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Undernews For August 3, 2008

Undernews For August 3, 2008

Washington's Most Unofficial Source
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Editor: Sam Smith

3 AUG 2008


It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. - Upton Sinclair

PAGE ONE MUST The Real State of the US Economy Henry Paulson has lost the control over US finance

Recent store closings

Compiled by F. William Engdahl, Global Research

Ann Taylor closing 117 stores nationwide.

Eddie Bauer to close more stores after closing 27 stores in the first quarter.

Cache, a women’s retailer is closing 20 to 23 stores this year.

Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, Catherines closing 150 stores nationwide

Talbots, J. Jill closing stores. Talbots will close all 78 of its kids and men's stores plus another 22 underperforming stores. The 22 stores will be a mix of Talbots women's and J. Jill.

Gap Inc. closing 85 stores

Foot Locker to close 140 stores

Wickes Furniture is going out of business and closing all of its stores. The 37-year-old retailer that targets middle-income customers, filed for bankruptcy protection last month.

Levitz - the furniture retailer, announced it was going out of business and closing all 76 of its stores in December. The retailer dates back to 1910.

Zales, Piercing Pagoda plans to close 82 stores by July 31 followed by closing another 23 underperforming stores.

Disney Store owner has the right to close 98 stores.

Home Depot store closings 15 of them amid a slumping US economy and housing market. The move will affect 1,300 employees. It is the first time the world's largest home improvement store chain has ever closed a flagship store.

CompUSA (Closed).

Macy's - 9 stores closed

Movie Gallery – plans to close 400 of 3,500 Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video stores in addition to the 520 locations the video rental chain closed last fall as part of bankruptcy.

Pacific Sunwear - 153 Demo stores closing

Pep Boys - 33 stores of auto parts supplier closing

Sprint Nextel - 125 retail locations to close with 4,000 employees following 5,000 layoffs last year.

J. C. Penney, Lowe's and Office Depot are all scaling back

Ethan Allen Interiors: plans to close 12 of 300 stores to cut costs.

Wilsons the Leather Experts – closing 158 stores

Bombay Company: to close all 384 U.S.-based Bombay Company stores.

KB Toys closing 356 stores around the United States as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.

Dillard's Inc. will close another six stores this year.


Conn Hallinan, Foreign Policy in Focus - A recent poll of Afghan sentiment found that, while the majority dislikes the Taliban, 74% want negotiations and 54% would support a coalition government that included the Taliban. This poll reflects a deeply divided country where most people are sitting on the fence and waiting for the final outcome of the war. Forty percent think the current government of Hamid Karzai, allied with the United States and NATO, will prevail, 19% say the Taliban, and 40% say it is 'too early to say.'

There is also strong ambivalence about the presence of foreign troops. Only 14% want them out now, but 52% want them out within three to five years. In short, the Afghans don't want a war to the finish.

They also have a far more nuanced view of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. While the majority oppose both groups - 13% support the Taliban and 19% al-Qaeda - only 29% see the former organization as 'a united political force.'

But that view doesn't fit the West's story line of the enemy as a tightly disciplined band of fanatics. In fact, the Taliban appears to be evolving from a creation of the U.S., Saudi Arabian, and Pakistani intelligence agencies during Afghanistan's war with the Soviet Union, to a polyglot collection of dedicated Islamists to nationalists. Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar told the Agence France Presse early this year, 'We're fighting to free our country. We are not a threat to the world.'

Those are words that should give Obama, the New York Times, and NATO pause.

The initial invasion in 2001 was easy because the Taliban had alienated itself from the vast majority of Afghans. But the weight of occupation, and the rising number of civilian deaths, is shifting the resistance toward a war of national liberation. No foreign power has ever won that battle in Afghanistan.

As the United States steps up its air war, civilian casualties have climbed steadily over the past two years. Nearly 700 were killed in the first three months of 2008, a major increase over last year. In a recent incident, 47 members of a wedding party were killed in Helmand Province. In a society where clan, tribe, and blood feuds are a part of daily life, that single act sowed a generation of enmity.

Anatol Lieven, a professor of war at King's College London, says that a major impetus behind the growing resistance is anger over the death of family members and neighbors.

Lieven says it is as if Afghanistan is 'becoming a sort of surreal hunting estate, in which the U.S. and NATO breed the very terrorists they then track down.'

Once a population turns against an occupation (or just decides to stay neutral), there are few places in the world where an occupier can win. Afghanistan, with its enormous size and daunting geography, is certainly not one of them.

As the situation continues to deteriorate, some voices, including those of the Karzai government and both U.S. presidential candidates, advocate expanding the war into Pakistan in a repeat of the invasions of Laos and Cambodia, when the Vietnam War began spinning out of control. Both those invasions were not only a disaster for the invaders. They also led directly to the genocide in Cambodia.

By any measure, a military 'victory' in Afghanistan is simply not possible. The only viable alternative is to begin direct negotiations with the Taliban, and to draw in regional powers with a stake in the outcome: Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, China, and India.

But to do so will require abandoning our 'story' about the Afghan conflict as a 'good war.' In this new millennium, there are no good wars.


Amanda Ripley, Time - For now, we do know that Bruce Ivins had a history of hiding relatively minor anthrax-related security breaches from his supervisors. He also was well-positioned to access anthrax, and his lab benefited enormously in money and resources from the fall-out of the anthrax attacks. Along with other scientists, he was listed as a co-inventor on two patents for an anthrax vaccine, and he could have stood to gain financially from the rise in vaccinations that followed the anthrax attacks. Days before his death, he was accused by a counselor of making violent threats.

But when it comes to the FBI and the anthrax investigation (or "Amerithrax," as the Feds so inelegantly call it), things are rarely as they first appear. Ivins had been cooperating with the FBI for six years, according to his attorney. In other cases, that's what happens when the FBI doesn't have a smoking gun but wants to wear a suspect down into confessing. But it's worth remembering that just one month ago, the federal government paid $5.8 million to Steven Hatfill, another scientist who worked at the very same research lab. Hatfill's name had been leaked to the media as a primary suspect during the years-long bioterrorism investigation. He was never arrested or charged, and when he sued the government for ruining his career, a federal judge found "not a scintilla of evidence" linking Hatfill to the mailings. Hatfill's lawyer, Thomas Connolly, said neither he nor his client had any comment on Ivins.

The FBI had been watching Ivins' house for some time, according to neighbors' accounts, and it appears that the Los Angeles Times had also been investigating him well before he died.

Ivins' lawyer says his client was totally innocent and that he killed himself because of the FBI's harassment. He was receiving psychotherapy in the weeks before his death and was banned from the premises of his research lab.

Marilyn W. Thompson and Amy Goldstein, Washington Post - Nearly two years after anthrax-spore mailings killed five people and sickened 17 others, Army scientist Bruce E. Ivins accepted the Defense Department's highest honor for civilian performance for helping to resurrect a controversial vaccine that could protect against the deadly bacteria. .

The shy, socially awkward anthrax scientist was on the verge of indictment in the anthrax-spore mailings case, according to officials familiar with the investigation, and killed himself with a drug overdose as the FBI ratcheted up the pressure against him. The anthrax-laced letters, officials said, may have been part of a plan to test his cure for the deadly toxin. The Justice Department said yesterday only that "substantial progress has been made in the investigation." The statement did not identify Ivins. . .

Ivins's attorney asserted the scientist's innocence and said he had cooperated with investigators for more than a year. . .

For more than a decade, Ivins had worked to develop an anthrax vaccine that was effective even in cases where different strains of anthrax were mixed - a situation that made vaccines ineffective - according to federal documents.

Among the small circle of scientists who worked with him, Ivins was solid, quiet, eccentric, even and a bit nerdy. But he also had a darker side, as suggested by court papers filed last month by Jean C. Duley, who asked a Frederick judge for a protective order against Ivins, saying he had repeatedly threatened her.

"Client has a history dating to his graduate days of homicidal threats, actions, plans," the woman wrote in note attached to her request for protection.** She said Ivins' psychiatrist had confided to her that the scientist was "homicidal, sociopathic with clear intentions." She also noted that she had been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury about a capital murder case involving Ivins.

It was a far different Ivins from the one colleagues and neighbors knew. As a microbiologist at the Army's main lab for studying bioterror agents, Ivins labored for years on the development of anthrax vaccines and had access to various strains of the anthrax bacteria, including the one used in attacks on media outlets and congressional offices. . .

Ivins' profile increased after the anthrax mailings in October 2001, when the Fort Detrick labs went into a frenetic response to the crisis, testing suspicious mail and packages virtually around the clock. He was part of a response team that analyzed the handwritten letter sent to then senator Tom Daschle packed with Bacillus anthracis spores that matched the primary strain used in Fort Detrick research and had been used in the US biological weapons program until the 1970s. . .

In early 2002, without notifying his supervisors, Ivins began sampling suspicious areas in the Detrick lab space that he believed might be contaminated with anthrax. He took unauthorized samples from the laboratory containment areas and later acknowledged to Army officials this was a violation of protocol.

Ivins's odd behavior was detailed in an Army investigation, but his name never surfaced as a suspect in the mailings case. . .

He also never raised the suspicions of coworkers, many of whom remained convinced Ivins had nothing to do with the case.

"Almost everybody at 'RIID believes that he has absolutely nothing to do with Amerithrax," said a USAMRIID employee, referring to the FBI code name for the investigation. "The FBI has been hounding him mercilessly."

The constant scrutiny "really pushed this poor guy to the edge," the employee said, and noted that his colleagues were upset at the way Ivins had been treated.

Glenn Greenwald, Salon - The 2001 anthrax attacks remain one of the great mysteries of the post-9/11 era. After 9/11 itself, the anthrax attacks were probably the most consequential event of the Bush presidency. One could make a persuasive case that they were actually more consequential. The 9/11 attacks were obviously traumatic for the country, but in the absence of the anthrax attacks, 9/11 could easily have been perceived as a single, isolated event. It was really the anthrax letters - with the first one sent on September 18, just one week after 9/11 - that severely ratcheted up the fear levels and created the climate that would dominate in this country for the next several years after. It was anthrax - sent directly into the heart of the country's elite political and media institutions, to then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt), NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, and other leading media outlets - that created the impression that social order itself was genuinely threatened by Islamic radicalism.

If the now-deceased Ivins really was the culprit behind the attacks, then that means that the anthrax came from a U.S. Government lab, sent by a top U.S. Army scientist at Ft. Detrick. Without resort to any speculation or inferences at all, it is hard to overstate the significance of that fact. From the beginning, there was a clear intent on the part of the anthrax attacker to create a link between the anthrax attacks and both Islamic radicals and the 9/11 attacks. . .

By design, those attacks put the American population into a state of intense fear of Islamic terrorism, far more than the 9/11 attacks alone could have accomplished.

Much more important than the general attempt to link the anthrax to Islamic terrorists, there was a specific intent - indispensably aided by ABC News - to link the anthrax attacks to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. In my view, and I've written about this several times and in great detail to no avail, the role played by ABC News in this episode is the single greatest, unresolved media scandal of this decade. . .

It's extremely possible - one could say highly likely - that the same people responsible for perpetrating the attacks were the ones who fed the false reports to the public, through ABC News, that Saddam was behind them. What we know for certain - as a result of the letters accompanying the anthrax - is that whoever perpetrated the attacks wanted the public to believe they were sent by foreign Muslims. Feeding claims to ABC News designed to link Saddam to those attacks would, for obvious reasons, promote the goal of the anthrax attacker(s). . . .

There can't be any question that this extremely flamboyant though totally false linkage between Iraq and the anthrax attacks - accomplished primarily by the false bentonite reports from ABC News and Brian Ross - played a very significant role in how Americans perceived of the Islamic threat generally and Iraq specifically. As but one very illustrative example, The Washington Post's columnist, Richard Cohen, supported the invasion of Iraq, came to regret that support, and then explained what led him to do so, in a 2004 Post column entitled "Our Forgotten Panic":

"I'm not sure if panic is quite the right word, but it is close enough. Anthrax played a role in my decision to support the Bush administration's desire to take out Saddam Hussein. I linked him to anthrax, which I linked to Sept. 11. I was not going to stand by and simply wait for another attack - more attacks. I was going to go to the source, Hussein, and get him before he could get us. As time went on, I became more and more questioning, but I had a hard time backing down from my initial whoop and holler for war."

Cohen - in a March 18, 2008 Slate article in which he explains why he wrongfully supported the attack on Iraq - disclosed this:

"Anthrax. Remember anthrax? It seems no one does anymore - at least it's never mentioned. But right after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, letters laced with anthrax were received at the New York Post and Tom Brokaw's office at NBC. . . . There was ample reason to be afraid.

"The attacks were not entirely unexpected. I had been told soon after Sept. 11 to secure Cipro, the antidote to anthrax. The tip had come in a roundabout way from a high government official, and I immediately acted on it. I was carrying Cipro way before most people had ever heard of it.

"For this and other reasons, the anthrax letters appeared linked to the awful events of Sept. 11. It all seemed one and the same. Already, my impulse had been to strike back, an overwhelming urge that had, in fact, taken me by surprise on Sept. 11 itself when the first of the Twin Towers had collapsed. . . .

"In the following days, as the horror started to be airbrushed - no more bodies plummeting to the sidewalk - the anthrax letters started to come, some to people I knew. And I thought, No, I'm not going to sit here passively and wait for it to happen. I wanted to go to 'them,' whoever 'they' were, grab them by the neck, and get them before they could get us. One of 'them' was Saddam Hussein. He had messed around with anthrax . . He was a nasty little fascist, and he needed to be dealt with.

"That, more or less, is how I made my decision to support the war in Iraq.". . .

We now know - we knew even before news of Ivins' suicide last night, and know especially in light of it - that the anthrax attacks didn't come from Iraq or any foreign government at all. It came from our own Government's scientist, from the top Army bioweapons research laboratory. More significantly, the false reports linking anthrax to Iraq also came from the U.S. Government - from people with some type of significant links to the same facility responsible for the attacks themselves. .

Update: Atrios writes: "now that we know that the US gov't believes that anthrax came from the inside, shouldn't Cohen be a wee bit curious about what this warning was based on?" That applies to much of the Beltway class, including many well-connected journalists, who were quietly popping cipro back then because, like Cohen, they heard from Government sources that they should. Leave aside the ethical questions about the fact that these journalists kept those warnings to themselves. Wouldn't the most basic journalistic instincts lead them now -- in light of the claims by our government that the attacks came from a government scientist -- to wonder why and how their government sources were warning about an anthrax attack? Then again, the most basic journalistic instincts would have led ABC News to reveal who concocted and fed them the false "Saddam/anthrax" reports in the first place, and yet we still are forced to guess at those questions because ABC News continues to cover up the identity of the perpetrators.

Washington Post - For nearly seven years, scientist Bruce E. Ivins and a small circle of fellow anthrax specialists at Fort Detrick's Army medical lab lived in a curious limbo: They served as occasional consultants for the FBI in the investigation of the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks, yet they were all potential suspects.

Over lunch in the bacteriology division, nervous scientists would share stories about their latest unpleasant encounters with the FBI and ponder whether they should hire criminal defense lawyers, according to one of Ivins's former supervisors. In tactics that the researchers considered heavy-handed and often threatening, they were interviewed and polygraphed as early as 2002, and re-interviewed numerous times. Their labs were searched, and their computers and equipment carted away.

The FBI eventually focused on Ivins, whom federal prosecutors were planning to indict when he committed suicide last week. In interviews yesterday, knowledgeable officials asserted that Ivins had the skills and access to equipment needed to turn anthrax bacteria into an ultra-fine powder that could be used as a lethal weapon. . .

"I really don't think he's the guy. I say to the FBI, 'Show me your evidence,' " said Jeffrey J. Adamovicz, former director of the bacteriology division at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID, on the grounds of the sprawling Army fort in Frederick. "A lot of the tactics they used were designed to isolate him from his support. The FBI just continued to push his buttons."

Investigators are so confident of Ivins's involvement that they have been debating since Friday whether and how to close the seven-year-old anthrax investigation. That would involve disbanding a grand jury in the District and unsealing scores of documents that form the basis of the government's case against Ivins.

Negotiations over the legal issues continue, but a government source said that the probe could be shuttered as early as tomorrow. The move would amount to a strong signal that the FBI and Justice Department think they got their man -- and that he is dead, foreclosing the possibility of a prosecution. No charges are likely against others, that source added.

Once the case is closed, the FBI and Justice Department will face questions -- and possibly public hearings -- from congressional oversight committees, which have been largely shut out of the case the past five years. . .

Ivins's daily routine included the use of processes and equipment the anthrax terrorist likely used in making his weapons. He also is known to have had ready access to the specific strain of Bacillus anthracis used in the attack -- a strain found to match samples found in Ivins's lab, he said.

"You could make it in a week," the expert said. "And you could leave USAMRIID with nothing more than a couple of vials. Bear in mind, they weren't exactly doing body searches of scientists back then."

But others, including former colleagues and scientists with backgrounds in biological weapons defense, disagreed that Ivins could have created the anthrax powder, even if he were motivated to do so.

"USAMRIID doesn't deal with powdered anthrax," said Richard O. Spertzel, a former biodefense scientist who worked with Ivins at the Army lab. "I don't think there's anyone there who would have the foggiest idea how to do it. You would need to have the opportunity, the capability and the motivation, and he didn't possess any of those.". .

Authorities cast doubt yesterday on reports that Ivins had acted for financial gain based on patents and scientific advances he had made. Experiments by Ivins, working with several other Fort Detrick colleagues, led to two patented inventions considered crucial in the development of a genetically modified anthrax vaccine made by VaxGen, a California company that secured large government contracts after the 2001 anthrax attacks.

But sources familiar with details of the Army's patent process said it was unlikely that Ivins or the other scientists would reap a big financial windfall from VaxGen's vaccine production. They say the government restricts income from inventions produced in its laboratories to no more than $150,000 per year, but the amount is often considerably less.

Court records obtained yesterday shed further light on the concerns of a mental health professional who met Ivins during his final months -- a period when, friends say, he fell into depression under the strain of constant FBI scrutiny. The records also suggest that a Frederick social worker, Jean Duley, passed on her concerns to the FBI after receiving death threats from Ivins.

Duley became so worried that she petitioned a local judge for a protective order against Ivins. According to an audio recording of the hearing, she said she had seen Ivins as a therapist for six months, and thought he had tried to kill people in the past.
"As far back as the year 2000, [Ivins] has actually attempted to murder several other people, [including] through poisoning," she said "He is a revenge killer, when he feels that he's been slighted . . especially towards women. He plots and actually tries to carry out revenge killings," she told a judge.

She described a July 9 group therapy session in which Ivins allegedly talked of mass murder.

"He was extremely agitated, out of control," she said. Ivins told the group he had bought a gun, and proceeded to lay out a "long and detailed homicidal plan," she said.

"Because he was about to be indicted on capital murder charges, he was going to go out in a blaze of glory; that he was going to take everybody out with him," she said.


Someone will dub the Democratic ticket what Eugene McCarthy used to call Bayh's father and his fellow Indiana senator,Vance Hartke: Bayh & Bought.


MSNBC - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is laying off as many as 22,000 state employees. New York's governor is raising the possibility of selling - or more accurately, leasing - the Brooklyn Bridge. Nevada is burning through its rainy-day fund like a gambler on a losing streak. And Maryland is pinning its hopes on slot machines. With the economy in a slide and the housing market in crisis, states are collectively rolling up tens of billions of dollars in budget deficits in one of the worst financial crunches in the U.S. since the 1970s. . . Worse, economists say the red ink is only going to get deeper later in the fiscal year when 2008 tax returns start coming in. "The big question is when will states hit the bottom? We don't know," said Arturo Perez, a fiscal analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures in Colorado. As of June, more than 30 states faced deficits totaling a projected $40 billion, or more than triple the gap of the previous year, according to the NCSL.


Internet News - The Federal Communications Commission voted to rebuke the nation's largest cable provider for slowing certain Internet traffic on its network and failing to provide adequate notice to subscribers. By a 3-2 vote, the FCC approved an enforcement order that will require Comcast (to change the way it manages traffic, and submit a compliance plan to the commission by the end of the year detailing those changes. The ruling does not impose any fines. "Comcast was delaying subscribers' downloads and blocking their uploads," FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said. "It was doing so 24/7, regardless of the amount of congestion on the network or how small the file might be. Today, the commission tells Comcast to stop, and to disclose to its subscribers how it is going to manage traffic on a going-forward basis. We therefore take another important step to ensure that all consumers have unfettered access to the Internet."

The outcome of today's vote, though expected, may stand as a milestone in the debate over Net neutrality, the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. Several attempts to write Net neutrality into law have failed in Congress, and until today, the FCC's action on the issue had been limited to holding hearings and seeking public comment.


Reuters - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said he would back limited offshore drilling as part of a broader energy package that attempted to bring down gas prices and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Obama dropped his blanket opposition to any expansion of offshore drilling and signaled support for a bipartisan compromise in Congress aimed at breaking a deadlock on energy that includes limited drilling. .

The bill would require the government to open additional areas in the Gulf of Mexico for development and would allow drilling off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia if those states give permission.

A commission would be created to recommend areas to be opened for leasing in the future. Offshore production would still only be allowed 50 miles from the shore, and all the new oil produced would have to be used domestically.


A stunning chart of the rolling average of polls compiled by Real Clear Politics shows that Obama's percentage of the vote when pitted against McCain has been stuck in a 2.5 point spread since last February. To the extent that the gap between the two has widened it has been mostly due to McCain losing support. McCain's total has varied between 47% last January and 41% the end of June, with a recent bounce to 44% while Obama's total has been stalled between 46% and 48%.

While we were aware of the Obama campaign becoming becalmed in recent weeks, we hadn't realized how far back the problem extended - since we don't save our own moving averages. In essence, Obama has failed to attract new voters since early this year and has relied primarily on McCain losing support. Right now, RCP has Obama at 46.5% and McCain at 43.9%. We have Obama four points ahead.

We have suggested from time to time that the problem with the Democrats is that they seek their votes and their money from two quite disparate sources. Even with the economy in the pits, the party is still looking for funds from the very places - Wall Street, large corporations etc - that got us into the current mess. This helps to explain why the Democrats and its candidate are so reluctant to propose dramatic (and appealing) new economic solutions. Yet, as the polls suggest, not doing so has done them little good and they are forced to rely on the inadequacies of their opponent rather than on their own virtues to maintain a slim lead.


A number of members Congress called legislation limiting the government's authority to arrest and prosecute adults who possess marijuana for their own personal use. The federal government should “not lock people up or use scarce federal resources to arrest people for using or possessing … marijuana,” Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) argues. “The vast amount of human activity ought to be none of the government's business. I don't think it is the government's business to tell you how to spend your leisure time.”

Rep. Frank, along with Reps. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), called on lawmakers to support legislation which would eliminate federal penalties for the possession and non-profit transfer of marijuana by adults. Representatives Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), William Lacy Clay, Barbara Lee, Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Ron Paul (R-TX), and Jim McDermott (D-WA) are co-sponsoring the bill.

The legislation is the first proposal to be introduced in Congress in 30 years that seeks to eliminate federal pot penalties. According to a 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, 12.7 percent of state inmates and 12.4 percent of federal inmates serving time for drug violations are incarcerated for marijuana offenses.

Speaking at the press conference, NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said: “With alcohol, we acknowledge the distinction between use and abuse and we focus our law enforcement involvement on efforts to stop irresponsible use. We do not arrest and jail responsible alcohol drinkers. This should be our policy with marijuana as well.”

According to a nationwide Time Magazine/CNN poll, three out of four Americans believe that adults who possess marijuana should no longer face criminal penalties.

Since 1990, more than 11 million Americans have been arrested for violating marijuana laws, according to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. Of those arrested, nearly 90 percent are charged with minor possession - not trafficking, cultivation, or sale. Nearly 75 percent of those arrested are under 30 years of age.


It took a British paper, the Times, to bring up a topic that has been studiously avoided in the American media: the interesting parallel between Obama and McCain, namely their fathers.

We're not sure what political can be drawn from this. Bill Clinton, for example, had neither a good father nor a good step father. His stepfather was a gun-brandishing alcoholic who lost his Buick franchise through mismanagement and his own pilfering. He physically abused his family, including the young Bill. His mother was a heavy gambler with mob ties. According to FBI and local police officials, his Uncle Raymond - to whom young Bill turned for wisdom and support - was a colorful car dealer, and mob connected gambling operator, who thrived (except when his house is firebombed) on the fault line of criminality.

On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln survived rather well, although not without pain, a strained relationship with his father.

Ben Macintyre, Times UK - At one level, the presidential race is a battle between sharply contrasting personalities; at another, it is a race involving the two fathers - both long-dead, both missing for much of their sons' childhoods - who shaped them.

The fathers might have come from different planets. John S. McCain Sr was a four-star admiral, the hard-bitten scion of a warrior clan; Barack Obama Sr was a Kenyan goatherd from the Luo tribe, a wandering soul who tried, and failed, to make his mark in post-colonial Africa. Yet both fathers are defining figures in their sons' lives, paternal templates against which they measure themselves.

Obama describes Barack Hussein Obama Sr as “the father I had never truly known”: a charming, intelligent, feckless figure who came to Hawaii from Kenya on a scholarship, married Obama's mother and produced the future presidential candidate, then vanished back to Africa soon afterwards.

For years, brought up by a single mother and her parents, the young Obama could only imagine his father through legend, stories told and retold. “My father was missing,” he writes. “And nothing that my mother or grandparents told me could obviate that single, unassailable fact.” The father became a fantasy figure: “The brilliant scholar, the generous friend, the upstanding leader. It was into my father's image, the black man, son of Africa, that I'd packed all the attributes I sought in myself.” The two Baracks met again only once: a brief, strained reunion when Obama was 10. A decade later, an aunt called from Kenya to say that Obama Sr had died in car accident: “I felt no pain, only the vague sense of an opportunity lost.”. . .

Cut to the same point in John McCain's life story and - although his start in life and family circumstances could hardly have been more different - one finds a comparable character, another quest for identity. Hell-raiser, drinker, a fighter with a short attention span and a shorter temper, the young McCain seemed, by his own account, to be heading for a life of meaningless self-indulgence. “I drove a Corvette, dated a lot, spent all my free hours at bars and beach parties, and generally misused my good health and youth.” Martial valour is the central motif of McCain's memoir. His father, a wartime submarine commander, would rise to the very summit of the US Navy; his grandfather had been a hellfire four-star admiral. The warrior clan traced its lineage back to “the distinguished conqueror” Charlemagne. “For two centuries,” he writes, “the men of my family were raised to go to war”.

Like Obama, McCain's self-definition revolves around his father, the inscrutable patriarch, gruff, hard-drinking, idolised, and seldom present. McCain writes that, in naval families, “you are taught to consider their absence not as a deprivation, but as an honour,". .

At the end of Obama's book, one likes his absent father more; McCain's memoir leaves one admiring his father a little less, in spite of the son's protestations. There is something inhuman about the insistent drum-beat of sacrifice, courage and duty. When Admiral McCain first hears of his son's capture, he goes on to a formal dinner and does not mention the fact to anyone; he replies to letters of condolence with a clipped formula; he orders the B52s to bomb Hanoi, knowing his son is imprisoned there. “Few close observers of my father ever detected that my captivity caused him great suffering. He never let his concern affect his attention to duty or restrain him from prosecuting the war to the greatest extent,” McCain writes. This may be the mark of an effective military commander, but a willingness to bomb your own son is not the mark of a great dad. In McCain's world, it seems, duty trumps feeling.

Barack Obama's father, by contrast, emerges as an attractively flawed human, generous to the end with money he did not have, clinging to a frayed dignity. This is a man whom a son could have loved, had he only been there, or able to “outlive a mocking fate”.


Rob Stein, Washington Post - A Bush administration proposal aimed at protecting health-care workers who object to abortion, and to birth-control methods they consider tantamount to abortion, has escalated a bitter debate over the balance between religious freedom and patients' rights. The Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing a draft regulation that would deny federal funding to any hospital, clinic, health plan or other entity that does not accommodate employees who want to opt out of participating in care that runs counter to their personal convictions, including providing birth-control pills, IUDs and the Plan B emergency contraceptive.

Conservative groups, abortion opponents and some members of Congress are welcoming the initiative as necessary to safeguard doctors, nurses and other health workers who, they say, are increasingly facing discrimination because of their beliefs or are being coerced into delivering services they find repugnant.

But the draft proposal has sparked intense criticism by family planning advocates, women's health activists, and members of Congress who say the regulation would create overwhelming obstacles for women seeking abortions and birth control.

There is also deep concern that the rule could have far- reaching, but less obvious, implications. Because of its wide scope and because it would - apparently for the first time - define abortion in a federal regulation as anything that affects a fertilized egg, the regulation could raise questions about a broad spectrum of scientific research and care, critics say.


Admittedly Catherine Austin Fitts has a pretty unusual background for a commentator on Pacifica's California station KPFA. Fitts served as managing director and member of the board of the Wall Street investment bank Dillon, Read & Co. Inc. She was Assistant Secretary of Housing and a Federal Housing Commissioner in the first Bush Administration, and was the president of Hamilton Securities Group, Inc., an investment bank and financial software developer. On the other hand, she was one of the most creative and unusual voices you'll hear out of the business world, especially important when the economy is falling apart.

She was recently dumped as a guest on KPFA's Flashpoints for reasons that are unclear, although a reader's letter - later retracted - accusing Fitts of self dealing may have been involved. The station also appears to have decided that only academics and staff of non-profits can talk about business. Small business folk are to be excluded, as the left has successfully done for decades to its own disadvantage. Station management has declined to respond to our inquiries

In any case, the incident is another reminder that censorship exists on the left as well as the right. Your editor, for example, has long been persona non grata at many liberal media, most likely because of his ideological quirkiness and his involvement in forming the national Green Party which many conventional liberals abhor.

The most dangerous thing one can do on either left or right is to think for yourself and thus Fitts certainly was headed for trouble from the start.

Catherine Austin Fitts


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.


The government guaranteed bonds have traditionally been regarded as being among the safest and most conservative investment instruments. The expectation of security of investment overshadows modest performance. As such, these securities represent of portion of countless pension and retirement funds. Their inclusion intended to offset the more volatile performance of the array of derivatives and other exotic paper that can populate a fund. Therefore, rescuing Fannie and Freddie is about far more than attempting to protect two stocks. Their failure would have impact across the board and touch just about everyone who any kind of savings or investment portfolio.

The question shouldn't be why are we protecting the shares. More to the point is what happened to the various controls, regulation, and enforcement that once made these and secure instruments of investment?
This is the inevitable conclusion of thirty years of deregulation. Milton Friedman was grossly wrong and now we are all paying for it.

Milton Friedman knew exactly how we would all wind up paying for it. Old Milton simply provided the intellectual sales pitch for free markets uber alles. This has all happened before. The taxpayer-funded bailout of the S&Ls during Poppy Bush's regime sent the message that financial institutions don't need to adhere to responsible business practices: they are free to take all the risks they can get away with, and Uncle Sam will bail them out. The white collar crime enabled by deregulation has stolen trillions more dollars than all the convicted thieves that ever served time in U.S. jails. Before tax dollar one is spent on these bailouts, the crooked accountants and managers who made these high-risk loans should have every cent of their assets seized to pay for the debacle.


Judging by the Panther's subsequent history of murdering off one another over suspicions that their fellows were spies, informants, and etc., Wilkerson, Wallace and Woodfox probably owe the fact that they're alive today to that period of solitary confinement.


As for those who think the Democrats will somehow save us from this mess, note that although this has been going on since Reagan, the program obviously did not die under Clinton. Both corporate owned parties are fully complicit in illegal spying on U.S. citizens for decades. Not that you need yet another reason to support third parties instead of the criminal Republicrats.


Conyers was going to get us an independent 9/11 investigation among other things. Like most in public office he's either developed feet of clay or just a candy ass.


Wow, the Progressive Review officially sinks to tabloid status, faithfully reporting dirt and innuendo.

If I want to read this crap, I'd go to Wonkette. There are millions of more pertinent, pressing issues, that get ignored due to titillating diversions such as this, such as the disappeared Sibel Edmonds story.

Edwards attempted to run in 2004 as a populist candidate. He spoke of two Americas. Although still harboring presidential aspirations and contemplating a second run in 2008, our populist hero was stupid enough to land an interim position in Wall Street and believe no one would notice. At the same time our hero was also stupid enough to build and move into a thirty-plus million dollar mansion and believe no one would notice. There may or may not be truth the rumors of this particular tryst, nevertheless, fidelity does not seem to be an attribute with which Edwards is very familiar.

The question of whether
Elizabeth gave her 'permission' is moot as to the utter wrongness of Edwards' actions if this story is true. Fidelity does not seem to be a prominent characteristic in this man's makeup. No surprise when ethical corruption proceeds, naturally enough, to the physical variety.

Is it more stupid that Edwards would try to carry out this affair, or that he had a shot at the VP position to begin with?

The fact that the National Enquirer is "owned by a Clinton operative" (whatever the hell that means) doesn't lessen the reprhensibility of Edwards' actions one iota, and it's reprehensible of TPR to plant innuendo that somehow suggests otherwise.

Considering the primary source, it's pathetic that at least four readers already seem to accept this story as true. Next month when the Enquirer reports that space aliens ate Rielle Hunter's baby, will we accept that as confirmation of extraterrestrials?

There's nothing 'pathetic' about reader acceptance of this story. The Enquirer, much as it still carries the reputation of being a joke newspaper, has actually been shown to be more accurate and truthful in its coverage than some of the big 'legit' dailies. The spate of libel suits with which it was assailed (and lost) in the Eighties and early Nineties provided a potent, and costly lesson in doing substantive fact-checking. In point of fact, there have been several major news stories over the last decade or so, whose first exposure to the light of day came via the pages of the Enquirer. It may be more pathetic to keep trying to defend an obviously corrupt and unethical politician, than to admit to his obvious scummery, no matter whence the source of the revelations.

One does have to admit that the behavior displayed by Edwards in the past certainly lends an air of plausibility to the story. What's more, he has often mentioned that his political hero and role model was John F Kennedy. Perhaps he carried emulation out too far? That not withstanding, I - as one who voted for Edwards in the 2004 New Hampshire presidential primary - felt somewhat betrayed, violated, if you will? - by the news of Edwards' decision to accept a Wall Street interim position. What of the mansion? The $400 haircuts? It's a matter of one's fidelity to conviction. One the whole of it, we have a DLC pro-invasion Democratic conveniently turned populist anti-war advocate turned sycophantic Bilderberg VP candidate turned Wall Street Investment lawyer turned. . . More than fidelity, this is a comment about hubris. A man of hubris is capable of anything. And so it goes. . .

Well he always said there were two Americas. One where his home, wife, and family lives and one where his girlfriend and the new baby lives!


My mother just retired from 40 years of elementary school teaching because of this kind of testing. She tired of losing her autonomy in the classroom and sacrificing the art of teaching, which was a labor of love for her as it is for many who pursue the profession. - Lars


Women make up some 15 percent of the United States active duty forces, and 11 percent of the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly a third of female veterans say they were sexually assaulted or raped while in the military, and 71 percent to 90 percent say they were sexually harassed by the men with whom they served.

This article is misleading and does not describe the actual policies of Service Nation. It says specifically on the Service Nation website, "We do not support mandatory national service requirements." The word "universal" was used on the site (and has now been removed because people misunderstood it) to mean "available to everyone"

It seems Service Nation was rewriting the meaning of 'universal'


Just exactly when were they "together"?

I don't buy it. The media has attacked Obama, questioned everything he's said or done, pushed Republican talking points as if they're truth. . . They've been totally against Obama, with the possible exception of the time during the primaries when he was going up against Hillary. More importantly, the media has given McCain a complete pass. Every time McCain does something wrong or says something unequivocally stupid, they never report it. They never talk about it. Witness CBS's editing of his interview with Couric. How about his Sunni/Shia gaffes that were explained away as a "mistake". How about evidence of his temper, his statements to his wife, his medical records that could only be viewed for a few hours by select reporters? If the media is biased for Obama, you'll have to show me some specific evidence that outweighs the McCain love fest. - robbie

Obaama's financiers have been the same bag men who've greased the way for Herbert Walker Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, and George Walker Bush. The corporate press has licked Obama's ass from day one, and you want to know when were they together?


Clinton duped the left into destroying Yugoslavia. Obama will do the same for Pakistan.


Ironically, he's talking just as belligerently as any Republican, but he doesn't get credit for it from the right, and he's excoriated for it by the left.


The culture expresses itself using the terms it knows. The underlying desire for peace and prosperity and the ability of an electorate to make the right choice is the same as it ever was. Nobody is for Obama because he said "we are the change we were waiting for". They say they are for change because they are for Obama and that's his term. - wellbasically


It's the per-capita numbers that tell the real story, and like it or not, per-capita, blacks do have higher rates of long-term welfare dependency, criminal incarceration, illegitimate chilldbearing, and drug usage (for some types of drugs).


Politics and popular culture have always been intertwined. The analysis was written by someone who has been left behind by both, and is quite predictably certain that this means the end of the world. What an idiot.

The most important paragraph written in the original article has been left out: "At the time when the American military industrial complex is despised around the world, he [Obama] is a front man out of central casting which will buy it more goodwill and new room to maneuver in the first 15 minutes after being sworn in that John McCain could in the next 100 years." Progressives are about to be had again.

Any progressive that supports Obama more than nominally is already a dupe. But I don't see how this is any different than the last 100 years or so of American politics. The only thing that is different now is the culture. With the internets and DVRs and iPhones, it is ubiquitous but surprisingly narrow in breadth of opinion. This is what happens when corporations rule the world. It really doesn't matter who wins; they both are beholden to their corporate rulers. This is the analysis missing from this author's piece. He sees the trees but misses the forest entirely. The world is this way to allow Obama to do this because our corporate culture is in a fight to the death with intellectualism (defined as open, rational debate, not elitism), and is winning handily. And technology is turning out to be an incredibly powerful tool for social control. . all its potential to be an agent of change rendered useless by a culture based on celebrity and inanity. - Plan B247


Too bad, where Jewish opinion is concerned, TPR's been pushing the 'conventional wisdom' rather than publicizing the disconnect for such a long time now.


I would have responded quicker but I had to chase the black helicopter away from my house first. The little I do know about the JROTC program is that school districts do not have to have the marksmanship program to have a program. It's those bad school board members in the community, elected by the right wing no good Republicans that allow the marksmanship programs in 99% of the school districts nationwide. Imagine that, the people voting on what programs they want in their schools.

According to the information found at Us Army Cadet Command HQ over 98% of the officers teaching JROTC have masters degrees and all instructors are required to have a minimum of at least an associates degree. The instructors are all certified by the school districts to teach JROTC. Every instructor must have 20 years of service before they can teach JROTC

JROTC teaches violence? Hhow can that be true if 96% of JROTC cadets graduate from high school-a much higher percentage than those not in the program-- guess all that violence keeps them wanting to graduate. Can you imagine what would have happened in this country if the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs did not double the size of the JROTC program after the LA riots?

Does anyone else recall the grade school propaganda films on the evils of Cuba and the USSR, which focused on how schoolchildren on those countries were trained in small arms proficiency? It's sickeningly ironic that the U.S. now meets the same evil criteria.


The US uses a simple plurality voting system, which virtually guarantees a two party system. If a third party garners enough votes to have an impact, their positions will be adopted by one of the two main parties (almost certainly, the party that lost because of many of their voters split off). So in a simple plurality voting system, the win you envision is a long-term and almost certainly greatly watered down change in one of the parties, at the cost of a short term decisive loss.

The best solution is to change the voting system to one that better reflects voters' real wishes. That means a Constitutional amendment. Until that happens, the best thing to do is reward legislators who do the right thing (e.g. sending Dodd $25 when he stood up on FISA), and be an unholy PITA to your reps when they don't.

Without instant run-off voting, supporters of Nader or McKinney are really non-voters without apathy. I used to despise you folks, particularly after making Florida close enough that the Republicans and five corrupt Supreme Court justices could steal the state and the Presidency. This year, I have mellowed. Barack Obama has been attacked as the most left-wing nut in American politics by the NR - Fox News - Bob Novak - Rush Limbaugh - Bill O'Reilly - Anne Coulter crowds (a/k/a your bedfellows). With PR and several other progressive blogs campaigning against Obama, the right wing canard is effectively refuted at the cost of only a few votes of progressive nitwits who have already forgotten or flim-flamed the actual history of Florida , 2000. True progressives will recognize these are parlous times and the defeat of the Republican candidate is absolutely vital to our country's future. You can lead a horse's ass to water, but you can't make him think.

Many of us Democrats didn't vote for Obama, not because we were head over heels for Hillary (I'm not), but because Obama smells like a fraud. As your article notes, even those familiar with him, do not know what he thinks. Count me as one more Democrat who won't vote for this one.


Since the end of WWII, the Berlin Wall has been an icon of oppression in the west; that the author's journalistic sleight-of-hand has painted the Berlin Wall as a good thing has my head spinning. The nation is well down the slippery slope of military dictatorship. At this pace, in 5 years (maybe less) one will read the same article with the words "concentration camp" replacing "checkpoint."

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