Sunday, June 17, 2012

How to Survive Miami's Zombie Apocalypse

How to Survive Miami's Zombie Apocalypse, According to Zombie Expert Jonathan Maberry
Hannah Sentenac
Wed., May 30 2012

According to authorities, there's a good chance that last week's face-eating incident was the result of mind-altering drugs. (Just say no, kids.)

But according to the rest of us, it may signal the beginning of an inevitable threat Hollywood has warned us about for years: a zombie apocalypse. (Just ask The Miami zombie.)

Naturally, we're all a little concerned that the undead may choose our sunny paradise as their next city of smorgasbord. After all, the heat is nice and lubricating for their stiff limbs.

So, in the interest of being prepared, we spoke to zombie expert Jonathan Maberry, author of Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead on how best to survive a zombie apocalypse. Y'know, just in case.

Cultist: I'm sure you heard about the recent face-eating zombie attack in Miami. Any commentary?
Maberry: Within a few hours of the report hitting the news I was inundated by emails, IMs, Facebook and Twitter posts telling me, in essence, that the stuff I've been writing may not be fiction.

What would you say is the top rule of zombie survival?
Don't be the dumb loudmouth in your group of survivors. These days, folks are likely to feed you to the zoms and make their escape during the chow-down.

What weapons or supplies should we procure to prepare ourselves?
In my series of teen post-apocalyptic zombie novels (Rot & Ruin, Dust & Decay, etc.) the smartest object of defense isn't a gun or knife -- it's body armor made from carpet. You can't really bite through it and there's carpet everywhere. In the movies, the characters always run out into a crowd of zoms wearing ordinary clothes. I'd tear up the carpet, secure it with some duct tape (and we all have duct tape), and then stroll through the crowd of frustrated zombies.

Can we ply them with any other food besides human flesh?
If we accept the movies of George Romero as "zombie canon," then the living dead eat everything -- humans, animals, insects. We can always breed food for them. And it would provide jobs for farmers in a troubled economy.

How do zombies react to hot weather?
Zombies would thrive in hot weather. The heat keeps them limber. Cold would freeze them solid since body heat comes from blood flow. Of course, as the temperature rises, the zoms would spoil pretty quickly. Smelly ... but eventually they'd fall apart.

Can zombies swim?
Zombies wouldn't be a threat in the water. The freshly killed ones would sink like a stone without air in their lungs for buoyancy. The rotting ones might float because of gasses released by putrefaction, but they would lack the coordination for the mechanics of swimming and couldn't strategize on how to overcome tides and currents. So, a great way to survive the zombie apocalypse is to strap on that Speedo and take a dip.

Are there different varieties of zombie?
There are several classifications of zombies. The old-school zombies are the raised dead used as slaves by priests of the Haitian religion of vodou. Since the 1960s we've come to hang the "zombie" nickname on flesh-eating ghouls of the Romero kind, and these are slow-moving, mindless corpses. Then there are the fast zombies, as introduced first in the film Return of the Living Dead (1985) and made famous in the 2004 Zack Snyder remake of Dawn of the Dead. Then you have the "rage virus-infected," who are mindless humans infected by a disease that makes them kill everyone they meet. They were first introduced in George Romero's 1973 flick The Crazies, then later became wildly popular in Danny Boyle's 2002 classic, 28 Days Later and the 2010 remake of The Crazies. Oh, and Europe is famous for its demonically possessed zombies, and there have been a zillion of those films.

What's the most common misconception about zombies?
The most common misconception about zombies is that the disease only spreads through bites. However Romero established that everyone who dies, no matter how or why, will rise as a zombies. Bites simply make it happen faster.

So there you have it. Get ready to tear up that carpet and make a swim for it, Miami.

'Mermaids: The Body Found'

'Mermaids: The Body Found' On Animal Planet Argues Mythical Sea Creatures Are Aquatic Apes
David Moye

The mermaid legend has been around since before the Romans ruled the earth, and even back then, guys were asking the same question: How did these womanly fish have sex?

It's a question that dogged filmmaker Charlie Foley when he started work on "Mermaid: The Body Found," a speculative documentary airing May 27 and 28 on Animal Planet -- from his own father, no less.

"It was the first thing my dad asked me when I told him about the special," Foley laughed to The Huffington Post. "We had to think about this, and I assume that mermaid sex organs would evolve like those of whales, seals and porpoises. Their bodies are streamlined, but those parts 'pop out' when needed."

Sorry, fish fetishists, the special doesn't show mermaids and mermen splashing around in icthyological intercourse, but there is a scene of a CGI mermaid giving birth.

Foley isn't saying that mermaids exist, but finds it fascinating that the comely sea creatures have been talked about for thousands of years and show up in the writings of numerous cultures -- even among cultures that had no contact with each other.

There has never been a confirmed mermaid sighting, and some researchers speculate that people who've claimed to have seen one outside of a movie theatre actually saw creatures like manatees or dugongs.

However, some researchers have suggested the "Aquatic Ape Theory." They claim that during a period of massive coastal flooding, some ancestors moved inland and others went into the ocean for food.

The theory forms the basis of the show and while the idea that mermaids might be real may sound absurd on the surface, filmmaker Charlie Foley says further study suggests it might not be all wet.

"There are cases of animals going from terrestrial to aquatic," Foley told The Huffington Post. "And when you look at what makes humans unique among other terrestrial animals, it raises some interesting questions on whether mermaids might be plausible."

Some of the evidence that Foley said could conceivably suggest a missing mermaid link include webbing between fingers, something other primates don’t have and the loss of body hair (which would create drag in water).

Other evolutionary steps that suggest a sea creature cousin include the fact that humans are the only land animal with subcutaneous fat, which helps insulate whales, seals and dolphins from the cold, and breath control.

"Humans can hold their breath up to 20 minutes, longer than any other terrestrial animal," Foley said. "In fact, we're the only land animal with an instinctive ability to swim."

Foley is quick to point out that he doesn't necessarily believe that mermaids existed, but, as he did with a previous special, "Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real," wanted to "plausibly imagine them."

To do that, he had to think about how a real mermaid would actually look -- and it's wouldn't be a red head like Ariel the Little Mermaid at all.

"Evolutionarily speaking, hair would be the first to go because it's a drag underwater," he said. "Also, we thought about the coloring. Sea mammals tend to have countershading. They are lighter on what, in layman's terms, would be the belly and darker on the back. This is so they would blend in with the water if you're looking at them from above and would blend in with the sun shining through the water if you're looking at them from below."

Foley hopes the special gets people interested in the Aquatic Ape Theory, but also admits that his goal isn't to win converts to the idea.

"This is meant for entertainment," he laughed. "We didn't submit this for peer review."

New Dr. Hulda Clark Blog

Dr. Hulda Clark, PhD., N.D., was a remarkable scientist. She discovered that everything in existence emits a radio frequency or range of radio frequencies by which it can be identified. The new method of analysis she pioneered using that discovery is many thousands of times more sensitive and accurate than anything used by other scientists today.

Using this information, Dr. Clark identified the true causes of many diseases. She then determined that when those causes were removed, the diseases were cured.

Rather than submitting her findings for clinical trials for confirmation (which could have taken years), she made her findings directly available to the public by publishing them in books. There are many thousands of satisfied individuals worldwide who have used her information to cure their diseases or otherwise keep themselves healthy.

Unfortunately, Dr. Clark and her discoveries were targets of a massive disinformation and vilification campaign perpetrated by the highly-profitable mainstream medical establishment and its minions. Otherwise, her discoveries would be more widely known and many more people would be able to benefit from them. Her discoveries have the potential of positively affecting the health of everyone in the world.

Steven Swan has been studying and using Dr. Clark's health discoveries and health protocols for many years to keep himself healthy. He has also used them to cure his own asthma and his own psoriasis.

Swan has a Dr. Hulda Clark blog where he disseminates her discoveries, inventions, and protocols to others. It is located at

Swan also has a consulting service for anyone wishing assistance in implementing Dr. Clark's discoveries and protocols to cure their own ailments or diseases. It is located at

Swan has also updated Dr. Clark's cures for asthma, psoriasis, eczema, epilepsy, and seizures using information that Dr. Clark provided in her last cancer-curing book. They are located at The cost is only $19.95 each.

Steven Swan

Feds say it's okay to lie about pomegranate juice

Federal government says it's okay to lie about pomegranate juice, but not to tell the truth
J. D. Heyes
Monday, May 28, 2012

Do you remember our recent story about Coca-Cola getting away with advertising one of its drinks as "Pomegranate Blueberry," even though it only contained a measly 0.3 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, of each of those juices? Well, we now learn that the federal government not only sanctions lying about ingredients in drinks, but will punish companies who try to tell the truth about those same products.

To recap:

Beverage company Pom Wonderful which, as its name suggests, manufactures drinks containing lots of pomegranate, lost a federal false advertising suit it launched against Coca-Cola's subsidiary, Minute Maid, which manufactures the aforementioned Pomegranate Blueberry, because while the ingredients are prominently displayed on the labeling, there is very little of them actually in the drink.

But a federal appeals panel, citing federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules, disagreed with Pom Wonderful. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that said federal regulations say a company can name a drink after a "flavoring" that it contains, even if it's not the primary ingredient.

What makes the ruling even more incredulous, given the second part of this story, is the fact that Minute Maid's label on Pomegranate Blueberry says, "Help Nourish Your Brain" above a drawing of fruits. That, as you may have deduced, suggests a medical benefit from drinking this pomegranate concoction, even if there isn't much actual pomegranate in it.

What's 'deceptive' about the truth?

Enter Pom Wonderful, the company that actually puts pomegranate - which research proves can lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels, improve blood flow to the heart for cardiac patients, reduce thickening of arteries that supply blood to the brain, and lower blood pressure - in its drinks.

It seems the same federal court system thinks it's okay for Coca-Cola to sprinkle a little of the juice in its drinks and call it nourishment for your brain, but Pom Wonderful - whose drinks contain 100 percent pomegranate juice - can't tout the fruit's health benefits.

Just days after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals shot down Pom's lawsuit against Coca-Cola, a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) judge ruled that health claims made by Pom were deceptive.

The ruling from Administrate Law Judge D. Michael Chappell came after hearing testimony for months, from May through November 2011 - testimony which included appearances by noted diet and coronary expert Dr. Dean Ornish, who - among other foods - recommends eating pomegranates to improve cardiac health.

Note, too, that Pom Wonderful, a Delaware company which is headquartered in Los Angeles, has spent some $35 million over the past 10 years studying the health benefits of pomegranates, and relied on the results of that body of research in advertising its products.

Not officially sanctioned research

Chappell, however, said Pom's advertising "would lead reasonable consumers to conclude that drinking Pom's juice or taking its supplements would treat, prevent, or reduce serious health problems, and that it was clinically proven to do so," according to Courthouse News Service.

What's more, Chappell said in his 330-page ruling that while Pom's research indeed showed a general health benefit in consuming pomegranate, "the weight of the persuasive expert testimony demonstrates that there was insufficient competent and reliable scientific evidence to support" the company's specific claims.


Well, all of this is much easier to understand if you look at it from this perspective. It's all about the Leviathan telling you what is, and is not, "healthy," and what you can, and cannot say, about legitimate research if it is not conducted or sanctioned by the high-and-mighty in D.C.

Pom Wonderful spent tens of millions on research that proves consuming its pomegranate beverages improves overall health. But because the federal government didn't make this discovery, then it's not legitimate and, therefore, inadmissible.

Now do these conflicting rulings make sense?

For the record, pomegranate is quickly gaining favor in health circles for its nutritional value as an antioxidant-rich fruit. It's health benefits are well-documented now, even if you don't read about them in some government agency's literature.

You might say a company that does its own research is tainting the results, but on the other hand, if the same company is later found to have falsified data, what implications would that discovery have for a business that wants to stay around for the long haul?

Sources for this article include:

Blade Runner Magazine Covers

These magazine covers can be seen in the movie Blade Runner, and thanks to a devoted fanbase, it is now available on the web.  Here's where you can see them all:

Why You Should Upload Your Mind

Eugen Spierer
May 9, 2012

Space travel, particle physics, cosmology. These are just some of the endeavors humankind has embarked on, trying to understand the great mysteries of the universe. But why haven’t we been able to decipher those puzzles yet? Is it because they are vast and we are so small and insignificant? Well, yes.

In order to achieve these huge goals we need to change the very thing which is holding us back: Ourselves. Our mind has limits which we are only starting to be aware of and those limits are only made more restrictive by our fragile, sickened, mortal bodies.

How can we expect to learn the secrets of the world around us while trapped within a body which only lives for several decades, demands constant nourishment and attention, and dictates limits and desires beyond our control? This is why I think the first and foremost challenge we should “put our minds to” is mind uploading.

Once we have severed the link between our consciousness and the cruel joke someone has played on us by enclosing it in a mortal body, can we begin to really appreciate the beauty of the world around us. We would then be able to explore its secrets not just for a limited number of years, but for an eternity.

The first steps toward such a noble cause have already been taken in Switzerland. Scientists have already simulated a part of a rat’s brain with proven accuracy. It’s called the Blue Brain Project and it aims to use developing computer technologies in order to simulate an entire human brain and thus, hopefully, create a human personality which will be based on computer hardware rather than on the miserable excuse we have for a wetware body.

Just think of the possibilities! Eternal life. Easy and accessible space travel and colonization. Plenty of time for all human beings to grow and develop. Far less strain the planet’s limited resources. No more disease. No more suffering. No more death. A better understanding of the world around us, free of the constraints which currently bind us to a meager existence and a short life span.

No other research is this important, for this will be the base of our success as a species.

Austerity Coming to America with the Post Office

Engineered Austerity Coming to America Starting with the Post Office
Brandon Turbeville
Activist Post
Saturday, May 19, 2012

Over the past few months, the dismal financial state of the United States Postal Service has been the subject of much derision and contempt in the mainstream media. The massive debt held by the USPS has been the bloody sheet waived by both reactionary Republicans and Wall Street Democrats in order to justify the privatization or even the elimination of such an important service from oversight and administration by the Federal government.

The large debt held by USPS, coupled with exaggerations of wait times and other aspects involved in shipping services, are constantly highlighted as the latest example of how “government is incapable of running anything effectively.” The general public is then subjected to a barrage of “free market” solutions which are, as is almost always the case, nothing more than the fleecing of the taxpayer who will inevitably end up paying more and receiving less while benefiting crony corporations.

The most immediate solutions proposed by the reactionaries are, of course, austerity measures which take the form of closing thousands of rural post office branches, ending Saturday delivery, increasing prices, and downsizing staff.

Initially the plan proposed by the more savvy austerity ghouls, as well as the Postmaster General himself, would have resulted in the closing of more than 3,700 post office locations all across the country, with the vast majority of those offices in rural areas. Thankfully, there was enough community opposition to derail these disastrous plans. That is, at least for the moment.

The new plan, however, now involves the reduction of staff at over 13,000 rural post office locations as well as a reduction in hours of operation down to as little as two hours in some offices. Estimates of potential job losses run over 100,000.

But because the Post Office intends to seek approval for its plans from the public and the relevant regulatory agencies before moving forward on any “cost-cutting” plans, the process may take several months.

Nevertheless, the Post Office is not only facing a battle from without. Many within the administrative and directional wing are lobbying for programs such as the one mentioned above that will result in the closing of offices and an end to Saturday mail delivery. In fact, it has been the Post Office itself that has pushed Congress to pass legislation allowing these cuts to take place.

Yet to lay all the blame, even on the feet of the Postmaster General is not entirely fair. After all, the Post Office has been dealt a bad hand in terms of its financial solvency due to the psychosis of austerity and hatred of public services pushed by reactionary politicians and corporate competitors. It has essentially been given an impossible task in terms of its own continued existence as an institution.

The real financial problems come not from decreased traffic or even mismanagement, but from the reactionaries themselves. Due to the constant barrage of criticism and mockery hurled at USPS from the mainstream media, as well as the gullibility of the average American, little is known about the 2006 mandate which has done more to bankrupt the Post Office than any other factor.

This mandate, a provision of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, requires the Post Office to fund the health care benefits of future retirees as far out as 75 years into the future – all within a 10-year window. Previously, as in every other business (and the United States Government), the health care of retirees was a pay-as-you-go system. Thanks to the reactionaries and Wall Street tools like Dennis Hastert, this is no longer the case for the Post Office.

Indeed, the ridiculous mandate now costs the Post Office over $5.5 billion per year (about 2 weeks of Afghan war costs), with the federal government actually holding billions of dollars of overpayments made to the pension accounts by USPS. According to FireDogLake, all of the Post Office’s losses over the past four years have come from this mandate.

Even the Washington Post has reported that, without the 2006 mandate, the Post Office would have actually realized a profit, not a loss, since 2007. Joe Davidson writes,
"The last four years’ reported losses can all be attributed to this prefunding and then some,’"Fredric V. Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said in an interview.
He is correct.

According to the USPS white papers, from 2007 to 2010, mail volume declined 20 percent while postage remained capped at the rate of inflation, "resulting in net losses over the period of just over $21 billion, including a loss in FY2010 of $8,5 billion."

During that period, the prefunding of retiree health benefits cost $21 billion. Without that congressional mandate, the USPS would have cleared $611 million.

This is quite interesting considering the fact that the overwhelming majority of the mainstream media never mentions the mandate. We do, however, continually hear the repetition of the debt owed by the Post Office which is almost always used to shore up the claim of incompetence and waste and to promote the cause of privatization.

In addition, the administrators of the Post Office, especially the Postmaster General, have been showing their true colors for some time refusing to acknowledge the root cause of the problem (the mandate). Instead, the agency is claiming that, in the case of rural offices, 80% of its costs are labor-related. It also suggests that the Internet and a decline in first-class mail volume is the reason for its financial straits.

However, this is a misleading and, I would venture, an intentionally misleading position. Labor costs are a factor in any business, particularly in harsh economic times. Yet hiring labor and/or paying them living wages does not outweigh a mandate such as the one discussed above. It is a stated plan by the Post Office administration to begin replacing full-time workers with part-time workers, in an effort to reduce wages and eliminate benefits and this mandate, along with the deleterious effects it is having on the institution as a whole, merely provides the excuse to initiate a downsizing of the workforce.

Indeed, those who have labor contracts are inevitably going to see those contracts attacked in the very near future. Undoubtedly, in another example of the American people’s often misplaced anger, when the time comes for USPS labor to be dismantled, it almost certainly will be done to the cheers of an ignorant public.  That is what the media campaign is for.

It should also be pointed out that, while the Internet may be a factor in reduced first-class mail, the world economic depression is another. Naturally, mail delivery and all other services will decrease as the vast majority of Americans are financially strained and as less and less businesses continue to exist inside the United States.

With all this in mind, it is worth noting that there is rarely, if ever, a comment made by the office of the Postmaster General regarding the 2006 mandate, even though his agency is being crushed by the burden Congress has created.

For all of the heated rhetoric spouted off by politicians and talking heads about the privatization of postal services, it should be pointed out that no other private company bears the burden of having to fund all of its retirees benefits – some of whom do not even work at the Post Office yet, others have not even been born – for a period of 75 years or anything close to that number. Certainly no private company is being forced to do so by the Federal Government.

In all fairness, shouldn’t UPS and FedEx be forced to fund retiree pension funds if there was to be fair competition? The reactionaries would say no, of course, because that is a violation of the “free market.” Only when these theories are applied to government services that actually benefit people are they acceptable.

Even the Federal Government itself, which actually did make a commitment to future generations with the Social Security program, released itself from future liabilities (in terms of trust funds) and converted to pay-as-you-go, a truly unfortunate policy in this instance. Of course, with massive police states to build, giant bureaucracies to maintain, and numerous illegal foreign wars to fight, one can clearly see the logic behind the decision.

Nevertheless, the situation is dire because the Post Office is already $13 billion in debt, largely due to the congressional mandate. Somewhere between August and September, USPS will be required to pay more than $11 billion to the U.S. Treasury yet again for the prefunding of health benefits, potentially (and almost inevitably) causing the agency to reach its $15 billion debt ceiling.

But, while the members of the general public may envision a utopia of companies competing to deliver their mail, the reality will undoubtedly be much different. For all their rhetoric about competition and lower prices, the amount of price increases for the base level of hard copy correspondence will skyrocket as soon as the Post Office ceases to exist. Just take a look at the private competition in the market now and you will easily see how much your mail delivery costs will rise if the Post Office option is no longer available. With USPS out of the picture, it is just as likely that the private companies will not only continue to gouge customers, but that prices will increase dramatically using fuel costs and anti-union sentiment as justification.

Currently, the United States Postal Service stands as a model for the rest of the world in terms of logistical capabilities, infrastructure, and especially pricing. It is, in fact, the cheapest mail shipping method available amongst Western nations and most of the rest of the world.

It is also one of the only services that reaches virtually every American and does so on a daily basis.  Besides the manufactured debt of the USPS, for all intents and purposes, it accomplishes its goals of getting the mail to you in a timely fashion.

It might be hard for many to comprehend the ramifications of the privatization of mail and shipping services currently administered by the USPS. However, one need only look to Europe to see that, invariably, prices will rise. Indeed, one need not look across the ocean when a glance at the domestic landscape would prove the same point. A glimpse of UPS and FedEx should be self-explanatory.

With this in mind, it is also worth noting that price increases will be especially true (and especially harmful) for rural areas where no competition exists.

Rising prices in shipping have long been a problem for businesses, particularly small ones. The removal of the USPS option might even be the death knell for many of them. As it stands, it is possible to put a business virtually anywhere in the country because of the availability of the USPS. However, removing those services will force a great many to move further into cities. Those unable to do so may be driven into extinction.

This plan for reduction of services to rural areas may also dovetail with the intentional increase in urbanization called for by UN plans such as Agenda 21. Removing Post Office services from rural areas would be just one more step in the designed inaccessibility of rural living.

Yet there might be one more aspect to the 2006 mandate that bears mentioning. The fact is, the USPS has many enemies who would like to see the agency destroyed and privatized whether it is indebted or not. Even if the USPS meets its commitments over the next ten years, the attacks are not likely to cease. Corporate predators and other agents of Wall Street have a vested interest in seeing the USPS dissolved due to their own interests. So, unless there is an unlikely return to reason by Congress, the fate of USPS might very well be sealed.

Thus, the 2006 mandate, seems to be a two-pronged attack: First, it is designed to handicap and precipitate the destruction of the USPS through unreasonable demands, debt and then austerity measures.

Second, it serves as a fattening of the prey for the Wall Street jackals who are now surrounding it. Let there be no doubt that a “pre-fund” stacked to the tune of billions of dollars will not be ignored at feeding time. Simply put, Wall Street agents appear to be loading the institution with debt as well as assets, waiting on the moment when large-scale asset stripping can commence.

Thus, one might assume it to be very likely that the attacks against the Post Office will soon resume and the asset stripping of the agency and its employee healthcare fund will not be far behind once the final blow has been struck.

Americans have become complacent on such a wide variety of issues that Post Office service might seem as of little consequence when faced with a worsening economic depression, foreign wars, and the prevalence of a domestic police state. Yet losing the USPS would be yet another nail in the coffin of what was once the envy of the world.

It has often been said that you never know what you have until you lose it. Austerity is coming to America starting with one of the only services that delivers.  If Americans do not soon wise up to the game, we might once again prove just how true that statement really is.

Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Mullins, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor's Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of three books, Codex Alimentarius -- The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, and Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident. Turbeville has published over one hundred articles dealing with a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville is available for podcast, radio, and TV interviews. Please contact us at

A Half-Century-Old Road to Today

IF there is such a thing as a visionary time capsule, the newly released boxed set of “Route 66” is it. Watch these discs (from Shout! Factory) and you are transported back to a version of the United States that was still basking in postwar success, a country rich in blue-collar jobs and industrial production and somewhat oblivious to its problems. But while enjoying that return to America as it was, you may also be struck by how often this half-century-old black-and-white television series tackled issues that seem very 21st century.

“Route 66,” which ran from 1960 to 1964 on CBS, was an earnest, ambitious serial about two young men on a random journey across North America in a Corvette. It was shot on location, something hard to imagine given the bulkiness of equipment at the time. Viewed today, a scene on a shrimp boat in New Orleans or at the half-built Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona prompts admiration for the producers, camera operators, electricians and others who made the shots feasible.

It was seat-of-the-pants television, demanding for everyone.

“You were always behind schedule, working 14, 15, 16 hours a day,” recalled George Maharis, who starred with Martin Milner in the initial seasons. “But it was fun. It was like being a pioneer, going over the mountains.”

There was pioneering in the structure of the show as well, and in its scripts. The series was created by Herbert B. Leonard and Stirling Silliphant, who earlier had combined on “Naked City,” and they seemed intent on shining a light into every out-of-the-mainstream corner of America.

Mr. Maharis played Buz Murdock and Mr. Milner was Tod Stiles, friends who embark on a cross-country odyssey after Tod inherits the Corvette. They are among the least fleshed-out lead characters in television history, jarringly so by standards today, when Tony Soprano has inspired entire books. Buz was a hard-slugging guy from New York (not unlike Mr. Maharis himself), and Tod seemed rather preppy, but their main purpose each week was usually to get the show, literally and figuratively, to a place where it could tell a story about someone else.

And what stories they were. This was an era when television hadn’t yet settled into the pattern of silly sitcoms and not-too-taxing dramas that would define it for decades. A TV script — Mr. Silliphant, who died in 1996, wrote many for “Route 66” — could still aspire to be literature. That made for some clunkiness. Writers hadn’t fully grasped that television shows were not stage plays. But even at its most awkward, “Route 66” reached high.

Take, for instance, this slice of dialogue from a 1962 episode called “Aren’t You Surprised to See Me?” A religious nut takes Buz hostage in Dallas and threatens to kill him if the city’s population fails to follow the Ten Commandments for the next 24 hours. The man (played by David Wayne) explains himself in a dizzying monologue that foreshadows both the anti-establishment mood of the Vietnam era and the current laments of the religious right.

“Drop the scales from your eyes,” he tells Buz. “Consider the present society of the world. Are we still individuals, or are we prisoners of bureaucracy? Insects in vast, grinding systems, carrying out antlike, apparently rational actions with no human idea of the ends they serve? Ours is no longer a guilt culture in which control of wrongdoing is self-imposed by conscience. Instead we have a shame culture, one in which acts are judged good or evil solely on the basis of whether one is caught or not, in which the worst punishment is public humiliation, not private guilt. Ours is a world, Murdock, in which conscious morality is treated with derision and reason with scorn. This is an age which no longer waits patiently through this lifetime for the rewards in the next, but instead mills anxiously about overindulging, driven to cheat, driven to crime. So I have killed six men.

“Well, let me tell you that each time, I died with them. Each time I killed myself, too. So what is that insignificant sacrifice against the gigantic moral collapse of the world?”

And that’s just an excerpt.

If that character sounds as if he could be any of today’s unbalanced zealots with a gun, he is not alone. The series was full of people and plot lines that would fit easily in 2012.

Those doomsday preppers who have been the subject of several reality shows would have had a lot to talk about with the central character in “A Fury Slinging Flames,” a 1960 episode in which a physicist expecting a New Year’s Day nuclear attack takes shelter in the Carlsbad Caverns with a group of followers. “Eleven, the Hard Way” (1961), about a small town that sends a gambler to Reno to try to win it a return to prosperity after the local mine goes bust, seems like a metaphor for all those states that hope a casino economy can replace their lost manufacturing revenue. “City of Wheels” (1962), about an embittered veteran in a wheelchair, feels like a precursor to any of the post-traumatic stress disorder plots that are so common in television drama today.

Mr. Maharis, now in his 80s, cited “City of Wheels” as among his favorites. In it, he plunges into a pool to stop a suicide.

Another episode that also involved an icy dip, “Even Stones Have Eyes” from late in Season 2, may be his least favorite, not because of the story but because of the aftermath. The script called for him to dive into a pond to rescue a blind woman.
“The water was like 40 degrees,” he recalled in a telephone interview from his home in Los Angeles. “They couldn’t get my clothes on over the wet suit.” So he went without the wet suit.

“It was 4 in the morning,” he said. “It was freezing. My jacket froze on me. They had to pour hot water on me; you can see it in the shot, the steam rising.”

He became thoroughly ill, and soon he found himself with hepatitis (later linked to a B12 shot, Mr. Maharis said). Though he continued to appear into Season 3, he said the lingering illness ultimately knocked him out of the series. Mr. Milner went on alone for a time, then acquired a new partner played by Glenn Corbett, but the show was never quite as strong.

“If I had it to do all over again, the only thing I’d change would be getting that bug,” Mr. Maharis said. Among the pleasures, he said, was working with numerous actors who would go on to have substantial careers. The doomsday character in Carlsbad Caverns was played by Leslie Nielsen, later so successful in, among other things, the “Naked Gun” movies. That gambler sent to Reno carrying his town’s hopes? Walter Matthau.

Martin Sheen, Barbara Eden, Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Julie Newmar and other now familiar names also make appearances. Most had yet to achieve fame, but as its reputation grew the series was able to attract a different order of star. “Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing,” from 1962, features the horror greats Peter Lorre, Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff as themselves.

Mr. Milner, 80, went on to roles in “Adam-12” and many other shows. (He had a stroke a few years ago, acquaintances said.)

The other star of the series was the Corvette, which was actually a series of Corvettes. Though in references to the series the car has been described as red, Mr. Maharis said that was never the case.

He recounted how he ended up with a nice perk through a bit of subterfuge. “I said to them, ‘Listen, I would like to bring my car on location with us; is that O.K.?’ And they said, ‘What are you driving?’ And I said, ‘A Ford Thunderbird.’ ”

They gave him his own Corvette.

Bill blockbuster: O’s an ‘amateur’

May 11, 2012

Bill Clinton thought so little of President Obama — mocking him as an “amateur” — that he pressed his wife last summer to quit her job as secretary of state and challenge him in the primaries, a new book claims,
“The country needs you!” the former president told Hillary Clinton, urging her to run this year, according to accounts of the conversation included in Edward Klein’s new biography of Obama.

The title of Klein’s explosive, unauthorized bio of Obama, “The Amateur” (Regnery Publishing), was taken directly from Bill Clinton’s bombshell criticism of the president, the author said.

“Barack Obama,” Bill Clinton said, according to book excerpts, “is an amateur.”

The withering criticism is incredible, given the fact that Bill Clinton is actively campaigning for Obama’s re-election.

But according to the book, Bill Clinton unloaded on Obama and pressed Hillary to run against her boss during a gathering in the ex-president’s home office in Chappaqua last August that included longtime friends, Klein said.

“The economy’s a mess, it’s dead flat. America has lost its Triple-A rating . . . You know better than Obama does,” Bill said.

Bill Clinton insisted he had “no relationship” with Obama and had been consulted more frequently by his presidential successor, George W. Bush.

Obama, Bill Clinton said, “doesn’t know how to be president” and is “incompetent.”

But Hillary resisted the entreaties, according to two of the guests interviewed for the book.

“Why risk everything now?” a skeptical Hillary told her husband, emphasizing that she wanted to leave a legacy as secretary of state.

“Because,” Bill replied, his voice rising, “the country needs you!”

“The country needs us!” added Bill.

He later even joked about the prospect of having two Clinton presidential libraries — about the only time that Hillary cracked a smile.

“I want my term [at the State Department] to be an important one, and running away from it now would leave it as a footnote,” Hillary argued.

She said she had the option of running again in 2016.

But Bill wouldn’t let go.

“I know you’re young enough!” Bill said, his voice booming. “That’s not what I’m worried about. I’m worried that I’m not young enough.”

“I’m the highest-ranking member in Obama’s Cabinet. I eat breakfast with the guy every Thursday morning. What about loyalty, Bill? What about loyalty?” she responded.

“Loyalty is a joke,’’ Bill shot back. “Loyalty doesn’t exist in politics.”

Bill’s verbal battle with Hillary over the presidency, if anything, intensified when daughter Chelsea showed up with her husband, Marc Mezvinsky.

“You deserve to be president,” Chelsea said.

Bill was clearly pleased that Chelsea was on his side and vowed to have allies commission polls on a Hillary-Obama matchup.

“What are you trying to do — force my hand?” Hillary said.

“I want everyone to know how strong you poll,” Bill said.

Hillary said, “Go ahead and knock yourself out.”

The book’s explosive claims were shot down last night by spokesmen for the White House and the Clintons, who closed ranks last night.

Bill Clinton’s spokesman Matt McKenna said the excerpts were “totally and completely false” and called Klein “a known liar.”

Phillipe Reines, a spokesman for the secretary of state, noted that Hillary Clinton challenged the veracity of an earlier book Klein wrote about her, “Truth About Hillary.”

White House spokesman Eric Schultz accused Klein of making up facts to sell books.

“Nobody in their right mind would believe the nonsense in this one, especially since both Secretary Clinton and President Clinton have been loyal and supportive of the president at every turn.”

Klein, a former editor of The New York Times Magazine and Newsweek, defended the book and his earlier one as factually sound.

Meanwhile, today's daily presidential Rasmussen Poll shows Mitt Romney ahead of the president with 50 percent to Obama's 43 percent. It is the highest level of support the presumptive Republican nominee has received in his matchup with Obama as well as his largest lead.

Uncle Fat's Tasty Meal 6-17-12

Uncle Fat's Tasty Meal: Vegetarian Grilled Zucchini Croque

Makes 1 giant sandwich, total time 20 minutes


1 medium zucchini, cut into 4 long planks
2 teaspoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of herbes de Provence
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for spreading on the bread
1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 (2/3-inch) slices of fresh white sandwich bread
1 1/4 cups grated Emmenthaler cheese

Preheat a grill or grill pan to high heat. Toss the zucchini lightly with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence. Grill until charred and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook over low heat for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk, and continue whisking until the mixture has thickened enough to thickly coat a spoon. Set aside.

Preheat broiler to high. Spread one side of each slice of bread with butter. Place 6 tablespoons grated cheese on un-buttered side of one slice of bread. Top with the zucchini, then top with 6 more tablespoons cheese. Close sandwich, buttered side out. Toast the sandwich in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.
Place the sandwich on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Spread the top with the white sauce, then top with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Broil until the cheese is toasted. Serve immediately.

Photo Break: Robalini in Palm Springs

December 2011

iPhone Ad starring Zooey Deschanel

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iPhone: Shut up, bitch. You talk too much.

Easy Useless Economics

May 10, 2012

A few days ago, I read an authoritative-sounding paper in The American Economic Review, one of the leading journals in the field, arguing at length that the nation’s high unemployment rate had deep structural roots and wasn’t amenable to any quick solution. The author’s diagnosis was that the U.S. economy just wasn’t flexible enough to cope with rapid technological change. The paper was especially critical of programs like unemployment insurance, which it argued actually hurt workers because they reduced the incentive to adjust.

O.K., there’s something I didn’t tell you: The paper in question was published in June 1939. Just a few months later, World War II broke out, and the United States — though not yet at war itself — began a large military buildup, finally providing fiscal stimulus on a scale commensurate with the depth of the slump. And, in the two years after that article about the impossibility of rapid job creation was published, U.S. nonfarm employment rose 20 percent — the equivalent of creating 26 million jobs today.

So now we’re in another depression, not as bad as the last one, but bad enough. And, once again, authoritative-sounding figures insist that our problems are “structural,” that they can’t be fixed quickly. We must focus on the long run, such people say, believing that they are being responsible. But the reality is that they’re being deeply irresponsible.

What does it mean to say that we have a structural unemployment problem? The usual version involves the claim that American workers are stuck in the wrong industries or with the wrong skills. A widely cited recent article by Raghuram Rajan of the University of Chicago asserts that the problem is the need to move workers out of the “bloated” housing, finance and government sectors.

Actually, government employment per capita has been more or less flat for decades, but never mind — the main point is that contrary to what such stories suggest, job losses since the crisis began haven’t mainly been in industries that arguably got too big in the bubble years. Instead, the economy has bled jobs across the board, in just about every sector and every occupation, just as it did in the 1930s. Also, if the problem was that many workers have the wrong skills or are in the wrong place, you’d expect workers with the right skills in the right place to be getting big wage increases; in reality, there are very few winners in the work force.

All of this strongly suggests that we’re suffering not from the teething pains of some kind of structural transition that must gradually run its course but rather from an overall lack of sufficient demand — the kind of lack that could and should be cured quickly with government programs designed to boost spending.

So what’s with the obsessive push to declare our problems “structural”? And, yes, I mean obsessive. Economists have been debating this issue for several years, and the structuralistas won’t take no for an answer, no matter how much contrary evidence is presented.

The answer, I’d suggest, lies in the way claims that our problems are deep and structural offer an excuse for not acting, for doing nothing to alleviate the plight of the unemployed.

Of course, structuralistas say they are not making excuses. They say that their real point is that we should focus not on quick fixes but on the long run — although it’s usually far from clear what, exactly, the long-run policy is supposed to be, other than the fact that it involves inflicting pain on workers and the poor.

Anyway, John Maynard Keynes had these peoples’ number more than 80 years ago. “But this long run,” he wrote, “is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the sea is flat again.”

I would only add that inventing reasons not to do anything about current unemployment isn’t just cruel and wasteful, it’s bad long-run policy, too. For there is growing evidence that the corrosive effects of high unemployment will cast a shadow over the economy for many years to come. Every time some self-important politician or pundit starts going on about how deficits are a burden on the next generation, remember that the biggest problem facing young Americans today isn’t the future burden of debt — a burden, by the way, that premature spending cuts probably make worse, not better. It is, rather, the lack of jobs, which is preventing many graduates from getting started on their working lives.

So all this talk about structural unemployment isn’t about facing up to our real problems; it’s about avoiding them, and taking the easy, useless way out. And it’s time for it to stop.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on May 11, 2012, on page A31 of the New York edition with the headline: Easy Useless Economics.

After the JPMorgan Chase mess

After the JPMorgan Chase mess, we must bust up the big financial houses
Peter Morici
May 11, 2012

JPMorgan Chase’s $2 billion loss from betting on corporate bonds will embolden advocates of the Volcker Rule—a provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law that will prohibit banks from trading on their own account. Unfortunately for federal regulators, trading in securities is essential to modern banking, and busting up the big Wall Street financial houses may be the only way to better ensure financial stability.

The Glass Steagall Act of 1933 separated commercial banking—taking deposits and making loans to finance businesses, homes and the like—from investment banking—selling stocks, bonds and other securities, and making markets for investors to buy and sell those assets quickly.  That separation was repealed during the final years of the Clinton administration, and Wall Street institutions like J.P. Morgan now perform both roles.

Modern commercial banking simply won’t tolerate such an absolute separation, because banks cannot finance all the demand for loans from deposits. In recent decades, too many savers have found they can earn higher returns than at the bank by investing in money market funds, bond funds and directly buying bonds.

Regulators have been working for the last two years to define the difference between hedging and gambling. They can’t.

Consequently, banks make loans, issue credit cards and the like, and bundle borrowers’ promises to pay into securities and sell those to bond investors. Fannie Mae and other government backed housing banks don’t take deposits at all, and get virtually all their financing selling mortgage-backed securities.

Also, regional banks can buy securities backed by the loans of banks in other regions to mitigate the risks inherent in serving a local economy. Kansas banks are just too dependent on the price of corn, and do well to hold some debt whose repayment depends on the vitality of other regions and industries.

Of the many activities performed by large investment banks—essentially, the big financial houses on Wall Street like JP Morgan —making markets for securities, so that investors can buy and sell when they like, is most essential for making the U.S. and broader global economies work.

Without assurance bonds can be sold when liquidity is needed, many investors simply would not buy mortgage-backed securities or would demand much higher interest rates, making the cost  ordinary folks pay on home mortgages prohibitively high. The same reasoning applies to the availability and cost of business, auto loans and credit card debt that create jobs.

Investment banks must buy and sell securities with their own capital, “on their own account,” to ensure liquidity and hedge, in other words to insure their positions against losses. The Volcker Rule would permit these activities but ban simple gambling—the latter is what cost JPMorgan Chase at least $2 billion in recent weeks.

The basic problem is that regulators have been working for the last two years to define the difference between hedging and gambling, and can’t. Either the rules would be too severe and shut down banking, or would permit reckless risk taking that could take down a huge bank, and potentially put the taxpayer on the hook to pay off depositors through the FDIC.

Commercial banks are essential to the smooth function of a market economy—capitalism runs on credit much as air conditioning runs on electricity—and without stable commercial banks the economy can’t grow.

The simplest solution is to once again separate commercial and investment banking, as was required by the Glass Steagall Act, with some modest exceptions.

Let banks take deposits and make loans, and sell those to investors through investment banks who would do the bundling of loans into securities. Even let commercial banks own securities backed by loans in other regions to balance default risk, but leave the business of making markets and trading to separate investment banks.

Commercial banks would continue to be regulated and government insured by the FDIC, and investment banks would be free to trade and take risks with their stockholders capital. If the latter failed from foolish trades their investors would lose their capital, but the taxpayer would not be on the hook.

'It's a war between people and capitalism'

Greek leftist leader Alexis Tsipras: 'It's a war between people and capitalism'
Greece's eurozone fate may now be in the hands of the 37-year-old political firebrand and his Syriza party
Helena Smith in Athens, Friday 18 May 2012

Alexis Tsipras in his office at the Greek parliament building on Friday. He says Greece has been used as a guinea pig for the rest of Europe. Photograph: Martin Godwin

"I don't believe in heroes or saviours," says Alexis Tsipras, "but I do believe in fighting for rights … no one has the right to reduce a proud people to such a state of wretchedness and indignity."

The man who holds the fate of the euro in his hands – as the leader of the Greek party willing to tear up the country's €130bn (£100bn) bailout agreement – says Greece is on the frontline of a war that is engulfing Europe.

A long bombardment of "neo-liberal shock" – draconian tax rises and remorseless spending cuts – has left immense collateral damage. "We have never been in such a bad place," he says, sleeves rolled up, staring hard into the middle distance, from behind the desk that he shares in his small parliamentary office. "After two and a half years of catastrophe, Greeks are on their knees. The social state has collapsed, one in two youngsters is out of work, there are people leaving en masse, the climate psychologically is one of pessimism, depression, mass suicides."

But while exhausted and battle weary, the nation at the forefront of Europe's escalating debt crisis and teetering on the edge of bankruptcy is also hardened. And, increasingly, they are looking towards Tsipras to lead their fight.

"Defeat is the battle that isn't waged," says the young politician who almost overnight has seen his radical left coalition party, Syriza, jump from representing fewer than 5% of Greeks to enjoying ratings of more than 25% in polls.

"You ask me if I am afraid. I'd be afraid if we continued on this path, a path to social hell … when someone fights there is a big chance that he will win and we are fighting this to win."

Before Greeks went to the polls on 6 May, neither Tsipras nor his party were a name to be reckoned with. If anything both were the butt of vague mockery: a former pony-tailed student communist leading a rag-tag band of ex-Trotskyists, Maoists, champagne socialists and greens. Tsipras's assistants – wielding Louis Vuitton bags and fashionable sunglasses – readily admit they are signed up "militants" mostly of the anti-globalisation cause.

But today I am the third person to pass through Tsipras's second-floor parliamentary office. The others have been the German ambassador to Greece and the president of the European parliament, Martin Schulz. As Greeks prepare to head to the polls again on 17 June, Tsipras, the politician poised to win the greatest number of votes – after Syriza came in second place in this month's inconclusive election – is the man everyone wants to see. "He is not as dangerous as he appears on TV, but he does have some risky positions," says Schulz emerging form the talks.

"The [upcoming] vote in Greece will decide not just what happens here but what will happen internationally", adds the German before saying what he really wants to say. "If the memorandum [loan agreement] is cast in doubt, the payment [of rescue funds from the EU and IMF] to Greece is cast in doubt."

Tsipras, who turns 38 in July, wants me to know that the war is not personal. The enemy is not Berlin, until now the biggest provider of the monumental rescue funds keeping the debt-stricken economy afloat. "It is not between nations and peoples," he says. "On the one side there are workers and a majority of people and on the other are global capitalists, bankers, profiteers on stock exchanges, the big funds. It's a war between peoples and capitalism … and as in each war what happens on the frontline defines the battle. It will be decisive for the war elsewhere."

Greece, he says, has become a model for the rest of Europe because it was the first country to fall victim to the enforcement of hard-hitting "growth through austerity" policies pursued in the name of resolving the crisis.

"It was chosen as the experiment for the enforcement of neo-liberal shock [policies] and Greek people were the guinea pigs," he insists.

"If the experiment continues, it will be considered successful and the policies will be applied in other countries. That's why it is so important to stop the experiment. It will not just be a victory for Greece but for all of Europe."

Under the current rescue plan, which has subjected the nation to relentless austerity – the average Greek's purchasing power has dropped by 35% – the international financial system, and especially banks, are gaining most, he says. "Who is surviving, tell me?" he asks. "Greeks aren't … The loans are going straight to interest payment and banks."

The other point that Tsipras wants to make is that he is not against the euro or monetary union. Fears that the country is about to exit the eurozone are about terrorising people to keep the status quo, he claims. They are why the nation has seen "more then €75bn" of cash taken out of Greek banks since the outbreak of the crisis in Athens in December 2009.

But Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, should know she has "a huge historical responsibility" – a point he will be making when he holds talks with representatives of the German government in Berlin next week.

"We are not against a unified Europe or monetary union," he insists. "We don't want to blackmail, we want to persuade our European partners that the way that has been chosen to confront Greece is totally counter-productive. It is like throwing money at a bottomless pit."

Over the past two years, Athens had received two bumper bailouts from the EU and IMF: €110bn in May 2010 and then €130bn in March this year, but the stringent fiscal adjustment programmes demanded in return for the aid are clearly not working, he says.

If the emphasis is not now put on re-energising Europe's most moribund economy through development and growth, "in six months we will be forced to discuss a third package and after that a fourth," he predicts,

"European tax payers should know that if they are giving money to Greece, it should have an effect … it should go towards investments and underwriting growth so that the Greek debt problem can be confronted because with this recipe we are not confronting the debt problem, the real issue."

All this sounds remarkably toned down from the fiery rhetoric Tsipras has come to be associated with – until, that is, the mention of rescue funds drying up if (as seems likely) his party emerges as the governing force in a hung parliament.

The first thing Syriza will do in power is tear up the controversial "memorandum of understanding" Greece signed up to with creditors, which details the onerous conditions under which the country receives quarterly injections of cash.

The agreement, he says, was reached without the Greek people ever being consulted. And now in the wake of the 6 May vote, when more than 70% of those opposing the policies voted for "anti-bailout" parties, it is clear it has lost all legitimacy, he insists

It is a high stakes game but, he argues, Europe is holding the gun because ultimately, under European law, Greece can't be ejected from the 17-nation bloc.

"Europeans have to understand that we don't have any intention of pushing ahead with a unilateral move. We will [only] be forced to act if they act unilaterally and make the first move," he says. "If they don't pay us, if they stop the financing [of loans] then we will not be able to pay creditors. What I am saying is very simple."

And if Athens stops paying its creditors, the problem then takes on a different hue. Greece is in a much stronger position than most think.

"Keynes said it many years ago. It's not just the person who borrows but the person who lends who can find himself in a difficult position. If you owe £5,000 to the bank, it's your problem but if you owe £500,000, it's the bank's problem," he said. "This is a common problem. It's our problem. Its Merkel's problem. It's a European problem. Its a world problem."

With his good looks, raven black hair and propensity for rousing oratory, Tsipras comes across more as a pin-up (which is how many in Greece see him) than a saviour, which is how a great deal of others see him.

His aides add in passing that one of his heroes is Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, with whom he shares the same birthday. Nor does he believe in political tags "at this time of crisis".

But though he appears to be preparing for power and moderating his tone, he says the war will continue.


Richard Metzger

No one seems to be able to say with any real certainty whether or not Greece will stay in the EU, try to negotiate an orderly exit from the eurozone or be pushed out of the monetary union. Sunday’s unprecedented election saw the political establishment that has dominated the country for four decades nearly wiped out. No surprise, extreme volatility in the stock markets was one of the knock-on effects. Greek markets dropped 8% today.

37-year-old Greek politician, Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the socialist Coalition for the Radical Left (S?????), who has been charged with forming a coalition government, is being blamed for much of today’s market selloff for some of his more incendiary remarks. Mr. Tsipras wasted no time announcing his opinion that the “barbarous” Greek bailout agreement is “null and void” and should be torn up and abandoned for the sake of the Greek working class. Global markets went on a roller coaster ride as Tsipras’s words threatened to cause a domino effect that could force the country to quit the euro. Besides his opposition to the terms of the bailout, Tsipras wants to nationalize the banks, restore all cut salaries and pensions to their former levels and to bring back union bargaining.

Bad idea from the point of view of the markets, true. The Germans will most certainly be pissed, as well. But it’s probably the best outcome for the lives of the citizens of Greece, who are feeling squeezed to pay off what is widely seen to be the mess caused by the elites. If the revolt against the EU-mandated austerity doesn’t come from the left, it will certainly come from the far right.

As Tsipras has repeatedly asked: “The main question is who will pay for the crisis? The rich or the poor?”

Last September in an interview with CNBC anchorwoman Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, Mr. Tsipras said that the austerity measures inflicted upon the Greek population via the “troika” of the IMF, the European Central Bank and the EU were counter-productive and couldn’t be allowed to stand:

“The solution is to be able to get out of the memorandum (the troika plan) and to be able to get rid of the destructive policy that is being implemented right now… I think the medicine they have given us is worse than the disease itself and I think it’s going to kill us.”

In order to receive more than 200 billion euros in long-term, low-interest loans, the troika has demanded that the Greece reduce its spending. The Greek government has responded by laying off thousands of government workers, cutting the salaries of those who are left, and cutting pensions to retirees. They’ve nullified collective bargaining agreements in an effort to get wages lower so that Greeks will be more competitive in the world economy.

Additionally they’ve raised taxes and fees on everything under the Greek sun. The moves have angered Greeks, and they demonstrated this in last weekend elections by punishing the parties that agreed to the troika’s requirements, and giving many more votes to Tsipra’s Coalition for the Radical Left.

Tsipra told CNBC: “I think this will totally destroy the middle class. So I think that what is really needed is a plan which involves growth and I think fiscal consolidation can be achieved through other means. I think the rich should pay and not just the poor and middle class.”

If Greece ditches the harsh bailout terms, the money flow will stop, so the country would probably be forced to “print money” to pay salaries, pensions and the military or else resort to massive layoffs. Bet on the former, not the latter.

Sensibly, Tsipras is calling for something like the New Deal’s WPA or the Marshall plan, governmental efforts, he says, “which would lead to investment opportunities in Greece and this of course would create jobs which are much needed in the country.” Additionally, Tsipras told CNBC last year that he was of the opinion that the financial sector should be placed under government control..

“Do you know what (Warren) Buffett said? He said come on, “let me pay.” Why did he say that? He said that because he could understand the danger, the danger for his class if everything is burned.”

Smart man. He obviously gets what’s at stake. Refreshing in a politician, isn’t it?

Many Greek and European political observers don’t think Mr. Tsipras will be able to form a coalition government in just three days (the time set by Greek law). A new round of elections seems likely in June, but for the next 48-hours, the financial world has its attention directed towards Greece and the rising political star of “Radical Leftist” leader Alexis Tsipras.

NATO rebrands “occupation” of Afghanistan?

22 May, 2012

On the last day of the NATO summit in Chicago, the bloc’s leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to ending the war in Afghanistan in 2014 and vowed support to the Afghans. But is it going to be the end of the occupation?

Afghanistan dominated the two-day summit in Chicago that brought together more than 50 nations, including 28 NATO countries, as well as the Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, and Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari.

The alliance declared in a summit communiqué that while NATO will maintain a significant presence in Afghanistan after 2014, “this will not be a combat mission.''

“As transition of security responsibility is completed at the end of 2014, NATO will have made the shift from a combat mission to a new training, advising and assistance mission, which will be of a different nature to the current ISAF mission,” NATO said in the Chicago Summit Declaration on Afghanistan.

The document also vowed to provide a “sound legal basis” for the new NATO-led mission, such as a UN Security Council Resolution.

Obama called the transition “the next milestone'' in bringing the near 11-year long war to an end.

NATO stated that the preliminary model of the Afghan National Security Forces envisages a force of 228,500 with an estimated annual budget of US$4.1billion.

However the Afghan situation in reality seems to be less optimistic than the Chicago summit suggested.

NATO’s chief Anders Fog Rasmussen acknowledged that enormous progress must be made for their plan to become a reality.

“We still have a lot of work to do, and there will be great challenges ahead,'' President Obama said after his lengthy talks with Hamid Karzai. “The loss of life continues in Afghanistan.''

Last month, Obama went on a secret trip to Afghanistan where he signed an agreement pledging US financial and military support to the country for 10 years beyond the 2014 withdrawal.

The US president also thanked other nations in Central Asia and Russia for their roles in providing “critical transit'' for supplies, though pointedly made no mention of Pakistan, highlighting tensions between Washington and Islamabad. Pakistan closed the supply lines in November following a US airstrike that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers.

However NATO chief has said at a summit that he is optimistic Pakistan will reopen the supply route to Afghanistan. Rasmussen said he expected such a move "in the very near future".

The United States has indicated that it is not willing to pay for the whole mission and invited other NATO members to contribute, and they’re expected to provide about US$1.3 billion. Around US$1 billion of that has already been pledged, a senior Western official said Sunday.

Meanwhile public frustration with the long lasting war is growing in NATO countries. Sixty six percent of Americans oppose the war, while only 27 percent support the effort, according to an AP-GfK poll released this month.

The US, Germany and NATO are not intending to give up Afghanistan, a resource-rich, strategic part of the world, for a very long time, believes Brian Becker, the director of the ANSWER anti-war coalition.

“NATO forces and the US are in the process of rebranding what they anticipate will be a long-term occupation, going way beyond 2014,” he told RT.

“They can call it troop’s trainers or Afghan military bases instead of NATO military bases,” he said. “Whatever they do, however they brand it, NATO and US forces intend to stay as we know from the strategic partnership agreements signed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and US President Obama and then by President Karzai and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.”
The US scripted the situation in Afghanistan in a particular way, Becker stresses. “They have created what is a proxy government that lacks credibility, and lacking credibility it is thus dependent on foreign occupation forces.”

The real goal of the US is to secure military bases in this strategic area and, broadly speaking, in southern Asia, the anti-war activist maintains

“What we’re looking at is a different form of US and NATO presence in Afghanistan,” says political analyst and writer Rick Rozoff.

“It is clear that NATO wants to expand its military presence throughout Central Asia as well as maintaining some sort of presence in Afghanistan,” he told RT.

“The unprecedented insurgent assault on Kabul in April suggested that the Afghan government cannot even protect its own capital, much less the country as a whole,” Rozoff said.

Was Columbus secretly a Jew?

Charles Garcia, Special to CNN
Thu May 24, 2012

Editor's note: Charles Garcia is the CEO of Garcia Trujillo, a business focused on the Hispanic market, and the author of "Leadership Lessons of the White House Fellows." A native of Panama, he now lives in Florida. Follow him on Twitter: @charlespgarcia. Lea este artículo en español/Read this article in Spanish.

Today marks the 508th anniversary of the death of Christopher Columbus.

Everybody knows the story of Columbus, right? He was an Italian explorer from Genoa who set sail in 1492 to enrich the Spanish monarchs with gold and spices from the orient. Not quite.

For too long, scholars have ignored Columbus' grand passion: the quest to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslims.

During Columbus' lifetime, Jews became the target of fanatical religious persecution. On March 31, 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella proclaimed that all Jews were to be expelled from Spain. The edict especially targeted the 800,000 Jews who had never converted, and gave them four months to pack up and get out.

The Jews who were forced to renounce Judaism and embrace Catholicism were known as "Conversos," or converts. There were also those who feigned conversion, practicing Catholicism outwardly while covertly practicing Judaism, the so-called "Marranos," or swine.

Tens of thousands of Marranos were tortured by the Spanish Inquisition. They were pressured to offer names of friends and family members, who were ultimately paraded in front of crowds, tied to stakes and burned alive. Their land and personal possessions were then divvied up by the church and crown.

Recently, a number of Spanish scholars, such as Jose Erugo, Celso Garcia de la Riega, Otero Sanchez and Nicholas Dias Perez, have concluded that Columbus was a Marrano, whose survival depended upon the suppression of all evidence of his Jewish background in face of the brutal, systematic ethnic cleansing.

Columbus, who was known in Spain as Cristóbal Colón and didn't speak Italian, signed his last will and testament on May 19, 1506, and made five curious -- and revealing -- provisions.

Two of his wishes -- tithe one-tenth of his income to the poor and provide an anonymous dowry for poor girls -- are part of Jewish customs. He also decreed to give money to a Jew who lived at the entrance of the Lisbon Jewish Quarter.

On those documents, Columbus used a triangular signature of dots and letters that resembled inscriptions found on gravestones of Jewish cemeteries in Spain. He ordered his heirs to use the signature in perpetuity.

According to British historian Cecil Roth's "The History of the Marranos," the anagram was a cryptic substitute for the Kaddish, a prayer recited in the synagogue by mourners after the death of a close relative. Thus, Columbus' subterfuge allowed his sons to say Kaddish for their crypto-Jewish father when he died. Finally, Columbus left money to support the crusade he hoped his successors would take up to liberate the Holy Land.

Estelle Irizarry, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University, has analyzed the language and syntax of hundreds of handwritten letters, diaries and documents of Columbus and concluded that the explorer's primary written and spoken language was Castilian Spanish. Irizarry explains that 15th-century Castilian Spanish was the "Yiddish" of Spanish Jewry, known as "Ladino." At the top left-hand corner of all but one of the 13 letters written by Columbus to his son Diego contained the handwritten Hebrew letters bet-hei, meaning b'ezrat Hashem (with God's help). Observant Jews have for centuries customarily added this blessing to their letters. No letters to outsiders bear this mark, and the one letter to Diego in which this was omitted was one meant for King Ferdinand.

In Simon Weisenthal's book, "Sails of Hope," he argues that Columbus' voyage was motivated by a desire to find a safe haven for the Jews in light of their expulsion from Spain. Likewise, Carol Delaney, a cultural anthropologist at Stanford University, concludes that Columbus was a deeply religious man whose purpose was to sail to Asia to obtain gold in order to finance a crusade to take back Jerusalem and rebuild the Jews' holy Temple.

In Columbus' day, Jews widely believed that Jerusalem had to be liberated and the Temple rebuilt for the Messiah to come.

Scholars point to the date on which Columbus set sail as further evidence of his true motives. He was originally going to sail on August 2, 1492, a day that happened to coincide with the Jewish holiday of Tisha B'Av, marking the destruction of the First and Second Holy Temples of Jerusalem. Columbus postponed this original sail date by one day to avoid embarking on the holiday, which would have been considered by Jews to be an unlucky day to set sail. (Coincidentally or significantly, the day he set forth was the very day that Jews were, by law, given the choice of converting, leaving Spain, or being killed.)

Columbus' voyage was not, as is commonly believed, funded by the deep pockets of Queen Isabella, but rather by two Jewish Conversos and another prominent Jew. Louis de Santangel and Gabriel Sanchez advanced an interest free loan of 17,000 ducats from their own pockets to help pay for the voyage, as did Don Isaac Abrabanel, rabbi and Jewish statesman.

Indeed, the first two letters Columbus sent back from his journey were not to Ferdinand and Isabella, but to Santangel and Sanchez, thanking them for their support and telling them what he had found.

The evidence seem to bear out a far more complicated picture of the man for whom our nation now celebrates a national holiday and has named its capital.

As we witness bloodshed the world over in the name of religious freedom, it is valuable to take another look at the man who sailed the seas in search of such freedoms -- landing in a place that would eventually come to hold such an ideal at its very core.

The Battle Of The Metrosexuals

Gerald Celente

KINGSTON, NY, 21 May 2012 — A recent Newsweek cover provocatively depicted Barack Obama beneath a glowing rainbow halo and carried the bold headline, “The First Gay President.” Days later, The New York Times broke the story of a billionaire-funded smear campaign that labeled the President a “metrosexual black Abe Lincoln.”

The incendiary magazine cover and the revelatory Times piece set off a firestorm of commentary and accusations replete with racial overtones and sexual innuendos.

While the sensationalistic Newsweek cover can be brushed aside as an obvious sales gimmick, the metrosexual label applied to Obama (minus the “black Abe Lincoln”) not only has merit, it aptly applies to Romney as well. Lost in the political mudslinging and shallow punditry are the deeper psychological aspects of the archetypal metrosexual that fit them both so well. Among these:

Mr. In Between

Neither outwardly effeminate nor aggressively macho, these two contestants in America’s first “Battle of the Metrosexuals” manifest their metrosexuality as straight arrow, sensitive urban guys with a well-developed feminine side.

Clean-cut, non-threatening, even-tempered, always dressed appropriately for the occasion, these physically fit soft-core jocks are as much at home on the basketball court or in the paddock as they are sipping tea with the ladies. “I like hanging out with women,” beamed President Obama, as he ingratiated himself with the flattered ladies of “The View,” this past week.

Neither Man nor Mouse

When it comes to business, Metromen can be as hard as nails, but when it comes to the wife and the kids, they’re soft as kittens.

As Commander in Chief, when it comes to making those tough military decisions about troop surges, drone strikes, and secret missions to take out Public Enemy No. 1, Obama alone calls the shots. But when it comes to social issues, such as gay marriage, not only does he talk it over with his wife, he consults his children.

Analogously, for Metroman Mitt, on the rough and tumble business battlefield, nothing has ever stood in the way of the corporate vulture (who made his fortune raiding, looting and gutting businesses) in his pursuit of the bottom line. But when out on the campaign trail, he’s just Mr. Mittens, married to the perfect wife and loving father of five perfect boys … all of whom he drags out of their mansions for every possible photo op, to prove what a sensitive and caring family guy he really is.

Sissy Tough

Like the dignified and well-groomed citified metromen they are, whether it’s Obama declaring a war or Romney bravely declaring his willingness to start another, both talk tough, but never get tough … cravenly sending others do their fighting for them.

Jekyll and Hyde

The manicured metrosexual image ­ one that presents both contestants as all-around family men, the nicest, most trustworthy guys you’d ever want to meet ­ plays well to a junk food, junk news, junk entertainment-addicted audience.

But the 2012 “Battle of the Metrosexuals,” part sitcom, part reality show, is in fact, an American tragedy. The carefully crafted metrosexual campaign persona is merely a cover for the Jekyll that hides the Hyde … and part of the tragedy is that nobody seems to notice … or cares to notice.

For more on who will win America’s first “Battle of the Metrosexuals” and what it will mean to the nation, schedule an interview with Gerald Celente, Trends Journal publisher. For availability please contact: Zeke West, Media Relations, 845 331.3500 ext. 1

©MMXII The Trends Research Institute®

A vital (and unlearned) lesson from Julius Caesar

When a band of Roman traitors was uncovered, he urged they not be killed due to the precedent it would set
TUESDAY, MAY 8, 2012

In 63 B.C., Julius Caesar delivered a speech to the Roman Senate in which he conveyed a crucial point, one highly relevant to many of our current controversies. A conspiracy of prominent Roman citizens, led by the patrician Catiline, had been caught attempting to foment a massive civil war in order to overthrow the Roman government. Their crimes were widely reviled — it was pure treason — and, due to multiple confessions, their guilt beyond dispute. Common citizens were demanding their deaths. When the Roman Senate convened, Cicero asked what should be done to them, and several Senators — beginning with consul-elect Decimus Junius Silanus — railed against the profound evil of the conspirators and advocated their execution.

As recounted by the historian Sallust, Julius Caesar then stood and noted that Roman law forbids the execution of Roman citizens even for heinous crimes, and that executing the conspirators would thus require the creation of a radical and dangerous precedent: dangerous because to vest the power in the State to kill its own citizens, even if justified in the specific case where it is first done, would be to vest the power generally and thus ensure its inevitable abuse. Thus, even as Caesar professed his boundless contempt for the traitors (“I consider no tortures sufficient for the crimes of these men”), he vehemently argued against allowing passions to lead the Senate to embrace punishments “foreign to the customs of our country” — not primarily on moral grounds but on pragmatic ones:

But, you may say, who will complain of a decree which is passed against traitors to their country? Time, I answer, the lapse of years, and Fortune, whose caprice rules the nations. Whatever befalls these prisoners will be well deserved; but you, Fathers of the Senate, are called upon to consider how your action will affect other criminals. All bad precedents have originated in cases which were good; but when the control of the government falls into the hands of men who are incompetent or bad, your new precedent is transferred from those who well deserve and merit such punishment to the undeserving and blameless.

The Lacedaemonians, after they had conquered the Athenians, set over them thirty men to carry. These men began at first by putting to death without a trial the most wicked and generally hated citizens, whereat the people rejoiced greatly and declared that it was well done. But afterwards their licence gradually increased, and the tyrants slew good and bad alike at pleasure and intimidated the rest. Thus the nation was reduced to slavery and had to pay a heavy penalty for its foolish rejoicing. . . .

For my own part, I fear nothing of that kind for Marcus Tullius or for our times, but in a great commonwealth there are many different natures. It is possible that at another time, when someone else is consul and is likewise in command of an army, some falsehood may be believed to be true. When the consul, with this precedent before him, shall draw the sword in obedience to the senate’s decree, who shall limit or restrain him?

This is the point I’ve tried to make literally hundreds of times over the last several years. If you’re faced with this question — should President X have the power to impose Punishment Y on Bad Person Z? — and you answer in the affirmative based on your adoration for or trust in current President X, or your belief in the wisdom and justness of Punishment Y in the specific proposed case, or your acute scorn for Bad Person Z, you’re actually doing much more than ratifying this power in a single instance, even if that’s the limit of your intention. Whether desired or not, you’re affirming — and entrenching — the legitimacy of the principle itself, ensuring that this power will be exploited in ways you can’t control. When enshrined without checks, the endorsed punishment power will inevitably — necessarily — endure, and even grow, beyond the reign of the leader you trust to future leaders you don’t, and will be applied against not only those you believe are deserving of it but those you know are not.

In our contemporary political debates, “Punishment Y” can be limitless, secret surveillance, and torture, and due-process-free and oversight-less citizen assassinations ordered in the dark, and indefinite detention, and extra-judicial killings carried out by drones. As for the question Caesar posed — when a future malevolent leader, “with this precedent before him,” shall invoke this newly created power in malignant ways, “who shall limit or restrain him?” — the answer is: nobody. That’s the point of his rhetorical inquiry. He even answered it himself: “All bad precedents have originated in cases which were good; but when the control of the government falls into the hands of men who are incompetent or bad, your new precedent is transferred from those who well deserve and merit such punishment to the undeserving and blameless.”

When that happens — and it will, if it isn’t already happening — those who bear the greatest culpability will be those who cheered for the precedent in the first instance without regard for what they were endorsing. After Caesar spoke, Marcus Cato delivered an angry, vengeful, rousing speech demanding death to the accused traitors, and a majority of Senators was swayed. Still, it’s extraordinary how clearly this lesson was understood more than 2,000 years ago by one of history’s most influential and admired figures, and how steadfastly disregarded it is now.