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In This Edition

William Ayers presents, "The Real Bill Ayers."

Uri Avnery brings a, "Memo For Obama."

Victoria Stewart examines, "Omens And Portents."

Jim Hightower with a, "Sign Of The Times."

Captain Eric H. May and friends wonder, "'Black Bush' Barack?"

Will Allen explains, "Aquaponics."

Chris Hedges tells why, "The Best And The Brightest Led America Off A Cliff."

Chris Floyd enters, "The 13th Circle."

Eric Alterman explores, "Inventing The News For Fun And Profit...."

Mike Folkerth considers, "The New Economy; Spend More, Worry Less."

Stephanie Mencimer cuts through, "Philip Morris' Legal Smoke Screen."

Norman Solomon hears, "The Silent Winter Of Escalation."

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald uncovers, "A Democratic Insider's Call For A New Presidential Secrecy Power."

Sheila Samples sees Obama, "Through A Hole In The Air...."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "China Buys Naming Rights To U.S." but first Uncle Ernie sez we're, "Thinning Out The Herd."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Dwane Powell with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Keith Tucker, Freaking News.Com, Jim Sizemore, Married To The Sea.Com, The Heretik.US, Mike Lester, Growing Power.Org, SoCalDems, Philip Morris, Issues & Alibis.Org 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."

Thinning Out The Herd
By Ernest Stewart

Redefining trust is something that's left up to us.
What your getting in return is losing what you've earned.
Your stripped of a soul your ready to fold.
Already been sold, on thinning out the herd.
Thinning The Herd ~~~ Bigwig

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941-a date which will live in infamy-the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. ~~~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy." ~~~ Joe Biden

Our elitist masters have plans for all of us. Unless you're a doctor, mechanic, farmer or perform some other necessary job, my guess is that your fate will be starvation within a few years time. Since we've virtually eliminated the Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my, ways of thinning out the herd are limited. Starvation has been hit upon as a means to make a little breathing room for the movers and shakers without all that ugly nuclear radiation.

The obvious arguments to support my theory are Darfur, Iraq, Haiti and Palestine. Whether done by China, America, Israel or the United Nations, the effects are the same, slow agonizing deaths for dark skinned people.

The less obvious doesn't affect the third world so much as the first world. Once upon a time, the poor people in this country usually had the best diet. Little sugar or caffeine and not very much meat. People may have been hungry but, for the most part, it wasn't due to quality of food but rather quantity! Today only the rich and wealthy can afford to eat nutritious meals. Ever gone to an organic market? Talk about sticker shock!

I've noticed most cities in this country that have large black populations, cities like Detroit, Chicago, Los Angles, Philadelphia, etc., don't even have supermarkets inside the city. They have mom and pop stores and fast food takeouts. To go to a supermarket one may have to take a half dozen buses. Why? NO, let's not see the same hands... That's right, racism! Trouble is, if they can get to a market, thanks to the FDA, Monsanto and other corpo-rats, the foods in the markets are pretty much poison, too!

If it's not grown organically, then it will eventually kill you. Did you realize, for example, that soybeans are the most genetically modified plant on the planet? American Agribusiness has been modifying every food plant under the sun and selling these mutated crops as if they were healthy. Are they healthy? Truth is no one knows as the FDA has allowed the corpo-rats to produce and sell these mutations without any studies on their safety. How are they doing this? Monsanto, for example, mutates soy so the plants can withstand huge amounts of Roundup without dying. In fact, those soybeans will pass the savings in toxic chemicals on to you, the consumer.

Meat, well, what's safe to eat? Certainly not beef cattle. Countries like England, Canada and these here United Snakes all tried to cover up Mad Cow disease. In America alone upwards of 20% of cattle slaughtered are downer cattle. Cattle too sick to stand up and walk to be slaughtered are picked up with a high-low! What's for dinner, eh? In fact, just this week Ireland said it won't halt beef sales despite contamination with unsafe levels of dioxin. Sure they took their pigs off the market when they were found to be contaminated because someone leaked to the press that they contained 200 time the safe limit for consumption set by the European Union, but since the cows only contain three times the safe limit, they'll continue to sell the contaminated beef. Yummy, where's my bib?

For years Monsanto has been selling only seeds that produce seedless crops to third world countries. Once the hook is set the farmers must buy seeds every year. Can't afford to? Then starve to death. We could easily feed the world but our masters won't let us. We once were the breadbasket of the world. Now we import a large percentage of our food. And a large chunk of the foods or additives to the food, comes from China. Not to mention that to keep prices down most stores are a day or two from being out of food so that any emergency will disrupte distribution and America will begin to starve to death in a couple of weeks time. Those of you with a full food cellar had better be prepared to protect it from your starving neighbors! That's not "Avon" calling!

In Other News

It's that time of the year again. The time when some great government agency tries to cover up the facts about Pearl Harbor and its false flag properties.

This time its that ultra trustworthy source of madness and mayhem, the NSA. It trots out a little song and dance to assure us that all is right with the world and not to worry. Roll over and go back to sleep, America!

This latest song and dance concerns: "who heard or saw a transcript of a Tokyo shortwave radio news broadcast that was interrupted by a prearranged coded weather report? The weather bulletin signaled Japanese diplomats around the world to destroy confidential documents and codes because war with the United States, the Soviet Union or Britain was beginning.

In testimony for government inquiries, witnesses said that the 'winds execute' message was intercepted as early as Dec. 4, three days before the attack."

The NSA assures us that all who heard or saw the transcript were mistaken. Not that I think that it is, but for the sake of argument let's say that this is true, everyone concerned was mistaken and we didn't know by this intercept that the carrier battle groups were on the way! Trouble is, the aforementioned aside, we knew they were coming in so many other ways.

Several Naval and governmental communiqués were discovered in the 1990s that showed we knew well in advance what was going to happen.

First and foremost, Pearl Harbor was designed as a trap for the Japanese. We sent a group of outdated and, for the most part useless, battleships as bait and put them in a harbor where their keels were, at most, a couple of yards above the bottom. Even if they were all sunk they'd be ready for battle in a couple of months time. Consider that the only ship we lost was the battleship Arizona which got her keel broken. Built before 1914, she was of such an early design and only about the size of a modern day destroyer, that they just took her 15 inch guns off, removed her super structure and let her set.

The rest of the battleships were quickly refloated, fitted out with radar and other updates and were soon bombarding Japanese positions and destroying the Japanese navy!

Oh, and secondly, the British had broken the Japanese Naval code in March of 1941 and passed it along to us in May of 1941. Therefore, we were reading their messages for about seven months before December 7th. Funny how the NSA didn't mention those facts, eh?

FDR wanted to get us in the war, a very unpopular war and so Pearl Harbor was our Reich Stag fire or more to the point our modern day, "Remember the Maine!" You may recall the American battleship Maine, which blew up in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898 due to a fire in her in her coalbunkers that set off an adjacent powder magazine. The Maine's sinking was used as an excuse for America to take on Spain who was blamed for the Maine's destruction. America could steal Spain's empire and have its first corpo-rat sponsored world war, the Spanish-American War of 1898! WWII was started by similar means with similar goals in mind!

And Finally

The blog sphere has, of late, been filled with predictions of doom and despair with the up coming Presidential Ceremonies on January 20th. As with any good conspiracy theory, this theory is held by members of the left, right and center, each with a slightly different schedule of disaster. Generally, they're concerned with Barry either being arrested or killed just before or just after he takes the oath of office. You really can't "walk" for the chatter and clatter!

One of my favorite "conspiracy theories" links Canada and Mexico with our own corpo-rat masters in staging a three-country coup d'etat and beginning of the North American Union. What with that old German whore Elizabeth sitting upon my family'S throne in London allowing her fascist puppet in Ottawa, the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on Thursday to suspend the Canadian Parliament until January 27th one might get suspicious. Add to that the current political madness in Mexico and the traveling circus that is American politics and I can see where some would-be Svengalis would have come to the conclusion that the "jig is up". After all, we have about 20,000 fulltime soldiers ready to rock against all those pesky "darkies" if something should happen to Barry and a civil disturbance followed. Not-to-mention all those brand new "Happy Camps" to send them to! You may someday recall this future deja vue, "First they came for the blacks, but I didn't speak up because I wasn't black! Then they came for the..."

However, I see another future where everything goes according to plan, just as it has for the last eight years. A future where Obama continues most of the corpo-rats' programs, wars and such until the final collapse of the economy. Then, and only then, will we swallow up Canada and Mexico for their cheap labor and abundant minerals. I think Liz and Steve are just having a practice run-through for the coming day when it will all be too real!


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

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

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Ernest & Victoria Stewart


04-20-1924 ~ 12-05-2008
R.I.P. Sweetie

09-01-1932 ~ 12-06-02008
Give my regards to Klaus!


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 Real Bill Ayers
By William Ayers

IN the recently concluded presidential race, I was unwillingly thrust upon the stage and asked to play a role in a profoundly dishonest drama. I refused, and here's why.

Unable to challenge the content of Barack Obama's campaign, his opponents invented a narrative about a young politician who emerged from nowhere, a man of charm, intelligence and skill, but with an exotic background and a strange name. The refrain was a question: "What do we really know about this man?"

Secondary characters in the narrative included an African-American preacher with a fiery style, a Palestinian scholar and an "unrepentant domestic terrorist." Linking the candidate with these supposedly shadowy characters, and ferreting out every imagined secret tie and dark affiliation, became big news.

I was cast in the "unrepentant terrorist" role; I felt at times like the enemy projected onto a large screen in the "Two Minutes Hate" scene from George Orwell's "1984," when the faithful gathered in a frenzy of fear and loathing.

With the mainstream news media and the blogosphere caught in the pre-election excitement, I saw no viable path to a rational discussion. Rather than step clumsily into the sound-bite culture, I turned away whenever the microphones were thrust into my face. I sat it out.

Now that the election is over, I want to say as plainly as I can that the character invented to serve this drama wasn't me, not even close. Here are the facts:

I never killed or injured anyone. I did join the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, and later resisted the draft and was arrested in nonviolent demonstrations. I became a full-time antiwar organizer for Students for a Democratic Society. In 1970, I co-founded the Weather Underground, an organization that was created after an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village. The Weather Underground went on to take responsibility for placing several small bombs in empty offices - the ones at the Pentagon and the United States Capitol were the most notorious - as an illegal and unpopular war consumed the nation.

The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be - and still is being - debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.

Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response. But it was not terrorism; we were not engaged in a campaign to kill and injure people indiscriminately, spreading fear and suffering for political ends.

I cannot imagine engaging in actions of that kind today. And for the past 40 years, I've been teaching and writing about the unique value and potential of every human life, and the need to realize that potential through education.

I have regrets, of course - including mistakes of excess and failures of imagination, posturing and posing, inflated and heated rhetoric, blind sectarianism and a lot else. No one can reach my age with their eyes even partly open and not have hundreds of regrets. The responsibility for the risks we posed to others in some of our most extreme actions in those underground years never leaves my thoughts for long.

The antiwar movement in all its commitment, all its sacrifice and determination, could not stop the violence unleashed against Vietnam. And therein lies cause for real regret.

We - the broad "we" - wrote letters, marched, talked to young men at induction centers, surrounded the Pentagon and lay down in front of troop trains. Yet we were inadequate to end the killing of three million Vietnamese and almost 60,000 Americans during a 10-year war.

The dishonesty of the narrative about Mr. Obama during the campaign went a step further with its assumption that if you can place two people in the same room at the same time, or if you can show that they held a conversation, shared a cup of coffee, took the bus downtown together or had any of a thousand other associations, then you have demonstrated that they share ideas, policies, outlook, influences and, especially, responsibility for each other's behavior. There is a long and sad history of guilt by association in our political culture, and at crucial times we've been unable to rise above it.

President-elect Obama and I sat on a board together; we lived in the same diverse and yet close-knit community; we sometimes passed in the bookstore. We didn't pal around, and I had nothing to do with his positions. I knew him as well as thousands of others did, and like millions of others, I wish I knew him better.

Demonization, guilt by association, and the politics of fear did not triumph, not this time. Let's hope they never will again. And let's hope we might now assert that in our wildly diverse society, talking and listening to the widest range of people is not a sin, but a virtue.
(c) 2008 William Ayers, a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is the author of "Fugitive Days" and a co-author of the forthcoming "Race Course."
Editors Note: Your wicked old Uncle Ernie was recruited into the S.D.S. by Bill Ayers in the fall of 1968 at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor!

Memo For Obama
By Uri Avnery

For: the President-Elect, Mr. Barack Obama.

From: Uri Avnery, Israel.

The following humble suggestions are based on my 70 years of experience as an underground fighter, special forces soldier in the 1948 war, editor-in-chief of a newsmagazine, member of the Knesset and founding member of a peace movement:

(1) As far as Israeli-Arab peace is concerned, you should act from Day One.

(2) Israeli elections are due to take place in February 2009. You can have an indirect but important and constructive impact on the outcome, by announcing your unequivocal determination to achieve Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-all-Arab peace in 2009.

(3) Unfortunately, all your predecessors since 1967 have played a double game. While paying lip service to peace, and sometimes going through the motions of making some effort for peace, they have in practice supported our governments in moving in the very opposite direction. In particular, they have given tacit approval to the building and enlargement of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories, each of which is a land mine on the road to peace.

(4) All the settlements are illegal in international law. The distinction sometimes made between "illegal" outposts and the other settlements is a propaganda ploy designed to obscure this simple truth.

(5) All the settlements since 1967 have been built with the express purpose of making a Palestinian state - and hence peace - impossible, by cutting the territory of the prospective State of Palestine into ribbons. Practically all our government departments and the army have openly or secretly helped to build, consolidate and enlarge the settlements - as confirmed by the 2005 report prepared for the government (!) by Lawyer Talia Sasson.

(6) By now, the number of settlers in the West Bank has reached some 250,000 (apart from the 200,000 settlers in the Greater Jerusalem area, whose status is somewhat different.) They are politically isolated, and sometimes detested by the majority of the Israel public, but enjoy significant support in the army and government ministries.

(7) No Israeli government would dare to confront the concentrated political and material might of the settlers. Such a confrontation would need very strong leadership and the unstinting support of the President of the United States to have any chance of success.

(8) Lacking these, all "peace negotiations" are a sham. The Israeli government and its US backers have done everything possible to prevent the negotiations with both the Palestinians and the Syrians from reaching any conclusion, for fear of provoking a confrontation with the settlers and their supporters. The present "Annapolis" negotiations are as hollow as all the preceding ones, each side keeping up the pretense for its own political interests.

(9) The Clinton administration, and even more so the Bush administration, allowed the Israeli government to keep up this pretense. It is therefore imperative to prevent members of these administrations from diverting your Middle Eastern policy into the old channels.

(10) It is important for you to make a complete new start, and to state this publicly. Discredited ideas and failed initiatives - such as the Bush "vision," the Road Map, Annapolis and the like - should by thrown into the junkyard of history.

(11) To make a new start, the aim of American policy should be stated clearly and succinctly. This should be: to achieve a peace based on the Two-State Solution within a defined time-span (say by the end of 2009).

(12) It should be pointed out that this aim is based on a reassessment of the American national interest, in order to extract the poison from American-Arab and American-Muslim relations, strengthen peace-oriented regimes, defeat al-Qaeda-type terrorism, end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and achieve a viable accommodation with Iran.

(13) The terms of Israeli-Palestinian peace are clear. They have been crystallized in thousands of hours of negotiations, conferences, meetings and conversations. They are:

a. A sovereign and viable State of Palestine will be established side by side with the State of Israel.

b. The border between the two states will be based on the pre-1967 Armistice Line (the "Green Line"). Insubstantial alterations can be arrived at by mutual agreement on an exchange of territories on a 1:1 basis.

c. East Jerusalem, including the Haram-al-Sharif ("Temple Mount") and all Arab neighborhoods will serve as the capital of Palestine. West Jerusalem, including the Western Wall and all Jewish neighborhoods, will serve as the capital of Israel. A joint municipal authority, based on equality, may be established by mutual consent to administer the city as one territorial unit.

d. All Israeli settlements - except any which might be joined to Israel in the framework of a mutually agreed exchange of territories - will be evacuated (see 15 below).

e. Israel will recognize in principle the right of the refugees to return. A Joint Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, composed of Palestinian, Israeli and international historians, will examine the events of 1948 and 1967 and determine who was responsible for what. Each individual refugee will be given the choice between (1) repatriation to the State of Palestine, (2) remaining where he/she is living now and receiving generous compensation, (3) returning to Israel and being resettled, (4) emigrating to any other country, with generous compensation. The number of refugees who will return to Israeli territory will be fixed by mutual agreement, it being understood that nothing will be done that materially alters the demographic composition of the Israeli population. The large funds needed for the implementation of this solution must be provided by the international community in the interest of world peace. This will save much of the money spent today on military expenditure and direct grants from the US.

f. The West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip constitute one national unit. An extraterritorial connection (road, railway, tunnel or bridge) will connect the West Bank with the Gaza Strip.

g. Israel and Syria will sign a peace agreement. Israel will withdraw to the pre-1967 line and all settlements on the Golan Heights will be dismantled. Syria will cease all anti-Israeli activities conducted directly or by proxy. The two parties will establish normal relations between them.

h. In accordance with the Saudi Peace Initiative, all member states of the Arab League will recognize Israel and establish normal relations with it. Talks about a future Middle Eastern Union, on the model of the EU, possibly to include Turkey and Iran, may be considered.

(14) Palestinian unity is essential for peace. Peace made with only one section of the people is worthless. The US will facilitate Palestinian reconciliation and the unification of Palestinian structures. To this end, the US will end its boycott of Hamas, which won the last elections, start a political dialogue with the movement and encourage Israel to do the same. The US will respect any result of democratic Palestinian elections.

(15) The US will aid the government of Israel in confronting the settlement problem. As from now, settlers will be given one year to leave the occupied territories voluntarily in return for compensation that will allow them to build their homes in Israel proper. After that, all settlements - except those within any areas to be joined to Israel under the peace agreement - will be evacuated.

(16) I suggest that you, as President of the United States, come to Israel and address the Israeli people personally, not only from the rostrum of the Knesset but also at a mass rally in Tel-Aviv's Rabin Square. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt came to Israel in 1977, and, by addressing the Israeli people directly, completely changed their attitude towards peace with Egypt. At present, most Israelis feel insecure, uncertain and afraid of any daring peace initiative, partly because of a deep distrust of anything coming from the Arab side. Your personal intervention, at the critical moment, could literally do wonders in creating the psychological basis for peace.
(c) 2008 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Omens And Portents
By Victoria Stewart

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change." ~~~ Charles Darwin

So. I had this dream. One of those complex, detailed dreams fraught with personal significance and individual symbolism. You know. A nightmare. A nightmare in which my subconscious beat on the doors to my waking mind, shouting, "Hello! Hello? Pay attention here! This is your life and it will not do." A dream which left me awake and shaken and exhausted.

I do not subscribe to the belief that dreams are easily interpreted by predetermined, generic criteria nor have I found any personal, experiential validation of the archetype theory of the meaning of dreams. I don't believe that every dream is full of Meaning and I haven't had prophetic dreams. What I have learned, however, is that my dreams are a kind of internal barometer, a personal alarm system that, while unable to alert me to a coming earthquake, can illuminate other, less cataclysmic dangers.

Because I grew up in the fairly insular culture of Southern Appalachia, I was schooled in many traditions and principles that were based on experience and, sometimes, belief but not accepted "science." Although deeply religious, my family was not steeped in superstition and myth. Their lore revolved around simple things- the care and feeding of family and farms. Many of lessons my grandparents and great grandparents taught me are common and familiar scientific concepts today. Genetics. Age appropriate learning. Psychology. The immune system. Genetically transmitted diseases. Potable water. And on and on... The teachings of these under-educated, dirt-poor farmers were once dismissed as ignorant and antiquated but have been raised now, through research and scientific proof, to the pedestal of truth.

Of course, my grandparents knew that all along.

The elders in my family taught me other things, too. How to read the weather through plant and animal signs. How to treat snakebites with a common weed. How to listen to animals. How to be still in the woods. Not magic. Science.

And how to trust my perceptions.

That last, the trusting of my perceptions, has been harder to do. Outside the circle of that farming community, long vanished in the wasteland of subdivisions and paved drives, I find my perceptions at odds with the reigning paradigm. Instinct is not considered rational.

And then I had that dream.

Any fortune teller worth her salt will tell you that predicting the future relies on neuroscience and physics. Just as my great grandmother, who read nothing but her Bible, understood genetics and the immune system as well as any doctor, a true seer uses neural pathways and magnetic resonance to practice her science/art. Signs are not magical claptrap concocted to deceive the masses (That's the domain of politicians and financiers.) but rather subtle and nuanced indications of the conditions in our environment. We are, in fact, surrounded by signs-you know, those "signs of the times"-every day. We have simply been brainwashed into believing we should only trust what someone else tells us is true. We should not "trust our gut instincts."

It turns out, however, that, in cute scientific terms, we have two brains and the second one is in the gut. Study of the enteric nervous system, the "gut's brain" is revealing fascinating information about the way the brains communicate with one another, what is communicated and how. It seems we should trust our gut. Our gut which is, in some way not quite understood, linked to the instinctive part of our brain.

The world is mad. We are teetering on the brink of widespread chaos. All around us we see the unraveling of what has been our social structure. The proverbial handwriting is on the wall.

And yet...

We convince ourselves that help is coming. We go about our days as if the pretense of normalcy will ensure its return. We dismiss the signs and portents. We ignore what our body-which is not separate from our mind-is telling us is true.

I do not think we can escape the upheaval of tremendous social and economic change. We are awash in war and blood. But we can learn to listen to the internal systems our species has developed to help us survive and protect what is best in us. It's not magic.

It's science.
(c) 2008 Victoria Stewart is the editor of Issues & Alibis magazine.

Sign Of The Times

Economists, myopically poring over reams of data, have finally noticed that our economy is in a recession. If only they'd looked around, they could have seen less abstract indicators showing that the economy has long been in a heap of hurt. For example: abandoned boats.

Along rivers, coves, and other waterfronts around the country, there are reports that thousands of vessels are being ditched by their owners. These are not junkers, but everything from pleasure boats to commercial fishing rigs that have simply become too expensive for the hard-hit owners to maintain. With no one in the market for buying used craft, which also have very little in scrap value, the owners slip them into a marina or onto a beach, remove the ID numbers, and walk away.

Another sign of the times can be seen at the very top of America's financial pyramid, where the party seems to be over. At least it is for Marc Jacobs, the high-society designer in New York City, who throws an annual holiday bash for a few hundred of his closest friends. Last year, for example, some 800 swells came to Jacobs' gala dressed in Arabian Nights costumes. They were bedazzled by bare-chested women draped with golden necklaces, lavish food and drink, and, at a climatic moment in the evening, by a shower of golden glitter falling over them.

Those were the days, huh? This year, however, instead of an invitation, guests received a terse email saying: "Due to the financial climate, I had to make the decision to cancel the 2008 holiday party." The glitter is gone from the Gilded Age.

Folks at the bottom are used to hearing hard times knock on their doors, but when the gates of opulence also get a knock, you know that something different is taking place in this downturn. As one marketer of luxury goods recently observed: "We're just seeing the very beginning of this."
(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.

"Black Bush" Barack?
A False Flag Frankenstein?
By Captain Eric H. May
Major William B. Fox
Dr. James H. Fetzer

More and more Americans are worried that Barack Hussein Obama's promises for change are not only pure fantasy, but worse yet, that he may be even more dangerous than Bush. He is certainly smarter and more sophisticated, and it seems that he may serve the same corrupt power elite.

Obama Nation?

Some of the greatest contributors to Obama's presidential campaign were the very Wall Street banksters who in October effectively staged a fiscal coup d'etat by demanding and receiving a "write your own check" $700 billion bailout from U.S. taxpayers. Then-candidate Obama joined rival McCain in backing the scam.

Alarmingly, after over a year of promising peace, Obama has appointed pro-war hawks to his cabinet. They include Rahm Emanuel, Hillary Clinton, and Bush-appointed defense secretary Robert Gates (a former CIA chief). As his national security advisor, he has selected the inauspiciously named Marine Corps General Jim Jones.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, a former Reagan administration insider, recently attacked Obama's duplicity in his article, Washington Arrogance Has Fomented a Muslim Revolution:

"Obama promised change ... but how does change arise when the most arrogant woman on earth is appointed Secretary of State and the rest of the new government is staffed with tried-and-true Likudniks and servants of the military-security complex."

In his article A Loud Silence: That's the response from the `antiwar' wing of the Democratic party to Obama's Iraq sellout, Justin Raimondo argued that Obama intends to break his promise to end the war in Iraq.

Nuclear Obama?

Thanksgiving Day's Mumbai mayhem was an all-too-convenient distraction from the bad news out of Iraq, whose parliament imposed a harsh status of forces agreement on the same day as the India attacks. It was also a distraction from the bad news out of Afghanistan where the day after Thanksgiving U.S. puppet president Hamid Karzai issued a first-ever request for a U.S. withdrawal date. The pro-war mainstream media blared "Mumbai Massacre!" incessantly over the holiday weekend, neatly omitting the disheartening details of our quicksand wars in the Middle East.

The particulars of the Mumbai attacks are still very sketchy, and have changed consistently. While it is still too early to state with absolute conviction that the India attacks were a state-sponsored false flag affair, there is a strong circumstantial case in favor of that surmise. After all, the attacks occurred within 24 hours of an FBI alert to New York City, amplified in Los Angeles. They had the effect of painting "patsy" Pakistan into a corner, surrounded by now-hostile India in the east and NATO/U.S.-occupied Afghanistan in the west. Finally, they were the perfect set-up for Obama to introduce his hawkish national security team, whose focus will be Afghanistan.

Added to the slew of "coincidences" was a chilling report. According to a bi-partisan Congressional committee headed by Senator Chris Dodd, which released its findings while Obama's war team was doing its press conference, the U.S. will likely be hit by a nuclear or biological attack during the Obama presidency. That attack, they warn us, will likely come from Pakistan.

Briefly put, since Thanksgiving the stage has been set for an Obama escalation of the Global War and the Homeland State. In light of all this, American citizens should be concerned that the election has changed nothing, and that Obama will be a "Black Bush." Patriots must not let their guard down. Eternal vigilance remains the price of liberty.
(c) 2008 Captain Eric H. May is a graduate of the Houston Honors College, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, and is currently the political-military special correspondent for the Lone Star Iconoclast, archived at www.lonestaricon.com.
Dr. Fetzer, a former U.S. Marine officer, is currently professor emeritus, Univ. of Minn., Duluth, and founder of Scholars for 9/11 Truth.
Maj. Fox, also a former Marine, is a Harvard Business School honors graduate with diversified business experience, and is currently publisher of America First Books. For more articles about false flag terror, please refer to archived works of Capt. May, Maj. Fox, and Dr. Fetzer at www.americafirstbooks.com.

By Will Allen

Aquaculture is the symbiotic cultivation of plants and aquatic animals in a re-circulating system. Growing Power uses Tilapia and Yellow Perch to fertilize a variety of crops and herbs using aquaponics. Currently, we have three Tilapia systems and six Yellow Perch aquaponics systems in our greenhouses at our urban farm in Milwaukee.

Aquaponics is the method of growing crops and fish together in a re-circulating system. In the Growing Power aquaponics model crops grow vertically on raised beds.

Fish such as Tilapia and Yellow Perch are raised in a large tank of water. Growing Power uses Tilapia and Yellow Perch in our aquaponics systems because they are relatively easy to raise and because we can market them to restaurants, market basket customers, and they are a favorite in ethnic markets. Read more about Yellow Perch and Tilapia below.

By using gravity as a transport, water is drained from the fish tank into a gravel bed. Here, beneficial bacteria break down the toxic ammonia in fish waste to Nitrite and then to Nitrogen, a key nutrient for plant development. On the gravel bed, we also use watercress as a secondary means of water filtration.

The filtered water is pumped from the gravel bed to the growing beds, where we raise a variety of crops from specialty salad greens to tomatoes. The water is wicked up to the crops roots with the help of coir, a by-product of coconut shells and a sustainable replacement for peat moss.

Finally, the water flows from the growing beds back into the tank of fish. Growing Power uses this type of aquaponics system because it is easy to build and only needs a small pump and heat to get the system running.

Types of fish we grow:

Yellow Perch

Yellow Perch is a species of perch found in the United States and Canada and is a glacial lakes species. They prefer cooler water which makes them ideal to raise in our hoop houses at Growing Power. These full-bodied fish are a favorite with chefs due to their white, flaky, delicious meat.

Yellow Perch are also in short supply. Lake Michigan's yellow perch numbers have decreased 80 percent since 1990. States surrounding the Lake Michigan have put regulations on yellow perch fishing. For instance, Wisconsin banned commercial fishing for yellow perch in Lake Michigan in 1997.

What does Perch eat? In nature, Yellow Perch are primarily bottom feeders and eat almost anything, but prefer minnows, insect larvae, plankton, and worms. At Growing Power, our perch eat a combination of commercial feed and worms.


Originally found in Africa, Tilapia has been farmed for more than 2,500 years. Tilapia is a perfect fish for aquaponics because of its rapid growth, large size, and because it tastes great. This hardy fish can adapt to most any condition with the exception of water temperature. Tilapia prefer warm water - at least 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It takes about 9 months for our Tilapia to grow to a harvestable size, about 1.5 pounds.

What does Tilapia eat? At Growing Power, we feed our fish duckweed, ground-up salad greens from the greenhouse, worms, and Tilapia love to eat algae from the side of the tank.

Why do we use compost in our system?

We fill our growing pots with a mixture of coir and compost. The coir is made from discarded coconut husks and helps wick water to the plant's root system. The compost provides extra nutrient to grow an abundance of crops within the system. Traditional hydroponic growing, or growing without soil, relies on fish waste alone to fertilize the crops. The problem is, you can only grow crops with lower nutritional needs such as basil. For example, in most traditional hydroponic systems, Boron is found in very low quantities. Boron is essential for flower development in crops - tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers - which means that production for these kinds of crops is very low in hydroponic systems. At Growing Power, we solved this problem by adding nutrient rich compost to the pots in our system. Still have doubts? Come by the farm and try one of our tomatoes grown in our aquaponics system. Satisfaction is guaranteed.

Interested in learning more? Come to Milwaukee and learn how to build your own system at a Growing Power's workshop. Can't make it to Milwaukee? See demonstrations based on our aquaponics model in a neighborhood near you:

Ft. Valley State in Georgia

ReVision Urban Farm in Dorchester, Massachusetts
(c) 2008 Will Allen

The Best And The Brightest Led America Off A Cliff
By Chris Hedges

The multiple failures that beset the country, from our mismanaged economy to our shredded constitutional rights to our lack of universal health care to our imperial debacles in the Middle East, can be laid at the feet of our elite universities. Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford, along with most elite schools, do a poor job educating students to think. They focus instead, through the filter of standardized tests, enrichment activities, advanced placement classes, high-priced tutors, swanky private schools and blind deference to all authority, on creating hordes of competent systems managers. The collapse of the country runs in a direct line from the manicured quadrangles and halls in places like Cambridge, Princeton and New Haven to the financial and political centers of power.

The nation's elite universities disdain honest intellectual inquiry, which is by its nature distrustful of authority, fiercely independent and often subversive. They organize learning around minutely specialized disciplines, narrow answers and rigid structures that are designed to produce certain answers. The established corporate hierarchies these institutions service-economic, political and social-come with clear parameters, such as the primacy of an unfettered free market, and with a highly specialized vocabulary. This vocabulary, a sign of the "specialist" and of course the elitist, thwarts universal understanding. It keeps the uninitiated from asking unpleasant questions. It destroys the search for the common good. It dices disciplines, faculty, students and finally experts into tiny, specialized fragments. It allows students and faculty to retreat into these self-imposed fiefdoms and neglect the most pressing moral, political and cultural questions. Those who defy the system-people like Ralph Nader-are branded as irrational and irrelevant. These elite universities have banished self-criticism. They refuse to question a self-justifying system. Organization, technology, self-advancement and information systems are the only things that matter.

"Political silence, total silence," said Chris Hebdon, a Berkeley undergraduate. He went on to describe how various student groups gather at Sproul Plaza, the center of student activity at the University of California, Berkeley. These groups set up tables to recruit and inform other students, a practice know as "tabling."

"Students table for Darfur, no one tables for Iraq. Tables on Sproul Plaza are ethnically fragmented, explicitly pre-professional (The Asian American Pre-Law or Business or Pre-Medicine Association). Never have I seen a table on globalization or corporatization. Students are as distracted and specialized and atomized as most of their professors. It's vertical integration gone cultural. And never, never is it cutting-edge. Berkeley loves the slogan 'excellence through diversity,' which is a farce of course if one checks our admissions stats (most years we have only one or two entering Native Americans), but few recognize multiculturalism's silent partner-fragmentation into little markets. Our Sproul Plaza shows that so well-the same place Mario Savio once stood on top a police car is filled with tens of tables for the pre-corporate, the ethnic, the useless cynics, the recreational groups, etc."

I sat a few months ago with a former classmate from Harvard Divinity School who is now a theology professor. When I asked her what she was teaching she unleashed a torrent of obscure academic code words. I did not understand, even with three years of seminary, what she was talking about. You can see this absurd retreat into specialized, impenetrable verbal enclaves in every graduate department across the country. The more these universities churn out these stunted men and women, the more we are flooded with a peculiar breed of specialist. This specialist blindly services tiny parts of a corporate power structure he or she has never been taught to question and looks down on the rest of us with thinly veiled contempt.

I was sent to boarding school on a scholarship at the age of 10. By the time I had finished eight years in New England prep schools and another eight at Colgate and Harvard I had a pretty good understanding of the game. I have also taught at Columbia, New York University and Princeton. These institutions, no matter how mediocre you are, feed students with the comforting self-delusion that they are there because they are not only the best but they deserve the best. You can see this attitude on display in every word uttered by George W. Bush. Here is a man with severely limited intellectual capacity and no moral core. He, along with "Scooter" Libby, who attended my boarding school and went on to Yale, is an example of the legions of self-centered mediocrities churned out by places like Andover, Yale and Harvard. Bush was, like the rest of his caste, propelled forward by his money and his connections. That is the real purpose of these well-endowed schools-to perpetuate their own.

"There's a certain kind of student at these schools who falls in love with the mystique and prestige of his own education," said Elyse Graham, whom I taught at Princeton and who is now doing graduate work at Yale. "This is the guy who treats his time at Princeton as a scavenger hunt for Princetoniana and Princeton nostalgia: How many famous professors can I collect? And so on. And he comes away not only with all these props for his sense of being elect, but also with the smoothness that seems to indicate wide learning; college socializes you, so you learn to present even trite ideas well."

These institutions cater to their students like high-end resorts. My prep school-remember this is a high school-recently build a $26-million gym. Not that it didn't have a gym. It had a fine one with an Olympic pool. But it needed to upgrade its facilities to compete for the elite boys and girls being wooed by other schools. While public schools crumble, while public universities are slashed and degraded, while these elite institutions become unaffordable even for the middle class, the privileged retreat further into their opulent gated communities. Harvard lost $8 billion of its endowment over the past four months, which raises the question of how smart these people are, but it still has $30 billion. Schools like Yale, Stanford and Princeton are not far behind. Those on the inside are told they are there because they are better than others. Most believe it.

The people I loved most, my working-class family in Maine, did not go to college. They were plumbers, post office clerks and mill workers. Most of the men were military veterans. They lived frugal and hard lives. They were indulgent of my incessant book reading and incompetence with tools, even my distaste for deer hunting, and they were a steady reminder that just because I had been blessed with an opportunity that was denied to them, I was not better or more intelligent. If you are poor you have to work after high school or, in the case of my grandfather, before you are able to finish high school. College is not an option. No one takes care of you. You have to do that for yourself. This is the most important difference between them and elites.

The elite schools, which trumpet their diversity, base this diversity on race and ethnicity, rarely on class. The admissions process, as well as the staggering tuition costs, precludes most of the poor and working class. When my son got his SAT scores back last year, we were surprised to find that his critical reading score was lower than his math score. He dislikes math. He is an avid and perceptive reader. And so we did what many educated, middle-class families do. We hired an expensive tutor from The Princeton Review who taught him the tricks and techniques of taking standardized tests. The tutor told him things like "stop thinking about whether the passage is true. You are wasting test time thinking about the ideas. Just spit back what they tell you." His reading score went up 130 points. Was he smarter? Was he a better reader? Did he become more intelligent? Is reading and answering multiple choice questions while someone holds a stopwatch over you even an effective measure of intelligence? What about those families that do not have a few thousand dollars to hire a tutor? What chance do they have?

These universities, because of their incessant reliance on standardized tests and the demand for perfect grades, fill their classrooms with large numbers of drones. I have taught gifted and engaged students who used these institutions to expand the life of the mind, who asked the big questions and who cherished what these schools had to offer. But they were always a marginalized and dispirited minority. The bulk of their classmates, most of whom headed off to Wall Street or corporate firms when they graduated, starting at $120,000 a year, did prodigious amounts of work and faithfully regurgitated information. They received perfect grades in both tedious, boring classes and stimulating ones, not that they could tell the difference. They may have known the plot and salient details of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," but they were unable to tell you why the story was important. Their professors, fearful of being branded political and not wanting to upset the legions of wealthy donors and administrative overlords who rule such institutions, did not draw the obvious parallels with Iraq and American empire. They did not use Conrad's story, as it was meant to be used, to examine our own imperial darkness. And so, even in the anemic world of liberal arts, what is taught exists in a moral void.

"The existence of multiple forms of intelligence has become a commonplace, but however much elite universities like to sprinkle their incoming classes with a few actors or violinists, they select for and develop one form of intelligence: the analytic," William Deresiewicz, who taught English at Yale, wrote in "The American Scholar." "While this is broadly true of all universities, elite schools, precisely because their students (and faculty, and administrators) possess this one form of intelligence to such a high degree, are more apt to ignore the value of others. One naturally prizes what one most possesses and what most makes for one's advantages. But social intelligence and emotional intelligence and creative ability, to name just three other forms, are not distributed preferentially among the educational elite."

Intelligence is morally neutral. It is no more virtuous than athletic prowess. It can be used to further the rape of the working class by corporations and the mechanisms of repression and war, or it can be used to fight these forces. But if you determine worth by wealth, as these institutions invariably do, then fighting the system is inherently devalued. The unstated ethic of these elite institutions is to make as much money as you can to sustain the elitist system. College presidents are not voices for the common good and the protection of intellectual integrity, but obsequious fundraisers. They shower honorary degrees and trusteeships on hedge fund managers and Wall Street titans whose lives are usually examples of moral squalor and unchecked greed. The message to the students is clear. But grabbing what you can, as John Ruskin said, isn't any less wicked when you grab it with the power of your brains than with the power of your fists.

Most of these students are afraid to take risks. They cower before authority. They have been taught from a young age by zealous parents, schools and institutional authorities what constitutes failure and success. They are socialized to obey. They obsess over grades and seek to please professors, even if what their professors teach is fatuous. The point is to get ahead. Challenging authority is not a career advancer. Freshmen arrive on elite campuses and begin to network their way into the elite eating clubs, test into the elite academic programs and lobby for elite summer internships. By the time they graduate they are superbly conditioned to work 10 or 12 hours a day electronically moving large sums of money around.

"The system forgot to teach them, along the way to the prestige admissions and the lucrative jobs, that the most important achievements can't be measured by a _letter or a number or a name," Deresiewicz wrote. "It forgot that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers."

"Only a small minority have seen their education as part of a larger intellectual journey, have approached the work of the mind with a pilgrim soul," he went on. "These few have tended to feel like freaks, not least because they get so little support from the university itself. Places like Yale, as one of them put it to me, are not conducive to searchers. Places like Yale are simply not set up to help students ask the big questions. I don't think there ever was a golden age of intellectualism in the American university, but in the 19th century students might at least have had a chance to hear such questions raised in chapel or in the literary societies and debating clubs that flourished on campus."

Barack Obama is a product of this elitist system. So are his degree-laden Cabinet members. They come out of Harvard, Yale, Wellesley and Princeton. Their friends and classmates made huge fortunes on Wall Street and in powerful law firms. They go to the same class reunions. They belong to the same clubs. They speak the same easy language of privilege and comfort and entitlement. They are endowed with an unbridled self-confidence and blind belief in a decaying political and financial system that has nurtured and empowered them. These elite, and the corporate system they serve, have ruined the country. These elite cannot solve our problems. They have been trained to find "solutions," such as the trillion-dollar bailout of banks and financial firms, which sustain the system. They will feed the beast until it dies. Don't expect them to save us. They don't know how. And when it all collapses, when our rotten financial system with its trillions in worthless assets implodes and our imperial wars end in humiliation and defeat, they will be exposed as being as helpless, and as stupid, as the rest of us.
(c) 2008 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.

The 13th Circle
Somalia's Hell and the Triumph of Militarism
By Chris Floyd

As you might expect, the New York Times buries the lede in its latest story about Somalia, but surprisingly, the general outlines of the truth of the rapidly collapsing situation on this third front in the "War on Terror" can be gleaned from the piece. Some 14 paragraphs into the story, Establishment water-carrier Jeffrey Gettleman finally gets down to the heart of the matter, and, to his credit, delivers an admirably succinct précis of the latest imperial flameout:

In 2006, Islamist troops teamed up with clan elders and businessmen to drive out the warlords who had been preying upon Somalia's people since the central government first collapsed in 1991. The six months the Islamists ruled Mogadishu turned out to be one of the most peaceful periods in modern Somali history.

But today's Islamists are a harder, more brutal group than the ones who were ousted by an Ethiopian invasion, backed by the United States, in late 2006. The old guard included many moderates, but those who tried to work with the transitional government mostly failed, leaving them weak and marginalized, and removing a mitigating influence on the die-hard insurgents.

On top of that, the unpopular and bloody Ethiopian military operations over the past two years have radicalized many Somalis and sent hundreds of unemployed young men - most of whom have never gone to school, never been part of a functioning society and never had much of a chance to do anything but shoulder a gun - into the arms of militant Islamic groups.

That is pretty much it, give or take some details -- such as the extent of Washington's direct involvement in the ongoing destruction of Somalia, which as we have often noted here, involved not only arming, training and funding the Ethiopian invaders, but also dropping US bombs on fleeing refugees, lobbing US missiles into Somali villages, renditioning refugees -- including American citizens -- into captivity in Ethiopia's notorious dungeons, and running U.S. death squads in Somalia to "clean up" after covert operations. (The latter is no deep dark secret, by the way; U.S. officials openly boasted of it to Esquire Magazine.)

Now, as anyone not completely blinded by imperial hubris could have predicted, the entire misbegotten exercise has collapsed into the worst-case scenario. A relatively stable, relatively moderate government which held out a promise of better future for the long-ravaged land was overthrown-- ostensibly to prevent it from becoming a hotbed of radical extremism. The resulting violence, chaos and brutal occupation by foreign forces led directly and inevitably to -- what else? -- a rise in radical extremism. Thousands of innocent people have been killed, hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes, millions have been plunged into the direst poverty and the imminent threat of starvation and disease, unspeakable atrocities and unbearable suffering are arising, as they always do in any situation, anywhere, when a human community is destroyed.

Yet none of this penetrates the glossy shell of imperial hubris -- not even now, when the disaster is so glaring that even eager water-carriers of empire like Gettleman are forced to acknowledge reality (albeit in the closing paragraphs). For the real thrust of the Times story is not outrage at the living hell engendered by the Terror War's third "regime change" operation. No, the Times' "analysis" is clearly aimed at one goal: continuing the brutal occupation of the Ethiopian invaders.

The Ethiopians are making serious noises about withdrawing all or most of their troops in January. Perhaps Ethiopian strongman Meles Zenawi realizes he has been played by the great gamesters on the Potomac, expending massive amounts of blood and treasure only to end up in a face-losing retreat, and with a far more virulent, dangerous mess on his borders than before the invasion. Or perhaps he is playing games of his own. In any case, the Ethiopian threat has suddenly panicked the Lords of the West, who realize that, as in Iraq, the only thing holding up their local clients is the armed might of a foreign invader. Suddenly, the Western powers that backed the invasion are shocked -- shocked! -- to find that the warlords they installed in power (some of them openly in the pay of the CIA) have no popular support in the country, and, as Gettleman notes, now "controls only a few city blocks of the entire country." The only preventing the complete collapse of Washington's clients, he warns, is presence of the Ethiopians.

Thus the emphasis in the article on the dire consequences of Ethiopia ending its participation in the American-sponsored war crime in Somalia. Gettleman trots out some heavy Establishment lumber for the requisite fearmongering: The International Crisis Group, which he tells us is "a research institute that tracks conflicts worldwide." No doubt it does; for the group is chock-a-block with the great and good of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, whose raison d'etre is "conflicts worldwide."

The ICG board is packed with such luminaries as Thomas Pickering, who served as the Reagan-Bush man in El Salvador when the US-backed government there was slaughtering civilians by the thousands to maintain its elitist-militarist rule. Pickering was a simpering apologist for the blood-letting, declaring that the dead civilians were all sympathizers with the insurgency, and thus "somewhat more than innocent civilian bystanders." Later, as US ambassador to Moscow, he went on to applaud Boris Yeltsin's violent suppression of democracy in Russia in 1993 -- an incident that seems largely forgotten these days in all the fulminations about Vladimir Putin "introducing" authoritarian rule in Russia.

ICG Co-Chair Pickering is joined by other such worthies as hardcore neocon Ken Adelman (who presciently -- and no doubt profitably -- jumped ship to endorse Barack Obama before the election); Zbigniew Brzezinski, who helped create the armed global jihad movement in order to hotfoot the Soviets in Afghanistan; Wesley Clark, brave bombardier of civilians in Serbia; Prince Turki al-Faisal, who directed the sinister, extremist-promoting Saudi intelligence apparat for decades; Richard Armitage, a PNAC vet and one of the key players in the operation of the imperial war-and-domination machine for years, who, like his former boss Colin Powell, has acquired a wholly unearned reputation as a "moderate"; Yegor Gaidar, who as Yeltsin's prime minister rammed through the "shock doctrine" economic extremist that gutted Russian society and ruined the lives of millions; and Lawrence Summers, one of the architects of the global economic meltdown, now serving as a top adviser to Barack Obama.

This group sent out analyst Rashid Abdi to use the NY Times as a megaphone to warn against the risks of ending savage, bloody foreign interventions into other countries:

"It will be bloody," predicted Rashid Abdi, a Somalia analyst at the International Crisis Group, a research institute that tracks conflicts worldwide. "The Ethiopians have decided to let the transitional government sink. The chaos will spread from the south to the north. Warlordism will be back."

Mr. Rashid sees Somalia deteriorating into an Afghanistan-like cauldron of militant Islamism, drawing in hard-core fighters from the Comoros, Zanzibar, Kenya and other neighboring Islamic areas, a process that seems to have already started. Those men will eventually go home, spreading the killer ethos.

"Somalia has now reached a very dangerous phase," he said. "The whole region is in for more chaos, I'm afraid."

Here we see the logic of militarism on full display: the only way to prevent the rise of terrorism in a country is by invading that country and occupying it with a foreign military force -- which, of course, only gives rise to more terrorism in that country. This circular reasoning seems absurd on its face, but it is in fact the highly efficient dynamic that drives and sustains the ideology of militarism in practical power.

Militarism -- either in its overt, unashamed form as espoused by the neo-cons and their outriders, or in the more subtly packaged, sugar-coated (and often self-deluding) version of the "humanitarian interventionists" -- is the ruling ideology of the American state. Like all ideologies, it comes in different shadings, different emphases, different factions, and so on, but the national power structure is firmly committed across the board to the use of violence -- and the ever-present threat of violence -- to advance a bipartisan agenda of American hegemony on the world scene. Some factions take great pains to present this hegemony as benevolent and altruistic; other factions don't care how it comes across ("Let them hate us as long as they fear us," was a sentiment frequently voiced in high circles at the beginning of the Terror War). But all factions are willing to kill people -- either directly or by proxy -- to maintain that hegemony.

And that's why, for the militarist mindset, situations such as the hell in Somalia -- or in Iraq -- or in Afghanistan -- are always win-win scenarios. If the application of brute force in Somalia had "worked" -- i.e, if the "regime change" invasion and subsequent repression had produced a quiescent client state willing to open up its resources to foreign exploitation and to jail, torture and kill any of its own citizens who threatened the profitable status quo -- then the militarists would have claimed it as a template that could and should be applied over and over around the world. It would have "justified" the militarist path.

But the collapse of Somalia into a sinkhole of chaos and extremism that could "threaten the whole region," perhaps the whole world, can equally be used to "justify" a militarist response; after all, how else can we protect ourselves from this heightened danger of terrorism, except with bigger military forces, more aggressive responses to potential threats, more power and scope for our security services, more authority for the "Commander-in-Chief" to help keep us safe, etc., etc.? What we have long said here about Iraq and Afghanistan applies to Somalia: the imperial warmongers have won, no matter what the ultimate outcome. More than a million innocent people now lie dead across the three Terror War fronts, but the perpetrators of these crimes -- not only the officials in government who order and carry out particular operations, but also the systems that sustain the militarist order (the Pentagon, the arms dealers, the military servicers, the security agencies and their shadow networks, the mercenaries, the innumerable corporations, think tanks, businesses large and small plugged into the profits of the war machine) -- go on from strength to strength. The officials either stay on in government, like Pentagon warlord Robert Gates, or go off to honorable, untroubled, and remunerative retirements, like Bush and Cheney, or else park themselves on corporate boards or in their own lucrative "consulting firms" until their particular faction takes power again. Meanwhile, the systems and institutions of militarism grow ever more entrenched and unquestioned and unchallenged.

So in the coming months, as Somalia continues to descend to even deeper levels of hell than the canonical nine circles, we will doubtless hear much consternation in the imperial courts (and their media outlets) about how terrible it all is -- along with many calls for even higher military budgets (and more overt and covert military operations) to deal with the "growing danger" spawned in Somalia...by the militarists themselves.
(c) 2008 Chris Floyd

Inventing The News For Fun And Profit...
Bush's War on the Press, Part III
By Eric Alterman

This column is part three in a series on the legacy of the Bush administration's war on the press. Read part I and part II. In a May 2008 "Think Again" column, we addressed a coordinated Pentagon propaganda initiative, wherein the Bush administration trained retired military officers to repeat well-honed talking points during interviews with the press, who presented them as objective analysts. We focused on the revelations, which came out in a report by The New York Times' David Barstow, as well as the total blackout of the issue by guilty television networks.

Seven months later, the blackout remains, although virtually nothing has changed. Barstow followed up with another deeply reported piece this week, which focuses on former General Barry McCaffrey's myriad ties to private defense contractors that remain undisclosed while he opines for policies that favor their weapons on NBC (which is itself owned by the weapons contractor General Electric).

NBC still doesn't find any of these ties worthy of indicating on the air, nor have they mentioned McCaffrey's involvement in direct propaganda training from the Pentagon-and they've had plenty of opportunities to correct the record. Last Thursday, for example, McCaffrey was talking with Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News about U.S. military policy in Afghanistan. He also discussed Iraq on NBC earlier that day, and made appearances on September 6 and 9 to talk about Afghanistan. He was identified only as a retired general and "military analyst." Williams did address the situation once on his blog, where he wrote only of his "close friendship" with McCaffrey and assured readers that the general was a "passionate patriot"-as if this somehow excused his clear conflicts of interest.

All administrations attempt to manipulate the media, but the Bush administration may be in a class by itself. And many in the media have be so focused on their own troubles-whether financial or competitive-that they've been unable even to recognize the problem, much less combat it.

The Bush administration's manipulation attempts could hardly have been more obvious if they took out ads on Craigslist. They even went so far as to produce "news" segments that too often were broadcast by irresponsible local news outlets. The administration invested untold millions producing what they called "video news releases"-taped, edited packages that sold a particular administration line within the theater of actual news reporting. There would be a reporter with a microphone who would tell a story in a seemingly objective way, and the spots never mentioned that the "reporter" actually worked for the government. Many local television stations ran packages from "reporter Karen Ryan," for example. Ryan touted the benefits of Bush administration initiatives such as the Medicare Part D extension and No Child Left Behind, always signing off only with "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan, reporting." Her "report" about Part D was seen on 40 different television stations across the country in less than a month, and none of them disclosed that the spots were paid for by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Of course, the main selling job for the administration was its catastrophic war in Iraq. The New York Times revealed in 2005 that the State Department produced fake news packages about the war, aviation security, and international farming. The spot about the Iraq war featured a jubilant Iraqi-American telling a camera crew in Kansas City: "Thank you, Bush. Thank you, U.S.A."

In addition, the U.S.-funded Iraqi National Congress frequently placed false news items about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. INC boasted in a letter to Congress in 2002 that 108 articles appeared in newspapers, news agencies, and magazines in the United States, Britain, and Australia based on information peddled by INC.

The administration also paid off members of the media to hold the administration line. I detailed in "Bush's War on the Press" the payments made to pundits Armstrong Williams ($240,000), Maggie Gallagher ($21,000), and Michael McManus ($10,000) to tout various domestic initiatives.

Most famously, the administration purposely indulged Jeff Gannon, a.k.a. former gay prostitute James Guckert, who was employed by a phony news agency run by Republican operatives. Gannon was frequently called upon by White House press secretary Scott McClellan with the words "Go ahead, Jeff," which always signaled that the press corps could be getting into an area that might embarrass the White House-or that they could be near discovering a nugget of genuine news. Gannon's oeuvre included such classics as "Kerry Could Become First Gay President."

As James Pinkerton, an official in both the Reagan and Bush I White Houses, and aide to Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign, would admit, the degree of clearance Gannon enjoyed in this security atmosphere must have required "an incredible amount of intervention from somebody high up in the White House." It had to be "conscious" that "some investigation should proceed, and they should find that out." This was how deep the denial was inside the mainstream with regard to the manner in which they allowed themselves to be used.

Washington Post media cop Howard Kurtz saw the culprit in the L'Affaire Gannon/Gucker as "these liberal bloggers, [who] have started investigating [Gannon's] personal life in an effort to discredit him." As any mobster worth his proverbial salt can tell you, when you get the cops doing your job for you, well, your work is done. You might as well sit home with the kids and relax.

Obama's first job is certainly fixing the economy; job two, I'm guessing, is ending Bush's folly in Iraq. But somewhere near the top of the list must be establishing a new, more productive relationship with the media, as well as with the First Amendment and the Constitution itself. Perhaps journalists, too, will again find the inner strength and self-confidence to send the shills and flacks of the Bush industry packing. With the resignation of Alan Colmes, Hannity's designated liberal/punching bag, I hear there may be openings at Fox News...
(c) 2008 Eric Alterman is a Distinguished Professor of English, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and Professor of Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. He is also "The Liberal Media" columnist for The Nation, a senior fellow and "Altercation" weblogger for Media Matters for America, (formerly at MSNBC.com) in Washington, DC, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC, where he writes and edits the "Think Again" column, a senior fellow (since 1985) at the World Policy Institute at The New School in New York, and a history consultant to HBO Films. His seventh book, Why We're Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America, was recently published by Viking.

The New Economy; Spend More, Worry Less
By Mike Folkerth

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

It appears that Congress has reached an agreement to loan the automakers a few billion to get them through a tough spot. That tough spot is the time between now and the swearing in of Barack Hussein Obama. After all, "Help is on the way."

The announcement that 533,000 people lost their jobs last month was fewer than I actually expected; the government must be hiring again. The half million plus is not the real number however. Our working population grows at a rate of around 150,000 per month and the numbers for September and October were revised to an additional 199,000 job loses.

So let's do the math; 533,000 job losses in November, 150,000 jobs per month for the three month period for those who failed to find first time work, add the revised losses for September and October of 723,000 and we have a 90 day overall job loss of 1,706,000.

If this was a weight loss contest, we would certainly have a clear cut winner; the U.S. by a landslide. Our government fails comprehend the macroeconomic connectivity of one economic sector to another. They are happy as clams playing Whack-A-Mole and right now the automakers are popping up.

But who will save the airlines? Retail business? State, city, county and town governments? Who will bailout the homebuilders, the homeowners, the landscapers and concrete contractors? What about the remaining failing banks? Where will the additional trillions and trillions come from?

As the delusional economists from around the country weigh in with their predictions, the range goes from, "This situation is not nearly as serious as it appears," to "We are entering a time that will be more severe than the great depression."

My prediction never changes. Until such time that our leadership realizes that infinite growth is impossible, we will march steadily down hill. Until such time that the citizens of the United States demand that population be curtailed; our job losses and population gains will be lead to ever shrinking pieces of the same pie.

What is occurring economically in the U.S., and in the world for that part, isn't some mysterious unexplainable phenomena, but rather the normal course of natural physics correcting the ill conceived plans of man.

I have ended this blog many times over the last couple of years with such words as, Wake up Middle America; this is your final boarding call. Or, "This not a drill, this is the real thing." Or, "The last train is pulling away from the station."

Today I want to provide you with a link from former Presidential contender, Fred Thompson. It will make you think, make you laugh, and it's darn sure worth your time to watch it. I may induct ol' Fred into the King of Simple hall of fame for this one.

Have a great weekend and take a little time to plan for yourself, because your government certainly isn't.
(c) 2008 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave."
~~~ Patrick Henry

Philip Morris' Legal Smoke Screen
Yes, the cigarette manufacturer really did just compare itself to the NAACP
By Stephanie Mencimer

In the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Philip Morris, America's largest cigarette company, compared itself to the NAACP. And to a South Carolina death row inmate illegally denied due process. And to indigent criminal defendants not afforded adequate legal representation. And it did so to win a case against an elderly African American woman named Mayola Williams whose husband died from lung cancer in 1997, after smoking three packs of Marlboros a day for more than 40 years.

The tobacco company has declared itself a civil rights victim, says Ray Thomas, one of Williams' lawyers. "That they have the gall to do that shows how brazen they are," he says.

Philip Morris' victimhood dates back to 1999, when an Oregon jury hit the company with a $79 million punitive damages award in a lawsuit Williams filed after her husband Jesse died. She had argued that Philip Morris had deceived Jesse with its long-running misinformation campaign to convince the public that smoking was harmless, and that the company was thus liable for his death. (It's easy to forget that it wasn't until 1999-after the Williams verdict-that the tobacco company finally publicly admitted that smoking causes cancer.) The verdict was a rare smoker's victory. For nearly 50 years, Philip Morris had defeated an endless string of personal injury lawsuits by waging a war of attrition on the plaintiffs, a strategy perfected by the tobacco industry. As RJ Reynolds' general counsel explained in a 1988 memo, "To paraphrase General Patton, the way we won these cases was not by spending all of Reynolds' money but by making that other son of a bitch spend all his."

The first major verdict in a smoker's lawsuit in 1988 was for only $400,000. The lawyers who brought the case spent $2.5 million to win it; the tobacco company spent $50 million. After the Supreme Court sent that case back for a new trial, the lawyers gave up, virtually bankrupt. That's why, until 2001, when a smoker finally prevailed, no tobacco company had ever paid out a dime in damages. (The lawyers who eventually did get rich from tobacco litigation were not representing smokers but the states attempting to recoup Medicaidcosts related to smoking, a different issue.)

So naturally, after its big loss in Oregon, Philip Morris appealed, asking the Oregon appellate courts to overturn the verdict. The trial court judge had already trimmed the verdict to $32 million, saying that the original award was excessive. But the Oregon courts have not been a friendly playing field for the company. After hearing its appeal, the Oregon Court of Appeals responded by restoring the $79 million punitive damages award, a move the state Supreme Court approved unanimously, saying that Philip Morris' egregious conduct merited the stiff punishment.

Since then, the cigarette manufacturer has succeeded in appealing the case to the US Supreme Court no fewer than three times, including this latest trip. And despite two separate orders from the Supreme Court to revisit the size of the punitive damage award, the Oregon Supreme Court has continued to find reasons to uphold its original decision-unanimously. In the last round, the Oregon court found a problem with one of Philip Morris' proposed jury instructions, a state law issue, as grounds to avoid dealing with the question the Supreme Court had raised over the size of the award. An outraged Philip Morris calls this a "pretext" for refusing to overturn the award, and it has worked hard to frame its loss as the product of a rogue state court.

To do so, it has drawn on a case brought by the NAACP in 1958 after the state of Alabama tried to force the group to turn over its membership records. The case went to the Supreme Court four times because the Alabama courts, invoking state civil procedure rules, refused to comply with orders from above that it respect the civil rights group's constitutional due process rights. In court Wednesday, Philip Morris' lawyer Stephen Shapiro in effect compared the Oregon Supreme Court to racist Alabama judges, saying that the case was "very similar" to what happened in the NAACP case.

The rest of Philip Morris' argument relies on the sort of cases that the modern Supreme Court has been somewhat hostile toward: habeas corpus cases. Those are the appeals from criminal defendants, for instance, whose lawyers slept through their trials but whose convictions were upheld anyway. In the rare instances where defendants in those cases prevail, it's usually because the courts recognize that they had a poorly paid, incompetent lawyer who screwed up the procedural rule at issue. The courts find that the constitutional issues trump the state procedure. But those criminal defendants don't bear much resemblance to Philip Morris, which not only has enormous financial resources but was also represented at trial in this case by a lawyer who literally wrote the book on Oregon civil procedure rules.

Nonetheless, Shapiro repeatedly likened the company's plight to that of the defendant in a 2002 habeas case, Lee v. Kemna. In Kemna, a jury convicted the defendant of murder after his alibi witnesses disappeared from the courtroom and the judge refused to grant a recess in the trial so the witnesses could be located. The Supreme Court granted the defendant a new trial because it found that the state court procedural rule wasn't sufficient grounds to deny him a critical constitutional right. Philip Morris thinks it's in the same boat in the Williams case.

Yet the justices didn't seem to be buying that argument, perhaps for good reason. Kemna was an all-too-rare victory for a criminal defendant, says David Vladeck, a Georgetown law professor who worked on the case, noting that most criminal defendants in similar straits usually lose because the Supreme Court defers to the states to run their courts. "The Supreme Court's answer to those people is 'tough nuggies,'" he says. To give Philip Morris a victory, the high court would have to find some way to square such a decision with its general approach to criminal cases-which is not an easy act of jurisprudence. Indeed, Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court's new swing voter, wrote a dissent in Kemna, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, in which he bashed the majority for disrespecting state courts and for not allowing the Missouri Court of Appeals to enforce its own rules.

Unfortunately, perhaps, for Williams, Kennedy seemed to have forgotten that case on Wednesday. His comments during oral arguments suggest that he was mighty upset that the Oregon Supreme Court had defied a direct order from the high court, however cleverly it might have done it. But Williams might not need Kennedy. During oral arguments, Justice Stephen Breyer, who had voted against Williams during her case's last visit to the court, noted that when he had first read Philip Morris' petition for certio rari, he thought that the Oregon court was indeed trying to do an end run around the Supreme Court. "I'm not sure that I think that now," he admitted.

After showing a surprising familiarity with the factual record, Breyer expressed skepticism that the Oregon Supreme Court had "ambushed" the tobacco company with an obscure, rarely used procedural rule, as Philip Morris had argued in its briefs. Instead, Breyer said he had to put himself in the shoes of the Oregon Supreme Court, and after doing so, he suggested that those Northwest justices actually did a pretty thorough job of handling the case and applied its rules the same way it had been done for 100 years.

Breyer's conversion had Robert Peck, the lawyer who argued the case for Williams, beaming after the arguments. Peck had gone into court as the underdog. The day before the arguments, Thomas, his cocounsel, had despaired that the court had not taken up the case "to do any good for Mayola Williams," who is now in her late '70s and who will be lucky to live long enough to see the decade-long litigation resolved in her favor. Yet after hearing Breyer's questions, Peck remarked after the hearing, "This is not necessarily the case [the justices] thought it was." Indeed, it's not such a stretch to believe that the court just might find that Oregon is not Alabama, and Philip Morris is not the NAACP.
(c) 2008 Stephanie Mencimer is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington, DC, bureau and the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue (Free Press, 2006).

The Silent Winter Of Escalation
By Norman Solomon

Sunday morning, before dawn, I read in the New York Times that "the Pentagon is planning to add more than 20,000 troops to Afghanistan" within the next 18 months -- "raising American force levels to about 58,000" in that country. Then I scraped ice off a windshield and drove to the C-SPAN studios, where a picture window showed a serene daybreak over the Capitol dome.

While I was on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" for a live interview, the program aired some rarely seen footage with the voices of two courageous politicians who challenged the warfare state.

So, on Sunday morning, viewers across the country saw Barbara Lee speaking on the House floor three days after 9/11 -- just before she became the only member of Congress to vote against the president's green-light resolution to begin the U.S. military attack on Afghanistan.

"However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint," she said. The date was Sept. 14, 2001. Congresswoman Lee continued: "Our country is in a state of mourning. Some of us must say, Let's step back for a moment, let's just pause just for a minute, and think through the implications of our actions today so that this does not spiral out of control."

And she said: "As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore."

The footage of Barbara Lee was an excerpt from the "War Made Easy",/I> documentary film (based on my book of the same name). As she appeared on a TV monitor, I glanced out the picture window. The glowing blue sky and streaky clouds above the Hill looked postcard-serene.

But the silence now enveloping the political non-response to plans for the Afghanistan war is a message of acquiescence that echoes what happened when the escalation of the Vietnam War gathered momentum.

During the mid-1960s, the conventional wisdom was what everyone with a modicum of smarts kept saying: higher U.S. troop levels in Vietnam were absolutely necessary. Today, the conventional wisdom is that higher U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan are absolutely necessary.

Many people who think otherwise -- including, I'd guess, quite a few members of Congress -- are keeping their thoughts to themselves, heads down and mouths shut, for roughly the same reasons that so many remained quiet as the deployment numbers rolled upward like an odometer of political mileage on the road to death in Vietnam.

Right now, the basic ingredients of further Afghan disasters are in place -- including, pivotally, a dire lack of wide-ranging debate over Washington's options. In an atmosphere reminiscent of 1965, when almost all of the esteemed public voices concurred with the decision by newly elected President Lyndon Johnson to deploy more troops to Vietnam, the tenet that the United States must send additional troops to Afghanistan is axiomatic in U.S. news media, on Capitol Hill and -- as far as can be discerned -- at the top of the incoming administration.

But the problem with such a foreign-policy "no brainer" is that the parameters of thinking have already been put in the rough equivalent of a lockbox. Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara and Lyndon Johnson approached Vietnam policy options no more rigidly than Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and Barack Obama appear poised to pursue Afghanistan policy options.

I was thinking about this when I left the C-SPAN building in the full light of day. The morning glow made the Capitol look majestic. Yet it was almost possible to see, streaked across the dome, an invisible new stain of blood and shattered bones.

Along with the grim patterns, there's a tradition of brave dissent on Capitol Hill. It's epitomized by Barbara Lee's prophetic statement just after 9/11 -- and by an earlier kindred spirit, the fierce Vietnam War opponent Senator Wayne Morse. If you'd like to see historic footage of them, retrieved from the nation's Orwellian memory hole, watch the "Washington Journal" segment by clicking here.

On Monday, USA Today reported that the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan "has asked the Pentagon for more than 20,000 soldiers, Marines and airmen" to raise the U.S. troop level in Afghanistan to 55,000 or 60,000. General David McKiernan says that is "needed until we get to this tipping point where the Afghan army and the Afghan police have both the capacity and capability to provide security for their people." Such a tipping point "is at least three or four more years away," "if we put these additional forces in here, it's going to be for the next few years. It's not a temporary increase of combat strength."

Is Afghanistan the same as Vietnam? Of course, competent geographers would say no. But the United States is the United States -- with domestic continuity between two eras of military intervention, spanning five decades, much more significant than we might think.

Bedrock faith in the Pentagon's massive capacity for inflicting violence is implicit in the nostrums from anointed foreign-policy experts. The echo chamber is echoing: the Afghanistan war is worth the cost that others will pay.
(c) 2008 Norman Solomon's book "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State" just came off the press. The foreword is by Daniel Ellsberg. For more information, go to: www.MadeLoveGotWar.com. The documentary film "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death," based on Norman Solomon's book of the same name, went into home-video release and is now available on DVD from Netflix, Amazon and similar outlets. For more information, go to: www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

The Dead Letter Office...

Rod gives the Republican salute!

Heil Bush,

Dear Landeshauptmann Blagojevich,

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 various criminal activities which takes up the press and keeps our criminal activities out of sight, Iraq and these many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Democratic 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 Fuhrer Bunker," formally "The White House," on 12-27-2008. We salute you Herr Blagovich, Sieg Heil!

Vice Fuhrer Cheney

Heil Bush

A Democratic Insider's Call For A New Presidential Secrecy Power
By Glenn Greenwald

Matt Miller, a Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress (CAP) and former official in the Clinton OMB, has an Op-Ed in The Washington Post decrying the "kiss-and-tell" books written by top presidential aides once they leave the White House, and he singles out as examples the "tell-all" books written by George Stephanopoulos and Scott McClellan (whose name is repeatedly misspelled throughout the Op-Ed). Miller doesn't merely want former officials who write such books to be stigmatized and scorned, though he does want that. Far beyond mere disapproval, he actually wants to vest presidents -- or at least the new President -- with the formal legal power to block publication of these books in the first place:

Just as mergers and marriages that flourished on handshakes and vows had to turn to coarser arrangements once the stakes of break-up became high, the politician-aide relationship now needs its contract. In other words, it is time for the political prenuptial. Barack Obama should simply require key advisers and officials to sign a binding contract of confidentiality as a condition of employment. Aides should pledge not to disclose anything they see until, say, five years after their boss leaves office.

That is an atrocious idea. For one thing, it's hard to see how enforcement of these silencing contracts could be permitted in light of the First Amendment. And I doubt that Obama, for appearance reasons if nothing else, would take this proposal seriously. But those matters aside, the thinking behind this proposal is common among Beltway insiders and reveals much about the ways of Washington.

The attribute that defines Beltway culture as much as anything else is obsessive, gratuitous secrecy. The vast bulk of what takes place of any consequence occurs away from the public eye. Even laws which Congress enacts are proposed, negotiated and written behind closed doors with lobbyists and operatives. By the time these bills are even known to the public, let alone openly "debated," their outcome is a foregone conclusion. Floor "debates" and Congressional votes are pure theater, empty rituals with no purpose other than to ratify pre-ordained outcomes that were determined in secret.

Presidents in particular already possess a vast arsenal of weapons to prevent transparency, from the virtually unfettered power to classify to borderline-omnipotent investigation-quashing tools such as the state secrets and executive privileges. As Radley Balko detailed in his recent article urging the Obama administration to renounce claims of executive privilege except where genuine national security secrets are jeopardized by disclosures, these powers have grown so rapidly over the last decade that Presidents can now maintain an almost impenetrable wall of secrecy around virtually everything they do. CAP's own blog, ThinkProgress, just recently cited a report documenting "that by almost every measure, government secrecy is rising."

* * * * *

In light of that, it's staggering that people like Miller, now that there's a Democratic administration on the horizon, would be plotting and advocating still new presidential powers to further strengthen the wall of secrecy behind which our Government operates. One of the very few reasons that we have learned anything meaningful about what the Bush administration did was because people inside the administration decided, for whatever reasons, to shed light on it, to leak it, and to describe what they saw and heard.

Just imagine the ugly, anti-democratic spectacles that would arise if Miller's proposal were accepted. If someone like Scott McClellan were about to publish a book that contained embarrassing -- though completely unclassified -- revelations about what President Obama said or did, then Obama could send lawyers into court seeking to enjoin publication of the book. Or the whistle-blowing author could be sued by the President for damages for having described what he saw. Who could possibly think that's desirable?

The justifying analogy Miller invokes is quite telling:

It's a shame, of course, that integrity has to be assured rather than assumed, but the political pre-nup is an idea whose time has come. Hollywood celebrities have required such contracts forever, from every cook, nanny and "personal assistant" they hire. Once President-elect Obama and his transition leaders think about this, they'll realize that there is no downside to a pre-nup and no shame in insisting on one.

It's true that Hollywood celebrities are obsessed with secrecy and routinely impose confidentiality agreements of this sort on their employees. But there's a reason for that: their careers depend upon the maintenance of a deceptive image, of obscuring -- rather than illuminating -- who they really are and what they really do. Hollywood sells fantasy and reality-detached imagery to consumers. The whole point of that model is to prevent reality from interfering with fiction.

Does it take any effort at all to explain why that model, cited by Miller as the one Obama should adopt, is the exact opposite of what we should want for our democratic process and political leaders? The Washington political/media establishment, at its core, is already driven by the type of obfuscating "access journalism" -- fawning-coverage-in-exchange-for-exclusives, punishment-for-negative-coverage -- that Hollywood and sports celebrities have pioneered. Leading politicians are already surrounded by armies of P.R. and marketing experts who rely on pure Madison Avenue techniques to shape perceptions, manufacture contrived campaign images, and -- by design -- blind the public to basic political realities.

One of the very few ways that sunlight ever breaks through all of that and illuminates what our political leaders actually do is when insiders -- whether driven by noble whistle-blowing, or profit-seeking, or vindictiveness, or score-settling -- decide to pull the curtains back. A healthy democracy requires, at a bare minimum, awareness on the part of the citizenry of what their political leaders are doing. How could anyone think that what is needed is to smash the few remaining methods by which that disclosure takes place? What mentality leads someone to look at Scott McClellan's book -- revealing that the administration deliberately propagandized about the War, that the press was passive and complicit, that top Bush officials jointly scripted their responses to prosecutors in the CIA leak case -- and wish that George Bush had been empowered to prevent its publication until 2013?

* * * * *

Given that aides could still anonymously leak whatever they wanted, confidentiality contracts wouldn't even produce the sole so-called "benefit",/I> Miller seeks to achieve ("it would make Barack Obama the first president to enter meetings secure in the knowledge that if any notes his aides are scribbling are destined to appear in print, it will be long after he has left the White House"). But even if these contracts could achieve that, in what way is that a benefit? Public disclosure is a critical check on abuse of power. There's no greater ally for improper actions than darkness. As Balko put it:

The president's political appointees are public servants. Their salaries are paid by taxpayers. What they do and say on the public payroll should be accessible to the public, to the courts, and to congressional oversight. If a presidential aide fears that advice he gives the president could subject him to legal action or congressional subpoena down the road, he shouldn't give advice that's of questionable legality or that's ethically dubious in the first place. It really is that simple.

Part of what motivates this Beltway fixation on secrecy is an ignoble attribute of human nature, or at least an attribute of a certain common psyche. The more exclusive a club is, the more privileged someone feels to belong to it. The fewer people with access to certain information, the more special those who have been granted access to it -- Beltway insiders and source-pleasing journalists -- believe themselves to be.

Francis Bacon's now-clichéd-though-still-true observation that "knowledge is power"./I> means that the more ignorant the rabble are kept about what Beltway rulers are doing, the more powerful Beltway rulers and their underlings become. Hence, Beltway insiders cherish their secrecy (and though it's amazing in one sense, it should thus come as no surprise that Miller is actually a career journalist -- someone who therefore, in theory, ought to cheer when government officials disclose what they see, not think of ways to empower political officials to legally suppress it).

As much as we need anything else, we need a massive reduction in government secrecy and a massive increase in transparency. Obama himself (as well as, ironically, CAP's President and Obama tranistion chief John Podesta) has repeatedly said as much:

"People from every State in this great Nation sent us to Congress to defend their rights and stand up for their interests," Sen. Obama said in a prepared floor statement. "To do that we have to tear down the barriers that separate citizens from the democratic process and to shine a brighter light on the inner workings of Washington." It's hard to know how widespread Miller's desire for still-greater secrecy is -- could anyone even imagine a Senior Fellow at CAP proposing this while Bush was President? -- but however widespread it is, this mentality should be vigorously combated whenever it rears its anti-democratic head. As a top priority, the wall of secrecy erected around our Government needs to be severely eroded, not fortified.
(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.

Through A Hole In The Air...
By Sheila Samples

Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
~~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The recent blowout election that gave us President Barack Obama resulted in a flood of emotion that engulfed both parties. The one thing they had in common was that neither party could believe it. Political comedian Mort Sahl once said, "Liberals feel unworthy of their possessions. Conservatives feel they deserve everything they've stolen."

If we have learned nothing else about Republicans, it's that, with few exceptions, they are vindictive, immoral, blood-thirsty, and just plain power-mad. Republicans are so much better at destroying things than Democrats are. They say and do whatever it takes to win. And if that doesn't work -- they seize it anyway.

So we were braced for another disappointment -- not because we didn't share Obama's vision of change and his hope for a better life for all Americans, but because voting machines were frantically flip-flopping votes from Obama to John McCain, minority voters were purged, telephones jangled with robocalls smearing Obama as an alien terrorist -- and John King over at CNN kept ramming solid red "magic" maps in our faces as proof that McCain could not lose.

So, what happened?

We woke up. After snoozing through massive homicide, refusing to confront genocide, ignoring fratracide and the hopelessness that has driven an alarming number of our military to commit suicide...we woke up. We stood united against a national addiction to chaos, bloodshed and corruption. We voted for a leader who promised to break that addiction, and to heal this nation in the name of the people.

By election night, we were giddy with relief. We clambered aboard that ship of state and rode the wave of long-lost hope -- free at last. Obama's win ripped a hole in the political air, and millions of us stood weeping as the blissful sound of Democracy wafted through every nook and cranny to swirl around this magnificent moment in our history.

But that was election night. Republicans, terrified of change, were in shock -- in total disarray. But the next morning, they were out in force -- maggots streaming from rotten turds whose blossoms had been stomped on.

The Heritage Foundation warned against the danger of the Left's "radical agenda" of health care, education and energy. House majority leader John Boehner was either drunk or stupidly arrogant, or both, when he maintained that Obama may have won, but his "far-left agenda" was out of step with the majority of Americans. Boehner did concede, however, that House Republicans might work with Obama "when it is in the best interest of our nation," and only when it promoted "superior Republican alternatives..."

Boehner's predecessor, Dick Armey, was quick to point out that Obama didn't win -- Republicans lost. And they lost because they were just too damned compassionate. Armey is chairman of Freedom Works, which advocates scrapping the Federal Income Tax, kicking older folks out of Social Security to keep from overburdening the young, and of course freedom -- such as that of network carriers to manage and control Internet content. According to Armey, Republicans have simply forgotten their principles.

Richard Haass, Council on Foreign Relations president, hissed, "The one thing I'm sure of is, events will test him. ...There will be coups. ...There will be genocide. ... There will be terrorism." Gee, Bush hasn't completed his sprint to the finish line yet, and those like Haass are already waxing nostalgic for the Bush Doctrine.

Georgia Congressman Paul Broun called Obama a "Marxist" who was determined to set up a jack-booted Gestapo civilian security force to use against citizens -- an ominious tactic taken right out of Hitler's playbook. In the ensuing flap, Broun refused to apologize, or to acknowledge that the "civilian national security force" proposed by Obama is, in reality, a two-year-old pilot program -- The Civilian Response Corps of the United States of America trained and equipped to "deploy rapidly to countries in crisis or emerging from conflict, in order to provide reconstruction and stabilization assistance." The State Department has already deployed members to Sudan, Chad, Haiti, Lebanon, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Intolerance, hate -- racism -- runs deep within the heart of this country. It's easy not to be racist, to support civil rights, equality -- but when confronted by a change so abrupt, so momentous as the election of an African-American president, many white Americans have problems calming their inner beast. William Ferris, senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina, said when discussing the hundreds of threats against Obama that the election of a black president is "the most profound change in the field of race this country has experienced since the Civil War. Racism is like cancer," Ferris said, "It's never totally wiped out, it's in remission."

Remission? Perhaps, except for those like the feral, all-knowing, all-caring, all-sensing, all-feeling, all-concerned -- pretty much all-everything -- "Maha Rushie" Limbaugh, who has been in shrieking racist meltdown since the day Obama announced his candidacy. Referring to Barack Hussein Obama early and often, Limbaugh stoked racist fear by warning millions of Dittodeadheads they were being taken over by a "half-minority." In April 2007, Limbaugh aired an insulting Paul Shanklin parody, "Barack The Magic Negro," and went from that to trying to whip up murderous riots at the Democratic National Convention.

Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and their gang of slimy supremacist clones inflame the fires of fear and hate on a daily -- hourly -- basis. They know exactly what they're doing. "The economic mess Bush has gotten us into is all Obama's fault! The Obama recession is in full swing! We will soon be in the throes of an Obama depression! Obama's going to raise our taxes! Obama's coming after our 401k retirement checks! Millions more will lose their jobs! Quick -- burn a cross -- hang a noose in your tree before it's too late!"

And Michael Savage warns that Blacks don't want just a foot in the door; they are poised to take over the entire nation. On his Nov. 18 broadcast, Savage said, "I am telling you that there's gonna be a wholesale firing of competent white men in the United States government up and down the line, in police departments, in fire departments. Everywhere in America, you're going to see an exchange that you've never seen in history..."

If that's not enough to send us screaming into the night, our knees hitting our chins, Lisa Miller, former front-page religious writer for the Wall Street Journal, now Newsweek's Society/Religion editor, asks, in a shameful, code-word laden piece -- "Is Obama the Antichrist?"

Miller quotes several right-wing evangelicals, and she says conservative Christians believe a great battle is imminent. "After years of tribulation -- natural disasters, other cataclysms (such as the collapse of financial markets) -- God's armies will vanquish armies led by the Antichrist himself. He will be a sweet-talking world leader who gathers governments and economies under his command to further his own evil agenda." Miller says, given Obama's liberal positions on abortion and traditional marriage, it's no wonder that "Obama triggers such fear in the hearts of America's millennialist Christians." And, if we want proof -- one of the winning lottery numbers in Obama's home state of Illinois was 666 -- which Miller says everyone knows is the sign of the Beast, or the Antichrist.

The fascist lies and smears of Republicans and their doppleganger radio creeps should come as no surprise to those paying attention. However, the ripples of uneasiness and fear surging through Democratic ranks as a result of these assaults is a bit puzzling. Perhaps it's because after eight years of covering -- and uncovering -- deceit, lies, and monstrous war crimes perpetrated by George Bush, they are hesitant to trust another president regardless of his party affiliation. Or, perhaps they're afraid to have hope because they believe George Orwell's flat, no-wiggle-room assertion that -- "All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia."

Whatever the reason, each day brings a new rash of criticism about Obama's choices for his transition team, his economic team, his foreign policy team. His selection of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff, selection of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, and his decision to keep Robert Gates as Defense Secretary for at least a year resulted in cries of betrayal throughout the left-wing blogosphere.

For two Democrats to agree on any one thing would indeed be change. Everybody has his/her own views as to who should make up the cabinet. And, since I'm the most liberal Democrat I know, it seems obvious that Obama should have put the environment into the hands of award-winning former vice president Al Gore, justice into the hands of Constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley, and Defense into the hands of former Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark.

Those on the left who complain that Obama is "loading up his administration with Clintonites" should pause and take a deep breath. Anybody old enough to serve -- who has the experience to serve -- would necessarily come from either the Clinton or the Bush era. Which would you prefer? We should remember it is Obama's policies, not theirs, that will be put into effect. He promised change -- to be honest and up-front with all the people. He is keeping that promise.

Last week, in three days Obama held three press conferences wherein he outlined policies that reach far beyond the immediate crisis, such as his long-range plan to boost the economy by creating 2.5 million jobs. "We'll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children," he said, "and building wind farms and solar panels; fuel-efficient cars and the alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead."

Millions of us who voted for Obama are weary of fighting our way through the tangles of an Orwellian world. We yearn to live in a Wellstonian world, one where "...politics is not about observations or predictions. Politics is what we create by what we do, what we hope for, and what we dare to imagine."

Obama is not perfect. The problems Bush is only too happy to dump on him are almost insurmountable and getting worse by the day. Obama will make mistakes, but he has promised that, with our help, the hopes of all Americans can be realized. Together -- we can change the direction of the country.

We will not jump ship. Come hate or high water -- we can do it.

Yes. We. Can.
(c) 2008 Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at: rsamples@wichitaonline.net

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Dwane Powell ~~~

W the Movie Music Video DJ Monkey's 3rd World War

To End On A Happy Note...

The Twelve Days of Fascism

On the first day of fascism
Mike Mukasey gave to me
A Department of Homeland Security

On the second day of fascism
Mike Mukasey gave to me
Two detained Muslims
And a Department of Homeland Security

On the third day of fascism
Mike Mukasey gave to me
Three wiretappings
Two detained Muslims
And a Department of Homeland Security

On the fourth day of fascism
Mike Mukasey gave to me
Four airport friskings
Three wiretappings
Two detained Muslims
And a Department of Homeland Security

On the fifth day of fascism
Mike Mukasey gave to me
Five Carnivores
Four airport friskings
Three wiretappings
Two detained Muslims
And a Department of Homeland Security

On the sixth day of fascism
Mike Mukasey gave to me
Six snoops a-sniffing
Five Carnivores
Four airport friskings
Three wiretappings
Two detained Muslims
And a Department of Homeland Security

On the seventh day of fascism
Mike Mukasey gave to me
Seven TIPsters tipping
Six snoops a-sniffing
Five Carnivores
Four airport friskings
Three wiretappings
Two detained Muslims
And a Department of Homeland Security

On the eighth day of fascism
Mike Mukasey gave to me
Eight surveillance cameras
Seven TIPsters tipping
Six snoops a-sniffing
Five Carnivores
Four airport friskings
Three wiretappings
Two detained Muslims
And a Department of Homeland Security

On the ninth day of fascism
Mike Mukasey gave to me
Nine internment camps
Eight surveillance cameras
Seven TIPsters tipping
Six snoops a-sniffing
Five Carnivores
Four airport friskings
Three wiretappings
Two detained Muslims
And a Department of Homeland Security

On the tenth day of fascism
Mike Mukasey gave to me
Ten less amendments
Nine internment camps
Eight surveillance cameras
Seven TIPsters tipping
Six snoops a-sniffing
Five Carnivores
Four airport friskings
Three wiretappings
Two detained Muslims
And a Department of Homeland Security

On the eleventh day of fascism
Mike Mukasey gave to me
Eleven years protesting
Ten less amendments
Nine internment camps
Eight surveillance cameras
Seven TIPsters tipping
Six snoops a-sniffing
Five Carnivores
Four airport friskings
Three wiretappings
Two detained Muslims
And a Department of Homeland Security

On the twelfth day of fascism
Mike Mukasey gave to me
Twelve digital implants
Eleven years protesting
Ten less amendments
Nine internment camps
Eight surveillance cameras
Seven TIPsters tipping
Six snoops a-sniffing
Five Carnivores
Four airport friskings
Three wiretappings
Two detained Muslims
And a Department of Homeland Security.
(c) 2008

Have You Seen This...

George Carlin on Soft Language

Parting Shots...

China Buys Naming Rights To U.S.
Nation to be Renamed 'Panda Garden'
By Andy Borowitz

In a landmark deal that could provide much-needed cash to America's anemic economy, China agreed today to acquire the naming rights to the U.S. for a reported $1.4 trillion.

The deal, which is expected to be signed by President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao sometime before Inauguration Day on January 20, was hailed today by Mr. Bush as a "win-win" for both countries.

"We get 1.4 trillion dollars, and all we have to do is change our name to 'Panda Garden,'" Mr. Bush told reporters at the White House.

The president said he decided to make the extraordinary deal after being shocked to learn that the U.S. was in a recession, when it was reported yesterday in Duh magazine.

According to President Hu, the Chinese had originally inquired about purchasing the rights to two American sports facilities named after troubled companies, Ford Field in Detroit and Citi Field in New York, but then decided it might be more cost-efficient to buy the rights "to the whole shebang."

In addition to the $1.4 trillion, the Chinese government said that it would provide $10 million to commission a new national anthem that would somehow incorporate the words "Panda Garden" in the lyrics, and to redesign the nation's flag, which will henceforth be known as "the stars, stripes, and adorable bear."
(c) 2008 Andy Borowitz


The Gross National Debt

Zeitgeist The Movie...

Issues & Alibis Vol 8 # 48 (c) 12/12/2008

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