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Undernews For May 18, 2008

Undernews For May 18, 2008

Washington's Most Unofficial Source
611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
Editor: Sam Smith

18 MAY 2008


The notion that we ought to now go to Baghdad and somehow take control of the country strikes me as an extremely serious one, in terms of what we'd have to do when we got there. You'd probably have to put some new government in place. It's not clear what kind of government that would be, how long you'd have to stay. For the U.S. to get involved militarily in determining the outcome of the struggle over who's going to govern in Iraq strikes me as the classic definition of a quagmire. - Dick Cheney, when he was Secretary of Defense in 1991.


Sam Smith

THE LATEST Rasmussen Reports show a virtual tie between Obama and McCain. What happens when you add in Nader and Barr? - " In a four-way race, Obama earns 42% of the vote, McCain 38%, Bob Barr 6% and Ralph Nader 4%. Given those options, 11% were undecided. Barr picked up 7% of the Republican vote, 5% of the Democratic vote, and 5% of the unaffiliated vote. participants to choose between Barack Obama, John McCain and some other candidate. Nader got 1% of the Republican vote, 3% of the Democratic vote, and 8% support from those not affiliated with either major party."

In short, about 13% of the independent vote, 8% of the GOP and 8% of the Democrats are not happy with either candidate.

This is not surprising. After all, we are faced with a choice between two candidates, both of whom favor a continued major presence in Iraq (yes, Obama does), the proto-fascist Patriot Act and the abominable No Child Left Behind Law. To those who think Obama is inspiring, cute or the first black activist since Martin Luther King they wouldn't mind having in their house, such things are not supposed to matter. But to some they still do.

Here's how I put it when the race narrowed down to Obama vs. Clinton:

"Some will stay home on election day, others will support a Nader or a Green, likely Cynthia McKinney. The Democrats will be, as usual, furious that a certain number of voters still believe we live in a democracy and choose someone other than those assigned to them by the DNC. While Ralph Nader may make what seems to some the wrong political decision, it is a sign of the corrupt, cynical nature of our times to look into the face of moral integrity and dismiss it as an act of ego.
"Even from a tactical standpoint, it is no worse than a Democratic Party that has known for eight years that it was unraveling and failed to do anything for progressives and Greens except to insult them. These folks deserve to be treated at least as well as soccer moms or a hedge fund traders, but instead they are ridiculed and scolded and then the party wonders why they don't get their vote. It is absolutely inconceivable that one could have a party doing as poorly as the Democrats and not have a visible and active opposition.

"People, including many of my friends, will take markedly different approaches to the dilemma. Some will place priority on personal witness – i.e. the Nader or Green approach – and some will take a more pragmatic course. My own view is that politics is inherently more of a pragmatic than a moral matter and that, besides, even if you have the most righteous cause, espousing it in the middle lane of Route 95 at rush hour may not be the best way to go about it. I have long considered myself a backyard Green, believing that history clearly shows the strength of such parties is in their local organizing and not in those all too rare chances to make an impact in a national election."

In the end, there is no right answer. Vote for Nader and perhaps you help to elect McCain. Vote for Obama and you certainly help to elect Obama. And you lose either way.

The best solution - absent a decent major party candidate - is a movement strong enough to force a waffler like Obama in a progressive direction. As it stands, however, Obama will in the Oval Office talking compromise and everyone he'll be talking to will be right of center because progressives have been unable to come up with a clear, simple and unavoidable agenda with a constituency to back it. Notice that when Obama speaks of ending partisanship he only reaches out to the right and never the left.

Still, as Howard Zinn told Counterpunch, "Sometimes the difference between two candidates is an important one in the immediate sense, and then I believe trying to get somebody into office, who is a little better, who is less dangerous, is understandable. But never forgetting that no matter who gets into office, the crucial question is not who is in office, but what kind of social movement do you have. Because we have seen historically that if you have a powerful social movement, it doesn't matter who is in office. Whoever is in office, they could be Republican or Democrat, if you have a powerful social movement, the person in office will have to yield, will have to in some ways respect the power of social movements. . .

"When some people ask me about voting, they would say will you support this candidate or that candidate? I say: "I will support this candidate for one minute that I am in the voting booth. At that moment I will support A versus B, but before I am going to the voting booth, and after I leave the voting booth, I am going to concentrate on organizing people and not organizing an electoral campaign."

In the end, there will be good progressives supporting Obama, Nader or whomever the Greens nominate.
Living in DC, I can have it both ways: suggesting support for Obama in swing states while casting a ballot for Nader or McKinney in overwhelmingly Democratic DC. But whatever the choice, we should treat those of others of our ilk with respect and recognize that the origins of the problem is not in the person making the choice but in the miserable alternatives with which our society presents us.



JOHN CARLIN, GUARDIAN, UK Highest birth rate in Europe + highest divorce rate + highest percentage of women working outside the home = the best country in the world in which to live. There has to be something wrong with this equation. Put those three factors together - loads of children, broken homes, absent mothers - and what you have, surely, is a recipe for misery and social chaos. But no. Iceland, the block of sub-Arctic lava to which these statistics apply, tops the latest table of the United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Index rankings, meaning that as a society and as an economy - in terms of wealth, health and education - they are champions of the world. To which one might respond: Yes, but - what with the dark winters and the far from tropical summers - are Icelanders happy? Actually, in so far as one can reliably measure such things, they are. According to a seemingly serious academic study reported in the Guardian in 2006, Icelanders are the happiest people on earth. . .

It is the country with the sixth highest GDP per capita in the world; where people buy the most books; where life expectancy for men is the highest in the world, and not far behind for women; it's the only country in NATO with no armed forces (they were banned 700 years ago); the highest ratio of mobile telephones to population; the fastest-expanding banking system in the world; rocketing export business; crystal-pure air; hot water delivered to all Icelandic households straight from the earth's volcanic bowels; and so on and so forth.

But none of this happiness would be possible without the hardy self-confidence that defines individual Icelanders, which in turn derives from a society that is culturally geared - as its overwhelming priority - to bring up happy, healthy children, by however many fathers and mothers. A lot of it comes from their Viking ancestors, whose males were rampant looters and rapists, but had the moral consistency at least not to be jealous of the dalliances of their wives - tough women who kept their families fed in the semi-tundra harshness of this north Atlantic island while their husbands forayed, for years at a time, far and wide. . .

Icelanders know how to identify the best and incorporate it into their society. I talked about this to the Icelandic prime minister, Geir Haarde, whom I met at an official event at a steamy public swimming bath, a popular meeting place for Icelanders, like pubs for the British. Easygoing as everybody else I met, and without anything dimly resembling a bodyguard anywhere near him (there is almost no crime in Iceland), he agreed on the spot to sit down and do a quick interview.

'I believe we have blended the best of Europe and the United States here, the Nordic welfare system with the American entrepreneurial spirit,' he said, pointing out that Iceland, unlike the other Nordic countries, had exceptionally low personal and corporate tax rates. . . Which is not to say that Iceland has been immune to the financial panic affecting the rest of the world right now. Icelandic banks being, in the US manner, aggressive and optimistic global players, there are worries they may have over-extended themselves. The rise in food and oil prices is generating the same sort of headlines in Iceland's papers as we are seeing elsewhere. Yet there is no suggestion that the economic system itself is under threat. Icelanders will continue to receive not just free, top-class education but free, top-class healthcare, private medicine being limited in Iceland chiefly to luxury procedures, such as cosmetic surgery.

Dagur Eggertsson, until recently the mayor of Reykjavik and every inch a future prime minister of Iceland, made the point to me that what has happened in Iceland has defied economic logic. 'In the Eighties and Nineties right wingers in the US and UK were saying that the Scandinavian system was unworkable, that high state investment in public services would kill business,' said Dagur, a boyish, super-bright 35-year-old who, like most Icelanders, is a furiously hard-working multi-tasker - as well as a politician, he is a doctor. 'Yet here we are, in 2008,' he continues, 'and you look at the hard economic statistics and you see that these last 12 years we and the Scandinavian countries have been roaring ahead. Someone called it bumblebee economics: scientifically, aerodynamically, you cannot figure out how it flies, but it does, and very nicely, too'


GIDEON RACHMAN, FINANCIAL TIMES The importance of oil to American foreign policy is both obvious and curiously difficult to acknowledge in public. In the run-up to the Iraq war it was left to the left to make the argument that this was a 'war for oil'. Establishment people - those in the know - rolled their eyes at this 'conspiracy theory'.

Yet in recent months, both Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Senator John McCain have come close to saying that Iraq was indeed about oil. In his memoirs Mr Greenspan said he regretted that it was 'politically inconvenient' to acknowledge that 'the Iraq war is largely about oil'.

Earlier this month Mr McCain, who will carry the Republican banner in this year's presidential election, promised an energy policy 'that will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East' and so 'prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East'.

Both Mr Greenspan and Mr McCain subsequently issued 'clarifications'. Mr McCain now says that the conflict that he was thinking about was the first Gulf war of 1991. As for the Iraq war of 2003, that was about . . whatever he said it was about at the time: weapons of mass destruction, probably. . .

However, if the invasion of Iraq was partly motivated by oil, it was a failure - in this respect, as in many others. In 2003, just before the invasion, the oil price was $26 a barrel. Today it is $126 a barrel, with reputable analysts discussing the prospect of $200 oil by the end of 2008.

Mr McCain's promise to eliminate American dependence on Middle Eastern oil is hardly original. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have made similar pledges. President Bush himself swore to end America's 'addiction to oil' a couple of years ago. President Richard Nixon made similar promises after the first oil shock of the 1970s. The reality is that things are moving in the opposite direction. In 1973 the US imported 33 per cent of its oil; today it imports about 60 per cent and this figure could rise to 70 per cent by 2020. America's transport system is still completely dependent on oil.

American politicians have, so far, responded to this problem with a mixture of wishful thinking and anger. The calls for 'energy independence' are all but universal. Money has been poured into the production of biofuels, which has helped push up food prices. But no leading politician is yet prepared to say that Americans may have to adjust their lifestyles to a world of permanently higher fuel prices. . .



One of the more absurd myths circulating in establishment circles is that that Democrats don't get along well enough with GOP right wingers, when, in fact, since Clinton, the Democratic Party has been often virtually indistinguishable from its supposed opposition. Having sensed Obama's willingness to move from handshake to hug with the right, the pressure is on to make this a major campaign theme.

DAVID IGNATIUS, WASH POST One of the most appealing but untested promises of Barack Obama's presidential campaign is that he would break down the partisan divisions in America and govern across party lines. He has a chance to make this gauzy idea of consensus politics concrete in his choice of running mate.

By reaching outside the Democratic Party for his vice presidential nominee -- tapping Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, say, or independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg from New York -- Obama would in an instant demonstrate that he truly means to change the divisive, lose-lose politics of Washington. It would offer a unity government for a country that seems to want one.


WILLIAM R. HAWKINS ,FRONTPAGEMAGAZINE Bob Barr, a Georgia Republican congressman from 1995- 2003, formally announced his campaign for president on the Libertarian Party ticket on Monday, May 12. It was widely reported that his candidacy will take votes away from the GOP presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, similar to the way Ralph Nader's campaign will hurt the Democratic nominee. But while Barr was a conservative Congressman, he has moved rapidly to the left since breaking with the Republican Party two years ago. He has claimed that a McCain victory would be a "third term" for the Bush administration. On issues of national security and foreign policy, he now sounds more like Nader or Barack Obama. Instead of running to the right of McCain, Barr will be running well to his left - perhaps even further left than the Democratic nominee. Indeed, one of his best-known competitors for the nomination is far-leftist Mike Gravel.

In a video posted on the left-wing Huffington Post the day of his announcement, Barr says, "Only a fool would signal to whatever our adversaries are, whoever our adversaries are, exactly how and when we would be drawing down our troops. But I do believe that it is extremely important, and in the best interests of America's defenses and our security, and our relationship with our allies, that we do begin immediately setting in place a plan to draw down, dramatically decrease the military, the economic and the political footprint that we maintain in Iraq." Barr's vagueness about who the enemy is in Iraq, be it al-Qaeda or Iranian-backed militias, makes it easier for him to ignore the consequences of his proposed withdrawal of all tools of American influence from the region. Allies and those considering whether to align with the United States, are not going to be favorably impressed by a demonstration of American weakness; nor is crippling political divisions at home a persuasive argument for democracy. . .

He is opposed to defending the United States itself from terrorist attack. He joined with Bruce Fein, a notorious critic of the Bush administration who has called for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney, to form the "American Freedom Agenda." The most consistent theme running through left-wing opinion since September 11, 2001, has been concern for the well-being of the enemy, who must be protected from American counter measures. The Barr-Fein agenda thus calls for extending habeas corpus to alien enemy combatants and amending the Espionage Act to permit journalists to reveal classified national security information without fear of prosecution.

OUTRIGHT LIBERTARIANS We find that though he has shown some welcome evolution on the issues, he has a record that remains notably different from the other Libertarians in the race. Mr. Barr has not completed Outright's Candidate Survey, but is "on the record" regarding two issues key within the LGBT Libertarian community and the broader LGBT electoral base.

First, while we applaud the former Congressman's repudiation of the anti-gay military policy that he drafted for the Wall Street Journal, and the evolution that this represents for Mr. Barr, his opinion on this issue simply moved into the Libertarian mainstream-rather than pushing the debate forward.

On the Defense of Marriage Act-an odious law that Bob Barr co-sponsored as a Congressman-his evolution has been far slower. We have discussed the law with him a number of times, and recently he has telegraphed support for repealing the half of the law that creates a federal definition of marriage. However, he has not consistently campaigned on this point, and seems reluctant to speak of it.

In contrast, Democratic nomination candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has adopted a similar position, yet appears more willing to campaign upon it. Barack Obama has declared that he would repeal the law altogether.


COUNTERPUNCH - Ziga Vodovnik: Thoreau once wrote that we have an obligation to act according to the dictates of our conscience, even if the latter goes against the majority opinion or the laws of the society. Do you agree with this?

Howard Zinn: Absolutely. Rousseau once said, if I am part of a group of 100 people, do 99 people have the right to sentence me to death, just because they are majority? No, majorities can be wrong, majorities can overrule rights of minorities. If majorities ruled, we could still have slavery. 80% of the population once enslaved 20% of the population. . . Democracy has to take into account several things -- proportionate requirements of people, not just needs of the majority, but also needs of the minority. And also has to take into account that majority, especially in societies where the media manipulates public opinion, can be totally wrong and evil. So yes, people have to act according to conscience and not by majority vote.

Ziga Vodovnik: Where do you see the historical origins of anarchism in the United States?

Howard Zinn: One of the problems with dealing with anarchism is that there are many people whose ideas are anarchist, but who do not necessarily call themselves anarchists. The word was first used by Proudhon in the middle of the 19th century, but actually there were anarchist ideas that proceeded Proudhon, those in Europe and also in the United States. For instance, there are some ideas of Thomas Paine, who was not an anarchist, who would not call himself an anarchist, but he was suspicious of government. Also Henry David Thoreau. He does not know the word anarchism, and does not use the word anarchism, but Thoreau's ideas are very close to anarchism. He is very hostile to all forms of government. If we trace origins of anarchism in the United States, then probably Thoreau is the closest you can come to an early American anarchist. You do not really encounter anarchism until after the Civil War, when you have European anarchists, especially German anarchists, coming to the United States. They actually begin to organize. The first time that anarchism has an organized force and becomes publicly known in the United States is in Chicago at the time of Haymarket Affair

Ziga Vodovnik: Most of the creative energy for radical politics is nowadays coming from anarchism, but only few of the people involved in the movement actually call themselves "anarchists." Where do you see the main reason for this? Are activists ashamed to identify themselves with this intellectual tradition, or rather they are true to the commitment that real emancipation needs emancipation from any label?

Howard Zinn: The term anarchism has become associated with two phenomena with which real anarchists don't want to associate themselves with. One is violence, and the other is disorder or chaos. The popular conception of anarchism is on the one hand bomb-throwing and terrorism, and on the other hand no rules, no regulations, no discipline, everybody does what they want, confusion, etc. That is why there is a reluctance to use the term anarchism. But actually the ideas of anarchism are incorporated in the way the movements of the 1960s began to think.

I think that probably the best manifestation of that was in the civil rights movement with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee -- SNCC. SNCC without knowing about anarchism as philosophy embodied the characteristics of anarchism. They were decentralized. Other civil rights organizations, for example Seven Christian Leadership Conference, were centralized organizations with a leader -- Martin Luther King. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People were based in New York, and also had some kind of centralized organization. SNCC, on the other hand, was totally decentralized. It had what they called field secretaries, who worked in little towns all over the South, with great deal of autonomy. They had an office in Atlanta, Georgia, but the office was not a strong centralized authority. The people who were working out in the field -- in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi -- they were very much on their own. They were working together with local people, with grassroots people. And so there is no one leader for SNCC, and also great suspicion of government. . .

So SNCC was decentralized, anti-government, without leadership, but they did not have a vision of a future society like the anarchists. They were not thinking long term, they were not asking what kind of society shall we have in the future. They were really concentrated on immediate problem of racial segregation. But their attitude, the way they worked, the way they were organized, was along, you might say, anarchist lines. . .

Ziga Vodovnik: In your People's History of the United States you show us that our freedom, rights, environmental standards, etc., have never been given to us from the wealthy and influential few, but have always been fought out by ordinary people -- with civil disobedience. What should be in this respect our first steps toward another, better world?

Howard Zinn: I think our first step is to organize ourselves and protest against existing order -- against war, against economic and sexual exploitation, against racism, etc. But to organize ourselves in such a way that means correspond to the ends, and to organize ourselves in such a way as to create kind of human relationship that should exist in future society. That would mean to organize ourselves without centralized authority, without charismatic leader, in a way that represents in miniature the ideal of the future egalitarian society. So that even if you don't win some victory tomorrow or next year in the meantime you have created a model. You have acted out how future society should be and you created immediate satisfaction, even if you have not achieved your ultimate goal.


A great collection at Slate including this from a private investigator: "The biggest [way P.I.'s procrastinate] would be creative uses of Nexis. I routinely Nexis myself and people I know using the person locator, which you're really not supposed to do, and just see how much info on you or your friends comes up. . . Another specifically P.I. related procrastinatory activity is going back through the divorce and domestic dispute court cases we sometimes pull for these fund managers and reading through all the salacious details that are usually outside the purview of our investigations, at least in name.". . . And a third grade teacher: "I laminate things that don't need to be laminated."



BOING BOING Universal Music Group loves the idea of suing music fans for the full freight when it comes to copyright infringement, celebrating their ability to extract $150,000 per act of infringement with punitive damages on top -- but now that Universal's been slapped with one of these copyright suits (for sampling Hendrix without permission), they've decided that these damages are "unconstitutionally excessive."

The case in question involves now-deceased rapper, The Notorious B.I.G., whose album Ready to Die incorporated an unlicensed sample of "Singing in the Morning" from the Ohio Players after a Hendrix sample was denied clearance. The sample made its way onto the final album and even onto reissued albums. Bridgeport Music and Westbound Records, which control the rights to the song, sued. A district court ruled in their favor; Bridgeport took the $150,000 maximum in statutory damages, while Westbound sought compensatory and punitive damages. Westbound scored big, earning $366,939 from the jury along with punitive damages of a whopping $3.5 million.

In appealing the ruling, Universal argued that the punitive damages award was "grossly excessive and should be vacated or at least reduced." The reason? It's excessive.



ANNALEE NEWITZ, ALTERNET [Oxford University researcher Jonathan Zittrain] thinks we're seeing the end of the freewheeling Internet and PC era. He calls the technologies of today "tethered" technologies. Tethered technologies are items like iPhones or many brands of DVR -- they're sterile to their owners, who aren't allowed to build software that runs on them. But they're generative to the companies that make them, in the sense that Comcast can update your DVR remotely, or Apple can brick your iPhone remotely if you try to do something naughty to it (like run your own software program on it).

In some ways, tethered technologies are worse than plain old sterile technologies. They allow for abuses undreamed of in the IBM mainframe era. For example, iPhone tethering could lead to law enforcement going to Apple and saying, "Please activate the microphone on this iPhone that we know is being carried by a suspect." The device turns into an instant bug, without all the fuss of following the suspect around or installing surveillance crap in her apartment. This isn't idle speculation, by the way. OnStar, the manufacturer of a car emergency system, was asked by law enforcement to activate the mics in certain cars using its system. It refused and went to court.



FRANK GREVE, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS Fine-tuning controls on the nation's traffic signals would cut U.S. road congestion by as much as 10 percent, transportation experts estimate. It would also reduce air pollution from vehicles by as much as a fifth, cut accidents at intersections and save about five tanks of gas annually per household, according to the National Transportation Operations Coalition, an alliance of federal, state and local traffic departments and equipment-makers.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the average local traffic department earned an overall grade of D on the alliance's latest report card. Streamlining intersections is happening in only some cities and states, even though it's eminently doable. . .

Technologically, most U.S. traffic signals remain very 20th century, said Philip Tarnoff, director of the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology at the University of Maryland in College Park. Roadside or centralized timers drive most of them by changing lights at scripted intervals. . . If timers are accurate, and the prescribed signal intervals are based on accurate and recent traffic surveys, these systems can do as well as fancier ones in typical traffic situations.

That's a big if, however. Most timed systems aren't refreshed and adjusted at the three-year intervals recommended for busy intersections or ones that see big changes in traffic due to new homes or businesses. . .

Lakewood, Colo., another community that closely tracked before-and-after conditions, found that synchronizing lights at just 16 of its intersections delivered huge benefits. They included a daily savings of 635 hours in driving time, 172 gallons of gas and 758 pounds of pollution emissions, according to Denver's regional traffic authority.



BRENDAN O'NEILL, ABC NEWS - "It's very dark. It's almost black." May Woodward, an office worker in central London, is holding an Oreo cookie in her hands. It's the first time she has ever seen one "in the flesh as opposed to on an American TV show," and she's not sure she likes what she sees. "It's the color of wet mud!" she complains. "And the bit . . . looks like toothpaste rather than cream."

She twists and turns the cookie in her fingers, staring at it from every angle with a screwed-up look on her face that seems to say, "Gross!" not "Mmm, cookie time." You could be forgiven for thinking she's handling some dangerous alien element, Cookie Kryptonite, say, rather than one of the best-known biscuits in the Western hemisphere.

She bites, chews, raises an eyebrow, chews some more.

"OK, I get it," she says, finally. "I can see the attraction. It's very sweet." Suddenly she seems to change her mind. "Actually it's too sweet ... it's becoming mushy," she says, alarmed as tentative chewing becomes frantic munching to wolf the cookie down.

My impromptu taste test in Leicester Square is now attracting the attention of puzzled passersby giving us weird looks.

Ms. Woodward's verdict is that the Oreo is "too ... damp.". . .

Yet in a taste test in Borehamwood, north London, I found plenty of Oreo fans.

"They are absolutely yummy," said Anita Rawal, a personal assistant. "Our whole family likes them. My mother-in-law had to send them from Nepal before they were available here."


ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH Gerald, MO - The manager over at Wally's Hardware knew something unusual - yet again - was going down when he got the call Monday to change the locks at City Hall. Steve Mills was not entirely surprised. The last several months had been discomforting ones for this town of 1,200 residents in Franklin County. Police chiefs kept coming, then going. The town's only pharmacist was arrested last week in a methamphetamine bust. And the town dogcatcher was fired earlier this year for shooting and killing cats.

Now someone else needed to be kept out of City Hall. But the reason was the most peculiar yet: A man thought to be a federal drug agent, who had spent months alongside police kicking down doors and making arrests, turned out not to be an agent of any stripe. He duped officials for months, pretending to be on loan from the Drug Enforcement Agency. As his story recently unraveled and the fallout began, the police chief and two officers were fired from the five-member department.

So the locks at City Hall needed to be changed. "Gerald is a good town, a good community," Mills said Wednesday as he worked at the hardware store. "But it does feel like there's been a lot of commotion or upheaval lately."

Investigators were still trying to sort fact from fiction in the story of the fake DEA agent. They know this much, or think they do: He is a 36-year-old man from Washington, Mo. He is married. He never was a federal agent. He was arrested and released Monday. No charges had been filed, so the Post-Dispatch is not using his name. The Franklin County Sheriff's Department, Missouri Highway Patrol and FBI are investigating. The fake agent seemed to know the ins and outs of law enforcement, according to investigators and those who worked with him.

He drove a cream-colored Ford Crown Victoria with a siren bar and police radio. He was known for wearing a black T-shirt with "Police" emblazoned across the chest and dark tactical pants with pockets down the sides. He carried a gun in a side holster. He had a federal ID card and an official-looking badge. He was sturdily built and clean-cut. "He was everything that you'd think a federal office would be," Mayor Otis Schulte said.

About three months ago, the fake agent just showed up at the police station, housed inside the blond-brick city hall, Schulte said. The newcomer said he was a DEA agent and part of a regional drug task force. The DEA was footing his bill, he explained, and when he left, he would leave behind his cruiser.

It was an appealing offer for the small, financially strapped department in a region with a reputation as one of the meth-lab capitals of the nation.

He even provided a phone number for Gerald officials to verify everything, Schulte said. The number was answered by a message for something called the "multi-jurisdictional task force." One time a woman answered saying the same thing, promising to pass along the message, Schulte said.

"We trusted him," said Sarah Wheeler, the city clerk. "He came across as an actual federal agent, a good guy."

The ruse might have lasted longer except the fake agent's rough ways led to calls to a local weekly newspaper, the Gasconade County Republican. Reporter Linda Trest heard from people who claimed a brash, new DEA agent was kicking down doors without search warrants.

The agent even took part in the arrest of Gerald's pharmacist. Trest recalled running into the agent outside the pharmacist's house, next door to her own.

Trest was doubtful at first - she knew that people wrapped up in drug raids rarely make reliable sources. But she kept digging. Last month, she called Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke and asked him if he had heard about this DEA agent loaned to Gerald police. Toelke started poking around and discovered they had a rogue officer or agent or whoever he said he was.

"This was a mess," Toelke said.

Trest, whose story hit doorsteps Wednesday, suspected officials were fooled by the fake agent's "razzle-dazzle."

The impostor seems to have claimed at different times to be an Iraq War veteran, a retired Air Force chaplain and a father of two. He may have worked briefly at the Treasury Department in St. Louis. He claimed to have worked for police departments in Kinloch, East St. Louis and Sauget. But investigators were doubtful about what to believe.



For the first time, it appears that more than half of all insured Americans are taking prescription medicines regularly for chronic health problems, a study shows. The most widely used drugs are those to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol . . . Medco's data show that last year, 51 percent of American children and adults were taking one or more prescription drugs for a chronic condition. . . Among seniors, 28 percent of women and nearly 22 percent of men take five or more medicines regularly.

Some 50 protesters, clad in orange jumpsuits and black hoods to emulate the infamous photos of prisoners in Iraq, picketed UC Berkeley's law school graduation ceremony Saturday, demanding that the university fire Professor John Yoo for his authorship of the Bush administration's policies on torture. . .
Two protesters knelt in a cage meant to resemble a prison cell. San Francisco Chronicle





Memphis voters will be able to decide if there should be instant-runoff voting in municipal elections. Memphis Charter Commission members -- who also decided on the number of city court judges and discussed mayoral succession -- chose to include instant-runoff voting on an ever-increasing list of ballot measures voters will consider that would govern how city government operates for decades to come. With instant-runoff balloting, voters rank their candidates in order of preference. If one candidate gets a majority of first-place votes, that candidate wins outright. If not, the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated and his or her ballots get redistributed among the remaining contenders based on the second-place votes. The process continues until a candidate gets a majority and is declared the winner. The current runoff system in some City Council districts results in low turnout and high costs, according to proponents of instant-runoff voting. -Memphis Commercial Appeal

Former Gov. Jesse Ventura said he "may" file the necessary papers to run for the U.S. Senate in the November election. If he doesn't, his former campaign manager will. Both are hinting at a run against Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and likely Democratic candidate Al Franken this fall. The only question seems to be: Will it be Ventura, or the man who helped him become governor? Ventura's former campaign manager, Dean Barkley, now works as a bus driver and gardens as a hobby. "Ear to the dirt, listening to the pulse of the people," he joked Thursday. But Barkley, who was appointed to the Senate for 62 days after Paul Wellstone died in 2002, said he is serious about going to Washington again. . . As for Ventura, he refused to answer questions Thursday from reporters who showed up for his public book signing at Mall of America. "Are you running for Senate?" a reporter asked. "You're the media," Ventura mouthed before taking a question from someone else. He eventually talked about his plans anyway. "Now you're asking me to stop my latest quest, which is surfing," he said when asked about running for office again. Ventura told the crowd that "none of the above" would be a better choice than Norm Coleman or Al Franken. "I may go down and file," he added. "I will be 'none of the above,' and if I win, I'll go to Washington." The Humphrey Institute's Larry Jacobs said the timing just might be right ... again. "If it's Ventura, all bets are off," he said. "Voters are angry. And they're not very happy with the parties and the candidates in front of them."

During a speech before the National Rifle Association convention in Louisville, Kentucky, former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee - who has endorsed presumptive GOP nominee John McCain - joked that an unexpected offstage noise was Democrat Barack Obama looking to avoid a gunman. "That was Barack Obama, he just tripped off a chair, he's getting ready to speak," said the former Arkansas governor, to audience laughter. "Somebody aimed a gun at him and he dove for the floor." CNN




A recent phone survey of U.S. households by Parks found 20 million households are without Internet access, approximately 18 percent of all U.S. households. "Nearly one out of three household heads has never used a computer to create a document," said John Barrett, director of research . . . One-half of those who have never used e-mail are over 65, and 56 percent had no schooling beyond high school. - PC World


NOTE: You can post your comments on any of the above stories by going to our Undernews site and searching for the headline. Once posted, a copy is immediately mailed to the Review and we pick some of the most interesting to publish here.

--- Anyone who still believes that American politicians make their own decisions based on their personal beliefs is living in a fantasy world. They all act only on the orders they receive from the billionaires that donate to their campaigns. - FoE


--- Gotta wonder if these folks are trying to destroy themselves and all other unions.

--- I don't think that the two have to be mutally exclusive. Being for the little guy is going to mean that you are against the influence of the few who have all the money. - Brad


--- Sounds like the councilmember is finally waking up to reality. Even funnier is the original article, which devotes most of its copy to how upset the police are over her remarks. Like we should feel real bad for the psychopaths with a badge.

--- Given the nature of TPR, it's being willfully naive to claim that articles quoted don't tend to reflect Sam's views. TPR makes no secret of being a partisan publication, which is fine, but it's still misleading and not particularly responsible journalism on Sam's part not to have ascertained independently whether or no Paul endorses this use of his name. Given the fact that Sam has made little secret of his feelings as regards Paul and his politics, I don't think it's defective deductive reasoning to suppose that Sam would have likely published this article with pejorative intent towards Paul.

--- Ron Paul would, as commander-in-chief, free all nonviolent federal drug prisoners, recall all U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and close all overseas U.S. bases. What could be more "progressive" than that?


---The Dems are probably more harmful than the Repubs in that the Dems preclude change by fostering the illusion that there is substantive difference between the two parties.


--- Is there any effective way to curb these thugs? My congresswoman (Shea-Porter) is so busy rooting out Pelosi's ass with her nose that she does nothing about anything. Are there any organizations actively and effectively opposing this sort of thuggery and harassment? - wam

--- Stop flying, and write to every airline and tell them why. I have cut my air travel by 95 percent in the past few years, and I will not be using airlines again until the TSA is forced to respect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.


--- Thank you Prorev for continuing to cover the Middle East's first illegal occupation, and its victims, the Palestinians. Palestine seems to have been forgotten, with the brutality of U.S. occupations now in the spotlight.

--- "The Palestinian people aspire to freedom, independence and peaceful coexistence with all their neighbours.". . . If that were true then they would immediately formally recognize Israel. The fact that they haven't proves conclusively that they aren't interested in peace, but only want war. Obviously, they could have peace today if they wanted, the endless lies of the anti-Semites notwithstanding. Yes, claiming the Palestinians want peace and that the Israelis don't is blatant anti-Semitism. Deny it all you want.

--- Despite what the AIPAC shills would have you believe, Israeli state terrorism is still terrorism, not "self-defense." The was no so-called "Palestinian terrorism" before Zionist terrorists stole the land from the millions of non-Jewish people already living in the region.

--- Sixty years of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide are not enough on the resume of the Zionist supremacists; now they want to kick start the third world war by attacking Iran, just for kicks.


--- Three and a half years too late. One ponders as to how the dynamics of this farcical primary might have been different had Edwards chosen to do this in November of 2004 instead of electing to go to work for Wall Street. Then again, maybe this move will work out for him after all. The extraordinary advantage the Democrats may have exploited is evaporating. They were not capable of leveraging the advantage of the '06 victories. The present candidates and their inept campaign seems to be proving equally disappointing to most those paying any kind of real attention. Right now it's a good bet the Dems are set to lose. Should all play out as it appears to be shaping up, and, if he can made the right kind of moves, Edwards may well be the nominee in 2012. Oh yeah, it might also be a good idea to ditch the 32 million dollar estate, but. . .

--- I didn't see anything on the list about improving the quality of public education. Unless, and until, we in this country, recognize that ignorance costs more than education, Mr. Edwards is doomed to fail. We must give people the necessary skills to get good paying jobs. We cannot assure they have decent housing, in decent neighborhoods, if they don't make enough to pay the mortgage. Our schools are failing our kids, and we are failing our schools. - Elderlady

--- Though not appearing on this particular list, Edwards' advocacy for education and affordable access to higher education have been prominent features of his campaigns in both '04 and '08.


--- The GSA found no more damage than could be attributable to normal wear and tear over an 8 year period. The WH refused to document their claims of damage and looting with any inventory of the damage or photographs. The bottom line is that both the looting and vandalism charges were made up by political partisans at the Bush WH (we've all since learned what monumental liars they are), these RNC/WH tall tales typed up by stenographers masquerading as journalists, and marketed to the country. -- Phillip Schuman


--- Blah, blah, blah. Wasn't Conyers the guy who promised he'd start impeachment hearings in January, 2007?


--- Her records need published. Without clients there was no business and she would be alive.


--- Man, when the hell will someone stand up and ask the damn candidates what they are going to do about the failing war on drugs and Medical marijuana issue?

--- I'm going with Obama. Decriminalization is the way to go. Although, I truly believe the legalization of marijuana would be a better choice. Everyone is so concerned about the teenagers and how it gives them "wrong ideas". But, if the teenagers know it's legal, and know that they are allowed to do it, chances are they won't. They want to be rebellious. I'm supporting Obama 100% on this one.


The Rev spoke the truth. Barry's denial is what disturbs me. His refusal to acknowledge an obvious truth disturbs me. His betrayal of a close confidant who spoke the truth bothers me even more. There is a karmic balance in the universe. That's Rev. Wright's message. Chickens have come home to roost.


--- Did it ever occur to anyone to try a system that doesn't involve piped in and away water for going to the bathroom? Do people enjoy the splashback that much?


--- USAF can't keep track of it's nuclear warheads but they feel confident they are entitled, contrary to the Constitution, to control what we see, hear, and know.

--- When is this freekin' American clown show going to stop? You are a laughing stock in the eyes of the rest of the world.


--- One problem with salt in the diet is that what most people consume today is refined salt. Refined salt is like white sugar or white flour. All the nutrition has been stripped from the product. Natural unrefined sea salt is an entirely different experience. I find it doesn't have the bitterness of refined salt, and it has many trace sea minerals, which provide valuble nutrients, and salt in general aids digestion. My blood pressure has gone down considerably since I changed from refined to unrefined salt, even though my salt consumption has gone up.


--- Let's see how long it takes poor Einstein to become a pariah. . I'm sure Jewish scholars should be dragging him down already!

--- So, let's do to Al as we've done to Rev. Wright. How do we reconcile the following? -

"...But there is a third state of religious experience which belongs to all of them, even though it is rarely found in a pure form, and which I will call cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to explain this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it.

The individual feels the nothingness of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. He looks upon individual existence as a sort of prison and wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. The beginnings of cosmic religious feeling already appear in earlier stages of development---e.g., in many of the Psalms of David and in some of the Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learnt from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer especially, contain a much stronger element of it.

The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man's image; so that there can be no Church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with the highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as Atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another.

How can cosmic religious feeling be communicated from one person to another, if it can give no definite notion of God and no theology? In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are capable of it." ---Albert Einstein The World As I See It Religion and Science


--- Assuming there is a brain behind the visored helmets ,the batons, the tasers and the glocks, what's really happened is that Taser International has loosed it's attack dog lawyers on medical examiners who've pointed out that "excited delirium syndrome" is a myth, designed to protect Taser's bottom line and has given police cover for rampant abuse. It follows in line with the swat/militarization-of-police trend, about which veteran officers have said the whole black ball cap military get-up fosters a confrontational mindset leading directly to police abuse.


- Palfrey was murdered, I think that is almost transparently clear. The fact that she found a good real estate deal in East Berlin is interesting because her website was run by an ISP that also hosts Eastern-European kiddie porn sites. Based on this info, on the fact that she had a high-powered client list, and Wayne Madsen's above reporting, it seems clear that Palfrey's knowledge of the US Intelligence system was vast and deep. She knew too much and was getting too much attention.


--- Not one once in the last eight years has any of this ever been mentioned in American mainstream media. Not once! Just unbelievable!

--- This has been around for a long time but our esteemed media would never put it out there. What more proof do we need that the media is bought and paid for by corporate America, powerful families i.e., Bush, Inc. and is nothing more than a propaganda machine? Now can you see where l'il Georgie gets his fascist ideas. - MarthaL


--- Have long suspected that the Mighty Sparrow had gotten senile. Now I am sure! -- BBF (ex-Mighty Sparrow fan)


--- By unwritten law, racial minorities and other non-majority affinity groups are allowed to bullet vote. Majorities are not. Blacks can make white jokes. Jews can dump on Christians. WASPS are fair game for anyone. Atheists are one of the few minorities you can shit on. Probably because they not actually a minority- WH, ME


-- Take a look at eschatology if you haven't before. It's somewhat fascinating. The crux of the story is: The Rapture...Jesus comes back to initiate a thousand-year reign of peace. . . and the "Saved" (living and dead) float up to heaven much the same as Jesus did on Easter. What I don't get is: why would these Jesus freaks not want to stay on earth with Jesus for the 1000 year party?

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