Progressive Calendar 08.15.08
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Fri, 15 Aug 2008 06:52:56 -0700 (PDT)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R    08.15.08

1. PeaceIsland/KFAI 8.15 11am
2. Picket Mpls CH   8.15 12noon
3. Convergence/RNC  8.15 4pm
4. Palestine vigil  8.15 4:15pm
5. Anti-war picket  8.15 4:30pm Duluth MN
6. Youth farm fest  8.15 5pm
7. RNC march bene   8.15 7pm
8. RNC training     8.15 7pm
9. RNC peace vigil  8.15 7pm
10. Secrecy/film    8.15 7:30pm
11. Moyers/KingPrez 8.15 9pm

12. John Walsh   - Buyers remorse over Obama
13. Ralph Nader  - Single-payer: even labor unions have fallen silent
14. Mike Whitney - Putin's options: flyswatter or blunderbuss?
15. Mike Whitney - Master plan or screw up? Georgia and US strategy

--------1 of 15--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at] visi.com>
Subject: PeaceIsland/KFAI 8.15 11am

KFAI Fri.Aug. 15, 11am

Tune in Friday Aug. 15, 11am on CATALYST to ehar a conversation with PEACE
ISLAND Conference organizer, poet and long time peace & environmental
activist SUSU JEFFREY. She talks about this SOLUTIONS ORIENTED CONFERENCE
and gives a taste of the AUG.19 poetry reading benefit for it with some
poems of her own. Host LYDIA HOWELL, Catalyst is every Friday, Aug. 15,
11am, archived for 2 weeks after braodcaSt at http://www.kfai.org KFAI
90.3fm Mpls 106.7fm St. Paul


--------2 of 15--------

From: William McGaughey <2wmcg [at] earthlink.net>
Subject: Picket Mpls CH 8.15 12noon
   [this post is all I know of this event -ed]

At high noon tomorrow, Friday, August 15th, Metro Property Rights Action
Committee and leadership of the 5th Congressional District Independence
Party will stage a protest demonstration on the south side of Minneapolis
City Hall (5th Street) near the statue of former mayor Hubert Humphrey.

The protest will focus on the truly sordid events that took place at
yesterday's meeting of the Public Safety & Regulatory Services Committee
of the Mpls. City Council chaired by Don Samuels in which, among other
things, it revoked the rental license of a building managed by northside
resident Morris Kloch and ordered the demolition of a structurally sound
10-unit apartment building owned by LeRoy Smithrud at 2400 Dupont Ave.
North.

In the course of defending himself against the license revocation, Mr.
Kloch disclosed that he had been personally assaulted by Don Samuels and a
city inspector at the Butter Ball Bakery on Broadway in May 2007 as
Samuels threatened to use inspections to ruin him.  This followed an
earlier altercation in which Samuels accused Kloch of being a white man
who rented to black people.  Samuels refused to recuse himself from
chairing the meeting after Kloch asked him to do so.

Mr. Smithrud's problems began with citations for peeling paint near the
roof of the building.  He climbed a ladder to work on the paint job.  The
ladder fell over and Smithrud injured his back. Because the building was
vacant for more than a year, it ran afoul of a city ordinance giving the
Minneapolis city council the right to demolish it.  Smithrud noted that a
nonprofit group that provides housing for foreclosure victims was
interested in purchasing the building for that purpose.  Samuels would not
allow the group's representative and others present at the meeting to
testify on Smithrud's behalf.

Some claim that these Council actions are part of a wider gentrification
effort designed to drive poor people and minorities out of north
Minneapolis so property values will rise and crime will be reduced.  It's
ironic that this is a core principle of the DFL- controlled Council so at
odds with principles once enunciated by DFL founder, Hubert H. Humphrey.
The demonstrators plan to tell Humphrey's statue what has become of his
once idealist party, the DFL party, in recent years. Both LeRoy Smithrud
and Morris Kloch will participate in the demonstration and be available to
answer questions.


--------3 of 15--------

From: rnc08 [at] riseup.net
Subject: Convergence/RNC  8.15 4pm

When you come in to town head over to the Convergence Center at:
627 Smith Ave S
St. Paul, Mn 55107
Check out a map at:
http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&client=firefox-a&ie=UTF8&q=627+smith+ave,+st+paul&fb=1&view=text&cd=1&ll=44.937889,-93.097286&spn=0.040282,0.074501&z=14

Open hours will be from 4pm - 10pm until Aug 23rd, at which time they will
be extended.
Yours, The RNC Welcoming Committee


--------4 of 15--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Palestine vigil 8.15 4:15pm

Friday, 8/15, 4:15 to 5:30 pm, vigil to end US military/political support
of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, corner Summit and Snelling, St
Paul.


--------5 of 15--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Anti-war picket 8.15 4:30pm Duluth MN

Friday, 8/15, 4:30 to 5:30 pm, Northland Anti-War Coalition hosts Iraq
Moratorium picket, Canal Park. 250 Canal Park Dr, Duluth.
http://www.northlandantiwar.com or 715-394-6660.  (Please check on this
one, as I have contradictory information about a noon action that day.)


--------6 of 15--------

From: Gunnar Liden <gunnarliden [at] gmail.com>
Subject: Youth farm fest 8.15 5pm

It's that time of year again:
Youth Farm Harvest Festivals are here!
West Side Harvest Festival
Friday August 15th
5-7:30 pm
Youth Farm West Side Robert Street Garden
(on Robert Street between Morton and Page Ave)

5-5:45 Tour Gardens and sample and purchase Youth Farm veggies and products
6:00 FREE Community Dinner prepared by the Youth Farm Cooking group
6:45 Awards and Presentation
Questions or To Volunteer: Call Amanda Stoelb 952.220.0953


--------7 of 15--------

From: "wamm [at] mtn.org" <wamm [at] mtn.org>
Subject: RNC march bene 8.15 7pm

Friday, August, 15, 7:00 p.m. The Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar, 308
Prince Street (Corner of 4th and Broadway in Lowertown), St. Paul.

Spend your Friday night meeting with fun political people, eating tasty
treats and drinking refreshments. All attendees can place bids on
restaurant meals, massages, private wine tastings, catering, and time in
vacation homes. All proceeds will help pay for the Coalition to March on
the RNC and Stop the War's demonstration at the Republican National
Convention on September 1. Cost: $10.00 at the door. FFI: Visit
<www.marchonrnc.org>.


--------8 of 15--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: RNC training 8.15 7pm

8/15 (7 to 9 pm) and 8/16 or 8/17 (8:30 to 5:30), intensive weekend
trainings to participate as peace team members during the Republican
National Convention. $35.  Send registrations to
minnesotapeaceteam [at] gmail.com or Minnesota Peace Team/Wojtan, 13341 Everest
Ave, Apple Valley 55124.  Questions?  612-483-6041. (Friday at Friends for
a Non-violent World, 1050 Selby Ave, St Paul.  Saturday or Sunday at St
Paul Area Council of Churches, 1671 Summit Ave, St Paul.)


--------9 of 15--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: RNC peace vigil 8.15 7pm

Friday, 8/15, 7 pm (and every Friday until the RNC convention), meditation
and vigil for peace at the RNC at the State Capitol lawn, St Paul.
http://www.rippleeffect08.com or 612-227-1817.


--------10 of 15--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at] visi.com>
Subject: Secrecy/film 8.15 7:30pm

SECRECY: film exposes "classified information" contradictions in democracy
reviewed by Lydia Howell

SECRECY, directed by Peter Galison  & Robb Moss
Friday, Aug.15, 7:30pm followed by Q & A with co-director Peter Galison
Sat. Aug. 16, 2pm and 7:30pm, Sun. Aug.17, 2pm
part of the series CINEMA OF URGENCY  @ Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Ave., next to Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis
http://www.walkerart.org
$8 general/$6 Walker members

The film SECRECY entwines some of the most crucial current issues of our
day: "intelligence-gathering", an increase in classified materials the
public has no access to, more surveillance with less oversight, the
implications of Abu-Graibe and other U.S. "detention centers" - with U.S.
government secret-keeping beginning over 60 years ago. Those who pit the
necessity of national security against the foundations of American
democratic values get their say in this film. But, it's nothing you
haven't heard for seven years. What's fresh is that we finally also hear
from a variety of front-line fighters who confront the complexity from
within the system of secrecy. This balance adds weight and credibility to
the questions posed about moving in the direction of more and more secrecy
(with increased surveillance) that are shaping America in the 21st
century.

One of the most shocking revelations in SECRECY is made by Washington Post
reporter, Baron Gellman, "Post-9/11 a veil of secrecy descended over much
of government. Information on hundreds of government websites went behind
a firewall. because we no longer see them, we don't miss them.  Billions
of pages of historical documents, millions of new secrets each year, tens
of thousands of secrets every day. The cost of keeping secrets grew by a
billion dollars each year - costing $7.5Billion. It's as if we have a
Department of Government Secrecy that no one's ever heard of."

Directors Peter Galison and Robb Moss don't go after technical details of
intelligence-gathering. Instead the choose two Supreme Court cases as the
"frame" for their film: the 1953 Reynolds case, of widows fighting to find
out the truth about a 1948 Air Force plane crash, that established
near-total Executive authority to hide what the government is doing if
they say it's about "national security"; the 2006 Hamdan case, which
challenged George W. Bush's military tribunals as violations of the U.S.
Constitution and international law. SECRECY takes us from the WWII
Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb to Cold War anti-communism to
the 9/11 attacks and the "war on terrorism" - and explores this as if the
audience is also in a subterranean room of the National Security Council.

There's an impressive array of longtime CIA operatives, a scientist who
works on national security issues and science, an investigative reporter,
the director of the National Security Archives ("the world's largest
non-government library of declassified documents"), and a Guantanamo
detainee's lawyers - one of whom was pushed out of the Navy after he won
the Hamdan case - a widow and a daughter of the 1948 plane crash victims.
There are human stories told here within historical contexts and
contemporary concerns. Real suspense is created.

As Thomas Blanton, Director of the National Archives, observes, "Secrets
are seductive in two directions. Secrets are seduction for bureaucrats
because that's a key tool to gain, keep and regulate power. It's mirrored
on the other side - to get release of secrets. That means reluctance of
those in official power. That's the core of American values that's set up
to restrain power."

The film-makers have taken a page out of documentary director Erroll
Morris' play book, creating an eerie atmosphere, with the use of music,
archival photos and newsreels. The chilling sensibility is most powerfully
created with contemporary art installations by artists grappling with the
same questions the film-makers are: What place does government
surveillance have in an open society? How do we balance secrecy for
national security with the oversight essential to a democracy? Can the
rule of law be suspended for the sake of "safety"?  What happens to a
society when law no longer applies to those with the most power?

SECRECY goes to the heart of how fear of foreign enemies can be exploited
in order to gain power.  National security, claimed to protect the public,
can actually be the cover-up for incompetence - or criminality - by the
government. But, it's not just politicians who are implicated in this
film. SECRECY ultimately demands that ordinary citizens ask themselves how
much responsibility they are willing to take for the policies carried out
in their name. One of the most powerful figures in this film is Lt. Cmdr.
Charles Swift who was co-legal council for Salim Hamdan, is one of the
most stunning voices in the film, exercises some of the deepest dissent
against the vagaries of post-9/11 "homeland security". Swift's observation
applies to not only government officials and interrogators but, also to
ordinary citizens, when he says, "In the dark, you can get as lost as the
people you're trying to hide things from."

SECRECY gives nothing away to designated enemies, while exposing a cancer
of concealment, gnawing at the heart of American democracy. Edgy
story-telling with explosive investigation make this a documentary that
can stand with Hollywood's spy thrillers - with the added punch that this
is a reality that must be faced.


--------11 of 15--------

From: t r u t h o u t <messenger [at] truthout.org>
Subject: Moyers/KingPrez 8.15 9pm

Bill Moyers Journal | U.S. Imperial Presidency
http://www.truthout.org/article/us-imperial-presidency

On Bill Moyers Journal Friday: "Is an imperial presidency destroying what
America stands for? Bill Moyers sits down with history and international
relations expert and former Army Col. Andrew J. Bacevich, who identifies
three major problems facing our democracy - the crises of economy,
government and militarism - and calls for a redefinition of the American
way of life."


--------12 of 15--------

The Politics of Wishful Thinking
Buyers Remorse Over Obama
By JOHN WALSH
CounterPunch
August 14, 2008

In the latest issue of The Nation, an "open letter" appears in which the
signatories position themselves as abject supplicants to Obama, begging
him to revert to his earlier stances in his primary campaign.

Thus the letter states: "Since your historic victory in the primary, there
have been troubling signs that you are moving away from the core
commitments shared by many who have supported your campaign, toward a more
cautious and centrist stance.."  Several paragraphs later, the letter
finally gets around to mentioning "withdrawal from Iraq on a fixed
timetable" as one of the positions that Obama "embraced" during the
primary.

When others have raised such criticisms, Obama has responded that they
have not been listening to him.  On this one, I am with Obama.  How can
one take this guy seriously as an "antiwar" candidate when he has voted
for hundreds of billions of dollars to fund the Iraq war and to slaughter
hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis? Neither Ron Paul nor Dennis
Kucinich, both presidential candidates, nor Barbara Lee voted for these
funds for a "war of aggression," as Ralph Nader has properly called it.
On this score Obama's voting record is no different from McCain's or
Hillary Clinton's.

And Obama made it clear long ago in one of his few clear statements on the
war that he does not oppose all wars and in fact supports "smart" ones.
Iraq is thus not  a criminal war, a war of aggression, but merely a "dumb"
war.  Presumably the war in Afghanistan that Obama so loves is to be a
"smart" war.  When you come right down to it, how different is Obama's
position that the war is not "smart" from McCain's that, until the surge,
the war was not "smartly" waged?  I would say that the difference is less
than a dime.

The letter is also frankly dishonest when it says that Obama is simply
moving to a more "centrist stance" In what sense "centrist"? The war is
wildly unpopular and close to 70% of Americans want the U.S. out of Iraq
asap.  What is "centrist" about moving away from a landslide majoritarian
position?  And what is the "peace" candidate doing when he calls for
100,000 more active duty army and marines, when he calls for more military
spending, when he calls for stepping up the war on Afghanistan, when he
talks belligerently about Iran, and when he equivocates on how many tens
of thousands of troops are to be left in Iraq?  All these are positions
that the "peace" candidate took during the primary.  They are not new.

The "open letter" also pretends that Obama took a position for universal
health care during the primary.  That is true only in words.  As Paul
Krugman has pointed out, Obama's health care plan is even worse than was
Hillary Clinton's - a mighty low bar.

The worst part of the supplicants' letter is that it is all based on
wishful thinking.  The idea that Obama is an "antiwar" or progressive
candidate is a fantasy, never supported by the facts.  And there is no way
to change Obama by begging as the letter does.  There is plenty of carrot,
in fact downright ass kissing, in the letter - but no stick.  Ambitious
pols understand sticks.  [The Nation IS ass kissing. And never sticks -
Dems no matter what, no matter how bad - thus moving us further to the
right. I stopped subscribing to The Nation years ago. -ed]

What is awfully irritating is that Katrina Vanden Heuval and the rest of
the "liberal" elite criticize supporters of McKinney/Clemente and
Nader/Gonzalez for "wishful thinking".  Compared to the sentiments and
views of the supplicants' letter, supporters of third party candidates are
hard core realists. And it is very sad to see some of the signatories of
this letter who in better times would have been men and women who put
principle over partisanship.  Read the letter carefully.  Look at the
signatories.  It may bring tears.

John V. Walsh can be reached at john.endwar [at] gmail.com


--------13 of 15--------

Even Labor Unions Have Fallen Silent
Single-Payer Health Care in an Age of Two-Party Politics
By RALPH NADER
CounterPunch
August 14, 2008

One of my favorite monthly publications is Registered Nurse - the journal
of the fast growing, progressive California Nurses Association (CNA) - a
union that stands up for patients rights and well-being.

The June 2008 issue contains stories that illustrate how this nurses group
takes stands. On June 19, the CNA sponsored street rallies for its
Medicare for all (single-payer with free choice of doctor and hospital) in
San Francisco and a dozen other major cities around the nation.

For over a decade th California Nurses Assocation (CNA) have made full
Medicare for all their major goal. They have run voter initiatives,
lobbied legislatures and have opposed sweetheart labor-management deals
like those embraced by the Service Employees International Union - SEIU.
(SEIU also opposes single-payer health insurance which is supported by a
majority of physicians and the American people.)

The June magazine describes the autocratic attitude of SEIU toward its
members and how its leader, Andy Stern, cuts labor deals with large
corporate employers that shockingly deprive workers of normal union
rights.

Here is an example of what CNA says:

"In exchange for access to more dues units, SEIU gave California nursing
home operators the 'exclusive right' to set all pay rates, working
conditions, speed up and reassign work, eliminate jobs at will, and
outsource union work".

"SEIU also agreed to support legislation limiting patient's right to sue
over care abuses, to oppose reforms to require better staffing for
patients safety, and to never report health care code violations".

Stern rejected single-payer health insurance at his recent union
convention. Senator Barack Obama has declined to propose single-payer as
well. SEIU is pouring tens of millions of dollars to elect Senator Obama
President. CNA works to eliminate "the insurance nightmare through
establishing a high-quality, single payer healthcare system" (See
http://www.guaranteedhealthcare.org/blog)

The current health care industry is a wasteful, redundant, defrauding mess
costing Americans over 2.2 trillion this year and hundreds of thousands of
avoidable injuries, fatalities and serious infections a year. The honest,
competent caregivers are on the edge of despair, unable to do their best
work due to the domination and control of commercial-profit priorities
which include denial of care by these corporations.

People die or get sicker sometimes when they are denied health care.
People die when they cannot afford health insurance - 18,000 Americans a
year according to the Institute of Medicine

Corporate billing fraud and abuse costs over $200 billion a year. Ask
Malcolm Sparrow of the Kennedy School at Harvard University or read his
book License to Steal.

Do you ever hear John McCain or Barack Obama focus public attention on
these tragedies and rip-offs of consumers and taxpayers?

The employers of health insurance companies, hospital chains and drug
industry are pouring money into the coffers of these two men and their
parties.

Strange as it many seem, on June 26, 2008 even the principled, independent
California Nurses Association fell in line with the AFL-CIO. The CNA
endorsed Senator Barack Obama.

Well, Senator Obama doesn't have to worry a minute about CNA's nurses
putting up one of their famous critical demonstrations at his events. He
can continue dialing for corporate dollars.

Ralph Nader is running for president as an independent.

[Cash over people is the heart of capitalism -ed]


--------14 of 15--------

Putin's Options: Flyswatter or Blunderbuss?
by Mike Whitney
CounterPunch
August 13th, 2008

Washington's bloody fingerprints are all over the invasion of South
Ossetia. Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili would never dream of
launching a massive military attack unless he got explicit orders from his
bosses at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. After all, Saakashvili owes his entire
political career to American power-brokers and US intelligence agencies.
If he disobeyed them, he'd be gone in a fortnight. Besides an operation
like this takes months of planning and logistical support; especially if
it's perfectly timed to coincide with the beginning of the Olympic games.
(another petty neocon touch) That means Pentagon planners must have been
working hand in hand with Georgian generals for months in advance. Nothing
was left to chance.

Another tell-tale sign of US complicity is the way President Bush has
avoided ordering Georgian troops to withdraw from a province that has been
under the protection of international peacekeepers. Remember how quickly
Bush ordered Sharon to withdraw from his rampage in Jenin? Apparently it's
different when the aggression serves US interests.

Saakashvili has been working closely with the Bush administration ever
since he replaced Eduard Shevardnadze as president in 2003. That's when
US-backed NGOs and western intelligence agencies toppled the Shevardnadze
regime in the so-called color-coded "Rose Revolution". Since then,
Saakashvili has done everything that's been asked of him; he's built up
the military and internal security apparatus, he's allowed US advisers to
train and arm Georgian troops, he's applied for membership in NATO, and
he's been a general nuisance to his Russian neighbors. Now, he has sent
his army into battle ostensibly on Washington's orders. At least, that is
how the Kremlin sees it. Vladimir Vasilyev, the Chairman of Russia's State
Duma Security Committee, summed up the feelings of many Russians like
this: "The further the situation unfolds, the more the world will
understand that Georgia would never be able to do all this without
America. In essence, the Americans have prepared the force, which destroys
everything in South Ossetia, attacks civilians and hospitals".

True. That's why Bush is flying Georgian troops back home from Iraq to
join the fighting rather than pursuing peaceful alternatives. An Israeli
newspaper is also reporting that the US is shipping weaponry to the war
zone. Bush still believes that political solutions only arise through the
use of force.

But that still doesn't answer the larger question: Why would Saakashvili
embark on such a pointless military adventure when he had no chance of
winning? After all, Russia has 20 times the firepower and has been
conducting military maneuvers anticipating this very scenario for months.
Does Bush really want another war that bad or is the fighting in South
Ossetia is just head-fake for a larger war that is brewing in the Straits
of Hormuz?

Mikhail Saakashvili is a western educated lawyer and a favorite of the
neocons. He rose to power on a platform of anti-corruption and economic
reform which emphasized free market solutions and privatization. Instead
of raising the standard of living for the Georgian people, Saakashvili has
been running up massive deficits to expand the over-bloated military.
Saakashvili has made huge purchases of Israeli and US-made (offensive)
weapon systems and has devoted more than 4.2% of GDP (more than a quarter
of all Georgian public income) to military hardware.

The Chairman of Russia's State Duma Security Committee, Vladimir
Vasiliyev, summed it up like this:

Georgia could have used the years of Saakashvili's presidency in different
ways - to build up the economy, to develop the infrastructure, to solve
social issues both in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and the whole state.
Instead, the Georgian leadership with president Saakashvili undertook
consistent steps to increase its military budget from US$30 million to $1
billion - Georgia was preparing for a military action.

Naturally, Russia is worried about these developments and has brought the
matter up repeatedly at the United Nations but to no avail.

Israeli arms manufacturers have also been supplying Saakashvili with
state-of-the-art weaponry. According to Israeli newspaper Ha.aretz:

In addition to the spy drones, Israel has also been supplying Georgia with
infantry weapons and electronics for artillery systems, and has helped
upgrade Soviet-designed Su-25 ground attack jets assembled in Georgia,
according to Koba Liklikadze, an independent military expert in Tbilisi.
Former Israeli generals also serve as advisers to the Georgian military.1

The Israeli news source DebkaFile elaborates on the geopolitical
implications of Israeli involvement in the Georgia's politics:

The conflict has been sparked by the race for control over the pipelines
carrying oil and gas out of the Caspian region. The Russians may just bear
with the pro-US Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili's ambition to bring
his country into NATO. But they draw a heavy line against his plans and
those of Western oil companies, including Israeli firms, to route the oil
routes from Azerbaijan and the gas lines from Turkmenistan, which transit
Georgia, through Turkey instead of hooking them up to Russian pipelines.

Jerusalem owns a strong interest in Caspian oil and gas pipelines reach
the Turkish terminal port of Ceyhan, rather than the Russian network.
Intense negotiations are afoot between Israel Turkey, Georgia,
Turkmenistan and Azarbaijan for pipelines to reach Turkey and thence to
Israel's oil terminal at Ashkelon and on to its Red Sea port of Eilat.
>From there, supertankers can carry the gas and oil to the Far East through
the Indian Ocean.2

The United States and Israel are both neck-deep in the "Great Game"; the
ongoing war for vital petroleum and natural gas supplies in Central Asia
and the Caspian Basin. So far, Putin appears to have the upper-hand
because of his alliances with his regional allies - under the Commonwealth
of Independent States - and because most of the natural gas from Eurasia
is pumped through Russian pipelines. An article in Today's Zaman gives a
good snapshot of Russia's position vis a vis natural resources in the
region:

As far as natural resources are concerned Russia's hand is very strong: It
holds 6.6 percent of the worlds proven oil reserves and 26 percent of the
world's gas reserves. In addition, it currently accounts for 12 percent of
world oil and 21 of recent world gas production. In May 2007, Russia was
the world's largest oil and gas producer.

As for national champions, Putin has strengthened and prepared Gazprom
(the state-controlled gas company), Transneft (oil pipeline monopoly) and
Rosneft (the state-owned oil giant). That is why in 2006 Gazprom retained
full ownership in the giant Shtokman gas field (7) and took a controlling
stake in the Sakhalin-2 natural gas project. In June 2007, it took back
BP's Kovytka gas field and now is behind Total's Kharyaga oil and gas
field.3

Putin - the black belt Judo-master - has proved to be as adept at
geopolitics as he is at "deal-making". He has collaborated with the
Austrian government on a huge natural gas depot in Austria which will
facilitate the transport of gas to southern Europe. He has joined forces
with German industry to build an underwater pipeline through the Baltic to
Germany (which could provide 80% of Germany's gas requirements) He has
selected France's Total to assist Gazprom in the development of the
massive Shtokman gas field. And he is setting up pipeline corridors to
provide gas to Turkey and the Balkans. Putin has very deliberately spread
Russia's influence evenly throughout Europe with the intention of severing
the Transatlantic Alliance and, eventually, loosening America's vice-like
grip on the continent.

Putin's overtures to Germany's Merkel and France's Sarkozy are calculated
to weaken the resolve of Bush's neocon allies in the EU and put them in
Russia's corner. Putin is also attracting considerable foreign investment
to Russian markets and has adopted a "new model of cooperation" in the
energy sector that would "allow foreign partners to share in the economic
benefits of the project, share the management, and take on a share of the
industrial, commercial and financial risks.."4 All of these are intended
to strengthen ties between Europe and Russia and make it harder for the
Bush administration to isolate Moscow.

Putin has played his cards very wisely, which makes it look like the
fighting in South Ossetia may be Washington's way of trying to win through
military force what they could not achieve via the free market.

Currently, news agencies are reporting that Russian warplanes are pounding
Georgia's military bases, airfields, and the Black sea port of Poti.

According to Bill Van Auken on the World Socialist Web Site:

"Much of the city (Tskhinvali) was reportedly in flames Friday. The
regional parliament building had burned down, the university was on fire,
and the town's main hospital had been rendered inoperative by the
bombardment".

An estimated 1,500 people have died in the onslaught and 30,000 more fled
across the Russian border. Large swaths of the city have been reduced to
rubble including the one hospital that was pounded by Georgia bombers.
Georgia has cut off the water supply to the city. The Red Cross now
anticipates a "humanitarian catastrophe" as a result of the fighting.

"I saw bodies lying on the streets, around ruined buildings, in cars,"
Lyudmila Ostayeva, 50, told the Associated Press after fleeing the city
with her family to a village near the Russian border. "It's impossible to
count them now. There is hardly a single building left undamaged".

At least 15 Russia peacekeepers were killed in the initial fighting and 70
more were sent to hospital. Georgia's army stormed the South Ossetia
capital, Tskhinvali, killing more than 1,000 fleeing civilians. According
to South Ossetia's president, Eduard Kokoyti, Georgian troops had been
taking part in NATO exercises in the region since the beginning of August.
Kokoyti claims that there is a connection between the NATO's activities
and the current violence.

Clearly, no one was expecting Russia to react as quickly or as forcefully
as they did. In a matter of hours Russian tanks and armored vehicles were
streaming over the border while warplanes bombed targets throughout the
south. The Bush-Saakashvili strategy unraveled in a matter of hours. The
Georgia president is already calling for a cease-fire. He's had enough.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Sunday:

The actions of Georgia have led to deaths - among them are Russian
peacekeepers. The situation reached the point that Georgian peacekeepers
have been shooting at Russian peacekeepers. Now women, children and old
people are dying in South Ossetia - most of them are citizens of the
Russian Federation. As the President of the Russian Federation, I am
obligated to protect lives and the dignity of Russian citizens wherever
they are. Those responsible for the deaths of our citizens will be
punished.

PUTIN'S OPTIONS: Flyswatter or Blunderbuss?

But how will Medvedev and Putin bring an end to the present hostilities?
Will they engage the Georgian army and its western allies in conventional
warfare creating the possibility of a decades-long Chechnya-type conflict
or will they launch an asymmetrical attack on the fragile US financial
system by selling all $50 billion of their Fannie Mae mortgage-backed
bonds and all of their US dollar-backed assets while refusing to sell oil
or natural gas in any currencies other than rubles and euros. Such an
announcement could send the dollar crashing and the Dow Jones into a
death-spiral. Why would Putin use a blunderbuss when a flyswatter will do
just fine.

1. "Following Russian pressure, Israel freezes defense sales to Georgia"
Associated Press. [.]

2. Paul Joseph Watson, "US Attacks Russia Through Client State Georgia".
[.]

3. "Vladimir Putin's Energystan and the Caspian". Today's Zaman. [.]

4. M K Bhadrakumar "Russia plays the Shtokman card," Asia Times. [.]

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at:
fergiewhitney [at] msn.com. Read other articles by Mike.

This article was posted on Wednesday, August 13th, 2008 at 5:59 am and is
filed under Asia, Caucasus, Imperialism, Oil, Russia.


--------15 of 15--------

Master Plan or Screw Up?
Georgia and U.S. Strategy
By MIKE WHITNEY
CounterPunch
August 14, 2008

The American-armed and trained Georgian army swarmed into South Ossetia
last Thursday, killing an estimated 2,000 civilians, sending 40,000 South
Ossetians fleeing over the Russian border, and destroying much of the
capital, Tskhinvali. The attack was unprovoked and took place a full 24
hours before even ONE Russian soldier set foot in South Ossetia.
Nevertheless, the vast majority of Americans still believe that the
Russian army invaded Georgian territory first. The BBC, AP, NPR, the New
York Times and the rest of the establishment media have consistently and
deliberately misled their readers into believing that the violence in
South Ossetia was initiated by the Kremlin. Let's be clear, it wasn't. In
truth, there is NO dispute about the facts except among the people who
rely the western press for their information. Despite its steady loss of
credibility, the corporate media continues to operate as the
propaganda-arm of the Pentagon.

Former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev gave a good summary of events
in an op-ed in Monday's Washington Post:

For some time, relative calm was maintained in South Ossetia. The
peacekeeping force composed of Russians, Georgians and Ossetians fulfilled
its mission, and ordinary Ossetians and Georgians, who live close to each
other, found at least some common ground....What happened on the night of
Aug. 7 is beyond comprehension. The Georgian military attacked the South
Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali with multiple rocket launchers designed to
devastate large areas....Mounting a military assault against innocents was
a reckless decision whose tragic consequences, for thousands of people of
different nationalities, are now clear. The Georgian leadership could do
this only with the perceived support and encouragement of a much more
powerful force. Georgian armed forces were trained by hundreds of U.S.
instructors, and its sophisticated military equipment was bought in a
number of countries. This, coupled with the promise of NATO membership,
emboldened Georgian leaders into thinking that they could get away with a
"blitzkrieg" in South Ossetia...Russia had to respond. To accuse it of
aggression against "small, defenseless Georgia" is not just hypocritical
but shows a lack of humanity."

Russia deployed its tanks and troops to South Ossetia to save the lives of
civilians and to reestablish the peace. Period. It has no interest in
annexing the former-Soviet country or in expanding its present borders.
Now that the Georgian army has been routed, Russian president Medvedev and
Prime Minister Putin have expressed a willingness to settle the dispute
through normal diplomatic channels at the United Nations. Neither leader
is under any illusions about Washington's involvement in the hostilities.
They know that Georgian President Mikail Saakashvili is an American stooge
who came to power in a CIA-backed coup, the so-called "Rose Revolution",
and  would never order a major military operation without explicit
instructions from his White House puppetmasters.

The Georgian army had no chance of winning a war with Russia or any
intention of occupying the territory they captured. The real aim was to
lure the Russian army into a trap. US planners hope to do what they did so
skillfully in Afghanistan; lure their Russian prey into a long and bloody
Chechnya-type fiasco that will pit their Russia troops against guerrilla
forces armed and trained by US military and intelligence agencies. The war
will be waged in the name of liberating Georgia from Russian imperialism
and stopping Putin from achieving his alleged ambition to control critical
western-owned pipelines around the Caspian Basin.

In June,  former foreign policy adviser to President Jimmy Carter,
Zbigniew Brzezinski, presented the basic storyline that would be used
against Russia two full months before the Georgian invasion of South
Ossetia. The article appeared on the Kavkazcenter web site. Brzezinski
said the United States witnessed "cases of possible threats by Russia,
directed at Georgia with the intention of taking control over the
Baku-Ceyhan pipeline".

Brzezinski: "Russia actively tends to isolate the Central Asian region
from direct access to world economy, especially to energy supplies..If
Georgia government is destabilized, western access to Baku, Caspian Sea
and further will be limited".

Brzezinski's speculation is part of a broader scenario that's been crafted
for the western media to provide a rationale for upcoming aggression
against Russia. Brzezinski is not only the architect of the mujahadin-led
campaign against Russia in Afghanistan in the 1980s, but also, the author
of "The Grand Chessboard--American Primacy and its Geostrategic
Imperatives", the operating theory behind "the war on terror" which
involves massive US intervention in Central Asia to control vital
resources, fragment Russia, and surround manufacturing giant, China.

"The Grand Chessboard"  is the 21st century's version of the Great Game.
The book begins with this revealing statement:

"Ever since the continents started interacting politically, some five
hundred years ago, Eurasia has been the center of world power.....The key
to controlling Eurasia is controlling the Central Asian Republics."

This is the heart-and-soul of the war on terror. The real braintrust
behind "never-ending conflict" was actually focussed on Central Asia. It
was the pro-Israeli crowd in the Republican Party that pulled the old
switcheroo and refocussed on the Middle East rather than Eurasia. Now,
powerful members of the US foreign policy establishment (Brzezinski,
Albright, Holbrooke) have regrouped behind the populist "cardboard"
presidential candidate Barack Obama and are preparing to redirect
America's war efforts to the Asian theater. Obama offers voters a choice
of wars not a choice against war.

On Sunday, Brzezinski accused Russia of imperial ambitions comparing Putin
to "Stalin and Hitler" in an interview with Nathan Gardels.

Gardels: What is the world to make of Russia's invasion of Georgia?

Zbigniew Brzezinski: Fundamentally at stake is what kind of role Russia
will play in the new international system.(aka: New World Order)
Unfortunately, Putin is putting Russia on a course that is ominously
similar to Stalin's and Hitler's in the late 1930s. Swedish foreign
minister Carl Bildt has correctly drawn an analogy between Putin's
"justification" for dismembering Georgia -- because of the Russians in
South Ossetia -- to Hitler's tactics vis a vis Czechoslovakia to "free"
the Sudeten Deutsch. Even more ominous is the analogy of what Putin is
doing vis-a-vis Georgia to what Stalin did vis-a-vis Finland: subverting
by use of force the sovereignty of a small democratic neighbor. In effect,
morally and strategically, Georgia is the Finland of our day.

The question the international community now confronts is how to respond
to a Russia that engages in the blatant use of force with larger imperial
designs in mind: to reintegrate the former Soviet space under the
Kremlin's control and to cut Western access to the Caspian Sea and Central
Asia by gaining control over the Baku/Ceyhan pipeline that runs through
Georgia.

In brief, the stakes are very significant. At stake is access to oil as
that resource grows ever more scarce and expensive and how a major power
conducts itself in our newly interdependent world, conduct that should be
based on accommodation and consensus, not on brute force.

If Georgia is subverted, not only will the West be cut off from the
Caspian Sea and Central Asia. We can logically anticipate that Putin, if
not resisted, will use the same tactics toward the Ukraine. Putin has
already made public threats against Ukraine."

Brzezinski, Holbrooke and Albright form the "Imperialist A-Team"; these
are not the bungling "Keystone Cops" neocons like Feith and Rumsfeld who
trip over themselves getting out of bed in the morning. They know what
they are doing and they are good at it. They're not fools. They have
aligned themselves with the Obama camp and are preparing for the next big
outbreak of global trouble-making. This should serve as a sobering wake-up
call for voters who still think Obama represents "Change We Can Believe
In".

Richard Holbrooke appeared on Tuesday's Jim Lerher News Hour with resident
neocon Margaret Warner. Typical of Warner's "even-handed" approach, both
of the interviewees were ultra-conservatives from right-wing think tanks:
Richard Holbrooke, from the Council on Foreign Relations and Dmiti Simes
from the Nixon Center.

According to Holbrooke, "The Russians deliberately provoked (the fighting
in South Ossetia) and timed it for the Olympics. This is a long-standing
Russian effort to get rid of President Saakashvili."

Right. Is that why Putin was so shocked when he heard the news (while he
was in Beijing) that he quickly boarded a plane and headed for Moscow?
(after shaking his finger angrily at Bush!)

Holbrooke: "And I want to stress, I'm not a warmonger, and I don't want a
new Cold War any more than Dimitri does....The Russians wish to
re-establish a historic area of hegemony that includes Ukraine. And it is
no accident that the other former Soviet republics are watching this and
extraordinarily upset, as Putin progresses with an attempt to re-create a
kind of a hegemonic space."

It is impossible to go over all of Holbrooke's distortions, half-truths
and lies but, what is important is to recognize that a story is being
constructed to demonize Putin and to justify future hostilities against
Russia. Holbrooke's bogus assertions are identical to Brzezinski's, and
yet, these same lies are already appearing in the mainstream media. The
propaganda "bullet points" have already been determined; "Putin is a
menace","Putin wants to rebuild the Soviet empire", "Putin is an
autocrat". (Unlike our "freedom loving" allies in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and
Egypt!?!) In truth, Putin is simply enjoying Russia's newly acquired
energy-wealth and would like to be left alone.

So why are Brzezinski and his backers in the foreign policy establishment
demonizing Putin and threatening Russia with "ostracism, isolation and
economic penalties?" What is Putin's crime?

Putin's problems can be traced back to a speech he made in Munich nearly
two years ago when he declared unequivocally that he rejected the basic
tenets of the Bush Doctrine and US global hegemony. His speech amounted to
a Russian Declaration of Independence. That's when western elites,
particularly at the Council on Foreign Relations and the American
Enterprise Institute put Putin on their "enemies list" along with
Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Castro, Morales, Mugabe and anyone else who refuses
to take orders from the Washington Mafia.

Here's what Putin said in Munich:

The unipolar world refers to a world in which there is one master, one
sovereign---- one center of authority, one center of force, one center of
decision-making. At the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all
those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it
destroys itself from within.. What is even more important is that the
model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral
foundations for modern civilization.

Unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions have not resolved any
problems. Moreover, they have caused new human tragedies and created new
centers of tension. Judge for yourselves---wars as well as local and
regional conflicts have not diminished. More are dying than before.
Significantly more, significantly more!

Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper-use of force -
military force - in international relations, force that is plunging the
world into an abyss of permanent conflicts.

We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of
international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact,
coming increasingly closer to one state's legal system. One state and, of
course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national
borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural
and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes
this? Who is happy about this?

In international relations we increasingly see the desire to resolve a
given question according to so-called issues of political expediency,
based on the current political climate. And of course this is extremely
dangerous. It results in the fact that no one feels safe. I want to
emphasize this - no one feels safe! Because no one can feel that
international law is like a stone wall that will protect them. Of course
such a policy stimulates an arms race.

I am convinced that we have reached that decisive moment when we must
seriously think about the architecture of global security.

Every word Putin spoke was true which is why it was not reprinted in the
western media.

"Unilateral and illegitimate military actions", the "uncontained hyper-use
of force", the "disdain for the basic principles of international law",
and most importantly; "No one feels safe!"

Putin's claims are all indisputable, that is why he has entered the
neocons crosshairs. He poses a direct challenge to what Brzezinski calls
the "international system", which is shorthand for the corporate/banking
cartel that is controlled by the western oligarchy of racketeers.

Was the Goergian attack last Thursday a set-up, organized in Washington?
Unfortunately for Bush, the wily Russian prime minister is considerably
brighter than anyone in the current administration. Bush's plan will
undoubtedly backfire and disrupt the geopolitical balance of power. The
world might get that breather from the US after all.

Mike Whitney can be reached at fergiewhitney [at] msn.com

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