Home To The World's Best Liberal Thought And Humor

Over Six Billion Served

Please visit our sponsor!

In This Edition

Naomi Klein reports, "China Unveils Frightening Futuristic Police State At Olympics."

Uri Avnery follows, "A Knight On A Gray Horse."

Amy Goodman demands that we, "Don't Cage Dissent."

Jim Hightower exposes, "UBS: A Bank That Robs Us."

Mel Bartholomew grows, "Potatoes."

Judy Troftgruben wraps it up with, "Drying Foods: Part Six."

Greg Palast studies, "The McCain Plan: Homer Simpson Without The Donut."

Chris Floyd goes, "Marching Through Georgia II."

Joel S. Hirschhorn finds the, "Working Poor Unready To Revolt."

Mike Folkerth covers, "Energy, Careers and Gold."

Howard Zinn with a, "Memo To Obama, McCain."

Robert Scheer wonders is, "Georgia War A Neocon Election Ploy?"

Sinator Ted Stevens wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald asks, "What's The Answer To This?"

Cindy Sheehan concludes, "This Is Horseshit."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department 'The Onion' says, "Citing Poor Conditions, China Refuses To Send Delegation To Olympics" but first Uncle Ernie warns that it's, "Mad Dog Time Again."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jerry Holbert with additional cartoons and photos from Brian McFadden, Destonio, Tom Toles, R.J. Matson, The Simpsons, The San Francisco Sentinel, Square Foot Gardening, University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign, Donna Coveney, Mother Jones, MGM, Issues & Alibis and Pink & Blue Films.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

Mad Dog Time Again
By Ernest Stewart

"You can never really know the size of a person's brain until you have to clean it off the carpet, and let me tell you, Sleepy Joe had quite a brain."
Mad Dog Time ~~~ Gabriel Byrne

"Liberal soccer moms are precisely as likely to receive anthrax in the mail as to develop a capacity for linear thinking." ~~~ Ann Coulter

"When I was growing up, it was 'Communists'. Now it's 'Terrorists'. So you always have to have somebody to fight and be afraid of,
so the war machine can build more bombs, guns, bullets and everything." ~~~ Cindy Sheehan

I got to thinking the other night (I know a very dangerous thing for me to do) about the old Richard Dreyfuss movie "Mad Dog Time." Dreyfuss is the head of a crime family that is at war with another crime family and the kicker is Richard is as loony as a March hare and has just returned from the funny farm to take back control of the family. Does that remind you of anyone?

Our favorite madman is back from the Olympics where he spent time getting wasted for various photo ops and calling the Chinese kettle black over human rights issues. Funny eh? Now he's back to ramp up the new war with Iran.

You'll recall that last week Kinda-Sleazy gave Israel the green light to start WW III by bombing Iran. Rice said, "We don't say yes or no to Israeli military operations. Israel is a sovereign country." There has been a lot of talk that Israel is off again to commit more war crimes but the truth is Israel has never done a thing without first getting our permission since the Suez Crisis of 1956. Every act of war and every crime against humanity has been approved including the attack on the USS Liberty, which was approved by LBJ as an "Operation Northwoods" maneuver!

However, I would remind Israel of the words of everybody's favorite War Criminal, Henry Kissinger, who once said, "To be an enemy of America can be dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal." So if you murder some Chinese or Russians and if either country starts bombing Israel back to the stone age don't be surprise is we just shake our heads and go, "Tsk, tsk, tsk, Israel!"

Meanwhile our Texas prairie monkey has sent two more carrier battle groups to the seas off Iran. The carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN71) and its Carrier Strike Group Two (CCSG-2) are now headed towards Iran along with the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN76) and its Carrier Strike Group Seven (CCSG-7), the latter coming from Japan.

The Roosevelt, which was leading the "Operation Brimstone" war games in the Atlantic with ships from the French, Brazilian and English navies, is bringing some of those ships along with her to help in the upcoming naval blockade of Iran. These ships will be joining two existing US Navy battle groups in the Gulf area, the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN72) with its Carrier Strike Group Nine (CCSG- 9) and the USS Peleliu (LHA-5) with its expeditionary strike group.

I wonder what would happen if the Chinese or Russians sent some ships to Iran with naval escorts? Would we fire upon those ships if they failed to yield? Would they return fire? Would Iran sink a few tankers in the Gulf of Hormuz and level the oil refineries up and down the gulf? Oh, and wouldn't it be funny if she had a few A-bombs from her friends in Pakistan and took out Tel Aviv and the "Green Zone?" Wouldn't it? Naw, let's not impeach Bush and Cheney. Let's make sure that Nancy keeps that off the table and the WW III option on the table! Oh and did I mention the next "New Moon," a.k.a. "Bomber's Moon," is August 30th!

In Other News

I'm having a déjà vu all over again! The FBI's little song and dance about the Anthrax mail brought back memories of a similar cover up from my youth. From the moments that the FBI declared that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the Anthrax mailer whom they were "just about" to arrest and charge, alarm bells started going off in my head. When they laid out their proof, which turned out to be a whole lot less than even circumstantial, I knew the Dr. Ivins had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Fool me once shame on you, but then again the FBI didn't fool me to begin with, even as a child. I turned 15 one week after my grandmother and I watched Jack Ruby kill FBI patsy Lee Harvey Oswald. Then, as now, methinks the FBI is covering up for another Crime Family Bush, CIA sponsored affair very much like the Kennedy sanction. You may recall the original drama, like this little play, was run by another Bush, i.e. George Herbert Walker Bush, who ran the two four man CIA hit teams and who can be seen leaning up against the Book Depository Building a few moments after the sanction went down with another agent.

Yes, we can all roll over and go back to sleep because Dr. Ivins was definitely the man who sent the letters. Ivins the Democrat, who sent the letters, not to Bush and other Republicans but rather, only to Democrats and to people he had no way of knowing. Ivins who apparently can be in two places at once, like certain Indians dropping Peyote. Ivins who was a bit of a klutz in his personal life but who could become James Bond as an assassin. If you buy that Dr. Ivins did it, then I have this bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you, too!

I won't go into all the reasons I think this is bullshit but do read the Glenn Greenwald piece in this week's Issues and Alibis. Glenn delves far deeper into this act of treason then I have the time for right now.

At times like these one should recall the wise words of old Lucius Annaeus Seneca who, way back in the first century CE, said, "Cui prodest scelus, is fecit" or "The one who derives advantage from the crime is the one most likely to have committed it." Ask yourself what advantage did Dr. Ivins get from scaring a bunch of Senators and the people and what advantage did the Junta gain from the same actions? Who trained, equipped and financed Osama and created al-Qaeda? Who has been the Crime Family Bush's stooge since it was created? Who blew Jack Kennedy's brains all over the trunk of the limo? Who did the FBI cover up for then and who are they covering up for now? Give it some thought and I'm sure the answer will come to you!

And Finally

You may have noticed that we don't have a huge election page this year as we had back in 2002, 2004 and in 2006. The 2006 election broke me of doing that. We endorsed over 100 candidates for the Senate, House and various governorships that year and about 94% of our endorsements won. Trouble is, only about 5% of them actually did what they said that they would do. Yes, I know, that's the nature of the political beast. Liars. But I won't be wasting my time this time around.

We are, however, backing the candidacy of three candidates because they aren't in the same class as those others. As you know, we're backing Green Party candidates Cynthia McKinney for President and Rosa Clemente for Vice President. Cynthia's voting record speaks loud and clear for who she is and what she is about as a seven term Congresswoman from Georgia and Rosa's record as a long time community activists speaks loud and clear as well.

Joining them with all of our backing is the anti-war activist who has a clear record as well. Cindy Sheehan is now on the ballot as an independent candidate for Congress, running against Nancy (Impeachment is off the table) Pelosi.

That's it, America. Those are the ones we endorse, the ones we'll campaign long and hard for, the ones that would bring about the "real change" that this country so desperately needs. We would endorse folks like Barney Frank and Barbara Lee as well but they hardly need our endorsement. Their constituents will reelect them without our help but the list of folks we'd endorse is very small indeed.

Cynthia, Rosa and Cindy could be shoo in candidates over Barry, Johnny and Nancy. No problem at all. Yes, we could easily elect them. We could overcome that "zero chance to win" and there would be no wasted votes, if one group of people would get off of the sidelines and use their right to vote. A vote that is long overdue. If the women of America, who are the majority voters, would just once come together and elect a woman president and vice president, something that they've had the ability to do since the 1920 election, we might save America from the ruin we are all facing. Our future is in your hands, ladies. We live or die by your will. We can either keep going down the road to oblivion that we are on or you can step in, save the day and show us all the way. It's up to you and you couldn't find three better candidates to bring about our salvation!

I lay this at your doorstep, ladies. Men have had, for some 8,000 years of recorded history, the chance to build a better world and have failed miserably. Consider that after all that time, their crowning achievement is George W. Bush! As I said, it's up to you!


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

This week we lose the Poll as I don't have the funds to keep it going past it's expiration date of August 13. It's come down to it again. Bills are due and we haven't the funds to cover them. Unless you give us a hand, we'll be forced to float a loan, something we cannot afford to do, to keep the magazine going. If you haven't spent all of your refund check yet please consider sending us what you can. For those of you who are as broke as we are don't send money but do tell all of your friends about the magazine and our cause. Consider staging a fundraiser with your friends and groups. One good topless car wash would straighten up our finances for the rest of the year!

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

Ernest & Victoria Stewart


10-06-1957 ~ 08-08-2008
Bye-Bye Bosley

08-20-1942 ~ 08-10-2008
Goodbye Chef


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."

China Unveils Frightening Futuristic Police State At Olympics
By Naomi Klein

So far, the Olympics have been an open invitation to China-bash, a bottomless excuse for Western journalists to go after the Commies on everything from internet censorship to Darfur. Through all the nasty news stories, however, the Chinese government has seemed amazingly unperturbed. That's because it is betting on this: when the opening ceremonies begin friday, you will instantly forget all that unpleasantness as your brain is zapped by the cultural/athletic/political extravaganza that is the Beijing Olympics.

Like it or not, you are about to be awed by China's sheer awesomeness.

The games have been billed as China's "coming out party" to the world. They are far more significant than that. These Olympics are the coming out party for a disturbingly efficient way of organizing society, one that China has perfected over the past three decades, and is finally ready to show off. It is a potent hybrid of the most powerful political tools of authoritarianism communism -- central planning, merciless repression, constant surveillance -- harnessed to advance the goals of global capitalism. Some call it "authoritarian capitalism," others "market Stalinism," personally I prefer "McCommunism."

The Beijing Olympics are themselves the perfect expression of this hybrid system. Through extraordinary feats of authoritarian governing, the Chinese state has built stunning new stadiums, highways and railways -- all in record time. It has razed whole neighborhoods, lined the streets with trees and flowers and, thanks to an "anti-spitting" campaign, cleaned the sidewalks of saliva. The Communist Party of China even tried to turn the muddy skies blue by ordering heavy industry to cease production for a month -- a sort of government-mandated general strike.

As for those Chinese citizens who might go off-message during the games -- Tibetan activists, human right campaigners, malcontent bloggers -- hundreds have been thrown in jail in recent months. Anyone still harboring protest plans will no doubt be caught on one of Beijing's 300,000 surveillance cameras and promptly nabbed by a security officer; there are reportedly 100,000 of them on Olympics duty.

The goal of all this central planning and spying is not to celebrate the glories of Communism, regardless of what China's governing party calls itself. It is to create the ultimate consumer cocoon for Visa cards, Adidas sneakers, China Mobile cell phones, McDonald's happy meals, Tsingtao beer, and UPS delivery -- to name just a few of the official Olympic sponsors. But the hottest new market of all is the surveillance itself. Unlike the police states of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, China has built a Police State 2.0, an entirely for-profit affair that is the latest frontier for the global Disaster Capitalism Complex.

Chinese corporations financed by U.S. hedge funds, as well as some of American's most powerful corporations -- Cisco, General Electric, Honeywell, Google -- have been working hand in glove with the Chinese government to make this moment possible: networking the closed circuit cameras that peer from every other lamp pole, building the "Great Firewall" that allows for remote internet monitoring, and designing those self-censoring search engines.

By next year, the Chinese internal security market is set to be worth $33-billion. Several of the larger Chinese players in the field have recently taken their stocks public on U.S. exchanges, hoping to cash in the fact that, in volatile times, security and defense stocks are seen as the safe bets. China Information Security Technology, for instance, is now listed on the NASDAQ and China Security and Surveillance is on the NYSE. A small clique of U.S. hedge funds has been floating these ventures, investing more than $150-million in the past two years. The returns have been striking. Between October 2006 and October 2007, China Security and Surveillance's stock went up 306 percent.

Much of the Chinese government's lavish spending on cameras and other surveillance gear has taken place under the banner of "Olympic Security." But how much is really needed to secure a sporting event? The price tag has been put at a staggering $12-billion -- to put that in perspective, Salt Lake City, which hosted the Winter Olympics just five months after September 11, spent $315 million to secure the games. Athens spent around $1.5-billion in 2004. Many human rights groups have pointed out that China's security upgrade is reaching far beyond Beijing: there are now 660 designated "safe cities" across the country, municipalities that have been singled out to receive new surveillance cameras and other spy gear. And of course all the equipment purchased in the name of Olympics safety -- iris scanners, "anti-riot robots" and facial recognition software -- will stay in China after the games are long gone, free to be directed at striking workers and rural protestors.

What the Olympics have provided for Western firms is a palatable cover story for this chilling venture. Ever since the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, U.S. companies have been barred from selling police equipment and technology to China, since lawmakers feared it would be directed, once again, at peaceful demonstrators. That law has been completely disregarded in the lead up to the Olympics, when, in the name of safety for athletes and VIPs (including George W. Bush), no new toy has been denied the Chinese state.

There is a bitter irony here. When Beijing was awarded the games seven years ago, the theory was that international scrutiny would force China's government to grant more rights and freedom to its people. Instead, the Olympics have opened up a backdoor for the regime to massively upgrade its systems of population control and repression. And remember when Western companies used to claim that by doing business in China, they were actually spreading freedom and democracy? We are now seeing the reverse: investment in surveillance and censorship gear is helping Beijing to actively repress a new generation of activists before it has the chance to network into a mass movement.

The numbers on this trend are frightening. In April 2007, officials from 13 provinces held a meeting to report back on how their new security measures were performing. In the province of Jiangsu, which, according to the South China Morning Post, was using "artificial intelligence to extend and improve the existing monitoring system" the number of protests and riots "dropped by 44 per cent last year." In the province of Zhejiang, where new electronic surveillance systems had been installed, they were down 30 per cent. In Shaanxi, "mass incidents" -- code for protests -- were down by 27 per cent in a year. Dong Lei, the province's deputy party chief, gave part of the credit to a huge investment in security cameras across the province. "We aim to achieve all day and all-weather monitoring capability," he told the gathering.

Activists in China now find themselves under intense pressure, unable to function even at the limited levels they were able to a year ago. Internet cafes are filled with surveillance cameras, and surfing is carefully watched. At the offices of a labor rights group in Hong Kong, I met the well-known Chinese dissident Jun Tao. He had just fled the mainland in the face of persistent police harassment. After decades of fighting for democracy and human rights, he said the new surveillance technologies had made it "impossible to continue to function in China." It's easy to see the dangers of a high tech surveillance state in far off China, since the consequences for people like Jun are so severe. It's harder to see the dangers when these same technologies creep into every day life closer to home-networked cameras on U.S. city streets, "fast lane" biometric cards at airports, dragnet surveillance of email and phone calls. But for the global homeland security sector, China is more than a market; it is also a showroom. In Beijing, where state power is absolute and civil liberties non-existent, American-made surveillance technologies can be taken to absolute limits.

The first test begins today: Can China, despite the enormous unrest boiling under the surface, put on a "harmonious" Olympics? If the answer is yes, like so much else that is made in China, Police State 2.0 will be ready for export.
(c) 2008 Naomi Klein is the author of, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism."

A Knight On A Gray Horse
By Uri Avnery

OH DEAR, what has happened to the knight on the white horse?

This week, many of Barack Obama's admirers were shocked. Up to now, it had been believed that the huge sums of money flowing into the coffers of his campaign came from anonymous citizens, each sending a check for 100 or 200 dollars.

Now, alas, it has been disclosed that a large part of those millions actually came from big donors - the very same huge corporations, their CEOs and lobbyists, who have corrupted the democratic process in previous contests. They spread their largesse generously and simultaneously among all the candidates from left to right, so as to be on the winning side whatever happens.

Obama had promised to put an end to the old, dirty corporate funding-for-influence system. Now it appears that he participates in this corrupt system himself.

What a disappointment.

FOR ANYONE living in the real world, the disappointment cannot be that big.

The modern election campaign is an insatiable monster. It devours huge sums of money. Those who innocently believe that such sums can be raised from small and anonymous contributors are deluding themselves. That is quite impossible.

Obama did indeed receive many donations from ordinary citizens, and that is a positive sign. But if he had refused to accept contribution from the large donors, who are necessarily self-interested donors, he might as well have given up his candidacy. He would have been drowned by the flood of his opponent's poisoned TV ads, without the capability to reciprocate.

The United States is a huge country, and any significant change in its system needs years - if not generations, unless there is a revolution. In the democratic system, a single leader can effect only small changes - if any at all.

A real politician never looks like a real politician. Obama is a real politician. He is not a knight on a white horse. He is, at best, a knight on a gray horse.

But there are many shades of gray. All the way from almost white to almost black.

In response to the old observation that there is only a small difference between man and woman, the famous French reply was: "Vive la petite difference!"

It is difficult to guess how big the difference between a President Barack Obama and a President John McCain would be. But one of these two will not be elected alone - after an American presidential election, thousands of other important positions change hands. Enough to mention the president's prerogative to appoint Supreme Court justices. After eight years of President Obama, this vital institution would look vastly different from the court after eight years of President McCain.

Therefore, the cynical statement "They are all the same" is out of place. There is a difference. So if some of the illusions of the black wunderkind's adulators have been shattered and everybody has been returned to the real world - they had better make their decision at the ballot box in a realistic way.

IN THIS respect there exists an interesting similarity between the American campaign and the Israeli one. If some speak there of McObama, one can speak here of Molivni.

Tzipi Livni is running against Shaul Mofaz for the leadership of the Kadima party and almost certainly for the Prime Minister's job after the departure of Ehud Olmert.

Here, too, there is a temptation to say "They are all the same." What is the difference between the two?

Much has been said and written about this: both candidates (like the two others who are also running) present themselves at the Kadima primaries without submitting a program, without proposing solutions for the main problems, without providing answers to any of the fateful questions facing the country.

SO IS - or is there not - a difference between them? There certainly is. As significant as that little difference.

Mofaz has a lot of experience. Livni has hardly any. But it is hard to say which is worse.

Mofaz has been Chief of Staff of the IDF, Minister of Defense, Minister of Transportation. In all these jobs he has distinguished himself only in one respect: that he did not distinguish himself. In all of them he was mediocre or less.

He never did anything that will deserve a mention in the annals of Israel. His sole military victory was over the inhabitants of the Jenin refugee camp during the operation "Defensive Shield," when one of the strongest armies in the world overcame a few groups of juveniles equipped with pistols and some rifles.

He never voiced an original idea. Nobody can remember a single sentence of his, except the statement "The Likud is home. One does not leave home" - exactly one day before he left the Likud and jumped on the Kadima bandwagon.

As against the rich "experience" of Mofaz, the lack of experience of Tzipi Livni stands out. If Mofaz is a page covered in second-rate text, Livni is an almost blank sheet of paper.

She first came to notice as somebody who climbed on Sharon's wagon at a very early stage, a fact that testifies to her sharp political senses. She has held several junior positions, and at long last reached the foreign office. The job of Foreign Minister in Israel, as in other countries, is a very desirable one: one just cannot fail. One is often in the limelight, one gets photographed in impressive international settings, one receives important foreign guests, and few people realize that foreign policy is made by the head of the government - the President (in the US and France) or the Prime Minister (in Britain and Israel).

Once every few days Livni meets with Abu Ala, the Palestinian representative, to tread the water of the fictitious negotiations. After more than a year, not a single article of the absurd putative "shelf agreement" has been settled. At this pace, peace can be expected in a century or two.

Where do Mofaz and Livni stand with regard to national policy? There is no doubt about Mofaz: he is a quintessential militarist, a man of the Right in every respect, obsequious to the Orthodox religious establishment, toadying to the settlers. His election would mean, at the least, a total freeze of policy and the accelerated expansion of the settlements. In short: permanent war.

About Livni nobody knows what she really thinks: lately she has tried to outflank Olmert - sometimes on the right, sometimes even on the left. Like almost every foreign minister, she now radiates moderation. That comes with the office. But not so very long ago she was talking about the "Oslo criminals," meaning Yitzhak Rabin and his partners. Now she talks about "two nation-states" and draws the picture of a Jewish demographic state. All these are nowadays safe and tried slogans. As Prime Minister, she can surprise us in any direction. Impossible to know in advance.

Some might say: we know Mofaz, so we shall not vote for him. Livni we don't know yet. So let's give her a chance. Between the two, Livni may be preferable.

ABOUT THE Kadima primaries, one can say that they are a joke wrapped in a farce inside a comedy (with due apologies to Winston Churchill for the paraphrase.)

When Ariel Sharon left the Likud to set up his new party, he attracted refugees from all the other parties, those who felt that their advancement in their own party was blocked. The slogan could have been: Opportunists of all Parties, Unite! Shimon Peres and Haim Ramon came from Labor, Olmert, Livni, Meir Sheetrit and, at the last moment, Mofaz, came from the Likud. They had nothing in common except the hope that by clinging to Sharon's coattails they could get into the Knesset and the government.

Only later, much later, did there come into being something resembling (with a bit of imagination) a party. Functionaries brought friends, vote-contractors brought hundreds and thousands of ballot-mercenaries, whole blocs of voters. These are the 70 thousand "registered members." It is they who will vote in the primaries for the party chairman, who will almost certainly become Prime Minister.

This is a caricature of democracy. It confirms Churchill's dictum that "democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

The thought of a few hundred bought votes deciding who will be the next Prime Minister of Israel is quite horrifying.

ALL THE polls show that Livni has a very great lead over Mofaz as far as the general public is concerned, and a good chance to win the Knesset elections. But Mofaz has a great advantage in the Kadima primaries, owing to the voting blocks acquired from contractors. He promises to set up a rightist-nationalist-religious coalition in the present Knesset, so that there will be no need for general elections until 2010.

So what about peace? The occupation? Economic policy? Social problems? Education? Health care?

Who gives a damn?
(c) 2008 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Don't Cage Dissent
By Amy Goodman

The bulwark against tyranny is dissent. Open opposition, the right to challenge those in power, is a mainstay of any healthy democracy. The Democratic and Republican conventions will test the commitment of the two dominant U.S. political parties to the cherished tradition of dissent. Things are not looking good.

Denver's CBS4 News just reported that the city is planning on jailing arrested Democratic convention protesters at a warehouse with barbed-wire-topped cages and signs warning of the threat of stun gun use. Meanwhile, a federal judge has ruled that a designated protest area is legal, despite claims that protesters will be too far from the Democratic delegates to be heard.

The full spectrum of police and military will also be on hand at the Democratic convention in Denver, many of these units coordinated by a "fusion center." These centers are springing up around the country as an outgrowth of the post-9/11 national-security system. Erin Rosa of the online Colorado Independent recently published a report on the Denver fusion center, which will be sharing information with the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI and the U.S. Northern Command. The center is set up to gather and distribute "intelligence" about "suspicious activities," which, Rosa points out, "can include taking pictures or taking notes. The definition is very broad."

Civil rights advocates fear the fusion center could enable unwarranted spying on protesters exercising their First Amendment rights at the convention. Documents obtained by I-Witness Video, a group that documents police abuses and demonstrations, revealed that the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency were receiving intelligence about the protests at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. The growing problem is that legal, peaceful protesters are ending up on federal databases and watch lists with scant legal oversight.

Former FBI agent Mike German is now a national-security-policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. He said, "It's unclear who is actually in charge and whose rules apply to the information that's being collected and shared and distributed through these fusion centers." Maryland State Police were recently exposed infiltrating groups like the Baltimore Coalition Against the Death Penalty. German explains how police expand "beyond normal law-enforcement functions, and start becoming intelligence collectors against protest groups. The reports that we obtained ... make clear that there was no indication of any sort of criminal activity. And yet, that investigation went on for 14 months, and these reports were uploaded into a federal database. ... When all these agencies are authorized to go out and start collecting this information and putting it in areas where it's accessible by the intelligence community, it's a very dangerous proposition for our democracy."

After Barack Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee, the protest coalition in Denver splintered, as many were motivated originally by the anticipated nomination of the more hawkish Hillary Clinton. An anarchist group, Unconventional Denver, actually offered to call off its protests if Denver would redirect the $50-million federal grant it is receiving for security to "reinvest their police budget toward real community security: new elementary schools; health care for the uninsured; providing clean, renewable energy." The plea has not been answered. The city, meanwhile, is stocking up on "less-lethal" pepper-ball rifles and has set aside a space for permitted protesting that some are referring to as the "Freedom Cage."

In the Twin Cities on the evening Obama was giving his Democratic acceptance speech in June, the St. Paul Police Department arrested a 50-year-old man peacefully handing out leaflets promoting a Sept. 1 march on the Republican National Convention. After mass arrests at the RNC in Philadelphia in 2000 and roughly 1,800 arrests in New York City in 2004, ACLU Minnesota predicts hundreds will be arrested in St. Paul, and is organizing and training 75 lawyers to defend them.

For now, the eyes of the world are on the Beijing Olympics. Sportswriter Dave Zirin is reporting on the suppression of protests that are occurring there. He has an interesting perspective, as he is a member of the anti-death-penalty group infiltrated in Maryland. He told me, "Our taxpayer dollars went to pay people to infiltrate and take notes on our meetings, and it's absolutely enraging ... a lot of this Homeland Security funding is an absolute sham ... it's being used to actually crush dissent, not to keep us safer in any real way." The lack of freedom of speech in China is getting a little attention in the news. But what about the crackdown on dissent here at home? Dissent is essential to the functioning of a democratic society. There is no more important time than now.
2008 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 650 stations in North America.

UBS: A Bank That Robs Us

Maybe you had a bad month, but - wow - July was a bummer for UBS! This Swiss- based banking powerhouse is the world's largest money manager for rich people, but even its billions couldn't paper over its incompetence and malevolence.

UBS's month started with its chief lobbyist, Phil Gramm, having to resign as the co-chair of John McCain's presidential campaign. Responding to ordinary people's concerns about $4 gasoline, job losses, the housing crash, and other signs of middle-class decline, this multimillionaire lobbyist and former-senator snarled that America has become a "nation of whiners." Oooo... bad image.

But things cascaded downhill from Phil. In mid-July, a U.S. Senate sub-committee documented that the bank has been engaged in an ongoing scheme to help wealthy Americans cheat on their income taxes. Using fake corporations, offshore tax havens, code names, secret credit cards, diamond smuggling, shredding rooms, and falsified reports to the IRS, the bank has helped 19,000 very rich Americans hide some $18 billion of their loot from being taxed to support our schools, roads, military, and such. Oooo... bad image, again.

But July was unrelenting. At the end of the month, various states sued UBS for consumer fraud involving "auction-rate securities." The bank had told investors that these funds were safe and easy to cash in. Earlier in the year, however, the market for these securities had collapsed, and a senior UBS honcho called them "a complete loser." Yet, the bank continued to pitch them as a wise investment. More damning, top UBS executives had sold off their own auction-rate securities, even as they were still selling them to unsuspecting customers. More than 50,000 UBS customers were left holding this empty bag.

This is Jim Hightower saying... As UBS has shown us in one month, not all of the bank robbers come from outside the bank.
(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.

By Mel Bartholomew

Potatoes are a fun crop to grow because being underground you don't know what you have until it is time to harvest them. They fit very nicely into a square Foot Garden. For large-sized potatoes we plant one per square foot. If you are going to harvest them early, called new potatoes or if they are a small variety, we have actually grown four plants per square foot.

Now, here is the way you grow them:

First, if you understand how potatoes are formed on the plant, it will enable you to understand the planting method. Potato plants start from a piece of an old potato called a seed potato that has a few eyes in it. Those eyes sprout and a stem comes up. The new crop grows off of that stem and the longer that stem is below ground, the more potatoes you will have. So, in the old-fashioned way, the seed potato piece was planted and then you started hilling up from the side aisles to cover the plant and kept covering it so you had more stem below ground and also to protect the new crop from the sunlight. But, it was a lot of work - a lot of hoeing. We've eliminated all of that with Square Foot Gardening.

Now, we take one square foot, remove the 6 inches of Mel's Mix from that square foot and, in the bottom, put in about 2 inches of pure, homemade compost, the best you have, this is for the roots. Then you put your seed potato pieces right on that and cover them with about an inch of compost. By the way when you cut up your seed potatoes, you cut them into big chunks that have 2 or 3 eyes in each one. If they are small potatoes, some people like to put the whole potato in, but that seems a little wasteful and they provide too many sprouts. You can buy certified seed potatoes in most garden supply centers early in the spring, or you can just take a chance and use store-bought potatoes. However, they are usually sprayed with a material that prevents them from sprouting. This makes them more saleable in the store and they last longer in the vegetable bin at home. It is best, after you cut them, to let them sit in the sun (to heal over the wound and then it won't bleed and rot when you put it in the ground). This is done for just a few hours.

Once that hole is all planted, you have about 4 inches of material in the bottom. Then, once or twice a week as the plant sprouts through that layer of compost, you cover it again with more compost and you keep covering it as it grows. It would seem like it would discourage the plant from growing, but it just keeps pushing up through our new layer that you've covered it with and, hence, you have a vary long stem underground and you'll have many, many more potatoes. Instead of getting out the hoe and bringing all that soil up and doing that hard work, all you are doing is taking compost and backfilling that hole - a very simple process. Of course, you can have as many square feet planted in potatoes as you want. We like to plant different varieties in different square feet scattered around the garden boxes.

Once the potato reaches the top and you've filled in right to the top of your garden, then it is either time to quit and let all the new potatoes form, or if you've gotten an early start in the season, some people like to go to our High-Rise Method where you build a 12" x 12" square bottomless box and put it right over that square foot. Make sure it is small enough to sit on the inside of your grid. You continue the process of filling in and the plant just keeps growing. I've found that 6 more inches is a little too much for the potato, so I like to use a 1 x 4 lumber so that you have the first six inches to grow in plus another 4 inches.

Finally, when you are through covering the plant, it will grow to maturity and you can either dig the potatoes out near the middle of the season to get the smaller ones, or you can let them finish the season. You will know when the plant is finished because it dies off, withers and turns brown and is rather unsightly looking, but that is nature's signal that it is all over for this year and the new potatoes are all in the ground waiting for you to harvest them.

In a later column, I'm going to tell you how to do the same thing, but in a simplified method that is great for grandchildren. It not only encourages them to garden, but it encourages them to come visit their grandparents or at least call them and ask them. "How are my taters doing, Pop?"
(c) 2008 Mel Bartholomew is an inventor, author, and founder of the Square Foot Gardening Foundation.

Drying Food Part #6
Storing and Using Dried Foods
By Judy Troftgruben


Testing for Dryness

Many factors affect the length of time needed for drying foods: temperature, air circulation, humidity, the kind of food being dried, the amount of food on a tray, the size of the pieces of food, and the total amount of food in the oven or dryer. Pieces on the edges of the trays will dry faster than pieces in the center. If slices are not all the same thickness, thin pieces will dry before the others. For these reasons you must test samples of the food from each batch you dry. You should test only a few pieces at a time. Be sure to let the pieces cool before testing. Warm food will feel soft and moist even when it is dry. Remove the pieces of food from the tray when they test dry. Return the rest of the food to the oven or dryer until drying is complete. When you think the food is dry, there are several ways you can test it to be sure. Test fruit by squeezing a handful. If the pieces of fruit spring apart and there is no moisture left on your hand when you open it, then drying is complete. To double check, cut through a piece of fruit; there should be no moisture on the inside. Dried fruit should be pliable and leathery. When you use an oven, drying takes as little as 6 hours to more than 10 hours.

Most vegetables will be hard and brittle when completely dry. A dried piece will shatter when hit with a hammer. Exceptions are mushrooms, green peppers, and squash; they will be pliable and leathery. Vegetables usually dry in 4 to 12 hours.

Herbs require 2 to 3 days' drying time when air dried and 2 to 3 hours if dried in the oven. You know herbs are dried when they are brittle and the leaves can be easily crushed.

Dried jerky is dark brown to black. To test for dryness, bend a piece. It should bend like a green twig, not break apart completely like a dry stick. There should be no moisture inside.


It is very hard to dry all the pieces of food evenly. Depending on the size of the pieces and the location on the tray, some pieces will be too dry and others will be not quite dry enough. But you can condition food so that the whole batch will be uniformly dry.

After the food is dried, cool it on the tray, then put the pieces of food in a large closed container such as a crock, a plastic jar, or a coffee can. Make sure the food is cool, because it will sweat if it is put into the container while still warm.

Keep the container covered in a warm, dry, airy room. Stir the food once a day for a week to 10 days. Then package the pieces of food in smaller airtight containers and store. This conditioning allows the moisture from the underdried pieces to be absorbed by the overdried pieces. If drops of moisture appear on the sides or lid of the container, the food is not dry enough. Return it to the dryer and dry it some more.


Dried food is sometimes contaminated by insects or molds, which can cause spoilage. Sulfuring fruit usually prevents this type of contamination. After meat and vegetables have been dried, they can be pasteurized to make them safe. It is especially important to pasteurize food dried outdoors, where it was probably contaminated.

To pasteurize, heat the oven to 175 degrees F. (80 C.). Set the pieces of dried food in a single layer on a tray or cookie sheet. Heat in the oven with the door closed for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the food to cool before packaging. Alternatively, the dried food can be pasteurized by freezing it for 1 to 2 weeks and then storing it.


After the food has been thoroughly dried, cooled, conditioned, and pasteurized, you can be sure of its quality and safety if you store it properly. Place dried food in moisture- and vaporproof containers with tight-fitting lids. Glass jars, coffee cans, and plastic freezer bags or cartons may be used. Containers that keep out light are best.

If you use a coffee can, place sulfured fruit in a plastic bag first to prevent contact of the fruit with the metal. The sulfur can react with the metal and give an off-flavor to the fruit.

It is best to package food in small quantities. Use pint-sized containers or small plastic bags. The bags should then be put into a large can or jar. If food is stored in large quantities, the unused portion may become contaminated each time you open the container. Be sure to pack the food tightly. Force out as much air as possible from the package before closing it. But take care not to crush the food.

All dried food deteriorates over a period of time, but storing it in a cool, dry, dark place will help to preserve the color and flavor. Kitchen cupboards or a pantry are good places if they don't get too hot. A dry basement or a closet on the north side of the house is also suitable. You may store dried food in the refrigerator or freezer if you have the space. Once a package of dried food is opened, it should be resealed tightly and if possible stored in the refrigerator to prevent contamination and mold growth. Properly dried and stored, vegetables and jerky will keep about 6 months, fruits and herbs about a year.

As a safety measure, examine stored food occasionally. If you find signs of a little moisture but no spoilage, pasteurize the food. If the food appears quite moist, repeat the drying process until thoroughly dry. Remember to cool the pieces before repackaging.

If you see any mold growth on the food, throw away the entire batch. It's not safe!



Dried fruits make tasty snacks and are very handy for taking on camping or hiking trips. Dried fruits can also be chopped up and used dry with breakfast cereal, granola, or cookies.

Fruit can be reconstituted for use in recipes by pouring just enough boiling water over it to cover and simmering it for 15 minutes. Or pour cool water over it to cover, then soak for a few hours. Soak only until the fruit is plump because soaking too long makes the fruit mushy and less flavorful. To retain nutrients, cook the fruit in the same water used for soaking.

Most dried fruit needs no extra sugar because some of the starch in the fruit turns to sugar during the drying process. If you wish to sweeten the fruit, do so after cooking; otherwise the fruit will become mushy. Reconstituted fruit is especially good in cakes, pies, and other desserts. If the recipe calls for water, use the water in which the fruit was soaked.


When you reconstitute pieces of vegetables, they should become nearly the same size they were when fresh. Add 1 to 2 cups of water to 1 cup of dried vegetables. Add more water later if necessary. Blanched dried vegetables should be soaked about 2 hours before cooking. Unblanched vegetables will take longer. Dried beans and peas can be soaked overnight or boiled 2 minutes and then soaked 1 hour before cooking.

Dried vegetables taste best if used in soups, stews, or other dishes cooked with liquid and seasonings. The seasonings help to enhance the natural flavor of the vegetables.


To become a successful, creative cook, start using some of the fine herbs such as sweet basil, marjoram, or summer savory. But be miserly in your measure; herbs can easily overpower the flavor of the food they are used to season.

You can make your own favorite blend of herbs for a variety of uses. A combination of marjoram, oregano, basil, and thyme used in equal parts is a good basic blend for soups, stews, sauces, casseroles, and salads. Sage, savory, and rosemary may be added to the blend for use with poultry, Italian dishes, or other spicy foods. You can adjust the amounts to suit your taste.

You do not need to reconstitute herbs before you use them. To substitute dried herbs for fresh herbs, use 1/4 teaspoon of dried herbs for 1 teaspoon of fresh.


Jerky makes a delicious snack or backpacking staple. Serve it as a party food for children or at cocktail parties. Your guests will be delighted.
(c) 1984/2008 Judy Troftgruben, Extension Specialist, Foods and Nutrition and revised by Mary Keith, Assistant Professor, Foods and Nutrition, and Extension Specialist, Foods, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The McCain Plan: Homer Simpson Without The Donut
By Greg Palast

[ I'm guessing it was excessive exposure to either radiation or George Bush, but Senator John McCain's comments from inside a nuclear power plant in Michigan are so cracked-brained that I fear some loose gamma rays are doing to McCain's gray matter what they did to Homer Simpson's.

On Tuesday, the presumptive Republican candidate descended into the colon of a nuke to declare we need to build 45 new nuclear plants - that this is the way out of our energy crisis. Nuclear power, declared the senator, is a "safe, efficient [and] inexpensive" alternative to oil.

Really? We can argue all day about whether nuclear plants are safe (they aren't -period). But there can be no argument whatsoever that these giant radioactive tea-kettles are breathtakingly expensive.

Nuclear plants are cheap until you actually try to build one. Not one of the last 49 nuclear plants cost less than $2 billion apiece. I'm looking down the road at the remainders of the Shoreham nuclear plant which took nearly 20 years to build at a cost of $8 billion - or close to $7,000 per customer it was supposed to supply. When I say "supposed to," it was closed for safety reasons after operating just one single day.

We're told that the new generation of plants will be different. Just like an alcoholic child-beater, the nuclear plant builders promise us that, "This time it will be different." Sure. And McCain believes them.

I don't. Maybe that's because I headed the government racketeering investigation of the Shoreham nuclear plant's builders. Stone & Webster Engineering and its partner paid hundreds of millions of dollars to settle the civil racketeering claim over the evidence we found of fraud and perjury. Now Stone & Webster will cash in big-time under Plan McCain.

The other big builder which will hit the jackpot under the McCain scheme is KBR, the one-time subsidiary of Halliburton, whose best known project is the rebuilding of Iraq. (Halliburton dumped KBR last year. Can't blame them.) KBR has built many nukes -not one within a mile of its promised cost.

But that doesn't bother McCain. So who is McCain getting his energy advice from? I'm looking at a photo of the perplexed senator inside the control room, looking like Homer without a donut, getting a lecture on the wonders of nuclear energy from a power company CEO, one Tony Early. Early is the former President of LILCO, the very corporation the Feds and State of New York charged with civil racketeering. (We did not name Early as a co-conspirator. When the government got him on the witness stand, it was clear the guy was too clueless to recognize he was in the midst of a billion-dollar swindle. McCain's got quite some team.)

Now, you Obamaniacs might not want to read this next paragraph:

While McCain is pushing nuclear power, a Senator from Illinois who shall remain nameless (skinny, just gave up smokes), was already embracing radiation as the solution to pollution. This Senator voted for George Bush's energy bill, a law which contained massive giveaways to nuclear energy, legislation which diss'es and dismisses conservation. Indeed, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate has been derided as the "Senator from Commonwealth Edison," the Chicago company which is the nation's largest operator of nuclear plants - and whose executives were the money backbone to his early presidential campaign.

So, we've got both candidates hawking the nuclear snake oil. But there is one difference between them. A big big BIG difference.

McCain's ready to spend a hundred billion dollars on nuclear power, no questions asked. But Barack Obama puts a crucial condition on his approval for building new nukes: an affordable method of disposing the new plants' radioactive waste.

That's not small stuff. While The New York Times reporters following McCain repeated his line about "inexpensive" nuclear power without question, a buried wire story on the same day noted that the Energy Department is putting the unfunded bill for disposing nuclear plant waste at $96.2 billion - nearly a billion dollars per plant operating today. And no one even knows exactly how to do it, or where. Obama has the audacity to ask about the nuclear waste's cost. "Can we deal with the expense?" he said on Meet the Press.

McCain's plan to spend endless billions on nuclear plants without a waste disposal system in place is like building a massive hotel without toilets. I suppose you can always tell the guests to poop in buckets until someone comes up with a plan for plumbing. But the stuff piles up. And unlike the fecal droppings of tourists, nuclear waste will stay hot and dangerous for a thousand generations.

So there you have our election in a nutshell. We have two candidates who rise above their parties - only to agree on a ludicrous pro-nukes energy plan.

But at least Senator Obama, when confronted with an economic question, doesn't have to take off his shoes to add up the facts.
(c) 2008 Greg Palast is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow for Investigative Reporting at the Nation Institute, New York and is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse Join Palast's Network on MySpace, on FaceBook or on YouTube.

Marching Through Georgia II
The Kremlin Surge
By Chris Floyd

As events move swiftly, and ominously, in the conflict between Georgia and Russia, an understanding of the background of the conflict is essential. Several pieces have appeared just today providing some good context and analysis.

First, Ellen Barry (with whom I once worked at the Moscow Times) gives an overview of South Ossetia's history and the tensions that have stalked the region since the break-up of the Soviet Union in this analysis piece from the New York Times. (The NYT's news roundup of the latest events is co-written by Anne Barnard, yet another former colleague from the Moscow Times.)

Over at the Guardian, David Hearst provides an excellent analysis of the current conflict. Here's an excerpt:

Observers had little doubt the operation to take South Ossetia back under Georgian control bore the hallmarks of a planned military offensive. It was not the result of a ceasefire that had broken down the night before. It was more a fulfillment of the promise the Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, made to recapture lost national territory, and with it a measure of nationalist pride.

The assault appears to have been carefully timed to coincide with the opening of the Olympic games when the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, was in Beijing. Tom de Waal of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and an expert on the region said: "Clearly there have been incidents on both sides, but this is obviously a planned Georgian operation, a contingency plan they have had for some time, to retake [South Ossetia's capital] Tskhinvali.

"Possibly the Georgians calculated that with Putin in Beijing they could recapture the capital in two days and then defend it over the next two months, because the Russians won't take this lying down."

(Tom de Waal is, yes, yet another Moscow Timesnik from my days there in the mid-1990s. In addition, The Times of London's front-page print piece on the war was written by Kevin O'Flynn, whom I knew as a laid-back, long-haired youth on the sports desk at the Moscow Times. It's been like old home week for the MT crowd of that era.)

Hearst further notes:

The Russians are far from blameless. They have a long and dirty history of dividing and ruling, fomenting strife to weaken opponents in a critical frontier zone. But Russia could claim in the UN security council to be defending its own citizens and its own peacekeepers. Sabine Freizer, Europe programme director of the International Crisis Group said: "Russia should not be blamed for the fighting, but Russia should now be pressured not to go beyond its peacekeeping mandate, and to ensure that armed militia do not cross the border into South Ossetia."

However, the fighting is rapidly spreading beyond the "peacekeeping mandate," with Russian planes bombing targets in the Georgian city of Gori (Stalin's birthplace), killing several civilians. This brutal assault -- including a murderous airstrike on an apartment house -- only underscores the savagery that awaits if the conflict cannot be tamped down quickly.

It seems clear at this point that Georgia has taken an enormous gamble in launching the initial attack into South Ossetia, hoping for a quick knock-out blow and then strong support from Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's Terror War pals in Washington, as Jim Heintz notes in an insightful piece for the Associated Press (You'll be relieved to know that I did not work with Heintz at the Moscow Times):

With Vladimir Putin in Beijing for the Olympic opening ceremony and the world's attention fixed on China, Georgia may have been betting it could pounce on an opportunity to quickly wrest control of its breakaway province. But the gamble may backfire: Washington hasn't endorsed Georgia's power play, and Moscow's counteroffensive has brought the two sides into a fight it will be hard for Georgia, a former Soviet state, to win...

One analyst suggested Georgia's unexpected assault may have been rooted as much in a sense that its NATO bid was faltering as in antagonism with Russia. Earlier this year, NATO quashed Georgia's drive to get a so-called road map for alliance membership amid alarm that President Mikhail Saakashvili was backtracking on democracy with his violent suppression last year of opposition rallies.

Georgia got assurances that it could eventually join, but "this pushed Georgia into a philosophy of self-reliance - the idea that Georgia will be able to regain breakaway entities only by its own means," said Nicu Popescu of the European Council on Foreign Relations. "The elephant in the room behind this whole story is Georgia's NATO prospects."

He also speculated the timing of the attack, hours before the opening ceremony in Beijing, could be a signal from the Georgian government. The Russian resort region of Sochi, just miles from the border of Georgia's other separatist region of Abkhazia, will host the 2014 Winter Games.

"It might be a signal to the Russians saying that the Sochi Olympics will not go the way Russia wants if there is no progress on the settlement in Abkhazia," Popescu said.

Heintz also notes a fact that seems to be slipping away from many media narratives on the conflict: that Saakashvili ordered the heavy bombardment of the South Ossetian capital just hours after declaring a supposed "cease-fire," and that Georgian forces targeted and killed several Russian peacekeeping troops that had been stationed in the region for years. These brutal and boneheaded moves provided the perfect excuse for the Kremlin to flex its muscles and secure an even tighter hold on Georgia's breakaway regions:

Georgia's withering artillery barrage came hours after Saakashvili declared a unilateral cease-fire ahead of negotiations set for the next day - and the separatists reportedly agreed to follow suit.

If Georgia violated its own cease-fire, it could be a crushing blow to its drive to integrate with the West.

Heintz also notes a point we mentioned yesterday: that the West's recognition of Kosovo's illusory "independence" helped spark the recent rise in tensions and cross-border incidents that Georgia used to justify Saakashvili's long-declared intention to bring all of what was Soviet Georgia under his control. Heintz further notes that almost every South Ossetian considers their region part of Russia; another fact frequently overlooked in the resurrection of Cold War rhetoric that has greeted the conflict:

South Ossetia was trouble waiting to happen for years - a "frozen conflict" with tensions building just below the surface. Georgia's thunderous assault may have been a go-for-broke move by a country that felt it was out of options amid Russia's growing dominance in the region. Or South Ossetia's separatists may have provoked Georgia once too often.

A grudging cease-fire that ended a separatist war in 1992 left the region mostly under control of an internationally unrecognized government, but dappled with areas held by Georgian forces. South Ossetia longed to be incorporated into Russia, whose province of North Ossetia contains their ethnic brethren. Georgia firmly rejected the prospect: Ceding the territory would bring Russia within 50 miles of the Georgian capital.

Negotiations were sporadic, often foundering on who should participate. Clashes broke out, especially near the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, which is in a pocket nearly surrounded by Georgian-held territory.

Tensions rose markedly this year after South Ossetia basked in Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia, calling it an international precedent that legitimized its own refusal to remain part of Georgia. Moscow boosted ties with the separatist government - and with a similar regime in Georgia's other separatist region, Abkhazia - and repeatedly denounced Saakashvili's push to join NATO.

None of the previous clashes this month had been anywhere close to the magnitude of the explosions that shook Tskhinvali throughout the night.


Neither side has nor will cover themselves with glory in this bloody episode. The depredations of the Putin regime are well-known; there is little to be expected from that quarter but power politics at its most brutal. Putin is a war criminal responsible for vast atrocities in Chechnya and a security apparat that uses black ops, assassinations and terrorism with as much aplomb as their American counterparts.

Meanwhile, Saakashvili's tenure in Tblisi -- which began as a self-proclaimed reformist revolution -- has deteriorated into a regime marked by much of the same kind of corruption, cronyism and repression that it puported to overthrow. One of Saakashvili's partners in the revolution, Irakli Okruashvili, had a dramatic falling-out with the boss last year. When he announced he was running for president against Saakashvili, he was arrested "and taken to Tbilisi's notorious Isolator Number 7, the scene of well-documented torture of political prisoners since 1991," as Mark Almond of Oriel College, Oxford, noted in an article last year. After subjection to "strenuous interrogation techniques," Okruashvili "recanted" his charges against the president, and coughed up $6 million in shakedown "bail" money to win his release.

And what were Okruashvili's charges? Almond provides this quote from the former defense minister in Saakashvili's government:

"The style of Saakashvili's governance ... has made dishonesty, injustice and oppression a way of life. Everyday repression, demolition of houses and churches, robbery, 'kulakization', and murders, I would stress, murders, have become common practice for the authorities."

You can see why George W. Bush has embraced Saakashvili so enthusiastically. Saakashvili is also a war criminal, albeit at a much smaller level than his patron Bush or his enemy Putin. Saakashvili has eagerly taken part in the greatest war crime of our still-young century (I'm sure we ain't seen nothin' yet): the war of aggression against Iraq, which has already led to the slaughter of at least a million innocent people. No one forced Saakashvili to be an accomplice to this horrendous crime; he chose to do it willingly, and he cannot escape the guilt.

There are no white hats in this conflict; but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to see the reality of what is happening. In Saturday's Guardian, Almond gave this view of the background:

Back in the late 1980s, as the USSR waned, the Red Army withdrew from countries in eastern Europe which plainly resented its presence as the guarantor of unpopular communist regimes. That theme continued throughout the new republics of the deceased Soviet Union, and on into the premiership of Putin, under whom Russian forces were evacuated even from the country's bases in Georgia.

To many Russians this vast geopolitical retreat from places which were part of Russia long before the dawn of communist rule brought no bonus in relations with the west. The more Russia drew in its horns, the more Washington and its allies denounced the Kremlin for its imperial ambitions.....

In 1992, the west backed Eduard Shevardnadze's attempts to reassert Georgia's control over these regions. The then Georgian president's war was a disaster for his nation. It left 300,000 or more refugees "cleansed" by the rebel regions, but for Ossetians and Abkhazians the brutal plundering of the Georgian troops is the most indelible memory.

Georgians have nursed their humiliation ever since. Although Mikheil Saakashvili has done little for the refugees since he came to power early in 2004 - apart from move them out of their hostels in central Tbilisi to make way for property development - he has spent 70% of the Georgian budget on his military. At the start of the week he decided to flex his muscles.

Devoted to achieving Nato entry for Georgia, Saakashvili has sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan - and so clearly felt he had American backing. The streets of the Georgian capital are plastered with posters of George W Bush alongside his Georgian protege. George W Bush Avenue leads to Tbilisi airport. But he has ignored Kissinger's dictum: "Great powers don't commit suicide for their allies." Perhaps his neoconservative allies in Washington have forgotten it, too. Let's hope not....

Saakashvili faces a domestic economic crisis and public disillusionment. In the years since the so-called Rose revolution, the cronyism and poverty that characterised the Shevardnadze era have not gone away. Allegations of corruption and favouritism towards his mother's clan, together with claims of election fraud, led to mass demonstrations against Saakashvili last November. His ruthless security forces - trained, equipped and subsidised by the west - thrashed the protesters. Lashing out at the Georgians' common enemy in South Ossetia would certainly rally them around the president, at least in the short term.

Last September, President Saakashvili suddenly turned on his closest ally in the Rose revolution, defence minister Irakli Okruashvili. Each man accused his former blood brother of mafia links and profiting from contraband. Whatever the truth, the fact that the men seen by the west as the heroes of a post-Shevardnadze clean-up accused each other of vile crimes should warn us against picking a local hero in Caucasian politics...

The question now is whether the conflict can be contained, or whether the west will be drawn in, raising the stakes to desperate levels. To date the west has operated radically different approaches to secession in the Balkans, where pro-western microstates get embassies, and the Caucasus, where the Caucasian boundaries drawn up by Stalin are deemed sacrosanct....

Given its extraordinary ethnic complexity, Georgia is a post-Soviet Union in miniature. If westerners readily conceded non-Russian republics' right to secede from the USSR in 1991, what is the logic of insisting that non-Georgians must remain inside a microempire which happens to be pro-western?

Other people's nationalisms are like other people's love affairs, or, indeed, like dog fights. These are things wise people don't get involved in. A war in the Caucasus is never a straightforward moral crusade - but then, how many wars are?

Indeed. The ultimate outcome of this war will be, as always, death and ruin for multitudes who have nothing to do with the violent aggression of corrupt elites on every side.
(c) 2008 Chris Floyd

Working Poor Unready To Revolt
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Once upon a time when governments no longer served most of their citizens it was the most economically disadvantaged that could be counted on to rebel against tyranny and injustice. Times have changed, for the worse, despite the spread of democracy.

Here we are with a two-party plutocracy that preferentially serves corporate and wealthy interests and lets the middle class suffer and sink. Plausibly, the middle class is unready to revolt because it still maintains a relatively good standard of living despite rising economic insecurity. But what about the lowest 40 percent of Americans that are the working poor?

A recent survey of this group by the Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University conducted this past June looked at the beliefs of adults ages 18 to 64 working 30 or more hours a week, not self-employed and who earned no more than $27,000 in 2007. The results show a fascinating dichotomy. Though there is widespread pain and discontent there is also a stubborn faith in the American dream despite little help from government.

Ninety percent of this group sees the current economy negatively, either not so good or poor, with 52 percent feeling financially insecure and 50 percent feeling less secure than a few years ago. The fractions saying they have difficulty affording basic things are severe, including: 88 percent that cannot save money for college or other education for their children, 82 percent paying for gasoline or other transportation costs, 81 percent saving money for retirement, 65 percent paying for health care and health insurance, 65 percent handling child care, close to 60 percent paying credit card bills, monthly utility bills and rent or mortgage costs, and 47 percent buying food. Three quarters say it has gotten harder to find good jobs and nearly that fraction for finding affordable health care, and 68 percent finding decent, affordable housing.

In the past year this group has had to take many actions to make ends meet, including 70 percent that cut electricity use and home heating; 62 percent that took an extra job or worked extra hours, 51 percent that postponed medical or dental care and 50 percent that took money out of savings or retirement funds.

All this sounds pretty bleak. But are these people mad and pessimistic? Not exactly.

An amazing 69 percent are hopeful about their personal financial situation, 59 percent believe they are more likely over the next few years to move up in terms of their social class, 59 percent believe that their children will have a standard of living much or somewhat better than theirs, and 56 percent think they will achieve the American dream in their lifetime.

Do these lower economic class, hardest hit Americans that account for 25 percent of the adult population believe that government helps them? No. Only 22 percent believe that government programs are making things better for them. But apparently they have bought hook, line and sinker into Barack Obama's change rhetoric, with a 2 to 1 margin favoring him over John McCain. And when it comes to beliefs about which candidate will do better for them the margins favoring Obama go up to 3 or more to 1 for improving their own financial situation, the national economy and the national health care system. Similarly, Obama is seen as much more concerned with their needs and better represent their values. All very good news for Obama, except that only 70 are registered to vote and about a third saw no difference in whether Obama or McCain was in office.

Faith in Obama, however, pales in comparison to the other source of comfort for dealing with hard economic times. A striking 78 percent find religion or faith in God helps them get through tough economic times.

The unmistakable conclusion from all these data is that no rebellion against the power elites running the two-party plutocracy seems likely. If the bottom 40 percent of Americans in terms of income still believe in the American dream and change-spouting politicians like Obama, it is hard to believe that the more affluent middle 40 percent of the population are ready to support more radical change through political rebellion.

Interesting how gasoline prices are dropping as we approach the Republican and Democratic conventions and Election Day. Apparently, America's ruling class knows what it is doing. It can keep channeling more and more of the nation's wealth to the rich, Upper Class producing more economic inequality without fearing the kind of political revolution that Thomas Jefferson thought the nation needs periodically. Consider this: In the three decades after World War II household inflation-adjusted income of the bottom 90 percent increased 83 percent compared to 20 percent increase for the top 10 percent. In contrast, in the past three decades, the bottom 90 percent saw only a 10 percent increase while the top 10 percent received an increase of 232 percent! The two-party stranglehold on our political system has produced rising economic inequality.

Forget all that nonsense about the proletariat. Most Americans use their faith in God or religion or conventional politicians to cope, even in some of the most insecure economic times in American history. They remain overly confident in voting as the path to change. The ruling class has successfully used propaganda to dumb down and manipulate most of the public because delusion has become the opiate of the masses.

In God and Barack Obama We Trust could be placed on all our currency if the views of millions of Americans are taken seriously. Don't you feel better?
(c) 2008 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author.

Energy, Careers and Gold:
By Mike Folkerth

U.S. News: I've read recently that during his eight years in office, and even with control of Congress, George Bush has not increased the production of oil in the U.S. Some believe that there is a conspiracy for holding the price of oil up to benefit Mr. Bush's "Big Oil" friends. Now there is a conspiracy that has legs...about two inches long.

The current Bush presidency didn't increase domestic production for the same reason that the administrations of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and William Jefferson Clinton didn't increase production....WE REACHED PEAK OIL IN 1970!!!

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't want a little thing like the truth to get in the way of a perfectly good conspiracy; otherwise we would have to take some sort of action to prevent total chaos. And that would go completely against our current form of planning which is best described as "crisis management."

I also read a statement recently that said ethanol could solve all of our energy problems and make us totally energy independent for ever and ever. Another said that maybe when we start drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, we might find enough oil to last us hundreds of years.

To these folks I say this, "Do the people at the asylum know that you're out?"

If all of the corn in the United States were used to produce ethanol, it would provide approximately 7% of the fuel consumed in autos alone. NO FOOD JUST FUEL!

Is ethanol a new concept? Those old boys down in Tennessee have known how to make corn burn with a blue flame for some time now, it's not a new concept, just a ridiculous concept that is creating massive subsidies for the anointed few. You now get to pay for fuel at the pump and at the grocery checkout.

We have known about peak oil since 1949 when M. King Hubbert said, "The fossil fuel era will be of a very short duration." Yet suddenly, it has become the news that can't be so. I have friends in nearly every sector of the oil biz, and not one of them believes this nonsense about huge new finds and cheap oil coming back.

So what's a body to do? Certainly waiting for the fecal matter to come into contact with the whirling apparatus does not seem a wise choice.

On the subject of where we go from here, I promised to say something about gold. I'm not a "buy gold and hold," guy. I'm also not an expert on the subject, but Mikeronomics leads me to this belief; gold is not a standard for currency and therefore has no set redemption value. The value of gold is simply based on belief or perception.

I have over the years found that belief standards are subject to change. Antiques quickly come to mind. During periods of economic prosperity, disposable or discretionary income is plentiful and antiques become precious heirlooms of considerable value. During periods of economic decline, a person's perceived value wanes and antiques become old junk.

Gold has very little industrial value and is primarily hoarded. I have said many times that a hungry man would trade a pound of gold for a sack of potatoes.

As far as the world going back on the gold standard? Don't hold your breath.

The American dollar is certainly in trouble and likely to get worse, as our leaders continue the promise of growth as the all-curing elixir. Nothing could be further from the truth, but like the ethanol example, what does truth have to do with anything?

But is gold the hedge against the dollar that those who sell gold promote it to be? I remember antique dealers saying that "Antiques are better than money in the bank." What they really meant was; better for them to have your money than for you to have it in the bank.

The U.S. will always have an economy that provides necessities, real goods and vital services. It will be the massive fringe sectors of our economy, the non-essentials, which will continue to fail as we fall deeper into recession.

Consider your current occupation. Is it necessary and somewhat sustainable? If the answer is "Are you kidding?" maybe this is a good time to reconsider your career.
(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...

"From the time Barack Obama was sworn in as a United State Senator, to the time he announced he was forming a Presidential exploratory committee, he logged 143 days of experience in the Senate. That's how many days the Senate was actually in session and working. After 143 days of work experience, Obama believed he was ready to be Commander In Chief, Leader of the Free World, and fill the shoes of Abraham Lincoln, FDR, JFK and Ronald Reagan. 143 days.

I keep leftovers in my refrigerator longer than that." ~~~ Columnist Cheri Jacobus

Memo To Obama, McCain
No one wins in a war
By Howard Zinn

BARACK OBAMA and John McCain continue to argue about war. McCain says to keep the troops in Iraq until we "win" and supports sending more troops to Afghanistan. Obama says to withdraw some (not all) troops from Iraq and send them to fight and "win" in Afghanistan.

For someone like myself, who fought in World War II, and since then has protested against war, I must ask: Have our political leaders gone mad? Have they learned nothing from recent history? Have they not learned that no one "wins" in a war, but that hundreds of thousands of humans die, most of them civilians, many of them children?

Did we "win" by going to war in Korea? The result was a stalemate, leaving things as they were before with a dictatorship in South Korea and a dictatorship in North Korea. Still, more than 2 million people - mostly civilians - died, the United States dropped napalm on children, and 50,000 American soldiers lost their lives.

Did we "win" in Vietnam? We were forced to withdraw, but only after 2 million Vietnamese died, again mostly civilians, again leaving children burned or armless or legless, and 58,000 American soldiers dead.

Did we win in the first Gulf War? Not really. Yes, we pushed Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, with only a few hundred US casualties, but perhaps 100,000 Iraqis died. And the consequences were deadly for the United States: Saddam was still in power, which led the United States to enforce economic sanctions. That move led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, according to UN officials, and set the stage for another war.

In Afghanistan, the United States declared "victory" over the Taliban. Now the Taliban is back, and attacks are increasing. The recent US military death count in Afghanistan exceeds that in Iraq. What makes Obama think that sending more troops to Afghanistan will produce "victory"? And if it did, in an immediate military sense, how long would that last, and at what cost to human life on both sides?

The resurgence of fighting in Afghanistan is a good moment to reflect on the beginning of US involvement there. There should be sobering thoughts to those who say that attacking Iraq was wrong, but attacking Afghanistan was right.

Go back to Sept. 11, 2001. Hijackers direct jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing close to 3,000 A terrorist act, inexcusable by any moral code. The nation is aroused. President Bush orders the invasion and bombing of Afghanistan, and the American public is swept into approval by a wave of fear and anger. Bush announces a "war on terror."

Except for terrorists, we are all against terror. So a war on terror sounded right. But there was a problem, which most Americans did not consider in the heat of the moment: President Bush, despite his confident bravado, had no idea how to make war against terror.

Yes, Al Qaeda - a relatively small but ruthless group of fanatics - was apparently responsible for the attacks. And, yes, there was evidence that Osama bin Laden and others were based in Afghanistan. But the United States did not know exactly where they were, so it invaded and bombed the whole country. That made many people feel righteous. "We had to do something," you heard people say.

Yes, we had to do something. But not thoughtlessly, not recklessly. Would we approve of a police chief, knowing there was a vicious criminal somewhere in a neighborhood, ordering that the entire neighborhood be bombed? There was soon a civilian death toll in Afghanistan of more than 3,000 - exceeding the number of deaths in the Sept. 11 attacks. Hundreds of Afghans were driven from their homes and turned into wandering refugees.

Two months after the invasion of Afghanistan, a Boston Globe story described a 10-year-old in a hospital bed: "He lost his eyes and hands to the bomb that hit his house after Sunday dinner." The doctor attending him said: "The United States must be thinking he is Osama. If he is not Osama, then why would they do this?"

We should be asking the presidential candidates: Is our war in Afghanistan ending terrorism, or provoking it? And is not war itself terrorism?
(c) 2008 Howard Zinn is the author of, "A People's History of the United States," "Voices of a People's History" (with Anthony Arnove), and "A Power Governments Cannot Suppress." His newest book is A People's History of American Empire, the story of America in the world, told in comics form, with Mike Konopacki and Paul Buhle in the American Empire Project book series. An animated video adapted from this essay with visuals from the comic book and voiceover by Viggo Mortensen, as well as a section of the book on Zinn's early life, can be viewed by clicking here.

Georgia War A Neocon Election Ploy?
By Robert Scheer

Is it possible that this time the October surprise was tried in August, and that the garbage issue of brave little Georgia struggling for its survival from the grasp of the Russian bear was stoked to influence the U.S. presidential election?

Before you dismiss that possibility, consider the role of one Randy Scheunemann, for four years a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government who ended his official lobbying connection only in March, months after he became Republican presidential candidate John McCain's senior foreign policy adviser.

Previously, Scheunemann was best known as one of the neoconservatives who engineered the war in Iraq when he was a director of the Project for a New American Century. It was Scheunemann who, after working on the McCain 2000 presidential campaign, headed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which championed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

There are telltale signs that he played a similar role in the recent Georgia flare-up. How else to explain the folly of his close friend and former employer, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, in ordering an invasion of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, an invasion that clearly was expected to produce a Russian counterreaction? It is inconceivable that Saakashvili would have triggered this dangerous escalation without some assurance from influential Americans he trusted, like Scheunemann, that the United States would have his back. Scheunemann long guided McCain in these matters, even before he was officially running foreign policy for McCain's presidential campaign.

In 2005, while registered as a paid lobbyist for Georgia, Scheunemann worked with McCain to draft a congressional resolution pushing for Georgia's membership in NATO. A year later, while still on the Georgian payroll, Scheunemann accompanied McCain on a trip to that country, where they met with Saakashvili and supported his bellicose views toward Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Scheunemann is at the center of the neoconservative cabal that has come to dominate the Republican candidate's foreign policy stance in a replay of the run-up to the war against Iraq. These folks are always looking for a foreign enemy on which to base a new Cold War, and with the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, it was Putin's Russia that came increasingly to fit the bill.

Yes, it sounds diabolical, but that may be the most accurate way to assess the designs of the McCain campaign in matters of war and peace. There is every indication that the candidate's demonization of Russian leader Putin is an even grander plan than the previous use of Saddam to fuel American militarism with the fearsome enemy that it desperately needs.

McCain gets to look tough with a new Cold War to fight while Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, scrambling to make sense of a more measured foreign policy posture, will seem weak in comparison. Meanwhile, the dire consequences of the Bush legacy that McCain has inherited, from the disaster of Iraq to the economic meltdown, conveniently will be ignored. But the military-industrial complex, which has helped bankroll the neoconservatives, will be provided with an excuse for ramping up a military budget that is already bigger than that of the rest of the world combined.

What is at work here is a neoconservative, self-fulfilling prophecy in which Russia is turned into an enemy that expands its largely reduced military, and Putin is cast as the new Josef Stalin bogeyman, evoking images of the old Soviet Union. McCain has condemned a "revanchist Russia" that should once again be contained. Although Putin has been the enormously popular elected leader of post-Communist Russia, it is assumed that imperialism is always lurking, not only in his DNA but in that of the Russian people.

How convenient to forget that Stalin was a Georgian, and indeed if Russian troops had occupied the threatened Georgian town of Gori they would have found a museum still honoring the local boy, who made good by seizing control of the Russian revolution. Indeed five Russian bombs were allegedly dropped on Gori's Stalin Square on Tuesday.

It should also be mentioned that the post-Communist Georgians have imperial designs on South Ossetia and Abkhazia. What a stark contradiction that the United States, which championed Kosovo's independence from Serbia, now is ignoring Georgia's invasion of its ethnically rebellious provinces.

For McCain to so fervently embrace Scheunemann's neoconservative line of demonizing Russia in the interest of appearing tough during an election campaign is a reminder that a senator can be old and yet wildly irresponsible.
(c) 2008 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Bush,

Dear Uber Gruppenfuhrer Stevens,

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 bridge to nowhere and taking the heat off us with your bribery scandal, Iraq and these many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class with diamond clusters presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Bush at a gala celebration at "der Wolf's Lair," formally "Rancho de Bimbo," on 08-23-2008. We salute you Herr Stevens, Sieg Heil!

Vice Fuhrer Cheney

Heil Bush

What's The Answer To This?
By Glenn Greenwald

A commenter here on Friday noted what appears to be a rather glaring contradiction in the case against Bruce Ivins. In response to criticisms that the FBI's case contains no evidence placing Ivins in New Jersey, where the anthrax letters were sent, The Washington Post published an article -- headlined "New Details Show Anthrax Suspect Away On Key Day" -- which, based on leaks from "government sources briefed on the case," purported to describe evidence about Bruce Ivins' whereabouts on September 17 -- the day the FBI says the first batch of anthrax letters were mailed from a Princeton, New Jersey mailbox. The Post reported:

A partial log of Ivins's work hours shows that he worked late in the lab on the evening of Sunday, Sept. 16, signing out at 9:52 p.m. after two hours and 15 minutes. The next morning, the sources said, he showed up as usual but stayed only briefly before taking leave hours. Authorities assume that he drove to Princeton immediately after that, dropping the letters in a mailbox on a well-traveled street across from the university campus. Ivins would have had to have left quickly to return for an appointment in the early evening, about 4 or 5 p.m.

The fastest one can drive from Frederick, Maryland to Princeton, New Jersey is 3 hours, which would mean that Ivins would have had to have dropped the anthrax letters in the New Jersey mailbox on September 17 by 1 p.m. or -- at the latest -- 2 p.m. in order to be able to attend a 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. meeting back at Ft. Detrick. But had he dropped the letters in the mailbox before 5:00 p.m. on September 17, the letters would have borne a September 17 postmark, rather than the September 18 postmark they bore (letters picked up from that Princeton mailbox before 5 p.m. bear the postmark from that day; letters picked up after 5 p.m. bear the postmark of the next day). That's why the Search Warrant Affidavit (.pdf) released by the FBI on Friday said this (page 8):

If the Post's reporting about Ivins' September 17 activities is accurate -- that he "return[ed to Fort Detrick] for an appointment in the early evening, about 4 or 5 p.m." -- then that would constitute an alibi, not, as the Post breathlessly described it, "a key clue into how he could have pulled off an elaborate crime," since any letter he mailed that way would have a September 17 -- not a September 18 -- postmark. Just compare the FBI's own definition of "window of opportunity" to its September 17 timeline for Ivins to see how glaring that contradiction is.

In theory (and there is no evidence for this at all), Ivins could have left Fort Detrick that night after work and driven to New Jersey, but then the leaked information reported by the Post about Ivins' September 17 morning "administrative leave" would be completely irrelevant, and according to the Post, that isn't what the FBI believes occurred ("Authorities assume that he drove to Princeton immediately after" he took administrative leave in the morning). The FBI's theory as to how and when Ivins traveled to New Jersey on September 17 and mailed the letters is simply impossible, given the statement in their own Probable Cause Affidavit as to "the window of opportunity" the anthrax attacker had to mail the letters in order to have them bear a September 18 postmark. Marcy Wheeler and Larisa Alexandrovna have now noted the same discrepancy. That is a pretty enormous contradiction in the FBI's case.

* * * * *

The FBI's total failure to point to a shred of evidence placing Ivins in New Jersey on either of the two days the anthrax letters were sent is a very conspicuous deficiency in its case. It's possible that Ivins was able to travel to Princeton on two occasions in three weeks without leaving the slightest trace of having done so (not a credit card purchase, ATM withdrawal, unusual gas purchases, nothing), but that relies on a depiction of Ivins as a cunning and extremely foresightful criminal, an image squarely at odds with most of the FBI's circumstantial evidence that suggests Ivins was actually quite careless, even reckless, in how he perpetrated this crime (spending unusual amounts of time in his lab before the attacks despite knowing that there would be a paper trail; taking an "administrative leave" from work to go mail the anthrax letters rather than just doing it on the weekend when no paper trail of his absence would be created; using his own anthrax strain rather than any of the other strains to which he had access at Fort Detrick; keeping that strain in its same molecular form for years rather than altering it, etc.).

The FBI dumped a large number of uncorroborated conclusions at once on Wednesday, carefully assembled to create the most compelling case they could make, and many people -- as intended -- jumped to proclaim that it was convincing. But the more that case is digested and assessed, the more questions and the more skepticism seem to arise among virtually everyone.

The Washington Post Editorial page -- the ultimate establishment organ -- published its second Editorial yesterday calling for an independent investigation of the FBI's case against Ivins and pointed out just some of the numerous, critical holes in that case:

The case is admittedly circumstantial, and questions have been raised about the reliability of the FBI's scientific evidence, the inability to tie Mr. Ivins to the handwritten notes included with the mailed anthrax, the process by which the FBI excluded as suspects others who had access to the anthrax, and more.

The NYT today has an excellent Op-Ed from a microbiologist (the former Chief of Fort Detrick's bacteriology division) pointing out the numerous deficiencies in the FBI's scientific assertions. Critically, that Op-Ed describes the properties of the high-grade anthrax sent to Sen. Daschle and then notes: "It is extremely improbable that this type of preparation could ever have been produced at Fort Detrick, certainly not of the grade and quality found in that envelope."

The transcript of my interview with Dr. Gigi Gronvall of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh's Medical Center -- in which she points out the complete lack of scientific data presented in the FBI's public case and explores the numerous other private and public institutions around the world engaged in high-level anthrax research -- is now available here. A senior epidemiologist who posts at ScienceBlogs has raised several other significant deficiencies in the FBI's scientific case -- here and here -- while a microbiologist and evolutionary biologist at the same site has expressed extreme doubt about one of the FBI's key molecular claims, here. Are there any scientists anywhere who find the FBI's claims impressive or convincing?

For those inclined to place faith in the FBI's professed claims of "confidence" as coming from a trustworthy and admirable institution -- the same way people placed faith in the Honorable Colin Powell's quite similar one-sided, selective disclosure of evidence before the U.N. in 2003 -- this ought to serve as a reminder of the foolishness of doing so, from ABC News' World News Tonight, October 22, 2002:


(Off Camera) We have an exclusive report tonight about the anthrax attacks. It has been a year since the anthrax letters were sent to a number of media organizations and politicians. And as you may recall, five people died.

(Voice Over)The FBI tells ABC News it is very confident that it has found the person responsible.


(Off Camera) ABC's Brian Ross is here. Brian? Same case, same individual. BRIAN ROSS, ABC NEWS

(Off Camera) That's right, Peter, Steven Hatfill. And while there's no direct evidence, authorities say they are building what they describe as a growing case of circumstantial evidence.

There are so many people with motives far more substantial than Ivins' to perpetrate an anthrax attack of this sort, and so many places other than Fort Detrick where this anthrax could have been produced (if it could have been produced by Ivins at Fort Detrick at all). An independent investigation by a body with meaningful subpoena power and an aggressive and respected investigator (and an accompanying law making it a felony to provide misleading information to, or to withhold information from, that body) is imperative. Is there anyone at this point who disagrees with that?
(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.

This Is Horseshit
By Cindy Sheehan

"It is not if we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists will we be?" ~~~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

You know, I don't care if it's not proper for a Congressional candidate to say: "horseshit." I don't care if it is not a good "tactic" to get kicked out of a Congressional non-impeachment hearing that was just a bunch of horseshit anyway. I don't care if I get accused of being too "extreme" for bucking the (cyst)em by doing everything from camping in a ditch in Crawford, Tx to non-violent civil disobedience to, lately, running for Congress as (oh no!) an independent.

If people can't see how this nation is teetering on the precipice of financial ruin and dragging the rest of this planet down with us as we destroy our ecology, too...and if people don't realize how desperate our situation is, then I must say, that's horseshit!

I am angry. No, I am incensed that hundreds of thousands of people are dead, dying, wounded, displaced from their homes or being imprisoned and tortured by the sadists that reside or work at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with the approval of their accomplices down the road in Congress. I am furious that I buried my oldest son when he was 24 years old for the unrepentant lies and the unpunished crimes of the Bush mob. Are you incensed? If not, maybe you should ask yourself: "Why?" Hypothetically: "Why am I not enraged that my country has killed or hurt so many people for absolutely no noble cause in my name and with my tacit approval?"

I am steamed that the working class has to, once again, pay for the excesses of the capitalist criminals that feeds its rapacious appetite with the flesh and blood of our children and won't rest until it owns every penny in this world and has all the power.

You may say, "But Cindy, it is not polite to be angry or to use such strong language in public." Horseshit! In my opinion, every citizen in this country should rise up in anger and DEMAND that George Bush and Dick Cheney not only be impeached and removed from office, but be tried and convicted for murder and crimes against the peace and humanity!

We should all walk off of our jobs and refuse to work and refuse to be cogs in the wheels of psychotic consumerism until our troops, military contractors and permanent bases are removed from Iraq and Afghanistan. We should, but most of us won't. We won't because it may mean that we would lose something of "value." Material possessions are so transitory, as are our lives. We can leave a lasting impression by our courageous activism and moral sacrifice, or we can leave a pile of rusting metal or rotting wood. I choose the former for myself.

We should come out of our comas of too much TV news and not enough non-biased information to push for alternatives to fossil fuels that are clean and renewable and protest nuclear facilities and off-shore oil drilling like we used to in the olden days when people actually cared enough about not poisoning our world to get off of their couches or (today) out from behind their computer screens to do something constructive instead of complacently shelling out hundreds of dollars a week for gasoline and food.

I get so pissed off when one of my supporters has a tooth ache and can't afford to go see a dentist to fix it or when my sister has had a cough for almost two years and doesn't have the health insurance she needs to get fully well. And when I think that almost 50 million people in this country are non-insured or under-insured, I see red. Why, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, do some have the "privilege" of being fully insured and healthy, when health care is a basic human right, not a privilege for the elitists? My heart hurts every night when the men who sleep propped up against my campaign office, huddled under their blankets against the San Francisco chill, wish me a "good night" and I can't choke the same words back to them, or do much of anything but give them coffee to keep warm and books to read to help pass the time. My campaign office is being visited on a daily basis by Iraq war vets who can't access the help they need to get physically or mentally healthy---and I am "extreme" because I actually want things to really change and choose to act on this desire and not sit around passively pretending that this horseshit doesn't exist?

Since Casey died, even though every day I am filled with pain and longing, I have tried to be the poster-mom for this pain telling my neighbors and fellow Americans how it feels to be profoundly hurt by the Military Industrial Complex and that it wouldn't be too long before the cancer of BushCo would strike every American home and now that this prediction is awfully coming true, I see more and more apathy and less and less action.

Three years ago today, I first sat in a ditch in Crawford, Texas and three years later, we are in dire straits, my friends, and the prognosis is not good, unless we all make a conscious effort to sacrifice some of today's comfort for the sake of our children and grand-children's futures.

Sixty-three years ago today, the monsters of the US war machine dropped a WMD on hundreds of thousands of innocent women and children and since then, this nation has just descended into a further spiral of war and profiting from war and preparing for war and more profiting from war; which is destroying every aspect of our society and we MUST reclaim our very souls from the Military Industrial Complex before it is too late.

Please don't wait for November, or January or for the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius because every second we allow this demented pattern to continue, is one second too long!

Get moving!
(c) 2008 Cindy Sheehan

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Jerry Holbert ~~~

"W The Movie" Official Trailer

To End On A Happy Note...

Vigilante Man
By Woody Guthrie

Have you seen that vigilante man?
Have you seen that vigilante man?
Have you seen that vigilante man?
I been hearin' his name all over the land.

Well, what is a vigilante man?
Tell me, what is a vigilante man?
Has he got a gun and a club in his hand?
Is that is a vigilante man?

Rainy night down in the engine house,
Sleepin' just as still as a mouse,
Man come along an' he chased us out in the rain.
Was that a vigilante man?

Stormy days we passed the time away,
Sleepin' in some good warm place.
Man come along an' we give him a little race.
Was that a vigilante man?

Preacher Casey was just a workin' man,
And he said, "Unite all you working men."
Killed him in the river some strange man.
Was that a vigilante man?

Oh, why does a vigilante man,
Why does a vigilante man
Carry that sawed-off shot-gun in his hand?
Would he shoot his brother and sister down?

I rambled 'round from town to town,
I rambled 'round from town to town,
And they herded us around like a wild herd of cattle.
Was that the vigilante men?

Have you seen that vigilante man?
Have you seen that vigilante man?
I've heard his name all over this land.
(c) 1940/2008 Woody Guthrie

Have You Seen This...


Parting Shots...

Citing Poor Conditions, China Refuses To Send Delegation To Olympics

BEIJING-In an 11th-hour move that shocked the international athletic and political communities alike, the Chinese Olympic Team announced Wednesday that it will not be attending the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing due to "shocking, shameful, and ultimately dangerous environmental conditions" in the host city.

"Given the unconscionably bad environmental state of the area in and around the site of the 2008 Summer Games, we cannot in good conscience allow Chinese athletes to compete in China," said Olympic committee spokesman Sun Weide. "We deeply apologize to China for the bitter disappointment they will feel at not being represented in these Games. However, we place the blame squarely on China for their failure to prepare a suitable venue for international competition."

"Frankly, it seems to me that in terms of air quality, water purity, and general contamination, Beijing is barely even capable of supporting human life, let alone strenuous activities such as team sports, swimming, and long-distance running," added Weide, who has lived in Beijing all his life. "We can only hope our refusal to compete in this city will result in real change for its long-suffering residents."

Weide's sentiments were echoed by other high-ranking members of China's Olympic athletic community.

"China's Olympic athletic community should be deeply ashamed of itself," said Zhang Tianbai, deputy director of the PRC's Athletic Sciences and Education Department and director of China's Olympic Committee. "When factories have to be shut down for a month beforehand just to clear the air, when automobile traffic is artificially thinned to reduce smog, when thousands of uniformed men have to dredge the river mere days before the regatta, in a city that is supposed to be the pride of a nation and the athletic center of the world for two weeks-disgusting is not too strong a word."

Director Tianbai joined Li Furong, vice president of the Chinese Olympic Committee, in calling for the immediate resignation and possible indictment of the entire Chinese Olympic Committee.

The 639 athletes chosen to represent China were informed Wednesday night that they would not in fact be competing in Beijing. Although all were shocked at the suddenness of the decision, most took the news stoically.

"I was very much looking forward to making China proud," said 100-meter hurdling champion Liu Zhang, who had expected to defend his gold medal in Beijing. "But, if I am honest, China should be ashamed of itself."

"I shall regret this for the rest of my life, but I think the current conditions Beijing are currently worse than the ones I encounter in my polluted, petroleum-fume-choked home town," said Rockets center Yao Ming, easily the team's most prominent athlete. "Which is Beijing. Things have gotten even worse since I moved."

"It brings me great sorrow to say this, as I had hoped that Chinese athletes would return from Beijing triumphant, having demonstrated our nation's greatness on a global stage," Hu Jintao, president and paramount leader of the People's Republic of China. "However, China's blatant disregard for its responsibility to the basic health, welfare, and safety of its Olympic participants has forced us to withdraw China's athletes for their own protection, and I urge the Olympic teams of all other nations to do the same."

China's Olympic team will spend one last night in their Olympic quarters before returning Friday to Beijing, where they will resume training for next year's Pan-American Games.
(c) 2008 The Onion.


View my page on indieProducer.net

Zeitgeist The Movie...

Issues & Alibis Vol 8 # 32 (c) 08/15/2008

Issues & Alibis is published in America every Friday. We are not affiliated with, nor do we accept funds from any political party. We are a non-profit group that is dedicated to the restoration of the American Republic. All views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of Issues & Alibis.Org.

In regards to copying anything from this site remember that everything here is copyrighted. Issues & Alibis has been given permission to publish everything on this site. When this isn't possible we rely on the "Fair Use" copyright law provisions. If you copy anything from this site to reprint make sure that you do too. We ask that you get our permission to reprint anything from this site and that you provide a link back to us. Here is the "Fair Use" provision.

"Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors."