies who kill. How could it not come to this, when the nation tortures like little boys plucking the wings from hapless flies? But the Empire of Perpetual Id cannot be sustained. What Obama apprehends, and was the underlying theme of his Cairo stem-winder: The people of the world have grown weary of our brattiness. They wish to rouse us from our long nappytime of exceptionalism. The world has moved on, while too many Americans sit bawling in their toxic innocence.

Meanwhile, the most special children whose privileged faces were ever touched by the golden light of the sun, the elite of Wall Street, bang their silver spoons on their skyscraper highchairs, whining, "We want more bonus candy, We want to go for a ride in my Gulfstream Jet stroller, We want to go play in our Dubai sandbox -- Gimme, gimme! -- Now!"

Every four to eight years, presidential elections are held in the United States of Infantile Omnipotence in which we attempt to personify the nation with an adult face. Usually we fail: Bush with his crankiness and his tantrums of mass destruction; Clinton with his oceanic overreach and his inability to delay gratification; Reagan with his senile, regressed-to-childhood naps ... He even called his wife, "mommy."

Barrack Obama appears to be an adult. Yet, in our childish national psyche, panicked and paralyzed because its arrested development has left it bereft of the ability to navigate the complexities of a rapidly changing world, having Obama as the face of the nation is like The Portrait of Dorian Gray -- but played out in reverse -- and produced as a pop-up book.

Worse, it appears the nation's collective mode of being might proceed straight from infancy to decrepitude, only briefly stopping in puberty for a session of online porno-induced masturbation.
(c) 2009 Phil Rockstroh , a self-described, auto-didactic, gasbag monologist, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website.

Stay The Course
By Paul Krugman

The debate over economic policy has taken a predictable yet ominous turn: the crisis seems to be easing, and a chorus of critics is already demanding that the Federal Reserve and the Obama administration abandon their rescue efforts. For those who know their history, it's déjà vu all over again - literally.

For this is the third time in history that a major economy has found itself in a liquidity trap, a situation in which interest-rate cuts, the conventional way to perk up the economy, have reached their limit. When this happens, unconventional measures are the only way to fight recession.

Yet such unconventional measures make the conventionally minded uncomfortable, and they keep pushing for a return to normalcy. In previous liquidity-trap episodes, policy makers gave in to these pressures far too soon, plunging the economy back into crisis. And if the critics have their way, we'll do the same thing this time.

The first example of policy in a liquidity trap comes from the 1930s. The U.S. economy grew rapidly from 1933 to 1937, helped along by New Deal policies. America, however, remained well short of full employment.

Yet policy makers stopped worrying about depression and started worrying about inflation. The Federal Reserve tightened monetary policy, while F.D.R. tried to balance the federal budget. Sure enough, the economy slumped again, and full recovery had to wait for World War II.

The second example is Japan in the 1990s. After slumping early in the decade, Japan experienced a partial recovery, with the economy growing almost 3 percent in 1996. Policy makers responded by shifting their focus to the budget deficit, raising taxes and cutting spending. Japan proceeded to slide back into recession.

And here we go again.

On one side, the inflation worriers are harassing the Fed. The latest example: Arthur Laffer, he of the curve, warns that the Fed's policies will cause devastating inflation. He recommends, among other things, possibly raising banks' reserve requirements, which happens to be exactly what the Fed did in 1936 and 1937 - a move that none other than Milton Friedman condemned as helping to strangle economic recovery.

Meanwhile, there are demands from several directions that President Obama's fiscal stimulus plan be canceled.

Some, especially in Europe, argue that stimulus isn't needed, because the economy is already turning around.

Others claim that government borrowing is driving up interest rates, and that this will derail recovery.

And Republicans, providing a bit of comic relief, are saying that the stimulus has failed, because the enabling legislation was passed four months ago - wow, four whole months! - yet unemployment is still rising. This suggests an interesting comparison with the economic record of Ronald Reagan, whose 1981 tax cut was followed by no less than 16 months of rising unemployment.

O.K., time for some reality checks.

First of all, while stock markets have been celebrating the economy's "green shoots," the fact is that unemployment is very high and still rising. That is, we're not even experiencing the kind of growth that led to the big mistakes of 1937 and 1997. It's way too soon to declare victory.

What about the claim that the Fed is risking inflation? It isn't. Mr. Laffer seems panicked by a rapid rise in the monetary base, the sum of currency in circulation and the reserves of banks. But a rising monetary base isn't inflationary when you're in a liquidity trap. America's monetary base doubled between 1929 and 1939; prices fell 19 percent. Japan's monetary base rose 85 percent between 1997 and 2003; deflation continued apace.

Well then, what about all that government borrowing? All it's doing is offsetting a plunge in private borrowing - total borrowing is down, not up. Indeed, if the government weren't running a big deficit right now, the economy would probably be well on its way to a full-fledged depression.

Oh, and investors' growing confidence that we'll manage to avoid a full-fledged depression - not the pressure of government borrowing - explains the recent rise in long-term interest rates. These rates, by the way, are still low by historical standards. They're just not as low as they were at the peak of the panic, earlier this year.

To sum up: A few months ago the U.S. economy was in danger of falling into depression. Aggressive monetary policy and deficit spending have, for the time being, averted that danger. And suddenly critics are demanding that we call the whole thing off, and revert to business as usual.

Those demands should be ignored. It's much too soon to give up on policies that have, at most, pulled us a few inches back from the edge of the abyss.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

Apt Pupils: Assassinating The Truth About Atrocities In Iraq
By Chris Floyd

To speak out for human rights in an occupied land -- to investigate and publicize the systematic tortures and atrocities practiced by the client regime of the occupying power -- is a dangerous, often deadly business. Harith al-Obaidi found that out in Iraq this week, when he was gunned down in a Baghdad mosque a day after he condemned the American-installed government for its flagrant abuses. The New York Times reports:

The Sunni leader, Harith al-Obaidi, was leading Friday prayers at al-Shawaf mosque in the upscale neighborhood of Yarmouk, and also gave a sermon complaining about the abuses, when a gunman entered the mosque and fired at him...Mr. Obaidi, who was deputy chairman of the human rights committee in Parliament, actively campaigned against what he saw as abuse in Iraqi prisons.

"He was probably the No. 1 person in defending human rights," said Alaa Maki, a senior member of Tawafiq, the Sunni bloc that Mr. Obaidi headed. "And he was the No. 1 person visiting and touring the Iraqi jails."

...In his work, Mr. Obaidi was fighting against such practices as torture and delayed releases for prisoners, as well as to improve their sleeping quarters.

The prisons of the American-installed, American-trained, American-maintained government led by the longtime violent religious extremist Nouri al-Maliki are notorious hellholes of torture, deprivation, murder and injustice -- just as they were under Saddam (whose party was installed in power in the 1960s with CIA assistance), and just as they have been under the American occupation. The Americans still hold more than 10,000 captives in their own facilities; at one time, the International Red Cross estimated that between 70-90 percent of America's captives had committed no crime whatsoever, much less any violent action against the occupation forces. And of course, the progressive champion of open government, Barack Obama, has just won another court battle to bury evidence of American atrocities written on the bodies of Iraqi captives.

As the Iraqis used to say just after the American invasion in 2003: "The pupil is gone; the master has come." Now new pupils are passing on the master's lessons. And those who dare speak out against the fruits of this sinister education find themselves in the cross-hairs of the client government -- and of those who do its dirty work "on the dark side, if you will." It is, as our eloquent president has said of the million-killing act of aggression in Iraq, "an extraordinary achievement."
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

...Again And Again
By Case Wagenvoord

Stupidity comes in many forms. There is the stupidity that arises from plain ignorance or the stupidity that arises from inadequate information or the stupidity that arises from misinterpreting the information at hand.

However, the deadliest stupidity, the one that has spread death and carnage across the face of the earth is the stupidity grounded in sheer momentum. If an individual does the same thing over and over and expects different results, it's called insanity. If an organization does the same, it's called policy.

We are seeing this momentum at work in Central Asia with the resurrection of that nineteenth century folly, the Great Game. In the nineteenth century, the game was between Russia and England. Now it is between the United States and everybody.

The nominal rationale is terrorism; the real rationale is oil, specifically whether Caspian Sea oil can be piped to the West in a pipeline that bypasses both Russia and Iran.

On May 22, Iran and Pakistan reached agreement to build the Iran-Pakistan (IP) pipeline, which would allow Iranian oil to pour into China. As Pepe Escobar points out, "The decision brazenly defied Washington's diktat." So we are trying to destabilize Pakistan in the hope that construction be delayed indefinitely as we sow Hellfire missiles and reap even more insurgents, whom we brand as terrorists.

That's the way it is with the delusion of power. Those gripped by it believe that if they think it, it will happen. So deep is this delusion that the powerful believe it is happening, even though it isn't, On the contrary, the results are often the exact opposite of those hoped for, a lesson we learned in Korea and promptly forgot.

Despite drones, missiles, airstrikes and assassinations, there is one hard and fast rule of insurgent warfare that hasn't changed: the insurgents can't leave because the theater of war is their turf. The occupier will leave once they've been bled dry, a lesson we learned in Vietnam and promptly forgot.

Bankrupt powers bleed out must faster than flush ones.

Thank God for the momentum of policy. It spares our leaders the burden of thinking.
(c) 2009 Case Wagenvoord. Some years ago, Case Wagenvoord turned off the tube and picked up a book. He's been trouble ever since. His articles have been posted at The Smirking Chimp, Countercurrents and Issues & Alibis. When he's not writing or brooding, he is carving hardwood bowls that have been displayed in galleries and shows across the country. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two cats. His book, Open Letters to George W. Bush is available at

A Perfect Plan For Failure
By Mike Folkerth

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

I want to get back to the root causes that brought us to this grand recession. Understanding what I originally wrote in "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed," is key to preparing for the inevitable collapse of our current economy.

The "King of Simple" is not just a silly title that I coined. Economics are made far more difficult than necessary by those who benefit most from the general public's ignorance of what makes our world go around. That is why I wrote the book and also why I have attempted to simplify the subject referred to as "The Dismal Science."

The United States is broke. The last truly balanced budget that we had in the United States was in 1969. In simple terms, 1969 is the last year that our growing government could pay their bills. The federal budget should be no different than your household budget, when you can no longer pay the bills, spending must decrease or earnings must increase.

The necessity of a balanced budget did not escape our founders; "It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world." _ Thomas Jefferson

Had we dealt with this debt problem in 1970, when the total National Debt was $389 Billion, it would have been painful, but quite doable. However, our leadership chose to ignore the handwriting on the wall and in 2008, the U.S. paid more than $451 Billion in interest only on the National Debt for a single year!

In 1971, rather than deal with the fact that the U.S. economy had hit the top of the mountain as an exponential growth model (greater balanced GDP each successive year), the United States instead abandoned the gold standard which allowed the nearly unlimited printing of money and the creation of debt to replace the former balance and real growth.

The federal government also stepped up legal immigration and encouraged illegal immigration in an effort to create greater consumption. In short, a new false growth model was developed to replace the original failed growth model. Government employment began to grow in place of real jobs and the cost was simply put on the tab for future generations to shoulder. Government has since grown approximately four times faster than the real economy.

In 2009, deficit Government spending will have risen to an annual pace of nearly $2 Trillion. To put this in perspective, the annual amount necessary to add to the National Debt beyond our ability to pay, will be 4.5 times greater than the total National Debt that accumulated over the first 194 years of this country's existence. Such numbers are now of such outlandish proportion to reality that they have ceased to have clear meaning. This has worked out well for our leadership.

Call it a pyramid scheme, a Ponzi scheme, or pure stupidity, the failed math behind our current debacle isn't that difficult to understand. Our economy currently exists, not on viable employment, but instead on ever increasing government employment and deficit spending. We have become absolutely dependent on increasing government debt for our very existence.

Our leadership is well aware of the facts that I have presented above. The problem is no longer solvable while at the same time continuing to promise the American Dream.

No one ever stated the current predicament that we find ourselves mired in better than Robert Hickerson, who in March of 1994 wrote the following. Please read and reread Mr. Hickerson's statement; it says legions in one concise sentence.

"All attempts to reduce the deficit, balance the budget or pay off the national debt are futile. The deficit and the national debt represent the subsidy the government has paid in its attempt to keep growth and unemployment at the level of social tolerance."

As with all subsidies, the time comes when the source that provides the subsidy can no longer be sustained. In this case, the foreign governments that loan the United States the money to continue the charade of never ending debt accumulation will dry up.

There is an enormous surplus of cheap labor in the world and the resources and markets necessary to reinstate a vibrant economy to the current and growing U.S. population have become physically and mathematically impossible. All of our current woes were made possible by ignoring the end of balanced growth back in 1969. We passed the point of no-return long ago. We are now approaching the end of our second planned economic failure.

We have now reached the point where attempting to balance the budget is a virtual impossibility. The math simply won't work. Balancing the budget would pitch our country into endless depression. Therefore, we will pursue the failed premise of exponential growth to the point of total collapse.

There are problems, that if ignored and left unattended for a sufficient amount of time, become so complex that palatable solutions are no longer an option. We have reached that unfortunate state and this is why I continually encourage those who will, to position themselves as best possible to deal with the reality of our situation.

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

The Quotable Quote...

"If you obey all the rules you will miss the fun!"
~~~ Katherine Hepburn

The American Empire Is Bankrupt
By Chris Hedges

This week marks the end of the dollar's reign as the world's reserve currency. It marks the start of a terrible period of economic and political decline in the United States. And it signals the last gasp of the American imperium. That's over. It is not coming back. And what is to come will be very, very painful.

Barack Obama, and the criminal class on Wall Street, aided by a corporate media that continues to peddle fatuous gossip and trash talk as news while we endure the greatest economic crisis in our history, may have fooled us, but the rest of the world knows we are bankrupt. And these nations are damned if they are going to continue to prop up an inflated dollar and sustain the massive federal budget deficits, swollen to over $2 trillion, which fund America's imperial expansion in Eurasia and our system of casino capitalism. They have us by the throat. They are about to squeeze.

There are meetings being held Monday and Tuesday in Yekaterinburg, Russia, (formerly Sverdlovsk) among Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and other top officials of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The United States, which asked to attend, was denied admittance. Watch what happens there carefully. The gathering is, in the words of economist Michael Hudson, "the most important meeting of the 21st century so far."

It is the first formal step by our major trading partners to replace the dollar as the world's reserve currency. If they succeed, the dollar will dramatically plummet in value, the cost of imports, including oil, will skyrocket, interest rates will climb and jobs will hemorrhage at a rate that will make the last few months look like boom times. State and federal services will be reduced or shut down for lack of funds. The United States will begin to resemble the Weimar Republic or Zimbabwe. Obama, endowed by many with the qualities of a savior, will suddenly look pitiful, inept and weak. And the rage that has kindled a handful of shootings and hate crimes in the past few weeks will engulf vast segments of a disenfranchised and bewildered working and middle class. The people of this class will demand vengeance, radical change, order and moral renewal, which an array of proto-fascists, from the Christian right to the goons who disseminate hate talk on Fox News, will assure the country they will impose.

I called Hudson, who has an article in Monday's Financial Times called "The Yekaterinburg Turning Point: De-Dollarization and the Ending of America's Financial-Military Hegemony." "Yekaterinburg," Hudson writes, "may become known not only as the death place of the czars but of the American empire as well." His article is worth reading, along with John Lanchester's disturbing exposé of the world's banking system, titled "It's Finished," which appeared in the May 28 issue of the London Review of Books.

"This means the end of the dollar," Hudson told me. "It means China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran are forming an official financial and military area to get America out of Eurasia. The balance-of-payments deficit is mainly military in nature. Half of America's discretionary spending is military. The deficit ends up in the hands of foreign banks, central banks. They don't have any choice but to recycle the money to buy U.S. government debt. The Asian countries have been financing their own military encirclement. They have been forced to accept dollars that have no chance of being repaid. They are paying for America's military aggression against them. They want to get rid of this."

China, as Hudson points out, has already struck bilateral trade deals with Brazil and Malaysia to denominate their trade in China's yuan rather than the dollar, pound or euro. Russia promises to begin trading in the ruble and local currencies. The governor of China's central bank has openly called for the abandonment of the dollar as reserve currency, suggesting in its place the use of the International Monetary Fund's Special Drawing Rights. What the new system will be remains unclear, but the flight from the dollar has clearly begun. The goal, in the words of the Russian president, is to build a "multipolar world order" which will break the economic and, by extension, military domination by the United States. China is frantically spending its dollar reserves to buy factories and property around the globe so it can unload its U.S. currency. This is why Aluminum Corp. of China made so many major concessions in the failed attempt to salvage its $19.5 billion alliance with the Rio Tinto mining concern in Australia. It desperately needs to shed its dollars.

"China is trying to get rid of all the dollars they can in a trash-for-resource deal," Hudson said. "They will give the dollars to countries willing to sell off their resources since America refuses to sell any of its high-tech industries, even Unocal, to the yellow peril. It realizes these dollars are going to be worthless pretty quickly."

The architects of this new global exchange realize that if they break the dollar they also break America's military domination. Our military spending cannot be sustained without this cycle of heavy borrowing. The official U.S. defense budget for fiscal year 2008 is $623 billion, before we add on things like nuclear research. The next closest national military budget is China's, at $65 billion, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.

There are three categories of the balance-of-payment deficits. America imports more than it exports. This is trade. Wall Street and American corporations buy up foreign companies. This is capital movement. The third and most important balance-of-payment deficit for the past 50 years has been Pentagon spending abroad. It is primarily military spending that has been responsible for the balance-of-payments deficit for the last five decades. Look at table five in the Balance of Payments Report, published in the Survey of Current Business quarterly, and check under military spending. There you can see the deficit.

To fund our permanent war economy, we have been flooding the world with dollars. The foreign recipients turn the dollars over to their central banks for local currency. The central banks then have a problem. If a central bank does not spend the money in the United States then the exchange rate against the dollar will go up. This will penalize exporters. This has allowed America to print money without restraint to buy imports and foreign companies, fund our military expansion and ensure that foreign nations like China continue to buy our treasury bonds. This cycle appears now to be over. Once the dollar cannot flood central banks and no one buys our treasury bonds, our empire collapses. The profligate spending on the military, some $1 trillion when everything is counted, will be unsustainable.

"We will have to finance our own military spending," Hudson warned, "and the only way to do this will be to sharply cut back wage rates. The class war is back in business. Wall Street understands that. This is why it had Bush and Obama give it $10 trillion in a huge rip-off so it can have enough money to survive."

The desperate effort to borrow our way out of financial collapse has promoted a level of state intervention unseen since World War II. It has also led us into uncharted territory.

"We have in effect had to declare war to get us out of the hole created by our economic system," Lanchester wrote in the London Review of Books. "There is no model or precedent for this, and no way to argue that it's all right really, because under such-and-such a model of capitalism ... there is no such model. It isn't supposed to work like this, and there is no road-map for what's happened."

The cost of daily living, from buying food to getting medical care, will become difficult for all but a few as the dollar plunges. States and cities will see their pension funds drained and finally shut down. The government will be forced to sell off infrastructure, including roads and transport, to private corporations. We will be increasingly charged by privatized utilities-think Enron-for what was once regulated and subsidized. Commercial and private real estate will be worth less than half its current value. The negative equity that already plagues 25 percent of American homes will expand to include nearly all property owners. It will be difficult to borrow and impossible to sell real estate unless we accept massive losses. There will be block after block of empty stores and boarded-up houses. Foreclosures will be epidemic. There will be long lines at soup kitchens and many, many homeless. Our corporate-controlled media, already banal and trivial, will work overtime to anesthetize us with useless gossip, spectacles, sex, gratuitous violence, fear and tawdry junk politics. America will be composed of a large dispossessed underclass and a tiny empowered oligarchy that will run a ruthless and brutal system of neo-feudalism from secure compounds. Those who resist will be silenced, many by force. We will pay a terrible price, and we will pay this price soon, for the gross malfeasance of our power elite.
(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.

Don't Look Now, Mr. President
By Mary Pitt

Don't look now but your base is slipping! You may ask anyone involved in the Katrina disaster how important those few little grains of sand sliding off to the side can be. Nobody seemed to notice when the levees that held back the waters of Lake Ponchartrain began deteriorating but we all now know that they were the precursors to calamity.

In the same way, a few of your supporters were disgruntled when your first cabinet appointees were simply re-treaded from the Bush and Clinton administrations. We can appreciate that you needed a few key people with experience from Day One but, rather than they adapting to your point of view, you appear to have accepted their influence to shift your own views to coincide with that of the leaders for whom they previously worked!

Your persistence in continuing the bail-out process begun by the Bush administration dislodged a few small grains of sand. Many others are watching as tightly as possible for signs of success from your own domestic stimulus plan. Meanwhile, there are those who really care about the sexual-orientation discrimination in the military and are watching as some highly trained, capable, and experienced people are being lost to the cause of world peace.

But the storm is building, Mr. President! On the streets of the nation, you can hear the complaints of the common people who have lost or will lose their jobs as well as their health insurance. They were watching as you held the conference on health care "reform." With absolutely no input from the people most affected by the decisions that they and you might make, they can see less of the vaunted "hope" which you sold them on your road to the White House.

But all is not lost! You and Mrs. Obama are well known for your work with the people in the inner city slums and you have each visited in the stricken factory towns of the nation. Perhaps you should send your emissaries out into the "real world" of the small villages that are peopled by the elderly and the working poor where the only jobs in the area moved to the cities before the owners moved them offshore. The mean age of the populace increases because the young just can't wait to grow up and move away to where the good jobs may be found.

In these little backwater places, particularly in the South and Republican Central states, these people are simply ignored. When an important figure appears in the vicinity, they see only the very wealthy and the politically prominent while the people whose voices you should hear remain at home, convinced that nobody wants to hear their opinions. You must reach down and let them know that the care of which they were so convinced on Election Day was really from the heart. Faith does wear a bit thin when the belly is growling.

We know that you have to try to put the world back together before we can move forward but if, in the process, more lives are decimated the nation as we know it will cease to exist. It is obvious that having a majority of Democrats in Congress is not enough so long as there are still too many Blue Dogs and "moderates" in those Houses, (the same people who rubber-stamped the wartime ambitions of President Bush), and those people must be replaced with some who are more forward-looking and progressive-minded.

Those of us who still cling to the hope with which we sent you to that Oval Office want to see you taking an active part in the off-year elections of 2010. Forget the old Party war-horses who have grown into a sense of entitlement and help us to get a few more of them replaced with fresh minds and fresh ideas to match your own. You see, your supporters are not all traditional Democrats, either. Many of the votes that were eventually cast for you were from previous supporters of Hillary Clinton but many others had begun with their hopes invested in other candidates. Democrats like Cynthia McKinney and Dennis Kucinich had, (and still have), a very strong attraction with their proposals. Others leaned toward Ron Paul and Ralph Nader. These are voters who will not stand solidly behind you until 2012 if they feel that you betrayed them.

It is unfortunate that you cannot, despite the immense task before you, ignore the pressures brought about by the imminence of the next election but you will need more than four years to solidify the changes that you are trying to institute. You must tend those levees and reinforce those little grains of sand so that they remain solidly in place. You must fight for the needed programs and refuse the many "compromises" that are offered by the opposition in the attempt to cripple your programs and defraud the people. You must let Congress know that we insist on doing things our way or not at all and then bring the problem to the people in 2010 and inspire them to give you a more progressive Congress. Otherwise, you may find that your carefully constructed levee wall fail you in 2012 and the Obama Administration will become an obscure footnote in the history of our nation.
(c) 2009 Mary Pitt is a very "with-it" old lady who aspires to bring a bit of truth, justice, and common sense to a nation that has lost touch with its humanity in the search for societal "perfection." Huzzahs and whiney complaints may be sent to

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Aufwiegler DePass,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, your bigoted, racist remarks about a gorilla who escaped from a zoo in Columbia, i.e., "I'm sure it's just one of Michelle's ancestors - probably harmless," taking center stage and keeping the public's eye off of the current wars in Iraq, Afghanistan 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 1st class with Diamond clusters presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 06-04-2009. We salute you Herr DePass, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Devil's In The Retails
By Frank Scott

"Things seem to be getting worse more slowly. There's some reason to think we're stabilizing." ~~~ Paul Krugman

Economists say the recession is getting better, was never all that bad, will end soon, or is already over. Yes, and the corpse is only slightly dead. Our economy seems like an organism nearing the end of life, with medical salesmen insisting youthful health will return with just one more exorbitantly expensive injection of an imaginary drug.

As consumer shopping becomes less a spending spree on useless waste and more a serious search for the needs of survival, that's good for humanity, but it's bad for this economy. The malls look lonely with only bargain stores and thrift shops showing signs of life in a downward trend still relatively slight here, by comparison to the suffering being experienced elsewhere. But even if we are truly nearing an end of one in a series of recessions, it will still be a time of great hardship for millions without credit, jobs or savings. And many members of the upscale class are likely to see a serious downscale in their buying power and life styles.

The collapse of our financial market casino and its forced rescue by taxpayers was a result of the latest scam to bring greater private profit to some of us by delivering greater social loss to most of us. An actuarial capitalist ponzi scheme relied on massive number crunching, with billions of calculations to perform what was called debt leveraging. This was simply the insurance equivalent of selling enough policies so that those who are maimed, crippled or diseased can be paid off, while still leaving plenty left over for profit. But life is not simply complex logarithms, despite what overpaid math majors believed, and ultimately 3 + 2 will always equal 5, not 6 , unless we change the numerical system. What we really need to change is the economic system that not only allows but demands such mathematical immorality. And we need that change more urgently with each delusionary attempt at maintenance of a deadly status quo.

The enormous debt accumulated during this surge of hypothetical calculation marketing is all being assumed by the public, without any democratic control of our investments save for lots of happy talk rhetoric from the latest white house occupant, an affirmative action triumph of late capitalism. He, and especially those who selected and groomed him for the hopeless job of maintaining a collapsing system, are the problem and hardly the solution. Unfortunately, only fundamentalist fanatics of the right are most publicly critical of the new regime, making it difficult to get through the worshipful cult around the president without sounding like an anti-hope fiend. And our programmed ethnic and racial divisions only help highlight individualist solutions that distract us from dealing with our common social problem.

Americans reduced to identity-by-hyphenation need to focus on what follows the hyphen with far more intensity than what precedes it. Divide and conquer politics distract us from understanding the minority group at the commanding heights of the political economy, the one which is being bailed out by all the minorities which compose an unrepresented majority. The now at least partly multicultural minority at the top, thanks to affirmative action, should demand all our attention.

It is foolish for a culturally defined segment of the population to derive satisfaction when one of its alleged members is chosen for a ruling class post, when that person is of the top 5% of the economically defined minority at the top of society, and they are of the bottom 95%. Whose interests will that individual really serve, given the sector it has been chosen by and for? Barriers separating people with common economic interests need to come down so that the employed and unemployed, whether labeled upper middle class, middle class or working poor, can achieve unity to confront the real political and economic problems made worse by supporting that minority at the top, and not remain confused by false divisions among themselves.

We need to become a democratic majority to insure our survival, not as cultural minorities, hyphenated ethnicities or racist subdivisions, but as members of the only scientifically verifiable identity group in which we all hold membership: The human race.

While we are manipulated to support laws that charge individuals with something called hate crimes, we are kept oblivious to a global economy that is one horrendous hate crime, a malevolent social disease that threatens the future of all humanity. The borrowing of more artificially inflated money that is then used to purchase goods and services of materially deflated value can only continue us on the path towards a fate much worse than financial failure.

Many states and municipalities are at or close to bankruptcy and drastically cutting social services when they are most desperately needed. How much more funny money can the federal government print to help them, itself, but mostly finance capital, without a real national calamity? Our combined public and private debt is probably far more than fifty trillion dollars. How much longer will a majority pay interest on that debt, to an undeserving minority, while it squabbles about which identity sector of the majority gets more or less benefits, while not noticing the minority group above them that gets all the benefits, all the time?

Global forces working against the blindly aggressive political economics of environmental and social destruction need to join together, and soon, in order to turn around the inexorable march toward disaster. Retail individual shopping doesn't contradict wholesale social action. Consumers at a fire sale need to become citizens creating democratic power, or the fire next time may consume us all.
(c) 2009 Frank Scott writes political commentary which appears in the Coastal Post, a monthly publication from Marin County, California, on numerous web sites and his shared blog.

Poetic Injustice On The Hudson
On the funeral day for one of the last Hudson River fishermen, GE begins dredging PCBs from the Hudson River.
By Dan Shapley

Today, all eyes are on the upper Hudson River, where General Electric will begin dredging toxic PCB contamination from the mud from a 40-mile stretch of river between its factories in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls, and the federal dam at Troy.

GE's pollution, discharged from capacitor-manufacturing plants for about 30 years before the Clean Water Act and a federal ban on the use of PCBs brought the direct pollution to an end in 1977. That was also the year that state officials shut down commercial fishing on the Hudson River, because PCBs had worked their way into the tissues of virtually ever species caught and sold along a 200 mile stretch from Manhattan on up.

In the 32 years since then, the Hudson River has been declared a Superfund site -- all 200 miles from Fort Edward to New York Harbor. The Environmental Protection Agency, after long study, determined that dredging contaminated mud from the upper Hudson River, while New York worked with GE to shut off leaks from the bedrock beneath its Hudson Falls plant, was the best strategy for reducing contamination downriver. Until the last few years, GE did everything in its power -- from a media blitz to lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Superfund law to lobbying in Washington D.C. -- to avoid this very expensive cleanup. Meantime, PCBs continued to flow over the Troy dam and downriver, and fish continued to retain contamination enough to make most species unfit for regular consumption, and most species unfit for commercial sale.

PCBs was not the only factor in the decline of the Hudson River fishing industry, but it was a major factor. Estuaries are among the most biologically rich habitats on Earth, and the Hudson River is an estuary with unique characteristics -- a mix of freshwater and salt water connected to the sea that ranges in depth from a couple feet through the Tappan Zee to a couple hundred at World's End near the military academy at West Point. More than 200 species of fish have been documented in the Hudson, several of which have been important commercial fish in generations past -- American shad most notably, but also blue crabs, sturgeon (dubbed "Albany beef") striped bass, eel, herring and others.

PCBs gave Hudson River fish a major black eye. Who wants to eat something the federal government says might give you cancer, stunt the growth of your children or otherwise poison your body -- locally caught or not? But the Hudson has been abused in many other ways. There are other sources of toxic pollution, including PCBs, other than GE. The river's shallows have been carved out for shipping channels, or filled in at the edges for factories and railroad tracks. Its tributaries, in many cases, have been dammed, reducing spawning habitat and limiting the flow of nutrients. Power plants kill millions of fish eggs and larvae each year as they suck in cooling water. For decades before the Clean Water Act changed the paradigm, sewage choked vast stretches of water. Invasive species -- most notably zebra mussels and water chestnut -- have fundamentally altered the ecosystem of the river, to the detriment of many native fish. And fishermen themselves have been responsible for decimating their livelihood; shad helped feed soldiers during World War II, but the vast quantities of fish taken from the Hudson left the population at a fraction of what it once was. More recently, huge factory-scale boats in the Atlantic have decimated the recovering population of shad and herring by catching fish attempting to enter the river to spawn.

Shad and blue crab are the only commercial species remaining on the Hudson River -- both relatively free of PCB contamination and safe enough for a meal or two during the short seasons when fishermen can catch them. Herring, too, are caught and sold for bait -- primarily to the anglers trying to catch striped bass.

All of this left fishermen with less and less reason to fish, and less and less profit in their catch. The Hudson River fishery was always humble -- made up of one- and two-man rowboats or a family that owned a handful of boats and employed a handful of workers. They drifted nets with the tide upriver, or in the Tappan Zee, staked the nets right into the shallows. Whereas dozens or hundreds of these boats once pulled fish from the length of the river, fewer than a dozen -- maybe as few as a half dozen -- now fish the Hudson.

Which brings me to Bobby Gabrielson Sr. He was one of the last.

At 79, Bobby Gabrielson died this week, and his funeral is today -- the same day GE's dredges start their work nearly 200 miles upstream from his home and dock in Nyack, during the 400th anniversary year of Henry Hudson's voyage up the river that now bears his name.

In recent years, Gabrielson has left the fishing to his son, Bobby Jr., and his contemporary, Ian Raywid. Most of his business is bait, with a little shad and blue crab on the side. (Really his business has always been blacktopping; as has usually been the case with Hudson River fishermen, fishing is only a seasonal occupation, not a full time job.) But when I met him, or interviewed him by phone, he was always barking orders at his son via radio -- engaged fully, you might say, in the family business. His wake Thursday -- one of two wakes and two funeral services, each of which is likely to be attended by hundreds of people -- was filled with fishing memorabilia, press clippings and photos of his life as a family man and fisherman.

He helped to start the organization that became Riverkeeper, and he continued to serve on that organization's board. (Riverkeeper helped clean up many other sources of pollution on the Hudson, and spawned the Waterkeeper Alliance, which has helped countless other citizens clean up pollution on local waterways across the U.S.) It was his nets that alerted biologists to a startling decline in Atlantic sturgeon that prompted a ban on commercial fishing in the mid-1990s. He's been a part of virtually every environmental issue affecting the river for decades.

Shad have been so hard to come by on the Hudson this year (the state has imposed new regulations in an attempt to restore the population from its lowest recorded levels) that the few remaining fishermen can't fill orders; restaurants and fish markets have turned to the Chesapeake or other sources in many cases. Ian told me they didn't bother netting shad this spring, except to catch Bobby Gabrielson one last meal of shad roe. He lasted just through the shad season, while in Hospice care at his home in Nyack.

There's some poetic justice in that -- knowing Bobby Gabrielson, who fished his whole life, had one last meal of shad before he died, and enjoyed one last fishing season on the Hudson.

The poetic injustice is that his funeral falls on the day that GE's dredges start their work. The injustice is that more than 30 years lapsed between the time GE's pollution was noted for the harm it has caused and the time the cleanup has begun. Those 30 years saw the livelihoods of many fishermen disappear, and it saw many fishermen disappear. It saw the taste for local fish disappear. It saw a part of regional culture damaged, possibly forever.

Like I said before, PCBs were hardly the only cause for commercial fishing's decline. One can't help but imagine, though, how things might have been different if the PCB black eye was removed in 1979 or 1989 or 1999 instead of 2009.

It's a bright day for the Hudson. Even longtime environmental advocates are being quoted widely praising GE for putting together a first-class engineering system to remove contamination in a way that meets strict EPA standards. But it's a day to mourn, too, for Bobby Gabrielson and for the generations that have lived without being able to fully appreciate the bounty and beauty of the majestic Hudson River.
(c) 2009 Dan Shapley

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Rex Babin ~~~

W The Movie_teaser1

To End On A Happy Note...

Redemption Song
By Bob Marley

Old pirates, yes, they rob I;
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.
But my hand was made strong
By the and of the almighty.
We forward in this generation
Won't you help to sing
These songs of freedom? -
Cause all I ever have:
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look? Ooh!
Some say its just a part of it:
We've got to fulfil de book.

Won't you help to sing
These songs of freedom? -
Cause all I ever have:
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our mind.
Wo! Have no fear for atomic energy,
Cause none of them-a can-a stop-a the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Yes, some say its just a part of it:
We've got to fulfil de book.
Won't you help to sing
Dese songs of freedom? -
Cause all I ever had:
Redemption songs -
All I ever had:
Redemption songs:
These songs of freedom,
Songs of freedom.
(c) 1979 Bob Marley

Have You Seen This...

Betty Bowers Explains Traditional Marriage to Everyone Else

Parting Shots...

Free The Torturers - And The Rapists Too!
If Dick Cheney can trumpet the 'success' of his torture policies without fear of retribution, why can't us ordinary criminals?
By Terry Jones

I am over the moon about President Obama's recent publication of the Bush administration's torture memos. They come as a breath of fresh air for those of us banged up in Cook County Jail.

Obama's announcement that "nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past" is the most reassuring news most of us here have heard in a long time.

Speaking as a multiple rapist and serial killer, I welcome the president's clear view that "this is a time for reflection, not retribution." Absolutely. We have indeed been "through a dark and painful chapter in our history" (in my case 17 years in the super-secure lockdown facility).

Now people may say that it is not safe to let me out, especially as I have never expressed any remorse for my actions and indeed have every intention of reoffending as soon as I possibly can.

But then has ex-vice president Dick Cheney ever expressed any remorse for killing a million or more Iraqis? Has he ever said that he wouldn't torture more people all over again if he had half the chance?

Quite the reverse. He has gone on record trumpeting how successful his torture policies have been. "I find it a little bit disturbing," Cheney said on Fox News, that "they didn't put out the memos that showed the success of the effort ... There are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity."

Speaking for myself and my fellow sadists here in Cook County, I cannot tell you how cheered we all were by Cheney's defense of his torture techniques.

And hasn't the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, announced on no less a programme than ABC's This Week that "It's not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back" out of "any sense of anger and retribution?"

Bang on the money, Emanuel. How heartily we concur with your sentiments, and look forward to the day when you will unlock our cell doors and let the light of day shine on all us poor, unrepentant sinners.

And didn't the president himself tell employees at the CIA not to be discouraged by what's happened in the last few weeks? "Don't be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we've made some mistakes," he told them. "That's how we learn. But the fact that we are willing to acknowledge them and then move forward, that is precisely why I am proud to be president of the United States and that's why you should be proud to be members of the CIA."

Yes! All of us here in Cook County Jail have made mistakes. That's why we're here. I made the mistake of brutally attacking somebody or other in broad daylight in a busy street. But I've learnt from that. That's what makes me proud to be American. Now I want to move forward - particularly forward out of Cook County Jail.

And I have every confidence that if Obama and Emanuel are prepared to let the likes of Cheney be free to wander the streets of our capital unmolested by petty laws and restrictions, they will apply the same standards to us rapists and killers.

For surely he intends to apply this spirit of forgiveness and non-retaliation to all criminals - not just those in politics.
(c) 2009 Terry Jones is a writer, film director, actor and Python.

The Gross National Debt

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Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 23 (c) 06/19/2009

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"Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors."