Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Big Mac Politics

Big Mac politics

We get what we wish for in
the utterly predictable political conventions.

Don't do it. Don't tune in to this year's political conventions.

For two decades, Americans have been wising up and increasingly tuning out those quadrennial made-for-television pageants that pass for participatory democracy. In 1976, roughly 22 million people watched Jimmy Carter receive his party's nomination. By contrast, four years ago, only 16 million viewers enjoyed the high jinks at the GOP convention. Over the years, declining interest has persuaded broadcast networks to scale back their coverage, and I think a lot of us suspect we didn't miss much.

But this year, thanks to heightened interest in the presidential campaign, both broadcast and cable news networks are bumping up their coverage. And starting today, it's going to be extra hard to resist the allure of all that elaborately conceived stagecraft.

My revulsion for the conventions doesn't stem simply from disdain for partisan politics. Nor am I suggesting that Americans ignore the substance of politics. But to my mind, conventions are emblematic of everything that's wrong with American culture. For all our belief in freedom, which by definition breeds unpredictability, and our pride in our cultural dynamism, U.S. culture is becoming ever more self-conscious and scripted.

For a minute or two, the advent of reality TV seemed like a corrective to our canned popular culture. But then we learned that even those minor celebrity guinea pigs were being poked and prodded so they'd react in predictable ways.

Newfangled audio and video technology also has been heralded as ushering in a new era of wild and woolly spontaneity. But the YouTube-ization of politics has only made candidates all the more controlled and scripted, for fear that someone is watching.

And for all the intimacy that online social networking is supposed to restore to our atomized lives, networks such as Facebook actually encourage the creation of self-conscious and idealized personas that may or may not have anything to do with a person's real personality.

We've turned into a society of poseurs, and our political conventions have become something akin to the "walk off" in Ben Stiller's "Zoolander," in which dueling models (candidates) project their signature "looks."

As long ago as 1961, social critic Daniel Boorstin argued in his book, "The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America," that the U.S. was threatened by the "menace of unreality." He insisted that Americans were living in an "age of contrivance" in which manufactured illusions had become all too powerful. Our civic and cultural lives, he said, were full of "pseudo-events" populated by "pseudo-people" whose identities were entirely scripted and staged. He wrote this, I remind you, when television was young and well before the advent of the digital age.

The hegemony of mass popular culture clearly made matters worse. Now we swim in countless images that marketers, producers and political strategists rain down on us. Our children are socialized by these images. They internalize and mimic their themes and tropes. The relentless posing, posturing and spinning invades our collective consciousness.

More than a decade ago, I ran two after-school programs for second-graders in Los Angeles County. One class was made up of immigrants or the children of immigrants, while the other was all kids born to U.S.-born parents. At the end of each semester, we produced a video of a skit that each class wrote. What astonished me was the children's divergent attitude toward the camera. The immigrant children tended to speak to the camera as they would have to a person, but the more Americanized children invariably put on airs by adopting deeper television anchor-style voices or nodding their heads to indicate seriousness in the way television reporters often do. Only 7 years old and they were ready for their close-up.

Ultimately, what this all leads to is the death of spontaneity, the squandering of freedom. It's part of what sociologist George Ritzer calls the "McDonaldization of society," or "the process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate" all aspects of our lives. The convenience and predictability that fast food delivers leads us to desire convenient and predictable lives. Just as we can rest assured that a Big Mac will taste the same whether we eat it in California, Pennsylvania or Budapest, we've come to want the other parts of our lives to be as routine and controlled.

We get what we wish for in the utterly predictable political conventions. Pundits and reporters will do their best over the next two weeks to try to scare up some exciting, unpredictable story lines in Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul. But let's face it, barring the terrible or the miraculous, both conclaves will be as exciting, original and as good for you as a Big Mac.

Gregory Rodriguez
August 25, 2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Talking Dog

Talking Dog For Sale

A guy is driving around Tennessee and he sees a sign in front of a house:"Talking Dog For Sale."

He rings the bell and the owner tells him the dog is in the backyard.The guy goes into the backyard and sees a Labrador retriever sitting there.

"You talk?" he asks."Yep," the Lab replies."So, what's your story?"

The Lab looks up and says, "Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA about my gift, and in no time at all they had me jetting from country to country,sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping. I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running."

"But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security wandering near suspicious characters and listening in."

"I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals. I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I'm just retired"

The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.

"Ten dollars," the guy says.

"Ten dollars? This dog is amazing. Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?"

"Because he's a liar. He never did any of that stuff."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Puppet Masters

The Puppet Masters Behind Georgia President Saakashvili

The controversy over the Georgian surprise military attacks on South Ossetia and Abkhazia on 8.8.08 makes a closer look at the controversial Georgian President and his puppet masters important. An examination shows 41 year old Mikhail Saakashvili to be a ruthless and corrupt totalitarian who is tied to not only the US NATO establishment, but also to the Israeli military and intelligence establishment. The famous ‘Rose Revolution of November 2003 that forced the ageing Edouard Shevardnadze from power and swept the then 36 year old US university graduate into power was run and financed by the US State Department, the Soros Foundations, and agencies tied to the Pentagon and US intelligence community.

Mihkail Saakashvili was deliberately placed in power in one of the most sophisticated US regime change operations, using ostensibly private NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations) to create an atmosphere of popular protest against the existing regime of former Soviet Foreign Minister Edouard Shevardnadze, who was no longer useful to Washington when he began to make a deal with Moscow over energy pipelines and privatizations.

Saakashvili was brought to power in a US-engineered coup run on the ground by US-funded NGO’s, in an application of a new method of US destabilization of regimes it considered hostile to its foreign policy agenda. The November 24 2003 Wall Street Journal explicitly credited the toppling of Shevardnadze's regime to the operations of "a raft of non-governmental organizations . . . supported by American and other Western foundations." These NGOs, said the Journal, had "spawned a class of young, English-speaking intellectuals hungry for pro-Western reforms" who were instrumental laying the groundwork for a bloodless coup.

Coup by NGO

But there is more. The NGOs were coordinated by the US Ambassador to Georgia, Richard Miles, who had just arrived in Tbilisi fresh from success in orchestrating the CIA-backed toppling of Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade, using the same NGOs. Miles, who is believed to be an undercover intelligence specialist, supervised the Saakashvili coup.

It involved US billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Georgia Foundation. It involved the Washington-based Freedom House whose chairman was former CIA chief James Woolsey. It involved generous financing from the US Congress-financed National Endowment for Democracy, an agency created by Ronald Reagan in the 1980’s to “do privately what the CIA used to do,” namely coups against regimes the US Government finds unfriendly.

George Soros’ foundations have been forced to leave numerous eastern European countries including Russia as well as China after the 1989 student Tiananmen Square uprising. Soros is also the financier together with the US State Department of the Human Rights Watch, a US-based and run propaganda arm of the entire NGO apparatus of regime coups such as Georgia and Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution. Some analysts believe Soros is a high-level operative of the US State Department or intelligence services using his private foundations as cover.

The US State Department funded the Georgia Liberty Institute headed by Saakashvili, US approved candidate to succeed the no-longer cooperative Shevardnadze. The Liberty Institute in turn created “Kmara!” which translates “Enough!” According to a BBC report at the time, Kmara! Was organized in spring of 2003 when Saakashvili along with hand-picked Georgia student activists were paid by the Soros Foundation to go to Belgrade to learn from the US-financed Otpor activists that toppled Milosevic. They were trained in Gene Sharp’s “non-violence as a method of warfare” by the Belgrade Center for Nonviolent Resistance.

Saakashvili as mafioso President

Once he was in place in January 2004 as Georgia’s new President, Saakashvili proceeded to pack the regime with his cronies and kinsmen. The death of Zurab Zhvania, his prime minister in February, 2005, remains a mystery. The official version—poisoning by faulty gas heater—was adopted by American FBI investigators within two weeks of the killing. That has never seemed credible to those familiar with Georgia’s gangland slayings, crime, and other manifestations of social decay. Zhvania’s death was followed closely by a functionary of the Premier’s apparat, Georgi Khelashvili, who allegedly shot himself the day after his chief’s demise. The head of Zhvania’s research staff was later found dead as well.

Figures allied with Saakashvili reportedly had a hand in the premier’s death. Russian journalist Marina Perevozkina quoted Gia Khurashvili, a Georgian economist. Prior to the fatal incident, Mr. Khurashvili had published an article in Resonans newspaper opposing the privatization and sale of Georgia’s main gas pipeline. Ten days before the prime minister’s body was found, Khurashvili was attacked and his editor-in-chief—citing pressure from ‘security service’ figures he refused to name—issued him a warning.

The late premier’s position on the pipeline issue was believed the direct reason for the murder of Zhvania. Zhvania’s brother, Georgi, also told Perevozkina that not long before Zhvania’s death he received a warning that someone was preparing to kill his brother. Saakashvili was reportedly livid when the US State Department invited Zhvania to Washington to win a Freedom Medal from the US Government’s National Democratic Institute. Saakashvili tolerates no rivals for power it seems.

Saakashvili, who cleverly marketed himself as “anti-corruption,” appointed several of his family members to lucrative posts in government, giving one of his brothers a position as chief adviser on domestic issues to the Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline project, backed by British Petroleum and other oil multinationals.

Since coming to power in 2004 with US aid, Saakashvili has led a policy of mass-scale arrests, imprisonment, torture and deepened corruption. Saakashvili has presided over the creation of a de facto one-party state, with a dummy opposition occupying a tiny portion of seats in the parliament, and this public servant is building a Ceaucescu-style palace for himself on the outskirts of Tbilisi. According to the magazine, Civil Georgia (Mar. 22, 2004) until 2005, the salaries of Saakashvili and many of his ministers were reportedly paid by the NGO network of New York-based currency speculator Soros—along with the United Nations Development Program.

Israel US military train Georgian military

The current military assault on South Ossetia and Abkhazia, in violation of Saakashvili’s pledge to seek a diplomatic not military solution to the territorial disputes, is backed by US and Israeli military “advisers.” Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that on August 10, Georgian Minister of Reintegration, Temur Yakobshvili, “praised the Israel Defense Forces for its role in training Georgian troops and said Israel should be proud of its military might, in an interview with Army Radio. ‘Israel should be proud of its military which trained Georgian soldiers,’ Yakobashvili told Army Radio in Hebrew, referring to a private Israeli group Georgia had hired.”

One of the targets of Russian bombs near Tbilisi was, according to IsraelNN.com, “a Georgian military plant in which Israeli experts are upgrading jet fighters for the Georgian military… Russian fighter jets bombed runways inside the plant, located near Tbilisi, where Israeli security firm Elbit is in charge of upgrading Georgian SU-25 jets.”

Israeli Foreign Minister and candidate to succeed ousted Israeli Prime Minister, Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, proclaimed on August 10 that “Israel recognizes Georgia’s territorial integrity,” code for saying it backs Georgia’s attempt to take South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The reported 1,000 Israeli military advisers in Georgia were not alone. On July 15, the Reuters news wire carried the following report: “VAZIANI, Georgia - One thousand U.S. troops began a military training exercise called “Immediate Response 2008,” in Georgia on Tuesday against a backdrop of growing friction between Georgia and neighboring Russia. The two-week exercise was taking place at the Vaziani military base near the capital Tbilisi, which was a Russian air force base until Russian forces withdrew at the start of this decade under a European arms reduction agreement... Georgia has a 2,000-strong contingent supporting the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, and Washington provides training and equipment to the Georgian military. The United States is an ally of Georgia and has irritated Russia by backing Tbilisi’s bid to join the NATO military alliance... “The main purpose of these exercises is to increase the cooperation and partnership between U.S. and Georgian forces,” Brig. Gen. William B. Garrett, commander of the U.S. military’s Southern European Task Force, told reporters.”

With Russia openly backing and training the indigenous military in South Ossetia and Abkhazia to maintain Russian presence in the region, especially since the US-backed pro-NATO Saakashvili regime took power in 2004, the Caucasus is rapidly coming to resemble Spain in the Civil War from 1936-1939 where the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and others poured money and weapons and volunteers into Spain in a devastating war that was a precursor to the Second World War.

In a curious footnote to the actual launch of military fighting on the opening day of the Olympics when Putin, George W. Bush and many world leaders were in Beijing far away, is a report in IsraelNN.com by Gl Ronen, stating that “The Georgian move against South Ossetia was motivated by political considerations having to do with Israel and Iran, according to Nfc. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili decided to assert control over the breakaway region in order to force Israel to reconsider its decision to cut back its support for Georgia's military.”

Ronen added, “Russian and Georgian media reported several days ago that Israel decided to stop its support for Georgia after Moscow made it clear to Jerusalem and Washington that Russia would respond to continued aid for Georgia by selling advanced anti-aircraft systems to Syria and Iran.” Israel plans to get oil and gas from the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline from the Caspian.

Although as of this writing Russian President Medvedev has announced Russia is halting its military response against Georgian targets, the situation is anything but stable. The insistence of Washington in bringing Georgia into its geopolitical sphere and backing an unstable regime around Mikhail Saakashvili may well have been the straw which broke the Russian camel’s patience if not his back.

Whether oil pipeline disputes or Russian challenges to Israel are the proximate trigger for Saakashvili’s dangerous game, it is clear that the volatile Georgian and his puppet masters may have entered a game where no one will be able to control the outcome.

F. William Engdahl

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Warmonger Obama

On eve of Democratic convention,

Obama advances agenda of global militarism

By Bill Van Auken

Speaking before an audience of 3,000 members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama defended his patriotism while attacking his Republican rival for being squeamish about launching unilateral military attacks against Pakistan.

Obama’s speech Tuesday in Orlando, Florida followed an appearance Monday before the same convention by Republican candidate Senator John McCain, who delivered a right-wing diatribe portraying the Democrat as a political opportunist and virtual traitor for his policy on the war in Iraq.

McCain charged Obama with having “tried to prevent funding for the troops who carried out the surge.” He continued: “Not content to merely predict failure in Iraq, my opponent tried to legislate failure.”

In his response, Obama spoke not as an opponent of war, but rather as an advocate of a superior strategy for pursuing US imperialist interests by military means.

He chided McCain for “talking tough without acting tough and smart,” while outlining a policy agenda that includes a continuation of the occupation of Iraq—albeit on a reduced basis—an escalation of the war in Afghanistan and its extension across the border into Pakistan. Finally, he put forward a policy of confrontation with Russia in the Caucasus that dovetails fully with the positions taken by the McCain campaign and the Bush administration itself.

Obama began his speech by declaring that America confronted a “defining moment in our history,” a conjuncture that he indicated had been reached owing to a series of events involving the ongoing or potential use of American military force.

“We are in the midst of two wars,” he said. “The terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 are still at large. Russia has invaded the sovereign nation of Georgia. Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.”

Obama objected to McCain’s charge that he had shifted his position on Iraq, arguing that he had been consistent from the start. Referring to his initial opposition to the 2003 invasion, the Democratic candidate stressed that he was not opposed to aggressive wars in general, but that he viewed the war in Iraq as a miscalculation. He insisted instead that “our first priority had to be finishing the fight” in Afghanistan.

While suggesting that the “costly strategic errors” involved in the Iraq war had not been erased by the supposed successes of the military “surge” which sent 30,000 additional American troops into the country, Obama nonetheless praised the operation.

He hailed General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who oversaw the military escalation, as “outstanding Americans,” while attributing the “lowering” of “the level of violence” in Iraq to “the outstanding efforts of our military, the increasing capability of Iraq’s Security Forces, the ceasefire of Shiite militias, and the decision taken by Sunni tribes to take the fight to Al Qaeda.” He concluded, “Those are the facts, and all Americans welcome them.”

There are other “facts,” however, which millions of Americans recognize as both criminal and shameful. The suppression of Iraqi resistance to foreign occupation, which is neither complete nor permanent, has been achieved through the killing of well over a million civilians and the turning of millions more into refugees. The US war and occupation have essentially destroyed Iraq as a functioning society.

Yet for Obama, the catastrophe produced by a war aimed at seizing control of Iraq’s oil reserves is the fault not of Washington, but of the Iraqis themselves.

“We have lost over a thousand American lives and spent hundreds of billions of dollars since the surge began, but Iraq’s leaders still haven’t made hard compromises or substantial investments in rebuilding their country,” declared the Democratic candidate. “And while we pay a heavy price in Iraq—and Americans pay record prices at the pump—Iraq’s government is sitting on a $79 billion dollar budget surplus from windfall oil profits.”

“Iraqi inaction threatens the progress we’ve made and creates an opening for Iran and the ‘special groups’ it supports,” he continued. “It’s time to press the Iraqis to take responsibility for their future. The best way to do that is a responsible redeployment of our combat brigades, carried out in close consultation with commanders on the ground.”

In other words, Obama is not advocating an end to a predatory war, but rather its reconfiguration in a manner designed to pressure the regime in Baghdad into acceding more fully to US demands.

As he spelled out, this “responsible redeployment” will not mean an end to the US occupation. While vowing to remove US “combat brigades” from Iraq over the course of his first year-and-a-half in office—extending their presence well into 2010—Obama made it clear that many other troops would remain.

“After this redeployment, we’ll keep a residual force to target remnants of Al Qaeda, to protect our service members and diplomats, and to train Iraq’s Security Forces if the Iraqis make political progress,” he said. Such a force would inevitably consist of tens of thousands of American soldiers and Marines.

Moreover, he explained, the purpose of this reduction in the American “footprint” in Iraq would not be to curtail the global role of American militarism, but rather to facilitate its exercise elsewhere.

The partial withdrawal from Iraq, he said, would allow Washington to “strengthen our military, and to finish the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and the border region of Pakistan.”

Describing Afghanistan as the “central front in the war on terrorism,” Obama continued: “This is a war that we have to win. And as commander-in-chief, I will have no greater priority than taking out these terrorists who threaten America and finishing the job against the Taliban.”

Obama’s attempt to sell the US intervention in Afghanistan as some kind of “good war” being waged against the perpetrators of 9/11is as grotesque a lie as the ones used by the Bush administration to justify the war in Iraq. US and NATO forces are waging a brutal campaign that is claiming an escalating toll of civilian casualties as they fight popular resistance to the US-led occupation from the predominantly Pashtun population on both sides of the porous Afghan-Pakistani border. “Taking out these terrorists who threaten America” means a savage military campaign against this population.

He called for throwing two more US combat brigades into the colonial-style war against the people of Afghanistan.

The Democratic candidate’s call for a shift in the relative weight of US military power from Iraq to Afghanistan has emerged as the consensus position within the predominant layers of the American foreign policy establishment.

A so-called “terrorism index” published Monday by Foreign Policy magazine and the Center for American Progress, based on a survey of “foreign policy experts” (US security officials, intelligence operatives and academics), found that 69 percent support shifting US forces from Iraq to Afghanistan and 80 percent believe that Washington has devoted too much attention to Iraq and not enough to Afghanistan.

Underlying this orientation is a concern not with combating “terrorism,” but rather with US strategic interests. Central Asia, with its extensive oil and natural gas reserves, has emerged as a region of critical importance. In the wake of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, Washington has attempted to assert its hegemony in Central Asia in opposition to both Russia and China. The attacks of September 11 provided the pretext for a military intervention that had been planned long beforehand.

Obama went on to attack McCain from the right, accusing him of reticence about “bombing our ally” in Pakistan.

“So for all of his talk about following Osama bin Laden to the Gates of Hell, Senator McCain refused to join my call to take out bin Laden across the Afghan border,” he said. “Instead, he spent years backing a dictator in Pakistan who failed to serve the interests of his own people.”

The McCain campaign issued a statement pointing out that in the Democratic primary debates last year, Obama voiced his own support for US collaboration with Pakistan’s military strongman, Pervez Musharraf, who was forced to resign Monday.

“We have to work with Musharraf, because the biggest threat to American security right now is in the northwest provinces of Pakistan,” Obama said in the debate. He added, “We should continue to give him military aid contingent on him doing something about that.”

Finally, on Georgia, Obama stressed his unity with his Republican rival, declaring, “Senator McCain and I both strongly support the people of Georgia.”

The Washington Post reported Monday that “Some Democrats have been pleading with Obama to use McCain’s tough response to the Russian invasion of Georgia to paint him as a trigger-happy interventionist who would risk bringing a war-weary nation into military conflict in regions where the United States has no interest.”

Instead, Obama tried to outdo the Republican candidate in terms of menacing rhetoric. He regurgitated the war propaganda about “Russian atrocities,” while repeating the administration’s mantra that “Georgia’s territorial integrity must be respected,” a euphemism for supporting the attempt by the regime in Tbilisi to militarily conquer the autonomous territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. He also voiced his support for Georgia, a former Soviet republic, being “integrated” into the NATO military alliance, a policy that has dramatically heightened US-Russian tensions.

Obama included a tribute to Senator Joseph Biden (Democrat of Delaware)—reportedly a leading contender for the vice-presidential nomination—who had just returned from a trip to Georgia, and went on to cast the conflict in bellicose, Cold War terms.

The candidate concluded by warning Moscow that its actions in the Caucasus would “have consequences.”

With less than a week to go until the Democrats officially nominate Obama at their convention in Denver, and with barely two-and-a-half months until the election, the candidate’s speech underscores a stark political reality confronting the American people. Once again this November, the two-party system will offer no means of expressing the massive popular opposition to war, but rather an empty choice between two big business candidates who are committed to the expanded use of militarism in pursuit of US corporate and financial interests.

Truth from Fox News

Fox News, the American Government Brainwash Media

American Citizens Caught in Georgia
During the Attack Speak The Truth.
Watch the Reaction of FOX

This is a LINK to a video of former USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev agreeing with this girl on Larry King and a video of the girl being interviewed after the censored FOX news interview. She is 12 years old and was visiting family in Georgia when the cafe she was in was bombed

Monday, August 18, 2008

Poppies for Medicine

Poppies for Medicine

An interview with The Senlis Council's Norine MacDonald

Instead of forcibly burning poppy fields in southern Afghanistan, the international community could be assisting Afghan farmers with a program to produce much-needed painkillers instead of illegal (and deadly) heroin. Similar programs have worked in India and Turkey, as Norine MacDonald explains in conversation with Metta Spencer. By Metta Spencer (interviewer) , Norine MacDonald (interviewee)

SPENCER: Were you already living in Afghanistan when you conceived this idea?

MACDONALD: No, I started The Senlis Council six years ago. Then I went to Afghanistan three years ago to do the feasibility study on "Poppy for Medicine." The Senlis Council was started to look at drug policies and we were working mostly on European issues from an office in Paris.

About three-and-a- half years ago, Afghanistan became the top producer of opium for heroin. We were looking at the situation there and had the idea that perhaps the farmers could grow the opium poppies for morphine rather than heroin.

So I went there just to do a feasibility study, which we thought would just take us a couple of months. However, we have continued work on that project over these last three years but also started looking at security issues, the return of the Taliban, which started happening when I was in Afghanistan; and the relationships between counter-narcotics policy, insurgency issues, and development issues.

So The Senlis Council as an organization went from just looking at counter-narcotic issues to a wider spectrum of issues. In the last year we started to look at public security issues in Brazil. I've just finished a report on security issues in Somalia. So we've expanded our portfolio.

MS: Goodness. All I knew was that you were into the question of morphine from Afghanistan poppies.

NM: It's one of our more high-profile projects, but we do a lot of other work -- for example with the Red Cross/Red Crescent on the humanitarian treatment of drug addiction.

MS: Let's concentrate on the "Poppy for Medicine" project.

NM: Okay. There is a global shortage of what are technically called "essential painkillers" -- morphine and codeine. I'll just talk about morphine here. All the richest countries, including Canada, have a sufficient supply, but in most developing countries there is none or if you can get it, it is extremely expensive. That includes Afghanistan itself, where if you can find morphine in a pharmacy it costs the earth to buy a day's worth of medicine. So what we want to do next is a pilot project to test the idea that Afghan farmers can grow the opium poppy under a village licence system and convert it at the local level to morphine for use in meeting the shortage in developing countries.

MS: It sounds like a plan from heaven.

NM: We think so! We're not saying this should happen 100 per cent across the country in the next season. We want to run pilot projects over the next three years so we can test the various protocols and proposals that we have developed for control, quality control, and distribution. The first step is to prove whether those protocols can deal with the various issues that would be involved.

MS: John Polanyi, our local Nobel laureate, published an article in the Globe and Mail about this idea a couple of years ago. When I read it, I thought "Oh, this is so brilliant, why aren't they doing this already?" What are the arguments of people who oppose the very notion?

NM: Well, the main opposition actually comes from the United States administration. The counter-narcotics policy in Afghanistan is not an Afghan creation. The United States is the leader for counter-narcotics policy and it's primarily administered by the UK. It's financed by the US and the UK. So they've taken classic US "War on Drugs" policies, which you see mostly in Latin America (Colombia for example) and have brought those into Afghanistan.

Those policies are primarily based on forced poppy crop eradication -- ploughing up the poppy fields. And their basis for that, to give it the best argument, is that they believe in pursuing a zero tolerance policy and that, by allowing pilot projects for Poppy for Medicine, you are "sending a mixed message." The difficulty of course is that we have seen in the last five years that this American-led counter-narcotics policy has not only been unsuccessful, in that cultivation is up year after year in southern Afghanistan, but that the policy of ploughing up the Afghan poppy farmers' crop before harvest leaves these farmers, who are extremely poor, without any means to feed their families. It turns them against the international community. So the counter-narcotics policy is extremely inflammatory.

In an environment where the American military are fighting, you want them to have a lot of local support. So it's not only ineffective from a counter-narcotics policy point of view but it also undermines the counter-insurgency effort.

We confront an immovable policy box in Washington. So we're trying to meet all their concerns about Poppy for Medicine in our protocols, and continue to develop responses that can be worked out in the pilot project.

MS: One argument that seems to come up early in the conversation is the notion that, look, even if you were buying the poppy from the farmers, there's nothing that keeps the drug people from getting some of it. So you can't really stamp out the drug trade just by buying the farmers' crops at a modest price.

NM: The way that we've responded to that is with the idea of the village-based licence. Just as in rural areas in North America, everyone knows how much land their neighbor has. And everyone knows how many kilograms of opium that land will produce. So the licences wouldn't be given to individuals. If you and I were living side by side as farmers, we don't each get a licence but the entire village gets a licence. If anybody sells his opium to a trafficker, then the entire village is going to lose their licence. So by setting it up that way, you have this sort of community co-policing, to make sure that the opium that's being produced is being delivered to the factory to be converted to morphine.

As I said, in our proposals for the pilot projects we try to respond to these legitimate concerns. We've based a lot of our work on the experience in two other countries that actually do have licenced opium, Turkey and India.

The former counter-narcotics officer for India's licenced opium production has helped us base those protocols on the lessons they've learned in India.

MS: I presume that the Turks and the Indians are also producing it for morphine.

NM: Yes. In the 1960s America was flooded with heroin from Turkey and India. The practice of heroin use had been brought back to the United states by the Vietnam vets. At first, the Americans responded as they have in Afghanistan, with forced poppy crop eradication in Turkey. And, just as in Afghanistan, it led to a lot of rural political instability. And then they hit upon this idea to finance the conversion of that production in Turkey and India to medicinal production, which the United States financed, and helped them build the necessary factories. And then the United States signed a preferential trade agreement with Turkey and India, committing to buy 80% of their production. And that continues to this day. So we already have a model of something that was done back in the 1960s that was successful.

MS: I saw a TV show the other night about heroin production in Afghanistan. They were making it into a more refined product, which looked like brown bricks.

NM: That would be opium gum. Have you ever seen an opium poppy bulb when the flower is fading? It looks like a green-skinned onion. And to get the opium they take a little metal device, scrape up the side of the bulb, and let it sit overnight. The brown opium gum oozes out. And then they take a little paddle and scrape it off, so what they have is big wads of brown gum. They can turn it into these bricks, which are easier to stack, or they can pack it in a plastic bag and bury it, and it doesn't deteriorate. They can keep in a warehouse for a long period of time. It dries out, but it doesn't lose its chemical potency.

MS: You say it's also possible to go ahead and process it to the stage of white powder, locally?

NM: Yes, they do it now in small heroin factories throughout Afghanistan. That's a relatively new development. It's difficult to be sure, but by the reports we've had, most of it seems to leave Afghanistan across the border to Pakistan and Iran in the form of that brown, raw opium gum.

MS: Okay, but this white powder stuff, this is heroin, right? And it's dissolved in a liquid and injected when the user gets it? What would turn it into morphine instead of heroin?

NM: If you want to make it into morphine, that's a slightly different chemical process, but it's fairly straightforward. You could do in a small laboratory in a village area.

MS: How is morphine different from heroin?

NM: Well, heroin is a psychoactive substance that alters your consciousness and morphine's a painkiller. Obviously some people become addicted to morphine, but they're not addicted to the psychedelic high of it. It's more the sense of well-being, the pain-killing effect of morphine. For example, if you go down to your local hospital, they're normally using morphine for people who are post-op, who have cancer, any type of extreme pain. It is regulated, and they don't feel high.

MS: Well, that's interesting. You said the US is dead set against your proposal.

NM: Yes. The European Parliament has supported it in a resolution, and the Canadian Manley Commission on Afghanistan endorsed the idea of pilot projects. But this American administration has opposed it.

MS: If Manley says yes {to a pilot project}, and the US says no, does that stop Canadians from accepting and supporting it?

NM: We don't think so. We actually did a survey in Canada, the United States, the UK and Holland asking people, "what do you think about Poppy for Medicine, and do you think the prime minister should support it?" and there was overwhelming support by citizens in those various countries for this idea. They don't like the idea of forced poppy crop eradication.

Almost every single year, the Americans have also wanted to move on to aerial chemical spraying, which is what they do in Colombia. They want to spray some sort of high-powered Roundup herbicide from airplanes onto the agricultural lands of southern Afghanistan to eradicate poppies. We've opposed that. In Colombia it has not been an effective counter-narcotics policy, and there are environmental concerns -- even health concerns. And it would add yet another inflammatory element to the relationship with the local population that we're supposedly trying to be friendly with.

MS: Surely humanitarian considerations, both for the poppy farmers and for the people in pain around the world would indicate that your solution should take priority. I would think.

NM: We agree with you! We just have to convince President Bush.

MS: Well, I don't see enough publicity for the idea. It's a rare thing to come across an article even mentioning it. I hope Peace Magazine can give it a boost.

Who is Illegal?

Mexicans want to know:
"What part of illegal do you not understand?"

Rightfully, a lot of Mexicans are asking of Americans, "What part of
illegal do you not understand?" And, "We thought you said, the US is
a nation of laws." The reference is to illicit drug usage by so many
millions of Americans buying and using an estimated $150 billion
annually. And, this is the money Mexican drug lords use to finance
buying guns from American gun dealers, killing soldiers, police
officers, prosecutors, journalists and innocent by standards for
being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We have to admit, there is some heavy hypocrisy going on. We are
quick to condemn gardeners, dishwashers, fruit pickers, vegetable
harvesters, meat cutters, hotel maids, janitors who make up the
majority of those who enter the US illegally, but nary a word about
the killings going on in Mexico in an attempt to keep drugs out of
the US and away from America's youths. Not a word.

Instead what we do hear is, "The corrupt Mexican government is
responsible and protects the drug barons." On its face this is about
as ridiculous a statement as any of the many made by would
be "patriots," the Lou Dobbs of the air waves, and some of the most
extreme rights in politics, and let us not forget, a huge number of
wannabe famous reporters who have found a new target for
sensationalism in their writings.

I suggest the above statement is ridiculous because it flies against
facts. Mexico leads the world in marijuana eradication (the US is
second), and has seized far more cocaine and other types barbiturates
than the US and most other countries. And Mexico has lost more law
enforcement and military personnel than the U.S. In fact, Mexico's
war against drugs deaths rivals those of the US military losses in
Iraq. They are paying a hefty price to help the US young.

How do we repay this? Accuse them of corruption, and allow the US
press to have a field day at Mexico's expense. Cub or non-seasoned
reporters, many not even bothering to go to Mexico will sit behind
their computer screen, Google "Mexican drug wars" and from there
either copy/paste make a few changes here and there, and out goes the

The more responsible newspapers do have their reporters "call"
authorities in the field to obtain quotes that will support the story
already in progress. A few venture into Mexico, but not many. In the
end, the story has mistakes, misconceptions and most will rehash old
news mingled in with the new so as to give the appearance that some
events of months or even years ago are part of the new events.

What all articles have in common is that none touch on the root of
the problem. One, a USA Today article did bring out drug usage, but
not in the US, in Mexico. It did say that since Mexican authorities
working closely with US law enforcement have stopped quite a bit of
the smuggling, some drugs were staying in Mexico and traffickers were
developing a market. But the US market is still a 30 to 1 in dollar

Why does the US press ignore the danger of drugs to our young? Is it
because so many of the reporters, or in the industry are themselves
users of such "socially accepted" drugs like marijuana and cocaine
that they are not in agreement with Federal, states' and local laws
prohibiting their use?

The "nation of laws" has become so unashamed on drug usage that an
organization such as Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) sends press
releases to the news media condemning the annual Campaign Against
Marijuana Planting.

"Record setting busts each year have done nothing to reduce the
marijuana supply or keep marijuana out of the hands of kids, but they
have succeeded brilliantly in driving the growers to more dangerous
locations, putting national parks and residential communities at
risk," said Bruce Mirken, the MPP director of communications.

The MPP makes no bones about their disdain for laws prohibiting
cultivation of marijuana or apparently getting it into the hands of
kids, they want to legalize and regulate marijuana similarly to the
liquor industry.

But the point is – it's against the law as of now. People are being
killed trying to stop this illegal activity. Illicit drug users are
as guilty in the killings taking place as are the drug gangster
pulling the trigger.

So what part of it's illegal is not understood?

By Patrick Osio, Jr./HispanicVista. com
August, 2008

Eye On The Prize

This editorial appeared in People's Weekly World, journal of the Communist Party USA on 15 July 2008

Barack Obama is not a left candidate. This fact has seemingly surprised a number of progressive people who are bemoaning Obama’s “shift to the center.” (Right-wingers are happy to join them, suggesting Obama is a “flip-flopper.”) It’s sad that some who seek progressive change are missing the forest for the trees. But they will not dampen the wide and deep enthusiasm for blocking a third Bush term represented by John McCain, or for bringing Obama by a landslide into the White House with a large Democratic congressional majority.

A broad multiclass, multiracial movement is converging around Obama’s “Hope, change and unity” campaign because they see in it the thrilling opportunity to end 30 years of ultra-right rule and move our nation forward with a broadly progressive agenda.

This diverse movement combines a variety of political currents and aims in a working coalition that is crucial to social progress at this point. At the core are America’s working families, of all hues and ethnicities, whose determination to move forward does not depend on, and will not be diverted by, the daily twists and turns of this watershed presidential campaign. They are taking the long view.

Notably, the labor movement has stepped up its independent mobilization for this election. It is leading an unprecedented campaign to educate and unify its ranks to elect the nation’s first African American president. Last week, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka told the Steelworkers convention that there is “no evil that’s inflicted more pain and more suffering than racism — and it’s something we in the labor movement have a special responsibility to challenge.”

If Obama’s candidacy represented nothing more than the spark for this profound initiative to unite the working class and defeat the pernicious influence of racism, it would be a transformative candidacy that would advance progressive politics for the long term.

The struggle to defeat the ultra-right and turn our country on a positive path will not end with Obama’s election. But that step will shift the ground for successful struggles going forward.

One thing is clear. None of the people’s struggles — from peace to universal health care to an economy that puts Main Street before Wall Street — will advance if McCain wins in November.

Let’s keep our eyes on the prize.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Military Mind Drugs

Future wars 'to be fought with mind drugs'
Future wars could see opponents attacking each other's minds, according to a report for the US military

It is thought that some US soldiers are already taking drugs prescribed for narcolepsy in an attempt to combat fatigue Photo: EPA
Landmines releasing brain-altering chemicals, scanners reading soldiers' minds and devices boosting eyesight and hearing could all one figure in arsenals, suggests the study.

Sophisticated drugs, designed for dementia patients but also allowing troops to stay awake and alert for several days are expected to be developed, according to the report. It is thought that some US soldiers are already taking drugs prescribed for narcolepsy in an attempt to combat fatigue.

As well as those physically and mentally boosting one's own troops, substances could also be developed to deplete an opponents' forces, it says.

"How can we disrupt the enemy's motivation to fight?" It asks. "Is there a way to make the enemy obey our commands?" Research shows that "drugs can be utilized to achieve abnormal, diseased, or disordered psychology" among one's enemy, it concludes.

Research is particularly encouraging in the area of functional neuroimaging, or understanding the relationships between brain activity and actions, the report says, raising hopes that scanners able to read the intentions or memories of soldiers could soon be developed.

Some military chiefs and law enforcement officials hope that a new generation of polygraphs, or lie detectors, which spot lie-telling by observing changes in brain activity, can be built.

"Pharmacological landmines," which release drugs to incapacitate soldiers upon their contact with them, could also be developed, according to the report's authors.

The report, which was commissioned by the Defense Intelligence Agency, contained the work of scientists asked to examine how better understanding of how the human mind works was likely to affect the development of technology.

It finds that "great progress has been made" in neuroscience over the last decade, and that continuing advances offered the prospect of a dramatic impact on military equipment and the way in which wars are fought.

It also explains that the concept of torture could be transformed in the future. "It is possible that some day there could be a technique developed to extract information from a prisoner that does not have any lasting side effects," it states. One technique being developed involves the delivery of electrical pulses into a suspect's brain and delay their ability to lie by interfering with its neurons.

Research into "distributed human-machine systems", including robots and military hardware controlled by an operator's mind, is another particular area for optimism among researchers, according to the report. It says significant progress has already been made and that prospects for use of the field are "limited only by the creative imagination."

Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist and the author of 'Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense', said "It's too early to know which, if any, of these technologies is going to be practical. But it's important for us to get ahead of the curve. Soldiers are always on the cutting edge of new technologies

Friday, August 15, 2008

Saakashvili Rescue

August 15 2008 Opinion piece from Russian News & Information Agency, Novostia by its political commentator Andrei Fedyashin

It took the United States a week to understand the damage Mikheil Saakashvili's "Ossetian blitzkrieg" has caused him, and its fosterling, the Rose Democracy.

Now Washington has launched an operation to rescue Saakasvili in real earnest. At the same time, a diplomatic battle is unfolding around the Caucasian knot. Regrettably, this struggle will be harder for Russia to win than any armed conflict. On August 14, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Paris to meet President Nicolas Sarkozy, and immediately left for Tbilisi to talk with Saakashvili. At the same time, President George W. Bush sanctioned humanitarian relief to Georgia. The first S-17 cargo planes have already delivered medicines and food there. Several U.S. warships are moving to Georgian shores from the Persian Gulf to prevent Russia from blocking relief aid.

The Pentagon's humanitarian relief effort has little to do with Georgia's real requirements. But this is the first action in support of Saakashvili. He did not receive such support in the first days after the attack, and even began to complain that Washington's initial criticisms of Moscow's role in the conflict were too mild. This was not what he expected from those who had pushed him to attack South Ossetia.

Now Bush has accused Russia of "not behaving like the kind of international partner that it has said it wants to be." The fact that Washington has only lashed out at Moscow a week after the event is telling. Usually, the Americans provide thorough propaganda support for their political or military actions in any part of the globe (the invasions of Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq are all good examples), and do this preemptively. The flow of inspired leaks and revelations from anonymous high-rankers usually mounts for weeks before the decisive blow.

But it did not happen with Georgia. In fact, the U.S. press carried post factum "confidential" reports that during her visit to Tbilisi over a month ago Rice warned Saakashvili against military action. But he either did not get it, or lost his temper, and decided to act at his own risk. Sometimes pocket rulers get out of hand.

Yet it is hard to believe that a stateswoman as formidable as "Teflon Condi" could not make it clear to Saakashvili what the White House wants or does not want him to do. And he is not an Angela Merkel or Silvio Berlusconi, who can easily afford not to listen to the U.S. secretary of state.

The White House's recent moves suggest it has overcome the initial shock and has embarked on what it calls "damage control" by using the only remaining option - aggressive diplomacy. These moves also point to its blunder in anticipating Moscow's reaction to Saakashvili's action. Washington clearly did not expect such a prompt and forceful response from Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, still less so on the first day of the Olympics.

The Olympics are also a key to understanding what happened. After the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics (after the introduction of Soviet troops into Afghanistan), U.S. leaders became confident that all Soviet leaders were obsessed with the Olympic Games (which was true), and that it was easier for them to arrest several hundred dissidents than be subjected to a denigrating boycott. It is no accident that one of the possible responses being floated by Western diplomats is a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, a measure designed to cut "the aggressive Russia" down to size.

That would certainly be unpleasant, but it is not very likely. Too much may change in the next six years. The Bush administration will be gone, for one thing. Incidentally, despite all his outspoken criticism of Russia's "invasion of Georgia," Republican presidential nominee John McCain said on August 14 that as president he "would not send American military forces into a conflict in Georgia."

Like Washington, London never misses a chance to step on the Kremlin's toes. Together they want to give a tough response to Moscow, and choose those sanctions that would "hit hardest at its prestige," as The Times put it. Apart from the Olympic boycott, Washington has suggested a whole package of measures against Russia, including blocking its entry to the WTO, denying it admission to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), excluding it from the G8, stopping the talks on a new strategic partnership agreement with the EU, and curtailing its Partnership for Peace with NATO.

NATO is to adopt a common position next week, when its foreign ministers will gather for an urgent meeting in Brussels at Bush's request. The meeting will take place on Monday or Tuesday (August 18 or August 19). The worst-case scenario for Russia is that Washington may persuade the Europeans to welcome Tbilisi and Kiev to the Membership Action Plan without delay, a proposal France, Italy and Germany rejected at NATO's April summit in Bucharest. The Kremlin will be hoping they will choose to disagree again.

As for the new partnership agreement with the EU, Moscow has no reason to rush it. Russia is quite content with its current status, and Europe needs the agreement more than we do. Western business is much more interested in Russia's WTO entry, because it wants to establish itself firmly here. The OECD is more of a club of economic projects of its 30 members, and we are not rushing there, either. NATO-Russia partnership has long become a fiction.

Ousting Russia from the G8 looks like a tough measure, but it is not really. The G8 long ago lost its original essence, and has turned into little more than an expensive talking shop. If it is to regain its relevance its format must be changed. It is strange that Canada is a member of this club, but such huge economies as China, India, or Brazil are not. Nor does it include a single African nation. It has been clear since the end of the past century that this is inadequate. If Russia leaves this club, it will simply cease to exist.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

American Insouciance

Will American Insouciance Destroy the World?

13/08/08 The neoconned Bush Regime and the Israeli-
occupied American media are heading the innocent world toward nuclear war.

Back in the Reagan years, the National Endowment for Democracy was
created as a cold war tool. Today the NED is a neocon-controlled
agent for US world hegemony. Its main function is to pour US money
and election-rigging into former constituent parts of the Soviet
Union in order to ring Russia with American puppet states.

The neoconservative Bush Regime used the NED to intervene in
Ukrainian and Georgian internal affairs in keeping with the
neoconservative plan to establish US-friendly and Russia-hostile
political regimes in these two former constituent parts of Russia
and the Soviet Union.

The NED was also used to dismember the former Yugoslavia with its
interventions in Slovakia, Serbia, and Montenegro.

According to Wikipedia, Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the
legislation establishing NED, told the Washington Post in 1991 that
much of what the NED does "today was done covertly 25 years ago by
the CIA."

The Bush Regime, having established a puppet, Mikhail Saakashvili,
as president of Georgia, tried to bring Georgia into NATO.

[For readers too young to know, the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization was a military alliance between the US and Western
European countries to resist any Soviet move into Western Europe.
There has been no reason for NATO since the Soviet Union's internal
political collapse almost two decades ago. The neocons turned NATO
into another tool, like the NED, for US world hegemony. Subsequent
US administrations violated the understandings that President Reagan
had reached with Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, and have
incorporated former parts of the Soviet empire into NATO. The neocon
goal of ringing Russia with a hostile military alliance has been
proclaimed many times.]

Western European members of NATO balked at the admission of Georgia,
as they understood it as a provocative affront to Russia, on whom
Western Europe is dependent for natural gas. Western Europeans are
also disturbed at the Bush Regime's intentions to install ballistic
missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic as the consequence
will be Russian nuclear cruise missiles targeted on European
capitals. Europeans don't see the advantage of helping the US block
Russian nuclear retaliation against the US at the expense of their
own existence. Ballistic missile defenses are not useful against
cruise missiles.

Every country is tired of war except for the US. War, including
nuclear war, is the neoconservative strategy for world hegemony.

The entire world, except for Americans, knows that the outbreak of
armed conflict between Russian and Georgian forces in South Ossetia
was entirely due to the US and its Georgia puppet, Saakashvili.
Americans, alone in the world, are unaware that the hostilities were
initiated by Saakashvili, because Bush, Cheney and the Israeli-
occupied American media have again lied to them.

Everyone else in the world knows that the unstable and corrupt
Saakashvili, who proclaims democracy and runs a police state, would
not have taken on Russia by attacking South Ossetia unless given the
go-ahead by Washington.

The purpose of the Georgian attack on the Russian population of
South Ossetia is twofold:

To convince Europeans that their action in delaying Georgia's NATO
membership is the cause of "the Russian aggression" and that to save
Georgia from conquest Georgia must be given NATO membership.
To ethnically cleanse South Ossetia of its Russian population. Two
thousand Russian civilians were targeted and killed by the US-
equipped and trained Georgian Army, and tens of thousands fled into
Russia. Having achieved this goal, Saakashvili and his puppet-
masters in Washington quickly called for a cease fire and a halt
to "the Russian invasion." The hope is that the Russian population
will be afraid to return or can be prevented from returning, thus
removing the secessionist threat.

No doubt the Bush Regime can con the insouciant American population,
just as it did with Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, Iranian
nukes, and 9/11 itself, but the rest of the world is not buying it,
least of all Moscow, the Asia Times, and not even America's bought-
and-paid-for European allies.

Writing in the Asia Times, Ambassador M. K. Bhadrakumar, a former
career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service, notes the
disinformation that is being peddled by the Bush Regime and the US
media and reports that "at the outbreak of violence, Russia had
tried to have the United Nations Security Council issue a statement
calling on Georgia and South Ossetia to immediately lay down
weapons. However, Washington was disinterested. "
http://www.atimes. com/atimes/ Central_Asia/ JH13Ag02. html

Amb. Bhadrakumar notes that the American and Georgian resort to
violence and propaganda has brought an end to the Russian
government's belief that diplomacy and good will can bring about a
settlement of the South Ossetia issue. If Russia wished, Russia
could terminate Georgia's existence as a separate country at will,
and there is nothing the US could do about it.

It is certain that the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia was a Bush
Regime orchestrated event. The American media and the neocon think
tanks were ready with their propaganda blitzes. Neocons had ready a
Wall Street Journal editorial page article for Saakashvili that
declares "the war in Georgia is a war for the West."

Faced with the collapse of his army when Russia sent in troops to
protect South Ossetians from the Georgian troops, Saakashvili
declared: "This is not about Georgia any more. It is about America,
its values."

The neocon Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., quickly called a
conference hosted by warmonger Ariel Cohen, "Urgent! Event: Russian-
Georgian War: A Challenge for the U.S. and the World."

The Washington Post lifted its skirts and spread wide its legs to
neocon Robert Kagen's war drums, "Putin Makes His Move."

Only a fool like Kagen could think that if Putin intended to invade
Georgia he would do so from Beijing, or that after sending the
American-trained Georgian army in flight, he would not continue and
conquer all of Georgia in order to put an end to American
machinations on Russia's most sensitive border, machinations that
are likely to eventually end in nuclear war.

That despicable whore, the New York Times, spread her legs for Billy
Kristol's rant, "Will Russia Get Away With It?" Kristol thunders
against "dictatorial and aggressive and fanatical regimes"
that "seem happy to work together to weaken the influence of the
United States and its democratic allies." Kristol presents a new
axis of evil--Russia, China, North Korea and Iran--and warns
against "delay and irresolution" that "simply invite future threats
and graver dangers."

In other words, "attack Russia now."

Dick Cheney, the insane American Vice President telephoned
Saakashvili to express US solidarity with Georgia in the conflict
with Russia and declared: "Russian aggression must not go
unanswered." Cheney's telephone call is like Great
Britain's "guarantee" to Poland against Nazi Germany. Only a
complete idiot would tell Saakashvili anything other than "to cease
immediately. "

What must be the effect on US Intelligence services and the US
military of Cheney's propagandistic and irresponsible statement of
US support for Georgia's war crimes? Does anyone really believe that
the CIA or any US intelligence service told the vice president that
Russia opened the conflict with an invasion? Russian troops arrived
in South Ossetia after thousands of Ossetians had been killed by the
Georgian attack and after tens of thousands of Ossetians had fled
into Russia to escape the Georgian attack. According to news
reports, Russian forces have captured Americans who were with the
Georgian troops directing their attack on civilians.

The US military certainly has no resources for a war against Russia
on top of lost wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a planned war with

With its Georgian venture, the Bush Regime is guilty of a new round
of war crimes. What will be the consequence?

Many will reply that having got away with 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq,
and with its preparations for attacking Iran, the Bush Regime will
get away with its Georgian venture as well.

Possibly, however, this time the Bush Regime has overreached.

Certainly Russia now recognizes that the US is determined to exert
hegemony over Russia and is Russia's worst enemy.

China realizes the US threat to its own energy supply and, thereby,

Even America's European allies, chafing under their role of
supplying troops for America's Empire, must now realize that being
an American ally is dangerous and has no benefits. If Georgia
becomes a NATO member and renews its attack on South Ossetia, it
must drag Europe into a war with Russia, a main supplier of energy
to Europe.

Moreover, if Russian troops are sent across European frontiers,
there is nothing to stop them.

What does America offer Europe, aside from the millions of dollars
it pays to buy off Europe's political leaders to insure that they
betray their own peoples? Nothing whatsoever.

The only military threat that Europe faces comes from being dragged
into America's wars for American hegemony.

The US is financially bankrupt, with budget and trade deficits that
exceed the combined deficits of the rest of the world together. The
dollar has wilted. The American consumer market is dying from the
offshoring of American jobs and, thereby, incomes, and from the
wealth effect of the real estate and derivatives collapses. The US
has nothing to offer Europe. Indeed, American economic decline is
killing European exports by driving up the value of the euro.

America long ago lost the moral high ground. Hypocrisy has become
America's best known hallmark. Bush, the invader of Afghanistan and
Iraq on the basis of lies and deception, thunders at Russia for
coming to the defense of its peacekeepers and Russian citizens in
South Ossetia. Bush, the vampire who ripped Kosovo out of Serbia's
heart and handed it to the Muslims, has taken an adamant stand
against other separatist movements, especially the South Ossetians
who wish to be part of the Russian Federation.

The neoconned Bush Regime is furious that the Russian bear was not
intimidated by the US supported aggression of the American puppet
state, Georgia. Instead of accepting the act of American hegemony
that the neocon script called for, Russia sent the Americanized
Georgian army fleeing in fear.

Having failed with weapons, the Bush Regime now unleashes the
rhetoric. The White House is warning Russia that failure to
acquiesce to US hegemony could have a "significant, long-term impact
on relations between Washington and Moscow."

Do the morons who comprise the Bush Regime really not understand
that short of a surprise nuclear attack on Russia there is nothing
whatsoever the US can do to Moscow?

The Bush Regime owns no Russian currency that it can dump. The
Russians own US dollars.

The Bush Regime owns no Russian bonds that it can dump. The Russians
own US bonds.

The US can cut Russia off from no energy supplies. Russia can cut
America's European allies off from energy.

President Reagan negotiated the end of the cold war with Soviet
President Gorbachev.,
The neoconservatives, whom Reagan fired and drove from his
administration, were furious. The neocons had hoped to win the cold
war, thereby establishing American hegemony.

The Republican Establishment reestablished its hegemony under Bush
1st that it had lost to Ronald Reagan. With this feat, intelligence
was driven from the Republican Party.

The neocons engineered their comeback with the First Gulf War and
their propaganda, pure lies, that Iraqi troops bayoneted Kuwait
babies in hospitals.

The neocons made a further comeback with President Clinton, whom
they convinced to bomb Serbia in order to permit separatist
movements to become independent states dependent on America.

With Bush 2nd, the neocons took over. Their agenda, American world
hegemony, includes Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.

So far the schemes of these ignorant and dangerous ideologues have
come a cropper. Iraq, formerly in the hands of secular Sunnis who
were a check on Iran, is, after the American invasion and
occupation, in the hands of religious Shi'ites allied with Iran.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban are resurgent, and a large NATO/US army
there is unable to control the situation.

One consequence of the neocons' Afghan war has been the loss of
power of the American puppet president of Pakistan, a Muslim country
armed with nuclear weapons. The puppet president now faces
impeachment, and the Pakistani military has informed the Americans
to stop conducting military operations in Pakistani territory.

The American puppets in Egypt and Jordan might be next to fall.

In Iraq, the Shi'ites, having completed their ethnic cleansing of
Sunnis from neighborhoods, have declared a cease fire in order to
contradict the US propaganda that American withdrawal would lead to
a blood bath. Negotiations on withdrawal dates are now underway
between the Americans and the Iraqi government, which is no longer
behaving like a puppet.

Last year Hugo Chavez ridiculed Bush before the UN. Russia's Putin
ridiculed Bush as Comrade Wolf.

On August 12, 2008, Pravda ridiculed Bush, "Bush: Why don't you shut

Americans may think they are a superpower before whose presence the
world trembles. But not the Russians.

Those Americans stupid enough to think that America's "superpower"
insures its citizens from danger need to read the total contempt
shown for President Bush in Pravada:

"President Bush,

Why don't you shut up? In your statement on Monday regarding the
legitimate actions of the Russian Federation in Georgia, you failed
to mention the war crimes perpetrated by Georgian military forces,
which American advisors support, against Russian and Ossetian

"President Bush,

Why don't you shut up? Your faithful ally, Mikhail Saakashvili, was
announcing a ceasefire deal while his troops, with your advisors,
were massing on Ossetia's border, which they crossed under cover of
night and destroyed Tskhinvali, targeting civilian structures just
like your forces did in Iraq.

"President Bush,

Why don't you shut up? Your American transport aircraft gave a ride
home to thousands of Georgian soldiers from Iraq directly into the
combat zone.

"President Bush,

Why don't you shut up? How do you account for the fact that among
the Georgian soldiers fleeing the fighting yesterday you could
clearly hear officers using American English giving orders to "Get
back inside" and how do you account for the fact that there are
reports of American soldiers among the Georgian casualties?

"President Bush,

Why don't you shut up? Do you really think anyone gives any
importance whatsoever to your words after 8 years of your criminal
and murderous regime and policies? Do you really believe you have
any moral ground whatsoever and do you really imagine there is a
single human being anywhere on this planet who does not stick up his
middle finger every time you appear on a TV screen?

Do you really believe you have the right to give any opinion or
advice after Abu Ghraib? After Guantanamo? After the massacre of
hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens? After the torture by CIA

Do you really believe you have any right to make a statement on any
point of international law after your trumped-up charges against
Iraq and the subsequent criminal invasion?

"President Bush,

Why don't you shut up? Suppose Russia for instance declares that
Georgia has weapons of mass destruction? And that Russia knows where
these WMD are, namely in Tblisi and Poti and north, south, east and
west of there? And that it must be true because there
is "magnificent foreign intelligence" such as satellite photos of
milk powder factories and baby cereals producing chemical weapons
and which are currently being "driven around the country in
vehicles"? Suppose Russia declares for instance that "Saakashvili
stiffed the world" and it is "time for regime change"?

Nice and simple, isn't it, President Bush?

"So, why don't you shut up? Oh and by the way, send some more of
your military advisors to Georgia, they are doing a sterling job.
And they look all funny down the night sight, all green."

The US is not a superpower. It is a bankrupt farce run by imbeciles
who were installed by stolen elections arranged by Karl Rove and
Diebold. It is a laughing stock, that ignorantly affronts and
attempts to bully an enormous country equipped with tens of
thousands of nuclear weapons.

A population that tolerates the insane Bush Regime and its criminal
neocon operatives has no claims to life on earth.

(Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during
President Reagan's first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall
Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments,
including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and
International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research
Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.)

Mahmoud Darwish

- By Mahir Ali

Article taken from here

FROM the ridiculous to the sublime: last Saturday brought sorrowful tidings from Houston, where efforts by surgeons to mend Mahmoud Darwish's broken heart came to naught. "We have lost part of our essence, the essence of the Palestinian being," commented Hanan Ashrawi on the death of a poet who for nearly five decades inimitably articulated the suffering of his people, the agony of dispossession and exile, and - unfailingly - the hope of reunion with the beloved, a dream that remained unfulfilled. Darwish parted ways with the PLO in the wake of the Oslo travesty 15 years ago, yet Mahmoud Abbas didn't think twice before declaring three days of mourning in a nation that remains bereft of statehood.

In 1971, when his decision to live outside the occupied territories was roundly criticized throughout the Arab world, Darwish noted: "I am not the first patriot or poet to leave his country in order to draw nearer to it." He lived in Moscow, in Cairo, in Beirut, in Tunis; it was 26 years before he returned to a homeland from which he perforce remained estranged, settling in Ramallah. During a poetry reading last year, he described the violence between Fatah and Hamas as "a public attempt at suicide in the streets".

Many years earlier, he had lamented: "If only these verses/ Were a chisel in the grip of a worker,/ A grenade in the hand of a fighter/ ... a plough in the hands of a peasant". In due course he was elevated, inevitably, to the ranks of a 20th-century pantheon that includes the likes of Pablo Neruda, Nazim Hikmet and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Darwish, who once described himself as "the envoy of a wound that does not bargain", shared with these three a Marxist-humanist perspective that ensured he was always more popular among Arab people than among their unrepresentative rulers.

Israeli reports of his demise mentioned that in 2000 the education minister, Yossi Sarid, had recommended including some of Darwish's poems in the high school curriculum, but the idea was vetoed by the prime minister, Ehud Barak. It is unlikely that the Israelis will change their minds now that the poet has been interred in the land he loved so passionately, perhaps amid an olive grove. And even if they did, it is all but inconceivable that they would authorize schoolchildren to become acquainted with particularly potent diatribes such as the early poem On Man, which goes:

They gagged his mouth,

Bound his hands to the rock of the dead

And said: Murderer!

They took his food, clothes and banners,

Cast him into the condemned cell

And said: Thief!

They drove him away from every port,

Took his young sweetheart,

Then said: Refugee!

O you with bloodshot eyes and bloody hands,

Night is short-lived,

The detention room lasts not for ever,

Nor yet the links of chains.

Nero died, Rome did not:

With her very eyes she fights.

And seeds from a withered ear

With wheat shall fill the valley.

I Bought A Book....

This article is nothing but a personal recount about one of the ironies (and for a change it is not a historical irony in terms of Lebanese power-struggle politics) that I encountered. I went to Virgin Megastore to buy some books. In 99% of the cases, I boycott those multi-national institutions, and to go one step further, I promote their dangers as an example of class struggle, with one perspective at least required for this post (there are several dimensions to that story, I recommend corpwatch to read), whereby the big corporations oust the smaller businesses with their gigantic budget, international links, and gain monopoly on the access of information. In a sense, to be seen in Virgin Megastore, I find that rather embarrassing, or rather subdue to the system. Most of my ideological readings have been on the Marxist Internet Archives; however, not everything is available to the public for free.

The story goes that I go with a fellow comrade to buy a book for Isaac Deutcher. As I enter the store, I bump to a fellow Comrade of mine, who probably in my own honest opinion, is the most powerful academic (and a Marxist with a little bit of Arab nationalist affiliations). That man was Fawwaz Traboulsi. The story took place four years ago. I meet up with him and as always, ask him a zillion questions on life, work, activism, academics, what to read, ...etc. I told him that my purpose to this place was to buy a book written by Isaac Deutcher. Other than the fact he knew his wife, the man never seized to surprise me. I always hear him on TV, and read his articles, and his book "A History of Modern Lebanon" has become almost a bible to be read on daily basis.

I told him: "I came here to buy a book by Deutcher"
Traboulsi: "It is interesting that they import a lot of books on the Soviet Union, and Soviet characters."
Me : "Indeed, that is true"
Traboulsi: "But I find it strange to see books on Lenin, Trotsky, Marx, and others but not a single book written by those authors."
Well, it is true. After a brief moment of debate, we went our separate ways.

Now, here we were, couple of Comrades, at Virgin Megastore, whereas some of them were going to buy books on Communism. Now of course, to answer Traboulsi's complaint, those who can access the Marxist Internet Archives, they can access them, or try to print them out for future photocopies. Almost 95% of what all of the previous mentioned Communist intellects have their writings present in those earlier Marxist archives (even minutes of meetings).

Moving around the story of Mr. Deutcher. The book cost me a bundle, and unlike several "Communists", cash flow is a problem for me. Amen for internationalism within the Marxist doctrines, whereby comrades are not bounded by borders. So I contacted two comrades in the US who were on their way to Beirut, and I got the final required original copy for Isaac Deutcher. When I wanted to pay for it, my comrade replies: "No need comrade, I got almost for free." In a stunned manner, I look at him and answer back: "But the book is an original and new", and my comrade replied: "I got it at a second shop."

Now you have to understand, when several comrades meet, and they originate from different borders, a zillion question pops up. Luckily for us, we entered the debate on "Access of Information" while having a quick 8 shots of Vodka (four of them were on the house). He asked:

Comrade: "Where did you get the book?"
Me : "Don't laugh, from Virgin Megastore"
Comrade: "For real, they actually sell our stuff at Virgin Megastore?"
Me : "Don't Laugh, I couldn't find the Isaac Deutcher series except in Virgin Megastore"
Comrade: "Interesting, over here they never sell anything Communist or Anarchist"

Well, from that perspective, it was interesting. Whereas I felt being a slave forced to buy a book that I needed for different reasons, but I couldn't attain it anywhere but Virgin Megastore. Damned Capitalists!


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Russia & Georgia Oil

Russia and Georgia: All About Oil

In commenting on the war in the Caucasus, most American analysts have tended to see it as a throwback to the past: as a continuation of a centuries-old blood feud between Russians and Georgians, or, at best, as part of the unfinished business of the Cold War. Many have spoken of Russia’s desire to erase the national “humiliation” it experienced with the collapse of the Soviet Union 16 years ago, or to restore its historic “sphere of influence” over the lands to its South. But the conflict is more about the future than the past. It stems from an intense geopolitical contest over the flow of Caspian Sea energy to markets in the West.

This struggle commenced during the Clinton administration when the former Soviet republics of the Caspian Sea basin became independent and began seeking Western customers for their oil and natural gas resources. Western oil companies eagerly sought production deals with the governments of the new republics, but faced a critical obstacle in exporting the resulting output. Because the Caspian itself is landlocked, any energy exiting the region has to travel by pipeline – and, at that time, Russia controlled all of the available pipeline capacity. To avoid exclusive reliance on Russian conduits, President Clinton sponsored the construction of an alternative pipeline from Baku in Azerbaijan to Tbilisi in Georgia and then onward to Ceyhan on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast -- the BTC pipeline, as it is known today.

The BTC pipeline, which began operation in 2006, passes some of the most unsettled areas of the world, including Chechnya and Georgia’s two breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. With this in mind, the Clinton and Bush administrations provided Georgia with hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid, making it the leading recipient of U.S. arms and equipment in the former Soviet space. President Bush has also lobbied U.S. allies in Europe to “fast track” Georgia’s application for membership in NATO.

All of this, needless to say, was viewed in Moscow with immense resentment. Not only was the United States helping to create a new security risk on its southern borders, but, more importantly, was frustrating its drive to secure control over the transportation of Caspian energy to Europe. Ever since Vladimir Putin assumed the presidency in 2000, Moscow has sought to use its pivotal role in the supply of oil and natural gas to Western Europe and the former Soviet republics as a source both of financial wealth and political advantage. It mainly relies on Russia’s own energy resources for this purpose, but also seeks to dominate the delivery of oil and gas from the Caspian states to the West.
To further its goals in the Caspian, Putin and his protégé Dmitry Medvedev – until recently the chairman of Gazprom, the Russian state gas monopoly – have enticed (or browbeaten) the leaders of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan into building new gas pipelines through Russia to Europe. The Europeans, fearful of becoming ever more dependent on Russian-supplied energy, seek to build alternative conduits across the Caspian Sea and along the route of the BTC pipeline in Azerbaijan and Georgia, bypassing Russia altogether.

It is against this backdrop that the fighting in Georgia and South Ossetia has been taking place. The Georgians may only be interested in regaining control over an area they consider part of their national territory. But the Russians are sending a message to the rest of the world that they intend to keep their hands on the Caspian Sea energy spigot, come what may. This doesn’t necessarily mean occupying Georgia outright, but they will certainly retain their strategic positions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia – for all practical purposes, daggers aimed at the BTC jugular. So even if a cease-fire is put into effect, the struggle over energy resources – sometimes hidden and stealthy, sometimes open and violent – will continue long into the future.
by Michael T. Klare

US's other Georgia

And Russian Immigrants With Guns

The text of this article by William Bradley appeared in Huffington Post, an online journal that pretending to be leftist in the US where there is none. Still, though influenced strongly by american propaganda misbeliefs, it does surprisingly sneak through some content common to the rest of the world.

Russian politics is very tough. While I'm no expert, I've followed it for many years. In 1994, when the State Department placed a former top aide to then President Boris Yeltsin with me for several weeks as he moved around the country learning American politics, I remember that he spent much of his time on the phone to Moscow, trying to deal with physical attacks on his [Ed Pocho: read US Chicago Boys Disaster Capitalists] reformist [Ed Pocho: read take over] friends.

Moscow is not such a Wild West under Vladimir Putin, whose KGB expertise has led to consolidation, but aggressiveness is a major factor in its politics. Which brings us to the debacle of Russia v. Georgia. While the politicians in America talk through their hats about what they're going to "do," here are eight key things to know -- and one big question -- about the Russia-Georgia War.

** Who gave the greenlight to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to launch an offensive against the capital city of the breakaway republic of South Ossetia? America has hundreds of military advisors and trainers in Georgia.

To prepare [Ed Pocho: add "Israili trained] Georgian troops for service in Iraq (they were the third largest national contingent, behind the US and UK) and for the intended NATO membership. It's inconceivable that US officials didn't know about the Georgian offensive. Who gave the greenlight for what became a debacle for Georgia? Russia used the move as a rationale to pour its troops into South Ossetia and as a pretext to then shatter the Georgian military and do everything else it's done in Georgia.

Russia's military has gotten plenty of practice in Chechnya and Dagestan, which is how Putin came to power in the first place. It helped the US take down the Taliban in Afghanistan. But US sources say they were "very surprised" by Russia's rapid and decisive reaction to the Georgian offensive against the capital of breakaway republic South Ossetia. Being very surprised is never a good thing in politics. Some 1,650 US troops conducted a joint exercise with the Georgian military in mid-July. As a show of force. But they were gone when the Georgians attacked Tskhinvali. And the Russians invaded Georgia. So much for the show of force.

** The price of oil actually went down during the war. Contrary to widespread predictions, and what frequently happens during a geopolitical crisis. The oil markets seemed actually to have confidence about the Russian move.

And no concern about supposed Russian attempts to destroy a major oil pipeline in the country, which led the Drudge Report to proclaim "The Pipeline War." I keep a live near real-time link on New West Notes to world oil markets every day, and the sense of calm was striking.

** As a result of its military being smashed, Georgia had to withdraw its forces, some 2000 troops in all, from Iraq, another blow.

The US is left even further holding the bag there as Britain draws down its own forces.

** Russia's move exposed the hollowness of US security guarantees to Georgia, whose leader is an American-educated lawyer who named a street in his capital city after President Bush and employed John McCain's chief foreign policy advisor as his lobbyist.

There were simply no American forces which could be brought to bear against the Russians. And the Pentagon, pinned down in the Middle East, has no interest in fighting nuclear power Russia.

** Which makes the long-standing American policy of expanding NATO up to Russia's borders -- a policy that goes back to President Clinton -- look good so far for not much more than annoying Russia.

Which it does, immensely. Along with the proposed US anti-missile shield to be based in Poland and the Czech Republic, supposedly to guard against, um, Iranian missiles.

** Russian pride has also been wounded by Kosovo. The treatment of Serbia during the 1999 Kosovo War, when Russia was still in chaos and less powerful, rankled, as did the righteous [Ed.Pocho: ???] ouster of Slobodan Milosevic.

I predicted at the time that a rump battalion of Russian paratroopers would move on Kosovo's only airport, in Pristina. It was a rare moment of pride which didn't accomplish much, though it did infuriate then NATO Commander Wes Clark. This year, Russia had to stand by as Kosovo finally gained its independence [Ed Pocho: read US subservience]. But unlike Georgia, Kosovo isn't next to Russia.

** Russia has much better cards to play now. There is its major role with Europe.

McCain has been saying all along that Russia should be expelled from the G-8 group of eight advanced industrial nations. But the major Western European countries won't try to isolate Russia. French President Nicolas Sarkozy worked out a ceasefire accord in Moscow that is advantageous to Russia. Germany's foreign minister just poured cold water on the idea of shunning Russia. Russia is big business for Europe, its main supplier of natural gas, oil, and uranium.

** And Russia has a huge role in the Middle East. The truth is that the various facets of the war on terror have been very good for Russia.

Geopolitical instability means high oil prices. High oil prices are great for the Russian economy. And it's one of the world leaders in weapons technology and arms dealing. Their best anti-aircraft systems in Iran, for example, could make that troublesome [Ed Pocho: to whom?] nation virtually invulnerable to attack from Israel or the US. That may be why Israel has agreed not to sell weapons to Georgia. And Russia's help is very important to America in containing Iran's [Ed Pocho: legitimate] nuclear ambitions.

So what does it mean? It means that most of what you're hearing from the politicians in America is just rhetoric. And that Russia has scored a big win.

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