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In This Edition

Chalmers Johnson warns of, "The Military-Industrial Complex."

Uri Avnery sings, "If I Forget Thee, Umm Touba..."

Robert Scheer finds Congress, "Sucking Up To The Bankers: A Bipartisan Lovefest."

Jim Hightower tells, "Bush's Oily Lies."

Mel Bartholomew exclaims, "Plant A Fall Garden Now!"

Judy Troftgruben with, "Drying Foods: Part Four."

Scott Ritter confirms, "Acts Of War."

Chris Floyd got dem ole, "Black Milk Blues."

Spencer Ackerman covers a, "Bush Dissenter: 'Don't Start a War With Iran'."

Mike Folkerth watches over, "Fannie and Freddie."

Allison Arieff says to, "Grow Your Own."

Mark Morford welcomes, "The End Of The SUV."

Sin-ator Jim Demint wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald reviews, "The Washington Post Editorial Page's Latest Rule Of Law Sermon."

Amy Goodman asks, "Who's Paying For The Conventions?"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "McCain Makes Historic First Visit To Internet" but first Uncle Ernie finds, "Aliens For Obama."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Vic Harville with additional cartoons and photos from Berkeley Breathed, Tom Tomorrow, Old American Century.Org, R.J. Matson, John Scarano, Eric Allie, Scott Chernis, Square Foot Gardening, Washington Post, University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign, 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."

Aliens For Obama
By Ernest Stewart

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro!" ~~~ Hunter S. Thompson

"Oh brave new world that has such people in it."
The Tempest ~~~ Shakespeare

"How could we have known back then what was about to happen, the horror that was just around the corner. It's only now, these many years later, that we can begin to look back and make some sense of it all. The horror that began early one morning in the Arizona dessert. Hi, I'm Uncle Ernie from Issues & Alibis magazine and I would like then, if I may, to take you on a strange journey..." W The Movie ~~~ Uncle Ernie

Just when you think it couldn't possibly get any weirder out there, along comes something that just blows you away. I get, on an almost daily basis, invites to join various groups. Mostly leftist or atheistic organizations as I make it no secret where I stand politically. I try to join as many as possible in order to get the word out to as many people as possible. I even try those which border on the bizarre because I often border on the bizarre myself; see the Uncle Ernie series of books!

I got an invite the other day to join the "Zetaheaven group" and their invite triggered my curiosity, so I did. This group follows the teaching of a lady named Nancy Lieder; I know, what's in a name, eh? Nancy must have taken an overdose of LSD back in the early 90's while watching an X-Files marathon to came up this idea for the cult of "Zeta Heaven." A group that believes Nancy talks with space aliens and they tell her about things that are to come and how she and her followers can avoid disaster by following the aliens' instructions! Apparently, the Zetans warned the Mayans about December 23, 2012 as they stress the same date for disaster to this group. Again, yeah I know, you may recall Heaven's Gate, so in my first email to the group I warned the members about drinking the Kool-Aid and being castrated! Nancy has a whole line of books, DVDs and such to intruct her groupies and keep her from having to work for a living!

I can hear you say, so what? What makes them any different from any other cult, like the Baptists, or Jews or the Buddhists, for example? Not a lot really and unlike the more popular sci-fi cult founded by the sci-fi writer L Ron Hubbard, the Zeta aliens have come out in favor of Obama for president. It seems only he can bring about the "Brave New World" that is to come!

Imagine the "cult of personality" merging with space aliens. Unlike magnetism where like poles repel each other, in politics lunatics attract one another. To me it seems they're a perfect match. While both groups do what they do for goodness sake, both groups are about to be incredibly disappointed when the truth finally sinks into their fantasy-oriented brains. Obama is about politics as usual and Nancy is about making money. Perhaps Obama might make Nancy his VP running mate as they both about the same thing, controlling the Sheeple and filling their pockets!

In Other News

I see where the Washington Post proposes doing away with due process at the Fuhrer's discretion and replacing it with a Minority Report system of justice. In the movie police routinely arrested people who hadn't actually committed a crime but were likely to at some time in the future. And then these people were punished for whatever crime they hadn't committed as if they had committed it. Based on a short story by Phillip K. Dick, it's a great yarn as a story but a nightmare as a reality.

The Washington Post which, since it's recent purchase, has slid even farther to the right, if that is possible, said Sunday in an editorial "Workable Terrorism Trials" and I quote...

"The president must have the legal flexibility to detain those against whom there is credible, actionable intelligence but not enough evidence to bring charges." Their reason for this act of treason is, "...modern realities strongly argue against using the federal courts as the exclusive arena to hold or try all terrorism suspects. Most terrorism prosecutions, including the 1993 World Trade Center case, are brought after terrorists have struck. The first priority of a president must be to protect the country from attack."

This does make sense in an American-law sort of way! In fact, it's already part of the law and is really nothing new. If you commit a crime, say bank robbery, for example, and are caught, you might get 10 years. However, if you conspire to rob a bank but actually don't rob it, just talk about doing so, you're very likely to get 20 years!

Still, in a conspiracy you must have at least talked about or planned to do it. However with Fred Hiatt's bright idea you can be locked away for life or executed because the Fuhrer thinks you might be capable, no real evidence what-so-ever, all in the name of "National Security!" Isn't that special?

And Finally

I see that my old friends Cheech and Chong are back together again. They're getting ready to go on the road with their, "Hey, What's That I Smell" tour. At first I thought they ripped me off for their first movie concept. Trouble is my idea like theirs was a stone rip off of the Hope/Crosby road movies of the forties, i.e., rich boy, poor boy thrown together and on the lam from "bad guys and authorities," oops but I repeat myself.

I wrote a screenplay back in 1976 called "Frank and Ernest." Frank, the rich ultra straight Harvard type and his cousin Ernest, a penniless Freak. Frank and Ernest had never met until their rich Uncle Jack died and left them his farm down in Columbia. To settle the estate Frank and Ernest go down to the farm to discover 6,000 acres of marijuana swaying in the breeze. They also discover a Columbian Army Colonel that wants it for himself and wants them dead! The fun and the chase begins. While I realize Cheech and Chong didn't steal the idea from me, I do believe that a scene from "Frank and Ernest" was stolen by "Romancing the Stone." Frank and Ernest, while running through the jungle come across a downed airliner filled to the brim with bales of weed. When they go into the plane to escape a downpour, Ernest's backpack is empty. When they leave the plane his backpack is bulging to the max! Like Hope and Crosby in the "ROAD TO MOROCCO," there was more than one "reefer" joke! While everybody who read "Frank & Ernest" liked it, no one liked it enough to buy it! Oh well, c'est la vie!

Now it's 32 years later and a movie that I wrote in part, acted in and helped to produce may actually make it to a theatre near you in about 10 weeks or so. There are three major studios that want to put "W The Movie" into theatres before the election. Just when we were beginning to feel like David Lynch trying to get Eraserhead in the theatres it looks like we've finally succeeded! Still, W isn't quite done, and in fact, I went to a recording studio in suburban Charlotte on Wednesday to do a few voice-overs to give W some linear direction. I'd like to thank Kevin at K.N.N. Productions for his help with recording those voice-overs. As it stands today, we should have the film together and ready in about three weeks! Stay tuned for further updates!


"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


10-23-1960 ~ 07-25-2008
R.I.P. Bro!


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


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


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

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

The Military-Industrial Complex
It's Much Later Than You Think
By Chalmers Johnson

Most Americans have a rough idea what the term "military-industrial complex" means when they come across it in a newspaper or hear a politician mention it. President Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced the idea to the public in his farewell address of January 17, 1961. "Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime," he said, "or indeed by the fighting men of World War II and Korea ... We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions ... We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications ... We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex."

Although Eisenhower's reference to the military-industrial complex is, by now, well-known, his warning against its "unwarranted influence" has, I believe, largely been ignored. Since 1961, there has been too little serious study of, or discussion of, the origins of the military-industrial complex, how it has changed over time, how governmental secrecy has hidden it from oversight by members of Congress or attentive citizens, and how it degrades our Constitutional structure of checks and balances.

From its origins in the early 1940s, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was building up his "arsenal of democracy," down to the present moment, public opinion has usually assumed that it involved more or less equitable relations-often termed a "partnership"-between the high command and civilian overlords of the United States military and privately-owned, for-profit manufacturing and service enterprises. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that, from the time they first emerged, these relations were never equitable.

In the formative years of the military-industrial complex, the public still deeply distrusted privately owned industrial firms because of the way they had contributed to the Great Depression. Thus, the leading role in the newly emerging relationship was played by the official governmental sector. A deeply popular, charismatic president, FDR sponsored these public-private relationships. They gained further legitimacy because their purpose was to rearm the country, as well as allied nations around the world, against the gathering forces of fascism. The private sector was eager to go along with this largely as a way to regain public trust and disguise its wartime profit-making.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Roosevelt's use of public-private "partnerships" to build up the munitions industry, and thereby finally overcome the Great Depression, did not go entirely unchallenged. Although he was himself an implacable enemy of fascism, a few people thought that the president nonetheless was coming close to copying some of its key institutions. The leading Italian philosopher of fascism, the neo-Hegelian Giovanni Gentile, once argued that it should more appropriately be called "corporatism" because it was a merger of state and corporate power. (See Eugene Jarecki's The American Way of War, p. 69.)

Some critics were alarmed early on by the growing symbiotic relationship between government and corporate officials because each simultaneously sheltered and empowered the other, while greatly confusing the separation of powers. Since the activities of a corporation are less amenable to public or congressional scrutiny than those of a public institution, public-private collaborative relationships afford the private sector an added measure of security from such scrutiny. These concerns were ultimately swamped by enthusiasm for the war effort and the postwar era of prosperity that the war produced.

Beneath the surface, however, was a less well recognized movement by big business to replace democratic institutions with those representing the interests of capital. This movement is today ascendant. (See Thomas Frank's new book, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule, for a superb analysis of Ronald Reagan's slogan "government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.") Its objectives have long been to discredit what it called "big government," while capturing for private interests the tremendous sums invested by the public sector in national defense. It may be understood as a slow-burning reaction to what American conservatives believed to be the socialism of the New Deal.

Perhaps the country's leading theorist of democracy, Sheldon S. Wolin, has written a new book, Democracy Incorporated, on what he calls "inverted totalitarianism"-the rise in the U.S. of totalitarian institutions of conformity and regimentation shorn of the police repression of the earlier German, Italian, and Soviet forms. He warns of "the expansion of private (i.e., mainly corporate) power and the selective abdication of governmental responsibility for the well-being of the citizenry." He also decries the degree to which the so-called privatization of governmental activities has insidiously undercut our democracy, leaving us with the widespread belief that government is no longer needed and that, in any case, it is not capable of performing the functions we have entrusted to it.

Wolin writes:

"The privatization of public services and functions manifests the steady evolution of corporate power into a political form, into an integral, even dominant partner with the state. It marks the transformation of American politics and its political culture, from a system in which democratic practices and values were, if not defining, at least major contributory elements, to one where the remaining democratic elements of the state and its populist programs are being systematically dismantled." (p. 284)

Mercenaries at Work

The military-industrial complex has changed radically since World War II or even the height of the Cold War. The private sector is now fully ascendant. The uniformed air, land, and naval forces of the country as well as its intelligence agencies, including the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), the NSA (National Security Agency), the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), and even clandestine networks entrusted with the dangerous work of penetrating and spying on terrorist organizations are all dependent on hordes of "private contractors." In the context of governmental national security functions, a better term for these might be "mercenaries" working in private for profit-making companies.

Tim Shorrock, an investigative journalist and the leading authority on this subject, sums up this situation devastatingly in his new book, Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing. The following quotes are a précis of some of his key findings:

"In 2006... the cost of America's spying and surveillance activities outsourced to contractors reached $42 billion, or about 70 percent of the estimated $60 billion the government spends each year on foreign and domestic intelligence... [The] number of contract employees now exceeds [the CIA's] full-time workforce of 17,500... Contractors make up more than half the workforce of the CIA's National Clandestine Service (formerly the Directorate of Operations), which conducts covert operations and recruits spies abroad...

"To feed the NSA's insatiable demand for data and information technology, the industrial base of contractors seeking to do business with the agency grew from 144 companies in 2001 to more than 5,400 in 2006... At the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the agency in charge of launching and maintaining the nation's photoreconnaissance and eavesdropping satellites, almost the entire workforce is composed of contract employees working for [private] companies... With an estimated $8 billion annual budget, the largest in the IC [intelligence community], contractors control about $7 billion worth of business at the NRO, giving the spy satellite industry the distinction of being the most privatized part of the intelligence community...

"If there's one generalization to be made about the NSA's outsourced IT [information technology] programs, it is this: they haven't worked very well, and some have been spectacular failures... In 2006, the NSA was unable to analyze much of the information it was collecting... As a result, more than 90 percent of the information it was gathering was being discarded without being translated into a coherent and understandable format; only about 5 percent was translated from its digital form into text and then routed to the right division for analysis.

"The key phrase in the new counterterrorism lexicon is 'public-private partnerships'... In reality, 'partnerships' are a convenient cover for the perpetuation of corporate interests." (pp. 6, 13-14, 16, 214-15, 365)

Several inferences can be drawn from Shorrock's shocking exposé. One is that if a foreign espionage service wanted to penetrate American military and governmental secrets, its easiest path would not be to gain access to any official U.S. agencies, but simply to get its agents jobs at any of the large intelligence-oriented private companies on which the government has become remarkably dependent. These include Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), with headquarters in San Diego, California, which typically pays its 42,000 employees higher salaries than if they worked at similar jobs in the government; Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the nation's oldest intelligence and clandestine-operations contractors, which, until January 2007, was the employer of Mike McConnell, the current director of national intelligence and the first private contractor to be named to lead the entire intelligence community; and CACI International, which, under two contracts for "information technology services," ended up supplying some two dozen interrogators to the Army at Iraq's already infamous Abu Ghraib prison in 2003. According to Major General Anthony Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib torture and abuse scandal, four of CACI's interrogators were "either directly or indirectly responsible" for torturing prisoners. (Shorrock, p. 281)

Remarkably enough, SAIC has virtually replaced the National Security Agency as the primary collector of signals intelligence for the government. It is the NSA's largest contractor, and that agency is today the company's single largest customer.

There are literally thousands of other profit-making enterprises that work to supply the government with so-called intelligence needs, sometimes even bribing Congressmen to fund projects that no one in the executive branch actually wants. This was the case with Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Republican of California's 50th District, who, in 2006, was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in federal prison for soliciting bribes from defense contractors. One of the bribers, Brent Wilkes, snagged a $9.7 million contract for his company, ADCS Inc. ("Automated Document Conversion Systems") to computerize the century-old records of the Panama Canal dig!

A Country Drowning in Euphemisms

The United States has long had a sorry record when it comes to protecting its intelligence from foreign infiltration, but the situation today seems particularly perilous. One is reminded of the case described in the 1979 book by Robert Lindsey, The Falcon and the Snowman (made into a 1985 film of the same name). It tells the true story of two young Southern Californians, one with a high security clearance working for the defense contractor TRW (dubbed "RTX" in the film), and the other a drug addict and minor smuggler. The TRW employee is motivated to act by his discovery of a misrouted CIA document describing plans to overthrow the prime minister of Australia, and the other by a need for money to pay for his addiction.

They decide to get even with the government by selling secrets to the Soviet Union and are exposed by their own bungling. Both are sentenced to prison for espionage. The message of the book (and film) lies in the ease with which they betrayed their country-and how long it took before they were exposed and apprehended. Today, thanks to the staggering over-privatization of the collection and analysis of foreign intelligence, the opportunities for such breaches of security are widespread.

I applaud Shorrock for his extraordinary research into an almost impenetrable subject using only openly available sources. There is, however, one aspect of his analysis with which I differ. This is his contention that the wholesale takeover of official intelligence collection and analysis by private companies is a form of "outsourcing." This term is usually restricted to a business enterprise buying goods and services that it does not want to manufacture or supply in-house. When it is applied to a governmental agency that turns over many, if not all, of its key functions to a risk-averse company trying to make a return on its investment, "outsourcing" simply becomes a euphemism for mercenary activities.

As David Bromwich, a political critic and Yale professor of literature, observed in the New York Review of Books:

"The separate bookkeeping and accountability devised for Blackwater, DynCorp, Triple Canopy, and similar outfits was part of a careful displacement of oversight from Congress to the vice-president and the stewards of his policies in various departments and agencies. To have much of the work parceled out to private companies who are unaccountable to army rules or military justice, meant, among its other advantages, that the cost of the war could be concealed beyond all detection."

Euphemisms are words intended to deceive. The United States is already close to drowning in them, particularly new words and terms devised, or brought to bear, to justify the American invasion of Iraq-coinages Bromwich highlights like "regime change," "enhanced interrogation techniques," "the global war on terrorism," "the birth pangs of a new Middle East," a "slight uptick in violence," "bringing torture within the law," "simulated drowning," and, of course, "collateral damage," meaning the slaughter of unarmed civilians by American troops and aircraft followed-rarely-by perfunctory apologies. It is important that the intrusion of unelected corporate officials with hidden profit motives into what are ostensibly public political activities not be confused with private businesses buying Scotch tape, paper clips, or hubcaps.

The wholesale transfer of military and intelligence functions to private, often anonymous, operatives took off under Ronald Reagan's presidency, and accelerated greatly after 9/11 under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Often not well understood, however, is this: The biggest private expansion into intelligence and other areas of government occurred under the presidency of Bill Clinton. He seems not to have had the same anti-governmental and neoconservative motives as the privatizers of both the Reagan and Bush II eras. His policies typically involved an indifference to-perhaps even an ignorance of-what was actually being done to democratic, accountable government in the name of cost-cutting and allegedly greater efficiency. It is one of the strengths of Shorrock's study that he goes into detail on Clinton's contributions to the wholesale privatization of our government, and of the intelligence agencies in particular.

Reagan launched his campaign to shrink the size of government and offer a large share of public expenditures to the private sector with the creation in 1982 of the "Private Sector Survey on Cost Control." In charge of the survey, which became known as the "Grace Commission," he named the conservative businessman, J. Peter Grace, Jr., chairman of the W.R. Grace Corporation, one of the world's largest chemical companies-notorious for its production of asbestos and its involvement in numerous anti-pollution suits. The Grace Company also had a long history of investment in Latin America, and Peter Grace was deeply committed to undercutting what he saw as leftist unions, particularly because they often favored state-led economic development.

The Grace Commission's actual achievements were modest. Its biggest was undoubtedly the 1987 privatization of Conrail, the freight railroad for the northeastern states. Nothing much else happened on this front during the first Bush's administration, but Bill Clinton returned to privatization with a vengeance.

According to Shorrock:

"Bill Clinton... picked up the cudgel where the conservative Ronald Reagan left off and... took it deep into services once considered inherently governmental, including high-risk military operations and intelligence functions once reserved only for government agencies. By the end of [Clinton's first] term, more than 100,000 Pentagon jobs had been transferred to companies in the private sector-among them thousands of jobs in intelligence... By the end of [his second] term in 2001, the administration had cut 360,000 jobs from the federal payroll and the government was spending 44 percent more on contractors than it had in 1993." (pp. 73, 86)

These activities were greatly abetted by the fact that the Republicans had gained control of the House of Representatives in 1994 for the first time in 43 years. One liberal journalist described "outsourcing as a virtual joint venture between [House Majority Leader Newt] Gingrich and Clinton." The right-wing Heritage Foundation aptly labeled Clinton's 1996 budget as the "boldest privatization agenda put forth by any president to date." (p. 87)

After 2001, Bush and Cheney added an ideological rationale to the process Clinton had already launched so efficiently. They were enthusiastic supporters of "a neoconservative drive to siphon U.S. spending on defense, national security, and social programs to large corporations friendly to the Bush administration." (pp. 72-3)

The Privatization-and Loss-of Institutional Memory

The end result is what we see today: a government hollowed out in terms of military and intelligence functions. The KBR Corporation, for example, supplies food, laundry, and other personal services to our troops in Iraq based on extremely lucrative no-bid contracts, while Blackwater Worldwide supplies security and analytical services to the CIA and the State Department in Baghdad. (Among other things, its armed mercenaries opened fire on, and killed, 17 unarmed civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad, on September 16, 2007, without any provocation, according to U.S. military reports.) The costs-both financial and personal-of privatization in the armed services and the intelligence community far exceed any alleged savings, and some of the consequences for democratic governance may prove irreparable.

These consequences include: the sacrifice of professionalism within our intelligence services; the readiness of private contractors to engage in illegal activities without compunction and with impunity; the inability of Congress or citizens to carry out effective oversight of privately-managed intelligence activities because of the wall of secrecy that surrounds them; and, perhaps most serious of all, the loss of the most valuable asset any intelligence organization possesses-its institutional memory.

Most of these consequences are obvious, even if almost never commented on by our politicians or paid much attention in the mainstream media. After all, the standards of a career CIA officer are very different from those of a corporate executive who must keep his eye on the contract he is fulfilling and future contracts that will determine the viability of his firm. The essence of professionalism for a career intelligence analyst is his integrity in laying out what the U.S. government should know about a foreign policy issue, regardless of the political interests of, or the costs to, the major players.

The loss of such professionalism within the CIA was starkly revealed in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction. It still seems astonishing that no senior official, beginning with Secretary of State Colin Powell, saw fit to resign when the true dimensions of our intelligence failure became clear, least of all Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet.

A willingness to engage in activities ranging from the dubious to the outright felonious seems even more prevalent among our intelligence contractors than among the agencies themselves, and much harder for an outsider to detect. For example, following 9/11, Rear Admiral John Poindexter, then working for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the Department of Defense, got the bright idea that DARPA should start compiling dossiers on as many American citizens as possible in order to see whether "data-mining" procedures might reveal patterns of behavior associated with terrorist activities.

On November 14, 2002, the New York Times published a column by William Safire entitled "You Are a Suspect" in which he revealed that DARPA had been given a $200 million budget to compile dossiers on 300 million Americans. He wrote, "Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every web site you visit and every e-mail you send or receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book, and every event you attend-all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as a 'virtual centralized grand database.'" This struck many members of Congress as too close to the practices of the Gestapo and the Stasi under German totalitarianism, and so, the following year, they voted to defund the project.

However, Congress's action did not end the "total information awareness" program. The National Security Agency secretly decided to continue it through its private contractors. The NSA easily persuaded SAIC and Booz Allen Hamilton to carry on with what Congress had declared to be a violation of the privacy rights of the American public-for a price. As far as we know, Admiral Poindexter's "Total Information Awareness Program" is still going strong today.

The most serious immediate consequence of the privatization of official governmental activities is the loss of institutional memory by our government's most sensitive organizations and agencies. Shorrock concludes, "So many former intelligence officers joined the private sector [during the 1990s] that, by the turn of the century, the institutional memory of the United States intelligence community now resides in the private sector. That's pretty much where things stood on September 11, 2001." (p. 112)

This means that the CIA, the DIA, the NSA, and the other 13 agencies in the U.S. intelligence community cannot easily be reformed because their staffs have largely forgotten what they are supposed to do, or how to go about it. They have not been drilled and disciplined in the techniques, unexpected outcomes, and know-how of previous projects, successful and failed.

As numerous studies have, by now, made clear, the abject failure of the American occupation of Iraq came about in significant measure because the Department of Defense sent a remarkably privatized military filled with incompetent amateurs to Baghdad to administer the running of a defeated country. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates (a former director of the CIA) has repeatedly warned that the United States is turning over far too many functions to the military because of its hollowing out of the Department of State and the Agency for International Development since the end of the Cold War. Gates believes that we are witnessing a "creeping militarization" of foreign policy-and, though this generally goes unsaid, both the military and the intelligence services have turned over far too many of their tasks to private companies and mercenaries.

When even Robert Gates begins to sound like President Eisenhower, it is time for ordinary citizens to pay attention. In my 2006 book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, with an eye to bringing the imperial presidency under some modest control, I advocated that we Americans abolish the CIA altogether, along with other dangerous and redundant agencies in our alphabet soup of sixteen secret intelligence agencies, and replace them with the State Department's professional staff devoted to collecting and analyzing foreign intelligence. I still hold that position.

Nonetheless, the current situation represents the worst of all possible worlds. Successive administrations and Congresses have made no effort to alter the CIA's role as the president's private army, even as we have increased its incompetence by turning over many of its functions to the private sector. We have thereby heightened the risks of war by accident, or by presidential whim, as well as of surprise attack because our government is no longer capable of accurately assessing what is going on in the world and because its intelligence agencies are so open to pressure, penetration, and manipulation of every kind.

[Note to Readers: This essay focuses on the new book by Tim Shorrock, Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.
(c) 2008 Chalmers Johnson is the author of Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and most recently, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic.

"If I Forget Thee, Umm Touba..."
By Uri Avnery

IN ONE of the most beautiful songs in the Bible, the poet vows: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, / Let my right hand forget her cunning. / If I do not remember thee, / Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; / If I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy!" (Psalms 137:5)

For some reason, the poet did not write: "If I forget thee, O Umm Touba!" nor "If I forget thee, O Sur Baher!" nor "If I forget thee, O Jabal Mukaber!" nor even "If I forget thee, O Ein Karem!"

A fact that should be remembered in any discussion about Jerusalem: there is no resemblance between the Jerusalem of the Bible and the "Jerusalem" of the current Israeli map. The object of the yearning of the exiles who wept by the rivers of Babylon was the real Jerusalem - more or less within the boundaries of the Old City, whose center is the Temple Mount. One square kilometer, that's all.

The redefined municipality of Jerusalem after the 1967 annexation comprises a vast area, some 126 square kilometers, from Bethlehem in the south to Ramallah in the north. This area has been clothed with the name of "Jerusalem" in order to bestow a religious-national-historic aura to what was nothing but an act of land-grabbing and settlement.

The planners of this map, including the late General Rehavam Ze'evi, nicknamed "Gandhi", the most far-right officer in the Israeli army, had a simple purpose: to annex to Jerusalem as many areas as possible that were free of Arabs, in order to set up Jewish settlements there. They were haunted by the demographic phantom that is still terrorizing us today: they aimed to expand the Jewish and to reduce the Arab population - in Jerusalem and throughout the country.

In order to achieve this, the planners were compelled to add some nearby Arab villages. Not only the Arab neighborhoods near the Old City, like the Mount of Olives, Silwan and Ras-al-Amud, but also villages located at some distance - such as Umm Touba, Sur Baher and Jabal Mukaber in the east, Beit Hanina and Kafr Aka in the north, Sharafat and Beit Safafa in the south.

The demographic phantom that haunted "Gandhi" then is now pursuing us through the streets of Jerusalem, riding a deadly bulldozer.

UNTIL THE 1949 war, Jerusalem was indeed a mixed city. Jewish and Arab neighborhoods were interwoven.

The demographic map of Jerusalem became engraved in my memory during a personal experience. A year or so before the war, some of us, young men and women of the Bama'avak group in Tel-Aviv, decided to make a trip to Hebron. At the time, only very few Jews went to the southern town, which was known as a nationalist and religious Muslim stronghold.

We took the Arab bus from Jerusalem and went to the town, walked around its alleyways, bought the blue glass for which Hebron is famous, visited the Gush Etzion kibbutzim on the way and returned to Jerusalem. But in the meantime something had happened: one of the "dissident" underground organizations had carried out an especially serious attack (I think it was the bombing of the officers' club in Jerusalem) and the British had imposed a general curfew on all Jewish neighborhoods throughout the country.

At the entrance of Jerusalem we alighted from the bus and crossed the city on foot from one end to the other, taking care to move only in the Arab neighborhoods. From there we took an Arab bus to Ramle, and another one to Jaffa, and then found our way to our homes in Tel Aviv through backyards and side streets. Not one of us was caught.

Thus I became acquainted with the Arab neighborhoods, among them elegant quarters like Talbieh and Bakaa, which became the centers of Jewish Jerusalem after the 1948 war. In that war, the inhabitants fled/were driven to East Jerusalem and settled there - until these neighborhoods, too, were conquered by the Israeli army and annexed to Israel.

THE ANNEXATION of East Jerusalem created a dilemma. What to do with the Arab population? They could not be expelled. The destruction of the Mugrabi quarter opposite the Western Wall and the brutal expulsion of the Arab inhabitants of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City had already caused much negative comment throughout the world.

If the government had indeed intended to "unite" the city, they would have accompanied the annexation with some immediate measures, such as conferring automatic citizenship on all the Arab inhabitants and returning their "abandoned" properties in West Jerusalem (or, at least, paying compensation.)

But the government did not dream of doing so. The inhabitants were not awarded citizenship, which would have given them the same rights as the Arab citizens of Israel in Galilee and the Triangle. They were only recognized as "residents" in the city in which their forefathers had lived for over a thousand years. That is a fragile status, which accords Israeli identity cards, but not the right to vote for parliament. It can easily be withdrawn.

True, in theory an Arab Jerusalemite can apply for Israeli citizenship, but such an application is subject to the arbitrary decision of hostile bureaucrats. And the government, of course, relies on the Arabs not to do so, since that would mean recognizing the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation.

THE TRUTH is that Jerusalem has never been united. "The city that was reunited, the capital of Israel for all eternity," was and has remained a mantra that has no bearing on reality. For all practical purposes, East Jerusalem remains an occupied territory.

The Arab inhabitants have the right to vote for the municipality. But only a handful - city employees and those dependent on government favors - exercise this right, because this, too, means recognition of the occupation.

In practice, the Jerusalem municipality is a city government by Jews for Jews. Its leaders are chosen by Jews only, and see their main purpose in Judaizing the city. Years ago, Haolam Hazeh magazine disclosed a secret directive to all government and city institutions to make sure that the number of Arabs in the city did not exceed 27.5%, the exact percentage that existed at the time of the annexation.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the elected democratic mayor of West Jerusalem is also the military governor of East Jerusalem.

Since 1967, all mayors have seen their job in this light. Together with all the arms of government, they see to it that Arabs living outside the city do not return to it, and that Arabs living in the city move out of it. A thousand and one tricks, large and small, are employed to this end, from the almost total refusal of building permits for rapidly growing Arab families, to the cancellation of residency rights for people who spend some time abroad or in the West Bank.

The contact between Arab Jerusalemites and the inhabitants of the adjoining West Bank, which had been a closely woven fabric, has been totally severed. Jerusalem, which served as the economic, political, cultural, medical and social center, has been completely cut off from its natural hinterland. The building of the wall, which separated fathers from sons, pupils from their schools, tradesmen from their clients, physicians from patients, mosques from believers, and even cemeteries from the newly deceased, serves this purpose.

In Israel, people say that the Arab residents "enjoy the benefits of social insurance." That is a mendacious argument: after all, the insurance is not a free meal - it is paid for by the insured. Arabs, like Jews, pay for it every month.

Arab residents have to pay all municipal taxes, but receive in return only a fraction of the municipal services, both in quality and in quantity. The schools lack hundreds of classrooms, and their standard is inferior to the private Islamic schools. Trash removal and other services are beneath contempt. Public gardens, youth clubs, gardening - cannot even be mentioned. The inhabitants of Kafr Akab, located beyond the Kalandia checkpoint, pay municipal taxes and receive no services at all - the municipality says that its employees are afraid to go there.

THE JEWISH public is not interested in all this. They don't know - and don't want to know - what is going on in the Arab neighborhoods, some hundreds of meters from their homes.

So they are surprised, surprised and shocked, by the ungratefulness of the Arab inhabitants. A young man from Sur Baher recently shot pupils of a religious seminary in West Jerusalem. A young man from Jabal Mukaber drove a bulldozer and ran over everything that crossed his path. This week, another youngster from Umm Touba repeated exactly the same act. All three of them were shot dead on the spot.

The attackers were ordinary young men, not particularly religious. It seems than none of them was a member of any organization. Apparently, a young man just gets up one fine morning and decides that he has enough. He then carries out an attack all by himself, with any instrument at hand - a pistol bought with his own money, in the first instance, or a bulldozer he drives at work, in the two others.

If this is indeed the case, a question presents itself: why is this being done by Jerusalemites? First, because they have the opportunity. A person who drives a bulldozer at a building site in West Jerusalem can just crash into a passing bus in the next street. The driver of a heavy truck can run over people. It is relatively easy to carry out a shooting attack, like the recent event at the Lion's Gate, the perpetrators of which were not caught. No intelligence service can prevent this, if the attacker has no partners and is not a member of any organization.

From the utterances of the commentators this week, one can gather that they cannot even imagine the anger that accumulates in the mind of a young Arab in Jerusalem throughout the years of humiliation, harassment, discrimination and helplessness. It is easier and more amusing to go into pornographic descriptions of the 72 virgins waiting for the martyrs in the Muslim paradise - what they do with them, how they do it to them, who has enough energy for them all.

One of the main contributing factors for the stirring up of hatred is the demolition of "illegal" homes of Arab residents, who are quite unable to build "legally." The dimension of official stupidity is attested to by the demand of the Shin-Bet chief, voiced this week again, to destroy the homes of the attackers' families, for the sake of "deterrence." Apparently he has not heard about the dozens of studies and the accumulated experience, which prove that every destroyed home becomes an incubator for new hate-driven avengers.

This week's attack is especially instructive. It is quite unclear what actually happened: did Ghassan Abu-Tir plan the attack in advance? Or was this a spontaneous decision in a moment of excitement? Was this an attack at all - or did the bulldozer driver run into a bus by accident and try, in a state of panic, to escape - running over his pursuers, becoming a target for a shooting spree by passersby and soldiers? In the atmosphere of suspicion and fear that pervades Jerusalem now, every road accident involving an Arab becomes an attack, and every Arab driver involved in an accident will in all probability be executed on the spot, without a trial. (It should be remembered that the first intifada broke out because of a road accident, in which a Jewish driver ran over some Arabs.)

AND AGAIN there is the question: what is the solution to this complex problem, which arouses such strong emotions, feeds on deep-rooted myths and causes such moral dilemmas for millions around the world?

This week, a lot of proposals were presented, such as building a Berlin-style wall through the middle of Jerusalem (in addition to the one going around it). To punish whole families for the acts of their children, much like the Nazi "sippenhaft." To expel the families from the city or to cancel their resident status. To demolish their homes. To take away their social insurance benefits, even if they have paid for them.

All these "solutions" have one thing in common - they have been tried in the past, here and in other places, and found wanting.

Except one, clear solution: to turn East Jerusalem into the capital of the State of Palestine, to enable its inhabitants to set up their own municipality, while keeping the whole city as an urban entity united under one super-municipality in which the Arabs will be equal to the Jews. I am glad that during his visit with us this week, Barack Obama repeated almost word for word this plan, which Gush Shalom published some ten years ago in cooperation with Feisal Husseini, the late leader of the Jerusalem Arab community.

The attacks are the result of despair, frustration, hatred and the sense that there is no way out. Only a solution that will remove these feelings can bring security to both parts of Jerusalem.
(c) 2008 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Sucking Up To The Bankers: A Bipartisan Lovefest
By Robert Scheer

This is a time to condemn the bankers, not to embrace them. They are the scoundrels who got us into the biggest economic mess since the Great Depression, lining their own pockets while destroying the life savings of those who trusted them. Yet both of our leading presidential candidates are scrambling to enlist not only the big-dollar contributions but, more frighteningly, the "expertise" of the very folks who advocated the financial industry deregulations at the heart of this meltdown.

Republican candidate John McCain even appointed as his campaign co-chairman Phil Gramm, who went from being chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, where he sponsored disastrous legislation that empowered the banking bandits, to becoming one of them at UBS Warburg. Gramm was forced to resign from McCain's campaign only after he went public with his contempt for the financial concerns of ordinary Americans, calling them "whiners" and perpetrators of a "mental recession."

But Gramm and the Republicans couldn't have done it without the support of leading Democrats. The most egregious of Gramm's legislative favors to the financiers took the form of legislation named in part after him-the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which became law only after then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin prevailed upon President Clinton to sign the bill. The bill's immediate major effect was to legitimize the long-sought merger between Citibank and insurance giant Travelers. Rubin's critical support for the bill was rewarded with an appointment, within days of its passage, to a top job at Citibank (later Citigroup) paying more than $15 million a year.

That is the same Rubin with whom Democratic candidate Barack Obama met, along with other influential advisers, on Tuesday to figure out what to do about the sorry state of our economy. But what in the world did he expect to learn from Rubin? And why did he appoint Rubin's protégé, Jason Furman, who ran the Rubin-funded Hamilton Project, to be the Obama campaign's economic director? Hopefully, during their encounter Tuesday, Rubin offered himself as a contrite model of everything that the candidate of change needs to change.

After all, Goldman Sachs, where Rubin spent 25 years of his business career before entering the Clinton administration, has been one of the prime corporate villains in the financial shenanigans that led to the subprime mortgage scandal. As co-chairman of the firm, surely he had knowledge of the financial hanky-panky that would prove so disastrous down the road. Indeed, as Treasury secretary, he favored an extension of the deregulation that enabled this explosion of banking avarice. Not surprisingly, the current Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, also previously headed Goldman.

When Rubin assumed a top position at Citibank after his stint at the Treasury, he was not above influencing his former employees in the government. In one notorious instance during the fall of 2001, when Enron was going down the tubes Rubin telephoned a Treasury undersecretary and asked him to consider intervening with credit-rating agencies to hold off downgrading Enron's ratings. When the story was leaked, some media accounts noted the possibility of a conflict of interest because Enron owed Citibank $750 million, which it could not pay if bankrupt.

Despite his skills and his vaunted position as Citibank's chairman, Rubin was not spared the disastrous consequences of Citibank's own wild financial manipulations, which, if anything, exceeded those of Enron. Tens of billions in bad mortgage and credit card debt placed the bank at the forefront of the current economic crisis, and so it is weird that Obama would now turn to Rubin for advice.

It's even weirder that the presumptive Democratic nominee would pick Rubin's man Furman as his campaign economic director at a time when cleaning up the mess left by the bankers is the highest priority. Furman hardly distinguished himself four years ago in that role in John Kerry's failed presidential campaign, with its muffled economic message that could not be blamed on the candidate's stiff style alone.

The bigger problem is that folks such as Rubin and Furman, perhaps best known as an economist for his bold but woefully misguided defense of the Wal-Mart business model, clearly do not feel the pain of the voters who are losing their homes.

But then again, why should Rubin, or Gramm on the Republican side, be expected to care when he has made so many millions off the suffering of those voters? Not good at a time when we need a presidential candidate who sticks it to the bankers instead of sucking up to them.
(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.

Bush's Oily Lies

When it comes to energy policy, George W has oil for brains. If he could, he'd lease out the Rose Garden so Exxon Mobil could sink a well there.

Remember the lies the Bushites told while rushing congress and the public into their Iraq war? Now they're using the same tactics to stampede us into an awfully oily energy future. Open up our coastal waters to more floating oil derricks, cries Bush, unleash Big Oil on Alaska's wildlife refuge, and turn our national parks into drilling opportunities! More domestic production is the solution to $4 gasoline, he hollers, blaming those meanies in Congress for standing in the way of beneficent oil companies that want nothing more than to lower our prices. "The need for congressional action is urgent," he wailed.

Big fat fib. First, opening up those public lands and waters would have no effect on gasoline prices. It'd take years to develop any potential that is there, and even then the areas hold only a couple of year's worth of America's oil consumption.

Second, any oil produced is as likely to go to China or India as to us. These are global corporations with no loyalty to American consumers, and they'll sell anything they can extract from our public resources to the highest bidder. Indeed, there's nothing to stop China's oil company from winning these drilling rights and shipping the oil anywhere it wants.

Third, Big Oil doesn't really want more crude. They're reaping huge profits by keeping world supply short and are not even drilling on 68 million acres of public leases they already hold. Make them drill there before we expose even more of our natural resources to their contamination.

Fourth - and most important - we should be investing in a massive conservation push to consume less oil, not trying to squeeze a few drops more out of our already oil-soaked earth.
(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.

Plant A Fall Garden Now!
By Mel Bartholomew

Believe it or not, fall is actually a better time of the year to plant a garden than in the springtime. Why? Because the weather, climate and time available is perfect for gardening. The pleasant early fall weather is so much better than the wet, cold springtime which is probably the worst time of the year to start a garden. But traditionally that's when farmers get out their plows and single row gardeners get out their rototillers.


Let's first consider the time available. In the springtime there is so much to do after a winter season. The yard needs cleaning up, the lawn needs attention, all of the summer things put in storage need cleaning and setting up - and if you are still an old fashioned, single row gardener - the rototiller, that dreaded machine, needs uncovering and checking out, even a tune up and hopefully you remembered to empty the fuel tank before winter and maybe if all goes well, it might even start up and the tires won't be flat. That's also when you realize you didn't put things away very well. The garden tools are all rusty, some broken and many scattered all over the garage and tool shed - even some left in the garden. Maybe the hose froze and split and you won't find that out until you try to use it the first time.


The kids are busy with outdoor sports and activities after being cooped up inside all winter. Parents find out quickly that those activities take a lot more back and forth time, watching from the sidelines in the cold chilly spring, increased laundry time, etc., etc.


Compare that with the end of summer. Activities are winding down, your schedule has slowed somewhat and even the weather has had an effect on the pace and intensity of your activities. You find yourself with more leisure time and a sense of not being as rushed in all of your activities.


Tie all that in with your attitude about gardening. In the spring, you have been pouring over the seed catalogs so long you can't wait to get outside and start planting. That enthusiasm will lead you down the path of planting too much. It happens every year. Next year is going to be different you swear - but it never is. With traditional gardening, that mistake of planting too much, as well as all at once, repeats itself every year on an unbroken cycle.


But let's consider your situation in late summer. You've had a garden all spring and summer and regardless of how it turned out, you're much more reserved, calm, cool and collected about the garden. You don't have that fire in the belly desire to plant seeds and "till the soil." You already have a garden and despite how it turned out, it has more or less satisfied your desire to cultivate Mother Earth. In addition, you sort of feel you've come to the end, there's not much more to do. You've either given up your single row garden again because of all the weeds - or you've settled back just harvesting what's left. If you are a SFG, you'll be thinking how easy and neat that was and wish you could just plant a little more and continue the garden a little longer.


In either case there is green all around you from the summer growth so there is not that feeling or necessity to change things as there is in the spring and there is also not that traditional practice of having to plant a garden as soon as winter closes and spring arrives.


With that casual attitude, removal of the "have to do something syndrome," along with more time available, you'll find yourself actually enjoying the planning and preparation of a fall garden. But what about the weather you ask? Actually it's perfect for both the gardener AND the plants. Think of the plants. In the spring, it's cold, rainy, windy, dark, all of the elements that keep a gardener indoors looking out the window and the seeds shivering in the still frozen soil.


How long does it take for those seeds to sprout ? Check the table of temperature versus seed sprouting time in the SFG Book on page 157. At 40 degrees F, carrots take 50 days to sprout. 50 DAYS ! Wow that is almost 2 MONTHS, of course the soil warms gradually so they finally do sprout sooner but think of all the bad things that can happen to those seeds in that time period.


Now look at the time to sprout in the late summer when the soil temperature might be around 70 degrees. Carrots take 6 days ! What a difference - the same is true of every other type of seed. Beets - 40 days versus 6 days. Onions: 30 days versus 4 days. Peas: 40 days versus 7 days. Spinach: 25 days versus 5 days.


Did you know all that? Most gardeners don't. That's why I put those two germination charts in the book. It makes a huge difference in the success of a gardener if they know just a few facts. So we can now see why late summer is so much better to plant seeds than spring. The same will apply for transplants, both from a standpoint of sprouting and growing your own transplants like cabbage, parsley and lettuce as well as buying and planting nursery stock.


Everything will start off faster, stronger and better in late summer than in the spring. Fall gives us warmer temperatures, less wind, more light, while spring brings us a constant threat of frost, sleet or snow. In the south we call those conditions unseasonable weather, sort of like in Southern California we always said, "it's not rain, it's liquid sunshine." No one likes to admit to bad weather in his or her part of the country.


Then the weather gets hotter and the plants start maturing rapidly, most of the spring crop goes either to seed or gets wasted as they mature almost instantly in the hot early summer months. You can't keep up with the harvest, especially if you over planted in an old-fashioned single row garden.


A fall garden is exactly the opposite. You prepare and plant your garden in the comfort of the warm weather, the seeds sprout quickly and as the weather cools down they mature slowly from very strong plants. Fall is a more leisurely time with better weather and it is much more pleasant to be outside tending your fall garden. Many of the crops can be carried right into the cold winter with just a little protection. Check out page 95 of the SFG book to see what to plant in the fall and when in your part of the country.


Even if you are expanding your SFG or perhaps just want to try out SFG on a small scale before you switch from your big single row garden, fall is also the absolutely best time to do it. Build just a few 4' x 4' boxes and see how it goes. It's much easier to start small, not many materials to buy, build or mix. With the success you'll have with your fall garden, see chapter 16 of the SFG book on page 235 for end of the season activities, it'll be very easy to start up in the spring. And then gradually expand even more until you get just the right size. Not so big you don't enjoy taking care of it, yet big enough to grow all the things you want in the quantities you will actually use. Remember SFG is so different from single row gardening; we plant the amount we want to actually harvest - not the length of the row or amount of seeds in a packet.


Controlled planting is what we call it. Compare it to going to the auto-mat restaurant in New York City where you put in your coin and get one serving of something versus standing before a huge buffet table holding a gigantic plate and told to take all you want. Do you think you will take too much and there will be waste in the end ? Either theirs or yours. With the auto-mat, you can always go get another portion of that same dish if you want it and with SFG you can always plant another square foot of the same crop either now or later to give a staggered harvest or even a different variety to give a varied choice of harvest.


Now I know by fall, single row gardeners are tired of gardening because it has all been Weeds, Weeds, Weeds. But the Square Foot Gardener is thinking, this was so easy and so much fun I wish it would never end.


So in summary, we have better conditions of all factors for both the gardener and the plants. Both will be happier because they will be much more successful in the fall. Now the scene gets even better as fall progresses and the weather cools down. The plants had a vigorous healthy start and are of sturdy stock - yet as the light shortens and the temperatures cool - they are not in a rush to mature and go to seed. This stretches out the harvest into a very usable compatible event. There is no demanding pick it now or it will all go bad. The harvest seems to patiently sit quietly and wait with no pressure on the gardener. Even further down the road, since the fall crop is made up of cold hardy varieties, they will last long into the cold weather.


Pull back the clear plastic cover, open the
deer netting and the harvest is ready just for you.

In addition, if you plant a SFG, you know it takes only 20% of the space and your 4' x 4' boxes are very easy to protect from adverse weather. Even to the point of carrying the harvest well into winter. You will be able to dig carrots and pick parsley even after the snow flies. If you are in a "not so cold" part of the country - you'll be able to harvest all winter long.


So from all stand points, a fall garden is truly best. Best for the plant and harvest and certainly best for the gardener. It makes gardening so much fun and rewarding. Try it and see for yourself!
(c) 2008 Mel Bartholomew is an inventor, author, and founder of the Square Foot Gardening Foundation.

Drying Food Part #4
Drying Herbs
By Judy Troftgruben

Folklore often depicts the magical powers of herbs. But good cooks the world over have discovered another kind of power in the subtle flavors and aromas of herbs. If you grow and dry your own herbs, you will always have a fresh, inexpensive supply close at hand for making delicious foods.

Herbs do not add calories or nutritional value to foods, but they do add flavor. So if you want to cut down on calories, you can use herbs and spices to give zest to familiar, low-calorie foods. For someone on a salt-free diet, herbs can enhance the flavor of otherwise tasteless foods. A pinch of rosemary, for example, dropped into the water that potatoes or rice are boiled in will give a delightful taste to these vegetables.


You can grow and dry a wide variety of herbs. Some that are especially popular are thyme, tarragon, rosemary, mint, sage, sweet basil, bay leaf, parsley, marjoram, savory, oregano, chervil, chives, and dill. The foliage of these plants is attractive, and they give off a soft, pleasant fragrance. If you plant your herb garden near the kitchen, you can enjoy the plants and harvest the leaves easily as they reach the peak of quality. Young, tender leaves are more flavorful and aromatic than older leaves.


Cut the stalks when the leaves are mature or the plants have just started to bloom. Use only the tender, leafy tops and flower clusters. Discard the leaves below 6 inches from the top of the stalk. They are not as pungent as the top leaves. Remove any dead or discolored leaves. Rinse with cold water to wash off dust and dirt. Blot off excess moisture with paper towelling. When drying dill, harvest the plant as soon as the seeds are ripe.



For air drying, tie six to eight stems together in a small bunch. Then tie a large brown paper bag around the bunch to protect the herbs from the light. Be sure the leaves do not touch the sides; otherwise, they may stick to the bag and not dry properly. Make several holes in the bag for ventilation. Hang it in a warm, dry, airy room or attic. Herbs will dry in 1 to 2 weeks.

If you like, you can remove the leaves from the stems before drying. Place the leaves on a tray in a warm, dry, airy place away from direct sunlight For best results, use a doth-covered rack or an open mesh screen. Turn or stir the leaves occasionally to assure even drying. Herbs should not be sun dried because light destroys the natural aroma. A poor-quality product will result if the herbs are exposed to direct sunlight.


For oven drying, place clean, fresh leaves in a single layer on racks. There should be at least 1 inches around the racks and between them so that the air can circulate freely. You can use blocks of wood to separate the trays. Set the oven on the very lowest setting and dry the herbs slowly. Keep the oven door propped open slightly for ventilation and to control the heat. Drying will be complete in 2 to 4 hours.

Microwave Oven

If you have a microwave oven, you can use it for drying herbs. Place the herbs between paper towels and set them on the rack. Close the door and turn the oven on a medium setting for 2 to 3 minutes. Then check for dryness; the leaves should feel brittle and should crumble easily. If they are not done, turn the oven on for 30 seconds longer. Although this process actually cooks the herbs, the end product is just about the same.


When the leaves are dry, shake them from the stems and discard the stems. Crush the leaves if desired. But keep in mind that whole herbs retain their flavor longer than crushed or ground herbs. Store dried herbs in small airtight containers away from the light. Containers such as metal cans or tinted glass that exclude light are best.

If stored in a cool, dry, dark place, whole dried herbs retain their flavor and aroma up to one year. A warm storage area may hasten the loss of flavor. A damp environment encourages caking, color change, and infestation. Close the containers tightly after each use so that the volatile oils are not lost.

Do not use old herbs. If you aren't sure an herb is fresh, rub a bit of it between your palms and breathe in the aroma. If there is little or no aroma, replace the herb with a fresh supply.


To release the full flavor, cut or chop the dried leaves into fine bits before adding to food. Or crush the leaves by rubbing them between your palms or by grinding them with a mortar and pestle. For the best results, add herbs to the liquid in the recipe.

Keep seasoning blends subtle. When combining herbs, use one having a pronounced flavor with two to four others having a less pronounced flavor. All of the herbs in the following famous combinations can be grown and dried at home:

bouquet garni, bunches of herbs and sometimes spices tied together or put into a cheesecloth bag. The usual combination is celery leaves, onion, parsley, and thyme. The combination varies for different dishes.
fines herbes, a mixture of three or more herbs. Combinations used are (1) chervil, chives, and parsley; or (2) basil, sage, and savory.

The amount to use depends on your taste preferences, the piquancy of each herb, and the effect it has on different foods. If you do not have a recipe, start with 1/4 teaspoon of herb per pound of meat or pint of sauce, and increase as desired. If the recipe calls for fresh herbs, you can substitute dried herbs. Use a fourth of the recommended amount, for example, 1/4 teaspoon of dried herb instead of I teaspoon of fresh. Avoid using the same herbs in several dishes to be served at the same meal.

The flavor of an herb will be at its best if you add it to the recipe at the proper time. Add herbs as follows:

to soups and stews during the last half hour of cooking. The delicate flavor and aroma of herbs can be lost by overcooking.
to uncooked foods such as tomato juice cocktail 3 to 4 hours before serving, or even overnight, to release the full flavor of the herb.
to quickly cooked dishes or sauces as soon as you begin cooking the food. To draw out more flavor, barely moisten herbs with a little lemon juice, water, cooking oil, or other liquid suitable for the food you are preparing, and let stand for 10 minutes or more before using.

Herbs may be used to flavor vinegar, mustard, and butter. Choose your favorite herbs to add variety to these everyday ingredients, following the recommended steps.

Use whole spices and herbs for beverages and pickles. Leaving whole spices in pickles can cause unsightly darkening. Tie herbs and whole spices in a small square of cheesecloth so that they can be removed easily before serving. This will also prevent seasoning specks in the finished product. The same method can be used when whole spices and herbs are added to other foods.


Use in tomato and egg
dishes, stews, vegetables,
meats, soups, and salads.
Add a touch to hamburgers,
noodles, and salad dressings.
Drop a few leaves into
stewing chicken, fish
chowder, tomato soup,
and corn chowder.
Remove the leaves
before serving.
Essential in poultry
seasoning. Use with
onion for stuffing pork,
duck, and goose. Rub
powdered feaves on
pork loin and ham.
Add a pinch to poulfry,
meats, egg dishes,
poultry stuffings, soups,
potato salad, creamed
potatoes, and green beans.
Use as a substitute for
onion. Sprinkle as a
garnish over vegetables,
baked potatoes, meats,
and soups.
Attractive as a garnish
with soups, vegetable
safads, meats, and poultry.
Good as a seasoning with
almost any vegetable or
meat dish.
Delicious in pizzas or other
Italian dishes, chili, meat
loaf, veal dressings, and bean,
tomato, or lentil soups. Gives
a flair to sour cream served
over sliced tomatoes.
Blend with parsley and
butter, and spread on
chicken breasts and thighs
when roasting. Add tparingly
to creamed soups, poultry,
stews, and sauces.
Usually blended with other
herbs. Leaves can be used
with meat, poultry stuffing,
gravies, soups, egg ond cheese
dishes, vegetables, and seafood.


(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.

Acts Of War
By Scott Ritter

The war between the United States and Iran is on. American taxpayer dollars are being used, with the permission of Congress, to fund activities which result in Iranians being killed and wounded, and Iranian property destroyed. This wanton violation of a nation's sovereignty would not be tolerated if the tables were turned and Americans were being subjected to Iranian-funded covert actions which took the lives of Americans, on American soil, and destroyed American property and livelihood. Many Americans remain unaware of what is transpiring abroad in their name. Many of those who are cognizant of these activities are supportive of them, an outgrowth of misguided sentiment which holds Iran accountable for a list of grievances used by the U.S. government to justify the ongoing global war on terror. Iran, we are told, is not just a nation pursuing nuclear weapons, but is the largest state sponsor of terror in the world today.

Much of the information behind this is being promulgated by Israel, which has a vested interest in seeing Iran neutralized as a potential threat. But Israel is joined by another source, even more puzzling in terms of its broad-based acceptance in the world of American journalism: the Mujahadeen-e Khalk, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group sworn to overthrow the theocracy in Tehran. The CIA today provides material support to the actions of the MEK inside Iran. The recent spate of explosions in Iran, including a particularly devastating "accident" involving a military convoy transporting ammunition in downtown Tehran, appears to be linked to an MEK operation; its agents working inside munitions manufacturing plants deliberately are committing acts of sabotage which lead to such explosions. If CIA money and planning support are behind these actions, the agency's backing constitutes nothing less than an act of war on the part of the United States against Iran.

The MEK traces its roots back to the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeg. Formed among students and intellectuals, the MEK emerged in the 1960s as a serious threat to the reign of Reza Shah Pahlevi. Facing brutal repression from the Shah's secret police, the SAVAK, the MEK became expert at blending into Iranian society, forming a cellular organizational structure which made it virtually impossible to eradicate. The MEK membership also became adept at gaining access to positions of sensitivity and authority. When the Shah was overthrown in 1978, the MEK played a major role and for a while worked hand in glove with the Islamic Revolution in crafting a post-Shah Iran. In 1979 the MEK had a central role in orchestrating the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and holding 55 Americans hostage for 444 days.

However, relations between the MEK and the Islamic regime in Tehran soured, and after the MEK staged a bloody coup attempt in 1981, all ties were severed and the two sides engaged in a violent civil war. Revolutionary Guard members who were active at that time have acknowledged how difficult it was to fight the MEK. In the end, massive acts of arbitrary arrest, torture and executions were required to break the back of mainstream MEK activity in Iran, although even the Revolutionary Guard today admits the MEK remains active and is virtually impossible to completely eradicate.

It is this stubborn ability to survive and operate inside Iran, at a time when no other intelligence service can establish and maintain a meaningful agent network there, which makes the MEK such an asset to nations such as the United States and Israel. The MEK is able to provide some useful intelligence; however, its overall value as an intelligence resource is negatively impacted by the fact that it is the sole source of human intelligence in Iran. As such, the group has taken to exaggerating and fabricating reports to serve its own political agenda. In this way, there is little to differentiate the MEK from another Middle Eastern expatriate opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, or INC, which infamously supplied inaccurate intelligence to the United States and other governments and helped influence the U.S. decision to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein. Today, the MEK sees itself in a similar role, providing sole-sourced intelligence to the United States and Israel in an effort to facilitate American military operations against Iran and, eventually, to overthrow the Islamic regime in Tehran.

The current situation concerning the MEK would be laughable if it were not for the violent reality of that organization's activities. Upon its arrival in Iraq in 1986, the group was placed under the control of Saddam Hussein's Mukhabarat, or intelligence service. The MEK was a heavily militarized organization and in 1988 participated in division-size military operations against Iran. The organization represents no state and can be found on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations, yet since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 the MEK has been under the protection of the U.S. military. Its fighters are even given "protected status" under the Geneva conventions. The MEK says that its members in Iraq are refugees, not terrorists. And yet one would be hard-pressed to find why the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees should confer refugee status on an active paramilitary organization that uses "refugee camps" inside Iraq as its bases.

The MEK is behind much of the intelligence being used by the International Atomic Energy Agency in building its case that Iran may be pursuing (or did in fact pursue in the past) a nuclear weapons program. The complexity of the MEK-CIA relationship was recently underscored by the agency's acquisition of a laptop computer allegedly containing numerous secret documents pertaining to an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Much has been made about this computer and its contents. The United States has led the charge against Iran within international diplomatic circles, citing the laptop information as the primary source proving Iran's ongoing involvement in clandestine nuclear weapons activity. Of course, the information on the computer, being derived from questionable sources (i.e., the MEK and the CIA, both sworn enemies of Iran) is controversial and its veracity is questioned by many, including me.

Now, I have a simple solution to the issue of the laptop computer: Give it the UNSCOM treatment. Assemble a team of CIA, FBI and Defense Department forensic computer analysts and probe the computer, byte by byte. Construct a chronological record of how and when the data on the computer were assembled. Check the "logic" of the data, making sure everything fits together in a manner consistent with the computer's stated function and use. Tell us when the computer was turned on and logged into and how it was used. Then, with this complex usage template constructed, overlay the various themes which have been derived from the computer's contents, pertaining to projects, studies and other activities of interest. One should be able to rapidly ascertain whether or not the computer is truly a key piece of intelligence pertaining to Iran's nuclear programs.

The fact that this computer is acknowledged as coming from the MEK and the fact that a proper forensic investigation would probably demonstrate the fabricated nature of the data contained are why the U.S. government will never agree to such an investigation being done. A prosecutor, when making a case of criminal action, must lay out evidence in a simple, direct manner, allowing not only the judge and jury to see it but also the accused. If the evidence is as strong as the prosecutor maintains, it is usually bad news for the defendant. However, if the defendant is able to demonstrate inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the data being presented, then the prosecution is the one in trouble. And if the defense is able to demonstrate that the entire case is built upon fabricated evidence, the case is generally thrown out. This, in short, is what should be done with the IAEA's ongoing probe into allegations that Iran has pursued nuclear weapons. The evidence used by the IAEA is unable to withstand even the most rudimentary cross-examination. It is speculative at best, and most probably fabricated. Iran has done the right thing in refusing to legitimize this illegitimate source of information.

A key question that must be asked is why, then, does the IAEA continue to permit Olli Heinonen, the agency's Finnish deputy director for safeguards and the IAEA official responsible for the ongoing technical inspections in Iran, to wage his one-man campaign on behalf of the United States, Britain and (indirectly) Israel regarding allegations derived from sources of such questionable veracity (the MEK-supplied laptop computer)? Moreover, why is such an official given free rein to discuss such sensitive data with the press, or with politically motivated outside agencies, in a manner which results in questionable allegations appearing in the public arena as unquestioned fact? Under normal circumstances, leaks of the sort which have occurred regarding the ongoing investigation into Iran's alleged past studies on nuclear weapons would be subjected to a thorough investigation to determine the source and to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to end them. And yet, in Vienna, Heinonen's repeated transgressions are treated as a giant "non-event," the 800-pound gorilla in the room that everyone pretends isn't really there.

Heinonen has become the pro-war yin to the anti-confrontation yang of his boss, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. Every time ElBaradei releases the results of the IAEA probe of Iran, pointing out that the IAEA can find no evidence of any past or present nuclear weapons program, and that there is a full understanding of Iran's controversial centrifuge-based enrichment program, Heinonen throws a monkey wrench into the works. Well-publicized briefings are given to IAEA-based diplomats. Mysteriously, leaks from undisclosed sources occur. Heinonen's Finnish nationality serves as a flimsy cover for neutrality which long ago disappeared. He is no longer serving in the role as unbiased inspector, but rather a front for the active pursuit of an American- and Israeli-inspired disinformation campaign designed to keep alive the flimsy allegations of a nonexistent Iranian nuclear weapons program in order to justify the continued warlike stance taken by the U.S. and Israel against Iran.

The fact that the IAEA is being used as a front to pursue this blatantly anti-Iranian propaganda is a disservice to an organization with a mission of vital world importance. The interjection of not only the unverified (and unverifiable) MEK laptop computer data, side by side with a newly placed emphasis on a document relating to the forming of uranium metal into hemispheres of the kind useful in a nuclear weapon, is an amateurish manipulation of data to achieve a preordained outcome. Calling the Iranian possession of the aforementioned document "alarming," Heinonen (and the media) skipped past the history of the document, which of course has been well explained by Iran previously as something the Pakistani nuclear proliferator A.Q. Khan inserted on his own volition to a delivery of documentation pertaining to centrifuges. Far from being a "top-secret" document protected by Iran's security services, it was discarded in a file of old material that Iran provided to the IAEA inspectors. When the IAEA found the document, Iran allowed it to be fully examined by the inspectors, and answered every question posed by the IAEA about how the document came to be in Iran. For Heinonen to call the document "alarming," at this late stage in the game, is not only irresponsible but factually inaccurate, given the definition of the word. The Iranian document in question is neither a cause for alarm, seeing as it is not a source for any "sudden fear brought on by the sense of danger," nor does it provide any "warning of existing or approaching danger," unless one is speaking of the danger of military action on the part of the United States derived from Heinonen's unfortunate actions and choice of words.

Olli Heinonen might as well become a salaried member of the Bush administration, since he is operating in lock step with the U.S. government's objective of painting Iran as a threat worthy of military action. Shortly after Heinonen's alarmist briefing in March 2008, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, Gregory Schulte, emerged to announce, "As today's briefing showed us, there are strong reasons to suspect that Iran was working covertly and deceitfully, at least until recently, to build a bomb." Heinonen's briefing provided nothing of the sort, being derived from an irrelevant document and a laptop computer of questionable provenance. But that did not matter to Schulte, who noted that "Iran has refused to explain or even acknowledge past work on weaponization." Schulte did not bother to note that it would be difficult for Iran to explain or acknowledge that which it has not done. "This is particularly troubling," Schulte went on, "when combined with Iran's determined effort to master the technology to enrich uranium." Why is this so troubling? Because, as Schulte noted, "Uranium enrichment is not necessary for Iran's civil program but it is necessary to produce the fissile material that could be weaponized into a bomb."

This, of course, is the crux of the issue: Iran's ongoing enrichment program. Not because it is illegal; Iran is permitted to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Not again because Iran's centrifuge program is operating in an undeclared, unmonitored fashion; the IAEA had stated it has a full understanding of the scope and work of the Iranian centrifuge enrichment program and that all associated nuclear material is accounted for and safeguarded. The problem has never been, and will never be, Iran's enrichment program. The problem is American policy objectives of regime change in Iran, pushed by a combination of American desires for global hegemony and an activist Israeli agenda which seeks regional security, in perpetuity, through military and economic supremacy. The specter of nuclear enrichment is simply a vehicle for facilitating the larger policy objectives. Olli Heinonen, and those who support and sustain his work, must be aware of the larger geopolitical context of his actions, which makes them all the more puzzling and contemptible.

A major culprit in this entire sordid affair is the mainstream media. Displaying an almost uncanny inability to connect the dots, the editors who run America's largest newspapers, and the producers who put together America's biggest television news programs, have collectively facilitated the most simplistic, inane and factually unfounded story lines coming out of the Bush White House. The most recent fairy tale was one of "diplomacy," on the part of one William Burns, the No. 3 diplomat in the State Department.

I have studied the minutes of meetings involving John McCloy, an American official who served numerous administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, in the decades following the end of the Second World War. His diplomacy with the Soviets, conducted with senior Soviet negotiator Valerein Zorin and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev himself, was real, genuine, direct and designed to resolve differences. The transcripts of the diplomacy conducted between Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho to bring an end to the Vietnam conflict is likewise a study in the give and take required to achieve the status of real diplomacy.

Sending a relatively obscure official like Burns to "observe" a meeting between the European Union and Iran, with instructions not to interact, not to initiate, not to discuss, cannot under any circumstances be construed as diplomacy. Any student of diplomatic history could tell you this. And yet the esteemed editors and news producers used the term diplomacy, without challenge or clarification, to describe Burns' mission to Geneva on July 19. The decision to send him there was hailed as a "significant concession" on the part of the Bush administration, a step away from war and an indication of a new desire within the White House to resolve the Iranian impasse through diplomacy. How this was going to happen with a diplomat hobbled and muzzled to the degree Burns was apparently skipped the attention of these writers and their bosses. Diplomacy, America was told, was the new policy option of choice for the Bush administration.

Of course, the Geneva talks produced nothing. The United States had made sure Europe, through its foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, had no maneuvering room when it came to the core issue of uranium enrichment: Iran must suspend all enrichment before any movement could be made on any other issue. Furthermore, the American-backed program of investigation concerning the MEK-supplied laptop computer further poisoned the diplomatic waters. Iran, predictably, refused to suspend its enrichment program, and rejected the Heinonen-led investigation into nuclear weaponization, refusing to cooperate further with the IAEA on that matter, noting that it fell outside the scope of the IAEA's mandate in Iran.

Condoleezza Rice was quick to respond. After a debriefing from Burns, who flew to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where Rice was holding closed-door meetings with the foreign ministers of six Arab nations on the issue of Iran, Rice told the media that Iran "was not serious" about resolving the standoff. Having played the diplomacy card, Rice moved on with the real agenda: If Iran did not fully cooperate with the international community (i.e., suspend its enrichment program), then it would face a new round of economic sanctions and undisclosed punitive measures, both unilaterally on the part of the United States and Europe, as well as in the form of even broader sanctions from the United Nations Security Council (although it is doubtful that Russia and China would go along with such a plan).

The issue of unilateral U.S. sanctions is most worrisome. Both the House of Representatives, through HR 362, and the Senate, through SR 580, are preparing legislation which would call for an air, ground and sea blockade of Iran. Back in October 1962, President Kennedy, when considering the imposition of a naval blockade against Cuba in response to the presence of Soviet missiles in that nation, opined that "a blockade is a major military operation, too. It's an act of war." Which, of course, it is. The false diplomacy waged by the White House in Geneva simply pre-empted any congressional call for a diplomatic outreach. Now the president can move on with the mission of facilitating a larger war with Iran by legitimizing yet another act of aggression. One day, in the not-so-distant future, Americans will awake to the reality that American military forces are engaged in a shooting war with Iran. Many will scratch their heads and wonder, "How did that happen?" The answer is simple: We all let it happen. We are at war with Iran right now. We just don't have the moral courage to admit it.
(c) 2008 Scott Ritter a former Marine Corps intelligence officer, was a chief inspector for the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq from 1991 until 1998. He is the author of several books; "Target Iran," with a new afterword by the author, was recently released in paperback by Nation Books.

Black Milk Blues
Elite Power and the Efficacy of Force
By Chris Floyd


A reader offers an intriguing comment below:

[Referring to a previous post on Israel and the United States, "Shep" writes]: Interesting perspective, Chris... One thing I don't understand, though, is how the destruction of the American financial system (which is well on its way to occurring, aided by the humongous war-related expenses) serves the interests of the "Old American Establishment". I can see that the Zionist Jews might not be as emotionally invested in the weakening of the US, simply because America isn't their country.

Is the key the fact that the Establishment simply sees that the entire "Western Industrial Society" Ponzi scheme is about to collapse of its own weight, and are sucking up as much of the country's money and property as possible? Or perhaps is the real reason the prevalence of the apocalyptic "End-timers" who are pushing for a final, violent conflagration in the Middle East to fulfill their misguided notions of biblical prophesy, to herald the rapture? Or maybe the eugenicists, who want to see many, many less people on the planet, see this as an opportunity to drastically cut back on the flow of oil around the globe and thus engender mass genocide?

Again, I don't doubt that the reasoning in your post is solid but what is the overarching reasons for the current apocalyptic world trend? In short, who is driving the bus off of the cliff, and why?

Pertinent questions indeed. Here is my attempt at a reply:

First, I don't believe that the American financial system is about to collapse -- certainly not to the extent that it will actually harm the power and privilege of those on the very top, whether these be the "Old American Establishment" or new-style war-profiteers, etc. Of course we have already seen vast ruin and great suffering caused by the economic turmoil generated to a large degree by the endless Terror War. But who is suffering from it? Not the managers and operators of the great financial houses, who get bailed out by the government or escape the collapse of their institutions in golden parachutes. They live on in comfort and safety to gouge and exploit another day.

And not the bribed and greased politicians whose policies create such a fertile environment for economic predators. Every now and then some bottom-feeding goober like Curt Weldon gets caught up in the net for being too obviously greedy -- but what of the bipartisan legislative leadership that over the past several decades have cultivated this toxic, predatory environment, with perfectly legal, finely-crafted laws written for them by corporate lobbyists? They go on to fat-cat careers as lobbyists and consultants, or they run for president, or they sit on corporate boards, or they go home and play golf. When they are in office, they (and their successors) protect the system they have nurtured and tendered; they won't let it "collapse."

Again, this is not to deny that millions -- perhaps even tens of millions - of people will end up in very dire straits, losing houses, losing jobs, losing insurance, going hungry. This is not to deny that businesses will fold, whole industries could be rolled up like a carpet, and communities will languish and fade or die. But we have seen all this before, and the wealth and privilege of our monied elites didn't disappear; neither did their means of acquiring more wealth and power.

You ask why the old American Establishment would acquiesce in policies that "weaken the United States." But I think the underlying assumption of this question is unsound. It implies that the common good - the welfare and well-being of individual, non-elite American citizens - is somehow synonymous with the strength or success of the United States in the eyes of our elites. But this is not true, and never has been. They identify "American interests" solely with what benefits their own kind. They equate American "strength" with the ability to kill large numbers of people at short notice whenever they desire, and to bully and humiliate those they don't kill into submission, in some form or other.

The American state still retains these capabilities, and our elites are quite willing to see tens of millions of their fellow citizens go down the tubes in order to keep this gargantuan war-and-extortion machine going. To our elites, this ruination is not a "financial collapse," because their wealth and privilege remains intact, the markets remain intact, and if a bit of bother shaves a few decimal points from their fortunes, they will make it up later. And in what sense has the United States actually been "weakened," in their understanding, by the Terror War? The same nations that always jumped to America's tune still do so. Those that are powerful enough to put up some resistance do so, as they have always done. "Oh, but we've lost so much influence with our allies," some people say -- as if Europe is not as cowed as it's always been. "Oh, but a lot of them wouldn't join us in the Iraq War, because Bush is such a boor, a bully, etc." The fact is, of the four largest European powers, two of them, Britain and Italy, did join in the military invasion of Iraq, while the other two, Germany and France, cut no ties with the United States, took no action to stop or protest the war whatsoever; they just didn't send troops to Iraq. (They did send them to Afghanistan, where they are now killing civilians at an admirable clip.) So what? Britain didn't send troops to fight with America in Vietnam. Was that because we had lost so much influence and respect in Europe in the 1960s?

I live in Europe, and I honestly haven't seen any genuine, substantial loss of "respect" -- i.e., fear -- regarding American economic and military power among the European elites. Yes, Bush is deeply unpopular here; but again, so what? Have European nations proposed sanctions against America as a "rogue state" which launched a wanton act of aggression against another country? Have they banned Bush officials from visiting European states, as they have done with, say, the regime in Zimbabwe? Have they launched massive disinvestment campaigns to disassociate themselves from the gang of criminals in Washington? They have done of these things. They have done nothing, absolutely nothing, to harm or hinder in any practical way the agenda of America's elites. So where then is the "weakening" of American power on the world scene -- in real-life terms, not poll ratings?

All of this is just my opinion of course, but I honestly think that this idea that the American power structure is about to collapse is just a fantasy. Again, this is not to say that great suffering -- and horrific blowback -- are not in store for the ordinary American citizen. Many fierce chickens are coming home to roost, from both our rapacious foreign policy and our predatory economic policies. And yes, in human terms, in moral terms, in terms of our dreams of and aspirations toward a world that is more just, more humane, more peaceful and more civilized, the Terror War - along with its elder brother, the decades-long, multitrillion-dollar militarization and brutalization of American society known as the Cold War - have both weakened the United States. But as I noted above, our elites don't think in those terms; that is not how they measure the success or failure of American policy.

And so they keep pushing on. Not because they are trying to load up before the inevitable Ponzi scheme ends, and not because they're trying to bring on the Rapture or reduce the population. No, they are plowing ahead with their agenda for one reason: because they believe it will work. They believe that, in the end, they will be able to impose, by force and threat, a geopolitical situation in which American power will remain the vastly dominant force in world affairs. They are moving ahead with their agenda of force because they believe that force works.

And they believe this because history shows that force often does work; in fact, their own history shows that it can work. For example, wasn't it so terrible that the Native Americans were dispossessed of their lands and resources by aggressive war, brutal "counter-insurgency" campaigns, ethnic cleansing and deceit? Wasn't that just awful? Why, these days you can even find rock-ribbed Republicans and Terror War stalwarts who will work up a tear or two for what happened to the poor old Indians. But so what? It worked. We got the land. We got the resources. We built unimaginable fortunes from them. And all Americans have for many decades enjoyed the fruits of the genocidal decimation of the Indian peoples.

The same thing with slavery. Wasn't it just too terrible for words, what happened to the poor Africans? Sold, chained, killed, in their millions? But the force and brutality worked, didn't it? On both sides of the Atlantic, there are respected and venerable institutions, huge family fortunes, whole cities and regions whose modern prosperity is founded squarely on the slave trade and its associated enterprises.

Likewise, the Israeli dominationists believe that they can, in the end, win through by force; that they can subdue the Palestinian people, they can cow and break the Arabs and the Persians -- or at least overawe them with force and the ever-present threat of force. And they believe this not because they want to destroy the world, but because they think it will work. And as neither the American nor the Israeli militarists care what happens to the actual human beings in their own countries or in their designated targets -- and as they themselves will be insulated from the consequences of their policies in any case -- then the game of war and domination seems worth the candle. Why not give it a try? What's the harm? Especially for the Americans. Because whatever the final result, the game itself is so immensely profitable. Just look at how much wealth and state power has accrued to the Terror War masters and their cronies in the last few years. (And you can multiply that by the decades of Cold War profit for the military-industrial complex.)


But of course the real secret is that the game will never end. There is no finish line, no stopping point. Empires rise and fall, and elites always try to assert their dominance, they always try to be top dog -- and they have always, always, seen how much power and profit there is to be had in war and rumors of war. So "who is driving the bus off the cliff?" We are: human beings, in thrall to the base motives of our imperfect, chaotic monkey-brains. I wrote about this theme several years ago, taking off from a couple of recent atrocities at that time in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

Why [did these things happen]?

They would have us believe it is because Ishmael warred with Jacob. They would have us believe it is because this or that Divine Will requires it. They would have us believe it is because ethnicity or nationality or religion or some other arbitrary accretion of history and happenstance must override both the innumerable commonalities of all human beings and the radical, irreplaceable uniqueness of each individual.

They would have us believe anything other than the truth: that everyone and everything will die; that all nations, ethnicities, religions and structures will fall away into rubble, into nothingness, and be forgotten; and that even the planet itself will be reduced to atoms and melt away, like black milk, into the cold deeps of empty space. And in the face of this truth, nothing matters ultimately but each specific, fleeting instance of individual being, the shape we give to each momentary coalescence of atomic particles into a particular human situation.

That's all we have. That's all there is. That's what we kill when we murder someone. That's what we strangle when we keep them down with our boot on their throat...

Is it not time to be done with lies at last? Especially the chief lie now running through the world like a plague, putrescent and vile: that we kill each other and hate each other and drive each other into desperation and fear for any other reason but that we are animals, forms of apes, driven by blind impulses to project our dominance, to strut and bellow and hoard the best goods for ourselves. Or else to lash back at the dominant beast in convulsions of humiliated rage. Or else cravenly to serve the dominant ones, to scurry about them like slaves, picking fleas from their fur, in hopes of procuring a few crumbs for ourselves.

That's the world of power - the "real world," as its flea-picking slaves and strutting dominants like to call it. It's the ape-world, driven by hormonal secretions and chemical mechanics, the endless replication of protein reactions, the unsifted agitations of nerve tissue, issuing their ignorant commands. There's no sense or reason or higher order of thought in it - except for that perversion of consciousness called justification, self-righteousness, which gussies up the breast-beating ape with fine words and grand abstractions....

Beyond the thunder and spectacle of this ape-roaring world is another state of reality, emerging from the murk of our baser functions. There is power here, too, but not the heavy, blood-sodden bulk of dominance. Instead, it's a power of radiance, of awareness, connection, breaking through in snaps of heightened perception, moments of encounter and illumination that lift us from the slime.

It takes ten million forms, could be in anything - a rustle of leaves, the tang of salt, a bending blues note, the sweep of shadows on a tin roof, the catch in a voice, the touch of a hand, a line from Mandelshtam. Any particular, specific combination of ever-shifting elements, always unrepeatable in its exact effect and always momentary. Because that's all there is, that's all we have - the moments.

The moments, and their momentary power - a power without the power of resistance, defenseless, provisional, unarmed, imperfect, bold. The ape-world's cycle of war and retribution stands as the image of the world of power; what can serve as the emblem of this other reality? A kiss, perhaps: given to a lover, offered to a friend, bestowed on an enemy - or pressed to the brow of a murdered child.

Both worlds are within us, of course, like two quantum states of reality, awaiting our choice to determine which will be actuated, which will define the very nature of being - individually and in the aggregate, moment by moment. This is our constant task, for as long as the universe exists in the electrics of our brains: to redeem each moment or let it fall. Some moments will be won, many more lost; there is no final victory. There is only the task.

So do we counsel fatalism, a dark, defeated surrender, a retreat into bitter, curdled quietude? Not a whit. We advocate action, positive action, unstinting action, doing the only thing that human beings can do, ever: Try this, try that, try something else again; discard those approaches that don't work, that wreak havoc, that breed death and cruelty; fight against everything that would draw us down again into our own mud; expect no quarter, no lasting comfort, no true security; offer no last word, no eternal truth, but just keep stumbling, falling, careening, backsliding, crawling toward the broken light...

And what is this "broken light"? Nothing more than a metaphor for the patches of understanding - awareness, attention, knowledge, connection - that break through our darkness and stupidity for a moment now and then. A light always fractured, under threat, shifting, found then lost again, always lost. For we are creatures steeped in imperfection, in breakage and mutation, tossed up - very briefly - from the boiling, chaotic crucible of Being, itself a ragged work in progress toward unknown ends, or rather, toward no particular end at all. Why should there be an "answer" in such a reality?

That is my general opinion of the human predicament. But back to specifics for a moment: although the American Empire assuredly will one day melt away like "black milk" (the phrase, of course, comes from Paul Celan), it seems to me that at this time the American power structure is no immediate danger of collapsing in any way that will greatly harm the position of our elites. For in addition to the "conventional" war machine that dwarfs all others in the world, behind every twist and turn of American policy -- no matter which party happens to be in office-- lies the overwhelming threat of nuclear destruction on a global scale. No other country, not even Russia, can match that power. No other country, except America, has ever used that power.

It is like a man who keeps a loaded pistol in his hand, with his finger on the trigger, at all times, no matter what he is doing: negotiating a business deal, going to a ball game, playing with his children, shopping at the supermarket, making love to his wife. It's always there; he doesn't have to mention it, he doesn't have to point to it -- everyone gets the message, everyone feels the threat. As long as the American elite have the weapon of overwhelming nuclear destruction in their hand, their power and influence is not going to fade very much -- no matter how many Americans go under financially, or are killed in the elites' endless wars or in the blowback from their murderous adventures.

And that's another reason why the game will go on. The elites in other nations not only covet that kind of power, they also feel they have to protect themselves, and their own positions of wealth and privilege, from it. In the long run, things look grim for the home team -- that is us, the human race -- but despair is not an answer either. No one knows what will happen -- or indeed, what can happen -- as our race tumbles forward through time. And so I ended that earlier piece thusly:

This and this alone is the only "ideology" behind these writings, which try at all times to fight against the compelling but ignorant delusion that any single economic or political or religious system - indeed, any kind of system at all devised by the seething jumble of the human mind - can completely encompass the infinite variegations of existence. What matters is what works - what pulls us from our own darkness as far as possible, for as long as possible. Yet the truth remains that "what works" is always and forever only provisional - what works now, here, might not work there, then. What saves our soul today might make us sick tomorrow.

Thus all we can do is to keep looking, working, trying to clear a little more space for the light, to let it shine on our passions and our confusions, our anger and our hopes, informing and refining them, so that we can see each other better, for a moment - until death shutters all seeing forever.
(c) 2008 Chris Floyd

Bush Dissenter: 'Don't Start a War With Iran'
Fallon Makes One of His First Public Appearances Since Leaving U.S. Central Command
By Spencer Ackerman

In a roundtable Tuesday, Adm. William "Fox" Fallon, the former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East ousted for dissenting from the Bush administration's bellicose posture toward Iran, gave a rare public elaboration of his view of multilateral cooperation for security in the region. __

In one of his first public appearances after his abrupt departure as head of U.S. Central Command, Fallon said at the National Press Club that Gulf countries "clearly recognize that the U.S. plays a strong leadership role," and desire that to continue. Further, they ask the U.S. "to be active" in the region -- though part of being active, he said, included the advice "don't start a war" with Iran. He opted, however, to largely avoid discussing the Iran controversy that had cost him his job.__

It is still unclear whether Fallon resigned or was fired. In March, Esquire published a profile of Fallon that emphasized his points of disagreement with the Bush administration's repeated statements about confronting Iran militarily. His comment were was much discussed around the Pentagon, and, on Mar. 11, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that Fallon was resigning. _

While the admiral would not talk about anything involving his disagreements with the administration on Tuesday, Fallon told Charlie Rose on Monday, "if our people, our troops, the men and women in uniform, particularly out in the combat zones, with all that we had going on, had an idea, however they acquired it, that their commander was at odds with their commander in chief, that is a situation which is intolerable to my mind."__

At the Press Club, Fallon said, "We have a very strong vested interest in regional security," speaking to an audience assembled by the Century Foundation. "We need to remain engaged, and the U.S., as the only superpower, is needed to lead that [effort] whether we want to or not. But I think we will want to."__

Along with Paul Hughes, a former Army colonel now with the U.S. Institute of Peace, the foundation asked Fallon to comment on a recent paper about the U.S. military posture in the Persian Gulf by Lawrence Korb, a Reagan-era Pentagon official now with the liberal Center for American Progress. Korb contends that the U.S. military should reduce its ground-force presence in the region to an out-of-sight capability, able to deal with contingencies and deter adversaries, but not provocative to Arab or Persian nationalism. Korb also argues that the United States should use its remaining presence to anchor "collective regional security arrangements" with partner nations in the Gulf.__

Fallon did not sound particularly dovish on Iran, however. He characterized the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as an unprofessional and threatening force. When asked to comment on a proposal of his, made during his Central Command tenure, that ties between the U.S. and Iranian navies be used as an entry point for dialogue, Fallon called the plan merely "a discussion point." He cautioned that 30 years' worth of diplomatic formal non-communication between Washington and Tehran should prevent "bleeding hearts of pounding joy that this yields a national dialogue, especially given the behavior of Iran recently."

__ Additionally, Fallon predicted a reduction in U.S. forces in Iraq, though he dissented from Korb's position that all U.S. troops should leave the country and anticipated a transition away from "combat forces" and toward advising Iraqi security forces. In the wake of such a withdrawal, Fallon said, "the presence of U.S. forces in the region [should] come down as things stabilize in Iraq." The U.S. will "move to more of an air and naval presence... more of the offshore presence... the idea that we'll have a lot of land forces in the region strikes me as unlikely."

__ A general point of agreement on the panel was that Washington should pursue collective security in the Persian Gulf to ensure regional stability and access to oil. "We need to work with the rest of the world to have access to this global treasure," Hughes remarked. Korb noted that the "era of American hegemony, if it existed in the '90s, is ending," and urged the opening of formal diplomatic talks with Iran. Fallon, Korb and Hughes all agreed that China and India, whose interest in Middle Eastern oil is growing with their own energy needs, should be included in talks about the region's future.__

Ian Moss, a co-author of the Korb report, welcomed Fallon's remarks, even if they were occasionally circumspect. "He was at times cautious but overall he supported the point that there needs to be much more of an international, open discourse to address security concerns in the region," said Moss, a Marine veteran of the Iraq war. All other attendees at the panel approached for comment about Fallon declined to be quoted.__

Fallon emphasized the need for coherence in setting foreign policy. "A priority for me is to set a national strategy for the world and then work down to the [Middle East] region," he said. On stability and security in the Mideast, "we'd like to remove friction [that] would lead to conflict."
(c) 2008 Spencer Ackermen writes for the Washington Independent

Fannie and Freddie
A Pair to Draw To
By Mike Folkerth

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

As the self described "hardest working ever" and consequently the "lowest rated ever" Congress, has passed the Fannie (Federal National Mortgage Assn.) and Freddie (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.) bailout, we need to take a closer look at just exactly what that little piece of hurried legislation has accomplished.

First, it is important to understand that Freddie and Fannie hold the mortgages for about half of all homes in America. Second, they are both private corporations that are traded on the New York Stock Exchange, not government entities; but none the less, are tools of our mathematically challenged government leadership.

Freddie and Fannie take loans off the banks hands in order to pass on the risk and to enable the banks to constantly make more loans and collect more fees without the bothersome issue of collection, which has become a problem of some magnitude.

So why would the public buy stocks in companies such as Freddie and Fannie who I have pointed out for some years to be extremely risky? The answer to that question was always evident; should there ever be a failure, the federal government would reach deep into the taxpayers' pockets and bail out the stockholders. The proof is in the pudding.

Exactly how bad is our banking and economic system when the feds bailout private corporations to the tune of billions and begin to seize banks on a regular basis? I think that answer is self evident....it's horrific.

To better understand just how horrific, in that piece of bailout legislation was another provision that raised the ceiling on the National Debt some $800 BILLION!

Let's also put that last figure into perspective. For the first 204 years of this nation's existence, until 1980, our total accumulated National Debt was approximately $850 Billion. Last week our Congress raised the ceiling by nearly the total accumulation of the first 204 years.

Make no mistake that Congress is well aware of the coming costs of bailing out our ill conceived failing economy and has simply authorized the funds ahead of time to do so.

As reader and commenter Billy B. has stated many times, "This is a Cinderella year." Our government on both sides of the aisle is throwing everything including the kitchen sink at this economy to avoid total collapse. After all, we have a Democratic Congress and a Republican President and that makes for strange bedfellows, both being culpable and all.

As we observe our National and private sector debt rise to levels never before seen (in real numbers, but we don't deal with real numbers we deal with government numbers) it becomes evident that our monetary managers believe that a little hair from the dog that bit us is exactly the remedy needed. Therefore, Doctor Bernanke has prescribed more credit as the answer to too much credit. There are people who have been institutionalized that aren't that crazy.

On another front, our government has also had a change of heart on the legality of coercion and money laundering. The U.S. Treasury by virtue of our newly passed legislation will heavily suggest that banks discount their bad loans for nice clean money from the taxpayers' pockets.

The seriousness of our current situation escapes most Americans who believe that things will get better after the election. However, if Billy B. is correct, instead of the Prince showing up, Cinderella will do the pumpkin routine.

Turn her into the wind, drop the mainsail, and batten down the hatches, it's gonna be a big blow.
(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...

"A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both."
~~~ Dwight D. Eisenhower ~~~

Slow Food Nation's victory garden in front of San Francisco City Hall.

Grow Your Own
By Allison Arieff

"Edible landscape" seems to be going head to head with "staycation" as the most popular catch phrase of Summer 2008. Lawns may not be disappearing before our very eyes, but citizens are definitely swapping out blades of grass for bushels of beans in increasing numbers.

Take me for instance, a bona fide city dweller: As a follow up to my column in March on the reclamation of urban and suburban land for agricultural use, I've spent the last several weeks putting theory into practice, literally getting my hands dirty (and whatever other cliché I can unearth) in the interest of urban agriculture.

My backyard, before and after.

Two months ago, I learned about My Farm, run by mortgage-broker-turned-farmer Trevor Paque. My Farm is essentially an urban take on community-sponsored agriculture (CSAs). With CSAs, individuals essentially invest in rural farms to help support their operations and are given a weekly box of fresh produce in return. With My Farm (and similar operations found in cities including New York and Portland, Ore.), you can grow food in your own backyard with the assistance of urban farmers like Paque. In one day, he created our 120-square-foot backyard farm - landscaping with found materials from the yard, installing a drip-irrigation system and planting heirloom seeds. Now he comes once a week to harvest a box of organic and ridiculously local produce for us - plus an additional box, which he sells to another family in our neighborhood.

This costs us about $100 a month, and has allowed us to replace our water-dependent grass patch with an edible landscape. After just three months in business, Paque has a waiting list of over 200 people and is scrambling to keep up with demand.

Urban agriculture has been around since at least the 18th century, but it's an idea whose time has truly come - now - in the United States. The reasons range from the fact that our hands are always found glued to computer keys and not even occasionally in the dirt, to the scary existence of industrially grown tomatoes that may (or may not) cause salmonella, to the fact that a drive to the market can now cost more than the food you purchase there.

Though some may see this as a "lazy locavore" trend - wherein couch potato clients, glass of biodynamic Syrah in hand, observe the hard labor of city farmers while lounging with their laptops - the urban agriculture movement seems to me to be slowly transcending its elitist associations. It is truly growing into something that is wholly about collaboration, community and connection to food, to neighbors, to land.

That's certainly been my experience both in my yard, as neighbors and friends come by to help harvest (and to eat), and in my city. Earlier this month, my family spent a Saturday at San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza, helping to plant a 10,000-square-foot Victory Garden sponsored by Slow Food Nation, a nonprofit organization that will be celebrating American food through art, music, lectures, tastings, school programs and the like over Labor Day Weekend. More than 250 volunteers and nearly a dozen Bay Area gardening organizations dedicated their time to plant the first edible garden in front of San Francisco's City Hall since 1943. Designed by John Bela of the arts collective REBAR and curated by the artist/gardener/activist Amy Francheschini of Victory Gardens 2008+, this public installation aims to demonstrate the potential of a truly local agriculture practice while producing high-quality food for those in need.

This day was social networking of the best sort. Participants got some dirt under their fingernails, ran into old friends, ate an organic lunch and left weary but happy. It was as much about community creation as food cultivation. I hope to see this sort of urban (and suburban) intervention replicated across the country. (It will be a shame if the city of San Francisco can't find a way to either keep the garden here or find a suitable space to relocate it.)

This isn't just a California thing, nor does it require vast amounts of open space. At PS1 in Long Island City, N.Y., the architecture firm WORK AC eschewed that art institution's traditionalUrban Beach concept for an Urban Farm.

Planters are part of WORK AC's Urban Farm project.

"This came out a desire to combine urbanism with ecology," explains Work Architecture Company principal Dan Wood, who with his partner, Amale Andraos, and their architecture students at Princeton have concluded that the urban farm is really the holy grail of making things sustainable. WORK AC's take is particularly urban, featuring things like a mobile phone charging station, speakers that emit farm-animal sounds and "Gaia" soil made from recycled Styrofoam and pectin gel. Food harvested from the project is used at PS1's café, thus reducing food miles to a whopping 300 feet.

When I spoke with Wood and Andraos recently, it was evident that this project is the result of an intricate network of people and places. They spoke excitedly of the great advice they'd received, for example, from Michael Grady Robertson of the 50-acre Queens County Farm Museum (which I bet you didn't know existed) in New York and from their solar panel installer, who'd honed his craft in Alaska. Andraos stressed that they really wanted this typically rural thing to offer to city dwellers all the things that attract them about city living: social interaction, play, excitement, fun.

If all of this has helped plant a seed of inspiration, why not enter Readymade's Second Annual Garden Challenge. The DIY bible Readymade, which inspires its readership toward the execution (or at least vicarious realization) of creative ideas on small budgets, invites readers to submit ideas for transforming their own outdoor spaces in innovative ways. (E-mail ideas to shana@readymademag.com by Aug. 1.) I've no doubt they'll be hearing from hordes of less-than-lazy locavores.
(c) 2008 Allison Arieff

The End Of The SUV
Love 'em or hate 'em, the American land yacht is rumbling into the sunset. Rejoice?
By Mark Morford

Let us, first and foremost, be perfectly clear: it ain't over yet. Millions of dinosaurs still roam the Earth, the giant meteor of merciful annihilation has yet to strike, complete and total upheaval is still merely pending.

But it's coming fast. You can sense the shadow, the darkening, the imminent and oily doom. The dinosaurs are trembling, scribbling out their wills as fast as possible. They know the end is near, the signs are all in place, as that giant $63K Toyota Land Cruiser V8 you bought just a couple years ago violently depreciates down to less than half of what you paid for it. Ouch.

Yes, the imploding petroleum economy has spoken, and this is what it said: The era of the big, happy, dumb SUV is over.

Will you celebrate? Mourn? Mark this year on your calendar with the bright red Sharpie of petro-economic ignominy mixed with the cold tears of terrified Detroit CEOs, and dash off to buy a nice scooter? Well, why not?

Twenty years. That's about how long these great and ridiculous beasts stomped the Earth without peer or predator or even much coherent justification, how long the full-sized SUV has been at the center of warped American automotive identity, giving soccer moms and frat dudes alike a false and often dangerous sense of security and capability, when all the beasts really offered was horrible mileage and appalling handling and many thousands of fiery rollover deaths, mixed with aesthetics straight from the caveman-with-a-sledgehammer school of design. Ah, we loved them well.

Shall we enjoy a brief retrospective? Because I believe it was Ford MoCo who (arguably) fired the opening salvo, who shocked both itself and the world when it (sort of) invented the first mass-market SUV back in 1990 merely by tacking some extra seats and a few hunks of cheap leather and soft shocks onto a lug-nut pickup truck, painted it a pretty color and called it an Explorer and sold about 50 million in a week.

Oh, there were plenty of stiff trucks with SUV-like shapes in existence many years, even decades, before the Explorer (hi Ford Bronco, Jeep Cherokee, Chevy Blazer, et al), but Ford was the first to see the untapped potential of these ungainly beasts and take the thuggishness-with-style idea soft and mainstream. What a time it was.

But now, brutal irony abounds. Ford is in panic mode, just suffered a whopping $8.7 billion in losses last quarter alone, is right now scrambling to overhaul many of its truck plants so as to start cranking out hot little Fiestas and Focuses and a slew of mediocre sedans, all as a result of leaning on the SUV's enormous profit margins for far too long. And GM is in the same boat, having racked up $50 billion in losses in three painful years. In fact, all of Detroit is, technically speaking, freaking out.

Meanwhile, all Japanese and even most German automakers, each with lots of small, efficient cars/brands already in the stable, are grinning like well-prepared survivalists in their own bomb shelters. Leave it to America's most boorish, thick headed companies to find themselves as they were back in the '70s oil crisis, caught about nine steps behind reality. Zero sympathy, except for all those laid-off factory workers.

But really, who didn't see the SUV's collapse coming a mile away? Who didn't note the beginning of the end when, a mere five years ago, the world's worst consumer vehicle ever took its place as the king of obscene stupidity, the poster child for all that went wrong with the condescending American ethos, the oil-sucking war-drunk Bush-mauled mind-set?

Ah, the Hummer H2. Has any consumer product embodied our misguided arrogance better? The ridiculous scale, the horrible handling, the crappy build quality, the contemptible road manners, the false machismo, the Cro-Magnon design, the ability to traverse 60-degree rockslides in a hurricane even though all you ever really needed to do was run over those little concrete bumps in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Dude! Righteous!

But I have to admit, this part of the tale makes me a little bit sentimental. Honestly, I'm going to miss the Hummer (and its simply fantastic byproduct, Hummer cologne), much in the same way I'll miss Dick Cheney when the Hellmouth swallows him home next year. Dumb villains simply don't come much more glaring, much more churlish and sad than that.

But baby, it's all over now. GM is trying desperately to dump the Hummer brand (maybe on China), SUV sales are nosediving faster than Miley Cyrus' career into the land of anorexia and Olsen Twin-certified rehab. Already small cars are outselling SUVs and pickup trucks for the first time in years. Hybrid sales are soaring. "Crossover" is the new (and rather lame) buzzword in Detroit, as automakers strain for a tolerable fusion of SUV-like capacity and car-like efficiency.

Of course, the shift won't happen overnight. There are still tens of millions of SUVs on the road, most well under a decade old and most with lots of lumbering life left. Plus, five bucks a gallon is still a pittance for a large and wealthy hunk of the SUV-loving populace, as evidenced by the slew of luxobarges still being cranked out by Audi, Mercedes, Lexus, Porsche, et al. Hey, when you can afford $95K for a loaded Cayenne Turbo, 100 bucks for a tank of premium is pocket change.

So maybe what's really changing is the central mind-set, shifting from our usual "more is more" ethos, the near-religious belief that Americans can use as much as we want and take up as much space as we like and not really give a damn, to something resembling thoughtfulness and refinement. Wouldn't that be nice? That the downfall of the SUV is largely due to a slow but sure awakening and re-education of the American animal?

Not a chance. As usual, it's merely sheer economics, most Americans turning back to small, efficient cars only because they have to. And besides, all those mid-sized sedans and silly retro-inspired muscle cars and 30 mph quasi-hybrid Ford Escapes coming out now aren't exactly a big step forward. Detroit is about as nimble and innovative as a brick.

But it's not completely their fault. Big Auto knows that big, graceless, overpowered vehicles are a cornerstone of the all-American identity. Even with President Obama's imminent new environmental policies, thoughtful, permanent change is gonna take awhile.

So now I suppose we just sit back and watch the slow and uncomfortable fade, enjoy the clunky death throes of the giant and wonderfully pointless beasts that helped define an era. Oh you big, sweet, dumb dinosaurs. You'll always have a special place in our hearts. And, you know, in our juvenile rap videos. Farewell.
(c) 2008 Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SF Gate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle. To get on the e-mail list for this column, please click here and remove one article of clothing!

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Bush,

Dear Uber Gruppenfuhrer DeMint,

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 defense of that act of treason known as the FISA bill, 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 DeMint, Sieg Heil!

Vice Fuhrer Cheney

Heil Bush

Enemy of the People

The Washington Post Editorial Page's Latest Rule Of Law Sermon
By Glenn Greenwald

Jackson Diehl, Deputy Editor of the The Washington Post's Editorial Page, has an Op-Ed today that contains a stirring defense today of "the rule of law." Diehl righteously complains the "president is already in danger of making 'legal nihilism' the byword for his administration." It might be considered quite surprising that an Editorial Page that has long cheered on many of the Bush administration's most extreme acts of lawlessness is suddenly complaining about the President's "legal nihilism," except that Diehl's sermon isn't directed towards the American President, but rather towards Russia's. Acording to Dihel, Russia is demonstrating a very upsetting disregard both for domestic and international law.

That an establishment organ like The Washington Post Editorial Page continues to think it can credibly lecture the world on the rule of law and the need to abide by international norms is a potent reflection of how deluded our political class has become. Given what our political establishment has sanctioned over the last seven years, it so obviously has -- to use the phrase coined by the ex-blogger Billmon -- "forfeited its ability to chastise the human rights abuses of others without triggering a global laughing fit." That goes double for our ability to chastise other political cultures for their disregard of the rule of law, particularly basic precepts of international law.

Yet here is Diehl, bitterly complaining with a straight face, that "the law still doesn't seem to matter" to the Russian Government in either the domestic or international realm. He identifies several examples where he claims the Russian Government has intervened in disputes between Russian and foreign corporations in order to force the latter to turn over their assets to the Russian Government, and this is what Diehl says about Russia's outrageous disregard for international law:

So much, then, for domestic reform. What about international law? . . . . More serious is the predicament of Georgia, the former Soviet republic that has embraced democracy and sought NATO membership. Since shortly before Medvedev took office, Russian warplanes have been systematically violating Georgian airspace, shooting down Georgian drone aircraft on several occasions. In breach of a U.N.-sponsored agreement, Moscow has dispatched security forces to the separatist region of Abkhazia and granted legal recognition to its self-declared government. U.S. and European officials believe a concerted effort is underway to provoke the Georgian government into an armed confrontation.

Diehl is writing on the same Editorial Page which, for the last five years, has boisterously cheered on the American invasion and occupation of Iraq -- one of the most egregious violations of international law of the last decade, at least. It's the same Editorial Page that has repeatedly urged that lawbreaking telecoms should be relieved of the obligation to go to court and should be immunized from any consequences, decreeing that they were "acting as patriotic corporate citizens" when breaking our privacy laws for years. It's an Editorial Page that never ceases its support for those who threaten Iran with a military attack -- threats which (not that anyone really cares) happen to be violations of the conventions of international law which the Post depicts itself as upholding (UN Charter: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force . . . "). M

And just two days ago, the Post's Editorial Page explicitly advocated that new so-called "specialized national security courts" be created in the U.S. to empower the President to imprison people -- even for life -- without having to charge them with any crime, including in those circumstances where (due to a lack of evidence) no such charges could possibly be brought against such individuals:

The president must have the legal flexibility to detain those against whom there is credible, actionable intelligence but not enough evidence to bring charges."

This is who, on a weekly basis, singles out other Governments for lectures on the sanctity of the rule of law, human rights, and the need to abide by international conventions. It's certainly possible to argue that we shouldn't be constrained by petty and bothersome things like international law and even domestic law when it comes to having the President protect us all. That, more or less, has been the animating principle which our political establishment (and certainly the Post Editorial Page) has embraced to justify the conduct of our own Government during the last seven years.

But you can't simultaneously espouse that view for yourself and then expect that your sermons to the rest of the world about the sanctity of international conventions and the rule of law will be treated with anything other than scornful indifference. Yet somehow, people like Jackson Diehl -- Fred Hiatt's deputy -- continue to believe they're in a position to condemn other countries' disregard for such principles.

What we've done over the last seven years -- at least much of it -- isn't a secret. It's worthwhile to state frequently in clear, dispassionate terms what our country has done. Our Government has kidnapped people off the street and from their homes and sent them to places like Syria to be tortured for months (including completely innocent people) and then invoked National Security claims to bar them from holding our Government accountable in a court of law. We've disappeared others into secret prisons beyond even the reach of the Red Cross, or encaged them in a lawless black hole on a Cuban island. We've tortured them, sometimes to death, even with the knowledge that many were innocent. We attacked and completely demolished another country that couldn't attack us even if it wanted to. And our President openly declared that he has the power to break our laws, spy on U.S. citizens with no warrants, and indefinitely imprison even our own citizens with no process of any kind. Those are all just facts that aren't really subject to dispute or debate.

Worst of all, having done all of that -- not for weeks or months following the 9/11 attacks, but for years, still -- we've collectively decided, without much turmoil or debate, that it should all be forgiven, that none of it should be punished or even investigated, that it's best just to keep these crimes concealed and, when accidentally disclosed, to immunize the criminals. And all of that is being done right out in the open, so that our formal human rights reports are self-evident, almost laughable, farces, and even countries like Zimbabwe, when their governments want to engage in tyrannical acts, can and do rationally point to the U.S. as the leading example which they're following.

Whether this country or that one is "worse" than the U.S. in these areas is irrelevant to the point (though, on that topic, one might compare Diehl's complaints about Russia's interference in oil disputes to the Bush administration's "War on Terror" conduct). Regardless of who is "worse," it is truly baffling that our political establishment still thinks it can anoint itself arbiters on the rule of law and human rights.

How can a member of an Editorial Page which has endorsed some of the most grotesque abuses and violations of law within their own country -- and which continues to believe that those responsible should be protected and immunized -- possibly continue to parade around as some sort of crusaders for those principles when it comes to others? Who is the target audience that they think they are successfully fooling with that charade? What mental process allows a person like Jackson Diehl or Fred Hiatt to declare that their own Government is exempt from the rule of law and the most basic international norms yet still believe they are in a position to condemn other governments for insufficient regard for the rule of law and human rights?

UPDATE: In comments, El Cid provides one of the best definitions of what makes one a "Leftist" when it comes to our foreign policy debates:

One of the things which apparently marks you as part of the whacked out fringe crazy extreme left in this country is that you seem to think there might ought be consistency between (a) what the U.S. foreign policy establishment demands of other, typically weaker nations; (b) what the U.S. foreign policy establishment feels free to do with regard to and even in those other nations; and (c) what the U.S. does at home. That really is the hallmark of what the political establishment dismisses and derides as "leftism."

On a different though related note, this is what Verizon did today: Now that Congress has given immunity to telecommunications companies that helped the government spy on Americans in suspected terrorism cases, a Maine legislator is asking Verizon anew if it turned over any customer records to the federal government.

As it has in the past when faced with such queries, Verizon Communications Inc. says it is not commenting on matters involving national security. . . .

The law in effect nullified a lawsuit by Maine which sought to know what kind of phone customer information was turned over to the National Security Agency as part of its anti-terror efforts. That and several other similar cases brought by consumers, privacy advocates and others had been consolidated before Congress granted immunity. . . . "Possibly tens of thousands of Mainers have had their private phone records leaked to the federal government without their knowledge or say-so, and now none of them may ever know," he said.

Telecoms have done the same to the U.S. Congress as well, by outright refusing to respond to inquiries from Congressional committees concerning their conduct in enabling spying on their customers. It isn't only the President who shields himself from accountability and the rule of law with heavy-handed invocations of "National Security." In the U.S., private corporations now do the same (though the distinction between the telecom industry and the Executive branch increasingly exists only in theory). These corporations now brazenly cite National Security concerns as a ground for telling legislative bodies that they can't be investigated. They know infinitely more than even the Congress about what our Government is doing and are accountable to nobody even when they break the law. But what's happening to the rule of law in Russia is terribly upsetting.
(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.

Who's Paying For The Conventions?
By Amy Goodman

The election season is heating up, with back-to-back conventions approaching-the Democrats in Denver followed by the Republicans in St. Paul, Minn. The conventions have become elaborate, expensive marketing events, where the party's "presumptive" nominee has a coronation with much fanfare, confetti and wall-to-wall media coverage. What people don't know is the extent to which major corporations fund the conventions, pouring tens of millions of dollars into a little-known loophole in the campaign-finance system.

Stephen Weissman of the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute explains the unconventional funding:

"It's totally prohibited to give unlimited contributions to political parties. It's totally prohibited for a corporation or a union to just go right into its treasury and give money to political parties. Yet, under an exemption that was created by the Federal Election Commission, which essentially is made up of representatives of the two major parties, all of this money can be given if it's given through a host committee under the pretense that it's merely to promote the convention city."

According to CFI's new report, "Analysis of Convention Donors," since the last presidential election, the corporations funding the conventions have spent more than $1.1 billion lobbying the federal government. Add to it the millions they pour into the conventions. Says Weissman: "In return for this money, the parties, through the host committees, offer access to top politicians, to the president, the future president, vice president, cabinet officials, senators, congressmen. They promise these companies who are giving that they will be able to not only get close to these people by hosting receptions, by access to VIP areas, but they'll actually have meetings with them."

Disclosure of what corporations are giving is not required until 60 days after each convention, which is essentially Election Day, so there is no time to challenge a candidate on particular corporate donors. Weissman reports that most of the corporations that are giving to the convention "host committees" also have serious business before the federal government. Take AT&T, for example. Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com recently pointed out that the Democratic conventioneers and registered media in attendance will receive a tote bag prominently emblazoned with the AT&T logo. It's a perfect metaphor for a much larger gift, the one Democrats and Republicans just gave AT&T and other telecoms: retroactive immunity for spying on U.S. citizens. While Sens. Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd fought the bill, Sen. Barack Obama, until recently a staunch opponent of telecom immunity, reversed his position and supported it, reneging on a pledge to filibuster. Perfect timing.

The conventions are also training grounds for the next generation of elected officials. Many state legislators attend the conventions as delegates, where they marinate in the ways of big-money politics. From the corporate parties to the hospitality suites, they learn that there is nothing to be gained by challenging the status quo.

Obama has sworn off special-interest and lobbying money for his campaign, and he made historic strides in using the Internet to marshal millions of small donors and amass a campaign war chest with $72 million in cash on hand at the end of June. Yet the Denver convention is looking more and more like business as usual. Weissman writes in his report, "Lavish conventions with million-dollar podiums, fancy skyboxes and Broadway production teams are not necessary to the democratic process."

What is necessary, Weissman says, is stripping soft money out of the convention process: "Congress should pass a law that says no more soft money for these conventions, no corporate treasury, union treasury, no unlimited individual money. Instead, the parties-let's discard this host-committee fiction-can go out there and ask people to help the convention, but with the same limits where they're asking people to help them normally."

"Deep Throat" is said to have told Bob Woodward during Watergate to "follow the money." It looks as if this summer you need only go to the Democratic and Republican national conventions. It's time to close this loophole.
2008 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 650 stations in North America.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Vic Harville ~~~

W The Movie_teaser1

To End On A Happy Note...

Union Maid
By Woody Guthrie

There once was a union maid, she never was afraid
Of goons and ginks and company finks
and the deputy sheriffs who made the raid.
She went to the union hall when a meeting it was called,
And when the Legion boys come 'round
She always stood her ground.

Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union, I'm sticking to the union.
Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union 'til the day I die.

This union maid was wise to the tricks of company spies,
She couldn't be fooled by a company stool, she'd always organize the guys.
She always got her way when she struck for better pay.
She'd show her card to the National Guard
And this is what she'd say.

Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union, I'm sticking to the union.
Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union 'til the day I die.

You gals who want to be free, just take a tip from me;
Get you a man who's a union man and join the ladies' auxiliary.
Married life ain't hard when you got a union card,
A union man has a happy life when he's got a union wife.

Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union, I'm sticking to the union.
Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union 'til the day I die.
(c) 1960/2008 Woody Guthrie

Have You Seen This...

Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

Parting Shots...

McCain Makes Historic First Visit To Internet
Will Spend Five Days at Key Sites
By Andy Borowitz

In a daring bid to wrench attention from his Democratic rival in the 2008 presidential race, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) today embarked on an historic first-ever visit to the Internet.

Given that the Arizona Republican had never logged onto the Internet before, advisors acknowledged that his first visit to the World Wide Web was fraught with risk.

But with his Democratic rival Barack Obama making headlines with his tour of the Middle East and Europe, the McCain campaign felt that they needed to "come up with something equally bold for John to do," according to one advisor.

McCain aides said that the senator's journey to the Internet will span five days and will take him to such far-flung sites as Amazon.com, eBay and Facebook.

With a press retinue watching, Sen. McCain logged onto the Internet at 9:00 AM Sunday, paying his first-ever visit ever to Mapquest.com.

"I can't get this [expletive] thing to work," Sen. McCain said as he struggled with his computer's mouse, causing his wife Cindy to prompt him to add that he was "just kidding."

Having pronounced his visit to Mapquest a success, Sen. McCain continued his tour by visiting Weather.com and Yahoo! Answers, where he inquired as to the difference between Sunnis and Shiites.

Sen. McCain said that he had embarked on his visit to the Internet to allay any fears that he is too out-of-touch to be president, adding that he plans to take additional steps to demonstrate that he is comfortable with today's technology: "In the days and weeks ahead, you will be seeing me rock out with my new Walkman."
(c) 2008 Andy Borowitz


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Zeitgeist The Movie...

Issues & Alibis Vol 8 # 30 (c) 08/01/2008

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