Backtalk, August 11, 2008

Bruce Ivins: The Movie

Hi Justin,

I’d like to add a few things for you to look into, if you are so inclined.

First, the anthrax sent to the Democratic senators was highly potent. Some reports say it used either silica or an electrostatic charge to help the spores disperse into the air better (making it more virulent). The spores were also smaller than usual (hence some reports about being “milled,” but it might not have been) and had a higher concentration (something like a trillion spores per gram – way, way more than what most places use for anthrax tests). Dugway Proving Ground in Utah and Battelle Memorial Institute (BMI) in Ohio allegedly make weapons-grade anthrax (in violation of international treaties) – the New York Times has an article on Sept. 4, 2001, about a “Project Jefferson” – and BMI works on aerosolized stuff. Oh, yeah, and Ivins only had expertise with wet anthrax, the kind that clumps together (more like the first anthrax letters sent to the media).

Further, Ivins is a registered Democrat.

Finally, suicide by acetaminophen is an awful way to go. However, Ivins had been previously found unresponsive on the floor before the night he ODed and had recently had a history of alcohol problems (acetaminophen stresses the liver, so drinking alcohol makes things worse). It could be that he took alcohol and Tylenol with codeine to numb his depression and he accidentally overdosed. Combine this with no suicide note, and the case for accidental overdose looks pretty good.

~ A.J. Sobotka

The Patsy


Your healthy skepticism is certainly justified, but there are several errors or misrepresentations in your column.

“The media narrative now being woven around the apparent suicide of U.S. government scientist Bruce E. Ivins … is that he was a lone nut, a ‘homicidal maniac’ who … was determined to go on another killing spree at his workplace as the Feds closed in on him. …

“However we get quite a different story from the alleged objects of his rage

According to Duley, Ivins’ detailed plan for this spree was disclosed in a group therapy session, so there were other witnesses. Several sources have verified that Ivins purchased a gun and bulletproof vest during the final weeks of the investigation.

“They contended that he had neither the motive nor the means to create the fine, lethal powder that was sent by mail…”

His “colleagues and friends” may have heard the initial statement from Arthur Friedlander, an Ivins colleague, saying that no one in the Army research labs “even knew how to make dry anthrax” in 2001.

That story was contradicted when Dugway Proving Ground in Utah admitted making weapons-grade dry anthrax.

Now, the FBI reportedly has evidence that spores with an exact DNA match to the mailed anthrax were found in a Detrick lab and that there were only 10 employees who had access to that batch, including Ivins.

“[T]he anthrax attacks were used by administration officials and neoconservative commentators to make the case for war…”

Absolutely true, and Greenwald’s indictment of ABC is exquisite, but it was the FBI itself that destroyed that storyline within days of the claims, by asserting that it was a domestic source – Ames Strain – and foreign labs had been ruled out.

I’ve read enough to be persuaded that Ivins was one of the perpetrators, but I look forward to the release of grand jury testimony.

~ Bill Westmiller

My Energy Plan Is Better Than Yours

Mr. Peña’s article discusses the economic situation regarding mobility energy, i.e., gas prices, then launches into a “solution” of nuclear electric production, currently used for static power. Not doubting Mr. Peña’s sincerity in his belief in nuclear power, but he has been sold a bill of goods.

Nuclear power is the third biggest welfare scam of all time, following the Medicare prescription program and trading carbon credits/capping carbon production.

Nuclear power splits the atom, re-creating the power of the sun – to boil water. Our ancestors on the Oregon Trail accomplished the same result by burning buffalo dung. A two-gig nuclear plant will cost at least $6 billion to build. (Mr. Peña quotes the amount of $4 billion for a proposed plant. The Japanese are offering to build nuclear power plants in China for $3 billion to $4 billion each. If the Virginia plant comes in under $6 billion, I’ll send Mr. Peña a very nice bottle of Napa sparkling wine.)

Of course, once you build the nuclear plant, one has to operate it. Operating costs for a nuclear plant are 85 percent of a coal-fired plant of equal size, and they are four to five times more expensive to build. The equivalent of paying $80,000 for a Camry that gets 15 percent better mileage.

On the other hand, $5 billion will purchase (including installation) 1,500 2-meg wind turbines, or 3 gigawatts of production. Operating costs? One technician per 25 windmills.

Sen. McCain wants to build 45 nuclear plants, claiming they will create 700,000 jobs. Using Mr. Peña’s fictional $4 billion figure, Sen. McCain proposes spending $180 billion (up front) for 90 gigawatts of electricity. That comes to over $250,000 per job created just up front, not counting the operating costs. Of course, when, not if, those plants come in at $6 billion, then the cost per job created jumps to over $375,000 per job.

If the $180 billion were spent on wind turbines, 108 gigawatts of electricity would be produced, with minimum operating costs. Of course, if production of the turbines were to increase, then economies of scale would kick in, increasing the gigawatts produced even more.

Nuclear proponents always point to France. When it comes to natural resources, France has cheese, wine, and Catherine Deneuve. The U.S. is the Saudi Arabia of coal, wind, and sunlight. One or a combination of these will power America in the 21st century. For the U.S., nuclear power is merely a corporate welfare scam.

~ David Cole

Charles Peña replies:


Please note that I prefaced my comments about nuclear power with “If spending vast amounts of taxpayer dollars for energy is inevitable, the one source of energy that might make a difference most immediately is nuclear power.” Note the “if” and “might.” I would hardly call that an unequivocal and unqualified endorsement. And I never offered it up as a solution to oil. That’s why it was discussed in a sidebar and not included in my column.

Joe Klein Speaks Truth to Power

“However, it’s difficult to believe Bush launched his ‘global democratic revolution,’ first implanting the revolutionary flag in the arid soil of the Middle East, to enrich his cowboy buddies – whose said Iraqi riches, I might add, have yet to materialize.”

Bush’s oil buddies, as well as all oil people, including Putin, Iran, the Saudis, and China, all have made money by keeping Iraqi oil off of the market,thus driving up the price of oil. The same happens every time Putin, Iran, and Israel saber rattle. Every oil man makes money when the price of oil goes up.

Thanks for all of your great work for peace.

~ Denis L.

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