Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Corruption in Georgian NGOs, a bit of history: UNDP and UMCOR Georgia

Festival of Corruption: UMCOR’s Implementation of The 1996-1998 UNDP Income Generation Project

UMCOR, United Methodist Committee for Relief, received something like $160,000-$200,000 (this is what source remembers) from the UNDP to make a combination of grants plus no-interest loans to four separate organizations.  Each organization received $40,000-$50,000, of which $20-25 K had to be repaid; the rest was just kept as a grant by the organization.  So obviously, whoever was included in the program got a major sweetheart deal
The source is unaware what procedures were made to select the four winners, but by all accounts the process was completely dirty.  Let us look at who the winners were:

1)            The medical services/international development firm Curatio.  Curatio was created by UMCOR employees, its Board at the time consisted almost entirely of UMCOR employees, it was rumored to be owned by Georgian UMCOR employees using UMCOR grants.  When UMCOR Deputy Director Sandro Kvitashvili left UMCOR he immediately became 2-3rd ranking chief of Curatio.  Curatio got all kinds of contracts from UMCOR—for example it supplied the UMCOR health insurance until Khatuna Zaldastanishvili came in and removed them and substituted her own outfit as the health insurance provider.  Curatio stopped being important after Khatuna became chief—a new Mafia had assumed power in UMCOR.  Obviously, a fair tender process could not have considered Curatio given its ties to UMCOR—but nevertheless it won.   

2)            The second firm to win was a manufacturer of cement blocks.  The name is unknown, but the owner had very close ties (as witnessed by source) to Georgia UMCOR managers, and also probably family ties to them.

At this point it should be noted that repayments of the loan part was overall very poor, but that the two firms above were much better in this regard than the next two.

3) A glassmaker.  Source knows very little about this recipient, except that he did not pay back the loan portion.

4) The best of all the recipients was a certain project called “Underground.”  The loan/grant was meant to set up some small stores in an underground passage under a street or leading into a Metro.  The “recipients” simply took the money and ran.  They did not do absolutely anything.  No repairs, no visible sign of any work—nothing ever got started.  The feeling amidst UMCOR was that UMCOR managers had split the money with some friends and manufactured a completely fictitious project.  As easy money as one can possibly make!!  Not a single cent was ever returned. 

Everybody considered the project an unmitigated disaster, and UNDP roasted UMCOR
expatriates about this at certain heated meetings...but of course this was after the fact. 

 Where was UNDP when the crimes were being committed?

A thoroughly amusing Postscript on the project:  One would of thought that Mamuka Makhatadze, the project manager would never have been able to get another job after the disaster he presided over, especially with an international organizations in his life.  Instead, he left the project prior to its conclusion and became head of contracts for the World Bank in Tbilisi, lecturing other people and organizations about how to conduct honest fair and transparent contracting process. 

Here’s a quote: “UNDP could have contributed more to the development of Georgia if it had taken $160,000 in cash and flushed it down the toilet than by allowing this corrupt NGO to enrich its friends.  The only effect of the project was to teach all Georgians involved that corruption truly does pay and that one can take the money from international donors get away with it, and laugh at them too.  The corrupt will still get hired again by their buddies.” 

Possible source: Ia Khoperia who was Manager of the project in its final days.  Khatuna put her there to pin the blame on her and get rid of her.... she was fired with the Monetization people, USDA Food for Peace Project.  Ia hates UMCOR.
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Monday, February 6, 2012

Life with Bidzina Ivanishvili, an eye opening and near death experience in Georgia

Life with Bidzina Ivanishvili, - an eye opening and near death experience in Georgia
By Patrick Downey
I returned to Tbilisi in the closing days of August 2008, having escaped for Yerevan several days into the fighting in South Ossetia. I was about to begin my second fall living at the Ivanishvilis’ sprawling Black Sea residence in Ureki, despite the small unit of Russian soldiers dug in on the opposite bank of a nearby river (the name of which I can't recall) on the approach to Poti. Although somewhat hesitant, I did look forward to my return - even though I was in many respects returning to a mad house.
Uta Ivanishvili, who was about to turn sixteen, was preparing for his CNED (Centre national d'enseignement à distance) exams, and we all knew that we had our work cut out: “we” being his core teachers, yours truly and four Frenchmen tasked with educating the three eldest Ivanishvili children: Uta, Bera and Gvantsa. The summer before, the children's science teacher had left under bizarre, unexplained circumstances, due to several incidents involving Uta, which we had all attributed to the Ivanishvili childrens’ relative isolation and bizarre, overly-pampered, overly-protected upbringing.  As far as my French colleagues were concerned, we were a tightly-knit group of strangers in a strange land.  One of them - whom I'll call Didier, a former French Air Force member who once served a tour working as an assistant for the Air Force attaché at a French embassy abroad - once said "This is a circus, and we are all stars in it."
Aside from Uta's behavior and inability to focus on any given task for more than a few minutes, a condition they call attention deficient disorder, ADA, those first few weeks went well. My English lessons with Bera and Gvantsa were going smoothly, and I spent the evenings playing soccer in the compound with Bera and a host of Ivanishvili's bodyguards, kitchen staff and children of friends of the family. When my schooling duties, soccer duties, flying visits in the evening to Ivanishvili's nearby amusement park (sirens blazing as we sped down the two lane highway in a convoy of black Ford Excursions) and evening strolls along the embankment in Kobuleti were done, my colleagues and I had the free use of a driver and a shiny, new Toyota Landcruiser on the weekends. And an armed chauffeurs to boot!
All things considered, those were good times, but in the third week of September everything started to slowly fall apart: and the effects of this nearly destroyed me.  One never knew what to expect working for Bidzina Ivanishvili, or "The Chief", as his employees called him. In the near year-and-a-half in which I worked for "The Family", not once did I ever hear the name Ivanishvili uttered by anyone. It seemed to be some kind of unwritten rule not to mention this name. Even in my employment contract (which included a fifty year non-disclosure clause) there was no mention of the name Ivanishvili - even though the address of the company which technically employed me, Finservice XXI Ltd., shared an address with Cartu Bank's headquarters in Vake. 
As far as my French colleagues and I were concerned, "The Chief" was something of an enigma to say the least, and we never did know what to expect from day to day, as it was unclear who was the decision-maker in the family: Bidzina or his wife, Eka, both of whom I had begun teaching English to that September, in addition to teaching the children.  Had I known what I was getting myself into, I never would have accepted the Chief's job offer - or agreed to have even met the man in the first place.
With regard to the decisions concerning the Ivanishvili's children's education, the ones his parents made never seemed to make sense. Throw in all the politics, infighting and back-stabbing going on amongst the children's Georgian teachers, and with Rosa, the Kurdish chief nanny and protector, it made for an interesting work environment, to say the least.
In short, there was little order, a constant air of mystery, and a degree of distrust. The children's schedules could change on a whim: wild rumors and gossip would spread amongst the employees, and Ivanishivili, although polite and friendly to a fault, always seemed to be floating within his own time in space, surrounded by an air of mystique and intrigue. Yet our relationship was a good one, and I felt it was based on mutual respect - until the “unimaginable” happened.
Uta's behavior had got worse. He was feeling the stress of his upcoming examinations, and I believe that his isolation was starting to seriously affect his well-being. That summer, for instance, he had lashed out at me uncontrollably with a metal ruler during one of our lessons at the Ivanishvilis’ mountain residence/compound in Chorvila. His hurling of personal insults at me, deceased members of my family and my fiancée, which I attributed to his insecurity and poor relations with his parents, had also begun to spiral out of control.
Moreover, I also believe that the special vegetarian diet which the Ivanishvilis had embarked on (several of us were worried about Eka Ivanishvili's appearance) was a factor, as the children were eating less meat - Uta once told me that his father intended to live to the ripe old age of one hundred and twenty. By the summer of 2007 two of Ivanishvili's chefs - both Frenchmen – had also become very concerned about this strange diet.  One of these chefs also suddenly lost his job in the autumn of 2008, again under very strange circumstances, as did one of the nannies for the Ivanishvili's youngest child, Tsotney - the Ivanisvhili children are all multi-lingual, and can switch between Georgian, Russian, French or English as one could turn a light switch on and off. 
Prior to that summer the Ivanishvilis had not been vegetarians, and I can't remember them following a strict Orthodox diet either. In fact I only ever saw one tiny icon in their home in Chorvila: one which one of their Russian teachers had placed in a bookcase in a room set aside for Gvantsa's lessons. The Ivanishvilis never struck me as being particularly religious, let alone Orthodox Christians, and I know that Bidzina despised Ilia II, the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, as Uta alluded to this on one occasion during our one-on-one lessons. I was also particularly struck by Uta's silence after the death of Badri Patarkatsishvili, who he had seemed to develop some kind of fascination with back in the winter of 07'/08'. He had put a screen saver on his computer featuring photos of Patarkatsishvili, whom he occasionally mocked.
All that aside, things were going relatively well, and I looked forward to my contract being renewed (it was due to expire on October First), as Bidzina had made it clear this would be the case. I was also looking forward to spending another year or two living in Tbilisi, where I had managed to carve out a good life for myself, which included a comfortable flat in the hills of Sololaki and plans to marry by Georgian girlfriend, who had recently become pregnant.
But by the last week of September 2008 Uta's behavior had become worse than ever, and my stress levels were going through the roof. Unexpectedly, Uta then seemed to feel what I perceived to be a sense of regret over his behavior. I was thus relieved to receive a telephone call from Bera on the evening of 28th September, inviting me to an "end of summer" celebration...
I HAD COME TO EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED LIVING WITH AND WORKING FOR THE IVANISHVILIS...but being drugged was something I never would have expected in a million years. Not to mention being told blatant lies, and having one of the world's richest men, who I considered to be a friend, suddenly turn his back on me. Maybe this was out of fear of a confrontation, but probably more was involved, perhaps my Foreign Service background – I had served at the US Embassy in Moscow, and had knowledge of the people Ivanishvili would come to associate with, and the networks of patronage within the political elites of Georgia and Russia.

Settled in my room in the small apartment building (the "Teachers Home") across the compound in the late hours of September 28, I was startled when Bera called. He told me that Uta had drugged me, as a joke, and that he was sorry - Uta later apologized over the phone to me - and that he, and Ivanishvili's Assistant Head of Security, would come by shortly to take me to the doctor, who also lived in the compound: a cardiologist named Zviad Matoshvili.

It was then that I learned from Dr. Matoshvili that I had been given a "twentyfold overdose" of a powerful, prescription-strength laxative (I believe the Ivanishvilis used laxatives as part of their diet/health regime) as a prank, during our "end of summer" celebration, but that Uta and the boys had thought better of it afterward and decided to call the doctor - Matoshvili told me that my condition could have been "very serious" had I not been treated.

To say the least, that night was an uncomfortable one, and early that morning I telephoned one of the Georgian teachers to inform Bidzina that I would not be coming into work that day as I was ill. Soon afterwards I received a telephone call from Bidzina's representative across the country in Tbilisi, Irakli Gharibashvili of Cartu Bank, who informed me that my services were no longer required, due to scheduling difficulties concerning the children's lessons, and he would send a driver from Tbilisi for me. I asked him to delay the driver for a couple of days, which he did, for I was unfit to travel due to my condition. Irakli told me that these measures were only temporary, and that I would remain "a priority" to "The Family".  Irakli incidentally was the first of Ivanishvili's employees to threaten me several months later, after I had attempted to contact Bidzina, after I had learned that there was no such thing as democracy in Georgia, and that no-one had any legal rights in Georgia.  At least not those who attempted to sue Bidzina Ivanishvili in a Georgian court of law.

By midday of September 29 my friends and colleagues (the French) were aware of my situation. Moreover, they had gotten wind that Irakli had lied to me regarding the reason for my dismissal/non-renewal of my employment contract - and they could not understand for the life of them what was going on. Dider (the former French Air Force attaché assistant) told me that he had confronted Bidzina about it, but Bidzina had made his decision.

Furthermore, I called Bera later that afternoon and requested a meeting with Bidzina. Bera put me on hold, and I could hear him speaking to Bidzina in the background. Bera told me that his father was busy and could not meet with me - he was not more than one hundred and fifty yards away from me at the time.

I was hospitalized in Tbilisi several days later, and treated on two consecutive days, as a result of the drugging and what I would describe as a mild case of shock.  During the drive across country, through the mountains of Imureti and back toward Tbilisi, I became become convinced that I was going to be dragged out of the Landcruiser and shot by one of Ivanishvili's men.  I later attributed this, in part, to the high fever that I had been running, which broke early the next morning.

I never saw anyone from "The Family" again, although I did speak with Bera (who I loved as a son) on the telephone several times prior to leaving Tbilisi (and Georgia) for good that December - officials at the US Embassy had advised me to leave Georgia for my own safety, and not take any legal action against Bidzina until after I had left the country. Only later would I understand their motivation, and it had nothing to do with looking after my best interests, even though I was a natural-born United States citizen and a veteran.

Having said that, despite the warnings of the officials at the Embassy, I did contact an attorney in Tbilisi (Tea Giorgadze) in order to explore whatever legal options might have been available to me, and this had resulted in a meeting with Ms. Giorgadze's then-fiance - a member of the Georgian judiciary who was imprisoned the very day after we had met and had a chat outside the Marriott on Rustaveli Avenue.  It was Mr. Giorgadze, incidentally, who had put me in touch with an investigative journalist not long before I left Georgia for good, back in December 2008, who interviewed me on camera - his cameraman even shot video footage of me walking down Rustaveli Avenue with the snow falling around.  But the piece was never aired.

Looking back, I still do not know why I was treated the way I was, but I think it had something to do with the knowledge I had acquired during my time with the Ivanishvilis, and especially since I had begun to teach Bidzina and Eka: Bidzina had told me about the differences he had had with Russia's current President, Vladimir Putin several years prior to the events of 2008 - Ivanishvili had told me that he could "tell by his eyes" that Putin "didn't trust him", and that he "wanted me - Ivanishvili- and his family out of Russia".

Then again, it might also have had something to do with me knowing about Bidzina's low opinion of Ilia II.  Or it might have had something to do with me picking up on him once offering me a very strange handshake in front of some Georgians he was having lunch with one afternoon in Ureki. It might have had something to do with the death of Badri Patarkatsishvili. It might have had something to do with all the gossip and distrust flying around the compound. It might have been purely due to the problems I and the other teachers had experienced with his eldest son. I suppose I will never know.

All I know for certain is that Mr. Ivanishvili does not trust people, that he is a dishonorable man (Uta told me how Bidzina's own father had deserted from the Soviet Army during WWII, and how he hated Russians) and that I, and every single one of my former French colleagues, did not trust Ivanshvili. The nanny put it best when she said: "They are not a good family." If you don't believe me, check out a couple of Bera's earlier music videos.  Any man who would let his teenaged son be taken advantage of by a bunch of greedy, American music industry people has no business leading a nation.  It makes for bad business.

Back in the United States I did everything I could to obtain justice, and get the word out about what was going on in Georgia, but no-one wanted to know - I even went as far as meeting an F.B.I. agent in New Port Richey, Florida, in early 2009. I contacted the Department of Justice's Criminal Division on several occasions, after receiving the threats from Gharibashvili, but to no avail.

However, it was the knowledge that Andy Garcia would be playing Mikheil Saakashvili in the upcoming Hollywood movie 'Georgia' (as it was then entitled), which really pushed me over the edge. That and the fact that I knew how the United States Government operated from my days with the Foreign Service in Moscow.  The very thought of my own government and Hollywood deceiving my fellow Americans in such a manner, while openly funding Ivanishvili (as I found out later) during the greatest recession since the Great Depression, filled me with rage, and a desire not so much to get payback, but to inform people exactly what was going on in the Republic of Georgia. 

This was the yearning in my soul. Little did I know that I would end up being psychologically tortured in a Dublin prison for attempting to seek political refugee status!  However, we live, learn and life goes on. Back home I read an article online about U.S. serviceman André Shepherd, who had claimed political asylum in Germany and received both protection and a great deal of media attention and notoriety. Given the threats I had received from Gharibashvili, and some of the things which I had learned in my two-plus years living in Georgia, I was certain that I would receive some form of protection in my ancestral home of Ireland, where I had graduated from university, and that my story, were it to be told, would in turn shed light on the fact that the movie 'Georgia' was part of the nightmare currently unfolding in the Caucasus. Yet this was not meant to be.

I had a funny feeling at the time that this matter is time-critical. Now I am sure, putting together all the connections with Saakashvili, Sam Patten the 4-hire gun spin doctor and the nexus with the US State Department, that my dismissal was actually part of a game of bait and switch designed to fix the political future of Georgia – its transition to the next US choice of leader after Saakashvili.
Yes, I had been in the Foreign Service, and maybe this is the crucial factor. I left it because the people in it gave me the heebie-jeebies. That and the fact that serving at an American embassy in a place the size of Moscow can be a little like being back in an American high school, where everyone knows his/her own place.  I had downplayed this in Georgia, feeling it would not lend me credibility after the 2008 war. I was pretty damned naive...but I've never been stupid. I have only needed time, and the insight of others, to start connecting the dots. It is not what I know which is threatening; it is what I do not know but was in a position to learn. One thing I did learn is that democracy is simply an illusion in Georgia, just as it is here in the U.S.
I don't know what others who know about Russia and Georgia think, but I've always found that Russian males are, by and large, honorable - they stick to their word. Georgians however seem to have gone pretty much out of their way to kill civilians in Tskinvali, South Ossetia, and they're also pretty good at stabbing people in the back. That’s the nature of the political leadership there, especially in the post-Shevardnadze period, which has nothing to do with the ordinary honorable Georgian man!
I can now understand why Ivanishvili would have rubbed people up the wrong way in Moscow - it’s not his money or politics, but the fact that he could not be trusted by the people making the decisions. Having applied for political asylum in a foreign country I can now see how dangerous I was also seen to be at the time, without even knowing it, but given all I have learned, I wouldn't change any of it for the world.  I only wish that someone in the media would listen to me, or at least answer one of the dozens of letters and e-mails which I had sent across to the USA.  But what's a measly $44 million kick-back to a foreign billionaire in country most Americans have never even heard of, in the wake of the 2008 recession?

Perhaps we do really get the governments we deserve?  Both Georgians and Americans!  I wish this wasn't the case.  I wish people knew more.  I wish they would wake up.  For me personally, it took the help of a couple of journalists (one an American, the other an Australian, both of whom covered the 2008 War in South Ossetia) to connect a few dots for me - more than a few, actually.  Perhaps my story would connect a few dots for others?  I'd enjoy that.  I'd even go as far as saying that I'd enjoy it more than a million dollar pay-off.  At any rate, it sure beats a bullet in the back of one's head.

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America has gone shit-for-the-birds? Orwell 1984 is today's reality!

Has America gone shit-for-the-birds? Orwell 1984 is today's totalitarian reality!

The following is from a relatively conservative financial newsletter, which normally posts rather boring stock quotes and financial data.  When papers like this start posting how totalitarian the U.S. has gotten, you can bet there's something wrong.  First, you've got paranoid psychopaths who can't take a joke chasing people around with weapons and hauling them off to detention, and they're supposed to be the non-terrorists!

The Daily Reckoning Presents
Lost in Translation: An Important Note for International Reckoners
By Joel Bowman
First up, a quick public service announcement for our International Reckoners:

If you’re planning a vacation to the United States of America in the foreseeable future, you would do well to refrain from employing any confusing colloquialisms in your social media updates prior to departure. 

For Australians, that means no “cracking onto” members of the opposite sex...no getting “off one’s face”...no “tearing it up”...no “little rippers” and, we would think, no “barrakking” for anyone.

Our Irish friends will likewise wish to steer clear of referring to anything as “the gas,” from declaring intentions to “eat one’s head off” and from “throwing shapes,” “sucking diesel” or otherwise “effin’ and blindin’.”

We can only imagine to what extent our English Reckoners shall have to curb their delightfully colorful lingo to ensure a stateside journey (even relatively) free of let or hindrance at the gate, though we imagine no measure of self-censorship will be sufficient to guarantee a transit experience free of at least a touch of “Ye ol’ Liberty Grope.”

What’s all this caper then, eh? What’s the apple, the score, the bleedin’ apple core?

Apologies for the loose linguistics, weary reader. But a point begs its making; a point two British (would-be) tourists, Leigh Van Bryan and Emily Bunting, discovered the hard way just last week.

Apparently rather chuffed at the upcoming prospect of a wee jaunt over the pond, Van Bryan and Bunting engaged in a bit of online banter before their big trip to the US. Mistake number one. The two were perhaps unaware that the Department of Homeland Security routinely trolls the global social media digital waves, setting up accounts to listen in on prospective threats to...um...the “Homeland.”

We can only imagine the hysterical frenzy that whipped around the DHS H.Q. when they discovered what Van Bryan, 26, had posted.

“Free this week for a quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America x”

Not that it should matter, but “destroy” is popular English slang for “party”...an easily Googlable fact, one would think, for the highly skilled heroes manning the control tower at the Twitter and Facebook Counter Terrorism and Special Operations Unit for Liberty and Freedom of the Homeland... Patriot... Liberty... uh, never mind.

After making their way through passport control at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) last week, the pair were promptly detained by armed guards/heroes/patriots. But the real trouble was still to come.

The two were then informed that the DHS was on to their scheme to “destroy” (read: party in) America and (Could it be? No! Sweet Mother of Mercy!) their sick and twisted plot to dig up the grave of Marilyn Monroe!

“3 weeks today, we’re totally in LA p****** people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin’ Marilyn Monroe up!”

The pair explained that the tweet, which the DHS had considered a grave matter of national security was, actually, a reference from Family Guy, a popular television showproduced in the Homeland itself...behind patriot lines!

“They asked why we wanted to destroy America and we tried to explain it meant to get trashed and party,” explained Bunting. “I almost burst out laughing when they asked me if I was going to be Leigh’s lookout while he dug up Marilyn Monroe. I couldn’t believe it because it was a quote from the comedy Family Guy which is an American show.”

Department of Homeland Security staff, brave unwavering professionals as they are, were not deterred from their mission.

“It got even more ridiculous because the officials searched our suitcases and said they were looking for spades and shovels. They did a full body search on me too” explained Bunting.

Perhaps because grave-robbing spades and shovels have little to do with (most people’s idea of) partying, the DHS were unable to find any in the pair’s luggage or, strangely enough, on their person. Nevertheless, this was no time to take chances:

“I kept saying to them they had got the wrong meaning from my tweet but they just told me ‘you’ve really f***** up with that tweet boy’.”

Van Bryan, apparently thought to be the leader of the non-existent operation, was then cuffed, thrown in a cage inside a van and whisked away to a location where he could not be of harm to Homeland citizens.

Recounted the suspect:

“When we arrived at the prison [ed.: prison!] I was shoved in a cell on my own but after an hour two huge Mexican men covered in tattoos came in and started asking me who I was... They told me they’d been arrested for taking cocaine over the border... When the food arrived on the tray they took it all and just left me with a carton of apple juice.”
After 12 hours in custody, the pair were returned to the airport where they were sent directly home...charge sheets in hand.

Emily “The Lookout” Bunting’s charge sheet stated: “It is believed that you are travelling with Leigh-Van Bryan who possibly has the intentions of coming to the United States to commit crimes.”

Possibly has the intentions”? We can almost hear Special Twitter Task Force Agent Johnston saying, “That’s as good as a thought crime to me!”

Added the charge sheet of one Leigh “Happy Birthday Mr. President” Van Bryan:

“He had posted on his Tweeter website account that he was coming to the United States to dig up the grave of Marilyn Monroe. Also on his tweeter account Mr. Bryan posted that he was coming to destroy America.”

We’re not quite sure what a “Tweeter account” is, but you can be sure the vigilant servicemen and women at the DHS are on the case. Thank goodness the pair didn’t use the “we were only taking the Mickey” defense. Could you imagine the costs and hassle involved in having to put Disneyland on high security lockdown? We shudder to think.

So, to our International Reckoners, remember to travel safely both to and from the Homeland. And please, feel free to pass our public service announcement on.

Joel Bowman
for The Daily Reckoning

P.S. Below are a few of the responses left by our Fellow Reckoners. We’ve included them all, exactly as they appeared on the site, at the time of this issue’s publishing. If you’d like to leave a comment of your own, you can do so here.

Le Petomane said: I decided a few years ago never to visit the US again. It was an easy decision.

Bob said: You should see the difference between border crossings in Canada vs. the US. I wonder how we got so many little Hitlers drunk on power?

Yoshinori Kan said: America is losing it’s precious soul. So what is America’s soul? 

America’s soul is a conscience that resides in the heart of a reluctant hero. He has special powers that no-one else has but he rarely uses them. He minds his own business. But when push comes to shove, he holds his ground, gets the job done, doesn’t ask for a compensation, and goes back to minding his own business. The rest of the world looked up to him for his goodness, fortitude, and reluctance to take on the burdens of the world.

These days, rescuing every damsel in distress is not enough, he is now preempting the bad guys from doing bad things! This is no hero. There is no movie here.

Mr. Bowman’s article is very funny on the surface but the meaning behind it is so profoundly sad. It’s a damn shame how things are unraveling.

Mark said: ...what is there to say after reading this?

Frank K said: First it was border tightening. Then it was border security fence. Then it was border war. Then it was border security paranoia. And now, border security madness bordering on insanity.

Rusty Fish said: No “cracking onto” members... There are many historical artifacts for centuries or days...months...decades buried underground yearning for our archeologists to excavate. With thorough analysis, these artifacts serve as crucial elements that could be vital in breaking into much of the conundrum which has taken heavy toll of human life. Facts after all is facts, why shy away?

Leslie said: Governments have taken over the people. It is well past time for a change, the only time political parties seem to listen is when they want your vote, it appears to be like this everywhere now.

Agent Smith said: Note to self. One Joel Bowman aiding and abetting aliens with criminal intentions to enter homeland undetected. Anal probe on next entry.

Agent J said: Please, Mr. Bowman...you will, from now on, refer to our Glorious Land as Der Fatherland!

And it’s, “The Twitter and Facebook Counter Terrorism and Special Operations Unit for the Protection of the Most Special, Lord Obama”. Get it right!

Tony said: George Orwell’s 1984 was supposed to be a fiction book, not a blueprint.

Hannibal said: Unless you like to “experience” 1984, Don’t trouble yourselves to travel to the US, not worth it.

Max said: Living in the US I’d say things have gone crazy, buy many of us are just too complacent to realize what’s going on. Maybe we should start calling it Fatherland Security while clicking our heals together and saluting.


Bad, Worse and Everything in Between
Raiding the DR Reader Mail in Search of An Amusing Start to the New Week...

Joel Bowman
Joel Bowman
First up, Reckoner Raymond B. writes in to say...

While it’s good to see some people (belatedly) bemoaning the crash and burn into totalitarianism of the US (and Western Europe), how many are doing anything about it? Hint: if we don’t vote them back in, maybe we can get rid of them. Libertarians have been warning of this for 40 years now, why aren’t they getting these peoples’ support? 

I ran for the US Senate on the Libertarian ticket in Delaware in 2002 and got 0.4% of the vote, but at least I tried to warn them. 

I’ll keep this short by saying my words on the (unconstitutional and therefore illegal) Federal Reserve...if we don’t get rid of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Reserve will get rid of us.

Sounds prophetic now. But I knew this as a teenager in 1964 when they started taking the silver out of the coinage. Folks, do you really need a Ph.D. in economics to know currency debasement has historically been one of the first steps toward national collapse?

If you continue to vote for them, you are part of the problem.

Here’s one, from Reckoner Steve...

Your article [on the Department of Homeland Security] makes my heart bleed and actually made me feel embarrassed for my country.

“Where oh where did any common sense, or just plain ol’, check the facts and compassion go? What are these people so afraid of?

“Unintended consequences! What they are trying to protect us from is the exact thing that will be their undoing. They, the State, are creating the future consequences that they are so desperately trying to avoid.”

Joel: Reminds us of this great skit by one of our favorite comedians, Steve Huges. “So, you’re having a war against the consequences of the actions you’re involved in?” Classic.

And then there’s this, from Reckoner Chris M. ...

The TSA is a joke, a very sick joke. Of course, its parent bureaucracy, Homeland Security, is even more sinister; but, remembering back to the winter of 1970/71 when I first came to America from Britain, even then it was a police state in my book & has only got worse.

My first real lesson about police power & lack of due process was getting handcuffed & thrown in one of nine long prison buses for drinking Boones Farm Strawberry wine at a private open air concert & party in north east Texas. There might have been a few underage drinkers, but I was 24. Overnight in jail was mandatory, as was paying a fine the next day to get out.

It speaks volumes to say that my backpack with ID & travelers checks was still at the site. Not one of the ‘criminals’ had thought to wear that label & steal anything from their fellow concert goers.

Not so the ‘justice system’ however, who wanted to recoup their losses for hiring three times as many cops as there were concert goers, along with armored cars, motorcycles, several helicopter’s & nine prison buses...

And finally, one from Reckoner Rick B. ...

So disappointed, Joel. I thought that your research had uncovered a positive service by the TSA. As you are aware, prostate cancer is one of the biggest killers of Caucasian males and I thought that from the title, “PSA and TSA”, that our Gestapo was now doing gratis digital rectal exams and cancer screening at the border. Think how many potential “killers” they could identify each day. Think of the budget increases they could get!

I figured as long as they were half way up my ass anyways, they could give the ol’ prostate a squeeze and use their full body scan, time machine, (zips you back to 1936 in Nazi Germany — papers pleeeze!), to confirm any nasty growths or lumps. I guess free medical exams smacks of socialized medicine and not national socialism. Their new logo could have been “assholes helping assholes”. 

A missed opportunity, quelle domage!

-- http://www.fastmail.fm - Does exactly what it says on the tin

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What rule of law in Georgia? Kangaroo Courts!

Potemkin Court Adjaria (Batumi7), Kangaroo Courts in Georgia, Rule of Law Stillborn!!!

“Support the US-friendly token head of state, OBEY!”

by John Bradford

Georgia and its political system has proved to have been stillborn since the so-called 2003 Rose Revolution. Much of the anticipated reforms brought about by that revolution have simply evolved into instruments of control without checks and balances: the court system, rule of law and even the reforms in the education system. The people of Georgia are now living in what is effectively a police state, sanctioned by the West. It has little hope that things will improve any time soon and all who can are looking to escape the country.

The following is a summary of what widespread abuses are still in process as of late September 2011, and of how some defendants arrested in a political rally in Batumi on May 21 may end up being sacrificed on the altar of keeping the government of Georgia in place, despite the will of the people and civil society for real democratic change, confirmed by various human rights organisations and media reports. Aside from mission reports, democracy is far from a reality in Georgia.

What has occurred since late May 2011, in Batumi, May, 21 and Tbilisi in particular, on May 26, has demonstrated violent crackdowns on pro-democracy protestors, especially as seen case of the "Batumi 7" constitutes what blatantly appears to a widespread violation of human rights. The use of “scare tactics" and physical violence to deny people the right to assembly is commonplace in Georgia.

It is becoming almost impossible to run active/proactive political parties opposed to the government, as membership of an anti-government party can have all sorts or repercussions – lost of jobs, beatings, arrests and even death.

Guilty pleas are being obtained by threat of violence and arrests are often politically motivated. Lela Dumbadze and Eter Turadze, Editor-in-Chief of local Batumi newspaper “Batumelebi”, reported in June, how Tsotne Ananidze, a 23-year-old graduate student, had been considered ‘dangerous to society’ and sentenced to one month in pre-trial detention, which has continued for four months. His crime was that he had allegedly taken part in a political rally – however, it is now becoming clear that his organizing ability, and membership party, constitute his actual crimes. He is not alone: upwards of 40 persons arrested in late May are still locked up throughout Georgia, awaiting their fate at the hands of a legal system known to be corrupt and under the iron tight grip of the political leaders, not the rule of law; their crimes are that they organized protests, or were bystanders at political street rallies.

The poster child in this war of wills, Tsotne Ananidze, faces two to six years in jail, as do various other so-called offenders; it is only too clear that a verdict is being “cooked up” by main Judge Vera Dolidze and the prosecution at a show trial. The accused were arrested for their involvement in a demonstration organized by the People’s Assembly, an anti-police state Georgian political party, on May 21, 2011 in Batumi. The defense attorney has pleaded before the judge that Ananidze poses no threat to society. However the judge is also a hostage to the political center, like many others judges, and the Georgian United National Movement, as hers will have to be a political decision, not one based on Georgian legislation or any international standard of basic human rights.

Many Georgians have taken an interest in attending Ananidze’s legal proceedings, although they are fearful of what may happen if they do - loss of jobs, pressure, blacklisting. Some have not been allowed to enter the courtroom due to a lack of seating, which appears to have been an intentional move on the part of the court. To add injury to insult, and without making any reference to the legal code which could justify such an arbitrary ruling, Batumi Judge Dolidze has warned those who do attend that if someone fails to follow the court rules they will be fined anywhere from 50 to 5,000 Lari, a substantial amount in such a poor country as Georgia, where 50 percent live below the poverty line.
Prosecutor Pridon Kartsivadze’s opening statement recounted how Ananidze had resisted the police (contravening Article 353, Part Two, of the criminal code ), and was trying to use force against the Adjara TV station (Article 222, Part Two). He said that on May 21 at 18:30, a group of demonstrators organized by the People’s Assembly,  a political party, had relocated their rally to the entrance to the Adjara TV station. Tsotne Ananaidze and others, the 19 people first arrested, had conspired to use force against the station as part of an attempt to overthrow the [legally elected] Government of Georgia. The prosecutor claimed that during the May 21 demonstration the actions of Ananidze and others resulted in police being injured and access to the TV station being blocked and then proceeded to list the names of approximately 30 people who would be called upon to prove this grave accusation. Among these are Tsira Surmanidze (journalist) and Genadi Jashi (cameraman) from the station.

Tsira Surmanidze answered, when asked about the obstruction by “Batumelebi”: “If don’t take in consideration that at 19:00 we were planning to broadcast an event at the Ice Palace, I would not have been prevented from doing my work. [But because of the protest outside] at that time our journalist team was unable to leave the TV station.”

Surmanidze was then asked if the station’s building had another exit, and the head of station explained that there was no alternative entrance, which is not true. Genadi Jashi, who was presented at the City Court to provide evidence in support of the prosecution, refused to comment to “Batumelebi”. He said several times that he had no information about the matter.

The prosecutor stated that Ananidze had to be arrested and held in pretrial detention for a month because he could otherwise escape and hide or become involved in blackmailing and threatening witnesses. He showed that following the May 21 demonstration Ananidze had travelled to Tbilisi and participated in the wave of anti-government [pro-democracy] demonstrations there which had lasted until the government’s violent and deadly crackdown of May 26, 2011.  However, only after he returned to Batumi did Ananidze undergo interrogation and meet criminal defense lawyers, this potential fugitive from justice going of his own accord to the police station. Moreover, as attorney Edisher Makharadze told Judge Dolidze, he also informed criminal officials that he had changed his personal cellphone number and gave them the new one to make it easier for them to get in contact with him.After declaring all these facts to the Judge Makharadze asked Dolidze not to arrest Ananidze before the investigation was complete and Ananidze’s family offered 3,000 lari to the government as a bond to secure his release. Bail was refused.

After discussing other arguments from the two sides the Judge went into Chamber to consider the case. During this time Ananidze’s friends discussed their masters program final projects with him. Within three minutes Dolidze came back to the court and announced that Ananidze had to be arrested, as if instruction had been provided from above. Dolidze did not find it necessary to explain to those present why a politically active person, with close ties to the community, was being taken into custody. This was not a normal procedure. The Judge even told Ananidze, addressing him as Tsotne, that  if the government proved its accusations, reciting the various articles they were being made under and outlining the law on combining punishments, he would be going to prison for a long time.

Dolidze is among the many judges in Georgia who over recent years have found almost no one innocent. 7 persons:  David Partenadze, Vakhtang Sioridze, Anzor Solomonidze, Gocha Mukhashavria, Dima Cheishvili, Khvicha Gamarjobadze, and Tariel Putkaradze, were in court answering the charge of ‘preventing employees entering  Adjara TV station’ on May 21. One of these, Taria Putkaradze, admitted the claimed guilt and was allowed to walk free from the Batumi court in return for giving evidence against the others. According to the attorney of those who were arrested he had no other option. However, the remaining defendants refused to plead guilty to what they consider to be a trumped up charge.

Various attorneys are now representing those arrested, including two court appointed attorneys. They have collectively and put forth a motion of recusal concerning the judges in the case, including Tamar Bezanishvili. A further motion of recusal was put forth concerning prosecutors Pridon Kacivadze and Ramaz Shavadze, stating that they should be disqualified from acting due to their “violation of the fundamental human rights of the defendants.” This motion was based on their violation of the internationally accepted principle of “presumed innocent until proven guilty” which applies with any defendant.  

Seldom are defendants in Georgia allowed the presumption of innocence, as the 99 plus conviction rate confirms, and accepting payments for letting people out of jail has become a cottage industry for the government. The conviction rate mirrors that of North Korea, perhaps even higher,

Even aside from this, it is evident that the Batumi court has already decided this case. The offenders are presumed guilty from the very start, and this trial is a show designed to satisfy the international community that Georgia is a democratic country where the rule of law prevails.  Few close to the situation have any hope that justice will prevail, and understood this before the court proceedings started and even before they were arrested.
The defense attorneys maintain that it is impossible for two different prosecutors to make the same mistake of using the term guilty before the case has been heardunless it is intentional …. “They had a motive in mind in interpreting the law,” they alleged. The Chief Judge did not accept their motion because she said that their “arguments” were invalid.

Whether the arrests made on or about May 21 were “legal” and “justified” in the first place is also in question. In any other counry, even in the Third World, an arrested person is granted the fundamental right of being informed on the spot why they are being arrested, not told   that “as written in the warrant” they are guilty. The defendants should also have been notified of their legal rights. According to the police report of the arrest all those taken into custody had been physically present at the place stipulated in the warrant, therefore entitled to this notification.  Consequently, for procedural reasons alone, they should be freed immediately due to this the failure to follow the most basic standards of due process.
The main judge, Dolidze found advocate Ramin Papidze’s recusal statement contempt of court and fined him 500 lari for making it. “You don’t properly understand human rights and you limit my freedom of speech, which is guaranteed by the Georgian Constitution. You lack legal competence, which  is why I request that there be recusal of you,” he responded.  

Another judge, Bezanishvili, must had known the law a bit better and appears to have anticipated the proffered petition of disqualificatio, based on the grounds of possible bias or conflict of interests. She stated that such a petition of recusal was to be expected when “such kinds of attorneys” are involved. Papidze then asked the main judge to explain what “such kinds of attorneys” meant. Even before court proceedings began Tamar Bezanishvili had fined Papidze 1,500 lari. Many of the attorneys are working pro bono because their clients cannot afford legal representation.

Irakli Shavadze, another attorney, asked to be allowed to record the court proceedings independently,  which is allowed under Georgian law. According to the advocates the recording now taking place is inexact and this impacts upon the proceedings. As expected, the main judge would not accept this. “The court does not have a duty to do this” explained Bezanishvili, who also refused to consider the same request from Batumelebi).
Only Tariel Putkaridze, out of fear or some other motivation, pleaded guilty to the alleged crime. Davit Partenadze claimed that he was innocent but now regrets “being in proximity to the Adjara TV station.”  Dima Cheishvili, Gocha Mukhashavria and Anzor Solomonidze continue to exercise their right to remain silent but maintain their innocence. ”If someone shows me a video of me participating in the demonstration I will take responsibility for it.  I was near the Adjara TV station, but if this is a crime there are 4,000 more criminals walking the streets who must be arrested too,” said Mukhashavria.

Vakhtang Sioridze request that the judge show some mercy: “I am a second category disabled person, I have two small children and a wife at home who is very sick, please show me some clemency.” During pre-trial consultations the attorneys also drew attention to the discrepancies between the times detailed in the arrest reports and the actual times at which their clients had been detained.  They also challenged other alleged details in the evidence which would be used by the authorities to try and prove their clients guilty. They claim that these differences support claims that their clients were arrested on political grounds.

The author of this article, after much debate and soul searching, attended some of the court proceedings, in some cases when some of the 7 defendants were present. It became apparent that Georgian court proceedings are carried out in a manner which makes Nelson Mandela's hardships look like a slap on the wrist.  The same is happening in other regions of Georgia: witness the arrest of an English school teacher from Pankisi, a valley in East Georgia inhabited by ethnic Chechens, on what appears to be a trumped-up drug charge, or rather yet another device to install the fear of “G-d” [Misha] in the hearts and minds of the Georgian people.

Some of the 19 arrested in Batumi have given firsthand accounts of how they are their co-defendants were subjected to periods with no food or clean water and no contact with anyone on the outside in an attempt to break them down.  They were forced to stand day and night without sitting, for long periods, and not allowed to lie down to sleep. They were then forced to sleep in unclean cells and the food and clean bottled water brought to them was eaten by their guards; they were tortured, in other words.

Here is a plea from the mother of one of those facing from two to seven years:

Mothers innermost thoughts, Tamar Solomonidze

Please, I ask you for your attention.
I am asking various government and non-governmental structures, please pay attention to me. I am a mother of Anzor Solomonidze, I worry over the arrest of my guiltless son at the demonstration on May 21 in Batumi. In all democratic countries such demonstrations happen, but in some countries people get arrested. If a person is talented and wants to use his talent to benefit his country why should he be punished because of it? There is no  law against this. This is a violation of human rights.
I have many children; I also have a heart problem and I ask you to discharge my son, as he is not guilty, all the accusations against him are false, he is innocent. When he was at school, I heard only praise from his teachers, he finished Tbilisi Leselidze school with higher grades, he has been raised in a police family and his father died for the country. Where is justice?
I also have a mentally disabled child. He needs care and Anzor was taking care of him, he was taking care of his brother and all his family.  I want to ask you to tell everyone about this, please help me, don’t send me to hell , I am already a tortured and ill mother, I have no financial support and only a pension, which is not enough to even buy some medicine. Don’t force me to suicide, my son has children and they need care and support, don’t destroy their future, they need their parents, especially now.
Please take into consideration my request, God bless all who will help us
Tortured and destroyed Mother Tamar Solomonidze
Anzor Solomonidze

If you want to help them, please contact this woman’s son
593 209 230 –David Solomonidze

Summary based on statements from family members and others:

1) They are now being made examples of, "scapegoats", to make other Georgians fearful of standing up for their protected rights.

2) These seven young men are truly Georgian heroes, and may their suffering be a flickering beacon of hope for a brighter future in a united, independent and prosperous Georgia.

3) It appears that the mainstream Georgia media has forgotten about the Batumi 7, (now political prisoners), thanks in part to love of money from foreign sources/central government, fear of the central government, or a combination of these.

This is much like the situation in Azerbaijan, Iraq, Israel and Libya. The lawlessness that reigns in all regions of Georgia must end once and for all. Otherwise there is little chance of being able to support any claim that Georgians are a free and civilized people. Somehow we must try to do something to help one another. Nobody ever expected there to be interest in the problem of the Batumi 7, (seven men still in jail after being arrested on May 21, for allegations of blocking the entrance to a TV station and throwing stones).

… there is so much lawlessness, carelessness, criminal negligence around, and more crime is being carried out by the so-called judicial authorities. We cannot be surprised that the so-called “shiny new” police force is the same as the one which existed before the 2003 Rose Revolution. The Batumi 7 are young people who sincerely love their country and are struggling for a normal life, while the prosecution witnesses are Revaz Ninidze, Shota Giorgadze and David Rizhvadze - all three detectives - who are beholden to the Chief of Police of Batumi and both the new and old corrupt system.

All three witnesses are from the cadre of old system police officers who served during the time of Aslan Abashidze, who ran a small fiefdom in the Georgian region of Adjara. They were all ardent defenders of the regime, active participants in the dispersal of “anti-abashidzevskih” rallies, beating up the people who supported the 2003 Rose Revolution or demanded their right as Georgian citizens to return Adjaria to the central control in Tbilisi in 2004. All three apparently gave false testimony in court about G. Mukhashavria and D. Cheishvili being in front of the TV station; they were not there! All three men gave false testimony against Solomonidze, Gamardzhobadze, Turmanidze and Sioridze, claiming that they had been beaten by them, an allegation shown by video tapes by other witnesses not to be true. There is even a video recording of the events of that day which the hanging -judge [Dolidze] refuses to accept!

Here is the legal process the Georgian people have after all the reforms!! For such a category of officers to exist in the so-called reformed police, which largely owes its own existence to the support of the European taxpayer and the American people, who continue to turn a blind eye to all that is transpiring in Georgia, is plainly unacceptable.
End Note

I started investigating this case for a friend (Temuri) who was also arrested in Batumi along with the Batumi 7 on May 21. However, he was subsequently released after 45 days in detention, perhaps due to his age or possible PR in his support.

I am now of the opinion that my friend and these young people were really “suckered in”, (perhaps naïve at best). I blasted him in an email when he tied to defend his Nino, attacking me for not doing enough to help them share their story. I was told that anyone against her is against Georgia, and I was against her because I had not written some positive things.  

I quickly responded, “what she is doing for these young men, it is not as if she cannot afford to get them normal attorneys - it now appears that she just used them and then threw them away, leaving them to rot in jail.” However, these young boys did set themselves up a bit (and fell for the bait); I have no doubt of their innocence, other than of the non-crime of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  

Nonetheless, with things heating up in Pakistan and elsewhere on the map of US strategic interests, Iran, etc, you are going to see lots of defense contractors (Archangel and Cubic types) walking the streets of Georgia soon in the countdown to war or US Elections 2012. That’s why no political changes are needed in Georgia, (at least not unknown political parties making gains and people demanding too much civil society), and their is going to be continuity of policy - the names and faces may change but the same game is being played.

The message is clear, “Support the US-friendly token head of state, OBEY!”

“At this point I think the real story here is not so much the (criminal) justice system but more about how Georgian politicians lead people into battle and then don't do anything to help those who are arrested! May is long in the past and everyone seems to have taken the summer off and forgotten about their party supporters. Those activists should be protesting in front of the courts and other places until there is no one else to arrest. That would put real pressure on the government and aid their cause [just or not].

Nino Burjanadze, head of the United Democratic Movement,  was used, intentionally or otherwise, to destroy the larger opposition camp and put the fear of Misha into the people. “Nino, why should anyone trust you now?

-- http://www.fastmail.fm - Does exactly what it says on the tin

Friday, February 3, 2012

Normal Service has been resumed

Sorry for the outage - things to... people to save...

Coming soon - news of yet another country which has declared its intention to formally recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia which should have the Georgian Foreign Ministry scrambling for their atlases, stocking up on more sun lotion, and packing a few more glass beads and trinkets into their bags with which to bribe the natives.
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