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In This Edition

Seymour M. Hersh finds Bush is, "Preparing The Battlefield."

Uri Avnery shouts, "Ole - Ole, Ole, Ole."

Jason Miller says, "The Toddler King's Insufferable Reign Is Doomed."

Jim Hightower watches, "Bush's Iraq Oil Grab."

Mel Bartholomew explores, "S. F. G. for Habitat Houses."

Ruth Anne Foote covers, "Canning Basics."

Greg Palast reports, "Court Rewards Exxon For Valdez Spill."

Chris Floyd sees the, "Invisible Hand."

Glenn Greenwald compares, "Keith Olbermann: Then And Now."

Mike Folkerth explains, "Election Strategy; Promise To Make It Worse."

Amy Goodman remembers, "George Carlin."

Mark Morford looks to the future, "My Handgun, My Parasite."

Sin-ator Kitt Bond wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Ron Jacobs concludes, "SOS, Different Year."

Captain Eric H. May exclaims, "Texas Terror, Code Blue!"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department 'The Landover Baptist Church' celebrates a, "Christian Nation's Birthday" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Any Way The Wind Blows."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Bob Gorrell with additional cartoons and photos from Keith Tucker, Dees Illustration.Com, Old American Century.Org, Mike Luckovich, Neff, Mel Bartholomew, David Horsey, AIPAC, Issues & Alibis and Pink & Blue Films.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

Any Way The Wind Blows
By Ernest Stewart

"Any way the wind blows doesn't really matter to me, to me."
Bohemian Rhapsody ~~~ Queen

"My father made him an offer he couldn't refuse." --- Michael Corleone

"I want to be clear on this: Vietnam did not make me a dove. Nor has Iraq; I am no pacifist" ~~~ Bill Moyers

I'm really beginning to wonder if Barry is a plant from the RNC or simply incompetent. I'm pretty sure it's one or the other but either way, he's not the candidate of change. Depending on how you look at it, Obama's latest faux pas, or act of treason, came close on the heels of his bragging about voting for the FISA bill with the Telecom loophole attached. That act of treason, and treason it is for one who swore to uphold and protect the Constitution and not gut the Bill of Rights, was explained away by his sycophant, Keith Olbermann, the other night. You may recall Keith said not to worry as we can still get the Telecoms in criminal court. Keith assured us that Bush wouldn't dare to pardon the Telecoms because it would be too embarrassing for him to do so! Yeah, wrap your mind around that idea if you can!

This time Barry wants to expand the faith based programs bringing Church and State together with your tax dollars, allowing the mythologists to hire and fire, i.e., discriminate, against the people running these tax payer funded programs based on their religion or lack of same. Your tax dollars at work, America! After his speech came out he's been busy back peddling like crazy since the ship hit the sand but have no doubt he will expand Bush's illegal program to fund every rat-wing church and TV preacher in America with your tax dollars under the guise of helping the poor. All to prove he's no Muslim terrorist. Since the Obama Junta is sure that no matter how much they pander to the fascists that their base of blacks, children and guilt ridden whites won't desert them no matter how far to the right they slide, they keep committing these little acts of treason, one after the other.

Yes, I know that Barry is a politician and therefore a traitor by association and design but just how far does he think he can take the Demoncrats? Yes, I, too, know that the Demoncrats are basically the centralist wing of the far right wing and as Gore Vidal says, "It makes no difference who you vote for - the two parties are really one party representing four percent of the people." They didn't use to be so obvious about it, which speaks again to the fix being in and they don't care who knows it! Nothing will be done about it anyway. If you were hoping for a breath of fresh air, for a change from Bush, you had better look elsewhere for it. Somehow, (see the rat-wing controlled media) America has gotten the idea that Obama is at least as far left as a liberal but nothing could be farther from the truth. In many ways he makes McCain look like a leftist.

The very best you can look forward to is Bush lite and, once again, the slightly lesser of two evils and nothing more, America. Barry won't end corpo-rat rule, he will just reinforce it, perhaps more subtly than McCain but reinforce it, none-the-less! This is a guy who thinks Ronald Rayguns is someone to emulate as in tripling the national debt, supporting apartheid, backing Saddam, crushing workers' rights, initiating fiascos like "Star Wars," supporting death squads throughout Central America, looking the other way while our Salvadorian allies raped American nuns, trading arms for hostages and confusing old movies with foreign policy! That was Rayguns and Barry can't say enough good things about old Dementia head! Moreover, since he is far smarter than McCain, he is far more dangerous than Johnny, too! So if you're voting for Barry because he's a fascist, knock yourself out but if you support him because you believe he is at all different than Bush, you better stop and think before you hit that lever!

In Other News

I see where our beloved Fuhrer sent Iraqi leader al-Maliki a message the other day via the special forces troops he sent into al-Maliki home town to slaughter some citizens, including al-Maliki's relatives, over al-Maliki's refusal to sign off on Bush's demands for permanent bases, oil give aways to Cheney's oil pals and permission for US troops to murder anyone they want without reprisals of any kind. Just Bush's way of giving freedom to the Iraqi people! According to authorities in Karbala the raid took place last Friday in the town of Janaja near Maliki's birthplace in the southern, mostly Shiite Muslim province of Karbala. Ali Abdulhussein Razak al Maliki, who was killed in the raid, was related to the prime minister and had close ties to the prime minister's personal bodyguard.

In case this seems familiar, you may recall the message sent by Don Corleone to the Hollywood producer Jack Woltz in "The Godfather" to give the Frank Sinatra character Johnny Fontane the role in the film "From Here To Eternity" that Woltz was withholding. Vito sent his message by chopping off the head of Woltz's prize race horse and depositing it's head in Wolzt's bed while he slept. As some have said, this can be a highly effective tool in difficult contract negotiations!

You may also recall the "Energy Meeting" between Dick (the Psycho) Cheney and the oil company heads, a meeting that was covered up back in early 2001. Some have gone so far as to say this was about raising oil prices and establishing what sort of kickbacks the Oil companies would be willing to pay to the Crime Family Bush. IMHO, it was to explain the various and numerous oil wars that the Junta was planning from their playbook, i.e., PNAC or the Project for the New American Century." Their version of Mein Kampf, spelling out what was to happen and how it would happen once there had been a "Pearl Harbor" style attack on America. This little act of treason was put together, in alphabetical order by... Elliott Abrams, Gary Bauer, William J. Bennett, John Ellis "Jeb" Bush, Richard B. Cheney, Eliot A. Cohen, Midge Decter, Paula Dobriansky, Steve Forbes, Aaron Friedberg, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, Fred C. Ikle, Donald Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, Irving Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Norman Podhoretz, J. Danforth Quayle, Peter W. Rodman, Stephen P. Rosen, Henry S. Rowen, Donald Rumsfeld, Vin Weber, George Weigel, and Paul Wolfowitz. A veritable who's who of political criminals and "deep" thinkers!

The result of this stink tank, er, think tank scam has been the death of thousands of our children, the maiming of tens of thousands more and the slaughter of millions of innocents around the globe. The total destruction of two countries with many more countries to come. Not to mention the financial ruin of Americans, the bankrupting of America and the most obscene profits for our corpo-rat masters in the history of the world. The trouble is that you ain't seen nothing yet folks. The worst is yet to come and come it will and very soon, too! I'm talking about a depression that will make the"Great Depression" of the 1930's look like a "Swiss Picnic" by comparison and with the bombing and invasion of Iran, World War Three!

And Finally

Bill Moyers finally gets it. He now understands that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was all about stealing their oil and not about giving them freedom. How does Moyers get his great reputation? I have a pen pal who has an IQ of 60 who knew what was going down in May of 2003 but Bill is just now tumbling to those facts? Oh please, spare me the BS!

My guess is that Bill knew all along what was happening but didn't have the guts to mention it as his corpo-rat masters at PBS, who you may recall, are all a little to the right of Darth Vader, wouldn't be pleased by such an action. Bill, being desperate to hang on to his seven figure salary, went along with his masters' wishes and ignored the facts while 5,000 of our children were slaughtered and we killed hundreds of thousand of innocents so Nixon/Goebbels could steal tens of billions of dollars worth of oil and sell it to us at three times it's worth. I wonder if Bill got a kick back on that, too? Doesn't that make you wonder as well?

My conclusion is either Bill is too stupid to be a talking head on TV or is a traitor to America and the world. It's one or the other folks! Which one do you think it is, America?


"The era of manufacturing consent has given way to the era of manufacturing news.
Soon media newsrooms will drop the pretense, and start hiring theater directors instead of journalists."
~~~ Arundhati Roy ~~~

To contribute to the cause and help us keep fighting for you just visit our donations page and follow the instructions there. Thank you!

Ernest & Victoria Stewart


07-02-1987 ~ 06-28-2008
Good to the last drop!


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


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


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

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

Preparing The Battlefield
The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran.
By Seymour M. Hersh

Operations outside the knowledge and control of commanders have eroded "the coherence of military strategy," one general says.

Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country's religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran's suspected nuclear-weapons program.

Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of "high-value targets" in the President's war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.

Under federal law, a Presidential Finding, which is highly classified, must be issued when a covert intelligence operation gets under way and, at a minimum, must be made known to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and to the ranking members of their respective intelligence committees-the so-called Gang of Eight. Money for the operation can then be reprogrammed from previous appropriations, as needed, by the relevant congressional committees, which also can be briefed.

"The Finding was focussed on undermining Iran's nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change," a person familiar with its contents said, and involved "working with opposition groups and passing money." The Finding provided for a whole new range of activities in southern Iran and in the areas, in the east, where Baluchi political opposition is strong, he said.

Although some legislators were troubled by aspects of the Finding, and "there was a significant amount of high-level discussion" about it, according to the source familiar with it, the funding for the escalation was approved. In other words, some members of the Democratic leadership-Congress has been under Democratic control since the 2006 elections-were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran, while the Party's presumptive candidate for President, Barack Obama, has said that he favors direct talks and diplomacy.

The request for funding came in the same period in which the Administration was coming to terms with a National Intelligence Estimate, released in December, that concluded that Iran had halted its work on nuclear weapons in 2003. The Administration downplayed the significance of the N.I.E., and, while saying that it was committed to diplomacy, continued to emphasize that urgent action was essential to counter the Iranian nuclear threat. President Bush questioned the N.I.E.'s conclusions, and senior national-security officials, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, made similar statements. (So did Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee.) Meanwhile, the Administration also revived charges that the Iranian leadership has been involved in the killing of American soldiers in Iraq: both directly, by dispatching commando units into Iraq, and indirectly, by supplying materials used for roadside bombs and other lethal goods. (There have been questions about the accuracy of the claims; the Times, among others, has reported that "significant uncertainties remain about the extent of that involvement.")

Military and civilian leaders in the Pentagon share the White House's concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions, but there is disagreement about whether a military strike is the right solution. Some Pentagon officials believe, as they have let Congress and the media know, that bombing Iran is not a viable response to the nuclear-proliferation issue, and that more diplomacy is necessary.

A Democratic senator told me that, late last year, in an off-the-record lunch meeting, Secretary of Defense Gates met with the Democratic caucus in the Senate. (Such meetings are held regularly.) Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preŰmptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, "We'll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America." Gates's comments stunned the Democrats at the lunch, and another senator asked whether Gates was speaking for Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Gates's answer, the senator told me, was "Let's just say that I'm here speaking for myself." (A spokesman for Gates confirmed that he discussed the consequences of a strike at the meeting, but would not address what he said, other than to dispute the senator's characterization.)

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose chairman is Admiral Mike Mullen, were "pushing back very hard" against White House pressure to undertake a military strike against Iran, the person familiar with the Finding told me. Similarly, a Pentagon consultant who is involved in the war on terror said that "at least ten senior flag and general officers, including combatant commanders"-the four-star officers who direct military operations around the world-"have weighed in on that issue."

The most outspoken of those officers is Admiral William Fallon, who until recently was the head of U.S. Central Command, and thus in charge of American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In March, Fallon resigned under pressure, after giving a series of interviews stating his reservations about an armed attack on Iran. For example, late last year he told the Financial Times that the | of U.S. policy was to change the Iranians' behavior, and that "attacking them as a means to get to that spot strikes me as being not the first choice."

Admiral Fallon acknowledged, when I spoke to him in June, that he had heard that there were people in the White House who were upset by his public statements. "Too many people believe you have to be either for or against the Iranians," he told me. "Let's get serious. Eighty million people live there, and everyone's an individual. The idea that they're only one way or another is nonsense."

When it came to the Iraq war, Fallon said, "Did I bitch about some of the things that were being proposed? You bet. Some of them were very stupid."

The Democratic leadership's agreement to commit hundreds of millions of dollars for more secret operations in Iran was remarkable, given the general concerns of officials like Gates, Fallon, and many others. "The oversight process has not kept pace-it's been co÷pted" by the Administration, the person familiar with the contents of the Finding said. "The process is broken, and this is dangerous stuff we're authorizing."

Senior Democrats in Congress told me that they had concerns about the possibility that their understanding of what the new operations entail differs from the White House's. One issue has to do with a reference in the Finding, the person familiar with it recalled, to potential defensive lethal action by U.S. operatives in Iran. (In early May, the journalist Andrew Cockburn published elements of the Finding in Counterpunch, a newsletter and online magazine.)

The language was inserted into the Finding at the urging of the C.I.A., a former senior intelligence official said. The covert operations set forth in the Finding essentially run parallel to those of a secret military task force, now operating in Iran, that is under the control of JSOC. Under the Bush Administration's interpretation of the law, clandestine military activities, unlike covert C.I.A. operations, do not need to be depicted in a Finding, because the President has a constitutional right to command combat forces in the field without congressional interference. But the borders between operations are not always clear: in Iran, C.I.A. agents and regional assets have the language skills and the local knowledge to make contacts for the JSOC operatives, and have been working with them to direct personnel, matÚriel, and money into Iran from an obscure base in western Afghanistan. As a result, Congress has been given only a partial view of how the money it authorized may be used. One of JSOC's task-force missions, the pursuit of "high-value targets," was not directly addressed in the Finding. There is a growing realization among some legislators that the Bush Administration, in recent years, has conflated what is an intelligence operation and what is a military one in order to avoid fully informing Congress about what it is doing.

"This is a big deal," the person familiar with the Finding said. "The C.I.A. needed the Finding to do its traditional stuff, but the Finding does not apply to JSOC. The President signed an Executive Order after September 11th giving the Pentagon license to do things that it had never been able to do before without notifying Congress. The claim was that the military was 'preparing the battle space,' and by using that term they were able to circumvent congressional oversight. Everything is justified in terms of fighting the global war on terror." He added, "The Administration has been fuzzing the lines; there used to be a shade of gray"-between operations that had to be briefed to the senior congressional leadership and those which did not-"but now it's a shade of mush."

"The agency says we're not going to get in the position of helping to kill people without a Finding," the former senior intelligence official told me. He was referring to the legal threat confronting some agency operatives for their involvement in the rendition and alleged torture of suspects in the war on terror. "This drove the military people up the wall," he said. As far as the C.I.A. was concerned, the former senior intelligence official said, "the over-all authorization includes killing, but it's not as though that's what they're setting out to do. It's about gathering information, enlisting support." The Finding sent to Congress was a compromise, providing legal cover for the C.I.A. while referring to the use of lethal force in ambiguous terms.

The defensive-lethal language led some Democrats, according to congressional sources familiar with their views, to call in the director of the C.I.A., Air Force General Michael V. Hayden, for a special briefing. Hayden reassured the legislators that the language did nothing more than provide authority for Special Forces operatives on the ground in Iran to shoot their way out if they faced capture or harm.

The legislators were far from convinced. One congressman subsequently wrote a personal letter to President Bush insisting that "no lethal action, period" had been authorized within Iran's borders. As of June, he had received no answer.

Members of Congress have expressed skepticism in the past about the information provided by the White House. On March 15, 2005, David Obey, then the ranking Democrat on the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee, announced that he was putting aside an amendment that he had intended to offer that day, and that would have cut off all funding for national-intelligence programs unless the President agreed to keep Congress fully informed about clandestine military activities undertaken in the war on terror. He had changed his mind, he said, because the White House promised better co÷peration. "The Executive Branch understands that we are not trying to dictate what they do," he said in a floor speech at the time. "We are simply trying to see to it that what they do is consistent with American values and will not get the country in trouble."

Obey declined to comment on the specifics of the operations in Iran, but he did tell me that the White House reneged on its promise to consult more fully with Congress. He said, "I suspect there's something going on, but I don't know what to believe. Cheney has always wanted to go after Iran, and if he had more time he'd find a way to do it. We still don't get enough information from the agencies, and I have very little confidence that they give us information on the edge."

None of the four Democrats in the Gang of Eight-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, and House Intelligence Committee chairman Silvestre Reyes-would comment on the Finding, with some noting that it was highly classified. An aide to one member of the Democratic leadership responded, on his behalf, by pointing to the limitations of the Gang of Eight process. The notification of a Finding, the aide said, "is just that-notification, and not a sign-off on activities. Proper oversight of ongoing intelligence activities is done by fully briefing the members of the intelligence committee." However, Congress does have the means to challenge the White House once it has been sent a Finding. It has the power to withhold funding for any government operation. The members of the House and Senate Democratic leadership who have access to the Finding can also, if they choose to do so, and if they have shared concerns, come up with ways to exert their influence on Administration policy. (A spokesman for the C.I.A. said, "As a rule, we don't comment one way or the other on allegations of covert activities or purported findings." The White House also declined to comment.)

A member of the House Appropriations Committee acknowledged that, even with a Democratic victory in November, "it will take another year before we get the intelligence activities under control." He went on, "We control the money and they can't do anything without the money. Money is what it's all about. But I'm very leery of this Administration." He added, "This Administration has been so secretive."

One irony of Admiral Fallon's departure is that he was, in many areas, in agreement with President Bush on the threat posed by Iran. They had a good working relationship, Fallon told me, and, when he ran CENTCOM, were in regular communication. On March 4th, a week before his resignation, Fallon testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying that he was "encouraged" about the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Regarding the role played by Iran's leaders, he said, "They've been absolutely unhelpful, very damaging, and I absolutely don't condone any of their activities. And I have yet to see anything since I've been in this job in the way of a public action by Iran that's been at all helpful in this region."

Fallon made it clear in our conversations that he considered it inappropriate to comment publicly about the President, the Vice-President, or Special Operations. But he said he had heard that people in the White House had been "struggling" with his views on Iran. "When I arrived at CENTCOM, the Iranians were funding every entity inside Iraq. It was in their interest to get us out, and so they decided to kill as many Americans as they could. And why not? They didn't know who'd come out ahead, but they wanted us out. I decided that I couldn't resolve the situation in Iraq without the neighborhood. To get this problem in Iraq solved, we had to somehow involve Iran and Syria. I had to work the neighborhood."

Fallon told me that his focus had been not on the Iranian nuclear issue, or on regime change there, but on "putting out the fires in Iraq." There were constant discussions in Washington and in the field about how to engage Iran and, on the subject of the bombing option, Fallon said, he believed that "it would happen only if the Iranians did something stupid."

Fallon's early retirement, however, appears to have been provoked not only by his negative comments about bombing Iran but also by his strong belief in the chain of command and his insistence on being informed about Special Operations in his area of responsibility. One of Fallon's defenders is retired Marine General John J. (Jack) Sheehan, whose last assignment was as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command, where Fallon was a deputy. Last year, Sheehan rejected a White House offer to become the President's "czar" for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "One of the reasons the White House selected Fallon for CENTCOM was that he's known to be a strategic thinker and had demonstrated those skills in the Pacific," Sheehan told me. (Fallon served as commander-in-chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific from 2005 to 2007.) "He was charged with coming up with an over-all coherent strategy for Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and, by law, the combatant commander is responsible for all military operations within his A.O."-area of operations. "That was not happening," Sheehan said. "When Fallon tried to make sense of all the overt and covert activity conducted by the military in his area of responsibility, a small group in the White House leadership shut him out."

The law cited by Sheehan is the 1986 Defense Reorganization Act, known as Goldwater-Nichols, which defined the chain of command: from the President to the Secretary of Defense, through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and on to the various combatant commanders, who were put in charge of all aspects of military operations, including joint training and logistics. That authority, the act stated, was not to be shared with other echelons of command. But the Bush Administration, as part of its global war on terror, instituted new policies that undercut regional commanders-in-chief; for example, it gave Special Operations teams, at military commands around the world, the highest priority in terms of securing support and equipment. The degradation of the traditional chain of command in the past few years has been a point of tension between the White House and the uniformed military.

"The coherence of military strategy is being eroded because of undue civilian influence and direction of nonconventional military operations," Sheehan said. "If you have small groups planning and conducting military operations outside the knowledge and control of the combatant commander, by default you can't have a coherent military strategy. You end up with a disaster, like the reconstruction efforts in Iraq."

Admiral Fallon, who is known as Fox, was aware that he would face special difficulties as the first Navy officer to lead CENTCOM, which had always been headed by a ground commander, one of his military colleagues told me. He was also aware that the Special Operations community would be a concern. "Fox said that there's a lot of strange stuff going on in Special Ops, and I told him he had to figure out what they were really doing," Fallon's colleague said. "The Special Ops guys eventually figured out they needed Fox, and so they began to talk to him. Fox would have won his fight with Special Ops but for Cheney."

The Pentagon consultant said, "Fallon went down because, in his own way, he was trying to prevent a war with Iran, and you have to admire him for that."

In recent months, according to the Iranian media, there has been a surge in violence in Iran; it is impossible at this early stage, however, to credit JSOC or C.I.A. activities, or to assess their impact on the Iranian leadership. The Iranian press reports are being carefully monitored by retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner, who has taught strategy at the National War College and now conducts war games centered on Iran for the federal government, think tanks, and universities. The Iranian press "is very open in describing the killings going on inside the country," Gardiner said. It is, he said, "a controlled press, which makes it more important that it publishes these things. We begin to see inside the government." He added, "Hardly a day goes by now we don't see a clash somewhere. There were three or four incidents over a recent weekend, and the Iranians are even naming the Revolutionary Guard officers who have been killed."

Earlier this year, a militant Ahwazi group claimed to have assassinated a Revolutionary Guard colonel, and the Iranian government acknowledged that an explosion in a cultural center in Shiraz, in the southern part of the country, which killed at least twelve people and injured more than two hundred, had been a terrorist act and not, as it earlier insisted, an accident. It could not be learned whether there has been American involvement in any specific incident in Iran, but, according to Gardiner, the Iranians have begun publicly blaming the U.S., Great Britain, and, more recently, the C.I.A. for some incidents. The agency was involved in a coup in Iran in 1953, and its support for the unpopular regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi-who was overthrown in 1979-was condemned for years by the ruling mullahs in Tehran, to great effect. "This is the ultimate for the Iranians-to blame the C.I.A.," Gardiner said. "This is new, and it's an escalation-a ratcheting up of tensions. It rallies support for the regime and shows the people that there is a continuing threat from the 'Great Satan.' " In Gardiner's view, the violence, rather than weakening Iran's religious government, may generate support for it.

Many of the activities may be being carried out by dissidents in Iran, and not by Americans in the field. One problem with "passing money" (to use the term of the person familiar with the Finding) in a covert setting is that it is hard to control where the money goes and whom it benefits. Nonetheless, the former senior intelligence official said, "We've got exposure, because of the transfer of our weapons and our communications gear. The Iranians will be able to make the argument that the opposition was inspired by the Americans. How many times have we tried this without asking the right questions? Is the risk worth it?" One possible consequence of these operations would be a violent Iranian crackdown on one of the dissident groups, which could give the Bush Administration a reason to intervene.

A strategy of using ethnic minorities to undermine Iran is flawed, according to Vali Nasr, who teaches international politics at Tufts University and is also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "Just because Lebanon, Iraq, and Pakistan have ethnic problems, it does not mean that Iran is suffering from the same issue," Nasr told me. "Iran is an old country-like France and Germany-and its citizens are just as nationalistic. The U.S. is overestimating ethnic tension in Iran." The minority groups that the U.S. is reaching out to are either well integrated or small and marginal, without much influence on the government or much ability to present a political challenge, Nasr said. "You can always find some activist groups that will go and kill a policeman, but working with the minorities will backfire, and alienate the majority of the population."

The Administration may have been willing to rely on dissident organizations in Iran even when there was reason to believe that the groups had operated against American interests in the past. The use of Baluchi elements, for example, is problematic, Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. clandestine officer who worked for nearly two decades in South Asia and the Middle East, told me. "The Baluchis are Sunni fundamentalists who hate the regime in Tehran, but you can also describe them as Al Qaeda," Baer told me. "These are guys who cut off the heads of nonbelievers-in this case, it's Shiite Iranians. The irony is that we're once again working with Sunni fundamentalists, just as we did in Afghanistan in the nineteen-eighties." Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is considered one of the leading planners of the September 11th attacks, are Baluchi Sunni fundamentalists.

One of the most active and violent anti-regime groups in Iran today is the Jundallah, also known as the Iranian People's Resistance Movement, which describes itself as a resistance force fighting for the rights of Sunnis in Iran. "This is a vicious Salafi organization whose followers attended the same madrassas as the Taliban and Pakistani extremists," Nasr told me. "They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture." The Jundallah took responsibility for the bombing of a busload of Revolutionary Guard soldiers in February, 2007. At least eleven Guard members were killed. According to Baer and to press reports, the Jundallah is among the groups in Iran that are benefitting from U.S. support.

The C.I.A. and Special Operations communities also have long-standing ties to two other dissident groups in Iran: the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, known in the West as the M.E.K., and a Kurdish separatist group, the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan, or PJAK.

The M.E.K. has been on the State Department's terrorist list for more than a decade, yet in recent years the group has received arms and intelligence, directly or indirectly, from the United States. Some of the newly authorized covert funds, the Pentagon consultant told me, may well end up in M.E.K. coffers. "The new task force will work with the M.E.K. The Administration is desperate for results." He added, "The M.E.K. has no C.P.A. auditing the books, and its leaders are thought to have been lining their pockets for years. If people only knew what the M.E.K. is getting, and how much is going to its bank accounts-and yet it is almost useless for the purposes the Administration intends."

The Kurdish party, PJAK, which has also been reported to be covertly supported by the United States, has been operating against Iran from bases in northern Iraq for at least three years. (Iran, like Iraq and Turkey, has a Kurdish minority, and PJAK and other groups have sought self-rule in territory that is now part of each of those countries.) In recent weeks, according to Sam Gardiner, the military strategist, there has been a marked increase in the number of PJAK armed engagements with Iranians and terrorist attacks on Iranian targets. In early June, the news agency Fars reported that a dozen PJAK members and four Iranian border guards were killed in a clash near the Iraq border; a similar attack in May killed three Revolutionary Guards and nine PJAK fighters. PJAK has also subjected Turkey, a member of NATO, to repeated terrorist attacks, and reports of American support for the group have been a source of friction between the two governments.

Gardiner also mentioned a trip that the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, made to Tehran in June. After his return, Maliki announced that his government would ban any contact between foreigners and the M.E.K.-a slap at the U.S.'s dealings with the group. Maliki declared that Iraq was not willing to be a staging ground for covert operations against other countries. This was a sign, Gardiner said, of "Maliki's increasingly choosing the interests of Iraq over the interests of the United States." In terms of U.S. allegations of Iranian involvement in the killing of American soldiers, he said, "Maliki was unwilling to play the blame-Iran game." Gardiner added that Pakistan had just agreed to turn over a Jundallah leader to the Iranian government. America's covert operations, he said, "seem to be harming relations with the governments of both Iraq and Pakistan and could well be strengthening the connection between Tehran and Baghdad."

The White House's reliance on questionable operatives, and on plans involving possible lethal action inside Iran, has created anger as well as anxiety within the Special Operations and intelligence communities. JSOC's operations in Iran are believed to be modelled on a program that has, with some success, used surrogates to target the Taliban leadership in the tribal territories of Waziristan, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. But the situations in Waziristan and Iran are not comparable.

In Waziristan, "the program works because it's small and smart guys are running it," the former senior intelligence official told me. "It's being executed by professionals. The N.S.A., the C.I.A., and the D.I.A."-the Defense Intelligence Agency-"are right in there with the Special Forces and Pakistani intelligence, and they're dealing with serious bad guys." He added, "We have to be really careful in calling in the missiles. We have to hit certain houses at certain times. The people on the ground are watching through binoculars a few hundred yards away and calling specific locations, in latitude and longitude. We keep the Predator loitering until the targets go into a house, and we have to make sure our guys are far enough away so they don't get hit." One of the most prominent victims of the program, the former official said, was Abu Laith al-Libi, a senior Taliban commander, who was killed on January 31st, reportedly in a missile strike that also killed eleven other people.

A dispatch published on March 26th by the Washington Post reported on the increasing number of successful strikes against Taliban and other insurgent units in Pakistan's tribal areas. A follow-up article noted that, in response, the Taliban had killed "dozens of people" suspected of providing information to the United States and its allies on the whereabouts of Taliban leaders. Many of the victims were thought to be American spies, and their executions-a beheading, in one case-were videotaped and distributed by DVD as a warning to others.

It is not simple to replicate the program in Iran. "Everybody's arguing about the high-value-target list," the former senior intelligence official said. "The Special Ops guys are pissed off because Cheney's office set up priorities for categories of targets, and now he's getting impatient and applying pressure for results. But it takes a long time to get the right guys in place."

The Pentagon consultant told me, "We've had wonderful results in the Horn of Africa with the use of surrogates and false flags-basic counterintelligence and counter-insurgency tactics. And we're beginning to tie them in knots in Afghanistan. But the White House is going to kill the program if they use it to go after Iran. It's one thing to engage in selective strikes and assassinations in Waziristan and another in Iran. The White House believes that one size fits all, but the legal issues surrounding extrajudicial killings in Waziristan are less of a problem because Al Qaeda and the Taliban cross the border into Afghanistan and back again, often with U.S. and NATO forces in hot pursuit. The situation is not nearly as clear in the Iranian case. All the considerations-judicial, strategic, and political-are different in Iran."

He added, "There is huge opposition inside the intelligence community to the idea of waging a covert war inside Iran, and using Baluchis and Ahwazis as surrogates. The leaders of our Special Operations community all have remarkable physical courage, but they are less likely to voice their opposition to policy. Iran is not Waziristan."

A Gallup poll taken last November, before the N.I.E. was made public, found that seventy-three per cent of those surveyed thought that the United States should use economic action and diplomacy to stop Iran's nuclear program, while only eighteen per cent favored direct military action. Republicans were twice as likely as Democrats to endorse a military strike. Weariness with the war in Iraq has undoubtedly affected the public's tolerance for an attack on Iran. This mood could change quickly, however. The potential for escalation became clear in early January, when five Iranian patrol boats, believed to be under the command of the Revolutionary Guard, made a series of aggressive moves toward three Navy warships sailing through the Strait of Hormuz. Initial reports of the incident made public by the Pentagon press office said that the Iranians had transmitted threats, over ship-to-ship radio, to "explode" the American ships. At a White House news conference, the President, on the day he left for an eight-day trip to the Middle East, called the incident "provocative" and "dangerous," and there was, very briefly, a sense of crisis and of outrage at Iran. "TWO MINUTES FROM WAR" was the headline in one British newspaper.

The crisis was quickly defused by Vice-Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, the commander of U.S. naval forces in the region. No warning shots were fired, the Admiral told the Pentagon press corps on January 7th, via teleconference from his headquarters, in Bahrain. "Yes, it's more serious than we have seen, but, to put it in context, we do interact with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and their Navy regularly," Cosgriff said. "I didn't get the sense from the reports I was receiving that there was a sense of being afraid of these five boats."

Admiral Cosgriff's caution was well founded: within a week, the Pentagon acknowledged that it could not positively identify the Iranian boats as the source of the ominous radio transmission, and press reports suggested that it had instead come from a prankster long known for sending fake messages in the region. Nonetheless, Cosgriff's demeanor angered Cheney, according to the former senior intelligence official. But a lesson was learned in the incident: The public had supported the idea of retaliation, and was even asking why the U.S. didn't do more. The former official said that, a few weeks later, a meeting took place in the Vice-President's office. "The subject was how to create a casus belli between Tehran and Washington," he said.

In June, President Bush went on a farewell tour of Europe. He had tea with Queen Elizabeth II and dinner with Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni, the President and First Lady of France. The serious business was conducted out of sight, and involved a series of meetings on a new diplomatic effort to persuade the Iranians to halt their uranium-enrichment program. (Iran argues that its enrichment program is for civilian purposes and is legal under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.) Secretary of State Rice had been involved with developing a new package of incentives. But the Administration's essential negotiating position seemed unchanged: talks could not take place until Iran halted the program. The Iranians have repeatedly and categorically rejected that precondition, leaving the diplomatic situation in a stalemate; they have not yet formally responded to the new incentives.

The continuing impasse alarms many observers. Joschka Fischer, the former German Foreign Minister, recently wrote in a syndicated column that it may not "be possible to freeze the Iranian nuclear program for the duration of the negotiations to avoid a military confrontation before they are completed. Should this newest attempt fail, things will soon get serious. Deadly serious." When I spoke to him last week, Fischer, who has extensive contacts in the diplomatic community, said that the latest European approach includes a new element: the willingness of the U.S. and the Europeans to accept something less than a complete cessation of enrichment as an intermediate step. "The proposal says that the Iranians must stop manufacturing new centrifuges and the other side will stop all further sanction activities in the U.N. Security Council," Fischer said, although Iran would still have to freeze its enrichment activities when formal negotiations begin. "This could be acceptable to the Iranians-if they have good will."

The big question, Fischer added, is in Washington. "I think the Americans are deeply divided on the issue of what to do about Iran," he said. "Some officials are concerned about the fallout from a military attack and others think an attack is unavoidable. I know the Europeans, but I have no idea where the Americans will end up on this issue."

There is another complication: American Presidential politics. Barack Obama has said that, if elected, he would begin talks with Iran with no "self-defeating" preconditions (although only after diplomatic groundwork had been laid). That position has been vigorously criticized by John McCain. The Washington Post recently quoted Randy Scheunemann, the McCain campaign's national-security director, as stating that McCain supports the White House's position, and that the program be suspended before talks begin. What Obama is proposing, Scheunemann said, "is unilateral cowboy summitry."

Scheunemann, who is known as a neoconservative, is also the McCain campaign's most important channel of communication with the White House. He is a friend of David Addington, Dick Cheney's chief of staff. I have heard differing accounts of Scheunemann's influence with McCain; though some close to the McCain campaign talk about him as a possible national-security adviser, others say he is someone who isn't taken seriously while "telling Cheney and others what they want to hear," as a senior McCain adviser put it.

It is not known whether McCain, who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been formally briefed on the operations in Iran. At the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in June, Obama repeated his plea for "tough and principled diplomacy." But he also said, along with McCain, that he would keep the threat of military action against Iran on the table.
(c) 2008 Seymour Hersh ... The New Yorker

Ole - Ole, Ole, Ole
By Uri Avnery

WHAT EXCITED the Israelis this week? What glued them to the TV and radio sets? What made them rush to buy newspapers at the kiosks?

The drama in the Knesset, when it seemed for a moment that the Members would act against the laws of nature and vote to dismiss themselves? The violations of the Tahdiyeh around the Gaza Strip, after the execution of Jihad militants in Nablus? The peace negotiations with Syria? The discussion about the exchange of prisoners with Hizbullah in the north and Hamas in the South?

Don't be ridiculous.

The subject arousing tumultuous outbursts of emotion was the European football championship, Germany against Turkey, Spain against Russia.

What games! What goals! Wowww!

COMPARED WITH these, the games played in the political arena were a mere sideshow.

For example: Ehud Olmert's game of survival.

Since it was established beyond doubt that he is corrupt, his government has lost the most important asset of any government in a democratic society: trust.

Nobody any longer believes what this government says. All its decisions are a priori suspect - that they were not taken on their merits, but only to serve as means to gain another month, another week, another day of life. This is a government that cannot govern.

It reminds me of a scene in an old movie based on Jules Verne's novel "Around the World in Eighty Days". In order to win a bet, the hero has to cross the American continent by train at maximum speed. When the locomotive runs out of coal, he dismantles the wagons, one by one, and throws their wooden walls and seats into the fire. After that, he starts to dismantle the locomotive itself, until all that is left is the engine, the boiler and the wheels.

The government of Israel is like this train. To survive, it is sacrificing all its assets.

Ehud Barak delivered an ultimatum: if Olmert is not replaced, he, Barak, will dismantle the coalition. But when the time approached, he understood that Olmert would drag him down with him into the terrible abyss called elections. According to all the polls, elections would bring the Likud to power. The two Ehuds frantically looked for a way out. Now they stand like two exhausted boxers, clasping each other to avoid falling over.

Olmert survives for the moment. The primaries of the Kadima party will take place only in September - a fictitious party, whose situation resembles that of its founder, Ariel Sharon, kept alive by artificial respiration and unable to move.

Until when? September? May 2009? November 2010? Nobody knows. But one thing is certain: this is a government unable to do anything at all.

EXAMPLE NO. 1: The tahdiyeh.

The army wanted the ceasefire, because it has no ready means to stop the launching of missiles from the Gaza Strip, and the last thing it wants is to re-occupy it - an expensive, dangerous and unpromising operation.

It wanted and did not want the ceasefire. Wanted logically, did not want emotionally.

Last week I wrote here that it would be easy to put an end to the ceasefire: "The army will kill half a dozen Islamic Jihad militants in the West Bank. In response, the organization will fire a salvo of Qassams at Sderot. The army will announce that this is a violation of the agreement and answer with an incursion into the Gaza Strip..." But even I did not expect this to happen so soon. But this is what has indeed happened: the army executed two Islamic Jihad militants in the West Bank, Islamic Jihad responded by launching Qassams, the army has renewed the blockade...

Did anyone decide on this provocation? Olmert? Barak? The Chief of Staff? The division commander? Nobody is saying. Only one thing is certain: there is no government to speak of.

EXAMPLE NO. 2: The prisoner exchange.

The German intermediary has at long last hammered out an agreement for the exchange of our two prisoners who are in the hands of Hizbullah for some Lebanese prisoners. The present assumption is that the two were fatally wounded during their capture and died long ago. But there is no confirmation: Hizbullah does not say.

In the Jewish religion, the "Redemption of Prisoners" is a sacred obligation. In the Middle Ages, when a Jew from London was captured by Turkish pirates, the Jews of Istanbul were obliged by their religion to pay his ransom. In the Israeli army, the Redemption of Prisoners has been elevated to the highest standing: much as one does not leave a wounded soldier in the field, one does not leave a prisoner in the hands of the enemy. More than once, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners have been exchanged for a single Israeli.

The Second Lebanon War was started (at least officially) with the aim of releasing these two prisoners without an exchange. For this aim, the lives of 150 Israeli soldiers and civilians and more than a thousand Lebanese fighters and civilians were sacrificed. Without success. If so, how can anyone object to the release of five Lebanese prisoners for their return?

The problem is posed by a myth. One of the five to be released is Samir Kuntar, who, with his comrades, was responsible for an especially brutal attack in Israel. The "Murderer Kuntar" (as he is always called in our media) is engraved in the national memory as a monster, who murdered the Haran family in a particularly ugly way. In Lebanon, of course, he is considered a national hero, who carried out a daring exploit deep in enemy territory.

"Redemption of Prisoners" on the one side, the refusal to release a "Monster" on the other side. Somebody must decide. Olmert decided. The next day he decided the opposite. Two days later, he reversed his decision again. Everything for a simple consideration: what will help him to survive? What is more popular?

The same applies to the soldier Gilad Shalit, the prisoner of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. At least we know that he is alive. Hamas allows him from time to time to send a message.

Here the problem is with another myth: "Blood on their Hands." And not just any blood, but "Jewish Blood," as the speechmakers emphasize. Hamas demands the release of hundreds of its fighters who have taken part in attacks. So there is again a dilemma: "Redemption of Prisoners," as against "Jewish Blood."

The whole thing is ridiculous. In a war, blood is spilled. All of us have "blood on our hands.".I have. And certainly Ehud Barak.

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue," the Bible reminds us (Proverbs 18:21), and that includes the written tongue. Say "captured soldier" instead of "kidnapped soldier," "Palestinian prisoners of war" instead of "Palestinian criminals," "enemy fighters" instead of "murderers with blood on their hands," and everything looks simpler. But the vociferous media, always on the lookout for higher ratings, pour oil on the fire by their choice of words.

So Olmert cannot decide. What is more popular? The release of the soldier, who has already spent two whole years in a dark cellar and whose life is in danger, or the refusal to free "murderers" with "blood on their hands?" Secret public opinion polls are regularly consulted, and there is still no decision.

EXAMPLE NO. 3: Syria.

There seem to be negotiations. They seem to talk about peace. The Turks are inviting negotiators from Israel and Syria to a hotel and will shuttle between the rooms in "indirect" negotiations.

This is all theater. They drink wine from empty goblets. Nobody believes seriously in a peace that would necessitate the removal of the Israeli settlements from the Golan. And in the meantime, the settlements keep on growing.

The idea that Olmert has the moral and political strength to liquidate these settlements is ludicrous. He himself would not dream of it. Indeed, he does not make even the slightest effort to prepare public opinion for such an eventuality. Even in the best of cases, this would be possible only after a resolute and sustained effort of persuasion, which will surely be accompanied by a great public storm. So why the performance? Each of the parties has its own reasons:

. Bashar al-Assad exploits it, with great talent, in order to get out of the "axis of evil," to prevent an American military attack on him (which has already become extremely unlikely) and to break the bonds of isolation.

. . The Turkish government, menaced by its domestic enemies, such as the army and the courts, is gathering prestige and furthering its main ambition: to join the European Union.

. . Even the agile Nicolas Sarkozy smells an opportunity. After coming here on a tour of pandering, assisted by his stunning wife (his criticism of the settlements was almost ignored by the media), he now wants to host Olmert and Assad in Paris, in a great show, around the same table (but without shaking hands). Who can say no to a person who is about to assume the rotating presidency of the European Union, and who aspires to become Napoleon the Fourth?

. . But Olmert is, of course, the one to gain the most. This week, from the Knesset rostrum, he thundered back at the Likud members who showered him with derisive catcalls: "You do not want peace!"

. So there he is: not Olmert the corrupt, not Olmert the failure, but Olmert the brave, sacrificing himself on the altar of Peace, he who any minute now will realize the dream of generations, if only he is allowed to remain in power.

EXAMPLE NO. 4: Palestine.

All the above applies even more to the relations with Palestine. They meet. They embrace. They exchange promises. There is a host of mediators, all of whom want to garner something for themselves.

This week a particularly loathsome performance was held in Berlin, under the auspices of Angelika Merkel, who also has honored us recently with a pilgrimage of obeisance. It was a conference "for the Palestinians." What did they not talk about? About the occupation. About the settlements. About the Wall. About the thousands of prisoners in our hands. And about the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem.

So what did they talk about? About the training of the Palestinian police, which will safeguard the security of the occupation. About the building of Palestinian prisons, to lock up Hamas members. The main thing is Law and Order - the law and the order of the occupation.

And who were the stars there? The inevitable Tony Blair. The tragicomic Condoleezza Rice. And, of course, Tzipi Livni (who demanded, on the very same day, that the Israeli army enter Gaza). All, but all of them are acting for peace.

ONCE UPON a time, the Israelis were absorbed both by football games and the political game. There was a profound emotional involvement in both. Now only football remains, a game played by transparent rules. What one sees is what is there. One can watch it without revulsion, while politics arouses general contempt and abhorrence.

That is the price we are paying for Olmert's survival.
(c) 2008 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Toddler King's Insufferable Reign Is Doomed
By Jason Miller

Both George Bush and Dick Cheney have emphatically proclaimed the American Way of Life as "non-negotiable." As hard as it may be for the feeble-minded, deluded, conscienceless, or hopelessly addicted to grasp, Mother Nature and billions of human beings are going to force us to the bargaining table. We can kick, scream, stomp our feet, and hold our breath all we want, but our abhorrent mode of existence is going down.

Aside from the fact that they are utterly unsustainable, why is it such a certainty that American Capitalism, consumerism, militarism, and the myriad associated ills that exist to maintain our obscene lifestyle are a house of cards on the verge of collapse?

Quite simple really. With our overwhelming wealth, power, and military firepower, the United States exercises virtual hegemony over the globe. Granted our influence is waning, but we still call most of the shots. As lord and master of the planet, we are doing a miserable job. Emotionally infantile, we have a sense of entitlement that dwarfs Mt. Everest, we are absolutely certain that we are center of the universe, and we throw incredibly destructive tantrums when we don't get our way, the American Way that is. We are massive toddlers inflicting our version of the "terrible twos" on the world. Were we not wielding such a massive cudgel, our childishness would be laughable.

Under our "good stewardship," as our current unitary executive loves to call it, the world is careening down the highway at break-neck speed with an infant at the wheel. And if he crashes before an adult can wrest control from him, we're looking at a major accident with multiple fatalities. We've already pushed the world to the verge of economic collapse, the brink of starvation, the initiation of perpetual war, and impending environmental disaster.

Collectively, we act without conscience or concern for the consequences of our actions. The American Way of Life is "all about me and to hell with everyone else." We revere narcissism, hyper-individualism, greed, wealth, and status as virtues. Becoming a rich, acquisitive careerist by clawing one's way to the top of the hierarchy through deceit, betrayal, sycophancy, and whoring oneself out in any way imaginable is enshrined as the penultimate achievement in our sewer of a society.

Contrary to the common misconception, the psychological umbilical cord between our mothers and us is severed at a very young age. Nearly the instant we are able to intellectualize we drop mom like a hot potato and become psychically parasitic, our hosts being those ubiquitous devices known as televisions.

When we were in the womb, our mothers' rich and nurturing blood flowed through our veins, quite literally providing the essence of our physical being. Fast forward a few years. Our psychic umbilical cord detaches from mom and is immediately seduced to fuse itself to that seemingly innocent yet deeply nefarious pusher of mind crack. In stark contrast to our mother's wholesome blood that nourished us in a way that ensured healthy physical growth, the rancid filth we derive from television cripples and malforms our psyches in profound and perverse ways.

Planned or not, television has become the power elite's primary weapon in the daily propaganda war they wage to maintain the American Way of Life, furiously beating down any and all challengers. Calling the content of television "programming" is quite fitting. Through our addiction to pixilated images, the lords and masters of American Capitalism manipulate us into participating in the banality of evil without giving it a first thought, let alone a second one.

Much like the Leatherman, TV is an incredibly multi-faceted tool that enables the ruling elites in the US to hone the masses into the infantilized little sociopaths they need to man the bulwarks of American Capitalism, spreading our "corporatocracy and freedom from the pangs of conscience and critical thought" the world over.

If you don't know the stats, you've been somnambulating, but here are a few:

1. We are 5% of the population and siphon off 30% of the world's goodies, while 35,000 people starve to death each day.

2. We, the land of the free, exercise a higher degree of social control than even those "tyrants" in China and Russia. We have the world's largest prison population, many of whom are non-violent drug offenders. And then there's our clever way of imposing our agenda in Latin America via the "War on Drugs....."

3. We lost about 500,000 people in WWII while Russia lost over 20 million yet we arrogantly boast that WE "defeated fascism." And that's not to mention the fact that many of our beloved capitalists, including members of the Bush dynasty, supported Hitler until they faced potential criminal prosecution.

4. We have staged coups and incursions the world over (our interventions are far too numerous to document in this dispatch, but visit this site to familiarize yourself with the reach of our malevolent imperialist tentacles.

5. Ironically, we justify our trillion dollar a year military budget by waging wars against nations with phantom weapons of mass destruction-while we are the only nation to have deployed such weapons. Ask Japan about the devastating impact.

6. We pour billions of dollars into the support of those miserable Zionist squatters in Palestine because a very small percentage of our population (which has very deep pockets, a strangle-hold on mass media, and a juggernaut lobbying organization) has many of us brain-washed into believing "poor little Israel" is fighting for its very existence-when the reality is that it has a more formidable military than all of its alleged threats combined and has ruthlessly brutalized the Palestinians like the terrorist state that it is.

7. We slaughtered over two million Vietnamese in an attempt to keep the world safe for capitalism and are poised to consider putting one of the perpetrators in the White House.

8. We have murdered untold millions of Iraqis since the Gulf War via invasion, brutal economic sanctions, fomenting civil war and chaos, illegal occupation, and destruction of infrastructure. And neither of the performers in the theater of the absurd we call a "presidential election" has promised to bring an immediate end to this moral and legal abomination. If we enforced the Nuremberg Laws that WE crafted, all responsible would be hanged, including whoever replaces Bush and perpetuates this genocide.

And that is just a brief and very incomplete summary of the evil that we openly or tacitly support simply by being Americans, even if our role is very banal or pedestrian. As cogs in a murderous machine built on stolen land and primarily with the blood, sweat and tears of slaves and poor immigrants, we all bear a degree of responsibility for the atrocities we commit. Even those who choose to remain and fight the system from within are still buttressing the American Way to some extent.

How do we sleep at night? Some of us don't and some of us have pharmaceutical help. But by and large our television programming has given us the "gifts" of a pathologically muted conscience, heavy doses of blissful ignorance, and the attention span of anencephalic sheep.

Desensitized to violence, mentally malnourished by a steady diet of brain candy, conditioned to putting our brains in neutral and letting the "idiot box" do our thinking for us, psychologically beaten down by constant reminders that the subjects of our idolatry are "better than us," and manipulated into believing that the spiritually vacuous American Dream is more than just a mirage that keeps the working class trudging through the desert of perpetual corporatism, many of us remain true believers, prefer wage slavery to sleeping under a bridge, or recognize that (despite the shop-worn and inane rhetoric about freedom and democracy) the system has harsh consequences for those who don't at least ostensibly toe the line.

Regardless of our individual level of consciousness or level of participation in this criminal enterprise known in some circles as the American Empire, we Americans as a collective are an intriguingly repulsive synthesis of excessively spoiled brats and sociopaths. We want what we want when we want it, consequences be damned. We have the means to get what we desire, virtually no capacity to delay gratification, and the ability to punish those who stand in our way. To top it off, we don't let trivialities like conscience restrain us. We are a nation of sociobrats.

Individually, we can change. Many have transformed and many more will. But there are some pretty long odds against enough of us shedding our grotesquely malformed psyches and evolving beyond our state of infantilization before the American Way of Life collapses under the weight of its own excrement or is eradicated by its hordes of victims.
(c) 2008 Jason Miller is a recovering US American middle class suburbanite who strives to remain intellectually free. His essays have been widely published, he is an associate editor for Cyrano's Journal Online, and publishes Thomas Paine's Corner within Cyrano's. He welcomes your constructive correspondence.

Bush's Iraq Oil Grab

Out of the question. Don't be silly. Never was a factor.

Such are the absolutes that George W, Cheney, Rummy and other Bushites have employed whenever anyone has suggested that their real reason for invading and occupying Iraq was a crude item spelled o-i-l. But now that Bush & Company's oil-soaked regime has only a few months to go, a new honesty and an urgency is creeping out about their true intentions.

First came the news that the Iraqi government will give no-bid contracts to Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, and a handful of other Western oil giants, allowing them to enter the rich oil fields of Iraq. They are to develop the productive capacity of the fields, which will give them a favored position for winning lucrative longterm licenses to privatize Iraq's massive oil reserves. It's a process that shuts out China, Russia... and even oil ventures that would be Iraqi-owned. This is Big Oil's fantasy come true.

But wait, the Iraqi people themselves hate the very idea of Western control of their oil wealth. How are the oil barons going to get away with this invasion of Iraq's sovereignty? Enter honest revelation number two.

For years Bush himself has been vociferously denying that his regime wants to build permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq - bases with thousands of ground troops. But - hello - there is now a rush by the White House to cut a far-reaching deal with the Iraqi government to station U.S. soldiers on dozens of military bases there indefinitely. As part of the deal, Bush is insisting that our soldiers be immune from Iraqi law, be free to fight battles without Iraqi permission, and be allowed to detain anyone in Iraq who might threaten our "interests."

Bush has called Iraq a war for "freedom." And now we see it - he's using our soldiers to free Big Oil to grab all it can. What a disgrace.
(c) 2008 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

S. F. G. for Habitat Houses
By Mel Bartholomew

A pick ax! Who said you never need big tools or heavy digging for Square Foot Gardening? Well you do if you're in Maine where the backyards are nothing but rock. Actually in those kinds of conditions, a Square Foot Garden is ideal because you build up rather than dig down. Keep in mind no matter where you are in the country, in fact in the world, the worse your existing soil is - the more adaptable Square Foot Gardening is.

Only at the start is a little hard work required in order to get your boxes level (hence the pick ax in the picture). This was a Habitat project in Bath, Maine my church was involved in. Doesn't it seem like such a natural combination to add a Square Foot Garden to every house built by Habitat? When you think about it, most of the new owners have children and wanted to become self-sufficient by growing their own. In addition, there was always plenty of leftover lumber, skilled volunteers were everywhere, landscaping services and supplies were usually part of the project - so why not build a Square Foot Garden to go with every Habitat house?

As part of the dedication ceremonies, I gave a talk and demonstration to everyone (note the flashcards) and then involved everyone in mixing the special soil mix (see our "How To" page for the Mel's Mix formula), filling the boxes and planting flowers, vegetables in herbs in all the squares. As part of this project, we asked the local garden club to donate many mature plants from their gardens as well as some of the other supplies (just another way to get more neighborhood involvement and following the old tradition of bringing the new neighbors something from the kitchen or the garden).

In this next picture, notice how enthusiastic and active all the kids are. They love to garden. Once everything is cleaned up and the new transplants take hold (a few wilted at first), the new home has an instant garden. Can you think of a more worthwhile project? Are you, your church or company involved in a Habitat project? Now's the time to speak up and volunteer to coordinate a Square Foot Garden for every house built and they're being put up all over the world. If you don't have a specific project going on, why not create one yourself in your neighborhood. Find some neighbor who would like to start gardening, give them a short class or demonstration, help them build a new garden and get them started. Remember to start small - just one 4 x 4 box for adults, one 3 x 3 box for the children. If you can't find a neighbor, turn towards your family. Think about your grown children or even grandchildren or vice versa - help your parents or grandparents to start a Square Foot Garden.

There can be no stronger bond than to teach a child a lifetime hobby. Working together in the garden, outdoors in all the splendor of nature, noticing the miracles of birth as seeds sprout, flowers bloom then turn into maturing fruit or seed pods which start the cycle of reproduction all over again.

When I grew up, all I remember was the drudgery and hard work of keeping my Mother's single row garden weeded and in control. But now with Square Foot Gardening all that is eliminated so only the joy and fun of gardening is present. Think of someone in your family or neighborhood you can interest or teach gardening to. It's especially fun if they or you don't live nearby but visit often. Then the visitor notices the changes much more and the excitement of what to show and tell on the next visit becomes even more meaningful .
(c) 2008 Mel Bartholomew is an inventor, author, and founder of the Square Foot Gardening Foundation.

Canning Basics
By Ruth Anne Foote

Methods for canning foods at home have changed greatly since the procedure was first introduced almost two centuries ago. Since then, research has enabled home canners to simplify and safely preserve higher quality foods. Knowing why canning works and what causes food to spoil underscores the importance of following directions carefully.

How Canning Preserves Foods

Invisible microorganisms are all around us. Many are beneficial; others are harmful. All foods contain microorganisms, the major cause of food spoilage. Using heat to destroy microorganisms, proper canning techniques stop this spoilage. During the canning process, air is driven from the jar and a vacuum is formed as the jar cools and seals, preventing microorganisms from entering and recontaminating the food.

It does not take long at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (F), the temperature at which water boils, to force air out, create a vacuum, and seal a jar. It does, however, take a specific amount of heat for a specific amount of time to kill certain bacteria. Although a jar is "sealed," all bacteria are not necessarily killed.

Adequate acid (as in pickled products and fruits) or sugar (as in jams and jellies) protects against the growth of some microorganisms. In low-acid foods, however, some microorganisms are not destroyed at 212 degrees F. Low-acid foods, therefore, must be heated to higher temperatures that can be reached only with a pressure canner.

Low-acid foods, such as vegetables, meat, poultry, and fish, must be pressure canned at the recommended time and temperature to destroy Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that causes botulism food poisoning. Canning low-acid foods in boiling water canners is absolutely unsafe because 212 degrees F is not high enough to destroy botulinum bacteria. If botulinum bacteria survive and grow inside a sealed jar, they can produce a deadly toxin. Even a taste of food containing this toxin can be fatal. Boiling food 10 minutes at altitudes below 1,000 feet destroys the toxin. For altitudes above 1,000 feet, boil foods 11 minutes. Spinach and corn should be boiled for 20 minutes.

Food Acidity

The acidity level, or pH, of foods determines whether they should be processed in a boiling water canner or pressure canner. The lower the pH, the more acidic the food.

Acidic foods have pH values below 4.6. These foods include pickles, most fruits, and jams and jellies made from fruit. (In pickling, the acid level is increased by adding lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar.) Acidic foods contain enough acidity either to stop the growth of botulinum bacteria or destroy the bacteria more rapidly when heated. Acidic foods may be safely canned in a boiling water canner.

Low-acid foods have pH values higher than 4.6. They do not contain enough acid to prevent the growth of botulinum bacteria. These foods are processed at temperatures of 240 degrees F to 250 degrees F, attainable with pressure canners operated at 10 to 15 pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure. The exact time depends on the kind of food being canned, the way it is packed in jars, and the size of jars. When you mix low-acid and high-acid foods, assume the mixture remains low-acid.

Although tomatoes used to be considered an acidic food, some are now known to have pH values slightly above 4.6, which means they are low acid. To safely can them as acidic foods in a boiling water canner, you must add lemon juice or citric acid.

Adjust for Altitude to Ensure a Safe Product

When canning, you must know your altitude-even in Ohio. Do not use process times recommended for canning food at sea level if you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet. Water boils at lower temperatures as altitude increases. Lower boiling temperatures are less effective for killing bacteria. You must increase either the process time or canner pressure to make up for lower boiling temperatures. Use publications based on United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved guidelines to select the proper processing time and canner pressures for your altitude.

Using Boiling Water Canners

Most boiling water canners are made of aluminum or porcelain-covered steel. They have removable racks and fitted lids. The canner must be deep enough so that at least one inch of briskly boiling water will be over the tops of jars during processing. Some boiling water canners do not have flat bottoms. A flat bottom is more energy efficient on an electric range. A ridged bottom can be used more efficiently on a gas burner. To ensure uniform processing of all jars with an electric range, the canner should be no more than 4 inches wider in diameter than the element on which it is heated. If you have a ceramic top range, check the manufacturer's instructions before you begin to can.

Steps for Successful Boiling Water Canning

Fill the canner halfway with water.
Preheat the water to 140 degrees F for raw-packed foods and to 180 degrees F for hot-packed foods.
Load filled jars, fitted with lids, into the canner rack and use the handles to lower the rack into the water, or fill the canner, one jar at a time, with a jar lifter.
Add more hot water, if needed, so the water level is at least 1 inch above jar tops.Cover with the canner lid.
Turn heat to its highest position until the water boils vigorously.
Set a timer for the minutes required for processing the food.
Lower the heat setting to maintain a gentle boil throughout the process schedule.
Add more boiling water, if needed, to keep the water level above the jars.
When jars have been processed for the recommended time, turn off the heat and remove the canner lid.
Using a jar lifter, remove the jars and place them on a towel, leaving at least 1 inch of space between the jars during cooling.

Using Pressure Canners

Newer models of pressure canners have been extensively redesigned. Those made before the 1970s were heavy-walled kettles with clamp-on or turn-on lids. They were fitted with a dial gauge, a vent port in the form of a petcock or counterweight, and a safety fuse. Modern pressure canners are lightweight, thin-walled kettles; most have turn-on lids. They have a removable jar rack, gasket, dial or weighted gauge, and automatic vent/cover lock, a vent port (steam vent) to be closed with a counter weight or weighted gauge, and a safety fuse. A pressure canner must be used for all low-acid foods.

Two serious canning errors can occur when pressure processing.

Internal canner pressures are lower at higher altitudes. Canners must be operated at increased pressures as the altitude increases.
Air trapped in a canner lowers the temperature obtained at 5, 10, or 15 psi and results in underprocessing. To be safe, vent all pressure canners 10 minutes before they are pressurized.

Dial gauges should be checked for accuracy each year before use. Check with your local Extension Office for information on this service. If your gauge reads high or low by more than 1 pound at 5, 10, or 15 psi, replace, or have it repaired.

Clean lid gaskets and other parts according to the manufacturer's directions. Use only canners approved by the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL).

Steps for Successful Pressure Canning

Put 2 to 3 inches of hot water in the canner. Place filled jars on the rack, using a jar lifter. Fasten canner lid securely.
Leave weight off vent port or open petcock. Heat at the highest setting until steam flows from the petcock or vent port.
While maintaining high heat setting, vent the canner by allowing steam to escape for 10 minutes, then place weight on vent port or close petcock. The canner will pressurize during the next 3 to 5 minutes.
Start timing the process when the pressure reading on the dial gauge indicates that the recommended pressure has been reached, or when the weighted gauge begins to jiggle or rock.
Regulate heat under the canner to maintain a steady pressure at, or slightly above, the correct gauge pressure. Quick or large pressure variations during processing may cause unnecessary liquid losses from jars. One type of weighted gauge should jiggle 2 or 3 times per minute, while another type should rock slowly throughout the process-check the manufacturer's directions.
When the timed process is completed, turn off the heat, remove the canner from heat if possible, and let the canner depressurize. Do not force-cool the canner. Forced cooling will cause liquid loss from the jars and may result in food spoilage. Forced cooling may warp the canner lid and cause seal failure.
Depressurization of older canner models should be timed. Standard size, heavy-walled canners require about 30 minutes when loaded with pints and 45 minutes when loaded with quarts. Newer thin-walled canners cool more rapidly and are equipped with vent/cover locks. These canners are depressurized when their vent lock piston drops to a normal position.
After the canner is depressurized, remove the weight from the vent port or open the petcock. Wait two minutes, unfasten the lid, and remove it carefully. Lift the lid away from you so that the steam does not burn your face.
Remove jars with a lifter and place on towel away from drafts, leaving at least 1 inch between jars during cooling.

Stay Clear of Unsafe Canning Methods

Never open-kettle can or process jars of food in conventional ovens, microwave ovens, or dishwashers. These practices do not prevent all risks of spoilage.

Steam canners and electric water bath canners are not recommended because safe processing times have not been adequately researched. Using boiling-water canner processing times with either of these canners may result in spoilage. So-called "canning powders" are useless as preservatives and do not replace the need for proper heat processing.


The common self-sealing lid consists of a flat metal lid held in place by a metal screw band, which secures the jar shut during processing. The flat lid is crimped around the circumference of its bottom surface to form a trough, which is filled with a colored gasket compound. When jars are processed, the lid gasket softens and flows slightly to cover the jar-sealing surface, yet allows air to escape from the jar. The gasket then forms an airtight seal as the jar cools. The shelf life of unused lids is about 5 years from date of manufacture. The gasket compound in older unused lids may fail to seal on jars. Buy only the quantity of lids you will use in one year.

To ensure a good seal, carefully follow the manufacturer's directions in preparing lids for use. Examine all metal lids carefully. Do not use old, previously used, dented, or deformed lids, or lids with gaps or other defects in the sealing gasket.

Filling and Processing

After filling jars with foods, release air bubbles by inserting a flat, plastic spatula between the food and the jar. Slowly turn the jar, and move the spatula up and down to allow air bubbles to escape. Adjust the headspace, and clean the jar rim (sealing surface) with a clean, damp paper towel.

Place the lid, gasket down, onto the cleaned jar rim. Uncleaned jar-sealing surfaces may cause seal failures. Then fit the metal screw band over the flat lid. Follow the lid manufacturer's guidelines for tightening the jar lids properly.

As jars cool, the contents in the jar contract, pulling the self-sealing lid firmly against the jar to form a vacuum. If screw bands are too loose, liquid may escape from the jars during processing, and seals may fail. If screw bands are too tight, air cannot vent during processing, and food will discolor during storage. Over tightening also may cause lids to buckle and jars to break, especially with raw-packed, pressure-processed food.

After Processing

After removing hot jars from a canner, do not retighten their lids. Retightening hot lids may cut through the gasket and cause seal failures. Cool the jars at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours on towels or racks. The food level and liquid volume of raw-packed jars will be noticeably lower after cooling. Air is exhausted during processing, and food shrinks. If a jar loses excessive liquid during processing, do not open it to add more liquid.

After jars have cooled, remove screw bands. Wash and dry bands, then store them in a dry area. If bands are left on stored jars, they become hard to remove and often rust, making them unsuitable for further use.

Seals on cooled jars can be tested by one of these methods:

Press the middle of the lid. If it springs up when released, the lid is not sealed.
Tap the lid with the bottom of a teaspoon. If the jar is sealed correctly, it will make a ringing, high-pitched sound. A dull sound means the lid is not sealed. Food touching the underside of the lid, however, also will cause a dull sound. Test seal by another method to make sure it is sealed.
Hold the jar at eye level and look across the lid. The lid should be concave (curved down slightly in the center). If the center of the lid is either flat or bulging, it may not be sealed.

Unsealed Jars: What to Do

If a lid fails to seal, you must reprocess within 24 hours. Remove the lid, and check the jar-sealing surface for tiny nicks. If necessary, change the jar. Always use a new, properly prepared lid, and reprocess using the same processing time. The quality of reprocessed food is poor.

Instead of reprocessing, unsealed jars of food also can be frozen. Transfer food to a freezer-safe container and freeze. Single, unsealed jars can be refrigerated and used within several days.

Storing Canned Foods

Tightly sealed, cooled jars are ready to be stored. Wash the lid and jar to remove food residue; rinse and dry jars. Label and date jars, and store them in a cool, dark, dry place (50_70 degrees F is ideal). Do not store jars above 95 degrees F or near hot pipes, a range, a furnace, in an uninsulated attic, or in direct sunlight. Under conditions such as these, food will lose quality rapidly and may spoil. Dampness may corrode metal lids, break seals, and allow contamination and spoilage. Plan to use home-canned food within one year for optimum quality and nutritional value.

How to Identify and Handle Spoiled Canned Food Never taste food from a jar with an unsealed lid or food that shows signs of spoilage. As you use jars of food, examine the lid for tightness and vacuum; lids with concave centers have good seals.

Before opening the jar, examine the contents for rising gas bubbles, and unnatural color. While opening the jar, smell for unnatural odors and look for spurting liquid and mold growth (white, blue, or green) on the top food surface and underside of lid.

Spoiled acidic food should be discarded in a place where it will not be eaten by humans or pets.

Treat all jars and cans of spoiled low-acid foods, including tomatoes, as though they contain botulinum toxin and handle in one of two ways:

If suspect glass jars are still sealed, place them in a heavy garbage bag. Close the bag, and place it in a regular trash container or bury it in a landfill.

If the suspect glass jars are unsealed, open, or leaking, detoxify (destroy the bacteria) as follows before disposal:

Carefully place the containers and lids on their sides in an eight-quart or larger pan. Wash your hands thoroughly. Carefully add water to the pan until it is at least one inch above the containers. Avoid splashing the water. Place a lid on the pan, and heat the water to boiling. Boil 30 minutes to ensure that you have destroyed all toxins. Cool and discard the lids and food in the trash, or bury in soil. Sanitize all counters, containers, and equipment that may have touched the food or containersdon't forget the can opener, your clothing, and hands. Place any sponges or washcloths used in the cleanup in a plastic bag and discard.
(c) 1996/2008 Ruth Anne Foote, Extension Agent, Home Economics, Mercer County and Faculty Emeritus, County Operations OSU. This article was updated by Marcia Jess, Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ottawa County

Court Rewards Exxon For Valdez Spill
By Greg Palast

Twenty years after Exxon Valdez slimed over one thousand miles of Alaskan beaches, the company has yet to pay the $5 billion in punitive damages awarded by the jury. And now they won't have to. The Supreme Court today cut Exxon's liability by 90% to half a billion. It's so cheap, it's like a permit to spill.

Exxon knew this would happen. Right after the spill, I was brought to Alaska by the Natives whose Prince William Sound islands, livelihoods, and their food source was contaminated by Exxon crude. My assignment: to investigate oil company frauds that led to to the disaster. There were plenty.

But before we brought charges, the Natives hoped to settle with the oil company, to receive just enough compensation to buy some boats and rebuild their island villages to withstand what would be a decade of trying to survive in a polluted ecological death zone.

In San Diego, I met with Exxon's US production chief, Otto Harrison, who said, "Admit it; the oil spill's the best thing to happen" to the Natives.

His company offered the Natives pennies on the dollar. The oil men added a cruel threat: take it or leave it and wait twenty years to get even the pennies. Exxon is immortal - but Natives die.

And they did. A third of the Native fishermen and seal hunters I worked with are dead. Now their families will collect one tenth of their award, two decades too late.

In today's ruling, Supreme Court Justice David Souter wrote that Exxon's recklessness was ''profitless'' - so the company shouldn't have to pay punitive damages. Profitless, Mr. Souter? Exxon and it's oil shipping partners saved billions - BILLIONS - by operating for sixteen years without the oil spill safety equipment they promised, in writing, under oath and by contract.

The official story is, "Drunken Skipper Hits Reef." But don't believe it, Mr. Souter. Alaska's Native lands and coastline were destroyed by a systematic fraud motivated by profit-crazed penny-pinching. Here's the unreported story, the one you won't get tonight on the Petroleum Broadcast System:

It begins in 1969 when big shots from Humble Oil and ARCO (now known as Exxon and British Petroleum) met with the Chugach Natives, owners of the most valuable parcel of land on the planet: Valdez Port, the only conceivable terminus for a pipeline that would handle a trillion dollars in crude oil.

These Alaskan natives ultimately agreed to sell the Exxon consortium this astronomically valuable patch of land -- for a single dollar. The Natives refused cash. Rather, in 1969, they asked only that the oil companies promise to protect their Prince William Sound fishing and seal hunting grounds from oil.

In 1971, Exxon and partners agreed to place the Natives' specific list of safeguards into federal law. These commitment to safety reassured enough Congressmen for the oil group to win, by one vote, the right to ship oil from Valdez.

The oil companies repeated their promises under oath to the US Congress.

The spill disaster was the result of Exxon and partners breaking every one of those promises - cynically, systematically, disastrously, in the fifteen years leading up to the spill.

Forget the drunken skipper fable. As to Captain Joe Hazelwood, he was below decks, sleeping off his bender. At the helm, the third mate would never have collided with Bligh Reef had he looked at his Raycas radar. But the radar was not turned on. In fact, the tanker's radar was left broken and disasbled for more than a year before the disaster, and Exxon management knew it. It was just too expensive to fix and operate.

For the Chugach, this discovery was poignantly ironic. On their list of safety demands in return for Valdez was "state-of-the-art" on-ship radar.

We discovered more, but because of the labyrinthine ways of litigation, little became public, especially about the reckless acts of the industry consortium, Alyeska, which controls theAlaska Pipeline.

. Several smaller oil spills before the Exxon Valdez could have warned of a system breakdown. But a former Senior Lab Technician with Alyeska, Erlene Blake, told our investigators that management routinely ordered her to toss out test samples of water evidencing spilled oil. She was ordered to refill the test tubes with a bucket of clean sea water called, "The Miracle Barrel."

. In a secret meeting in April 1988, Alyeska Vice-President T.L. Polasek confidentially warned the oil group executives that, because Alyeska had never purchased promised safety equipment, it was simply "not possible" to contain an oil spill past the Valdez Narrows -- exactly where the Exxon Valdez ran aground 10 months later.

. The Natives demanded (and law requires) that the shippers maintain round- the-clock oil spill response teams. Alyeska hired the Natives, especiallly qualified by their generations-old knowledge of the Sound, for this emergency work. They trained to drop from helicopters into the water with special equipment to contain an oil slick at a moments notice. But in 1979, quietly, Alyeska fired them all. To deflect inquisitive state inspectors, the oil consortium created sham teams, listing names of oil terminal workers who had not the foggiest idea how to use spill equipment which, in any event, was missing, broken or existed only on paper.

In 1989, when the oil poured from the tanker, there was no Native response team, only chaos.

Today, twenty years after the oil washed over the Chugach beaches, you can kick over a rock and it will smell like an old gas station.

The cover story of the Drunken Captain serves the oil industry well. It falsely presents America's greatest environmental disaster as a tale of human frailty, a one-time accident. But broken radar, missing equipment, phantom spill teams, faked tests -- the profit-driven disregard of the law -- made the spill an inevitability, not an accident.

Yet Big Oil tells us, as they plead to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, as Senator John McCain calls for drilling off the shores of the Lower 48, it can't happen again. They promise.
(c) 2008 Greg Palast is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow for Investigative Reporting at the Nation Institute, New York and is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse Join Palast's Network on MySpace, on FaceBook or on YouTube.

Invisible Hand
Washington Role in Iraq Oil Deal Revealed
By Chris Floyd


Here's a follow-up to yesterday's post on the sham sovereignty of the American client state in Iraq. The New York Times reports - in a story of the "Sun Rises in the East" variety - that Bush Administration has admitted that American government officials and selected corporate cronies "helped" the Iraqis draw up the sweetheart contracts that will bring the original exploiters of Iraqi oil back to their old stomping grounds.

This admission comes just weeks after Condi Rice publicly proclaimed that there was no U.S. government involvement in the oil deal. "It's a private sector matter," she told Fox News. Although the denial of Washington meddling was the usual outright lie - "advisers from the State, Commerce, Energy and Interior Departments are assigned to work with the Iraqi Oil Ministry," the Times reports - on the second point, the Secretary of State was not just flapping her gums: the backroom, no-bid contracts are indeed designed entirely for the benefit of the private sector -- or rather, for that oily part of the private sector from whose bowels have emerged so many top officials of the current administration, including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and, er, Condi Rice.

Given the fact that the deal will only further confirm the near-universal belief among Iraqis that the Americans destroyed their country in order to steal their oil, it will certainly exacerbate violent resistance to the continued American presence in Iraq, as well as giving added fuel to the fire (and propaganda efforts) of extremists elsewhere.

In other words, the deal will result in the deaths of more Americans, more Iraqis, and an increase in terrorism around the world. So yes, it is indeed a "private sector matter," because only the private sector will profit from it. The rest of humanity will get it in the neck.


But do let's be fair. The blood-money barons are not simply bigots or racists out to steal the wealth of subhuman foreigners; they very cheerfully devour their own people too, as we noted in the piece below from 2006. The runaway profit-gouging mentioned in the story has only grown greater since then - as has the pile of dead bodies which supports America's crony conquistadors in their wealth and privilege:

From "The War for Oil Comes Home"

"The "War for Oil" is not just being fought in Iraq, you know. For as the Warmonger-in-Chief never tires of telling us, the "Homeland" itself is a major front in his never-ending war on - not terror, because his policies are fomenting and exacerbating terrorism around the world - but on anything and everything that might impinge in the slightest degree on the profits, power and privilege of the tiny clique of predatory elites that he represents.

[A recent NYT story] lays out the details of the scam - just one of many by which Big Oil uses its hired hands in Washington to cheat the American people out of billions of dollars in fees and royalties from the use of public land for corporate profit. As [the story] makes clear, the entire system is honeycombed with sweetheart clauses and deliberate ambiguities that allow the oil barons to take vast rake-offs - some of which they obligingly return in various forms of baksheesh to their political servants.

We hear a great deal - and rightly so - about the pernicious evil in the Bush Regime's attempt to wrest away the oil wealth of the Iraqi people and hand it to corporate cronies. But of course this was done to the American people long ago, and is still going on today. It's just the way the business works: gouging the rubes and dodging the law (or in most cases these days, simply writing the law yourself and ordering your flunkies in Congress and the White House to enact it)....

These companies and their ungodly profits are sustained at every turn by the infrastructure supported by American taxpayers. Who pays for the roads that distribute their wares? Who pays for the police, the power grid, the sewer lines, the education system, the legal system and every other element that supports the existence of modern commerce? Who pays for the armies that politicians have sent all over the world to secure Big Oil's pipelines and its ready access to the resources of other nations? Whose sons and daughters die in these military actions? Without this incomprehensively vast network of support, without the blood and treasure of the American people, the oil companies could never make a dime of profit; they'd be left with useless barrels of dinosaur juice to peddle as novelities at the county fair.

Yet not only do they reap these gargantuan private profits from public support - and from generations of politically assisted land swindles, sweetheart deals and special favors - they game the system in every possible way to escape or reduce their own contributions to the common insfrastructure. Jim Smith and Mary Jones can die for them in Iraq or Colombia; whole cities can groan under a creaking, decaying, underfunded infrastructure; but the oil barons will still slither and scheme to claw back every penny they can from the already mild obligations the system places upon them."
(c) 2008 Chris Floyd

Keith Olbermann: Then And Now
By Glenn Greenwald

On January 31 of this year, Keith Olbermann donned his most serious face and most indignant voice tone to rail against George Bush for supporting telecom immunity and revisions to FISA. In a 10-minute "Special Comment," the MSNBC star condemned Bush for wanting to "retroactively immunize corporate criminals," and said that telecom immnity is "an ex post facto law, which would clear the phone giants from responsibility for their systematic, aggressive and blatant collaboration with [Bush's] illegal and unjustified spying on Americans under this flimsy guise of looking for any terrorists who are stupid enough to make a collect call or send a mass email."

Olbermann added that telecom amnesty was a "shameless, breathless, literally textbook example of Fascism - the merged efforts of government and corporations that answer to no government." Noting the numerous telecom lobbyists connected to the Bush administration, Olbermann said:

This is no longer just a farce in which protecting telecoms is dressed up as protecting us from terrorists conference cells. Now it begins to look like the bureaucrats of the Third Reich, trying to protect the Krupp family, the industrial giants, re-writing the laws of Germany for their benefit.

Olbermann closed by scoffing at the idea that telecom amnesty or revisions to FISA were necessary to help National Security:

There is not a choice of protecting the telecoms from prosecution or protecting the people from terrorism, Sir. This is a choice of protecting the telecoms from prosecution or pretending to protect the people from terrorists. Sorry, Mr. Bush, the eavesdropping provisions of FISA have obviously had no impact on counter-terrorism, and there is no current or perceived terrorist threat the thwarting of which could hinge on an email or phone call that is going through Room 641 of AT&T in San Francisco.

Strong and righteous words indeed. But that was five whole months ago, when George Bush was urging enactment of a law with retroactive immunity and a lessening of FISA protections. Now that Barack Obama supports a law that does the same thing - and now that Obama justifies that support by claiming that this bill is necessary to keep us Safe from the Terrorists - everything has changed.

Last night, Olbermann invited Newsweek's Jonathan Alter onto his show to discuss Obama's support for the FISA and telecom amnesty bill (video of the segment is here). There wasn't a syllable uttered about "immunizing corporate criminals" or "textbook examples of Fascism" or the Third Reich. There wasn't a word of rational criticism of the bill either. Instead, the two media stars jointly hailed Obama's bravery and strength - as evidenced by his "standing up to the left" in order to support this important centrist FISA compromise:

OLBERMANN: Asked by "Rolling Stone" publisher, Jann Wenner, about how Democrats have cowered in the wake of past Republican attacks, Senator Obama responding, quote, "Yeah, I don't do cowering." That's evident today in at least three issues . . .

Senator Obama also refusing to cower even to the left on the subject of warrantless wiretapping. He's planning to vote for the FISA compromise legislation, putting him at odds with members of his own party . . . But first, it's time to bring in our own Jonathan Alter, also, of course, senior editor of "Newsweek" magazine._Good evening, Jon.


OLBERMANN: "Yeah, I don't do cowering." This is not just the man, but the campaign?

ALTER: Yes. This is part of the message that is consistent across the last couple weeks and it comes down to one word - strength. The United States is not going to elect a president that perceives to be as weak. You look weak if you're flip-flopping. You look weak if you're not taking actions that seem to be securing the United States against terrorists. And you look weak if you don't fight back against your political adversaries.

OLBERMANN: But this cuts, I mean, this terminology cuts in more than one direction here. Not cowering to Republicans is one thing in the Democratic, recent Democratic history, it's a thing that I think anybody who has a "D" near their name cheers, but not cowering to the left, not going along with the conventional, the new conventional thinking on the FISA bill, that's something altogether different, isn't it?

ALTER: Yes. I don't really think it is. It was only a matter of time before the left was disappointed in Barack Obama, at least in a limited way. No politician is ever going to do everything that somebody likes.

And I think some folks in the netroots in particular on this FISA bill who are, you know, pulling their hair out over this, they have to realize, he's always been a politician, he'll always be a politician, and politics is the art of the possible. And he's a legislator. He knows that you can't always get everything that you want in a bill, even if he personally believes that the immunity for Telcoms is a bad idea. The larger idea of the bill was important.

And I actually think one of the big points, Keith, that hasn't been made about this bill is that currently, as of last August, since last August, we've been operating in an unconstitutional environment, clear violation of the Fourth Amendment.

So, there was tremendous urgency to get the FISA court back into the game. And does this bill do it imperfectly? Yes. But it does do it and it restores the Constitution, which is a point that's not getting made very much.

Leave aside the fact that Jonathan Alter, desperate to defend Obama, doesn't have the slightest idea of what he's talking about. How can a bill which increases the President's authority to eavesdrop with no warrants over the current FISA law possibly be described as a restoration of the Fourth Amendment? That would be like describing a new law banning anti-war speech as a restoration of the First Amendment.

As Jim Dempsey and Marty Lederman both note, not even the nation's most foremost FISA experts really know the full extent to which this bill allows new warrantless spying. Obviously, Jonathan Alter has no idea what he's saying, but nonetheless decrees that this bill - now that Obama supports it - restores the Fourth Amendment. Those are the Orwellian lengths to which people like Olbermann and Alter are apparently willing to go in order to offer their blind devotion to Barack Obama.

Moreover, Alter's own explanation is self-contradictory. In the course of praising Obama's FISA stance, he says that a politician looks "weak if you're flip-flopping" and "you look weak if you don't fight back against your political adversaries." But that's exactly what Obama is doing here - completely reversing himself on telecom amnesty and warrantless eavesdropping, all in order to give the right-wing of the GOP everything it wants on national security issues in order to avoid a fight. By Alter's own reasoning, what Obama's doing is "weak" in the extreme, yet Alter bizarrely praises Obama for showing "strength."

All of the decades-old, conventional Beltway mythologies are trotted out here to praise Obama. Democrats move to the "center" by embracing hard-core right-wing policies. Democrats will look "weak" unless they turn themselves into Republican clones on national security. A President becomes "strong" when he tramples on the Constitution and the rule of law in the name of keeping us safe. Democrats must embrace the Right and repudiate the base of their own party, and they must support Dick Cheney's policies while "standing up to the ACLU."

That's just the garden-variety New Republic Syndrome I wrote about earlier this week. That's the mentality that led large numbers of Democrats to vote for the attack on Iraq, and then ignore and/or enable the whole stable of Bush's lawlessness and other radical policies ("that's how we'll avoid looking weak and liberal").

Those Move-to-the-Center cliches just tumble reflexively out of the mouths of every standard Beltway establishment pundit.

What's much more notable is Olbermann's full-scale reversal on how he talks about these measures now that Obama - rather than George Bush - supports them. On an almost nightly basis, Olbermann mocks Congressional Democrats as being weak and complicit for failing to stand up to Bush lawbreaking; now that Obama does it, it's proof that Obama won't "cower." Grave warning on Olbermann's show that telecom amnesty and FISA revisions were hallmarks of Bush Fascism instantaneously transformed into a celebration that Obama, by supporting the same things, was leading a courageous, centrist crusade in defense of our Constitution.

Is that really what anyone wants - transferring blind devotion from George Bush to Barack Obama? Are we hoping for a Fox News for Obama, that glorifies everything he says and whitewashes everything he does? Compare what Russ Feingold said in an interview yesterday about the Democrats' support for the FISA bill to Olbermann's absurd effort to depict Obama as courageous for supporting it:

It's the latest chapter of running for cover when the Administration tries to intimidate Democrats on national security issues. It's the most embarrassing failure of the Democrats I've seen since 2006, other than the failure to vote to end the Iraq War. . . . It's letting George Bush and Dick Cheney have their way even though they're that unpopular and on their way out. It's really incredible.

It isn't that difficult to keep the following two thoughts in one's head at the same time - though it seems to be for many people:

(1) What Barack Obama is doing on Issue X is wrong, indefensible and worthy of extreme criticism;_(2) I support Barack Obama for President because he's a better choice than John McCain.

As but one example, John Cole was a vehement supporter of Barack Obama throughout the primary. He viciously criticized Hillary Clinton on a regular basis and raised tens of thousands of dollars for Obama's campaign through his blog. But this week alone, Cole lambasted Obama for what he called Obama's "total collapse and a rapid abandonment of principle" regarding FISA and pronounced as a "pathetic performance" Obama's refusal to be photographed anywhere near Muslims or to meet with Muslim leaders. Despite that, just yesterday, Cole said:

No, I don't have buyers remorse. Yes, he still is better than Hillary or McCain. No, I am not disillusioned (I never thought he was a flaming liberal in the first place). I am, however, disgusted, and I will caution the Obama campaign that "better than McCain" is not much of a rallying cry. We all remember how "anything is better than Bush" turned out in 2004.

That's called being a rational adult who refuses to relinquish one's intellectual honesty, integrity, and political principles in order to march lockstep behind a political leader. Those who think that Barack Obama should not be criticized no matter how wrong he is - or those who justify anything that he does no matter how craven and unjustifiable, including things that they viciously criticized when done by Dick Cheney or Harry Reid - are no different, and no better, than those who treated George Bush with similar uncritical reverence in 2003 and 2004.

The real danger is that those who defend Obama the Candidate no matter what he does are likely to defend Obama the President no matter what he does, too. If we learn in 2009 that Obama has invoked his claimed Article II powers to spy on Americans outside of even the new FISA law, are we going to hear from certain factions that he was justified in doing so to protect us; how it's a good, shrewd move to show he's a centrist and keep his approval ratings high so he can do all the Good things he wants to do for us; how it's different when Obama does it because we can trust him? It certainly looks that way. Those who spent the last five years mauling Bush for "shredding the Constitution" and approving of lawbreaking - only to then praise Obama for supporting a bill that endorses and protects all of that - are displaying exactly the type of blind reverence that is more dangerous than any one political leader could ever be.

* * * * *

Today's Wall St. Journal has an article on the new Strange Bedfellows coalition and the campaign to punish and remove from office selected members of Congress who support civil-liberties-destroying measures such as the current FISA bill (a campaign I first announced here). The abstract of the WSJ article is here, and the full text can be read by clicking on the link on this page [link fixed]. The details for the "money bomb" the article describes will be disclosed very shortly. Yesterday, Jane Hamsher recorded a Bloggingheads session with former Rep. and current third-party presidential candidate Bob Barr (who Republicans are petrified will destroy McCain's chances) and discussed with him the ideologically diverse efforts to battle against the political establishment's assault on core constitutional liberties. For now, contributions to the campaign - which now has more than $320,000 - can be made here. UPDATE: Comedy Central's Indecision 2008 blog discusses Obama's FISA stance here.
(c) 2008 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy", examines the Bush legacy.

Election Strategy; Promise To Make It Worse
By Mike Folkerth

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

There seem to be vast differences between Republicans and Democrats, the Right and the Left, and the Conservatives and the Liberals. And I suppose that there are. However, the one thing that they both share equally...is disastrous. That shared belief is that growth is good. More is better and "we ain't had enough of nothin' yet."

Both sides wage an endless verbal war against the other, promising more growth if elected. Once elected, the party temporarily in charge leads America steadily down a dead end road. When things get really bad under one party, we elect the other party until things get really bad under that party and then we change out the blind horse for the three legged one. It's nice of us to allow them to take turns being wrong.

Let's take fuel as a current and prime example of stupidity and blind leadership. The production of fossil based fuels is limited by the finite existence of the reserves on earth. Since we don't have truck traffic to Mars at this point, what we have here on earth seems to simple minded fellow like myself as being pretty much what we have to go around.

Now say that you graduated with honors from like the third grade and held a firm understanding that fuel was limited. How would you approach economic growth when armed with the concrete knowledge that greater economic growth requires a greater use of fuel?

I'm quite sure that no third grader would suggest expanding the population and economic output as a fix for curbing the use of diminishing natural resources. Only Congress people are that dumb...with the possible exception of the majority of Americans who believe the Congress people.

Population growth has another great disadvantage, in that it distances us from our leaders. Most of us have never met our leaders and really don't know a thing about them. They remain remote from us hidden away in the masses in some foreign place known only as D.C. or Denver or Indianapolis. They pass through on election year giving a speech from the back of a pickup dressed in their new jeans and western shirts trying to convince the public that they are just like us. Okay, there is the exception that they have limo service, health insurance, a pension, and no accountability for their actions, but otherwise, pretty much the same.

When they stand on the back of that pickup, Democrat or Republican, they promise growth. They talk about cutting back on oil consumption, they talk about being addicted to oil, they talk about our dependency on foreign nations, they talk about water and air quality issues, and then they promise the one thing that not only got us to this point, but the one thing that will absolutely, positively without question, make it worse; they promise more growth.

We live in a flawed economic situation that is playing out due to excessive growth and yet, we elect the person who promises to accelerate the journey to the end for Middle America. Go figure
(c) 2008 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"The whole foundation of Christianity is based on the idea that intellectualism is the work of the Devil.
Remember the apple on the tree? Okay, it was the Tree of Knowledge.
You eat this apple, you're going to be as smart as God. We can't have that."
~~~ Frank Zappa ~~~

George Carlin
A Funny Man in an Unfunny World
By Amy Goodman

The world lost one of its great comedians this week with the death at age 71 of George Carlin. Carlin had a career as a stand-up comic that spanned a half-century, in which he continually broke new ground, targeting those in power with his wit and genius. He impacted our culture, our media and our nation with a stream of material that skewered institutions of the left and right, from government to business and the church. He released 22 comedy albums, earning him five Emmy nominations and winning four Grammys. He was the first guest host of "Saturday Night Live," in 1975, and appeared on "The Tonight Show" 130 times. He starred in 14 HBO specials and authored three best-selling books. He also left an indelible mark on the radio station where I got my start in broadcast journalism, Pacifica station WBAI 99.5 FM in New York City.

On Oct. 30, 1973, WBAI broadcast Carlin's "Filthy Words" routine. Carlin wrote on his Web site, georgecarlin.com: "Lone professional moralist complains to FCC which issues a Declaratory Order against station. Station goes to court." That court battle would last five years, end at the U.S. Supreme Court and set the standard for broadcast indecency laws that are hotly debated to this day. It was neither accident nor coincidence that this iconoclastic comic would have some of his most controversial material broadcast over Pacifica Radio's WBAI. The Pacifica Network was founded in Berkeley, Calif., in 1949, with KPFA as the first truly listener-sponsored radio station.

Back then, radio was so overwhelmingly commercial that Pacifica founder Lew Hill and others found it worthless. As Hill wrote in his "Theory of Listener Sponsored Radio," "If we want an improvement in radio, the basic situation of broadcasting must be such that artists and thinkers have a place to work -- with freedom."

On July 3, 1978, the Supreme Court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission could punish WBAI for its broadcast of Carlin's routine, arguing that words relating to sex or excretion (i.e., piss) when children might be listening were prohibited. Supreme Court Justices William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall dissented, noting the court's "depressing inability to appreciate that in our land of cultural pluralism, there are many who think, act, and talk differently from the Members of this Court, and who do not share their fragile sensibilities." Remarkably, 30 years later, the same issues are before a decidedly more conservative Supreme Court.

Recent episodes of "fleeting expletives" from the mouths of celebrities like Bono, Cher and Nicole Richie have prompted the FCC to seek enhanced power to punish broadcasters. George Carlin pointed out what in our society was truly indecent: the behavior of the powerful.

Yes, he spiced his delivery with expletives. He was angry. He, like Pacifica, gave voice to essential, dissident perspectives that have been almost entirely blocked from mainstream media. He said: "We were founded on a very basic double standard. This country was founded by slave owners who wanted to be free. Am I right? A group of slave owners who wanted to be free, so they killed a lot of white English people in order to continue owning their black African people, so they could wipe out the rest of the red Indian people and move west and steal the rest of the land from the brown Mexican people, giving them a place to take off and drop their nuclear weapons on the yellow Japanese people. You know what the motto of this country ought to be? You give us a color, we'll wipe it out."

His prolific output will continue to inspire for generations to come.
2008 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 650 stations in North America.

My Handgun, My Parasite
Never forget: The brutal effects of the Bush regime will be felt for generations
By Mark Morford

Ah, so this is how it's gonna be.

Like recurring cancer. No, more like a rogue rash, an STD, flaring up at unexpected times and in unexpected places and when it fades, you gently let yourself forget all about it until it suddenly erupts and hits hard and ruins your day, and then you can only sit back and moan softly, slather on ointment, shudder.

Wait, one more: Maybe it's most like a nasty intestinal worm, a wicked parasite like those you suck down in India or deep Mexico or the jungles of Indonesia, the kind that burrow deep and attach to all manner of essential organs and induce a wicked bout of dysentery or all-over body convulsion, until you finally crawl out of the hospital and drown in antibiotics and slowly work your way back to semi-health - but only semi, because of course you are never quite the same.

This is where we are. This is the state of the nation after having swallowed the malicious worm of Bush. We have, by all accounts, suffered - and somehow survived - the very worst of the illness, the cancer, the oozing spirit. But now, as America's worst president prepares to amble off the stage he never deserved to be on in the first place, it is time to prepare for any number of convulsions, aftershock, excruciating reminders.

Here is your Bush-loaded Supreme Court, for one regrettable example, addressing the much-misinterpreted Second Amendment for the first time in eons. Here is the majority of the court basically arguing that, in case you forgot, much of America still blindly loves its guns, and of course handguns are a nice addition to any God-fearing family's arsenal of ridiculous self-defense weaponry and therefore banning a device designed to do nothing but kill other humans is just plain wrong.

It is, by all accounts, a severe, dark cloud of a decision, loaded with sadness and a feeling of despair, the cruel notion that America is still defined by its love of violence, or even the utterly phony idea, put forth by Justice Antonin Scalia himself, that only violence prevents violence, or that the answer to the gun problem is, quite simply, more guns, because surely that's what the founding fathers intended, more paranoid NASCAR dads stocking Glocks in the rec room to protect the rug rats from those icky drug-dealing rapists who never come.

Is it worth mentioning how handguns kept in the home are much more likely to be used for suicides and homicides, not to mention fondled by those same curious rug rats who find daddy's little Elvis in the sock drawer and decide to aim it at their sisters? Worth pointing out that the self-defense argument is not only pathetically illogical, part of a silly pseudo-cowboy mythology, it's also statistically untrue, a perpetual, insidious lie that's undermined the American identity for generations?

Nah. Let us not stare down that particular barrel of gloom just now. Instead, let us prepare. Let us steel ourselves. As we head into the Obama era and as the GOP juggernaut mercifully sputters and lurches back to the cave of 1950, let us be reminded that escaping the Bush aftermath isn't going to be all wine and roses and new energy policies.

See, we've been enjoying a small reprieve. These past six months or so, it's been sort of delightful to finally turn our attention toward the imminent Democratic sea change and away from the ravages of the Bush disease, to finally look toward the new, as we get to focus on all those things we might be able to do once we get out of this damn hospital and get the weak-kneed Democratic Party out of second gear.

But oh, not so fast.

Let us be reminded, the Bush virus will be with us for years, generations. Aside from the shambles of Iraq and the Middle East, aside from handguns and the decided mixed blessing of the Supreme Court's recent spate of decisions, there are maneuvers and decisions we don't even know about, nefarious arrangements, a corruption so deep that normally staid historians are behaving more like alarmed climate-change scientists: We know it's going to be bad, but we just don't know how bad.

There are destroyed nations, mauled infrastructures, horribly compromised federal agencies from FEMA to the EPA, the CIA to the FCC. There is a rogue outsourced military, citizens who can no longer sue gun manufacturers, six straight years of increased poverty, untold numbers of homophobic, misogynistic judicial appointees, devastating environmental policies the consequences of which could take generations to comprehend, much less repair.

Where do you dare to look? Women's rights? Science? Foreign policy? Currency devaluation? Big Oil? Halliburton's billions in war profit? Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and the Dick Cheney agenda of torture and pre-emptive aggression? What about unchecked corporate cronyism, the shunning of the United Nations and of international law, Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, wiretapping and surveillance and "evildoers" galore?

And finally, what of all those families, the thousands of dead U.S. soldiers, the tens of thousands of brain-damaged, disabled, permanently wounded? Bush's legacy isn't just one of staggering social ineptitude combined with shocking success at serving his corporate masters. It's foremost a legacy soaked to the bone in blood.

Truly, I firmly believe the record will reveal that no president in modern history has done more to unravel the American identity, to dumb down the populace and cater to the basest instincts of man than the one about to mispronounce his way into the history books. Even Nixon didn't leave office with Bush's incredible range of ignominy.

Ironically, this is why many in the GOP are chuckling in secret, rubbing their hands together, plotting their revenge. They know the colossal pile of issues and problems Barack Obama will inherit is so overwhelming, so unsolvable, it doesn't matter how smart and aggressive he might be. It doesn't matter that he'll have a Democratic Congress. He's just plain doomed. Combine this with America's infamous short attention span, and within a few years, just watch as the GOP emerges from the murky depths, the champion of a "new" solution.

I know, it can seem bleak. Insurmountable, even. But here's the lesson of any major injury, of surviving a serious illness and getting on with your life. Often, it's not merely about letting time heal all wounds. It's not always about ignoring the scar, or looking away from our permanent deformity and pretend we don't now walk with a savage limp.

It's far more about learning to live with the violence that's been wreaked upon the national body, letting the scale of the wound fuel us, shock us back to life. Question is, do we have enough optimistic ointment to cover it all?
(c) 2008 Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SF Gate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle. To get on the e-mail list for this column, please click here and remove one article of clothing!

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Bush,

Dear Uber Gruppenfuhrer Bond,

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

Without your lock-step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, your support of our two coup d'etats, your defense of the Telecoms for committing treason by spying upon innocent Americans, Iraq and these many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Demoncratic Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class with diamond clusters presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Bush at a gala celebration at "der Wolf's Lair," formally "Rancho de Bimbo," on 07-05-2008. We salute you Herr Bond, Sieg Heil!

Vice Fuhrer Cheney

Heil Bush

SOS, Different Year
What's a Voter to Do?
By Ron Jacobs

In the good ol' USA, I'm considered a white guy. Despite my leftist/anarcho politics and my preference for news that isn't filtered through the capitalist media, I'm a white guy as far as polling demographics go. I've got friends who fear immigrants and blacks, wear their rednecks a little too proudly, and genuinely like Lynyrd Skynyrd because of the band's politics. Despite this, I still tend to believe that most US residents are a bit more liberal than those particular friends. So I can't figure out why the hell someone like Barack Obama thinks he has to cater to their vote. These folks, if they do vote, are never going to vote for a Democrat anyhow since they are convinced that the party is composed of Satan's spawn.

However, like a good number of the rest of the white guys out there, when Obama starts dissing African-American fathers and catering to the Nixonian/Clintonian silent majority that is only silent because it doesn't exist, he loses me. Most US voters are cynical enough anyway about the entire electoral process and when Obama starts talking like ever other Democratic presidential candidate of the past twenty or so years, their desire to go vote decreases faster than George Bush's polling figures have over the past year. In other words, when the Democratic candidate starts trying to be the lite version of whatever type of lunatic the GOP is running, lots of folks don't bother to vote. After all, what the hell difference will it make?

The war in Iraq? Well, Obama is hedging his bets by telling the media that he would have to see what the facts on the ground are. Even worse, he has essentially stated that he would let the generals tell him what course to take if he gets elected. Now, isn't this exactly what George Bush is doing? Even more fundamentally, since when did the generals take on the role as the deciding factor in whether or not the US military will occupy a country and kill its people? I mean, come on, these generals have a vested interest in war. That's how they make their living for chrissake! It's always been my understanding that it is up to us, the American people, to decide whether or not we want to be destroying another nation with the men and women that wear the US uniform. Given that, it's my understanding most US residents oppose the occupation and war in Iraq (and possibly in Afghanistan, as well.) Obama should be asking the US people not the freakin' generals!

War on Iran? Obama is for that as well. Without getting into the particulars here, let me just say that I think this idea is one of the most stupid ideas to come out of Washington in my lifetime. It's not that I'm a fan of the Tehran government as far as that goes, but it really isn't any of my business how the Iranians run their country. In fact, from what I know about the place from Iranian friends and others is that Iran is not a giant monolith intent on building nuclear weapons and destroying all its perceived enemies. In fact, this is not even the desire of much of the Iranian government if any of it. In fact, from where I sit, this description seems to fit the government in Washington better than it does the one in Tehran. After all, which legislature is probably going to pass legislation very soon that enables the White House to put a naval blockade in place around Iran? You got it. The one in Washington, DC. The legislation is known as HR 580 and has garnered dozens of cosponsors demanding that the US carry out what is internationally recognized as an act of war against Iran. Guess who is pushing this legislation? That's right, AIPAC.

Which brings me to another Obama talking point. Why did he consider it necessary to talk before AIPAC and pledge that he would support Israel no matter what that nation's government does? I mean, he went and talked to AIPAC before he talked to any other group. Why? This is a lobby whose entire raison d'etre is to get tons of money from the US taxpayers to fund an illegal, immoral, brutal and politically questionable occupation. Last I looked, Israel was not part of the United States although it might as well be considering the amount of aid it gets from the Feds. Seems to me that they should either figure out how to survive without sucking off the Washington teat or demand statehood or territorial status. Not that I'm in favor of the latter, but we might as well certify the facts.

And then there's John Effin McCain. What's a voter going to do? Ralph Nader can't win and can probably only help Mr. Keating Five McCain win.
(c) 2008 Ron Jacobs is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press.

Texas Terror, Code Blue!
Will Dr. Ron Paul Operate?
By Captain Eric H. May

Military Corespondant

Diagnosing the Disease When it comes to explaining our deteriorating national and international condition, hand it to Dr. Ron Paul, the libertarian Republican who represents several refinery towns just south of Houston, Texas.

He proved his skill Thursday with his address to the House of Representatives, five minutes of straight talk from a wise physician concerned about politics and geopolitics:

. The economy is sluggish because it has gorged on inflated Iraq war money.
. The petroleum market is feverish because of Iran war speculation.
. The Iran war is likely because of the inaction of a craven Congress.

This was a perfect example of Ron Paul the revolutionary, who is willing to tell the truth about our modern-day King George.

This latest speech provides the of a two-minute speech, which Paul delivered on January 11, 2007, at the beginning of the 110th Congress. In it Paul warned that the Bush administration might stage an attack against the US, then blame it on Iran.

Recent events bear out Paul's worries:

. The Jerusalem Post reported that the Iran war is a done deal.
. US ally Saudi Arabia began preparing for nuclear fallout from an Iran war.
. The Israeli Air Force began practicing its Iran war plan of attack.
. John McCain's campaign said he'll benefit from a US terror attack.

Second Opinions

Various intelligence experts agree that the Houston area is a likely target for the much discussed "next 9/11" attack, which will solidify the homeland state and the global war. The very nightmare that Paul has warned us about may rise out of the ashes of his own turf. It's hard to see how he can sleep at night.

During the Republican primaries of neighboring district 22, Navy intelligence officer and Republican candidate Commander Brian Klock posted a billboard showing Houston and its refineries nuked by terrorists. It bore the unnerving caption: "The Threat Is Real -- Ask Brian Klock."

Over the last two months, former Navy intelligence officer Wayne Madsen has published a series of investigative articles dealing with the suspicious gunning down of CIA insider Roland Carnaby by the Houston Police Department. Madsen also believes that a Houston area nuke is likely, but writes that the Bush administration and its Israeli allies will carry it out, not terrorists.

Over the last two months, The Police News, published in Paul's district, has run four of my investigative articles about secret terror drills recently conducted at the BP refinery in Texas City. The last was A False Flag Target Again? -- Ron Paul's Texas City.

On Friday the 13th, former Congressman Dan Hamburg published a nationwide op-ed, State of Emergency warning of a Bush administration staged attack on a US city, likely Houston, before it leaves office.

Paging Dr. Paul

On March 3 The Lone Star Iconoclast presciently published an editorial about the terror danger to the US oil capital: Time to Investigate Houston Is Now.

Given his tour de force diagnosis of the worldwide situation, it's stunning that Paul hasn't done anything to protect his home turf. His district 14 is dense with Big Oil refineries that are labeled top terror targets by the Bush administration. This is especially true of Texas City, which worried residents have grimly nicknamed Toxic City.

The Iconoclast has spent all of May and June trying to reach Paul as the one who should be most concerned with the lives and welfare of the citizens he represents. For two solid months, though, his staff has have kept their man incommunicado. Under the current circumstances, this is unconscionable.

The situation is clearly critical when expert opinion considers your district the most likely mass murder target in America. It's time for Dr. Ron Paul to perform the operation so desperately needed both by his constituency and his country: INVESTIGATION.
(c) 2008 Captain May is a former Army military intelligence and public affairs officer, as well as a former NBC editorial writer. His political and military analyses have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Houston Chronicle, Military Intelligence Magazine and is the intelligence correspondent for Issues & Alibis magazine. For his homepage and schedule of upcoming interviews, refer to his homesite.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Bob Gorrell~~~

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To End On A Happy Note...

Wasteland Of the Free
By Iris Dement

Living in the wasteland of the free...

We got preachers dealing in politics and diamond mines
and their speech is growing increasingly unkind
They say they are Christ's disciples
but they don't look like Jesus to me
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We got politicians running races on corporate cash
Now don't tell me they don't turn around and kiss them peoples' ass
You may call me old-fashioned
but that don't fit my picture of a true democracy
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We got CEO's making two hundred times the workers' pay
but they'll fight like hell against raising the minimum wage
and If you don't like it, mister, they'll ship your job
to some third-world country 'cross the sea
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

Living in the wasteland of the free
where the poor have now become the enemy
Let's blame our troubles on the weak ones
Sounds like some kind of Hitler remedy
Living in the wasteland of the free

We got little kids with guns fighting inner city wars
So what do we do, we put these little kids behind prison doors
and we call ourselves the advanced civilization
that sounds like crap to me
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We got high-school kids running 'round in Calvin Klein and Guess
who cannot pass a sixth-grade reading test
but if you ask them, they can tell you
the name of every crotch on mTV
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We kill for oil, then we throw a party when we win
Some guy refuses to fight, and we call that the sin
but he's standing up for what he believes in
and that seems pretty damned American to me
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

Living in the wasteland of the free
where the poor have now become the enemy
Let's blame our troubles on the weak ones
Sounds like some kind of Hitler remedy
Living in the wasteland of the free

While we sit gloating in our greatness
justice is sinking to the bottom of the sea
Living in the wasteland of the free
Living in the wasteland of the free
Living in the wasteland of the free
(c) 1996/2008 Iris Dement

Have You Seen This...

Seven Words

Parting Shots...

Christian Nation's Birthday
Pray the Pledge of Allegiance: One Nation Under the Lord Jesus Christ!

The Pledge of Allegiance is a mandatory morning prayer recited in our nation's public and private school systems. It gives Christian students the freedom to deliver the plan of salvation during class time and effectively shepherd little practitioners of false religions into the loving arms of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Landover Baptist Department of Christian Education believes that the Pledge of Allegiance presents a wonderful opportunity for poor Christian students who are forced to attend secular public schools to stand up and testify! Our pastors were so excited about this opportunity, that they insisted that we immediately share it with the millions of Christian viewers who visit our website each month for news, inspiration and information about where to send their checks.

Landover Baptist Christian Academy teacher, Mrs. Rebecca Weaver was the first to suggest that since public school students who recite the Pledge of Allegiance, are already acknowledging that America is, "one nation, under God." it flings open a door of opportunity for Godly students to speak with their unsaved classmates about the Christian God whom this nation is under. Mrs. Weaver, and the Landover Baptist "Pray the Pledge" Committee worked diligently for nearly a whole day create an easy to use Pray the Pledge checklist for Christian public school children. The following eleven tips are designed to assist Christian children in utilizing the Pledge of Allegiance as a tool for rescuing their hellbound classmates from false religions. If you are a Christian parent of a Christian child who unfortunately attends a non-Christian school, please go over this list carefully with your child. Make sure they memorize it so they won't interrupt themselves while sharing the message of Christ.

Pray the Pledge 11 Step Checklist:

1. If you are not assigned seats in your class, follow the scent of garlic and find a place to sit near some foreign looking student who has swarthy skin that reminds you of anything from either a chunk of coal or a little stray pooty left behind in the whirlpool of toilet water. It is safe to assume that the parents of these students have already wasted a good part of their lives indoctrinating them with a dangerous, made-up, false religion.

2. Before the Pledge begins, if your little classmates haven't noticed that you have your hands folded in prayer, not over your heart, bring it to their attention. If you are bold enough, right before the class gets ready to say the Pledge of Allegiance - shout, "Dear Lord Jesus. . ." and then continue with the rest of the class in unison, "I pledge of allegiance to the flag. . ." This will serve as a testimony to your teacher and the other students, that you are acknowledging that the Pledge of Allegiance is a prayer - right from the start. If the teacher pauses for any reason in the Pledge, look at one of your unsaved classmates and yell, "I feel a victory coming on! Yes, Jesus!" And be sure to end the Pledge with "A-men" as well. You will be surprised how fast it catches on!

3. After the pledge is over, we suggest thanking one or more of your odd looking classmates for joining you in public prayer. This should raise their curiosity.

4. Begin to ask them what it feels like to be a Christian. They may, at first, resist your entreaties, claiming to know what you are so-called "up to." Wear them down any way you can. Finally, when they openly admit that they are not Christians, but actually embrace a false religion, like Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim - this is your opportunity to feign the look of surprise. Try to look as puzzled as you can. Ask them directly why they just falsely stated during the Pledge of Allegiance that they are under your Christian God, but just now admitted that they are not. Tell them you don't appreciate liars and neither will the principal when he gets your note.

5. More often than not, they will probably respond by saying something about "God" being universal, and it can mean whatever they want it to mean. If you can avoid the natural Christian impulse of laughing right out loud in their freshly-slapped faces, take the opportunity to sternly correct them and give them a short history lesson about how there were no Muslims, Hindus, Atheists, or Jews among the Pilgrims or Founding Fathers. Indeed, the Pilgrims were forced to turn on each other until they met the heathen, naked, alcoholic Injuns.

6. Take it a step further and begin to raise your voice slightly. Make it absolutely clear to them that there were no Muslims, Jews or Hindus who gave their lives to create the country that they are sitting in right now. And if their foreign parents want to raise them under a false God, then keep it at home - because Jesus runs THIS classroom!

7. At this point, understand that you have planted a seed of faith, and it should be harvested immediately! Be careful though! Avoid getting too excited. Don't spill the beans and tell them all they're going straight to Hell. Although this is true, we suggest you break it to them gently by reaching into your desk and slowly pulling out your Bible. Do not break eye contact with your potential converts even if you have to grab a tuft of their filthy, unwashed hair to hold them in place!

8. Refer to your Bible as "The Holy Book" and open it slowly like you are expecting the Lord to come out from between the pages and pounce on your soon-to-be-Christian friends. Most foreign trash is very superstitious and will probably become bug-eyed, and possibly soil their drawers, in the face of your new, mysterious powers.. Tell them that this Holy Book says that every single religion in the whole wide world is a false religion. Except for yours.

9. At this point, tell the students that you will be highly offended and consider it a hate crime against your religion if they do not do you the courtesy of bowing their heads and shutting their eyes and repeating after you.

10. Here is your window of opportunity - before anyone has a chance to open their mouth, start to pray this prayer and refuse to be interrupted: Poppa God, My Father in Heaven, we've just finished praying the Pledge of Allegiance to You. Everyone here openly acknowledges that we are not members of one nation under Allah or Buddha, or some other false god but we are one nation under YOU! You are God, the Father and through your Son, Jesus Christ, we acknowledge the sovereignty and ultimate authority of our Christian Nation above all other nations on earth. If any of us here are unsaved, we ask Jesus Christ to come into our hearts and stomp out the demons of Hindu, the demons of Allah, the fat little demons of Buda, and if we are Jewish, we ask you to forgive us for killing your Son and for Barbra Streisand. A-men.

11. If your classmates just prayed that prayer, it means they're saved. Take down their names and addresses and phone numbers immediately. Ask to be dismissed from class. Find a pay phone and call your pastor* with the information so that he can call their parents and tell them the good news - that someone just paid a ransom for their little children and they have been delivered forever into the unbreakable clutches of the Living God. If your pastor knows what he is doing, he will also want to use this opportunity to lead some confused parents to Christ. Before you know it, you will have assisted in securing a hoard of eager, tithing church members to your local church roster.

*Note: Do not call your pastor collect. It is appropriate in cases like this to ask your teacher or a classmate for some change to make a phone call. Tell them you have an emergency and Jesus wants you to call your pastor right away.
(c) 2008 The Landover Baptist Church


Zeitgeist The Movie...

Issues & Alibis Vol 8 # 26 (c) 07/04/2008

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