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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky exclaims, "It's The Oil, Stupid!"

Uri Avnery explains, "Why Not?"

Robert Scheer recalls, "The Real Legacy of the 'Reagan Revolution'."

Jim Hightower has, "Mixed Emotions."

Mel Bartholomew explores, "Deck Gardens."

Judy Troftgruben continues with, "Drying Food Part #2."

Jason Miller says America is, "Murdering God."

Chris Floyd compares, "Duce Bags."

Felicity Barringer reports, "Decisions Shut Door On Bush Clean-Air Steps."

Mike Folkerth considers, "Banks, Congress And Trail Mix."

Paul Krugman explains, "Fannie, Freddie And The Threat Of Economic Meltdown."

Mark Morford envisions, "The Remote Control Penis."

Utah Con-gressman Chris Cannon wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald follows, "The Motivation For Blocking Investigations Into Bush Lawbreaking."

Pat Buchanan demands, "No More Blank Checks For War."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department the fabulous Betty Bowers returns with another, "What Would Betty Do?" but first Uncle Ernie considers, "The Stealth Candidate."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Calvin Grondahl with additional cartoons and photos from Derf City, Destonio, Lisa Benson, Dwayne Powell, Kirk, The Kassandra Project, Internet Weekly.Org, Mel Bartholomew, University Of Illinois, Bruce Plante, The Sacramento Bee, 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."

The Stealth Candidate
By Ernest Stewart

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

"Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran!" ~~~ John McCain

"We have to do things we've never done before, in order to have things we've never had before." ~~~ Cynthia McKinney

Even after all this time the American Sheeple totally amaze me. As the Wizard of Oz once said, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." The Sheeple have bought into that one more time. Whether Republicans or Democrats the people just don't get it. Of course, they come by this madness honestly having been brainwashed by the elite for several hundred years. Neither side will face reality when it comes down to their candidates. We expect this of the Republicans but it is also true for the Democrats as is being proved with Obama's "cult of personality."

Barry, who isn't a liberal or anything close to one, nevertheless plays one on TV and his loyal cultists buy that image, hook, line and sinker. As Simon and Garfunkle once said in "The Boxer," "Still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest." A more perfect description of the Obama cultists would be hard to find.

For example, to them Obama is an anti-war candidate although his voting record says something completely different, i.e., every vote he's ever made has been in support of the war, every one. He has said on more than one occasion that all options, including the nuclear option, are on the table for Iran and Pakistan. While going after the nomination he was all about bringing the troops home with no mention of nukes and new wars, leading us to believe he would talk with Iran and Pakistan instead of attacking them. Now he'll see about bringing the troops home although he may have to leave most of them in Iraq depending upon what Bush's generals tell him and he may even send more troops to the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.

While running for the nomination he was 100 per cent against giving the Tele-coms, Bush and the members of Con-gress from both parties who committed treason by allowing the destruction of the First and Fourth Amendments immunity. Now, after Hillary, he voted to give the Telecoms, Bush and Congress immunity and will no doubt use those powers that he voted for in the FISA bill against us!

He's a candidate of change to his followers but everything he's ever done in the Sin-ate was for the status quo, i.e., the corpo-rats in control of us slaves.

He admires Ronald Ray-Guns, who was total disaster as a president, a criminal on so many levels just like der Fuhrer, and a president who all but destroyed America.

Obama says he wants to "bring us together" which was a catch phrase of Tricky Dick's, you may recall, but his actions show a homophobic, racist, misogynist. Those are hardly qualities for the people to rally behind.

To his cult members he may be the "Stealth Candidate" but to me he's incredibly obvious. He would be the perfect Republican candidate as he shares all their goals and philosophies and would no doubt have been a Republican had that party been willing to run a black candidate.

The most obvious difference between Obama and McCain is Barry voted for the FISA bill and Johnny didn't!

In Other News

I see where the Iraqi Defense Ministry reports that Israeli jets have been using US airbases in Iraq.

The activities and traffic of warplanes, especially at night, have recently increased at the US airbases in Nasiriya, just southeast of Baghdad, and Haditha, a city in the western Iraq province of Al Anbar, the Iraqi Nahrainnet news network reported on Wednesday.

Nahrainnet said the US fighters, cargo planes, helicopters and unmanned planes have intensified their flights in the last four weeks to triple their average.

The US military officials have imposed severe security measures around these bases as some aircraft suspected of being Israeli warplanes coming from Jordan, have landed at night at the US controlled al-Assad airbase near Haditha.

You may recall that Israel conducted a military drill under the supervision of top US military commanders over the Mediterranean Sea from May 28 to June 12, using more than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters, along with helicopters and refueling tanks, which many consider a possible rehearsal for a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. With the Israeli Air Force now operating out of Iraq, the Iranian nuclear and other facilities are only minutes away from these US airbases by F-15 and F-16 and, regardless whether the planes have "Old Gory" or the "Star of David" emblazoned on them, the results will be the same.

If you like $4 a gallon gas just wait till it hits $10 a gallon after our puppets, the Israelis, attack Iran and moments later, Iran attacks the gulf oil facilities and shuts down the "Straights of Hormuz." If you like the current recession you'll love the depression this will create, not only in America but throughout the world. This is no doubt the work of Dick (the psycho) Cheney and his 5th column pals from Tel Aviv. Remember that "Impeachment is off the Table" when this hits the fan, America!

Whether it happens on the next new moon, as an October surprise just daze before the election or next January 19th, coming it is, America!

And Finally

I'm sure you're not hip to it, as the MSM didn't say a word. I haven't seen a single article anywhere about it, either. It's one of America's best-kept secrets. I'm talking, of course, about the Green Party's Convention that happened last week in Chicago.

They nominated former 6 time Georgia Congresswomen Cynthia McKinney as their presidential candidate and Rosa Alicia Clemente as their vice presidential candidate. Looking to vote for a women and a minority? Here are two well-qualified black women, real leftists who are not owned and operated by AIPAC and corpo-rat America. So, of course, I have a much better chance of being the next president than they do.

For those of you who are or were Obama supporters because he's sort of black and sort of a liberal and he sort of made you feel all warm and fuzzy inside until he came out of the closet as just another corpo-rat clown owned and operated by Israel and the corpo-rats, may I suggest you check out these women?

For those of you who wouldn't vote for Obama or McCain at gun point and were thinking of voting for Darth Nader or Ron Paul in protest or, if you are like me and were going to sit this one out as you are ever-so-tired of having to vote for the lesser of two evils, may I suggest you look into the Green candidates?

Yes, I know, for those who have been with us since before the beginning and remember what I said about the Greens back in the first edition on February 1, 2001, i.e., "Darth Nader And The Green Party" much of that hasn't changed. However, the Greens have changed a bit and have matured and if they keep at it in another decade or two they may have a chance of becoming a viable second party and perhaps we can wrest the power out of the hands of the other party, the Republicrats?

As we have but one party now and, it is a little farther to the right than Hitler's National Socialists, isn't it time, while there is some time left, to try and change things for the better? More than half of the voting public doesn't vote because they haven't had candidates but now there is some semblance of a left party.

Also, to the women of America, since you got the vote 89 years ago and since you could have at any time since then elected a female president as you make up more than half the voters and yet never did, isn't it time to band together? You could if you wanted to break that last glass ceiling and take the power for yourself and make all those many improvements that only women can and will make. Isn't it time yet to do so?

I'm voting Green this year, how about you?


"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 ~~~

It's come down to it again, bills are due and we haven't the funds to cover them. Unless you give us a hand we'll be forced to float a loan, something we cannot afford to do to keep the magazine going. If you haven't spent all of your refund check yet please consider sending us what you can. For those of you who are as broke as we are don't send money but do tell all of your friends about the magazine and our cause. Consider staging a fundraiser with your friends and groups. One good topless car wash would straighten up our finances for the rest of the year!

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


11-20-1917 ~ 07-04-2008
R.I.P. Sweetie

09-07-1908 ~ 07-11-2008
R.I.P. Doc and Thanks!

06-01-1955 ~ 07-12-2008
Burn Baby Burn!


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.


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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."

It's The Oil, Stupid!
BY Noam Chomsky

The deal just taking shape between Iraq's Oil Ministry and four Western oil companies raises critical questions about the nature of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq - questions that should certainly be addressed by presidential candidates and seriously discussed in the United States, and of course in occupied Iraq, where it appears that the population has little if any role in determining the future of their country.

Negotiations are under way for Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP - the original partners decades ago in the Iraq Petroleum Company, now joined by Chevron and other smaller oil companies - to renew the oil concession they lost to nationalisation during the years when the oil producers took over their own resources. The no-bid contracts, apparently written by the oil corporations with the help of U.S. officials, prevailed over offers from more than 40 other companies, including companies in China, India and Russia.

"There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract," Andrew E. Kramer wrote in The New York Times.

Kramer's reference to "suspicion" is an understatement. Furthermore, it is highly likely that the military occupation has taken the initiative in restoring the hated Iraq Petroleum Company, which, as Seamus Milne writes in the London Guardian, was imposed under British rule to "dine off Iraq's wealth in a famously exploitative deal."

Later reports speak of delays in the bidding. Much is happening in secrecy, and it would be no surprise if new scandals emerge.

The demand could hardly be more intense. Iraq contains perhaps the second largest oil reserves in the world, which are, furthermore, very cheap to extract: no permafrost or tar sands or deep sea drilling. For US planners, it is imperative that Iraq remain under U.S. control, to the extent possible, as an obedient client state that will also house major U.S. military bases, right at the heart of the world's major energy reserves.

That these were the primary goals of the invasion was always clear enough through the haze of successive pretexts: weapons of mass destruction, Saddam's links with Al-Qaeda, democracy promotion and the war against terrorism, which, as predicted, sharply increased as a result of the invasion.

Last November, the guiding concerns were made explicit when President Bush and Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki signed a "Declaration of Principles," ignoring the U.S. Congress and Iraqi parliament, and the populations of the two countries.

The Declaration left open the possibility of an indefinite long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq that would presumably include the huge air bases now being built around the country, and the "embassy" in Baghdad, a city within a city, unlike any embassy in the world. These are not being constructed to be abandoned.

The Declaration also had a remarkably brazen statement about exploiting the resources of Iraq. It said that the economy of Iraq, which means its oil resources, must be open to foreign investment, "especially American investments." That comes close to a pronouncement that we invaded you so that we can control your country and have privileged access to your resources.

The seriousness of this commitment was underscored in January, when President Bush issued a "signing statement" declaring that he would reject any congressional legislation that restricted funding "to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq" or "to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq."

Extensive resort to "signing statements" to expand executive power is yet another Bush innovation, condemned by the American Bar Association as "contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers." To no avail.

Not surprisingly, the Declaration aroused immediate objections in Iraq, among others from Iraqi unions, which survive even under the harsh anti-labour laws that Saddam instituted and the occupation preserves.

In Washington propaganda, the spoiler to US domination in Iraq is Iran. U.S. problems in Iraq are blamed on Iran. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sees a simple solution: "foreign forces" and "foreign arms" should be withdrawn from Iraq - Iran's, not ours.

The confrontation over Iran's nuclear programme heightens the tensions. The Bush administration's "regime change" policy toward Iran comes with ominous threats of force (there Bush is joined by both US presidential candidates). The policy also is reported to include terrorism within Iran - again legitimate, for the world rulers. A majority of the American people favours diplomacy and oppose the use of force. But public opinion is largely irrelevant to policy formation, not just in this case.

An irony is that Iraq is turning into a US-Iranian condominium. The Maliki government is the sector of Iraqi society most supported by Iran. The so-called Iraqi army - just another militia - is largely based on the Badr brigade, which was trained in Iran, and fought on the Iranian side during the Iran-Iraq war.

Nir Rosen, one of the most astute and knowledgeable correspondents in the region, observes that the main target of the US-Maliki military operations, Moktada Al Sadr, is disliked by Iran as well: He's independent and has popular support, therefore dangerous. Iran "clearly supported Prime Minister Maliki and the Iraqi government against what they described as 'illegal armed groups' (of Moktada's Mahdi army) in the recent conflict in Basra," Rosen writes, "which is not surprising given that their main proxy in Iraq, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council dominates the Iraqi state and is Maliki's main backer."

"There is no proxy war in Iraq," Rosen concludes, "because the U.S. and Iran share the same proxy."

Teheran is presumably pleased to see the United States institute and sustain a government in Iraq that's receptive to their influence. For the Iraqi people, however, that government continues to be a disaster, very likely with worse to come.

In Foreign Affairs, Steven Simon points out that current US counterinsurgency strategy is "stoking the three forces that have traditionally threatened the stability of Middle Eastern states: tribalism, warlordism and sectarianism." The outcome might be "a strong, centralised state ruled by a military junta that would resemble" Saddam's regime.

If Washington achieves its goals, then its actions are justified. Reactions are quite different when Vladimir Putin succeeds in pacifying Chechnya, to an extent well beyond what Gen. David Petraeus has achieved in Iraq. But that is THEM, and this is US. Criteria are therefore entirely different.

In the US, the Democrats are silenced now because of the supposed success of the US military surge in Iraq. Their silence reflects the fact that there are no principled criticisms of the war. In this way of regarding the world, if you're achieving your goals, the war and occupation are justified. The sweetheart oil deals come with the territory.

In fact, the whole invasion is a war crime - indeed the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes in that it encompasses all the evil that follows, in the terms of the Nuremberg judgment. This is among the topics that can't be discussed, in the presidential campaign or elsewhere. Why are we in Iraq? What do we owe Iraqis for destroying their country? The majority of the American people favour US withdrawal from Iraq. Do their voices matter?
(c) 2008 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Hegemony or Survival Americas Quest for Global Dominance. His writings on linguistics and politics have just been collected in The Essential Noam Chomsky, edited by Anthony Arnove, from the New Press.

Why Not?
By Uri Avnery

IF YOU want to understand the policy of a country, look at the map - as Napoleon recommended.

Anyone who wants to guess whether Israel and/or the United States are going to attack Iran should look at the map of the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.

Through this narrow waterway, only 34 km wide, pass the ships that carry between a fifth and a third of the world's oil, including that from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.

MOST OF the commentators who talk about the inevitable American and Israeli attack on Iran do not take account of this map.

There is talk about a "sterile," "surgical" air strike. The mighty air fleet of the United States will take off from the aircraft carriers already stationed in the Persian Gulf and the American air bases dispersed throughout the region and bomb all the nuclear sites of Iran - and on this happy occasion also bomb government institutions, army installations, industrial centers and anything else they might fancy. They will use bombs that can penetrate deep into the ground.

Simple, quick and elegant - one blow and bye-bye Iran, bye-bye ayatollahs, bye-bye Ahmadinejad.

If Israel attacks alone, the blow will be more modest. The most the attackers can hope for is the destruction of the main nuclear sites and a safe return.

I have a modest request: before you start, please look at the map once more, at the Strait named (probably) after the god of Zarathustra.

THE INEVITABLE reaction to the bombing of Iran will be the blocking of this Strait. That should have been self-evident even without the explicit declaration by one of Iran's highest ranking generals a few days ago.

Iran dominates the whole length of the Strait. They can seal it hermetically with their missiles and artillery, both land based and naval.

If that happens, the price of oil will skyrocket - far beyond the 200 dollars-per-barrel that pessimists dread now. That will cause a chain reaction: a world-wide depression, the collapse of whole industries and a catastrophic rise in unemployment in America, Europe and Japan.

In order to avert this danger, the Americans would need to conquer parts of Iran - perhaps the whole of this large country. The US does not have at its disposal even a small part of the forces they would need. Practically all their land forces are tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The mighty American navy is menacing Iran - but the moment the Strait is closed, it will itself resemble those model ships in bottles. Perhaps it is this danger that made the navy chiefs extricate the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln from the Persian Gulf this week, ostensibly because of the situation in Pakistan.

This leaves the possibility that the US will act by proxy. Israel will attack, and this will not officially involve the US, which will deny any responsibility.

Indeed? Iran has already announced that it would consider an Israeli attack as an American operation, and act as if it had been directly attacked by the US. That is logical.

NO ISRAELI government would ever consider the possibility of starting such an operation without the explicit and unreserved agreement of the US. Such a confirmation will not be forthcoming.

So what are all these exercises, which generate such dramatic headlines in the international media?

The Israeli Air Force has held exercises at a distance of 1500 km from our shores. The Iranians have responded with test firings of their Shihab missiles, which have a similar range. Once, such activities were called "saber rattling," nowadays the preferred term is "psychological warfare." They are good for failed politicians with domestic needs, to divert attention, to scare citizens. They also make excellent television. But simple common sense tells us that whoever plans a surprise strike does not proclaim this from the rooftops. Menachem Begin did not stage public exercises before sending the bombers to destroy the Iraqi reactor, and even Ehud Olmert did not make a speech about his intention to bomb a mysterious building in Syria.

SINCE KING Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire some 2500 years ago, who allowed the Israelite exiles in Babylon to return to Jerusalem and build a temple there, Israeli-Persian relations have their ups and downs.

Until the Khomeini revolution, there was a close alliance between them. Israel trained the Shah's dreaded secret police ("Savak"). The Shah was a partner in the Eilat-Ashkelon oil pipeline which was designed to bypass the Suez Canal. (Iran is still trying to enforce payment for the oil it supplied then.)

The Shah helped to infiltrate Israeli army officers into the Kurdish part of Iraq, where they assisted Mustafa Barzani's revolt against Saddam Hussein. That operation came to an end when the Shah betrayed the Iraqi Kurds and made a deal with Saddam. But Israeli-Iranian cooperation was almost restored after Saddam attacked Iran. In the course of that long and cruel war (1980-1988), Israel secretly supported the Iran of the ayatollahs. The Irangate affair was only a small part of that story.

That did not prevent Ariel Sharon from planning to conquer Iran, as I have already disclosed in the past. When I was writing an in-depth article about him in 1981, after his appointment as Minister of Defense, he told me in confidence about this daring idea: after the death of Khomeini, Israel would forestall the Soviet Union in the race to Iran. The Israeli army would occupy Iran in a few days and turn the country over to the much slower Americans, who would have supplied Israel well in advance with large quantities of sophisticated arms for this express purpose.

He also showed me the maps he intended to take with him to the annual strategic consultations in Washington. They looked very impressive. It seems, however, that the Americans were not so impressed.

All this indicates that by itself, the idea of an Israeli military intervention in Iran is not so revolutionary. But a prior condition is close cooperation with the US. This will not be forthcoming, because the US would be the primary victim of the consequences.

IRAN IS now a regional power. It makes no sense to deny that.

The irony of the matter is that for this they must thank their foremost benefactor in recent times: George W. Bush. If they had even a modicum of gratitude, they would erect a statue to him in Tehran's central square.

For many generations, Iraq was the gatekeeper of the Arab region. It was the wall of the Arab world against the Persian Shiites. It should be remembered that during the Iraqi-Iranian war, Arab Shiite Iraqis fought with great enthusiasm against Persian Shiite Iranians.

When President Bush invaded Iraq and destroyed it, he opened the whole region to the growing might of Iran. In future generations, historians will wonder about this action, which deserves a chapter to itself in "The March of Folly."

Today it is already clear that the real American aim (as I have asserted in this column right from the beginning) was to take possession of the Caspian Sea/Persian Gulf oil region and station a permanent American garrison at its center. This aim was indeed achieved - the Americans are now talking about their forces remaining in Iraq "for a hundred years," and they are now busily engaged in dividing Iraq's huge oil reserves among the four or five giant American oil companies.

But this war was started without wider strategic thinking and without looking at the geopolitical map. It was not decided who is the main enemy of the US in the region, neither was it clear where the main effort should be. The advantage of dominating Iraq may well be outweighed by the rise of Iran as a nuclear, military and political power that will overshadow America's allies in the Arab world.

WHERE DO we Israelis stand in this game?

For years now, we have been bombarded by a propaganda campaign that depicts the Iranian nuclear effort as an existential threat to Israel. Forget the Palestinians, forget Hamas and Hizbullah, forget Syria - the sole danger that threatens the very existence of the State of Israel is the Iranian nuclear bomb. I repeat what I have said before: I am not prey to this existential Angst. True, life is more pleasant without an Iranian nuclear bomb, and Ahmadinejad is not very nice either. But if the worst comes to the worst, we will have a "balance of terror" between the two nations, much like the American-Soviet balance of terror that saved mankind from World War III, or the Indian-Pakistani balance of terror that provides a framework for a rapprochement between those two countries that hate each other's guts.

ON THE basis of all these considerations, I dare to predict that there will be no military attack on Iran this year - not by the Americans, not by the Israelis.

As I write these lines, a little red light turns on in my head. It is related to a memory: in my youth I was an avid reader of Vladimir Jabotinsky's weekly articles, which impressed me with their cold logic and clear style. In August 1939, Jabotinsky wrote an article in which he asserted categorically that no war would break out, in spite of all the rumors to the contrary. His reasoning: modern weapons are so terrible, that no country would dare to start a war.

A few days later Germany invaded Poland, starting the most terrible war in human history (until now), which ended with the Americans dropping atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since then, for 63 years, nobody has used nuclear weapons in a war.

President Bush is about to end his career in disgrace. The same fate is waiting impatiently for Ehud Olmert. For politicians of this kind, it is easy to be tempted by a last adventure, a last chance for a decent place in history after all.

All the same, I stick to my prognosis: it will not happen.
(c) 2008 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Real Legacy of the 'Reagan Revolution'
By Robert Scheer

McCain campaign co-chair Phil Gramm is right: We have "become a nation of whiners." But who is whining more than the bankers that former Sen. Gramm's financial deregulation legislation benefited? The very bankers who now expect a government bailout, such as those at UBS Investment Bank, where Gramm found lucrative employment.

As chair of the powerful Senate Banking Committee, Gramm engineered passage of legislation that effectively ended the major regulatory restraints applied to the financial industry in response to the Great Depression. The purpose of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act-co-authored by Gramm, passed in 1999 by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton-was to liberate the banks, stockbrokers and insurance companies from restraints imposed on their activities more than seven decades ago. It was legislation that the financial community, which contributed heavily to Gramm's campaigns in the previous five years, desperately wanted and obviously has abused. So why now bail these institutions out?

Hows about some "tough love" for those bankers suddenly in trouble? You know, the sink-or-swim approach of "welfare reform" that Gramm and Clinton applied to poor people to end their addiction to government handouts. Or, perhaps a heavy dose of "faith-based" personal responsibility initiatives to get those knaves who messed up our entire housing market back on the straight and narrow. Sounds ridiculous I know, because nothing but the bleeding-heart, big-government, throw-money-at-the-problem approach will do when it comes to salvaging corrupt corporations.

That is the real legacy of what has been ballyhooed as the "Reagan Revolution," which Clinton went along with, but which found its full flowering in the administration of George W. Bush. The bookends of the Bush years are the Enron debacle and the federal bailout of bankers drunk on their own greed. And no two people in this country are more responsible for enabling this sordid behavior than the power couple Phil and Wendy Gramm.

Enron, lest we forget, was their baby. Then-Sen. Gramm sponsored the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which allowed Enron's scamming to happen. As Ken Lay, who was chair of Gramm's election finance committee, put it quite candidly when asked for the secret of Enron's success, "basically, we are entering or in markets that are deregulating or have recently deregulated."

Part of that deregulation involved rulings of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, then chaired by Wendy Gramm, who upon retiring from that post became a highly compensated member of the Enron board of directors, serving for eight years. She even was on the board's audit committee during the time of the corporation's despicable financial shenanigans. While on the Enron board, Wendy Gramm also chaired an anti-regulatory think tank that received funding from Enron and other corporations that benefited directly from the policies her institute espoused.

My point here is not to expose the dubious ethics of the Gramms' various business ventures but rather to question why Sen. John McCain turned to Phil Gramm for leadership in his presidential campaign. Indeed, until his verbal gaffe, Gramm was highly visible and rumored to be the choice for secretary of the treasury should McCain win.

McCain has long promised voters that he learned the hard lessons provided by his being one of the infamous Keating Five in the nefarious savings and loan scandal that cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. Yet he chose as his campaign co-chair a former senator whose push for government deregulation facilitated the far deeper scandal we now are experiencing. Here is a man whose legislation created what financial guru Warren Buffett termed "financial weapons of mass destruction."

Why in the world would you designate as your key economic adviser someone who left the Senate to become an officer of the bank that is at the very center of this mess, a former senator who not only secured highly paid employment with a banking giant that benefited from legislation he helped pass, but who then lobbied Congress for even more of the deregulatory breaks that got the bank into such deep trouble?

The answer cannot simply be that McCain doesn't care much about economics, as he himself has indicated. Perhaps that would explain his having voted for all of the measures pushed through the Senate by Gramm. Perhaps it even would explain McCain's having been chair of Gramm's own failed presidential bid. But indifference to economics does not explain the prominence of Gramm in the McCain campaign as the top economic adviser during these past months of the U.S. financial crisis. Indifference to the folks losing their homes is a more plausible explanation.
(c) 2008 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

Mixed Emotions

Mixed emotions are what you experience when you see your 16-year-old daughter come home from the prom with a Gideon Bible under her arm.

I get mixed emotions watching Barack Obama. On the one hand, he clearly has progressive instincts and a phenomenal potential to be this century's FDR, but on the other hand, he sometimes shows up carrying the Holy Bible of Corporatized Politics-As-Usual under his arm.

Look at his recent flip-flop on the domestic spying bill, which includes a provision giving legal immunity to the telecom giants that helped George W spy illeagaly on millions of us Americans. Obama had pledged this spring to go all out to defeat this - but then caved in and supported it. In fairness, he did join the fight to strip telecom immunity from the larger bill, but he knew that would lose, and he still supported the bill that included immunity.

This is part of what we'll get with Obama - a man who, on occasion, will try to drift from progressive positions, crafting legalistic compromises that fuzz the issue and fudge his own stand. Obama is not a pure progressive. Get used to that. If he is in the White House, progressives themselves will constantly have to challenge him, pushing him to be more FDRish, less Clintonesque.

The good news is that people are already onto this. When he reneged on his telecom pledge, the progressive netroots nation that has so strongly backed Obama exploded all over him, using his own website to rip him for breaking faith, making clear that they felt betrayed, could not just be ignored, and are expecting better. My guess is that, with constant pressure, they'll get it.

After all, this is what democracy demands. To achieve progressive policies, the people themselves must be noisy, feisty, and confrontational. That was true in FDR's time - and it's no less true in ours.
(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.

Deck Gardens
By Mel Bartholomew

Don't Have Any Room For A Garden?

YES YOU DO - if you have a deck, patio, porch, or rooftop; Square Foot Gardening fits in anywhere.

Now to get started, just build some boxes of any size that fit your space. Give them a plywood bottom at least 5/8" thick with 1/4" drainage holes drilled one per square foot and an extra one in each corner. Fill the box with Mel's Mix, lay down your grid, and start planting. It's that simple and that easy.

How deep does the soil have to be? Six inches is enough, eight inches is better, but in one of these photos we have used 1" x 4" lumber so the soil was just a little over three inches deep. How can the plants grow in such shallow soil? The secret is in the soil. Follow my formula for Mel's Mix (see our "how to" page) and use homemade compost (more about that in a later column).

What to plant? Well it can be all flowers, all vegetables or all herbs but I like to mix all three in the same garden no matter where it is located. If you raise your boxes above the floor level, it adds a great deal of interest to the setting and, speaking of setting - why not provide a sit-down garden if it's for an elderly person - or notice the railing boxes in the photograph for stand-up, no bending over gardening. That will save those knees.

With Square Foot Gardening, a deck garden is really no different than a backyard garden. You need room to walk around your boxes so you never walk on the growing soil. You lay down a grid and then you merely start planting each square foot with a different crop. Look up the plant spacing in the book (See Page 101) - remember it's either 1, 4, 9, or 16 plants per square foot. Let's go back to the grid for just a moment. In the photographs of these earlier gardens, we used white twine for a grid. Today's advice is to find a rigid piece of wood or plastic (like molding strips, wood lath or a recycled Venetian blind) for your grid. It's much, much better. With string you have to put in nails or screws. The string rots and breaks, gets dirty easily etc. etc. So many people wanted the rigid grids but couldn't find the right material, so we had them fabricated and started offering them on our catalog page as a kit.

The size and type of lumber to use for the sides is 1" x 6" pine, cedar or redwood. (We don't recommend treated lumber for growing edibles.) The size of your boxes depends really on the size of your deck and how artistic you become. 1 foot x 4 foot boxes bolted to your railing are great. For the open areas, 3 foot x 3 foot or even 2 foot x 4 foot can be arranged in any different pattern and with plywood bottoms, they become movable so it will be just like rearranging your furniture every season.

Just think of your next party as your guests step out on your deck and you snip fresh herbs or lettuce or pull ripe radishes from your garden. Won't they be impressed?

Now if you don't have a deck for a deck garden, well, just get busy and build one!
(c) 2008 Mel Bartholomew is an inventor, author, and founder of the Square Foot Gardening Foundation.

Drying Food Part #2
Drying Fruit
By Judy Troftgruben


For dried fruit that is naturally sweet and flavorful, be sure to start with good-quality fruit. Select fruit that is fresh, fully ripe, and sound -the same quality you would choose for table use.

Sort and wash the fruit thoroughly. Discard any bruised or overripe pieces. Decay on one piece may give a bad flavor to the whole batch. Sanitation during the handling and drying process is very important.


Almost all kinds of fruit need some treatment before drying. Apples are peeled, cored, and sliced. Fruits with pits, such as peaches and apricots, are usually halved and pitted. Most fruits do not need to be peeled before drying. But the skins of some fruits such as cherries are tough and waxy, so you will have to "crack" the skins first. Fruit should be cut into uniform pieces or slices so that it will dry more evenly. Remember that thin pieces dry faster than thick ones.

Cracking Skins

Blueberries, cherries, grapes, plums, and a few other fruits have relatively tough skins with a waxlike coating.. The skin must be "cracked" or "checked" in many places to remove the waxy coating and to let the inside moisture come to the surface to evaporate. To crack the skin, put the fruit in-to boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds. Then dip in very cold water. Drain thoroughly on absorbent towelling.

We recommend cracking the skins in water rather than dipping the fruit in lye solutions because handling lye can be dangerous.

Protecting Light-Colored Fruits

When apples, peaches, pears, apricots, or other light-colored fruits are cut and exposed to the air, the flesh turns brown rapidly. This darkening is caused by a chemical change called oxidation. If oxidation is not stopped, it will injure the texture, flavor, aroma, and appearance of the fruit.

While you are working with light-colored fruits, treat them with an antioxidant to keep them from turning brown. Mix a small amount of ascorbic acid (2 teaspoons for apples and 1 teaspoon for other light-colored fruit) in I cup of water. Sprinkle the solution over the cut fruit as you are working. Stir lightly to coat all pieces. This amount is enough for about 5 quarts of fruit. Commercial antioxidants contain ascorbic acid plus other ingredients, but they are more expensive than pure ascorbic acid. You can buy ascorbic acid in most drugstores.

It's not a good idea to soak fruit in salt or vinegar water because this adds water to the fruit and lengthens the drying time. Soaking also dissolves out some of the water-soluble vitamins. The vinegar-salt solutions also tend to dull the color of the fruit.

The ascorbic acid coating is only a temporary treatment. For permanent, antidarkening action the fruit still needs to be specially treated before drying.


Sulfuring is the best antioxidant treatment for preserving color. Without a permanent, antioxidant treatment, apples and other fruits with light-colored flesh will turn dark during drying and storage. Sulfur also helps prevent loss of vitamins A and C. Sulfur is not a preservative in itself, but it discourages insects and microbes, which can cause spoilage.

You don't need to worry about sulfur being harmful in the amounts used for treating fruits. Sulfur is a mineral that occurs naturally in foods and is necessary for life. Sulfur forms sulfurous acid when it combines with the water in the fruit, but the acid evaporates during drying. The residue is a harmless compound that the body easily excretes.

To keep fruit from discoloring, you should expose it to sulfur immediately after preparing it. There are two methods of sulfuring, each with its own advantages and disadvantages: using (1) sulfur fumes or (2) a sulfite solution.

Sulfur fumes are more effective than sulfur solutions, but this method takes more time and equipment. You need a wooden or cardboard box and wooden trays or screens covered with cheesecloth. Several of the recommended references describe methods for making a sulfur box. They also explain how to load and operate the box.

The sulfuring time for each type of fruit is different, so check your references. Fruits sulfured by this method should not be dried indoors because the odor of the fumes is unpleasant. And take care: sulfur fumes are irritating to the eyes and nose.

Soaking fruit in a sulfite solution is easy. The pieces of fruit are, however, less thoroughly sulfured than they are by fumes. Because of the soaking involved, the fruit absorbs some water, so the drying time is lengthened. Fruit that is sulfured by this method may be dried indoors or out.

To make a sulfite solution, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of sodium bisulfite to 1 gallon of water. Mix thoroughly. Soak the prepared fruit in the solution for 5 to 10 minutes. Soak lighter fruit longer. Use a weighted plate to keep the fruit submerged in the solution. Drain the pieces of fruit and then blot them dry on absorbent towelling. Do not rinse the fruit in water. Start the drying procedure immediately.

Sodium bisulfite is usually available at drugstores, winemakers' shops, and some health food stores. If not, check with your local Cooperative Extension Office. Use only pure reagent or food-grade bisulfite. Don't use practical-grade bisulfite because it is not pure enough for sulfuring fruit. Do not use garden-dusting sulfur either.

Steam Blanching

Steam blanching fruit is an alternative to sulfuring, but it is not as effective. More vitamins are lost and drying takes longer. For these reasons steam blanching is not recommended.


You are now ready to begin drying. Arrange pretreated fruit in a single layer on the drying trays. Then place the trays in the oven or dryer. Be sure to stack the trays at least 1-1/2 inches apart. If you are drying juicy fruits such as apricots, cut them in half and remove the pits. Then set the pieces on the racks with the cut side up. This way the flavorful juices will not drain out and be lost.

If you are drying food in the oven, remember to leave the door open slightly. If you have an electric fan, place it in front of the oven to speed up the drying. A dryer comes equipped with a fan to provide ventilation, so you won't need to leave the door ajar.

The length of time needed for drying will depend on the size and number of pieces dried at one time. Drying fruit can take anywhere from 6 hours for very thin or small pieces such as apple slices or grapes to 10 hours for larger juicy fruits such as peach or apricot halves. Temperature and humidity will also affect the drying time. When the pieces are dry, they should be leathery. Cut a piece of fruit to be sure; there should be no moisture inside the fruit.

FRUIT LEATHERS You might want to try making fruit "leathers," which are a tasty variation of dried fruits. They are made by pureeing almost any type of fruit, then spreading the puree on a cookie sheet or similar tray to dry. Cover the cookie sheet with plastic wrap and pour the thick puree onto the sheet. Spread it out to form a layer only 1/4-inch deep. The fruit puree can be sweetened with honey or corn syrup, and spices, nuts, or coconut flakes can be sprinkled on top. Start with very little because the drying process will concentrate the flavors. Dry the puree until it is leatherlike and pliable but has no sticky spots. Fruit leathers make delicious snacks, treats, or gifts. They can be eaten as is, or they can be reconstituted and used in many dishes. They will keep longest in the refrigerator or freezer.


Dried fruit may be eaten as is. It is great for children's lunches, after-school snacks, or parties. Dried fruit can also be used in cookie or granola recipes or with breakfast cereal.

To use dried fruit in prepared dishes, reconstitute it first by soaking it in cool water for about 2 hours, or until plump. Or pour boiling water over the fruit, just enough to cover, and simmer about 15 minutes, or until tender. Add more water if necessary. Do not overcook because the fruit will get mushy and lose flavor. After the fruit has been reconstituted, it can be used in any recipe that calls for fresh, canned, or frozen fruit.
(c) 1984/2008 Judy Troftgruben, Extension Specialist, Foods and Nutrition and revised by Mary Keith, Assistant Professor, Foods and Nutrition, and Extension Specialist, Foods, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Murdering God
Of Shotguns, American Capitalism, and Moral Expediency
By Jason Miller

"God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?" ~~~ Nietzsche

Experiencing decreasing levels of the comfort that ensures our loyalty to the criminal enterprise of American Capitalism, we "average" US Americans comprising the poor, working class, and rapidly shrinking middle class still revel in our relatively meaningless social freedoms (we can say "fuck you" to George Bush but can't even get our "elected representatives" to impeach him for his Nuremberg class war crimes) as the economic manacles and shackles of wage slavery clamp ever tighter about our wrists and ankles.

In pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, we sell our souls for a relative handful of economic crumbs from the table of the US power elite and their express permission to do whatever we please (as long as we stay within "free speech zones," don't threaten public officials, commit no acts that impede the sacred cow of commerce, "just say no" to drugs, pay our taxes that fund a massive military apparatus (that has slaughtered millions) and prop up the Zionist squatters in Palestine, look the other way as amoral corporations rape the Earth and torture billions of non-human animals each year, ignore the abject criminality of corporados, Wall Streeters, and those we have "elected," and act as cogs in the machineries of capitalism to avoid exercising our right to sleep under a bridge).

No doubt about it. We have made our Faustian bargain and are "the murderers of all murderers." Collectively speaking, we US Americans savagely shoved a 12 gauge into the face of God as He stood, mouth agape, stunned at the depth of the depravity and barbarism of our capitalistic ways. We then unceremoniously splattered His brains across the sky that once served as His canvas at sunrise and sunset.

By liquefying God's gray matter we ensured the extinction of cumbersome and antiquated moral principles that impeded American Capitalism's expansion, profit, and growth. Without ridiculous impediments such as justice, compassion, love, the Golden Rule, or truth, souless capitalists found a truly free market in which they could rape, pillage and plunder with impunity, even garnering admiration from the masses for their cunning ruthlessness. To top it off, being the connivers we are, we proudly display God's colossal decaying corpse (an incarnation more hideous than anything yet to spring forth from Rob Zombie's imagination) as our "proof" to the world that we are a Christian nation.

And we "comfort ourselves" by wallowing in the fetid sewage that flows freely from our idiot boxes, enslaving our minds to the Bernays-inspired propaganda that ensures our fealty to a system that is murdering the planet and rotting our souls. Reality television provides us with the twisted wreckage and bloody corpses of a horrific car wreck, piquing our morbid curiosity and distracting us from the prick of conscience or any thought of doing something really stupid, like perhaps ending our rape of the Earth. Kens and Barbies, "sage" analysts, establishmentized minorities, and "populists" pulling down six figures or better (all of whom enunciate, dress, and smile to sickeningly unnatural perfection, mind you), deliver the "news" and affirm the "rightness of our Whiteness." Television is truly a balm to our diseased souls.

TV is so powerful that we don't even need to be watching it for its "healing powers" to impact us. As the conflagration fueled by American Capitalism's insatiable lust for profit consumes the planet, we US Americans preoccupy ourselves with our selfish, narrow pursuits and indifferently banter back and forth about the inanities we worship on television. Will the Patriots win another Super Bowl this year? Who is going to win American Idol? What sycophant will give good enough fellatio to become Trump's apprentice? McMurder for dinner tonight, honey?

"Who will wipe this blood off us?" Since we took God out with a shotgun instead of a blade, we made Lady Macbeth (with her 'damn spot') look like a candy-striper. But what did we care? We'd been awash in sanguinary fluid since our ancestors started eradicating the "primitives" who inhabited Turtle Island. Besides, the high priests of American Capitalism and our false idol, Mammon, are more than happy to absolve us of any sin we commit in our pursuit of money, profit, property, or consumer goods.

As for festivals of atonement, no one does it better. While it may be ridiculously hollow and devoid of meaning, we give plenty of lip-service to our love and respect for our murder victim. And when we set aside a special day for God, we go all out!

Take Easter for instance. That is the one Sunday of the year when most of us put on our "Sunday best" and grace Him with our presence at His house of worship.

On Thanksgiving, we display our gratitude for His help in stealing the "Injun's land" by stuffing our faces with over 40 million turkeys that have been brutally tortured and murdered in our nightmarish factory farming system.

Christmas is the real stunner though. We celebrate His birth by showering ourselves with gifts. December 25th is a disgustingly selfish greed-fest fueled by the runaway consumerism that is capitalism's life-blood and the environment's death sentence. How delightfully ironic is it that we honor God by rewarding ourselves and accelerating the demise of the planet? After all, we hailed Him as our Creator and then blew out His brains.

Was "not the greatness of this deed too great for us?" Let's get serious. We're Americans. We are the "can do," "git 'er done" nation. American Exceptionalism always rises to the occasion, even if the task involves executing a divine being.

And we need "not become gods simply to appear worthy of" having killed God.

As Americans, we already are gods.

For those of you with the chutzpah to challenge that assertion, remember that we have a larger pile of money, bigger guns, more mean-spiritedness, better technology, shrewder business people, and a much larger arsenal of nuclear weapons than any nation on the planet. Any questions?
(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.

Duce Bags
Italy Leads Fascist Revanche in Western Democracies
By Chris Floyd

The first by-lined piece I ever had in a newspaper dealt with the rise of political parties in Italy that proudly claimed descent from the Fascists of Benito Mussolini. This was almost 30 years ago, when memories of the Fascist era in Italy and Germany were still relatively fresh; one didn't have to be very old - hardly middle-aged - to remember growing up under those regimes or else being touched by their shadow in one way or another. And of course, the Fascist regimes in Spain and Portugal had only ended a few years before the article appeared. So the emergence of openly neo-Fascist mainstream parties in Italy - the birthplace of the movement - was a genuine shock in those days.

It's not shocking anymore, of course. For the past 14 years, Italian politics has been dominated by a Fascist-aligned bloc led by sleazy oligarch Silvio Berlusconi. A capsule description of the dubious neo-Duce that I wrote five years ago for the Bergen Record - on the occasion of Berlusconi's visit to the Crawford ranch of his good friend, sleazy oligarch George W. Bush - is still apt today:

Berlusconi is Italy's richest man, a media mogul who now controls 90 percent of the nation's broadcast media and much of its print media - newspapers, magazines, and book publishing - as well Italy's top sports team, the nation's biggest financial services firm and a vast portfolio of other holdings. His first term in office ended in a welter of corruption indictments; his second has been marked by heavy-handed media manipulation and a shocking use of his parliamentary majority to craft laws exempting him and his cronies from ongoing prosecutions and looming investigations.

He rules Italy through a right-wing coalition that includes a party which proclaims itself the "successor" to fascist dictator Benito Mussolini's sinister faction. He has flatly reneged on earlier promises to divest himself of his media holdings, while conducting a relentless campaign aimed at undermining the authority of Italy's judicial system, a bulwark of the nation's ever-turbulent democratic system. He has sacked journalists from Italy's state television network for criticizing his government - an act of free speech that Berlusconi called "criminal."

Berlusconi was turfed out of office in 2006, but returned to power this year at the head of his most hard-line coalition yet. And these days - in our "changed" post-9/11 world, when Western governments have embraced aggression, authoritarianism and the adoration of raw power as never before - there is no need for Berlusconi's blackshirts to sugarcoat their Fascist proclivities. Yet even though we have learned to expect the worst from our degraded democracies (and are rarely disappointed), it still comes as something of a shock to see Italy reviving one of Fascism's most brutal policies - the official demonization of an entire ethnic group - against one of the movement's most ravaged historical targets: the Gypsies. Seamus Milne reports in the Guardian:

At the heart of Europe, police have begun fingerprinting children on the basis of their race - with barely a murmur of protest from European governments. Last week, Silvio Berlusconi's new rightwing Italian administration announced plans to carry out a national registration of all the country's estimated 150,000 Gypsies - Roma and Sinti people - whether Italian-born or migrants. Interior minister and leading light of the xenophobic Northern League, Roberto Maroni, insisted that taking fingerprints of all Roma, including children, was needed to "prevent begging" and, if necessary, remove the children from their parents.

The ethnic fingerprinting drive is part of a broader crackdown on Italy's three-and-a-half million migrants, most of them legal, carried out in an atmosphere of increasingly hysterical rhetoric about crime and security. But the reviled Roma, some of whose families have been in Italy since the middle ages, are taking the brunt of it. The aim is to close 700 Roma squatter camps and force their inhabitants out of the cities or the country. In the same week as Maroni was defending his racial registration plans in parliament, Italy's highest appeal court ruled that it was acceptable to discriminate against Roma on the grounds that "all Gypsies were thieves", rather than because of their "Gypsy nature".

Official roundups and forced closures of Roma camps have been punctuated with vigilante attacks. In May, rumours of an abduction of a baby girl by a Gypsy woman in Naples triggered an orgy of racist violence against Roma camps by thugs wielding iron bars, who torched caravans and drove Gypsies from their slum homes in dozens of assaults, orchestrated by the local mafia, the Camorra. [More on the Camorra's increasing symbiosis with the state here.] The response of Berlusconi's government to the firebombing and ethnic cleansing? "That is what happens when Gypsies steal babies," shrugged Maroni; while fellow minister and Northern League leader Umberto Bossi declared: "The people do what the political class isn't able to do."

This, it should be recalled, is taking place in a state that under Benito Mussolini's fascist dictatorship played a willing part in the Holocaust, during which more than a million Gypsies are estimated to have died as "sub-humans" alongside the Nazi genocide perpetrated against the Jews. The first expulsions of Gypsies by Mussolini took place as early as 1926. Now the dictator's political heirs, the "post-fascist" National Alliance, are coalition partners in Berlusconi's government. In case anyone missed that, when the Alliance's Gianni Alemanno was elected mayor of Rome in April, his supporters gave the fascist salute chanting "Duce" (equivalent to the German "Führer") and Berlusconi enthused: "We are the new Falange" (the Spanish fascist party of General Franco).

As Milne notes, this Fascist revanche has not drawn a single protest from the leaders of the "free world." Indeed, they welcomed Berlusconi back with open arms to the gilded circle of G-8 supremos last week. Bush was the most enthusiastic of all, greeting his old friend and partner in war crime with enthusiastic shouts of "Amigo!" (Well, it's a foreign word anyway, if not quite Italian), then commiserating with him over Berlusconi's continuing criminal indictments (which, once again, he is using state powers to try to squirm out of). "I read the courts are after you again," the American lawbreaker told the Italian sleaze merchant. "It's unbelievable. I've never seen anything like it. Constantly after you." (One can only hope that relentless prosecutors will be "constantly after" Bush in the years to come.)


But Milne makes a further point. The rise of neo-fascism in Italy, and elsewhere, is tied to the collapse -- or rather the surrender -- of center-left parties to the pernicious doctrines of the Right. Everywhere, these parties --- Democrats in America, Labour in the UK, various Social Democrats throughout Europe - have turned themselves into pale copies of conservative parties, adopting policies that have degraded society, destroyed communities, entrenched injustice, rewarded greed, poisoned the earth, embraced militarism and aggression, inflicted vast suffering on developing nations (through the straightjacket of "market reforms," i.e., corporate-crony welfare), subverted democracy, diminished liberty and gutted the very notion of the common good.

[Yet we are being too kind in calling this process a "surrender." As Arthur Silber has pointed out many times, the Democrats - and New Labour and other craven centre-left parties - have embraced the Right's agenda of elitist domination, militarism and scorn for the common good because they agree with it. Any figures with genuinely "progressive" views have been winnowed out or marginalized by the big money machines that run the parties. Such people are always a minority amongst the self-interested factions who vie for domination over a nation's affairs, of course. But there used to be a more substantial minority of such folks in U.S. politics, with enough leverage to sometimes affect national policy and even score some successes. But this strain has been almost completely bred out, as we have seen in the latest Democratic Congress - the most reviled and unpopular Congress in American history.]

Back to Milne:

...the same phenomena can be seen to varying degrees all over Europe, where racist and Islamophobic parties are on the march: take the far right Swiss People's party, which on Tuesday succeeded in collecting enough signatures to force a referendum on banning minarets throughout the country. In Britain, as Peter Oborne's Channel 4 film on Islamophobia this week underlined, a mendacious media and political campaign has fed anti-Muslim hostility and violence since the 2005 London bombings - just as hostility to asylum seekers was whipped up in the 1990s. The social and democratic degeneration now reached by Italy can happen anywhere in the current climate.

Italy has a further lesson for Britain and the rest of Europe. Berlusconi's election victory in April was built on the collapse of confidence in the centre-left government of Romano Prodi, which stuck to a narrow neoliberal programme and miserably failed to deliver to its own voters. Meanwhile, centre-left politicians such as Walter Veltroni, the former mayor of Rome, pandered to, rather than challenged, the xenophobic agenda of the rightwing parties - tearing down Gypsy camps himself and absurdly claiming last year that 75% of all crime was committed by Romanians (often confused with Roma in Italy).

What was needed instead, as in the case of other countries experiencing large-scale immigration, was public action to provide decent housing and jobs, clamp down on exploitation of migrant workers and support economic development in Europe's neighbours. That opportunity has now been lost, as Italy is gripped by an ominous and retrograde spasm. The persecution of Gypsies is Italy's shame - and a warning to us all.

In the current U.S. presidential campaign, we can see this dynamic of center-left collaboration with the Right - which has been going on for almost a quarter-century in America - playing itself out once again. Barack Obama's "surge" to the Right - as exemplified by his vote for the tyrannical FISA measure - is just another iteration of this process. Likewise, his embrace of the Terror War; true, he wants to do it more "efficiently," and perhaps add a few more targets - in Pakistan, say - but he still wants to do it. He makes no bones about continuing this militarist project which has already killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, bankrupted the national treasury, and is now - through the Terror War oil price spike - strangling the entire national economy. All of this - especially the Terror War's continuing brutalization and coarsening of the national ethos - is meet food for neo-fascism to feed upon.

And it's already gorging itself in its ancestral homeland. Rounding up Gypsy children, fingerprinting them, driving them from their homes, applauding pogroms -- as Faulkner said, the past is never dead; it's not even past.
(c) 2008 Chris Floyd

Decisions Shut Door On Bush Clean-Air Steps
By Felicity Barringer

Any major steps by the Bush administration to control air pollution or reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases came to a dead end on Friday, the combined result of a federal court ruling and a decision by the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

In the morning, a federal appeals court struck down the cornerstone of the administration's strategy to control industrial air pollution by agreeing with arguments by the utility industry that the E.P.A. had exceeded its authority when it established the Clean Air Interstate Rule in 2005. The court, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, said the rule, which set new requirements for major pollutants, had "fatal flaws."

A few hours later, the E.P.A. chief rejected any obligation to regulate heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide under existing law, saying that to do so would involve an "unprecedented expansion" of the agency's authority that would have "a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy," touching "every household in the land."

Taken together, the developments make it clear that any significant new effort to fight air pollution will fall to the next president.

The comments by the E.P.A. administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, reinforced a message that the administration had been sending for months: that it does not intend to impose mandatory controls on the emissions that cause climate change. John Walke, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental group, said, "As a result of today, July 11, the Bush administration has failed to achieve a single ounce in reductions of smog, soot, mercury or global warming pollution from power plants."

Mr. Johnson said he was "extremely disappointed" in the court decision "because it's overturning one of the most significant and health-protective rules in our nation's history."

But on climate change, he said laws like the Clean Air Act were "ill-suited" to the complexities of regulating greenhouse gases.

Mr. Johnson's comments appeared as a preface to a report by the E.P.A. staff sketching out how the emission of heat-trapping gases, particularly by vehicles, might be handled under the Clean Air Act. The report was intended to address a Supreme Court directive that the agency decide whether such gases threaten people's health or welfare. But it also reflects the deep disapproval of controls on such gases by the White House and agencies like the Transportation, Agriculture and Commerce Departments.

In effect, Mr. Johnson was simultaneously publishing the policy analysis of his scientific and legal experts and repudiating its conclusions.

The Clean Air Interstate Rule, which covered states in the eastern half of the country, set new requirements for controls on major pollutants emitted by industry, particularly the electric utilities. At its most stringent, it would have required, beginning in 2015, 70 percent reductions in sulfur dioxide and 60 percent reductions in nitrogen oxide from 2003 levels.

At the time the interstate pollution rule was adopted, the E.P.A. estimated that, when fully in effect after 2015, it would cut by 13,000 annually the number of premature deaths from breathing polluted air.

The court ruling, combined with a court decision this year striking down an E.P.A. rule controlling mercury emissions from power plants, means that virtually all controls on the electric utility industry by the Bush administration have no force.

"The implications are huge," said Lisa Heinzerling, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center. "This is the administration's major air pollution initiative."

The restrictions were designed, Ms. Heinzerling said, to deal comprehensively with a variety of air pollution issues, including the interstate transport of pollutants and the states' obligations to enforce standards to protect the public health.

But with the court's decision, she said, all of the administration's efforts, aside from those involving vehicles, "are gone."

"Anything they've done that has any relation to pollution control has been invalidated," she said.

The court decision disappointed even the victors.

Jim Owen of the Edison Electric Institute said, "In our industry, one of the things we crave is certainty, and this goes in the other direction."

Brent W. Dorsey, the director of corporate environmental programs at Entergy, the large energy producer, added, "With this thing thrown out, we've basically thrown the baby out with the bathwater."

Entergy, one of the companies that brought the case to court, emphasized on Friday that it did not want the whole rule thrown out and that it had challenged only the part that allocated permits for emissions of pollutants around the industry. The company said an 11th-hour change by the E.P.A. had put too much of the cleanup burden on areas using oil and gas for power generation, as Entergy does, and not enough on utilities that burn coal.

Thomas Williams, a spokesman for Duke Energy, which had sued the E.P.A., contesting how the rule allocated the pollution allowances among industries, said in an e-mail message, "It was not the intent of Duke Energy's participation in this litigation to overturn E.P.A.'s Clean Air Interstate Rule."

Mr. Williams pointed out that North Carolina, where Duke has several power plants, enacted a law in 2002 that set limits on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide that were even tougher than those in the now-defunct federal rule.

Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said on Friday that few states, aside from North Carolina, had laws that would fill the void created by the court ruling.

"Right now we find ourselves in the twilight zone," Mr. Dorsey, of Entergy, said. "How do you proceed now? Do we continue to buy emissions allowances? Do we work on putting scrubbers on, or what?"

Entergy backs a legislative remedy proposed by Senator Thomas R. Carper, Democrat of Delaware, that would set long-term limits on pollutants.P

While industry and environmental lobbyists both expressed concerns about the impact of the court ruling, they divided along more customary lines on Friday's second decision, the declaration by Mr. Johnson of the E.P.A. that existing federal laws were "ill-suited" to the regulation of heat-trapping gases.

The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers released a statement saying, in part, "We share concerns that the Clean Air Act, which underwent its last major amendment 18 years ago, does not include all of the tools and criteria needed to address the global issue of climate change, including requirements to balance the economic effects and impacts on U.S. manufacturing jobs along with the environmental considerations."

Mr. Johnson alluded to the difficulty of applying the Clean Air Act, designed for conventional pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, to greenhouse gases.

Because interagency consensus could not be reached on a road map for such regulation, Mr. Johnson said, he was simultaneously publishing his staff's work and the comments of its critics, which had a definite tinge of hostility toward the E.P.A. regulators.

For instance, the chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, James Connaughton, wrote that the E.P.A.'s staff "myopically focuses on the Clean Air Act and ignores or understates major intended and unintended consequences that would flow from misapplying decades-old regulatory tools."

The final E.P.A. document, known as an advance notice of proposed rule making, did not contain a staff analysis about the economic benefits of regulation that had been in an earlier draft. That May 30 draft, which circulated widely in Washington, set the benefits of regulation at up to $2 trillion. The final version, based on the revised assumption that gasoline would cost about $2.20 per gallon in the foreseeable future, estimated the economic benefit at no more than about $830 billion.
(c) 2008 Felicity Barringer ~~~ The New York Times

Banks, Congress And Trail Mix
By Mike Folkerth

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

It really isn't a question at this point of whether America will change, it's how and when. Over the next week or so, in between reporting the news that I see as mandatory, let's take a shot at answering... how and when.

One piece of news that I need to run by you is that IndyMac Bank was seized by federal regulators on Friday after the mortgage lender succumbed to the pressures of tighter credit, tumbling home prices and rising foreclosures.

Now IndyMac wasn't a small bank, if fact, this event marks the second largest financial institution to close in U.S. history. Yet, we accept that news as if it had said, "Rain appears to be in the forecast."

The financial markets fell again on Friday, but are up this morning on the news that our federal government will bail out Fannie and Freddie, who together finance some 75% of U.S. mortgages. Of course, the government doesn't have any money and they forged your name to the loan as a permanent co-signer.

Remember that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are private corporations that are traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Yes, just like Bear Stearns. But fear not, all indications are that our government is through giving handouts. Well, they did commit to continue to pay our 535 brain damaged congress boy and girls as a mercy mission, but no one else.

The write downs for bad loans at banks have already exceeded $300 Billion. That number is expected to reach $1 Trillion, more than three times the current losses. And here you thought it couldn't possibly get worse.

So what can we do? Long term we can throw our leaders out and get some new ones who have read the Constitution and who can pass 5th grade economics. But, figuring that we had a chance to elect Ron Paul and chose instead to run Barrack and John, don't count on much help from the feds.

That being said, we have to change those circumstance and conditions that we have control of. "God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know that many of our fellow Americans are brain dead."

Little things make a difference and my wife Cathy and I try to think about those little things every day. Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it. We recently drove to the Oregon coast to visit family. We stay in motels that provide a clean room for a reasonable price and also provide a decent breakfast.

We carry a cooler with lunch supplies and drinks. We stop at a park or a scenic attraction and make our own lunch, which also allows us to get a little exercise rather than sitting in a restaurant. The savings more than paid for the increased price of fuel.

I have for some years kept a sealable plastic container full of snacks in my vehicle. Things like trail mix, peanut butter crackers, dried fruit and assorted nuts are included, and yes, exactly like the stuff that I used to buy at the convenience store. But we either make our own snacks or buy them in bulk packs for pennies on the dollar compared to C-store prices.

We also buy hydration drinks, such as Gatorade, in powder form and fill reusable bottles rather than paying the impulse price. Not only do we save money, we aren't throwing away zillions of plastic containers.

Little things add up, but we also need to talk about the big things, for ultimately that is what will make or break us. Change is inevitable and doing so on own terms is paramount. Take the most conservative financial posture possible at this point and time.

Live Simple, Live Well and Live Long; it's your choice.
(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...

"Voting is no substitute for the eternal vigilance that every friend of freedom must demonstrate towards government. If our freedom is to survive, Americans must become far better informed of the dangers from Washington regardless of who wins the Presidency."
~~~ James Bovard

Fannie, Freddie And The Threat Of Economic Meltdown
By Paul Krugman

And now we've reached the next stage of our seemingly never-ending financial crisis. This time Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are in the headlines, with dire warnings of imminent collapse. How worried should we be?

Well, I'm going to take a contrarian position: the storm over these particular lenders is overblown. Fannie and Freddie probably will need a government rescue. But since it's already clear that that rescue will take place, their problems won't take down the economy.

Furthermore, while Fannie and Freddie are problematic institutions, they aren't responsible for the mess we're in.

Here's the background: Fannie Mae -- the Federal National Mortgage Association -- was created in the 1930s to facilitate homeownership by buying mortgages from banks, freeing up cash that could be used to make new loans. Fannie and Freddie Mac, which does pretty much the same thing, now finance most of the home loans being made in America.

The case against Fannie and Freddie begins with their peculiar status: although they're private companies with stockholders and profits, they're "government-sponsored enterprises" established by federal law, which means that they receive special privileges.

The most important of these privileges is implicit: it's the belief of investors that if Fannie and Freddie are threatened with failure, the federal government will come to their rescue.

This implicit guarantee means that profits are privatized but losses are socialized. If Fannie and Freddie do well, their stockholders reap the benefits, but if things go badly, Washington picks up the tab. Heads they win, tails we lose.

Such one-way bets can encourage the taking of bad risks, because the downside is someone else's problem. The classic example of how this can happen is the savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s: S.& L. owners offered high interest rates to attract lots of federally insured deposits, then essentially gambled with the money. When many of their bets went bad, the feds ended up holding the bag. The eventual cleanup cost taxpayers more than $100 billion.

But here's the thing: Fannie and Freddie had nothing to do with the explosion of high-risk lending a few years ago, an explosion that dwarfed the S.& L. fiasco. In fact, Fannie and Freddie, after growing rapidly in the 1990s, largely faded from the scene during the height of the housing bubble.

Partly that's because regulators, responding to accounting scandals at the companies, placed temporary restraints on both Fannie and Freddie that curtailed their lending just as housing prices were really taking off. Also, they didn't do any subprime lending, because they can't: the definition of a subprime loan is precisely a loan that doesn't meet the requirement, imposed by law, that Fannie and Freddie buy only mortgages issued to borrowers who made substantial down payments and carefully documented their income.

So whatever bad incentives the implicit federal guarantee creates have been offset by the fact that Fannie and Freddie were and are tightly regulated with regard to the risks they can take. You could say that the Fannie-Freddie experience shows that regulation works.

In that case, however, how did they end up in trouble?

Part of the answer is the sheer scale of the housing bubble, and the size of the price declines taking place now that the bubble has burst. In Los Angeles, Miami and other places, anyone who borrowed to buy a house at the peak of the market probably has negative equity at this point, even if he or she originally put 20 percent down. The result is a rising rate of delinquency even on loans that meet Fannie-Freddie guidelines.

Also, Fannie and Freddie, while tightly regulated in terms of their lending, haven't been required to put up enough capital -- that is, money raised by selling stock rather than borrowing. This means that even a small decline in the value of their assets can leave them underwater, owing more than they own.

And yes, there is a real political scandal here: there have been repeated warnings that Fannie's and Freddie's thin capitalization posed risks to taxpayers, but the companies' management bought off the political process, systematically hiring influential figures from both parties. While they were ugly, however, Fannie's and Freddie's political machinations didn't play a significant role in causing our current problems.

Still, isn't it shocking that taxpayers may end up having to rescue these institutions? Not really. We're going through a major financial crisis -- and such crises almost always end with some kind of taxpayer bailout for the banking system.

And let's be clear: Fannie and Freddie can't be allowed to fail. With the collapse of subprime lending, they're now more central than ever to the housing market, and the economy as a whole.
(c) 2008 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Remote Control Penis
They say the male birth-control pill is ready to go. But is something missing?

By Mark Morford

Vividly indeed do I remember the lovely and sordid tale my friend once told me, many years ago, of the terrific guy she once dated, a strapping young thing who - through a series of unfortunate childhood events - had to have a remote-controlled, robotic penis installed in his body.

Let me be more specific. Apparently, this fine lad's delicate man tissues had been damaged in a very unpleasant bicycle accident in his youth, and he could therefore no longer enjoy normal erections. Everything else functioned just fine, but when it came to sex, despite having full sensation, all systems were mangled, all blood vessels shot. Sad indeed.

But then, a savior. Through the miracle of modern medicine and not-so-modern pneumatics, ingenious doctors were able to install some sort of marvelous contraption, a valve and a rod and bladder and a little pump - a complete mechanical system by which our boy could, well, inflate and deflate his manhood at will, last as long as he liked, repeat as frequently as energy and soreness and lubricant allowed, and thereby enjoy a (relatively) normal sex life.

It worked like a charm. It also worked like an aphrodisiac, a mesmerizing technological miracle, and a pair of old Reebok Pump basketball shoes. What you did was: Squeeze a little bulb at the base of the perineum a few dozen times to inflate, to raise the flag and see who salutes. Enjoy indefinitely (!) When finished, simply reach up underneath into God's country and press a different little bulb to deflate the air bladder and, well, lower the mainsail (my friend said this particular procedure sounded like a sad squeaky toy, sighing slowly. She found it adorable).

(Here is where I'd like to tell you my friend's nickname for this lad, but they tell me this is still a family website and baffled children/grandmothers could be reading this and are already panicky that they saw the word "penis" on screen. So I'll just say it rhymed very closely with "The Wonder Sock.")

This heartwarming tale comes to mind as I read of how scientists have now developed a tiny valve they can surgically implant into the manhood of mankind to, well, control the flow of sperm at will. Your own built-in, reversible, radio-controlled vasectomy! they exclaim, with a winking Australian grin.

Apparently, said contraption involves a little remote-controlled switch that can, at the press of a button, activate or deactivate the flow from wherever it is that sperm flows (a musty little furniture shop somewhere on the outskirts of London, I think) by opening and closing a valve installed into the all-important duct known as the vas deferens. Nifty!

I know what you're thinking. A remote-controlled sperm valve? Are you crazy? Who the hell would want something like that?

I'll tell you who: Every modern male under 30, that's who. Hell, add in a digital camera and an MP3 player and maybe built-in GPS, and you've got the next iPod.

See, like my friend's wonder sock, I think such technology would play directly upon the dual modern male fantasies of unlimited penile dexterity and übergeek tech coolness. In the age of gizmo wonders and technologically advanced everything, why not a mechanically enhanced penis? Why not a little Iron Man in your iron man? Make it easy, make it relatively affordable, market it like you would the Bang & Olufsen stereo option on an Audi R8 (i.e., an invaluable enhancement, not a threat), and I say: Viva la revolucion!

It is, of course, all part of the eternal quest for an easy, idiot-proof male birth-control device for consensual adults that doesn't involve sheathing everything in miserable amounts of latex and therefore dulling the finest sensation known to all malehood next to perhaps a superlative foot massage and maybe sipping dark rum in a hot tub with nubile pagan fire priestesses from the moon.

But maybe such a valve won't be necessary. After all, they say there's already been a big breakthrough in male birth control, that scientists have finally developed a surefire "male pill" that knocks any man's sperm count down to zero, and all that's left is a bit of clinical testing. So effective is the new pill that it's apparently safer than condoms, safer than the female pill, safer than staring at a photo of Ann Coulter for three full, agonizing minutes while your sperm commit mass suicide from sheer horror. Amazing.

But apparently there's a problem. Big Pharma doesn't seem to care about this new breakthrough. And why? Money, of course. They say there's just not enough interest. Men don't seem to be clamoring for it, the market doesn't seem to be there, millions don't stand to be made, and hence no one wants to fund more research on the thing, which could result in a wait of three to five more years before such a pill hits the market, if it ever does.

What's more, some argue that dumb-as-nails men are too unreliable for such a thing anyway, that no woman worth her weight in diaphragms and Nonoxyl-9 would dare trust a man to remember to take a pill every day, because of course men are generally irresponsible schlubs who can't even remember their own phone numbers and etc. and so on and cliché cliché cliché.

To which I say, utter and total B.S. There's not a smart modern male I know who wouldn't love to know he wouldn't - couldn't - get a date pregnant, that there could be no "accidents," that he will never get that life-altering phone call. Hell, there's already a trend whereby some baby-terrified men are getting old-school surgical vasectomies in their early 20s, rife with the fear that some nefarious huntress might try to snare them in the baby trap. Shift the power dynamics of fertility and birth control to men? Talk about your massive cultural psycho-sexual upheavals. Watch for it.

But maybe that's neither here nor there. Maybe the pill's researchers need to hook up with the valve engineers and the genius docs who installed my friend's lover's old penis pump way back when, and all work together to solve this most pressing issue and move humanity, uh, forward.

Which is to say, you want to guarantee men engage fully in matters fertile and impregnable? You want to make sure they care deeply about familial responsibility and planning? Don't just give them a pill. Give them a slick badass high-tech gizmo to deliver it, maybe a hot little button on their iPhones that not only shuts a microvalve and releases the pill's chemicals, but also boosts stamina, responds to voice commands, calculates the tip on the dinner bill, organizes their playlist according to a given date's particular mood, and of course, reminds them exactly where the clitoris is. Really, what more do you need?
(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 Unterfuhrer Cannon,

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 constant cover-ups from the US Attorney firings to Karl Rove fleeing the country to avoid be subpoenaed, Iraq and these many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican 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 ruby clusters presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Bush at a gala celebration at "der Wolf's Lair," formally "Rancho de Bimbo," on 08-23-2008. We salute you Herr Cannon, Sieg Heil!

Vice Fuhrer Cheney

Heil Bush

The Motivation For Blocking Investigations Into Bush Lawbreaking
By Glenn Greenwald

Harper's Scott Horton yesterday interviewed Jane Mayer about her new book, The Dark Side. The first question he asked was about the Bush administration's fear that they would be criminally prosecuted for implementing what the International Red Cross had categorically described as "torture."

Mayer responded "that inside the White House there [had] been growing fear of criminal prosecution, particularly after the Supreme Court ruled in the Hamdan case that the Geneva Conventions applied to the treatment of the detainees," and that it was this fear that led the White House to demand (and, of course, receive) immunity for past interrogation crimes as part of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. But Mayer noted one important political impediment to holding Bush officials accountable for their illegal torture program:

An additional complicating factor is that key members of Congress sanctioned this program, so many of those who might ordinarily be counted on to lead the charge are themselves compromised.

As we witness not just Republicans, but also Democrats in Congress, acting repeatedly to immunize executive branch lawbreaking and to obstruct investigations, it's vital to keep that fact in mind. With regard to illegal Bush programs of torture and eavesdropping, key Congressional Democrats were contemporaneously briefed on what the administration was doing (albeit, in fairness, often in unspecific ways). The fact that they did nothing to stop that illegality, and often explicitly approved of it, obviously incentivizes them to block any investigations or judicial proceedings into those illegal programs.

In December of last year, The Washington Post revealed:

Four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

The article noted that other Democratic members who received briefings on the CIA's interrogation program included Jay Rockefeller and Jane Harman. While Harman sent a letter to the CIA asking questions about the legality of the program, none ever took any steps to stop or even restrict the interrogation program in any way.

Identically, numerous key Democrats in Congress -- including Rockefeller and Harman -- were told that Bush had ordered the NSA to spy on American without warrants and outside of FISA. None of them did anything to stop it. In fact, while Rockefeller wrote a sad, hostage-like, handwritten letter to Dick Cheney in 2003 (which he sent to nobody else) -- assuring Cheney that he would keep the letter locked away "to ensure that I have a record of this communication" -- Harman was a vocal supporter of the illegal NSA program. Here's what she told Time in January, 2006 in the wake of the NYT article revealing the NSA program.

Some key Democrats even defend it. Says California's Jane Harman, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee: "I believe the program is essential to U.S. national security and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities."

Harman then went on Fox News and pronounced that the NSA program was "legal and necessary" and proudly said: "I support the program." Even worse, in February, 2006, Harman went on "Meet the Press" and strongly suggested that the New York Times should be criminally prosecuted for having reported on the illegal program. And indeed, in 2004, Harman demanded that the NYT's Eric Lichtblau not write about the NSA program. As Lichtblau wrote in his recent book about a 2004 conversation with Harman:

"You should not be talking about that here," she scolded me in a whisper. "They don't even know about that," she said, gesturing to her aides, who were now looking on at the conversation with obvious befuddlement. "The Times did the right thing by not publishing that story," she continued. I wanted to understand her position. What intelligence capabilities would be lost by informing the public about something the terrorists already knew -- namely, that the government was listening to them? I asked her. Harman wouldn't bite. "This is a valuable program, and it would be compromised,' she said. I tried to get into some of the details of the program and get a better understanding of why the administration asserted that it couldn't be operated within the confines of the courts. Harman wouldn't go there either. "This is a valuable program," she repeated.

In light of this sordid history of active complicity, is it really any wonder that these leading Democrats are desperate to quash any investigations or judicial adjudications of Bush administration actions that they knew about and did nothing to stop, in some cases even actively supporting?

Yesterday, I was on Warren Olney's To the Point discussing the FISA controversy. The guest interviewed immediately before me was Jane Harman (and before her was Lichtblau). Harman was vigorously spouting every false talking point to defend her vote in favor of telecom immunity and the new FISA law, including the painfully absurd claim that the new FISA law actually "makes the law stronger than the original law. It's a better law." She kept saying things like this to justify her support for terminating the lawsuits arising out of the illegal NSA program:

OLNEY: But back to the question, though, of the phone companies. Why was it that one company, Qwest, seemed to think that there were serious questions to be raised about this and the others didn't? Can you tell us that?

HARMAN: Well, I respect what Qwest did. Qwest said that the strict letter of FISA isn't being followed, as I understand it. That was some very careful lawyering.

The other telecoms that complied with requests believed -- so they say -- that they were complying with valid requests from the Government. And remember that when this happened, it was shortly after 9/11 and so forth -

OLNEY: Yeah, but if they didn't, and privacy was violated, shouldn't they be held to account?

HARMAN: I think that a process should be followed. I think the people who should be held to account are the people who made the decision not to follow FISA, and those were not the telecom executives.

Actually, "the people who made the decision not to follow FISA" most certainly did include the telecom executives -- as well as people like Jane Harman herself who, in her capacity as ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, was told about the illegal spying program and supported it as "legal and necessary," and even tried to bully journalists into refraining from exposing it.

Exactly the same thing happened with Jay Rockefeller and Bush's torture program. It is absolutely the case that, as Mayer pointed out yesterday and as I wrote about at the time, Bush officials faced serious danger of criminal liability in the wake of the 2006 Hamdan ruling that the Geneva Conventions applied to Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees. But the Military Commissions Act, passed several months after the Hamdan ruling, took care of that problem by immunizing the lawbreakers. Jay Rockefeller was right there supporting that retroactive immunity, too -- thereby helping to block investigations and prosecutions for illegal torture programs about which Rockefeller knew and in which he was complicit.

This is exactly the dynamic which Law Professor, Fourth Amendment expert, and Simple-Minded, Confused Leftist Hysteric Jonathan Turley was describing on MSNBC on June 19:

I mean, the Democrats never really were engaged in this. In fact, they repeatedly tried to cave in to the White House, only to be stopped by civil libertarians and bloggers. And each time they would put it on the shelf, wait a few months, they did this before, reintroduced it with Jay Rockefeller's support, and then there was another great, you know, dustup and they pulled it back. . . .

I think they're simply waiting to see if the public's interest will wane and we'll see that tomorrow, because this bill has, quite literally, no public value for citizens or civil liberties. It is reverse engineering, though the type of thing that the Bush administration is famous for, and now the Democrats are doing -- that is to change the law to conform to past conduct. It's what any criminal would love to do. You rob a bank, go to the legislature, and change the law to say that robbing banks is lawful. . . .

This is a very frightening bill. What people have to understand is that FISA itself is controversial. This court issued tens of thousands of warrants granted applications for surveillance without turning down any. Only recently did they turn down two. . . . What you're seeing in this bill is an evisceration of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. It is something that allows the president and the government to go in to law-abiding homes on their word alone, their suspicion alone, and to engage in warrantless surveillance. That's what the framers that drafted the Fourth Amendment wanted to prevent. . . .

Well, there's no question in my mind that there is an obvious level of collusion here. We now know that Democratic leadership knew about the illegal surveillance program almost from its inception. Even when they were campaigning about fighting for civil liberties, they were aware of an unlawful surveillance program as well as a torture program. And ever since that came out, the Democrats have been silently trying to kill any effort to hold anyone accountable because that list could very well include some of their own members.

And, I'm afraid this is Washington politics at the worst. And, so, I think that what you're seeing with this bill is not just caving in to a very powerful lobby, but also caving in to sort of the worst motivations on Capitol Hill since 9/11. You know, the administration was very adept at bringing in Democrats at a time when they knew they couldn't refuse, to make them buy in to this program, and now that investment is bearing fruit.

So, of course key Congressional Democrats who were made aware of these illegal torture and surveillance programs are going to protect the Bush administration and other lawbreakers. If you were Jay Rockfeller or Nancy Pelosi, would you want there to be investigations and prosecutions for torture programs that, to one degree or another, you knew about? If you were Jane Harman, wouldn't you be extremely eager to put a stop to judicial proceedings that were likely to result in a finding that surveillance programs that you knew about, approved of, and helped to conceal were illegal and unconstitutional?

When President Bush and Vice President Cheney celebrated the signing of the new FISA bill at the White House along with Jay Rockefeller, Steny Hoyer and Jane Harman (see the wonderful photos here), they weren't just celebrating with the political officials who helped protect them from consequences for illegal acts. They were celebrating with those who were participants in those acts, and who were therefore just as eager for immunity and an end to judicial proceedings as Bush officials themselves.
(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.

No More Blank Checks For War
By Patrick J. Buchanan

After the assassination of the archduke in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, Austria got from Kaiser Wilhelm a "blank cheque" to punish Serbia. Germany would follow whatever course its ally chose to take. Austria chose war on Serbia. And World War I resulted.

On March 31, 1939, Britain gave a blank check to Poland in its dispute with Germany over Danzig, a town of 350,000 Germans. Should war come, Britain would fight on Poland's side.

Poland refused to negotiate, Adolf Hitler attacked, and Britain declared war. After six years, the British Empire collapsed. Germany was burnt to ashes. Poland entered the slave quarters of Joseph Stalin's empire.

Lesson: No great power should ever give to a small ally or client state a blank check to drag it into war.

This raises the question: Has President Bush given Israel a blank check?

A year ago, Israel attacked and smashed an alleged nuclear reactor site in Syria. In April, Israel held a five-day civil defense drill. In June, Israel sent 100 F-15s and F-16s, with refueling tankers, toward Greece in a simulated attack. The planes flew 1,450 kilometers, the distance to Iran's uranium enrichment facility at Natanz.

On June 6, Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz threatened, "If Iran continues its nuclear weapons program we will attack it."

Ehud Olmert returned from a June meeting with Bush to tell Israelis, "George Bush understands the severity of the Iranian threat and the need to vanquish it, and intends to act on the matter before the end of his term."

Is Israel bluffing, or in dead earnest?

For while Israel can do damage to Iran, she cannot defeat Iran without using nuclear weapons. But any attack Israel launched against Iran would require U.S. complicity, and any Israeli war with Iran would almost certainly require the United States to do most of the fighting to win or end it.

Thus, if George Bush does not want war with Iran, with two U.S. wars already, he must inform the Israelis in unequivocal terms that the United States opposes any Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran, and will not assist but denounce any such attack.

If Bush believes war with Iran is vital to U.S. security, he should make that case to Congress. To allow Israel to start a war we do not want would be an abdication of his duty as president.

Clearly, among the reasons Israel conducted its dress rehearsal for war was to maximize pressure on Iran to halt enriching uranium. Bush may well have welcomed the added pressure.

But as the Iranians have insisted, they are entitled, under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty they signed and Israel did not, to enrich uranium for fuel in power plants. Tehran has declared it will not be the only nation to surrender its legal rights under the NPT. And in response to the Israeli military exercises, Tehran conducted its own missile-firing exercises this week.

If neither side yields, confrontation is inevitable. Perhaps soon.

For we are only four months from the election, and Israel is pawing the ground to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.

Is this Bush's back door to war with Iran?

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen, in Israel a week ago, returned to say a "third front" in the Middle East, with Iran, would be "extremely stressful" to U.S. forces.

He is saying that U.S. ground forces probably cannot now cope with another war, with a nation three times as large as Iraq.

Asked about Israel taking unilateral action, Mullen replied, "This is a very unstable part of the world, and I don't need it to be more unstable." But Mullen is not the president. What did Bush tell Olmert? Does Israel have a green light, a yellow light or a red light?

Should Israel attack Iran and Bush deny complicity, he would no more be believed than were Britain and France in 1956. Then, the Israelis stormed into Sinai, and Britain and France said they were intervening to separate the warring nations and secure the Suez Canal. Outraged, Ike ordered the British, French and Israelis alike to get out of Suez and Sinai. They did.

President Bush must step up to the plate.

If he believes sanctions are not succeeding and Iran's nuclear program must be halted, he should go to Congress for authority to neutralize the facilities. If he has not so concluded, he should tell Israel it is not to start a war that U.S. airmen, sailors, soldiers and Marines will have to finish.

America needs to restore that absolute freedom of action in matters of war and peace she once had, before entering the skein of entangling alliances that now encumber the republic.

No ally, no client state, should ever be allowed to drag America into a war she has not chosen, constitutionally, to fight.

No more blank checks for any nation.
(c) 2008 Pat Buchanan

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Calvin Grondahl ~~~

W Theatre Trailer

To End On A Happy Note...

Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues
By Bob Dylan

Well, I was feelin' sad and feelin' blue,
I didn't know what in the world I was gonna do,
Them Communists they wus comin' around,
They wus in the air,
They wus on the ground.
They wouldn't gimme no peace. . .

So I run down most hurriedly
And joined up with the John Birch Society,
I got me a secret membership card
And started off a-walkin' down the road.
Yee-hoo, I'm a real John Bircher now!
Look out you Commies!

Now we all agree with Hitler's views,
Although he killed six million Jews.
It don't matter too much that he was a Fascist,
At least you can't say he was a Communist!
That's to say like if you got a cold you take a shot of malaria.

Well, I wus lookin' everywhere for them gol-darned Reds.
I got up in the mornin' 'n' looked under my bed,
Looked in the sink, behind the door,
Looked in the glove compartment of my car.
Couldn't find 'em . . .

I wus lookin' high an' low for them Reds everywhere,
I wus lookin' in the sink an' underneath the chair.
I looked way up my chimney hole,
I even looked deep inside my toilet bowl.
They got away . . .

Well, I wus sittin' home alone an' started to sweat,
Figured they wus in my T.V. set.
Peeked behind the picture frame,
Got a shock from my feet, hittin' right up in the brain.
Them Reds caused it!
I know they did . . . them hard-core ones.

Well, I quit my job so I could work alone,
Then I changed my name to Sherlock Holmes.
Followed some clues from my detective bag
And discovered they wus red stripes on the American flag!
That ol' Betty Ross . . .

Well, I investigated all the books in the library,
Ninety percent of 'em gotta be burned away.
I investigated all the people that I knowed,
Ninety-eight percent of them gotta go.
The other two percent are fellow Birchers . . . just like me.

Now Eisenhower, he's a Russian spy,
Lincoln, Jefferson and that Roosevelt guy.
To my knowledge there's just one man
That's really a true American: George Lincoln Rockwell.
I know for a fact he hates Commies cus he picketed the movie Exodus.

Well, I fin'ly started thinkin' straight
When I run outa things to investigate.
Couldn't imagine doin' anything else,
So now I'm sittin' home investigatin' myself!
Hope I don't find out anything . . . hmm, great God!
(c) 1970/2008 Bob Dylan

Have You Seen This...

Government Issued Stun Bracelets for all Airline Passengers

Parting Shots...


My oldest son in a sinner, but as a mother I try to be supportive. Do let me know what I should wear to his piercing service. He is having his tongue pierced and I cannot decide if I should wear a my blue dress with the white polka-dots or my blue dress with the slightly smaller polka-dots. Both, of course, with mother's pearls. I just know you will know what god thinks is the correct outfit.

Your friend,

Barbara Pierce Bush

Dear Mrs. Bush:

Mrs. Bowers has a hard and fast rule when it comes to fashion that draws blood: don't. While this rule does not, of course, apply to new pumps, it does apply to being impaled by sharp objects. While Mrs. Bowers is noted for being Christ-like in every respect (except dress size), I simply must cause the verisimilitude to fall just shy of having a lovely silk skirt pulled and gathered on a splintery cross or having my body pieced. While I see nothing technically wrong with sporting a stigmata (even though they are very Catholic in their ostentation -- and never suit those with a Winter palette), actual objects that are driven through flesh (with the sole exception of diamond stud earrings in excess of 1karat) should be limited to sish kebabs and satays, dear.

As Mrs. Bowers would never attend anything as barbaric as the cutting of human flesh, the issue of appropriate attire would never come up. Nevertheless, if your social calendar is so dismally desolate that you would entertain the notion of attending such an event, you should, of course, dress appropriately. While I don't usually encourage my readers to take their fashion cues from unsaved women, I think you should consult with a Jewess about putting a suitable outfit together, as they are used to going to people's homes to witness the ripping and tearing of human flesh each time a baby boy is born.

So Close To Jesus, I Can Stop By Without Praying First,

(c) 2008 Mrs. Betty Bowers


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Zeitgeist The Movie...

Issues & Alibis Vol 8 # 28 (c) 07/18/2008

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